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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Parkaboy's building class: lesson 2

As I've said on the previous post, this is the "class" I'm teaching at the University of Spore Creations forums. Here goes the second lesson:

LESSON 2: On styles,

symmetry and the basic building shape


Let's move on! The main reference for this lesson is going to be this set, the Logian set:


Shall we start?

First of all, I must confess something. I'm an advocate of what I call "playable content". That means I like the content in my galaxy to make sense in the logic of the game. I usually only download creatures that look like creatures, buildings that look like buildings, and so on. I know there's a lot of laughter on flying around in a UFO shaped like a wheelchair, but I'm a sci-fi fan and I like to keep the nonsense to a minimum.

That also mean I worry a bit about stuff like scale. I usually do this: whenever I create a new set of buildings, I test it on a saved game (on Civ or Space Stage), and check if the average creature could actually fit in those buildings, as well as how the set fits together. When making matching sets, this is very useful, so test before uploading (you don't even have to save the game, after all)!

Creating Matching Sets:
Well, there's at least four things I take into account when making a set:
1- Try to use the same style of parts on all buildings (we'll se more details on that below);
2- Try to use the same textures and colors, or use the "Paint Like" option;
3- Try to keep some variation. Use variations of the same shapes, or add specific details so we can tell the buildings apart, such as chimneys for factories;
4- Try to organize the buildings according to size. This depends on how you usually create the layout of your city, but the average Spore city will look better if the center buildings are taller than the peripheral ones. The City Hall is always in the center, so it should be taller. I normally put factories and entertainment in the middle and houses around the rim, so the houses should be shorter.

Styles:
Certain parts fit better together; a certain door is a better match for certain windows than others, for instance. Pay attention to the details on each part: some are kind of medieval, others are futuristic. Here are some examples:





If you can't see it on the thumbnail, open it on the editor. There are many good combinations, so trust your gut. If you use the same types of parts for the entire set, you will increase the chance that the game will recognize those buildings as a set and use them together for NPC races (Matching colors and textures also help). Symmetry Notice the how the examples above are uninteresting as buildings. Well, they could look slightly better if I placed more details on the other faces, and not only in the front. This is very important when making City Halls; you don't want the centerpiece of your city to look dull from some angles. There are 3 main types of symmetry you should use:


The first one has equal opposite sides, meaning it has two types of faces. The second one has the front equal to the back, but different sides; it could also have equal sides, but the front different from the back; it has 3 types of faces. The third has only one type of face, meaning all of them are equal. All three types can be good choices, if you keep the building balanced. A version with four different faces is not recommended; usually it won't look good. It's not hard to make equal opposite sides, since parts like doors and window will "snap" to the opposite side of an already placed part, neatly aligned. The basic building shape: A good, conventional building often has 3 parts: a base, a "body" and a roof. You don't literally have to use roof parts to make a roof, for instance, but adding some details to the top of your building will improve it's appearance. The shape we were using in this class is kind of dull, though:


Of course some body parts or blocks are more detailed than this simple cubic shape. But we can make more interesting shapes if we don't stick with only a single block for the body. If you use several blocks of different heights and lenghts, and align them on the center of the original block, you can make something like this:


Looks already a bit better, doesn't it? You can improve it by using different types of blocks, though simpler ones are more easily combined. Just remember that the prettier buildings in real life aren't cubes. The building will look even better when windows and details are placed. But you can also use stacked blocks as pseudo windows (see the red parts on the picture below), just remember to use the "Ctrl" key for more control:


That's it for now!