This is a test. Test! Consider yourself tested.

Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

For discussion and promotion of Unreal Engine single-player campaigns, mapping projects and total conversions.

Moderators: ividyon, Semfry, zYnthetic

Drevlin
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 16
Joined: 22 Apr 2010, 17:37

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 19:03

Doublez-Down wrote:Looks great, but some of it doesn't even look possible in UE1 and seems like it would cause crazy poly/node count lag and BSP hell unless they are static meshes of some sort. If that's straight up BSP, good lord I'm gonna quit mapping.

diamond wrote:Isn't this the one with maps exceeding 64k nodes or polys limit?

Waffnuffly wrote: That all looks like pretty straightforward geometry to me, maybe some of it was made in Max and imported but BSP all the way. You're mostly impressed because of the REALLY good textures and lighting, which hides the fact that most of the detail is made with relatively simple shapes applied in the proper proportions.


It is all in BSP, we didnt use any meshes in the level geometry because they used vertex lighting and looked somewhat poor. I can only speak for myself, but all my BSP work was done in the editor, not using max or maya at that point. I remember using some terrain creation tools but to make terrains, but I found the geometry it produced to be far too messy and unstable, causing BSP-holes and HOMs. My workflow was fairly simple, make some cool looking geometry, go into "side" viewport and take a screendump of it, take it into photoshop and make a texture that fit the shape (and if possible, combine this texture with other brushes that required custom textures. Essentially the way you would UV map a mesh today) and then just import and apply.
We made sure that the textures were fairly highres, because (and I am just speaking from memory here, so sorry if im wrong) the lightmap resolution of surfaces were dependent on the size of the textures you applied to them. So a surface with a texture scale set to 1 would have blurrier shadows than a surface set to .5 or .25

I did go nuts with BSP modelling... ^^ and I did have to do some crazy shit just to get the maps to properly rebuild and not crash (Like not rebuilding with a perspective viewport present in the editor, shut down all the processes that was "needlessly" running on my computer. Anything else would result in crashes. :)
It was only an issue when rebuilding though, it never affected framerate in a negative way (as far as i can remember, but i did have a fairly decent rig back then.)

To the rest of you, thanks for the kind comments and I think its safe to say that there is an interest in it. :)

User avatar Buff Skeleton
>:E >:E
Posts: 4132
Joined: 15 Dec 2007, 00:46

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 19:34

Drevlin wrote:We made sure that the textures were fairly highres, because (and I am just speaking from memory here, so sorry if im wrong) the lightmap resolution of surfaces were dependent on the size of the textures you applied to them. So a surface with a texture scale set to 1 would have blurrier shadows than a surface set to .5 or .25

Yep, this is how it goes. I think lightmap resolution is 1/8 or even 1/16 the texture resolution. UE1 lighting is pretty much the worst part of the engine, and it's still kind of a pain in the ass for those of us that haven't stopped messing with it yet. :P

Your textures look awesome, though; I didn't realize you basically just built geo and then pseudo-UV-mapped it! No wonder it all seems to fit together to perfectly. Sounds like this may have caused some hassles with angled geometry, though, unless you used existing textures for that?
Image

User avatar Shadow
Skaarj Warrior Skaarj Warrior
Posts: 98
Joined: 11 Nov 2007, 20:52
Location: Halle
Contact:

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 19:43

Well... why not continuing that mod with a new cast? It looked so promissing!

User avatar Buff Skeleton
>:E >:E
Posts: 4132
Joined: 15 Dec 2007, 00:46

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 20:12

It wasn't a mod; it was going to be a retail game (as far as I remember).
Image

Strife
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 12
Joined: 16 Dec 2011, 11:11

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 20:28

Waffnuffly wrote:
Doublez-Down wrote:Looks great, but some of it doesn't even look possible in UE1 and seems like it would cause crazy poly/node count lag and BSP hell unless they are static meshes of some sort. If that's straight up BSP, good lord I'm gonna quit mapping.


That all looks like pretty straightforward geometry to me, maybe some of it was made in Max and imported but BSP all the way. You're mostly impressed because of the REALLY good textures and lighting, which hides the fact that most of the detail is made with relatively simple shapes applied in the proper proportions.


Yeah this is pretty much it. We started the project using a lot of freely available textures on the internet (and built in Unreal ones for things like coronas) but the project really turned a corner when we started to utilize the high detail textures that you saw. Our intent was to "go commercial" back then, which would have necessitated removing anything that wasn't our work, but at that point we were building what we called "the Demo" to pitch the project to publishers so it was fine as in interim solution.

As I recall, a lot of UT textures were 128x128 or 256x256 right? Most of the textures we used were 512x512 or 1024x1024 (and even higher in some cases). We'd then make BSP geometry to fit it as perfectly as possible. In the last third of the project we started making custom textures for pretty much everything, even computer monitors. For like, 8 levels we have like 25 or so big texture packs. UT2k3 had just come out and we were in the weird spot of no longer using the latest technology, but being too far along to move to UE2, so the solution was to make a lot of unique textures that were good for one or two uses, and leverage the new tech we did add.

Static meshes weren't use much at all... really just for things like chairs and cables.

We didn't have any new tech that supported higher polycounts or anything. We just kind of ignored certain "rules" pertaining to bsp polycount, nodes, texture size, model polycount (player models were several thousand). I found this link of a site I made testing different renderers back in 2003 on an unfinished section of map with a lot of detail. You can see some game statistics if you're interested (from a Pentium II 450 and Geforce 2 or 3 I think): http://alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/exper ... rivertest/

What we did have was distinct new tech like those beams you see (we called them "Line Entities"), two different particle engines (one fast for "big" things like snow or rain, one smaller "detailed" by c0mpi1e for localized things like smoke and plasma). We had lensflares, volumetric explosions and something we didnt use much of but made called a "dynamic mesh", which was a kind of explosion "mesh" that could warp dynamically around geometry, producing a different explosion every time the gun was shot.

Here's two screenshots of it from when the game was still a FPS (before we shifted to a early Resident-Evil like fixed perspective). Everything is about a year or two before the more polished stuff you see above from Drev.

Line entities and Lends Flares: http://www.alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/old/Sparkle.jpg
Dynamic Mesh: http://www.alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/o ... iew001.jpg

And some later stuff:
Inventory: http://alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/exper ... gunz/9.jpg
Line entities in a gun: http://alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/exper ... gunz/6.jpg
Shoulder targeter: http://alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/exper ... gunz/3.jpg

The game also had RPG like level up/upgradable stats that was fully functional, and the ability to command a team of 3 other NPCs who fought with you. Ill try and find pictures of those.

One of my favorite things about the game was the shoulder targeter. When we started making the game, it was conceived as a first person shooter. Between a third and halfway through working on it, the team decided that since the game we were making was so character driven and story centric, it made little sense for the main character to be invisible most of the time, so we changed the perspective from FPS to "3rd Person Fixed Perspective". Basically in every room in a map we placed a camera entity and whenever a player entered its radius and wasn't obscured, the camera took over. As the player moved across the room, the camera would track them. The camera could also be tilted and made to NOT track the player and other features. Additionally there was a toggable "targeting mode" that made the game play like Gears of War (which was years in the future at that point!).

Switching the game to "3rd Person Fixed Perspective" created a big problem with targeting and combat though. The solution was to fix a line entity "targeting laser" on the shoulder of the player model, which largely turned the game into one of changing the angle of the beam to steer and fights. It was very different and very cool at the time and really made our game feel different than being an extension of Unreal.

Drevlin
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 16
Joined: 22 Apr 2010, 17:37

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 20:44

Shadow wrote:Well... why not continuing that mod with a new cast? It looked so promissing!


Waffnuffly wrote:
Drevlin wrote:We made sure that the textures were fairly highres, because (and I am just speaking from memory here, so sorry if im wrong) the lightmap resolution of surfaces were dependent on the size of the textures you applied to them. So a surface with a texture scale set to 1 would have blurrier shadows than a surface set to .5 or .25

Yep, this is how it goes. I think lightmap resolution is 1/8 or even 1/16 the texture resolution. UE1 lighting is pretty much the worst part of the engine, and it's still kind of a pain in the ass for those of us that haven't stopped messing with it yet. :P

Your textures look awesome, though; I didn't realize you basically just built geo and then pseudo-UV-mapped it! No wonder it all seems to fit together to perfectly. Sounds like this may have caused some hassles with angled geometry, though, unless you used existing textures for that?


I think everyone has moved on at this point, sadly. And the tech is just too old at this point for it to ever be a commercial success anyway.
But yea, it was a really cool project. I am a huge sci-fi nerd and i really got invested in the story, setting and characters (not the creation of it, i just liked it alot) and we had some crazy ideas. ;)
I remember working alot with the camera system alot, attatching camera actors to invisible movers to create sweaping camera movements or adding subtle panning and stuff. Not to mention setting up combat arenas. The whole Co-op campagin was really just a mash-together of different combat arenas I had set up seperatly, and then retextured to be set on a different planet. It was meant to be a 2 map campagin, but i just kept adding arenas. It really started when I realized I had to split the first map in half, because it was just too heavy to rebuild. You cross this bridge, enter a small mountain complex and on the other side there is this valley. But I wasnt pleased with the transition between the maps, so I made the mountain complex even bigger. Then I wanted a base at the begining of the first map too, rather than just having the heroes dropped out of a dropship in the middle of nowhere, so I started building a small starting area. And it too grew, untill the point where I decided to cut it off from the first level, and make it its own separate map.
And the last level was just a clusterfuck of things, that was scrapped about 3 times untill I just decided to make it a "Defend the base" scenario and you just hold off hordes of enemies that attack it.


I found a picture of the mountain complex base main room here:
Image

AAANYWAY, that was way off topic... If i remember correctly, i kept most of the geo fairly clean and simple, and then just copy/paste it around alot. Made a cool pillar, copy/paste all over the level. made a cool wall, copy/paste all over the level. And I always kept the original, and if i figured out a cleaner way to build it, i would just return to that original one and update it, then re-copy/paste.

Like the images below. The geometry isnt very complex, I just put details where i saw fit to give it an interesting silluete.
Image

Image

Image

im gonna dig through my old harddrive now... see what I got on my end. :)

half the pictures i post wont load for me, which is weird... meh.

Doublez-Down
Skaarj Warlord Skaarj Warlord
Posts: 990
Joined: 27 Feb 2010, 22:46

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 20:52

Yeah the damn texturing is amazing. Some of those hallways and stuff do look like they'd bust any sort of polycount "limit" though. For instance, I know I get some bad lag once polys in view go around 900 or so, especially with any action. And I'd say I have a fairly average rig.
I swear to god this forum isn't going to evaporate into ether within the next hour or so. - Bug Horse

Strife
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 12
Joined: 16 Dec 2011, 11:11

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 20:59

Shadow wrote:Well... why not continuing that mod with a new cast? It looked so promissing!


A big part of me would love to. This was our baby. I've thought about it, at least a little, every day since I was 14 years old (I'm 28 now).

And a few years ago some of us almost did get back into it. But HAL was a product of a very particular time and very particular group of people. I'm not sure who remembers it, but we pulled a lot of people from irc.gameslink.net #unrealed. Many people who worked on it or were associated with it went on to bigger and better things. Drev is at People Can Fly now, living our mutual dream from when we were teenagers of working for Epic. I got my degree in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University and am... well... far more well versed in C, C++, Systems and Algorithms now than I am level design, lets say... and focus on defense industry jobs. The two head programmers of the project Fishface and Martin Behrend went down similar paths. I'd love to know what became of Wille, Maxx3d, OrangeCatNinja and Sixshooter, whose textures and models define the look of the game to a great degree. We've all moved on with our lives, which is great in a sense because our work on HAL helped all of us. Drev used it in his resume when he started to get into the industry he told me. I used it in my resume to get into college and some internships. It's STILL on my resume.

Talking to Drev late last night on FB, we likened it today to our teenage garage band. Except we made games and were spread across the world!

But to do more than just pull the pieces together? Like take it as far as we had planned? As a new product I've LONG had the ambition to do that, but it would be with new technology (like UE3) and would be done very differently and more "professionally". This version of it is a labor of love of a set of people who existed in one unique time and place, doing this before skype, google and facebook... when we used IRC, ICQ and Netmeeting to coordinate over our 56k modems. It wouldn't feel right doing more than just plugging the holes and saying "this is what we did". It wouldn't be authentic, you know? The original intent of the authors of the content, of which I'm only a small part of, should speak for itself. :)

Of course I'm going to have to figure how to release it as a Mod, considering how we changed large portions of the base UT install. Is it still not okay to distribute the UT executable and such? I read on shacknews a while back that the prohibition was dropped for UE3 so long as it was not for profit.

UBerserker
Nali Priest Nali Priest
Posts: 7915
Joined: 11 Nov 2007, 21:00

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 21:07

Don't know if it's already said in one of the posts but how much good these maps run? (aka stable fps or not?)
ImageImage

Drevlin
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 16
Joined: 22 Apr 2010, 17:37

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 21:09

Strife, Wille works at Dice. :) Im pretty sure Maxx3d also works in the industry, not sure where though.
Aw man, I compleatly forgot about orangecantninja :D Its all coming back to me. :)

Strife
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 12
Joined: 16 Dec 2011, 11:11

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 21:44

Waffnuffly wrote:It wasn't a mod; it was going to be a retail game (as far as I remember).


Well let me share a little bit of the projects goals.
So I originally came up with "Alien Legion" as "Alien Legion Quake" right after Quake 1 came out. I was like 13 years old or something. And it was... well you ever play with action figures when you were a kid and had Batman, Captain Planet and Optimus Prime fighting Predator, Velociraptors and the Queen Alien? It was a mishmash of randomness. The title was ripped off an obscure 80s comic book that I read about in Wizard Magazine. Some of the other characters were influenced by comic books and star trek. Content wise, it was just some not great Quake 1 maps with skins I made and a velociratpor enemy I downloaded.

Quake 2 came out and it got better and more focused - there was an actual plot which was kinda a sequel to Quake 2 now and utilized reskinned Quake 2 enemies. And maps got better, but it didn't come close to being done. And it was still mainly just me, up to 2am on a school night.

Unreal is where things really started to come together, but not until the second half of it, about 8 months before UT came out. THe basic idea of the plot was finalized, and I started to recruit people to work with on it. A lot of our early work can be seen here: http://www.alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/old/
The stuff relevant to that time period does NOT have the "Green Circle" HUD... that was a UT addition. The textures at this point were done pretty randomly... and I mean... well I was very proud of it at the time but compared to where we would go later, it was without a doubt a "my first unreal" project. See?
Image


But we also got some new weapons in the game and played with some basic particle tech. Here is our flamethrower... it was designed to look like a Supersoaker 200 (yeah I know) but the lava texture in the canisters moved.
Image

Shortly before UT came out the "FPS look" of the game started coming through. We had our basic assault rifle in, a new HUD, and a lot of plans of taking our game "pro"... but the texture content of it was still heavily reliant on free stuff from the internet and stuff we scanned in. Our enemy though, the "Scorpion Aliens" (later Skoraq) were first thought of and implimented here, setting the direction of AL.
Image

UT came out and Fishface ported the game to that codebase and we started to take advantage of as much of the new tech that game offered. THis is when things started to move very fast and we started to recruit more people (including Drev early on!). THis directory has pictures of a lot of the early "UT-era" of AL.
http://www.alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/old/facepics/
At this point AL was declared to be a "commercial project" that would release a demo but we were still an FPS. All the planning behind the game - the story, where we would take our company, was set up as this point. This is the version of the game I took to E3 in 2000 (at 17 years old) and pitched to Ubisoft. Funny story, the VP I pitched it to is one of the top people on the Xbox team at Microsoft now.

Things were going good, but we, by consensus decided to change the direction of the game's perspective, which necessitated the inclusion of a whole slew of new models, textures and general art direction. The textures you guys are talking about were actually a surprise addition to the game, but once they started getting made, we pretty much redid the look of every level, every aspect of it, to produce the game that you saw in Drevlin's pics. It's frankly, what the game always needed and the gifted people who were working on it pushed. It became the defining look of the game. We also changed the name to "Helix: Alien Legion" and intended to drop the "Alien Legion" part later, as part of an ongoing effort to remove outside influences from our game as we always moved closer to our goal of a commercial product (the cease and desist letter from the owner of the "Alien Legion" name and rights helped too)!


In terms of the intent of commercial release though, now with the back story established, I'll lay it out. I'm not sure exactly why we decided, way back in Quake 2 or early Unreal to "go commercial" (as we used to say) with it, as opposed to a mod. But it was a decision made early on. We did a lot of stuff to that end. We formed a company (Nexs interactive, website: http://www.alien-legion.com/nexs/) registered it and filed with the government. We had NDA's and accrediation written up, as well as legal representation. It was very much a paper company though, but it allowed us to get into meetings with folks and have our rights protected. The intent post-UT release was to make what we called the "Demo", which would have been about one fifth the game, with both Single player and coop multiplayer, story / cut scenes and the like. This demo was going to be what we fished around to publishers. The demo, in retrospect had two major problems though. The first was that it utilized content (including some minor base UT content, like detail textures) that we did not own, so we would eventually have to replace those (we did know we had to do this though, and towards the final product you see in Drev's screenshots, it was less than 5% of everything we made). The second is something I didn't respect earlier, but do now that I'm a lot older and actually have major projects under my belt: the demo was trying to do too much. We kept missing deadlines on tech and content because we kept wanting to have the game basically feature complete except for additional levels. In retrospect, we shouldn't have just gone with what we had, because it was more than enough for a publisher to make a judgement on the game. But thats what being 18, 19 and 20 years old with big ambitions makes you think though.

To be clear though the extent of our "commercial" arrangement ultimately was, a few meetings with Ubisoft, a meeting and a bunch of emails with Mark Rein who was extremely gracious, and a lot of emails with game industry talent scouts. And funny enough around 2001 we got an invitation to move to Germany and merge with the team that eventually made the Crytech engine and Far Cry. Being 17 years old, that wasn't really an option ><. Completion of "the demo" overrode everything. I almost dropped out of school to finish it. But even though our baby didn't grow up like we had hoped, the amount we all learned about product development was absolutely invaluable. It was also a great taste of the industry before the mid 2000s explosion of money and lawyers.
Last edited by Strife on 16 Dec 2011, 21:50, edited 1 time in total.

Strife
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 12
Joined: 16 Dec 2011, 11:11

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 21:48

Drevlin wrote:Strife, Wille works at Dice. :) Im pretty sure Maxx3d also works in the industry, not sure where though.
Aw man, I compleatly forgot about orangecantninja :D Its all coming back to me. :)


Wille works at DICE? That's FANTASTIC!!!!!!!! That's some of the best news I've heard in ages! I can't tell you how happy I am to hear that. Oh man do you have him on FB? I'd love to get in touch with him. I'm glad they both work in the industry; they were so talented. It's incredible, just looking at the screenshots, being able to see exactly what they did.

You remember AmberEyes? I'm still in touch with him. I wonder if c0mp still works at (what became) 2k Games Boston too.

User avatar Semfry
Trustee Member Trustee Member
Posts: 2047
Joined: 12 Nov 2007, 02:43
Location: UK
Contact:

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 22:23

Remembering all the screenshots and other stuff from years ago, it's cool to see that this wasn't lost forever and can be brought out in some form.

Given the revival of the Indie game industry in the last few years (that would have probably helped the success of a similar project a lot), reading all the stuff about how it was being made kind of makes it sounds like something that was ahead of it's time in an unfortunate way.
Formerly Mman

Strife
Skaarj Scout Skaarj Scout
Posts: 12
Joined: 16 Dec 2011, 11:11

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 22:43

Oh yeah... using the Identification tool / ability:
Image

a tank
Image

a "walk on walls" zero G area
Image

Drev's Venus 2 co-op map in UED
Image

end screen from the demo
Image

One of the neat things we did was we implimented "multiple skyboxes" so we could pull off tricks like this and use other skyboxes elsewhere:
http://alien-legion.com/gfx/shots/exper ... llarcart2/


a never finished enemy, replacement for the other quadruped that went better with the newer art style:
Image


from the "UT FPS era", a robot enemy (never finished, but I still love the screenshot):
Image

User avatar Buff Skeleton
>:E >:E
Posts: 4132
Joined: 15 Dec 2007, 00:46

Subject: Re: Helix: Alien Legion (UT)

Post Posted: 16 Dec 2011, 22:56

Man, that's awesome, thanks for sharing all that background info, guys. It's always cool to hear how industry people started out. I'd love to work on some commercial titles in the not-too-distant future myself once I finish my current project :)

I know UE1 is pretty ancient history now, but there's something to be said about modding it - it's relatively easy to get some nice content made and really experiment with all sorts of things, and the BSP-based geometry has a distinct look to it. Frankly, most of the screenshots you've posted look way better to me than all the stock UT2k4 maps I've seen. With the right textures, everything feels really solid.

If you guys do release the content you've made, I can only begin to tell you how excited a lot of the UE1 mappers would be to get their hands on the textures, because they're really really nice!
Image

Previous Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests

Copyright © 2001-2019 UnrealSP.org

Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Limited