Aztec Temple

In the month of August I had the opportunity at Schell Games to spend a week working on an auxiliary project with a small team. Our goal was to figure out the pipeline for and create a small interactive experience in the Unreal Development Kit for the iPad and iPhone, as it was nothing we had done before.

Our aim was to follow a Dear Esther experience for a quick story teaser.
A lot of the 5 days was spent researching what we had to do to get it working on a mobile platform. We discovered things like terrains and foliage brushes not compatible with mobile, and materials having their own mobile set up within UDK. We used some existing assets we had previously created, as well as a tree or two from Epic’s asset library that came along with the development kit.

The idea for the project came from something I was going to do personally on the side. For awhile I had wanted to use the skills I have learned to find an existing piece of art (whether it be from the game industry or another piece of art) and make an homage to it. At the time, I had begun with looking at the ruins that can be seen on Delta Halo in Halo 2 by Bungie -> Image Sample Here

I brought this concept to my good friend and coworker Max Davenport, who is a phenomenal concept artist. After speaking a lot with him about him helping me out with concepts, he brought up the idea of doing something a little bit differently. I told him to go crazy with the concept, which can be seen below.

concept art belongs to Max Davenport. See his work on his site here:

We ran with the idea. I had begun doing architecture research and block outs, with which Max had helped me out with some blueprints. Before I knew it, Jam Week was coming up at Schell Games, which seemed like a fantastic opportunity to see this idea come to light. As stated above, Jam Week was a week we took off from our typical projects in the company and worked on something a bit more personal. We could work alone or in groups on these projects. The concept of this all was to try and learn something new that we could use to potentially contribute to Schell Games, if not better ourselves as members of the video game industry. All I needed now was to find people to team up with and give us an end goal for the project.

My coworker and former professor, Gabe Sabourin, had been interested in discovering the pipeline of getting the Unreal Development Kit working on the iPad. I approached him with a level that he could use for his purposes, and off we went.

second concept of the environment that our level is more based upon. by Max Davenport.

Once we began the project, a major thing we discussed was the plot behind this interactive experience. If we wanted this to be anything like Dear Esther, we needed it to have some captivating element to it. Between Gabe Sabourin, Jared Mason and myself, we began brainstorming a small and simple storyline. Without going into too much detail, the concept is that you are an explorer whose partner had claimed of an ancient Aztec site, where the ruins had not been touched in a very long time. After a time, your partner had vanished, and you had acquired all of his assets. Among them, a journal. As the explorer, you go on to continue his quest, following your partners footsteps via the entries in the journal.

I was in charge of level design for this project. In doing so I analyzed what we needed to fill the world and what would help it make look more interesting. I set up the basic blocking and pathing based on the initial concepts, and followed through with asset population, optimization, event triggers, audio editing, along with some other tasks including a little bit of modeling. As mobile does not support terrain, I created a unique static mesh plane within 3ds max which was brought into UDK and had all the textures vertex painted onto the plane with the assistance of Ross Kimball. Also, since the foliage brush was not compatible with mobile, I hand placed each one of the grass plane sets throughout the level (which believe me, took a long time).

The project was an overall success. We did not get to create as much as we had wanted to in the beginning, as discovering the mobile needs trumped our 3d modeling desires. However, we ended up very pleased with the project, and I was extremely happy to work on it.

Aztec Temple – UDK for mobile Demo from Alex Karpati on Vimeo.

Gabriel Sabourin – Project Leader/Pipeline Coordinator & Apple Mobile License Holder
Alexander Karpati (myself) – World Builder & Environment Artist (various other roles)
Ross Kimball – Environment Artist
Jared Mason – Writer & Narrator
Max Davenport – Concept Artist

Also a big thank you to Bonnie Bogovich for her assistance with the audio recording!

Programs used – Unreal Development Kit (July 2012 Build), 3ds Max 2013, Maya 2012, ZBrush, Photoshop, Audacity, xNormal, nDo2.