Hi, my name’s Laura, I head up level
design here at Rivet Games. There are three of us in the level design team; myself, Emma and Duncan. I take a wider view of the route as a
whole and try and keep on top of everything from start to finish. The
team will jump on and put things together in smaller bite-sized chunks. Some people have strengths in different areas so we have to divide the tasks up to play to people’s strengths. What we do in Level Design is create the
routes from absolutely nothing to 100% complete. We get the route once the track is in, and the height data is in, which gives us a good starting point. We then
spend time putting roads and infrastructure, placing assets, placing foliage. Everything that you see in the route is placed by the Route Building team. At the beginning of a route I will create a route map. I create this map in Google Earth from
start to finish, using a red line as a marker for start to finish. And
I’ll go through them with a fine-toothed comb and pick out everything that we need. Starting with station buildings, and then we’ll move on to bridges and infrastructure; anything that interacts with the track.
Then we move on to more iconic buildings. Or things that would standout on this route that you would notice if you were travelling it. Once we have them created this file, we number it sequentially from start to finish, which gives every single asset that we
require a unique number. This list is then passed over to the Art
Team so they have a list of everything that we require in order to build
it. At that point there’s usually a bit of back and forth with the art team on exactly what we need. We get into the specifics of each assets; what we require for the asset to fit well within the route. So we take the marker set from Google Earth, put it in, and then that translates perfectly. Giving us the marker points in the route where they would be in the real world. At that point this can also help the Track Layers. Once they start to lay track they have a clear pathway they can follow. We also have Google Earth overlay which is a huge help for us as well. We can we see all the Google Earth data that we need in order to work on the route. Which helps with the track laying as well. Once we have the height data and
the track in the game, I can create a tile map for the route.
The tile map we use is primarily to distinguish between who’s working on
which area. There can be 2 or 3 people working on a route and each person has an assigned colour. That allows us to work without stepping on
each other’s toes. It also allows us to see the progress we’re making on the route via a key of completion. So anybody at any time can know where we are in the route they can just jump on and see.
At the moment were in the middle stages, so a lot of the tiles are nearing completion. But we’re still waiting on some fixes to assets and some station clutter needing placed. And passengers and NPCs needing placed.
It’s things like these you can see are highlighted in bold and in orange at the moment. They’re obviously less complete than other areas. But we are getting to a stage now where we are signing off models, and signing off tiles, so these will turn green next. These relate to tiles in game; each tile is a kilometer square in size. If I zoom out you can see the square kilometer for that tile. And as you go along the route each one is highlighted. We then move onto placing roads, so that when the artists start working on the infrastructure, that we’ve asked for, they can extract this data and model around it. That makes life a lot easier for them. You can see here all this has been modelled as one asset. The station, and all infrastructure around it, you can see selected in red. Without the track and the roads that would make life difficult for the 3D artists. So getting the roads in as soon as possible is key. Once we place roads for artists we then move on to the catenary ie the overhead wires on the
route. We spend a lot of time ensuring that we get this right. Each
country will have its own style and we now put a lot more detail into the catenary than we have done in the past. We have a stock of catenary that we work from. Some of it we can use a tool for. The tool
interacts with the track and this is really useful and quick for simple stretches of track. You can just click and click, and it automatically places catenary along the line. However sometimes the track can get more complicated like in the area here. This is somewhere where you need to spend the time placing individual masts and brackets. And ensuring that the wires remain within the yellow guides at all times. So it does get more complicated, and we need to spend the time to ensure that we’re keeping the accuracy and the level of detail that the player would want. We work to these yellow guides you
can see here. Each track has its own yellow guide, so
you can see it starts to split where the track splits. And we need to remain within the yellow guides. The wires will be pulled or pushed in the direction they need to be. You can kind of think of the wires as
an elastic band that needs to be tensioned in a specific direction in
order for it to remain taut. You can see that wire is being pulled to the outside of the yellow guides on that side. And then it’s being pulled to the inside there. We need to ensure that everything that we place is accurate. And how it is in the real world, so this does take time. There the yellow guides help us to work more efficiently through this. Google Train View can be really useful as well. Sometimes you have to work within the limitations of the game and the ways the catenary can work in the game. But if the track has been laid accurately, if you look at Google Earth when you’re struggling with the catenary in an area you can see how it’s been done in the real world and verify the catenary tool does match the way that it works in the new world. It’s really nice to see it all coming together at the end when you’ve spent that time making sure that it’s accurate and correct. Once we’ve finished the pass on catenary we’ll move on to distant scenery. For example the trees in the
background, painting in the fields, ground textures etc. We do these passes for the entire route. From start to finish we will do the roads. From start to finish will do the
catenary. And then the distance scenary. By that that point that gives the artists a chance to start working on in the infrastructure. The infrastructure is this for example Anything that interacts with the
track. Anything that will affect us when routebuilding That all gets done first in one pass. Then once we’re finished the
distant scenery we need to come back to the beginning again and do a final high
detail pass of scenery. You can see here we’re nearing completion of this section. If we have everything that we need to in order to finish the scene
it actually really helps us to create a nicer environment and a more flowing environment. We use Google overlay in game which is really useful and we use this a lot when we’re doing level design. You can adjust the opacity up and down. When we’re doing distant scenary this is really helpful because you can place large asset blocks of trees and paint in large areas of fields relatively quickly. We can paint textures for roads
for areas where we know they’re going to be placed. Then we think we can toggle off Google Earth relatively quickly as sometimes it can be distracting to have that one when you’re trying to work. But it really does help us map things out quickly and efficiently. It also does help when it comes to the point where the 3d artists are passing over assets
for us to place. We can then know turn that it back up again and ensure that we are getting assets in the right places and the assets are
exactly where they’re supposed to be. We use Google Earth a lot for reference
material. It’s really helpful in getting an overview of a map. Switzerland is one of the only places in the world where they
have Street View for the trains. They’ve strapped the camera to the
train and gone along the train tracks. This is invaluable for us as route builders. We do have other reference material, but for a lot of the things we
do between stations we don’t have much to go on. So we have to go on what we’ve done before and having a particular style. So
when there is actual street view in areas we’ve not been
able to see before it really helps us to accurately recreate the world that
we’re trying to make. You can see here coming into Reichenau station there are bridges, there are houses, trees, the
mountains and everything. That allows us to recreate that.
You can see there the bridge, the houses, and everything. Here you see the level of
the accuracy that we’re able to get to. The artists will work on bridges and infrastructure for us first. Anything that we have the
interacts with the track affects our ability to build the route from a level design perspective. They start from the beginning and
work sequentially through the route. They work on bridges and infrastructure for us. And then once they’ve finished that pass they will they will double back and
start to work on platforms. For us platforms are the next thing because it effects gameplay, and allows level design to place passengers for gameplay.
We’ll get all the platforms in and then at that point the artists will then move on
to any of the other iconic buildings that we’ve selected that need to
be modeled. Once we have all the infrastructure, the platforms, and the station buildings, that allows us to then go back and do a final pass
of clutter on station platforms. We could have notice boards, clocks,
ticket machines; that kind of thing. This is a point where I’ve just got
a station from a member of staff that has been working on it. What we would do in this situation is take the station and use these things called placement markers here. We place these yellow markers in game here and the artists will extract that data before they start modeling.
They put it in the model for us so that everything will align with the track
perfectly once once we’ve placed it. This is Versam-Safien station which has just been modelled. You can see the artists spent a
lot of time putting a lot of detail in. For example putting door handles on, and the textures are particularly nice, and the building is looking great. What I then do is spend time checking the terrain or any
of the surrounding area that has been modelled. Making sure that it all fits well with the terrain we have in the game. And that there’s nothing really
standing out as a big issue. I would then do an overview check of the model to again make sure that there’s no big issues that would come back on us. For example here there’s just a slight issue with Z-fighting on that window. That’s when two planes / two polygons in a model are too close to each other. You can see they start to fight.
You can see the flickering there. Any things like that which become apparent once you place the model in the game. Those
those are the kind of things that we have a back-and-forth with the artist.
But overall that model looks really nice, and fits in really well
with the terrain and everything else in the game. We would then dress that; bring the scenery in. We would get all the station clutter items. And any of the other iconic buildings that are due to come in at a later stage. For example I’ll jump to this area so that’s Google Earth and that’s the station there We would then use this as a
reference and we would place clocks, or ticket machine, or any points of interest.
Then there’s also some iconic buildings we’re still waiting to come in here. Then we would add some fences and trees, and just
bring in the detail and so it’s exactly like the real world. My undergraduate degree was from Glasgow School of Art. It was in Fine Art which is quite different to what I’m doing now. I worked for a few years at Glasgow
Caledonian University after I graduated art school. Then I
ended up going back for a year’s post-graduate study in 3D design for virtual environments. This really piqued my interest in games art. I started working at Dovetail Games, working on Train Simulator for a few years. Then we moved onto Train Sim World. The two games are different; in Train Simulator you play more from the perspective of the train, whereas in Train Sim World it’s more a first-person view as a driver. So working on the two games from a level design perspective is
slightly different. Working on Train Sim World and then jumping back to Train Simulator has been hugely beneficial. You can see the level of quality of
what we’re producing now is really good and and we’re really
really proud of what we’ve achieved here. We’re trying to approach things slightly
definitely. We’re trying to make the most efficient use of our time; like trying to get the passes right, trying to get the order
of things right. If we can get route building done with the roads and the catenary that allows the artists to then take their time modeling
infrastructure and bridges. If we can get in earlier and do distant
scenery that allows the artists… …once they finish infrastructure to then move on to the iconic buildings. And then by the time they have completed iconic buildings, stations and platforms, that’s the point where we can then go
back and spend the time creating the high detail scenery at the trackside. It allows
the processes and the work flow to be far more efficient. And the end product is far superior than it would be trying to get
everything done all at once.