Hello! | a quick message

Hello! 🙂
To save you the trouble of having to rummage through my portfolio (although you are very welcome to do so :)) I figured I’d collate some of my latest level design/world building samples in this page.

July 2022: Isles of Drakken Ridge (MOBILE VR)

Link to the portfolio page: http://luxregina.com/portfolio/isles-of-drakken-ridge-vr/

I’ve started working on the world of my next VR title. The work in progress aims at testing the new art pipeline established for Shock Troops and assure the new ambitious maps don’t exceed the tech requirements for mobile VR (less than 150-200K polys per frame, less than 150 draw calls, etc).

Before I dive into the technicalities, here’s a quick capture of some of these test environments (sorry for the shaky cam, didn’t had time to create a proper flyover)

Like I did for Shock Troops, I leverage texture atlases and batched meshes to ensure I stay within specifications. Assets are culled beyond a certain distance, the occlusion and backface culling are very aggressive.

Showing the geometry of the city of GreenHaven.

Showing the geometry of an exterior environment: Drakken Isle.

As with all my other games, I put a big emphasis on lighting: lights are positioned to generate the “right” mood for each level – I do not hesitate to “cheat” a bit with lighting (as most film-makers and photographers do anyway! :)). All lights are baked. There are rarely more than 1 dynamic light per level.

Lightmaps and lighting scenario for the Inn in Skull Island

Examples of an exterior lighting scenario showing the effect of lanterns on the general environment.

Lighting scenario for the player’s first dungeon, the Smugglers’ Cove.


Assets are very low poly, and all textures are pixel-art, allowing me to pack a significant amount of textures in a 2048*2048 atlas!
Because of the pixel-art style of the game, it is crucial that all assets have mostly the same texel density – so that the pixels across all textures are consistently the same size.

Example of a texture atlas for most of the man-made assets in Drakken Isle.

I usually model all my assets, import them in engine, instantiate them – then move on to a first pass of set dressing and lighting before starting the texture work. This allows me to have an idea of the palettes and moods I need and save some time on the texture art. Then, shortly after, it is a continuous back and forth between set-dressing, lighting and texturing.

Assets are UVed, but the texture work hasn’t started yet.

Same point of views, but this time, with some of the texture work started.

As you may have guessed by now, just like its older sibling, Stones of Harlath, Isles of Drakken Ridge is very much inspired by the style of World of Warcraft 🙂

December 2020-July 2022: Shock Troops VR (MOBILE VR)

Link to the portfolio page: http://luxregina.com/portfolio/shock-troops-vr/

As a “Doom-like”, I wanted Shock Troops to feature a plethora of varied levels, ranging from dark corridors to wide “open-space” alien planets. Each level was meant to feel unique and leverage a different facet of our gunplay.
I designed over 20 maps for the game (16 at launch, 4 for an Halloween content update, and a bunch of un-used ones). Levels are designed to present a light navigation challenge, while avoiding too much backtracking (which would be cumbersome in VR).

The 16 levels included at launch.

Shock Troops was the first game using the new pipeline I established after shipping Stones of Harlath. This new pipeline aims at minimizing as much as possible engine draw calls, while allowing more complex levels, with a lot more clutter for set-dressing. I’ve made a quick video a while ago to present the concept to other VR developers:

The game is divided in 4 missions (with an additional 5th shipping for Halloween 2022) of 4 levels each. Out of these 4 levels, each mission has at least one level that plays differently than the others: a ride on a high-speed train, a lift ride against rising lava, a “tower-defense” level, etc.
Aesthetically, each mission has a recognizable color palette, shared across the 4 levels – this allows to have variation while keeping the same “mood” for each mission.

A screenshot of each of the 16 launch levels.

Once the assets are UVed, I set-dress them in engine quickly and set up some mock lighting, to get a sense of the palette I will be using while texturing.

Animated GIF showing a lighting pass without, and with textures.

The red-orange color palette of Mission #2 is present for all levels: interiors …

… as well as exteriors!

Another significant element of design for the exterior maps was the usage of epic skyboxes. These complement the narrative of the levels by providing context, as well as helping greatly to define the lighting conditions and general color palette (as well as the color of the attenuation fog, very useful to hide distance culling! :))

Clouds and gigantic looming planet skybox for the alien world of Damia (Mission #3).

November 2019 – June 2021: Stones of harlath VR (MOBILE VR)

Link to the portfolio page: http://luxregina.com/portfolio/stones-of-harlath-vr/

Started as a traditional VR game, Stones of Harlath was approved for the Quest store mid-way through development. This means that unfortunately, the pipeline was not as optimized as I could have if I had planned for Mobile VR.

While dungeons are pretty easy to optimize for mobile because they usually allow for aggressive occlusion culling (and a more limited draw distance) our main island of Harlath, which was supposed to be semi-open-world-ish (!!!) was a bit trickier to optimize.

The island of Harlath acts as an “open world” that players can traverse to access the different dungeons, solve the quests, or just casually slay rabbits and other scary monstrosities 🙂

Stones of Harlath is unashamedly inspired, and rather heavily, by World of Warcraft Classic 🙂 – I’ve played the game since closed beta, I am very familiar with the world and its art style, and the optimization needed for a decade-old open-world MMO and mobile VR felt on the same wavelength. While designing my world of Harlath, I made frequent trips to the likes of Duskwood (for the mood) or Maraudon (for the effects and the organic nature of the cave system).

A quick trip to Maraudon to see how the waterfalls were implemented! 🙂

and a quick video showing the final implementation of waterfalls (which I had to seriously tone down due to the technical limits of the Quest 1, which the game had to be compatible to):

From World of Warcraft classic, I kept the strong sense of mood and palette, easy to read shapes and materials. I went for a night time lighting scenario which would allow me to guide players attention with purposeful lighting. and again, because I wanted my island to feel like its own version of Duskwood!

Some “beautiful corner” renders done within the first weeks of working on the game, to nail the mood and palettes.

The game includes 7 dungeons, all different in nature, and gradually difficult. From a wine cellar infested with rats, to a pit of lava inhabited by a God, the dungeons of Harlath cover a wide variety of settings. While many are “man made” mazes composed of stone walls, others are more organic in nature, like the cavernous “GroundGut Mine” or the sunken Temple of F’Zhunhuh

Any resemblance to the Dead Mines is purely fortuitous! 😉

Here’s a very early proof-of-concept of the over-world and one of the first dungeon, GroundGut mine:

A few months later, I built an additional 4 dungeons, to support our large content update, the “Arenas modes”: a 40 minutes magical fight taking place in 4 different locations, and pitting the players against increasingly difficult waves of enemies.

The last dungeon in the game, the Lava pit, where players will battle a freshly resurrected God.

Closing statement

I hope you enjoyed this quick deeper dive in the process of creating worlds for my games. It is something that I enjoy thoroughly, and I hope that my work shows this passion 🙂

I can’t wait to have more passionate discussions about world building with you guys!

Cyril Guichard