Level design can be an under-loved art form in gaming. But a new hashtag, Blocktober, aims to change that. Starting as a gamer/tech equivalent to #Inktober for traditional artists, the movement gives us a peek at how modern games are made.
It’s easy to forget how much labor goes into the polished, state-of-the-art graphics found in modern Triple A games. In a series like Uncharted, for instance, environment is a vital part of the player experience. If characters like Nathan Drake didn’t have dangerous settings to explore, there would be no games. In order to celebrate gaming’s unsung heroes, Michael Barclay, a designer at Naughty Dog, started up Blocktober on Twitter.
What’s up level designers. Level blockouts are art. #blocktober should be a thing. #leveldesign #gamedev #gamedesign #inktober #animtober pic.twitter.com/UkjjzlrCsv
— Michael Barclay (@MotleyGrue) October 1, 2017
The term “block” refers to an early step in mapping out levels for games. Developers use rough shapes, which resemble building blocks, to create a first draft of the areas players will move around in. It’s a step in the creative process that is not often seen, until now.
Other minds in the gaming industry swiftly embraced the chance to share their creative process, sharing looks at iconic games in their infancy. Work from the design stages of games like Uncharted, Portal, Fable, and more are currently available for viewing through Twitter posts from various artists.
Additionally, Barlcay set up a dedicated Twitter account for Blocktober, which encourages sharing of works-in-progress for the sake of both reference and appreciation.
Here’s a few looks at blocked-out stages that stunned us:
I love seeing all this raw level design, so I’m jumping aboard #Blocktober! Here is blockmesh vs final art in Uncharted 4’s orphanage. pic.twitter.com/UgCZkuMLx7
— Liz Fiacco (@lizfiacco) October 3, 2017
#Blocktober Some shots of Pittsburgh from The Last of Us pic.twitter.com/AxktFkM1hb
— Mark Richard Davies (@Ninjafr4me) October 3, 2017
Uncharted 4 island arrival. #leveldesign #blocktober pic.twitter.com/fPaOKik1Co
— Em Schatz (@thegreatbluebit) October 1, 2017
And of course, it wasn’t just Naughty Dog’s team that got in on the fun. Developers and employees from other studios, including the indie market, showed their work as well:
Eidolon – Diagram – #Blocktober 4th. Portal has cues built into its maps that tell you where to fling etc. This mod tries out some new cues. pic.twitter.com/meMNxspdZl
— Sullivan (@dot_operator) October 4, 2017
Joining Blocktober fun! Haven Hills / Sunny Coast from Pako 2. First draft and where it is now:
#Blocktober #lowpoly #IndieGameDev pic.twitter.com/6W7CR3R3d0
— Tree Men Games (@treemengames) October 3, 2017
Some layout work for #PAYDAY2 a few years ago. #Blocktober #gamedev pic.twitter.com/0yDJZ49xup
— Jason Mojica (@generalvivi) October 2, 2017
Ok folks, here is a Horizon Zero Dawn post for #Blocktober! This is an early gray block shot of the armory area of the Grave-Hoard. pic.twitter.com/gG0N0teThr
— Blake Rebouche (@Bigrebo) October 4, 2017
New day for #Blocktober, my latest Team Fortress 2 map, MVM Sequoia, first version compared to release. Trees are love! #leveldesign pic.twitter.com/Omk3fVW05D
— Robyn (@Freyja_Design) October 4, 2017
Blockout -clean, readable, nice
Art Pass 1 -What did you do?
Art Pass 2 -What did I do?!?
Final Art -OK thats pretty lovely ? pic.twitter.com/NLvNrT2jov
— Peter Field (@Peter__Field) October 4, 2017
#Blocktober Bower Lake under construction in Fable 2 by our very own @lionbum (pretty much just 2 whitebox pieces!) pic.twitter.com/NbTlDOkJaA
— Kynseed ? (@Kynseed) October 4, 2017
And who says gamers never go outside? These are just some of the many stunning designs that artists in the gaming industry are sharing under the Blocktober hashtag. We look forward to more as the month goes on.