Enviroments in games.
Level designers have a pretty interesting role when it comes to constructing their level map. Firstly, they must know what they need to make. Usualy, its something we all are femiliar with, say a Childrens play ground. The level designer must know as much about this Childrens play ground as possable. What country its in, whats the state of the city it is in, the playgrounds surroundings. This should all be quite obviouse and understandable with a limited amount of common sence. Secondly, I think the Genre of game is necacary. Why isnt it neccacary first? Well, in the real world everything is nutural, nothing is really scary or not when you remove all context, the genre is adding the context. What's going to happen here? What has happened here? How would this area be used in this genre? These are all the questions the enviroment artist has to ponder about before setting off on construction. After knowing what to make and what theme to make it, they would than set off for referance material. Something like a Childrens Play ground would be fairly easy to find in suburban areas, locations like a burried tomb in the hill side of China, would be near to imposable to physicaly go to for referance. For the more ambitious locations, referance must be gathered from else where, anywhere that is of relevance in some way or another. A good understanting of location is critical, how can someone make a laboratory if they had never seen one in person? Or just watch an eppisode of Dexter's Laboratory it and exspect someone who works in a lab all day to belive it as a realistic lab?
Getting out there and seeing these places is far better than any google search. A good level designer knows that if you try to put black cabs and a big red london bus to replace the taxis and buses of New York, people will not be convinced by the level. It would be interesting, but people would not belive your black and red New York, to be New York.
Did you notice the differance between all three? The last two work, the top and bottom dont give asmuch atmosphere as the middle, does it?
As I've said before, all enviroments are nutural untill a context is added to it. Some people are afraid of the dentist, removing all the dentist related posters and the fish tank from the dentist's reception and you have yourself a basic reception space. By doing that, one removes the references, changing the way the player reacts to the enviroment and the enviroment becomes nutural, just a space. The details are where the atmosphere is, the more details, the more atmosphere and the more atmosphere the more the player can feel immersed in the game they are playing. Im not saying sticking a ton of details into a police chiefs office will make the office more beliveable. Sometimes just a few will work, simply by taking your average bog standard office with some blind folds and sticking " Chief of Police " on the door and a " Chief of Police " plaque on the desk, you can achive the same effects you would get if you stuffed the place with references from every fucking cop tv show youve ever seen. Hell it'd probably look better.
Getting good references is important. Which one of these two images would you trust more as a reference?
The original or the remake of someone elses twist on the original? Reference of a reference from a what now? Hell, Level design is mean stuff.