Constructing a scene. Part 1.

In this series of blog posts, I am going to go through how I construct a scene, from its initial paper inception, to a final scene to be used in the game.
Before any drawing is done, each scene is placed in a flow chart. This chart essentially shows the physical location of the scene, in relation to the other scenes. It shows whats behind it, in front of it, and to the sides. Having an actual physical map like this makes the planning of the game MUCH easier, and also shows off opportunities that just wouldn’t come along if the scenes were described in a linear fashion.
You can see how interesting links can be made as the rooms become more varied and complex. Planning like this lets you see the relationships between rooms very well.
Once I know where the scene is going to fit into the game, I write a description of the scene. So each one of those blocks in the flow chart gets this same treatment.
What I am going to be looking at in detail is the INNER AIRLOCK sequence. Essentially, this is your first introduction to The Groomlake.
Writing out scene descriptions may sound like a waste of time, esspecially considering nobody will ever read these apart from myself, but they are an immense help in setting the ‘mood’ for what you want to happen. Its much easier to change a few words than to rerender entire areas.
The only description for the INNER AIRLOCK I have focuses on Maracheck entering the scene. This entire sequence is going to be done ‘in game’. This description really says everything I need about the scene, from the dialog and sound, props, and most importantly, the mood. Spelling and grammar mistakes be damned! Nobody else is going to see this-so let it flow!
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Scene Description (from the Design Document).

The airlock clicks open with a hiss. A silhouetted figure walks into a dark room. The massive rotating door behind him rolls back into place, and seals shut.
Darkness. Nothing. Maracheck walks forwards. As he does so, a light directly above him turns on. Motion controlled. A computer voice sounds out “Welcome to The Groomlake Research Facility. We know you will enjoy your stay.” Computer screens flicker on showing various PR photos of families on board, scientists working happily, children playing.
As Maracheck moves forward the lights continue to turn on infront of him. More computer voices:
“Please be aware that we are operating on emergency power.”
He continues down the corridor. Comfortable seating on either side of him suggests an airport lobby of some kind. This must be where the important people came in…a company would waste money like this on an entrance for grunts.
As he advances, more lights turn on, highlighting security turrets. Shut down. The security systems must not be operating. Good thing too…those turrets would have shredded him. As if reading his mind, the computer voice sounds out an eerie warning.
“To ensure that your stay with us is a pleasant one, please remember to follow all protocol. Your safety is our priority.”
The lights go off for a second…the sound of an electric generator spinning up again.
“Please make your way to decontamination.”
“Thank you for your cooperation.”
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Once this is done, and I have a pretty good idea about whats going to be going into the scene graphically, I create a prop list. This looks something like this:
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Prop List: (GROOMLAKE INNER AIRLOCK)
Airport Docking Lounge.
Running lights on floor to show direction. On?
Signage reminding you to go through decontamination.
Turrets-shut down.
Reception podium.
Computer advertising screens. Perhaps just back lit posters?
Dialog: (computer generated- Female?)
‘”Welcome to The Groomlake Research Facility. We know you will enjoy your stay.”
“Please be aware that we are operating on emergency power.”
“To ensure that your stay with us is a pleasant one, please remember to follow all protocol. Your safety is our priority.”
“Please make your way to decontamination.”
“Thank you for your cooperation.”
Dialog: Maracheck and Hawking
Maracheck: Knock knock….Hello?
Hawking: Yes Captain?
Maracheck: No Hawking…not you.
…….
Maracheck: We seem to have found you a girlfriend!
…….
Maracheck: Looks like we hit the VIP entrance.

…….
Maracheck: Hawking, are those turrets going to stay offline? Cos I’d really like them to…

Hawking: Security systems in this part of the ship are offline.
Maracheck: Can you just make sure they…you know…stay that way?
Hawking: Yes Captain.
Sound:
Sounds of silence.
Ambiance.
Click of lights turning on
Click of computer monitors turning on
Electric Generator turning off, and on.
Airlock door closing and sealing
Footsteps, on metal.
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That’s it on the planning side of things. In part 2 I will go through my workflow in MAX, modeling, lighting, and rendering the scene, as well as how to get the pieces animated.
-Chris