Forward Ops: Agronomics
Infinity exits slipspace over an unrecognizable expanse of space. As the camera follows Infinity, a grey and tan planet with small bodies of water drifts into view: Venezia.
Alright Crimson, listen up. We know you’re used to getting a little more intel before an op, but ONI is playing their cards very close to the chest this time.
INFINITY ARMOR BAY
The armor bay is unusually quiet and empty. Only a few lights remain on, over CRIMSON’s armor bays. Camera angles only reveal CRIMSON’s undersuits, never showing their armor or faces. There are four Spartans, both male and female. ROLAND’s hologram appears on a pedestal nearby.
I’m sure most of you have done your reading right?
(Crimson says nothing)
A refresher… Venezia declared its independence from the Inner Colonies back in ’43, with the Covenant war in full swing. The colony started as a confederacy of Covenant deserters, Kig-Yar pirates, mostly, and the local Insurrectionist leaders. Haven’t been too welcome to the idea of UNSC interference for some time now. They’ve built themselves quite the proper inter-species criminal society down there on the surface. Brute bouncers and bodyguards, Jackal-run black markets, Unggoy drug trafficking… you name it, it probably exists in some dark corner on Venezia.
Well, a handful of years ago a prominent Innie leader began hounding the UEG with the threat of an all-out attack on key Earth targets. ONI had a hard time taking the threat seriously with the Covies turning planets to cinder, but a few weeks ago one of our inside operatives discovered that their plans had advanced significantly…
(continuing Roland’s thought as he enters from offscreen)
Namely that the attack is now planned for three days from now, using stealth-equipped Covenant cruisers obtained through the Venezia black market.
Captain Lasky. Come to see Crimson off personally?
(to Roland and then Crimson)
Yes, Roland. Venezia stills maintains an active Surface-to-Orbit missile system, so we’re going to do a stealth drop from the Prowler Dusk.
You weren’t going to leave without us, were you Captain?
JARED MILLER and ROBERT DALTON walk down the catwalk towards CRIMSON’s armor station.
Of course not. We wouldn’t want Crimson to be without their mission handler.
That’s right. Without me and Dalton here, Crimson would have been Promethean chew toys back on Requiem.
(with rushed humor)
Yes, yes. We all know how important you were to the success of the mission. Now can we –
ROLAND’s hologram begins malfunctioning briefly, then cuts off. MILLER, DALTON, and LASKY look around, concerned. ROLAND chimes in over the ship’s comms.
Uh, well that was odd. That holo projector was just fried by a massive subspace magnetic wave. Where are those slimy, gasbag engineers when you need them?
MILLER, DALTON, and LASKY relax.
Um, Captain? I’m getting some pretty freaky readings.
As ROLAND says this, LASKY is distracted by a faint blue shimmer surrounding DALTON.
The shimmer increases around DALTON’s leg, seeming to latch on, then grow up his body.
Oh, damn it! No!
MILLER stands stunned next to DALTON, but LASKY runs forward. He is too late however. DALTON disappears in a flash.
LASKY looks down at himself and sees the same shimmer wrapping itself around his body. He disappears a second later, followed by DALTON and CRIMSON.
As I moved forward with my design after returning from GDC, I began to narrow my focus to concentrate on the more finite details of the level. The rooftop area, which I had the most definitive vision of, became my focus. It would, in my opinion, be the simplest playspace to develop, consisting of a series of platforms for the player to jetpack around on. This simple gameplay formula would allow me to spend more effort focusing on the details of the world itself… helping to further solidify my ideas about the Venezian population and how many of them lived.
One of the primary points of inspiration when I began constructing the smaller buildings built around the outskirts of the larger city of New Tyne was multiple pictures of slums and makeshift dwellings set up around major landmarks of modern technology in developing countries. It gave an amazing impression of human adaptability and ingenuity, as well as the willingness to make the best of whatever they’re given. In this sense, the large building that I constructed became not only that sign of the ‘modern’ civilization of Venezia, but of mankind’s future accomplishments. A large dominating vision of the capability of man in the 26th century.
Building off of this, I asked myself what if the ‘slums’ of Venezia were actually our modern-day skyscrapers? In this sense, they would reflect how far humanity had come in the last 500 years. The following images were huge points of inspiration for me as I began really concepting this area and trying to determine what kinds of people would live there.
One of TDSpiral’s image from my last entry, while not appropriate for the farming community working off of the terraformed landscape outside the city, I felt actually applied perfectly to these more recognizable buildings, matching the aesthetic of an environment in which both humans and Covenant live together with a blending of ‘ancient’ human technology.
The problem, working with UDK, is that I had not yet determined how best to represent the Covenant tech. The cone in the above picture is my first attempt at a basic placeholder structure, thrown in place to provide cover where the lines of sight were too open, but not yet representative of its final form. To streamline the process, I decided to focus first on the human buildings, and then add the Covenant buildings onto those when the time came.
Since all of the gameplay would be taking place on the rooftops, my first step was to research the rooftops of real-life cities.
At the same time, I wanted to show that this was an advanced society… that even the ‘slums’ of Venezia had more technology at their disposal to enable them to live with what they were given. Rooftop gardens in many cities are an excellent symbol of both comfort and sustainability, and I knew I wanted to incorporate elements of that here.
The next step was to make it look more appropriate for the time and setting. I knew that I was going to place heavy emphasis on Venezia being a colony that was self-sustaining. While nowhere near the agricultural might of a long-established human colony like Harvest, I knew that this map would contain many major aesthetics pointing to the need for immense crop-production to sustain a large population. I looked again to real-life hydroponic facilities, as well as another video game series, for inspiration in visually communicating this idea for the rooftop area in a futuristic way.
UDK gave me enough plant meshes to work with that I was able to put together a makeshift hydroponics-like contraption that would give the illusion of a sustainable community living in each building and even working together from rooftop to rooftop. The water used in growing these plants could be easily supplied by the nearby dam, and would help protect the plants from the naturally arid environment of what I imagine a pre-terraformed Venezia would look like.
As I was building all of this out, it helped to have a clear image of what sort of people would be living in this place… what they look like, what their general aesthetic was and how that might be reflected in their living/working spaces. TDSpiral had done an amazing piece of concept art exploring this idea, showing a population that is very industrial in nature, and yet have comfortably incorporated this work into their everyday lives.
A few more elements from my research of various rooftops made its way into my map. Things were upscaled to represent the sheer size and bulk of these industrial applications of the future. I then took that array of vents and ducts, and distributed it throughout the map in a modular fashion, hopefully lending much more to the aesthetic of the area.
A few finishing touches, and those portions of the level were complete. It took much longer to put together even these few bits of scenery than I anticipated, but now that I have them in the map and have gotten more comfortable with placing and moving these modular pieces, I expect the rooftops to start to come together much quicker. They are likely to remain my focus until they’re completed.