© 2015-2018 Xander Clauss

 

8km x 8km

Z1R

Return of

the Apocalypse

The Z1 Remaster production was largely a two part process, with our planning starting in late 2017. Our first phase consisted of taking a look at the pre-existing Z1 models and buildings and assessing the amount of rework required to bring them to a standard level of dimensions, flow, and visual quality.

 

I took on greyboxing the residential house set, which particularly benefited from updated door/hallway widths. While all the house models needed to keep the same exterior footprint as their originals, the interiors got updated for flow and layout. It also inherited Z2's breakable wall system for flow situations where additional doorways didn't seem logical. This ended up clearing out a lot of the weird layouts and vestigial 3sq meter closets from when the map was using both an entirely different camera perspective and game type.

The second phase mostly took place on the map itself. Old models and props got mass-swapped for the updated ones, trees and terrain textures were tweaked, additional cover was added where it was previously too sparse, and small POIs were added in to give emptier areas more viability as starting spots. Several additional roads were also added to connect otherwise isolated loot areas extra conn

For the second phase of Z1R development, I was responsible for rehabilitating the terrain from its original state into something that both played and looked better. The original Z1 heightmap was barely modified past its original import for numerous reasons, so most of the blemishes visible in the early 2015 launch were still there when the world team cracked it open again nearly three years later.  The biggest gameplay issue was that the overall height ranges on Z1 were much more sudden and extreme than its replacement's. For this, we wanted to clamp the min/max values down closer to the average, as well as integrate other proven level practices learned from Z2, without significantly affecting the memories of a nostalgia-driven feature.

 

The texture paint and vertex tinting of the terrain was also an aesthetics concern. The painted textures on Z1 had issues such as thematic incompatibility (example: pristine asphalt parking lot full of rusted cars, between rotting buildings), were affected by sharp seams from the engine's terrain layering & subdivisions, or merely needed additional detail. The vertex tinting also highlighted height changes over short distances to the point of appearing cartoonish, so lowering the contrast without making the terrain look flat and boring was an additional variable to balance when working on these areas.

We chose a targeted, manual approach for remedying terrain. POIs were scouted for issues and I resculpted and repainted a large part of the 64sq km map's problem terrain over the next few months. Many of the exist roads and parking lots were 'repaved' and given apocalypse-appropriate wear detail. The before and after galleries below highlight some of the topographical and visual changes I made for Z1R.

Z1R vs Z1

(Click to Expand)

W Greenhorn Pass, Z1 Remastered

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This stretch of West Greenhorn Road had some vertex coloring artifacts from the original highway placement, as well as some bouncy road geometry placement that gave it a rollercoaster-y feeling when driving on it. This area was at the edge of the map, so the 

 

For the remaster, I blunted the vert tinting and lowered the terrain around the base of the hill to incorporate it as part of the playspace. This also included removing extraneous guardrails and highway accidents that got in the player's way more than it was used as cover. The roads in Ohlone Circle below also received some wear and tear.

Dartmouth, Z1 Remaster

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The little suburb of Dartmouth had lots of steep hills and sheer walls immediately behind the houses, with the little commerce area seen above perched on the edge of a 40m high cliff.

 

For the revamp, the terrain's height differences were reduced, connecting the commerce area better with the road winding around in the right side of the image. This also decreased a lot of the commerce area's sniping dominance via the extra paths breaking up the cliff face. Note the hills and valleys still have plenty of height to them to use for cover, but don't nearly restrict the player or obscure distant targets as heavily.

Eastwood, Z1 Remaster

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This highway and canyon north of Eastwood needed some work to turn it into a better playspace. I brought the terrain up, expanded the drainage pond under the bridge, and eased the unnatural cliffs hugging road placements.

Lots of other details were changed here, too. The road transition from mesh to terrain paint was blended together and smoothed out, giving it a less jarring transition both visually and while in a vehicle. Roads were scuffed up, shoulder edges were gently blended in with dirt, and the end result is a less splotchy look that visually lines paved paths with radial flora.

Eastwood Strip Mall, Z1 Remaster

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This set of shots overlooking the Eastwood Strip Mall flips the camera around and moves it slightly south, compared to the previous Eastwood shots. From this angle you can see the change in the gorge, as well as some paint changes on the paved areas and previously hilly spots. As with many POIs in the revamp, we took out restrictive/annoying cover and added some extra usable cover. The area here had a few tractor trailers added to break up some of the long sight lines that the parking lots and strip malls often had.

Veeshan's Peak, Z1 Remaster

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Veeshan's Peak was one of the bigger terrain tasks on Z1R and got some additional help from one of the artists painting the rocky tops. Veeshan's got a significant reduction in height (while obvious, is partially obscured by also reducing the foothills), and both increased and simplified the routes to the peak. The north and south sides of the peak each had brutal zig-zagging switchbacks, which were ironed out into much gentler drives. 

Despite the differences, we made sure to keep a lot of what made the original mountain iconic. Players can still expect a decent trek to the loot on the rockier radio tower peak, while the pine-topped peak has a better position over the roads leading up to it. Our intention was to keep the Veeshan's intimidating and dangerous, even to the players on top of it.

The Villa's Pt. 1, Z1 Remaster

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The Villa's [sic] had some of the rougher terrain in the original Z1, with the terrain transition to the housing development often being sharp, grassy ramps. Both the terrain and the vert coloring here got smoothed out and reduced in contrast, with rocky outcroppings and props providing the cover.

The Villa's Pt. 2, Z1 Remaster

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Similar to above, this portion of the housing development had its plateaus gradually descend into the valley below, with erosion lines and rock painted in afterwards.

"8 Mile", Z1 Remaster

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This fan favorite trailer park didn't need too much changed on it. The layout itself was pretty windy and had a few levels of terracing, so it only had some of the road and partitions adjusted. Nearby, however, the hill overlooking the park was a safe and dominant spot to be in, and the pine forest 'ditch' felt punishing to climb out of. These areas were blended together to give it a more natural appearance, and to add some additional safety approaching the POI.

Zimm's, Z1 Remaster

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My part on Zimm's was a task to adjust nearby terrain and fix up the parking lot. Significant player feedback led us to preserve a classic Z1 hill for the roof jump (near the 2 red trees), as well as not adding too much in the way for drivers in the lot.

Many of the hills in the Z1R screenshot are smoothed down and repainted with finer detail and erosion. In addition to reducing the 'laser cut into terrain' effect it had previously, the roads are less prone to ambushes and give more frequent options to go off-road. 

The parking lot got the biggest facelift here, having only been parking lines and a pristine sheet of asphalt originally. The lot was subdivided with grassy medians, defining stalls, 'slow' lot lanes, and exterior 'fast' lanes. Several light layers of cover, starting from the new exterior walls to the columns up front, were intended to give players a little more confidence to approach the storefront. 

Dartmouth, Z1 Remaster