Named after the real life equivalent of it’s task, Joiner was designed for a very specific task – Wooden frames. If you haven’t heard about it yet, I went and added an extra ‘Other’ page to my site for it here
It’s not very versatile at the moment but it’s got enough in it to manage with any current Source engine game and can stretch to less chaotic and more regular metal frames than the classic Team Fortress style it was built for. In the summer I’ll be working on expanding it’s capabilities, then I’d like to add new functionality, stairs is one thing I’d like to tackle, using the framework I’ve set up for Joiner already it shouldn’t take me too long but with the different styles I want to try out I may have to investigate some form of OpenGL preview.
Anyway, I’d like to point you towards an article by Robert Yang about Joiner. He raises an interesting point that I had previously not considered whilst making Joiner. That by using Joiner to add surface detail the overall geometry of the level does not change much at all but will radically change the experience of the player.
Players are so used to the high frequency detail in today’s games, to not have any of these small surface details that fill the real world feels strange and uncomfortable. We are essentially sinking more and more time now into making our work pretty that there is a large chance that good design falls by the wayside and we end up with levels that look nice, but don’t play well.
It is important now more than ever before to ensure that levels are fun to play before they are artpassed so that we too don’t become distracted by the details.
Two interesting anomalies here are games being reworked from previous titles, the recent Dear Esther and the (hopefully) upcoming Black Mesa. They are both building on the outdated framework of an existing game and could naively viewed as just an art pass.
Dear Esther (image from Little Lost Poly) builds on the atmosphere of the first game pushing the graphical boundaries of the Source engine to produce a work of art more than a conventional game. Here the focus is on telling a story through an immersive and compelling environment best enjoyed by taking time to revel in the details and atmosphere rather than creating a space that is fun to play in and shoot bad guys without being strictly accurate.
Black Mesa (http://www.blackmesasource.com) aims to rebuild Half-Life from the ground up to modern AAA game standards. The team working on it fights with finding a balance between accurately replicating the original experience and updating the experience with the cumulative game design lessons learnt in the last decade and a half. There are many design decisions that were made in 1998 that would never be made today, the Black Mesa team have to address these issues as well as bringing the art up to modern levels all whilst ensuring the game remains in keeping with the original experience.
A heady challenge for sure!