Happy #blocktober, everyone! Seen this hashtag come across your social feed and not sure what it's about? The idea started with Naughty Dog's Michael Barclay tweeting that "level blockouts are art," along with a picture Barclay says he mocked up to practice his skills (so don't bother poking around the image for clues about The Last of Us 2). Take a look:
What's up level designers. Level blockouts are art. #blocktober should be a thing. #leveldesign #gamedev #gamedesign #inktober #animtober pic.twitter.com/UkjjzlrCsvOctober 1, 2017
#Blocktober is not just about low polygon counts or showing off unfinished games. Specifically, it refers to "blocking out," the process of creating a very early version of a game's level or environment. It doesn't have any textures, and will often feature minimal lighting or colors. It's meant to give programmers a sense of scale and progression so that everyone can see how Captain Hero McGee (or, in Naughty Dog's case, Nathan Drake) will move through the space.
Other devs quickly joined in, sharing level blockouts from games like Overwatch, Titanfall, Gears of War 4, Dead Space 2, Payday 2, and many more. It's pretty cool stuff, since we don't typically get such a good look into a game's environments or levels when they're this early in development. You can see several below, and more by browsing #blocktober on Twitter.
Start of the End of The Line chapter from Uncharted Lost Legacy #Blocktober pic.twitter.com/v3oS3LdwTdOctober 2, 2017
Early blockout and final art for the middle section of OW Junkertown. #Blocktober #Overwatch #junkertown #leveldesign pic.twitter.com/dEw5sUlwLgOctober 4, 2017
Loving #Blocktober where LD's show early blockouts! Here's WarGames from #Titanfall. The orange/green area was a "Lagoon" style that was cut pic.twitter.com/gaGDXVfFLDOctober 2, 2017
Some of my early iterations of Prologue and the Swarmak battle from Gears 4. #Blocktober pic.twitter.com/Na3B4Nv8HfOctober 2, 2017
So #Blocktober, where LDs share their early level blockouts, is a (very cool) thing. Here's my layout for the Ch06 school in Dead Space 2. pic.twitter.com/3yWUwof8i3October 2, 2017
Some layout work for #PAYDAY2 a few years ago. #Blocktober #gamedev pic.twitter.com/0yDJZ49xupOctober 2, 2017
For #Blocktober, here is what @SeraphGame looked like during its prototype stage pic.twitter.com/l1beO9NVXzOctober 6, 2017
Personally, I really enjoyed the look at Seraph's blocked out prototype, because watching it in motion goes to show how much art can change a game. But regardless of which games you see popping up in the month of #Blocktober, it's fascinating to see how games come together, and I think it makes the finished product seem all the cooler.