A fanciful recreation of a 16th century Mughal fort at Agra, in the style of a top-down strategy game.
This was a solo project. The skybox and water shaders are Unity default assets, everything else is my work.
Needs and Constraints
The purpose of this project was to explore creating art that is meant to be viewed from a distance, specifically for strategy games. In most cases the primary concern of level design is taking the gameplay mechanics, and presenting them in the best possible light to make the level fun (or evocative, or educational, whatever the goal might be), but here I wasn’t concerned with gameplay, so this was a purely aesthetic exercise, with the goals of having a clear sense of time and place, and to be convincing from above. I did use the camera behavior to constrain the user’s perspective however, which is about as far as gameplay programming went. I put a pretty severe time limit on myself for this project, partly as an impetus to actually finish, and partly just to see what I could do in the time I had.
I intended from the beginning to make this as modular as possible, to make a set of assets that could be reused and rearranged as needed, but I quickly discovered that unless I started to actually build something, I was a little lost as to what I should model.
I started by finding aerial photography of Agra Fort, which was harder than I expected, as it is still used in part as a military installation by the Indian military. Google Earth came through however, and I imported that image in Unity to block out the area. The most obvious need of the area was the walls, so I made the walls and towers, which provided much needed structure. I then made the buildings, of which there are five types, each of which have two texture variations, although I refrained from placing them in the scene until I completed the more monumental buildings, as to an extent they serve as filler.
My pipeline was, in most cases, making a high poly and low poly in Maya, then a bake and texturing in Substance Painter. I made a few of the tillable textures in Substance Designer. The vegetation was done in Speedtree.
This was a fun project, and very educational, particularly in terms of streamlining my process. The volume of work was more than I expected! I came away from it both wanting to work on it further, and wishing I had some actual gameplay to support it. More than anything though, what I really wanted was the time and resources to sit in the real Agra fort to create it with real accuracy.
While I’m happy with how it turned out, the fact remains I cut some corners in order to keep myself on track, and to keep my art modular. I changed attributes of the fort where I was struggling to find good reference (e.g. the mosque in the center of the city, which is based on the Jama Masjid in Delhi, rather than the real, smaller mosque in the fort). I also simplified objects with lots of negative space, such as the moat, because they are difficult to place without having obviously overlapping geometry. That is a particular regret for me, as the double-moated walls of the real fort is a distinguishing feature. The inner moat was used by the the Maharaja to keep tigers, which he would feed with political enemies. Who wants to skip on details like that?