Interested in how the games sausage gets made? Yes? Then you need to be following Blocktober. No? Then you need to be following Blocktober. It’s a hashtag – no, come back – on Twitter this month, at which level designers on games big, small and yowza, really big are showing off what their creations looked like before artists and graphics programmers went and covered up all the cleverness with prettiness. In other words, take a look at the component parts some of your favourite games are made of, and get a real sense of how much of what we take for granted as background scenery and pathing is meticulously built.
Also: some of these unclothed visions of games such Star Citizen, Titanfall, Homefront, Yooka-Laylee, Vermintide, Bulletstorm, Dead Space, Uncharted and many more look like escapees from a beautifully minimalist alt-dimension of games that I would love to visit.
‘Blocktober’ is so called because it references how level designers ‘block out’ a level: building the fundamental shape of the thing, the journey the player will take, the major obstacles they may navigate and to some extent the sights they will see. It’s a companion trend to Inktober, in which artists show off regular sketches to celebrate all things hand-drawn, and designed to reflect the idea that there is no less artistry in designing virtual landscapes.
Some of it is recognisably low-poly versions of the games we ultimately played, some of it is mere wireframes, some of it looks like Escher was resurrected and started making videogames. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is utilitarian, all of it is a fascinating insight into game development – not from a dull, industry-only perspective, but from a ‘gosh, that these things even exist is kind of a miracle?’ one.
Your best bet to get a sense of it is to browse the Blocktober hashtag and set Twitter to show you submissions by date rather than the random tombola that is its ‘most popular’ tweets, but below are a few favourites to get you started:
Header image: @Frejya_design’s koth_suijin map for Team Fortress 2