Making Something Big

So far I’ve mainly focused on ironing out my workflow and coding systems. That stuff is very important and all, but often times it’s not very exciting! And I prefer exciting.

And so I decided to do some content work, namely making the final version of the town region and it surroundings. The current town is pretty small, and contains no surrounding real surrounding area that is meant for gameplay. It is square-ish, and not made with the newest terrain system. There is a lot of design and technical work to do. There’s so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to split up this task into multiple blog posts.

The Design Work (this post)
The Technical Work
Finishing Touches

The design work for the world started a while back. The overall layout is the mountains in the north, the lake to the northwest, hills to the east, and a canyon to the south (an unwalkable cliff). I drew up a quick sketch of this a few months ago. Not only did this help with the overall layout, it also helped me get creative with gameplay elements such as placing farmable land in the wilderness to promote exploration and difficulty in keep up with your crops.

This sketch was good enough back then, but it’s not at a level of detail for me to just turn down the creativity gears and crank out a large piece of terrain without making mistakes in the process. So a few days ago I had my talented cousin Eric do some professional sketches of the area. Eric is much more creative than I am, and much better at drawing. His art style is particularly suited for this sort of work, being more impressionistic, which draws the focus to the shapes and physical attributes of the objects rather than letting the textures and shading distract the eyes.

I asked Eric to sketch in perspectives that would really showcase the changes in elevation of the scene. I really want the scenes to make good use of elevation, cliffs, and terrain in the hopes of immersing the player in the world better than with an environment made up of flat planes like in so many other mobile games. If you pay attention to the level design in triple-a MMORPGs (think the Charr region in Guild Wars, for instance), you’ll notice how this technique can be used to great effect. I just hope I can pull it off too!

So, with the two sketches up on my second screen I went to work making the terrain–and shortly had to stop.

Next: The Technical Work.

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