Worldbuilding Update

One of the big tasks occupying us at the moment, besides general development, is map work. Now this is a big story in and of itself within the context of all the big stories of struggle present in this game's development.

I've personally spent almost a decade trying to figure this problem out, from the ground up, and starting from a place of no game development experience.

The idea was always to offer a very large, realistic "manually built" world to play in, not a procedural one where the whole map is generated randomly. In those procedural worlds, you can't really design the world's geography and you also don't tend to get landmasses and landscapes that feel real or make sense.

There was also the imperative of making that landscape work in terms of scale and proportions, which was something of a struggle when working with the usual methods. Most of the mountains you see in our previous screenshots and videos would rise up to impossible heights if they were in the real world, something over 10.000+ meters altitude. Not ideal.

Want some impossibly steep mountains? On the other hand, those slopes are a skiing heaven...

RPG worldbuilding also tends to make mountains and mountain ranges a single thing, where you have flat land then suddenly you get a mountain wall and it's either more flatland on the other side, or nothing at all because the mountain serves as a barrier.

In reality, mountains tend to come in massifs, very intricate in detail, with valleys, dales, flats, passes and all kinds of such things. As an avid mountain-hiker, that is what I wanted to get in Winterfall.

That was more realistic... but less interesting to look at and unworkable on a large scale!

So that's a bunch of requirements: very vast lands, realistically shaped and proportioned, following natural landscaping logic.

So, fighting with many of Unity's constraints and restrictions for years, I've tried a bit of everything thinkable to until it very recently got to the point of being able to realistically entertain the prospect of building the world in mesh (3d objects) tiles, tile by tile.

It's a big world, too... Below, part of the Northwestern quadrant of the map.

As some of you can tell, this above map (and its the southern part that you don't see here) is based on parts of Corsica. As a matter of fact, those who have experienced it first hand and know it, will be able to recognize it in-game: mountain passes, summits, plains, valleys, it's all there. The coastline has changed and now there are regions that don't exist in-between the main regions, or some coasts are now foothills, but all in all it's there.

So, as you can imagine, easter eggs, references and such things, may be present, both in the game map and in the real world locations.

Several things made building that world true to size previously impossible but thankfully that's a problem that now belongs to the past. Once the new method was locked in, it took a bit of experimenting, some custom shader programming, and we got somewhere.

Initial results were not very conclusive...

The following screenshot shows you an in-editor (and in-progress) terrain tile. The attached heightmap picture shows you where that tile is on the greater map, and it also shows you 1/4th of the initial intended world size.

The tile is 4x4km.

So yeah, that's a lot of tiles.

But it makes producing, optimizing and developing each region a lot easier, on top of ensuring that even an empty world will look great and distinctive.

Steps of our seasonal shader at work for seamless transitions. Work in progress!

Paying homage to the beauty of this land was also very important to me, and so that's why I wanted to make sure that it was all there, incorporated in the game world's geography. At the same time, I couldn't just go for a 1 to 1 copy: first of all, the game world's not supposed to be an island, then Corsica is quite small, it also has no plains to speak of, only mountains, so I couldn't have had all the landscapes I wanted and needed.

This is what things look like in Blender, before the terrain gets imported and processed into Unity. Some familiar with the geography of Corsica might even recognize the area.

It will take some months to produce this entire tile set of regions, but that's fine. It took a decade to reach this solution, and typically, the hardest and longest part is solving the production problem. Once it is solved, everything flows much faster.

Thank you for reading and see you very soon with Dev news: we completed the Inventory system rebuild finally and will be moving on to the last major system of our list: Camp-building.