CryEngine 3: ShadowMoss Island-WIP 3
More updates to my map. During the design & production a process has emerged, this appears to be marry quite nicely with the key elements of Landscape Character Assessment, now it’s a case of refining my process based on practice.
My project page for ShadowMoss Island is up on CryDev
My process has so far followed the steps below….
Terrain & Geology
1) Macro geology: Archetypal landforms(i.e topical island): this is the overall setting of the land, the high concept of your environment in which your different landscape will sit.
2) Sub-macro landforms: Broken down into 4-8 distinct landscapes, each with a defining feature(i.e salts flats, the limestone forest) these are the different sub areas that make up the landscape, if in doubt leave one or two empty or undefined, as this can allow room for design creep(feature creep: adding new features (landscapes) during the process of developing the other features). These sub areas should be named helping define each landscape with a sense of character
3) Large rock/geological considerations: This involved looking at the sub areas, and questioning whether or not large hard rock features(such as a stone cliff overhang, and a huge rocky outcrop) should be added to help further define the particular landscape(i.e Thor’s Anvil)
4) Medium sized boulders and rocks: One of the interesting developments in this process was the realisation that the macro to micro essence of the environment, i.e repetition but with variation through scale, you see the very large rock formations/boulders, the medium size, then the small/very small, this is essentially replicated with fauna(Tree’s, bushes, plants, grass), In order to bring a sense of believability, there needs to be a transition from the large to the small, hence the medium size rock/flora, which is often left out, can be critical is creating rich landscapes
5a) Small sized ‘scree’: Essentially almost like vegetation, this is the small, hand/foot szed rock/pebbles etc… () is often again left out in key areas where one would expect (base of cliff/crag etc..)
5b) Unique ‘Geomorph’ Formations: Rocks acting as a centrepiece in a sub-macro area, which can help the player by acting as a Waypoint, I have created one such piece in ShadowMoss Island, ‘Thor’s Anvil’: A Large igneous(basalt?) type rock formation that lies in between the salt flats(I’ll think of an apt name) and the weedy meadow(to be named!)
6a)Generic Texture : (essentially soil type) of the different sub-macro area’s(this ties into the surface texture in CryEngine 3), this has been a huge amount of work, collating references and building up a very high resolution surface texture(16x16k), there has been a huge amount of tweaking, and in matching the available rocks/plants in the CryEngine 3 SDK to the surface texture , and the landscape types, overall very happy with the grass/flora based areas, but the bare rock areas need alot of colour tweaking since the default rocks are limited in the range of colour palettes they cover.
6b)’Paths’: Adding texture to the different sub-macro area’s(landscapes) to define subtle/non subtle paths within a landscape, this is for guiding the player down certain routes the designer feels he wants the player to explore(i.e path leading to a stunning vista or to a new area)
6c) Variation texture: Just to add very low level(i.e 6-8ft) patches of variation within a landscape, i.e moss patch in a grassy meadow,
7) Grass & Scrub
a) Fill Low-level Flora Grass: This is the main fill grass/scrub that fills the area(~70% fill)
b) Secondary fill(i.e brown grass) : Adding variation and believability this is the secondary fill flora, often a contrasting colour works well(i.e brown with green)
c) Unique Low level flora: This is to add character to a particular area or to emphasise a certain aspect of the(i.e reeds along a river bank or grass seeding patches)
d) Flowers/vibrant coloured fauna: to really add a sense of contrast and richness to the flora, patches of grass(can be subtle i.e daises or flowering grass) or not subtle(a meadow of bluebells can be a striking feature)
9) ‘Fill’ Tree’s & other large flora This should reflect the terrain type and the sub-area theme. The nature of the terrain(rocky, dry soils versus flodded mangrove etc…) would radically affect the type of tree’s that would grow not just in the species but also the physical characteristics (i.e stunted or supporting gigantism , natural environments designers tend to favour Islands, which tend to be tropical and as a result tend to palm heavy, which really limits the range of flora and type of landscapes that can be created. In Shadowmoss Island, there is a mix of Oak(Cotton-Oak Forest) and Beech (WhiteBeech Woods) which brings a new refreshing approach to natural environements
10) Stumps & large decaying flora Where there is life once would expect the full lifecycle from birth to death, and evidence of it. In the case of woody plants(i.e tree’s) one would expect to see fallen, older tree’s, decaying stumps and trunks littered across the landscape.
10) Special ‘geomorph’ waypoint tree’s Acting as a centrepiece in a sub-macro area, these coupled with geomorph geology/other flora can add a dramatic focalpoint to a sub-area helping players form mental maps of the environment with key markers(i.e Geomorph tree’s in this case) acting as waypoints.
8) Bushes & medium sized fauna To provide a mid level transisiton flora between the low(grass) and high(tree) lines,, this should be clustered and often form around larger woody plants
Cotton-Cavern (Limestone Cenote) Entrance
One of the features I really wanted to provide an intricate island in the sense that gullies, caves, cliffs would all interconnect, if the Island were to have Sea Caves, then it would follow these caves would interlink across the Island(depending on the underlying geology, i.e limestone) and again, believable that one of the resulting caverns would have have collapsed (creating a Cenote), which would allow access to the Sea Caves from higher up in the Island.
Called Cotton-Oak for two reasons: a) It’s full of Oak tree’s(well yeah…)and secondly, the idea was to have a forest in a late autumn setting, with the differing shades of long brown grass coupled with the swirls of cottonwood fluff filling the air (inspired by driving in Manchester recently, and to work, I’ve become aware of the almost magical qualities of cottonwood fluff flying through the air during the early/late hours of the day, even in the middle of a very busy modern city hub environment such as MediaCity UK, it’s brings a real natural quality to the landscape, and often made me smile during a long drive). During my quick research of cottonwood I came across this(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpeUPD5FUU) and maybe this would form an interesting natural phenomena, can cottonwood fluff patches ignite spontaneously? If so, what would this look like? (Imagine a fire spweeping through a forest and forcing a player into a Cenote to seek refuse…hmmmm)