Map Development / by Xiaosong Shang

Hello everyone! Sam Martino here.

I know it’s been awhile since my last post, we’ve been busy with a lot of big projects at Dogwood, keep your eyes open for their announcements!

This time I wanted to talk about my personal favorite part of game development, map development. I have had the pleasure of being in charge of every map and level we created. I always loved how much you can tell of a story with the landscape of the world. Ashes of Kanaka was a unique project compared to what I do now, having to hand craft every single map in Photoshop was an experience, but it gave me so much freedom to incorporate every element I wanted. I wanted every map to tell its own story in a way. Granted, I couldn’t do this with every dungeon level, but I like to think that every region you explore in Ashes of Kanaka were vastly different from each other.

A lot of map development comes from setting a scene or setting a mood. You want the player to feel something when they enter an area, from awe, to comfort, you want your map to properly convey what you envision. If you want the player to linger in an area, you want them to feel safe, you create warm fires, welcoming furniture, things that give the player the idea that this is some place they can stay without an enemy coming after them. Other times you want players to quickly move through area, this is done with cold elements, broken furniture, dark undertones, things that would keep the player constantly wondering when the next enemy is going to jump at them.

These moods you want to set can also change dependent on what kind of game you’re making. In Ashes of Kanaka, we wanted the map to feel massive, like there was so much to explore. We kept our dungeons and boss areas massive and ominous to try and give the feeling that you are a small part of this vast world. For a game like Static, we spent far more time trying to keep it dark and mysterious. A lot of this was done through lighting. I really like the dark green effect we created with the moon, it covers the building a shroud and helps hide darting shadows out of the corners of your eyes.

This is just a general overview of how I look to create maps, but how do you handle large open maps? I will talk about that next time.

As always, please reach out to me at with any comments or questions. I always love hearing from you guys!