Creation of Maps / by Xiaosong Shang

Hello everyone! Sam Martino here.

So last time I said I would go more in detail about how to create larger maps. Ashes of Kanaka was, while a large map in terms of how big the whole world was, each map the character entered was just a small portion. The same thing can be said for Static, as it all takes place inside of one skyscraper.

I have always wanted to work on a massive open world map, this would happen when we start on Ashes of Kanaka 3D, but that map has already been laid out. We have been toying with an idea for a large game called Trek, this would take place across a five square km map that we envision to be completely hand crafted, no procedural generation. To tackle something this large, to most people, it seems like an absurd feat. There is so much ground to cover, how can companies like Bethesda or Rockstar create these large worlds?

Keep in mind, I have done very little with Trek, but the best way we have found to do it is to take it step by step. I started by creating the base, a massive landscape that covers the space I want, but I don’t do any landscaping or terrain manipulation. This is just so I know what I’m looking back as I work on smaller sections. We then began to draw out the map on a whiteboard, start dividing the map into sections. We would create large cut outs, think like the states in Red Dead Redemption 2, this allows me to focus on each area individually. The key here is that you keep creating subsections so you can just go from section to section. Things start to feel a lot more realistic as you complete each section and start to see the map come to life.

We were ambitious and decided we wanted the map to hold around one thousand unique locations, but we wanted each to tell a story, not just be a generic house with ammo in it. If we were going to do something this large, we want it to be done with great detail. This involved coming up with smaller sub stories for each little section, as well as the main story for the game. We actually developed the small stories by playing FATE, a role playing game that allowed us to play out each area as if it was a small campaign for a role playing game. This allowed us to come up with great, memorable stories that are if a bunch of random people got together, were dropped into a zone, and told to create the stories you would find. I don’t think this is common practice in the industry, but I cannot stress how helpful this was to us and it got every team member involved in the world creation, which led to people really caring about how the map was shaped.

I want to touch a part of development I have not been as involved in, but is still one of the most important aspects. Next time I will go more into detail about music creation for games.

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