[Blog] Building the World

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about crafting a world. One of the most difficult things we as game designers face is putting our world together. Deciding where things are, how far a player can go, and how interactive the world is. With Skullforge: The Hunt, we started with this notion that we would do an open world game. However, the difficulties in building such a world became apparent almost immediately. We then decided to scale things back and make zones as it was a bit more focused and easier for us to handle. My “team” is only two people and crafting a seamless world with the two of us would have been a nightmare.

That doesn’t mean our job has gotten any easier. Building a world for players to run around in is a large undertaking. It takes a lot of work to make zones meaningful and varied. Players shouldn’t be bored running around in the world so we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get people motivated. We looked at varied landscapes and large cities. With the biggest problem being that the game takes place on a tropical island. I did a bit of research into tropical islands with Puerto Rico being the model for the climate of Sorova. There’s a lot of things going on there, but I didn’t feel like things were varied enough so we had to use some creative license to vary things a bit. Being in the forest or plains for the whole game wouldn’t have been all that interesting.

The first city that the players start in, Hamlin, is large. It’s really amazing how big that place is. We had decided to craft a smaller city with only the relevant buildings, but over time, it just got bigger. This is one of the dangers of game developing. Letting feature creep get the best of you. At some point, we cut things off and scaled back what we had planned. We did keep the size, but the number of buildings the player can actually enter was cut down substantially. It would have been nice to actually have almost every building you see accessible, but the amount of work to do that would have been insane. Not to mention, that we’d have to do a lot of repeat zones and there’s nothing interesting about that, either.

It takes a long time to craft a zone, and depending on the complexity of the terrain or area, it can take even longer. The goal in recent months has been to manage the time between writing code and working on features and crafting zones and buildings. I mix this up because working on one thing specifically can lead to boredom and eventually burnout. Switching up from time to time can keep the creative juices flowing. After the zones for the demo have been crafted it was time to take the fight to Hamlin. Since the game starts at the docks, I figured this would be a great place to start. Watching the zone slowly take shape is one of the best parts of game design. Unfortunately, I have been working almost nonstop for a little over a week trying to get everything built. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s the sheer number of man hours put into the zone that’s pretty staggering. We just hope that in the end, all the effort is worth it. Below, I included some screenshots from the dock area. It’s all still a work in progress and we’ll eventually have some comparison shots of the more final area once we get there. Thanks for reading.