Designcraft: Building Blocks of Level Design Panel Live Recap
A few members of the Warcraft team are sitting down to discuss how they build the world of Azeroth!

  • Player character is very important
  • Azeroth itself is the most important character to the design team.

Blocking Out a New Zone
  • Start with a flat plane
  • After they have a basic surface, they start to map what the surface will look like
  • All textures are hand painted and geo is molded
  • Once hub is established, terrain is push and pulled for elevation differences.
  • Demo zones are shown to art team to break the ice and discussion is created.

  • General idea of inhabitants and story of area is known before world building.

Vertex Building
  • Painting with shadows to create terrain and depth
  • Work with art team to use textures and creations to the best of abilities

Creating Atmosphere and Mood
  • Concept and storytelling comes after the general zone is created
  • A general human character is set into an area to get a perspective on the area and size scaling
  • Sketches/ideas are used in the process of forming a story of a small area of the map
  • Playing around with ideas is common until it feels right
  • Lighting helps sets the mood of the area and guides the eye in the direction you should go in
  • Like to tell visual stories without words using props and visuals such as spider webs, graveyards, etc.
  • Small details give quest designers ideas of what should be in a space
  • One of the biggest things in Warcraft is telling a focused story. Using lighting to guide the eye and changes in color is an inventive way to lead a player in a certain direction.
  • Fog is used to hint for a character to stay away from an area

  • Creative process to make something exciting
  • Process involves making something and changing it over time until it's perfect
  • Look for improvements and changes
  • Quest designers will alert zone designers of new story arcs and how to change the terrain to reflect it
  • Sometimes entire quest hubs are turned into Adventure points of interest. Team tries to utilize these areas as best as possible by adding boss points or changing terrain to reflect new direction
  • Almost everything added to a map is hand placed including purposeful spots for quest givers and bosses
  • Every area of the game goes through tweaks, some small and some large
  • A month before shipping WoD Gorgrond went through a change in which the jungle area and the Botani were added to reflect differences in the zone.
  • Creatures and mobs placed within a zone will often change the scope of the map
  • Quest designers add the creatures, people and elements of a zone to bring it to life after it is finished.

Q & A

Q: How do the level and quest designers work on the maps at the same time?
A: Only one level designer is working on a map at a time but there is constant communication to make sure it's evolving smoothly. Sometimes quest designers will think ahead but will hang back until level design gives the all clear for the broad strokes of the spaces.

Q: Do you design based on players being on the ground or is flying taken into account?
A: Flying is taken into account. Terrain must be easy to navigate on foot regardless.

Q: How do you approach the random nature of actual nature?
A: Be a student of reality. Look at photos, take photos for reference and build small spaces before looking at the larger scope. less is more but it takes practice. Using elements of nature to guide players in where to go is one of the best parts of design.

Q: How do you collaborate with the tools team to build the software you need to do your job?
A: Constant communication is the key to making sure everyone has what they need. New tool sets are added regularly.

Q: When you create bridges how do you curve them?
A: The model team will create any custom pieces such as bridges. Design team stages the elements around it.

Q: What sort of tricks do you use to guide players through a large world?
A: Terrain cuts will create illusion of lines that steer the eye in a direction. Even blades of grass and bushes are used to steer players.

Q: How do you connect these small hubs within a zone to the broader area of the zone?
A: There is a general sense of where the main parts are and the rest of the time is spent forming the world around the points of interest. They want the world to feel real and not just random spots with roads between them.

Q: Do you hide your personal signature or symbols in less traversed parts of the zones?
A: The design team hides things that make sense in the world, such as skeletons and elekk plushies.

Q: Do you use tools that a landscape architect uses to create terrain?
A: Sketches are used to form the idea in the designers head and then as something to show when communicating with other team members. Some designers use all 3D models and running around the game client to get an idea of how well an area works.

Q: What stops you from updating old terrain and models?
A: Team is busy constantly making new stuff. Try to assess what actually needs new texturing and it is often driven by content.

Q: How easy or difficult is it to make sure that going between the new zones feel natural?
A: It's an art form in itself. You need to have an understanding of the map flow. Vanilla wasn't designed for flying and so lessons were learned in creating Cataclysm when mountains separating zones among other artistic approaches had to be made.

This article was originally published in forum thread: Designcraft: Building Blocks of Level Design Panel Live Recap started by Stoy View original post
Comments 3 Comments
  1. dorstor's Avatar
    «*Flying is taken into account. Terrain must be easy to navigate on foot regardless*»
    Argus. Easy.
  1. Oakshana's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dorstor View Post
    «*Flying is taken into account. Terrain must be easy to navigate on foot regardless*»
    Argus. Easy.
    It's been said multiple times in multiple places. Argus was not designed to immediately be easy to navigate. It was intended to be chaotic and dangerous. Once you've been around the areas enough times, it gets simpler... but it was never designed to be simple to navigate right out of the shute, and it was never designed for flying.

    It's the Legions home world for christ's sake. It's not supposed to be simple, easy or safe.

    They are talking about normal leveling areas in that answer. Not end game challenge zones.
  1. Ristow's Avatar
    "Flying is taken into account. Terrain must be easy to navigate on foot regardless*»
    it means another pathfinder shit

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