New Prototype Map: Part I

Hey guys!

This article is the first of a new article series about our new Alpha map! This post is all about the design process and how we implemented it to redesign the map.

Why did we decide to rework the map?

There were many reasons we wanted to create a new map, both internal and external. And thanks to our Alpha testers, we finally gained the push we needed to begin planning. We recognized a handful of flaws that adversely affect players, such as an over-reliance on realism which led to certain areas of the map looking good but being unplayable in practice, or the vast amount of empty, unfilled ocean. Using the lessons we learned, we forged ahead with a new outlook on map creation which can be summarized into a few key criteria.

Pre-alpha map "Armstrong" with unplayable mountains

The new criteria

  • Every area of the map can be played on, and must feel good to play on.
  • Each biome must feel distinct enough to earn its place in nanos world.
  • To support the second point and address our emptiness problem, we must utilise as much of map possible and make it enjoyable to play in.

Why new criteria?

Each of these points were a result of analysing what was, and was not, working with the pre-alpha map "Armstrong".

  • While the mountain on Whiskey looked amazing and felt very realistic, it was becoming increasingly frustrating to build and test on. After some thought, we realised this is because the mountain was crafted to be as realistic as possible – Too realistic! We spent too much time on this and forgot to make it fun to play on.
  • One of our play testers brought up a fantastic point about our biomes: They ended up looking and feeling very similar. In an effort to make each biome fun to play in, we tended towards very similar ideas resulting in similar looks.
  • Finally, a pure mistake, plain and simple: Unreal prefers square terrain maps.

Kieran's work in World Creator

Responsible for the creation of the new height map, Kieran created the height map for both Armstrong and our new Alpha map in World Creator 2. He spent of a hundred hours researching different biomes both in real life and in other games to determine the best look and feel for each biome while still making it enjoyable to play.

The new heightmap size is over 12k and will leverage the power of Unreal Engine's World Composition to increase performance on lower end systems. To create such a large map within World Creator, Kieran had to create every island separately and pull them all together into one glorious terrain.

Without any further ado, here is a WIP screenshot of our new map:

New map in World Creator (wip)

The next post will be about the implementation in Unreal Engine and how we achieved the new map! Stay tuned...


Kieran & Malte