Greetings, glorious adventurers! If you're joining in our Alpha One spot testing, please follow the steps here to see all the latest test info on our forums and Discord!

Making Memorable Metropolises (Why Ironforge is the best city, racial types, site choice, and more)

Hello fellow enthusiasts! I am incredibly excited by the ideas and previews of the node system we have seen so far. I have a background in game design and architecture, and I have been an MMO player since I started playing WoW within two weeks of launch, 16 years ago, and I want to use this post to share my thoughts about what might be coming in the future.

MMO cities (I’m going to use the word cities to encompass all of the node development stages, as it is more natural and will tie into a theoretical framework I bring up shortly) have been central to my personal interests and the research I have performed over my career so far. I consider myself an explorer type player, and in every game I play I savor that feeling being of being lost in a new world, before the inevitable familiarity and mastery sets in. On my mage, I can recognize and be anywhere in Azeroth in less than 20 minutes (I’ve dabbled with a variety of MMOs but spent the most time in WoW, and thus my examples will generally come from there.) Ashes, on the other hand, promises me a world that can never fully be explored, that will constantly have new places to delve and to prolong that magic feeling of not knowing where you are.

Art & Architecture

My passion established, I want to briefly clarify what I mean when I am talking about architecture (and more broadly, urban design.) Architecture is often perceived and portrayed as being an artistic practice – dealing with the look and style of buildings. While architects do often pay consideration to what the building or environment looks like, the true domain of architecture is in the thoughtful arrangement of occupiable spaces. Good architecture is concerned with what it feels like to move through or be inside a space. Drawing a parallel to game design (and acknowledging the variety of job titles across different studios,) architecture is most closely related to level design. Level designers arrange blank masses in an environment with the sole consideration of the experience players will have as they pass through the environment. Stylistic concerns are reserved for the vastly more capable art and environment teams.

HWY088S.jpg
an example of a level design blockmesh before it is iterated upon in collaboration with the environment team

So, as I move forward and share my thoughts about the design of cities in Ashes, I am talking about what it feels like to occupy the cities. The previews we have seen of the environment art are already incredible – I am eminently unqualified to critique the stylistic appearance of individual structures and assets. I am interested instead in exploring what makes the cities spatially interesting to visit and ultimately spend a huge amount of idle time.

What are MMO cities for?

Which brings me to the question – what are the primary functions of an MMO city? In reality, cities emerge as a consequence of people gathering and building up useful infrastructure. In the game world, the consequences are much the same but the causality is reversed – cities already exist in a location, and players gather to make use of the infrastructure and to meet other players. In WoW Classic, the functional elements of the capitals include high level class trainers, the auction house and bank, transportation nodes, specialized vendors, and they are where you get the head drop buffs. In Ashes, we are not quite as sure the full list of purely functional elements, but include many of the same things – warehouses, special processing and crafting stations, government services, marketplaces, housing, raid access, crossroads, and so on.

MMO cities provide additional services besides the purely infrastructural, as well. Players gather to see and to be seen. We’ve already heard that high level equipment and legendary gear is going to have highly unique appearances, and so we can safely assume this game’s Scarab Lords and wielders of Thunderfury will similarly be spending a fair amount of time standing around in public spaces. The promenade is a key element of any successful city. Finally, a good MMO city has breathing room for players to spread out, whether for spaces to roleplay or simply to be away from the crowd.

What makes cities legible and memorable?

Knowing what players are going to cities for, we can start to reflect on what makes cities ‘good.’ Here is where a useful comparison to real world urban design theory is useful. Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City explores how people actually conceptualize their environment, rather than the ‘bird’s eye view’ we often associate with mapping. Instead, Lynch talks about the way we break down out cities into:
  • -Paths – the routes by which you move around
  • -Edges – thresholds between things, like a wall, overpass, change in ground texture
  • -Districts – large regions of distinct character, like neighborhoods
  • -Nodes – area you enter into, such as a plaza or square
  • -Landmarks – big things you see but not enter, like a tower or mountain

XC2gBdq.png
Kevin Lynch's original diagrams of the elements discussed in Image of the City

So, when navigating a city, the more fluidly we can break it down into these elements – building an image – the more pleasant the experience of moving through and occupying it is. Similarly, when encountering a new environment, we try to build up this image as quickly as possible to achieve that level of navigational confidence. For example, think about the last time you traveled to a new city – you likely found a series of landmarks and pathways that’d connect you back to your starting point, and as you continued to explore, you attached the new destinations to your existing network. This is why, in an unfamiliar place, we often take longer routes to get home if it takes us along parts of the city with which we are familiar.

These characteristics also apply to MMO cities, and if you keep these attributes in mind throughout the design process, you can create a city more pleasant to occupy. So, remembering Kevin Lynch’s elements and the reasons we established people go to MMO cities, I’m going to use Ironforge as the example of the ideal permutation.
  • -The most critical city services – the bank and auction house – are spaced on opposite ends of a public space. In order to make use of both, players have to run across the plaza.
  • -Nearly all means of travel into and out of Ironforge pass through the plaza, guaranteeing traffic. The front gate, the inn, the flight master, the tram, and the mage trainer are all orbiting around the center, and so to get from your arrival point to an exit you will likely pass through the plaza.
  • -The central public space is well scaled, providing enough room for players to stand around and look badass on their cool mount or with their gear, but not being so wide as to get lost in the inconvenient vastness.
  • -The central public space makes use of a neutral and flat ground texture, allowing player models to not get lost in the textural noise.
  • -Sprawling outwards from the center are the less critical capital services – trainers, professions, vendors - housed in a variety of distinct environments – the spooky cave, the gnome district, the lava forge, etc.
  • -Spaced throughout the entire city is a comfortable amount of breathing room and empty buildings, allowing players space to wander off and be alone or to have a spot for a roleplayed encounter.

qi0O53m.png
The Ironforge plaza - even this morning there's someone standing around looking sharp with a Thunderfury

It is worth noting, though, that not every city needs to be legible and pleasant. A key counterexample is that of the Undercity: it is nigh unnavigable. Everyone who has played Horde will have a story of getting lost in the Undercity – it is a right of passage. To this day, I consider myself fairly spatially fluent, my main character remains a Forsaken, and I still have to run loops around the upper tier to find the inn. But this very complexity of travel makes the Undercity memorable. It is not easy to use, but functionality is not always the most critical design aspect.

Procedural Quality

So, what does this mean for Ashes? We learned in the second node preview video that Intrepid is using a form of procedural generation to populate nodes. That makes a lot of sense, as Ashes is attempting to include a number of high-quality cities on a scale never before seen. Typical theme park MMOs might have as many as half a dozen large cities, but they are static and established beforehand. Ashes will have up to five metropolises active at any given time, but must account for the possibility of those five been drawn from a pool of at least one hundred (though I will later make the argument for closer to one thousand…) As such, procedural generation does seem to be the most logical choice, rather than trying to hire a veritable army of level designers.

In the process of setting the parameters for the procedural generation, then, I think the above qualities should be present in just about every permutation. At this early point in thinking about designing the generation, it’s exactly the right time to be setting precedents that will make all of the cities that appear in Ashes as interesting, memorable, and successful as the very best theme park MMO examples.
Recapping the most critical elements of a successful MMO city:
  • -Thoughtful paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks
  • -A well scaled, neutrally textured, central public space
  • -Key city services arranged around the central space
  • -Less trafficked city services arranged around the central
  • -‘Breathing room’ for exploration and roleplay

Opportunities with Racial Variations

Procedural generation is an opportunity to go further than just best practices for cities, though. We know that the appearances of cities will be varied in some seemingly large part derived from the racial makeup. We have already seen some of the various different types of buildings rendered in a race’s specific style. I think there is a chance to extend the variation by race further than simply different assets run through procedural placement – extending to the urban design, and thus spatial character.

I imagine each race can have a spatial typology unique to themselves. Each variation still adheres to the guidelines I set up earlier – the elements of good MMO cities – but subtly varies based on the race whose individual buildings are present. Such urban spatial types might include a centralized point type, a circular type, a linear type, or a decentralized type.

q7tPu74.png
My diagrammatic thoughts about possibilities for racial spatial typologies, with variations by subrace. The Tulnar remain an enigma...

The result of altering the procedural generation in this way would be that each racial city not only looks different, but feels different to occupy. Instead of simply swapping out the assets that run through the generator, the entire essence of the city can be altered. The way you move through and do business in a Vek city will feel entirely different than a Kaelar city.

The importance of site and an argument for curation

Moving past alterations and tweaks to the procedural generation, I think a real opportunity for Ashes comes in the manual curation of the procedural generation and the utilization of extreme sites. My biggest fear – given the current level of information we have now - is that the node generation system is going to produce a huge variety of interesting and unique cities that all appear in a convenient open field.

Instead, I am hopeful that the cities of Ashes have sites and locations as varied as the best theme park games. Cities tucked in canyons, cities in the shadow of towering trees, cities clinging to the side of a mountain, cities spread over a chain of islands, and so on. The richest factor in determining the uniqueness of a city is the location, to the point where I would want to see site variation with raw asset swapping well over racial variation.

Based on my limited understanding of the procedural generation, though, this would likely be challenging. To that end, I hope Intrepid finds a way to synthesize the generator with the deliberate touch of a designer – working in the form of brushes? Volumes? Generative iteration followed by manual cleanup? Who knows.

In any case, I think variation by location must be the single most important factor in creating the cities of Ashes. Without that, I worry that we will have ‘The orc metropolis of ZOI 72” and the slightly varied “orc metropolis of ZOI 24” without much to distinguish them. As was the case in No Man’s Sky, having infinite variation does not mean a whole lot when the variation is evenly and uniformly distributed. Instead, I hope to have “Yoloti, Jewel of the Mountainside” and “The Canyon Observatory, Tecolotl.” Infinitely varied cities in a field does not feel memorable – slightly more similar cities in epic locations will.

This means, of course, that Ashes will need to have either 103 (if you go the asset swap route) or 927 (if you vary by location and by racial contribution) cities designed (multiplied by the number of tiers of development.) This is obviously a huge number, but given what we have seen and heard of the procedural generation tools I hope that it is plausible, working in sync with the tool, the crank out several cities a day per designer – selecting a site, using the procedural generator to produce a fairly viable iteration, manually cleaning things up and moving them out of the way, and so on. A lot of work, yes, but I think it will result in the most memorable and meaningful experience (Did I mention I am looking for a job?) Now, losing to a siege does not only mean losing your hard work, but it also means losing a one-of-a-kind environment, potentially never to be seen again. I want a game where people speak of their cities in awed tones, with the losses and gain being every bit as real as losing a work of history and art in reality.

A bonus fantasy about the evolution of cities

Based on my experience with procedural generation, this last thought moves to the edge of impossibility, but I will include it anyway for the sake of evoking imagination and eliciting discussion. I would love to see the history of a node fully embodied in its condition. That is to say, if a city falls to a siege and is razed, but is later rebuilt, it would be incredible to see ruins of the first city still present in the new one. This creates a sense of time, serves as a living embodiment of history for players that were there and a mystery to be explored for new ones, and shows the changing demographics in the form of potentially varied racial architecture (and spatialization!) The implausibility of such an approach stems from requiring the generator to have a memory of what was and a means of interfacing with that knowledge, but still, the idea is appealing.

Summary of things I think are important for Ashes Cities
  • -In general, the procedural generator should be calibrated to adhere to urban design principles
  • -Every city needs careful attention paid to its dominant public space
  • -I’d like to see not only racial variation in aesthetic, but also spatial typology
  • -That said, I think the single most important city design factor should be a unique and evocative location
  • -Finding a way to include ruins (a temporal element) would be awe inspiring, if implausibly difficult to automate

I am clearly very excited to see Ashes unfold over the next few years of development, and I am eagerly awaiting the Alpha previews not too far off to see what Intrepid has done for the early version of node development. I spend a lot of time thinking about these things, and I would love to discuss all the possibilities for metropolises and the node system and general. Thanks for sticking with me this far!
«1

Comments

  • He's also a team player, and would make a great asset to the company.

    He looks forward to hearing from you.
  • Seriously though, it's an interesting post. The longest that I've actually read all the way through. You should be proud of yourself!
  • Hah, I figured I'd earned myself a bit of cheekiness while I was going through and editing it. I hope it doesn't read like an application, though! I've been most active on discord trying to feel out other people's urban experiences in games. I'm pretty familiar with Warcraft, but I've been relying on other people's opinions in picking other MMOs to explore.
  • Very, very interesting post, I loved it.

    I agree a lot on the importance of well designed cities in awesome locations, and I have the same fear as you; with automated procedural cities is hard to imagine all of them being interesting and memorable.
    I really hope they do a great job with it.
  • NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    Summary of things I think are important for Ashes Cities
    • -In general, the procedural generator should be calibrated to adhere to urban design principles
    • -Every city needs careful attention paid to its dominant public space
    • -I’d like to see not only racial variation in aesthetic, but also spatial typology
    • -That said, I think the single most important city design factor should be a unique and evocative location
    • -Finding a way to include ruins (a temporal element) would be awe inspiring, if implausibly difficult to automate
    I have to agree with this list, and to be honest, I only saw a single thing in the post that I disagree with (which for me, is impressive).

    That one thing is this "-Landmarks – big things you see but not enter, like a tower or mountain".

    To me, there is no reason you can't enter a landmark, especially if it is a tower. In fact, in Ashes, since players fill every role in the city from mayor to high priest to blacksmith, there shouldn't be any area of a city that all players are unable to enter. If there is a temple with a tower and the top of that tower is the high priests living quarters, then the high priest of that temple, which is a player, should be able to get up there.

    A mountain is a differet thing though - I can agree that not all mountains need to be able to be entered.

    But yeah, other than that one small detail, I agree and enjoyed reading your post.

    After reading this, I'd really like to see spatial layouts taht are unique to each race. The issue I can see with this is in the develoeprs desire to have all architecture of a node match the race that has provided the most experience to a node. This means that the architecture of a node may well change as it gains a level.

    The way I assume this to work is that nodes will essentially consist of a template, and buildings will be added to that template as needed. When a node goes up in level, the template is expanded, and all buildings in the node are altered to match the architecture that the node is now using.

    If spatial layouts were racial specific, it would mean that either the entire layout of the node would change as the racial influence of the node changes, or (and this possibility has be somewhat excited), the spatial layout of a node is set based on the racial influence a node has as it hits the city level, and this spatial layout dictates which template is used, with any racial influence changes from that point onwars only affecting the archtectural style of the buildings. This would mean that you could then end up with a metropolis that has Vek buildings laid out in a Py'Rai layout, which sounds interesting to me.
  • TacualeonTacualeon Member
    edited November 2020
    I like your post and I was taking mental notes for myself as I was reading it.

    I find spatial typology super interesting, and I agree that all cities could be much more memorable with unique locations and landmarks.
    What tools do you use for planning and designing cities?
    The central public space makes use of a neutral and flat ground texture, allowing player models to not get lost in the textural noise.
    Do you have more visual examples in videogames of this?


    Personally, I think Ironforge is a videogame city of 2000s where Mmorpgs was the new thing and everything had to be massive.
    Ironforge was the equivalent of having to wait to lvl 40 for a mount: Massive, big, empty and slow paced.
  • akabearakabear Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    Interesting to site some design principals from first year Architecture texts that are used to teach underlying principals of design. Very true and provide a solid basis for design in a multitude of contexts.

    Whist the OP did not wish to touch on design style, perhaps to also site the 2-3 year architecture texts that delve into semiotics might also be useful to help hone and make sense of some of the built elements.
    Whist there is often a focus on European architecture elements in semiotic texts that form the understanding of the building these guiding principals could be used to apply in a fantasy setting as well.

    Expressed structural members as a style is fine but there is an awkwardness in the visual as there is no structural sense. (fantasy or not). Visual elements without heiracy of importance loose the signifiers for primary vs secondary entrances, ranked building importance by location, scale, elements etc.

    Towns using elements to create coordinating principals to help wayfinding.

    Just as weapons, armor and fashion would do well with professional input from those fields.
    Or as motion capture is used for realism.
    Or music is not left to game designers to compose.
    Why so often Architecture is done by artists in islolation of real life professionals when the budgets are so great and the part is so important gets me lost.

    Or any virtual design for that matter.

    A highly under rated and widely miss understood profession but I could not express more strongly and recommend bringing in a consultant landscape architect and consultant architect to hone what has been done to enhance and improve the current design without taking away from it.
  • CathartidaeCathartidae Member
    edited November 2020
    Marcet wrote: »
    I agree a lot on the importance of well designed cities in awesome locations, and I have the same fear as you; with automated procedural cities is hard to imagine all of them being interesting and memorable.
    I really hope they do a great job with it.

    Glad I'm not the only one! The character size previews of the generator look amazing, I'm really eager to see how they propagate at larger scale.
    Noaani wrote: »
    If spatial layouts were racial specific, it would mean that either the entire layout of the node would change as the racial influence of the node changes, or (and this possibility has be somewhat excited), the spatial layout of a node is set based on the racial influence a node has as it hits the city level, and this spatial layout dictates which template is used, with any racial influence changes from that point onwars only affecting the archtectural style of the buildings. This would mean that you could then end up with a metropolis that has Vek buildings laid out in a Py'Rai layout, which sounds interesting to me.

    I hadn't imagined the possibility of maintaining layout as the tiers change - I had just been going under the assumption that the entire city would be regenerated. That is a very interesting possibility, though - you could also imagine early buildings (the ones that grow with the city into mansions) might remain as architectural oddities, showing the evolution of the city over time.

    It sounds way harder to teach the generator to change spatial types incrementally, instead of all at once, but I really like the idea of the city growing into different district types organically as a function of the varied racial contribution over its lifespan.
    Tacualeon wrote: »
    What tools do you use for planning and designing cities?
    The central public space makes use of a neutral and flat ground texture, allowing player models to not get lost in the textural noise.
    Do you have more visual examples in videogames of this?

    Personally, I think Ironforge is a videogame city of 2000s where Mmorpgs was the new thing and everything had to be massive.
    Ironforge was the equivalent of having to wait to lvl 40 for a mount: Massive, big, empty and slow paced.

    I personally sketch the broad strokes out cities out by hand then go right into Unreal to slide volumes around. It's super natural to use coming from architectural software and general game playing.

    vHLlAHY.png
    Here are a handful of cities that I had characters to visit. You can see Ironforge, Lion's Arch, and Limsa Lominsa all have fairly light and smooth ground textures - Orgrimmar's orange dirt is great, too. Stormwind and Marionople's cobblestones are noiser and darker and fight with the player models a bit more. The previews we've seen in Ashes have had highly realistic textures which - especially cobblestone - tend to be really noisy. That's been a complaint across the board, though, so I'm so I'm sure it's a thing addressed in iteration but I feel it's good to keep in mind. AFKing in Stormwind (besides the gnarly dog-legged central space) feels messier and noisier to me than standing around in Ironforge or Orgrimmar.

    Size has been a thing I've seen a lot of discussion about. Several people I've spoken to feel Warcraft's cities are too small and caricaturized. Those people often bring up Divinity's Reach as a city that feels 'city sized.' To me, Divinity's Reach is far too sprawling and empty to feel populated. In an MMO, I don't like the feeling of being outnumbered by NPCs, especially 'commoners' with no function besides walking around filling up space. Part of the magic of the cities in WoW Classic to me is knowing that nearly every NPC has a purpose, even if it is a single off-the-wall quest turn in.

    I feel that Ironforge hits that sweet spot where the functional area (bank/bridge/auction house) is central and small enough to feel densely populated but large enough to spread out and show off. The rest of the city (which takes something like two minutes to run from one end to the other) is big enough maintain that feeling of city scale, house a full suite of useful and functional NPCs, and still leave just enough room to take over a building and have a roleplayed scene to yourself.

    That said, I'm also a proponent of meaningful grand scale in games (I think the act of traveling and being bored by the process is an underrated component of exploration) and I'm really looking forward to the idea of having to dedicate an entire afternoon to get from one end to the other in Ashes. I spend a lot of time just wandering around on a horse in Read Dead Redemption and running around without flying in Warcraft, so I can imagine why Ironforge's middling scale might feel inconvenient to some.
    akabear wrote: »
    Interesting to site some design principals from first year Architecture texts that are used to teach underlying principals of design. Very true and provide a solid basis for design in a multitude of contexts.

    Very interesting thoughts. I've done some work in the relationships between fantasy architecture and real world cultural references - and I'm really excited for the way that Ashes seems to be taking steps in the direction of exploring new possibilities. Polynesian Dwarves, Mesoamerican Orcs, and Japanese Orcs are all very novel interpretations that have me eager to try a more exotic race for once.

    Your point about visual hierarchy is great too. I haven't identified any problems with the art I've seen so far, but you're absolutely right in that being able to find the front door is a critical and often overlooked element of design.

  • DamoklesDamokles Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I saw nothing about Tulnar. Today you made an enemy.
    giphy.gif?cid=ecf05e47w7iamio90d9hh6xdn79tdbtmlojbuaj1jxicuz7k&rid=giphy.gif
    KkvMmA5.png
  • Damokles wrote: »
    giphy.gif?cid=ecf05e47w7iamio90d9hh6xdn79tdbtmlojbuaj1jxicuz7k&rid=giphy.gif

    It works in different topics!
  • An amazing post @Cathartidae ! Very well written, detailed and you had many wonderful observations and points. I (and likely the community), appreciate you taking so much time and effort to present all of these interesting ideas.

    You would likely make a valuable asset to the Intrepid team for your knowledge and input.

    I found your silhouetted-diagram aerial-shots of potential city layouts to be the most fascinating. I can almost envision myself wandering down alleyways, as though I were already in Verra right now!


    Steven Sharif is my James Halliday (Anorak)

    Lore-Banner-Ao-C.png

    “That is not dead which can eternal lie,
    And with strange aeons even death may die.”

    -HPL
  • TacualeonTacualeon Member
    edited November 2020
    I was thinking about the plaza at SW and the cobblestone as I was writting my post.
    Thematically makes sense but visually it can be a bit noisy, although there could be an argument they were going for the noisy, busy market feeling from the start.

    Iron Forge is one of most unique in it's location and them but it has a lot of meaningless empty space, imo.
    That said, I'm also a proponent of meaningful grand scale in games (I think the act of traveling and being bored by the process is an underrated component of exploration)
    My point. 100% agree.

    Awesome post and very orderly presented.
  • maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    This is a great post!!
    I would love if the procedural generation was this powerful!

    @Cathartidae
    Do you also have thoughts about road/path topographies between cities/villages (things like the edge of a forest)? Or is that not really your domain?
    I wish I were deep and tragic
  • CathartidaeCathartidae Member
    edited November 2020
    Damokles wrote: »
    I saw nothing about Tulnar. Today you made an enemy.

    Ha! No concept art, no images, not even a cultural reference - Tulnar are a total mystery. Maybe they'll be a mixture of all the other races' styles, too, or perhaps they'll have some kind of layered vertical thing given their underground homes.
    Tacualeon wrote: »
    Iron Forge is one of most unique in it's location and them but it has a lot of meaningless empty space, imo.

    Awesome post and very orderly presented.

    I can see that, certainly. It's a fine line between 'overpopulated with useless NPCs' and 'big and empty.' I'm curious yours thoughts on Orgrimmar (which I think is a very close contender for the best MMO city) and Dalaran - which feels small to me, but does nail the feeling of a bustling useful city by my reckoning.

    Do you have much experience with other MMOs? Or games in general? I'm always looking for new references to poke around, too.
    maouw wrote: »
    This is a great post!!
    @Cathartidae
    Do you also have thoughts about road/path topographies between cities/villages (things like the edge of a forest)? Or is that not really your domain?

    Road are a subtle thing I think. The level design approach to laying out roads has a lot in common with the picturesque (which is related to the origin of suburbs, before being coopted by developers in the US) which places significant emphasis on framing views and having visual markers connecting each segment as you travel forward. If you're looking for it, you can see this super heavily in the newer open world zones in WoW. If you look forward, away from the ground for a bit (hah,) as you're running along, you'll notice a tree, signpost, building, rock other other obvious object more or less at the end of your vision. Once you pass that one, another will come into view just ahead and so on. At the same time, key elements like forks or distant landmarks will be highlighted and emphasized. All of this happening incrementally creates this ongoing sense of constantly discovering new things.

    nDAMCQH.jpg
    aTWv8uR.jpg

    These diagrams are from the level design of Breath of the Wild, where they are doing exactly the same thing as picturesque architects and the Blizzard environment designers - teasing big reveals, continuously placing new things in the player's path to be discovered, building a constant sense of exploration.

    As for Ashes, I think it'll have a unique challenge in terms of road placement. While the cities can be mostly self contained - which is to say however complex their design winds up being, they exist in isolation. Their shape is not determined by other ZOIs. Roads on the other hand, depend entirely on the existence of all neighboring nodes and many smaller factors potentially including mayoral influence and resource generation.

    There are plenty of algorithms for connecting a field of points (including some really novel examples,) but I' don't know enough right now to be able to comment about automating the scenic design component as well - but it sounds like a fascinating problem!
  • *cough cough* https://intrepidstudios.com/careers *cough cough* there may just be some Environment Artist positions up your alley...

    In all seriousness, thank you for sharing your very detailed thoughts in this post - I particularly loved your concepts for the different shapes each racial variant may manifest in their node layout, to give them more visual variety!
    community_management.gif
  • *cough cough* https://intrepidstudios.com/careers *cough cough* there may just be some Environment Artist positions up your alley...

    In all seriousness, thank you for sharing your very detailed thoughts in this post - I particularly loved your concepts for the different shapes each racial variant may manifest in their node layout, to give them more visual variety!

    Thank you! It means a lot to me that you (and everyone else here) has taken the time to read my thoughts.

    I'll have to see about putting some of this stuff into a portfolio :smiley:
  • AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    The OP is brilliant (both the post and the person posting. The most exciting idea to come out of it, for me, is the idea of different cultures having different layouts that make the towns distinctive and speak to the identity of those cultures. I also heartily endorse the suggestion that we avoid sameness, where (for example) one level 3 node for a particular culture is effectively identical to another level 3 node of the same culture.

    I like when I walk into a store for a grocery chain that I'm familiar with, and when I look around I know where to find things even if I've never been in that store before. I don't want that experience when I walk into a new town in Ashes. Just as in real life, no two towns are identical, neither should they be in this game.
     
    Hhak63P.png
  • TacualeonTacualeon Member
    edited November 2020
    Back then I tried Aion and Lineage, they were aesthetically pleasing but interaction and pvp was not engaging for me.
    I also tried Tera and I felt it outdated.

    I once watched a recomended youtube video about traffic engineering and they talked about "Desire lines" and it got stuck in my head with all sorts of videogame applications. And I thought "this might be useful someday".
    A piece to make a city feel more alive.
    EER4seBWwAAjnTe.jpg
    fig01_00zoetermeer3_web.jpg
    Wefindtheway.png


    About Ogrimmar I don't have strong opinions except that I dislike color orange.
    It had space and clear lines.
    Jumping from the higher altitudes to the bank with Levitate or Parachute was great "find your own fun" touch.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    edited November 2020
    Great post. I do agree that the location of a city would be absolutely the most important component. I do think that outside of the city design procedural generation there are certain components that were brought up that also could be varied (either randomly or a bit more deliberately). For example NPC population... although I'd expect it to scale with the level of the node, it would be nice to see dense and sparse population cities.

    In the ironforge example you also discussed ways of entry/exit which I think also would provide great unique flavor and identity to nodes. The number and location of points of entry should be varied. This would be critically important and add a great source of variability for node sieges as well. Sieging a node with many gates vs a single assailable bridge would feel vastly different and make for great gameplay moments.

    I do also think that verticality should be explored quite a bit, especially if city design will be a function of the predominant race. Similar to population I'd like it to vary with node level but also have some variability (by race) per node level. I do envision verticality playing a huge role depending on the location (tree top city, mountain side city etc). Just something to keep in mind if you get a job at IS :P.

    I did struggle a bit with the idea of the city landscape randomly changing dramatically when the node levels up based on the contributing race but then again, even without racially determined city design, it may very well change dramatically anyways. Good stuff.
  • CathartidaeCathartidae Member
    edited November 2020
    Atama wrote: »
    I like when I walk into a store for a grocery chain that I'm familiar with, and when I look around I know where to find things even if I've never been in that store before. I don't want that experience when I walk into a new town in Ashes. Just as in real life, no two towns are identical, neither should they be in this game.

    That's a really excellent analogy about the possibility of 'sameness' when going into new places - I'm going to save and use that one later :)
    Tacualeon wrote: »
    I once watched a recomended youtube video about traffic engineering and they talked about "Desire lines" and it got stuck in my head with all sorts of videogame applications. And I thought "this might be useful someday".
    A piece to make a city feel more alive.

    A very cool detail that would definitely be appropriate for path design. We love our straight lines. Being annoyed by small inefficiencies (the kinds of things that lead to desire paths) was one of the factors that got me interested in architecture a long time ago.
    neuroguy wrote: »
    Great post. I do agree that the location of a city would be absolutely the most important component. I do think that outside of the city design procedural generation there are certain components that were brought up that also could be varied (either randomly or a bit more deliberately). For example NPC population... although I'd expect it to scale with the level of the node, it would be nice to see dense and sparse population cities.

    In the ironforge example you also discussed ways of entry/exit which I think also would provide great unique flavor and identity to nodes. The number and location of points of entry should be varied. This would be critically important and add a great source of variability for node sieges as well. Sieging a node with many gates vs a single assailable bridge would feel vastly different and make for great gameplay moments.

    I do also think that verticality should be explored quite a bit, especially if city design will be a function of the predominant race. Similar to population I'd like it to vary with node level but also have some variability (by race) per node level. I do envision verticality playing a huge role depending on the location (tree top city, mountain side city etc). Just something to keep in mind if you get a job at IS :P.

    I did struggle a bit with the idea of the city landscape randomly changing dramatically when the node levels up based on the contributing race but then again, even without racially determined city design, it may very well change dramatically anyways. Good stuff.

    Thank you for the positivity :) You have some thought provoking ideas - the different entrances really makes me excited to see the relationship between the metropolis, the mayor's decisions, location, and sieging, and the thought of disconnecting population, size, and 'power' is very interesting too. What might a small/sparsely populated metropolis be like?

    -

    Those of you who found this discussion interesting, I've spent the last few days putting together a draft whitebox model that showcases and explores some of these ideas. I'd value any and all of your thoughts on that specific manifestation as well as continued pontifications on the broader ideas here.

    MlD40ek.png
  • Thank you for the positivity :) You have some thought provoking ideas - the different entrances really makes me excited to see the relationship between the metropolis, the mayor's decisions, location, and sieging, and the thought of disconnecting population, size, and 'power' is very interesting too. What might a small/sparsely populated metropolis be like?

    I don't think the population variable needs to be super functional, like it should not determine guard density or anything but kind of plays into what you said about having cities that are memorable and live on in the server's memory:
    I want a game where people speak of their cities in awed tones, with the losses and gain being every bit as real as losing a work of history and art in reality.

    Having more sources of independent variability will also just help make cities feel unique I hope.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    What happens to landmarks, though, when a Pryrian town becomes a Nikua city and then becomes a Vek metropolis. How do I find my home and the homes of my friends if there is a significantly different street layout due to race?
  • maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Dygz wrote: »
    What happens to landmarks, though, when a Pryrian town becomes a Nikua city and then becomes a Vek metropolis. How do I find my home and the homes of my friends if there is a significantly different street layout due to race?

    Won't the village be different to the city be different to the metropolis anyways?
    If designed well, I don't think you'd get lost in any of the designs
    I wish I were deep and tragic
  • SathragoSathrago Member
    edited November 2020
    I think to address a world where "no two cities are alike" they could have some fun with introducing an actual, you know, address system. Have signs for road names and number the buildings on each block.

    This will give players the ability to give and receive directions to each other and even help immerse you into the game.

    Hell maybe even a mailing system linked to npc caravans or letters by pigeon could work.
    5000x1000px_Sathrago_Commission_RavenJuu.jpg
    Commissioned at https://fiverr.com/ravenjuu
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    maouw wrote: »
    Dygz wrote: »
    What happens to landmarks, though, when a Pryrian town becomes a Nikua city and then becomes a Vek metropolis. How do I find my home and the homes of my friends if there is a significantly different street layout due to race?

    Won't the village be different to the city be different to the metropolis anyways?
    If designed well, I don't think you'd get lost in any of the designs
    To some degree, but, I would hope that if a Pyrian town pops to a Pyrian city and then to a Pyrian metropolis, the street layout will remain basically the same - there will be a foundation of streets... rather than some random new layout at each Stage.
    If street layout changes to some new racial configuration when a Pyrian town pops to a Nikua city and then changes to a completely different racial configuration when that Nikua city pops to a Vek metropolis, that seems to herald mass confusion. And compounds the workload of the designers to try to make that all cohesive.
    I would think.
  • NagashNagash Member, Leader of Men, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    so do the tulnar live in the sewers?
    nJ0vUSm.gif

    The dead do not squabble as this land’s rulers do. The dead have no desires, petty jealousies or ambitions. A world of the dead is a world at peace
  • DamoklesDamokles Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Nagash wrote: »
    so do the tulnar live in the sewers?

    Do old dusty skeletons live in the dirt where they belong? :D
    KkvMmA5.png
  • NagashNagash Member, Leader of Men, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    Damokles wrote: »
    Nagash wrote: »
    so do the tulnar live in the sewers?

    Do old dusty skeletons live in the dirt where they belong? :D

    Hey I have towering mausoleums thank you very much you filth
    nJ0vUSm.gif

    The dead do not squabble as this land’s rulers do. The dead have no desires, petty jealousies or ambitions. A world of the dead is a world at peace
  • DamoklesDamokles Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Nagash wrote: »
    Damokles wrote: »
    Nagash wrote: »
    so do the tulnar live in the sewers?

    Do old dusty skeletons live in the dirt where they belong? :D

    Hey I have towering mausoleums thank you very much you filth

    "Towering" Yes, I see what you mean with "towering" *snickers* you mean those dirt hovels with reeds on the roof on the riverside dont you? Oh yes, mighty Necromancer please teach us to fear you *laughs*. Please send your 10 skelletons after us. We wil use their bone splinters to clean our teeth.
    KkvMmA5.png
  • NagashNagash Member, Leader of Men, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    edited November 2020
    Damokles wrote: »
    Nagash wrote: »
    Damokles wrote: »
    Nagash wrote: »
    so do the tulnar live in the sewers?

    Do old dusty skeletons live in the dirt where they belong? :D

    Hey I have towering mausoleums thank you very much you filth

    "Towering" Yes, I see what you mean with "towering" *snickers* you mean those dirt hovels with reeds on the roof on the riverside dont you? Oh yes, mighty Necromancer please teach us to fear you *laughs*. Please send your 10 skelletons after us. We wil use their bone splinters to clean our teeth.

    I won't take that from a species that hs spent the last 1000 years wallowing in filth, inbreeding and has done nothing but cower and hide from the harbingers. You were not wanted by the gods back then, and even to this day you are nothing but beings of need of extermination from the world of Verra, and I will happily oblige.

    So yes call me all the insult you can beast for I am coming and I will never stop till you and your "race" are nothing more than dust under my legions feet for that is all you deserve.
    nJ0vUSm.gif

    The dead do not squabble as this land’s rulers do. The dead have no desires, petty jealousies or ambitions. A world of the dead is a world at peace
Sign In or Register to comment.