Landscaping in Skyblivion by Dee Keyes Part 2

DeeKeyes
DeeKeyes
First off I’d like to apologize to anyone who was waiting long on my part 2 of my Landscaping article, I suddenly got in the mood to right this up and was shocked to see that the first part was written and uploaded nearly a year ago, I still get surprised at how fast time moves and how long I’ve been a part of this amazing project, it’ll be 3 years this February. Good thing is within that year of writing my previous article an astonishing amount of work has been done throughout the entire team and Blackwood has been no exception.

In this article I’ll talk about the decisions that were made throughout Blackwoods development and the reasons behind them as well as my methods of landscaping.

The Flattening

In my previous article I mentioned that I had applied to the Skyblivion team using a small mod that I’d be working on just to get me back into the swing of things, that mod was a small re-landscaping mod to the Morthal region in Skyrim, specifically the marshes, that was the reason Kyle saw it fit to ask me if I was interested in taking Blackwood for my claim. Upon starting I was surprise to see that the landscapers weren’t working off of a blank landmass that we were gonna have to fill in with the regions that were in Oblivion, rather instead we were working with the ported Oblivion landmass as a the jumping off point, we were literally gonna be building off of Oblivions older landscape, I was happy to see this since it made things a lot easier, rather than having to recreate everything we just had to improve the regions, I thought to myself that this wasn’t gonna be such a colossal task as I’d thought previously. Unfortunately, Kyle had other plans for my time on the team. After taking a walk around Blackwood in Oblivion I realized one major thing, this place is BORING! This was supposed to be the part of Cyrodiil that shared a little bit of Black Marsh’s character although It hardly felt like a swamp at all, sadly It felt like another area in Oblivion that was just very hilly, forested and worst of all procedurally generated. One thing I decided was that I was gonna seriously ramp up the amount of bogs, ponds rivers and lakes, I wanted this area to be soaking.
This here is a map showing the Blackwood area in Oblivion, the area that I’ve circled is the only area in original Blackwood that showed any characteristics of a swamp, you can see the amount the water there is there and it isn’t just one river or lake it’s patchy like you would have in wetlands like Blackmarsh or Blackwood, this was the type of landscaping I was gonna build off of apply to the rest of the region.

About 3 months of work got done before Kyle (Rebelzize) came to me after seeing some of the work I had been doing and had many comments and pointers (rightfully so). My work was definitely lacking and just felt very messy and inconsistent compared to the other landscaping that the likes of our dear ClefJ had been achieving. He told me that he thought Blackwood needed something drastic done to it, to Flatten the entire thing.
That would mean three months of work would have to be thrown out, I would have to flatten the entire region ending up with 10,000+ objects floating In the air, all of which I would have to lower or delete individually myself, trees, rocks, creatures, npcs, entire forts and ruins, caves and oh GOD, so many Nirnroots! Here was the biggest problem for me, he was right, it was the best thing for the region, it made no sense for a swamp to be high up in the hills like it originally was, the entire region would make so much more sense if it was all flatlands like most swamps are. I started looking at the possibilities instead of seeing this as a colossal huge chore because I would be spending a few weeks doing nothing but Flattening the land doing no real landscaping, very boring, very monotonous so looking at the bright side of things and the possibilities was the best thing to do, and there were many possibilities indeed. While completely wiping an entire region out and starting fresh is a lot of work it also offers me a lot of room in terms of design. Thinking of all these things I could do with the region is what kept me going through those boring few weeks of just Flattening the land to the same height.

The Real Work Begins

This what the entire region looked like after I was done flattening it, just a featureless landmass with 1000’s of trees and rocks floating above every cell showing the height that the land used to be at.

Luckily I wasn’t working with a completely blank slate here I still had the various ground textures showing me which grass was used where as well as things like dirt paths and main roads showing me where I old landmasses paths used to be so I could still keep those in. I lowered and cells that had high water in them down to sea level (0) and began the process what I call ‘Denting’ which involves punching dents into the land that will be the various ponds and bogs that would litter a swamp.
As you can tell within the cell theres more water than there is land, the land instead comes in what resembles ‘veins’ this is a good way of making the land look more like a swamp as well as a subtle way of directing the player in certain directions (should the area call for it), early on I decided I would have a lot of these and would fill these bodies of water with Slaughter fish and other deterrents that would make the player fear going into Blackwoods water. When landscaping it’s not enough to make it look realistic or look good, you have to always keep in mind how you imagine the player will be able to navigate it and when you keep that in mind it’s very easy to let some mechanical ideas pop into your head from time to time, those bodies of water that you may not want to go into for fear of the Slaughter fish? Those fish might have killed some other poor swamp traveler someone who may have been carrying some valuables on them that are worth diving to the bottom of the lake and searching for. You see how just shaping the land can already get ideas running through your head of what the end product will play like? And this comes not from the first part which is the landscaping but from imagining how the player might experience that land in the game.

Sorry for Rambling

I’m terrible at writing articles but I do enjoy doing them so sorry if I repeated things over and over and rambled on about things I shouldn’t have I realize that there’s a lot of smaller technical details about landscaping that are just a bit too boring to talk about in this article. My original draft for this article was just too damn long, I think, so instead I’m gonna chop it up into smaller parts and talk about different areas in each article such as :

  • Blackwatch
  • Atatar
  • Nocturnals Shrine
  • Deepscorn Hollow
  • Fort Telman
  • Arpenia
Luckily I already have most of the Blackwatch article written so you won’t need to wait another year for my lazy-ass to write the next one.

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  • Dave says:

    Keep up the great work, all of you.

  • James says:

    Awww your not rambling you seem like such a nice guy. keep up the good work lad <3

  • Franklin says:

    That’s hilarious to me that of all the nirnroot hunting quests, this one was likely the most challenging, haha.

    I have no doubt you guys forget how long you’ve been working on this because the trailer that was released reminded me I was a freshman in college when I first heard of Skyblivion! I’m glad you guys have stuck through as long as you have and hope this mod ends up doing great things for all of you working on it.

  • Roebot56 says:

    I know it was painful to lose so much work (it hurts to lose a few hours because the CK decides to crash and you forgot the cardinal rule of save every 5 minutes, but losing 3 months?! That must’ve been agony), but the Flattening was needed.

    What you’ve done so far (and shown off) looks like a truly eerie swamp worthy of the title “Blackwood” and crucially, feels like the swamp it was supposed to be, not the mass of pointy green hills like the rest of Oblivion. Those shots of post-flattening really do show off how silly Oblivion’s omnipresent hills were in a place that’s supposed to be a marshy swamp.

    P.S. Keep up the great work, all of you.

  • Rhoso says:

    How exciting. I’d love to see a map of the Blackwood area once it’s all done to see the comparison.

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