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.
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.
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
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:
- Nocturnals Shrine
- Deepscorn Hollow
- Fort Telman
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.