Good for the Environment
Greetings and salutations from the environment team at Flying Lab Software! I’m Brad, the Lead Environment Artist.
My experience working with the entire Pirates of the Burning Sea team has been overwhelmingly positive and creative since I started here last year. It’s especially exciting being part of a crew that has made such spectacular looking environments within the world of PotBS. All of us are dedicated to producing a rich experience for each player within the game.
To help achieve this, we adhere to the national flavor that each town represents and create unique buildings to add to that flavor. We also employ the same approaches that other artists on our team use to give other aspects of the game personality.
One thing we’ve been working on for a while is creating new environments to replace the existing instances of some of the towns scattered around the world map. Adding more variety to the world has been among our main priorities. So far we have given facelifts to Fort Caroline, Harbour Island, and Guanica.
Let’s take Fort Caroline as an example of a town that needed more of a unique French flavor. Producing buildings with French architectural styling (where it previously didn’t exist) is a priority. The new look for the town has many buildings that are different in size and form to the other towns in the game with similar layouts. This was a conscious effort to avoid following a cookie-cutter approach to creating buildings.
To create a building that stands out from the rest, we use techniques such as adjusting the overall scale of the building, separating it in age from the others around it, applying warmer or cooler colors and adjusting the level of detail. If these techniques are employed strategically, the resulting layout of buildings can help direct the player to key areas such as areas related to missions and events. If, on the other hand, the town contains many buildings of the same size and layout configuration it creates a repetitiveness that diminishes players’ ability to navigate and orient themselves.
Another tactic we use is to placing distinct buildings that emphasize areas of the town. This not only enriches the town’s character but allows the player to orient themselves and navigate more easily. Take a look at this picture, as an example:
It’s difficult for me to distinguish one building from another in the modern-day neighborhood shown above. If someone asked me which building looks as though someone from the Spanish Royal Navy lives here, how would I know? They are all the same in scale and style with only slight differences in color and shape.
While this would not be a bad place to live in the real world, a game world needs variety so that things are easy to find and to make the play experience interesting. Compare the photo above to this scene from PotBS, which shows a building with a special purpose:
Our approach to town design is not dissimilar to how a character artist would approach character design. Character artists and environment artists both consider the personality of the subject we are dealing with. Just as a character can have quirks and moods, so can a town. It can be cheery and upbeat, downtrodden and aged, young and optimistic, or war-like and aggressive. The content in PotBS towns can influence the kind of color choices we make, how dramatic the lighting is, the sky choice, etc. We can tailor the town’s appearance to the kind of missions in the town or the purpose the town serves in national stories.
Color is another important factor in environment art. For example, even though the squares within this image are the same size and shape, the square with warm red and yellow hues attracts the eye more than the square with blue hues.
These are some of the basic fundamentals behind color theory that we use to add variety to our environments. Notice the warm light drawing your eye towards it in this screenshot:
These are all techniques that we have employed so far or plan to do with additional environments in the future. When time allows, I look forward to giving another update on some of the new and exciting things that environment crew has in store. Until then: happy pirating, pirate-hunting, and adventuring!