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Level designing terrains

Getting a game-map from idea to a finished playable state is process that involves a lot of steps. Here I will explain how one of the early steps is done here at Reto-Moto.


When I first start on a new map I’m sketching out the overall Level Design – on the back of a napkin, a beer coaster or in Adobe Illustrator :-). The layout depends on the mission type – and some maps will be more symmetrical than others.


When the layout is in place, I generate a terrain that will suit the layout. We are using a terrain generator called World Machine 2. It’s a graph-based tool that can output all the terrain masks and height-maps used to build our terrain in Autodesk XSI (a post is on it’s way about the way we use XSI to create terrains).

We are using a World Machine file for each type of terrain (flat, sloped, hilly) – but the file contains multiple (endless) maps and in this way a river can cross through multiple maps. This way we can also create maps that are adjacent to each other (or even overlapping) on the terrain.


The graph-based layout (above) gives us, as designers, control of each device that generates the terrain – e.g. you can mask out areas where the erosion should be less or you can heighten specific areas that will suit the level design better.
World Machine 2 also features a fully-privileged plugin architecture – and we did our own plugin (reto.road) for leveling roads.


The terrain above is a preview from World Machine of the height map used for the “Factory Map” in Heroes & Generals

After exporting height and normal maps, masks and splines we generate the in-game terrain is Autodesk XSI, and I can start to position all the background graphics.


  1. RAnDOOmRAnDOOm01-23-2012

    Thats a great read.

    Its always interesting to know how much detail and work is behind a map.

    Very nice!

  2. propapropa01-23-2012

    great !

  3. CplKasCplKas01-23-2012

    great job!

  4. OrganicHallucinosisOrganicHallucinosis01-23-2012

    Neat! Your system is a lot more complicated then what I’m used to.

  5. AvrojetAvrojet01-23-2012

    Interesting insight.

  6. iainiain01-23-2012

    That’s so cool! I love how lumpy and real it looks also.

    I love how the maps will be linked up, it’s good to know you guys are using a technique that makes sense! So the maps won’t feel out of place and random!

    Keep it up!

  7. golani79golani7901-24-2012

    I love seeing behind the scenes stuff – keep up the good work!

  8. FuriousChadFuriousChad01-25-2012

    Saw this on IndieDB and now I’m registered and anxiously awaiting an invite to help test!

What are you waiting for soldier? We need heroes on the battlefield and generals to lead them!