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.