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Monday, March 17, 2014

Wizard101 Environments Through the Years


Everything changes through the years. And, of course, it's reasonable to believe that things would improve over time. Anyone who knows me will tell you that one of my favorite parts of a new world is the various environments - the look and feel of that space. Let's look at how that's evolved over time.

Back to the Beginning

Work for Wizard101 began very early. My guess would be, based on the photo above from Erik McKenney (HERE) that it was about 2006 when "texture time" rolled around. For those of you who don't know how the creation of an environment works, I suggest taking a look at all of my past Concept101 posts - but I'll try to summarize here. The way I understand it, planes are created in 3D space. From there, the artists design textures that are plugged in to those planes to create an environment.
 

Take this simple screenshot. The health and such has been turned off for a better viewing. We see a world, but those are actually different textures that world together to make these environments we love. For the sake of this post, I've started to do some outlining on a few images. Nothing fancy, in fact, nothing even precise. But it'll give you an idea of what we're dealing with. Take a look at the image below.


Here, you see the planes into which textures are placed. They may look more cohesive, but that's because that's how they were designed - for repetition and recycling in a variety of places. The floor, for example, has a half-wood, half-rug texture. Then, at a certain point, it starts to elevate and move upward. This is a new plan for a new texture, or one that a previous texture bends to fit.

The steps are not steps at all, but steep ramps. The lighter trees are actually more three dimensional than I make them out to be, but this is educational. The tree supports in the back and better outlined to show how a flat texture is wrapped to become a 3D object. 

And what of the leaves? They're painted textures, too, but with transparency. Then, a flat box is placed and they overlap and intertwine in the tree to make it look like it does. Some textures for trees or grass are the same way - flat planes with an image, but they are made to always face the camera, so you'll never see the paper-thin side of them.

Wizard City: Watch Your Step

Wizard City looks great on its own, but when you see some of the later worlds, you'll understand what I mean - some of these ramps are incredibly steep!


You can see that the textures and planes here aren't terribly complex. They look pretty dangerous, actually. I've always maintained that if Wizard101 went back to Wizard City and gave it a complete makeover so that it looked like some of the later Morganthe arc worlds, they'd really expand their audience. Think about it, you log in and try out the free-to-play version. You only get to go so far in Wizard City. Some of the later worlds are absolutely fantastic - rides, epic boss encounters, cutscenes, all of that. But if we never see that in Wizard City, how can we adequately judge what we'll be paying for?

An Undersea Adventure Signals Change

2006 was awhile ago. Fast-forward to 2010 with Celestia. It's the first storyline world in the Morganthe Arc and the first storyline world to abandon the classic streets with unique center areas and do completely different locations - and it was fantastic.


You can see some obvious changes - even ones I didn't highlight, like the sloping in the sand. The general area includes more gradual slopes, less definite shapes (fragmented pieces and fewer obvious basic geometric figures), and so on. You can even see the edge of the undersea dome in the background and some of the surrounding details - now that's an improvement!

I'm a huge fan of the fact that they spent a little extra time on this world to make it look so great. They've done worlds this way ever since. Dave Greco signed on to the art team about the time they started working on Zafaria, so probably pre-2010. I imagine he's not the only one, with this being Wizard's largest expansion yet. But from there, I've fallen absolutely in love with the world designs ever since.

What makes the perfect set of environments? Stick to a theme. Start out simple, and use a few simple areas as a base. As the wizard progresses, however, include more complex and more diverse and ambitious locations. Take Zafaria - you start out very basic with the Baobab Crossroads and Market. The Baobab Crown actually looks pretty impressive. You do the Savannah, which looks okay. Then the Zamunda Outskirts and Zamunda, which are a definite change. Then Stone Town, and the Waterfront, which leads up to the Black Palace - a nice, dark break from the sun. Finally, the Drum Jungle, which looks pretty impressive. Right before the Elephant Graveyard and Mirror Lake, the most unique of all. Avalon is my favorite world and an even better example.

Then and Now

Khrysalis, as you'll notice, is a huge jump. Instead of massive stair textures, they actually have stairs. No ramps, no flat ground - variation, creative textures, and detail.


Can you imagine how many planes had to be built for the stairs alone? No wonder Khrysalis is taking longer than expected. But it looks great, and it has me excited for what's to come in part two. 

My final image for you is one of Tyrian Gorge. Talk about creative use of plains! You can see the entrance to Fort Rachias from the entrance, and you can see that entrance from across the location. The problem is the gorge part in between! This just goes to show you how planes can be used to create amazing heights and depths and locations overall. Even the rocks here are more complex! Can you imagine putting all of this together throughout the entire twisting and winding area?


I hope you learned something about textures and 3D environments - they're pretty awesome, and I can't wait to see what KingsIsle has planned next! Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral! Credits: This post was inspired by one on Homework in a Graveyard.

4 comments:

  1. I would like for them to go back to all 6 worlds (WC-DS + GH) and redo them because there are more detailed parts or they just need updating but that won't happen... well something small may happen like a back story to Wizard City changing.

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    1. I'd like that, too. But it'd be a lot of work. Not only would areas have to be restructured, but quest goal locations would, too. And enemies. And new maps. And everything. I can't quote any source, but I believe someone said that they wouldn't do it because there's no direct financial compensation - no new areas to buy, no new packs or items to purchase, etc. I'd argue that they'd get more subscribers by at least redoing a little bit of the first few world arcs.

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  2. Fair Ashley HolystoneMarch 18, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    * Gasp * Cool! I always notice some things that weren't there before and was confused the whole day, trying to remember if that thing WAS there or it's just my imagination. Yes, I'm talking about the dog-fish fountain picture.

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  3. I found this post very interesting as I hope to become a texture or environment designer when I am old enough. I like all of your posts and keep up the great work.

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