More on Vanguard and world design

Not trying to vehemently bash Vanguard, just explaining better what I mean for decent “world design”.

Since people say I’m deliberately picking horrid screenshots to ridicule Vanguard (the truth is that I picked those that illustrate better my point), here’s a good looking one that still shows what I pointed out. A lack of world design. There’s this bumpmap effect applied to all the terrain everywhere but it seems that the textures themselves are random noise patterns with a varied hue.

The lack of “world design” isn’t the fact that there aren’t many objects visible. But that those that there are, like the boulder, the fence and the tents, seem all completely estranged from the environment.

How would it look if there was an at least passable world design? It’s not that hard. The lines (textures) between objects shouldn’t look so definite. The areas around the tents should have probably used a different texture that shows there’s activity in that place and the sand near the fence would surely look different. Since there’s water, a possibility of high tide, along with the fact that the sand is soft, that big boulder would have likely sank more in the sand creating a hollow in the area, maybe even a small pond. And I also doubt that a cliff so close to the water would look like that and the same for the transition between the rock area and the beach.

EDIT: Credit to Jpoku for a much better “reading” of the scene (and this is a very good design lesson):

the connectivity is poor for whatever reason. It just doesn’t feel as alive. The fence, gate’s and tents look like they are about to fall down. The sea creature looks like it has just fallen out of the sky and landed on the ground rather than having led there for ages. Also someone could just swim round that fence. What’s it defending against? No signs of it being a real barricade. WoW here would have supplies behind the fence, strong supports holding it up. On the other side there would be bits of broken wood, swords or corpses (like a fight has happened there so a fence is needed)

Another example. If in the real world you make objects on the terrain invisible, you would still see many evident cues that something WAS there. Now imagine to remove all those objects you see in the screenshot. Well, There would be no sign at all that something was there. The terrain would look uniform.

Vanguard world design is this: a fractal terrain generator on which were then dropped with no real logic a number of trees, rocks and buildings of various type. It’s the opposite of an organic world design.

In general there’s always a glaring clash between the terrain and the objects/models. As if things were photoshopped into the scene. It gives a very “false” feeling (and this is the result half of the art quality of the textures and half the graphic render they coded, which sucks. See Black & White 2 for a terrain render that looks amazing).

Now take these other examples:

1- Transitions. Can you see how in this case the transition between the beach, the grass and then the rock areas is much smoother and organic (dithering aside)? And how the result is a believable, immersive scenery?

2- Detail. Notice how the terrain is painted to have some kind of trailing effect near the wooden planks, as if some water dribbled around them. Imagine to remove these planks and the terrain would still reflect that something was there.

Now go and see if you can find in Vanguard a similar example. WoW can deliver some organic scenery even with an empty landscape. In Vanguard the terrain looks as if it was colored with the airbrush in MS Paint.

Try to walk along the coast in Westfall and you’ll see plenty of wooden planks, barrels, tree trunks, shipwrecks and so on. That’s world design.

Please understand that this isn’t a Vanguard vs WoW. I’m just pointing out one of Vanguard’s flaws and using WoW because it offers descriptive examples of good world design.

And consider that I’m pointing out only one tiny aspect of what I consider world design, just because it was the easiest to explain. I hope it illustrates better the kind of point of view from where my comments were coming.

I know very little of “world design” and I doubt I could do a better work, I don’t have any practice with it. But I see something that looks amazing and then something that feels like crap. What I do is just to ask myself why. I try to analyze and dig what I see and try to understand what makes the difference. So I’m trying to learn by myself. I compare things to learn the differences. It’s not simple but I expect that those who actually ARE WORKING in the game industry know these things I’m trying to teach myself.

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