Hello and welcome to this new art dev journal. In this journal I shall describe the progress of the creation of Shorath Mesa, the most recently added area in the world of Spellborn, it's located on Ringfell.
When the design document for Shorath Mesa was created it was still really vague how the area should turn out. There were some general ideas which involved ancient ruins, a swamp and an Urvhail settlement. The location was also known, it was to become the latest addition to Ringfell, a basin located higher than any other location on Ringfell.
As work begun on Shorath Mesa some things were changed from the design document and some additions were made, this all in cooperation with the game design department. One of the first things to change was the approach. Shorath Mesa is located south of Garminholm, since Shorath Mesa was to be located on a high altitude basin we required some changes to Garminholm itself. The reason for this is that players had to cross this altitude distance. Since we don’t have high-speed elevators or jump-pads in Spellborn we had to come up with another solution.
Garminholm has always been a transition area between Slywood and Ringfell Hearth, and the content had already been placed so we couldn’t re-recreate the entire area. The solution was to add some more detail to the area, we added some more ruins to the area, more detail in the terrain, more height differences and a huge slope leading up to Shorath Mesa to cover the altitude difference.
In the following screenshot you can see a part of Garminholm with Shorath Mesa in the background.
If you look closely at the screenshot you can see some huge waterfalls cascading from Shorath Mesa. This is the next thing we changed from the original design document. The reason for this change is that a huge cliff with nothing happening to it except it towering above you is pretty impressive but if you add waterfalls to it, it becomes even more impressive. Since Shorath Mesa is located quite a bit higher than the slope leading up to the entrance we had to create a way to get even higher up all the way to Shorath Mesa itself. This was done using a canyon through which originally a river would flow.
Then the next question came up, but why is this canyon empty? Why isn’t there a river flowing through now and why is the water ‘spilling’ from Shorath Mesa’s basin itself in the form of huge waterfalls? The reason for this is a dam which was build in ancient times, although broken it has been ‘fixed’ by the Urvhail which inhabit Shorath Mesa to create a path to the rest of Ringfell.
When the key locations for the map were all known, it was time to start thinking about the atmosphere and feeling of the map. Do we want a happy sunny area or something very dark and scary like Slywood? We decided to go with something in between, a dreary wet swamp which isn’t ‘evil’ or ‘good’. After we created so many different areas for Spellborn it’s hard to come up with a original color scheme, you’re a bit limited by what’s possible by the engine, the Spellborn style, etc. I do think we still managed to get a really good and unique atmosphere in the map. It’s unlike any other shard, it shares some aspects with a few other shards but it’s still quite different. Weather effects are a nice way to bring atmosphere to a map. The ‘problem’ is we aren’t really using a normal sky so clouds aren’t an option in most occasions. Of course, for rain to pour there need to be clouds, luckily Shorath Mesa is a basin with high hills covering every side of the basin. This creates a mini-climate in the area, the wet air can’t escape the basin thus clouds form and a smooth rainfall pours down on the entire area.
The key locations are quite important to make an area interesting, if you only add nature it will become rather stale and boring, a settlement is always interesting to liven up an area. On the following screenshot you see a part of the main Urvhail settlement on Shorath Mesa.
On this project the environment artists and level designers got a lot of creative freedom to do their own thing, this can result to some cool results as was shown earlier in Slywood (the floating rock with demon ruins for example). Since this worked so well in Slywood we decided to do something similar on Shorath Mesa, it being an area where a lot of unspecified ruins were found. In the following screenshot you can see a ruined temple with some strange lightning spheres.
There’s more to be found in Shorath Mesa than described in this article, I hope you will all enjoy this area as much as I had fun creating the area. And remember, what lies hidden must be found!
Here’s a few more screenshots to give some impressions of the area.
A path through the swamp
Dark forest leading to the Urvhail settlement
Small encampment in the swamp
Path leading to Urvhail settlement