Gavony is a dark, brooding province that players will get to visit on the iconic plane of Innistrad. Thematically darker environments are always a fun challenge to build, so when the time arrived to build Gavony, the environment artists really dove in head first and put everything they had into all aspects of its creation.
On the Magic: Legends Environment Team, our process so far has been to create regions one at a time with almost every artist working on one region simultaneously. We intentionally work through the journey of visual discovery together to yield a higher level of consistency in the style and narrative as we invent new methods and processes for building regions. The challenges that we encountered while developing the regions of Benalia, Shiv, and Tazeem prepared us for Gavony and allowed our artists to focus on the art of worldbuilding.
The best part of being an environment artist is getting to bring our collective imagination to life and make that game space a reality. We then get to invite thousands of people into that space to explore it and experience that shared vision. To get to that point, there is a checklist of extremely important elements we must include. These elements are laid out by the other creative teams we collaborate with on the Magic: Legends. We found that if we build maps in phaes, we can front-load the most important parts during the first step. This allows us to focus on more detailed environmental storytelling.
Gavony was a good test case for putting this into practice. The phases look something like this:
The Gameplay Phase
-All the placeholders are replaced with actual art.
-Basic lighting and atmosphere are established.
-Art is placed to support story beats.
The History and Culture Phase
-Details are placed to give the world a “lived in” feeling.
-Lighting and atmosphere are finalized.
-Culture Kits are placed in support of the lore.
The Polish Phase
-The finer details get some more focused attention.
-Visual bugs are fixed.
-Last minute changes are made to support changes in gameplay or story.
We realized that when the artists have more props to build with, they are able to support more stories with them. Gavony is a gloomy place, and when we aim to tell a series of stories that match that atmosphere, we can’t use the same visual tropes repeatedly. We must change it up throughout the flow of each map to keep everything interesting and make players wonder what could be around the corner. During the early stages of concepting Gavony, we created a wider variety of props in what we call our “culture kits”. To meet our goal, we created several themed kits to vary things up. We created enough to ensure plenty of surprises support the stories players will experience in Gavony.
Gavony raised our internal benchmark for the amount of items we need in our culture kits to create a living, breathing region. This phased approach has been a great tool for us to improve our implementation processes as an environment. It allows us to communicate with one another on what to expect visually and how long it will take to hit the goals of each phase and ensures we are meeting the needs of our content designers.
Like any team, we are still learning as we go. Our regions keep getting better, and we can’t wait to share details on our evolving process.