Scenic Tour: Shattered Forest – Part I

I have always found forests to be difficult. It’s the density of vegetation, the complicated interplay of light as it passes through branch after branch before striking the leaf-strewn ground. That said, I don’t feel terribly bad about my latest attempt. In fact, I rather like how it turned out.

The Germans have a word, Urwald. In one sense, it simply means jungle. In another, it is a primeval forest. Something twisted and dark. It is the place of fairytales that end in blood and screams, where nightmares hide in shadow and the howling of wind through trees might be more than just that.

I didn’t just want to aspire to that aesthetic, though. My Urwald is stretched over a shattered landscape. The earth has pulled apart, leaving winding chasms between pillars of stone. This area marks the edge. A lonely road through a lonely wood, where travelers dare not wander far off the path.

Forest RoadForest Sweep Forest Ruins Forest River Forest River Sweep Forest Pool Forest Path Forest Falls Forest Dense Forest Creek Forest ClearingExcept another update soon for a trip further into the woods.


Scenic Tour: Clifftop City – Part I

Cities are always tough to bring to life virtually. Anyone who knows and loves a city somewhere in the world knows their city is alive. It ebbs and flows and breathes, and buzzes with a subtle energy in a thousand different ways that makes it unique and makes it home.

I wanted to create a city that demonstrates triumph over its harsh environment and a stubborn refusal to compromise its culture despite its stark circumstance. What I came up with is a bustling, industrious city built on a bluff on a kilometers high cliff. Howling winds and bitter cold tear at the stone buildings and their denizens, but life continues and even thrives.

My city lacks walls, for of what benefit are walls when you’re already perched way up high and out of reach? Traders, visitors, and homecoming citizens alike ascend in massive lifts to reach the city streets. These three shots are rendered in the toolset so they’re not quite as sharp, but it’s the only way to give a proper sense of scale.01ToolsetWide02ToolsetAngledNote how the roads aren’t textured in to the left and the top from overhead. These parts of the area cannot be seen from in game, and merely serve as backdrop. 03ToolsetTopNew arrivals hurry off the lift, their legs wobbling like jelly, and scramble up the cobbled streets awaiting them.05DownstreetThose merchants who can’t afford a license for the market proper set up their stalls wherever they can. The city’s aqueduct escorts a little stream over streets and between buildings, and also serves as a boundary for the city’s less affluent district.04StreetBack at the city’s edge stevedores bustle to unload the lifts carrying goods from the warmer valley below. I really strove to evoke a waterfront feel, sans the water. Wooden wharfs and cranes for loading cargo, and a trebuchet for defense.06Dock07Dock08DockWarehouses close to the city’s edge store an ever changing flow of goods. Crops and perishables arrive from more fertile lands, while the compact and valuable cultural creations of the city wait to be spread into the world.09StreetThose too poor for a home in the city’s slums erect their little lean-tos beneath the meager shelter of the aqueduct. 10AqueductThe sun slowly sets over one of the city’s squares. An ancient oak’s frosty branches sway slowly in the frigid wind.11Sunset12NightThe poor huddle around makeshift fires in their Court of Stars and light candles to honor their absent friends. 13StarsFire14StarsAlley15StarsNarrowOnly the rushing water of the aqueduct breaks the relative silence of night along the city’s edge. 16DockNightThat’s it for now, so thanks for reading. The whole city will be split over three or four areas, so stay tuned for the rest.

Scenic Tour: Tundra

This project is the culmination of a lot of long and hard work, but it has been well worth the effort. I wanted to create a setting that was instantly distinguishable from the usual, at least when it comes to Neverwinter Nights persistent worlds. The vast majority of servers out there feature the Forgotten Realms setting, and seem to be reminiscent either of the deep green hills and forests of western Europe or the arid deserts of Mesopotamia. It was very important to me to create something visually distinct and unique. I want my players to feel they are in a different world the moment they enter it.

I decided to set my server in lands that stretch from arctic in the north through tundra, and then taiga in the south. These images of the Scoresby Sund in Greenland and of autumn on the tundra inspired me to the decision, and I sought to create a bright and colorful environment.Neverwinter Nights 2 lacks the necessary assets to create such seemingly alien landscapes, so I set about designing my own. I initially attempted to emulate the vibrant reds and orange-yellows pictured above, but found myself having difficulties creating cohesive color palettes, so I opted for a softer pink which blends more seamlessly into the other textures.

To create such a bright, vegetation rich environment as those above, I would have needed to pack my areas with grasses and trees to the point that they would be too resource intensive, so it was important that I could apply color in patches alone without looking out of place. I also didn’t want to create an environment that felt too alien to feel like home. I will likely opt for a more accurate recreation of the above scenes in future work when it is more appropriate to my needs.

This overhead shot rendered in the toolset shows off my area as a whole. The cliff and river in the foreground and to the left create natural boundaries, as do the hills in the background the forest to the right. These parts of my area will be expanded to create adjacent zones in my module.OverheadQuaint farmland is nestled against gently rolling hills in this idyllic setting to create a sense of calm and peace. This serves to create a point of contrast for when strife is brought to the region in the course of the module’s storyline. EstablishingWorked by hand, this little farm’s fields are smaller than those we have come to expect today, and work to create a safe, homey atmosphere. FarmA frigid stream runs south from the mountains above, its stony bed kicking a fine mist into the afternoon air.RiverA short distance later, the stream tumbles over the cliff which marks the edge of the zone. Unfortunately, it is best viewed from the adjacent zone to the south which isn’t finished quite yet.FallsA small family operated meadery sits at the base of gently sloping hills. The tasting room is open, and will serve as a resting point for player characters. Beehives dot the hillside in the background.MeaderyAt the southern edge of the area one can peek into the campsite below. The edge of a forest sits atop the cliffs a short distance away.CliffsThe sun casts a fiery light over the tundra as it begins to set, darkening our sheep’s sorrel to an angry red. A windmill continues to creek as it turns. WindmillAs the sun spends a last few minutes above the horizon, it casts long shadows that highlight the rugged topography. SunsetThe odd lantern keeps travelers on the winding road, while firelight flickers in the windows, keeping this farm’s occupants warm. A keen observer might notice a very unfortunate flaw of the engine, in that it doesn’t apply point lights to grass.Night RoadThe bustling life of the meadery has gone still as the bees too rest for the night.Night MeaderyA luminescent moth dances beneath the stars as the moon rises, giant against the wooded horizon in the distance. Moon ForestAs the moon reaches its zenith, it’s gentle light glows against the patches of pink flowers that sweep out across the plain.Moonlight FieldsThat’s it for now, but there should be much more to come in the very near future. Finalizing the unique look of my setting has lent me a renewed sense of purpose, and I’m already well into my next visual spectacle. As ever, thanks for reading.

Scenic Tour: Creepy Emporium

This week’s area was designed to stand in stark contrast to last week’s. While the former hopes to invoke a sense of cozy, comfy warmth in players, this one strives to create a sense of unease. Bright and soft wallpaper is traded for crumbling stone walls, rotted wooden crossbeams, and cobwebs. FloorplanI also wished to draw attention to the unplanned nature of this black market’s establishment. It finds itself in a run-down cellar which distinctly suggests that it was moved into and adapted, rather than built with the final purpose in mind. The mismatched floor and obviously more recently constructed divider walls show the transformation which has occurred.

Find us in the dark and black and descend our ancient stairs. We wait here night and day, to sell our wicked wares.EntranceThe steamy whistle of our oven draws your eye and ear. Pick up a knife or axe, and try it while you’re here!SteamIron bars both cold and black, keep safe what otherwise might just attack.Slave CellsThis azure crystal’s pulsing glow, lights poisons that’ll make your heart beat slow.CrystalSo take your time and have a look. Rest your eyes on a forbidden book. There’s plenty here for you to see. Something I’m sure, to fill your heart with glee.Sweeping View

Scenic Tour: Cozy Shoppe

So it’s been a while, but that shouldn’t be news to anyone who’s been following along. I have been quite busy of late, but fortunately I’ve still had time to get some work done! I’ve just not had a minute to spare to show it off. You can safely expect regular updates for the next few weeks though.

I have slowly but steadily been making area after area, ever building up to a complete.. something. I cannot honestly say I know what will come of it, but I certainly know what I want: a PW of my own. A project I can truly call my own in terms of design and creative control. Something to be proud of. Consider these next few updates a teaser of things to come.

A sturdy city is built into the side of a cliff that rises a kilometer above it, and falls half as far below. Narrow cobblestone streets climb from terrace to terrace, little shops and homes sheltering them from the biting winds. Still, it is a prosperous city, a pinnacle of human engineering and culture. On the corner of a pleasant little square lies a small goods and sundries shop run by a motherly hen of a woman. Come in and step out of the cold!

For this small area I wanted a cute, warm-feeling little shop. A place for players to buy basic equipment and sell their hard earned loot. The shop features a main room with its wares, a small office for the shopkeep, and a fitting room for clothing in the back. The fitting room will serve as a place for players to customize the appearance of their character’s clothing.Floorplan

A small collection of weapons, armors, and shields greets visitors as they first enter this humble boutique, many in the city’s colors of white and light blue. Warm morning sunlight streams through the windows to brighten the room. Entrance

In the next corner over, market goers can find a selection of veggies, meats, and cheeses to sate their appetites, along with the wares needed to cook them. Sunlight shines through a few potions for a shining, glittery display. Most of the produce you see on the shelf in the back was placed piece by piece. I promise you it took a while.Produce

A wide counter facilitates hasty transactions. Copper, silver, and gold are measured before being hidden away in one chest or another. A battered iron wood stove staves off the crisp winter air. Checkout

A selection of bright cloth boldly proclaims “Yes! You too can twirl and dance on the floors of fine ballrooms with the nobility.” Most of those are actually bedrolls, but a splash of color and a little imagination goes a long way. Cloth

A fitting room in the corner grants a little privacy, while three mirrors promise you those new clothes look simply divine! Fitting RoomA neat and cozy office gives the shopkeep a few moments relief from her hectic business to work or for a quiet conversation. Take a look at the open and closed curtains. The open one is really two scrunched versions of the closed, with a modified spear for the curtain rod!Office Window

Here’s a final shot of the office: a few comfy seats and a bookshelf.Office Seats

I paid particular attention to color with this project, with soft red, blue, and yellow making up most of the decor. Each room has a primary color, with decorations of the other two mixed in. All in all, this was a relatively high-detail build. Let it serve to demonstrate how even a few small rooms can be packed with interesting eye-candy.


Scenic Tour: Flatholm

I had an incredible amount of fun on this particular project. I had so much fun, in fact, that I thought to mention if very first in this post. With that out of the way, I’ll get right into the meat of it.

This was an area I designed and developed as a favor to a friend for Legacy: Dark Age of Britain. Those in the community might know deMoin, an excellent storyteller and role-player. Those who have not yet had the pleasure are truly missing out.

The project: to design a small island for use as a home base by one of Legacy’s up and coming player factions. This small island located in the Severn Sea was to be loosely based Flatholm. I was told to make it the absolute most miserable place imaginable, and I like to think that I succeed. I will mention that I purposefully didn’t look at any pictures of the actual island until after I had completed the project. That said, have a look!

Welcome to Flatholm…DockYou’ll like you stay.StairsWe hope you’ll hang ’round a while.BridgeEnjoy the comforts of our inn, on such a lovely day.InnYou can avoid a quick short drop, if you’ve sufficient guile.PatioOr if it’s work you seek, we’ll house you free of charge!CagesOur blacksmith’s steel is nigh unyielding, by and large.SmithOr have you silver? Why not stay? Our homes keep out the cold and wet.HousesPay our lord homage, in his keep,KeepOr suffer and regret!Keep Base

Scenic Tour: Snowy Pass

Today’s update is going to be a short one. Over the weekend I threw together a quick tutorial on making rivers using the WaterMill plugin. As a consequence of this, I also produced a small area, and it turned out nice enough to warrant its own brief tour.

The area is a snowy mountain pass with a road following a rapidly flowing stream as it winds along a cliff, eventually turning and carving into it. Rolling snow-covered hills dotted with tough little trees and a small valley comprise the rest of the area. This view is taken from within the toolset, and has the fog disabled so you can better take in the area as a whole.River9

Here is a much closer view of the creek as it begins to carve into the hillside, leaving shear walls of weathered limestone in its wake. Solid chunks of ice partially block the river and form small rapids, and also conveniently help hide a glitch in the water surface caused by a megatile border.
Snow CliffA small camp sits at the edge of the cliff, the merchant wagon already beginning to sink into the ever-rising snows. A cute campfire provides much needed warmth to weary travelers, and a leanto some shelter against the biting winds.Snow CampLooking north along the cliffs you’ll see a waterfall. The horizon quickly fades to a dull white in the heavy snow. If you look closely, you can see a raven perched on the road marker to the top right.Snow FallsAn even smaller creek tumbles down the hillside and joins our steam. Placed effects and environmental objects liberally applied serve to hide the abrupt change in flow direction. Snow CreekFinally, a picturesque view of gently rolling hills to the northwest. Here and there tufts of grass struggle to survive amidst the squat evergreens. Snow HillsAll in all, I had quite a lot of fun with this project. This was my first time working with snow, and I found it delightful. It was surprisingly easy to make the snow look good, as uniformity in ground texture is a lot harder to notice. I definitely hope to have the opportunity to create something more substantial in an arctic setting. Limited assets do tend to limit options, but hopefully creativity will prevail.

Until next time, peace!