Dev Journal: Visualising the Battlefields

Hello everyone and welcome to the next installment of our Age of Wonders III Dev Journals.

My name is Daniel and I’m an Artist here at Triumph Studios. I’ve been with Triumph for more than 2 years now, working on all aspects of the environment process, from concept development to final level design.

A lot has changed since the last AoW was released. We are working in full 3D now and that gives us a lot of opportunities to make the game much more immersive.

For the presentation of Tactical Combat we aim to create big sweeping battles with large armies, now featuring multiple characters per unit. We really want to move away from the chessboard feel that a lot of turn based games have and make it look more like an actual battle with a better sense of scale in an epic landscape that resembles the world map location.

Most importantly, our job as artists is to visually communicate gameplay events , while at the same time make things as impressive looking as we can.

Concept art for different terrain types

Translating any world map location to a Tactical Map

For each location on the world map there is a corresponding Tactical battle map. There are a lot of combinations that can make up a location:
There are 5 unique climates: Temperate, Arctic, Blighted, Tropical and Subterranean. Each of these climates are made up out of a variation of terrain types: Fertile, Barren, Forests, Mountains and Swamps.

On top of these climates you have a large amount of structures like Nodes, Mines, Treasure/Visit sites and of course cities for each of the races. These range from small outposts to a large cities, with various upgrades including city walls.

To deal with all these variables and to create unique, great looking maps, we decided to develop a partially procedurally generated system. This enables us to create tactical maps with thousands of variations and an enormous variety.

The Maps are a combination of hand work, asset swapping, procedural algorithms and modular building sets. Level designers are able to pinpoint what obstacles will spawn and in which area. When entering the battlefield a random seed is generated to make the gameplay area unique but still controlled and in the proper setting. Assets are swapped across climes in order to reduce the amount of handwork in creating maps.

Temples such as this one are made up out of random elements that select their source assets from controlled libraries. So there might be a limited amount of TC maps for a particular structure, but each map has randomized elements that make the experience a little different every time.

Just like the old games the adjacent hexagon rule is still in place, meaning that units from nearby hexagons on the worldmap get to join a tactical battle. There are a total of 7 deployment zones in a battle. Units will spawn corresponding to the direction of the hex on the worldmap. The gameplay area currently measures 25 hexes from side to side, which is currently still being tweaked. There are hexes on all sides of the map that enable units to flee.

Generating The Panoramas

With the worlds now being 3D, we decided to make full 360 degrees panoramas around your environment. This gives you a sense of the scale of the world and adds to the immersion. The default camera is more top down, but players are free to move the camera around similar to Total War, and you see the environment in entry/exit camera pans.

These background panoramas are dependent on the hexagons that surround the battle hex on the strategic map. So if you have an army that attacks you from the mountains, a mountain range will also show behind the attacking force on the tactical map.

Behind all of this we had to design a way to control the asset flow. We want this game to work on low spec machines as well, so one of the things we had to do is to keep the memory low. Next to that the system had to be scalable for DLC. Our engine is set up with content libraries and resource packs, combined these contain all the game logic and assets. We try to share geometry and textures among assets and we are able to load only the assets you’ll be using:

As there are still a lot of props like these to make, I will end my development journal here. In following dev journals we’ll be taking a closer look at the gameplay in tactical maps.

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Home Forums Dev Journal: Visualising the Battlefields

This topic contains 38 replies, has 30 voices, and was last updated by  zumvmy 5 months, 2 weeks ago.

Viewing 30 posts - 1 through 30 (of 39 total)
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  • #6686

    Daniel
    Moderator

    Hello everyone and welcome to the next installment of our Age of Wonders III Dev Journals. My name is Daniel and I’m an Artist here at Triumph Studios
    [See the full post at: Dev Journal: Visualising the Battlefields]

    #6692

    darkonyxswe
    Member

    Awesome, I really love the work put on making the TC battles! Especially the atmosphere, it’s wonderful and so AoW1-like ! ^_^

    #6693

    My jaw just hit the floor. It hurt so good. This made my week.

    #6694

    Red Key
    Member

    Great work! The tactical combat in AoW sets it apart and above other games in the same genre and it looks like it will be more impressive than ever. I agree that many other turn-based games have a chessboard feel to their combat. Thanks for also sharing some of the technical considerations – I find them interesting.

    Were battlefields procedurally generated in the past AoW games?

    #6696

    mrXD89
    Member

    Wow, it’s amaizing! I just love great battles in fantasy climat and this screenshots and artwork make me feel so happy. You also wrote about low spec. Can you say how low would they be (probably it’s time to buy new computer-only for this game);P.

    #6697

    Tomipapa
    Member

    Awesome journal as always, thnx for sharing it! Those arts are beautiful. On the other hand these journals are just killing me every time. I will give my beer bottle collection to anyone who build a time machine and send me to the release date! 😀

    W You also wrote about low spec. Can you say how low would they be (probably it’s time to buy new computer-only for this game);P.

    Lennart Sas : The game is not going to be a system’s hog. We’ll support a wide range of quality settings. I think a 512 MB graphics card is minimum though. We’ll post more info on this later!

    #6698

    mrXD89
    Member

    Thanks for info. Now I’m double happy. It’s intriguing how would as good graphics work on graphics card like that. Regards to devs.

    #6699

    Sers3n
    Member

    Really great work!!! <3

    I’m waiting from too long for the arrival of the new Age of Wonders III, but i don’t want to put hurry, in my country there is a dictum:
    He who goes softly, goes safely and goes far.

    I see that you are progressing very well, will come an art opera, i’m pretty sure!

    #6700

    Piko LV
    Member

    Wow. I posted it’s possible the new dev journal will arrive today about 20 mins before it arrived. xD

    This journal, as every one, is excellent. Btw, Is it an orcish army on the temple battlefield? And is the full of hexagons screen a tactical maps editor? God, it would be so awesome! 😀

    #6701

    vota dc
    Member

    25 combo is great. Will be even possible Arctic + Swamp?

    #6702

    NEHZ
    Member

    Incredibly interesting. I like how the surrounding terrain is added in. What am I saying, I like everything I see here 🙂

    #6703

    Great stuff lads! The more I learn about AoW3 the more I like it:

    We really want to move away from the chessboard feel…
    Right. If I wanted to have a chessboard feel I’d play chess.

    … we decided to develop a partially procedurally generated system.
    I’m really happy to hear that. One of my biggest worries was that the battle terrain will be repetitive thus making all battles’ gameplay similar. And here we have map making skills and controlled randomness combined.

    … area currently measures 25 hexes from side to side,
    Hmm… Still seems not enough to me. How big was it in AoW and AoWSM?

    background panoramas are dependent on the hexagons that surround the battle hex on the strategic map.
    Wow! This is something I was even afraid to dream of! (Low expectations make you less disappointed afterwards.. 😛 )

    We want this game to work on low spec machines as well
    Cool. Finally a game I can play maxed-out.

    #6705

    Fogcrow
    Member

    now featuring multiple characters per unit.

    Multiple characters with a single health and experiance bar simply doesn’t work for me.
    Plus: abilities like seduce or evangelise make more sense on and against individuals than groups.
    It would just be like in Heroes of might and magic backwards: In HoMM you have one charakter for dozens of units. The looks don’t match the mechanics (thats very very bad).

    #6706

    Gandolaro
    Member

    NOW I CAN’T SLEEEP. =)

    #6707

    Motasa
    Member

    This sounds and looks great. Keep these dev journals coming. Looking forward to more in depth news on the races as well.

    #6708

    Piko LV
    Member

    Seriously, the screen with coloured hexagon grid can be a combat map editor. I even think the white ones are a cursor of terrain brush. 🙂

    #6713

    Wow! This really looks amazing! 😀

    btw, does anyone remember how many hexes a normal unit was be able to move per turn in the previous games? Looking at this picture, it looks like the selected unit can move four hexes. Is it just me or is this shorter than it used to be?

    Battlefields and movement

    #6714

    rob_james
    Member

    Firstly the concept art is amazing, the colors and atmosphere it captures, hands down awesome.

    The technical with auto decal/object swapping and re-texturing is mind blowing and I’m a huge fan of the ‘background panoramas are dependent on the hexagons’ and also a fan of that stall prop! and i cant wait to hide my pike-men behind that boulder! You really can’t appreciate the code development that you don’t see will be taken for granted.

    #6716

    Awesome. And panoramas are a cool evolution of the existing system.

    #6719

    Hunter
    Member

    Remarkable. The dev diaries so far given me enormous confidence in the team working on AOWIII. Take as much time as you need, because I don’t see myself doing much else when it comes out.

    #6720

    Hunter
    Member

    “btw, does anyone remember how many hexes a normal unit was be able to move per turn in the previous games? Looking at this picture, it looks like the selected unit can move four hexes. Is it just me or is this shorter than it used to be?”

    Yes, units used to move considerably more, and the battlefield was correspondingly bigger (in terms of individual hexes). The combat has clearly been re-scaled, with shorter movement, and this makes the map ‘effectively’ larger. Based on that scaled down movement, the size of the maps looks very good.

    #6723

    Merkraad
    Member

    EPIC and really inspiring!!! The care and effort being put into this game is really astonishing!

    The best part of this dev journal to me was:

    “So if you have an army that attacks you from the mountains, a mountain range will also show behind the attacking force on the tactical map.”

    I was already happy with the terrain where the actual combat is being fought being represented. To have the nearby terrain also is such an incredible detail, it adds so much to the immersion. I can see games where someone is losing the war, but suddenly ambushes someone’s army from the mountains with his/her dwarves – all with the mighty mountains in the background! There will be memorable games!!!

    #6725

    Flenoom
    Moderator

    Desert = Tropical + Barren?
    Or Blighted + Barren?

    #6745

    Callynn
    Member

    I hope there is an overview mode.
    While I realize that you want to make the game prettier than the previous ones, this should not go at the cost of tactical overview.

    For example: If a large model (say a Bone Dragon) stands in front of some soldiers, it may be a pain to select them with the view mode I saw in the pre-alpha trailer. The angle is too steep.

    I hope there will be an option to get a complete top-down view in tactical battles for the sake of controlability.

    #6748

    Sen
    Member

    It would be nice to increase the size of houses. Now they look like a nice closet 🙂
    For holders of powerful PC can increase the number of units in the squad by 200%. That would be closer to TOTAL WAR and the real battles. But I’m sure it’s difficult to realize. I can only dream about it.

    #6794

    Proelithion
    Member

    I can’t wait till this comes out!
    Been waiting for this for a LONG time… and I’m really impressed with the outcome so far.
    I’m making sure all my friends get this game; please wait until it’s perfect to release it, that’s the only way to retain gamers and improve the online play.
    We can wait a little longer if necessary 🙂

    #6804

    Webrider
    Member

    What release date are you shooting for?

    #6805

    Gandolaro
    Member

    Before the end of the year if there will be no problem. 🙂

    #6823

    Bigben34
    Member

    Looks good, but I hope you’ll make the battlefield just a bit bigger, to make ranged warfare more strategic, and allow more maneuvering.
    I must say I prefer the 1 unit pieces myself; seems like this will tax the system for larger battles.

    #6832

    Edi
    Member

    Excellent news, this! Two thumbs up! 😀

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