Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Further thinks

Gothic III again. Just pondering it from a graphical point of view this time. I've always appreciated the 'clutter' in the Gothic series, especially in wilderness areas. Much like Oblivion, there's a certain mushroom-picking joy to be had wandering around in the pleasantly lush undergrowth harvesting herbs, berries, fungi and the occasional wolf pelt.

But more interesting is the shape of the world. Unlike most games, Gothic's landscapes aren't simply a heightfield with a few meshes stuck on top, but actual 3D models. Soaring cliffs, overhangs and caves are an integral part of everything, and contribute hugely to the epic feel of the landscape.

Of course, going this route is not without it's problems... I'm quite sure the pipeline for authoring the world is painful, and certainly in Gothic II there were several areas with missing/broken collision data, or where diligent leaping and bounding could land you somewhere devoid of world mesh data and let you fall into the infinite blue void. Equally, it's hard to recall a game with landscapes that look and feel as interesting to explore. Knowing that the edge of a precipice may hide an overhang or gully replete with monsters or treasure is far more interesting than the confident extrapolation of a heightfield.

Does this mean anything to the Roguelike? I don't think so. From a gameplay, presentation and implementation point of view, the heightfield approach is a hell of a lot easier than some arbitrary topology, especially with a discrete grid for movement. I'd like to clutter up my dungeons with undergrowth, rocks, roots and suchlike though, so maybe that's the easiest thing to take away from the Gothic vista.

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