Author & Source
Wargaming

Wargaming said many times that they don’t just “port” maps from the PC version of the game (BigWorld); rather, they “rebuild” them for the custom console engine (Despair).

Here’s how many team members (names not given to protect the innocent) are directly involved with creating these maps, so you can understand the volume of work produced by a relatively small group of dedicated, tank-loving people:

  • 5 Environmental Artists
  • 1 Lead Environmental Artist
  • 1 F/X Artist
  • 2 Lighting / Tech Artists
  • 1 Designer

Here’s an overview of the process, or what we call the “pipeline:”

BLUE BOXES: BIGWORLD / WORLD EDITOR

This is the original BigWorld engine PC content, where the original maps are held. (See BigWorld in action here.

We need three distinct parts: the terrain, the textures and the models. To start, we disassemble the map by breaking it down into parts in order to put it back together in the console game.

YELLOW BOXES: THE CONVERSION AND REBUILDING PROCESS

All models (trees, houses, rocks, etc.) are rebuilt and re-textured by hand to create “duplicates” of the original that are optimized to run in the console environment. These become our “source” objects, which we call “models.” We then create instanced proxy objects called “props,” which we use to place the model into our Despair engine. Each texture is converted to a console-optimized format, called .DDS.

THE GREEN BOXES – REASSEMBLING THE MAP IN DESPAIR

In Despair, we have a master streaming file, which is the “root” of the map – it tells the game what specific content to load. Our maps are broken up into layers,with each layer holding unique content. This is important because we can separate content for different people who do different work on the map (for example, an audio layer versus an F/X layer).

The terrain is taken from BigWorld, then optimized for consoles (particularly in the mesh triangle density) to fit within memory and performance limits.

Other details:

  • Terrain textures must sometimes be repainted
  • All “grass” is original and hand-painted by the artists
  • We have “decals” that are hand-placed on terrain for extra detail

All props are inserted back into their respective layer through an automated process that takes the thousands of objects and approximates their original positions, rotations and scales (sizes). The artists must then go through and adjust all the props to make sure each one is placed correctly. The initial automated placement works well, but’s it’s never 100% accurate because our rebuilt model assets sometime differ from the original model asset.

All sky domes, lighting, F/X and water is custom built for each individual map, and is not taken from the PC version of the game. Each game mode has its own layer that contains 30 spawn points per side (60 total) plus the flags and bases, all of which are placed by hand.

THE ORANGE BOXES – ALL THE SERVER-SIDE DATA AND THE GAME “BUILD”

Once the map is ready, we “build” the game, which takes all the content and crunches it all down into a format that makes it playable. This includes creating world physics data, a.k.a. the invisible “collision” data, so that the tanks know what to interact with. We also have a lot of server text and data files that must be set up — those files determine the active game modes, map tier rotation, and the amount of times maps appear for play tier rotation.

THE FINAL BUILD

Once QA and Supertest players have their way with the map and we’ve gone back and forth with fixing any bugs we can find, the map is ready for release to the live game. A single map may require up to three months of development time prior to release.

WORK IN PROGRESS: DRAGON RIDGE

We’re aware of Dragon Ridge needing a second look. Here are some example shots at the improvements being made to this map.