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Dev-Blog: Shores Renovation

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A few more updates on what's been going on behind the scenes!

On the mapping front, we're using new tools that allow our resident Mapper to sculpt terrain features directly in Blender, before moving everything in noggit for detailing. This increases the speed and quality of what can be done far beyond what noggit alone could achieve. As of right now, Haven is fully complete, and we're now working on the 'Wilds' biome, which lies between New Moonbrook and the Drustgarde ruins. 

We've also decided on going forward with the implementation of V4, which will result in a complete overhaul of the current RPG. Gathering, Crafting, and Combat will all be vastly different from what Unknown Shores has had since it originally launched in 2018, so look at this space for more updates on what that entails as we finalize the design documents for it.

We're putting our entire mapping focus on a full rework of Opej'nor, and new large scale additions, which all come with a far higher quality than any map we've had. This means reworked and wholly new biomes, topography and creatures, greatly increasing the breadth of experience in exploration and adventuring. With skilled use of the new tools we've built for editing, we'll have a map that rivals the best in the private server scene! We'll soon be working on a post detailing the lore of what led to such huge changes to the Doldrums, so stay tuned for that.

 

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Above: Old Opej'nor VS new in noggit, with the different biomes highlighted.

 

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And in other news, we've managed to get rid of the launcher, with a bespoke solution for 7.3.5 that allows us to have a tiny client, meaning that any updates needed will be automatically done when the client is launched. This will also generally be faster than what the launcher had before, and allow us to make new patches in an even easier manner, something we're using to good effect during development.

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The Upheaval:

Date: 06/27 Year: 30

Shortly after the rediscovery of Pandaria on Azeroth, the Doldrums underwent drastic changes and its denizens were given reminders of how dangerous the islands could be. Those living on Opej'Nor first noticed the rising of the tide, which was a strange occurrence in itself as the Doldrums had no natural tide. They could only watch as floods slowly swept across the coastline, threatening to swallow both Egtown and Haven's port and forcing those living there to abandon their homes. Thanks to the efforts of Haven's guard and the Palm Rats, panic was kept to a minimum, though reports of looting still occurred.

As things began to settle and fear gave way to curiosity, Opej'Nor was suddenly rocked by a massive quaking of the land. Once more panic had to be contained as the sturdy earthworks of Haven buckled and gave way, burying whatever remained of the now flooded port. As Egtown began to collapse into the sea, a deep rift tore open, swallowing the shanty town before ripping through the heart of New Moonbrook all the way to the foot of the mountains. High Hearth saw cliffs shear away, toppling the iconic zeppelin into the ocean. Believing the end was upon them as they bore witness to the cliff face creeping closer and closer to their encampment, the Scarlet Crusaders mustered what supplies they could and fled for the safety of Haven. In the aftermath, the various powers and people of the island scrambled to aid each other however they could, but it wasn't until the Scarlets arrived at the gates of Haven that the magnitude of what had happened could be realized.
What appeared to be a marshy island with fungus as tall as the highest treetops of Ashenvale had collided with Opej'Nor. Some reported that it must have been the mysterious island of Salt Mire, but so few had ever been to the island it was just speculation. What all agreed on was that it had moulded into Opej'nor, twisting the jungle and absorbing it into the mysterious bog.  These events were only the beginning of the changes that would sweep across the Doldrums.

This is the first blog post revolving around the events that happen to the Doldrums during the shutdown. We'll be periodically releasing these as more events are finalized.

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WORLD EDITING

In today’s dev blog, written by our mapper Oracle, we will be delving deeper into the ongoing world edits and how they come to be.

During the initial stage of development after the server went down back in July, there was a lot of back and forth about what should happen. When we discussed what kind of changes Opej’Nor should see, what quickly came to light is that the current state of the island lacked incentives for players to fully explore it, as it largely looked the same wherever you went. We want the island to be capable of offering diverse locations and experiences, in short, each location should have its own theme and purpose, which in turn gives players a reason to seek them out.

A few meetings later, we had drawn up a rough map with several zones that we wanted the island to have. We went  through several Blizzard maps and made a compilation of various environments that we liked and could roughly fit the themes we envisioned. World edits could finally start properly at this point. I began the process by preparing palettes of objects, as picking the correct pieces to build with is just as important as the building itself; this ensures that the chosen assortment of objects look good together and that the identity of the zone remains consistent.

The images above are the result of several biome tests I worked on inside Noggit, where I put my palettes to the test. They were done on a new developer island created specifically for this purpose, that way I did not have to worry about interfering with existing islands by experimenting there. Once I was satisfied with the outcomes and felt I had a good grasp on how I wanted each zone of Opej’Nor to look, I could finally get to the meat of the actual work. That is where I had to make some difficult decisions, such as: how truthful do we want to remain to the original shape of the island?

After weighing the pros and cons of several options and discussing them within the team, I felt it was better to do a complete reimagining of Opej’Nor, rather than trying to work around its existing limitations. A reason for this decision is a desire to introduce more vertical level design on the island, which was simply not possible with how horizontal (flat) it was before. During this process, I kept my eyes out for any landmarks that looked recognizable and left them in the same relative position on the island, so that players will still have some parts they can recognize from the older version of the island. For example, while exploring you will still be able to find the ruins of Drustgarde. High Hearth and Haven are where you would expect them to be as well, with some minor landmarks that can be recognized within the areas between them.

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Several tools were created to ease the pains of development as well. Through these tools I was able to do most of the terrain sculpting in Blender, which allowed me to sculpt the general shape of the island in a matter of days rather than the weeks it would have taken me in Noggit. After that, the map is imported back into Noggit again, but still remains very barebones as it lacks any terrain textures and objects to decorate it.



Above, you can see a rough breakdown of the steps I took to put the settlement of Haven together. In essence, I start with the skeleton and move the biggest pieces into place before continuing on with the detail work. Once all the work in Noggit is done, the final step is to choose a skybox for the area, which will determine the in-game lighting, which you can see in the last image of the video above.



In this video, it can be seen how an area of the Opej’Nor Wilds came together and shows one of the ways through which I introduced verticality to the island. My vision for this area is of a place that feels overgrown, conveying that nature itself is in charge here and civilization has been left behind. You could even go as far as to call this a sub-zone of the Wilds, as I created several areas within the larger zone with their own distinct look. Even now, many areas remain unfinished and on others work has yet to begin. World editing is a constant iterative process, where you try to see if something looks good, and of trying something new if it does not. Sometimes this even results in the creation of a new sub-zone, just like the one above.



Before I leave you, you can see a few more in progress areas in the last video. These are much rougher in nature and very much unfinished, but I hope that by breaking down two areas I have given you an idea of what can be expected. As a final note, any questions regarding world edits may be directed towards @Oracle (me) in #public. If you are afraid that I might have missed an area that felt important to you as a landmark, feel free to notify me as well and perhaps I will find a way to have it represented on the new map.

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