Game Environments

Throughout my eternal playtime, I’ve found many games that were deeply involving and evocative which to me had just one important trait: engrossing environments!

To start off, let’s look at some stuff from World of Warcraft:

“Zangarmarsh”

“Hellfire Peninsula”

How does a game’s environment set the mood and how does that, in turn end up affecting game play? I always wondered how much of an impact the environments in a game had on the players. I know that I’m always enthralled nearly to the point of being in a trance. To that end, music is important to me as well. When one takes and combines both music and in-game environments, the effect can be quite inspiring. The aptly named Hellfire Peninsula, for example, has an eerie, alien soundtrack with sad overtones that echo despair, brutality, and the vainglorious nature of war.

Upon seeing and exploring the place, one is apt to be moved, particularly with the knowledge that the Peninsula is part of all that’s left of an entire planet, the rest collapsing into the the “twisting nether” (as can be clearly seen in the picture-that cliff side runs all the way down to the remaining depth of the planet’s crust, with the abyss just beyond it).

Similarly, Zangarmarsh contains an exotic set of tracks and showcases the alien ecology present in the Outland portion of World of Warcraft before the planet was ripped apart by dimensional portals. A thick blue mist veils almost every part of the zone, and the giant mushrooms are actually used to house bases and way stations. Architecture, too, is strange and different in Outland. The designers at Blizzard should be applauded for their efforts in conveying such subtle but powerful environments effectively. All it takes is walking up to the edge of the landscape and watching small islands of broken earth slowly churning and floating around in the distance, and almost everyone gets pretty excited.

Next, we have some classic game environments from a classic series: Myst!

“J’nanin”

“Amateria”

Myst was always one of my favorite series of games because of the odd combination of bizarre, beautiful and creepily abandoned tones present throughout the many worlds it encompasses. Both of these screen shots are from Myst 3: Exile. This game made a particularly large impression on me because the camera was completely unhinged for the first time in the series, allowing 360 degree viewing of any specific part in the point-and-click “movement” system. Unlike some of the later Myst games, though, everything was pre-rendered; thus, the extreme delicacy and beauty of the worlds reached an all-time high. The music was also extremely well done and fit the environments perfectly. The first time you step into Amateria you can hear (and with a good sub woofer, feel) thunder rumbling in the distance and experience the lapping of small waves against the basalt column shoreline as if you were truly standing there. That J’nanin place reminds me of a nice day on the beach in Virginia. Sorta.

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~ by Bob on July 5, 2008.

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