Detailed insight, explained by Andreas Moritz – Level Artist
In “The Settlers”, we are building a system to create a true sense of exploration. Driven by its procedural generation engine, the player sets sail and conquers an infinite amount of islands within the “Tavos” Archipelago. To offer further variation, the islands are located across different climatic biomes that each shape the landscape into distinctly different habitats.
Not only will they look entirely different but also each offer a unique gameplay experience, fitting the biomes island topology and climate.
Intro Midlands Biome
With its tempered climate, the “Midlands” are a deliberately idealized environment that is inspired by the landscapes of central Europe. As the first ship lays anchor on the beach, the settlers, likely exhausted by the long travel, will be warmly greeted by its inviting and friendly landscape. Roaring green meadows dominate the land, gradually progressing from a sandy coast area towards a lush inner core. Each area sharing an equal base color palette of fresh greens that slightly evolves as one makes his way further inland.
The islands themselves were shaped by recent volcanic activity across thousands of years, leading to its distinct topology. High elevation surrounded by sharp ridges with deep erosion ravines that cut through the land define their silhouette. By no point does it ever tip into feeling dangerous or hostile but rather form a strong contrast to the soft shapes of the grassland, designed to come together in a visually harmonious balance.
Further to hosting 3 distinctively different biomes: each biome is further split between 3 different regions. These regions are not having any differences in gameplay, however change in appearance to convey and stronger sense of progression and location throughout the island.
Drawing from references of north European coast lines, the so called “Frontier” region invites the settlers with shallow reefs shimmering trough deep azure blue water that lead the ship to long white beaches, suitable to lay anchor and build the first settlement. Tall pines and voluminous flat birches form the first coastal forests rich of wood and small animals needed to sustain a basic economy. All of it embedded in and surrounded by large and untamed patches of high beach grass, announcing the wilderness ahead.
It’s the gateway to progress further into the island and offers everything needed to build a strong beachhead. However, with the ocean in ones back and limited starting resources, moving into the “Inland” as soon as possible is crucial.
With the feet finally dry and a well packed backpack with some first resources, exploring into the “Inland” can be best described as a walk through center European nature. Calm, flowery meadows go hand in hand with patches of exposed earth and dense vegetation, offering much needed space to expand one’s territory.
Painting the ground red with fallen needles, tall and open fir forests populate the area together with dense birch forests with their signature white bark – populated by much larger wildlife such as deer’s and boars.
It´s further the area where the player will have the biggest likelihood of having to make choices on if and how to expand. With most crucial resources usually in reach by this point, the player can either wall up and fortify or continue to explore the various branching pathways.
The “Coreland” is a natural evolution of the “Inland” towards the center of the island, sprinkling the dominating greens with spots of red and orange together with more into the yellows leaning color palette.
Overall, the area has a strong resemblance to autumn to it. The fir and birch forests of the “Inland” continue to be present however the saturated greens shifted.
Flanked by towering cliff formations inspired by the Bastei national park, the spaces start to feel much more vertical and narrower as cities start to be built in literal cliff corridors.
Due to its distance to the frontier, only larger islands can hold areas of core, leaving frontier and inland to smaller ones.
Especially on bigger islands, this area is expected to be where players will eventually meet and cross swords. The core is designed around supporting that importance and thus the most dramatic looking region out of all of them.
With its landscape shaped by volcanic activity, the evolving forces of nature can still be seen throughout the archipelago. Towering over the ocean, active volcanoes occasionally stand out from the surrounding water through their signature reddish color scheme and sulfur effects. Fortunately, the times of the grand eruptions have long passed and it´s now safe to settle in theirs shadows.
The “Midlands” maintain a well balance between all gameplay relevant aspects. That means all resources are easily available, however not too plenty, yet never too scarce. Likewise, the playable space offering both large flat areas, suitable to build a mighty city, and narrow choke points that can be walled off to protect its borders.
The biome is built to overall support a relaxed gameplay experience in addition to the calming tone of the environment itself, while still offering a good challenge.