In January I backed the Kickstarter campaign for Beautiful Desolation before I’d even finished watching the promotional video. I’d been a backer for The Brotherhood’s first project in November 2013, isometric science-fiction adventure STASIS, and so I didn’t need to see the end of the sales pitch by Chris Bischoff to know it would be something special.
This point-and-click is set in a post-apocalyptic future after the Penrose monolith appeared without warning in the sky in 1980. Governments laid claim to this impossibly-shaped structure, assembling an investigation team to learn more about its origin and purpose; they were able to reverse-engineer the technology discovered and this accelerated our understanding of physics, materials and computing by centuries. Mankind hurtled forward on an alternative historical trajectory and the world rejoiced – but discovered at the heart of the Penrose, a terminal revealed an unencrypted line of text: “I WILL FIX THIS. MARK LESLIE.”
Last week I received one of the regular updates on the project, this time on the subject of its maps and they’re stunning – take a look at one of them opposite. The developer advised that a major inspiration in their design was bringing back the excitement of exploring the original Fallout’s map, and theirs provides a ‘tangible link’ to everywhere you’re able to explore in the game’s post-apocalyptic world. Bischoff wrote: “Geography and history will entwine to reflect in the environments and their march through time. Working on the histories of the different areas and how they’ve grown out of this ruined world, is both exciting and challenging.”
Maps are often something we take for granted in video games. We use them to get our bearings, figure out which way to go next, perhaps even fast-travel to our intended destination – but it’s rare that we take a step back and just admire them. They clearly take a lot of planning in order to work properly and I get the impression that more effort goes into them than us non-developer types could imagine. Not only are they functional, but they’re a treat for the eyes too.
One person who has picked up on this is Dimlicht from Game Cartography whose blog showcases some of the most gorgeous in-game maps. Her latest post is on Horizon Zero Dawn and if you’ve read anything I’ve written recently, it’s pretty obvious I’m wrapped up in this title. She wrote: “At first glance just an ordinary in-game map, nothing really special about it. But up close it turns out to be a surprisingly detailed aerial photo-ish kind of map. Did I already mention how beautiful this game is!?”
And she’s absolutely right. Zooming into the atlas reveals all kinds of details such as rocky outcrops, curious structures and abandoned buildings, while the clouds seem to float across the surface. A number of times I’ve been on my way to the next quest, only to stop to check direction and then get distracted by something intriguing on the map. It could go some way towards explaining why I’m almost 80 hours into the title and only two-thirds of the way through the main storyline; but on the plus-side, I’ve discovered some excellent modifications in this way.
The next time you’re playing a video game, take a moment to admire its map and all of the hard work that went into creating it. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there.