November 15, 2018

The Making of the Lawson Delta Map

It's a quiet afternoon on the Lawson Delta, though it won't be for quiet for long; another tense match of Hunt: Showdown is about to begin. The first to explore the Lawson Delta during its debut at TwitchCon were confronted with a new region of Louisiana—and able to explore the ruins of a prison, train station, and fort among other Civil-War-themed compounds—as they fought for bounty and glory.

Now, you too can explore the new Lawson Delta map, and so today we are going to take a look at how it was created with two Hunt artists who will take you inside the process of the map's creation, from conception to impending launch. For a visual preview, check out the Lawson Delta reveal video .

How It Began

Lawson Delta contains 16 new locations—some larger compounds, some slightly smaller points of interest—on the one-square-kilometer map. An abandoned prison and fort dominate the coastal landscape, with many of the buildings connected by train tracks. As you traverse the map, the photorealistic feel of the setting adds a distinct authenticity and depth to the experience, but it all started as a handful of concepts and ideas in the minds of the Hunt dev team.

“Our first priority was to look at the first Louisiana map—Stillwater Bayou—and look at what worked and what didn't," explained Lead Artist Marcel Schaika about the conception of the new map. “Where did players have the most fun? Where did players feel frustrated or lost? How can we improve the overall Hunt experience through environmental design? We asked ourselves a lot of questions, and did a lot of analysis. Community feedback on the first map played a huge role in that process."

At the same time, the team was looking at which Stillwater Bayou assets could be re-purposed for Lawson Delta.

“We knew we wanted to use some of the Stillwater Bayou assets," explained Lead Environment Artist Stefan Heinrich. “So we put a lot of thought into how to re-purpose those assets and combine them with new ones in a fresh, new way. And as Marcel mentioned, we had long discussions where we dissected the old map, looked at the good and bad, and refined our designs accordingly."

Their analysis revealed that the industrial locations worked best on the Stillwater Bayou map, and so the team focused on the larger buildings and compounds which make for the most exciting boss fights and shoot outs.

“A compound that is often named as a favorite on the Stillwater Bayou map for gameplay is Reynard Mill & Lumber," continued Heinrich. “It is clear and readable, with clear lines and clear pathways, and it isn't too messy or visually noisy. You can see your enemies and anticipate where they are going. That design became a bit of a blueprint when we were creating locations for Lawson Delta."

Building the Map

Throughout its development, Hunt has grown and changed substantially, and the Stillwater Bayou map is rooted in that early—and very different—version of the game. As Hunt has continued to evolve, the map has evolved alongside it, which has had some interesting consequences.

“The old map was basically our testing grounds," said Schaika. “The entire game has been developed on that map. When we changed the game, we moved things around all the time. Suddenly there would be a hill where there wasn't one before and the next week it was gone. You can see that there are layers of history on that first map."

Image: One of the many layout variations the team tested when designing the Lawson Delta map.

“For the new map, we decided to define the natural features first. Where is the river? Where is the delta? Where is the dense forest? Where are the open fields? Then we had compounds grow up naturally around those features, the way they do in real life. So hopefully when you play the new map you will notice that everything feels more believable."

Heinrich added: “For Lawson Delta, we wanted more environmental realism. Lead 3D Artist Tom Deerberg put a lot of work into that, as did Concept Artists Ivan Tantsiura and Ivo Nies, who did many topographical layouts—that is to say, top-down map layouts—where they thought about geography, how the river flows, where people would have built settlements, and that sort of thing. There was a lot more intentionality with the design of this one, and the Concept Art team were deeply involved from the beginning."

With Lawson Delta, the team were also more focused on creating unique and recognizable silhouettes that could provide players with visual landmarks to help them navigate such a large area.

“Because we want the map to be as intuitive as possible, we thought a lot about the compounds' silhouettes. The brickworks, for example, has a gigantic brick chimney. We have a lot of these super high structures now, which act as landmarks to help you to identify where you are," explained Heinrich.

Image: An early concept for the aforementioned chimney.

Procedurally Generated Vegetation

At the same time, the team was also looking into ways to refine the creation process, and one way that they accomplished that goal was to use procedurally generated vegetation.

“On the old map everything was placed by hand—every single bush and tree," said Heinrich. “It looks absolutely fantastic, but we wanted to streamline that process. So we used the procedural scattering system that we usually only use for small details on the ground. This was the first time was used that for bigger things like trees and bushes. For this map, everything is procedurally scattered based on the ground material type. So if we choose forest ground the trees will grow. That improved our iteration speed tremendously."

“We still have the possibility to hand place things if we need to though," added Heinrich. “But we go through a lot of iterations on this stuff—for example, adding more bushes, less bushes, higher bushes, lower bushes, and so on. With the old system, in order to do that, someone would have to manually move five hundred bushes. But with this procedural system you just tweak a few variables, and you get a completely new picture. That is just amazing."

Time to Explore Lawson Delta

With the map in the game, players will now be able to explore it for themselves. Though there has already been a lot of hype surrounding the map announcement, their excitement is rivaled by that of the developers themselves.

“I am very excited for this to release," said Heinrich. “I mean, we have been working on it for so long now and want to get it out and into the hands of the players. We are really looking forward to the feedback, and to continuing to develop this map alongside the community."

As usual, you can let us know what you think on the Hunt feedback page or follow us on Discord, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Steam.

Don't own Hunt yet? You can buy Hunt now on Steam.

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