Iron Harvest | Oil Spill

Oil Spill was the first map I got to create and work on while at King Art Games, and it was rocky as I was very much getting used to the internal tools for its creation, but I had basically complete (ish) control of the visual direction given that the tileset/environment came from one of my earlier discussions and pitches with art leadership. And damn sure, we just could not have a Diesel Punk with walking mechs and not have a Oil Spill themed environment!

The layout and ideas came from initial discussions with King Art and a small commission of four to five different maps with their corresponding environments as further pitch to the art leadership. Oil Spill was one of said maps and it was a good introduction to working with the team overall.

The final look of water shaders and some of the lighting came from Stefan Obst, Lead Environmental Artist, and it passed through its fair share of internal iterations.

Given that Oil Spill would be the first map released through the internal Alphas, Community Management did a small video where I assisted them presenting a small document showcasing the surface level Level Design of the map. It was a very fun experience as I had no background on what it entails creating the script for community videos, and even when nothing of producing the actual video was my work, it was pretty cool to learn from seeing it being made by the sidelines.

Going deeper into actual map analysis, the main aim of Oil Spill was to create a standard-base line map which could be used in semi-competitive environments and and potential small scale tournaments. And I said semi-competitive and small scale because from the early discussions Iron Harvest was not strictly intended for overwhelmingly competitive environments where micromanagement and high APM are king. Therefore as an early map the idea was to set up a future development path where Oil Spill would work as a staging ground, a foundation stone for more and improved maps which would learn from any of the potential errors that would arise from Oil Spill’s core gameplay loop.

And as a test bed for said environments Oil Spill did wonders, it very much helped Lead Devs to understand how units interacted and from these interactions we did some revisions to the map, some implemented by myself, and others which had to be implemented internally in the King Art Games office because it is just easier to do than to have maps and freelancers such as myself bouncing around through different projects, etc.

The very core of Oil Spill as an Iron Harvest Standard Map is as stated previously to generate a baseline of gameplay variety where players are able to explore the metagame of Iron Harvest without having gamedevs throw a wrench/gimmick/twist their way. To achieve this goal Oil Spill makes strong use of the old Cloud Kingdom maxim “the player which goes the farthest from the main attack path ought to have the positional advantage”. Which here is blended with my own brew of Stagnation Zones and mirror symmetry, which are generally a nono when mixed together because they can lead to overly swingy gameplay and control of important mid map resource zones, but given the slower nature of Iron Harvest, I very much felt that not only would be a disservice to the game to create more generic rotationally symmetric maps, but that this was the chance for these diagonally mirrored symmetry maps to shine, and shone they have!

When it comes to the visual angle of Oil Spill as previously outlined the map and its aesthetics came from the initial pitch of different tilesets I did for King Art, and after all the different iterations where Lead Environmental Art Obsti did some small texture changes it is just a gorgeous piece of work.

Ought be noted that the river shader required lots of work internally to get it working properly with some manual tinkering of vertex painting and flow maps which was entirely tinkered by Lead Env Artist Stefan Obst, it made me very happy to see the commitment of the team to make things be the best they can possibly be, be it visually, gameplay wise or simply from a production pipeline stand point, working with people like that is just a joy and makes one really want to improve in all sorts of different ways, truly inspiring.

But going back to the environment, Oil Spill showcases an abandoned town between the border of Polania and Saxony, where Saxonian industrialists set up a new production hub and refinery, which sadly and as expected has led to environmental contamination of what used to be a thriving Polanian village, alongside the poisoning of several of the village’s fishermen, which sparked a political bout between the Polanian local governor and the Saxony investor and industrialist group. But as things turn to go, money and resources triumph over vulnerable communities which has led to the general abandonment and build up of resentment within the smaller community, resentment which will be lit aflame during the upcoming rebellion.

Overall I find myself very happy and pleased with the outcomes of Oil Spill, be it from a gameplay perspective or an artistic one, and hope you all enjoy it very much when playing Iron Harvest!

If you have comments or potential feedback regarding Oil Spill don’t be afraid to reach out, I read all the email, love letters and death threats the same! ♥

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