Elbow Grease

Every now and then, I have to remind myself that there's no substitute for elbow grease. When it comes to creative work, like painting, 3d modeling, and writing, I have a tendency to forget that there's no magic brush nor tool that will create something that looks good with little effort. I always fall into the trap of thinking that some procedural technique will do most of the work for me, and then I can just tweak it to look good.

It doesn't work like that.

As I was working out the new DMC map today, I ran into that old issue. I found myself trying to use filters and random noise to generate city blocks, and they always ended up looking like algorithms, instead of human construction.

Around mid-day, I realized that I'd have to do actual painting at some point, so I might as well get in there and do it. So I dropped the filters and textures, and just started drawing city blocks. Nudging building outlines, alleyways, and molding edifices around weird streets and intersections.

The results were more satisfying, and they helped to conjure some interesting ideas for what neighborhoods are like.

For example, there's one area where all of the buildings are interlocking, cross-shaped footprints. Kinda like this, except several square miles of them, and dozens of stories high. I decided this would probably be some city planner's experimental block that looked better on paper than in practice, and eventually became a haven for low-rent apartments and squatters. Folks around town call it the "Concrete Forest" because of the thick stands of concrete, bristling with balconies and wings.

It was around this time that I also realized I still have a lot to learn about scale. Even with the smaller, zoomed-in map, I was tending to draw individual buildings. However, with 14 meters per pixel, this meant I was actually drawing whole blocks of buildings.

I finished most of the southwestern map with this in mind, packing things a bit tighter. But I'll need to revisit the central band of the map to ensure there aren't gigantic sidewalks everywhere (i.e. it's like Red Square, everywhere!).

A productive day, overall. A bit slower than expected, but I still have high hopes for the map. I'd really like to make it a "spectacle" in the game. Something players can really say "wow" to when they first see it, and feel like it is a reward.

But stuff like that takes effort. No substitutions or quick fixes. Just down-in-the-ditch hard work. At least it's fun work, though! (and not actual ditch-digging!)