Watch Dogs Legion — The borough of Southwark — Level Design Talk
The District of Southwark Spans sits in the lower south-est side of London. Right around here:
It stretches pretty far south however for the Purpose of Watch Dogs legion the decision we made was to try to keep relatively urban. Thus we reduced it from:
To something along the lines of this:
There were a bunch of key landmarks that we wanted to incorporate in the final map.
And we also wanted to incorporate a lot of the important “iconic roads” that Southwark has in such a way as to maintain the overall structure of the burrow, whiteout actually sacrificing the gameplay.
Some of the early iterations looked a little bit like this:
If we take a look at how the borough looks like today we will notice that some the major ideas of the reality of the burrow remain pretty much the same, although the scale and shape of things suffered some obvious changes:
We also took the liberty to add new locations that would support the fantasy and narrative of the borough.
The logic behind the road network design was to ensure that each major road leads somewhere so the players won’t have to spend a significant amount of time looking for those locations.
For example if we take a look at this situation over here:
When the player exits the tunnel the first thing that can be seen is the Tidis Tower
Moving forward the road splits allowing for a bunch of opportunities :
On the left the player can see the Chimney of the Southwark Incinerator and before that the Around LDN Bus Depot can be spotted.
If the player decides to go right the Southwark Auto Conversion Building can be reached.
Looking Straight ahead we will Notice the Nexus Tower.
With a simple fork in the road we gave the player the ability to discover and reach gameplay location by simply following the main roads inside the borough.
Since the borough has multiple access points (open world reasons) you can reach these locations from multiple directions, however we still want to maintain the function of the original roads and we also want to make sure we encapsulate the players in the borough (so they can only escape to other boroughs).
The purpose of the south road was to allow the player to loop back in the city.
If the player enters the area trough the indicated left side of the map he will have to actual choice but to follow the road going pass:
- Drone Factory
- Tidis HQ Building
Eventually making a left and returns towards Nexus Tower and City Hall.
If the player comes from the opposite direction the road will automatically loop him back into the borough.
Following the road north from the Tidis Tower you can see the Nexus Tower in the distance and as you move forward on this path:
You eventual get to city hall and moving forward you get an option to go straight towards Southwark Cathedral or go Right and reach the Tate Modern building eventually leading out of the borough.
If you enter the borough from the North (from the City of London) you will see this frame:
If you go straight you will continue deeper into the borough, however if you follow the path on the left you will be able to reach the Nexus tower faster then if you would on the street.
This structure is actually based on an actual real building that exists there:
If instead you decide to go straight you will will encounter this frame:
In the distance: St. George Church, on the right — The New Market (or Otherwise known as Borough Market with the green glass house right next to the street level.
Moving forward you will begin to see the Incinerator Chimney again, and then CATO building will be appear. We also get to see the Bricklayers arms intersection park
The Bricklayers arms intersection is there as a major junction between many arterial roads so we decided to allow for as little obstacles as possible in the middle so the player won’t get trapped during a high speed Chace with the police.
If there a bunch of simple rules to take away from all this:
- Always point your roads to important places
- Make sure you can see them from far away
- Always loop roads onto themselves to keep the player in the game space
- Give options to the players and reward the player for making those options.
- Player will drive around trying to reach the gameplay space
- If the player gets lots — bad design
- The simples path towards a gameplay pace is the best.
- The challenge will come from the organicity of the road system (driving rules, traffic density, etc.)
- If you are working on a realistic world city map incorporate the realistic icon bits but turn them into gameplay tropes
- Keep your map small and stick to the essentials.
- Build paths only between the essentials.
If done correctly this will lead to a network of interconnected LOS points that will allow the players to figure out where they need to go without having to rely on the map/compass/gps or whatever system people use to get around open world, and that is how everything should be.