May, 2010

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Lewis and Clark in Chicago

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago at a regional meeting of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. We all had a wonderful time and learned a great deal about the local history. I was asked to give a talk about the Chicago Treaty of 1833, which I had previously known nothing about. Researching it was fun, and I learned so much about Chicago history, and Indian removal in the process.

The highlight for me was visiting the Newberry library, which houses many primary documents related to the expedition. My iPhone’s camera hardly does these items justice, but in this photo you several of them.

Private Joseph Whitehouse’s journal is front and center. This went with him to the Pacific and back! Top right above that is his rewritten journal, which he revised after the expedition based on his journal, recollections, and likely information from the other men. To the upper left of Whitehouse’s journal is William Clark’s cash book. The contents are not very interesting, just accounting information. However, on the back cover, Clark kept a running tally of the deaths of the expedition members. This cover is very important to scholars because it proves that Sacagawea was dead by 1825.

In this photo you can see several copies of the original 1814 Biddle edition of the journal. Cool, but the one on the top right is very special. It was Thomas Jefferson’s private copy. He initialed certain pages so that he would be able to prove his ownership. Also cool, but then he gave it to William Clark! Both Clark and his wife Julia signed the book as well.

We saw a lot of other things and places, that irrelevant to this game, but were still very interesting. Many thanks to Lou who made this trip a reality!

My influences in developing terrain for the Fish Camp

Monday, May 17th, 2010

One of my major responsibilities is developing the terrain in the Fish Camp level. Since authentic terrain is such an important design element of this game, I pulled on some real world experiences to develop realistic yet fun terrain. 

The major influence I can point to when developing terrain are the many hours I’ve spent driving across Kansas and Missouri. The two states are nearly opposite as far as terrain goes, but both have great examples of terrain layouts.  Missouri, for the most part, is covered in large rolling hills covered in trees. It also has some interesting rock formations along the Missouri River, especially around the Columbia area. These bluffs are a hundred feet tall and go all the way down to the river. It’s taken thousands of years to carve those out. I pulled from this image to shape the bluffs of the Fish Camp level.  I wanted to make the bluffs in the game look like the actual bluffs I have seen along the Missouri river. It’s still a work in progress but I think its coming off well. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Kansas, especially the western half of the state.  Kansas is known for being flat, and it is to an extent. Kansas has miles and miles of beautiful gently rolling hills covered in grass. Most of this land is fairly untouched and looks like it did a couple of hundred years ago at the time of Lewis and Clark. This feel of wide open space and gently rolling hills is important to our Fish Camp level. We have a nice open area, covered in grass and other discoverable plants, animals, and items, for the player to explore.  I’ve tried to simulate the gently rolling feeling of those Kansas prairies. I really wanted to give the player the realistic feel of being in that open environment.

So far, I’ve been very pleased with how the terrain has turned out.  There are gentle, rolling hills, realistic shore lines along the rivers, and tall bluffs that really add flair to the level.  The Fish Camp level has come a long way in a short amount of time!

 Eric B. – Level Designer