Map Design Vol. 2 – “The River District”

This series focuses on the environmental design of Neverwinter within the adventure zones or smaller instances. Today we will take a deeper look at the “River District”, the newest adventure map to be released on the live servers.

Tonight’s theme is “Destruction and Nostalgia”

The River District follows a theme of lost glory. You can see the houses are big and seem to have inhabited wealthy citizens. There even was a park directly nearby right next to the river and pavilions spread across the map. But the golden days are gone. The River District got hit hard by various catastrophes with the most recent one being the invasion by the Cloaked Ascendancy.

The map reflects the story line well as it uses the very old Protector’s Enclave textures for walls and even some models (houses and wells). Conveniently, reusing the old art assets fits perfectly into this module. If you see this as “let’s create a thematic module where we can reuse old assets without backlash” or not is up to you.

Kabal’s quadrant. A small volcano marks the entrance to his demiplane.

A love for Details

Additionally the devs have done some detailed work to show the actual destructive forces that have hit the River District. There are crooked wells in Gyrion’s region where waves of magic have torn open the ground. In the tainted grove blighted tree roots have knocked over lanterns and guards and citizens got turned into stone statues.

All of these add up to give the River District the vibe of being an actual place. And they make sense: You would expect the small rivers to be dried out and houses burned down in Kabal’s part of the map. Nostura commands the petrifying Nothics which turn people into stone. Gyrion’s region reeks of foul Spellplague Magic reflected in the pools of ooze and torn up terrain.

Much work has been directed at making the River District feel alive, both gameplay-wise and visually. And it works.

A root crushing a street lamp. One of the many details showcasing the River District’s destruction.

Blending areas

The top left quadrant of the map can be viewed as the “normal River District”. It is conserved as the least devastated part of this map where the former wealth and glory can clearly be seen with the ships and the main villa. The other three quadrants bring their own visual style and blend it with the classic Neverwinter architecture. This reflects the Cloaked Ascendancy’s invasion of Neverwinter’s and ultimately Neverember’s territory.

Gyrion brings with him floating debris over rooftops, spikes from Spellplague Caverns and infected rivers. Nostura grew an entire Feywild forest in the former park and let roots ensnare statues, petrified citizens or actual stone. Kabal dried out rivers and trees. Houses are burnt down and rocks are glowing from the heat.

Gyrion’s quadrant. The Spellplague magic has infested the streets and twisted the buildings.

Map Dynamics/Pathing

The map’s structure branches out from the main villa near the docks following the guard post chains. Usually players can traverse from one quadrant to the other and terrain is quite open or at least has multiple pathways so travelling does not take too long.

However there is one exception. You cannot directly travel from Kabal’s sector to Gyrion’s but have to go back to the center of the map which transforms the passage between those arches into a highway. Players will use this road a lot and it looks like the devs have acknowledged that by making it wider than the usual streets you encounter in all sectors. Why exactly there is no connection remains an open question though.

Nostura’s quadrant. The former park is overgrown with tainted trees and roots.

Intuitive Orientation

We have spoken about this also in the Stronghold post. A hugely positive aspect of the different regional themes is that players always know where they are. On top of that the giant tree, Castle Never, the Cloak Tower and Gyrion’s tower are easily spotted landmarks.

As side effect the map seems bigger than it actually is, which is perfect since it more realistically simulates a real world without its gameplay suffering from oversize.

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