Lynn suggested I look at games that fake a larger space than is actually played in. I’ve been having trouble thinking of much else, but Shadow of the Colossus was the first thing that sprung to mind. It exemplifies a few of the techniques that I’ve been reading about.
It has a large open space, but only the nearest models are shown in any detail. A combination of model and texture LODS allowed the game to run on PS2. When you are far away from some models, they are nothing more than flat planes. Clever use of tiling textures and modular assets can be found, with the temples looking like they are all made from the same kit. Its clear that the grass is one big tiling texture, but its quite subtle and probably unnoticeable from a consumer perspective. The image of mountains on the skybox give the idea of more geometry than actually exists, while use of land, sea and mountains gives the area a diverse feel. The use of lots of different heights adds visual interest and hides some land. Birds circling overhead and lizards crawling along the ground give the impression of an ecosystem.
“Elaborate polygon models are used within the immediate vicinity of the player. The further away from the player a model is, the less polygons it has. The furthest away models with the fewest polygons mostly include cliffs and the surface of the earth. Even those models’ polygons aren’t drawn completely, they disappear at a certain distance. However, we tried to make it so that areas that command an excellent view are expressed in more detail, while areas that are hard on memory aren’t expressed so elaborately. In addition, usually games have clear barriers to indicate where players aren’t able to go, but we tried not to do that. We wanted to make it so that players can reach anywhere it looks like they’ll be able to get to.”
The temple where the dead girl resides and where the god appears acts as a central hub and point of familiarity for the player. Atmospheric lighting is used here, with the bright, overblown godrays suggesting a heavenly aura. There is a use of temporal grounding here, with the environment looking decayed and ancient.
“we were able to project the atmosphere of Shadow of the Colossus by adding fog and coupling it with a natural landscape that wasn’t particularly wild or untamed. Because the game draws even far-off scenery, we were able to project a comprehensively unique atmosphere.”
The player is led deliberatly around the map, as their sword glows to point them in the right direction. Colossi are huge and can be seen on the horizon, acting as a Disney style “weenie” to draw players to it. This means they don’t head towards other areas.
Bright light is used to hide some areas, with anything behind this light not being drawn.
“However, because the direction of the sunlight depends on factors such as the time of day and the weather, we tried to have a sense of overall unity. Strictly speaking, however, it sometimes differs by area, to a certain extent. Most of the time, when I’d submit things for Ueda to check over, he’d tell me “Make it whiter! Increase the brightness and the saturation of the textures!” [laugh} I’d wonder if it wouldn’t be too much, but I went along with what he said. Now, when you reach a place where the sun is shining, you get a sense of dazzling radiance, so in the end it worked out well.”
The low, cinematic angles used when riding the horse makes the landscape feel large, like its waiting to be explored.