As I started laying out the world in which Johnny lives, I kept wonder if I should make it all green. Should I put mountains throughout the whole thing? Perhaps I should put trees all over the place. I was trying to make it mesh, but was missing the point completely.
As you look around planet earth, you don’t see a giant forest. You don’t see a giant a mountainous spread. There are differences that come out of no where, yet they always seem to blend right in. That’s when I realized I was going about it all wrong.
I decided to write down all the different places I wanted in my world. I wanted forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, an ocean, and flat lands. I wrote down a few more elements over the course of a few days. After that I drew a rough outline of how I wanted my world shaped. Did I want the river through the middle, or just here and there? Where do I want to put my ocean?
These are all questions you should ask yourself. When you come to the answer, ask yourself if each element would work in the real world. Rivers need a water source, but do they have to come off the ocean? Do they have to come off a body of water at all? The answer to that is yes, they need to get a source from somewhere.
What about mountains? I don’t personally believe they have to be in a general spot in the world, but you should decide if you want a mountainous world or not. In my case, I didn’t want a mountainous world. Sometimes designers will put them in the middle of the world. Other times you’ll find them at the top or bottom of the world.
The next part I focused on was the placement of my forests. It would have been really easy to make the rest of the world filled with trees, and then cut out the trees for the cities. Instead I opted to scatter the forests around the world, leaving some areas open with large green flatlands. In other areas, I textured the ground with rock, gravel, and dirt. I found it was ok to all of a sudden have a line where grass was growing, as if I’d crossed over a fence into someone’s yard.
After I laid out my terrain, I then placed my lakes, and drew rivers out from that lake. I decided on which side of my world would have the ocean, and drew some rivers and channels out from that. Before I knew it, I had a nice world laid out. It meshed together really well, and I didn’t have to section it off and feel awkward about it.
So the next time you’re drawing out your world, take a walk outside. Get in your car, drive around the area, and pay attention to where different things start and end. Take notice of water sources, don’t just put a river in and have people wonder where its fed. You’ll have a real world that people can relate too, and feel at home in.
Dan Joseph is a Software Engineer/Architect. You can follow him on twitter @iamdanjoseph. If you wish to contact him, please click the contact page, and fill out the form.