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INSIDER: How to Build a Video Game World

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INSIDER: How to Build a Video Game World

October 11, 2012

Ever wondered how we build the game world for a Need for Speed game? Well, wonder no more.

It all starts with a conversation. And a lot of Post-It notes. Before we spend any time actually modelling the environment, we talk through what we want to do and get some ideas down based on the game we’re making.

In this case, the game was Most Wanted.


We knew from the outset that we wanted to make a game about being the Most Wanted. It’s about being on the run and surviving against overwhelming odds with just your skills as a driver and the world’s hottest cars to get you through.

It had to be about breaking the law, getting chased by the cops, escaping your way and doing it in style. Freedom was a central idea. Open world was a must.

Most of all, we wanted to build a great place to have fun in cars. When we talked about all the things we really wanted to do in the world’s hottest, fastest and rarest cars, we realised pretty soon that 90% of them were illegal.

Smashing into restricted areas, ripping past speed cameras, stealing cars, near-missing traffic, driving on the wrong side of the road, slamming our friends off the road and hitting ramps. Attracting the attention of cops, getting chased and then screwing them over was always a big part of it.


Fairhaven was designed every step of the way to be the perfect place for all that.


Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit had taught us a ton about what works well in an open environment, and we applied that learning to Most Wanted. The world had to be entirely unrestricted, loaded with gameplay, fully connected via the next generation of Autolog and robust enough to handle wicked online racing and also a more revolutionary style of Playlist-based online. In that sense, Fairhaven City is an evolution of our thinking over the last 7 years of game development.

Then we started with paper designs. These are literally pencil drawings on massive sheets of paper, calling out major routes, Cool Downs, play areas, jumps, Jack Spots, race routes, shortcuts and speed cameras.

The most basic versions of the world look something like this. This is just the raw wireframe, before we do any of the texturing or snazzy lighting effects.


From there, we start to texture the world. It’s still far from finished, but you can drive it, play it and keep changing it, until it feels just right.


Finally, we light it, add some polish to the textures and optimise it to wring the maximum of performance out of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Vita. (Some of our more hardcore engineers even decided to see if they could crowbar it onto the PlayStation Vita. Which somehow they actually managed to do.)


Check out some of the features that you can look forward to seeing through the world.

We wanted to let you try practically every car in the game from the outset, so all you have to do to is find them. They’re stashed in Jack Spots throughout the city to reward you for exploring and give you options for shaking the cops. When you’re on the ropes, car half-destroyed, knowing where you can switch you battered Caterham for a pristine SLS AMG Black makes all the difference.


Look out for Restricted Areas. We find these smash gates absolutely irresistable. Smash through them and see what’s on the other side. Autolog tracks how many gates you smash and compares it with your friends.


Speed Cameras. You’ll find Speed Cameras all over the place. Every time you blast through one, the flash fires and your speed is recorded. Autolog keeps a record of your times and a leaderboard or “Speedwall” that ranks you against your friends. You’ll get the occasional reminder that your record’s been broken via Autolog, and you just can’t let that go, can you?


Billboards are a highlight. They work like speed cameras in that every one has its own Speedwall, but these track the biggest jumps and display your profile picture on the billboard. Your friends will have to beat your record to get rid of your picture, so the more annoying you make it, the better.


If you want to see these features in action, you can check out the game from 30th October. Head over to the pre-order page and bag your copy now. You won't be disappointed.

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