Every season has its own distinct landscape look, feel and characteristics. This has permeated into game design incredibly pleasingly. It is easy to think of a video game setting bathed in the bright light of summer or covered by the golden palette of autumn. However, no season is perhaps as striking, atmospheric and powerful as winter. The winter landscape of games can be so perfectly represented and impactful that they appeal to our real-world attachment to them - the crunching of snow, leaving tracks and patterns, the eerie quiet, and the different dynamic frost and ice bring to a landscape, for example. Through design, the use of aesthetics and symbolism, by appealing to our senses and by containing features that affect and change the land, distinct and brilliant winter landscapes come to life. Deliberate design and the careful inclusion of many often-underrated elements of the landscape results in powerful vista compositions, effective and realistic winter plantings, and deep use of the architecture and scale of the land, that goes beyond the aesthetic. And, while the other seasons are more colourful and verdant, winter displays the bones of the landscape, where spatial composition and layout is exposed, and underlying design and features are revealed. By merging these with robust world narratives and environments rich with magic and majesty, we are gifted magical, wintry vignettes and transported to spectacular and powerful places.
From The Last of Us to Fallout.
The golden browns of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, The Last of Us and Fallout 4.
Editor's note: Rob Dwiar is a garden designer, landscape architect, horticulturist and writer who regular Eurogamer readers may remember for his analysis of The Witcher 3, Mass Effect and Dishonored, his essay on the genius of Rapture and his thoughts on the close quarters of Dead Space, Metro, The Last of Us and Oblivion. Now, to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of Assassin's Creed, Dwiar takes a closer look at Ubisoft's remarkable recreation of Renaissance Italy, and finds there's more than meets the eye.
The environments of massive open-world games, particularly in recent years, have been rightly praised for their representation, scale and design accuracy. However, there are some gems at the other end of the spectrum - environments that make you feel cramped, tense and desperate for a break. This is an approach to environment design utilised in our real-world, from gardens to architecture, and is mirrored excellently in some game environments, creating areas that trap us in cramped, claustrophobic conditions.
It's now 10 years since we first plunged deep into the Atlantic Ocean and were beguiled by BioShock and the submarine city of Rapture, one of the finest environments in games.
Whether you're traversing an expansive open world, climbing crumbling ruins or sneaking between shadowy city corners, the landscapes and environments we see in games have never been better. Gone are the days of miracle-growing trees popping up at certain draw distances. Instead, we have places and environments deliberately and carefully designed, and landscapes so realistic we can relate to them, be astonished by them, even yearn for them. Naturally, ever-improving graphical capabilities have a lot to do with this, because as environments get more realistic, we increasingly experience them as 'real', but there can be, and often is, so much more to it than just the technical ability to crank up the aesthetics.