One of the first things I added to my current development build after milestone 3.1 was to put a “forest” terrain type into the game — you place down “forest”, and you automatically get trees within those forested areas. In practice, this feels so good that I’ve been adapting that sort of interface in other areas.
Most notably, that’s how I’m setting up monsters. You now place “zones” of monsters in much the same way that you place down terrain. You “rough it in” in broad strokes, and the game itself picks precisely where the individual monsters go. No more “Grinding Zone” buildings which automatically get monsters — now you can make those questing areas as big or as small as you like (Well.. with a certain minimum size). Instead of “kill monsters”-style quests pointing at a grinding zone where monsters are to be fought, they instead point at a monster zone, which can be of all sorts of shape and size. (This is only partially functional in my current dev build — this is what I’m currently working to polish up).
I’ve also done a little bit with terrain rendering technology. I now have a proof of concept rendering scheme which, in exchange for a little bit more time during startup, allows the terrain to render faster and look better when the camera is far away from it. It’s very promising; I’m looking forward to integrating that test into the base build.
But the really important thing that’s up next on my plate is how I’m going to handle placing towns, villages, cities, etc.
My current plan is this: Outposts, villages, and cities will be placed as tiles, and each tile will contain some number of large buildings (along with other visual clutter). Each tile may also connect to some number of roads. The player may not directly place settlement buildings (inns, taverns, etc) — instead, the player must place one or more of the above settlement types, and then convert the settlement’s buildings into the desired building types. For example, if you want to have a solitary inn situated out in the middle of a dark forest, you’ll need to place an Outpost in the forest, and then set the Outpost’s sole building to act as an inn. Multiple settlement tiles placed adjacent to each other will be considered to be a single larger settlement, and will yield more useable buildings than if those settlements were set far apart from each other.
Note that it’s only Inns, Taverns, Auction Houses, and Weapon Shops which are considered to be “settlement buildings” which may only exist inside of a settlement; all other placements (Points of interest, dungeons, NPCs, respawn points, starting points, mountain passes, etc) may still be placed directly anywhere on the game map.
So that’s the plan. Once I have finished the monsters update I mentioned above, plus have an implementation of placing and managing settlements, that’s my Milestone 4 build. It’s still a ways off, but it’s what I’m now working toward.