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Building a world is something that can draw me in for months at a time. There are so many possibilities and the work is never quite done.
In your world, you can make anything possible with a little imagination and some logical thinking.
Why build a world?
If you are considering writing a story or developing a game, it is important to have source material to help you along the way.
With story writing, you should be confident that your world makes sense and that there are enough details to keep the reader engaged and understand what is around them at any given time.
Having the material prepared frees your mind up while writing and might remind you to add something in or give you an idea to mention something about your world, giving more immersion to your reader.
A game developer can benefit greatly from this. Having the information ready gives artists the ability to imagine the world and how they should style their work. Ensuring they bring the culture to life for the different area, creating player immersion.
Your level designers will have a good knowledge of the types of buildings and plant life to use in a specific area, making the whole production process much smoother.
Starting Your World
To begin your world, simply think of a blank canvas, ready for you to paint your picture upon.
I find it useful to first think of one location which interests me. What does the terrain look like? Is it a mountain, riverbank, beach, valley, forest, desert or open plains?
What type of people live there? In the mountain perhaps they are a mining town filled with many burly men. Or perhaps in a forest paradise with beautiful, slender people.
Now we think of the culture and building style. What type of houses do they have? Wooden? Stone? Are they made with fine craftsmanship or do they look like they have been thrown together by novices?
What should you think about?
- Plant Life
- Historic Events
Above are just some of the things in world building which can keep you thinking for years to come, adopting ideas from the real world, other worlds or ideas from your imagination. Perhaps you wish the sky was purple and the grass was blue, it's your world and you make the rules.
What kinds of technologies are available to them which influences their building styles?
Do they have a central market place, town hall, roads, church, school houses or local businesses?
What is the main import/export of the location or is it self-sufficient?
Do they get food from trade, hunting, farming or animal breeding?
Are their resources gathered from nearby mines or woodland? Do they trade for it?
Once you have a solid idea of your first civilization, you can begin to create more and more until you have a populated island or continent. Enough so that someone can read your story or play your game and have enough locations with plenty of variety to it.
Think about how towns and cities work, with outer towns collecting resources and shipping them to a city or capital. Think about the territory in which those towns or cities belong. Are they in different counties, countries or continents?
With these locations worked out, now you can look at how they all interact with one another. Are there allies or enemies among them? Do they openly trade with one another? Is there a mutual trust or a heavy suspicion toward each other? Adding in friendships and rivalries helps to give some realism into different cultures and beliefs.
Fleshing Out The Details
Establishing the world as explained above is enough to give someone a good idea about the world and the people living in it. However, just as in the real world, there are main things which make up the finer details and while they don’t seem important, they add tons of realism!
Think about the farmers. What are they farming? Potatoes, wheat or perhaps a strange mutated crop which feeds on insects?
What animals eat those crops or plants and which other animals might eat the crop eating animals?
How do people travel around between towns/cities? Do they walk? Ride horses or is there a train network, perhaps an underground railway or a giant airship. Would a person get around differently than large amounts of cargo?
How do the people communicate? Is there a language barrier to overcome? Do they all speak the same languages? Is there a form of mail, telephone or psychic crystal network?
Who rules? Is it a monarchy, governments or dictatorship? Who enforces the laws and keeps the peace?
Bring It to Life
Many people forget one of the most important aspects to world design and the secret lies in the tiniest details. From the clothing of the people to the flag they live under. Is it a country flag? City flag or are there many different houses each with their own sigil?
Think about the districts of each area and how citizen classes for them. Do the upper class have huge mansions or do they live in similar homes to the rest of the population? Does the lower class have more gambling or recreational areas? Where do the children play or get educated? Do they have a playground or do they play in the forest or by the river? Do they go to school or become apprentices at businesses?
Think of every detail, no matter how small and you will have a much more fulfilling world. Sights, smells, tastes, and textures are all things which make it easier to visualize the world you are creating.
Doing this helps you to use your world in the story, giving you plenty of content to pull from, helping the player or reader become immersed in the setting you are creating for them.