Sunday, November 5, 2023

Kansas - Research Trip

Today, we are happy to share with you another report from one of our Research Trips! This blog focuses on the journey Kansas Map Lead, Patrik Sadlon, Map Designers Pavel J, Ilona C, Elena H and 2D Artist Annie V, took to the U.S earlier this year. The purpose of their travel was to gather references and information for the upcoming Kansas DLC, as well as to inspire them in preparation for future projects.

However, please keep in mind that the information and media presented here do not confirm what our upcoming DLC will include.

Travelling 10,500kms in 17 days, the team visited 20 different states across the US. Each member of the team had their own goal set for the trip. "The goal of map designers was to experience driving on US roads, which are (of course) completely different compared to our roads in Europe" Patrik tells us. "Annie's goal was to see and grab the feel of typical American info-graphics, billboards, brand logos etc.". As you can imagine, these trips proved to be a valuable experience for our teams in bringing a realistic look and feel to our ATS projects. 

"For me, the best part about visiting America was getting to drive there." Elena explains to us, "Seeing what our players would see from the point of view of a driver really changed my perspective on what to add to our map and what not to. I noticed things while driving the same route we have in the game that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. The feel of the road is also very different from our roads in Europe. Everything is smoother and larger." 

"Another thing I really liked was the small towns we saw across the states. Each had its own atmosphere, and some of them were truly magical to visit. It was great to see the nature, the roads and their curves, the vastness of the states, and the cities. It's a very different vibe compared to Europe, and I think seeing all this with our own eyes can help us create a better game for our players."

The team spent quite a few days in Kansas, exploring various cities along Interstate 70, such as Colby, Hays, Topeka and of course, Kansas City. They also visited the likes of Wichita, Hutchinson and Emporia to ensure we captured the "genius loci" of the area. 

"The great thing about our trip to Kansas was that as map designers, we were able to be in the places that we would be creating in our game." Pavel J tells us "I am responsible for Topeka, the capital of Kansas in our upcoming DLC. What was great about the trip was that I got to see Topeka with my own eyes and then I got to build it virtually! It gave me a whole different approach and made me realize what was really important and what the players would like. However, I'm sorry that we have limits and I couldn't make the city as big as the community would have liked. The thing I enjoyed most about the state was Kansas City, which I had the privilege of visiting. Now I just hope to visit the US again. Even though Kansas may be boring to some, it still has its charm". 

"It was great to have the opportunity to discover the beauty and diversity that can be found in this part of the United States." Ilona shares  "Known as the 'Sunflower State', Kansas surprised me with its varied landscapes, winding roads and the many farms that dominate the area. Although we saw only a few sunflower fields, it was clear that this flower plays a significant role in the landscape. The western side of the state is dominated by wide fields of corn and wheat, creating a fascinating view of the endless plains that Kansas has to offer."

"We also passed many family farms as well as large commercial farms where corn, maize and other crops are grown. These farms are an important element of the local economy and culture, and their presence gives Kansas its unique character."

With so much to see in a short amount of time, the team made sure to take plenty of reference shots and videos for the team back at the offices. "We took a lot of video and sound equipment with us" Patrik tells us. "We used a 360 degree camera, mounted on the roof of the car, which allowed us to record our own "streetview" that our colleagues can watch in VR. This allows them see the "size" of the area by just letting them sit with us in the office, watching the material that we recorded".

However, Kansas wasn't the only destination for the team! "We had opportunity to see many states in just 15 days, so we have now great comparison of each one, knowing what's typical for which location." Patrik explains "With focus on Kansas and .. one state that will be announced soon (stay tuned!) - we discovered that the mood of great plains is interesting in its own way. We took many notes along the way and now we are ready to implement them into the game. Noises of crickets that we heard and recorded in Kansas are ready to be released with the DLC. Some other bits needs to wait a little bit more to be implemented - but we are working hard to bring the feel to as close as possible to what we experienced in US." 

This huge journey took this particular team from Denver, Colorado and onwards through the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas where they spent a few days exploring the agricultural character of the state. From Kansas they headed to Chicago, but with "little" side jobs in Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missisippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.

Phew, what a trip! We look forward to sharing how these research trips translate to our virtual recreation of the states in the future. Until then, we hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes report of our trip out to the states! Be sure to add Kansas to your Steam wishlist. Until next time, keep on truckin' 

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