One of Our Biggest Challenges: Geographic Continuity

Dear community,

It’s time for us to share one of our biggest challenges with this remake: outdoor geographic continuity. What are we talking about?

Remember: in the original game, the exteriors were divided into “cubes” for technical reasons (memory, performance, etc.). Four “black borders” defined the limits of each cube. At certain places, it was possible to change cubes. This system is difficult for players to understand today and was already abandoned in 1997 for Little Big Adventure 2/Twinsen’s Odyssey. Our vision for the remake? To merge these cubes to create a more immersive open world. Easy, right? Well, not exactly. There are 3 major difficulties:

1/ Joining cubes… that don’t fit together

Some cubes respect the geographic topography and can be correctly merged. Example: Brundle Island.

Some cubes are logical and go together, but have an altitude difference that creates a problem. Example: Citadel Island. How to manage the altitude difference between the 2 cubes?

Some original cubes simply do not connect at all. The biggest example is Principal Island. Some cubes negatively impact the cube next to it. On Principal Island, the building of the HQ prevents visibility of the Twinsen character when one wishes to go to the library. Here, we thus need to shift the library cube to keep the path readable.

What happens if we unite the cubes of Principal Island?

  1. A path is missing between the library and the military camp
  2. The HQ hides part of the path on the 3 cubes next to it
  3. The old town hides part of the path from the military camp cube

Obviously, we cannot leave Funfrock’s HQ as is in a game with continuity. Transforming it into a real building worsens the visibility problems on the adjacent cubes. It’s a real puzzle!

We decided to create new spaces – internally called “seams” – to join the cubes in a more organic way.

2/ Replacing black borders with content

Once the cubes are united, we need to find a graphical way to replace the black walls with content. In the Proxima Island prototype, we simply placed trees, but it’s not always that simple.

3/ Story coding

We’ve talked about the tip of the iceberg. Let’s move on to the submerged part. The original code is based on cube logic. When loading a cube, the code checks what you have in your inventory to define the state of that cube. The NPCs’ routines also start at this moment. What happens when the cubes are united? The routines start when you arrive on the island (and not the cube). The most complex case: when you are in a vehicle (the tank in the Hamalayi and the bulldozer on Polar Island). Here, you change cubes while in the vehicle. Seb tore out the last hairs he had 🤯.

Another example: to give a sense of life in the original game, you could meet the same NPC several times in different cubes of the same island. For example, you meet the hair dryer salesman several times on Citadel Island. By uniting the cubes, we end up with… multiple hair dryer salesmen! We need to keep one and create a new routine for the character so that he traverses the equivalent of several cubes from the original game.

The most complex case is when a character follows Twinsen from one cube to another (e.g., the rebel lapichon in the Hamalayi). Physically, these are different NPCs, reset at each cube change with their own code. Again, we had to be clever to make it seem like it’s now the same one following you from cube to cube!

The most frustrating

We believe geographic continuity is one of the changes that will allow the game to be discovered by the largest number of people. The most frustrating thing for us is that even you, the fans, won’t notice it. Our memories have built an idealized version of the original game that was a true open-world. To succeed, we have to do better than your memories 😅

In my childhood memories, I always believed I had a gun that shot red lasers in Little Big Adventure 2/Twinsen’s Odyssey… but no!

We hope this significant change will allow you to relive the emotions of your childhood… without realizing it 😃

46 thoughts on “One of Our Biggest Challenges: Geographic Continuity”

  1. Wow, that’s quite the challenge indeed, considering the number of maps in the whole game! Good luck to you all, I’m sure you’ll make a great job, considering the level of goodness in the amazing demo you already put out!

  2. Patrick Nascimento

    As a long time fan, I’ve been absolutely static since the announcement of the remake. I continue to appreciate everything you guys are doing to bring this classic back! Thank you and you got this!!!

  3. Hey guys,
    Is there a possibility to make a teletransport like those that the guards uses? And the Maybe a “city transport tube system”/”People mover” that could also be used to fast travel or maybe you could get ticket to use it after finish the game. By this way we won’t get multiple characters, they are just travelling around the map to different parts.
    Keep doing this amazing job!!!

    Best from Brazil
    Bruno

  4. A bigger challenge would be to fit the inside of the houses in the buildings. But I guess that was impossible.

    What did you all do with the backsides? Just left it as is?

    1. I wouldn’t mind, aż that’s what we had in LBA2. Separate interiors and locations being bigger on the inside than what they seem on the outside. And I actually liked that! LBA2 approach is the best

  5. Johannes Riecken

    Really interesting to see how much more complex this is compared to what I would have imagined! I’d be curious how other games with a fixed camera perspective solve the problem of the character being occluded behind tall structures.

    1. Que interesante es saber como se desarrolla un juego tanto en la actualidad como anteriormente, es cierto que uno idealiza el juego pero yo lo jugue hace poco y es uno de esos casos en que sigue divertido haciendolo, no envejecio mal, pero es entendible que una remake tiene que tener los suficientes cambios para justificarse. Ojala salga pronto!!!
      Exitos!
      Ale Valentino

  6. Continuity is not as incredible as it seems.
    When space is partitioned in “screens” there are 2 major benefits:
    1) The player can feel “accomplishment” when switching “screens”.
    2) The player can even imagine the spatial relationships in the world better
    3) On the dev side, less effort has to be put in justifying the world because there’s a certain level of abstraction that excuses some of the layouts

  7. You could have new areas/cubes simply fade in or out, or add a little garde where otherwise things would be missing – is a direct 1:1 copy strictly nessecary? Some buildings could be bigger, others smaller, it’s only a problem if you choose to stay within those confines, if you extend with stretching, or more of the same style of terrain, that’s never going to be noticed, but if you introduce something new, like a swingset inbetween some guard hits, people are going to notice…

    The trouble then becomes, how will you merge the inside wirh the outside, just how far are you willing to let those merges go?

    The other soloution is to have a programmed camera route which doesn’t allow you to see the next cube or area because the view is zoomed in on the last part of the current map

    -Twinsens eyes seem very low down in the prototype, as though he sneezed and lost half his face! 😅

    1. I also think that it’s not necessary the locations to be exactly the same, they can be altered and modified a bit, but still be recognizable

      1. Pedro Henrique Mascari

        Continuem! Apenas continuem! Estamos esperando ansiosos por esse remake, que com certeza ficará maravilhoso!

  8. Very interesting problem. I look forward to seeing how you solve it. One not of concern is that the best way I remember to avoid the homing instacapture balls was to proceed to the next “cube”. Will there be a way to mitigate or evade the balls better now that that is no longer an option?

  9. I understand the whole issue and I don’t see a problem if you need to make geographic changes and even new NPCs in new spaces for geographic continuity to make sense (I understand this takes time but keep going. you’re doing a fantastic job!

    1. For sure, changes are always welcome! I think that locations can always be altered, NPC can have different spots and different routines, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same

  10. It seems to be completely out of question, but I was really hoping this game would take a LBA2-esque approach on this matter, having a true 3D world.

    1. Me too! The charm of LBA2 of having smooth topography and straight edges to archtectural structures was great.

  11. I’m just happy you guys are still working on the game. thank you for keeping us updated, and the videos of the level design were lovely explanations of the current challenges you are facing. much love

  12. Thank you for the update! ❤️

    It’s fascinating that sometimes elements like that might seem like something easy and small, while in fact it’s something so complex and difficult to make. Regular fans might not even realize that.
    Because of your updates, the fans will understand the difficulty of geographic continuity and will appreciate it in the game. I actually loved it in demo 🙂

    I personally don’t feel like it’s neccesary for the locations to be recreated in exactly the same way and shape like they were in the original LBA1 game. I won’t mind seeing some new designs, new landscapes, buildings, locations looking a bit different. It doesn’t have to be 1:1 remake, can be something new.

    I’d love to see the Citadel Island and White Leaf Desert Island looking much more similar to LBA2, so I hope that there will be some elements referencing Twinsen’s Oddysey, for the continuity purpose. Maybe we can see a bit of School of Magic at the Desert? The Lighthouse at the Citadel Island? Maybe we can meet most of LBA2 characters and animals in the new game? Even if the Desert Island was empty during FunFrock reign, the characters who live on that island during LBA2 must’ve lived somewhere else during LBA1, so we could meet them on other islands. That would’ve been amazing <3
    Just like Baldino lived on another Island before moving to the Desert. Another thing about Baldino, it would've been amazing to get much more dialogue options with him. In LBA1 he's not a big character, but in LBA2 he's Twinsen's best friend and one of the most important characters. So it would've been amazing to get much more dialogues with Baldino (and with Zoe! And Joe the elf! 😀 for the continuity with LBA2). It would've been also great to see Baldino looking more similar to LBA2 than he did in demo.

    I also hope that you'll find a way to incorporate some ideas and concepts from the reboot. A developer's behind the scenes video included a concept map of Citadel Island, which looked amazing. You also mentioned that the idea for a reboot was to make every island different and unique, having different bioms, designs and colour palette. I'd love to see that.

    So I'd be happy to see more variety in locations, more new content and continuity with LBA2 places 😀 So don't hesitate to alter the designs and add new things, that would've been lovely

    But what I loved the most about the demo was geographical continuity, filled black spaces and each NPC having own, unique design (it was amazing!), own name and unique codex/journal entry.

    Thank you for the update, can't wait for the next one 🍀
    Good luck! ❤️

  13. I would have been happy with a straight remake with just updated graphics and bug fixes to avoid these development challenges but others may few differently. Hopefully the changes you are implementing to join the cubes don’t change the game in any meaningful way from the original.

  14. Sounds quite challenging, but it’ll be worth it in the end. You’ll get there. ❤️
    And I don’t need an exact copy of LBA, although the remastered Tomb Raiders are sick…I just need ANY LBA in my life and have fun with it. 😉 so red, white, blue or green lasers…it’s worth it.

    1. When I was a child always thought that between each cube were a path so simple and boring than the people how did the game just erase that and save me from the tedious of walking that path hahaha for me was obvious that between the military camp and the library was a building with a sidewalk and nothing more than that xD

      1. Millibillionth

        Same here – I assumed there was unimportant scenery in between playable areas. On Principal Island, the holomap arrows showed that some locations were indeed somewhat apart from one another, giving the impression that the real island was large and you were only seeing a portion of it.

  15. Hm. I’d rather have part 3 than the remake of part 1. I do understand that this may be a necessary step for newer fans though.

  16. I think the pattern for the hair dryer one does not need to be continuous, you could assume that once out of camera, he could teleport to another cube towards which the player is going to.
    You need to encounter this guy kind of frequently for the player to understand he’s a bit more important than a random dude.

    1. I don’t know how much the developers are bound to the original designs and codes or do they have more freedom in recreating and reimagining the LBA1, but if we’ll get an open world with location continuity, why couldn’t some NPCs have a bit more freedom while walking around their islands? They don’t necessarily have to all run all over the island, but maybe some of the NPCs could walk a bit further than the others, to make it more believable and diverse.

      For example – we could see some NPCs arriving at the Principal Island on the ferry, then walking next to HQ and going to the Old Town, to stay in the city or walk around as tourists. And maybe go the other way back to the ferry after some time.

  17. I dont think cubes are a problem.

    It keeps the game segmented for the player, which helps with being familiar with their current exploration.

    Cross fading between cubes seems reasonable to me, it wasnt a complaint I ever heard any fan talk about.

    I hope this doesnt mean you have to recode large segments of the game to accommodate this, and introduce bugs.

    Just my thoughts, developers can sometimes get fixated on a idea and not objectively view its benefits/risk/time investment.

  18. Agustin Pacheco

    This was a very pleasant read and a very interesting technical problem.
    I remember seeing full island maps in MBN with all the different cubes of an island put together with some extra filler and I loved looking at them.
    Great job!

  19. I’m okay with this, maybe add pathways we never seen before?

    For elevation and the isometric POV why not change the terrain depending on where we are on the cube? the terrain could be hidden, blurred or blended into the hills etc.. or show a X-ray type halo around Twinsen when the character goes behind or beneath structures or walls, same for the top location, only visible once reach by the character.

    Toughts?

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