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May 18

Mapping The World: Quarry

Greetings to all Steel Hunters enthusiasts! In the light of the upcoming feature test of our work-in-progress map, we would like to present to you the third instalment of our specialized series—"Mapping the World."

In our previous articles, we tried to shed light on the different GameDev facets and thought processes behind decisions we made in various particular cases. For instance, in the Maryland Heights special, we explained the initial inspirations and references for the thematic zones and objects on the map, as well as introduced an overall creation pipeline; in the Crimson Ridge publication, we told you in more detail about the blocking and level design aspects, then looked at the technical objects on the map and their purpose, in addition to general information. This time, we also have something special for you because the development is happening right now, and we're going to guide you through the references and also share our future plans regarding the map's style, possible locations, and objects that you may see upon the grand release.

Change of Scenery

There's always something cooking in the background and getting ready to resurface when the stars align, and the same is true for the Quarry map. As usual, the first step for the development team was to create the vision, setting, and feeling of the map, along with the gameplay/level design ideas that would make it distinct from the two existing maps.

This map takes terrain exploitation to a new level, with a height variance three times greater than that seen in Crimson Ridge. Along with this increased verticality, Quarry introduces a variation in the distribution and density of cover spots that's quite different from other maps we've designed. This change aims to encourage more tactical gameplay and offer a wider range of opportunities for strategic maneuvers, including numerous passages for interception. It isn't biased toward a specific playstyle, and it effectively caters to those who prefer engagements at medium to close ranges, with plenty of opportunities to make use of cover to close the distance.

Concept-wise, the map has endured several rounds of reimagining. Below, you'll see some of the first designed art pieces that got discarded when the level design principles stepped into the picture. When we work on Arenas, we try to create various points of interest so that players have goals and places where they want or need to go. Consequentially, some of the concepts turned out to have only one big place where everyone could meet and have a face-off, so such ideas had to be shelved for the future. We've started digging deeper (pun absolutely intended) to find the right outline with better balance of coverage and open spaces.


Initially, in terms of mood, we planned to set the map somewhere in modern-day Alaska or Canada with frosty mountains and lots of pine trees, but such trees would have been smaller than the Hunters themselves and wouldn't provide any cover, and the quarry itself is quite a bare space with just height differences. Moreover, such a setting would have looked very similar to the existing Maryland Heights map, which is something we wanted to avoid.

After long deliberation and numerous meetings, we decided to base our newly born Arena on another perhaps quite surprising place—the UK! Rich in natural and man-made landmarks, it has a lot to offer: grey moody skies, lush greenery, and actual quarries that have been redesigned by humanity, which could easily happen in the future universe of Steel Hunters as well. The Isle of Skye, the Yesnaby Cliffs, and the seaside—that's our new vector for the future development of the Quarry map. The feeling that you get from current concept art in the game will be maintained, but we're confident that we'll be able to convey this industrial feeling without going into 50 shades of grey and beige.

Industrial Revolution

Mining can't be imagined without some gigantic, heavy-duty machinery, and the Steel Hunters team won't disappoint in that regard. These objects serve several purposes on the map: apart from the aesthetical reasons, they are destined to serve as cover for already big Hunters, as they are exponentially larger. Another reason for their creation is to become an easily identifiable landmark visible from afar. We have similar objects on Maryland Heights and Crimson Ridge, like the Launch Pad or Water Tower. Our concept artists and the Modeling Team devoted a lot of time to researching the existing quarries and connected facilities, principles of work, and purpose of each mechanism and building.


Among different loaders, bores, and other quarry paraphernalia, center stage is given to the gigantic HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron) factory, with its imposing tower being visible from most places. We're staying true to the realistic functionality of the buildings and mechanisms, so our construction consists of the Shaft Furnace, Cooling Systems, Reformers, and the adjacent Transportation Links. In our universe, such a factory could work with other ores or metals, as Steel Hunters is set in the distant future.

Like a testament to the most wealth-generating and probably one of the oldest sprawling industries on Earth, the menacing silhouette of the furnace looks like an obelisk from days long gone. Now, this factory serves as a playground for the Steel League contestants.


Such a big factory wouldn't be feasible without a proper cooling system to match its size, as the temperatures in the kiln reach an insane 700 °C!


Another realistic and gigantic piece of equipment in the Quarry is the Bucketwheel Reclaimers. These are huge cranes with conveyors that create dumps of mined rock for further transportation. Here, you can see the initial reference for the Reclaimer, as well as the final product in the game.


Speaking of transportation means, this map has plenty. A well-developed track system permeates the entire map, with one of the thematic zones being a Railway Repair Station that will be partially destructible. Other Quarry dwellers are enormous dump trucks that will play the role of future hideouts for the tallest Hunters, as they are around 8 meters high. We plan to add destructible vehicles as well: small personnel transportation trucks and cars that are actually used in real life on such sites.

It's impossible to ignore the Excavators aka "Diggers" that you can come across on the map. Truth be told, they took the spotlight during the initial Steel Lab playtest and generated the most positive emotions from players. We'll share a small secret with you—these are slightly bigger than in real life to serve their purpose as cover during shootouts.

Local Tour

As we mentioned earlier, the Quarry map we're describing in this article is remarkably different from the final product you'll see in the future. It also should be noted that apart from creating the Arena itself, we're working on the surrounding "out of the bounds" objects and topology, so the map itself doesn't exist in a vacuum and is grounded in reality. The change of the scenery and locations will also create new points of interest or so-called thematic "Zones," now tethered to the more known real landmarks. Below, you can see how our perception of the map and its zones have changed throughout the development process and how we envision the map in its reworked state. Be mindful that it's only the raw draft, and the overall layout and starting points might end up being totally different, like any other work in progress.


The northern part of Quarry 2.0 is planned to provide access to the coastal seaside with small islands that will be reachable, whereas the south will be hugged by the picturesque mountain range and sport a unique zone that has been reclaimed from the ex-Quarry and turned into ecological heaven with hydroponics and orchards to boot. As the map will have significant height differences in certain zones, players can expect to see viaducts in the vicinity.


What the Future Holds

Version 0.26 marked the first time when we decided to show a less polished version of something to a broader audience. Initially, there were lots of reservations about making such a move, as we pride ourselves on the quality of assets and visual cohesion that Steel Hunters provides to you even in the Alpha state. But what's the point of a beautiful place if it's not interesting to play on? For this reason, we opened the gateway for everyone who's willing to explore the half-blocked land and have a first glance at and taste of what the future holds.