Making of Lantia
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Arma 2 Namalsk Crisis and Namalsk lore in DayZ.
The idea of connecting Namalsk with an off-world (extra-terrestrial) location has been in my head since work on Arma 2 Namalsk Crisis story. NAC figured what the device is for and tried to make the connection happen. Unfortunately for them, the road there created a deadly conflict, which even had an accidental first (known) human extra-terrestrial travelers in form of a Russian specnaz team, trying to destroy Athena-1. If you are following the story of Namalsk in DayZ, you know that NAC has been eventually very successful in using their knowledge from Athena-1 site in Athena-3. And because of that, I could not miss out on an opportunity to toy around the idea of travelling to a different world. Let me present you Lantia.
One of my main sources of inspiration was this artwork I made back in September 2020:
The base image has been captured in the amazing Space Engine. This gave me some idea of colours and the overall atmosphere (I like scenes with gas giants on background), which I have then supported with the addition of the spiky mountain range (to make it even more alien) and the typical survivor silhouette (to add the human feeling to it). At the point of making it, it was a pretty picture and that was about it. I was never really planning to transform it into something playable. But little I know…
With InclementDab working on the EVR event for Namalsk, we have built on the original Arma 2 lore quite a bit, eventually making the event more interactive by introducing the teleportation feature. With the introduction of Athena-3 underground (Content Update 1), this has been further iterated upon and players being able to enter the underground NAC complex, used to travel to Lantia. Players can find multiple pieces of lore within Athena-3, outlining the state of NAC expeditions into this distant world. Naturally, players started wondering if they ever be able to travel there too. The idea was floating in my head for quite a some time and I have even quickly draw some concept on an actual paper (yes, I draw stuff too – much easier than on PC).
A world in a world
At this point, I needed lot more time to think about how to even do this. My primary motivation was that I really wanted to always try to build some alien landscape in Arma/DayZ, but one thing is doing some random terrain experiments, other is how to make it also play-able?
The obvious solution to this is that a travel between servers would solve this, but I have quickly killed that idea because of the complexity of the setup (Namalsk requiring two servers instead of one), scripting involved and additional work in data. Instead of that, I was thinking on how do I make a world in a world. The framework, worked on by Dab for the original EVR and Content Update 1, is very solid and allows travelling all over the map, accompanied by various effects and features. What was the big question mark for me is how do I make sure that a certain place on the map looks and feel different compared to the rest. Luckily, DayZ has lot of tools to make this very possible and Namalsk has still lot of empty space in south-east sea. It was time to experiment.
I knew what are the main features – weird terrain and spiky hills. So naturally, I just quickly edited the heightmap in the SE sea of Namalsk and was wondering how easy is to get the feel of the artwork and concept.
Ok, now lore mentions it has some kind of a spiral shape, so I made a base spiral heightmap and ran it through some heightmap processing software. This was the result, not bad.
I have put this heightmap on top of Namalsk heightmap and have greatly increased its overall altitude to make sure I can make the custom environment audio (separated by the altitude).
Quite an epic view if I can say, how does it look on the other side?
Eeek, as expected, but we can live with this – its very far from the play-able area and nobody can see this far anyway. Spiky rocks were of course added in proper places too.
I knew the spiky rocks wont cut it for all the parts and to enhance detail, I went for regular vanilla rocks too. After few hours, this was the result.
Now that this was sort of done, I have switched into the atmosphere work. I knew from the beginning that whatever I do, this landscape is still gonna be the part of Namalsk (one server). The distance from the play-able is crazy long, so I only need to make sure it looks decent from the inside out, not the other way. I will kill any player outside of the area I want anyway. Simplest approach was to build a new skybox around this area:
For something as massive as these skybox objects, it actually works surprisingly well. But it was mostly a colour gradient, inspired by the original artwork. I needed to add Xerxes (the gas giant).
Again, surprisingly easy with relatively good result. Now if you are wondering why the image turned out suddenly darker – its because this is from the game already. There was number of changes done to make sure I detect player inside the Lantia zone and adjust the lighting dynamically. That is also accompanied by various sound and particle effects, but I will get to that later. All these things have to be switched/created/deleted based on the player presence in or outside. Lets look at this system at work:
Smaller things for a new world
Now that I have managed to make somewhat alien looking/sounding place, it was time to think about the smaller details, which will eventually allow players to step in and play.
Lore mentions NAC struggles with the area so called Keyhole. A narrow and deep part of the mountains, which turned out to be the result of a detonation from a nuclear warhead, which was passed through the wormhole connection during the final moments of the Namalsk conflict. Lore talks about a very dangerous work of NAC in trying to secure Keyhole with improvised structures. I wanted to reflect that through the series of scaffolding structures, securing the whole area and making narrow pathways for the NAC personnel to travel around. Base scaffolding models were kindly provided to me by Helkhiana. This was rather tedious object positioning work, but here is how I started:
Here is how it continued with more variants of the scaffolding I made on the way. Wormhole end point for scale.
There was bunch of iterations done on the path ways. At some point, I have started thinking of other objects to go along. I wanted to add some lights, as the area was generally pretty dark (by design).
Next step was to toy around with some particle effects as the area was rather fog-less. I have made this thick fog coming out of several sinkholes within the area.
There is also much lighter fog, which is added to the general playable area.
You can notice some additional objects like boxes and signs, a necessary clutter that supports the idea of the area being used. All in all, looks pretty decent with all the effects and objects in. The only thing to finalize would be those spiky rocks, but did anyone notice? I went through several iterations and was eventually saved by Helkhiana‘s asset library, which had these pretty spiky structures.
Stepping into a new world
I have touched the weather topic a bit earlier – it is one of the constraints of this whole world in world concept as it is all server-side, meaning that if there is a blizzard on Namalsk, blizzard is also at Lantia. This is some challenge I had to deal with through the design of the access and gameplay loop, making the area accessible only for a limited amount of time (while keeping server weather to make Lantia look good). I personally do not think it is necessarily bad as it prevents people from staying there for an indefinite time and adds the rush to quickly visit and leave the area again in time. I have made several pointers on the wormhole end point so you can clearly recognize its life nearing the end.
While I have initially thought that the access to Lantia could be through a randomly glitched EVR, I have eventually decided to spend more time on it and make an interactive part of Athena-3, which can be altered by various modules to provide various results. This makes the access route more defined and adds new type of loot to hunt for. I am not gonna be going into too many details here – get into the game and explore!
Those who already ventured to Lantia in the Content Update 2 know that the current area is relatively restricted and there is perhaps not that much time to look around. This is all intentional and will be expanded upon in the Content Update 3, coming later this year.
Thank you for getting through the article all the way to the end, I hope you are having fun with Lantia as I have had with making it from a concept to reality. There is more to come in Lantia with the upcoming Content Update 3 so stash on the access modules and keep an eye on this space!
As always, if you would like to support me in the work I am doing and/or whatever I will be working on in the future, consider supporting me either through a button at the bottom of this website, following link or on over at the Namalsk discord. Thanks!