World Structure: Three Dimensional Space in Outer Colony

The worlds of OC are modeled in 3 dimensional space. An X axis (West -> East), a Y axis (North -> South), and a Z axis (bottom of the world’s crust -> top of its atmosphere).



  • Worlds in OC are rendered from a 90 degree, top-down perspective.
  • OC presents a variety of options for viewing the world in different ways. The screenshot above shows a top-down view, showing the world as if you were looking at it from a helicopter at the top of its atmosphere.
  • Elevation display is also enabled, showing the Z-level elevation of all the visible terrain and other objects.
  • A OC world is comprised of discrete units of volumetric space. These are rendered as tiles, but they’re really voxels, viewed from straight above.
  • A OC world consists of 128 Z levels, stacked from deep underground (Z level 0) to the top of the atmosphere (Z level 127). You can think of these as slices, or layers, that comprise the vertical aspect of the world.
  • Other view options are provided, for viewing individual Z levels, for viewing the surface of a world (seeing under obstructions, like flying vehicles and tree branches, down to the ground itself). Some of these are demonstrated in the video below.

Three Space in Outer Colony – An Overview & Walkthrough

OC worlds exist in a fully three dimensional space, which is rendered from a top-down perspective using tile graphics. Core elements of this system are described in the summary section above, but walking through the accompanying screenshot and a tutorial video should help convey some understanding of how this works. Ultimately, I think that the system is pretty smooth and intuitive, and once a person starts playing or watching OC, the understanding seems to develop pretty quickly.

So, what are we looking at in the screenshot above? Let’s identify some salient aspects of the image in bullet points. If you follow along with these points and can pick them out in the screenshot, you’ve got it down!

  • Overall, we’re looking at a creek that’s flowing down a gradual incline, out of badlands, into a narrow strip of sandy desert, and ultimately emptying into a freshwater lake. You can see the lake on the left of the screen, and you can see the creek flowing from the badlands toward the right.
  • We’re looking straight down at the terrain from the top of the atmosphere at a 90 degree angle. You can tell that this is the case by the selection of “Top Down View” in the view controls at the top right of the screen, near the minimap.
  • The numbers that are rendered on each tile are showing the elevation of the highest point encountered in the top-down view. You can tell this by the check mark next to the “Show Elevation” option.
  • The slope of the terrain is gradual, slowly banking downhill from east (higher ground) to west (lower ground).
  • The highest terrain is at an elevation of 64, at the far northeast corner of the view.
  • The lowest feature is the surface of the lake, at an elevation of 58. This is seen on the western part of the view.
  • The creek’s highest elevation is 63, toward the west, and it flows downhill and empties into the lake. Water always flows downhill in OC, so you can tell from the elevations that the creek is flowing from west to east, emptying into the lake.
  • You can see a bunch of desert and badland plants, plus a few mineral deposits that break the surface near the mouth of the creek.
  • At the southwest corner of the view, you can see a green structure in the shape of a cross. Note that the elevations of those green tiles are greater than the surrounding terrain. This is actually a tower cactus, rising several Z levels above the ground that it’s growing from. Native to the badlands, these grow in cross-shaped structures, with two stubby arms and two longer ones. You can also see that its very center is its highest point and is tipped with a crown.

Once you get used to looking at OC worlds in the right way, all of this information becomes apparent at a glance.

Check out the video below for a demonstration of how to use some of the most common view options in-game. This video demonstrates not only the features described above, but also individual Z-level views, which are an essential element of really dissecting a OC world:

Posted in Game Design, Simulation