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Thoughts on Oceans, Seas, Rivers, and Waterways


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Hello all,

There's just been such great content on Discord about this subject that I had to make a forum post to try and preserve that discussion. The question is how to make bodies of water interesting enough to add into the game? Some of that is how many minutes/size would be too long for crossing a body of water? What are some ways to make crossing a body of water more interesting that doesn't get old?

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Hey we were talking about it yesterday in #general. I'm a big fan of Oceans overall but more in a way like we "Could" have continents. There is no reason to cross a ocean if it just loops the whole generation around again. So if you find a new continent with possibly a new climate it would be super rewarding. In my opinion, oceans shouldn't be crossed without a vehicle and should lead to straight death. 


I would say 5 mins of straight running should be a reasonable size (default) should be customizable. As on the Roadmap and possible often said the best way to cross an ocean would be Multi-Block Boats feels the most immersive. Monster/animals and special weather should be a must have for oceans. Small Island which can appear from 1 side to the other are also super important. Everyone wants his secret "Tortuga Bay". 

There is a bunch of Lovecraftian Seamonsters which can be quite interessting. 

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2 hours ago, Samuel Kloss said:

Lovecraftian Seamonsters

Great idea!

For some reasons I initially only focused on oceans and completely forgot the rest. I don't have much to say to the other water bodies, but having rivers of different sizes and depths would be nice (fords/natural crossings could be an interesting Point of Interest), currents would be absolutely fantastic.

Edited by Brady_The
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So first of all, it needs to be said that "fun" is a different measure for everyone. This game so far strives to be fun for a wide variety of audiences, and Oceans in no way should take away from that.....it should only add possibilities and interest. My perspective comes from playing a lot of TFC and TFC+ mods for minecraft, and I think those guys nailed the size and scope of the ocean pretty well.

Overall, what I would like to see are oceans that are significant barriers for travel, but are not too daunting. Even a new character should be able cross them with a few in game days of preparation (perhaps to flee a bad seed rather than restarting the world). Ideal size to me would be somewhere between 20-40 RL minutes to cross, and perhaps some wind/sailing mechanics or currents could be added to spice up the travel. Ideally, it shouldn't be too boring to cross, but should be epic enough to feel like an adventure and require some preparation. Building a bridge should be out of the question.

With large oceans, you have the possibility for islands/archipelagos of various sizes, and you have new terrains you can introduce (salt marshes, river deltas, sand/gravel beaches, imposing fjords, volcanic islands, etc.) This will only serve to enhance the beauty and variety of the game as it stands now. Oceans also make great natural borders for different rock strata, different foliage, crops and wildlife, etc so there will be a strong incentive to explore. The ocean itself could play host to a number of different and interesting things to explore and collect for survival. Plus, the addition of salt water can allow for salt production without finding Halite. Salt water could even provide an initial product for the beginning distillation setup.

I love the idea of underwater ruins, boat wreckage, and sea creatures! anything to create more variety in our explorations!

Ocean travel shouldn't be gated behind metal, instead maybe have several tiers of boats that improve (T1 boats could be logs and maybe pitch, T2 could use planks and bronze and linen but be faster and maybe have item storage, etc). perhaps the more advanced ships would need to be constructed on a dry dock near the ocean and pushed in.

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I think rivers and oceans could add huge gameplay as well as aesthetic benefits to the game, when combined with reworked world gen and water mechanics. Rivers are imo the best examples of this, since they could offer the most in terms of gameplay:

  • Generally better soil quality and more frequent clay near rivers
  • Farmland near rivers will be moisturized, only river water should moisturize farmland
  • Waterwheels powered by rivers enable more constant mechanical energy
  • Small canals (8 blocks max length) build from rivers enable watering even bigger areas
  • Canals or aqueducts powered using mechanical energy enabling even better farming or even transport of floating items

Rivers could work without oceans, but then they would be limited to being flat like in Minecraft. Realistic rivers flowing downhill require terrain generation on a larger scale to be able to be implemented. River generation needs to be done in separate larger areas, where a river from one area can never interact with one from another area. The best way to do this would be by dividing the world into continents. Each continent would be surrounded by water, the ocean, seamlessly dividing the continents from one another. The ocean wouldn't be very wide, as the continents form a grid, so traveling from one continent to another shouldn't take very long, I think something like one to two kilometers of oceans between continents would fit the best. Here is a quick blender visualization of a few heightmaps I generated that demonstrates the general layout of continents (imagine the most left column was also offset):


A benefit with this layout is that on each continent only has six neighbors instead of eight, meaning that when creating a new world, only seven instead of nine continent maps need to be generated and only three instead of five when entering a new continent. The continents are basically just heightmaps, where each pixel represents a chunk column. These values would not just have an effect on the generated terrain, they would offset the whole chunk column vertically. This allows far greater scale, greater heights and deeper depths, while not having to raise the world height or change the chunk or world generation system entirely. The ocean level would stay static and not be offset with the chunk columns, meaning that this system automatically creates oceans, when the heightmap is low enough to submerge the terrain.  Rivers will be generated with the continent, meaning they will realistically flow downwards, towards the edge of the continent and therefore into the ocean. I'm currently experimenting a bit on implementing river based terrain generation to work for generating such heightmaps.

Generating those continents with rivers doesn't need to be done often, but will probably take a few seconds, so there needs to be a bit of a compromise when it comes to their size. I think 512 by 512 pixel representing 512 by 512 chunks would be a good size, meaning the continents are a bit bigger than 16 times 16 kilometers. This means, traveling south the player needs to cross an ocean to get to the tropics, but as oceans between continents shouldn't be wider than two kilometers, it wouldn't take long with a boat, maybe 10 minutes. 1024 by 1024 chunks would also be an option, offering roughly 32 by 32 kilometer continents, making crossing the ocean almost match crossing the equator, but coming at the cost of requiring at least four times as much computation and therefore time.

Other than continents using vertical chunk column offset giving more scale to the terrain and creating oceans, there are also several benefits to them:

  • Oceans allowing for saltwater, salt harvesting, islands, beaches, marine life
  • Continents having distinct flora and fauna (maybe even people/cultures) mimicking real life
  • Temperature and rainfall changes taking advantage of the bigger scale, no more sudden shifts by a few blocks high hills
  • More realistic rainfall and temperature distribution, depending on the heightmap
  • Landform appearance dependent on chunk column offset, allowing for highlands landforms, ocean landforms, etc.
  • Every continent connected by the same ocean, making travel by ship really useful
  • Small inland oceans dynamically appearing, being natural barriers for traveling
  • Enabling realistic rivers, always flowing downhill into an ocean and complex features of them, like river deltas
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I definitely think oceans need to big enough that simply swimming across isn't an option. There should be a bit of fear and trepidation in considering a crossing but with the proper prep, manageable. So introduction of boats would be a must, along with storage transportation options. Tying in the new wind mechanic with sailboats could be fun. As for Ocean content, can imagine discovering a massive tower but only the top bit is sticking up out, a remnant of the past containing loot, lore, and some new aquatic horrors. Have old style brass diving equipment that can be used for exploration. Oceans being what they are, and with the Lovecraft influences in the game, you can really play around with large enemies, maybe restricting them to the deep oceans.

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I agree with what others have suggested. 

Other than that the ocean should absolutely have its own monsters. Rather than have the ocean floor relatively high like minecraft there should be great depths with monstrosities and treasures of its own. I imagine depths so deep and dark that you have to craft high end equipment to even see there. I definitely think there should be a nice side to the ocean too, like islands and wildlife but also abominations and lovecraftian horror.

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