Business Borg

Given the task of creating a Business Convention Hall based on the city of Copenhagen and its harbour, the first thing I did was to survey the city itself(via Google Maps). I was looking for visually interesting landmarks. The old city defences were striking from above, forming a large semi-circle around the harbour to the south and east. At the same time, closer inspection showed the Cirkelbroen, two landmarks I quickly decided I wished to include.

Setting up the first blockout, I already had a rough layout in mind. In our forced perspective, the main harbour would be behind the player, with a channel in the middle, crossed by the Cirklebroen. On one side is a row of houses. On the other side, the more park-like old bastions. In the channel, I placed boats both for decoration and to hold our exhibitors' booths.
Besides those, a separate area for our social meetings had to be created. I placed this area on the slopes of the bastion itself, with the booths instead between the slopes.
The rough blockout already outlined the main walkways and the general size of the level. The position of booths and a bit of verticality through overlapping was also visible.

The next step was to place all the important Game Design Objects, including NPCs, a hidden area on another boat, as well as first experiments with the houses that would fill the other side of the channel. I already had a basic story for every booth in mind, though some arose from discussions during Level Design Meetings.

The next part added more details, and then I playtested the level. Through which it became apparent the level currently was too big. Booths were too far from each other to keep people's interest, and ways to proceed were not obviously telegraphed.
So all walking distances were decreased, and I moved booths around to fit the new layout. I took care that no two booths were the same or too similar. Even similar booths, like the two in buildings, were differentiated, with one being deeper in the building, only telegraphed by a sign out front and a view of NPC and desk, while the other being in a much more open building.
The space on the upper end of the level was changed to the second social area, and I decorated it with more houses.

The last part was polishing, during which I blocked all places where the obvious path stopped to make sure it was clear where a player could walk and where not. I also readjusted the look of specific booths as it became clear that not all exhibitors would fill them completely, something my first decorations had relied upon.
Lastly, I added many small details that served no direct purpose but made the world feel more lived-in and filled empty areas with pleasing sights and small stories. Two such stories were the Bikesale happening around the open Social Area or the small and varied tables in the closed Meeting Space.

One Layout decision I fought to keep was that the first booth would not be directly accessible to the users after joining the world, though clearly visible. It may seem a bad decision at first glance to put barriers between the user and their goal, but in this case, I had to consider users new to both Video Games and our Conventions. This layout would show them the movement of our camera and character when they would click on the booth out of curiosity. With clicking on interesting objects being an essential way of navigating the internet, I deemed it likely that they would do so. Furthermore, the path their character would walk would show them both the Cirklebroen, and the street, which would lead them to the rest of the level.

Especially after the colouring of Super Crowds art department, I was more than happy with the result. Businessborg became a vibrant world full of little stories, both in booths and outside of them, which would lead the player organically from one to the other if they followed the streets and paths, or even just walked from one booth to the next.