With Humankind (opens in new tab), Amplitude is making an effort to reevaluate the fundamentals of historical strategy games (opens in new tab) like the Civilization series. That's why the game's latest development video delves into how the studio has approached the strategic potential of terrain.
Terrain in Humankind can be split many ways. At its largest, the terrain comprises whole continents, but these can be divided further into territories, each of each are assigned a biome. It's not done at random. Lead 3D programmer Timothée Raulin explains that exactly which type of biome a terrain gets depends on its elevation and precise position on the planet.
A territory's position relative to the poles and equator is also factored in. This decides whether it has mountain ranges, flatlands, or hilly countryside, and whether the vegetation is fir trees or cacti. All of which makes it seem like Amplitude is aiming for realism—although technical art director Mathias Gregoire says it's more about creating terrain that is coherent and offers enough variety to be interesting.
The reason for this is because, above all, Amplitude wants the terrain to inform your strategies. For example, if you're scouting the map, you'll want to do so from high ground, as moving through a valley will block your line of sight. If you are looking to enter a battle, then attacking from above will be advantageous too.
Terrain will, of course, also need to be considered when it comes to creating cities and growing crops. Each tile type within a territory is only able to produce certain yields. If you want to grow a particular crop then you might have to venture somewhere else to find a suitable place to do so. If you've got to feed a metropolis full of people you'll want to make sure you can feed them with crops in the local area.
When you explore the map, you might be the first to discover a landmark, which gives you cultural influence when you name it. There are also luxury resources that you can grab that help to fuel your economy and military power. If you're lucky, you could even find a unique natural wonder, which will increase your fame significantly. This will give you a huge advantage in a game that challenges you not to conquer the map but to have your civilisation remembered throughout history (opens in new tab).