Seriously. Look at them. Just look at them.
Trees are difficult for any game to get right, and not just because the fine foliage detail of even a small tree would, if rendered polygon-by-polygon, quickly overwhelm even modern hardware.
Every tree is part of an ecosystem. Examined together, the trees of a forest might appear random. That, however, isn’t the case. Each has its own story, and that story creates the feel and texture of a forest.
The largely barren ground below dense pines is not at all like the dense, bushy undergrowth of a forest in the American Midwest, which also differs from the scrappy clumps of trees you’ll find clinging at the treeline of a mountain.
A tree is also an ecosystem. Each is different, changed not only by the life around it, but the life within it. Branches can wither to disease or host all manner of birds, insects, and other animals. Over time, this leaves its impression on the tree itself. We all know that no two trees look alike.
This is why the trees artists create for games often fail to leave an impression. It’s not easy to craft a tree that looks just so, and it’s not easy to arrange them in a way that obscures repetition.
The problem is not the detail, and while variety is appreciated, that’s often not the limitation, either. The real issue in most games is alack of grit.
Level designers sometimes arrange their virtual greenery the way professional landscapers arrange trees fresh from a nursery. They’re carefully placed and tailored to look just so. They lack blemishes and, importantly, rarely show a sign they interact with the ecosystem around them.
Not here. These clusters of trees fit in perfectly. They appear unplanned, but not random. They’re beautiful, yet also believable.
Where do you find them? Bullroarer’s Sward, a small enclave tucked into the mountains of Evendim in The Lord of the Rings Online’s version of Middle-Earth.
Turbine sunk surprising detail into this out-of-the-way spot, which may or may not be noticed by players as they reach level 30.
Despite its obscurity, level designers paid close attention to both the trees and their relationship with the terrain around them. You’ll notice the barren spots nearer the trees, the careful arrangement of nearby brush, and the decision to place flowers just outside the forest’s shadow.
There wasn’t a need to lavish this area with such detail, but that’s what happened. And it’s all the better for it.
Yea. These are some good trees.