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Recently I was given the task of creating a cemetery for one of the larger Human villages ("Artamark's Gate"). I generally don't draw a detailed plan or sketch when building a location; instead I build them to match the imaginary pictures I have in my mind. First of all I consider the main aspect of the location, and I try to imagine it in a very realistic way. The way locations are designed must fit in with the surrounding scenery, as well as convey the mood and the atmosphere of its purpose. The specific location in the world must also be selected with these considerations in mind. For the cemetery, I've selected a location that allows for a high structure and a crypt just off the entrance.
Now I start working on the key element, and I refine it until I can imagine the size and the look of the finished element. I need to make sure that I'll be able to finish my project with the means (textures, objects, colors) at hand.
Once that is complete, I'll plan and mark the positions of the other elemental objects for the whole location. In the case of the cemetery, I define the surrounding walls, the paths and the positions of the more ostentatious graves and crypts.
With a general idea of the overall location, I go back to working on the key element or select a smaller but typical part of the location and finish it to almost 100%.
As expected, several images demonstrating the design process are included.