Jun
01

Mafia 3’s Frisco Fields

1 year, 4 months ago 0
Posted in: Games, Mafia 3


Frisco Fields was the most diverse district in Mafia 3. It featured high-society, modern luxuries, walled off communities, a prestigious university, museum, and private yacht club. At the same time it featured oppressed families, struggling businesses, and backwoods racism.
 

Be sure to read the city development introduction article Mafia 3’s World Fabric.

Origins

To soak New Bordeaux in New Orleans culture, there had to be a history of plantations. Frisco Fields was inspired in name by the real plantation San Francisco Plantation less than one hour from New Orleans. The obvious bias being Hangar 13 is just north of San Francisco.

The District’s location relative to New Orleans was based on Métairie with points-of-interest from Lakeview neighborhood.

This region was designed from the start to be the most modern and upper-class area of the game. It was literally in the upper half of the map. A decade before the events of Mafia 3, the Frisco Fields plantation was leveled and developed by Cavar Construction into a suburban community while the edges of the area become a commercial strip of amenities.

The original plantation was run by the Duvall family for over a century. During the Civil War, Cleavon Duvall held his ground against the Union. As a General in the Confederate Army he strongly believed all men were not created equal and he was going to protect his family’s business and heritage.

The removal of the plantation couldn’t erase the blight of slavery from Frisco Fields. In the southwest corner the old slave village Haven Ward still struggled to make an identity for itself. This cultural clash between blacks, whites, rich, and poor made Frisco Fields one of the most dynamic and incendiary districts of New Bordeaux.

Evolution

Early versions of this region had the city airport appearing in it. That was moved away and replaced with a Golf Course.

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Having a golf course would be a low-cost way to fill some space and provide fun places to drive your car across. It was soon removed though to minimize complaints players wouldn’t be able to play golf. Activities like golf, fishing, and gator hunting didn’t fit Lincoln’s story arc. Removing the golf course also removed the need to create golf carts for the game. Many concessions were made in the Mafia 3’s design to minimize edge-case griefers.

Other landmarks that appeared in early versions were a plantation mansion, the city Hospital, and a different layout for the University.

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POI Exploration

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Visual Style Guide

New Orleans is fairly flat in real life. We knew at the beginning we want more elevation to our city. Frisco Fields has some of most variation in height. Infusing the region with a history of who developed higher ground in the past, helped decide what existed during the game in the 1960s. Duvall’s mansion and surrounding plantation started on what’s now Hilltop Estates, while remains of the colonial fort used in Duvall’s battle can be found on Lanster Bluff.

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The early stages of any region needed key story locations placed and spaced apart for fun opportunities between them and time to swap unique assets. With the general placement known, next come pathways. These are much harder to move later in the project since so much grows off those spines.  So it’s important to do most of your road design at the beginning of the project.

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Once the roads and neighborhoods began to settle in, other layers of design were added. For example, how affluent an area was influenced the color palette and prop placement for each.

In the Gameplay image above you can see the different physical streaming chunks outlined in red. There was no procedural streaming grid with Mafia 3’s engine. These were hand created with rules like only three chunks could intersect because each chunk had its own budget. Adding a fourth meant suddenly considering another large bucket of assets when the player was standing at a streaming crossroads.

This map was also manually color-coded to inform the team what the status of each chunk was:

  1. 3D Draft Only
  2. Placing Buildings
  3. Creating Encounter Yards
  4. Yards Locked!
  5. Audio Complete!

 

Neighborhoods

Chunks of the city were created early on without explicit story requirements. Creating a sandbox world can be a chicken & egg process. Do you wait until the game’s story is completely known and then start building the world? Or build a world and let it inspire the story?

We started with a narrative blueprint and let it grow from there.

While this created several unused areas, it also made scouting existing locations for gameplay later in the project much easier. Four neighborhoods of note can be found when you explore Frisco Fields. Each one has a theme affecting the look and type of people you’d encounter.

Brandt University

Brandy University was inspired by Tulane University. The original section was east of the central north-south road to Downtown. The western half featured a wave of new buildings and styles. The Duvall Hall Science Center was perpetually still under-construction by Cavar so it could be used for PCP production.

Some of the original thoughts about having a University in the 1960s leaned towards Berkeley protests and Timothy Leary’s psychedelic drug experiments.

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Real world inspiration

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In-game location

Early versions also had a row of mansions for University professors along the western north-south canal. The row was removed to reduce the amount of unique assets within one streaming sector. (You can spot it in the Visual Style Guide image above.)

The University includes City Park and the Louisiana Museum of Art. This triangular shaped park was designed in the center of the District to support creative shortcuts for players escaping or chasing enemies.

Trivia – when creating a vertical slice for Mafia 3, Sammy’s Club was located in Brandy University, just north of Downtown where the early gameplay took place.

Haven Ward

Back when Frisco Fields was a plantation, it kept its sugarcane field hands in slave quarters out of view, around the corner.

An early draft of Haven Ward was inspired by New Orlean’s Ninth Ward in anticipation for a natural disaster during the story, showcasing how the city had little regard for black communities. This was later incorporated into the then developing Delray Hollow as a flood.

The problem with this neighborhood being technically within the larger Frisco Fields ecosystem caused issues with the District-based rules for Police response times. Since Frisco was primarily about the white upper-class, police appeared fairly quickly if they spotted Lincoln roaming the District. Having prompt police because they saw Lincoln in Haven Ward’s black community was weird though.

This neighborhood should have been part of the northern edge to Barclay Mills to remove this issue. This would have easily also complimented the ecology and history of that District being a manufacturing area as well.

Donovan’s motel was originally in Haven Ward balancing the four corners of the gameworld with a primary character (along with Burke, Cassandra, and Vito). Donovan was later moved to Delray Hollow to support the beginning of the game. The Quik Lodge was eventually repurposed for Bear Donnelly.

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The Quik Lodge

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The Stray Kitty Lounge

The Stray Kitty Lounge is one of the few clubs that’s never racist since it’s the blues music heart of Haven Ward.  Trivia – we ran out of time for unique signs so we used decal letters to label a lot of the city.

Beyond the struggling commercial strip lies what was once the Slave Quarters for Duvall’s Plantation.  It’s now the poorest area of New Bordeaux.

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Pride

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Poverty

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Projects

The “Projects” were built to help alleviate this. It takes more than a new roof to change the quality of life though.

Hilltop Estates

If you were white and had a healthy sum of money… chances are your home was in this new community. A lot of Marcano’s crew lived in Hilltop Estates. The surrounding topography created natural barriers to this modern maze of suburban homes, keeping all the riff-raff out. It featured only two ways in, with one of them right next to the local police precinct. This area was still being developed with new homes by the time Lincoln Clay returned in 1968.

The idea of still having some homes under construction was inspired by Elysian Fields in LA Noire. The street layout was inspired by Ross Racine’s suburban landscape art. The looping roads were designed to support racing with no dead ends or harsh intersections.

Ross Racine’s Days and Hours of Brookdale Gardens, #1

Hilltop was literally a gated community for a long time during the project. A security guard would only let you through if you lived there and certainly not if you were anything but White. This lower priority security guard model, AI, VO, and animations were shelved though. Hilltop became a passively segregated community.

The land raised it above the other neighborhoods with walls around it. The border on the east was the most aggressive one.  It featured two large retaining walls and river wash protecting home owners from those dirty Irish micks. Remy Duvall’s billboard faces Hilltop who are some of his top supporters.

You could avoid police patrols and find ways over Hilltop’s walls though. Several jumps can be spotted around Hilltop if you knew where to look. Here’s four of them below…

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Bright yellow flatbed trailers are scattered throughout the city. If you see one, jump it to see where it takes you!

Besides a Church, Hilltop also featured a new local high school named after General Cleavon Duvall Senior. I suspect if it existed today, they would have been petitions to rename it.  It was originally an elementary school. This was changed to minimize the question of where all the children were. Having children in a game is not only another huge library of production assets, it’s also a questionable choice when there’s so much violent opportunities.

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Real world inspiration

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In-game location

Lanster Bluff

As mentioned earlier, Lanster Bluff originally featured a golf course. When this was removed an exclusive upscale neighborhood was added overlooking the city. It started much larger than what you see in game now. The need to create more unique houses reduced it in scope. At one point it featured a club house of sorts overlooking Haven Ward. It connected to the former slave village through a series of tunnels and caves leading up the hillside. This route is what would have allowed the player to infiltrate the gated community of Lanster Bluff.

When the number of mansions were reduced this club idea turned into a hunting lodge for the elite nestled back in the hills. This backwoods area evolved (or devolved) into a backroad redneck camp for secret KKK meetings, removing the idea of a hunting lodge. Retroussé Yacht Club came to represent the only exclusive high society location in the game.

On the tallest point of the bluff you’ll find Duvall Lookout still attempting to lord over the city.

Trivia – Both Sal Marcano and Remy Duvall lived in Lanster Bluff. Sal’s family lives in the mansion hanging over the cliff. Continue reading to see where Remy lived…

 

Points-of-Interest

Each District featured a variety of things to discover. Frisco Fields had its share of landmarks and tourist spots.

Retroussé Yacht Club

The Yacht Club was always part of the District’s design to emphasize the class and social warfare of the 1960s.  The beach was designed to be part of a racing route.  Car race development always seemed to fall to the side in light of main story priorities though.

Early versions also had Baron Saturday’s Fun Park next to the Yacht Club instead of in Delray Hollow. This was based on Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans. In recent New Bordeaux history, the city built the park in Delray Hollow as a token of support and to draw visitors to Delray Hollow. When Hurricane Betsy hit though… the city did little to drain the flooded region.

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Real world inspiration

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In-game draft

Had the Pontchartrain Beach inspired location remained in Frisco Fields, it would have been a front for some criminal activity as well as open to the public. The sounds and lights at night would’ve been exciting to witness! From the earlier screenshot on the right, you can see the Amusement Park between the Yacht Club and Hilltop Estates.

City Park

City Park was inspired by… City Park!  It was originally had more points-of-interest like the real one. There wasn’t a narrative need for it to have everything the real City Park had though. So, it was simplified to only feature the Museum.

The Sculpture Garden near the Bridge

What started out as the iconic stone bridge slowly adapted to fit gameplay. After lots of testing, we realized the arch of the bridge was extremely unfriendly to cars. The slope had to change if we want players driving to not smash to an immediate stop. The underside arch had to be adjusted for boat camera space reasons.

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Real world inspiration

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In-game location

Louisiana Museum of Art

The current real world museum has added several additions. We kept it at its original size. It was placed in a prime spot without performance or streaming issues for a potential DLC location. Perhaps another heist?

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Real world inspiration

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In-game location

Perfect Waffle

If you ever lived in the Southern United States, you know you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Waffle House. They can be found on just about every other highway exit. Such a staple of the South meant adding it to New Bordeaux. Several appear in the city with two at either end of Frisco Fields.

Waffle Hutt was my personal favorite name – a nod to former LucasArts team members at Hangar 13. Perfect Waffle won out in the end. A lot of the city brand names had to be changed after going through 2K’s legal department. Each “inspired by” building was also changed enough to not cause trademark or landmark concerns with the real locations.

Oddly enough, if a game is considered a satire (such as the GTA series), it has less legal conditions.

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Real world inspiration

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In-game location

 

Cleavon Duvall State Park

At the center of Lanster Bluff is something akin to Custer’s Last Stand when Cleavon Duvall fought back against the Union in the Civil War. It was one of three old Forts planned for the city. One was cut from the eastern edge of New Bordeaux, the other can be found in its basic form in Bayou Fantom.

While there’s a small formal parking lot on Lanster Bluff, it’s much easier to access by driving through the backwoods of Frisco Fields where one might find Southern Union members living in the shadows.

The park was deemed a Historical Civil War Site by Louisiana in 1959. Duvall Lookout is the observation tower at the top of the park. Remy Duvall is the great, great, great, grandson of General Cleavon.

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The State Park vista of New Bordeaux

 

Southern Union Bunker

In a backyard, carved into the hillside is a concrete dugout for sinister meetings. Acts of racism are discussed and planned in the small network of rooms for the Southern Union.

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Duvall’s backyard

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Duvall’s home

If you could explore the inside of the mansion obscuring the bunker’s entrance, you’d discover Remy Duvall lives there. Who else has the public face to hide a group of racists who mask their identities with hoods?

 

Chopping Block

When designing an open world, the broad strokes of what it is and the areas inside of it need to be roughly known before physical quests can be placed in it. In the early days, Hideouts were nothing more than one room buildings; small businesses which could appear every dozen or so city blocks away. A Laundromat on the west side of Southdowns was the first Hideout test.

Because these were originally meant to be basic interiors where the key goal was, we had half-a-dozen or more in a district. Think of it this way… all those backalley encounters in the final game could’ve been related to small interior – like a Laundromat. As you know, the Hideout gameloop grew in complexity and size, giving you what you play in the game today.

This final Hideout loop meant larger interiors. To accommodate the unique assets each Hideout should have, I had to carefully plan and balance out their placement within each District to account for streaming performance. At the time, we had discussed 3 Hideouts per District. This was scaled back to 2 Hideouts with the intention of using the 3rd Hideout for DLC.

Due to the overwhelming response of taking over Hideouts in the released game, DLC direction shifted to unique story-based content.

The kicker here is that those other Hideout locations still exist in New Bordeaux.  While they might not have interiors, they could support them and had a loose narrative to guide them until official stories could be wrapped around them.  Some of these locations were repurposed to support the three DLC story chapters released.

For Frisco Fields, the southwestern vista in Lanster Bluff overlooking the Downtown was bookmarked for a new Hideout. If you have the base game, part of the bluff is being cleared for a new mansion. The loosely proposed idea of a Sex Ring Mansion for DLC was replaced by the old Haress Mansion in Sign of the Times.

Spots for Gameplay

Key locations either unused or available for more content was cataloged to help the DLC team plot out the new chapters.  Here’s a map of those locations as well as some of my favorite unused threads.

Frisco’s Police Station was one of the more exciting precincts. It featured a large back yard with two warehouses interiors. The interior of these repeatable Police Stations was a variant of River Row’s Rigolet’s Canning Company Union Extortion Hideout.

At the very least this network of Police Stations across the city could be used to sabotage, distract, or resource gather from Police. It could also be used to free a companion placed randomly in one of the locations.

Frisco Fields had the best way to bypass the gates… use your car and jump over from the Briar Patch roof!

Boat Tunnels were rarely used in the final game. Each tunnel in the city had several alcoves to use in a variety of different ways. Frisco had a short tunnel leading from the river to the northern lake. The story behind these was the old smuggling route from the Duvall Plantation to the Fort Outpost which was now Cleavon Duvall State Park.

While the Plantation was no longer there, a network of tunnels and storage rooms similar to Cistern Hideout in French Ward could’ve been developed connecting Hilltop Estates to Lanster Bluff.  Being underground made it much easier to shape the gameplay layout to whatever it needed to be.

All Residential Districts featured a cemetery (Delray Hollow, Pointe Verdun, French Ward, Southdowns, Frisco Fields, even the Bayou). Curious players inevitably read tombstones in games.  Using what was written on the graves at Haven Ward Cemetery could’ve been used to find what happened to a slave ancestor of Lincoln’s, revealing more about his past.

The 7-11 convenient store of New Bordeaux was Round the Clock.  This was the one iconic store I wanted to add in DLC.  The interior was already blocked out.  Streaming and memory available.  This would’ve been used in a story related to growing up in the 1960s.

Grossman’s Grocery was the “poor” version of Bellaire’s Supermarket in the city.  Another one appeared in Delray Hollow. The intent was to use this for a variety of quests. It was a common place with multiple locations lending itself to good detective work for finding the right one for your goal.  Perhaps you needed to track someone back to their house from here or strong arm the owners into accepting your “protection”.

Warm Hearts, Warm Souls was the soup kitchen Sammy built in Delray Hollow.  It was a key location earlier in the Lincoln’s story.  Another one was added to Haven Ward.  Sammy was building it to help the other struggling Black community. A side quest proposed by writer Ed Fowler would be finding the resources to open this second location changing the attitudes and optimism of the locals. This didn’t happen, however you can still find the building in Haven Ward. You can even break in to view it in its construction state.

Read the Mafia 3’s World Fabric article for more interesting locations unused in the final game.

Maps

You can find several high-resolution images as well as an interactive Google Map for the district in the Mafia 3’s World Maps article

District Layout Time Lapse

Progress Video

Different versions of Frisco Fields appear in this Pre-Alpha vs Alpha video between 4:30 and 7:40. This includes a drive-by of the Amusement Park when it was next to the Yacht Club.

Frisco’s Team

Everyone on the team pretty much touched every District. Some of the people that helped make Frisco Fields come to life were Alex Cox‘s design ecology, Freddie Lee‘s hand-crafted terrain, Chris Lum‘s encounters, and Lisa Kapitsas‘ producer sensibilities.

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