Mafia 3’s World Fabric

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

Creating New Bordeaux went through a lot of iterations. We took iconic elements from New Orleans like the city skyline, horseshoe river bend, and of course the French Quarter and Canal Street. We then compressed these large themed areas into memorable highlights.

Specific landmarks were placed in relatively the same local place as the real New Orleans. People familiar with NOLA could find these locations in the game. And vice-versa… players familiar with New Bordeaux can find several of these landmarks in real life.

Two major layouts came before the final one was discovered. The third layout had several larger changes early on like the size of the Bayou and splitting Delray Hollow in half to create Barclay Mills.


It was critical to be authentic to the impression while not confining ourselves to the literal lay of the land. For example, we added elevation to lift the players off that flat Louisiana plain, giving them jumps, hills, and vista points… as well as old smuggling tunnels under the city.

You can see more versions and details of this process in New Bordeaux − The City of Mafia III.

City Life Foundations

Two elements affected the creation of each district: what was it like living there in 1968 and how did French colonists shape New Bordeaux 150 years before? Trade, commerce, forts, and ports influenced the layout and neighborhood development. Plantations also impacted how the city grew over the past century.

thumbnail *Trivia: Bourbon City was the internal name for the city. It wasn’t until we were outside between meetings when François Giuntini suggested New Bordeaux.

It was important for the city simulation to have people from different cultures coming and going from where they lived and where they worked. This was the basis for the racial tension. It extended beyond African-Americans and included Haitians, Irish, Dixie clans, even Cubans and the French at one point.


The size of Mafia 3’s world is moderately large for a fully-connected modern city. New Bordeaux is roughly the same size as GTA V’s Los Santos.



Balancing City Elements

Unlike procedurally created gameworlds, the majority of Mafia 3 was hand-crafted. There were no magic tools allowing you to move a finished street 10 meters or add another row of windows to a building for last minute gameplay reasons. Sheer will, skill, and mental fortitude from the team brought the world to its final form.

Managing and balancing thousands of elements was a weekly job for streaming memory and budgets. Each district had its own bucket of special props and buildings to mix with a global shared set. The more unique items or higher object count in a region affected how fast new objects could be swapped into memory as the player entered it. All these streaming chunks were also hand-created.


The racism players encountered was projected through the people they passed as well as a variety of shops in the city. Each district had a variation on the number of racist shop owners who called the police if players didn’t leave when told.

Once players took over a district and added it to their mafia empire, most of the racism disappeared.  Only the redneck bars remained hardened in their ways. The black music clubs were naturally never racist. Shops in each district had a unique % chance of being racist up to a certain amount depending on the history of its neighborhoods.


Shops were a bit controversial in Mafia 3. Fans would ask,”Why are there so many if there’s nothing I can buy in them?” A larger design choice was made to gate player purchases through the Arms Dealer. This greatly gimped shops as places to get things.

Aside from the issue of resources, they still provided texture to the world. At bare minimum they let players get indoors, off the open streets. They were shortcuts through city blocks to avoid enemies. All of them showcased some culture of the time period.

A future article may discuss shops in greater detail.


Each district had an economy of money, health kits, and other resources found in shops and hideouts. These were carefully balanced within the larger world economy so the player couldn’t pocket obscene amounts of money or resources.



Chopping Block

Several city-wide elements were stitched into the world early on, while some were planned later in development. In both cases, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll make it into the final game. Here’s a look at some of the things that still exist in the game without their gameplay or story components.

Power Grid

An early Service players could tap was turning the lights off in an area. An introduction I favored besides the typical menu pop was forming a relationship with a city worker at one of the Power Grids. This never happened though. They’re one of many existing locations that could be leveraged in DLC.




Power Grid


Vehicle Spots

Car dealerships were part of Mafia II, so they were added to neighborhoods. Frisco Fields featured the only dealership that sold new vehicles. Others were for used cars. They all could have been places to buy special cars (modded or skinned). Similar to shops however, players were restricted to purchasing items through the Arms Dealer. Due to system memory the dealerships were mostly devoid of cars, especially unique cars in the final game.







Car Wash



Fuel Dock


Car Washes were an idea that appeared during DLC based on player feedback. Re-using techniques and some assets from Mafia II, several locations were scouted, tested for performance, UI and scripting planned. This feature was shelved because core DLC features had a higher priority.

Fuel Docks were spaced throughout the game like their counterpart automobile Gas Stations. These all have small interiors you can enter and rummage around. A couple of them have fallen docks near them providing a ramp for boats. Used as a stunt or in an enemy encounter, the challenge was to jump the boat and spark the gas pumps in passing, causing them to explode split-seconds later.

Polaroid Hunt

So while dealerships were no place to get cars, successful missions sometimes gifted special cars to players. Successfully taking a Hideout let you take the Racket Boss’ vehicle.

This felt like a lost opportunity to me. Players weren’t made aware of the reward to build value in getting the reward. Imagine the game show The Price is Right, when you walked into a random room and they gave you a trip to Hawaii for showing up.

A fun alternative would have been letting players see it then track it down. You’d find the keys in the Boss’ office and a photo where it was stored. Players then have to be familiar enough with the city to recognize landmarks in the photo to find the goods − no dots on the map! Players who didn’t enjoy this treasure hunting activity could use Lincoln’s network of people to find and retrieve it for a steep price.

10 Grow Houses

In the DLC “Faster, Baby!” the initial design for growing marijuana as a business had you unlocking a new Grow House in each district. This aspect was removed later in development to reduce complexity and cross-city travel. Before that decision was made I scouted and added those locations to the city.


Like any interior space, these needed streaming distance and memory which limited the places they could be retrofitted into. Thematically, most of the locations worked.  Irish Point’s one was an odd one… right in the middle of a neighborhood. You can find these closed off buildings in each district.

Track down all 9 locations!


Can you find all nine locations for each district’s Grow House? Go explore the city! If you don’t like adventures and just want the goods, you can find the map here.

Bail Bonds Bounty Hunting

Inspired by the movie Midnight Run and Red Dead Redemption I wanted a side activity letting you track down people in New Bordeaux who jumped bail. If someone needed to get out of jail, a Bail Bond office was right around the corner in almost every district.

A tip of the hat was being inspired by another marshal I knew from the canceled Prey 2. It was originally Sam Killian’s Bail Bonds, then changed to Sam Marshal.  Just like in Prey 2 and in Red Dead Redemption, players would find Wanted Posters. These would’ve been posted outside all Bail Bond offices. Picking one would initiate the quest to find the accused.


Unfortunately, side activities became devoted to running supplies to Hideouts, so this idea was shelved as potential DLC.

Later by sheer coincidence, writer Ed Fowler named Donovan’s friend Robert Marshall who just happen to run a Bounty Hunting activity in the DLC “No Stones Unturned“. The planets aligned and suddenly the whole idea was alive again!  Sam could be Robert’s brother.

While the core gameplay made it into the DLC, there wasn’t enough production time to expand out to reoccurring targets with posters at all Bail Bond offices. This expansion would’ve been a dozen or so suspects you could hunt down before the stack randomized itself again.

Track down all 6 locations!


Can you find all six branches of Sam Marshall’s Bail Bond? I’ll give you a clue… most are found near Police precincts. If you don’t want to explore the city, you can find the map here.

Tour New Bordeaux

Upcoming articles will spotlight each city district. You’ll be able to read about its development, narrative history, content, trivia, and more.



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