We just launched a new free Piana Expansion map for our WW1 FPS Isonzo! Plus we’re giving out our first hint about our signature event for Isonzo… the White War is coming! Battles at thousands of metres above sea level. Soldiers on these towering peaks faced some of the most brutal conditions of the war. An American journalist in 1917 wrote: “On no front, not on the sun-scorched plains of Mesopotamia, nor in the frozen Mazurian marshes, nor in the blood-soaked mud of Flanders, does the fighting man lead so arduous an existence as up here on the roof of the world.”

As you have to stay patient just a few more months for that signature event (Verdun has Christmas Truce events, while Tannenberg has the Wolf Truce), we’ve launched a free update including the new Monte Piana map and it’s available to all players today! It arrives alongside a major sale for Isonzo itself. Check out our release trailer at the top of the post, which also celebrates a year of free content updates.

The Piana expansion follows our free release of the Grappa map in early summer, which completed the three map Caporetto Offensive – all of which feature in our celebration trailer. Offensives are series’ of battles where each side can make things easier or harder for themselves in the final battle that determines who wins the Offensive. Monte Piana is a 2,324 metre peak which saw heavy fighting between 1915 and 1917. In real life thousands of Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers died without there being any meaningful change in the position of either side. Things might go differently on our recreation of this high-altitude combat zone. But how do you go about making a historically authentic map of a First World War Italian battlefield?

Learning from History

Every map starts with… maps. Usually a combination of maps used during the war itself, historical diagrams explaining the battle, and more modern photographs or satellite images. You can see this below, where a work-in-progress basic layout of the Monte Piana map is being compared with a reference diagram.

Isonzo comparison shot
Associazione Nazionale Alpini, Sezione di Piacenza, Centenario della Grande Guerra

We have two goals in mind with every step of the production process. First we ask, is the map recognizable compared to the real place? Second, we ask if the location saw significant fighting. However it’s equally important that the map is fun to play! Balancing these two aspects is something our team has gotten very good at over the years. We’re not aiming for a perfect 1:1 replica – although we’re close – but something which has the spirit and atmosphere of the real location. You’ll see visual references in this post, but reading accounts from soldiers who fought tells us what they considered important and what stuck in their minds. This was taken into account when deciding what can be adjusted for gameplay purposes and what should stay true to the sources. We actually visited the location ourselves as well!

Photographs are the bread and butter of our sources! You can see below how a historic scene is adapted into a place suitable for actual gameplay. Especially when working with harsh mountain terrain it’s sometimes necessary to expand the traversable area to give players more space to manoeuvre, and you want important routes (e.g. the stairways) to stand out enough at a glance for when players are still learning the map.

From the book “Monte Piana & Monte Piano”, by Tipolitografia Print House

Landmarks are very important to authentically recreate a location. For Piana, one such landmark is the Carducci Pyramid monument on the summit of Monte Piana, dedicated to the famous Italian poet Giosuè Carducci. For special pieces like this we create custom 3D models. As an indie team we have to be smart and efficient about producing assets which can be used in a wide variety of situations, but when it comes to historically notable elements like bridges, monuments or influential terrain features it’s worth taking the time for one-off models. Below you can see a work-in-progress render of the Carducci Pyramid (a small pyramid dedicated to the famous italian poet Giosuè Carducci, who was the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize for literature) and then how it looks in-game with lighting and texture!

Isonzo comparison shot

And what would these mountain battlefields be without a suitably glorious vista for a backdrop? They might not have any direct gameplay effect, but in establishing the proper sense of place it’s vital to have the right background scenery. For instance, below you can see a work-in-progress scenery mountain model along with some suggested edits (don’t worry, there is also a clear text explanation to go along with the red lines!).

Isonzo comparison shot

These background mountains are based on the real views from the battlefields we’ve recreated. It’s our opinion that capturing the feeling that real soldiers would have had in these extraordinary places cannot be done using only generic or made up mountains and other background details. That’s why we go the extra mile in getting the scenery right. In some maps you can even see distant mountains that you fight over in other maps!

See the fruits of our labour yourself with the free Piana Expansion, out now! If you don’t own Isonzo yet, it’s on sale for 50% off… or try our Western and Eastern Front WW1 games Verdun and Tannenberg for an 80% discount. See you at the peak!

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Isonzo

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World War One expands to the mountains of the Italian Front – beautiful but deadly in equal measure. Inspired by the two year struggle for control of the Isonzo river valley and the Alps during World War One, Isonzo elevates the WW1 Games Series, figuratively and literally. From the makers of Verdun and Tannenberg… Take part in historical offensives from the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo to the Strafexpedition. Reflecting the course of the actual battles, as the attackers advance the fighting will shift through vastly different landscapes within a single offensive: from hillside fortresses to mountain trenches and fierce urban combat on city streets. Everything is recreated based on research and field trips, from sound effects and uniforms down to the houses, vineyards and trenches you’ll be fighting over. The new Offensive game mode puts you right in the middle of key historical offensives on the Italian Front. Lead the charge across stunning Italian landscapes as you choose your path to victory – cut paths through barbed wire, flank your enemies by following mountain trails, or man a mortar to blast a way through. Shape a dynamic battlefield by laying sandbags and wire, placing ammo crates, deploying trench periscopes or sniper shields, and more. Call in support with a unique historically accurate flare system: flare guns can mark targets for artillery or biplane flybys, or different colored flares can be used to guide your team. Once the big guns have softened up the enemy, finish the job at close quarters with an Arditi dagger or mountaineer’s pickaxe. Man heavy machine guns, mortars and even mountain guns for more direct fire support. Choose from six classes based on historical combat roles and build your loadout from a selection of weapons, equipment and perks linked to that class, giving flexibility and variety while staying grounded in what real soldiers might have carried. You’ll be operating wire cutters, bandaging yourself and wounded teammates, and blowing the whistle to start an assault. One shot can kill and even lighter injuries can lead to quickly bleeding out. Being an effective soldier in Isonzo is not just about being a good marksman. Mastering the terrain is also key – the mountain can be a friend or foe. Learn how to navigate well to maintain cover and surprise your enemies or support your allies. Finally… watch out for the dreaded poison gas. You’ve never experienced WW1 action quite like this! Isonzo key features include:
• MOUNTAIN WARFARE: Assaulting mountain fortifications, battling through ruined towns, and fording rivers are just a few of the challenges you’ll face as you fight your way through numerous enemy positions
• TACTICAL MULTIPLAYER FPS: Choose your role and loadout carefully to survive this high altitude combat – play a sniper to pick off the enemy engineers before they can cut your wire, use rifle grenades to clear enemy machine guns, and much more
• WORLD WAR ONE GAMEPLAY: Historical Offensive game mode based on real battles and focused on the unique challenges of Alpine warfare. Fight with 30+ WW1 weapons, poisonous gas attacks, and intense artillery barrages
• BUILD FOR VICTORY: Place your own wire, sandbags, trench periscopes, and more! Whether you’re digging in or on the attack, shaping the battlefield to your advantage will be key to victory
• FACES OF WAR: Make every class your own by picking from a variety of historically class-appropriate uniforms, accessories and headgear. As a finishing touch, you can even pick your mustache from several famous period-accurate styles!
• AUTHENTIC WW1 ATMOSPHERE: Accuracy in everything from maps and weaponry to music and the uniforms – fight for the Kingdom of Italy, the German Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy MORE GAMES IN THE AUTHENTIC WW1 GAME SERIES
Immerse yourself in more WW1 action with our other standalone titles Tannenberg and Verdun. Experience trench warfare on the Western Front in Verdun, or maneuver for control of key sectors in Tannenberg on the Eastern Front. These authentic WW1 shooters let players choose from a range of squads from across the war, as they fight for control of the ever-changing frontlines.

Source: https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2023/09/07/how-we-make-historically-authentic-battlefields-for-isonzo/