Creating game environments is a very similar process to that of character design, in fact during development there will be a lot of back and forth as each inform the other during the course of a games development. Of course all of a game's assets are derived from the initial game concept to create a strong sense of unity between the characters and the environments they inhabit. As with characters, the shapes within the environment have a huge influence on how the designer wants to make the player feel. The relationship between the character and environment may change over the course of a game to create different emotions and enhance the narrative.
As I did with my character design, my environment design started with a lot of research and reference material. Then I created a mood board using the images that best captured the themes and details I wanted to convey.
Based on my initial storyboard I knew the first level was going to be the games' main hub. The player would be washed up or dropped off at a medieval fishing port, the path would wind around the city to a market plaza where the player would get quests and equipment but also to be introduced to the games mechanics. In keeping with the 'Stained Glass' environment I wanted the mechanics and game designs to be based around the properties of glass, such as using sand and fire to make/destroy glass, and use glass to reflect light or change colours as puzzle elements in the level.
However the main focus of the environment would be an enormous cathedral that would dominate the landscape. Initially offlimits to the player, once the player has learnt the basics in town, a final puzzle challenge would open the doors. From then on the majority of the game would take place inside the cathedral's many levels.
To help realise my ideas i quickly sketched a top down map of my environment. Multiple pathways add interest and exploration to the level but is also in keeping with the tightly packed medieval street design I wanted to convey. In conjunction with this I created an asset list of the props and buildings I would need to dress the level, it's pretty daunting!