Hi, my name is Chris Nengerman and I am Lead Game Designer for The Chronicles of Spellborn. Over the coming weeks I would like to tell you about the process of game design. To give you a broad insight on how the Spellborn team is working, we will take a step by step tour through the design process of the Green District zone and the connected instanced dungeon called the Citadel of Ail. During this tour you will discover all about creation of lore and how it translates to actual locations. We will also take a look at the design of monster encounters and the implementation of quests. In this first episode we take a look at what the original goals were for these areas and how these were translated into actual lore, quest lines and setting descriptions.
The design goal
The world of Spellborn consists of hollow rock realms, known as Shards, that float in the magical Deadspell Storm. One of these Shards, called Quarterstone, contains the game's capital city and is also home to the Oracle; an ancient entity that guides the people in their struggle for survival.
From a game design perspective we always planned for Quarterstone to be the social hub of the game where players would meet for trading, grouping, guild activities and Arena PvP. During testing we discovered that Quarterstone needed additional gameplay elements to be more interesting for players that are less keen on social activities.
The city of Quarterstone is setup in five districts that lay around the Temple of the Oracle like petals on a flower. After the previously mentioned evaluation, we decided to add a sixth district; the Green district. With the addition of the Green District we wanted to create an area that, while being part of the city, offered a completely different environment.
Creating the setting and the lore
When we sat down to brainstorm about the setting and lore for the Green District, we decided that we didn't want this additional content to be part of the main storylines. We wanted it to be a confined set of quests using elements from the existing setting mixed with new elements such as a new enemy faction. We ended up creating a story in typical Spellborn style with story twists that play out like a mystery novel where not everything is at is seems to be.
The Enclave of the Five Sacrifices, as the Spellborn civilization is known, has a rather turbulent history. Facing close to complete annihilation several times, the high times were celebrated with grand architectural achievements. One of these achievements was the Green District. Named after its great gardens, the Green District is home to a massive housing project created to facilitate the increase in population. It also contains, what is now known as, the Citadel of Ail; a wondrous feat of architectural design, built to be the center point of science and art. A period of prosperity followed in which the Enclave's culture flourished and scientific achievements reached new heights. Then, things went wrong.
The foundations of the Citadel of Ail were built on top of the Ancestral Forge, a mystical remnant from the Ancestral world. Experiments in the forge to learn more about vital resources such as Levium and Vitridur resulted in an explosion that shook the Shard to its core. The Green District was left in flames and a deforming disease was unleashed on all that lived there. This explosion became known as the Arcane Surge and the Enclave had no choice but to close of the entire district to protect the rest of Quarterstone from the Shunned, as the infected citizens were labeled with great pain.
Rumors now reach the Enclave that a resistance amongst the Shunned is being formed deep within the bowls of the Citadel of Ail. When the game releases, the first of eventually three dungeons will allow well equipped groups of players to descent into the Citadel to uncover the truth behind this resistance, the Shunned and the experiments that let to the demise of many of the Enclave's citizens.
Designing the layout
Once the backbones for the story were created, we looked at the layout of the zone. To reflect the fact that the area was created by the Enclave during a period of prosperity and growth, the zone needed to be huge and filled with ornamental details. The housing project needed to look immense to give players the correct sense of scope. We decided to seek technical limits and create vast cityscapes that would get players lost in the myriad of streets and alleyways.
The Green District is Quarterstone's biggest zone. Two grand walkways split the zone into four different areas. A large open air theater was built where the two walkways cross with the Citadel of Ail looming over the district like a constant reminder of the Enclave's pride. Now, with the district lying in ruins, the two areas containing the housing project are set aflame and the gardens have turned into burned swamps filled with deformed life. The burning Citadel emits its toxic gasses and smoke creating a dark maelstrom with an everlasting rain of ash.
The Citadel itself contains three instanced dungeons of which the first will be open when the game releases. This dungeon will take players through the destroyed administration offices, the living quarters and some other rooms that were used when the Citadel was still populated by scholars. Future dungeons will lead players deeper into the Citadel towards the Ancestral Forge itself.
Next week we will take a look at how this information was translated into actual maps that were further expanded into real zones in the Unreal Engine. See you then!
Lead Game Designer, The Chronicles of Spellborn