Non-Exclusive Dev Diary: The Caves of Donn
Tabula Rasa Mission Designer Rebekah Tran has penned a dev diary detailing the Caves of Don, one of the first instance maps that players will be able to explore after entering the Wilderness Area.
The game world of Tabula Rasa is filled with many different types of environments that range from somewhat familiar to very alien. The overland maps (the persistent maps where hundreds of players share the same space) share their visual theme with three to four connected instance maps (unique maps created for a party alone). Wilderness is the first overland map that the player visits after completing the game tutorial. It is covered with dense forests, and sports the familiar sounds of twittering birds… that is, when you’re not in the middle of a fierce battle.
One of the first instance maps players can explore off Wilderness is Caves of Donn. When it came time for me to start creating the missions on this map, I had a little bit of a challenge on my hands, as it is one of the smaller instance maps. It is laid out as three primary large outdoor rooms connected by a smaller cave system. These connecting caves are rather enclosed, so the battles in Caves of Donn needed to be smaller in scale (but not in intensity) and a little more intelligent. In order to be successful in this area, the goal is to pay attention to your environment. Do you see creatures you previously thought long dead back in the picture? Ask yourself, “Where are they coming from?” Think you’re getting sniped? You probably are, so search out that sneaky guy and take him out!
It was important to ensure that this cavern environment contained several different creatures which would either continually spawn until their method of spawning is destroyed or that would keep coming back until you solve a puzzle or take a specific action. This really helped the space stay dynamic and difficult despite its smaller geography. It wouldn’t be good for me to give away all the gotcha moments, but I can share these hints:
- Make sure to loot everything.
- Keep your eyes out for where things are coming from and where your exits are.
- If you’re still toting physical damage guns, don’t worry; it’s a good thing.
- As always, remember that lightning is your friend. This is particularly true when a large armored friend tries to give you a big squeeze.
Caves of Donn is the first instance map the player is introduced to that does not involve a Bane installation. The goal between the World Builder (the designer that sets up the visual look of the map) and myself was to give a sense of the Bane taking over areas in which they did not previously have a strong foothold. This way, the player will get a taste of what it’s like to be hit on their own turf, so to speak, instead of infiltrating a Bane stronghold. This starts the moment you enter Caves of Donn where you are greeted by an AFS dropship that lands right in front of you. Here, an AFS officer Lt. Stone informs you that AFS high command received a distress signal, presumably from the Foreans that visit this area on their spiritual retreats. Despite this, everything seems tranquil and peaceful, so Stone is unsure as to what is going on. At this point she commands you to head up to the Village a few clicks away in order to verify that the Foreans are okay and this signal is a false alarm. You’ve done this sort of thing many times, what could possibly go wrong? Suffice it to say, the village is destroyed and is one of many traps the Bane has set for you in order to lure you into the area in the hopes of using you to help the Bane gain the Eloh artifacts held deep within the Caves of Donn.
This mission is the first time you are introduced to a story arc for Concordia concerning a mysterious place called Eloh Vale. It was easy to put this fictional hook in Caves of Donn because it was designed to be a spiritual place where the Foreans (an allied alien race) would take vision quests and commune with all things Eloh. The question I asked myself when I first started in on this map is whether the Foreans knew about the artifacts held within the caves, or whether they just had their spiritual awakenings amongst the ruins. I worked under the premise that the Foreans did not know what was hidden beneath the ruins because, if they did, the Thrax could have machinized them and taken the knowledge they needed. This makes the story in Caves of Donn very subtle, but important in that it sets the stage for the rest of the Concordia story arc. The player leaves Caves of Donn with many unanswered questions: What is this Eloh map? Why did the Eloh not entrust the Foreans with all the knowledge of past and future events? What and where is Eloh Vale? These questions are answered in later instances, so Caves of Donn really is the appetizer before the main meal of the main story arc.