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The Real World: Elanthia

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Developer Journals 0

A Hero's Journey GM talks about how players get involved

Hello people of the free world!

Again I must insist that the topic of the day be superseded, despite the Shadowbosses desire for me to speak about that fantastic upcoming MMORPG Hero's Journey, so that we can discuss the single most important issue that faces our world today...global warming.

More specifically, the ability for players to "heat things up" themselves and organize and run their own fun events, gala affairs, or flaming jugglethons! Those familiar with Simutronics' level of attention to personalized customer experience in our previous games will be happy to know that we will continue to blow people away with everything from massive festivals to personalized wedding ceremonies for your characters. Seen that before? Not quite! But, sadly, as this is not an official area I'm free to babble publicly about yet, I'll have to bow to the knee-chaffingly wicked wills of my masters.

So I will talk about what we are working on right now instead, with little to no preamble. Alright, a light preamble. A gravy-smothered light preamble. (Don't drown your food, kids!)

Ya ever sit up late when you were a little kid, under the tent of your sheets with a flashlight so your parents didn't see it shining beneath your door, munching stolen cookies that grandma had made earlier that day (she had it comin'!), and plotting the viscera-slopping disembowelment of a few of your pals' innocent characters? (Hey NSA folks, note I did say Characters, not just Pals. I'm crazy passionate for games, not shack-in-the-hills crazy!)

Designing tabletop campaigns back then was really quite a bit like designing modern MMORPGs. You have to get your players interested, let them steer the course themselves and be ready for almost anything they throw at you, but also be prepared to bring them right back into your stories when interest starts ebbing. Being evil and trying to destroy your friends has to be done with complete demented conviction, a ruthlessness best saved for vendetta enemies and granny-punching soccer hooligans, even with the knowledge that in the end they will instead whup you without a wink of mercy. When they do fail, on that rare occasion when the dice just land wrong, they want that failure to be twice as glorious as a victory! But most of all, along the way, everyone at the table wants some personal attention.

Creating a fantastical and deeply layered game world is only the beginning, you have to be there when they make the choices, and you just can't automate everything in a great game. But the more preparation, the better, and that is where we find ourselves at the moment... Building a huge world!

With the HeroBlade Engine now in place and purring along like a wildcat, the GameMaster staff is shifting gears toward crafting the game to fit. Everyone not involved with the engine had been working on the development of the lore, quests, intrigue, and interactions for years ahead of time, and now we've finally got a place to really assemble it all. It felt like we had an actual-size model of the universe, and nowhere big enough to put it together!

Currently the World team is fine detailing the blueprints for the Western continent called Nomgar, which represents nearly a third of our common game world, and preparing for the actual construction. The volumes of information on NPCs, creatures, quests, artwork, and geography is staggering, and even with the continent broken into 8-10 huge level-based regions, each segment is like sitting down to a novel. Like I mentioned in the previous article, we are pulling from a vast and rich multiple game history centered in Elanthia, and we are not ignoring the efforts of those that toiled before us. If I could run through DragonRealms and GemStone IV with a paintbrush and just bring it directly to life in a graphical format I surely would, if for no other reason than for more people to get to enjoy them, but that is not precisely what we are doing with Hero's Journey. There will be more than just passing feelings of familiarity for the previously indoctrinated players, but they more than anyone will recognize that we have taken Elanthia for another full turn around the wheel, as is only proper when refurbishing a masterpiece. (I didn't really build too much of the original games, so I don't feel bloatedly egotistical about calling them that!)

Each region of Nomgar has a separate team of GameMasters from Quest and World actively working on the details, and the Development, Onsite, and the Art teams are backing us up with genuinely profound support. The regions are huge, each one multiple scale miles of explorable terrain loaded with quests, combat, and treasure. While the World team lays out the surface world and all its common dungeons and crannies, the Quest team burrows even deeper by adding instances wherever they can, and connecting the tangled web of stories together. One of my next topics will hopefully get to be the Region I myself have been developing, which are the battlegrounds where the worst acts of the Sundering took place. It is a seriously chaotic and demented place, strongly befitting my own leanings, where greed, violent and unpredictable machines, corrupted magic, and the power plays of wealthy and craven alike play out in a harshly unforgiving wasteland.

3D rendering of a Grenmeer Lowlands farm building, in the Quillmore style.

3D rendering of one of the Grenmeer Lowlands Gates. The gates are often all that stands between the denizens of the Lowlands and invaders.

Finally, you handsomely acute readers (I may call you acute, right?), I want to end with an assurance to all of you who have long awaited some information of tangible substance about Hero's Journey's gooey sweet inner workings: Your waiting...will continue a little longer! But fear not...Steph has already submitted herself for future frequent mindscans and boogieboarding (that's the torture thing, right?) in my tower of doomitude, and I am going to squeeze her for every bit of information she'll allow past the NDAs. The floodgates will break if I have to take my tinkertoy hammer to them myself, and until then, hopefully you will trust me to deliver the facts I'm allowed, wrapped of course in a thick sheath of idle banter and non sequiturs.

- By Erik "Sev" Roggeveen, Game Master

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