In the agile development process, everyone plays a vital part in the overall development, and sometimes team members are taking on more than one role. It’s different than working with a team of 30+ people on a multi-million dollar budget where you can section off components of development to specific members.
So when it came time for us to develop our first dungeon several months ago, the level design was sectioned off to three different people as opposed to just letting Joey handle the development, despite him being our lead zone designer.
This also has the added benefit of allowing individual style to creep into the zone development, which means each level of the dungeon has a slightly different look and feel. And while we can share art assets if we are building a dungeon that needs to look the same across all the levels, in this moment we wanted to create a dungeon that had three very unique and different architectural styles across each floor/level.
This is partly tied to the lore of the game (with the Dwearhe and Elenhi/Eldeni having very different architectural styles than the Humans), but also because we wanted to create a dungeon where there was different levels of “age” and flow.
It starts off with a series of crumbling caverns that eventually give way to two sections of tooled/created levels where the hands of man (or Elenhi/Eldenhi/Dwearhe?) have clearly built walls and floors and ceilings and placed structures throughout.
Dungeon crawling is a major component for our game. We took our inspiration from some of the earlier dungeons in EverQuest, where you could literally spend weeks and months (think Castle Mistmoore, for example, or Permafrost) due to the overall spread of levels combined with the size and difficulty of the zone.
We are aiming to build dungeons where players will literally spend weeks to a month or more before they feel like they’ve completed the dungeon, and there will be areas that are locked off by level/skill requirements so that you’ll find yourself needing to linearly progress in order to see all of the dungeon.
On top of that, hidden areas play a vital role in our overall development. There will be sections of dungeons that you simply won’t discover unless you have a character with the requisite thief skills or scholarly abilities to first and foremost determine that there is a secret door to be unlocked in the first place, and then the relevant skills to unlock/decipher the mechanism that will open the door.
Imagine a group of pure Adventurer archetypes going into a dungeon that has an entire wing dedicated to a Scholar archetype. You wouldn’t even know the other wing of the dungeon exists unless you have a Scholar in your party, and even then, he would have to have the relevant skills to get you past the entry point and then beyond.
The same can be said for sections of dungeons sealed away by traps and the like which can only be overcome by a thief-style character. No thief = no progression in that part of the dungeon…much less even knowing it exists. Or what about a door that has been partially blocked by a fallen timber or section of the tunnel beyond, and the only way to get past the door is by having a character that not only has the required Strength, but also the Bash skill to physically bash their way past and push that door open to allow your group access to the rest of the dungeon.
One thing you won’t see in our game are dungeons where you can walk in and run the dungeon in 15 minutes and then move on to the next. Our goal is to make a game so challenge-oriented that any time you decide to leave the safety of a city or outpost you are making the decision to dedicate the required time and effort to explore the area where you plan to go. That means planning ahead, gearing up accordingly, taking along the required pots/bandages/spell components and beyond, and planning on making an actual expedition that will cover your gameplay for the next few weeks.
With that in mind, this is the starter dungeon. It’s located in the Whitemist Foothills just outside of the starting outpost of Whitehall, and it will be the first dungeon that gives you a taste of what’s to come in the overall world of Lucimia, where we are designing an additional 40+ zones and dungeons that players will have access to at the launch of Volume I, above and beyond the 8 zones that we have currently designed as part of our alpha prototype.