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Exclusive Earthrise Developer Diary #1 - Industrial Area

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Posted by: GameZone Staff

GameZone is teaming up with Masthead Studios to bring to you exclusive Earthrise developer diaries to discuss the development process of the upcoming Sci-Fi MMORPG. For full information on Earthrise, check out their official website: http://www.play-earthrise.com/

We present to you the first developer diary that discusses the industrial area of the game world.

"Hello there. We are Masthead Studios and are proud to present the “Making of the Industrial Area,” the first of a series of Earthrise Dev Diaries. We decided that the Industrial Area will provide a bit of insight on how we create the zones in Earthrise.

When we started prototyping the Industrial Area, the concept we developed was that of an industrial wasteland. As the story goes, this was the first area claimed back from the mutated wildlife. It was here that the first large industrial factories were built (fueling the prosperity that came later). Once a thriving mutant ecosystem, this vast territory was chemically scourged to allow the colonists to build their massive mining and production facilities. The zone was inhospitable enough without the factories churning clouds of toxic smoke and spilling radioactive byproducts into the ocean or directly into the fields outside of the facilities.

By the time players visit the Industrial Area, the days when the factories worked at full potential are long gone. The rapid technological progress created clean and quick material conversion factories that were deployed near trade centers and cities, eventually making the Industrial Area factories obsolete. Many of the expensive industrial processes were shut down and the majority of factories were reduced to the simple refining and recycling of materials.

The organization that took control of the industrial works was the Tech Collective – a group of like-minded scientists who want to unlock the creativity lurking deep in the minds of the people of Enterra. Their goals require lots of funding, resources and influence that they have to earn on their own as they stray from the conflict between Noir and Continoma, diplomatically rejecting the recruitment offers of both factions. To remain neutral, the Tech Collective has to sell its inventions, investing earned funds into the restoration of the Industrial Area productive capabilities.

Our first idea was to instigate a quarrel between the Tech Collective and the neighboring Syndicate. With this in mind, we took our time coming up with ideas for the actual facilities that would be present in the zone. From the very start we wanted to concentrate most of the players’ questing experience in the Industrial Area inside the once-abandoned facilities, which the Tech Collective had up and running again. We decided which facilities we would keep and which ones would be discarded based on the criteria that we were creating repeatable quest hubs in which the players would best be able to experience the “industrial” theme of the zone. The rest of the zone outside of the quest hub facilities was scratched off as “wasteland” during this step. We decided to make these huge production facilities, and then fill them up with lore content. Then we applied the notion that the Tech Collective wouldn’t have enough personnel and resources to manage the whole area, and as a result, various plunderers and looters would gravitate toward it, attracted by the promise of easy money.

As we were developing the factories that produced all sorts of machine parts and chemicals, the majority of the mobs in the zone were turning out to be the members of various bands of criminals who were disrupting the good scientists’ work. After we realized how the quests in the Industrial Area were producing rampant disorganized crime activity that was efficiently hampering one of the four independent societies on Enterra, we were not happy with the state of the lore of the zone. We went back to the drawing board, thought of ways to improve the story, and created the idea that the understaffed, fledgling Tech Collective had made various contracts and concessions with gangs in the past to bring all the abandoned facilities up to working condition. They signed a dubious contract with the New Trading Association – a shady company based in the Autonomy that would allow them to fund TC efforts in the Industrial Area. Later on the bandits showed their true colors, sticking only to the letter of their agreements and dumping defective parts onto their partners in the Collective while sabotaging the few facilities that the scientists were operating themselves. This was an operation of the NTA to make sure that they could collect forfeits from the Tech Collective in the form of hardware and real estate. Thus we achieved a more involved background for quests in the zone, a situation in which the players backstab the backstabbers.

When we were satisfied with our draft for the quest hubs in the zone, the art team got involved. They took our ideas for the Industrial Area and breathed life into them by creating great concepts and models for the zone. Together, we came up with ideas regarding how to actually depict the industrial wasteland that was meant to be outside the quest hub facilities. That's how the idea for the scrap yard and the recycling plants in it came to be.

The artists took our ideas to heart when they designed the way that the facilities in the Industrial Area actually looked. They wanted to show the difference between the old and new technology used on Enterra and emphasize the fact that these facilities were built urgently and under a severe resource deficiency. That's why they depicted all of the facilities in the area as big, tough and kind of uniform, separating them from similar models. To make it possible for the players to differentiate between the facilities, the artists provided different color coding and unique objects for core machines. Also taken into consideration was the general state to which each facility would have deteriorated after being under the care of the bandits.

While the artists were working hard on the visual content of the zone, the writing and game design teams started polishing their ideas and concepts for the zone. Forming consistent gameplay that includes an open world and free PvP no-man’s-land filled with storyline and repeatable quests required many hours of planning and testing. The Industrial Area contains lots of resources and is ideal for materials gathering and processing. This, and the estimated gameplay time span of the player, drove us to include a lot of gameplay content aside from the visual assets.

The implementation of such a huge area was a major task and it took quite a long time for our level design team to put all of the important models and details into the area. Creating the concept for a zone that should dwarf the player is one thing, but building it in the game world is entirely another. The task grew harder when we added the concept of free PvP that could happen in any subzone where the players are competing for important resources and working on their quests. The PvP gameplay that is supposed to take place in the Industrial Area required an approach to the level design that will help players encounter one another by concentrating the quest in key locations. At the same time, places to rest and gather, and pathways that allow the players an option to avoid the action, were also designed in the wasteland of the Industrial Zone.

After having the opportunity to test how the Industrial Area turned out, we got numerous ideas for further developing the lore of the zone and its quest hubs to achieve an even more compelling and immersive gameplay experience. Work goes on as we put additional effort into fleshing out our ideas and adding the necessary detail to emphasize the conflict raging on in the zone. We strive to improve the appearance of the zone, as well as to include options for the player to feel like a real mercenary, freelancing for different organizations vying for control over the Industrial Area." - Masthead Studios Development Team

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