How do you create a believable world from scratch without copying existing games ?
That is the question that has been haunting my nights these last couple of weeks.
How to create an environment that feels like it’s been living before you arrived, that has a history attached to it, and credible inhabitants ?
That is the task I have to deal with for the moment. And here is how I proceeded.
At first, I think the most important is to have a world that is physically plausible. not having rivers in the middle of the desert without a good reasons, having rivers flowing from glaciers, mountains being formed by a credible tectonic movement or resulting from erosion, dominant wind direction and sea erosion according to wind direction and wave strength. While all this seems a bit over-the-top, I believe this is part of making your world feeling real.
In our case, the world is set on a realistic base so all those must be accounted for. I thought vaguely of New Zealand when creating the basic landscape shape as it felt like a good mix of what I like in RPG’s. mountains, rivers, waterfalls, fjords, volcanoes, etc etc.
It all starts with a map
While I read many different ways to create worlds, for me the one that seems the most logical one is to start with a map.
I drew a quick sketch of what I had in mind on paper then I discovered a nice little tool on the web so I could show you guys what I have in mind.
While certainly not final, it gives you a global overview of what I want to build for the moment. Trust me there’s a thrilling story happening there 😉
The global history
If you want your world to be credible, you need it to have a previous history and political situation.
Otherwise the immediate effect is the lack of motivations for people living in it and it feels wrong and empty. For example If you can see people in the street shouting about how the inquisition is bad, and hurting people who have done nothing wrong and you can see people arguing with them saying it’s good for the safety of the town etc. It feels like there’s a whole story behind. It may or may not be the case (scenario’s still secret 😉 ) but at least the world feel believable.
This is why there’ll be explicit or implicit relations between all the powers of the world. None of those I can comment at this time but the player will have his role to play in it.
Where does inspiration comes from?
The best inspiration for those interactions is always, in my opinion, news coverage and the history lessons. Today’s news, being in turmoil with the rise of Trump, the threats of North Korea, the subtle political chess game of Vladimir Putin and inner political bickering in Belgium, are all great sources of inspiration for creating leading characters. Afterwards I just have to make those characters interact with one another and almost let the story write itself.
The political status
The political status and society organisation are not directly explained, it’s also part of what you feel while travelling down the roads of the world. Do people abuse their higher position or prove selfless ? Is there a high criminality rate ? and what type of criminality ? What is the cause of it ? is there some underground resistance fighting the established power ? etc… All those questions need to be answered and I’ve been giving them all some degree of thought. I came up with quite a few scenario ideas just from asking myself those questions. It’s a thrilling process as the only limit you have when creating a new product in a world that you create is that anything is possible. In this case the political status will be double as there’ll be two different seats of powers. A regent currently leads the non magical people (for the moment abbreviated the “noms”) and the High Council leads the mages.
The religious status
Atheist and believers all know religion has quite an impact on everyday life, for family or public life. It’s therefore very important to think about which religion(s) exist in the world you create. And it’s also interesting to create a dogma for each and make it conflict (or not) with other religious beliefs. That way you enrich your world with a spiritual layer. Some can be more personal and private religions, others can be up front aggressive but it’s the diversity and the conflicts that are born of it who make a world full of potential good stories for your quests. For Rhyen, at least two religions will coexist, you’ll know more about those during developement.
The cultural design
No matter how hard the purist will yell, graphics DO matter to a certain extent. Not in the way they actually look good, but in the way they make you feel the atmosphere of the place.
For me, atmosphere and feeling are extremely important. It is one of the reason why I decided to go for VR gaming as VR allows to drown a player in an environment.
It is however important to set your universe into an architectural and historical coherent background. My inspiration for the moment being Skyrim as I absolutely loved the architecture design and difference between Nords and Imperials. In my opinion it’s one of the best game to immerse yourself in a world and certainly is an example to follow.
Well… I’ve been typing more than enough for today.
I hope this gives you an idea of the work that’s currently being done to try and bring you the best experience possible.
Stay tuned for more information. Hopefully some early sketches to show you soon !