Design Notes

February 07, 2024

Void Chasm - What If?

Void Chasm - A Peek at Defeat

Hello, Cylisse here again! Hope your week's been good, peaceful, eventful, or whatever you wanted it to be!

Recently, a player on Discord asked me about what would have happened in /VoidRefuge and /VoidChasm, our most recent Nulgath Nation releases, if we lost the Shadows of Doom War. (See Here for what would have happened directly after the defeat in /Camlan).

Had Gravelyn been incapacitated, who would have accompanied you to investigate Nulgath's "Dying Star?"

I wasn't going to make Design Notes for every release that was effected by your victory, which would be all of them, but it made sense to make a post since I already gave the answer to a couple of people. This way, everyone can see it!

Be aware, big spoilers for the events of /VoidRefuge and /VoidChasm!

Note, the events detailed in this post are what would have happened if the Shadows of Doom War was lost. What is currently in-game is the result of your resounding victory in /ShadowBattleon.  

If the war was lost, Gravelyn would not be present. Instead, it's Shakaz that listens to Ana and calls on the Hero to investigate Carcano, Nulgath, and the 'dying star.' Ana and the Hero would go on their own.

Without Gravelyn, Ana is far more pessimistic about why her brother saved her from being handed over to the Nation. She would be more willing to believe Carnage smuggled her to the Lightguard just so he could steal her fate, instead of taking her place in the Nation because he cared about her.

Ana fights more recklessly because it takes a combo of Gravelyn and the Hero to give her hope, and effectively control the situation. In the end, Carnage doesn't form a temporary truce with Ana and the Hero. With his pride and fear of weakness getting in the way, he can't come to terms with how he joined the Nation both to finally be special, and to save his little sister. The Hero has to focus on keeping the siblings from fighting, and does not have time to negotiate with Adimonde.

Instead of a united effort to neutralize Carcano, it's a three-way brawl. Because Ana's attention is split, she's eaten alive by Carcano. Carnage kills Carcano in retaliation, tearing the monster apart as if he'd be able to pull Ana out, safe and in one piece, but it's too late. The Hero couldn't intervene because they needed to neutralize the 'Dying Star.'

Nulgath would have arrived after the Hero and Carnage left the Void. Instead of using these events as a show of good faith to Gravelyn in-game, the entire spectacle was intended to erase what weakness remained in Carnage's heart. In addition, Carnage wouldn't have been given a Fiend Shard. In a Lose-ShadowBattleon scenario, Nulgath will not trust anyone at all after such a huge blow to the Evil Alliance. So, his inner circle remains 'me, myself, and I,' which continues to stagnate the Nation

Gravelyn being incapacitated by the /ShadowBattleon war motivates Nulgath to prioritize ruthlessness instead of trust. This would have also begun to sour the interactions between the Hero and Nulgath, since Gravelyn's absence wouldn't be the only factor. The loss of your character's morale would have also triggered these series of events.

But, none of this came to pass! You guys kept Gravelyn healthy beause you won the /ShadowsBattleon War, and your allies will be more ready for the conflicts to come. The effects of your efforts continue to cascade through the story. I usually trend towards darker tones in regards to the writing, and what better place than a Nation release to do that, but I'm moving towards a lighter mood because everyone worked so hard to get a good outcome in that War.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this was interesting! I'll make more Design Notes like this if I end up sharing other details like these in Discord or X (formerly Twitter) so no one misses out!

Coming up next are the Year of the Dragon four-parter story, March's Legion Story, and the beginning of the next Arc of the Main Story - The Rumbling of Cold Thunder. Thanks for adventuring with us, and we'll see you for the next one!

Tags: Cylisse,

February 01, 2024

Yokai New Year - Behind the Scenes

Cylisse here, with another behind the scenes look at our latest release!

It's the Year of the Dragon which means big things for us this month. A whole new four-parter story featuring the Yokai Isles is on the way. We've set it up with an update to /YokaiHunt, adding a literal work of art dragon designed by Crulon.

Last year, I made a Writer's Thread on X (formerly Twitter) about the Year of the Rabbit's update. Since we're already here, I've combined those notes with new insights, lore, and references about the Year of the Dragon. That way, you won't miss out!

Want to know more about the in-game lore, see the concept art, and real-life references that inspired our newest release? Read the full post here.

Tags: Cylisse,

January 05, 2024

Sandsea Behind the Scenes

First of all, happy birthday to Crulon!

His big day kicked off the first of our releases for 2024 and was primed to dive into the ancient history of the Sandsea. Crulon designed a regal pair of Pharaohs, and beautiful sets for the warriors who served them during their reign! I had a lot of fun planning and writing the Lore with Crulon for this release!

Djeba is based on one of the gods from the Ennead in ancient Egyptian mythology - Shu, the god of peace, lions, air, and wind. His children are the earth and sky, which he keeps separated so people can live between them without getting crushed. 

His grandchildren include the gods Osiris, Isis, and Horus, who were believed to reincarnate as the Pharaohs and their royal families. (Note: this is a very abridged explanation of the fascinating stories about the Ennead).

In AQW Lore, the concept is inversed. Djeba, named after the archaic name of ancient Upper Egypt, was a Sand Elf who ruled as Pharoah of the Sandsea long before the arrival of Sek-Duat. He was deified as the Pharoah of the Storms, reigned for a respectable time, and gracefully stepped down for his successor. 

Long after his reign came Pharaoh Sobekemsaph, based off of Sobek, the ancient Egyptian god of the Nile, water, and occasionally the army. The name Sobekemsaph was taken from real life Pharaohs Sobekemsaf I and II.

AQW's Pharaoh Sobekemsaph was a human mortal that rose to the Sandsea throne, proved himself by protecting his people, and was deified as a crocidilian guardian that wards away evil. He also reigned for a time and stepped down for his successor, ensuring that the sands continue to change for the better with new blood and ideas.

Both Sobekemspah and Djeba are able to emerge from their tombs if the Sandsea needs them but the arrival of Sek-Duat and his prolonged reign prevented them from seeing to their duties. Until the Sandsea was free, it became stagnant under the lich's rule; its original protectors and lectors banished to the empty wastes. 

(J6 designed the map this week and it's gorgeous!)

Now, the heroes from Sandsea's golden age can return and test the mettle of the current Pharaoh. For the time being, Crulon (the NPC) was named as Chief Lector - a role that stayed empty when Sek-Duat eliminated them to keep his throne. It is his duty to choose a worthy warrior to duel Sobekemsaph in ritual combat. Winning would allow the people of the Sandsea to drink from a newborn river. He knew that the best of the best was you, the Hero!

The current Pharaoh was meant to preside over this duel, but the Sandsea Desert itself is wary of him. Djeba had to reawaken to temporarily oversee the match.

In the near future, we'll see that Pharaoh tested when the story returns to the Sandsea as a chaotic Shadow slithers across the desert. 

Tags: Cylisse,

October 27, 2023

Mogloween Behind the Scenes

Last Friday, we had an adventure in a haunted castle filled with ghosts and curses. How about we delve further behind the scenes to spotlight the team members who helped put this spooky release together?

As usual, Crulon made the map art by putting together an old castle that was half dolled up for a Mogloween Gala, and half a nightmare of bones and ghosts.

Ghost has been going nonstop for three weeks from Shadows of Doom's dramatic cutscenes to giving us the resolution of a Mogloween Mystery.

The Cauldron Sisters were given fresh art courtesy of Aranx. 

New to our usual week to week set up is Despera, who designed the Unborn Brood. 

This was my first time working with Despera onboard and they're amazing! I gave them a brief summary of the story, and a few options for what the bosses could be: A nobleman's ghost twisted into the form of a gargoyle, the castle's ghosts fused into one giant spirit, or the ghosts of the lost dragonlings fused into one vengeful spirit.

With just a few references, Despera came up with three super cool concepts! I loved the dragonlings design so much that I decided to put more focus on them in-story, and adjusted the outline to fit.

It's too bad we could only pick one, I hope we can circle back to that rad gargoyle design! 

Darkon worked on the bosses animations. In the process, he taught tus what to do to make brand new monster art easieir to animate.

As for the Mogloween story, I had the outline saved from last year. It was on a list of pitches that will eventually become full releases. The concept was inspired by two stories, "The Picture in the House" and "The Rats in the Walls" by H.P. Lovecraft, but obviously it diverted a lot in the final draft.

The original story of "The Picture in the House" was about a traveler that discovers how an old man became immortal through cruel and unspeakable acts. "The Rats in the Walls" dealt similar cruel and unspeakable acts, which made me think of what it would be like if the ghosts that arose from said actions were dragons instead of humans.

The Lord of the castle recieved a name, a motive, and a connection to the history of Greenguard. The emotional lodestone of the story came to be as the story developed. The timing of the release going live now instead of last year as originally planned worked out well too. The descendant of Lord Andrew Taylor has a role to play when we resume our Main Story come 2024, and you lore hunters were quick to spot it!  

Mogloween is always fun to think up stories for and there's much more to come in the holiday seasons! I hope you enjoyed this year's spooks and this peek behind the scenes! 

Tags: Alina, Cylisse,

October 23, 2023

Shadows of Doom Lore

Shadows of Doom - A Peek at Defeat

Hello all, it's Cylisse the writer again! On October 15th around 7:00AM EST, you crushed the Invasion of Shadows that threatened Battleon. Thanks to your incredible efforts, Empress Gravelyn is going to...oop! No spoilers for the future of this saga, but what about a peek at what would have happened if Gravelyn's HP bar ran out before you defeated all the monsters?

Be aware, big spoilers for Part 1 and 2 of Shadows of Doom!

The results of the invasion wouldn't have changed the last cutscene of Part 1, where you came face to face with the Mysterious Stranger who whispers into your ear.

The differences would begin in Camlan, after you and Gravelyn scared the Metamorphosis Maw back into hiding.

Rather than being awake, Gravelyn would've been completely unconscious with no way of waking up. Her wound is about to destroy her body and the Hero rushes her to Termina Temple, the closest safe haven nearby.

Instead of Gravelyn being conscious in this scene, she is laying on one of the beds, unresponsive. Song ruefully reports that there is nothing anyone in the Temple can do. Exerting that much power after pushing herself to the brink in Battleon was too much.

Shakaz is present to ask what happened to Sigrid and Camlan in Gravelyn's place. After recieving an explanation, Shakaz feels that there is no other choice. They have to consult the Lightguard and the Emissary of Light Astero, who has been trying to contact them inccessently, having been completely rebuffed until now. Both the Hero and Shakaz feel unease but are helpless. No one at the Temple or the Empire knows how to save the Champion of Light. They can do nothing for Gravelyn but surrender to the whims of the Lightguard.

Essentally, the Lightguard and Astero would gain custody of Gravelyn with little to no interference from the Shadowscythe. The consequnces of this event would have bled into the next installment of Shadows of Doom as well as the Rumbling of Cold Thunder set to go live next year.

This future, however, will not come to pass. Your victory ensured that Gravelyn would be safe. She definitely noticed how hard you fought for her (I even went back to the win-end script to update her lines when I saw how much people cared about her).

One more time, congrats on defending Battleon from the invasion and thanks for playing this Main Story Interlude! We're looking forward to you joining us for the continuation of this saga as we dive back into the churning waves of our Main Story next year!
Tags: Alina, Cylisse,
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