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Wasteland 3 Fig Update #23: Building the Everest - Level Design & Setting the Stage

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Wasteland 3 Fig Update #23: Building the Everest - Level Design & Setting the Stage

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 14 October 2017, 00:49:17

Tags: InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; Wasteland 3

inXile's latest Wasteland 3 Fig update continues to chronicle the production of the game's vertical slice area, the murderous Everest Hotel. They're now at the level design stage, and the update describes in detail the various tweaks and iterations that have been applied to a particular area of the Suicide Forest, the hotel's exterior environment, to improve the flow of the area's associated questline. It's rather interesting, actually. The quest involves a missing group of hunters, who are now apparently themselves being hunted by an unnamed monstrosity from the forest. The encounter with the hunters is clearly the key event in the quest, so I'll quote that part of the update here:

Heading into the next area, the Rangers know (via some radio transmissions, and the clues encountered earlier) that the hunters are nearby and are seeking assistance.

What are our goals for this area?
  • Let players really go to town with one (or more!) interesting combat scenarios.
  • Pay off the mystery from before (which can lead to combat)
  • Deal with an unnamed twist that may put the players at odds with the hunters (see above).
Once you’ve found a few of the clues, it’s pretty easy to find the missing hunters. However, the story takes a dangerous turn, prompting a new question: what do you do with them?
  • Depending on how you decide to handle things – or, depending on your past choices, how things want to handle you – the Rangers may end up
    • (1) simply walking away from the situation
    • (2) engaging in combat with the hunters
    • (3) engaging in combat with something else.
(1) Leaving the situation has its own set of consequences that require quite a bit of thought and scripting to handle within the mission itself, but from a geometry perspective, the player simply needs to be able to turn around and leave. So: can the players turn around and leave? Looks like it. Great! Mark #1 done. From a level layout standpoint, at least.

(2) Okay, so what if they engage in combat with the hunters? This may sound a little odd, but there are developments in the mission that actually can make this a reasonable course of action.

To do this, the player will need to make their way through a trap-filled gauntlet (the kind of traps that the hunters are using work just as well on Rangers as they do on prey), then they'll need to take on three very well-equipped outdoorspeople. This is a variation on a typical “advance” scenario: braving a heavily fortified position. I’ll leave the details of combat design to a future developer diary by our combat designers, but for our purposes, we basically need an interesting approach that provides opportunities for clever tactical thinking that will offset your disadvantages.

Here’s what the Missing Hunters area looked like at first. This looked like it had potential, but as we playtested things, it felt a little small.

Also, as we ran it past more people, a story issue cropped up: it didn’t seem plausible that the hunters were really trapped. The ledge wasn't very steep, and if they were able to evade the something else long enough to set up their crazy trap gauntlet, surely they could have backtracked instead of digging in. We had several plausible explanations for why they ended up in the current situation, but that wasn’t the point of the mission: we needed players to look at the area and instantly think “oh yeah, you could end up in a bad situation here.”

I’m not going to show you the revised version yet, though, because it also ties into choice #3…

(3) Engaging in combat with the something else.

Internally, I’d been referring to this as the “ledge fight,” because it took place in the same area, but on the upper rim of the valley, wrapping around the trap gauntlet.

This concept was a lot of fun, but in practice, the limited width of the cliff edges, the large amounts of running around from edge to edge, and the lack of differentiation between each of the four sides led to unexciting playtests. So: big red flag, needs revision!

We made major changes to address the issues in both combat scenarios. A big part of this was adding more verticality to the fight itself by increasing the distance between the two sub-areas. We also decided to move the two combat areas alongside each other, rather than overlapping. Here’s the latest revision.

Section “A” (yellow circle) is where players can fight the hunters, which is spread out over a larger space to better leverage the hidden traps, and now shares only a single border with section B.

Section “B” (green circle) is where players can fight the unnamed adversary, which is now a limited to one side of the cliff, but has multiple variations in height and more potential cover.

The right-hand path connecting these areas contains the beginning of the ‘trap gauntlet’, as well as a special cave which can be accessed depending on the player's skills and equipment. We’ve also enlarged the upper middle area and added a one-way exit at the bottom. This eliminates the need to backtrack once you're ready to return to Suicide Forest. Also, the entire space has been flipped and rotated to better align with the rest of the level layout.
I imagine some people will frown at inXile's decision to "linearize" quests like these, although given that the update mentions excessive backtracking as a potential issue, maybe the entire area is large enough that it won't feel so linear.

There are 30 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #23: Building the Everest - Level Design & Setting the Stage

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