VIDEOGAME WORLD BUILDING RUNES: THE FORGOTTEN PATH
EPISODE #1 - LETH
We always talked about Runes in terms of gameplay. Pages and pages about gaming systems, graphics, interaction, immersiveness have been written; teasers, videos, mockups have been put online. A lot of stuff about the game has been written; yet, we never talked about one of the main things about our game: its World and Characters. Runes: The Forgotten Path is a story driven game, and as such, it would be silly not to expand a little on this.
This is the first of a series of articles about how we built the game. We hope it might interest gamers as much as developers. We think world building is one of the hardest, yet more rewarding tasks of making a game.
Enough with foreplay, let's get started!
Creating solid characters is no joke: there are lot of balances and archetipes to juggle with. Thankfully, Chris Vogler did it for us in two amazing books: The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. If you want to come up with characters that make sense this is an excellent starting point. Archetipes are incredibly important: every hero in every story you ever read, fits one of them. If you know these basic things you will be able to create complex, yet recongizable roles within your story.
We are not native english speakers, and we are not expert script writers, that's why we contacted a very good writer to finalize the script for Runes. Writing is not easy. You have to either get very good a that, or contact someone who is. It will make the difference. You need good artists and coders; you also need good writers. Don't underestimate the power of a well written story.
LETH: THE MAIN CHARACTER!
We knew since we started our main character had to be problematic, so we laid out his backstory. Leth had to be a wizard whith huge powers, possibly the most powerful (does it remind you of someone?). He had to be stuck in a moral dilemma: does power put you above everyone else? Does the most powerful person set the rules for everyone else?
That's how we started his genesis. It had to be an old character with a rich past. Possibly an anti-social hermit. We wanted Leth to be able to defy authority thanks to his enormous power. We also wanted him to be able to destroy everything else to challenge it.
Leth is the most powerful wizard in our world. Raised within the tyrannical order of the Panopticon (more about the setting here), he quickly ended breaking the law thanks to his lust for knowledge and power. He fled society to grow his powers, but soon enough he started to fight the Panopticon back, to access its darkest and most powerful secrets.
We don't want to spoil the fun of the game; all we we can say is that the last confrontation between Leth and the Panopticon had really bad consequences for everyone. The outcome has been so bad, that Leth has to cast the spell of Oblivion upon himself in order to survive the aftermath.
WHAT IS OBLIVION?
Little step back. Oblivion is a sleep prison of the mind, an enchantment used by the Panopticon to enforce its restrictive laws. It puts the physical body of a person in an eternal sleep, making it immortal. The mind of the recipient is kept alive, and slowly driven to decay and madness. Only few people have been powerful enough to overcome this prison with their own strength. These people are called Revenants and are renowned as some of the most powerful beings in the world, able to use powers beyond any imagination. Oblivion is where the character starts his adventure, a collection of shattered memories he needs to recollect, in order to stay sane and, eventually, wake up from slumber.
Early concepts for Oblivion by Daniel Tyka
The visual development of Leth has been one of the first tasks we tackled back when we started thinking about Runes. What we always had in mind for him was a middle aged wizard, with a hermit vibe. We didn't even have the full story set up, but we knew we were in the right direction. We started working with a concept designer for figuring things out, but we weren't 100% convinced. A fluke let us have the privilege of working with the great Mario Alberti. He took our concept and turned it in something awesome: that was the Leth we were looking for.
Still, we missed a part of the equation. Even though the character design is great for the "external" world, it didn't fit with our vision of Oblivion. The main problem is that in this mind prison all memories slowly fade away, physical appearance included. That's how we came out with the "spiritual" version of Leth: a placeholder created by his mind that allows him to interact with this odd world. We tried to create a character that looked like a spirit and, at the same time, trying to insert design elements such as the alchemical alphabet on the limbs and the mystical symbols all over his ghostly body to undeline the magical nature of his punishment. On the top of his head, the symbol of the Panopticon as a further reminder .
This is how we created the character for the first episode of the game. We plan to set the following episodes in the outer world with Mario's character, but this is something we'll talk about in the future. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoyed this first overview on our game. If you are interested, subscribe to our mailing list for future updates or wishlist our game on Steam!