[GW2] William Fairfield on Designing the Dungeons

Discussion in 'Guild Wars 2' started by F U R I E, Jun 28, 2011.

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    F U R I E Veteran BOON

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    Hello, I’m William Fairfield, one of the content designers here at ArenaNet. I currently reside with the dungeon team, having made my way here via the events team, and before that, I was a proud of member of QA. I have spent most of my life playing games—from tabletop RPGs, like Dungeons & Dragons, to just about every video game under the sun—but my passion has always been in running or creating games. For example, I was part of the team that brought you the Shatterer at Cologne and PAX last year.

    When sitting down to design the flow of a dungeon, my first consideration is creating challenges that the player must use skill and ingenuity to overcome. I’m not just designing these challenges for the players though; I’m designing them for myself as well. I come from a fairly hardcore player background, raiding in Everquest, World of Warcraft, and even City of Heroes. I love a good challenge, and I hope to reach out to the players who do as well.

    When sitting down to design the flow of a dungeon, my first consideration is creating challenges that the player must use skill and ingenuity to overcome. I’m not just designing these challenges for the players though; I’m designing them for myself as well. I come from a fairly hardcore player background, raiding in Everquest, World of Warcraft, and even City of Heroes. I love a good challenge, and I hope to reach out to the players who do as well.

    There’s No QQ in Team (But There Is QA)

    The dungeon team consists of Kevin Millard, Robert Hrouda, Jeff Grubb, and Dan Kohler. Kevin is our “Dungeon Master” and the leader of our merry band. With the most experience in current dungeon design, Kevin is responsible for assembling most of the dungeons and for keeping us running strong. Jeff is our lore and continuity designer, and you can read about his contributions in the article “Into the Dungeons.” Though Robert is the newest member of the team, he has stepped right up and carried his weight, giving us a fresh perspective on things. Each of us has been assigned particular dungeons, but all of us worked closely on the Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon.

    Having multiple people keeps the production fun. It also gives us plenty of viewpoints, fueling the process of iteration. My part of the development involved creature design and implementation. We sat down with a team of designers, worked out what we wanted the ghosts and creepy crawlies in the dungeon to do, and then I implemented it all. Additionally, I had a very large hand in the boss design for the explorable version of the dungeon.

    QA is, and has always been, a valuable part of our process. Dan is our QA representative, and he sits with us rather than with the bulk of QA. He breaks the things that we make, gives us insight on design decisions, and helps with balance. Alexandra Triplett, aka “Ally,” is another QA tester that has recently joined on to help Dan with some of his duties. If not for her, many Bothans would have died to bring you this blog post.

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    Delving into the Depths

    So I guess what you are asking now is, “How does the dungeon get built?”
    It begins—as most things do—with an idea. The designer responsible for the dungeon will sit down with Jeff Grubb and work out the story that we are trying to tell inside the dungeon. Then they will set down a paper design of the dungeon. Once the paper design is finished, we have a meeting that includes our environmental artists, the design lead, the dungeon team, and several members of QA. In this meeting, the designer responsible for the dungeon will lay out his plan. We discuss the plan and suggest changes we think could help bring the various parts of the dungeon together.

    After this, the designer will go back and begin implementation. Iteration is a huge part of this process, and at several points, the dungeon is played and scrutinized not just by the dungeon team but by members of QA and design as well. Feedback is given and changes are made based on that feedback. This process will continue, often for weeks, until the dungeon is in a state we are all happy with. When we finally feel it is ready, we have the entire company play the dungeon in an all call session. This gives us much-needed feedback from many different levels and styles of players before we start the process again, polishing the dungeon as we learn more.

    Who Ya Gonna Call?

    The dungeon we are spotlighting this week is the Ascalonian Catacombs. I was involved heavily in creature design and helping craft the explorable version of this dungeon. The enemies in this dungeon are primarily Ascalonian ghosts and a group of creatures known as gravelings. These menacing creatures feed on the essence of the ghosts and are twisted by that power. One of my favorite creatures among these is the graveling breeder; this foul beast will expel another graveling from inside itself onto some poor unfortunate adventurer. The Ascalonian ghosts are a throwback to Guild Wars, and many players will recognize the abilities being used against them: the all-too-familiar sting of a Crippling Shot, the burning singe of a Meteor Shower, or the brilliant shine of a Ray of Judgment.

    Working on this dungeon taught me some good lessons about creature design. Designing the creatures of the dungeon to work in tandem with each other was one of our greater challenges. We didn’t want every creature to feel like it was just part of another mob, fighting next to another copy of itself. Instead, we worked hard to make the ghosts feel like they are working together, like they have synergy.

    Iron Forgemen, Destroyers, and Inquest. Oh My!

    Now let’s talk about some of things I worked on in the dungeon of Sorrow’s Embrace.
    As the name implies, Sorrow’s Embrace is a throwback to Guild Wars, and many players may feel nostalgic as they step inside her walls. Inside the story version of this dungeon, players will battle a large mechanical boss over a pit of lava. I would love to tell you more about this encounter, but I would hate to spoil the fun. The explorable version includes threats from the dredge, the Inquest, and the dreaded destroyers! One of these threats comes in the form of a captured destroyer, forced by the dredge to fight the players.

    Starting on the events team gave me a useful advantage when fleshing out Sorrow’s Embrace. I was able to take tricks I learned there and apply them in the dungeon for greater effect. Since each dungeon is a controlled environment that is not subject to 300 people simultaneously interacting with the content, I’m able to tailor a more targeted experience.

    Tanks for the Memories!

    Without the “holy trinity” of tank, DPS, and healer in Guild Wars 2, we’ve definitely had an interesting time with dungeon design. Traditional MMO boss fights consist of one character running up to get aggro, another character healing them, and the rest of the team just slamming their heads against the boss. Instead, we have players making conscious decisions in combat about where to stand, what role to play, when to roll out, etc. Overall, our dungeons have a more team-oriented feel to them. One person does not dictate the flow of a dungeon; the entire team contributes to the direction. This could mean making decisions as a team on which path to take or splitting up to fight two pieces of a boss at the same time.
    So there’s some info about what I do and a little bit about the dungeons in general. Our ultimate goal is to create an exciting experience for small groups of players and to offer them a rewarding and enjoyable challenge. I hope this has given you some insight into the process, mindset, and world of the dungeon team.

    I look forward to partying up and running some dungeons with you!

    Originally posted: William Fairfield on Designing the Dungeons
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    Katiechops Guild Master

    Nice to be honest I like "outside" instances
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    Aspira Admin Officer

    Zul'Farak stylee. Epic.

    Sent from my HTC Desire using Forum Runner
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    F U R I E Veteran BOON

    http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/sdcc/2011/dungeons-and-underwater-interview

    A really interesting read, going to quote the parts that impressed me the most.

    "Then we’ve taken the dynamic events from the persistent world and we’ve hidden them in the dungeons and they have all sorts of different triggers that can happen. Some of them are a random percentage chance, so for example you could be going through the Ascalon Catacombs and you’ll go through it, and you defeat it, and you have a random event where you run into a giant spider boss and you put a torch out in a hall that makes a ghost army that comes out, so you get to experience that stuff.
    Another time through, you might be walking down a hall and a wall bursts open and a giant cave troll Kool Aid Mans out of the wall and stands in the middle and comes after you.
    The idea is that every time you play this we want to surprise you and present you with stuff like that so it feels like – I used this analogy a couple of weeks ago but it’s totally true – when I go dungeon running in a D&D game the things that make it a dungeon to me are those random events that are happening. Like you’re heading down a hall and enter a trap, or a boss comes out of nowhere, and it’s all about solving that stuff, and kind of that Indiana Jones style solving puzzles."


    "So you may, for example, have one where you’re walking down a hallway you’ve never been down before, and at the end of the hall there’s a guy stumbling towards you and he’s being chased by a horde of creatures. If you manage to save him, potentially he unlocks another dynamic event somewhere in the dungeon you couldn’t get otherwise.
    There are going to be characters like that persist through all of the explorable dungeons. Sometimes they’ll be there, and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they’ll be in areas you would never think to go. Maybe you pull a torch on the wall, and that opens a secret door and you go into a room and there’s a guy who has been hiding in there for 30 years because he’s too scared to get out of the dungeon. Those kinds of characters are going to be mixed in there too"
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    Katiechops Guild Master

    Yeah thats pretty cool mixing it up a bit instead of being 100% predictable
  6. Online

    Feidan Community Member

    What they did best is to give karma points to evade certain drop grind. Also made the random events possible :D
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    Alaisy Veteran BOON

    That's actually one of the most interesting things I've read about GW2 so far, nice. :)
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    Shantotto Guest

    If I was my cynical self, I'd imagine that there are 2-3 set encounters in a dungeon that you get on a /roll on entry that you ofc don't see and you get said random quests.

    Basically imagine a fort instance in aion, except 20% of the time on entry you get a random escort quest to guide an npc to the boss room anyway, free loots! dynamic events! zzzzzzzzzzzz.
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    Alaisy Veteran BOON

    I so hope you are wrong, escort quests...brrr terrible.
  10. Online

    Feidan Community Member

    Psst psst, listen, what about, what about, just listen, escort quest where the npc walks faster then you walk and slower then you run?

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