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Where should Endless Paths (the mega dungeon) draw its inspiration from?

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I've played a moderate number of CRPGs and PnP RPGs, and in all that time, only one dungeon complex has ever really stood out to me: Watcher's Keep. It was the megadungeon added to Baldur's Gate 2 with the Throne of Bhall expansion, and it was incredible: tough fights and good loot, sure, but even Diablo has that stuff.

 

What made it awesome were the unique moments that the dungeon contained (the amazing Zork throwback, the hall of statues, the ghosts, the seal guardians, the laboratories, the guy in the cage, the machine of Lum the Mad, the sneaky priests that guarded it, and ... of course ... the Demogorgon). I've never experienced a dungeon like it.

 

If the designers can capture the feel of Watcher's Keep -- a series of amazing RPG experiences (puzzles, characters, tactics, moral choices, mystery, treasure, danger), loosely connected -- I'll be delighted.

 

How about you? Any amazing dungeons in your past that Endless Paths should be inspired by? Pen and paper are good, too! I'm not asking about mechanics so much as about feel.

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I can't think of a dungeon in terms of gameplay that it could resemble, however I know what sort of enviroment I'd love to take in. Something that gives off a completely different atmosphere and aesthetic feel to the rest of the game, something you just don't expect to find after several hours in the world you've spent exploring, but it feels absolutely okay for it to be there. Maybe change the music score too just to set it apart further, it's own boss/battle/ambient theme.

 

The best example of recent years I have is Blackreach in Skyrim. It was like I stepped into a different game completely and I think what helped was the naturally dark light settings, so it seemed to have a marvelous contrast too.

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I would like it to get darker and more creepy the further in you go, atmosphere wise. Maybe in the last few levels, some enemies you might not see anywhere else, because (with 15 levels) you could say that they're creatures that never see the light of day anymore, who have broken into the lower levels of the dungeon at some point. Or something like that. Definitely some books or lore in some form that tells us the story of the place, with things to find and do that might relate to it. Solving/unraveling the story-mystery of the place as you go.

 

I'm not huge on puzzles, but a few scattered around here and there are always cool. Just....no timed/time limit ones, please. I know they can add tension and all of that, but no matter how well designed, I'll never like difficulty-by-timer events.

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“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts

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Where should it draw inspiration from. An *excellent* question.

 

Greyhawk_Castle_D1.gif

 

Castle Greyhawk --- Gary Gygax's own personal dungeon and where it all more or less started.

 

More old-school D&D goodness.

 

Picture+1.png

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It'd be interesting if the depths produced signs of older, ever more ancient, cultures. Sort of like the idea of cities in the real world build upon older cities that are upon older civilizations and more and more. A layer cake of cultures, getting older as you decend. The potential variety with that idea gets pretty up there, and helps with monotony. You could also get a certain air of mystery from it, that way, especially if there were hints of such things outside the game, but never outright revealed, just enough to foreshadow so that things aren't completely out of left field. Honest to goodness mysteries and secrets to unconver in general, can be interesting, especially if you have variety between the simply mysterious and those that build up a creepy, sinister tickle down your spine.

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from a level design perspective

 

Durlag's Tower (Baldur's Gate)

Dragon's Eye (Icewind Dale)

BG2 & IWD2 also had some interesting ideas on the 'quests' related to getting to the next level of a dungeon

I'm sure there's a lot of cool P&P dungeons as well, I've only played homemade stuff.

Edited by Sensuki

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I think that its feeling should have a theme, though I couldn't say which one (in fact, knowing would kind of ruin the surprise...)

 

The theme should get more prominent the deeper you go. Standard castle at the top, lost civilization, other dimension, greater horror, eldritch structures etc. in the depths.


"Was du nicht kennst, das, meinst du, soll nicht gelten? Du meinst, daß Phantasie nicht wirklich sei?

Aus ihr allein erwachsen künft'ge Welten: In dem, was wir erschaffen, sind wir frei."

- Michael Ende, Das Gauklermärchen

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I would like it to get darker and more creepy the further in you go, atmosphere wise. Maybe in the last few levels, some enemies you might not see anywhere else, because (with 15 levels) you could say that they're creatures that never see the light of day anymore, who have broken into the lower levels of the dungeon at some point. Or something like that. Definitely some books or lore in some form that tells us the story of the place, with things to find and do that might relate to it. Solving/unraveling the story-mystery of the place as you go.

 

I'm not huge on puzzles, but a few scattered around here and there are always cool. Just....no timed/time limit ones, please. I know they can add tension and all of that, but no matter how well designed, I'll never like difficulty-by-timer events.

This. I think Moria in The Lord of the Rings would be great example. Ancient underground city where something terrible broke out decades or even centuries ago and no one has yet been brave enough to go find out what it was. It could start with no enemies at all only catching glimpses of what has happened and what you may expect in depths of those ruins and then you encounter some easy but unusual creatures and from that point on you will slowly unravel what terrible secret lies ahead of you.

 

It has to have it's quiet moments from time to time though. Puzzles, exploring interesting places etc. Sudden silence is what makes me squirm in my chair and in the other hand nothing breaks tension as well as flooding millions of enemies at player all the time.


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Of course there need to be quiet moments! :) All fighting is rather boring. If there are creatures there, they need a reason for their existence. And puzzles are always great fun.


"Was du nicht kennst, das, meinst du, soll nicht gelten? Du meinst, daß Phantasie nicht wirklich sei?

Aus ihr allein erwachsen künft'ge Welten: In dem, was wir erschaffen, sind wir frei."

- Michael Ende, Das Gauklermärchen

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Maybe player could find some bandits camping in top levels of the dungeon and when you fight them you would suddenly see some of them getting killed by some inexplicable force/creature/ghost/whatever and then complete silence... only bloody corpses lying around. I can already feel the tension in that situation. I want this place to be so terrifying I see nighmares after playing it.

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Well it was created by a mad wizard so it should help tell us the story of the Wizard Ob Nua. I expect lots of magical labs, torture chambers for rival mages, undead and construct guardians, horrors summoned by Ob's magic, magic traps, areas of weird magic, and at the bottom any ruins Ob Nua ran into in,his creation of the dungeon. Its should be filled with Ob Nua's brillance and madness in,equal measure, as well as invaders who have set up shop in Ob Nua's absence. Maybe areas of experimentation for his apprentices as well, who maybe still around as Lichs. Actually facing Ob Nua as a Lich at the very bottom as the final boss would be cool or being given an option to free him instead.

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it would be cool if the lower levels of the dungeon appear to be in a different world. (seeing an alien landscape far below)


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I'm hoping that the lower levels will stop making sense, in a Lovecraftian sense. Like the fabric of reality is all screwed up down there; places being bigger on the inside than outside, sharp angles that behave like obtuse angles (well, I don't know how you'd get that point across, but...), being 'stuck' looping through rooms until you figure out what the heck is going on.

 

Insane ramblings ("Hahaha! They're in my spine!"), creatures that should not be, Companions eventually freaking out.

 

Some Eternal Darkness inspiration would be awesome, though I get the feeling not too many people would be thrilled by it.

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From the standpoint of a primarily fifteen level dungeon, all I can say is that I'd like to see it draw from such as Glorantha's Snake-Pipe Hollow and Big Rubble, Harn's Khiraz and Ushet (empty though they might be), Tekumel's underworlds (especially Jakalla), and City State of the Invincible Overlord (which has some underground stuff). Also, larger "star ship" maps can be just as interesting as college layouts -- and should one draw tunnels and rooms between college buildings on a campus map, then one has an interesting dungeon with strange familiarity (this works especially well with Berry, MIT, and Yale -- although there are some rooms in Yale and MIT not shown on any publicly available map).

 

From a computer game standpoint, I cannot really suggest someone draw from the Great Underground Empire (nor Infocom stuff) at this late date, and the maps in Wizardry might be too threadbare as would those in Temple of Apshai. All great places to hang out and have a few with antmen and creeping coins. nethack and Omega cannot be truly great influences either. It's best to seek influences from books, while books are on the shelves.


"This is what most people do not understand about Colbert and Silverman. They only mock fictional celebrities, celebrities who destroy their selfhood to unify with the wants of the people, celebrities who are transfixed by the evil hungers of the public. Feed us a Gomorrah built up of luminous dreams, we beg. Here it is, they say, and it looks like your steaming brains."

 

" If you've read Hart's Hope, Neveryona, Infinity Concerto, Tales of the Flat Earth, you've pretty much played Dragon Age."

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Arx Fatalis complex with inhabitant comunities, comflicts quests and the misteries ^_^

 

This. But instead of Arx Fatalis, it should go directly to the source material and draw some inspiration from the Ultima Underworld games. It would be great to encounter some non-hostile inhabitants inside the dungeon.

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It should break the mold. Things that I would love to see:

 

- A story that unwinds itself as you go down.

 

- Some levels that feature little in the way of monsters, puzzles, or traps.

 

- A town or some kind of civilization down there that you can interact with like you would most any village.

 

- A way for the endless dungeons to live on after you've delved them all: restoring the castle, using it as a profit/resource center, something like that. I think the easiest way to do this would make it an element of the stronghold, with the goodies derived from the dungeon bonus ways of enhancing your keep, village, fields, surrounding areas, and basis of power.

 

EDIT: Also, I now expect a GIANT ****ING STATUE somewhere in there. :-) Preferably one that makes its way to the surface where I can defeat it and display it as a huge-ass trophy...my very own Statue of Zeus.

Edited by phimseto
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The dungeon should have very pretty levels, all visually striking, with breathtaking music (as you promised). The architecture should probably be a bit different than in most CRPG. Imagine that the dungeon enclosures are visible superstructures. The residents that still live might build internal structures. Also, think on beautiful yet strange enclosures within movies. Interesting corridors can be rare. Also, take a look at some of the artistic photography of underground abandoned structures, such as the disjecta Russian subway system.

 

Make the dungeon itself haunted. That is, blood will appear from nowhere. Ghosts will move objects around. Distant moans of abject misery. The whole nine yards with spookiness. Give gamers unrelenting chills. Do this for sixteen levels and don't let them kill the ghosts nor end their haunts. Haunting accumulates as levels are descended and become an environmental hazard -- albeit the more commonly occurring damage is something which can be mitigated.

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"This is what most people do not understand about Colbert and Silverman. They only mock fictional celebrities, celebrities who destroy their selfhood to unify with the wants of the people, celebrities who are transfixed by the evil hungers of the public. Feed us a Gomorrah built up of luminous dreams, we beg. Here it is, they say, and it looks like your steaming brains."

 

" If you've read Hart's Hope, Neveryona, Infinity Concerto, Tales of the Flat Earth, you've pretty much played Dragon Age."

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I’ve mentioned this elsewhere and to the Obsidian team, but I think it would be grand to have the Stronghold and Endless Paths intertwined.

 

For example, perhaps the Endless Paths were something the ancients wanted to control. This could be because the Paths were originally an arcane mine, or had access to resources or magic found nowhere else. The Stronghold was built overtop the entrance to the Paths, on the surface, to control and restrict access.

 

In Project Eternity, then, the two would be linked. In order to take hold of the Stronghold, you would have to clear the first few levels of the Paths. And then, as you inhabit the Stronghold, dark things from the Paths begin to show up there. In order to access further depths of the Paths and stop the incursions, you would need to research certain spells in the Stronghold to unseal passages or doors. Finally, the 15th level in the Paths could unlock the ultimate upgrade for the Stronghold. And all through that, you are uncovering the history of both things, the Stronghold and the Paths, discovering treasures and mysteries and dark secrets.

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What I want to see is a mix of Durlag's Tower and Diablo. In the sense that you can play either way.

 

I want the choice, that you can either fight your way to the bottom, to defeat the main badguy (Valsharess Belhifet the Diablogorgon).. or you can spend time trying to figure out the real mysteries and secrets of the place. And there had better be ALOT of mysteries and secrets.

 

Durlag's Tower is my favourite dungeon of all time, but it lacked in shortcuts.

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For my nostalgia purposes, I'm actually expecting/hoping for something like Pool of Radiance in terms of dungeon crawling, though the Megadungeon need not be quite THAT large...

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I think no dungeon has ever been so perfect as Durlag's Tower in a cRPG. It has incredibly challenging bits of combat that wear you down, a multitude of surprising and lethal traps, an interesting and brutal end fight, lots of diversity in level design while still being grounded, with riddles, excellent treasure, and a nice little story to boot. Add in the portal maze from Watcher's Keep in BG2 and I would catatonic with happiness.

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I would like to see a settlement of intelligent constructs and magical experiments. Maybe acting as guards against the more dangerous inhabitants of the levels below.


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