Jason Ford, Mission Designer of Tabula Rasa have made a developer diary about his views on the changes made to Magma Caverns, mission-wise, that is.
Design Changes to Magma Caverns in Tabula Rasa -- May 2008
We’re working hard to add brand new maps and missions to Tabula Rasa, but we are also taking the time to polish and add exciting new content to our existing maps and missions as well. The re-work we’ve done for Magma Caverns is a little bit of both of these things combined, so we thought it might be interesting to talk about the revamping of Magma Caverns.
For several reasons, we decided to completely re-do the level design and create brand new missions for Magma Caverns. The current live version will be replaced in the Deployment 8 update with this newly redesigned version. While the ideas in the original were good, we felt that the implementation was not realizing its own potential.
First, a little bit of background. Magma Caverns is currently built for players around level 45, and the level of the instance will remain the same in the reworked version (level 44 – 46). You can access the instance by traveling to the Western edge of Torden Abyss on Planet Arieki. Both the original instance and the new version are based on an ethical parable where the players are given a choice that affects the mission line and story progression for the rest of the map. Initially, the players were instructed to enter Magma Caverns to find a renegade science team and bring them back for court martial, or execute them if they resist. The player was then given the choice to either fight or help them. When we redesigned the map, we ripped out all of the old missions and designed entirely new missions from scratch, including a brand new type of choice mission for groups. As a result, the new storyline is differs slightly from the original. Magma Caverns was originally designed in such a way that players were unable to play through a large portion of the instance, because only certain areas of the map were available depending on the choice players made near the beginning of the map. For example, the spawning of creatures in the map was dependent upon the choice players made in the choice mission previously mentioned. If a player skipped this part of the mission for any reason, there wouldn’t be anything for players to fight against. Also, since the choice mission wasn’t repeatable players couldn’t try the other choice, and there would be nothing left for players to do if they chose to revisit the map after completing it the first time. Lastly, if a group of players went into Magma Caverns together, the choice in this mission would be decided by the first player to make a decision, regardless of the opinions of his/her group. All in all, we felt that there were fundamental issues in both the mission and level design that needed to be addressed. Our solution to this problem involved keeping a lot of the original ideas behind the design of Magma Caverns. For instance, we really liked the idea of having a choice mission at the beginning of the map that resulted in playing the map in one of two different ways. In rethinking Magma Caverns and choice missions, one of our designers, Berenger Fish, came up with a brand new way to script together a choice mission in Tabula Rasa. It allows members of a group to vote for a choice in this mission and reach a decision for the group based on the majority vote (solo play is also available). The result was a choice mission appropriately titled “Consensus.” Like the original choice mission, “Consensus” gives players a choice to side with either the Rebels or the Penumbra , the two warring factions in this map. We also added two new factions created specifically for the missions in Magma Caverns. With the redesign, players can join either the Rebel or the Penumbra faction. Rather than spawning the map with either Rebel or Penumbra as a result of players’ choices, we spawned the map with both, and players’ factions are changed according to their choice or their group’s choice during the “Consensus” mission. With the new faction system in play on Magma Caverns, the Rebels and Penumbra are either hostile or friendly to players, and always against each other. This way we could create a real battle that players could choose which side to support.
If players choose to side with the imbedded Rebels, they will defend against Penumbra assaults and eventually take part in an attack on the Penumbra’s landing zone. On the other hand, if they side with Penumbra, players will participate in the assaults against the Rebels, eventually attempting to take over the Rebel Camp and run the Rebels out of Magma Caverns.
Regardless of which side of the battle players are on, they will have the option to call in reinforcements to help them in the battle if it gets tough. Also, special Penumbra or Rebel waypoints and hospitals will become available to players depending on which side they choose. There are even bonus objectives in the missions for both Rebels and Penumbra. Players will have the opportunity to earn extra experience points and credits depending upon how well they defend certain key points in the map for both factions. Since “Consensus” is a repeatable mission, players will be able to re-visit Magma Caverns any time they please. They can return at a later time to side with the faction they didn’t go with before and experience the other half of the missions for this map. There is also a side mission to defeat a giant Magmonix that’s hostile to both factions known as “Ember.” Players can experience this mission regardless of the side they choose.
We hope players enjoy the brand new look and feel in Magma Caverns, and we’re working hard every day to bring them exciting and new experiences in Tabula Rasa. Hopefully the work we’ve done in Magma Caverns will be seen as a good example of what players can expect to see as we continue to grow and enhance Tabula Rasa altogether.