Saturday, April 25, 2020

Bleaktide Part 1: Visual Style, Mood and Influences

Note that this is part 1 of a series. In this installment I discuss the basic premise of the game and talk about some of my influences in coming up with game's overall mood and atmosphere.

Around late October / early November 2019 I started work on a new pet project with the placeholder name 'Dungeon Crawler'. The game is a dungeon crawler (big surprise!) with a dark theme and lots of black humor thrown in.

It is now almost 6 months in and I have settled on 'Bleaktide' as the real name for the project. I've made substantial progress pretty quickly, mostly because I leveraged much of the framework and content from a previous (now abandoned) project which I jokingly called Skymorrowindblivion.

Early concept scene trying to nail down the desired look and feel.

The premise is that there is a central starting village serving as a hub for various nearby dungeons for you to explore, leveling up and collecting loot as you go. I'm hoping to support multiplayer and have been doing some preliminary work on the networking and keeping the multiplayer aspect in mind while designing the framework. However, multiplayer is still in a very rough, early state.

The initial look was grim and gritty. Over time the look became more colorful and stylized, though the gritty color scheme shown here is still supported as a graphics option.

Inspiration: The Wheel of Time

Initially it started as me just experimenting with creating a village scene with a dark, moody setting inspired by the early Diablo games (the town of Tristram in particular) as well as the book cover art of the Wheel of Time series.

This is the cover art for 'The Eye of the World', the first book in the 'Wheel of Time' series written by Robert Jordan (and completed by Brandon Sanderson). I always loved the style and wanted to achieve a similar (but somewhat darker) feel for my starting village. This cover art was created by Darrell K. Sweet.

This is a screenshot of the main village in Bleaktide. Although darker than the Wheel of Time cover, it bears some some resemblance in that it's a medieval fantasy village set against a blue evening sky, illuminated by orange light emitted through the windows of the surrounding buildings.

Inspiration: Diablo

Back in 1997 I encountered the first Diablo game and was struck by it's gloomy, gothic theme. You start the game in a town called Tristram, a forlorn ruin of a place with haunting beautiful music contributing to the sombre mood. Diablo 2 was great as well, and Diablo 3 was good in its own way. But there was something I liked about the simplicity of the original game -- a town serving as a hub to a single dungeon located beneath a corrupted cathedral nearby.

This is an art piece by artist Peter Lee depicting the cathedral in the town or Tristram from the Diablo games. While I enjoyed all of them, the mood of the town in the original game, with it's haunting music and desolate setting, left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to evoke a similar mood in my own game.

Here is a link to the original Tristram Village Music. The selection of music for my own game is also heavily influenced by this.

For Bleaktide I wanted to go for a similarly gloomy feel with a similar premise, except that instead of only a single dungeon to explore I wanted the main village to serve as a hub to several nearby dungeons.

A top-down view of a part of the game's starting location, Silverglade Village.

And for reference, here is a top-down view of a part of Tristram from Diablo 1.

The first character you meet is Loremaster Taerim. He serves a similar role to that of Deckard Cain from the Diablo games. I even placed him next to a well as tribute.

That concludes this introductory entry. check out the other installments if you'd like to follow the progress of the project or learn about many of the design and technical decisions.

Here is the next installment:
Bleaktide Part 2: Player Characters