A common question to writers is: “What is your work process?” Now, that is actually a really tough question to answer, because at least for me it never happens exactly the same way twice. Luckily, we have some standards at Forever Interactive, so there are some constants that must happen in order for us to call a piece of lore complete. So, today I’m going to bring you behind the scenes and walk you through the creation of a lore piece from beginning to end. Let’s start with the most difficult task: Inspiration. Or as I like to call it: “Why oh WHY can’t I think of an idea?”
So, inspiration for a lore piece comes from a lot of places, but it mostly comes from the Design and Content team’s collective experience and ideas. When we sit down to design a new map for Visions of Zosimos or brainstorm about a whole new area we’d like to introduce to the game we basically gather on voice chat and throw ideas around until one of us goes “ooooh!” and proceeds to talk rapidly for a good fifteen minutes about something that actually resembles a design idea. It isn’t the most scientific of processes, but let’s be honest; creativity rarely resembles sanity.
Once we have a general idea of where we want to go, we’re going to look for other people who have had similar ideas. Based on this data, we can refine our concept and make some notes. We might get a concept artist in to do some work, or research mood palettes and gather inspirational photos. Since we use Google Drive for most of our collaboration work, we create a document where we can throw all these inspirations so we can refer to them later.
The next day, when we’ve gotten some sleep and look at our work again, we will weed through our notes and refine some more until we are ready to start giving things names and backgrounds. We have a template that we follow for area design, so a lot of this is simply trying to fill in blanks. But before you run off thinking this is easy, I’ve got to be honest, some of those blanks are NOT easy to fill in at all.
The lore piece we’re going to be exploring today is an overall description of the area of the Afterlife known as The Forest of Decay. One of the first things we need to do is figure out what this piece has to accomplish. Since it is supposed to describe the area as a whole, it should touch on each of the planned maps within the Forest of Decay; the Blighted Mire, the Cathedral of Bones, the Onyx Slick, and Howling Valley. It should also cohesively draw all of those areas together into a whole concept that will engage players and inspire developers. So let’s get started- turn on some music and prepare a blank document. And then? Write...write, write, write until you have a rough draft.
Once the rough draft is written, we hand it off to another team member to read over and look for mistakes or things that could be corrected or improved. If possible, we try to have a few hours to a day between the rough draft and the final draft of a document, so you have time to sit back and step away from the piece and gain some perspective.
After we make corrections, it is reviewed one last time and then distributed to where it can be referenced while we work on the area. At this point, the path the lore takes varies widely. Sometimes our pieces have a very specific use, such as a blurb for a minion, flavor text for a card, or even a blog post! Other times the piece may only be referenced by other designers and developers, such as mood palettes or over-arching story progression timelines. The piece we talked about today will be available for all of our players and eventually featured in the Lore Codex inside the game.
So without further ado, explore the Forest of Decay, as told from the point of view of the Architect, the programmer responsible for the first lines of code to ever unlock the secrets of the Visions of Zosimos the Moravian, a mystic from the 15th century:
When I began looking into the Prophecies of Zosimos the Moravian at the behest of Bertold Slate, I never expected to journey so far down the rabbit’s hole into actual Visions of my own. The more I read, the more I could envision, and it was only a matter of time before I was sending my first tendrils of code into the ether, hoping that I’d find purchase and anything of value in what I would only later know was truly the Afterlife.
The first thing I searched for was a place mentioned in the Visions, an arena built to the glory of battle and piled with bones. I knew that it was in a forest that had been rotting and festering, and in my notes I had called it the “Forest of Decay.” I didn’t expect to find it right away, in fact I’m pretty sure that I expected to find nothing at all. But there was a message blinking on my screen, telling me that an anomaly had been found. I clicked on the button to open up the report and for the first time my mind and essence was transported into the Afterlife.
It worked! I was floating above a vast expanse of forest, taking in the surroundings as the mists surrounding me rolled away. To one direction I saw a waterfall cascading into a swampy bog, there were statues half-sunk into the mire and a suggestion of movement- could it be that there were living things here? I made a mental note to explore this Blighted Mire with caution as soon as I was able, but I was determined to have the lay of the land before I went any closer to one section or another.
My eyes followed the ridge of high ground, it seemed to encircle the whole forest, though there was a cleft deep between two ridges, where the forest dipped into a valley. It seems that there had been some deforestation efforts in the area, or else there had been some sort of disastrous fire. The whole area seemed ominous, I could hear faint howls of wolves on the wind and a chill came over me.
I found myself unconsciously moving through the air, away from the Howling Valley, and my movement revealed that below me was the original object of my quest; an arena rising out of the Forest. The stonework was well done, though it seems that there had been substantial battles fought outside the arena walls as well. I noticed more fallen trees, and was startled that I could actually see charred remains amongst the roots and rubble. And the bones, oh! the bones! They were everywhere and in my mind a name for this place seemed to resonate and knew it was the Cathedral of Bones.
I wondered what had happened here to turn this Forest into what it was now. How had the corruption started, and why? Before I could think long on the subject, the answer revealed itself to me. As my form floated past the arena, I saw a deep purple crystal embedded in the ground next to a mighty tower. Was this where the people of this area had lived? The area was scorched black and slick with the residue of charred wood and bones and in the centre of this Onyx Slick there was the pulsing crystal.
I fled. I am not proud, I will admit that the crystal scared me in a way I had never experienced before. When I finally came to I was slicked with sweat and all around me was darkness. A moment of panic overtook me before I realized it had merely gone dark- how long had I been at my computer? I stood up and stumbled to the bathroom, retching into the sink, my brain spinning and throbbing inside my skull. I must have passed out, but when I awoke I knew we needed avatars, we needed a way to enter this world and explore it. I had to spread the Visions to others- I knew that where I had been was the Afterlife, and I could touch it, affect it. I needed others; with the fate of the Afterlife in the balance the project was becoming too large and too urgent for me to undertake alone.