Hell Raised

Hell Raised - A portal to Earth.

An infernal portal device channels energy from its captive, opening a rift in the planes.
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Hell Raised, a 5-player dungeon intended to take 15-45 minutes to complete, featuring 6 challenging, scripted encounters.

Project: The Secret World

Company: Funcom

Platform: PC

Title: Junior Gameplay Designer

Hell Raised was the first dungeon assigned to me, and the work that taught me familiarity with Funcom’s suite of tools.  I joined the team as a Junior Designer, with only a few university semesters of programming and a lifetime of pen-and-paper roleplaying games behind me.  Within 8 months, thanks to the support and training from my team, I had delivered a working prototype for the entire dungeon and dropped my Junior title, demonstrating skill at scripting, NPC creation, spell creation, and encounter design.  Hell Raised would go on to be featured in an exclusive for PC Gamer Magazine, and stood as proof of the direction the team wanted to take group dungeons in The Secret World.

During development, the dungeon team solidified its vision of what The Secret World’s dungeons should look like.  In Hell Raised, an army of demons have captured a human magus.  Using his magic, they’ve cobbled together ancient and terrible machines to siphon energy to a massive portal generator for an attack on Earth.  Players discover this as they move through the environment, first encountering wicked electrical capacitors, then geothermal power sources, pipelines humming with raw power, and, finally, the massive portal itself.  Vile hellspawn guard the mechanisms at every step, with defenses centering on the players’ ultimate goal.

Hell Raised features a few instructional trash encounters, 3 miniboss encounters, and 3 boss encounters.  For a detailed look at the design of a few of the more exciting fights in Hell Raised, read on.

What’s Mine?

Working on the dungeon team was an intensely collaborative process, and I don’t want to misrepresent.

For Hell Raised, I:

  • Grayboxed the dungeon layout in Funcom’s proprietary world editor, Genesis
  • Designed each monster and encounter’s behavior, with feedback and review from team members
  • Wrote controller scripts to manage the progression of each encounter using Funcom’s visual scripting tool, Scry (very similar to Kismet)
  • Wrote special combat brains for the more complex boss fights with Scry
  • Created the in-game effects of all needed spells with Funcom’s Item and Ability tool
  • Prototyped rough-draft spell visuals with Funcom’s Effects Editor

Other people contributed:

  • The environment of the dungeon, roughly hewn by myself, was polished to brilliance by our excellent environment artists
  • Spell visuals were beautified by the FX Team
  • Monster meshes were delivered from our Art offices in Beijing

Encounter 1: Antimony Ministrix (Miniboss)

Antimony Ministrix

The Antimony Ministrix prepares to fire a chain lightning blast. In the background, infernal devices crackle with withering energies.
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A wicked succubus guards a ring of infernal machines; pipes lead off into the distance, ferrying power towards some distant contraption.

Design Brief:

  • When the machines activate, run clockwise around the arena’s central pillar to escape their damaging energies
  • Players should stay spread apart to avoid the Antimony Ministrix’s chain lightning spell
Antimony Ministrix

Antimony Ministrix
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Our minibosses were intended to use simple NPCs in hazardous areas.  This design evolved from a field of machines, activating at random, to a ring of machines pushing the players around the central pillar of the arena.  The pattern based behavior allowed players to anticipate the hazard and demonstrate mastery by responding quickly.  The Antimony Ministrix herself fights at range and occasionally blasts the group with a bolt of chain lightning, bouncing between players who are standing too close together.  The machines return in a later miniboss encounter, and Recursia, Many-In-One, uses the same chain lightning spell, though the circumstances make it more punishing later on.

Encounter 5: Recursia, Many-In-One (Boss)

Recursia, Many-In-One

Recursia shields herself, summoning the magic-tortured Triggerthings to her aid.
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A powerful succubus sorceress fights both with vicious magics and with a summoned horde of magically altered rakshasas, who seek nothing more than to unite with her in an explosive union.

Design Brief:

Recursia, Many-In-One

A deadly Arcane Halo forces players close.
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Phase 1

  • Your team should fight spread out, to minimize the effects of her chain lightning spell
  • When she casts her powerful “donut” area attack, stand in the safe area next to her
  • At 75% and 50% health, she will shield herself and begin Phase 2
  • At 25% health, she will begin Phase 3

Phase 2

  • Recursia teleports into the center, shields herself, and summons a number of Triggerthings around the room
  • Though initially shielded as well, they will drop their defenses and move slowly towards Recursia
  • If they reach her, they’ll explode for heavy damage; players must coordinate to kill them one by one
  • When all the Triggerthings are dead, return to Phase 1

Phase 3

  • The final time Recursia summons Triggerthings, she continues to fight without shielding herself or moving to the center
  • Triggerthings continuously try to reach Recursia; it’s impossible to kill them all
  • Recursia will run from her main target occasionally, allowing the team to “push” her away from dangerous Triggerthings
  • Players should focus on killing Recursia as quickly as possible; delay will spell certain doom.
Triggerthing and Recursia

A Triggerthing reaches its mistress, and explodes.
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This design began with Recursia summoning mirror images of herself around the outside of the room.  The effect was fantastic, but the sequence lacked pressure.  As the succubi are the natural controllers of the rakshasas, it was logical that Recursia would have her own special breed, overcharged with her deadly sorceries; and so the explosive Triggerthings were born.

While fighting Recursia, players move in and out in a pattern, first clustering to avoid her explosion, then spreading to mitigate her chain lightning.  The first two Triggerthing phases teach the behavior of the monsters under only moderate pressure; the final phase turns the encounter on its head, ending in a terrifying time-sensitive ‘dps race’ as monsters close in on every side.  Two previous encounters set up the concept of dps races, and this is the ultimate conclusion of the concept in the normal mode of Hell Raised.