Exclusive: Indie sandbox El Somni Quas arena design dev diary

    
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Last week, we covered new info about El Somni Quas, an indie sandbox from Czech studio that actually cut its teeth on Ultima Online emulators and plans to port a lot of the ideas it tested there into its built-from-scratch 3-D venture.

The team is clear about its goals: “We are resurrecting the old school principles (sandbox, FFA, loot, PKs, death exp loss, non-linear dungeons, overall gaming challenge) but in custom and up-to-date system,” producer Jiří Wallenfels wrote in the team’s manifesto last year. “We also know very well that such gaming style is not for everybody, so we will not try to attract mainstream players.”

Today we have another exclusive dev diary from the team, this one from designer Zbyněk Juračka. Enjoy!

Hello! I am level designer from ESQ team and I would like to tell you more about our Vespum arena.

vespum

When I finished Sparrow Port, which will be subject of another article, I decided to build a great arena for the ESQ world. When you have to build something like this, you have two options: to reinvent the wheel or get inspired. And because in the ESQ team we love challenges, I took as an inspiration the Roman Colosseum.

colosseum

If you want to build your scene according to some example, you have to research it fully. And from the moment you start reading about the amphitheatre of Emperor Vespasian, you have to fall in love with it. Construction began under the Emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir, Titus. The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000. Games were organized by Roman politicians to gain the favour of common people. From that time comes the idiom “bread and circuses” (or bread and games, from the Latin panem et circenses).

We could write a lot about the Colosseum, but lets get back to our Vespum.

First I had to pick the place. I decided to put Vespum on the border of the southern deserts and Mediterranean forest. It is a place of interaction of two cultures, and it is not hard to imagine legend about long war, which was ended by the building of a great arena, to solve all conflicts in more civilized manner.

The second step was choosing an appropriate scale. I created a 1:1 model, and it was obvious that it was not the way. The real Colosseum is 189m long, 156m wide, and 50m tall. This’s the area of four villages.

levels-and-arches frame_0002

A scale of 1:2 makes much better sense for our use case.

vespum_dimensions

The next step is measuring each floor and finding out how it was built. I’ve found specifications of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, recounted the scale, and picked the right materials.

jiri

We didn’t have specialized graphics for this, so I had to improvise with what was available and built base models for each floor.

doric_arch_vespum_prototype frame_0001

When this preparation phase was over, I started to clone base models around the elliptic shape of the arena. An ellipse is a diabolic shape. If the arena had the shape of a circle, It would be enough to change the angle of each element in the same way. Ellipse is far more complex as each element has a different angle and length. Even though Vespum is 1:2, it still has a circuit of 270 meters. But I was successful, and Vespum got its shape:

satelite esq

But there was still a lot of work. I had to manually correct all the inaccuracies caused by moving base models, add lights, and think over what to do with the stairs because it was not possible to do it in same way as in the original because of downscaling.

frame_000c 4

I also I didn’t forget about the velarium (“curtain”), which is a type of awning used in Roman times. It stretches over the whole of the cavea, the seating area in the Colosseum, to protect spectators from the elements.

My next steps were various performance optimizations (the whole scene is made from cca 13 000 objects), but this was done by other team members — not my cup of tea. We have to tune and add lots of small details still, but you’ll have to check yourself when we release ESQ.

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