Independent developer Rampant Games brings us another update on the progress they've been making on their light-hearted RPG Frayed Knights.
As much as I'm trying to draw upon old-school pen-and-paper D&D for inspiration, there are a few things that just won't work. And frankly, the very 2D, rectilinear dungeons of yesteryear make very poor 3D CRPG dungeons. I remember Tracy Hicman, co-author of the Ravenloft module and the Dragonlance series, bringing this up at one conference (which I mentioned in one of my Wizardry 8 walkthrough articles) - old-school D&D dungeon design is boring and flat. I don't want levels to just be populated by practically random monsters, where you just kick the door down and find out what monster is behind it. While that is very old-school dungeon crawl, even back in the late 70's / early 80's, the dungeon crawls had a lot more rhyme & reason to them and theming than even many of the CRPGs of the 90's.
But before I ever even sketch out the map on graph paper, and long before fire up my level editing tool (currently I'm taking another stab at Torque Constructor), I need to have a very clear idea for each major level. I want these settings to stand out, not to be just random geometry with random combat. Players can get plenty of exercise doing that playing Diablo or NetHack (and even those games have some theming in their levels).
I have been going through this exercise for a couple of the upcoming dungeons I'm working on. For each one, and the outdoor areas, I want to answer these questions on paper. Yeah, it's design-doc-ish stuff, but a good exercise even as the only guy working on the project. And if I manage to contract Kevin or other unlucky level designers to handle some of the actual construction, they'll need this same kinda information.