Designing UmbraOnline: Dev Diary 1
There are a lot of things that many people don't anticipate when it comes to game design. Many people just see the outside framework and never wonder what's going on under the hood to make the whole game tick.
That's where a lot of the problems occur, and when you are designing a Minecraft MMO, these problems can sometimes be difficult to fix.
For example, take a look at the image above. It all looks very nice and clean on the outside, but have you ever wondered what's going on behind the scenes? Entire areas of the floor in this part of the city are actually secretly concealing networks of command blocks and redstone wires. Those are how we make thing ticks. When a player hits a button, that button is connected to a command that will perform some sort of function. The function could be anything as simple as teleporting the player to a new location, or it could even be as complex as making entire buildings appear and disappear.
In some areas of the city, we have hidden minecart networks that are designed to move players around the city very quickly and efficiently. Most of these are hidden in the darkness above the city. One of the questions we are always getting asked is "Why is Umbra so dark? Adytum was pretty bright, so why does Umbra have to be covered in such a darkness?". First of all, there are a few things wrong with that. AdytumOnline was a moderately dark game world, but we would not exactly say it was "bright". We have a very bright and open game world in the works, but we are not going to talk about that for a while now.
Umbra is, in fact, very dark. There are alot of reasons for this, but most of them revolve around the gaming mechanics that we wanted to instill in this new addition to the NirvanaOnline suite. The mechanics are very simple, and yet we have not found many other game worlds with such a simple concept behind them. Monsters and creatures spawn in dark places. Players prefer to stay in lighter places. The idea was simple: Create a light within the darkness. Players will stay safe(er) as long as they stick to the streets of Umbra. If players attempt to leave the light of the city, they will be susceptible to bigger and scarier monsters. At the same time, players will also start to find better and better loot as they venture farther outside of Umbra.
Additionally, we have made use of the darkness around Umbra. A lot of our game worlds require a lot of moving parts, and it's not always possible to keep all of them hidden beneath the stone floor. In places where the darkness is the thickest, we are usually emphasizing it to hide what we usually cannot conceal.
Lastly, when we are developing Umbra we are introducing a new dynamic that we felt was a little lacking in AdytumOnline. POIs are an industry standard, but it is hard to create these in an underwater city. The hardest part is getting players to look out the windows to see them. In UmbraOnline, this is much easier. The contrast of the bright POIs against the suffocating darkness makes that stand out much better. The huge tower in one of Umbra's largest villages was placed here for exactly that reason. It makes it easier to find the center of the Tower District when you can look up and see it brilliantly illuminated against the darkness.
Thank you for taking your time to read this, and we hope to see you all in UmbraOnline when it debuts on October 15th!
Don't forget, make sure to email us with more questions and we may just discuss them in further detail in one of our upcoming Dev Diaries!