Behind the Design: Atmospheres & Artifacts

By Chris 'Joppa' Perkins, 02.20.19

One of my favorite things about Pantheon is the story behind the formation of Terminus, specifically the mysterious “collisions” that have made Terminus what it is today. These dramatic events brought fragments of new worlds to Terminus, allowing a wildly diverse and imaginative landscape. But what has been particularly fun to consider are the metaphysical implications. When a fragment of an alien realm collides with Terminus, what energies and power might it bring? And how would those mystical energies manifest in a new environment? What reactions might we see when the ancient energies of Terminus suddenly mingle with unknown power?

These musings have given rise to our Atmosphere System.



The Inspiration

If you watch our live streams, you may hear me gush from time to time about early adventure games on consoles like the Super Nintendo — particularly games like A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, etc. As simple as those classic era games were, they still offer much to modern game design.

One thing I still love about those games is how they thoughtfully create inaccessible (or “hard to inhabit”) areas of the world early in the game. These could be areas too high for you to currently reach, hidden rooms within a labyrinth of darkness, a treasure chest sitting across a chasm too wide to jump, or a lever surrounded by life-draining magic. We can all agree: mysterious, locked doors and their elusive keys are cool. But if this is the only method of gaining access to new areas, the sense of accomplishment is static and weak — it quickly loses its impact.

With Pantheon, we’ve said from the beginning that we want the environment to matter. One of the ways we are accomplishing this is with our Climate and Acclimation System (which I’ll cover in an upcoming Behind the Design). But while Climate deals with the extremes of natural phenomena players will encounter in Terminus, Atmospheres will present players with unnatural, metaphysical phenomena — the kind of phenomena that might occur when fantastical worlds collide.

The Mechanics

I. The Atmospheres


The Atmosphere System presents the player with environmental dangers and obstacles (or “questions” as we refer to them internally) that require specific “answers” the player must acquire for themselves.

Here is a short list of possible Atmospheres you could encounter as you explore Terminus:

    • Silencing Mists

    • Fog of Confusion

    • Gloom

    • Frenetic Floor

    • Curse of Intangibility

    • Heavy Air

    • Shifting Walls

Let’s take a closer look at one of these (details subject to change, of course):

Gloom

The Gloom atmosphere can be found permeating most Undead ruins, crypts, graveyards… places with a high concentration of Undead. This particular Atmosphere impacts players negatively and Undead non-player characters (NPCs) positively while in its area of effect.

Negative Effects on Players

    • Drains Mana over time

    • Reduces healing effectiveness

    • Increases damage inflicted by Undead enemies

Positive Effects on Undead

    • Bonus to all stats

    • Increases Aggro and Assist radius

So how will players “answer” these strange and often dangerous environmental “questions”?

II. The Artifacts


By seeking and acquiring Artifacts. Artifacts are legendary rare items players can discover that offer unique utility. They are necessary to explore and overcome areas of the game where Atmospheres exist.

In the Gloom example above, players would need to acquire and equip the Bone-Woven Veil to mitigate Gloom’s negative effects.

Here is another short list of possible Artifacts you may discover and the special utility they provide:

    • Shield of Mirrors: Forged by the master smiths of Khadassa, it can reflect light and has a chance to reflect magical attacks when blocking.

    • Skyhold Grappler: Fashioned by the Gnomes of Skyhold to assist in advanced terrain traversement, the Skyhold Grappler can latch onto special surfaces and pull you to the target location.

    • Ring of Anchors: Infused with the bitterness of the Dark Myr, this ring was designed to sink the wearer to the deepest reaches of the oceans.

    • Crest of Illumination: This Archai crown was imbued with a powerful, resonating light source that can shine through the blackest darkness.



Environment Matters

At a time of myriad MMOs, clear and impactful differentiators that set a new game meaningfully apart from others is vital. By weaving the Atmosphere and Climate systems together, we hope to create a game world where the environment looks and feels as captivating as it is treacherous. And by giving players creative ways to interact with and overcome this dynamic environment, while incentivizing them to do so, we hope Pantheon will be a game where everyone agrees: the environment isn’t just visual, it truly matters.

Thanks for reading — onward and upward we go!

Chris “Joppa” Perkins