Individual Project: The Scale of Akatosh
The Scale of Akatosh is an epic, lore-centric quest set in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It focuses on an action-packed dungeon dive and follows a compelling narrative that seamlessly integrates into the Elder Scrolls universe.
Development Time - 165 hours
Editor - Skyrim Creation Kit
Overview Map: Ondevald Ruins
Create a contextually coherent story that rewards players through exploring Elder Scrolls deep lore.
Incorporate tangible, unique, and valuable rewards that add a sense of real progression.
Ensure atmospheric and consistent gameplay experience within the themes of Skyrim.
Begin the Quest on Riverwoood Bridge by speaking with Brother Einkar.
Enter the passage that leads to Ondevald, a wicked and secluded valley nestled in the Jerall Mountains. Exit the passageway into the main camp. This is the player's first experience of combat in the mod and scattered examples of environmental storytelling.
Follow the trail of blood to the cave where Svars made his last stand and clear it of Draugr.
After clearing the cave, speak to Svars' ghost and retrieve his weapon, Lightrend.
Approach the ruined Temple of Ondevald. More enemies roam the area if they weren't cleared approaching the cave.
Enter the Temple and proceed to the deeper levels.
A locked door appears along the path. This will be revealed as a shortcut later. The player encounters the first enemy ambush in the tunnels, setting the tone for the area.
Traps spring as the player progresses. The player is encouraged to examine the environment and move carefully.
The player enters a larger chamber to find the bodies of the Blades warriors who entered the Temple. Undead rise to fight the player.
Transition to the lower levels of the Temple.
A two-person undead ambush mirrors the earlier ambush, but hints that this area offers increased challenges.
As the player enters the main puzzle room, a trap door opens below them. The quick or clever can avoid the spikes, and this lower section of the temple allows the player explore more of the story. Here the player finds Guntir's ghost and information in his journal can assist with the puzzle. On his corpse is also a ring that enhances the power of one-handed weapons (like Lightrend).
After retrieving the journal, the player ascends the staircase back to the puzzle room. Their new-found knowledge offers assistance in solving the puzzle and advancing forward.
Having solved the puzzle, the player advances to the tomb of the Dragon Priest. The open space focuses attention on the Scale of Akatosh, the quest's main objective. Careful players note the guards around the chamber and understand the danger in the final area.
The final, climactic encounter pits the player against the risen Dragon Priest and his guards. Careful players have stacked the odds: Lightrend and Guntir's ring empower the player's combat abilities (dealing extra One-Handed damage and damage to undead), the exposed guards are easy prey to ranged stealth, and the Scale itself offers excellent protection against the Dragon Priest's magic.
Dispatching the Dragon Priest grants a key that allows travel through the locked door the player passed near the entrance to the Temple.
The player emerges near the surface and can quickly return to Einkar's Camp.
Brother Einkar gives the player an epilogue to bookend the experience and hint at its implications. Players are rewarded for exploring the side path through Einkar's dialogue, and also keep the gear acquired during the quest.
What Went Well:
Deep Lore: The Elder Scrolls universe has a massive library of stories to draw from, and its "epic" style lends itself to grand adventures with frequent divine intervention.
Good References: Building on Skyrim's strongly defined art style allowed designs to flow naturally based on previous experience and guide expectations for the level.
What Went Wrong:
Scoping: Originally much larger, the level required a significant reduction in scale to reach an acceptable level of polish in the deliverable timeframe.
Editor Woes: As a first experience in a 3D editor, the developer-oriented Creation Kit had a number of particular and unexpected quirks that required work to be discarded and redone from scratch.
Combat Considerations: High level designs focused on story considerations, neglecting the nuances of combat. Playtests revealed flaws in the final space due to the open line of site for the ranged final enemy.
Reachable Design Objectives: While ambitious goals lead to more impactful products, an eye towards production time ensures that sacrifices receive a critical eye precluding an inelegant final implementation.
Playtest: Having a number of hands trying an experience allows a designer to see flaws in concepts and refine gameplay to better accommodate differing playstyles and support empowering players.
Design Granularity: Specifying designs at multiple levels of granularity and with multiple objective layers prevents a scramble for cohesive solutions by anticipating issues.