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DSH Spotlight: The Lands of Hyperborea

This week's Siegelet Spotlight focuses on Xaa's Siegelet; The Lands of Hyperborea.

The Lands of Hyperborea is a Siegelet with a very interesting story that breaks away from Dungeon Siege's story of the hero farmer. This Siegelet promises many elements of gameplay that we did not see in our adventures in the land of Ehb. The player can choose from two different main characters one a male and the other a female. You play the role of an escaped prisoner who was imprisoned for a crime which they did not commit.

"Not all heroes begin life as humble farmers.
Oh, certainly, things might have started out that way for some...
But for others, the path to glory did not begin in the quiet cornfields of the lands of Ehb.
No, for others, the path to glory began many years later, long after the death of King Konreid.
For others, the story begins in King Edvard's dungeons.
A man whom some call a rogue, a thief...
Imprisoned for a crime they did not commit, and sentenced to die.
A man... A desperate man...
Desperate enough to overpower a guard.
Desperate enough to pry open a grating that led down, down, down...
Desperate enough to try the chill, swift waters of an underground river...
A river that reeks of both death and magic...
A river that leads only into darkness, and the unknown...
Their only hope...
You are that man."

Instead of the hacking an bashing that is often found in Dungeon Siege, in this Siegelet you must make use of stealth and try to aviod encounters with enemies. This Siegelet will force the player to play the game with more precaution and planning, which should make for some surprising gameplay.

"The multiplayer game will allow the player to choose one of the (currently) six major races in Hyperborea - Human, Dark Elf, Light Elf, Dwarf, Valkyrie, and

Hyperborean. Each race will have specific advantages and disadvantages. Also, the multiplayer game will allow you to start your racial choice in one of six different starting areas corresponding to your choice, and either play the game solo, or adventure with a group of friends online."

I had the chance to interview Xaa about his Siegelet and I recieved some very interesting feedback. Here it is!

Is The Lands of Hyperborea directly based off of one of your novels?

No, because the game system isn't flexible enough to allow that. I had originally intended to base the entire thing on my upcoming trilogy, "Mage", but that turned out to be impossible due to inherent limitations of the game engine. The game has as it's foundation the same "level/hit points" assumptions of Dungeons & Dragons(tm), and I can't toss that aside. Unfortunately, none of my books are written with a "hit points" assumption, which allows a high-level character to sneer at a company of crossbowmen. Nearly all my characters in my books are mortals, and despite how powerful or skilled they may be, a swift rap to the back of the head with a large club renders them unconscious, and a company of crossbowmen can turn them into a pincusion in a heartbeat. So, instead of trying to bend the game to fit a story I'd already done, I simply pulled a few of the concepts from "Mage" and a couple other works I have done as a foundation, then wrote a storyline that would fit the game. =)

Could you name some of the elements of the game that this Sieglet Changes?

The biggest change is to the magic system - this is one of the elements I retained from my original concept for the Lands of Hyperborea, derived from the "Mage" trilogy. In that world, magic is an extremely exhausting activity - even moreso than fighting with sword and shield. Casting spells tires the character, and a weak (or careless) spellcaster who casts a spell too powerful for them to manage can find themselves rendered unconscious by the strain of trying to control the energies flowing through their body. They can even die (though this is rare). On the other hand, spellcasting in Hyperborea is more powerful and more effective than in the un-modded game. Though some spells aren't terribly spectacular, there are many which give the caster a tremendous "One-Shot" ability. Of course, afterwards, an inexperienced caster will find they are weak and trembling from the strain.

I have seen that you have developed a haste spell as well as items that give the wearer increased speed, were those items designed to be used in this mod?

Yes, they are quest items - many are for the multiplayer game. >Are there anymore dynamic items like these that we should look forward too? Yes, quite a few. The single-player game will not be filled with gobs of goodies - I am building it mostly as a character-focused story. The multiplayer game will have smaller stories, one for each of the six basic races (the human story already having been told in the single-player game). The multiplayer game, however, will have several items that will be quite prized by those who manage to get them. For example, each race has at least one "progressive" weapon that they can obtain. The Valkyrie start with theirs, but the other races must complete quests to attain them. For example, one of the quests for light elves that I have planned rewards you with a weapon called the Heart Bow. When you mouseover on it in your inventory, all it says is "The Bow is the Heart of the Archer." In the hands of a low-level archer, it's a moderately impressive weapon. In the hands of a level 150 archer, however, it's virtually an artillery piece. The sword the Vaklyrie start with is useful, but not tremendous at first. By around level 30, however, you begin occasionally hitting adjacent opponents when you make attacks. By level 150, any enemy of a Vaklyrie within five meters of her is likely to be struck by the awesome fury of her attacks. Meanwhile, when equipped, the valkyrie is better able to defend herself against ranged, melee and magical attacks - and this defense slowly improves as she gains skill, until by level 150, she becomes an almost unstoppable whirlwind of destruction. Other races have similar weapons, as well. For the dwarves, it's the Hammer of Thunder - a truly enormous enchanted sledgehammer. Though not terribly impressive at low levels, at high levels the wielder delivers tremendously powerful blows that no armor can possibly stop, each hit literally a blast of thunder that crushes the enemy. There's a flash and a spray of sparks and smoke, the screen shakes - quite fun.

What was the hardest element of your mod to script and why?

Well, one of the biggest things is that the choices you make in race and gender have a tremendous impact on how most of the NPC's will react to you. For example, a Dark Elf who sashays into a human city can expect to be attacked by the guards - the same guards who are allies with human characters. Scripting the ability for good NPC's to be able to switch alignment and attack your party based on the people you have in it was difficult enough - but the script itself is more complicated than that. As it stands currently, you can have your "hated" individuals hide outside the city (or use stealth or invisibility spells to sneak around) while the "loved" races do business with the various merchants - if they don't SEE that you're hanging out with an enemy of their kind, they certainly don't KNOW that you are, so they have no reason to attack you. And this goes further still. NPC's in Hyperborea are (generally speaking) capable of not only sensing your race, but your gender and your level. Many NPC's will have 20 to 30 different conversations which they will give, based on who is talking to them. For example, the first character you meet in the single-player game is an Ancient Dwarf. For a beginning human, he will give you a very long story which explains how both you and he got here, and where you are - then sell you some basic equipment to get you started. A beginning dark elf, however, he won't even speak to at all, much less sell to.

Will your Siegelet make use of the somewhat enigmatic DSDLL's?

No. I am somewhat leery of DSDLL applications, since they require an inordinate amount of time and skill to create for very little return in extra playability. Given the design concept I have, I can't see the justification in spending weeks and weeks twiddling with a DSDLL application when everything I need to do for the Lands of Hyperborea can be done in skrit. Don't underestimate skrit - it is an extremely powerful and incredibly versatile tool to use when making mods. In my opinion, Skrit is perhaps the best scripting language ever conceived for any moddable game, bar none, and Scott Bilas has every right to be enormously proud of his creation.

How many hours on average of gameplay do you think your Siegelet will provide?

It's difficult to say at this point, as there is a significant portion of the maps that only exist on paper. Due to the character-focused environment I am building, any zone which has an NPC in it who talks takes quite a bit of time to work out - and this doesn't even begin to touch on the time it takes when I'm working on parts of the story where your characters talk to *each other.* That Dark Elf Maiden that your human rogue picked up in The Hole eventually has to tell you why she's helping you in the first place - it's not like anyone else would explain it to you. So, arranging that kind of interaction takes quite a bit of skrit and SE trickery. Assuming I am able to fulfill the current design I have laid out without any further changes, it's likely it will take a typical player about 24 hours of play to complete the single-player game, and completeing each of the basic multiplayer quests should take 3 to 4 hours each... Figure 40 to 48 hours, before we start figuring side-quests and such. But, a lot of it depends on the mind-set of the player. Those used to the playstyle of the basic game (I.E. Keep going, never stop, kill everything, it's not like you're in danger or something) will find Hyperborea extremely difficult, and probably spend twice as long. Mobs in Hyperborea are not like those in Ehb. Weak little krug with one tenth your hit points (or less) who politely lay down and die after a few slaps on the wrist simply do not exist - mobs are more powerful, and a mob who has the same skill levels you do has the same hit points and AC you do, as well. Mobs are tougher, more your equal - and often they are better than you. The result of this is that there are several encounters that you are intended to sneak by, and perhaps return later when you are more powerful - not simply charge up and flail away. With several encounters in the Single-Player game, you will probably get killed several times before you figure out how to get past them. Other encounters are handled by judicious use of the stealth skill to lure monsters out of their packs one at a time, and kill them quietly. Those who enjoy the "sneak around and ambush stuff" kind of games will probably fare much better in Hyperborea, as tactics (particularly underhanded tactics) are critically important to your survival. The single-player human adventure is built around the assumption that you are a *rogue*, not a tank, and your main weapons are stealth and cunning. Multiplayer will be similar, though not as stringent, since you can't simply click "load saved game" and move on to try another tactic. However, do NOT die in multiplayer in Hyperborea. Death in multiplayer Hyperborea is DEATH. You DIE, and you STAY dead. You don't just hop up and wait sixty seconds for a timer to expire while the mobs stand there helpless, you are dead. It's a state to be avoided. Moreover, spells in Hyperborea aren't something that drops from your typical kruggish goon who only has six hit points and can't cast the spell he drops even if he wanted to. No, spells are rare, and highly prized. And one of the hardest class of spells to get hold of is rez spells. Players in Hyperborea who can actually rez are cherished party members, not just ordinary Joes who trotted down to the nearest magic shop and bought a five gold-piece spell that allows them to raise the dead. While there are NPC priests who will rez you in towns, the towns are far apart, and not all towns have temples. In multiplayer, you NEED to find out where you can get a rez spell, and you need to give it to your best spellcaster and then PROTECT them so they can rez you when you die.

Could you tell us a little about the new races that you are bringing to the table?

Currently, there are six races that are playable - humans (male and female), Dwarves (only the males are playable), Dark Elves (male and female), Light elves (male and female), Valkyrie (an all-female race of warrior-maidens), and Hyperboreans (undead, risen from their ancient graves to avenge the wrong that has been done to their peaceful and mysterious Goddess). I have some other races on the drawing board, but pending the release of the SiegeMAX, they are on hold. If SiegeMAX turns out to be simple and allows for model and animation creation without too much of a hassle, I'll probably add four more races I've been keeping under wraps. If it turns out to be another SE, however, then those races will have to be shelved if I'm going to complete this mod in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time. As I mentioned before, the selection of your character is one of the most important choices you will make - NPC's will love you and sell to you or hate you and try to kill you based on your race. Moreover, some NPC's will give more useful information to PC's of a certain gender, while others they may be sexist towards (in other words, they'll react to you more like you might expect them to if they were real). This is combined with the fact that in the Lands of Hyperborea, the choices you make for race and gender also determine your starting stats. Unlike the basic game, one of the assumptions I made when working with Hyperborea is that stats don't add up to 30 at level 0, they add up to 31 (the only exception to this rule being the Hyperboreans themselves, who have straight 10's in stats but have a higher base movement speed). Human males begin with an 11 STR, while human females begin with an 11 DEX. A light-elf male also has an 11 DEX, but his female counterpart has an 11 DEX, an 11 INT, and a 9 STR. Dwarves begin with a titanic 12 STR, but only a 9 DEX - they make great warriors and spellcasters, but atrocious archers. The Valkyrie begin with a 12 STR, also, but only a 9 INT - they are utterly hopeless at spellcasting. On the other hand, the Valkyrie begin with their own special sword, a progressive weapon that is, in fact, an extension of their soul. It gradually increases in power as the wielder increases in skill, until it eventually becomes the most powerful weapon in the game. Of course, the Valkyrie starts with her little chainmail bikini, and one person at Game-Editing.net laughingly asked if I expected anyone to bother putting armor on her at all. I told them no, I really don't expect anyone to put armor on the Valkyrie at first. I fully expect people to grin and giggle and have her run around in her skivvies, happily hacking up mobs with her trusty sword. Then, she runs up against some archers or just a few too many melee mobs for her to handle, and dies. After the player finds out that being dead is NOT fun, they'll start putting the best armor they can get on her. She already starts out with one of the best weapons in Hyperborea, so all you have to do is keep upgrading her armor. Class-wise, the Valkyrie is a tank. Give her the best armor you can find, put her in the front lines, and just let her beat on things until they die. Don't waste time trying to turn her into an archer or a spellcaster - you won't like the end result. Just use her as a tank, it's what she was meant to be. And keep her healed, because death is a bad thing in multiplayer Hyperborea.

Is there anything else we should know about this simply splendid mod?

Yes, don't be expecting to see those stupid "Azunai Shrines" hither and yon, popping up in every corner like a bad penny, either. It always bothered me where those things were placed in the original maps. I mean, wouldn't the goblins have NOTICED a bunch of humans erecting a shrine to their god in the middle of their stronghold? Might they not have objected just a teeeeensy bit to that addition to their decor? =P No, don't expect to see those silly "Azunai Shrines" everywhere. People build statues for a reason, and they don't just build them at random spots. Oh - and did I mention Azunai is a bad guy in Hyperborea? Yep-yep! Makes for a terrible shock when your multiplayer-character dies, trots over to the temple of Azunai, gooses the statue, there's a HUGE explosion, the screen shakes, and you get the message "YOU ARE NOT A CHILD OF AZUNAI! BEGONE!" Terrible for you, isn't it? Hey, guess you can always just use a Statue of Vox - they're rez shrines. Oh, wait - the followers of Azunai have been destroying those things with picks and hammers. They're kinda hard to find, now. And this has tee'd off the Hyperboreans (the undead race, a race of people who used to own these lands but died off ages ago), because they worship Vox. So, they've risen from their graves and they've decided to "cleanse the land" of you infidel humans... Hmmm... Could be a problem for our Single-Player Farmboy ;-) And the Hobgoblins don't like humans much, either, nor do the Dark Elves, goblins, or pretty much anyone else. The Light Elves kinda tolerate you a little, and the dwarves think human women are good looking in a tall sorta way... But that's about it. Oh - and let's not forget that the priests and followers of Azunai want to kill you because you're an infidel, a follower of Vox. Not that you had any choice in that, of course, any more than Farmgirl in the basic game had any choice about being a follower of Azunai. Hmmm... Yep, Farmboy definitely has a problem. ;-) Good thing he has a renegade Dark Elf Maiden at his side to help him out on his grand adventure to Right an ancient Wrong! Unfortunately, she's level zero when you get her, and pretty much everyone hates her, even her own people. You did buy the two spells the Ancient Dwarf sells and build her spellchucking skills, didn't you? No? Hmmm... Yep. Problem. ;-) >

Thanks so much!

You are, of course, quite welcome =)

 

Expect In the Lands of Hyperborea sometimes before Christmas, and keep checking here at Dungeon Siege Heaven for more updates on the project.

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