Behind the Release of Axis Descending: Mechanic-Shifting & World-Building

I'm teaching a Summer course related to Worldbuilding techniques as they apply to any collective creative works in the fields of Game Development, Graphic Design, Media Communications and more. In Character and World Design, we are exploring the categories related to defining entire fantasy worlds, doing case studies of popular examples throughout our culture, and creating one of our own in the process. Students are able to focus on their individual interests, regardless of the medium, in an effort to visually portray components of the created world and practice communication skills in addition to developing applicable technical skills.

Nice way to occupy yourself over the Summer break.

The four major categories related to the development and creation of a fantasy world are its Physics, Geography, Cosmology and Culture. These establish the ground rules of the universe, or universes, you are creating and how things simply work within them. By examining these you are defining what is possible on all levels, be it magic, science and technological advancements, and the the capabilities and ways of life related to the characters and races living there. Some of the fantasy worlds I'm noting within my Lectures: Tolkien's LegendariumDuneStar WarsDungeons and DragonsSword of Truth

Each of these worlds offer a variety of 'takes' on these four categories. The relationship between spacefaring societies and the mythical Jedi order, the detailed languages of Middle Earth, the much-sought-after spice only found on Arakkis. Each world offers unique traits and characters that are the sum of the world's parts. Han Solo is who he is because of the history of his world, the people there who have influenced him, and the major events that have occurred have forced his hand.

I want to discuss each category and the world of Axis Descending, called Ajata, in a way that may provide clarity for what the game world is all about.

Geography & Cosmology

Geography is easily the most straightforward category of the bunch. The world. The Earth, a variant of it, something inspired by it, or the notion that one planet is but one of many within the grand scheme of the world. Cosmology is all about the creation myth(s) of the world and the state of the planet in relationship to anything beyond it, like other planets, systems, and entities.

Due to the complex nature of the world of Ajata's makeup and celestial order of things, it is important to understand the Geography of the world and its relation to the other categories. At some point in the world's history, the global planet was shattered into pieces. Instead of being destroyed, the planet's core holds the world together by a new form of energy. The surface of the planet transformed from a solid sphere of land and water into a series of ever-changing shifting floating continents and a giant expanse of sky, called the Baham Skysea.

The term Ajata is derived from Kujata. The term Baham is derived from Bahamut. I've noted the relevancy to this in previous entries, but the Arabian mythology aligned to each of these creatures is an important part of Ajata's ethos. Within the core is the Nexus, or Undum, the equivelant of the Ruby that Kujata holds aloft on its head. This Nexus is a source of energy, which it gains from its connection to the entity that holds our plane of existence together: the Meridian.

Physics & Culture

Magic. Science. The absence of one, the blending of the two. Physics defines that science behind the world and how things work. Interstellar space travel thanks to new forms of energy or advancements in technology. Magic gifted to mankind from celestial beings, or simply a form of evolution brought upon by the arrival of an ancient alien. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Krogan, Xenomorphs and the Balrog. Defining races and their physical and intellectual capabilities.

In Axis Descending, Magic exists and is defined by being intrinsic, extrinsic, and its elemental type. Some are given the gift of Magic innately from birth. These beings are able to conjure and use it without a conduit or external source, merely creating Fire, Water, or Earth. If a being was not born with Magic innately, but is still gifted with Magic, they can manipulate their element around them. Few beings are able to do either, though innate Magic users are few and far between. The world treats them as heroes and idols, able to create, construct, and destroy, and become the basis for civilizations and cultures.

Technology has enabled the use of Airships, large and small, to traverse the worldscape. Magnetism is at the center of this form of transportation, as wings and vernier systems hold these crafts aloft.

Ajata is home to a number of races. While some of the larger races are traditionally more physically strong, those born with Magic are traditionally superhuman, and can come from any race other than the Tihema. While these races are not bound by these archetypes, as any realistic group wouldn't be, the races are:
  • Hune, human-like with varying shades of skin and hair ranging from brown to blue
  • Oketo, large and Hune-like, resembling Dwarves from traditional fantasy worlds
  • Noema, identical to Hune but with darker skin and hair, are dark-versions of Hune and Oketo, but are not inherently evil by any means
  • Aku, the Frog-like race that is close to extinction, typically Warriors, and only one has ever been Magically instrinsic and is treated as their maternal god
  • Tihema, Goat-like and unable to use Magic, often Archivists and Scholars who keep to themselves in secluded areas, help all who seek knowledge
  • Hurae, small and Rodent-like, with a dark tone and serious nature

All of the races have varying interpretations of the world's creation and purpose. Some religions relate to the relationship between the Nexus Undum, the Skysea, individual masses of Ajata, or the event that turned the world into what it is today.

Hune, Oketo, Tihema and Hurae generally follow similar belief systems. One such god-like spirit is known as Avarine, the Seeker, who some portray as the saint of the skies or a good luck charm for those that fly. Another example is the Sera Din, a shepherd for the dead, that bring the living to the afterlife, and is represented as a dragon serpent.

The Aku that remain identify with one core belief. Before the world shattered an Aku was born with the ability to create Water, which allowed the Aku to thrive and prosper until the cataclysm. The death of that individual created a tremendous amount of in-fighting after societies recovered from the event. They sought guidance from other entities, shunned any form of worship, and drove themselves apart from one another. Today, few Aku remain from these trials and civil wars.

Noema who follow traditional ways of life live alongside of nature, often defining societies based on animal forms and characteristics. They wear masks and mark their bodies with tattoos related to them. Their way of life is closely related to the relationship between life and death. Most Noema embrace the concept of death with open arms.


The Wizard Coat's mechanic, providing the player with new and spam-able magic spells.

One way I hope to provide players with this kind of exposition is through various quests. You can find characters in the world that need your help, you can discover items guarded in flying fortresses, you can uncover hidden treasures from ancient facilities. Many of the powerful items feature a few story-related notes, scenes, or symbols that let you know a little bit more about the world you're running and flipping around in.

One of the major features of Axis Descending is the ability to equip Armor Sets. These introduce interesting twists on the core mechanics or abilities of the game and are typically themed after class or profession archetypes in RPGs. Often, these sets and the other weapons in the game are derived from the cultures and cosmology I've noted. A weapon once used by the Water-gifted Aku, found in the remnants of their lost capital city. A set of equipment once worn by a legendary Noema warrior. Enchanted armor from the Meridian itself. All of these items are full of backstory that is exposed through their method of acquisition and a small story snippet in the player's Codex, a collective annotated list of enemies, people, places, and things you've seen and discovered.

One Armor Set is the Relic Armor, providing magic regeneration and other bonuses while health is low.

After upgrading your character with each piece of the basic set (boots, belt, chest piece, gauntlet) you unlock the ability to earn other sets that inherit the basic set's abilities, but modify or add mechanics to your arsenal of abilities. The basic set, Kiana's Gear, enables double jumping, the use of the gauntlet's punch attack, the second level of lightning magic, and allows you to utilize magical counterattacks in addition to physical ones. The Wizard Set mixes up the way you earn magic points and cast spells, however. Instead of holding and release the magic key to cast different levels of spells, you can hold the key to gain magic and tap it to spam a lightning bolt attack.

It becomes a special tool for puzzles in the game that require magic to solve. Considering you cannot normally acquire magic without an object to hit, it provides you with a new skill to utilize. It is then up to me to define puzzles and challenges that incorporate that new ability. Otherwise, what is the point of that change? I have to ask myself this when I design and incorporate every ability. For it to remain fun and meaningful, that new tool needs to be exercised regularly somehow. If not, it becomes pointless to include. The player will use it and forget about it because they never need it again. This I want to avoid at all costs.

Magic Vessels like this one can provide MP, or contain it, unlocking doors and pathways.

No comments:

Post a Comment