Design Discussion: Design Evolution

August 22nd, 2016

Design Discussion: Design Evolution

This week we’ll be talking about how our game design has changed since we started developing ToA: Exile. It’s been mentioned in past design discussions that this or that feature has been changed or tweaked for one reason or another. It’s not that we didn’t have things planned out before, it is simply that once actual development begins on a feature, we realize that the original design for it isn’t the most effective, or it is clunky, or that it isn’t fun for the player, or a similar reason. Design is never static; it has to adapt as the realities of programming and testing are realized.

For example, we discussed in the raknar design discussion that we changed how their progression worked. Originally they had to gain stacks and then die before being able to grow and gain new stacks. When it came time to review the design before beginning development, Brax realized that it was more punishing to the raknar than fun, as it required the raknar to die to grow.

Along the same lines, we are removing Challenges from humans. We want players who choose humans to improve their skills by using them how they want, not require them to do what they were told by the game. We’re still keeping the skill hierarchy, all the same skills, and players can still chose bonuses when they rank up, but now they do it by advancing a discipline in a skill rather than completing a challenge that may not have anything to do with what they want to spend their time doing.

Another alteration we’ve made to the design has been to turn away from procedural generation. This is because we want to add a deep and complex cave system to each island along with terrain that is hand sculpted. This is to give a personal touch to the islands. Instead of investing the time into creating a procedural system, we can create a variety of islands and cave systems that will have dynamically spawning flora, fauna and minerals.

Some design changes actually add to a feature. For example, we gave dragons the ability to gather their own nuggets and are exploring ways to add some aspects of hives for raknar. But we have to watch out for additions, as feature creep will only delay us from our goal.

We are always evaluating our design to find ways to improve it, and it has evolved a great deal since we first started ToA: Exile. We’ll be updating the website in the coming weeks to reflect all that has changed. We will also use the opportunity to add additional information to the website, so be on the lookout.

What is your favorite change we have made to the design since we started? Share with us over at