The Call to Arms update arrives March 17, bringing a complete Hellgate rework along with other features. We discussed the changes coming to Hellgates with Environment Art Director Stefan Warias and Level Designer Dominik Müller.
The new Hellgate entrances are much more detailed than the old ones. What sort of information do they convey?
SW: Visually the goal for the entrances was to reflect the theme and atmosphere of the levels they lead to. After some design iterations we came up with physical elements like sharp rocks, which are the main elements in the hellish environment. And they behave as if possessed by a demon, with animations and FX that bring them to life as if they're waiting to swallow the player.
Apart from conveying atmosphere, they also have a functional aspect: does it lead to a lethal or non-lethal map? How many players are needed to open the portal? Is everybody channeling?
DM: It was important to us to let players interact with these entrances in a meaningful way. The new portal responds to the group': they are no longer clicking on a static portal, but a living one. If I finish my first channel, a specific rune will glow, if the team is completely finished the whole thing starts to open up, the world turns red and so on. This makes the whole experience of entering a Hellgate more interactive and immersive.
Once inside, the new Hellgates have much more diverse and varied environments than the old ones. What principles did you use in creating these new levels?
SW: We created 10 different maps, each with a unique layout to offer more variety for both PvE and PvP. To give each a unique character, some are more open natural arenas with lava falls, some are claustrophobic caves or hell-fortresses, some are more cooled-down, some are hot as… well, you know. They offer different blockers and choke points but still support fair starting positions for groups of all sizes. And the new rising lava feature had to be considered, which shrinks the fighting zone and creates growing tension during fights.
DM: We wanted to give players the feeling of physically moving through hell, going from the hill to the fort and after that to the traverse. We wanted to show a difference between “natural” hell and “architectural” hell. Additionally we followed quite a few guidelines to create interesting PvP moments. Try to encourage west-to-east combat, offer more than one way through a choke. In some maps we also willingly violated some of our rules to create a more characteristic element, as in the Traverse, which is basically one very long choke.
What are some of the architectural features found in the new Hellgates?
SW: We have some spiky hellish architectural elements like stairs, columns and railings – at least what demons would call architecture. With these we created larger structures like bridges, and reassembled them to make a variety of spaces and situations.
DM: In the old Hellgates, we only had stairs for architecture, which made the maps fairly bleak. We wanted to give the demon faction more refinement and culture, so we added more architectural elements. For now it's just a few things like railings and pillars, but even these minor elements allowed us to build layouts that tell stories, such as the Fortress or Citadel.
For more details of the Call to Arms update, see the official update page.