Kendar's Ascension - Blog
Kendar's Ascension - A Skyrim Mod
As part of a course at Futuregames, we were tasked with either starting or following up on a personal project and document the results at the end of two and a half weeks, It could be anything that you've wanted to make, and so I decided to challenge myself and try to create a mod for a franchise that I love, in a game engine I've never used.
Kendar's Ascension is a quest mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that I wanted to create to further my knowledge in level design working with an already established framework, to prove to myself that I can change my habits on a dime and adapt to technology that is new to me, and most importantly: work on narrative design and level art to flesh out my competence in level design.
Production time :
Skryim Creation Kit
This page will provide some information about how I worked during the 2-3 weeks of this project. It has been kept relatively short, and sort of just serves as a diary entry upon the conclusion of each week.
If you want to read a full walkthrough with insight around the choices made while developing the quest and the level itself, or if you want to learn more about the quest's story, please click the links below!
This project page
This web page will be changing periodically over the course of the mod's short development time, as well as in the time following the deadline. Sometimes the updates will only be in form of added imagery, sometimes text and sometimes both.
In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy following the process and look at the pretty pictures (as well as the less pretty ones).
Level design - overview and progress
The first week, and in particular the first few days, was spent learning the tool. I spent this time figuring out how you construct a quest, add dialogue and voice acting, as well as the viewport editor and the naming convention of the asset list.
After a day or two, I had my map that was previously drawn in my sketch book now represented in the engine itself and constructed with a modular kit for the Nordic dungeons of Skyrim.
Nearing the end of the first week, the initial layout done and a few rooms' level art had been through its first pass as well, so I decided to add some alternate routes.
The cave-hallway in the far back of the screenshot (figure 3) was added to allow people who play a stealthy character have an alternate way of getting to the cave, hiding the key that is required to get in through a door that accesses the cave-hallway, or letting them pick the lock, which is very difficult. The alternate path rewards you with a faster route to the quest objective, as well as a vantage point on some of the enemies in the big cave.
During the second week, the level art was mostly finished, with only special effects and lighting details remaining to be tweaked. In the start of the week, however, the inner sanctum of the hideout (lower right of figure 3) was completely changed in layout. Instead of being a flat room with a raised platform, I rebuilt the room with less modular assets to create a more interesting space. The room was expanded to contain four "floors", with rock formations forming the bottom two and the top floor, and the platform remaining to form the middle floor. Thanks to the removal of the smaller room-pieces from the modular assets, I could raise the roof quite a bit to get a stronger sense of grandeur and importance from the cave.
In addition to working on the level design and art, I continued to learn about the engine itself, its limits, and how to solve the issues that these limits causes. With this, the quest was done and implemented with dialogue, quest stages and rewards, and had its "loose ends" tied up (such as not being able to kill the quest giver, happening upon the lair by accident).
The remaining two days were used to clean up art, add or rework NPC-encounters and content placement as well as applying Creation Kit's Image Space and Lighting Template data to the cell/level-file that contains Kendar's Hall. After I applied the BleakfallsBarrowImageSpace and BleakFallsBarrowMedium lighting template data (as these provide the best look for a coherent Nordic ruin layout according to Bethesda), I reworked the lighting and effects a bit to fit the template data's coloring and distance fog, and started to have a look at some of the optimization. Using Creation Kit's Room Markers and Portal-system I divided the level into smaller chunks by enveloping them in bounding boxes that is set to render only when the player camera is within its boundaries, and further set up portals between them that act as windows from one chunk into another to not break the seemingly seamless cohesion of the level's render. These room markers would also make it possible to create rooms with different lighting template and imagespace data, which I found interesting, and will probably experiment with future projects I do in Creation Kit.