The Bigpoint Berlin man takes us behind the scenes of Drankensang Online

Dev Diaries: Drakensang Online (part 1)

If you’re a veteran RPG player, then you’ve most likely heard about the Drakensang series: A huge success in Germany and well-respected by critics and game journalists worldwide, this PC fantasy RPG series was developed a few years ago under our former name, Radon Labs.

Since becoming Bigpoint Berlin in summer 2010, we’ve worked from the heart of the German capital to take the Drakensang series to the next level by developing Drankensang Online, and now we’d like to tell you a bit about our work.

We took on the challenge of creating a unique, online world, which won’t just appeal to current Drakensang fans but instead fascinate new players from across the globe that have never played before.

In Drankensang Online, players will be given the chance to play with other people from around the world in 20+ languages, which will be made available during the course of the year. Drakensang Online won’t only fulfill our long-cherished dream but the dream of many other fantasy and RPG fans: We’ll finally be able to experience the world of Drakensang with friends and thousands of other international players thanks to this game being online.

Drakensang Online won’t just be a static adventure, or interactive film that will be tossed aside after being played once; but rather, a full world which will be continuously developed and changed over the course of the coming months and even years. The number of cities and countries available at the time of the game’s release will rapidly be increased and the world will constantly be expanded: new continents, monsters, adventures, plus much, much more. The world of Drakensang Online is a brand-new, unexplored world, full of foreign dangers, fantasy creatures, undiscovered continents, and magic.

In this slowly awakening world where secrets were buried over a thousand years ago and have all been but forgotten who knows what adventures and mysteries are waiting us all to uncover. We’ve got a lot of exciting ideas for the next few phases but where we’ll head to next is ultimately the will of the players. Together with you, the community, we’ve got a real chance at forging a legendary, fantasy world.

Now I’d like to present you with a behind-the-scenes look into the world we’re bringing to life and how we’re doing it.

Designing a fantasy world from the ground up and creating a second home for thousands of players is no easy task. Yet, breathing life into a digital universe is a highly creative and fascinating process. It’s a completely different experience creating a fantasy world to provide 30-to-40 hours of offline gameplay as it is to developing an epic-online world to provide several hundred hours of gameplay. As developers, it gives us an immense amount of room to invent fantastic expansions, new continents and new nations.

Our vision of Drakensang Online began with a general outline of how we wanted to develop this new world, but it was clear to us from the very start that the player community would definitely have a say in its future. Interestingly enough, the team’s conception of all important developmental points came together seamlessly and became clear to all of us just where the journey should lead, without having a single line of written text to describe this world. In this way, a medieval land quickly began to take shape within the fog. From which the first designs were inspired and the world began to form but still lacked depth. We knew intuitively how this world should look but we couldn’t explain why.

It was quickly apparent that a world like this demanded solid foundations. Without knowing what laws, gods and kings governed this world, designs, levels, characters and quests couldn’t be developed. It’s important to know how the world was created and what holds it deep-down together or what’s trying to tear it apart. Should an RPG be developed in a setting which already exists, then an extreme amount of research is required. If the world is completely new, then all of the foundations must be established.

This is often a difficult process to begin when you don’t know where to start. Should you start with the story? Or the world in which this story takes place? The world and story we had envisioned were vague to say the least, because it’s very difficult to create a living present without a past. So we began where all stories begin: With the birth of the world. From there we constructed several key points in the story and lead them to the present. Once we had established our game world’s entire story and its history, we had a rich foundation with which to work. It’s all coming together now as we give locations a background and depth to a character’s goals and motivations.

That may seem somewhat easy but it’s actually a massive undertaking and our authors have invested months into this story’s development. Once you start, you begin to notice quickly how many questions remain unanswered and are essential to the fundamental stability of the world. Exploring these questions is the best way for us to prevent errors in reasoning or logical fallacies later.

How did the world of Drakensang Online come to be? What happens when a character dies? Where does magic come from and how does it work? What sort of deities are there and what came before them? What shaped the story of this world and which characters and groups of people play a role in it? These are just a few of the questions that required explanations. The concepts were intensively discussed, worked out in detail and painstakingly revised until we were certain that everything fit together. We made sure to create an epic world that was coherent and consistent and maintained the feel we wanted for the game, all without sacrificing humor among all the exciting action.

In the meantime, our world has begun to take shape and everything about the history, mythology, and legends are written out in a mountain of paper. The influence from this planning can already be seen in the development of graphics, music and gameplay elements. At the start, players will only be able to see the smallest part of these efforts, but it’s our base for all future developments in Drakensang Online. Slowly but surely the contours of this history will be revealed to the players. Much will appear to the players in a way that is different from reality and, as we mentioned before, the players will also have a hand in the outcome of this world. Here’s a taste of the beginning of our story:

The island kingdom of Duria, where the player’s quest begins, lies on the northwestern edge of the world. As the old empire began to crumble the legendary commander Heredur founded a new kingdom and crowned himself king. Today, roughly 700 years later, Duria has peacefully and prosperously existed for many years. Rumours of war in the north-east have begun to spread fear and panic among the population. The ties to Shorfolk on the kingdom’s east coast have been severed. Herders and farmers in the region have begun to flee to the capital city of Kingshill and report of bandits, witchcraft, wild beasts and monsters. The frail, peace-loving king Harold sits idly by and closes his eyes to growing danger from the comfort of his throne. His son prince Aldred has disappeared.

Duria is but the first land for players to discover. They will begin their journey in the northern lands and slowly be led into the southern and eastern portions of the continent.

We can hardly wait to set the first heroes loose in our world and see how they overcome the dangers, discover the world’s history, and experience an amazing adventure. We’ll watch the players with excitement as they go through these new experiences. We have many exciting things up our sleeves, but the world we created for Drakensang Online also has a few surprises in store for even us – we too stand before the start of a spectacular voyage.


Check back next week for the second and final part of this developer diary.

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