Position: Sole Designer
Duration: 1 Month
Engine: Aurora Engine
Ceremorphed is an RPG dungeon where you play as a hapless adventurer captured by Mind Flayers. Thankfully, they keep you alive. The catch? Your brain is implanted with a baby Mind Flayer tadpole, and it’s slowly devouring it. Use the Dark Dwarf raid as a distraction to escape from captivity, and get the brain eating tadpole out of your head.
When I sat down to make Ceremorphed, I wanted to make a full on dungeon crawl with story, puzzles, and encounters. I took inspiration from World of Warcraft style instanced dungeons and BioWare style storytelling to bring a story based dungeon crawl to life.
Created a Dungeon Crawl
I decided from the get-go that I wanted to do a dungeon crawl about Mind Flayers– they’re the most evil bastards in the D&D world, so they’re super fun to make up stories for. The main elements I focused on were puzzles, combat, story, and boss fights so I could hit the high points of RPG gameplay with Ceremorphed. First, I laid out the architecture and placed the puzzle areas, combat areas, and boss fights. Once I laid out the map, I thought up ways to the wrap the puzzles around the Mind Flayer Dungeon theme, like making the player burn the tadpole out of their brain with a ‘ceremorphosis reversal program’ that consisted of a console and a pair of giant electrodes. After I wrapped each event in the theme, I used the scripting system in Aurora to bring the cutscenes and interactivity to life.
Wrote a Story
When I went to write up the story for Ceremorphed, I had to make sure I understood Mind Flayers. They’re obviously an established IP, so I read up on the Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks, read articles, and anything else I could get my hands on. Once I felt comfortable with the theme, I wrote the outline for the story and revised until it felt like an actual D&D story.
The second thing I keep in mind when writing a story for video games is player agency. I wrote the story for Ceremorphed to make the player feel like the star by making them overcome the obstacles with their own actions, like destroying the Mind Flayer tadpole in their brain by hijacking alien technology, or transferring their consciousness into a Beholder to charge through the golem-filled great hall.
The final thing I keep in mind when designing a story is to make sure that any choices the player makes are simple and impactful. Making the choices simple gives the player a clear idea of what the outcome of their actions will be (I want players to easily understand the choice they’re making), and making the choices impactful makes them feel like they’re driving the game (I think if you give the player a choice, it should be a big one so they can talk about it with their friends afterwards.) The player has to work with a sect of evil dark elves to blow up the elder brain in order to continue. While they keep the elder brain dormant, the player can either choose the evil path, set the fuse early to annihilate the dark elves before they have a chance to escape, or set the fuse normally to spare them and deal with the inevitable, but hilarious consequences!
This module needed more custom scripting for the boss fights. This module started out as a World Design sample for BioWare that never included balancing the combat. I focused on making stable event, puzzle, and cinematic scripting. However, playing through it definitely shows that it has potential as a shippable module if just that last bit of custom scripting for the boss fights was in. Neverwinter’s greatest strength in my opinion, is its piles of spell VFX and effects and that’s how I would make these fights awesome. Azhar, the Mind Flayer Guardian could have thrown confusion spells and summoned ghost “illusions”, since he was in the sacrificial chamber. Ruggo, the Dark Dwarf Demolitionist could have thrown ticking time bombs since you fought him just as he was planting the last charges to destroy the sleeping pods. Ilvarius could have cast a general assortment of wizard spells as the “tinkerer” and the dungeon’s second to last boss. And the final boss fight, while I scripted and was pretty cool, I wasn’t satisfied with. Balefaron needs to teleport around the room and start casting ranged spells every time Mischefero passes out so that it forces the player to move around instead of just camping next to Mischefero to click on him as soon as he falls. When I revisit this module, boss fights are definitely first on the list of things to polish.
Playable Module (Requires Neverwinter Nights: Diamond Edition) (ZIP) –