We first saw Masters of the Broken World at GamesCom last year, and it reminded us a lot of a browser-based online game (which was later picked up by Paradox) Dreamworlds, although there were clear differences between the two. Still, it was an interesting game, with an interesting concept and we put it on our list of games to keep an eye on for this year.
Now, Strategy Informer has teamed up with Snowberry Connections to help promote their game by publishing a series of developer diaries created by the game’s Lead Designer, Alexey Bokulev. Even though this will be the first to appear on our site, this is actually the third Dev. Diary in the series – The first one on the Origins of the game can be read, and the second one on Features can be read . But that’s enough from me, I’ll let Alexey do the talking as he explains…
Developer's story #3: The Setting
Like all developers, we dare to say that our game is unique in several ways. We’ve already talked about the origins of the game, as well as some of its features, but now let’s look at what really makes Masters what it is – the setting.
A great number of videogames released every year are set in a fantasy setting, including strategy games. What is unique about Masters of the Broken World’s universe? Well, I think that the main feature is its close connection to the gameplay. The world’s description wasn’t complete before the development process started, but the game itself wasn’t developed just to fit in the setting either. The game and its universe were created and developed at the same time, complementing each other, so every game convention may be logically explained by the laws of the game universe. In my opinion, this approach has very positive effect on the atmosphere of the game.
As I’ve said in some of my previous interviews, the game setting is ‘classical fantasy’, but without epic zeal or fabulousness. So, yes, we have elves with pointy ears and green skinned orcs, but still there is something special about the game universe – it is unique perspective. Players act as one of the immortal demigod beings – Masters – and all mortal inhabitants of the world are nothing more than mere chess pieces for them.
‘The game where immortal Lords fight each other for dominance over the shards of the Broken World’ – that is the basic concept of the game. Let me explain why the world is literally broken and why I think that Masters are the best candidates for the main roles in the game.
The concept of the world where in the shape of shards floating in The Great Nothing has been chosen for two reasons:
1. It logically explains why the strategic maps are relatively small and have an edge.
2. The concept of worlds and their fragments floating in the Astral is very well suited for the global multiplayer mode. In the real world, global maps feature neighbors. And when they are offline, a player cannot attack anyone, or has to attack some world far away, or, if he attacks his offline neighbor, he fights against AI – which is pretty strange for the multiplayer mode. In the Astral, where everything is close and distant at the same time, these problems do not exist.
Immortal Masters themselves are very well suited for the role of playable characters. They are supreme entities commanding the fate of mortals, but they have no physical presence. In most strategy games, a player often can’t clearly explain his place in a game universe - just some kind of an abstract 'overmind of the country/faction'. In MBW the player immediately understands what powers he possesses and what is his role in this world as an immortal Master.
The sources of inspiration
I can name Master of Magic as my official source of inspiration. Not because I wanted to copy or improve it, but I just wanted to convey the feelings that I experienced while playing this wonderful game, a feeling of a huge and living world, full of magic and unsolved mysteries.
As for the plot, the major source of inspiration here is, perhaps, Planescape: Torment. Again, it wasn’t an attempt to tell the same story in my own way, but the quality landmark in terms of the characters and the narrative. Heavy dose of irony and black humor, sometimes interspersed with philosophical ideas - that's what I liked in Planescape. In MBW you can find a lot of such things if you search carefully.
In my previous diaries, I explained that the player’s decisions taken during the grand campaign have a great importance for the story progress. The trickiest thing here is that you need to find a perfect balance between the freedom of choice and the script.
The script itself ends with the end of a training mission. The player then goes to the great unknown, and he is free to unfold the plot according to his taste. Of course, this imposes some limitations, for example, I could not fit some kind of mandatory storyline into the game, but I’ve set some hidden strings in different places, leading to all kinds of different story twists. By pulling one of them, a player can trigger a chain of events he or she will take a direct part in. Thus, there is no predefined story in MBW, but a set of bigger and smaller stories, forming the plot on the fly.
The importance of the game plot is something a player should decide. If they actively look for answers and pay a lot of attention to details, their storyline is full of events and stories. If someone likes strategy in its purest form, the fiction part can be safely left behind, with the primary focus on military operations and expansion.
Me & The Masters
I tried to make each of them interesting for the player and with a unique set of features to separate one Master from another. I can’t say I have had any particular favorites, but let me introduce a few of them to you.
Some of The Masters were extremely tricky to portray, because of their otherworldly manners. For example, there’s Erdu - one of the very few representatives of an extinct race of the Elders who speaks entirely in blank verses. Some others, on the contrary, have been very easy to implement, like Oumm, who is some kind of supernatural spirit, never using more than one word in all dialogues. Or someone like Do-Gor – very aggressive barbarian, preferring to kill, crush and destroy instead of making any conversations at all. I am very grateful to these two for the time saved on their designing!
But still, I don’t have a favourite Master. If we were to take all the playable characters in general though, then my favorite would be the gremlin Zarr, a loyal ally and advisor to the player. It was a real pleasure to write his dialogues, and it’s because of him the ‘world inside a world’ was created – the realm of gremlins. Although the gremlins were mentioned very briefly in the game, I worked pretty hard on that part of the story. I even created a board game about the planet of gremlins!
Zarr’s biography is rather complicated and presenting it here would be a spoiler. It is much more interesting to learn everything from the game itself.
It’s hard to name the exact amount of time that I’ve spent on designing the game setting and the story plot. Creation of the universe and coding were parallel processes. It was my way to get more satisfaction from work: when you are in the mood for coding – you are coding, when you want to draw – you’re drawing, and when you feel inspired – you can always contribute to the game universe description.
So, one can say that the story was in development for the same 2 years that have gone on developing the technical stuff. Of course, at the beginning of the work I already had a concept document with a basic set of units, and some ideas about the concept of the game world.
Thank you Alexey for telling us more about your game. We’ve yet to go hands-on with Masters of the Broken World, but we’re interested in seeing how it’s coming along. Stay tuned for more development diaries in the coming weeks.
Don’t forget, you can check out the games official Facebook page , or their twitter feed .