author image af gaminggeek | 0 Kommentarer | 27. oktober 2022

Shapes in the mist! Shrieks in the night! The demon Baalphazu, Marquis of Terror, and his horde of ghoulish Pumpkinites are spreading a living nightmare across Aeternum! Aid Salvatore the Mad in his quest to banish these foul terrors and collect a bounty of Nightveil Hallow rewards!

We spoke to the Design, Narrative, AI, and Audio Teams for insight into each aspect of the event. Let’s find out some of the tricks that brought you this Halloween treat. You’ll also get a glimpse at early Nightveil Hallow concept art from before Baalphazu could cast their first shadow over Aeternum.

NIGHTVEIL HALLOW INSPIRATION

“The direction of Nightveil Hallow was greatly inspired by 80’s horror movies, specifically the awesome creature-flicks and fun-spirited ‘schlocky’ tone of the era,“ said Holiday Event Feature Lead Deric Nunez. ”As a Halloween and horror-fanatic, it was a blast to work with the team to mix all the pieces that make 80’s horror so iconic and present them within the realm of Aeternum. Baalphazu and his Pumpkinites convey a theme that should hopefully feel familiar to fans of the genre and season, while Salvatore is a classic throwback to the golden age of horror cinema icons.”

EVENT GOALS

“The goal of every holiday event is to ensure it’s unmistakable to players that a special event is happening in Aeternum,” said Deric. “With that, the playfully decorated settlements composed by Douglas Guanlao, Brian Patenaude, and Rosie Stzralkowski round out Nightveil Hallow. It is the team’s seal on our love letter to the spookiest time of year!”

REFERENCES IN THE EVENT SHOP REWARDS

“The reverence Nightveil Hallow holds for the spooky season is most apparent in the Event Shop and incredible rewards players can earn during the event,” said Deric. “I’m certain fans of the genre will pick up on the inspirations for a few of the items, but there’s one hidden-in-plain-sight reference I’m particularly curious if anyone will catch.”

THE CREATION OF BAALPHAZU

“When conceiving the demon Baalphazu, we wanted to hint at the existence of other parallel worlds,” said Narrative Designer Aaron de Orive. “The Netherworld is a mysterious realm of shadows and nightmares, where the dark figure of Lord Tenebrous rules over the Host, a collection of goblins, ghouls, and other terrors. Baalphazu is one of the Netherworld’s dread captains, eager to carry out the will of his twisted master by spreading fear throughout the island of immortals.”

NAMING BAALPHAZU

“We tossed a few names around when conceiving this demon,” said Aaron. “When it comes to New World, our goal is to have creatures and NPCs that are familiar but still uniquely Aeternum. I was fond of the name ‘Belphegor’ while Deric Nunez favored ‘Pazuzu’ so it’s easy to see how we settled on Baalphazu.”

PUMPKINITES

“Any new holiday event starts with establishing the ‘reason for the season,’ or the major shift that causes all of the associated festivities,” said Deric. “The conceptualization of the Pumpkinites was that first step toward developing the overall framework of Nightveil Hallow.”

“The idea of monstrous pumpkin creatures running amok across Aeternum was too fun to pass on and the Concept/AI Teams did a killer job developing each one to convey their own sense of personality and purpose. Of the bunch, the Pumpklin is the one I’d consider to be the mascot of the event as it’s a direct homage to the “small creature” horror films of the 80’s. I can totally see this little guy standing claw-to-claw against the Critters.“

PUMPKLINS

“Despite being the smallest and most fodder creature of the bunch, the Pumpklins were a deceivingly intricate mob to create as they are vital to defeating Baalphazu,” said Deric. “The concept of defeating an enemy and picking up its head to throw at others was as wild to pitch as it was to develop. A lot of new tech had to be created and there were many moving parts. It was a cross-departmental effort.”

“Everyone involved with the process did such an amazing job, it’s immensely satisfying mowing them down by the dozens and seeing their heads fly across the battlefield. I’m incredibly excited the Pumpklin is now a permanent fixture of Aeternum, and can’t wait to see what other shenanigans it can get itself into.”

BAALPHAZU BOSS FIGHT

“Controlled chaos is how I’d best describe the primary creative design pillar of the fight,” said Deric. “It’s fast and hectic, but includes a large boss space to create a more epic atmosphere in two ways — many players can participate without feeling too crowded and Baalphazu and his Pumpkinites have a lot of room to move.”

“I love how his dialogue and taunts were worked so heavily into the flow of the fight to convey both narrative and phase transitions to players. If I had to pick one specific moment of the Baalphazu fight I’m particularly pleased with (aside from everything), the presentation and performance of his final death explosion completely nailed the goal of an 80’s cult horror villain death. It is a perfect celebratory moment to close out the encounter.”

BOSS DESIGN

“Baalphazu was designed to make sure any player can succeed without having to play a specific role or weapon,” said AI Designer Kevin Gu. “Accessibility is key for a spooky good time.”

“A lot of effort went into making sure the boss and his supporting cast worked harmoniously with each other. For example, the monster attacks apply healing debuffs, but offer healing when defeated.”

“Vital values were pushed to the absurd as we explored what an open world boss could look like in New World. This ‘more is better’ approach includes the bonus damage players can deal when Baalphazu becomes staggered. There’s something so satisfying about seeing big numbers!”

“I even secretly snuck in a small health buff before we locked down the boss for release, but watching the boss melt before the might of the players indicates that I should have applied ‘more is better’… more.”

APPEARANCE

“Since the Pumpkinites lean into the more ‘schlocky,’ playful side of 80’s horror, we created a darker and more sinister look for Baalphazu to add some levity to the event,” said Concept Artist Kiana Hamm. “He was meant to be a trickster figure with ties to mysterious ancient gods, so we drew a lot from folk horror. His hooded, partially obscured face bares a terrifying grin, leaning into that trickster archetype.”

“We went through tons of iterations for different looks and body types, but ultimately settled on his branch-like wings. Reminiscent of his pumpkin underlings, they give the impression of gnarled roots ripped out of the ground. For the rest of his design, we wanted him to look otherworldly — totally different than anything else we’ve seen in Aeternum so far. He looks almost as if he’s carved from clay, beautiful but disturbing at the same time. Ultimately his design captured exactly what we wanted for this event, dark and unsettling, with a hint of Halloween fun.”

THE NEW THROWABLE OBJECT MECHANIC

“What’s more appropriate for the season than throwing fiery pumpkin heads,” Deric said. “This mechanic creates an ebb and flow to the boss that allows players of a wide-range of skill and levels to participate in meaningful ways.”

“Developing the logistics of this mechanic and integrating it into the chaos of the fight presented an interesting challenge. We had to ensure the throwable pumpkins were visible and easily learnable. They also had to feel predictable in terms of trajectory and destination. It’s been immensely gratifying watching videos of PTR playthroughs and seeing the ‘aha’ moment when this mechanic clicks with players.”

“Beyond Nightveil Hallow, I’m excited about the future opportunity this mechanic has to enhance the variety and depth of players’ interactions with Aeternum.”

NIGHTVEIL HALLOW VOICE OVERS

Audio & VO Producer Johannes Rasinkangas shared the story behind the voices of Salvatore and Baalphazu:

THE VOICE OF SALVATORE

“Casting Baalphazu and Salvatore was rather unusual compared to how we typically handle that process,“ said Johannes. ”Starting with Salvatore, Aaron De Orive, and Deric Nunez had approached me with a special request. They wanted to have this voice pay homage to some of the great actors from the golden age of horror films like Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney. This became a rather challenging request to find just the right voice.“

“After reviewing dozens of reels from voice actors, I was chatting with one of our wonderful directors. They shared a general joy and excitement for the character, suggested some folks, and then later that day sent me an email out of the blue. Attached was a recording of an excerpt from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.”

“The person reading it was exactly what we were looking for. Turns out that director had asked Christopher Corey Smith to quickly do a recording. I cannot exaggerate how perfect Chris sounded. With their permission, I passed this recording over to Aaron and Deric. Much to their delight, and the initial confusion of ‘yes, that’s a perfect voice. If only we could find an actor to do something similar,’ we had cast our Salvatore.”

“Aaron and I were sitting on pins and needles, nervous but excited during the first recording session. As soon as Chris slipped into that performance, the entire crew was grinning from ear to ear. A few of us couldn’t help but chime in during breaks and pauses to sing our praises about how he sounded just like one of those golden age actors. Chris was an absolute blast to work with.”

THE VOICE OF BAALPHAZU

“We knew from a design perspective that Baalphazu was going to be really intense and vocally very straining,” said Johannes. “So, I wanted to make sure whoever we cast for the role could handle screeches, screams, growls and more.”

“The voice behind Baalphazu is Molly Scarpine, an incredibly talented metal vocalist who just so happens to specialize in extreme creature vocals. Molly was recommended to me initially by our Director Maddie Stratton as a ‘hey, check out this vocalist and her band. They’re really cool.’ After hearing Molly’s music, I knew we had to get her in for something awesome. Then this boss came around, handed to me as a lovely gift. I pitched Molly to our Audio Team as a possible voice, and they were on board.”

“Molly was such a wonderful person to record with and gave us a plethora of variations for each line. I just have this vivid memory of Molly shrugging and calling out that she’s doing great after being asked how she’s feeling, and then going in for the next take. Easily one of the coolest sessions I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.”

BAALPHAZUU VOICE DESIGN

Sound Designer Kyle Bailey walked us through his design process for Baalphazuu:

“Holiday content is always a lot of fun to work on, and I think Halloween might be my favorite,“ said Sound Designer Kyle Bailey. ”The dark and scary nature of the holiday opens up a huge amount of possibilities for sound design. You can push the envelope into weird and creative territories to enrich the experience.“

“Starting with great source material makes the remainder of the process an absolute joy. The unique vocal tonalities that Molly can achieve, in addition to the raw emotion that comes through in the recording, gave this character their own unique voice, even before the VO design.”

“We knew the voice needed to evoke terror, and strike fear into the hearts of all who inhabit the island. With that in mind, I started by splitting the voice into three separate channels for unique processing. The first layer was meant to provide clarity in the spoken line. I used very light pitch and delay processing to give it a bit of a larger than life feel, but was careful about going too far and making the lines unintelligible. This gave the voice an eerie, demonic doubling effect.”

“The next two layers were where I wanted to take advantage of the strange nature of Halloween and push it into something weird, horrifying, and unique. I was inspired by a sound we all know and hate, nails on a chalkboard. I found that you can get similar, but unique results from sliding a shower ring across a metal rod. I took these unsettling sounds and used an envelope follower, which mirrored the amplitude of the VO lines, to bring that texture into the voice.”

“The final layer was where I went nuts. I threw everything and the kitchen sink at it to see what would happen. The result ended up being a low-pitched layer with some aggressive modulation. I used a slight reversal effect along with a formant filter hooked up to an LFO to give a constant tonal shift that somewhat mimics a human voice. These three layers, along with the strong VO performance gave Baalphazu an identity of their own.”

BAALPHAZU SOUND EFFECTS (SFX)

“After working with Molly’s vocals, I had the opportunity to go into my own creative space and finish off the character’s sound scape with the SFX,” said Kyle.

VIOLIN

“I started with something familiar to me, the violin,” said Kyle. “The amount of emotion and expressivity you can communicate through the violin is something I haven’t experienced with anything else. But… it’s also capable of producing some of the nastiest, most unsettling screeches and scrapes to ever pierce your ears.“

“This was the starting point for Baalphazu’s base ability, the Wing Stab. The ability to control pitch and that nasty timbre allowed me to give the lead-up and execution of the attack the motion they needed. These recordings, along with the creaky, wooden branch foley for the wings and a splash of fire, gave this attack its voice.”

CHICKERING PIANO

“Continuing my experimentation with musical instruments, I reached for a 1920s Chickering piano as source material for the Reap ability,” said Kyle. “During this attack, the ground is lit with a green flame, then Baalphazu pulls their challengers in close and summons rings of fire that damage all who are near. The piano is used in the lead-up to the pull, giving the players a tell that something is on the horizon.”

SPOONS AND STRINGS

“I rubbed a spoon across the bare piano strings in all different directions and found that the upward direction gave a great sense of tension and anticipation,” said Kyle. “The metal spoon scraping against the metal of the piano strings provided that discomforting signature that worked so well for this character. The piano mixed with elements of fire, thunder, chains and the souls of the Neatherworld beneath, convey the sheer terror that Baalphazu encapsulates.”

“I had an amazing time working on all of the different aspects of Baalphazu. Each one introduced an opportunity to try something new, push the creative envelope, and come up with a unique sonic signature that fit with the character. The combination of deliberate casting, incredible performance, and the ability to explore new ideas created an environment for the team to flourish. These, along with a massive group effort from all the developers came together to create this great new experience.”

CONCEPT ART

See how some of the Design Team’s concepts came to life:

Thanks for your support! We’ll see you in the shadows of Aeternum.

SE MERE

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