Brent Carr Ellison, Game Designer
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Dungeon: PolarisDungeon: The AnkhStory: Tokyo FlashbackOther TSW work


As the senior designer on the dungeon team, I had to handle a number of other responsibilities, including managing cross-dungeon mechanics and weighing in on how our team's content would fit with the rest of the game.

When we needed to add additional difficulty modes for the dungeons, I decided that, rather than create a new selection interface, the experience would be better served by placing Elite and Nightmare-mode entrances together in a central place in the gameworld. This helped ground these modes in the game world and also allowed players to have an obvious place to gather when they want to form parties.

Along those lines, with the Nightmare-mode dungeons reserved for the best of the best, I designed and implemented an in-game challenge for players to take on that would serve as a memorable turning-point in their character's career.

To prove they're ready to join an endgame dungeon group, players must defeat The Gatekeeper one-on-one. Although they may choose which role's challenge to undertake, they are all extremely unforgiving. That said, there is no penalty for failure and retries are quick.

The mechanics also serve as a preview for what Nightmare dungeons will throw at them. Player feedback and discussion suggests that this encounter has been just the community flashpoint it was intended to be, and it even inspired a shirt!

I also designed the Nightmare versions of all eight of the game's dungeons. This involved upgrading all the existing mechanics to require a much higher level of expertise, as well as adding additional challenges.

For example, on normal modes the final boss fight of Hell Eternal creates a devilish scenario for the players where they must do as much damage as possible in a confined space while avoiding his attacks and spinning void zones. In Nightmare, I added a set of shadowy demons all around the edges who smack the players if they linger on the outside for too long (inspired by WWE lumberjack matches).

Based on our experience with iterating on The Polaris and other early gameplay, I wrote a number of documents outlining design policies for all dungeons. The focus was always on ensuring the best possible experience for the players, with clear mechanics and learning opportunities, as well as the best drama and pacing.

A copy of the Encounter Guidelines document I wrote is available here.

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