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Designer Diary: Kinfire Delve, or A Dungeon of Another Color

by Kevin Wilson

Even as I got part way through designing Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall, I was starting to think about the second game for players to explore our world of Atios. I knew that where Chronicles had been huge, we would want the next game to be small and affordable. My other main bullet point was that I wanted each game in a given setting to explore a new aspect of that setting. It wasn’t enough just to retread the same ground; I wanted to either introduce or expand on an element of the setting with each game.

So where Chronicles told the tale of how the Seekers adventure above ground, I decided that the second game would look at dungeon crawling in Atios — hence Kinfire Delve.

But again, I didn’t want to just do the same old thing. The world of Atios is built off the idea of taking familiar concepts and giving them a new twist. That got me thinking about how to make something as well-trod as dungeon crawling feel fresh again.

One of the things I’ve pushed for with Kinfire from the start was a bright and varied color palette. A lot of fantasy dungeon games end up awash in shades of browns and greys — one featureless stone corridor after another, at best lit with the occasional glowing mushroom or mysterious wall torch. I knew that I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

In addition, I wanted to start building out our cast of colorful villains. A world is only as interesting as its inhabitants, after all. A favorite old videogame of mine, Psychonauts, gave me the spark of inspiration that I needed to meet all of these goals at the same time, and thus were born the Masters and their Wells: mighty creatures from…elsewhere that wish to build up enough power to fully break through into the world of Atios to pursue their own selfish desires. The very fabric of reality warps around them, twisting each dungeon, or Well, into a strange reflection of its Master’s personality. This way, the Wells could serve almost as pocket dimensions that the Seekers would have to delve into to defeat the Masters.

Delves to come in 2024Each Well could therefore contain almost anything we could imagine. The only common thread between the challenges in a Well was the Master’s personality and tastes. The brown and grey corridors were successfully avoided.

For a number of reasons, it made sense to do Delve as a set of three small boxes that could be mixed and matched with one another, with one Master and two Seekers per box. For the first Delve release, Vainglory’s Grotto, I started to imagine a Master who would surround themselves with art, beauty, culture, and song — and that provided the first embers of Vainglory, our capricious patron of the arts.

I took this basic idea to Sandra Chlewińska, one of our artists, and she ran with it, creating Vainglory’s wonderful look. Together we discussed her personality, and that really brought Vainglory into focus as a character. A lonely, possessive being, Vainglory slowly transforms those who enter her Well into beautiful, but obedient members of her menagerie. If the Seekers aren’t careful, they’ll be next.

With Vainglory defined, we could begin to populate her Well with enemies, obstacles, traps, and puzzles. Everything would have to match her aesthetic, but beyond that, the sky was the limit. While I defined a number of the challenges myself, I left others vague for the art team to bend in whatever direction they desired, and what resulted was a wonderfully beautiful selection of deadly challenges: everything from magical horned capybaras asking riddles while reclining on bone piles, to abandoned stairways flooded with gentle waterfalls, to the graceful avian nobles that have Vainglory’s favor. I can easily say that Kinfire Delve: Vainglory’s Grotto is one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever worked on.

And while I feel that the gameplay is really fun and challenging, I have to admit that the gorgeous window the art team has provided into Vainglory’s Well was my favorite part of this game. For those who experience Atios for the first time with Delve, it provides an intriguing and unique take on dungeon crawling, while those more familiar with our setting and our Seekers will hopefully find new things to love about Atios.

Delve into the depths, and discover what awaits you!

Kevin Wilson

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