Mao Kun Retrospective

I'm Rory Rackham from the Design & Balance team, and today I'll be talking about the design process behind Mao Kun, a Supporter designed unique Map released in the 1.1.2 patch.

Designing the map

The supporter came to us with an idea - He wanted a pirate treasure island. A strong theme like this often gets all kinds of crazy ideas being thrown about the office, as everyone has their own thoughts for what could happen. Mark 1 (Skill Programmer), Rhys (Level Programmer) and Joel (Level Designer) and I discussed the map and the supporter's requests informally for 5 or 10 minutes, throwing out ideas and the consequences of them. After this discussion I formed a plan, ran it by Rhys as he would be doing most of the programming on it, then ran it by the supporter. Many interesting ideas from developers, like buried treasure chests, had to be turned down because of the complexity of their creation and our inability to let players know how to interact with them. After a few emails tuning the finer details, the supporter confirmed he was happy with the design.

Over the next few months, Joel created a level design for the area and Rhys created the tech needed for the boss.

Here is how the map encounter works:


The supporter had requested that the map have as many tricornes as possible. Suggestions included:

  • Pirates wearing Tricornes (This made it into the game)
  • Players wearing Tricornes (This wasn't something we could do)
  • Map icon shaped like a Tricorne (This made it into the game)
  • Fairgraves dropping a ghostly tricorne that the player could see but not pick up (This was decided to be too technically challenging and too confusing for players)
  • The map also including Sand Spitters, but with their bodies replaced with Tricornes (This was decided to be too silly, even for a unique map)

Usually, we won't get many new effects created for maps, but after a discussion with Erik, we decided to create new effects for Fairgraves to use for his spells. If the fight was a success, we'd add his abilities to the Fairgraves quest encounter in the game.

Minor adjustments were made to the map over the month before the map was released. Chests were made more visible and set to show up on the minimap, as testers often missed them when clearing the area. The map size was reduced, taking the monster count down from over 1000 to 650, as it was too hard to find the pursers amongst all the ghost pirates.

Here are two of the screenshots shown to the supporter during development of the map:


Mark 2 (Known to many as Neonspyder) and I designed the Fairgraves encounter to be one that could be scaled down to fit within the normal game. He was given his own Spectral Throw effect, using a weapon that would flicker with lightning when thrown, and a Vaal Spectral Throw version for his final form. We made his Raging Spirits skill channel, letting him cast very quickly. This served to let the players recover flask charges if they were able to use AoE skills to kill the skulls. We also gave him Desecrate and Flesh Offering to make the map encounter more difficult, knowing these would probably be left out of the normal version.

A bug that affects many bosses was discovered while testing the Fairgraves encounter. His off-hand Spectral Throw attacks were dealing no damage, which lead us to discover that no off-hand monster attacks were working correctly! We disabled his off-hand weapon, to be re-enabled in 1.1.4 when the bug is fixed.

Testing continued on the map once the Fairgraves encounter had been added and balanced. We needed some map mods to display on the map, so I decided on a large Added Lightning Damage modifier to add the threat of shocks, inspired by the Ghost Pirate's base lightning conversion. We tried this out at a value of 250% added Lightning damage, and tuned it down slightly after testing. This threw off Mark 2's careful balance of the Fairgraves Spectral Throw skill, so he adjusted it until we were happy with the encounter again.

Here is a screenshot of Fairgraves in action:

The Quality Assurance team found a few problems like problems with the Booty Chests with Vaal Cyclone, instance crashes and wrong names on the map portals. Because of the massive number of interacting systems in an endgame map with multiple players, unique maps with new and complex mechanics like Mao Kun are time consuming for both the QA team and the programmers working on the feature. Some of these problems delayed the map for another patch, until it was finally ready for release in 1.1.2.

You can now play the Mao Kun map at your local Eternal Laboratory if you are able to find a Unique Reef Map. Enjoy!

Posted by 
Grinding Gear Games
still havent played it but looking forward to it =)
Thanks a lot for the look at the great thinking behind a new feature.
This map is sick! I've played it on my lvl 79 RF in Invasion.
If you're doing it be really careful, this map is quite hard, make sure to have topaz flasks.
1st page yay helo mom

gwa! i thought it was an uninteresting map, but it turns out the other way around! gotta try it later!!!

"Yeena thinks she knows the Spirit. That it talks to her. She talks to herself." -Greust <3
Last edited by wahaha123 on May 13, 2014, 8:01:29 PM
Never had the opportunity to try it but thanks for sharing this.
Very interesting to know how things are created.
Awesome that the normal quest fairgraves is getting a do over.

at the moment he is such a push over that its a chore to go and kill him after getting the allflame
Wow! Talk about full disclosure. Thanks for sharing this bit of info on your process. Cheers!
"Truth be told, I have no idea what the fuck is going on anymore." Stephen Hawkins

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