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Level Designer/Scripter

Terra's Dream

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Level Overview

Level Name: Terra's Dream

Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Engine: Creation Kit

Development time: 7 weeks

Story Summary: The day of his coronation ceremony, Terra's Prince, Theodore, falls into a mysterious sleep-like state. Desperate, Terra's Prime Minister asks for the help of the Dragonborn, who must enter the Prince's Dream and find the source of the Prince's illness. The Dragonborn's mission won't come easy, for a Royal Guard has already entered the Prince's mind, but just like it happened with the Prince, she never woke up.

Level Summary: Terra’s Dream is a single player quest for the first person RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Terra’s Dream is an optional quest to the main Skyrim’s storyline, which takes place inside the mind of the Prince of a Kingdom known as Terra. The level offers players the chance to use powers and mechanics that defy the laws of nature. In order to succeed, players need to use a spell that reveals secrets hidden in the dream world, as well as traverse a dark castle, where gravity changes force them to face challenges in both floors and ceiling.

Video: Walkthrough with commentary

Duration: 33 minutes

Level Mechanics

The Clarity Spell

  • Not everything is what it seems inside the Dream World. An Evil Wizard has filled the Prince's Mind with illusions and deception, and it is the players' task to discern between what's real and what's just a mere trick. Luckily for players, a spell that reveals the secrets of the Dream World, known as the Clarity Spell, lays hidden somewhere near the Dream Town.

Players need to be alert inside the Dream Town, for even the villagers hide some dark secrets...

The Clarity Spell can reveal secret passages inside the  Wizard's Castle.

The Gravity Portals

  • The Wizard's powers know no limits, and he has protected his castle with a challenge that can defeat the bravest of warriors: the Gravity Portals. In order to survive and reach the Wizard's chambers, players have to walk both on the floor and on the ceiling of the castle. All while defeating the undead enemies that lurk in the castle's shadows.

The Gravity Portals teleport players between the floor and the ceiling of the Wizard's Castle.

Progress Shots

Riverwood Bridge

The Prime Minister and the portal, as they were during the Whitebox milestone

Hover to reveal the

final version!

Gameplay milestone / RTM milestone

  • During early iterations, the portal to Terra was awkwardly place in the middle of the bridge. To make the first encounter more believable, the final version includes a tent where the Prime Minister spends his days, waiting for adventurers to cross the bridge. Several gold items and a horse show his noble origins.

The Royal Room

Hover to reveal the

final version!

Whitebox milestone / RTM milestone

  • The Royal Room had an unrealistic layout in early iterations and it was free of furniture. In the final version, the room has different sections, just like it would happen in a real castle. The final room has a dining area, a guest bedroom, and the royal bedroom, and guests have to traverse all areas before getting to the King.

The Dream Inn

  • Small clutter items made the Inn feel like a real place where people would gather to eat and drink.

Hover to reveal the

final version!

The Inn during the Whitebox milestone / RTM milestone

The Inn during the Gameplay milestone

The Inn in RTM. The clutter made all the difference and brought life to the Inn.

The Wizard's Castle

  • The size of the Dwemer assets made it especially difficult to clutter the Wizard's Castle. In addition, Terra's Dream uses two identical maps to simulate the "Gravity switch": a regular map and an inverted map. This meant that any clutter item had to be duplicated and pasted on both maps, to assure consistency.

Hover to reveal the

final version!

The Wizard's Castle during the Whitebox milestone / RTM milestone

Mini Postmortem

What went right

What went wrong

What I learned

  • Created a level that surprised players and engaged them thanks to its innovative mechanics.

  • Mastered the Creation Kit and its scripting system thanks to the requirements of the revealing and gravity mechanics.

  • Created an interesting story with relevant choices that affected the outcome.

  • Overscoped the level, which resulted in some crunch sessions.

  • Underestimated the complexity of the gravity mechanic, which created a lot of extra work, due to the handling of two separate maps.

  • Underestimated the importance of player communication for complex mechanics, which was fixed late in the project

  • Lighting is a powerful tool to catch the player's attention. Minimal changes in lighting considerably improved the player experience.

  • Players love making choices when they are informed about the possible outcomes.

  • Tutorials are essential when introducing unconventional mechanics. It is usually better to incorporate them into the level rather than making them explicit.


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