The Horde of Zendar is about the story of a city plunged into darkness, how a small trading keep was transformed into a large bustling hodge podge of housing bursting at the seams and that living conditions were so unbearable, the citizens turn on each other.
The journey into madness came one fateful night when the captain of the Guards was accidentally crushed by a large portcullis gate. In a fit of rage the remaining silver knights tore the city apart looking for culprits to blame for their leaders untimely demise. No prisoners were taken, Zendar did not have any jails and anyone foolish enough to be caught was buried alive in the city walls.
The construction of the City of Zendar started out with such grand plans! A large central hub area with a giant royal palace perched on the top, a detailed city block to navigate through and all of this tucked away behind an imposing city facade overlooking a deep canyon with an iron bridge!
I wanted the player to be able to travel through the city using multiple routes and feel like their progress was the perfect choice. I also wanted certain encounters to be designed for specific directions to reward each route taken. The map is based on a hub design where all the routes leading away from the middle loop back round via upper or lower routes to the center again.
The hub was setup as a circular street with four large pillars to support the weight of the palace above. The primary route out of the central area is behind a large locked portcullis gate overlooked by upper balconies hinting to the player that there are further places to explore.
The final objective is a large metal reinforced door to the inner sanctum of the palace above. This is linked to the lower cobblestone streets via a tall wooden elevator with a giant stain glass window behind of a sword pointing to the skies. The lift is setup with several encounters designed to focus the players attention and hint that the lift is a good place to start exploring.
At the back of the hub area is a large Gothic church which houses a powerful weapon and several secondary routes which wind their way round the central hub area via upper balconies. The additional routes out of this area are not obvious and are designed as a reward for curious players or subsequent plays of the map using different skill levels.
The church area is a classic ambush setup linked to a powerful item that the player can take early or come back later when they have better equipment. The church holds many secrets and surprises for curious players and is setup to offer a challenge early on with relevant risks and rewards.
The visual style is based on a layout from a European city, with a large stone wall backbone and all of the housing being squashed into the remaining space. The houses are stacked vertically with various floors spilling out over on to the streets which perfectly creates upper ledges and balconies for the player to explore and be ambushed by.
The initial hub design was symmetrical from left to right and that needed to be broken by reversing various elements. The far corners of the hub next to the church had identical bridges for the secondary routes and it was an ideal opportunity to break the pattern by blocking off one side. This simple change created hidden areas on the opposite side of the bridges that became cool places to explore.
The primary objective is to get the get gold key located in a large multi leveled courtyard at the end of a narrow cobblestone street winding its way underneath various upper balconies. The player can choose either upper or lower route to get to the key as they are connected in a loop from the central hub to the objective and back again.
Typically a Quake map has one key type (silver or gold) per door and is often restricted via routes to how and when these doors can be unlocked. This map uses the keys differently, the primary objective is one gold key for the Palace and multiple silver keys for secondary areas to explore. The silver key doors can be opened in any order (as they all use the same key type) and all offer the chance of extra items and places to explore.
As more vertical detail was added to the map the rooftops of the city was beginning to look like the perfect place to explore. Several new routes were added with some being more obvious that others that allowed the player to enjoy additional encounters while perched high above the city streets.
The original plan was to have the player unlock the Palace area and then go through to a final arena for the last fight before escaping the city. Due to various compiler/map limitations this was not possible because the map was close to the engine limits. The next best solution was to reuse some of the existing architecture and luckily the perfect place was the central hub because it was a large loop and had plenty of space to move around for the final encounter.
With most of the map built the last section remaining was the facade to the city and I knew it had to be epic. It needed to set the tone for the map and show how big the place was. The player needed to start low and climb up to the city under the bridge and then through the side gates. The flow through this start area needed to feel like a journey, a slow build up to all the combat to come later.
The building of the Horde of Zendar has been a long journey with plenty of map limits broken and crazy compiler issues. I am surprised the map has seen the light of day considering the amount of work involved and I hope everyone will enjoy playing the map as much as I have loved creating it.