When the citizens of war-torn Old Kingman fled Casta Gaunt's raiders, they expected to find refuge in the farming community of Needle Eye. Fearing reprisals from the raiders, the leaders of Needle Eye closed their doors to the refugees. Shut out from the safety of town, the exiles face a host of problems: mutated monsters, fungal blight, kidnappings, and waning food supplies. Can the solutions be found in the old GlobalTech lab near the wheat fields? Are you brave enough to find out?
Originally, the level was a sprawling complex that we referred to as the Throwback Warrens. Players entered a cave-like opening and traveled through dirt-walled tunnels that opened up into part of a research lab and then returned to more tunnels and finally a bit more lab. Because there were no doors that could conceivably lead to the surface, the level itself really made no sense. Given the name, unsurprisingly, it was filled with Throwbacks, mutant humanoids who vaguely resembled cavemen or "throwbacks to an earlier time."
Over the course of our design, the Throwback models changed quite a bit, and when we had the opportunity to rework the level as part of overhauling Old Kingman County, we jumped at it. My teammate Jared Beaulieu worked closely with artist Justin Johnson, designing the level based on the kinds of missions we were writing. Jared also chose the placement and size of the level to encourage players to enter the lab multiple times as they complete missions in the area.
Because we wanted players to have multiple reasons to enter the level, we left the level open rather than creating it as an instance. In this regard, the mechanics of the research facility level are more similar to the Hoffa Bunker, which my fellow designer Wes Platt wrote about a few weeks ago, than to instances such as Old Kingman or Sunset Cemetery, which I detailed in earlier journals. Unlike the Hoffa Bunker, the placement and size of the Needle Eye Research Facility allows players to easily explore the entire level and be back in town for dinner.
Armed with a hefty handful of mission goals, players enter the lab and find two possible routes - a set of stairs and a catwalk. Both lead to the same area, but players can avoid a few mobs by jumping from the catwalk down to the large open room below rather than taking the stairs.
In this main room, players see two NPCs. The first, Jack, protects the entrance to a nearby corridor, fighting off an onslaught of Throwbacks. The other, Marty, asks the player to rescue some of the refugees who were recently kidnapped by the Throwbacks.
Exiting the office and exploring deeper in the facility, players find a large, locked blast door. Someone - or something - has tunneled around the blast door into the research section of the facility. In this short tunnel, players begin seeing evidence of the fungal blight that has plagued local farmers in Needle Eye. The tunnel then opens into a large lab infested with Throwbacks and littered with bodies.
A short, curved hall leading from the research lab features large windows. From here, players see a massive room filled with fungal blight. In the middle of the fungal blight is a giant Sporekill, a type of carnivorous fungus. The Sporekill is a boss fight and intended for a group of players. One of the interesting features of this fight is that because the Sporekill is a stationary target, it can utilize an Area of Effect attack. If the Sporekill locks on a target outside of its physical attack range, it will begin to emit a green cloud of toxic putrescence that can quickly kill an unprepared party.
In the Needle Eye Research Facility, we hope to offer a balance of engaging story, repeatability, and a fun boss fight for groups. By the time players finish all the missions available for the level, they'll have gained a ton of information, a good amount of loot, some solid experience, and a lot of fun.