Hollow Earth

Development: Toroolbah

The first Age I wanted to make was an office Age. I initially modeled the Age off of Gehn’s 233rd in the basic style (subterranean living space with an above-ground observatory) and I still haven’t moved far off that design in my concepts.

For me, the Age had plenty of opportunities to learn. Just beginning with Blender, I was exploring the environment to see what things did and how I could use them. Toroolbah’s first incarnation (known at that point simply as the Office) showed signs of that exploration with sections of the Age appearing better-modeled or having additional features (like lights that weren’t just white! Oooh. . .). Initially, the Age consisted of a large cave/courtyard with two large square windows looking out over the icy ocean the Age resided in. A tiny five-sided cave off the side (which was going to house a Nexus book) came off to the right of the courtyard. Later, a long tunnel was made to a very large cavern with another square window. From the side of this room was a small tunnel lit red with wood supports that was to lead to the “boiler room” or power-generating room. At the back, a long, thin, spiraling  tunnel was going to lead to places as of then unknown. The textures were, primarily, made by me. The wood texture was found elsewhere, but the designs and the materials were either painted or photographed by me. One of the elements which is preserved is the tile texture currently used in Toroolbah I. Sadly, this incarnation (like its descendant) is lost with only this picture remaining.

The second incarnation took its inspiration less from Gehn and more from a palace. The goal in the Age was to entertain. Off of the link-in point, there was a theatre, then a small observation area, a large crevice (from which Maw would get some inspiration), and then a vast observation deck/bar. This incarnation was going to be where I publicly entertained visitors, the personal areas (bedroom, etc.) hidden away behind locked doors. The Age met its downfall ultimately with a new version of the Blender plugin which, while I was able to convert the Age to it, opened up or changed things so much that it forced the Age to change. Also, another Age I was working on would heavily influence what the next incarnation was like. Similar to the first incarnation, the second has no trace remaining of it (at least on my system). However, the Age does have more photographs taken of it.

The office’s first two incarnations were completely independent. The Age was my sole focus and so it became a gathering place for whenever I had a new idea. In part, this was due to the delicate nature of getting a blend file to work in Uru back then. All I could manage was one Age so I had to lump my ideas together instead of refining an idea for each Age. Later Ages would essentially follow a “theme” which grew partially out of expansion of my ideas for the office.

The third incarnation is the one seen today. Its inspiration came from Sharper’s office, primarily. Elements could be seen from the previous incarnations, though. The concept still had a Gehn-like observatory like the first, while also keeping the concept of public vs. private areas from the second. By this time, however, I had been working on several Ages (Fens, Maw, and Bimevi) and had accumulated a large number of short stories under the banner of J.D.Barnes’ Lara Documents. So the Age was based on functionality above all else. There would be two plain bookshelves set in the wall. One would hold my Ages, the other would hold the stories. In one corner was a desk on which lay an unfinished linking book (to be used in a storyline later) and a journal. Initially, the door out of the room was to go to an elevator shaft leading to the remainder of the office area. In the end the elevator system didn’t work well enough and I went back to just the single room with the idea of expanding out later. I would later add the public book room and move the Ages out there.


Unlike the previous incarnations and my other Ages, Toroolbah’s third incarnation had no concept art behind it. I had some ideas in my head (the room was originally going to have rock protruding in like you see in K’veer) but it was mostly created on the fly to serve the purposes I wanted it to.


There was very little actual modeling work to be done since the room was essentially a box. The idea was that this room was excavated by new D’ni mining equipment I had discovered able to excavate an area according to pre-programmed specifications. Likewise modeling the bookroom was fairly simple. The book alcoves were repeated and then connected into a single shape.


The primary issue with texturing came when I got to the shadows. I knew I wanted to darken the area where the floor of the bookroom met the walls, so I added a vertice along the bottom of the wall and the edge of the floor and began the painstaking task of painting the vertices. The most enjoyable aspect was designing the book covers. I designed the covers for my books to be plain, fairly unornamented. Meanwhile, I designed Bimevi’s book to be opulent, but damaged. A contrast between the human and D’ni works. The journal book covers also changed from a simple green cover made from a heavily photoshopped photograph of stone to a barely edited photograph of an actual book.


I chose blue and orange for the lamp colors because those were ones commonly seen in D’ni and they weren’t overly strange. I experimented with using lightmaps, but I found that the lights created strange reflections of each other on the walls and didn’t make it look very realistic. So I opted to use the plain lights. The purpose was to make the area seem warm and inviting with the blue lights in the hallway contrasting that (and leading to the icy outside I was/am planning).


One issue I had was in setting up collisions for the bookroom floor. I initially set it up as a box collision, but it refused since the floor was a flat plane, so I had to use a triangle mesh. In the next version, I will probably make a set of custom collisions. The other issue was building the in-game journals that would contain the stories. I had used D’lanor’s book template before on Fens and so I used it here, too (though for many more books than for Fens).


Toroolbah’s story was built on the fly with the Age serving as by base of operations, occasional storage, and Age vault. One key area of the story was that Toroolbah was on a volcanic island. This was originally designed as a way to generate power and internal heat, but I later used it as an explanation for why the previous incarnations were abandoned. Hillsides would fall down and my office would be crushed, tremors would lead me to find a less seismically active area, etc.

Another story aspect was that of the strange lights. Later versions of the Age (once we get an outside to see the lights) may develop this.

Future Work:

Future versions of the Age will likely include a small observation post, a large vault entrance (sealed, of course), more stories, and Age books as other Ages are developed.


Filed under: Ages

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