Broken Horizons – Vol 7, Interlude 5

The Lore of the Fallen Kingdoms (w/commentary)

In the beginning there was Chaos, primal and unbridled, and from the Chaos was born the Great Sage Dav’kralthrax. Vast was his power and fathomless his wisdom. It was he who called the gods into being and set them on the course of crafting a realm worthy of his unending majesty.

Rose: Wait, Dav’kralthrax? Is that the guy you found in the library? The slime?

Tessa: Was it the extreme ego-stroking that gave it away? I’d skip past this stuff, but he disappears soon enough, and it’s illustrative of why I want to punch his face in.

Lisa: Probably good not to skip too much, we could all use a refresher on the Fallen Kingdoms since we’re actually in them finally.

To perform so mighty of a dead as the creation of an entire cosmos however a noble sacrifice was required. Dav’kralthrax took the burden upon himself, sundering his vast power in two so that the world could be shaped by the labors of the gods.

Jamal: Were they creating a cosmos or a planet? Cause those are two kinda different things.

Tessa: Kralt was kind of sloppy with details like that. A planet, a moon, a solar system, a galaxy, pretty much all the same to him. Even the early drafts of the lore ditched him from the story pretty quickly though because of how incoherent his original version was.

From the Primal Chaos, the gods forged The Grand Design, a blueprint to guide them in the Ten Thousand Tasks required to build the world they hoped to forge.

Tessa: See, three paragraphs in and they’re already ignoring Kralt’s self-insert OC and going with a story where he had basically no input on the end product.

First they crafted the heavens and in that expanse placed a single shining seed. With no soil to grown in the seed remained dormant as the gods next constructed the land and the sea, and placed them beneath the vast heavens.

“We have labored for a thousand and one days,” the eldest of the gods said. “Despite our efforts, we have only a starless sky and a land untouched by sunlight to show for it. We must do more.”

Tired behind the ken of human minds, the gods pushed onward, adding more gods to their ranks and laboring at their tasks ever faster.

Tessa: I’ve worked those shifts.

Lisa: Did they make the lore a metaphor for the actual development cycle?

Tessa: Pretty much. It was a winking joke to the fanbase who knew what software development was like at the time, and I’m guessing a bit of kickback on how tight a deadline they were working under.

Above the lifeless world, they crafted the celestial Kingdom where they came together to live and work as one.

Tessa: Meaning the developers had to come in and sleep in the office for months on end.

Day by day the Celestial Kingdom grew in beauty and splendor. Tasks were completed and the Grand Design grew more realized. 

Of the setbacks the gods may have experienced, no record remains, their perseverance and the glory of their accomplishments being the only legacy which remains of that time before a mortal first trod upon their creation. 

Tessa: That sounds nice, but it’s basically code for ‘we can’t tell you all the messed up stuff that happened during the pre-alpha development’. Some of the devs talked about it later, once they were at other companies, and wow did the higher ups do their best to mess everything up before the game even launched.

In time their work was complete, and the gods rested. Below their Celestial Realm lay a world poised for the first break of day and the fledgling cries of life to stride across its lands.

Jamal: So were there fish or birds or did they only care about the people?

Rose: Yeah, what about dinosaurs! Didn’t this place have dinosaurs?

Lisa: Oh, it did. And does. The devs did a whole ‘Lost World’ type expansion where you fight fire breath T-Rex’s. We got the wildest costume sets from that one.

As the first dawn approached though, the gods came to discord. The people of the world were set to be born from the spirits of the gods’ divine servants. For toiling at their divine patrons’ sides, the masses of angels, elementals, and other powers had been promised the world as a playground, one they could experience across a myriad of mortal lifetimes as they reincarnated over and over, exploring every thread of the rich tapestry they had each woven small patches of. Nowhere in the Grand Design though had it been decided which gods followers would be allowed to step foot onto the world first.

The gods met in a great summit to decide the issue, and debated from thirty days and thirty nights.

Tessa: Yeah, I’ve had meetings that felt like they lasted that long.

In the end they emerged and issued their pronouncement. Having found a flaw in the Grand Design, the entire project would be scrapped and the world boiled back down to Primal Chaos so that they could begin anew.

That night the servants of the gods met in a conclave of their own and, when the first light of day touched on the shores of the heavenly realm, the war began.

With fire and magic and divinely forged steel, the servants rose against their masters for the sake of the world they had all labored to build.

And their masters cast them down.

So great was the wrath of the gods that they shattered the heavenly realm, and in its destruction the kingdoms of the divine crashed onto the nascent world below, driving the cities which had stood on its surface far below ground and forever altering the once perfect and pristine landscape of their masterpiece.

Rose: I have so many questions here. How were there cities before there were people on the planet? How did the ‘heavenly’ kingdoms fall onto the planet? Were they literally floating in the sky? And why were there heavenly kingdoms in the first place? I thought there weren’t any people up to this point? 

Tessa: You are far from the first person to be ask those. The general fan consensus, based on some later bits of lore, is that the gods had their heavenly realm divided up into the Kingdoms they intended to setup for the mortals. And, yeah, they were literally floating in the sky. The devs put a few dozen moons in the sky as the “vestiges of the heavenly sphere”. The High Beyond was the biggest of them so the players have been expecting we’d get there at some point long before they announced the World Shift expansions. As for the cities? A lot of the impractical dungeon spaces in the Sunless Deeps have the excuse that ‘a god made this’ to explain away the weird and useless bits of architecture. Like the corridors that go nowhere. And the bridges over lava that never, ever have railings.

As the sun set on the first day and the last rays shone on the ruined world, life at last stirred. Either as a blessing stolen from the gods, or a curse uttered in their dying breaths, the gods had given their rebellious servants exactly what they asked for; time upon the world in the bodies of the mortals which the Grand Design had spoken of as the ultimate goal of creation.

The first mortals cast their glance to their former home in the heavens to discover that their creators, their masters, their enemies, were no more. Some few might have survived the Fall but even they pulled away, offering no contact with the newly born mortal peoples. Of the rest, there was no sign, and swiftly their names were forgotten.

Tessa: This part is kind of sad. The original dev team knew as soon as they shipped, more than half of them were going to be downsized, so they wrote the gods as dying as a result of the war since they were losing their avatars pretty much.

Rose: Why the heck did they fire everybody? Didn’t they work crazy hours to make the game a success?

Tessa: Broken Horizons was the biggest game Egress had ever undertaken and it ran into enormous unexpected costs. Egress claimed they had to make the cutbacks to survive, but with the game taking off like it did within three month of launch, most of the industry observers say that Egress should have held on.

Lisa: Especially since the layoffs bit them in the butt. Within six months, the game had grown so huge that they were scrambling to bring people back, except a lot of developers had moved onto other jobs by that point. I think it took them three years or so to really hit their stride, right? 

Tessa: Yeah, that’s when I first joined up. They were making a new push to expand the game at that point. I mean they’d had expansions before then but I came in when they were really shifting back into high gear.

Lisa: It’s a shame we never met back in the day.

Jamal: Yeah, weren’t you both playing at the same time?

Tessa: Our play time overlaps for about six years, but you’ve got to remember how many people were playing the game at that point, and how may Shards they were runnings.

Lisa: Early on I don’t think we could have possibly met; they created something like three hundred shards in the first three years so I’m sure we were on different ones for a while.

Tessa: I think they fixed that and collapsed everything into “The Unbroken World” about a year before I stopped playing, so I guess we could have met then.

Rose: What’s the “Unbroken World”?

Lisa: It’s a tagline they used a while back. 

Tessa: They came up with some new tech that allowed them to bring everyone from all of the different shards together to play in the same space.

Lisa: Basically when you logged in you weren’t picking one of three hundred worlds to play on, everyone was able to play together. In theory.

Tessa: In practice they had some issues handling ten thousand people in the same city, and five hundred of them talking to the same vendor at the same time.

Lisa: We had so much lag at first, but once they got layering figured out things got a lot better.

Jamal: Layering?

Tessa: Part of their new tech. Basically in busy areas, they’d spawn multiple copies of the place invisibly to the players and so you could be standing at a vendor with a thousand other people but no one would see more than ten or twenty other players in the same space.

Lisa: Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? We could have been standing side by side so many times and just never have noticed it.

Tessa: Have I mentioned I’m not letting you out of my party?

Jamal: Is that layering thing still happening?

Rose: Yeah, does that mean we could be separated like that too?

Tessa: We haven’t seen any evidence of it yet. I was expecting we might when everyone funneled into the room Vixali’s throne room but the place just got seriously crowded. No one started disappearing.

Lisa: I’m hoping there’s another explanation for that.

Tessa: Why’s that? Do you think we can use the layers for something?

Lisa: No, I hadn’t considered that, but it’s a good idea now that you mention it. What I was thinking is that we’re missing a heck of a lot of adventurers. I really hope they’re on other layers from us, or that they got out of the High Beyond via some other means that we didn’t have time to discover.

Jamal: What would the alternative be?

Tessa: If they didn’t get out on their own, and aren’t invisible to us because this world does layering too, then they were either captured by the Hounds of Fate or…

Lisa: Or the Formless Hunger got them.

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