Halls of Alfar
A Handcrafted Skyrim Dungeon
Pictured: Example of Skyrim's linear level design layout.
"I want to make a Skyrim dungeon that uses much of the techniques of regular dungeons, but with a less linear structure, to make the whole experience more interesting for the player. The design will allow the player to completely skip certain areas simply because they chose "the other way" through the middle of the instance."
Before beginning, I wrote down the design philosophy I wanted to follow when creating my level for the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This is what I wrote;
After coming up with the design philosophy, I decided to make a concept for the level's layout. When the player first enters the dungeon, they can see the final boss room right in front of them, down the hall. The player can go and kill the boss if they desire, since it is up to each player if they want to explore the rest of the level.
Pictured: The concept that I made of the level.
Building & Decorating
Pictured: The entire level after it had been built.
Once I was done drawing the concept, I immediately jumped right into the Creation Kit and started building the base of the level. I mostly followed with how the concept looked, but in some cases it was not optimal, such as corridors that go on for far too long. Those corridors were changed to be more visually interesting, as well as less boring to go through.
In the later stages of development, some aspects of the level had to be adjusted, such as a moving the position of the treasure rooms, to better fit with the level design in the boss room.
Several of the other rooms received changes in the later stages as well, these were mostly that rooms were shrunk in size to make it feel less barren and more visually interesting.
The bonus chest room that was supposed to be hidden in the neighboring smithy had to be cut, as the dungeon already had more than plenty loot for the player to acquire.
Pictured: The whole level after the building and decorating stages had been completed.
A majority of the time spent working went into decorating rooms, making them believable as places where people could actually live. This was harder than I initially thought, but became easier once I got into it.
The story behind the level is that the dungeon used to be a crypt, but became overrun by crazed zealots, that are now living here. This means that each room has in some way been repurposed for use by the zealots. In some locations, it is hinted that they have committed morally questionable things such as blood sacrifices and torture.
Narrative & Environmental Storytelling
Pictured: The torturing area.
Pictured: An sacrificial altar that features some sort of blood ritual.
The zealots believed themselves to be paragons of their god of justice, but it turns out that they are actually under the influence by demonic forces. The same forces that they had sworn to destroy.
Much of the storytelling present is meant to make the player question whether these individuals were truly evil, or if they were under the influence of some otherworldly force.
The player can storm through the dungeon, but then they might miss these small hints of what actually took place in this place.
Finally, to conclude, I have recorded a video walk-through of the level (no audio commentary), showing every room and how it looks in-game.