I had the opportunity to run a different round of showcasing! Since the last update, I’ve updated the art, especially within the caves, and added textures for all unique structures except the cave shrine. I added an early version of the lighting and skybox to add atmosphere, as well.

Ultimately my goal with this demo was to explain the soft story of the player character, and demonstrate how the player might navigate the map. Because Aetherus is built around a system of open-world exploration and defense, the player has no set path.

Much of the story from the New Vision update has been retained through this version. Aetherus is an archipelago of mystical floating islands in the sky, and its natural energy, the Auria, flows among and through all of the life that roams the islands. This energy flows from massive crystals, scattered across Aetherus, and in the center of the main island, Ionar, lies the largest of them all – the Aureum.

Life across Aetherus is made up of native plant and animal life and its sentient inhabitants, the Aesar (pronounced eh-sar, working name). These humanlike beings developed great communities and elaborate tree-towns across Aetherus, except on those islands deemed sacred – one of which is Ionar. No Aesarean construction takes place on this island, to avoid disturbing the natural energy of the Aureum. Like elves or druids, the Aesar task themselves with maintaining the balance of the Auria and keeping the wildlife safe and healthy, creating cures and remedies for sicknesses or injuries they encounter. Their societal structure is based around a soft hierarchy, with those at the top possessing the greatest magical powers.

At this top of the Aesarean hierarchy is the Vara, a group of powerful guardians who wield the ability to channel the Auria directly. Each Var is tasked with watching over the island assigned to them, maintaining the Auria’s balance and flow and guarding their island’s sacred secrets from prying eyes.

The player is the apprentice of the Var of Ionar, tasked with investigating the island after Auros lost his Aurian connection to the rest of the Vara. Traveling to Ionar, the apprentice was shocked to discover that the Aureum had been corrupted – a twisted, evil entity had somehow made its way to the island, bypassed Auros’ defenses, and infused itself with the crystal, tainting its Auria and the creatures that dwelled on the island. Auros, or his body, was never found. Knowing the imminent danger this Malevolence posed to the island and to Aetherus, the player must now drive the entity out of the crystal, while preventing the corrupted creatures and Aesar from reaching and feeding it.

Exploring Ionar

The level begins with a short cutscene, where the player, standing in front of the Aureum, opens their eyes and looks up at the crystal (in the final version, the crystal will emanate purple instead of blue, to represent the Malevolence). Dialogue will play as the player vows to avenge Auros and purge this evil from Ionar.

As an open-world level, the player can explore wherever they wish, up to the boundary of the world (marked by a ring of fog, in the future). In the immediate area, the player will notice several structures, some resembling towers and others…less so.

All Aesarean structures reflect their magical architecture in their blue, Auria-infused constructs. Bridges, shrines, and towers alike host these moving crystalline constructions.

The dark, purple, glowing lighting of the level gives the player the sense that not all is right with this place. Looking around, the player may discover an even darker place – the Caves (in the final version, the Caves will encompass a larger area). Exploring the Caves, they may discover a unique structure or two not found anywhere else in the level.

Exploring further towards the island’s edge, the player will discover a wider variety of towers scattered across the map. They will also discover the Gates, great fortifications that were constructed by the Aesar to keep physical evil out.

Reaching the edge of the island, the player will discover the several bridges surrounding the island. When the first wave of enemies approaches, the player will see dark, corrupted entities running across these bridges, through Ionar, towards the Aureum.

Finally, the player will discover the Great Mountains of Ionar – a slanted plateau that constitutes the map’s upper level. Up here, the two plateau bridges can be found. The player can use this are as a vantage point to look out over the rest of the island.

Next Steps

Now, the scripting phase begins. The world of Aetherus and the island of Ionar have been formed and the visual style has been decided – the next major step will be to write the code that will make the game work. Mechanics, AI navigation, animations, and UI will all be developed in this phase. Enemies will be added, and once this phase is complete, we should have a fully-functioning, playable demo level. Fine-tuning and the addition of final art assets will still be needed, but soon, the level will be playable! Keep an eye out for updates in the future.

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