RuneScape has its share of creatures that you will find in other fantasy games, movies and novels - things like dragons, goblins and demons – but you’d be unwise to forget the creatures that bring something unique to RuneScape. Among these are the TzHaar: creatures of lava and rock that live inside a volcano in Karamja, passing their memories on through eggs and turning to tokKul - TzHaar coins - when they die. We’ve always felt that they are interesting and have a lot of potential, but we’ve never really done much beyond one quest (TzTok-Ket-Dill) a couple of minigames and a graphical rework.
So, when Mod Edam proposed a quest that would explore the nature of the TzHaar, we leapt at the chance to completely rework the race, the fire creatures of their volcano and the volcano itself.
While discussing the graphical rework with Mod Edam, it became clear that we could echo the key themes of the quest in the TzHaar’s look. For example, the TzHaar developed an even richer and unusual caste system in the quest, so we wanted to clearly define those castes in their look. The quest also reveals that the TzHaar are possibly the most ancient race on Gielinor (don’t worry – this doesn’t spoil the story of the quest), so we wanted to convey the feeling that these beings are as old as the volcano around them.
We kept three keywords in mind at all times when reworking the TzHaar: fire, obsidian and civilisation. Put simply, the area had to feel hazardous and hot, reinforcing the sheer inhospitable nature of living in a volcano, which is why fire is so important in the race and area’s look. To survive in the heat, the surrounding rock has to feel both hard and dense, which is where obsidian comes in. We wanted this shiny, black surface to dominate the TzHaar environment. Finally, as said before, a TzHaar’s life and role is dependent on its place in society, so we wanted to convey this layered civilisation as well as possible, making the TzHaar warriors imposing and their magicians magical, where previously they had looked similar to each other.
For the environment inspiration, I explored shapes found in the castle of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. We also looked at Art Nouveau designs, and the artwork of Roger Dean, who was famous for his album covers for progressive rock bands (which also inspired the artwork for James Cameron’s Avatar). Additionally, we studied the natural shapes that obsidian forms in volcanic environments, in particular obsidian shards and obsidian spheres.
We tried to imagine what this inhospitable area would be like to live in, which led to dramatic reworkings of areas like the TzHaar library; although the library is meant to be made up of stone tablets that can resist fire, it always looked like a normal library. Now, you can imagine a great, hulking TzHaar picking up and handling these great orbs of information that replace the tablets. It also reinforces the feeling that the TzHaar are unique, and do not have to act like humans.
To ensure the TzHaar stand apart from each other visually, we gave them ‘clothes’ and ornaments made of carved metals, presenting them in a more civilised aspect. Players will hopefully now view the TzHaar as a civilisation, rather than a cabal of monsters.
Finally, we increased the size of the TzHaar’s volcano, scaling it up to match the increased size of the TzHaar themselves. Now, everything has a sense of epicness and awe, encouraging you to feel like you are in a truly ancient and alien area, with minimal changes to how a player trains or uses the area.
I wish I could talk more about some of the elaborate and interesting changes we have made to the area, but we’re held back (reluctantly!) by a need to keep things a surprise for the upcoming quest. All I can say is that I have only mentioned a fraction of the work put into the area, and you will not be let down by what resides at the end of the new Fight Caves. Whether the ‘jaw-dropping’ gives you enough time to defeat the final creature is another matter, of course, but we are confident that you will think the new TzHaar re-sculpting simply rocks.