Heaven’s Vault is an open-world adventure where you play as an archaeologist, Aliya Elasra, exploring ancient ruins, translating inscriptions, and uncovering the four-thousand year history of the Nebula that we created for the game.
But it’s not all dusty temples and lost mines — when Aliya isn’t exploring the past, she’s talking to people in the busy cities and markets of her world, to find new clues to follow. It’s taken us four years to make Heaven’s Vault. Building an entire civilization from scratch isn’t easy! We found that for everything we decided on, there was another choice waiting to be made.
Say we figured out what the people ate — well, then we needed to know how it was grown, how it was distributed, and how it was paid for. And was it shared out fairly, or unfairly? To help us we did a lot of research, drawing from sources as varied as the barter systems of the Polynesian islands to the intricate trade routes of the Silk Road. We borrowed and adapted ideas from a whole host of cultures and historical periods, while trying to include nothing that in our society hasn’t been real somewhere, at some time.
But there’s one question that history was critical for answering: what do the people in our world look like?
It’s all too easy when designing a new world to try and stay true to your inspirations by making all the people look the same. Say your game is inspired by Ancient Rome: you make the characters all look Italian. Except the history tells a different story: Rome was a melting-pot, set at the intersection of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. It was easily as diverse as modern-day London, or New York. Big cities have always attracted people from far and wide.
So we went back to the geography of our world, and to our four-thousand-year history, and began asking questions. How did this world begin? How did it develop? How did people spread? Where did they go? Where did they congregate? Where did they avoid? Where did society prosper? And where did it fail?
And from the answers to these questions arose the vibrant and diverse populations of Iox, Elboreth, and all the other moons. The people of each one — and the cast of characters you’ll meet on those moons — are the result of their positions in the Nebula, their relationships, and a core truth from all of history: people move around.
The result is a world that’s mixed-up as Ancient Byzantium, or Middle Ages London, or modern-day Brooklyn. A world that, we think, feels coherent and exciting and surprising, full of people of all colors, sizes, shapes. A world that refuses to fit inside its box.
You can enter that world, explore its mysteries and meet its inhabitants for yourself, today, because Heaven’s Vault is out now. Come sail the rivers of the Nebula, and let us know who you find in the comments below.