Meaty content and special "epic" events, found in hidden spaces and far corners of the world is very rewarding and exciting for most RPG-players but one could think that spending a lot of resources on this kind of hidden-away content would be very unrewarding for the developers. A lot of people might not even find this content because they are not interested in exploring. Is this something that you think about? Do you have to find a good balance when it comes to how much resources you put into something that to some will be awesome, whilst others might not find this content at all. – By Goatrek
A: Actually, creating special areas for hidden content was one of my favorite things to do when creating the world. When we're handed new exploration reward items that we need to find homes for, it's like a field day for the world design crew. Crafting secret areas and visual stories relevant to that item really give us a chance to come up with ideas that no one has thought of yet and lets us give context to the world in our own way.
True, it's a fairly involved process to come up with some of this stuff. Often the idea starts in design, gets passed to concept, then to character or environment art, maybe even animation and then to us (world designers) to integrate into the world. For art, it's a chance for them to flex their muscles and come up with their own ideas that aren't dependent on quests. On our end, it means sculpting out passages in mountains, setting up particular encounters and traps, locking the treasure away behind hidden doors and using a whole slew of other devious toys at our disposal to make you really work to find the content.
When I found out that our Lead Designer, Ian Frazier, was designing a set of unique armor to be hidden throughout the world, I was super excited to start working on their hidden locations – because, with Ian being our D&D group's DM, each of the five armor pieces of the set were named after our characters. We had free creative reign for these one-off moments and somehow they all turned into the area where they either died or were laid to rest with varying degrees of brutality and serenity (it's surprisingly fun to kill your beloved D&D character – don't tell the DM!). I was even able to work with one of the narrative designers so that when you wear my character's helm, you’ll find that some NPCs have commentary for it. At that point, when you're having so much fun with the project, it's all about the time you want to put into it to make it really special.
We know that there is the possibility that some folks will never find the things we've hidden away, but when people do, it's extremely exciting and gratifying. One of my favorite moments was hearing that one of the Narrative Designers stopped play-testing quests when he discovered a piece of the unique set we had hidden away, and spent hours searching the rest of the world to obtain the rest of the armor set. – By Jessica "Meridian" Hara Campell, Principal World Designer