Behind closed doors… A guide to dwarven door mechanics

During the process of discussing our game’s environment, it soon became clear that, even if our game is set in a fantasy world, we wanted to keep the mechanics as realistic as possible and in accord with real-world laws of physics. This means that interactions with objects and the environment should not happen based on ‘black-box behavior’ (I’m using this term as a synonym for ‘not further specified or comprehensible behavior’) but should follow well-defined rules. This was (and still is) quite a challenge, as it required us to really dive into the world we’re creating. We must ask ourselves what living in Nangrim must have felt like:

How was it to spend one’s days deep down inside the mountain, only occasionally seeing the light of day?

How did the humidity of the cold stone feel on one’s skin?

What difficulties would have arisen from the smaller stature of the Stonebeards when compared with real-life humans?

What consequences – both physical and psychological – might have occurred due to open-cast mining?

As well as some basic, but no less important, questions, like:

What did they eat? Where did they sleep? What was their social life like?

As you might have guessed, this is quite a time-consuming task and requires a lot of documentation, commitment and networked thinking.


A good example of this is how we worked on our door mechanics:


First, we began with the look. This was the easy part, as we all had plenty of ideas for how an epic dwarven door could look.


As a second step, we asked ourselves what different kinds of doors would have been used in Nangrim: Wooden doors, stone doors, massive doors, smaller doors, two winged doors – plenty of different materials, shapes and sizes –  but there was one very important feature that challenged our gray cells: some doors need to be lockable.

The easiest solution would have been to say: ‘ok, we’ve got a door, it has a lock and we’ve got a key that opens and closes it’. Probably in 99 percent of the cases this would have been sufficient, but then again, we’re back to our black-box-magic. And what if there’s a broken door somewhere? Shouldn’t part of the underlying mechanics be visible for the sake of realism?


So we did a lot of research on locks and keys and how they were engineered in ancient times. Did you know that Homer mentioned a lock on a temple door in his Odyssey? Well now you do!

Based on this newly acquired knowledge, we worked out our own concept for the door mechanics in Nangrim.


So, if you come across a closed door in Nangrim, rest assured that there’s some functioning real-world mechanics behind it!

Is this really a man’s world?

I love playing video games since I was a little child of three or four years. A Gameboy and ‚Super Mario Land‘ as a present, was the beginning of a relationship that should last up to this day and most certainly will forever.

A few years later, while my setup had already extended to a Super Nintendo, my second calling became clear:  programming. I had a learning computer which allowed the execution of own code, but unfortunately, the line ‚draw rainbow‘ only led to a ‚syntax error‘ instead of a monochrome, pixelated rainbow drawn on the screen.

A Sega Saturn – (which the guy in the shop told us would be the future and is ‚way better than PlayStation‘) – and (obviously) PlayStation later, I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas together with ‚the Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time‘. Boy, was this feeling amazing when I first entered the Hyrule-Field after completing the Deku Tree dungeon! This was the moment I knew that I want to create my own game one day.

Another-few-platforms-up-to-PlayStation-3 later, I was studying IT and programming my own little game-engine for one of my courses. Today, I’m an IT-Engineer and CEO of my own Game Studio Sycoforge. There’s only one fact that however seems to amaze people all the time: I’m a woman.

I can somehow understand, that during school in the 90’s, the other girls in class wrinkled their nose when I told them that my favorite hobby is gaming whereas the boys found it pretty cool to play a game or two over lunchtime (I’d still beat you in Soul Calibur, Andy!), but I thought that the whole Girl- vs. Boy-thing was a relict of those days. But apparently, I have been very wrong!

During the last year, we had been to many conventions showcasing our game ‚Arafinn – Return to Nangrim‘. As our team is 50% male and 50% female, there was always both gender present on every occasion, so we always had

 equal possibilities of people to talk to, but you know what? While it is true, that a lot of people don’t differentiate between man and woman, it still got very obvious that there’s also the other part: those guys and girls (yes, in this case, there’s equality!) that equate women with ‚booth-babes‘. I first encountered this phenomenon at our second convention when there were a lot of people standing at our booth.

We were there in a group of four (again, 50/50 division) and the boys were already talking to people, as my fellow girl-dev, Melena and I realized that people were standing in line behind the guys. We then approached one of the waiting which led to the following dialogue:


Me: „Hey hello! May I tell you something about our game?“

Waiting guy: „Oh, I’ll wait, thanks“

Me: „Wait for what..?“

Waiting guy: „Until one of the devs is free“

Me: „Ehm. We’re devs too..“

Waiting guy: „WHAT?! REEEEALLY?“


First I thought that this was a more or less amusing exception, but I have been so wrong.

The more conventions that followed, the more imminent a certain reaction became: incredulity.

While the male stereotype of disbelief expressed oneself in raised eyebrows and questions like „..and you are really working on this as well?“, the female counterpart mainly consisted of big eyes and astonished „oh really?! Where did you learn that?“, which gave the whole thing kind of a positive connotation, but still.

But the ultimate king of bias was a guy in Zurich (ironically, my hometown) that persistently refused to believe that I’m a game dev, can code, or am doing anything related to game development and insisted on talking to someone who „knows about it“.  This was the moment I decided to write a blog article about that topic and this was also the moment I asked myself: ‚is this really a man’s world?‘

Fellow game-devs will laugh about that as we all know that there are PLENTY of women in business that do an equally good job as men. Need some examples? Here in Switzerland alone we have Isa Roesch who wrote her own engine in C++ for her game Cendric, Cécile Amstad, founder of Amstad Digital that brings you immersive VR worlds with Burning Bridges, and who does not know Philomena Schwab, founder of Stray Fawn Studio and creator of award-winning game Niche or Alice Ruppert who develops for AirConsole and is a welcome guest on any big talk? Just to name a few!

So for this International Women’s Day, I wish my words can be one straw more on the back of the camel of awareness, so when the camel’s back breaks,  hopefully, we can ask ourselves why there was a need to create such a day in the first place.

Our dedication is our vision – Release of our first storybook.

Sycoforge is a collaborative group that’s made up of a team of innovative designers, forward-thinking mathematicians, and contemporary engineers. More importantly, however, Sycoforge is about creativity.

Together, we came up with something more than a state-of-the-art gaming experience, but a true, engrossing universe of places, stories, characters, and people. Our upcoming release, Return to Nangrim, is something we’ve been working on extensively with a manic attention to details in every aspect of the project.

 Our crew has been working to create something that is more than just a simple game, but an entirely immersive cosmos. Our dream has been to design characters that live in a world that has a broad sense of culture, history, and language.

 It has taken us nine years of hard work to create something that is real, authentic and so in-depth that we can open up infinite possibilities for gamers.

With so much fast-paced and action-packed games on the market today, we wanted to create something different – a gaming experience that has high stakes, but that is also full of surprise, intrigue, and fascination.

 As a little teaser for our upcoming game, Return to Nangrim, we have launched the first chapter of an interactive audio book series about the world we have created. Chapter 1 will focus on the startling tale of the Guardians of the Grate Gates of Nangrim. The topic of the next installment in the series will be left entirely up to our fans: whatever character or society they want to hear more about, we will make it happen!