Musings of a Valheim Architect.

My main Valheim-playing associate, the same person who hosts our server when it is running, and I built a nice castle on the side of a mountain. It sits right at the edge of where the “Meadows” biome meets the “Mountain” biome, so we had to do a lot of work to keep it properly heated and safe from the various nefarious beasties of the mountain tops. There are a few exposed areas, but all intentionally so. One is the top portion of half the structure, set up as a landing with decorative crenellations looking over the approach up the side of the mountain to the castle’s main door. Much of the view is obstructed by trees or the rising slope of the mountain behind us, but it is a comfortable place to stand and greet anyone who might approach.

The top of the tower has a platform attached to the side, extending out over a sheer drop towards the meadows. This jutting platform is braced with a series of heavy beams angling up from the more solid stone walls below and one spot on the mountainside that is accessible and close enough to provide support. The peaked roof allows smoke to escape and light to enter during the day, shelters those beneath it from the elements, and allows a wide view of the surrounding land, with the exclusion of the part of the mountain from which enemies might see players and seek our doom. It is cozy, safe, and grand in both scope and design.

This castle and platform are one of my proudest accomplishments. Each is a feat of engineering, different in scale and design, but nevertheless things that took a great deal of planning and knowledge of the rules that guide the structural integrity of the world. For instance, stone ceilings require a great deal of support or else they would collapse under their own weight. There are many ways to support such structures, but the list shrinks dramatically when you add the stipulation that it has to fit a visual design or aesthetic. You can’t just have random support pillars scattered about, they need to be intentional and fit the space. You can’t clutter the room with them, or else the camera is going to leap around uncomfortably as you pan about the room. It is a challenge of aesthetics, careful placement, and knowing EXACTLY how much support you need so you can use as little as possible.

The porch, on the other hand, is different. You can’t use vertical supports because then any asshole monster or passing player could break the bottom of the support and collapse the entire structure. You also can’t use just horizontal supports because they don’t do shit in this game and honestly don’t look great on their own. What you can do, though, is use a series of angled support beams, one beam of each available angle from the same point so you have a gently widening series of supports that not only provide the structural integrity the porch requires but also matches the structure of the room and safety railings above the porch. You can create a visually pleasing series of slopes above and below the porch that create delightful geomtric patterns when the structure finally snaps into view as you approach it from below.

With some careful decorating, you can refine the aesthetic of the structure so that it matches the patterns of supports you’ve created. Unless you’re the engineer who built it, it is a perfect symmetrical design with a lot of artistic flair and style. If you’re the engineer, though, you know that this would thing is only holding together because everything is perfectly in place. Break one support and entire chunks of it will fall apart (not the whole thing, thankfully, there’s enough redundancies to prevent that). It is balanced on a razor’s edge of destruction that is hidden only by the fact that you have to be able to build or destroy pieces in build-mode in order to see to the structural integrity of any given piece. As evidenced by any of my major constructions, this is the zone that I live in: just safe enough to hold together, redundant enough to avoid total collapse, but ready to at least partially collapse the instant something breaks.

This is why I have rules about fighting enemies with ranged attacks from somewhere outside my more decorative bases. I’m planning a series of bunkers that should be mostly impervious to outside attack (like my magnum opus of player safety, AFK Island) that will be the perfect places to hold off a hoard and I’ve been experimenting with structures that combine maximum defense utility with pleasant visuals, but I’m still learning what those rules are. The tricky part is that testing my experiments require monster attacks and those don’t happen on command. You gotta just wait for one to randomly happen. So far, they’ve all randomly happened the instant I’ve left to do something like rotate crops in the garden or enjoy some light sailing. Randomly, of course. Definitely not the game out to get me for abusing the structure mechanics as extensively I have.

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