27 December

Dev Journal #2: Introducing the Proteus Engine

By Caspian

It's now the end of December so it's time for my monthly dev journal. In my first developer journal I announced the beginning of Chronicles of Elyria - a prototype MMO in the very early stages of development. As the website and project is/was only known by a small handful of friends and family it needed little explanation. However, as more people are hitting the website it's time I share a bit more information about the game.

The first thing I wanted to address is the question "What is Chronicles of Elyria?" Put simply, Chronicles of Elyria is a new, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game unlike anything seen before. While the back story, mythology, pantheon, etc... of this Sword & Sorcery world are interesting, what makes Chronicles of Elyria really intriguing is the underlying game engine - The Proteus Engine.

Starting next year I'll be providing bi-weekly design blogs that discuss the many features of the Proteus Engine. In the mean time, I wanted to highlight the most fundamental principles/goals that drive my design choices.

Goal 1
The first and most important goal of the Proteus Engine is discernible from the name. Proteus is a Greek god of the sea and is often associated with the dynamic, changing nature of water. Likewise, the Proteus Engine is first and foremost about building dynamic worlds. I think of this in very simple terms - if something in the world can change, whether through player interaction or naturally over time - it should. This doesn't always result in design elements that are immediately obvious. Sometimes the dynamic nature just serves to make the world richer and more immersive. Other times, the dynamic nature of the engine has far-reaching impact on the design of the game. For now I'll leave this to your imagination, but check back beginning in January for more details.

Goal 2
The second goal is for the heroic player to feel truly heroic. In most contemporary MMOs, characters start out at the lowest level and eventually reach the maximum. At this point, aside from small differences in build configurations or different equipment gained from repeatedly delving the same dungeons, all characters are effectively equal. This destroys the illusion that we're heroes in a fantasy world where we alone hold the fate of mankind in our hands. In Chronicles of Elyria, the player must take risks, be heroic, and repeatedly put their character's wealth, prestige, and even life on the line to achieve heroic status. In Chronicles of Elyria, it is possible to be the most renowned Blacksmith. It is possible to have travelled places where few others dare to travel. And yes, it's even possible to be the most powerful Sorcerer in the world. But such rewards always come with substantial effort, and frequently with great risk.

Goal 3
The third goal is for Chronicles of Elyria to be a Skill-based Action RPG. To me this is about blurring the lines between the character and the player. Every action the character takes that requires a skill, requires some degree of player skill. The era of auto-attacking is over. If my character effectively swings a sword, it's because I chose the precise moment for him or her to do so. Likewise, if my character cuts a Master Emerald, worthy of stting on the crown of the King, it's because my own nimble fingers made it so.

Goal 4
The fourth goal is for the Proteus Engine to be event-driven. In the last two years a splintering of MMOs has occurred that puts MMOs into one of two categories: Theme Park or Sandbox.

A theme park MMO is one in which the designers, artists, and engineers develop the content of the game themselves and then allow the players to run around in it like guests at an amusement park. On the other side of the coin is the Sandbox MMO. These games are just now becoming increasingly popular and stand out due to their willingness to give control of the game content over to the players. But ultimately, both Theme Park and Sandbox MMO's suffer from the same problem: the player has no impact on the story. In a theme park MMO each player experiences the same content (often repeatedly if they start multiple characters), and while a new expansion might move the time line forward, it does so at discrete intervals with no perceivable player influence. In Sandbox MMOs there's often no story at all.

In Chronicles of Elyria, the story-line is constantly advancing. Local, regional, and national conflicts unfold continuously giving birth to repeated opportunities to change the course of history. Each time the player logs in there is something happening for him or her to participate in. The player should never be able to go offline for a week, a month, three months, etc... and come back to find the world the same as before.

Goal 5
The fifth and final goal of the Proteus Engine is realism. This doesn't mean the graphics engine is realistic, or even that the physics is realistic. What it means is that the major game mechanics should feel more like a simulation than a game. Little things that we often take for granted in our reality should bleed into the game world. Things ranging everywhere from the way the economy behaves, to the way NPCs respond to events around them, to the way resources are distributed, to the way weather impacts the environment.

Well, that's the end of my introduction. While I've not been super specific about the details, I hope there's enough there to get you excited by the possibilities.


It's time for the progress report. The last month has been busy, but development continues. The focus right now is on implementing the chat system and the external chat server. External chat server you say? Yes! Per the first and fourth goals above, one of the key elements of Chronicles of Elyria is the dynamic nature of the world. Dramatic world events are often triggered by the smallest of things and it's important that players know about these events - even while offline.

To make this possible, Chronicles of Elyria will expose an external chat server that allows players to log in with any XMPP client and chat with their friends who are logged into the game (or the chat server). This way they can be informed of what's going on.

Additionally, we can use a notification system to push messages to players about things that personally affect them.

Next Month

Next month's dev journal will talk more about the chat system, as you should be able to log in to the server by then. Additionally, I'll dive into the details of the pre-launch currency I'm calling "Influence Points".

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