Hail and well met, Elyrians!
If you read the introduction to this adventure, then you already know that this next push is about establishing a sense of corporeality in Elyria; being an entity in the world, looking around, inspecting it, and touching it. All of the foundational work we built throughout 2017 is now the scaffolding on which we are building the production-version of the game. It's kind of like that point in an RPG where you can finally use the world map and the shape of the experience comes into full view. The stage has been set and now you get to watch the story unfold!
The first thing any Elyrian must do is create their character and so adding depth to character creation is a crucial next step. In the last adventure, we generated characters randomly in order to make sure our systems were properly sending character data back and forth, that characters persisted between sessions, and that character data was stored on the server. We did that! So now it's a matter of being able to actually generate a character customized by the players. Though, in later adventures, family and bloodline will become an important factor, for now we are treating every character as a ward of the state. This means having the full range of customization options available to the tribe's bloodline. For an example, Hrothi are around 4'9" feet tall (~145 cm) on average but that can range from 4'5" to 5'2" (135.5 cm to 157.5 cm). You can't make a Hrothi as tall as a Janoa - that just doesn't make sense for their bloodline. Similar bloodline restrictions with hair, eye, and skin color are there as well.
Different genders may have different options available, but we're keeping them pretty equitable
Creating 3D targets like the ones you see above help us to make sure that our character rig and skin shader can support the full range of character traits possible in the game. This means even supporting the undiscovered tribes, which will be present in their regions of the world at launch but not yet playable.
At this point, we've got in customization of the major body features: tribe, gender, skin, hair, and eyes. See it in action:
Character creation takes place in a Soul Chamber in the Akashic Records
The next step is to add in facial customization support. Since all the tribes of Elyria are a lot more realistic than your typical fantasy world, and because we want to have concepts like heredity and disguises, facial features play an important role. To make sure our face rig can support a great variety, Vanimus Prime has also been doing 3D concepts for extreme facial features.
Because of interbreeding, all these features must be tribe agnostic
You may have noticed the Orrery showing the Elyrian solar system in the screenshot above. The alignment of the celestial bodies of Elyria does matter for each individual character and the planet as a whole. To help you keep all your planets straight, here are the final, completed concepts for each of the major celestial players in the system. Some tribes may have different words for some of them based on their own culture and beliefs, but the common name is also included here.
Which one is your favorite?
There's still a bit to go to finish this quest, so expect to see more progress by the end of the adventure. I'm certain you can all begin to see how this is taking shape though!
The goal for this adventure is to be able to open up some UI to manage inventory and equipment. As this is our first step at doing this using all the tech we've developed, it's not going to be flashy just yet. It will be relatively easy to configure and iterate upon because of some excellent work that Michael has done on making our UI system flexible. Though we haven't created the UI yet, we expect this feature to come together quickly. The next step is to refine the wireframes and create support for adding inventory data on an object (how much it weighs, if it can be picked up, what it's made of, etc).
We prototyped the world interaction quite a while ago and were pretty happy with the result. Use your left mouse button to use your left hand; use your right mouse button to use your right hand. Easy! Since we already have a good idea of how it all should play out, from a UX standpoint, implementing this feature in our production codebase is more a matter of creating the underlying data on the objects in the world and how they can be interacted with. For example, a tree can't be picked up, but it could be cut down or used as part of a Kypiq building foundation or decompose.
The next step in this quest to create the functionality for adding interactivity data to an object in the world, similar to adding inventory data to an object. Once objects can have interactivity data (an example might be "canBePickedUp": false), then it's a matter for our design team to start adding that data to objects. Then, when a character tries to interact with that object, they will perform the correct interaction.
Since the first time players will interact with objects is in VoxElyria, we've been making sure there are objects in the world to interact with. Also that you can tell what those objects are! Heat and Racronos have been whipping up these voxel assets for the world that we'll be inviting Alpha 1 backers into before long.
It's a voxel-class menagerie
There is always more to do on the web front. Ever embattled, the brave souls here on the front lines have a flurry of quests and bounties they are undertaking all the time. Not the grand adventures that push the gameplay forward, the work here is no less important to the ultimate goal of getting players into the game. Here is what they've been working on, as of late.
In May 2017 we added pledge package gifting options to our online store, allowing members of our community to be able to share Elyria with more of their friends. After adding a la carte items in November and hearing about a lot of the cool, community-run events - here, here, here, and here - we knew it was time to add additional gifting options. For the holidays: gifting of EP. To keep around: gifting of many a la carte items. We want to make sure people who want to support us and share their interests with others have every opportunity to do so. We are making this game for our community, after all!
We have continued to work on improving the site in other ways as well. The Game Guide is being updated with new content in our V3 style. The first batch, which is coming in the next week or so, should help make learning about the game a more pleasant experience for newcomers. As we continue pushing out new and updated pages in the guide, there will be more for the well-versed as well. The goal is to make certain that any information we release in a design journal, update, Q&A, or in Discord finds its way into the Game Guide in a timely manner.
We announced that players will soon be able to claim their very own family surname in the not-too-distant future, and that account merging is a prerequisite. Letting folks get multiple pledge packages across multiple accounts was a compromise at the time, and is a little messy to reconcile in the end. The team has been diligently putting work into this functionality so that everyone who got multiple pledge packages with the intent to combine them will be able to get this done before Surname Reservation starts up. The combined amount of influence across merged accounts will ultimately decide when your window for reserving a surname will open up so it's imperative that merging take place first.
On top of that, influence can be earned in other ways. Until now, some have been automatic (friend codes) and some have been dormant (reporting bugs, fan content, valuable forum posts, etc). We'll be doing a full accounting of earned influence before Surname Reservation opens up as well. Since our community is so passionate and involved, there's a fair bit of influence that many folks will receive! We're validating all the dormant activities now and will make an announcement when the awards have been given so you can check your influence amount before reservation begins.
Some of you may be wondering why we took the Influence Leaderboard down, since now you won't know where you stand compared to others. We didn't want to encourage last-minute sniping or influence wars that might hurt or undermine other players, since that's not what Influence is about. While conflict and drama are things we want to encourage between characters, it has never been desired that in-game conflicts go meta, break the fourth wall, or seep into a player's real life. While we can't stop folks from bringing Elyria out-of-character if they choose, we can, at least, not create tools to encourage it.
Rest assured, we are still tracking and tabulating influence for our community members and it will still be used for picking order in Surname Reservation, Server Selection, Settlement & Domain Selection, etc.
Now I haven't even talked about the Surname Reservation work yet! A mockup was teased in Discord, which I'll share here.
Though each tribe has its own language or dialect, you are free to submit any surname you'd like
One other hurdle to our vision of Surname Reservation is the surname generator. That meant finally sitting down and getting to brass tacks on the languages for each tribe. Language is a passion of mine, so, whilst the rest of the team has focused on getting the functionality for all of the above, I have been creating languages!
At long last, I get to mention my own work in a production update!
"Can it be true? Hast thou never before been called the executor of tasks, only the shepherd?" I hear your words, dripping with incredulity.
Nay, I say! Although I frequently do odd-jobs here and there, my main focus is on facilitating the work the rest of the team is doing. There are only so many work hours in a day, though, and eventually the rest of the team goes home. So in my free time, I've developed a variety of languages for the various tribes to use. We discussed language in Design Journal #20 and, if you read any of the tribe write-ups, you know they each have a section on language. It's important to note, however, that language is a result of a region's society and not genetics so assigning a language to a tribe will only be accurate for characters created in their tribe's home biome at launch. Due to player interaction, we expect that languages will migrate through regions based on common usage. We also expect that a character born in a non-native biome will learn the predominant language of the region instead of their ancestor's language. For example, a Kypiq is born and raised in the Wetlands will most likely speak To'reshian Wetlander rather than Pyqish Neran (note: language names are placeholder).
Languages in Elyria are meant to be an important facet of the living world. Even if you're using VOIP or an outside chat system to communicate with other players, your character only knows what they understand, regardless of what you understand as a player. Since Rumors & Gossip are actual items you can trade, since Contracts are how most people will get paid, since we've got Reputations and Forgery, and other in-character mechanics related to communication, it actually matters what languages your characters speak. Though the scope of the current work is just going to be used for the tribe surname generation tool, it's paving the way for the other language-dependent mechanics in the game. You can, of course, learn new languages in game but expect it to be about as common as in real-life (common in places where many cultures come together, and less common in places where one culture dominates).
You know, this section is getting a little long and there is still much to say. Maybe I should just write the Design Journal on Communication... What do you think?
At any rate, I'm so excited for this Adventure to be completed since we'll be able to make real characters on our real server with our real in-game tools. I'm a big fan of character creators, so I anticipate spending many of my upcoming hours just playing around with this experience. By the end of the Adventure, we'll be able to walk through the entire Ward of the State character creation process, so expect a video...or maybe we'll do a live stream and you can tell us what characters you'd like to see us make! Not to mention getting into the world and playing with equipment and inventory on our server, which is the last hurdle to crafting, combat, and a whole host of other core game features I know that folks are excited to start seeing. We're right there with you!
Until next time...
Jiszhw zha shusnamass oswbunan'ma shide zesdis, wusl osshrasosz wae dosnosya,