3 August

Production Update: From Pre To Alpha

By Vye

Hail and well met, Elyrians!

No doubt you have been salivating from the tempting tidbits Caspian introduced in the last Adventure Introduction and it's my pleasure to provide a progress report on those tidbits! Though the Quest for Alpha 1 is epic in scale, our current efforts can be broken down into a few different threads of delivery.

Exploring the Depths of Character Data

While characters had appearance data when we were working on the character creator, they were nothing more than a set of slider settings. At this point in the release, creating a character also creates or records your:

  • Birthdate & Age
  • Gender
  • Personal Destiny
  • Selected Soul
  • Skills (modified by the selected Soul)
  • Number of Previous Lives Lived
  • Spirit Remaining
  • True Identity
  • Character Attributes
  • Survival Status
  • Starting Equipment
  • Location in the World

Some of these are prerequisites for other things to work, such as survival. Read on to discover what things are being used and how!

Journey to the Realm of Family Data

The initial character creator we shared was Ward-only, but we've been building upon that foundation to add the path for creating a character in a family. There's kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario here, since characters can only join a family if there's an open Child Contract, but a Child Contract can only be created between two, existing characters of the opposite sex. The contract defines several things:

  • Family Surname
  • Family Location
  • Family Culture
  • Family Religion

...and, of course, who the parents are. Even if wearing a disguise, the Child Contract records who you really are because your true genetics are used (your physical body is involved in baby-making). While the child created with the contract would only be aware of the identities their parents were using when they made the contract, their genetics will be based off of the True Identity. If you want to create secret children, you totally can, but they'll still resemble you and not your disguise.

When you choose to create a character from a posted contract, you will inherit your parent's genetics (obviously) but you're also a product of your upbringing in the sense that you'll inherit their ways - at least at first. You must start in the same location as your parents. Presumably they have a room for you in the house or, at the very least, your own bed to sleep in. You will be raised in the culture of your parents, which will be based on their culture and location in the world. For example, a Dras and To'resk who choose to have a child whilst living in a predominantly Neran settlement, will have a child with those influences. If your mom is Al'tifali and your dad is Qindred, they'll need to define what religion they intend to raise you into and your character will begin as a member of that religion, which is pretty much what happens on Earth, too. Once you are in control, however, you can convert to another religion but you'd be effectively undertaking a quest that will affect your reputation and which religious doctrine is affecting your soul's affinity.

The Happy Pursuit of Not Dying

In order to not die, there are a few requirements. First, you need to eat, which also means you need to get hungry. You need to drink, so thirst needs to get stronger over time. You'll need to stay protected from the environment, so homeostasis and exposure need to come into effect. You'll also need to sleep from time to time, meaning that your fatigue needs to increase the more things you do and how long its been since you last slept. There's also breathing - which is generally believed to be important - although we're not working on it just yet so don't hold your breath.

Above, I listed that the character data now holds information about Equipment, Attributes, and Location. The world currently also has data about the temperature, weather, and time of day where you are. These things are in the process of being processed into the character's Survival Status and, by the time the release is over, you'll be able to become incapacitated in any number of ways! Each time you are incapacitated, in addition to the unavoidable march of time, your Spirit Remaining dwindles. If one becomes incapacitated and the remaining Spirit is less than the Spirit Loss received, the character will experience death. We're not tackling reincarnating the Soul into a new character during this release, but it'll likely be along in Release 0.5.0.

Until then, eat, drink, sleep, and put some damn clothes on!

The Mission for Things To Do

There are a lot of things characters will be able to do in Elyria come launch but most are the union of these three categories: interacting, surviving, and knowing. For example, combat is interacting (with equipment, terrain, and other lifeforms) and knowing (techniques). Crafting is interacting (with stations and materials) and knowing (techniques and recipes). Traveling is interacting (with the environment or transports) and surviving (through weather, exposure, banditry, etc). Knowing and surviving would certainly come in handy while out in the wilderness so you don't eat the wrong mushrooms or become a tasty snack for a prowling wildcat, even beyond interacting with the world to create a shelter.

So in our quest to do things in the world, we're focusing primarily on the interacting part. Interacting with objects in the world such as trees, wells, campfires, and forges are leading us toward our first few crafting implementations. You saw our visualization prototype in the Crafting Design Journal, no doubt, but getting all the code architected and systems built to handle that experience have been coming along. Our first few crafts are about using the supreme discovery of fire to heat up stuff! Smithing, cooking, alchemy, distillation - some of my favorite building blocks of civilization!

As you may have seen on the skill diagram Caspian shared, these are all crafting skills that will require a technique in order to actually utilize your character's skill. Use of techniques can require tools, stations, and materials and will put you in a focused interface for their specific use. For example, accessing a forge. Though the design and engineering guilds are going full-tilt on implementing the mechanics this release, the goal is to hook those up in 3D before long.

The Hunt for Things to Have

Being able to do things also requires that there are things to do things to, so we've also been adding necessary objects into the world in order to do the activities above, such as food to cook and eat, a spit to cook it on, waterskins that can be filled with water and drank from, wood for the fire, flint and steel to light it, torches to create light sources, coal for the forge, and clothes to protect from the environment. We're going for breadth, not depth, so there's one of each kind of thing but they are providing both the functionality to build the activities and the template by which other things of those types can be built.

For example, a torch allows us to create activities such as:

  • lighting a stationary fire from a carried fire source
  • lighting a carried fire source from a stationary fire
  • lighting a carried fire from another carried fire
  • carrying a fire source provides heat
  • carrying a light source provides illumination

In real life, fire burns most things it touches automatically. In a simulation, such as a video game, you have to define what burns...the computer doesn't just know and it can't do it for you. Maybe future computers will be able to do that, but we're living now and computers are machines that only do what they have coded instructions to do (yes, even in the exciting realm of machine learning). So while it might seem tedious and mundane to tell a torch it can be on fire and that its fire can light other, specifically-defined things on fire too, that's how this process works!

So far, we've got eating and drinking implemented, so the Happy Pursuit of Not Dying can be satisfied. We've also got waterskins which can be refilled at defined water sources, such as wells or fountains. There are fires that provide illumination, lighting fires through other fire or flint and steel, and fires that require fuel and burn that fuel over time. Cooking raw food is in-progress, as is setting up camp and using a bed to improve rest. Equipment isn't currently protecting characters from the environment, but it's on the to-do list!

Sadly, playing of instruments is not in scope of our current release, but we're thinking about how we want to implement it. While some of these sweet instruments may not be playable at launch, we'll be more than ready for the advancement of musical arts to take place in-game.

The Enacting of Attributes

Many actions your character will take, or activities you perform, will include your character's attributes. For instance, lifting up a boulder will only be possible if one's Strength is high enough. Striking metal on an anvil will require a certain amount of Strength and Agility to hit it just as your technique demands. Cooking a steak to the desired point will require some Intuition to follow the recipe exactly.

Unlike many RPGs, character attributes are not affected by gear. You can't wear gloves that make you smarter or rings that make you stronger. There's also nothing that says attributes only go up. If a strong character fails to use their muscles, their strength will decline. In fact, the older a character gets, the more reliance they will naturally have on their mental and social attributes, while physical attributes are the bailiwick of the young. But attributes can improve through effort, much like real life. A weak character can become strong; a clumsy character can become dexterous, a daft character can become crafty - all within the limits of their genetics. As has been said in the past, the strongest Kypiq will never be as strong as the strongest Brudvir. Yet the most agile Brudvir will pale in comparison to the most agile Kypiq. There are pros and cons to everything and we want this variety to be the spice of life and provide endless challenges to overcome for characters. Elyria is a world where being the strongest or the fastest or the smartest will not be enough. Players will have to find the path that works for their current character, rather than follow some optimal build guide on an FAQ somewhere.

In the screenshot Caspian shared, you could see a tiny taste of the combat skills and the attributes that affect them. As the Mission for Things to Do is being worked on, we're hooking those defined attributes into the actual Skill use. Success will depend on one's skill and attributes.

The Genesis of Locality

All of the above can be done in test spaces with placeholder assets, and much of it is being first validated through text read-outs in a console window. That's just smart development! Yet we're still continuing to refine the world generation algorithms and create the visual inventory of each biome. The specific flora in the biomes will not be visible at the detail level that will be presented for Server Map Voting - just the shape of the continent, topology, and important features of a region like lakes, rivers, and forests. Yet the flora will play an important role once characters get into the full 3D game, so we continue to develop the details. If you caught Raevantiel's ChamberBot Q&A session on Discord, then you've seen the initial features of the Broadleaf Forest biome, home to the Kypiq. If you missed that, you missed these!

The efforts on those detailed, 3D assets is in parallel to generating the maps for Server Map Voting so don't worry that all 20+ need this level of detail for us to generate the maps. We're iterating on some of the topology around the mountains to be suitably mountainy, but the rest of the continental topology is ready to use in the map generator.

The Search for Shinies

Even though this update is going out on a Friday, I didn't forget that it's Shiny day so, since you all seemed to love the leffit animation, I bribed the animators for their latest masterpiece: the foxcelot!

So spry! So sleek! You're welcome.

The Protectors of the Web

There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work by both the Old Guard and New Guard of this team, comprised of our Community, Website, and Outreach specialists. Bugs are being fixed, initial GDPR compliance is in place, and new things are being added like the Searing Plague Event and support for Server Map Voting. As we near Alpha, the coupling between the game and the website is becoming deeper. Designs and decisions about web features depend upon the game's design. Data from the website like Account Merges, Kickstarterversary Rewards, Guild/Villager Token exchange, Server Kingdoms, Server Maps, and User Generated Content (like the Searing Plague) need to find their way back into the game. It adds a bit of complexity because the backend must share this data, and we can't do something just for a promotion that is later thrown away. Like the full game, there's very little that happens on the website that is purely cosmetic or has no gameplay implications behind it. That's just the kind of world we're building though!

It the Adventure Introduction, you saw the graphic design mockup for the Server Map Voting page. Implementation for the front end has already started, though we are using placeholder graphics for the maps, and you'll probably be underwhelmed with how similar this looks to the mockup.

The important difference is that this is using actual web code and not merely Photoshop magic! As mentioned above, the map generator is still being developed but, by the time that it is done, the page will be ready for you to cast your votes.

Last, and certainly not least...by now, you've seen the beginning of the Plague but, I assure you, there is much more to come! It's our first world event (in the same vein of the 10-year story) and serves a bit like a prototype for the Story Engine. When the entire community can impact the outcome of our evolving story, it's anyone's guess how it will turn out!

Pledged to Your Continued Adventures in Life, Both Actual and Fantasy,