An integral part of many strategy games is players exploring, uncovering, controlling, and even hiding key information from other players. Kingdoms of Elyria is no exception, and whether it’s the location, layout, and progression of rival settlements or even just rare gathering spots, knowledge is power.
In the larger Chronicles of Elyria, the camera angle and field of view creates an inherent limitation to the amount of physical information someone can have access to at any one point in time. This is further enhanced by limiting in-game, in-character conversation to just proximity chat. But, Kingdoms of Elyria, while sharing the domain, settlement, and land management mechanics of CoE, is simultaneously a different game with a different user experience and field of view.
In KoE, “fog of war” is the way we control access to the physical knowledge that players can gain, and we’ve chosen to exploit this to reflect the layers of strategic depth and story-telling we want to offer players. Fundamentally, without fog of war, not only would you be free to spy on your opponents at all times and anticipate all their actions, but in turn, they would be of little risk to you.
Always knowing what’s around you would remove any element of danger, whether it’s local wildlife or even a rival player, and having no fog of war would severely harm some of the more political leanings of Kingdoms of Elyria. In contrast, a lack of vision can have an opposite effect, allowing players to explore opportunities of espionage, stealth, and tactical play that manipulates your enemies’ lack of vision.
As we’ve shown in Episode 4 of Inside Chronicles of Elyria, our fog of war is a physically rolling mass that ebbs and flows, being exposed only by the presence of your player citizen, your immediate family members, or your settlement’s vision-granting buildings and structures. Exploring with your player character will physically reveal your surroundings, but this unveiling will only remain if you, your family members, or the structures you control within your parcels persist.
One important thing to note here is that we extended the ability to expose the fog of war to immediate family members to coincide with the communication mechanics in Chronicles of Elyria. That is, family members always have the ability to communicate, in real time, with their immediate family members so long as they’re on the same continent. In KoE, the opportunity to utilize your family as your eyes and ears, exposing the fog of war and gaining real-time information on other settlements presents exciting opportunities for both exploration and knowledge gathering. But, this mechanic also creates unexpected side-effects for scenarios like holding political hostages.
All that said, the fog of war poses significant challenges for players as it inherently brings dangers. What’s surrounding you? Are your enemies spying on your homestead in the fog of war? Is there a significant risk to your player character if you venture out into the wilderness? How far can you expand your outer parcels of land before stretching your resources and defenses too thinly?
We took this approach because, whether we’re talking Chronicles of Elyria or Kingdoms of Elyria, we want players constantly considering the inherent risks and rewards to what they’re undertaking. Whether that’s assessing the affordability of expanding their parcels for the increased vision or exploring the wider map in poor weather, there should always be a question of whether an action you’re undertaking is worthwhile, and even more so when playing against other players.
While expanding your settlement, maintaining structures and increasing your vision will be key to protecting your inner parcels so that your most valuable assets aren’t left vulnerable. This too comes with its own challenges and consequences, as purchasing land for, and maintaining, large settlements is resource and tax intensive and will directly impact the costs of your upkeep. So, while growth is important for maximum vision, doing so too early can mean the difference between maintaining stability and tipping the first domino of sustainability.
Despite some early technical challenges in implementing our vision of fog of war (notably due to our unique camera angles and terrain elevations), we feel the end result of what we’ve created has not only been worth the effort, but will significantly enhance the immersion and grand strategy of Kingdoms of Elyria.
Over time, as players expand their settlements, increasing their foothold in the land, and venturing forth from their settlements - sending themselves and their family members far and wide to harvest key information on rival settlements - it will become dangerously apparent just how much value there is in what you can, and cannot see.