As far back as 2015 we’ve been discussing the Domain, Settlement, & Land Management mechanics of Chronicles of Elyria. There’s plenty of design journals in the archives providing details on our approach to it, including Player House & Architecture and Kingdom & Land Management (there’s 5 in total beginning with DJ 13!). The thread running through all of them is that Kingdoms of Elyria has always been very much a part of CoE’s framework.
Having begun work on Milestone 2 for KoE, we wanted to shed light on its two core parts, and what each is set to offer.
Part 1 continues the foundation for Kingdoms of Elyria and comprises some of the basics (such as Music and Sound FX, as well as finishing features from M1 such as Fog of War), but also incorporates valuable components such as NPC AI, contracts, and NPC diversity.
I appreciate these may appear simple systems, but the majority have depth and complexity that isn’t immediately apparent. We’ve already spoken about Fog of War - a feature that most are familiar with, but which has unique design challenges in the world we’re designing, especially when trying to allow people to uncover, locate, and retain knowledge through exploration (without leading to exploitation of vision angles).
What’s particularly exciting about Part 1, is the addition of Contracts and NPC AI. Contracts open the door to engaging with NPCs, to gain something specific in return. Whether that’s building part of your homestead, or gathering on your behalf, it allows for a reciprocal relationship, so you aren’t doing all the heavy lifting yourself. We’re also pleased to say that we're porting over the Contract implementation from CoE, straight into Kingdoms of Elyria, although the UI will need some adjustments.
Where NPC AI is concerned, this is all about giving them a desire to survive so that they don't wither and die after the first few days of play. Giving them goals, survival actions (such as eating and drinking), as well as an internal action planner to allow them to autonomously choose an appropriate task at the right time, will give you and your player character far more scope to leave them to their own devices. We’re also pleased to say you won’t have to look at the default Neran males for much longer - Kypiq and The Waerd are coming, alongside different age profiles.
As for Part 2 of Milestone 2, this is undoubtedly the meatier side of our development pipeline, and begins to explore NPC Personalities, Knowledge and Memory, Traits, Gossip, and Zoning.
What’s all this stuff? Well, it all feeds back into NPC autonomy, and strengthens the value of their actions and the way they interact with the world.
NPC Personalities will allow your non-player characters to adapt their survival goals based on their own hierarchy of needs (depending on their personality), while Knowledge and Memory allows NPCs to not only remember who they’ve interacted with or where they last saw something of value, but to also forget over time, forcing them to periodically refresh their memory.
That brings me nicely onto the subject of the final three elements: Traits, Gossip, and Zoning.
Traits grants us the ability to establish a much larger framework for citizens, so that they can form opinions about you, and each other. When combined with their own innate personalities, this will determine how willing they are to do your bidding (such as undertaking Contracts). If you then throw in a little bit of gossip, which is a system designed to allow NPCs to share information with each other and with you, it quickly becomes apparent that managing your townsfolk will make for challenging play. Through Gossip, NPCs and your Player Character can pass information between one another with physical interaction. Whether they’ll readily volunteer that information, however, will be entirely dependent on your standing with them.
Finally, Zoning allows your Player Character and your NPCs to focus on a specific location, rather than just undertaking a single task or action. Not only will this reduce some micromanagement, but will create room for you to take on wider contracts as you expand your vision and influence.
In the coming weeks we will be providing much more detail on all these systems. Our first Alpha Test will contain up to Part 1 of Milestone 2, with the remainder of M2 added over the next couple months. This should give players ample opportunity for playtesting, while experiencing the updates as they become available.
Stay tuned for the next blog update and be sure to check out Episode 5 of Inside Chronicles of Elyria next week.