7 November

DJ #12: Identity, Disguises, and Reputation

By Caspian

One of the ways we know we matter in life is by the legacy we leave behind. But what is our legacy? Oftentimes the easiest way to answer that is by asking additional questions. Questions such as, “Who would recognize me if they saw me or heard my name”, “Are my deeds in this life recognized and will they be forgotten,” and “Who will remember me when I’m gone?” If the answers to these questions help us judge our impact on the world, it’s no wonder most MMOs lead players to feel like they don’t matter.

In this week’s design journal we’re going to talk about how Chronicles of Elyria changes that by making your identity matter. By binding your deeds to your identity, by giving players the opportunity to cloak their actions in anonymity, and by immortalizing your actions in the words and minds of NPCs, players can concretely answer questions about whether their in-game life has meaning in Elyria.

Identity

In Chronicles of Elyria, a character and their identity are two separate things. The character represents the physical body, while the identity represents the intangible parts such as the character's name, reputation, and persona. And, much as in our world, in Chronicles of Elyria a character's identity is never displayed by default.

When you approach a character you've never encountered before there's no floating nameplate above their head that identifies who they are, what "class" they are, or any other information. The same is true for you. When you first enter a new town, nobody around you will have the slightest idea who you are.

Introductions

To go beyond that place of mystery you'll need to either introduce yourself to someone, or ask them to introduce themselves. Both of these can be done through the UI in a way similar to how you challenge someone to a dual in most MMOs. If you ask someone to introduce themselves and they accept, you'll be shown (for a short while) the information they were willing to share above their character. If they decline, they'll continue to be a nameless stranger on your screen.

Once you've talked to another character enough, or have done business with them a couple times, you'll perpetually see the floating nameplate above their head. That is, it won't automatically go away after half an hour. You can of course globally disable this, but most people will find it useful to know who around them they immediately recognize.

When introducing yourself, you determine whether you want to convey your first name, full name, full-name and title, or additional information, such as the guild you're a part of. The more information you share the more comfortable a person may be with talking to you - and the more likely they are to remember you later.

In-game screenshot of a character with a cloak on, concealing their identity Figure 1 – In-game screenshot of a character with a cloak on, concealing their identity

Becoming Anonymous

While characters are typically anonymous by default, there are times when you want to become anonymous even amongst those who know you. Maybe you're a famous Bard and you want to get from one side of town to the other without being accosted by fans. Maybe your boss plays CoE too and you called in sick and want to get through the guild hall without being caught. Or, maybe you're about to do something... deviant and you want the ability to say you were "nowhere near there."

Whatever the reason, as seen in Figure 1, characters can hide their identity/names by wearing a hooded cloak with the hood up. Of course, walking through town with your hood up may raise additional suspicion, but if it's your nameplate you want hidden, this'll do the trick.

Identity & Contracts

The last thing I wanted to touch on real quick with identities is Contracts. Contracts - both explicit and implicit, are agreements made between identities. That is, characters sign the contract with their name when they explicitly agree to it, and if someone breaks a law, it is the identity of the character that broke the law that people will be looking for.

However, what if there was a way for you to don a fake identity, to cease to exist entirely, or maybe even take on the identity of someone else?! Doing so would allow you to avoid having to fulfill your end of a contract, dodge sheriffs indefinitely, or maybe even frame someone else!

Multiple Identities

As seen in last week's design journal on "Equipment & Inventory" the in-game character sheet has a drop-down box which, much like how other games let you select your currently active title, let's you select your currently active Identity. This controls several things such as which name you'll provide when you introduce yourself, which title - if any, you wish to introduce yourself as, and most importantly - which disguise you want to use. We'll talk more about that in a moment.

Before you can select between multiple identities you first have to create additional identities. Identities are created by forging the appropriate documents and where necessary, having the appropriate disguise. This involves both the Forgery Skill, as well as the Disguise skill. Both are in the Deviant skill tree and both are illegal. If you're caught with forged documents, or your disguise is seen through, you could be on the hook for everything you did while under the guise of your alternate identity. And that's in addition to any jail time you face for creating false identities.

So what are the good, legal reasons to create a fake identity? Well, there aren't any really. At best, you may be using an alternate identity to commit corporate espionage and steal trade secrets from a reputable guild. At worst, you may be a famous assassin, bouncing between identities like tennis balls on a tennis court. In either case, having multiple identities generally means you're up to no good.

Disguises

Disguises are aren't always necessary, but when used, dramatically reduce the likelihood of someone detecting your false identity. To use a disguise you must first create one. There are two different ways to create a disguise - from scratch and from a model.

Of the two, creating a disguise from scratch is the easiest, most common, and least dangerous. To create a disguise from scratch you simply put on the appropriate wig, hair style, clothing, etc... And then bind it to a disguise kit. The more skilled you are making disguises, the more pieces you can add to your kit. Initially, you may only be able to put in a wig, then maybe contacts, but eventually, you can mask almost all of your recognizable features.

To put on the disguise, you simply activate the disguise kit. Once you've done that it's possible to bind the disguise to your active identity from the character UI. From then on, any time you switch identities you'll automatically change into your disguise - assuming you have the disguise kit on you. Once you're wearing your disguise, it's perfectly ok to don/doff equipment without breaking the disguise. In this way you can assume an identity, head out with a party, and then equip new gear you find without raising suspicion.

The other way to create a disguise is by using a model. This is a more complex task as it requires studying someone, stalking them a bit, and then ultimately stealing at least one wearable item from them. When you build a disguise this way it allows you to closely resemble another character. Then, if you happen to have a high-level forger and a copy of another character's signature, say, from a previous contract, it's possible to not only look like them, but to assume their identity outright.

Character of Lore, Naomi Jade, shown wearing multiple of her disguises Figure 2 – Character of Lore, Naomi Jade, shown wearing multiple of her disguises

Seeing Through Disguises/Fake IDs

Whenever you, or someone around you, assumes a fake identity there's a chance others will recognize it as a fake. The percentage chance that someone can see through your identity is based on the number of times you've encountered them before. The more times you've encountered someone, the easier it is to recognize the lie. If you're not wearing a disguise, it may only take a couple times interacting with someone before the fake identity is discovered. Putting on a disguise will help with your charade but even still, the more you interact with someone as multiple identities, the easier it will be for them to recognize the identities belong to the same character.

In addition, should you gain enough skill in Forgery and Disguises that you're able to assume someone else's identity, your disguise will immediately fall off should you ever encounter the original. As well, anyone who personally knows the model you based your disguise on will have an easier time recognizing you're not who you claim to be.

Along the same lines, as discussed back in DJ #5, Family members can always see through a disguise. That includes both your family, as well as the family of the person you're impersonating. With that in mind, should you attempt to steal someone's identity, it's best to travel a safe distance before picking your mark. This'll allow you to head back to your own town or target destination before assuming the identity of your new victim.

Reputation and Fame

It should be clear by now that you don't want someone stealing your identity and then committing a bunch of crimes. Not only could that end up in possible jail time if you can't clear your name, but there's a subtler, yet equally important reason why you want to keep your identity intact. Your reputation and fame.

Your Fame is a measure of how well your name/identity is known. The more famous you are, the more people (NPCs and PCs) who will recognize you if mentioned in conversation. As well, the more famous you are, the more likely your reputation is to spread.

Your reputation is the public information/opinion about you. Reputation and Fame work together but are otherwise orthogonal. That is, each one can be adjusted on its own, which creates four possible combinations. These combinations are:

  • Famous with a good reputation
  • Famous with a bad reputation
  • Largely unknown with a good reputation
  • Largely unknown with a bad reputation

In general, your reputation - good or bad, is a function of the things you do that people know about. It's important to emphasize that this is based on what people know about you. It's entirely possible to have a dark affinity, but otherwise appear to the public as an upstanding citizen, and thus have a positive reputation. And of course, if someone you want to work with has a dark affinity, or is a criminal, having a bad reputation can actually be a GOOD thing!

Similar to your reputation, your fame changes over time as a result of the things you do - good or bad, that effect other people or the story. Completing achievements, finishing tasks, and even just crafting items which you sell to others can all have an impact on your fame.

It should also be noted that your reputation and fame are not yours alone. When determining your final reputation and fame, groups you’re affiliated with, as well as your family and dynasty are also taken into consideration. The opposite is also true. Things you do can have an impact on the reputation and fame of your family or organizations.

The Spread of Information

Reputation and fame spreads through gossip. Any time you interact with NPCs you have an opportunity to gossip with them. This gives you the chance to learn things about other characters in your area, and to share things that you've witnessed as well. Depending on the openness of the NPC you're talking to, they may turn around and pass the information along to other NPCs and PCs who want to chat.

In this way, you could do something favorable, or commit a crime in one town, and have your reputation proceed you to the next. It also means that if you can silence enough people, you can stop the news before it spreads.

Discuss

Log in to post
Varhukan - 1 year ago

OKay another DJ I had not read, so happy to read it and see deviant can really pay off but the risk makes it only for those dedicated to groom that type of character/guild

Omni222 - 1 year ago

"Both of these can be done through the UI in a way similar to how you challenge someone to a dual in most MMOs"

Just wanted to note it should be duel, not dual.

Love you guys and keep up the good work SBS.

Deftly - 1 year ago

Necromancy confirmed..

Grim - 1 year ago

I'm soooooo late but this has me so hyped! I planned on being an assassin in this game so this definitely encourages me even more to go for it :)

Mereas - 2 years ago

So say I were to create a disguise, a new persona. Would that persona be able to accumulate fame as if it were its own character? I ask this because I like to imagine being able to be a masked vigilante hero, something like superman or batman or what have you. Where you have your normal person persona(Bruce Wayne), and your disguises persona(Batman), each with its own fame and reputation.

Oracle - 1 year ago
@Mereas:

Posted By Mereas at 02:38 AM - Wed Jul 06 2016

So say I were to create a disguise, a new persona. Would that persona be able to accumulate fame as if it were its own character? I ask this because I like to imagine being able to be a masked vigilante hero, something like superman or batman or what have you. Where you have your normal person persona(Bruce Wayne), and your disguises persona(Batman), each with its own fame and reputation.

Though it may be easier to identify your disguise, your own personal fame will continue to rise because of your impact on Elyria's story.

As a consequence of that fame, you will become increasingly easy to recognise through your disguise. In addition your death penalty too will rise.

When caught it's highly possible that having been identified and captured, your face / disguise and evidence (perhaps under torture lol) will result in you being punished for the numerous crimes you're wanted for.

It is possible to live a life as a brigand, but it's not intended to be the variety of easy life with no consequence that encourage every player to take up a life of trolling :)

Their goal is around 15%.

In regards to stealing identities of nobles though, I expect this to work very little. Nobles with good sense will keep family around and ensure a significant amount of their population know them.

This would otherwise equate to an instant "I Win" as deviants jumped uncontested from beggars to kings etc.

I assume we can pass laws to ban hoods etc in our towns? :)

Grim - 1 year ago
@Oracle:

Posted By Oracle at 12:58 PM - Tue Apr 18 2017

Posted By Mereas at 02:38 AM - Wed Jul 06 2016

So say I were to create a disguise, a new persona. Would that persona be able to accumulate fame as if it were its own character? I ask this because I like to imagine being able to be a masked vigilante hero, something like superman or batman or what have you. Where you have your normal person persona(Bruce Wayne), and your disguises persona(Batman), each with its own fame and reputation.

Though it may be easier to identify your disguise, your own personal fame will continue to rise because of your impact on Elyria's story.

As a consequence of that fame, you will become increasingly easy to recognise through your disguise. In addition your death penalty too will rise.

When caught it's highly possible that having been identified and captured, your face / disguise and evidence (perhaps under torture lol) will result in you being punished for the numerous crimes you're wanted for.

It is possible to live a life as a brigand, but it's not intended to be the variety of easy life with no consequence that encourage every player to take up a life of trolling :)

Their goal is around 15%.

In regards to stealing identities of nobles though, I expect this to work very little. Nobles with good sense will keep family around and ensure a significant amount of their population know them.

This would otherwise equate to an instant "I Win" as deviants jumped uncontested from beggars to kings etc.

I assume we can pass laws to ban hoods etc in our towns? :)

Damn an assassin can't catch a break 'round these parts haha. I assume people would have to change personas often to avoid being found out and staying anon. I'm betting there will be a way to reset these values via items, clothing changes or otherwise? Curious little detail there

Lyonex - 2 years ago

This is so cool, I think some sort of Wanted Poster system would be great, Bounties and Bounty Hunters and stuff like that. Would make people's identities much more relevant.

Icee - 2 years ago

I have a doc titled "The Perfect MMO" that I'm constantly updating, and you guys have come close to hitting many of my points head on. This one however, is practically, if not completely head-on. You guys are so ahead of your time it's amazing. I believe this game will truly set the standard for future MMOs.

Phydra - 2 years ago

Hmmm - what about authors writing under pen name? Reporters and whistleblowers? I like this concept, but these few gaps concern me because I write and have a few thoughts about different play experiences that would require nome de plume of a decidedly legal sort.

Possibilities for intrigue and espionage for reporters and whistleblowers, too. Would whistleblowing be illegal? And if so, is it "illegal" because the people in power say it is, is it illegal as part of national policy, or is it legal and to be supported? (I suspect territories, et al would have to decide for themselves... and either post it or not, eh?)

Wolfguarde - 2 years ago

Anonymity is something I've wanted to see in MMOs for a long time - even on its own, without the massive complex of features this game will have, it adds interesting dynamics to player interactions, especially where PvP is concerned. Seeing it so fully fleshed out will be incredible.

Regarding the topic of gossip, I am curious... will the player be able to falsify information to NPCs to slander their names? If so, will this result in modification to their alignment?

Aqueous - 2 years ago

What will it look like to "see through" someone's disguise? Will there be a pop up box? Will the disguise melt away and everyone will know? Will the disguised person know you've seen through?

And another question, how do reputation and fame actually benefit you? Currently it seems like they just give you larger penalties for dying

Aeryn Suun-Brakur - 2 years ago

Will NPC to PC and PC to PC communicate with each other by text in a chat box?

Male di Vivere - 2 years ago

I'm very skeptical regarding the NPCs' ability to hold a non-scripted conversation. I'm no expert in anything related to game-making, let alone AI, but this all sounds so much over the actual possibilities...

shugre - 2 years ago
@Male di Vivere:

Thank you, finally a post I can agree to. Language is such a difficult thing to handle with AI. Even something seemingly simple as having correct singular/plural is a big task ("just append an 's' for plural" - doesn't really cut it.). What if you want to translate the game into other languages, e.g. to open up for the german market? If they want players to have a great experience playing this game all those things need to be implemented perfectly or otherwise its just going to be a big mess.

Slugworth - 2 years ago

oh man i can't wait for the hijinks this will surely cause

Eros Nightleaf - 2 years ago

One thing I don't like is how the disguises come off when you meet the person that you're pretending to be. Instead, your character should just be outlined in red on the other person's screen, so they know it's a disguise, but no one else does. This can cause interesting events where both claim to be the specific person, and the person with the most proof is thought of as the true person, even if it isn't actually the person. (Sorry if that's confusing)

Also, what if I'm disguised as, say, the king/queen and (s)he recognizes me, causing the costume to fall off/ stop working. But then the king will know what I actually look like, meaning that even if I escaped, they could easily hunt me down, knowing my face, and arrest me for identity theft. Yet another reason why it might be good to just outline the recognized disguised person in red, rather than taking their disguise off.

Vanic - 2 years ago
@Eros Nightleaf:

You pose an interesting situation and true to actual realism I really like your idea, I think it would be very game-like to immediately destroy the disguise and break immersion. I give you credit for presenting a problem you foresaw and also giving a great fix to it. kudos.

kikass - 2 years ago
@Eros Nightleaf:

sigh

Laax - 2 years ago
@Eros Nightleaf:

I agree with this post, the possibility to acquire someone else's identity looks nice but must be very carefully balanced.

And the thing about istantly loosing the disguise upon mithing the guy we're imitaging seems to "shallow" compared to the rest of the game features, i think it can be modified.

ExArchAngel - 2 years ago

I think it should be made quite difficult to fully impersonate another person, with only masters or grandmasters of the skill being able to do it

Tarik Thunderstorm - 3 years ago

You do not mention what can a player do to avoid being impersonated. You mention all the ways to impersonate someone but not how to actively avoid being impersonated.

Are there going to be any skills that we coild train on to avoid or detect when someone is stalking is to rob our identity?

Scheneighnay - 2 years ago
@Tarik Thunderstorm:

Simple: interact with a lot of people within your area on a regular basis (so they recognize your fraud easier), as well as keeping your possessions safe.

Sirkull - 3 years ago
@Tarik Thunderstorm:

I agree. Its all about how to steal someone identity and get them in trouble for your actions. I can see players doing this to others constantly.

And from contracts, the very tool that was supposed to get past the "trust" issues of MMO games.

Sounds to me like players will be able to do what ever they want to whom ever and simply steal the identity of some crafter they trade some goods to for a baked muffin and then switch towns and go willy nilly again with no repercussions.

Sounds fun for them.... not my play style...

Chunky Skylord - 3 years ago
@Tarik Thunderstorm:

Well stalking they way they described it sounded dangerous, and I'm sure a good perception would make it all the more so. I think it'd be weird to have a skill based on anti stalking, so just pure perception (or its equivalent) well probably be it.

Noximous - 3 years ago

Sounds fantastic, I'm wondering if you can make up your own titles, so you can do things like call yourself Robin hood for example, in order to get famous as a bandit.

Chunky Skylord - 3 years ago
@Noximous:

All you would have to do is make up a fake name and call yourself that whilst being a baddie. Better yet why not impersonate another more famous bad guy (like Robin hood) if you have the skill to do so. Not much to lose if you're already going to be bad.

Kahetabi - 3 years ago

So there is reputation without fame, what about fame without reputation?

Chunky Skylord - 3 years ago
@Kahetabi:

How would one get famous if not by their deeds? I imagine the answer is yes if you could make a perfectly balanced reputation, (even then, different social classes might take some deeds more offensively so...) or maybe managed to get appointed mayor and hadn't done anything of note yet. So yes?

equalsfive - 2 years ago
@Chunky Skylord:

Becoming the "Chosen One", King, Mayor, Political Figure, Etc. Like, you could become the Lord of a fief, but no one has ever seen you, so naturally you wouldn't have much of a reputation (though that's kinda mysterious in of itself which is kinda reputation, so bad example) So basically anything that changes your status in society (before having reputation) that would make your name known to people. There's probably something i'm overlooking here.