Let’s SHINE a light on the lost!

Hail Elyrians!

As you can probably imagine, it’s been a busy week here at the studio. Between banging out the last few bugs that have persisted in the Domain and Settlement Selection experience and pushing on development of the adventure aspects of the Prelyria experience, there isn’t an idle hand to be seen! Since the topic of the last shiny was the maps we’ll use in Domain and Settlement Selection, why don’t we talk about the Prelyria experience a little this week, instead?

For those that don’t know, Prelyria is the codename for our pre-alpha client which uses lower-fidelity assets than the final game will to allow us to rapidly iterate while still maintaining an overall style and aesthetic. The choice to use these lower-fidelity models is basically one we made to make life easier for the content team: While we’re iterating on mechanics, the technical requirements related to producing the art for something will change frequently. At full-fidelity, this would mean that our content team is basically stuck, constantly remaking the same assets repeatedly. Depending on the asset, the problem could be even worse; producing that asset may take longer than it takes the designers and engineers to implement the changes that necessitate the change, putting the whole studio in the position of having to wait for the new assets before the process can start again.

That’s why we use the lower-fidelity assets: They can be altered quickly, they’re fast to produce, and they still look better than the typical cubes and capsules you see when a company “gray boxes” assets while they iterate on mechanics.

As a designer, I find this approach superior to the norm. “Gray boxing” is basically the practice of using simple cubes, capsules, spheres and other geometric shapes to stand in for your actual game assets. The problem with gray boxing is that it oversimplifies those assets, which means that for some elements of gameplay, you can’t really tune them until you get the full assets because the gray box doesn’t have the level of detail required to see if a change is necessary. So, with Prelyria, we get the best of both worlds; we have enough detail that we can work on basically any mechanic, and the studio needn’t slow down for the sake of higher-fidelity assets.

In a game like Chronicles of Elyria, not having to slow down is incredibly important. In fact, let me give you an example of what I mean. We’re currently working on adventuring mechanics. That means we’re focusing on our survival, combat, and exploration mechanics.

You can’t really test exploration without an area to explore, so if we can’t assemble at least some amount of our open world to test in, those mechanics can’t be tested. Remember, the worlds of Chronicles of Elyria aren’t pre-built by hand, they’re procedurally generated using several interlocking deep simulations. This allows us to create a very large world relatively quickly, but it also presents some important challenges to exploration.

You see it’s not enough to just have a big world to explore. There must be things to discover while you’re out there. In most open world games, the common wisdom goes, you’ll find something interesting, or have something interesting happen to you, roughly every 30 seconds or so. In most open world games, those things that happen are scripted and those things you discover are hand built and placed by an artist, alongside strategically placed lights, signs, and other clues meant to catch your eye or your ear and guide you to that cool discovery lurking nearby.

We can’t really do it that way in Chronicles of Elyria, since we want the state of the world and the actions of every inhabitant of our world to help decide what stories and events will play out. However, the tools we use to make sure you can find what’s going on a very similar to the techniques an environment artist or world designer might use in a hand-built open world game. So, for us, the challenge we’ve been looking at this week is how best to help players navigate to points of interests and events without calling out that that’s what we’re doing or impinging on their own player skill with navigation and investigation. We never want you to feel like Elyria is some sort of pre-scripted experience or “on rails,” because it most assuredly is not, but we also don’t want players to miss what’s going on just because they happened to aim a little too left to get over the hill to see the festival, or bandit camp, or caravan camping for the night, that the world has decided will exist nearby.

To get around this we use a few tricks. During the day, you’ll see “Breadcrumbs” – small assets that help to hint at what is in the area – appear that are related to what’s going on nearby. These will be subtle, but they will grow in frequency as you get closer to the source of the breadcrumbs. For example, you may start to see signs of a nearby encampment as you get closer and closer to a bandit’s hideout, seeing the smoke of their campfires rise into the sky before you see the camp itself. Likewise, perhaps you may see the tracks of a large animal as you get closer to the den of some monster.

Now, I said “during the day” because sight becomes a lot less reliable when it’s night time in Elyria. Details are harder to make out and it’s just a lot easier to miss things. So, another aspect of the challenge, involves the use of things you can see in the dark, namely lights. As you seen from the animation above, we’ve been focusing on lighting a bit this week because it offers a solution to one of the problems of exploring in the dark.

It’s much easier to find something in the dark if it’s glowing, right? I mean, I ask that kind of in jest, but it’s true, all the same. Imagine moving through the wetlands in the dark: The trees cut off the view of the horizon, everything is black. You turn around to find the town you just left, but… there are no lights. Which way was it?

Even if the town does have lights of its own, if you can’t see them through the trees how do you find that town? In the real world, you’d see the halo of the town’s light pollution on the horizon and you’d be able to at least get close by heading in that direction, but by default the lighting systems in most engines don’t produce that effect. You must add it. And in our case, we need to add it in a way that works with our procedural world generation. Well, this week our content guild did just that.

As dusk falls, the folks in a town start lighting their lamps, which you can see in the distance if your view isn’t obstructed. As it gets darker and more lights are turned on, that because a haze of light pollution you can see in the horizon, making it possible to navigate to that location in the dark. And, while I used a town in my example, the same technique is useful for camps, forest fires, or really any night-time phenomenon that casts enough light.

So, even in the dark, my fellow Elyrians, adventure is waiting to be hunted down and discovered. I hope you take up the call to find it; there’s a world of mystery and wonder awaiting those that do.

Until then, stay shiny my friends!

  • Snipehunter
7/26/2019 1:06:12 AM #1


7/26/2019 1:06:33 AM #2


Novigrad County~ Together we stand strong and bring despair to those who dare cross us.

7/26/2019 1:07:39 AM #3

Awesome shiny

7/26/2019 1:11:14 AM #4

Thanks for the update!

Am i the only one who would be excited by the prospect of getting lost, and having to use maps&compass/roads/trails to get about?

Plus, there wouldn't be that much pollution would there?

7/26/2019 1:12:23 AM #5

Heh... yeah kinda looks like Second Life with better lighting and textures now that you mention it :)

Reese "Legendary Neurotoxin" Holland - COE Reddit Mod - Game Dev, but not on CoE. Talkshow on on Sundays with the rest of the Theory Forge crew!

7/26/2019 1:15:25 AM #6

Truly shiny. I loved the tarp shelters

Divide et Impera

7/26/2019 1:26:28 AM #7

This is why I love elyria already. SBS is not letting us take everything for granted like the typical theme park MMO. It's starting from scratch. It's truly DESIGNING A GAME, rather than just remixing industry trends.

Stay the course, people. This is the game the world needs...even if there are those who don't think they want it.

"It's not the scales, the wings, the teeth, or even the breath that set a dragon at the pinnacle of creation. It's not the strength or senses, nor the size of his hoard. It's something that a dragon knows that only comes with age and experience. It's a skill mortals never truly master."

"A dragon...knows how to wait."

7/26/2019 1:40:25 AM #8

Us Hrothi dont need your pretty lights..

Baldrin 'Goat Lord' Hammerfist

7/26/2019 1:46:43 AM #9

That Night View looks like it's having a full Moon. Will there be brighter Nights depending on the Moon Lightning?

7/26/2019 2:02:49 AM #10

Posted By MyrmexNamykos at 9:46 PM - Thu Jul 25 2019

That Night View looks like it's having a full Moon. Will there be brighter Nights depending on the Moon Lightning?

Ooooooooooohhh, I hope so!

7/26/2019 2:29:12 AM #11

Maybe the shiniest of them all! Truly, freaking beautiful work on the lighting!

Side note... I play a lot of Sea of Thieves and that game is as immersive as anything but highly stylized. I think I'd take Prelyria permanently like we're seeing here in a heartbeat :)

World Class Indoorsman

7/26/2019 2:31:00 AM #12

Awesome job!

Those different lantern designs excite me more than they should. :')

7/26/2019 2:33:25 AM #13

Ah lights. I hope to be able to do a few things regarding lighting.

Firstly, a Light House! That needs to be seen from a pretty fair distance in the dark over the water!

Second, halos of light pollution are great for locating ports or coastal towns at night for plunder.

Third, the glow of a ship's lanterns at night will help sailors to see, but also help pirates to located and ambush ships in the dark!

7/26/2019 5:16:30 AM #14

Such a small thing to have in the game, yet a huge deal. Thank you for the little update Snipe.

7/26/2019 5:17:55 AM #15