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The Journal and the Map – an Adventurer’s Tools

Posted by Ceres Games (Creator)

An adventurer should always keep his thoughts organized. During his journeys, he will come across many interesting characters who might offer him a job, or just have a skill that might come in useful one day. He might spot a locked door he can’t get open, but wants to remember the place to check it out later. That’s where his journal and his map come into play.  

Realms Beyond offers you a detailed journal and detailed minimaps for each location, so you can easily keep track of everything you have encountered on your travels. The journal will automatically record summaries of dialogues and list all the different quests you’ve learned about. To keep things interesting, the quest entries will not be updated automatically at every step of the way. While the clues themselves will be recorded, you have to connect them to the quest yourself!

As an example, let’s look at the simple quest of finding a buried treasure. A citizen of Vedwyd has found an old diary and treasure map when he cleaned out his basement. They belonged to his great-grandfather, a pirate who, when he was older, settled down to live an honest life on behest of his worried wife. But before he settled down, he buried some of his treasure at a location only he knew: a chest containing jewelry that could easily have been identified as loot from a recently plundered merchant ship.

The diary contains a short description of the location, and the treasure map is a crude drawing of what it looked like. "Berried jewls at renner grov", says the diary. "Start at nearby cave entrans. East 6 steps. North 4 steps. Luk at pointy rok bitween 2 trees. Pik it up an dig belo." Clear enough instructions to find the treasure, one might think. But the man doesn’t know what his great-grandfather meant by Renner Grove. There is no grove with such a name nearby. Maybe there had been, once – his great-grandfather had lived long before the Cataclysm, and in the turbulent times that followed, the name may simply have been forgotten. There is a clue, though: there was a cave entrance in the grove’s immediate vicinity.

 The journal will update with the basic information you’ve learned about the quest.

With this information in your tow, you can talk to other characters in town and ask them whether they know anything about a certain Renner Grove, or if they know any nearby groves that have a cave in their vicinity. And indeed, Amiella, the local hunter, knows about two groves in the nearby wilderness, both of them close to cave entrances. Both entrances connect to the same system of caverns, and they’re not far away from each other. She will mark both of them on your world map. The journal will automatically record this new piece of information you have learned, neatly sorted into the entries of interesting things you’ve learned from Amiella.

 Now, with a proper clue, you can set out to look for the buried treasure. If you follow the instructions from the old diary – neatly recorded in your own journal – you can indeed find a pointy rock at one of the two groves. The old treasure map Mathis has given you can also help you determine which of the two locations is the right one.

Now that you found the rock underneath which the treasure is buried, you just have to pick it up and dig beneath it… oh, snap, you didn’t bring a shovel! You’ll have to head back to town and buy one. But wait! Since you found the spot, you should mark it on your map so you can find it more easily next time.

The minimap in Realms Beyond allows you to set your own markers in order to mark any location you find interesting. This comes in very useful when you explore dungeons or towns, as you can mark places that you want to return to later, or places that you think might hold some significance.

 If you get into an encounter that is too hard for you and you wish to return later, place a marker. If you find an interactable piece of environment but you don’t know what to do with it yet, place a marker. If you found a special item you think might be relevant for a puzzle, place a marker to remind you where you found it.

Some markers will be placed on the map automatically, triggered by interactions with objects in the world. As you can see on the screenshot, four of the markers look a little different. They haven’t been set by the player, but were placed after the player received some new information about the area. Areto’s Tomb was marked when the player read the inscription above the door, for example. The chamber of sacrifice was marked when he examined an offering bowl.

In addition to placing your own markers on the map, you can also write your own notes into the journal. Realms Beyond gives you all the tools you need to keep your information organized, without holding your hand. Important information is recorded automatically, but sorted by which character told it to you, not sorted by which quest it is related to – this way, you are free to make your own connections and come to your own conclusions, without the game doing it for you.

With our journal and minimap systems, we want to provide a user-friendly experience without taking away the feeling of discovery and accomplishment the old classics gave you. Of course, taking your own notes and placing your own markers on the map is entirely optional: something you can do if you feel that taking additional notes will help jog your memory. Giving the player options is what we’re all about, and allowing you to scribble all over your journal and map is one of those options.

Interacting with the Environment: yes, you can touch that!

Talking about the treasure hunt – as you may have noticed, it involves picking up a rock and digging beneath it. Many items in the game, and even some pieces of the environment (wall niches, inscriptions, a broken wall that looks climbable…) can be selected and interacted with. Every object can be scripted to be interactable and behave in different ways when interacted with.

Interactable elements will be outlined when you hover your mouse over them. But beware: not every interactable item is beneficial. Some might be devious traps: a magical trigger that unleashes a storm of fire when touched, a lever that locks the only exit behind you, a valuable artifact that makes arrows shoot out of the wall when you pick it up. But they can also open new ways: a heap of boulders that can be cleared by a character of high strength, a magical barrier that dissipates when touched by an enchanted weapon, a tree that can be hacked down to create a makeshift bridge over a narrow ravine.

The many pretty objects that clutter our world are not mere decoration, they are fully interactable and often serve a gameplay purpose. Always be observant, and you will find many things to play around with in Realms Beyond. And since every object you can interact with is highlighted when your mouse passes over it, it means that there’s no annoying pixel hunting. You will see at a glance whether you can do something with an object or not.

This allows us to add elaborate puzzles to the game, as well as alternate quest solutions and plain fun environmental interactions. A statue that requires an item to be placed in its opened hands in order to unlock a secret door. A merchant’s cart that can be toppled over to create a distraction. Or a magic stone that hops away whenever you try to touch it.

The interactable objects in our environments follow the three golden rules of our game design: interactivity, reactivity, and player choice.

Stay tuned for the next update where we will talk about the world of Realms Beyond a little!

chuck01, Chris Ellis, and 39 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Ipsus301 on

      I like the way you are approaching this topic.

    2. Tharagavverug Collaborator on

      @Joni Nyman

      While your specific example probably won't be in the game, our approach to quest design is quite similar, yes! There will be quests where waiting too long will change things, in most of our quests you will get a choice on how to solve it and on who to support, and your actions during quests will have consequences. There is one quest in the realm of Sabag-Hirar, for example, where a young woman asks you to help her become a priestess. Her father is an influential merchant, however, and wants to marry her off to another rich family to further his power. If you take too long with this quest, she will be married off and can't become a priestess anymore. If you help her become a priestess, her father won't be able to marry her off anymore and will hate you for it - he'll refuse to trade with you and decrease your reputation with the local merchants, and of course you won't be able to do any quests that he would offer!
      This level of choice and consequence appears in almost all of our quests. You always get several options, and depending on what you do, the attitudes of characters towards you change.
      However, the last part of your example, where after a year the guard's son will hire an assassin to track you down, is a little too far. Remember that we have a large world and plenty of quests, and it would be an impossible amount of work to attach consequences that fire only after a year has passed to every little side quest in the game. There will be plenty of quests that change your reputation, change the situation in the world, or change the way some NPCs think of and act towards you, but we have to draw the line somewhere. The son of a simple guard connected to a trivial side quest tracking you down a year later is a little too much :)

    3. Joni Nyman on

      I have to ask, how deep the "imersion" is?
      What I mean is: (and this example is 100% made up by my mind, so game might have this quest, or might not, time will tell);

      - If I for low level 1 starting adventurer get a simple (or so it seem) mission to take this one apple pie and bottle of sider to guard captain at town gate (an idea to give 20xp, 5 silver piece and some knowlegde for town you start with) and he offer some jobs for you, what later give you option to be part of guards even.
      - What if I decide to wait for a week, will I notise that apple pie will lose some of it value (give less let's say HP if you eat it, less money if you sell it) and giving it for guard captain with sider make him pay less and complain a bit how I should have deliver this way earlier.
      - What if I decide to wait for a month, will I notise that apple pie change it's stats totally? That now it will make you sick and force you to rush to toilet. If I give it for guard captain now he will give you less money but drop his weapon, shield and rush to toilet letting you rob the house and take weapon + shield?
      - What if I decide learn "make poison" crafting and poison cider? Is it possible to deliver pie, get money and XP, then watch while guard captain drink cider and die, get his items (including armor) and head out starting your career as bandit near by town?

      Now fastforward for a year:

      - If you stick near town for a year will you notise that traveller, guard captain son come by (trip he make once every year) to see his dad. If you are guard / good relations with guard captain he will give you a mission and maybe nice magical weapon as a reward.

      - But if you have killed his dad he will hire an assasin to hunt you down, will assist himself wih some other high level NPC's who are his friends and adventure companions.

      So what level / kind of imersion we can expect. I assume atleast first is possible (it is kind of standard for every game this far) but how about any of later ones? I would say latest "after a year" kind of thing would be more of Ultima kind of deepness (anyone remember what happen if you find a mouse when one of the games start and decide to kill it.. ..yep, you were not able to EVER play that game through :D )

    4. Ceres Games Creator


      We will always provide enough clues in dialogs to make the player find locations without having to rely on markers. We loved Morrowind with its detailed descriptions on how to get to your objective, and we want to do the same in Realms Beyond.

      Even when a character marks a location on your map for convenience, he will also give you a description on how to get there. Sometimes, a character may even give you an inaccurate description because he doesn't quite remember how to get there, or a very vague description that gives you a rough clue but requires you to do most of the exploration yourself.

      Having characters mark places on your world map is a thing that's possible with our engine and scripting systems, but it's by no means common. Amiella is the local hunter and knows the surrounding wilderness like the back of her hand, which is why she was able to pinpoint the two groves on your map.

    5. wrenocraft on

      Reminds me of Serpent in the Staglands

    6. Windemere on

      This all sounds really, really good, but there was one part that gave me pause ... "She will mark both of them on your world map"

      With the focus on bringing back exploration without hand holding, why the automatic map marking here? Could you consider making this optional and providing enough clues in any dialog or quest objectives to be able to find these things without automatic markers? I really like the classic games where you were given general names of forests, ocean bays, towns, etc., along with a few details to indicate when you found the objective but it still required exploration to uncover it explicitly.

    7. Daniel Solorzano on

      This right here and what you just outlined is my wet dream. Something I have been asking for my RPG's. I am so happy with the news and excited by what is to come that I am going to put more money towards your game. Keep up the great updates

    8. Edward Hamilton on

      The minimap looks fine, but to me, the idea of hand-drawn treasure maps remains really exciting. The "adventurer's journals" from the Gold Box games usually had a number of them, and the idea of the maps looking like something physical and organic that existed outside the game engine was a strong source of their appeal. They really looked like something that a pen-and-paper GM would hand to players in the middle of a real campaign, and trying to associate them with locations visible in the game's (very low res) wilderness map was good fun!

    9. Missing avatar

      Pimpollo on

      Fantastic update, really excited about annotating our maps.

      I would like to see what you guys have planned for itemization and item upgrades. I'm hoping you guys aren't going the route of Diablo/Divinity Original Sin and will instead emphasize unique loot.

      Thank you & keep up the great work :)

    10. Darkheart on

      I like what I read! Especially that areas are named on the map only after you find some inscription or give it a contextual name. I always wondered in other RPGs how the names magically appeared on the map when you got near the respective area. Sometimes even giving away what awaits you there (i.e. The Inner Chambers of the Demon God or some such).

      Looking at the incredible screenshots with all this attention to detail makes me want to play this right NOW! Can't wait to get it into my hands!

    11. Chris Ellis on

      For me, it's the small stuff like this that makes a big difference in an crpg. It all adds up to a game that feels special and is made with love. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work.