Hello everybody! We have a lot of info for you today. I turn the floor over to our CTO Ferdinand to tell you more about how the Emergent gameplay will be done in our game.
Ferdinand Joseph Fernandez - Lead Engineer (@AnomalusUndrdog)
So why are we tacking on another one of those buzzwords in our pitch? Actually this idea came separately from the Graywalkers game.
Before, I was thinking of making an action RPG where depletion of food sources actually matter. To pull that off, you'd need a working model of supply lines, just like what you'd see in a real-time strategy (RTS) game.
And from there, you'd need everything else an RTS uses: harvester units, resource-providing structures, resource storage structures, etc.
Imagine such things in an RPG.
Well, sure, you do see farms and farmers in your typical role-playing game. But they're just for show, right? They don't really do "work" work.
So I thought, why not make them really work, like an RTS would? But still play the game as an RPG?
In effect, you'd be playing the game as an RPG character, where other AI (that is, some NPCs) are effectively the "RTS players" in that world. Those "RTS players" would probably be a king, or a town governor, perhaps.
So, in essence, you'd get to play an RPG where:
1. When sieging a fortress, you could just let the defenders starve instead of making a costly attack.
2. You can destroy a faction's supply lines to disrupt their economy, thus weakening their city for an invasion.
3. When factions wage war with each other, you'd see territorial lines shift back and forth as they struggle.
I pitched this idea to Russell and he was pretty excited about it. So far, we have a working plan on how to merge it properly to the current design for Graywalkers. We've also been drawing inspiration on how other games do it, notably Mount and Blade.
I also did a bit of research on making a believable economy in fantasy settings, and two books I found helpful were Farm, Forge and Steam - A Nuts and Bolts Guide to Civilisations, and Grain Into Gold - A Fantasy World Economy, at least for a start.
So, it's not like this is innovative; certainly it's been done before by other developers (and with quite an amount of success I might say). But we do think it's rarely done, and kind of a missed opportunity that most game developers aren't catching on.
The "Emergent" Part
The "emergent" part is the fact that many of the quests won't be pre-generated by us game developers (in a manner of speaking).
Quests would come out when a faction leader can't pull off something that they want done, so they ask for outside help (i.e. you).
That something-they-want-done can be anything that's relevant to what the faction's long-term goal is.
Perhaps a faction wants to annex the lands of another faction? So the missions they post are all about capturing the territories of that other faction.
Or perhaps a small settlement wants to capture an abandoned stronghold? But to get there, they need to travel through a pass infested by werewolves. Having no expertise in dealing with these creatures, they post a mission (i.e. quest) to clear that pass of said monsters.
So if you complete that quest, they may eventually capture that stronghold as their territory. If you fail the quest, perhaps they will find another way to capture it, or perhaps they won't be able to after all.
In effect, every mission you fulfill (or disregard) will have consequences and repercussions, sometimes far beyond what is immediately apparent.
Contrast that with the typical RPG, where quests are really only about getting more loot, experience points, or advancing the linear story. Here, missions will (in addition to those aforementioned rewards) affect the political landscape, the economy, even the wildlife population, for better or for worse.
The Challenge of Being Procedurally Generated
Now, these kinds of procedural-heavy games are not without their faults. Among the common criticisms I hear are steep learning curves, little direction due to lack of story, NPCs who say the same thing over and over, repetitive quests, repetitive looking towns, and so on.
Steep Learning Curve
This is actually a consequence of having a procedural system under the hood. There's a detailed working model of economics running behind the scenes, but only because it's needed to pull off the experience we want. Still, we wouldn't want to require the player to have a good grasp on economics before they can appreciate the game.
We'd like to strike a balance where players who just want to concentrate on the turn-based tactics and the RPG aspect can have a good experience, but still allow them to exploit the economics and politics of the game's world to their advantage, if they want to.
Lack Of Story
Russell comes into this situation prepared. The whole story and lore of Graywalkers is his brainchild, and he's got a pretty detailed world he's worked on for a long time, from the history to the quirky characters you'll meet along the way.
However, there's a certain conflict with bringing in a linear story to a sandbox type of game, and we've seen games out there that have their own ideas to address this.
I know Russell has a particular tale he wants to tell in Graywalkers, and it's my job to make sure that fits within the "emergent", dynamic world I'm setting up.
First of all, we're going to separate the "pure" sandbox experience into a separate mode we call Freeform Mode. In Freeform, you are not pressured into completing story objectives, if we even decide to put those in at all. This is a "do all the crazy things you want" type of game mode. Heck, you can be a bad guy if you want.
In contrast to that, we have our standard Campaign Mode. This is where the story is sure to happen. There's still going to be the sandbox-type of gameplay, but some parts will be "locked" to ensure certain things will happen. For example, the game may occasionally inject some preset events into the world--events that jive with the story that Russell has prepared. We've also made it that the main quest is pretty loose about how it's supposed to be done. Your end-goal in the story is to unite the warring factions to fight against the demon horde. But we'll let you decide which factions to ally with, and which ones to fight against.
It's certainly going to be dull if all the buildings look the same, if the NPCs look the same, if they all talk the same way. There's really no silver bullet to solve this, just a lot of dedicated hard work. From the world that Russell's written, we'd like to give a distinct personality to everything: what the cities look like for each faction, what their inhabitants look like, how they talk, the kinds of missions they give, and so on.
It'll be a lot of work, so the least I can do to alleviate the stress from the artists and game designers is to build editor tools to let them prototype all that content rapidly into the game. The Unity game engine's given us a lot of power in this regard, and it's one of the things I appreciate about the game engine we chose.
And there you have it. Hope you liked it and found it informative.
And, for the people whom we promised to show more artworks, we have one for you today. We'll show more tomorrow.