Living the Story: Paths
Hello again, City of Titans fans. A few months ago, we introduced you to our quest system, with an emphasis on the self-contained stories of Tips. This time, I’m here to tell you about Tips’ much, much bigger sibling: Paths.
As you may remember from the last Update from the Composition department, our content consists of single-quest “Episodes.” In some types of content, these Episodes are strung together into story arcs called “Series,” which we can connect to form “Sagas.”
Paths are the game’s premier Saga-level content. These multi-part stories are designed to let you define your PC’s character while interacting with enemies, allies, locations, and plots from throughout the game’s lore.
From the very earliest days of development, we’ve wanted to give players the opportunity to feel that their characters are immersed in a personal story. Paths are our tool to accomplish that. As we’ve stated in several internal Composition documents, your PC’s Path is designed as “your character’s personal comic book series.”
Writing a Path presents unique challenges. Most importantly, a Path writer has to write a story where your PC is the central figure while knowing almost nothing about that protagonist! We’ve resolved this issue in two ways. First, we try to maximize options for you to make choices within the Path that let you experience it in the way that best fits your conception of your PC.
Second, we’ve structured the Path system itself to give ourselves—and you—some guidance. Since we can’t customize every aspect of a Path for you, we’re creating several Paths that fit a broad variety of concepts. Current plans (always subject to change, of course) call for four Paths on full, initial release of the game:
-Hero North: a Saga where your PC takes on the role of a classic superpowered crimefighter, mostly taking place in the north-side districts of Titan City. This Path is designed to accommodate not only Silver Age-influenced, true-blue good guys, but also heroic characters who do things “their own way.”
-Villain North: in which your PC is a larger-than-life superpowered villain out for power and glory, again, mostly taking place in the north-side districts. This Path is meant to accommodate both cackling, world-conquering, mustache-twirling villains and more “realistic,” patently evil types.
-Hero South: a grittier Saga in which your PC is a hero trying to clean up the streets of crime-ridden South Titan. This is probably the path of choice for both “one good hero in a bad town” types and street-level vigilantes.
-Villain South: a “crime story” Saga in which your PC villain builds up power in the criminal underworld, for all the superpowered gangsters and factioneers out there
These four options are still designed to maximize flexibility for you, subject to our ability to crank out content. (We only have so many writers, after all!) We have ideas for many more Paths in future expansions, but those four will have to suffice to keep you busy for the game’s early days!
Each Path makes as few assumptions about how you see your character as possible. For example, the only thing that’s an absolute certainty in Hero North is that your character, is, well, a hero. (Obviously.) The Path presumes that other characters see your character as heroic. But whether that character is registered with the authorities or not, fierce or forgiving, casual or driven, mundane or otherworldly—those things are up to you. The Path is meant to provide at least some scope for them all. We’ve endeavored to make the Paths about what you think your character should be.
As we’ve mentioned in previous Updates, we accomplish much of this through a very robust dialogue system. We began drafting Path content (and all other content) with an ironclad rule that we will not put words in your character’s mouth; all your dialogue choices are framed in descriptive terms so that you can imagine whatever you want your character to say. That is, a dialogue choice might say, Make fun of Megaton’s outfit rather than, Megaton, your outfit looks like a cycling suit!
Of course, the dialogue system’s flexibility goes well beyond that. Much of the dialogue in a Path allows you to select multiple responses when an NPC speaks to your character. Some choices vary just for flavor. Others will determine how your character solves the challenges a story presents—through fighting, diplomacy, or otherwise.
And still others will affect your character’s relationships with NPCs, which in turn affect the whole shape of your character’s Saga. A Path is more than just a good/evil choice and a tone that’s set for your character’s adventures. Each Path features multiple Series as well as an overarching story about your character’s growth. Using our quest system’s ability to “remember” choices and discoveries you’ve made during play, we have been able to give each Path recurring NPCs with whom you can build connections, friendly or hostile. Your choices will influence not only how the NPCs view you but also, as the Path proceeds, the roles they play. For instance, Villain North will present your PC evildoer with a recurring adversary, a young hero with a death wish, that you’ll face in a variety of contexts throughout the Path.
Paths will also offer you the opportunities to delve more deeply into the game’s lore. All four projected Paths will take you through the districts of the city’s north or south side, letting you discover history as well as scenery. You’ll learn about the museums of Alexandria, the skyscrapers of Downtown, the hidden paths of Rhinehart Park, and much more.
You’ll also face plenty of combat with the city’s many factions. Each Path features a variety of foes, with each of the Path’s Series (usually) focusing on one or two groups of antagonists. In the course of a single Path, you might face the Aether Pirates, the Regency, Scorpion, and more.
Combat in a Path is more than just fighting a parade of varied enemies, though. We’ve worked hard to make Paths engaging in terms of tactical gameplay as well as story. Where a simple Tips might pit you against foes in straightforward fights, Paths present a variety of other combat challenges, too. You might fight off a series of ambushes alongside a fellow hero, dodge traps or lead foes into them, or even rescue a hostage from being suspended over a vat of acid that inflicts damage on whatever it touches.
Of course, there’s a lot more to all the Paths, but we’ll have to leave you in suspense for now—we have to save the details for release! See you next time.
Written by - Jack 'O'lantern' Snyder
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