Companions are often some of the coolest and most memorable elements in the games we love. Whether it be the mysterious being bent on devouring your soul forced into servitude, the feral beast brought into submission with the offering of a tasty treat, or a friendly gunslinger you recruit into your service... one thing is certain about these allies -- they add a new dynamic to play that offers a greater variety of interactions. But how rewarding is it when you are already predetermined to find that companion, especially when all it takes is beating in their face or offering them a cookie, and really, how much does that relationship matter?
There are several types of companions within the world of TUG; some will be able to help you carry items or harvest them, some are there to fight by your side, and others are there to tag along and keep you company. But the things companions do are not all mutually exclusive -- what a companion is doing when you meet (or build!) them is subject to their relationship with you, or the components used to alter their behaviors. Is there any reason that a cute critter could not grow into a battle companion? Or even a mount? Logic would say no, but in a game where variation of play is one of the key objectives, such evolutions may be a critical element of gameplay.
How you find or acquire these companions will not be as direct or linear as you may be used to, and again, experimentation and discovery play a key role in finding and recruiting the most effective allies. A wandering blind traveler may be trading goods while lost in a forest, but treat him well enough and he may prove to be pretty handy with a blade. A beast may be seen as good huntin’, but there may be an approach that will allow you to make him something more than food. And ancient golems may be found seemingly dead in vast deserts or deep caves... activating them may not be as good an idea as you might initially think, at least not without the proper knowledge of what is going on.
Even the location, behavior, and appearance of certain creatures will give insight into their habits and some insight into what steps may need to be taken to find them again, or how to bend their will to your own. This is also something that makes the significance of visuals and associated logic incredibly important for play, and to negate a reliance on statistics, constant text, or random prompted icons that guide players on what to do. Such systems break immersion, and by extension, the presence of the user within the game.
How companion death is handled will vary greatly between different types of companions. Some creatures and pets may simply be lost forever... while others may be able to be repaired or rebuilt. And other companions will be treated similarly to how player death is treated... something we will touch on in a later update. Additionally, companions won't be reduced to inventory items that you can summon at will... if you want them to leave your side temporarily, you'll have to leave them somewhere safe, or send them away on a task. And who knows, some companions may prove extremely useful when it comes to guarding your property!
With a modular phase of development, and the support of this already amazing community, we are able to introduce increments of these systems over time and watch, in real time, how the game and world is changing. This allows us to be smart about our budget and not guess where time and money needs to be spent. Some systems will have little to no complexity, while others will have a greater amount of moving parts and complicated elements... seeing who discovers what, how, and when is actually very exciting and important for us to see, as developers. Understanding what people are doing and why with these systems allows us to create more content fairly rapidly with different rule sets that should make play very rewarding. This is also why data is INCREDIBLY important when it comes to making changes or introducing content.
These systems may seem very complex, but they ultimately come down to a web of information that triggers events based on statistical/mathematical values. This is often what makes these systems more complex than what most publishers want to handle (well, that, and thinking that gamers like to be spoon fed content). These complex systems are where we shine, and making those complex systems approachable -- what we like to refer to as “optional complexity” -- is really a science in itself. Some of those systems are also useful tech on their own that can be packaged and shared with other indie developers, or the modding community, to use for their own projects.
Another important task for us is making sure that the changes made during this modular or phased development are consistent with the changing world mythology. While a golem may be able to only do so many things in early phases of the of the game’s life, we don't want to break the significance of the world’s setting by just dropping new features into it. There will be subtle changes, like the introduction of single items or components that change the way everything else is done, which also is attributed to a web of information and values for us. And we will continue to add new content for as long as you all are playing and enjoying it.
This topic, like many others, may leave many people asking, “Well, will I be able to do this, or that?” and while it may be very contrary to the vast majority of this industry, we want give you the chance to experiment, break those systems into pieces, build off of one another, and challenge that complexity as a community, not let it challenge you. We believe this kind of challenge and experimentation says something amazing... not just about us as gamers, but about what we are capable of when faced with complex issues or challenges.