Journal Discussed – Time, Aging, and Offline Player Characters

If you have not read this week’s Chronicles of Elyria developer journal yet you can catch up with the abridged version here. It is an interesting journal covering three linking systems with, as always, a lot to tell us about the game. I think I have spoken about aging enough, but I can not help but repeated (in a hopefully not too smug way) the animation of the aging is superb and the images you have got are just a taste! So I am going to concentrate on the final part of this weeks journal.

Offline Player Characters (OPCs), it is a lot to take in so let’s start with a quick overview. When you log-out at the end of your time playing, your character does not. They stay in the world, able to interact with the world and other players. They age while you are offline at the same rate as everyone else, so there is no way to extend your characters life by simply not logging in. Oh and if you are not careful they can die while you are away, that’s right die!

An ice cavern in Chronicles of Elyria

Firstly let’s address that last part. It sounds a little scary at first. “I leave my character because I have to sleep and I come back to find they might be dead? *much swearing*” However, it is not all that bad. Your character is not aimlessly wandering around the world trying to get killed, well unless you tell them to. You are still in control, you still tell your character what they should be doing. It is just you use Behaviours to do so, not keyboard controls. Behaviours are scripts that give your character particular tasks to do, ensuring they only get up to approved activities while you are tucked up in bed or out at work.

So what sort of Behaviours are there? Well the examples we have been given so far include:

  • Training character skills
  • Running a storefront
  • Performing weekly trade routes
  • Do some gardening
  • Guarding other players (though to be honest this one sounds risky if you ask me!)

This is just a selection. There will be a wide range of pre-made Behaviours  to choose from. But, and this is me getting excited again, the pre-made ones are the tip of the iceberg. Behaviours can be scripted by the community, they can be shared and traded. I can really imagine a scene building up around working on these. Over time, OPC actions will become more and more complex and refined with all sorts of things becoming possible. Soulbound Studios have said they are going to provide support for the community members who want to focus on this and I really they live up to that. It sounds like something I would be awful at, but I know we have a lot of talent people that can make some very interesting things happen, and hopefully this system will attract even more.

Outside of the mechanics, the system has another interesting effect, immersion. Now I know I harp on about lore and living worlds, and if you are not a role-player they may seem a little superfluous, but you are wrong. You as hardcore minmaxer extraordinaire will still feel that impact. Having a bustling world with a lot going on is what makes an MMO feel the way it does and sets it firmly apart from a single player game. Okay, I will be honest it might benefit those that really concentrate on the feel of the world more. However, if you have ever been online in the capital city of a dead MMO, you will suddenly realise how much other players just being in the world affects you. With OPCs whenever you log-in the world will be alive with activity.

All in all, I can see OPCs being a real benefit. Allowing us to do more menial tasks while offline and adding to the world for those who are still online. That is, of course, if Behaviours work. This is my concern about the system, AI is tricky. While it really does sound like a great system if that AI does not do quite what it is supposed to we could still come back to a dead character. Now, perhaps that would be our fault. We did not choose the correct Behaviour for the occasion, we should have been able to foresee that the task may result in demise. If that forewarning was there, then I am okay with it. I do not think we need hand holding. However, if we did all we could to protect our character but the AI made an unpredicable choice that killed us, now that is going to be a lot harder to take.

As always it will be the implementation that either makes or breaks this system. Though I am quietly optimistic, perhaps not that quietly! If you too have any concerns about the system or think I might be being melodramatic why not share your views in the comments below. Or you can head over to the official forums where we always welcome a new face!

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