It is amazing how frequently large amounts of information are being shared by the developers in the forums. Chronicles of Elyria is so large and detailed, with so many interlocking systems there always seems to be something new to tell us about. This Forum Find focuses on the world itself. How it is built, how it is populated and how it feels to be playing in it.
Community member Zultra started a thread asking how the world would be created. Was this the world going to contain procedurally generated features? Our ever friendly forum Dev Caspian soon picked up the scent and gave a long and detailed answer that began:
Great question, Zultra. Much/most of the world will be procedurally generated. Remember, each of our servers will have completely different continents in order to guarantee that stuff discovered on one server doesn’t ruin it for another server.
Well, that solves that, on to the next forum find…Oh okay, there is more. For a start, there is the comment regarding the servers being different. This is brilliant and really allows server communities to build up and become their own ecosystems and new stories emerging on each. Though I can imagine forums, wikis, and fan sites will all have to keep on their toes with how they distinguish which server their information applies to. But, the main meat is that actually, yes, the vast majority of the world will be procedurally generated. The world building tools are very varied covering everything from the terrain and weather to those finer details like the water table and resources. Whether trying to mine for those resources lower than the water table causes our characters problems we will have to wait and see!
Sometimes procedurally generated worlds end up a little bland, everything starts to look similar but the developers have that covered too as their:
… level designers are working on key areas we call “scenes”. These are important locations that, while they may be in different locations on each server, are likely to exist on all servers. These are areas that we’ve created specifically for some visual effect, or for some specific role in the storyline.
So they have not got rid of level designers all together, which I have to admit is a massive relief. There will still be the finishing touches made to areas, or perhaps completely made from scratch to better tell the story of the world. This means that they can concentrate their resources and make the best use of developers time, as will the world benefit from a designer placing each tree if the tool for making large areas is good enough. ‘Is good enough?’ is important. If you really notice when you go between an area purely procedurally generated and one that has been done by the designers that will be an issue. Now, I am not saying the designers are not going to be able to match the generated theme of the area with a desert in the middle of the forest (at least I hope it doesn’t mess up to that extent), but the quality should be there in both areas. Just with a little more meaning included in the designed areas.
Along with details about the world, there were details about the population in it. Now I am not going to go into the statistical breakdown of age groups and gender balance, though if you are a number geek like me I strongly recommend reading Caspian’s full post, but I will talk about NPCs and where they live. The placement of settlements will make sense, near fresh water, transport link or military positions, there will be a reason for one of the starter settlements being where it is. There is also logic built in for where NPCs go after their initial placement:
Beyond that, the Soulborn Engine keeps track of where people go. If an NPC decides they want to set up a camp, recruit soldiers, and then invade a nearby town, they’ll head out into the wilderness in a place not often visited by people. In this way, when someone stumbles upon a new encampment, it’ll look and feel natural. Like it has been built there over time, by someone. It shouldn’t feel like it just magically spawned one day.
So not only can NPCs actually move away, and are not tied to that patrol path they were set at game launch, they do so with thought. I really like the idea of NPCs having their own lives, their own stories, to add to the world and what the players are up to. It could be really interesting how their interactions with player characters will change their plans, alter the story and lead to an ever changing environment that really engages the players. It feels like there will always be a reason to come back to the game, to see where everyone has got to.
A large world making use of the tools they have to focus on the finer detail populated by a cohort of NPCs that have their own lives is certainly appealing. I am finding it harder and harder to be objective in these posts and everything coming out is so on point for what I am looking for in a game. However, they are only forum posts so far and the proof will be in the pudding. I just want to taste it now!