Layers. They make things better. Be it trifles, cakes, other desserts, oh and stories. Story is something that takes many different forms in a game. It can be the driving force, a tacked on addition, or some games even leave it out completely. This week we were treated to an explanation from the Developers about how they intend to tackle the story in the Chronicles of Elyria. You will not be surprised to hear that they are crafting a deep, layered system to permeate the world.
One of the places the Developers often give the community extra information about their plans is their IRC channel. That was the case last Monday where we had some great monologues from Jeromy ‘Caspian’ Walsh on the topic of the story. While the majority of this article is a description and discussion of the topic I cannot resist one quote:
It’s my goal that I’ve added enough layers of complexity, that whether by your own choosing, or by seemingly random events happening around you, that every single time you log on you feel like there’s something for you to do that’s fun.
So what are these layers and do they help reach this goal? From events that impact the whole world, to very personal stories, there are layers of story the build up a detailed tapestry.
The layers Soulbound Studios intend to build this rich world are:
- The 10 year story is the largest layer. It is always there spread out across the world. Often its effects are subtle but wide ranging, carrying on in the background, ever present. Other times it causes dramatic events across all the land, not always in localised areas.
- Kingdoms create the next layer of the tale. Not just the Kings but the Dukes and Counts. They are going to have desires, be it to expand or make their mark on the world. Not only will that cause warfare when disputes cannot be solved diplomatically, but a whole host of knock on effects that will impact individuals. Tax rates change, people can be hired to perform tasks, production rates for different supplies set, explorers sent out to find rare materials or discoveries that will put their lands on the map.
- Settlements and housing also drive events. It may be that you and your friend are trying to build a settlement. Maybe you are simply helping others with resources or skills. Perhaps you are part of a village council, maybe a town mayor. If not you are still interacting with the others around you, supplying goods, setting up businesses, getting to know your neighbours. Those neighbours are not just players, NPCs have needs too, and may ask for goods and services from you.
- The land around settlements creates another layer. Through exploration and discovery, and also nature itself. Over hunting, deforestation, depleting a resource these all feed into events and cause conflict and situations that need resolving.
- Talents are both personal and affect those around you. If you are lucky enough (or should that be unlucky enough?) to unlock a talent you have to decide how you are going to use it. That use could be subtle, it could be dramatic, local or widespread.
- Lastly is the most personal layer, your destiny. When you create your character they will be given a personal story one of a large number of possibilities. This will be a story arc waiting for the right moment to start, depending on the event depend on how it is triggered. It could be finding an item, being in a place, meeting someone, but when you are in the right place at the right time it is like a key unlocking your story.
One of the main thing to note about all these elements is they are active. You can not sit around and wait for the story to come to you in this game. You should be out there interacting with the world, with your family, your neighbours and those around you. There will always be a range of things you can be doing and reasons for them to be done, just choose the one you want to do the most.
It might one of those things that needs to be done is to help out someone else. Maybe an NPC has asked you to do them a favour. Those tasks are made clear through UI elements so you can keep track of all the things you said you would do. However, just because the tasks you have accepted have a UI do not expect the people who can give you tasks to be marked. This is not a game of hunt the exclamation mark. You have to talk to people, find out what they need, if you can help or perhaps if they can help you. Then you can offer your assistance, or of course tell them to take a hike!
Another interesting feature of the personal story arcs, of destinies, is the range of stories. There could be over 100 different possibilities. Each one is based on one of the thirty six dramatic situations. These situations were first described way back in the 19th century, and no one has been able to add to them since. They represent all the things that create a good story, and they are part of the Soulborn engine. The engine uses them as a base, it reviews what is happening to see if you are starting the situation for your story. That to me is exciting.
The layers of the world draw me in. The number of different events that can be going on around you that you can get involved in are endless. This is not a game where you travel from quest hub to quest hub. You build your own story based on your own desires, your settlements desires, and how the world around you changes as a result of everyone’s actions. We are all responsible not just for the story we experience, but everyone else’s experience too. That is pretty powerful.