The Muster – Protection, Bandits and Theft

This week was the quiet before the storm. A storm that is due to hit the coast of Elyria very soon indeed. The Muster brings together all the parts of the news that I think really stood out. From the official forums, the IRC and also the live-streamed Q&A from the beginning of the week all the good stuff is brought together in one place.

This week we are looking at community members who want to know how they protect themselves from bandits, those that want to become the very bandits the others are avoiding, and people looking to retrieve stolen items. And just to through in a curve ball, a bit of a thought about an air of mystery in games.

A rocky outcrop in Chronciles of Elyria.

Protection

One of the things that comes up a lot within the community is the question of how Soulbound Studios will work to protect their character. What mechanics are they going to put in place to stop those that want to go on a murderous rampage? I think the answer is one of those key things that really explains what this game is trying to achieve:

Nothing prevents bad things from happening to you. You have to use a combination of common sense and proper planning. However, when bad things do happen to you there’s almost always a way to seek recompense. And it’s generally worse for the person who committed the crime. [Source – Caspian IRC]

There are mechanics for justice, for revenge, for defending yourself and others. While there are some disincentives to playing aggressively again others it is up to you to provide your protection. As a player if you are out in the wilds on your own you are going to be at more risk, you have chosen to make yourself an easy target. Choosing to travel with a group makes you a tougher prospect, perhaps even choosing not to wonder in the wilds as you just are not up for the challenge. If you are travelling with a lot of wealth you might want quite a lot of guards! In cities and built up areas we have to look of for each other, band together against attack and detain those that try to disrupt our ways of life.

Banning those who fight, preventing them from attacking and we are actually doing everyone a disservice. The bandits do not get the play style they want and those looking to stay safe miss out on a lot of stories. Tales of revenge, of a manhunt, of your own justice and recompense. That is what makes this game interesting, not all stories start happily, but you can do a lot to avoid it through choosing what level of risk you expose yourself to.

Bandits

At the exact opposite end of the spectrum, there was an interesting post on the forums. Could bandit teams play out of the box? Now there was some debate about which box they referred to. Some thought they were asking more about innovation, others wondered if they meant being able to play as a bandit right from purchasing the game. TripNull, one of the programmers with Soulbound Studios, jumped in to tells us it didn’t really matter as the answer was ‘yes’.

Not only are there are a lot of different ways you can go about extorting others their aim is to give people tools. Their design philosophy being ‘tools, not rules’ means that there is a lot that people can do that might not be immediately apparent. People looking at different ways to use the tools, how to take advantage of those offered. Though of course while the bandits have tools those they are up against have tools in their defence too. He also explained that they are not restricting people from trying different activities:

He also explained that they are not restricting people from trying different activities:

Another one of our design principles is ‘don’t stop the player from playing how they want to play’; we want to provide you with a quick way to jump into any play style you want. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be good at it, but you can sure as hell give it a try. [Source – Forums]

Which is great news. Sure you might not be great but you get to hone your skills doing the things you actually enjoy and want to do!

Theft

Ahh, the age-old question of how do you know if someone has stolen something from you:

You know it has been stolen if it is not there anymore. [ Source – YouTube Q&A]

While a glib answer Jeromy ‘Caspian’ Walsh did go on to explain that there would be no warning, no notification, there was no UI element if you were pickpocketed or robbed. If you have a high skill in forensics you might be able to notice something missing and find out it was taken, otherwise you would just have to wait until you couldn’t find it next time you needed it. There is also way to mark items as belonging to you:

There are ways to uniquely mark your items, and heirlooms obviously. If you mark your item, if you put a sigil or something like that on it, that is an implicit contract so that sigil would then be used to identify it.

That can certainly help track down items, and perhaps even discourage resale. Though what will be interesting to see is if there is any way to remove sigils or if they are a permanent fixture. As they are contracts you could well set rather nasty consequences for anyone who tries such an act. So it might not be desirable even if it is possible!

Death in the Ocean

It has always been said that those who die out at the ocean never return. There is a worry about this mechanic from some of the community. However, Caspian raised a very interesting point:

Fear of the unknown is often more powerful than the fear of death.
What’s the point of exploring if you already know what’s there?
What’s the point of risk, if you know there’s a mitigation?
What’s the point of danger, if you know it really isn’t dangerous?
What’s the point of a story if you already know how it ends?
Sometimes you just need to trust us to create a good game, with a good story. [Source – Forums]

Do we sometimes want too much information? Are we ruining the game for ourselves by digging too deeply? Is there inherently a need for trust in the developer rather than them explaining each detail? After all we do not ask for the ending of a film before we go to see it, we trust they will have made a good experience. Perhaps sometimes we need to do the same with games. Though, it is much harder to identify when those times are, and when we do need to give feedback and be critical to make the game the best it can be.

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