News

Design Changes

October 16th, 2016

Design Changes

Hey Everyone!

Brax here. I thought I would handle the update this week and give Elyssia a much needed break.

If you’ve been keeping up with our progress reports, you’ll know that we’ve made great strides all across our designs. What we haven’t been sharing is what has been or will be changed in light of some of that progress. How does that saying go—“Battle plans are perfect right up until the first bullet flies”? I think the same thing could be said of a game’s designs. They are great ... right up until you experience it. The reasons why they fall apart vary greatly. So much so it could be a topic onto itself, but that’s not what I’m here to share. I’m here to address the specifics of what has changed or will be changing as we continue our development, so let’s jump right to it.

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MINERALS

Minerals is a part of our dynamic spawning system that spawns all sizes of stone, ore, nuggets and gems. The system has been in place for some time now and works like a champ. We noticed some issues with its play-ability that we wanted to change.

The first of these changes is what I call “node separation”. Up til now we only had stone as physical models in the game that you could harvest all minerals from, including stone, ore, nuggets and even gems.

We have added ore nodes to the spawning system and now you can only get stone from stone nodes and ore from ore nodes.

Furthermore, we have removed the option of getting nuggets and gems from all stone or ore nodes and have buried them beneath the terrain. If you want nuggets or gems, you’ll have to dig them up via harvesting the ground resources and hope you’re within a very close proximity. Putting them underground allows us to do something pretty special with the dragons that I’ll get to shortly.

To be clear, this does NOT mean we have terrain-deformation. You cannot alter the terrain.

Until now, we only spawned large boulders that you could harvest. We quickly realized that if we wanted you to start with nothing, we were going to have to give you the primitive tools you would need to get going and nothing gets more primitive than a rock.

create the primitive tool to get started on the island
create the primitive tool to get started on the island

That’s why we’re adding small rocks to the mineral spawner. You can find them scattered throughout the islands.

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DRAGONS

We’ve showed off the hatchling, the young is nearing completion and we’ve already implemented dragon flight. In doing so, we learned a lot about our dragons and identified a solid list of ways to make their play-ability stronger and funner.

Abilities
The first of their many changes is we’re going to allow you to improve their abilities. These are abilities, not skills, so it is limited only to things they can already do like flying and using their breath weapon.

Each ability will come with various aspects that can be improved. Flying for example will have tighter banking, less stamina drain, and easier/softer landing. We’ve already accounted for this with our flying system that is already implemented. Their current ability list is:

—Swimming
—Flying
—Breath Weapon
—Claw Attack
—Bite Attack
—Nugget Foraging

Nugget Foraging
Dragons are so interwoven with nuggets that we’re giving them the ability to quite literally sniff out nuggets and gems even though they are buried underground. This is an “always on” sense and will be displayed via a very subtle visual effect over the area in which the nugget is buried. The dragon will have to dig around in the area until they are close enough to the nugget to get it.

Molting
For those not in the know, molting is the term we use to describe the aging of a dragon from one stage to the next. Before now, the only way to molt was to stay full on untainted meat. We’ve moved away from that system.

To get to the point of being able to molt, a dragon will need to increase their abilities by a certain amount. Once able to molt, they must have a minimum number of copper, silver and gold nuggets in their nest and they can’t have died within a set time frame. The nugget count and time since death will increase with each age. Molting will consume the majority of stored nuggets as it is implied they rub them down to nothing while shedding their thick skin.

Breath Weapon
We are lowering the breath weapon types from three to one. Just as before, they will still need to fill their breath sac with nuggets that are expended as they use their breath weapon. Each nugget type will affect the properties of the breath weapon such as range, area of effect and damage. Gods help you if a dragon fills his breath sac with all gold nuggets and sees you as a target.

Another change we’re making to the breath weapon is allowing it at a smaller age. We haven’t locked down at which age we will allow it, but we will be sure to scale it with the age so as to keep their power well within check. While we want dragons to be fun to play, we haven’t budged on how difficult it should be to grow one.

Flight
As mentioned earlier, the flight mechanics for dragons are already in. Part of that process revealed the possibility of letting younger dragons fly. Hatchlings will not fly. Youngs will have a limited glide with no uplift, making it an option to escape danger if they have an elevated place to launch from. Juveniles will gain real flight but it will be awkward and limited due to the immense stamina drain.

In future iterations, I’m hoping we can introduce wind (and wind direction) so dragons can take advantage of tail winds (speed) and even head winds to assist in take offs.

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PVP OPTIONS

When we first made the switch from MMO to Host-Your-Own (HYO) I was dead set on allowing only so many options for the person hosting the server. I wanted the experience of ToA:Exile to be as close to the MMO vision as possible. Through many discussions with the team (and some of you) I am now convinced that was a very narrow vision to have. There is no reason to now allow as many options as possible so long as those options stay true to the overarching vision of the game (no laser guns) and play styles aren’t imposed on anyone, which they can’t be because of the very nature of HYO. Imagine a long list of islands to choose from. Some with scarce flora and fauna, some only allowing dragons as a playable race and others offering just one life counter.

Why shouldn’t PvP/PvE options be among that list? If you don’t like PvE, don’t play on a PvE island. On the flip side, if you really don’t care for PvP, now you too will have a place in Exile. We are going to allow three options: PvP, Racial, PvE. The details of these options will be laid out in the future.

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WEAPONS

As we began laying the foundations of the crafting system, we realized we could take weapons to the next level. You will be able to craft components of weapons and assemble them as you like. Instead of just creating a sword that looks and functions like all other swords, you will be able to craft a variety of blades, guards and hilts, and match them into the look and functionality that works best for your character. Each type of component will have unique settings which will affect the weapon’s final stats. For example, a large thick blade might offer extra HP (making it last longer) and a slight chance of crushing wounds but will significantly impact your character’s balance when using it.

I don’t know about you but something like “Blade of Brax” sounds a lot better than just “Blade” or Blade 1” when it comes to naming these components. That’s why I’m real excited to announce that we’re going to be asking you to name them for us! Former backers will be able to use some of the Forged Chaos credits they earned during our donation fundraising to bid on the chance to name a component of our various weapons. More details on this are to come.

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DRAFTING

In our Kickstarter’s tech demo, our structure system didn’t require someone to create a blueprint of their structure before construction began. They just started “free-building” as we called it. As interesting as that was to watch, we started seeing designs that were not inline with our vision. More importantly, we started seeing structures that would defy physics. While I am all for freedom of game play, especially in the area of structure design, there has to be a balance so we keep the immersive look and feel to the islands. So we’ve created a drafting system where a player can pick from a large amount of layouts, throw on some add-ons, design each floor and wall section how they want (an archway here, a door there) and commit it to a blueprint that can be placed and then built in the game world.

There was some heated discussion on this topic as I think some of the team felt we were moving away from the freedom aspect we bench-marked ourselves at during the tech demo, but there was also just as much concern for the immersion factor. Imagine starting the game, being told you’ve washed ashore this island with nothing, and as you look around you see a house shaped like the USS Enterprise. Um, no. The good news is our drafting system should account for just about any type of design you’d like to try while keeping the aesthetics solidly in place.

Drafting will be part of the skill system for humans. All but the most basic layouts and add-ons will be too difficult to draft as first, but with enough effort, your ability to draft up blueprints of mansions and castles will be in high demand!

The drafting system is a very large system that has taken on a life of its own with Talon-Thorn at the helm of its creation. He’s done an outstanding job so far and here is a work in progress video of what you can expect. I’ve been asked to make it very clear that this is a work in progress.

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WORLD

We’ve moved away from the idea of procedural generated terrain. Creating an island by hand is relatively easy given how many part of it are handled with the dynamic spawning system. We create the mesh, paint it, add some grasses (grass isn’t part of the spawning system) and plug in any points of interest and it’s done. Given that, we thought it better to hand sculpt our islands instead of spending more time creating the procedural generation bits for it.

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HUMAN SKILLS

The challenges skill system for humans had a major flaw. We were telling you how to advance your character. Granted, it was to be randomly determined based on the challenge(s) you received, but we were still telling you which direction to go and that goes against one of our design philosophy of freedom.

Humans will now gain by doing. If you want to get better at woodworking, make a lot of things from wood. Simple.

We are adding titles to the skills so you can gauge your prowess within the skill in a very organic non-numbery kind of way. These titles will roll up to the skill category, giving you a title within the category as well. For example, you might be a master smith, a journeyman carpenter and an unskilled mason, making you an overall journeyman crafter.

In a twist of the human skill system, we’ve decided to give you more power with each gain in a skill instead of less. That probably doesn’t make sense does it? Put it this way—in most games you get 10 points of power at lower levels and only 2 or 3 points of power at the higher levels even though you’re doing 10 times the work at those higher levels. That doesn’t make sense to us. We are going the other direction. At lower ranks of a skill, you will gain some power, sure, but the real strides in power come as you hit the ceiling of those skills. This allows the power gained to stay aligned in the amount of
work you’ve put in. Plus, it helps to separate the low to middle ranks of a skill from those that reach its pinnacle.

If you just read that last paragraph you might be wondering about that “skill ceiling” I mentioned because we’ve said for a long time now that we were not going to set a hard cap on skills. This is one of the designs that sounded great on paper but fell apart in practice. A system of unending skill gain showed its cracks pretty quickly. The largest was the amount of gain you would eventually receive compared to the amount of work required. It was no longer enjoyable and felt like a constant carrot that would just get replaced by the next carrot that was that much further away. It created endless problems with trying to set skills and even some items to a scale. How do you scale an entire set of systems when there is no maximum? We have hard caps for the other races so that felt awkward too. Finally, it went against our idea of having your character be a story with a beginning, middle and end. Where is the end of your crafting days if you can just keep on keepin on?

So, we’ve set a cap on the skill system, which we’ll demonstrate in the future.

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RAKNAR

This isn’t so much a change as it is a formal announcement, but raknar now have vision that allow them to see in total darkness. We’re temporarily calling it “dark vision”. Here are some samples at different times of day.

raknar's "dark vision"
raknar’s “dark vision”

Right now, the vision is a simple toggle that can be used unlimited times. We are toying with the idea of adding this to their abilities list, making the vision improve via the evolution system.

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RESURRECTING

Last up on our change list is resurrecting. Until now, when any character died in Exile they were to be placed within 500m of its corpse, facing it, so give you an idea of the direction of your corpse. Now when you die, you will be taken to a resurrection screen where you can select to resurrect at a random location on the island or, if you’ve had the foresight to place one, a resurrection spot of your own choosing. Each race will have a different method of placing these respawn points. Humans place a crafted bedroll, dragons build a nest, and raknar place a bedding of webs. A character can have as many resurrection spots as they can place, but every spot is also susceptible to destruction.

respawn points for human and dragon
respawn points for human and dragon

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And that about covers it. Design is a fickle beast. Some of the best ideas can go terribly wrong when put to practice, yet others can stem from the most unexpected of ways but prove to add loads of enjoyment to the game. We’re lucky enough to have a team of developers and artists that understand game design is fluid and sometimes it takes taking a step backwards to project us many steps forward.

What’s your favorite change? Share your opinions at http://trialsofascension.com/forum/threads/design-changes.5934/