Design Discussion: Dragons

July 10th, 2016

Design Discussion: Dragons

Since Altar has begun modeling the dragon hatchling, I thought it was an excellent time to hold a design discussion on dragons as a whole. While we would eventually like to include frost dragons in ToA: Exile, this article is going to focus on fire dragons. Keep in mind that dragons are still a long way from entering the game, much less full completion, so everything for this is subject to change.

When a player creates a new dragon character, they will be able to choose from a few customization options. Players can choose a primary and a secondary color for their hatchling. Color choices will be limited to shades of red, orange, possibly shading into browns or yellows. They can also choose between scale patterns and eye color. Other options, such a wing, tail, and horn styles open up as the dragon molts and grows in size.

Dragons play a very unique role in ToA: Exile. We want them to be a mind-blowingly powerful force, but we don’t want to simply give away that power. We want players to have to work for it. Forged Chaos decided early on that growing the dragon from a weak and vulnerable hatchling, fresh from the shell, would be how players can earn that power.

We intend to make the journey from puny hatchling to powerful adult as challenging as possible, so that players who do achieve adulthood will feel that the difficulty of reaching it is proportional to the power they receive. Hatchling dragons are born roughly the size of a house cat, with only their teeth and claws for protection. The prey animals that they will need to hunt to survive will be close to the same size as they are, making food acquisition a formidable hurdle to growth. They will need to seek out shelter from inclement weather and to hide from larger predators.

We are also using a variety of mechanics to organically encourage conflict between dragons and the other races. Dragons of all life stages have a need for metal nuggets, first as a healing agent to treat their wounds, then to build their hoards for molting, and later as a fuel for their breath attacks at maturity. To gather these nuggets, a dragon either has to loot them from a human corpse or destroy mining nodes that humans need for ore. Limited inventory also requires the dragon to store their nuggets in their hoards, which are persistent and thus vulnerable to looting when left unguarded. To help dragons cope with this, they can build multiple nests in any location they can reach with enough space to build one.

Raknar would be interested in hunting down dragons as all human controlled characters have a chance to hatch out black spiderlings. The older the dragon, the higher the odds of a black spiderling hatching out for the raknar. Black spiderlings are especially valuable to raknar because they boost two random evolutions, while the other spiderlings only improve one. Older dragons also find themselves competing against raknar for prey animals, as both are obligate carnivores.

In addition to conflict, dragons happen to be incredibly tasty with many natural resources on their bodies. Their meat, skin, scales, teeth, glands, and other parts can be used by humans to craft food and other goods, while raknar can eat them raw without any problems.

The players who can survive the rigors of hatchling-hood long enough to molt will find themselves rewarded with additional attacks, larger size, greater attribute numbers, and with enough moltings, breath attacks and flight.

Flight is an interesting mechanic when it comes to dragons, since it will require constant movement and thus a constant drain of stamina for the dragon. Unlike pixies or birds who can launch themselves into flight with a single jump, dragons require a running start to build enough momentum for lift to kick in under their wings. Dragons cannot strafe or hover while in flight and their turn radius is severely impacted by their flight speed and body size, with faster speeds and larger bodies requiring a greater radius. We haven’t yet determined how aerobatic dragon flight will be, as this is something that we may be limited with due to our software and time restrictions.

At adulthood, dragons unlock their breath weapon, which has three different attacks. Each attack has a different effect and they consume a specific type of nugget. We haven’t yet determined exactly what those effects will be, but they will be fire or heat related for the fire dragon, and ice or cold related for the frost dragon. The rarity of the nugget used will also have an influence on the relative power of the attack, so that the gold nugget attack will be stronger than the silver, which will be stronger than the copper.

That’s all I have to share with you all for now about dragons. If you have any questions or feedback, please post it in our forums at