New to Chronicles of Elyria? Check this link out to get a basic rundown:
Join the FJ CoE Chat: goo.gl/no4fgC
A big focus of the design team this year - in combination with the character and content team - has been the tribes. Dubbed "The Tribe Foundry," this adventuring party has been responsible for taking the concepts of varying bloodlines and cultures and combining them into a set of tribes that feel inviting and uniquely different from one another.
This is a lot harder than it sounds! Chronicles of Elyria is more than a game, it's a living, breathing world. In order to make it convincing we have to take world-building to much greater heights than is seen in most other MMOs. We need not just a few different character models and some passive and active abilities, we need religions, principles, culture, likes and dislikes, and most importantly, environmental adaptations.
You see, Elyria is a lot like Earth - if humans on Earth had continued to adapt through the process of evolution, rather than largely stopping with the introduction of technology. As a result of this continued evolution, Mann-kind in Elyria is similar to humans on earth ... but more exaggerated. They're stronger, faster, taller, smaller, smarter, more agile, more communal, and more aggressive than humans. All at the same time.
They feel things deeper. They have a closer connection to nature. And they rely on their instincts and adaptations in ways we do not. But aside from coming up with the natural adaptations that would occur through evolution as a result of the individual biomes, the hardest challenge with the tribes is giving them unique play styles while still making them attractive to some subset of the population.
Our motivation with each tribe was to create something that about 1/12th of the community would enjoy playing. As a result, we'd have a roughly even distribution of the tribes. In our minds, having a tribe that was universally loved was as much a failure as having a tribe that was universally hated. While the idea of creating something we know roughly 92% of the population wouldn't want to play is difficult for some, we feel that doing it this way allows players to more strongly identify with their chosen (or given) tribe. Which is one of the main ideas behind the tribes. Nobody fights to defend the integrity of their race or bloodline, but they'll fight for the survival of their tribe. Like all things in Chronicles of Elyria, the introduction of tribes creates a source of conflict in the world, and gives players the opportunity to drive the problem to one of several resolutions.
Will they attempt to annihilate a tribe or two.... or eleven, will they breed until there is no distinction between the tribes and their cultures, or will they fight to protect the culture and history we've introduced into the world? We can't say, but we're super excited to see what unfolds after the game launches.
Because tribes are such a complex topic, the design team wanted to make significant headway before bringing in much of the rest of the studio. So while there's concept art of the various tribes, the character team has just recently gotten involved. So far we've been working with tools to help us control the various values of the tribes - as unlike other MMOs, it needs to be possible in CoE for each bloodline to intermix with every other bloodline.
As a result of the tools, we're now able to blend between various skin colors, and are working on the different proportions of the various tribes. Once we've got that on lock, we'll begin to delve into the unique facial features, hair styles, and equipment of the different tribes. In the mean time, take a look at the early tooling and see what some of the skin colors might look like. But remember, there isn't a single skin color for a bloodline, and in the below video the body proportions aren't correct. So if someone looks bulkier or scrawnier than you assumed, you're probably right. That'll be tuned over the coming months."
A brief look at sample skin colors of the various tribes
Body Dynamics & Customization
Speaking of body proportions, one of the cornerstones of Chronicles of Elyria is for it to feel like a living, breathing, dynamic world. To that end, we like to say that character customization begins after character creation ends. One such way we do that is with the body dynamic system. While there's still a bit more work to be done on the back-end to support the body dynamic system, the client-side work is largely complete. As you can see from this screenshot, earlier this year we showed off characters of varying body types.
n addition to being able to create bodies of varying styles, we've also begun work on the character customization via hair styles. Here's some work we did earlier this year to test out a couple hair styles. Note that as the work on tribes progresses, so too will the work on character customization. While we don't plan on enforcing individual hairstyles for different tribes, we do want them to tend toward a specific cultural norm. of course, like all of CoE, the players have the ability to change that norm over time.
Equipment & Clothing
Another key mechanic we've been working on the first half of this year is the equipment and clothing systems. Chronicles of Elyria uses a different equipment system than is used in most MMORPGs. From a strict, character customization and equipment standpoint, CoE uses a unique layering system where each layer is designed to address a different survival mechanic. The base layer is generally for homeostasis, the second layer is generally for protection from the environment, and the third layer is either protection from exposure, or protection from combat.
Beyond that, CoE adheres to an older school of thought, where the equipment you wear effects your overall survivability, but doesn't have a huge impact on you as a character. For example, equipping a sword or armor doesn't make you stronger, or more agile. Those are character attributes that are independent from the equipment you wear. Putting it in terms of traditional game mechanics, you won't find any +200 Str items. Indeed, you won't find any +Str items. You want to get stronger, you have to work for it.
That said, you might find weapons that are sharper, are more durable, are resistant to rust, are more flexible, are toxic, etc. And yes, you'll occasionally find items which are artifacts or relics, which bestow the user with some magical properties. However, these still don't affect the character directly, and are generally very situational.
As a result, the specific clothing and armor you wear in CoE is largely aesthetic, and is about building up the persona you want. In order for that to be truly effective, it needs to be as customizable as possible. To that end, The Proto-Tailors here at Soulbound Studios has been working on what we believe is the most comprehensive and customizable crafting system to date. You can see the variety of styles, patterns, and fabrics in some of the animations below. And note, while we've started with the equipment system, virtually all of the objects in CoE will incorporate some degree of customization, with literally every item in CoE being craftable.
Animals and Mounts
Another focus of the first half of 2017 has been on getting our animals more fully in-game. This has been the key focus of the Elyrian Zoological Society who've spent time understanding the needs and behaviors of each animal, and adding a metric-ton of animations in order to support the various responses an animal may have to their surroundings. Where once we just had walking and idle animations, there's now a full suite of animations for each animal including walking, running, sprinting, combat, eating, various forms of alertness, swimming, drowning, dying, and in some cases many more... such as mounting and dismounting. Which leads me to the next task the Zoological Society has been focused on.
In many games, mounts are optional or are a reward for hoofing it (pun intended) before being allowed to move on to more expedient forms of transportation. But in a game the size of Chronicles of Elyria, any travel beyond just moving around your settlement is going to require some form of mount or other means of locomotion.
As a result, mounted movement has been a large focus of the second quarter of 2017. While it may not sound like much, mounted movement requires the engagement of a large part of the studio. It requires animations for the mounts themselves, animations for the player-character while mounting and unmounting - as well as while on the mounts (yeah, we animate the character rather than posing them like toy figurines - go figure). It requires the art team to creates the models, rigs, and materials for the mounts, and of course it requires engineering to handle the mounted controls and network code required to communicate the mounted movement between the server and clients.
I hope this post got you interested in the game if you haven't already been.
Show your appreciation by signing up on the site using my friend code:
Friend code: CA6F70