…In the beginning there were Men and Dragons…
When the Titans came, they saw the creatures of the world as building blocks and created many new creatures from them. These creatures are called (by men) “The Fallen”. There are four known sentient races of The Fallen (see the Lore for more details).
In previous discussions, we have used analogies to Middle Earth. In Middle Earth, Illuvatar created only two sentient races. The Elves and then Men. All other sentient races were created “unnaturally” (the dwarves and Orcs being the best example. The origin of halflings is unknown).
In Elemental, there are more factions than there are races. This is similar to Sins of a Solar Empire where there are many factions but only 3 races.
When we use the term “race” we really mean species in the specific sense that they cannot interbreed except for Channelers and their offspring.
...Fitting Lore into a Game...
SciFi/fantasy lore that evolved outside a game (as was the case with both Galactic Civilizations and Elemental) can be difficult to fit into a game universe.
In Galactic Civilizations, the universe -- its lore, was never published so I had a free hand to tweak all the civilizations to fit the needs of the game.
Elemental is a bit different because its lore is being presented in a book (Elemental: Destiny's Embers). In the book, it's fairly straight forward. You've got two general aligments - The Kingdoms and the Empires. The Empires are dominated by races of the Fallen and the Kingdoms are dominated by the races of Men. Simple right? Well... Read on to see the complexities and why we're brainstorming with you guys on other directions.
….Pre-made Races vs. Player Created Races…
Yesterday we discussed what priority should custom art assets versus canon art assets should take. If we focus primarily on canon factions and their corresponding races, we can greatly expand their stories and the art assets for them. However, if we focus less on the canon factions and more on providing assets we can let players create their own unique races and factions that are more rewarding visually and game play wise.
The question thus becomes which direction to take?
…Understanding Game Development…
By the end of this journey, I suspect many of you will have a much better understanding of what game development is like. The “game” itself is the tip of the iceberg. What you see in these betas is only a tiny piece of the whole “product”. Underneath the covers is the engine and art assets. The game itself we can monkey around with any dozens of ways based on player feedback. The expensive part is building the engine (which isn’t even in the beta yet) and creating the art assets (only a bit are in the beta).
Thus, once we begin to commit to things that involve changing the game engine or the art assets, they’re pretty much set in stone. By contrast, changing research or economy or spells or what have you is largely just changing text in XML.
So we are reaching the point where we will have to make decisions on whether to focus more on canon assets or assets to be used by players to create their own world. I.e. Dragon Age (canon centric) or Spore (non-canon centric).
We don’t have to go to either extreme.
In traditional high fantasy, you’ve got men, dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins. People have a pretty good idea the pros and cons of them because they appear in so many games. In our world, we don’t have dwarves or elves or orcs. We have the natural races and the races made by the Titans. They’re not good or evil based on their race but rather on their faction. The Krax are men but they’re real bastards. There are Fallen races out there that aren’t evil at all (but they don’t come into our particular tale right now, you’ll need to read the book).
We don’t want to “dumb down” the game in any way but at the same time, we don’t want to have unnecessary complexity. The fact that we have Empires/Kingdoms and then Factions and then Races is pretty complicated as is. It would be so much easier if the Empires were all Fallen and the Kingdoms were men but that would be simplistic and frankly, to me, distasteful. It’s bad enough that the unnatural sentients are called Fallen but that’s only because our tale is told from the point of view of man and thus can identify their bias on our own.
In our game, there are 5 true races (Men, Urxen, Trogs, Magnars, and Wraiths). But even amongst these 5 there are sub-groups (The Ironeers if Gilden and the Krax are visually very distinctive but genetically compatible).
You can see how this gets complex in a hurry and why there is the urge to simplify to appeal to a wider audience. Will the fantasy strategy buying public be interested in learning the intricacies of the lore that’s been developed here over the past two decades? Or would they prefer us to simplify it into a couple of basic races (Men and Fallen) and let people get on to making their own races. You would still have the same factions, they’d simply just be made up of two races (men and fallen) and then players could make their own races.
So that’s the discussion we have going on. My bias is to focus on our own canon and introduce players to it. Players could still create their own races but they’re not going to be making any half-dragon half man races or Ents or what have you. That’s my bias on it because that sort of thing can be added later in post-release if the game’s successful whereas we only get one opportunity to really explore the depths of the rift between say Kraxis and Capitar or the doom of Pariden and Procipinee.
Here’s how races could be implemented:
First, when creating a faction you would have a new tab called “race”. The existing races would be there.
You would choose a specific (easy to understand) ability that makes that race unique. Hard Workers might produce pioneers that get more out of resources. Fierce Warriors might get a combat speed boost. Good Traders might be the only ones who can reach paved roads. Fast Travelers go faster. Great Archers can shoot further (maybe attack on the strategic map from a tile away even). The difference would be significant.
Then you pick the Appearance and that’s where we really hit the art asset budget. Skeletons are expensive because you then have the clothes and equipment to go on them (in Spore, you may have noticed nobody had clothes you could put on them). The rest is fairly easy. But obviously no Centaurs or Quaddies.
Then in your cities, you would see next to the current owner of the city what race populates the city. A faction may conquer another city but the race in the city remains the same. The part with enchantments you should ignore – you don’t know about that yet.
Now obviously, people can get into mixing (ala Civ IV and such) but there is so much going on in the world that we want to try to avoid having potentially 30+ different races making up a city (i.e. if we let players create their own races as well as factions, we have to be careful about how convoluted it gets).
I hope you guys are enjoying these journals and their peak at the kinds of things that go on during game development. Marketing hates these journals because they expose the world to the “sausage factory” that is commercial game development.
Please feel free to share your thoughts.