Yesterday afternoon, Chronicles of Spellborn's Pierre-Yves Deslandes (PR Manager), Wlfriend Papillon (German Community Manager), Aurelia (English Community Manager), El Drijver (Combat and Game Designer), and Michael Wolf (Lead Content Designer) joined us in the MMORPG.com chatroom for a special dev chat event. When we last spoke with the TCoS team, our focus was the game's unqiue combat system; today's topic, though, was the lore and world of Spellborn.
With Michael Wolf at our disposal, many of last night's questions concerned the story and storyline of TCoS. One of the most interesting topics to me was the TCoS method of allowing users a permanent change on the world.
"There will be events that have an impact on the game." Wolf told us. In fact, these effects will be permanent - things can be altered in ways that are never undone. The players and guilds who first complete these tasks are rewarded sometimes with monuments to them: "We've already told everyone that we will have the Statues there for certain guild events and such...and those will be unique...there will be unique things for players and guilds to have...and people will look at that statue going 'Damn, they beat us to it!'"
But while other players can beat you to the "first kill" and the statue credit, TCoS has found a way to keep content active and accessible to players. "The storyline will be open to all but the rewards will be for the first players." From what I understand, everyone will be able to experience past content through flashback-like quests.
Not all events work as flashbacks, of course - plenty of quest lines are what we'd call "normal", occurring for your character in real-time.. Like LOTRO, TCoS has a large, overarching storyline that follows you from level 5 to level 50 - the main storyline is about what happened to the world and what the Oracle is doing at the moment. This storyline, though, is extremely flexible and allows players to diverge down many different paths. "Players can follow the stories of the fallen heroes, the traitor High Houses or the dead heroes and find out about their past too."
Along the way, players will be able to join one of the High Houses. Says Wolf, "joining a High House will give you a look behind the scenes of that particular High House and will give you access to a number of quests and a number of special rewards...There is something planned for the post release game that will put your High House choice into focus. Whether you will still like your High House at that point remains to be seen, because not every House likes the others as much!"
While the houses are at odds, this is not a purely good vs evil cliché. "Nothing in TCoS is black and white. Some things might seem to be, but there is always a certain idea behind why someone is acting the way he is. The Enclave of the Five Sacrifices is basically your good guys, but what is happening at the meetings with the High Lords and the High Ladies must be good....even the Vhelgar, obnoxious and loud as they are, are not all evil."
Sometimes these events and quests have ethic parables, as well. Wolf ominously told us, "You will do things...you will regret things...and you will love the reward the quest gave you...but the consequences of your actions will have Deadspell Storm wide effects!"
The world is made up of areas called shards. "At the initial release," says Wolf, "the world of TCoS will consist of 4 huge shards, 4 raftyards (tied together pieces of rock upon which skum of the world lives), and several fragments of ancestral world. These all make up what is called The Red Rim and what lies within it is basically where players can roam."
Each shard is divided further into zones. Shards are different sizes and will have different numbers of zones in each - for an example, though, the start-off shard Parliament is divided into about 7 zones. Wolf adds, "Those zones are different in size and can be huge depending on where you want to play."
These shards expose players to vastly different environments. While most of the shards consist of vegetation, some areas lack a water source of any kind. Other areas have had great natural disasters effect their environment; some have been mutated past recognition. "There are desert shards, an ice shard, and there is also a deserted sea floor....we have tried to diversify the surroundings as much as possible to give off a great atmosphere for players to play in... we have some jawdropping areas and I hope you will like them all.
All of this will, of course, be expanded post-launch. "[We] will definitely add new Shards and zones...fragments and even strange places that float within the Deadspell Storm. What you get at release is really but a fragment of the universe that exists within the Deadspell Storm."
In such a huge world, travel is important. "You can travel from zone to zone easily by either walking to it or finding the nearest docks...as a player in TCoS you will use your legs quite a lot. You will have to walk great distances and reach far off places on your own. You can use shardships to cut some travel time off your trip, but you yourself will have to do the rest."
While the static world of TCoS is important, there are also a lot of instanced areas in the game. Most of these are dungeon-type areas, but Ancestral Quests are instanced as well. Some of the Raftyards are also instanced to avoid players ruining eachother's quests (purposefully or inadvertently).
This world is very immersive, and much of the content is found through exploration. "There is a lot of hidden content, most will be in lore format, some will be in people...and some will be seen as one of those 'Oh shit!' moments, where you as a player did something that will set events in motion you really wish you hadn't. Of course we want you to trigger that content, because that's what we had planned!" Wolf teases. "But don't except any neon signs or people with big arrows pointing you to hidden content. There is a lot going on, and some of it is under the very noses of the High Houses."
For now, there are no hidden shards - not yet, anyway!