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Developer Journal #2: Fame

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Nathan Knaack Discusses Fame and PvP Combat

In matters of player vs. player battles, especially in the case of main characters, the fame system will be very important. While trying to find a way to keep main characters from endlessly hunting down and slaughtering each other, simply for the rush of causing the permanent death of someone else, we end up developing a system in which main characters might hunt each other simply for the opportunity to offer the loser mercy…

Consider this, you have a current fame rating of 20, and you become engaged in a battle of insults against another main character with a fame of 10. Heated words boil over and before long you’re out behind the tavern staring down drawn swords at each other. In an unlucky turn of events, your opponent turns out to be a master swordsman, at least compared to your meager expertise, so he solidly beats you.

While your opponent has you helpless, he could deliver a coup de grace, ending your main character’s life permanently and granting him 20% of your current fame as a one-time bonus, raising him to 14. On the other hand, he could show you mercy, in which case he’s awarded 10% of your current fame, no matter what that ends up being at any point in time, and you must endure the loss of 10% of his current fame. If you go on to become the town blacksmith, never earning any more fame, he only gains 2 in addition to any he gains from other sources. But what if you recover from your early loss and go on to become a legendary dragon slayer of the realm, reaching 500 fame? He suddenly has 50 fame from you added to his rating. If you return to face him in combat someday and beat him, your fame relationship is canceled out. From there, it’s a clean slate if you ever battle again.

As you can see, a character’s fame will fluctuate over the course of his or her lifetime, never dropping below zero, but having the ability to reach enormous potential. This system opens up all kinds of clever opportunities, not just in play style, but in the kinds of things we implement in the game. Obviously NPCs will notice and react to players based on their fame, with peasants following around legendary players begging for handouts or kings refusing to hold audiences with other players because they’ve never heard of them. One thing our Emergent AI engine allows us to do is have NPCs that actually play the game just as a player would, traveling around and performing quests. These NPCs would participate in the fame system just like other main characters, though their relative power (attributes, skills, and equipment) would be based on their fame, not how much they’ve used their skills, like player characters advance.

Other possibilities include a shady group of NPC assassins that despise people who become too famous, sending wave after wave of hired killers against someone who gets too famous. Maybe the NPC king of a far off land holds a tournament, inviting only the most famous warriors. Maybe an NPC who seems genuine but is really involved in all kinds of illegal activities will make players feel like he’s contacted them because of how famous they are, when in reality he’s only recruiting people under a certain point in fame, ensuring that he never has to pay too much or attract too much attention to his activities.

Then again, remember that not just PvP encounters between main characters will affect fame. Certain quests might grant (or even take away) fame for completion or failure. With how positive fame might even incur some unsightly side effects, there might even be structured ways to go about purposely losing fame. Not everyone who suddenly becomes a focal point of popularity enjoys such attention, especially if they’re involved in less than honorable activities.

Though some factions will be player-created and run, The Chronicle will also feature NPC factions in which players can hold rank (but not lead entirely). In situations where high ranking players are defeated in battle, the NPC faction might put up ransom money in exchange for the player’s life, possibly incurring a debt to the faction on behalf of the rescued player. In much the same way pirates or privateers used to ransom officers back to the mighty colonial nations of England, France, and Spain, some players might even make a career out of hunting down high ranking players for their bounties.

One logical question is: “What happens if I’ve beaten several players, lost to several different ones, and then my main character dies by falling off a cliff or being eaten by a dragon, or somewhere else completely unrelated to PvP?” Well, just like in real life, your fame still matters to those who knew you, at least for a time. In the above example, if you were to die at 500 fame, everyone you beat would have still be down 50 fame, while everyone who ever beat you would be up by 50. Over a lengthy period of time, however, your fame would slowly dwindle to zero, along with all of the bonuses and penalties applied to those you’ve met in combat. Certain situations or events, however, might grant a player some permanent amount of fame, and thus their legacy would impact those they knew in life long after their death. On that subject, we’ve discussed setting up a section of The Chronicle’s website where legendary players (those that achieve some stupendous amount of fame during their character’s lifetime) are granted a permanent spot in the game’s historical archives. They would be given their own page in the records, which would feature a picture of their character and a brief summary (500 words or so) written by the player.

Combined with the main/regular character split, The Chronicle promises to have some intensive PvP, but not just mindless slaughter in search of an elusive high score. With how fame and faction reputation will work, we’re essentially granting dedicated role-players their wish in actually impacting the world, while simultaneously “tricking” casual players into role-playing by offering them incentive to behave according to their character’s wishes and development. Instead of just plugging through every static quest and ending up exactly where everyone else does, each character will follow a unique development path, writing their own story in The Chronicle.

- Nathan Knaack, Lead Creative Writer, Game Designer and Community Manager - Rapid Reality

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