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Developer Journal #5

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The Chronicle Developer Journal #5

Nathan Knaack Discusses Factions and Why They're Important

So you’re the most powerful warrior in the entire land, able to single-handedly slay any creature no matter how immense or vicious. You’ve been to the bottom of every dungeon no matter how deep or treacherous, mastered every weapon no matter how esoteric or tedious, and completed every task ever given to you by any NPC. What is your reward? A 10% discount on items from the general store? A shiny new set of shoulder pads? Your character’s name on a high score website? Have you ever wished that all of your labors, efforts, and achievements actually had an impact on the world in which your character lives? Shouldn’t you be able to plant your flag atop the castle wall if you and your guild conquer it, instead of the same monsters suddenly appearing back inside five minutes later?

In a previous article, we discussed how fame and reputation have a huge impact on The Chronicle, but in this journal we’d like to discuss exactly how those statistics interact with the faction system we’re designing. The NPC factions that exist in the game world are mainly reserved for the biggest empires and city states, but they are by no means permanent and unchanging. Engine versatility, efficient use of game content, and a skilled art team allow us to dynamically change the game, including what factions exist in which places or even exist at all.

Beyond that, we’re designing the game to be predominately controlled by player-created factions. Indeed, if our community can organize themselves into coherent groups that behave enough like ruling governments and battling kingdoms, we’d love nothing more than to slowly phase out the NPC factions over time until the game has only player factions. New players should always have some protection and direction, so don’t expect to see the safety of NPC factions abandoned to allow EvilDarkJediKlingon_328’s clan “Uber Gank Squad” to run the world uncontested. NPC empires and groups will only be scaled down if they are no longer required, which means that there would have to be ample player-run factions that are newbie-friendly.

From day one, we knew that player-run factions would be one of the larger draws of why people enjoyed MMO Center’s games. Keeping that goal in mind, we are carefully tailoring each of our games to adequately provide challenges, rewards, and responsibilities to those who choose to coalesce into player-run factions. Taking over an entire region of the world doesn’t just equate to some bonus points and extra loot for your guild; you have the option of maintaining your control of the area, building defenses, organizing into a leadership hierarchy, and providing for both the new players that might enter the world in your region as well as the NPC citizens that live there. In return for your efforts, and if you’re a skilled enough administrator, you’ll receive tax revenue, automatic resource gathering (mining, fishing, etc), and even NPC soldiers.

Though the Emergent Artificial Intelligence (EAI) system handles all of the NPC interactions of the game, we’re confident that inter-faction politics will be an enormous aspect of the game’s PvP. It’s one thing to beat another player in an arena, but how much fun would it be to slowly plot your attack, gather your allies, and then lead your army of players and NPCs into battle to conquer your enemy’s entire kingdom?

All of that sounds great for the social-oriented player, but what does The Chronicle offer to those who simply wish to play a casual game of solo PvE, hunting monsters at their leisure? Well, what would a fantasy game be without dungeons packed with monsters, undead lurking in crypts, bandits on the open road, and dragons looming over mountaintops? Those aspects of the fantasy MMORPG genre will be readily available to those who wish to pursue that kind of experience. Spend your nights as a vigilante crime fighter in the slums of a dirty metropolis, become an infamous dragon slayer, or wander the land in search of new encounters and adventures.

Player-run factions will make up their own minds how they ally, trade, contest, and go to war with others, but as long as the game includes NPC factions, reputation and fame matter in how they interact with the rest of the world. The three basic levels of each faction (leader, officer, member) are weighed in descending order in averaging equations to determine the overall fame the faction has and its reputation with each NPC faction. This sets up a system in which famous leaders attract followers because they want to be associated with him or her, just like in real life. In addition, a faction might eagerly seek to employ members and officers who have positive reputations with people the faction would like to share in, which is not uncommon in real life either. Sometimes people are hired simply because of the connections they have with other companies. On the negative side, a guild might just get rid of a player who goes around killing everything he sees, because someone like that might sour the entire faction’s reputation with an important NPC or group.

Creating a faction is something that requires a bit of thought and effort, not just a cool name and nine buddies. First of all, the size and composition of the faction is based largely on the skills of the leader, but exactly how much wealth and population it requires to initiate a faction scales dynamically with the overall active player base of the server on which it is to be founded. As a result, it takes more money and player participation to start a faction on a popular server, ensuring that the world isn’t slowly overrun with micro-factions.

Groups will always be available to those who simply wish to hunt or travel together, but only those who truly wish to have a large scale impact on the world will organize and maintain factions. Additionally, those factions will one day rise up to control the game free of NPC input, restrictions, and assistance. Some time in the future, we hope to claim The Chronicle as the first game in which the story actually matters, and it will matter because players not only participate in it, but create it themselves.

- Nathan Knaack, Lead Creative Writer, Game Designer, Community Manager

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