Hello! Iím Alex, the creative director and itís about time we updated you on some progress. Letís get back to what most of you are interested in: the single player saga.
With Factions wrapping up shortly we have a very confident handle on the combat. Weíve mentioned it before: combat in Factions is combat in The Banner Saga single player game. We hope that you guys like being able to jump in and try it for yourself instead of just reading about what it will be like. That system was, by far, the most complicated and risky part of the game and weíre nearly finished with it, aside from the enemy units that we havenít released yet. Thatís a great feeling.
Moving on! Game development is often thought of as one big whole- youíve got story, level design, gameplay, art, features, dialogue, combat, so on and so forth. All of this naturally generates a series of dependencies. For example, you have to do concept art and story outlines before you can do animation and dialogue, and prototype gameplay before a final combat system. Weíre well past pre-production now, and deep into the meat of production. So letís talk about what that means.
Please keep in mind that we're basically showing everything- the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of this is polished and complete, other things are very rough and some might even look amateurish. Rest assured the final product will be as polished as Factions is now. It's all part of the process.
From a top-down view, we have three key systems that interact with each other to create the core experience of the game: travel, conversation and combat. Weíve talked a lot about combat, but what about conversation, travel and the branching storyline that ties everything together?
Playing through the game means transitioning between all of these systems. Traveling across the land happens in two ways: youíll shift between a world map and side-scrolling travel with an emphasis on your caravan, the people following you. Some of the following images are pulled directly from our high-level design docs; quick sketches used when proving out the ideas. They clearly donít represent final art!
Lots of games have world maps that let you roam a continent, discovering locations and giving the sense of a larger world. We wanted to capture that feeling, but with the sense of urgency and hardship that comes with thousands of people marching across a huge landscape. In The Banner Saga you donít have the luxury of mucking around. Time plays an integral factor, and traveling plays a huge part in the decisions you make.
With that in mind, youíll have a specific goal as part of the story, and the world map is where youíll plot a course toward that goal and make high-level decisions. Deciding which towns and territory to pass though and whether to make a straight shot for your destination or a safer, more roundabout route will have a huge effect on the events that occur along the way. You carry news with you that others have not heard, and how you use that knowledge also impacts the story. In addition, the world is not an unoccupied land mass peppered with friendly villages. There are contested territories and different factions who have different opinions of each other. Negotiating these problems is part of travel.
At key points along the path events will occur that are out of your control and have world-wide effects. How you react to them, and the path you forge in response, are part of your story.
When major events happen, or youíve taken an action like setting up camp or entering a town or city, the world map transition into the side-scrolling mode shown in the trailer, called exploration. This is a big part of gameplay! Here you can see the size and mood of your caravan, how many people are traveling with you, and get a better view of the world around you. Exploration will introduce you to the stark beauty of the world around you, and better immerse you in the environment.
In exploration, youíll be able to interact directly with your camp or a city to talk with characters in your caravan, enter buildings if youíre in a city, rest for specific amounts of time and adjust how youíre traveling. The city in Factions is a working example of how exploration will work.
The decisions you make along the way have an effect on how you are traveling. Your speed is a combination of factors, and youíll need to manage the caravanís endurance, morale, size and supplies to stay out of trouble.
Endurance inevitably decreases as you travel. The only way to restore it is to rest, but that costs time. Morale comes and goes based on your actions, how successful you are in combat, and how much the caravan agrees with your actions. Mobility is dictated entirely by the size of your caravan - the fewer people are traveling with you, the faster you can go. Of course, this also means the fewer people that may survive. Lastly, supplies amplify all of these other factors. Go too long without finding food or medicine and everything else will deteriorate quickly.
This brings us to events. If youíve ever played King of Dragon Pass, youíll be familiar with this sort of system. As you travel, the game notices how you are doing in each of your travel stats. If youíre within a certain threshold, you may trigger an event.
Usually, events arise without warning, and are related to what is happening around you. Youíll have to react to them in the way you think best for everyone. If youíre low on supplies your caravan may try to revolt. If youíre high on morale, you may end up with a camp full of rowdy drunken revelers. However, donít fear when an event pops up, theyíre just as often positive experiences as they are negative, and may be crucial in keeping your caravan healthy and happy.
Even more importantly, donít think that events are one-time deals. The decision you make this time may cause a new event to arise later. Just because youíve resolved a problem for now doesnít mean it wonít come back to haunt you further down the road. Events can be related to the area youíre traveling in, the decisions youíve made in the past, the state of your caravan or pre-determined events along the way, and can affect everything from your caravanís stats to which characters in your party live or die.
Weíve now written dozens of events, some of which can be several parts long. Multiple playthroughs can feel wildly different.