Issue #4: The Mighty Beard & The Sparrow
The life of an adventurer is tumultuous. Some early English writing compares the life of human beings to that of a sparrow flying through a mead hall, the Anglo-Saxon version of a tavern. The bird has a brief moment of respite from the harsh winter outside as it sails through the place where the warriors gather to tell stories of their victories in battle. I posit that the life of an adventurer is also akin to this sparrow, who also spends a brief moment in a tavern resting from their travels before venturing off once more into the fray. It was this image that was fresh in my mind as I read the latest blog post from the Ashes of Creation development team – “The Mighty Beard.” In addition to my own thoughts and opinions, I’ve also reached out to fellow community role-playing members to get their feedback and reactions to the recent blog.
While I don’t have much background in the pen and paper adventuring discussed in the blog post, it was no less impactful for me to read the direction that the team is going related to the tavern mechanics. Before we get into the details, I did want to point out that I have had my fair share of role playing in various games. Some of my fondest in-game memories came from delving deep into my character’s psyche and letting that personality take over – be it a tortured minstrel lamenting the exile from their homeland by an evil dictator in Dark Age of Camelot or a hapless victim of an embrace in a Vampire The Masquerade: Redemption online session. These are the memories that last for me in role playing games - the moments when I can connect with my character and really find a way to immerse myself in their world. The tone of the blog post seemed right up my alley and also struck a very positive cord with the role-players I interviewed.
Allow me a moment to digress from Intrepid’s vision behind the post and move onto the real meat behind the latest update. We all conjure stories up in our head around what it means to be a part of this tavern experience or be a tavern owner, but what does that translate to in tangible systems? The developers want it to be a place where one can buy and sell consumables, but these consumables only provide benefits if the player is in close proximity to the tavern itself. I found that aspect quite intriguing as I wondered what type of bonuses this could translate into. There was the obvious - rested experience – so perhaps the consumables would allow you to acquire rested XP at a faster rate than anywhere else. While it makes sense, I also found myself wondering what else might be a consumable boon. I reached out on this very topic to Shy and Maevynn, a couple of the leading members of the Ashes of Creation Roleplay Community on what other buffs they feel might be available. Shy felt like it might be a bit early to speculate. From her experience in other games, she felt it was good to have rested experience in a tavern and reminded me that freeholds will allow us to have specific benefits when we build them as well. She also went on to say that there are other potential perks that feel right. “With the taverns, I could definitely see boosts to cooking/related crafting skills being something implemented, or maybe in that same vein, certain pots/foods that can only be made in a tavern.” I tend to agree on the latter as the developers did point out as much in their post. Maevynn’s shared his thoughts as well as raised some questions about the system mechanics. “I imagine that the type of buffs we'd see would be things like health regeneration, maybe a haste-type effect - buffs that would help people out and about in the world, since we have to remember that taverns can also be placed on freeholds and so the buffs would have use outside of a city as well. Even if it's only within a certain proximity (or inside of the tavern), if someone is lacking the ability to heal themselves (or have someone else heal them) then health regen would be an excellent route to go, assuming health doesn't automatically refill after combat like it does in some games.” One other good point that Maevynn brought up and I also was curious about was the notion of “proximity to the tavern” – we’d really need to know what this means to understand what buffs make sense. Could we get buffs that could help us defeat a nearby monster terrorizing the node? Would it help us clear a dungeon in the vicinity with particularly nasty denizens? Ultimately, the idea of a tavern providing benefit seemed like a great foundational design, but we’ll have to see how the details of this flesh out as the development proceeds further.
Diving a bit more into the UI aspects, the blog post goes onto say that the tavern would allow you activate a private voice and text chat with other players in the tavern itself. The goal being that facilitating player interaction is one of the penultimate roles of the tavern experience. This is not only limited to dialogue, of course, but also in other quality of life aspects. While chatting, you can also add to the atmosphere with music of your choice – it remains to be seen what type of music will be available, but I suspect it will be music befitting the game world and no one in Verra will be shaking their money maker to contemporary pop music. I. for one, am totally down with jamming out to some Bear McCreary originals while I quench my thirst and fill my belly. Shy was pretty excited about this as she feels that quality of life features for roleplayers are often missing from the current mainstream MMOs. More specifically, she has a few ideas to really make the most of these aspects. “I would really like to see a localized channel for roleplay, say within 30-40m of the player. That would allow those people who want to see it to have it on without players "spamming" local chat. A large buffer (the amount of characters that can be entered) would be amazing. The greatest barrier to roleplay is not being able to communicate with and illustrate the scenes you're writing properly. I'm not sure what the "correct" length is, but definitely more than a tweet and less than a Wordpress.” While Shy doesn't really use voice for roleplay, she feels it would be nice to have the option. What she would really like to see is the ability for players to create their own chat channels. “Neverwinter Online had this, and it made coordinating roleplay much easier.” I totally agree here and see this as a must do outside of the standard delivered channels available. Maeynn’s opinion is also quite positive about these social constructs in the works as he believes that it will foster “little communities” in the taverns across the world. It may also (and I agree) feel like “entering a real establishment” should the community capitalize on it. He also believes that supporting both text and voice will allow the RP community to use the medium that they are most comfortable with for their activities. On the musical options discussed in the blog, he goes onto say that there has to be some sort of moderation mechanism to prevent players from breaking the immersion by rapidly switching songs or repeating music unnecessarily. As far as where to go from here, Maevynn is hopeful that Intrepid will continue fostering the “communities within communities” aspect facilitating a player’s ability to belong to multiple communities – thusly reinforcing the thought that Verra is a living and breathing world and making the most of the game’s social organizations.
Tavern Mechanisms in the Works
Moving more deeply into the tavern experience, the blog touches on some other aspects of the game such as the battle map system – which is described as a way for players to strategize their next moves for a siege, perhaps. I was surprised this system was mentioned in the post as the impression I received from the Halloween live stream was that this was “not in the roadmap” and an “internal stretch goal.” So, it will be good to see how this plays out from a development perspective and the timing of implementing the system itself. Shy felt that the battle map would most likely not impact role players much other than perhaps helping them decide routes to take for their adventures and sussing out potential dangerous areas to avoid. One thing that Maevynn said on the battle maps front was that this didn’t feel like something very appropriate for a tavern, but moreso for a townhall or node government building. I tend to agree as he pointed out – “Typically you aren't going to be planning a war in an inn/restaurant. “ However, the system he does qualify the statement to say the system has a lot of potential. He did have some great feedback on how to evolve the system by maybe making the battle map system be more of an “adventure map” where players could mark down points of interest or other relevant notes. “I think it would serve the ‘information sharing’ aspect as well, since even during the slower hours when nobody else is around you might be able to still get that information that people left behind.” My opinion is that here would also be where some moderation might be required to ensure the contributions are appropriate.
Part of the post also talked about the Kickstarter stretch goal for parlor games. Players would be able to engage each other in dice and card games as well as others yet to be discovered, which could be quite lucrative depending on the skill of the player. When asked what parlor games might be of interest, Shy mentioned she was quite fond of the tavern games in the “Fable” series and hopes some of the parlor games in Ashes capture the same spirit. “I spent too much time playing those.” She also put forward a unique idea… “they could slide an Ashes-themed classic arcade game in, like Centipede or Pac-Man, but I definitely won't hold my breath on that!” Here’s hoping, Shy! Maeynn was hopeful that there would be a variety of games available and that this would a great opportunity to explore the games of the various different cultures in the game, not only the “parent race” but the sub races as well, where the sub race might affect “the visuals and mechanics such as a chess-like game where the pieces are animated.”
Another system mentioned, which is of particular note, is the bulletin board system. This system would allow quests to be dynamically posted by players and I assume also have a base set of quests related to the local area surrounding the tavern. This was one of the most exciting aspects for me as it could very easily be an outlet for my love of writing. Imagine spinning a tale that your fellow community members could read and have that turn into an opportunity to reap a reward for assisting me in gathering a resource or hunting down evil doers. While other games have allowed players to create “missions” or act as a dungeon master, these felt largely disconnected from the main story and focus of the game itself in my opinion as a player. The proposed bulletin board system opens up multiple possibilities for interaction as well as relevance in the game world. Shy and Maevynn have both seen systems like this in a few other games. Shy felt it made finding other role players much easier than games without such systems – “Just post an ad.” She thinks it will be especially useful if both players and non-role players alike use the system. She feels it might be used in a few ways such as “announcing events, promoting in-character businesses, things like that.” Shy did close her comments by saying she can’t wait to see more on this system as it was a quite exciting addition to the game design. Turning the question to Maevynn, his general expectations are that this would get the most use by tavern owners and players that frequent said establishment. He does expect that guild ads and adventurers for hire would also have use for the system, but this might more likely happen in more populated/frequented areas of the world. Speaking further on player created quests, Maeyvnn did provide his thoughts on making this most successful saying, “The success of the player-made quests will require a lot of things, some probably beyond what I'd know since I'm not a game design expert by any means. But I imagine a strong economy is very important for it. People will have to want to pay others to go out and get supplies for them, and also make a profit off of having those supplies delivered—On the other side of the coin, people will also want to fill those orders and get an equivalent (if not better) return than if they were to go sell the raw materials at their own stall in the city. Players will also need to know that the requests are out there to be filled, which again will be much harder for the out-of-the-way tavern in comparison to the popular one everyone visits. So I think that ultimately, the success of the tavern is going to rely a lot on the tavern owner and how smart they are with choosing a location and knowing the types of customers they'll likely be getting.” Specifically related to the role play aspects, Maevynn does feel that this system adds a way for role players and non-role players to interact, where non-role players can contribute to a role players experience and both gain a benefit. For example “If an RP-focused trading guild, for instance, is requesting lumber for a new boat, it gives a venue in which both roleplayers and those who don't roleplay can fill that order. Or if someone who doesn't roleplay is asking for a lot of furs/hides, someone who roleplays as a hunter (or maybe even a hunter's guild) can fill that order while roleplaying.”
The Final Word
It’s very exciting to see how Intrepid is taking more and more strides around enabling player agency in all aspects of the game. The systems discussed in this recent blog post definitely continue to keep players of all backgrounds interested in seeing what’s next as development continues. I know the lack of a group finder in its current mainstream form is a cause of concern for some players, but I tend to believe that it has contributed to group finding being a more autopilot and less socially rewarding experience. The tavern and its associated systems feel like a good direction to enable a more active social experience where players can get to know each other and build a much more solid community identity. As our short flight through the mead hall comes to an end, I wish you well, Ashes Community.
If you missed the blog post discussed in this article, you can find it on the official site.