In recent months we've taken a look at several of the game systems in The Repopulation, and shown videos of the Crafting, Nation Building and other aspects of gameplay. But a recurring question has been, "What drives the PvE game?". Today's features is designed to answer those questions.
First and foremost we want to stress that PvE in The Repopulation is very different than you would see in a theme park oriented game. There are some lengthy mission storylines with branching outcomes, but linear content is not what drives this game.
We believe that players should be able to play the game the way they want to play it. Some players will simply want to craft, harvest, build nations, PvP or go out and hunt mobs without any driving factor, and they are freely able to do that. In the latter part of this article we'll explain our Den and One Time systems which are designed for those types of players. Other players like to have something driving them however, and still others would rather do some of the above, and to happen into situations that require their attention. For those latter two types, we have the mission and engagement systems, which aim to provide endless opportunities for players willing to participate.
Missions in The Repopulation are similar to quests in most other MMORPGs. They focus on story driven content that can be targeted at solo players, or groups of players. Where most other titles focus on static linear quests though, The Repopulation focuses instead of generated content that is custom tailored to your character and offered in a non-linear fashion. That's not to say that The Repopulation does not have static missions or lengthy storylines, it does. But even in those cases, we generally focus on branching storylines and factor in your style of play into the outcome.
You will never need to do missions to progress. Missions are a purely optional feature, but a feature that most players will participate in.
Tailor Made Missions
In your typical theme park MMO, progression is pretty linear, and driven primarily by questing. You know that from level 1-5 you need to be in certain areas in order to level up on these quests, and the desire for appropriate leveled quests drives your path through the game. Because each player from your starting area is on the same path as you, you each have a very similar experience and order in which new content is introduced.
This is not the case in The Repopulation. After you complete the initial tutorial you’re transported to the appropriate capital city and there is very little linearity from that point onwards. Although there are also some static missions, the bulk of our missions are generated and tailor made for your character. They'll take your skill levels, factions, previously completed missions, engagements or achievements, location, and personality traits into account to find a mission suitable for your character.
That mission will then be mailed to you in-game. You can access your mail at any time, from anyplace in the game world using a PDA. Missions come in as job offers. You will be given an overview of the mission, who you'll be working for, and any expected difficulties. You will then be given an opportunity to Accept or Deny the mission.
Missions come in all shapes and sizes in The Repopulation. From simple delivery or kill missions to complex crafting or harvestings missions, to raid situations and epic quests. You can filter through different mission types through your settings tab in the mission windows if you would only like to receive a certain type of mission. There are some combination filters to allow players to for example receive all non-combat missions, or instead to filter so they only receive harvesting and crafting ones.
Due to the way we filter missions for players, you should receive offers based on past events, and based on ways you responded to NPCs in previous missions. More advanced mission types can have a large number of prerequisites, and players will often not know when they are unlocking them.
Players who show no desire to break the law may never be able to experience the same missions as underworld types, but they may gain access to another segment of missions that underworld types would not have at their disposal. If you walk around insulting every NPC and generally acting like a jerk, the NPCs will take notice, just as they notice and remember people who help them. The bottom line here is that your decisions and your choices do matter, so you should pay attention.
Advanced Generation System
When we were designing our generated mission system one of the goals was to be able to do just about everything with generated missions that we could do with static missions. For the most part we have achieved that goal.
Generated missions use a mix of static or generated NPC slots. Generated NPCs can either be spawned solely for the mission, or they can be existing NPCs from the game world who have been selected due to having the appropriate Personality Traits. Most NPCs in the Repopulation have a mixture of Personality Traits which allow us to give our NPCs some sense of individuality. These traits include professions, personality, mood, dilemma, and cause. Some of these personality traits (profession, personality) are static and will not change. Others can change based on events that happen to them.
Let's say, for example, that you wrong an NPC in a generated mission. That could alter their mood to be Angry and to set you as the Cause. This NPC might now reference you in a negative way to other players or npcs, or insult you when you walk by. It may allow them to be eligible for new mission opportunities as a result of their changed traits.
Generated missions are designed as templates. Templates can specify the criteria for each of the friendly and hostile NPCs which must be met. They can also call for randomly generated items or crafted items. They define the core of the template. This can be pretty static and simple, or very dynamic with generated rolls and skill checks. It depends on the template design. When a mission is generated it chooses a template and then randomly selects NPCs appropriate for the players location. If it's unable to find one then it will choose a different mission template. This methods ensures that the generated missions always choose proper NPC types, and that what you are doing makes sense. If you’re picking up weapons, it will be from a weapons vendor. Shady deeds will be done by shady NPCs, etc.
Branching Dialogs and Outcomes
NPC Chatter will automatically appear in chat bubbles beside the NPC who is speaking. Sometimes players will be given response bubbles. Players response to an NPC by selecting the appropriate response bubble. Your choices can cause missions to go into alternate branches, and the choices you make will be used to form your personality traits, and how NPCs respond to you.
Your choices do matter in The Repopulation. We use a number of hidden trackers on your character which monitor when you treat NPCs rudely, are helpful, tried to be a joker, made decisions based on greed, etc. NPCs form their opinions of players based on these traits and by using a hidden faction and achievement system. They can offer different storylines or branches based on how you have previously responded to different situations.
Missions can branch in many ways though, speech options are just one of them. We can also perform a skill check against any of your skills to see if you succeeded or failed the check and then branch the mission accordingly. For example if you were hired to hack into a security system and failed, you might fail the mission or be given a reprimand (or bounty on your head), but if you succeeded you would be able to continue the mission, or reap the reward. We can also perform random dice rolls to branch a mission, or base them on hidden goals you have completed such as visiting a certain place or speaking to a certain NPC before another.
The branches taken can also have an affect on the loot rewarded. Sometimes the more difficult paths will reward you with better loot.
The mission system supports a wide variety of reward types. This includes specific items, random items, credits, imprints, training cards, skill points, faction, military experience, temporary bonuses, achievements, and more.
The mission system will also give nearby groupmates a chance to share in the rewards, even giving a bonus to rewards based on the number of players in your group. Each player will automatically get their share of the loot without needing it to be handed in manually. The player who owned the mission will receive a higher chance at rewards than other players. These group rewards are meant to encourage grouping.
Another measure to encourage grouping is the temporary bonus system that has a chance to be cast on the entire group any time a mission is completed by one of their group members. The chances of these rewards vary based on the difficulty of the mission. These buffs focus on a wide array of different bonus types, and will stack up to three times for each effect. A solo player would also receive these buffs, but groups can complete missions more quickly.
Generated Epic Missions
One of the more fun things we can do with our generated missions is to create missions that are epic in scale, but repeatable and generated. We can design the templates to take advantage of generated elements, so the same template could have different steps, different npcs, different items, so that if a player received the same template twice, it might have been a very different experience in each case.
Things like mission markers or NPC notifications are a purely optional feature of our mission system. In fact, many of our missions will display a blip on the mini-map when the NPC is in the area, but will not display a long-range marker. Some will not display any indication whatsoever. This allows us to make some missions that require a player to think, where other missions make it as easy as possible. The general rule of thumbs is that more difficult missions will provide more substantial rewards.
Where our missions are a new twist on traditional quests, our engagements are a new twist on the public quests. Where missions focus on complex storylines focused at a single player or group of players, engagements focus on a larger event that is affecting an area of the world. The are typically targeted at groups of players, and can feature opposing sides that affect one another.
Engagements sprout up based on player actions throughout the world, and some random elements. When an engagement begins it will be marked on the map to all players in the area. Any player who enters near the engagement region will receive an update telling them the objective(s) they are facing. Depending on how well players respond this could mutate the engagement into positive or negative changes.
Not all engagements are combat related. Some of them are completed through crafting, harvesting or social means. We're trying to mix things up and provide a little something for everybody.
When an engagement is active in an area, any player who contributes in any way will have their contributions tracked internally. If an engagement ends, it can specify whether or not to give rewards (or negative character flags) to players based on their contributions. This is an automated process. If a player receives any special medals or achievements it will be reported to the entire engagement, and the top performers will also be displayed when an engagement completes successfully. Engagements are also capable of scaling in difficulty based on the number of players who are participating.
Engagements are social activities and players should be working together to complete them. One of the ways we encourage this behavior is through the Auto-Group system. This is an optional setting that is turned on by default. When Auto-grouping is enabled you will automatically be grouped up with other players when you enter into an active engagement area. There is another setting which allows you to automatically leave Auto-groups when you leave the engagement area. We're hoping that this encourages better teamwork in these situations, as well as making it easier to meet other players.
Some engagements are only available if rare conditions are met, and there may also be random elements in the process itself. Engagements themselves occur through a spawner system. These spawners can be placed in static locations, or are commonly placed in a wide area trigger which will randomly spawn one of several different engagements when there are players hunting nearby. We have fine control over the chances that each engagement can occur, which allows us to make some engagements very rare, where other types will be more common. The goal is to provide a break from the monotony that is generally associated with static content.
Many of the engagement in The Repopulation are designed so that they can branch into new engagements based on how they are reacted to. This works on a number of failure or success conditions. In the case of PvP or factional engagements, the failure or success of one engagement can be directly influenced by the success or failure of the opposite faction. These longer branching engagements are used to get players cooperating and working towards goals in the world.
Branching engagements can be long-term goals, and are not always instant gratification. Some engagements will significantly alter the content of an area, and will stay that way until responded to. These could be long-term changes, and the mine you once took job offers out of could later change into a dungeon filled with a whole new type of opportunity for players.
Our goal is to make some engagements very challenging, requiring careful organization to overcome. Those engagements will provide substantial rewards for those who can overcome them.
As mentioned before, Engagements sprout up using a spawner system. We can mark static locations as engagement spawners, such as just a certain part of town, or we can set up wider area grids on a map. Both of these types can be attached using a parent->child relationship. Engagements can cause their parents or children to mutate based on failure or success events.
This means you'll be able to see situations evolve and spread to new areas. That could be spreading to the next level or a dungeon, or spreading to a new part of the map. It can also mean providing opposing opportunities for rival nations to counter-act your own efforts. This means that if you allow the FPR side to gain a foothold in OWON territory, those camps may turn into bases, and those bases may eventually take over the friendly bases in the region.
Other Forms of PvE
Missions and engagements cover the driven PvE content, but what about non-driven content? Nations, Cities, Crafting and Harvesting have been covered in previous video releases, so we'll focus this section on other forms of PvE content.
Exploration is a large part of the fun for many players, and in The Repopulation you'll find many rewards for heading off the beaten track.
Most MMOs these days will reward you with experience when you discover a new location. In The Repopulation we reward you with skill points related to that area. For example, entering a refugee camp might give you a small but permanent boost to your survival skill, where entering a fishing village for the first time might provide a bonus to your fishing skill.
We have also scattered One Time Mission spawners in remote and random locations in the world. These will spawn NPCs who provide a mission that will only be available for one player or group. Once the mission has been completed the NPC will despawn. These missions provide better than average rewards, and their purpose is to encourage exploration.
While we don't want to touch too much on harvesting since it was covered in previous videos, harvesters will also benefit from exploration. This is because harvesting regions have a limited supply and replenishment rate. More remote locations will often be able to provide more bountiful resources than those in safe areas or near town.
Last but not least, engagements and dens are spawned on demand, only when players are active nearby. The number of players in the area helps determine the difficulty of the den or engagement. So in summary, content is created for players as they explore. This content can provide rare opportunities that would be more difficult to obtain in crowded locations, and also helps us to automatically balance the mob distribution on our servers.
Traditionally MMOs spawn monsters in preset locations, using preset settings. These settings rarely change. Meaning you can find wolves in a certain location pretty much all of the time. They might respawn every 3 minutes, but they will always come back.
We recently introduced a new Den system which is intended to mix things up a bit. This system will spawn monsters on demand, when players enter certain regions. Similar to engagement spawners, we have fine control over how often these can occur. What makes these different from traditional spawns though is that dens can randomly choose between a number of different mob types appropriate to that area. Once spawned those dens can grow in size and strength if players do not eliminate them. They can also scale in strength based on the number of players in the area.
Dens can provide rare mobs, mission opportunities, and can spawn visual cues or alter areas in other ways. They encourage exploration, and allow for more dynamic areas.
Each player begins their career as an inactive member of their factions military. Many of the missions and engagements will reward your character with military experience. This experience allows you to gain rank over time.
There are many benefits to rank. Each rank provides a military title. Ranks also provide players with military perks. These range from special abilities such as Air Strike or Artillery Strike, as well as items, recipes, robotics, vehicles, furniture items or fittings. Perhaps most importantly though, rank can be used as a prerequisite for missions. Some templates will only be available for those of a certain rank.
There are various collectors in the world who are always looking for certain types of items. You can find these items rarely on monsters, containers, or simply lying abandoned in the wilderness. Returning these items to the appropriate NPCs can be very rewarding.
Rare books can also be found in this same manner. These books can be read to provide some backstory, and will sometimes provide missions or permanent skill boosts for the first player who reads them.
While The Repopulation is indeed solo-friendly, we are putting a lot of effort into encouraging players to group. There are significant skill gain bonuses while grouped, and dangerous areas provide an additional bonus. Missions and engagements both provide group rewards, and make it beneficial to be in a group when doing them.
Loot is also designed to be social friendly. Each player who contributes to a kill, or is in a group with a player who does, will get their own chance at loot. The chance is based on their contribution level. In fact there are no penalties whatsoever for multiple players to contribute to a kill. Skill have a chance to increase on each attack made (or defended against), and are based on the player’s skill compared to the targets. These two mechanisms make it beneficial to hunt with other players, even if you are not grouped. But we're also making a concerted effort to encourage grouping wherever possible.
Strategies On the Fly
Raids are a large part of the end game in most MMOs. One of the issues these games often have though is that once a guild figures out a good strategy for a raid, it loses its challenge. Spoilers become available on forums and you don't get the same sense of accomplishment that comes with a first kill. Over time you find yourself grinding the same boring encounters repeatedly because someone always needs gear.
In The Repopulation we've tackled this problem using a generated special ability system. Mobs that are marked as bosses will be able to choose special abilities randomly from a list of presets for their tier and species, and can also feature unique abilities of their own. So rather than having 3 static special abilities, they might have 3 special abilities out of a pool of 20 possible types. Because some combinations of abilities will be more deadly when combined with one another, this forces players to respond and adjust their tactics on the fly.
Bosses themselves are spawned in many ways. Some spawn through missions. Some are rare random spawns in the wilderness. Many bosses are specific to certain waves of Dens or Engagements.
Tying Them All Together
You now know about the various aspects that drive PvE content in The Repopulation. But in this section we're going to discuss how they all tie together.
Missions, engagements, spawns, NPCs, and other systems are all allowed to interact. If an engagement goes down certain branches new missions may become available in that area. These will be related to the situation that is currently affecting the region. Some NPCs may go away or be replaced with different NPCs. Certain collections or dens will only occur when certain other conditions are met.
Often times items will drop on the corpses of NPCs who are spawned during engagements that can be used to start offshooting missions. For example, after a Terrorist plot you may find some plans which will lead to a new mission to track down those involved. That mission may trigger another engagement when it completes, continuing along a storyline.
Failing or succeeding an engagement will often qualify you for new mission opportunities down the road. For example if you see some travelers being ambushed on the road and manage to save them you may be contacted by them later with new mission opportunities. If you allow them to be robbed though, you may find yourself the target of an entirely different type of mission. Because these types of missions often have other pre-requisites some time will often pass between these opportunities, and you may not even realize what triggered the opportunity.
Our primary goal with PvE is to provide players with plenty of things to do, but to pull this all off in a way that is dynamic rather than static.
This small feature turned into a bit of a novel, and we apologize for that. But we hope that it proved informative on the PvE aspects of the game. In the future we're planning similar features for Crafting, PvP and the Nations. But that's it for now.