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Player-Created Buildings and Structures

Welcome to our seventh development blog for Pathfinder Online!

A Little Housekeeping

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Goblinworks team. Mark and I were in Seattle for a series of meetings with recruits for a number of senior positions, for meetings with potential investors and middleware partners, and for extensive strategy sessions with Lisa and members of the Paizo team. It appears that we've moved closer to finalizing our middleware selection; we're in negotiations now to complete that process. As soon as we're done, we'll be making a Big Announcement about that middleware and the types of content it enables us to deliver!

Before we dig in to the meat of today's blog, we'd like to ask the community for your help. We have a number of projects in the works that would benefit from your participation. We'd like you to shoot a short (10–20 second) clip of yourself talking about why you love Pathfinder and why you are looking forward to Pathfinder Online. Post your video to YouTube, and then post a link to it in this thread on the Goblinworks forum along with a note that Paizo and Goblinworks has your permission to use your video (don't forget that part!). We intend to use excerpts from some of your videos to enhance presentations we're working on for Pathfinder Online!

The Standard Disclaimer

As usual, the main topic of this blog draws from our current design plan for the game, but it is very much subject to change, and will evolve based on input from our designers and from your feedback. Consider this a peek behind the curtain at our work in progress—the final results may be different!

Persistence in the River Kingdoms

Since the inception of the Pathfinder Online project, we've had one vision firmly in mind: the idea that players will be able to build a variety of persistent structures in the game world—and destroy them too! The ability to create things that every player will be able to see, visit and interact with is a big way to immerse you in the Pathfinder Online experience and to express the sandbox design value of persistence.

Most of the persistent structures in the game (as opposed to the mostly temporary objects of the theme park content) will be created by players. NPCs do have some sites of their own, such as the three NPC settlements: Fort Riverwatch, Fort Inevitable and Thornkeep, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Each hex can have a variety of potential locations suitable for construction. The developers will build these into the terrain as the hex is designed. Finding these locations will enable characters to erect a building on the site. Specific sites are likely to be restricted to specific types of structures. The external appearance of each building will be defined by the development team—functionally identical buildings may be graphically different to ensure they are appropriate for the terrain where they're located.

The restriction on building types and locations exists for two reasons. First, we want to make building sites a constrained resource, as that makes them worth fighting over, and that conflict helps drive player interaction. Second, we want to ensure that the density of the structures added to the world and the places where they are built makes sense and isn't used as a way to artificially segment the game world or to create terrain advantages—a big problem in many other MMOs that allow player-created buildings.

Construction Sites

Creating buildings is usually a task that will be attempted by groups of well-organized players. Once a buildable location has been found, a character with the necessary abilities will be able to create a temporary object called a construction site. This object includes local storage to hold various materials which must be provided to assemble the building. Once the construction site is erected and filled with the necessary materials—including the blueprints for the building to be constructed—the process of construction will begin.

The construction site can be attacked and destroyed, so it must be defended by the builders. This is a time-limited function. The larger and more complex the structure, the longer the construction process takes. Some buildings might take just a few hours to complete. Others could take days. The most complex structures could take even longer. The size and complexity of the building also determines the area of the construction site—larger sites are harder to defend than smaller ones.

A building cannot be used until it is fully constructed. Each building is initially owned by the character that created the construction site, but ownership of the building can be transferred once it is completed. Buildings can be owned by individual characters or by settlements.

Advancing a Building

Some buildings can be advanced. Its owners can spend time and resources improving these buildings, which not only enhances the facilities they provide but also changes the building's visual appearance. Advancing a building happens in real time just like construction did, except that during the process of advancement, the building remains open for use.

Destroying a Building

Buildings can be destroyed by hostile players, or even by hostile hordes of monstrous humanoids. Buildings have a certain amount of structural integrity that can be reduced in various ways. As a building loses structural integrity, it becomes damaged, and its functionality may be reduced or eliminated. A badly damaged building may not be accessible, although any character in a building can always exit regardless of how badly damaged the structure is.

Some buildings can be damaged using devices wielded by characters, such as rams, fires, or axes. Typically, items that damage buildings don't make great melee weapons; they're purposely designed to destroy objects, not living creatures. An individual character could destroy a building susceptible to this type of damage, though it might take a very long time. Obviously, the owner of the building is unlikely to be amused by this assault and can be expected to take steps to thwart it.

Other buildings can only be damaged by siege engines—huge machines created to hurl boulders or orbs of burning pitch, or similar large-scale weapons. The process of establishing a siege is lengthy and can be attempted only by the largest and best organized groups of players. Siege warfare is therefore the province of player settlements and kingdoms.

Repairing a Building

Once a structure has stopped taking damage, it can be repaired. Such repairs require characters with the necessary abilities, and those workers will require a variety of materials and resources, similar to those used when the building was originally constructed. The more damage the structure has taken, the more materials and time are required to repair the damage.

Types of Buildings and Structures

We anticipate a large variety of potential constructible objects. These will be added to the game gradually as the size of the population increases and as territory is explored and developed. We envision a system of gradual scope enlargement so that players can master each phase of the logistics of construction before the next level of complexity is added. A few of the basic building types are described below.

  • Hideouts—These are the simplest constructs. Hideouts are used by bandits to waylay explorers and others who impinge on their areas of operation. Hideouts normally cannot be found once constructed, although the potential exists for certain types of characters to learn how to find them. Hideouts have limited storage, and they allow characters to be logged out of the game safely. Hideouts have a "threat radius" that determines how they interact with their surroundings: when a character using fast travel enters the threat radius of a hideout, the characters in the hideout can trigger an ambush—the targets drop out of fast travel in the vicinity of the hideout, and the bandits may be able to overtake them and engage them in melee combat before they can exit the area and re-enter fast travel.

    Advancing a hideout can make it harder to locate, increase its local storage, increase its threat radius, and allow the hideout's occupants to determine the nature of passing characters and their gear before triggering an ambush.

    Hideouts can be destroyed by individuals. If a hideout is destroyed, any objects in its local storage are destroyed as well.

  • Inns—Inns are public houses where characters can meet to conduct business face to face, to share stories, form groups, or just mingle with one another. Inns are typically built near roads or well-used trails. Characters can be safely logged off at an inn. Inns have limited local storage.

    Advancing an inn can improve the structural integrity of the inn and affect the types of PvE content that are generated in its hex.

    Inns can be destroyed by individuals. If an inn is destroyed, any objects in its local storage are destroyed as well.

  • Watchtowers—Created as an initial step in securing a hex, watchtowers allow a character or group of characters to establish a secure base of operations in hostile territory. Watchtowers have a "detection radius" that determines when and if the occupants are alerted to the presence of potentially hostile forces in the hex. Watchtowers have storage and they allow characters to be logged out of the game safely. When a character enters the detection radius of the watchtower, there's a chance that the character's location will be revealed to the watchtower's occupants, who can in turn pass that information on to others. Avoiding such detection requires specialized character abilities.

    Advancing a watchtower can improve its structural integrity, increase its local storage, and increase its detection radius.

    Watchtowers can be destroyed by individuals. If a watchtower is destroyed, any objects in its local storage are destroyed as well.

  • Forts—The penultimate expression of power. Forts provide a significant strategic advantage to their owners. Forts are large and complex buildings and require substantial time and resources to construct. Forts have extensive local storage and allow characters to be logged out of the game safely. Like watchtowers, forts have a detection radius. Forts also have public spaces where characters can directly interact to conduct business or to socialize. Forts also have a limited number of private spaces where small groups can gather for private consultations.

    Typically, a given hex will contain only one location suitable for a fort.

    Advancing a fort can improve its structural integrity, increase its local storage, increase its detection radius, add facilities for smithing and repair of weapons and armor, and add offensive weapons that can be used to automatically attack approaching hostile forces.

    Forts can only be destroyed by siege engines. If a fort is destroyed, any objects in its local storage are destroyed as well.

  • Settlements—In order to create a player settlement, a fort must be advanced using a special settlement construction process. Before this can begin, the hex must be cleared of any watchtowers or forts owned by any character not a signatory of the settlement's charter. Building a settlement requires massive amounts of resources and extensive amounts of time.

    The features of a settlement are varied and warrant their own separate dev blog. Since we do not expect the first player settlements to be introduced into the game until well after launch, we'll reserve those details for now.

Other Kinds of Structures

We also envision the ability of characters to build and improve roads that increase the speed of characters using fast travel, to erect docks which will permit watercraft access to rivers and lakes, and to build bridges to allow roads to span those rivers. These kinds of infrastructure improvements will have rules similar to those for other buildings: limited locations for construction, a certain amount of structural integrity, and the potential for destruction and repair.

As we mentioned in our previous blog about PvE content, sometimes a PvE area will be suitable for conversion into a player-controlled structure. Those kinds of opportunities will arise infrequently, usually as the result of the completion of a substantial series of interlocking quests. When a character comes into possession of such a location, they'll build and protect it like they would any other building or structure.

A Last Word about Interiors

Our long-term goal is to permit characters to enter and move around the interior spaces of these structures just as they do outside. At launch, though, we may find it expedient to limit character interaction within buildings to simple chat interfaces rather than fully realized 3D virtual worlds. Issues of collision, latency, and lag will drive much of our development. We can launch and grow effectively even if we begin without full interior access, and that may be the route that we take—with the ideal that we'll implement fully realized interior spaces as soon as time, budget, and technology permit.

Since we don't know yet how interiors will work, we can't currently address questions about the ability of players to customize interior spaces, but obviously we want to enable you to do that; time, money and technology will dictate when those capabilities can be added to the game.

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