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This week marks a big milestone in our Alpha testing program. When players log into Zog starting on Thursday they're going to find that the River Kingdoms have become a harder, harsher place to thrive in than ever before.
When you begin play of the game "for realz" after Early Enrollment begins your characters will start with simple peasant clothes and a club. They'll have 1,000 XP to spend on initial Feats. And that's it. We call this "the cold start". Everything that your character acquires, every ability they gain, and all the wealth they accumulate comes from those meager beginnings.
(In actual Early Enrollment play characters will gain 100XP an hour. For Alpha 7, characters will gain 5,000XP an hour. This will allow us to have characters test a wide range of character power quickly. Players are advised to visit the statue of Seoni in Sotterhill after creating a new character to receive a special Achievement that will give them a massive number of Achievement points to enable unlimited training.)
We've said from the start of the project that the bedrock of our game design is an economy where almost everything characters use will be crafted by other characters. That starts with this week's Alpha. To understand how that will work, here's a quick overview of how the economic game loop functions.
Scattered throughout the world are "resource nodes". There are four types, each of which produces a specific kind of resource when harvested. Rocks produce minerals, ore and gems. Trees produce wood and herbs. Middens produce random resources of all types, and Essences produce magical components.
Characters harvest these nodes by standing near them and activating their harvesting abilities. All characters start with a minimal level of harvesting capability and they can train Feats that make them more efficient harvesters.
The resources gathered from these nodes form the basic input into the economy.
When monsters (human or otherwise) are defeated in combat they usually drop some loot. They may produce coin, salvage, beginner gear and recipes.
Coin will be the medium of exchange for markets - the buying and selling of goods and services. Salvage is a low-quality substitute for resources that could otherwise be harvested from nodes. Beginner gear is starter-level equipment that characters can use to access the initial features they're training with their starter XP. Recipes are the most valuable and rarest loot. Recipes allow a character that has trained the appropriate Feats and who has access to the appropriate structures in Settlements to turn resources into crafting components and finished crafted gear.
The starter-level gear that characters can find in monster loot gives them access to abilities they earn from training Feats. Upgrading from peasant clothes and wood clubs to starter-level gear will enable the characters to become more effective adventurers. A "cold start" character in peasant clothes wielding a wood club will find a 1:1 fight against low level monsters to be a tough fight. A character equipped with starter-level gear will be able to engage larger groups of monsters - 2, 3 & 4 opponents and have a good chance to survive.
Player Character crafted gear will enable characters to start taking on tougher monsters and engaging the largest groups and the Escalation encounters they find while exploring the wilderness.
Gear has Keywords. The more Keywords a piece of gear has the more powerful it may be in the hands of a skilled character. Starter-level gear has the basic Keyword associated with that type of item. But crafted gear can have even more. When gear is crafted using crafting components that have "+"s, the resulting crafted item gains a keyword for each "+". So a "+2" sword has a basic starter Keyword, and 2 additional Keywords which are conferred by the recipe used to craft it.
Resources don't have "+" values. When a resource is converted to a crafting component by a character using a Settlement facility like a Smeltmill, the Character may have the ability to create "+" versions of those crafting components if they have the necessary recipes. The more "+" values a crafting component has the more basic resources are required to create it.
Characters can train Feats which confer various abilities on the character. When a player "slots a Feat" (characters have a limited number of slots for various Feats so players will have to make choices about which Feats of which type to have active on a character at any given time), the Keywords on the character's gear may become active.
For example if a character slots an armor Feat that "looks for" the Keyword "Military" on armor, and that character is wearing armor that has the "Military" Keyword, the character gains additional resistance to damage. Just slotting that Feat, or just wearing that armor doesn't provide the bonus. The Feats and gear must have Keyword synergy.
"Want to Sell" and "Want to Buy" are going to become common messages in local chat in the Settlements. Some characters are going to specialize in harvesting and crafting and some characters are going to specialize in monster killing. The crafters will be producing gear that makes the monster killers more effective. The monster killers are going to be recovering loot the crafters need to make better gear.
This is the core economic game loop and it is what we are going to be testing with the Cold Start this week in Alpha.
Seattle is host this weekend to the Penny Arcade Expo, aka PAX Prime. 70,000+ gamers will descend on the Washington State Trade & Convention Center for 4 days of fun and meaningful human interaction.
Paizo has a room at the show where they'll be running demos for the tabletop RPG and the Adventure Card Game. Members of the Goblinworks team will be there at various times during the show to answer questions and record interactions with the community. Bonny our community manager is armed with our digital camera and she's on the prowl for likely interview subjects!
Ryan will be speaking at several events this week. Wednesday at 2:30 (Pacific) he'll be talking about Life After Kickstarter at Pax Dev, PAX's sister show at the Westin. At 6pm on Friday in the Sphinx Theater he'll be joining the all-star lineup for another round of MMORPG.com's "Future of Online Games" panel. At 4pm on Saturday in Sandworm he'll be speaking more about Kickstarters and their aftermath at "It's Complicated: Developer's Relationship With Backers".
Because of PAX there will not be a structured Adventure Time with Bonny this Friday but the players are talking about organizing a group to "strip mine" a hex to test resource depletion mechanics. Keep an eye on the forums for more details.
We're continuing our sales promotion this week! If you purchase Early Enrollment or Explorer Enrollment through the goblinworks.com shop and use GENCONPAX14 as the coupon code at checkout you'll get a special discount on these packages. $15 off Early Enrollment and $10 off Explorer Enrollment!
You will need to update your client this week (for sure!). Click this link to get the new client starting Thursday at 3pm (Pacific).
We have updated and revised the Quick Start Guide for the Cold Start in Alpha 7. Click this link to get the new Quick Start Guide (2.2MB PDF).