Some people would say Chronicles of Elyria (CoE) is simply a new MMORPG in development and others would say its an ambitious game that is doing something never seen before in MMO's, and is taking the promise of what MMO's could have been before the WoW era and bringing it forward using the latest technology. Whatever decision you make about what this game is, it helps to understand where this game came from first.
The idea of the game and the concepts that form it started with one man, Jeromy "Caspian" Walsh. Jeromy has been a fan and game master of table top rpg's, board and card games, and fantasy literature for over 20 years, and he has had the concepts present in CoE in mind for much of that time. Jeromy has also been an instructor in the Digipen Institute and a Senior Software Engineering Lead at Microsoft. This experience shows in how Jeromy approaches development as a software engineer as well as a game designer. He has also worked on programming MUD's and first person shooters with game companies like Pandemic Studios as Senior/Lead Tools Programmer.
Deciding to take a chance and make his dream a reality, Caspian sold his own personal property to raise the starting funds and opened a simple website at the end of 2014 with little more than word of mouth to spread the news of what he and several others were trying to do and plans for a kickstarter to get things off the ground.
In between the time the website appeared and the kickstarter began, Caspian began unveiling his vision for CoE and the systems and mechanics he presented fired people's imaginations and brought them together into a community that would reach 25,000 members by the time of the kickstarter. This community was aware that there were significant obsticles that would make it difficult to make this game a reality. However, they also knew that this was the only way for a game this innovative and risky to be made. No large publisher would be willing to put forward an idea like this without confidence it would work. Caspian was so patient and eloquent in his explantions and gave off such a sense of patient competence in his close engagement of the community that it couldn't help but believe that if anyone could pull it off, it was going to be this guy.
At the start people knew that the game would have a sandbox basis, but also an overarching narrative that would play out over ten years. The game would leave building of the world and creation and trade of resources to the players on a level rarely seen. Caspian then released a series of developer and design journals that presented the core systems of game, and the potential promised is what caused the game to start to gain notice for just what a departure it would be from those of the past. Summaries of these journals follow (please note in game images from the journals are mock ups).
Caspian outlines the Proteus Engine (now known as the Soulborn Engine). This is the game's core system that keeps track of everything in the game and how it changes over time. This alone is an incredible technical feat if it can be done, but Caspian states that he has already been working on this for some time. He also outlines goals of requiring players to take risks to get what they want, skill based combat and crafting, events in game that are driven by players and developers, and an increased level of realism in how systems like weather or economics affects players in the game that makes it feel more like a simulation.
In game chat channels are approached differently. While there will be channels for communication with GM's, communication will have limitations such as whisper, say, and shout appearing only to those within predefined ranges or certain members of a group, and different types of tells only working for certain people such as those on a player's friends list, which prevents tell spam. This system is designed to separate in game characters from players so characters and players are not automatically known and it promotes players gathering together in game as well although there are ways around that. It will also be possible to recieve out of game messages through the chat system as well to allow notifications when not logged in.
Influence points (IP) are awarded to those who pledge to the game or help develop the community. They can be used to purchase store items before the game starts and give incentive to spread word of the game.
With design journals specifics on mechanics were introduced.
The foundational in game mechanic is the idea of souls vs. characters. The player can have multiple souls, and each of them can be used to create a new character. However, in CoE characters are born, age, and die while the soul continues on to new characters. The souls retain the histories of the characters they have lived in and the ability to more quickly improve skills they learned in a past life. This system also creates character permadeath, but allows elements of characters to be carried over to future lives. Permadeath is one of the most important features of the game, it gives true risk vs. reward to the actions and decisions players make. Permadeath does not happen after one time dying, rather lifespan is shortened a little and as long as the soul walks back from the astral plain the character can be recovered. It is estimated that even characters that die many times should have a minimum lifespan of around eight to ten months at least. It was also said that a very few souls may have talents that could confer magical abilities to a soul (this has since been changed to characters having talents to give more opportunities to have them). However, magic is quite rare in the game though it may be seen here and there as the game proceeds.
After choosing a soul to incarnate with, a birthdate is chosen and this plays a role in determining possible story quests that are generated for the character. As the character moves through life they may trigger a story that creates a destiny for the character. While scripted events will occur for characters and in the world's overall story, it is up to the character if they follow it or go their own way. Similarly, there may be histories between souls that affect character's stories as well. There will also be an affinity system that alters the stories that begin. Souls that have a light or dark affinity will be pulled in that direction down a slippery slope of affinity and going against it will have consequences. There will also be achievements for souls and characters that may give special titles, status, repuatation, and fame. Souls will have soul mates as well, these souls are paired such that they can affect each other when near. They may be aware of their prescence. This can affect skills, and one can help prevent the other from permadeath. However, soul mates with different affinities may become bitter enemies to the death.
Players will have very different game experiences depending on the type of life they choose for themselves. Adventurers that venture out into the wilds will have to be prepare for long journeys just like those in fantasy novels must. They must consider thirst, hunger, fatigue, and extreme temperatures. They must also be warry for dangerous creatures at night if they camp in unsettled areas. Other players will have to consider the passage of time and seasons such as farmers raising crops. Everyone will be affected because weather changes during different parts of the year will be significant.
Players can start the game at a range of different ages, but youngest will be 12. One in game year pases every four days of real time (this has since been changed to seven days due to many issues, all the considerations that have gone into this are given in great detail here). Characters will live for 40 to 60 years or real time weeks (though this can be shortened to a degree by "deaths").
As illustrated above characters appearance will change to match their age and so will their attributes. Characters will have physical, mental, and social attributes that can also be divided into force, reflex, and endurance categories. As a character ages it becomes more difficult to maintain strength, agility, and stamina, but easier to for will, reason, and focus. Persuation becomes harder, but intuition and leadership are easier. This causes different character types to have different effectivenesses in different ways depending on their age.
Another innovative difference that is being introduced is the idea of offline player characters (OPC's). Since aging occurs regardless of whether a character is being played or not, and because CoE strives to be a living world that feels real, it should and will be populated by all characters be they PC or NPC at all times. In order to allow players to use their characters while they are signed off and not let that time go to waste the game will allow AI to take over for the character when the player signs off. Beyond this players will be able to create scripted behavors for their OPC's to follow and these can be shared with other players. The idea is to allow for an AI mod community of sorts to create ever more complex behaviors for OPC's. This could allow OPC's to run a store, travel, or practice skills while the player is away. However, there is a risk of death (not permadeath generally) for OPC's. Keeping them in cities or other protected places is the best way to minimize this risk.
Design Journal #4 (Incapacitation/Spirit Walking/Permadeath): Here
Incapacitation is what happens when a character's HP reaches zero, the character goes unconscious for a short period during which the screen goes dark with a timer until regaining awareness, but it will be possible to hear nearby sounds during this time. Doing this or killing another player is considered illegal in the game and can allow a character to be arrested and punished for it. Character's bodies can be moved somewhat while incapacitated. Incapacitation does not cause any permanent consequences to a character.
While a character is incapacitated it is possible commit a coup de grace on them. This is a killing attack and will not be done by most creatures or NPC's. Evil creatures or players may however. This is considered a high crime and merits severe punishment. If this happens the soul will be forced out of the characters body and the player will see their character in the astral plane with a silver cord from their soul towards their body. By following the cord the soul can return to their body and the world of the living, but there is a time limit after which the soul will return to the Akashic Records and the life is lost. Being able to successfully return to the body becomes more difficult with lower spirit levels (spirit is reduced with each death). Lower spirit can cause the distance from the body to increase or the cord to be less visible. Also the higher the character's age the less time there is for a soul to return to its body. So young characters with few deaths will have little difficulty, but if characters die frequently and as they age the risk of a coup de grace becoming permadeath increases. Also characters with greater fame will suffer greater spirit loss after spirit walking such that a king may only be able to return to their body a few times. If family members are nearby the time to spirit walk and cord visibility can be increased. If a soul mate is currently alive it will also be much easier for a spirit to find its body. There will also be very rare talents that can allow another to help a spirit walk.
How a character's body can be looted depends on the state of the body as well. When a character is incapacitated they can be looted of money, mounts, and items in their hands. During a spirt walk a body can be inventory looted, this includes items on a belt, jewelry, and items in packs. Permadead corpses can be looted of all things.
Families in CoE resemble families in reality. They are groups of players with the same surname and provide the next generation with resources, a home, and knowledge at the start of their life. Families can pass on possesions to their heirs be it the titles of a kingdom or a family farm. Families can have PC's and NPC's in them. As in life, the familly you start in can have a significant impact on the circumstances that a character starts life with.
There are several perks family members get. Family members on the same continent can send private messages to each other, they can sense if another member is spirit walking, they can find their bodies, they can increase life span, they can be successors and inherit items, can access household items and work family land legally, see through each other's disguises, and affect levels of fame. Starting family will also affect a character's starting attributes.
Players will be offered a selection of families by the Soulborn Engine, and this may be affected by local population levels. Families will be able to be filtered by several criteria to find prefered matches, however, families may also have plans for their children as well.
Families are organized by five different categories:
General Info: PC/NPC balance, time zone, gametime per week, player type and experience
Wealth, Power, and Standing: number of family groups, number of characters, wealth, social class
Occupations: skills that run in the family
Disposition: tendencies toward physical, mental, and social development
Physical Traits: gender, height, hair eye and skin color
It is also possible to start as a ward of the state. Wards have no other family and so they have little support and no inheritance to start, but they start younger and are more customizable since they have no known origin. It will also be possible to start as a Non-Traditional Character (NTC). In this case a player takes over the life of a NPC. They will start as an older, but more established character.
When a family has a child they can choose what sort of character to let it be. It can be locked from other players using it until unlocked so that only the parents can play as it in the future, opened to other players which could allow that player to inherit from the family, or the child code can be given to someone so that a specific person can use it. Child codes can be used even if players are blocked from creating new characters on a server.
Design Journal #6 (Character Customization/Bloodlines): Here
CoE will incorporate a genetics system that plays a role in determining a character's physical traits. The traits of the parents limit variation to a range within which can be adjusted by the player. In some cases mutations may pop up that can fall outside of the ranges. The parent traits are randomly sampled from each, but players will be allowed one reroll.
Characters that are from different areas will have different characteristics due to adapting to different environmental conditions, so starting regions for characters will give some similar characteristic ranges, however these are different sub-groups of the same species and not different races. These subgroups will still be able to interbreed and create children with mixtures of characteristics between these groups (later in development tribes will be introduced which creates groups with greater differences than originally conveyed and is more reminiscent of the race concept, but genetic intermixing between tribes remains). These sub-groups will also start with certain skills that any member of the group would need to survive in a particular environment. Wards will have to choose what orphanage they want to start at and then choose their "race". They will still have some constraints on customization based on this choice.
A character's appearance will also change in the game based on the activities and lifestyle they have. So warriors may be more lean or muscular and have battle scars while academics may look less developed or overweight in general.
Player-made contracts is CoE's way of allowing players to create their own laws, businesses, trade agreements, and quests without having to rely on game presets. Contracts will allow a myriad of agreements to be made between two or a group of characters. Since CoE is not a game in which a character will be able to become proficient in all skills, they will have to depend on others for many things. Contracts provide a measure of security that the agreement will be honored and not defaulted on.
Explicit contracts are a promise that specifically binds those who sign on to it and provide consequences for those that break the agreement. Explicit contracts are physical items with terms that are filled in as they are negotiated between parties. Examples of basic contracts include delivering an item to a person, activating an item, destroying an item or building, capturing or retrieving a person, or escorting someone to a location. It will even be possible for OPC's to offer basic contracts. Once a contract is activated the Soulborn Engine creates a character event that tracks contract completion and allows the player to track its progress. While anyone can use contracts they can only be created by those with contract writing skill. Those with greater skill can create more complex contracts.
Using a contract does not guarantee all parties will honor it. While there will be consequences for breaking a contract, someone has to enforce those consequences. Anyone with a copy of the contract can create a bounty token which gives the character its given to the right to enforce the consequences. How the consequences can be carried out depends on local laws.
Implicit contracts apply to characters in areas without any need for them to sign on to them. Laws would be an example of this. Leaders of an area can set laws using various types of contracts for their region which bind anyone in that region. Another type of implicit contract is an item contract. These are activated when a character uses or equips an item. For example putting on the Ring of the King activates a contract to fulfill the role of the king with the failure consequence being death and loss of leadership (this early example is likely outdated and should not be assumed to be how kings are made at this time).
Due to characters having a limited lifespan it is more feasable for characters to specialize in a set of skills. While characters have a lot of options in how they want to specialize, characters will tend to fall into one of four major categories; producers, suppliers, explorers, and champions.
Producers are the crafters. They manufacture items using materials from suppliers and sell their goods in shops or to merchants.
Suppliers bring materials to crafters either as gatherers that work the land or as merchants that transport more specialized items.
Explorers are survival specialists that travel the wilds charting areas and guiding others. They may also act as treasure hunters.
Champions are fighters and guards focused on combat skills. They can act as soldiers or sellswords or go out adventuring.
There are also deviant skills that are usually illegal such as pickpocketing and forgery.
Bardic skills pertain to academics and performers, these could be music performance, ancient languages, or forensic analysis. These skills pertain to information and discovery.
While characters in these classes will tend to have most of their skills in these areas, players can choose to mix and match as they will, there are no set classes that limit skill choices, however gaining some ability in many skills will prevent a character from mastering a few.
These skill areas are separated into skill trees where there are a set of more generalized skills and each one of those is broken down into more specific subskills. For instance one of the general skills under combat is one handed weapons. That skill is further divided into specific one handed weapon skills such as one handed axes, swords, rapiers, maces, and daggers. Raising a specific weapon skill like one handed axes will also improve the more general parent skill (one handed weapons). Improving the parent skill will give a small increase in all skills under the parent skill which represents generalized learning.
CoE is taking a rewarding for failure approach to skill advancement. Success at easy skill checks will give little improvement while attempts at new more difficult skills will result in characters learning more.
Skills will be divided into levels of mastery, these are as follows:
Novice (0% - 29%)
Apprentice (30% - 39%)
Journeyman (40% - 49%)
Expert (50% - 59%)
Artisan (60% - 69%)
Renowned (70% - 79%)
Master (80% - 89%)
Grandmaster (90% - 99%)
These percentages of mastery also reflect how many people on a server will reach that level of mastery. So while everyone is a novice in a skill, 70% of characters on a server could become an apprentice, and only 1% will become legendary. The Soulborn Engine will look at these distributions and give bonuses when needed to maintain then. Skill tiers will carry across reincarnations probably in the from of increased gain rates in skills leveled in previous lives (if a skill is not leveled in a life the bonuses will weaken in subsequent lives). It will take a lifetime to become a master, multiple to become a grandmaster, and several to become legendary.
Skills will require a minimum skill level in order to use them at all. This means some training in a skill is required before a skill can start to be used. Skills can be raised up to apprentice by reading books about them, going above that requires specific rare texts. Characters with the scholarship skill can teach others a skill if they have a high enough level in the skill and in the scholarship skill. This makes it harder for a character to find a teacher as they improve in a skill. Teaching a skill can also level it. Some skills can be leveled up to apprentice by being near and observing another character performing it. Once a skill is over 0% practice tools or combat dummies can be used to slowly level a skill up to journeyman level. Skill practice does not use resources.
In CoE it will be relatively easy to get into most skill areas. Finding a local expert and completing tasks for them as an apprentice gives them free labor and provides early experience to get started in a craft. As a crafter's skill increases they can charge for their services and even gain the chance to get a loan and start a business.
Crafting combat skills are dependent on character and player skill. While combat requires timing, reflexes, and intuition, crafting skills will have specific challenge mini-games that will play a role in determining quality and skill level. In the example above a more complicated item will have a more complex shape to cut out, a more dificult item will give less time to complete the game, and the larger the difference between a character's skill level and the level of the object the smaller the margin of error allowed will be. Greater skill will give more leveling (note: specific mini-game tasks may be revised by the time the game launches).
Since skills are divided into more specific skill focuses it is possible to master creating a specific item well before becoming a master at an overall skill. This means that if a character wants to learn to master creating a specific item like a sword blade, they can immediately start there without having to unlock it by leveling the overall skill. Once new technology is discovered there is no need to advance up a tech tree to unlock it, characters can just start attempting to make it. All that is required is a readable recipe and enough skill to produce it. Those with skill in recipe writing will be able to produce recipes for others to use.
Crafting is component based. For example to make a sword a blade and hilt is needed. The hilt has a handle, crossguard, and pommel. The handle is also made up of a wooden handle with binding around it. It will also be possible to swap out components with ones that are of a different type or quality such as changing out a straight blade with a curved one. It may even be possible to alter an item in a way that creates a new recipe or pattern. It will also be possible to take components and improve them or add on to them such as adding a blood grove to a sword blade. Most objects in the world can be used in crafting somehow. This includes things like minerals, gems, and soils, but also materials from plants and animals. Once the raw materials are processed into a crafting resource they can be used.
Crafted objects can also be disassembled. This can allow item improvement, for example a sword's hilt could be replaced with a better or newer one. Adding better components or replacing only those that have worn down can allow good components to be saved rather than buying brand new items all the time. Because resources are limited in CoE this allows items to be broken down so that their components can be recycled into new items as well. It may even be possible to rework a component into a new one such as reforging a blade into a different type.
Explorers will not be able to use pre-generated maps to help them travel. Like the explorers of old they will only have the land itself to guide them. There will be maps, but they will be actual items that are in the game. It will take a quality map and a good navigation skill for someone to work out where they are on a map. When using a map the view will go to first person during which time a character's hands will be full holding the map.
One of the things characters as children get from their families is a set of maps so that they have something from the start to give an idea of where they are and their surroundings. Maps come in several different sizes and can range from a building map to town, region, and political maps up to a world map all with different focuses and levels of detail. It should also be noted that since maps do not self-update they can become outdated. Features of the map may have changed or disapeared since it was made, the map may be incomplete, or parts of the map could be falsified by the cartographer. Starting maps will be very basic with little information, explorers will have to travel out into the world, indentify resources and features, and chart it all themselves.
To create a map a cartographer will take parchment and ink and decide what scale of map they want to make. Based on scale the correct set of drawing tools will need to be used. For a structural map there will be room shapes and sizes as well as inside location lables to use. For a regional map there will be mountain and forest stamps and line drawing tools.
The cartographer can also set names for anything on a map. Whatever name appears most commonly on maps is what the Soulborn Engine will have NPC's refer to places as and this is independent of who rules over an area. This can also result in maps that have old or mismatching names including ancient maps that could give benefits if deciphered. However, maps can be written in different languages so they may not be readable to some people at all.
Even with a map a player must use navigation skills to use it to find their position and get around. The first task is to locate north using either a compass or the position of the sun. Then a sundial can be used to determine the time of day or a map can be used along with the surroundings to try and work out your position. The better the map and the higher the navigation skill the more accurate the determined position will be. Once the map is put away the process has to be repeated if needed. At night astromomy needs to be used to determine north.
There will be a version of a mini-map in the game, but it functions as a sensory map. If something is heard or smelled by the character there will be an indicator on the sensory map.
Equipment in CoE is "What You See Is What You Get". This means that when looking at a character the equipment and items they are seen wearing is what can be taken off of them be it a PC or NPC. Similarly if an animal is killed only the body parts like bone, hide, and meat can be looted since it makes no sense for a wild animal to have gear on it. This system also allows for judgement of possible threats since it will be possible to see what weapons and armor a character is equiped with.
Equipment slots are broken down into head, face, neck, torso, back, arms, hands, waist, legs, and feet. Equipping certain items in a slot may prevent other items from being equipped. For instance if gauntlets were equipped they would take up the hand and arm slots. On the other side is equiment layering where the torso slot can have up to three layers and the leg slot can have up to two layers and what is in one layer can limit what can go in the other ones. For the torso slot layer one can hold shirts, blouses, and dresses, layer two can hold jackets, jerkins, tunics, doublets, vests, and some chain shirts, and layer three can hold robes or mail. In the leg slot layer one holds trousers or garters and layer two holds armor, skirts, or kilts. So its possible to wear something in each layer, but not to double up on gear that goes in the same layer.
Putting on all this clothing and equipment has to be done while holding survival mechanics in mind. The wrong gear can doom an expedition. After a certain weight is reached moving will cause a character to become more and more fatigued forcing them to rest sooner. Some armor may reduce run speed or make it impossible to run or just increase the rate of fatigue when running. There are also temperature concerns. Depending on the climate too much clothing may cause overheating and too little may cause freezing. Heavy armor may also reduce mobility on certain types of terrain like snow and mud or even cause drowning in water.
There will also be different equipment sizes as well, and characters will not fit in equipment of the wrong size. There will also be equipment for men and women as well as gender neutral, but it will be possible to have equipment resized.
Inventory in CoE is limited compared to other RPG's in order to fit into the idea that inventory should actually fit on a character's person. This also highlights the importance of methods of transportation and movement of cargo. If there is a need to move a significant number or size of items, a cart or wagon will need to be used, and it may be simpler to just pay a transport service to do it.
The container system requires that all objects on a character's person either be in their hands or in a container. This could be in clothing compartments (hidden or otherwise), or on belt attach points in addition to backpacks, pouches, and purses. Containers also have volume and weight considerations. There will be a grid inventory system, but that is only limited by the weight and volume of objects a container can hold. There will also be stackable items to keep inventories more organized, but weight and volume considerations still apply to these items.
Design Journal #12 (Identity/Disguises/Reputation): Here
In CoE a character and a character's identify are two separate things. The character is the physical body in the world while the identify is a set of intangible identifiers such as name, reputation, and persona. As in reality, character's indentities are not automatically displayed. When strangers meet there is no character information displayed other than what can be seen of their appearance.
It will be possible for characters to introduce themselves or to ask a character to introduce themselves. After doing so you can see the given information above them for a short while. Once a character has been interacted with long enough that information will remain as the character becomes a recognized acqaintance. When making an introduction a player may choose to give first name, full name, title, group membership, and more. The more that is shared the more comfortable other characters will be and the more likely they will be to remember the introduction.
While characters will be anonymous to strangers, it is also possible for them to become anonymous to those that know them for whatever reason they may have. Simply wearing a hooded cloak with the hood up is all it takes. It should be noted that contracts are made with character's identities so it is possible to hide an identity to avoid fulfilling a contract, hide from the law, or even impersonate and frame others
It is possible to create multiple identities by forging documents and using a disguise. This requires use of the forgery and disguise skills which are deviant skills and are illegal. If forged documents or a disguise are seen through the character could be connected to all the deeds they did as the false identity which could result in significant jail time (more about that later on). Since fake identities are always about underhanded deeds, being found out will always make people suspicious.
Disguises are not always needed, but they will make it much more difficult to detect a false identity. A disguise must be created and can be made from scratch or from a model. Making one from scratch is easier and less risky. Those with a higher skill will be able to incorporate more pieces into their disguise thus improving it. A created disguise can then be bound to an identity. To create a disguise from a model, the model must be studied, stalked, and an item of theirs must be stolen. This allows a character to resemble another character. With a high level forger and a copy of the model's signature it is then possible to assume the model's identity.
There is a chance for characters to see through a fake identity, and this is dependent on how many times they have encountered the impersonator. In particular, if someone is not wearing a disguise it will be easier for someone to see through a fake identity and realize they all belong to the same character. If someone is impersonating another character and they meet each other the fake identity will immediately collapse. Characters who know the target of impersonation will also have a bonus toward seeing through the disguise and family members will always see through it.
A character's identity can also gain fame which is how well a name and identity is known. PC's and NPC's are more likely to recognize a name mentioned in a conversation the more famous it is. If a character is famous then it is likely that their reputation will be widespread as well. Reputation represents the publically known information and opinion about an identity. Characters may be considered as good or bad by the public, but that reputation may be little known if the character has no fame while everyone will know what type of character a famous person is. This reputation is based on known actions of a character real or imagined. That means a character with a dark affinity could have a reputation for good and vice versa. Additionally character's reputations can be affected by the groups and families they are a part of and their deeds can affect the reputation of the groups they are a part of.
Reputation and fame is spread through gossip. When a PC interacts with a NPC they can choose to gossip with them allowing them to learn about other characters and share their own knowledge. If NPC's are open to the information they may share it with other PC's and NPC's. This allows for information about characters to spread to other areas, but also makes it possible to stop the flow of information if people can be silenced.
In order to create a world that evolves over time, the ability to research and develop new technologies will be part of the game. What technology is researched and how that research progresses will be determined by the players. These new technologies will be prepared for the game as the players are advancing toward the next to be discovered. In CoE technology is considered to be all products and components that are known and can be created by players as well as all materials that players know how to gather and process. Knowledge is represented by the patterns and recipes that characters know and new technology is represented by new patterns and recipes that can be used. These could be new ways of processing old or new materials, new components, and new items.
There was a design conflict in determining if research should happen as an active or passive process. The idea of having to actively tinker and experiment in research was desirable, but could overcomplicate the game. A passive research system was chosen to promote the idea of collaboration toward a shared goal. This system causes research to occur as a passive process when crafting and creates ways for players to choose what direction research moves toward as a whole and also allows the developers to partner with these efforts by setting up the technology that the players work toward.
Research occurs whenever something is crafted as an everyday process of trial and error. Once an expert rank is reached in crafting a specific item it is possible to spend extra resources when crafting it to study a specific aspect to try to solve a specific problem. This could be making a blade stronger, armor lighter or more flexible, or livestock live longer. It could also be more innovative like making glass reflective. The chance to actually solve a problem depends on the overall research that has been poured into it. The amount of research needed to solve a problem will vary and nobody will know how much is needed or remains to solve it. Everytime research is done some degree of progress is made.
Once the level of crafting a specific item reaches expert, it becomes possible to optimize the crafting of that item for speed or advancing knowledge. This will be achieved with a slider that if left in the middle maximizes quality. Sliding it to the left increases research and sliding it to the right increases production. Where the slider is placed affects chance to discover something, fatigue caused, resource cost, and how high the risk of failure is. Moving toward research increases chance to discover something and fatigue while moving toward production increases crafting rate and reduces fatigue. Moving it away from the center is more costly and could destroy resources or more.
The farther the slider is moved in either direction the more risk is involved. This can start as a loss of materials or tools, but can grow to the loss of a building, injury, and possibly death, but those who take the risk can get the reward of being of the forefront of technological development. When the slider is moved toward research a button will appear that opens a list of problems to solve and things to investigate in regards to the item being crafted. The list is dynamic and the options can change depending on several triggers. Event-driven triggers show options when there is a changed world state like going to war with another kingdom or story advancement. Skill and mastery-driven triggers will create new options when certain sets of skills reach a certain level of mastery, some of which may seem unrelated. An example would be gaining mastery in specific carpentry and tailoring skills. Resource-driven triggers give options when there is an additional resource in the inventory that could be added to the item being made to make something new, such as trying to make a copper bar when both copper and tin is in the inventory can open the option to research making bronze. Location-driven triggers can open new options if a character is in a specific location when crafting, such as being near water to open options for boat making.
This system creates a certain level of meta thinking for players that want to arrive at certain research goals. Those who have an understanding of the relationship between materials, components, and conditions needed to create a certain product should be able to work toward its discovery. The system may also give a large number of prompts across the various skills and many may not have assets and mechanics in place, but the developers will be able to monitor what is being researched and use that to see what players are interested in and then implement those technologies.
Guilds and schools will have benefits toward research. Schools may have advanced crafting stations that allow for safer research and guilds may have advanced crafting stations to allow for safer production. A school can also pool the research done toward a goal by everyone in the school which will dramatically increase the chance of discovery. If research is done on the equipment of a guild or school then discoveries will be sharred with the institution. A school will make the knowledge available to everyone in the school, while a guild may patent the technology which gives it sole rights to utilize the new technology.
Patents are implicit contracts that make it illegal to craft an item or process a resource, however it will still be possible to do so. This allows the discoverer of the technology to protect their investment, but they must enforce the patent contract. This contract gives three real time weeks of exclusive rights to create the technology. Extensions can be made, but will likely be very expensive to do so. Once the patent expires without extension there is no legal limitation on producing the technology (note: the patent system may not be included in the game, there may be difficulties in its implementation or enforcement that does not make it feasable so the presence of patents in the game should not be assumed at this time).
Design Journal #14 (Housing/Architecture/Construction): Here
Housing in CoE will be part of the open-world and not instanced. This supports the need to build customized homes rather than a pre-existing instanced home and lets homes be part of the world with no loading screens separating the two and allowing characters to run in and out of buildings without delay. Since buildings are destructible in the game, in would also be possible to destroy many character's instanced homes by destroying a single building. Having open world buildings will also allow for player made shops and crafting buildings to have a physical location in the world that everyone can easily find.
The size of buildings depends on the terrain, what building resources are available, and what technology is being used. It may only be possible to build one or two story homes at first, but in time players will be able to build large multistory castles and keeps, courtyards, and buildings with many rooms within. It will even be possible to build bridges between homes to combine them into larger structures.
Buildings will be able to be constructed in almost any location. All areas of the world are divided up into parcels that are 64m x 64m. Buildings can be started on any parcel that is owned or leased with permission to build. It is also possible to build on unowned land and gain control of it via adverse possesion.
As long as any obstructions are removed, any site should work to build on. Foundations can be placed to flatten the land. Stilts can also be used to raise buildings out of shallow water. It will also be possible to mount platforms to the side of large trees and build structures on them.
There are several different design mechanics to consider when building a home that relate to overall game mechanics. While in a home survival mechanics are softened due to the game assuming that while a character is in their home, and the town it is in is supplied, they will not die of hunger or thirst. Energy levels will stabilize preventing fatigue from increasing. Properly insulated homes will also reduce the risk of dying from hyper or hypothermia. Homes will also be important for storage since character inventory will be limited, though it will still be a good idea to hide or lock up valuables.
It will also be possible to place crafting stations in player-made buildings. However, there will be rules for what types of furniture can be combined in a room, so a bed will classify a room as a bedroom while a forge and anvil will make a room a smithy. Rooms can also be set as public or private which changes the purpose of a room as well. Placing decorative items can also give benefits such as bonuses to crafting or home bonuses. Buildings will also be important for bringing the public together and providing entertainment. The size of a family's home also plays a role in their status and the number of children a family can have is limited by the number of rooms in a house.
CoE's architecture system will allow for simple building placement for those who want to focus on building, but also allow for creative architectural design for those who want to. This division is created by allowing architects to create blueprints for building and then allowing builders to use those blueprints in construction. Almost any possible building can be designed by an architect with enough skill. This will be done by allowing architects to jump into a 3D blueprint mode where the design can be virtually created in a CAD format (currently this mode will not be available for demo until later in game development). The skill of the architect using the 3D tool will determine what can be done, such as the shape of a building, how many floors, and what materials can be used. The materials used to build with are particularly important as their weight and strength determine the overall strength of the structure and where supports will be needed. The 3D tool will let users know when a structure will be unstable, however it will not be able to take into account the environment that it is placed in.
Constructing a building will require builders of many types working together to create different components and add them in at the right time to build up the site piece by piece into the final product. Construction has a modular basis, so it will be possible to replace components with higher or lower quality ones. So if a wall section needs wood then any wood will do, but if it needs wood of a certain hardness or strength then only that will do. Changing materials may change how well the building keeps out heat or moisture or how it responds to winds. During the design of a building all of the components can be specified as to how specific the materials used must be. For instance if the material for flooring is simply set as flooring than any flooring material can be used. Since buildings require many different skills to construct, including carpentry, masonry, glass-blowing, metal working, and so on, along with the time to build all the components, its nearly impossible for an individual to build a house.
The look and style of a building will be affected by the materials used in its construction. Since certain materials are common in certain environments, buildings will tend to have a certain look and style in certain areas. The local enviroment will also dictate what materials are best to use and what sorts of structures are best to build. Factors like temperature, humidity, soil type, and wind will affect what builders will use and build.
If the right materials are used, then there will be relatively little upkeep needed, but if not then problems like rust, mold, and cracks will deteriorate the building. In this case it will be possible to replace old components with better materials. It will also be possible to build addons to buildings after they are complete as well, and this is one way to increase the maximum size of a family.
Design Journal #15 (Player Created Dungeons): Here
While characters can own land and build homes to keep their effects in, this does not guarantee the safety of their things or person. There are several mechanics that can be used to hide or create barriers to entry.
All land in the game is owned by someone. At the beginning all land will be split between the starting kingdoms. A kingdom's king will own all land in the kingdom, but its management will be split between dukes and under them between counts. In exchange for taxes and other resources land may be provided to citizens through two methods.
Land may be purchased from the local count or magistrate. A count controls unincorporated land in the county and a magistrate controls land that has been incorporated into a town or city. Land may be expensive, but it is a quick and easy way to get lots of land with little risk to the buyer as long as they can pay. Adverse possession can allow a character to take ownership of unoccupied or abandoned land by building a structure on the land an defending it for a full month (this is better explained in DJ #18). This means preventing the landowner from destroying the structure which could be the king, the king's appointee, or someone given a bounty to do so. Only these people are legally allowed to destroy the structure. If land is owned by another player that bought it, adverse possession may be used to gain ownership from them as well. If the player is away from the game long enough or not paying enough attention to take down another player's structure within a month, then ownership is transfered.
It is also possible to lease land from another player. In this case a lease contract is used instead of a deed, and the tenant is usually limited in what kind of structures they can build on the land. There is usually rent, fees, and taxes that the tenant must pay but the starting cost is lower than purchasing land. This creates a trade off, the tenant gets land to live on at a lower price and the landowner can have more land and have occupants on it that work the land and prevent adverse possession from occuring.
It is also possible to own a home and lease out its rooms using a special housing UI of the floor plan to give access to certain people. This system allows families to provide rooms for children and rooms for guests at inns. A lease agreement contract can be created that shows what area the tenant gets to use and their permissions. This contract can also set recompense for broken items and rent terms. Enforment falls to the parties of the contract. This system can also be used for guild halls where certain areas like libraries and armories can be set to private with only certain groups allowed in.
While these systems set permissions and legal limits, other means are needed to keep areas physically off limits. Keys and door locks are one way. Keys are physical items in the game and can be stolen and used if someone knows where the lock it works for is. Entering an off limits area is still illegal even if the character has the key. It's also possible to make copies of a key and give them to others. If someone signs a least agreement for a room, they still need to be given the key to be able to access the room if it is locked. Picking locks, breaking windows, and breaking down doors are also possible.
There are also ways to protect places from those not bound by law and are willing to break their way in. Homes can be designed with hidden safes, doors, and rooms that are not apparent to the casual eye. Traps using pits, tripwires, pressure plates, and other mechanical devices can be set. This adds the possiblity of danger to those who would try to enter a home and requires them to have the perception to detect the traps and the skill to disarm them.
Those that are able to find secret areas and disarm traps usually have to put enough time into those skill areas that they are not as experienced in combat skills. To further discourage intruders, having animal guards adds another layer of protection that will require a concerted effort of anyone trying to gain access. More dangerous animals will work better and even sell-swords can be hired as guards for the right price.
It will also be possible to destroy the buildings of other characters. Due to the effort it takes to build structures it was decided that it should be equally expensive or time consuming to destroy a building. Other than destroying doors and windows, which will be noisy, destroying walls and structural supports usually require seige equipment. It will be possible to put a small hole in a wall after beating on it for ten minutes or more, but it will take a great deal of time to do significant damage which will give plenty of opportunities for somebody to come and stop it. This was designed to make causing destruction something that needs to be planned and organized with resources amassed in preparation so that rather than being able to run around a town and casually destroy things, building a seige engine to supply and operate is a more viable way of large scale destruction.
Fire can also be used to bring destruction, but where in reality a fire can quickly spread and ultimately destroy entire regions, in CoE it will be more difficult to use fire as a destructive force in order to keep it from unbalancing the game. So throwing a burning stick on a building will not cause a structural fire, but using siege equipment stocked with flammable liquid can create burning projectiles that can start fires. However, if the goal of seiging a city is to loot it, attackers will not want to use fire. If a building catches fire it will burn everything within and leave nothing to salvage.
However, fire will only burn up things above ground. Basements and cellars can be built underground that will survive a siege. This also allows an area of land to have a lot more space and rooms as there are few limits to how far underground spaces can be dug and hidden. This also allows tunnels to be dug under other characters' land and those tunnels would legally be considered the property of the landowner. This means other landowners need to worry about tunnels under their land as well, although digging is likely to be a time consuming task.
Consider that once a player that has important things to hide uses the above mechanics to create a castle with a dungeon filled with mazes, traps, beasts, and guards, they have actually created a dungeon that other players will be challenged to enter and survive.
Concerns about playtime per character life are addressed. The information here is outdated and it is comprehensively resolved in a later post here. Each time a soul is used to create a new character a Spark of Life must be purchased. Current information says that characters live for 40 to 60 real world weeks, this comes out to about approximately 7 to 13 months. It's stated that when a character has to spirit walk it reduces playtime on that character by two days (may be revised due to time adjustments). In those that die only periodically, most of their playtime will be preserved. For instance dying once a month will only take off about a month's playtime. Those who die more often will have shorter lifespans. A character that dies once a week will be on the short end of an average lifespan coming in at around 7 to 8 months and those dying 2 to 3 times a week will last for around 6 months. Those who play very high risk characters and were to die regularly such as once a day, would lose their character after about 3 to 4 months. While this may seem a steep cost, this is only for characters that are constantly placing themselves in risky situations and since the planned cost of a Spark of Life is $29.99, the monthly cost of even the most self-destructive characters is still well under the $15 price of many subscription MMO's. Those who are not regularly dying are getting an unparalleled value of up to 9 to 14 months of play for 30 dollars.
In order to make the deaths of characters that have become integral to the story of the world or otherwise famous more meaningful and consequential, the death toll on their spirit loss is multiplied. This causes the death of a king, queen, or hero to have a greater effect on the world. So if a character that is integrated into the story gained legendary fame they may only be able to die six times before a new character would have to be made. There are seven levels of fame with increasing multipliers.
Fame and notoriety basically equate to how many people know of a character in the same town, county, duchy, kingdom, or continent. There are many ways to gain fame from being a large landowner, a famous crafter, a "monster" slayer, or champion fighter to being an infamous highway robber. Those that hold a government role will also hold a position of fame.
Elder/Village Council: Notable
Mayor/Town Council: Prominent
Magistrate/City Council or Baron: Famous
Count or Sheriff: Renowned
Fame levels are relative to the average fame of an unknown character, so if a large number of characters hit a certain amount of fame, the change to the curve will adjust fame ranks down. The multipliers also apply to how far above the average unknown character's fame a character must reach to achieve that level.
There will also be death toll caps in the game. These will limit how much spirit loss can occur over a certain period of time. So if a character is killed multiple times over a short period, there will only be one spirit loss. This is done to be fair to players that get stuck near a dangerous enemy or get camped by others. Basically the game is considering it as part of the same death.
There will also be a toll cap on battlefields of one spirit loss every ten hours, however the first death on the battlefield may have a x4 multiplier to create a cost for going into battle and create an incentive for characters to try and not die when entering a battle.
Design Journal #17 (Bolstering/Earn-to-Play): Here
CoE is being designed for a slightly older audience, and this group tends to not have as much free game time as younger audiences. In order to address disparities in playtime, a couple of different mechanics will be used. The first addresses differences in character abilities that arise when some in a group have more time to play and raise skill levels than others, or when some must play less to not pass others by or play at lower levels of content and difficulty. Bolstering works to counteract these situations when a character is in a group with members of their in game family by increasing character attributes to a level that is equitable to the family members that are in the group. This is done by first raising stamina to the maximum of those in the family party. This is done so family party members will have the same rate of travel. Then the overall number of attribute points of the family member with the most is tallied up and the values of the different attributes are taken from highest to lowest. The character with lower overall attribute points also has their stats ordered from highest to lowest. Now this character will be given additional attribute points so that their total is equal to that of the family member with the highest total. First the extra points are used to raise stamina to the same value then they are used to bring up the highest value up to the highest value of the other character then the second highest up to the second highest of the other character and so on until total attribute points are the same (see link above for example). The idea is to set a characters highest areas to a similar level as the highest leveled member. This allows characters to have a similar ability in their skill area specialities even if they are different from other characters'. It should be noted that this does not give skills, it only improves ability with existing ones.
Some may think that this allows one family member to play a lot and the rest can just use them to gain stats when they are able to play. In order to balance this there is a story points system that will encourage players to be online. Story points (SP) will be given for any activities that work toward skill advancement or achievements when the player is online (OPC's don't count). This rewards players that are contributing to the world and story in some way without penalizing those who can't play as much. More points are given to characters with higher fame or reputation since it is generally more dangerous for these characters to complete tasks. The SP fame multipliers are the same as the spirit loss multipliers. SP will be valuable enough to encourage players to be online because it can be used to improve the lot in life of a future character.
Story points can also be used to buy Sparks of Life to essentially provide more game time. This system is a little different from other games that have tried this because the points used are earned just by playing and doing activities in game and the other games that have done this use a subscription model. The reason for this is that some people have time to play but not the money, however having more people playing creates a more active, living world with more going on in it. In this way these players are paying for themselves. Additionally this can defray costs for those who become famous and die sooner because of it. Since they get SP at a higher rate they still have a chance to get a Spark of Life after they die and not be penalized game time for being a famous character. This gives players with less disposable income the security to take more risks with their characters.
Design Journal #18 (Kingdom/Land Management): Here
Most players will not have titles or manage large tracts of land. While it will be an important part of the game for those that have a role in ruling kingdoms, many will not be working with these mechanics.
The gentry are those that own land but do not have any titles or special status otherwise. There are several ways for them to gain land. One way is through marriage. Unless the contract specifically prevents it, all land owned by one spouse becomes the sharred property of both. Land can also be inherited from family. Characters who are children of NPC's do not automatically inherit land from their parents. If a child does not gain a certain amount of favor with their parents the land will be willed back to the count instead. This keeps all NPC land from automatically going to the first generation of players. To gain favor with NPC parents tasks must be completed for them. It will be possible for children to ask them and find out if they are in the will.
It will also be possible to buy land from the local count. The count will have a land management table located in a public county office that shows all parcels of land in the county. Either the count or an appointed land manager will be able to take blank deeds and place them on parcels and add in the land values. Then buyers can come to the table sign the contract and enter the money and the land is theirs. This allows characters to buy land even if there is nobody around to sell it. Once a character owns land, they can legally build on it or resell it. It will also be possible for a landowner to build a land management table that shows land owned and put it up for sale.
Adverse possession can be used to gain control of abandoned land. If land has not been visited by the landowner or the landowner's family in the last 28 real world days it is considered abandoned. This will usually be land that is remote, infrequently visited, or left unattended due to players staying offline. It will be possible to look at the county land management table and see what parcels have become abandoned. It will then be possible to take a new land contract specify the terms of the agreement and place it in to the parcel using the adverse possession option. This will give back a copy of the contract that will become official if the character is able to maintain possession of a structure built on it for 28 days by keeping it from being destroyed. Once a contract for adverse possession is submitted the count will become aware of it. If the count does not agree with a character taking control of land then the count may come and force the character off of it. If the terms of the submitted contract are ones the count finds favorable and is ok with the previous landowner losing the land, the count may allow it or even help them protect the structure. This process takes two full months to complete, but once done the character legally owns the land.
Land use falls into three different categories. Residential and commercial is land for buildings like homes, inns, taverns, and crafting buildings. Agricultural land is for farming, beekeeping, breeding, harvesting and other renewable natural resource activities. Industrial land is for mining and harvesting other non-renewable resources from the land.
As a character gains more land in a single zone and more characters join in working and running the land the landowner starts to move from gentry toward becoming a member of the aristocracy. Aristocracy are mayors, magistrates, and barons. A landowner must grow and upgrade their settlement to reach this point. By getting a few people together, buying three parcels of land next to each other, placing a building with enough space and beds for ten people, and a well in the middle, a hamlet is established. Those within the three parcels of the hamlet will automatically get water which means thirst will go up but characters won't die of dehydration and the beds and houses prevent fatigue levels from worsening. Hamlets are not registered with the county and can be given any name.
Once the settlement is expanded to nine parcels in a squarish configuration, a tavern is built, and the number of community members reaches 25 it becomes a village. Once it becomes a village the tavern will use a raw food source on the land to supply the village and prevent starvation for those within it. Villages will generally only have a few PC's living in them and have no official government and every member of the village that owns land is a village elder. Elders that own more land will usually have more of a say in village decisions. Villages can be given any name desired and registering them with the county is optional. If it is registered the count may have a road built to it and add its location to maps. If open crafting stations are placed NPC's may move to the village and become part of it eventually buying nearby land which helps to grow it. This process can continue as the settlement develops.
The different requirements are as follows:
Hamlet: 3 parcels, 10 people, 1 well
Village: 9 parcels, 25 people, 1 tavern
Town: 25 parcels, 75 people, 1 town hall
City: 49 parcels, 150 people, 1 courthouse
Capital: 81 parcels, 250 people, 1 monument
As the size of a settlement grows additional infrastructure is needed to support it. A well only covers a 3 x 3 area so more will be needed as well as more farms and food sources and other infrastructure buildings. Plots alongside a river automatically get water. Once a settlement become a town, a town charter must be written with the person in charge of the town becoming the mayor and the other landowners becoming the town council. Whoever registers the town charter with the county is the mayor, even if they are not the largest landowner in town.
As a settlement becomes larger the methods its leader uses to manage it will change. For hamlets and villages the elders just place structures and zones as they choose and work together to play however they want. Once a settlement becomes a town the leader gains access to a town management UI which allows boundaries to be seen, parcels to be zoned for lease, resources and taxes to be reviewed, and for planning where to build structures. This also functions as a table located in the town hall. Once a town becomes a city with a courthouse added it is possible to have a desk in the courthouse where local laws can be set and customized. It is estimated that with each increase in settlement size it will take a couple of extra hours of time to manage it. So a hamlet could take 1 to 2 hours of meetings and management each week, 2 to 4 for villages, 4 to 6 for towns, 6 to 8 for cities, and 8 to 10 for capitals. These are minimal estimates and those that want to be more involved or directly help with projects may spend much more time.
Each town size also has a equivalent sized military installation. These are outposts, forts, keeps, strongholds, and castles. These are defensive structures that are usually smaller than a settlement with the upkeep payed for by a duke instead of being taxed by counts. These will also require special buildings like lookouts, barracks, and ramparts. These installations are led by barons. Otherwise these places function similarly to non-military settlements. Once an installation becomes a keep, the baron signs a contract with the duke to be provided resources in return for building certain structures and maintaining the garrison. It is also possible for civilian settlements to have military structures for defense.
Nobles are counts, dukes, and kings. It is possible to become a noble by marrying a noble or inheriting a title. In these cases the character gains the ability to set laws in their region and other privileges.
It is also possible for a character to claim a title from another character, but they must have a casus belli to do so. This can be obtained through favor, fame, or wealth. Only non-nobles can use the fame or wealth paths and only nobles can use the favor path.
With enough favor a mayor could take over as count of a county or split from a count and make a new county. Favor is a willingness by a character's peers, noble's peers, or noble's liege lord to support them. This support is expressed by them signing a written contract of support. So if 2/3 of other mayors in the county sign on, or 51% of other counts in the duchy, or the count's duke and 25% of the counts in the duchy sign on then that character can claim casus belli and a coup can be initiated. To do this against a king would require support of the dukes or support from other kings.
If a character can reach the tier of fame just below that of a noble they can automatically claim a casus belli, however they still need to have the forces to defend their capital, and if they die while attempting a coup they suffer the same spirit loss as the noble they are making a coup on would.
It will also be possible with enough wealth to buy a casus belli, but in this case the character will need the land to claim and to buy a mercenary force to protect it.
Once a character has the casus belli they can start a coup. The character must either set up a new seat of government on their own lands or take it from the noble. If a new seat of government is set up then it must be defended for 28 days. After that time the character becomes a noble with their own separate lands. If the seat is removed all titles are lost and any titles the challenger had can be given to another. If a noble's seat is taken and the challenger stays in it for 28 days they become the new noble. In this situation if the challenger dies they lose instantly. If the noble loses but they have land that is not part of the settlement they used to rule, they still have ownership of it and may flee to it, but otherwise they are now deposed.
A coup forces divisions between leaders of a region. They can choose to either join the pretender and become part of the new realm, stay neutral and hope the current noble does not win, or join the current noble's forces hoping the pretender does not win. None of these choices guarantees safety. If someone joins the pretender or stays neutral when the current lord issues a call to arms and the lord retains power, they have committed treason and stand at risk of losing their title. If they remain loyal to the lord but that lord loses, the new noble could chose to attack any loyalists and take their lands as well. However, anyone able to start a coup should have significant influence, support, or resources so those who choose can look at the situation and determine what is most likely to happen.
The only time a noble can remove leaders under them is when there is a power vacuum or power struggle. This is usually when a noble dies without an heir or when a title is revoked due to treason. So while a character can have a title revoked by the noble they are trying to coup if it fails, it can not be taken by a lord on a whim. Characters will only lose titles if they choose to put them at risk. The developers do not want nobles to be able to strip titles from everyone and transfer them to others that they select, they have to work with the people they have. When a noble is transfering a title from someone under them, it must be given to a peer or one level below. So a duke title must be given to a duke or count and a count title to a count or mayor and a mayor position to a mayor or landowner in the settlement.
It is the place of the king to choose what areas of development the kingdom focuses on, and there will be a kingdom management UI for the king to use to set the direction of the kingdom. Kings can also set laws and taxes for the kingdom using contracts. Dukes set laws and taxes for the duchy and must pay dues to the king. They are also responsible for the law enforcement, military, and defense of the duchy. Dukes manage military installations and assign sheriffs for each county and judges to the courthouses of each city. Dukes will have a UI that shows crime rates and the size of defensive structures. In war dukes will raise armies and lead them to battle. Counts are responsible for resource management, expanding settlements in their counties, creating wealth and power for the kingdom and supporting research. They will have a UI that shows trade routes, where resources are being gathered, and movment of money between settlements.
The number of kingdoms at the start of the game has changed. It is currently at six on the starting continent of most servers, and four on the oceanic server. However, this could still change up until server land selection. It is also possible for duchies and counties to be of different sizes, and average county size has already decreased from what was initially said, however, size of continents will still be immense. While there is a potential to have a few large duchies/counties in an area or many smaller ones, the current plan is to have 12 duchies per kingdom and 24 counties per duchy. The sizes of them may change depending on pre-launch events that occur. Depending on how many characters are in a county it could have many smaller settlements, a few larger ones, or something in between.