Wednesday 20 March 2013

Look Yonder Bernard, There Be The Future

by Simon Dean, Project Lead

Previous blogs have covered how Folk Tale came to be developed as a single player mini-campaign demo, and how talking with our community has helped us to better our understanding of the features you want the most. Time now to look beyond our upcoming Kickstarter to what we plan to deliver. The best place to start is with our revised elevator pitch and a walk-through of how play might progress during a session.

Folk Tale is a sandbox fantasy city builder strategy game in which you lead a ragtag band of peasants in growing a small settlement into a thriving market town, while the dastardly Slavemaster Urzal and his minions plot your downfall. Sound the rallying call and head out into the wilds with parties of heroes and fight back the tide of evil in a game of endless possibilities.

Rule with tyranny and oppression, or liberalism and justice. Play as a merciless expansionist hell-bent on destruction, or as a gold-hoarding mercantilist who'll sell their own grandmother. 
With random events and dynamic story, in Folk Tale you never know how the story will unfold.

For gamers wishing to draw parallels with other games, you might describe it as a real-time fantasy take on Civilization mixed with Age Of Empires, The Guild 2 and The Sims in a game focused on building of a single detailed city where you can walk the streets shoulder to shoulder with your subjects.

At this point we should add a disclaimer that during development sometimes it becomes necessary to redesign or even remove features for technical or commercial reasons. This blog is a vision statement of what we hope to deliver. The final version of the game may differ in some aspects from this vision. When our Kickstarter campaign begins, we strongly suggest reading the understanding risks section.

Pre-game begins with you choosing from a wide selection of scenarios ( including launch designs by the Folk Tale team and rated community scenarios ) and tweaking the type of game you wish to play by choosing overall difficulty, ferocity of AI ( docile, roaming, aggressive ), climate, resource scarcity, dungeon frequency, and so on. By providing as many options as we can you can choose settings to match your preferred style of play. Advanced players can use the editor to design your own maps, share with friends, or share with the whole community. We'd like to point out that any online features such as downloading user generated maps would require an internet connection, however previously downloaded maps would be able to be played offline.

With game settings tuned, the world is created/loaded and play begins.

Starting out with a handful of peasants, your early tasks include constructing simple cottages, establishing farms and fishing for food, and scouting the map for valuable resources used to expand the settlement. With aggressive AI, roaming enemies that grow more challenging over time may cross your path or even attack your village, so with the help of a village Blacksmith you can craft new gear with which your inexperienced peasants can protect themselves, or unlock the Barracks and start training militia.

Venturing further into the wilds with a better equipped party, you'll soon discover a dungeon to explore. If you've established a Thieves Den in your settlement ( later evolving into a fully fledged Thieves Guild ) that thief you brought along with you should come in handy spotting hidden traps and devious puzzles. If not, you'll have to find other ways to get around the challenges. Tackling the dungeon and vanquishing any foes stupid enough to block your path, you emerge victorious with a hoard of magical loot that can be equipped, sold at the travelling bazaar, or transmuted into resources used to craft another magic item. For that though, you'll be needing Wizards.

Growing in prosperity, a few of your subjects have been busy upgrading their cottages. Proud of their new possessions, they've been showing off some of their finery to their friends in the marketplace. That's caught the attention of the Thieves Den, who have set in motion a plan to relieve some of that new found wealth. It's down to your City Guard ( militia ) to investigate, reveal the perpetrators and stamp out the crime wave before it becomes an epidemic.

No longer satisfied with staple food and supplies, the emerging wealthy class will soon be demanding more exotic foods, clothing and jewellery, so you best set about adding more advanced economic buildings. Ignoring the needs of your subjects will cause increased unhappiness, and before you know if you'll have a riot on your hands with angry citizens setting fire to things. Let's hope you've sunk a few wells nearby, otherwise its a long run with pails of water by which time only smouldering embers may remain.

With a vibrant and growing town on your hands, those early resources will soon be depleted, so it's time to head deeper into the more dangerous parts of the wild. Before you do, you head over to the Tavern and share a tankard of mead with locals while listening to a performance of "You're Bard!" Looking around you grease a few palms with coin and hire a hero or two to bolster the ranks of your militia.

Deep into the wilds, and your band of merry folk pick up the trail of a goblin hunting party, leading you into the swamps for your first encounter with the goblin nation. It could go one of two ways depending on your actions so far. You might be able to ally with the goblins and establish trade routes ( for players preferring a more peaceful game style ), or insult their Leader and start a war.

Cause and effect will be a big part of Folk Tale. The actions you make will impact your future options. If you dish out harsh punishments for the pettiest of crimes, your subjects will quiver in fear as you walk among them and consider leaving for good, but there sure won't be any stealing. Rule with liberty and justice, and your town will be a happy place but with social problems. Follow a course of merciless expansionism and you risk open conflict, or be a merchant extreme with the goal of amassing a vast fortune, at the risk catching the attention of the Thieves Guild or the ire of jealous merchants. With random events and dynamic story, one of our design goals is to make each game different from the last.

New Terrain Engine and Map Editor

For the demo we pre-designed a large terrain encompassing several environment zones including arable farmlands, volcanic, snow, desert and swamp to show the rich variety of landscapes players can expect in Folk Tale. However, the way both terrain and pathfinding are implemented for demo no longer support our revised vision of including a map editor that we can easily update via downloadable content updates. Instead, we are going to migrate all the environmental assets developed so far into terrain blocks that can be placed, rotated and grouped together in a map editor. While this will change the appearance of terrain to have more of an RTS feel than open-world RPG, the customization benefits it brings should be significant.

Character Customization and Equal Opportunities

We've completed preliminary research and development into how we can add visual variety to characters. We plan to continue that work with the goal of adding height, weight, hair and skin tone variations, as well as looking at the inventory system and how that might add to visual variation without detracting from the need to quickly identify a character's occupation from a distance.

One of the tasks for demo that we didn't have time to complete was equal opportunities for male and female peasants.  At the moment occupational roles are restricted to either males or females.  This isn't a design feature, and all occupations within the game will be open to both sexes once we've created the required assets.


Being able to delve deep into dungeons has long been on the list of features we'd like to add; but it also represents a major amount of work, especially to produce all the environmental art. So explorable dungeons are likely to become a funding "stretch" goal, left until towards the end of development, or added as DLC funded by sales.

Content Reuse, Updates And Phased Release

Having spent the last two years developing Folk Tale, you could be forgiven for thinking that it'll take us another two years before anything gets released. I'm glad to say that will not be the case for two reasons: we've already made a lot of assets and coded many of the core systems including inventory, cut scenes, construction, and questing.

Post-Kickstarter backers will receive access to the demo providing a taste of game mechanics, story and humor. We hope backers will provide feedback on how they think the game should evolve within the context of the plans set out in this blog, during which time we will be prototyping the new terrain system and map editor. We'll share that as soon as a stable build becomes available, and follow up with an update that migrates the demo to the new system, incorporating any new content that the art team have been working on.

All our efforts will be focused on developing the sandbox game mode for the final release, providing regular build updates throughout the course of development to maintain transparency, and involve backers in the decision making process. Having shipped the final release, funding and revenues permitting, our attention will turn to expanding content through DLC and adding additional game modes.

Always-On DRM, No Thanks

A hideous feature that shall one day be cast into oblivion. We have no plans of adding always-on DRM, and players will be able to enjoy Folk Tale in offline mode. There will be a key activation system during development, and the usual security wrapper added by Steam and other digital distributors.

Hopefully we've gone some way in clarifying what the future holds for Folk Tale. We welcome your thoughts on our plans, and hope you will consider supporting us during our upcoming Kickstarter campaign.

Beta Signup and Monthly Newsletter

To keep informed with our progress and upcoming Kickstarter campaign, you might like to consider applying for beta and opting in to receive the monthly email newsletter.

Help Folk Tale Win The Indie Dev Grant

Until 1st April 2013 Folk Tale needs your help in giving us a shot of winning an indie dev grant of up to $1000. Read about how with just $2 you could help charity, indie developers, Folk Tale, and grab a bundle of fun games all in one go.