Far Away features lush worlds teaming with life. The ecosystem your explorers wander into is full of creatures. They form the core challenge of the game. Some may try to eat the players, others may destroy their buildings, and some just get in the way. Every creature is different and the emergent behavior that evolves from various creature combinations is also different. We’ve talked before about the game design challenge in letting this unique behavior naturally develop without forcing too much role-playing on the players.
We recently redesigned our creature cards to better inform players about expected behavior. It is a core tenet of our design to require some player interpretation, but we received feedback that people need more guidance. The goal of the new cards is to settle broad ambiguities without requiring a flowchart or limiting creativity.
Here’s the first draft of the new design:
First, there’s the name and a bit of flavor text. There’s space there to make notes about weird behavior or other subtle differences between the creature and similar species.
Second, some creatures get a special action. This critter can “Latch”, which sticks it to a player and hinders them. These actions are favored by the creature: if they can do their special action, they will, barring any extreme circumstances.
The final piece of text is a number, representing the health and defense of a creature. It can take that many hits before dying. Self-preservation is a guiding principle for creatures. A ‘1’ won’t attack a ‘4’; that would result in it getting immediately chomped to death. However, a group of ‘1’s may attack a ‘4’. These creatures are aware of their relative strengths. They know what’s possible for their species.
Now, on to the icon row. The left-most symbol is the creature’s diet. They can be a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, insectivore, or detritivore. Aside from the obvious food-needs, this affects behavior. A carnivore will attack and eat creatures, even if their base attitude is passive (more on that later).
The hexagon symbol tells two things: preferred biome and threat radius. The biome is colored to match the terrain that animal likes to inhabit. The biome preference helps when there’s two otherwise-equally-good moves a creature could make. The threat radius is the number of hexes away the creature can “see”. If prey isn’t within that range, the creature wouldn’t know about it.
The circle symbol is the pack size: loner, small, or large. Animals prefer to keep the company of a set number of same-species friends. They try to get in those groups if they’re not and act with more confidence and stability when they are.
The lines (design subject to change) are the attitude. This could be aggressive, defensive, opportunistic, or passive. Aggressive creatures fight for territory and dominance. Defensive creatures attack intruders but don’t actively seek conflict. Opportunistic creatures avoid larger creatures and fights, but are quick to steal food or attack small, isolated creatures when possible. Passive creatures don’t fight unless provoked.
Finally, the lower-right symbol is if the creature is den-based or wandering. Half the creatures in Far Away live in a den, a type of landmark discovered as players explore. Those creatures spawn from the den and act to protect the area around it. Wandering creatures have no set home or territory. They’ll gravitate towards centers of actions on the map.
The reigning question with regards to creature actions is “does the creature attack me?” Now, you should be able to accurately, fairly, and consistently answer that. “It’s aggressive and bigger than me, so yes.” “It’s defensive, but I’m at its den, so yes.” “It’s a carnivore and next to me, but it’s opportunistic and there’s injured prey also next to it, so it’ll go after that other creature.” “It’s got an action to burrow and damage buildings and our building is in its preferred biome, so it’ll dig that up.”
We’ve seen this new creature system work in playtesting. We’re excited to introduce it to a larger audience, especially as we begin designing the backer-created creatures.