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Monday, February 13, 2012

But what IS Malevolence?

Ok, so we've prodded the hornet's nest with the last blog or two... People are needing a thorough explanation of just what Malevolence is, and what it will mean... So here are your answers!

The standard explanation we've given in the past is this:

Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox is an indie game with the intent to recreate the amazing turn-based, first person RPGs from the golden age of PC gaming using modern game engine technology. Rich classics such as the Might & Magic series, Eye of the Beholder and the like have inspired this new title which, when finished will put its players into a literally infinite fantasy world filled with procedurally generated content. The Sword of Ahkranox isn't trying to compete with the larger, professionally developed RPG titles out there, but instead our aim is to fill a large gap that we believe has existed in game technology since the mid-nineties. It is definitely a must-have for all enthusiasts of the quintessential RPG. The game's procedural engine can generate an infinite number of weapons, items, spells, monsters, dungeons, cities, countryside and even dialogue, allowing the player to explore the game with no end and no reason to stop.

But a lot of people don't quite understand what we mean by that, or the implications of what we're achieving here...

As explained in the last blog entry, Malevolence is infinite. However, at the same time, Malevolence is NOT randomly generated. The entire, infinite world is persistent. What do we mean by that? We mean that when you start a new game, if you're standing next to a castle and you walk north for fifty million miles, then east for 50 million miles, then re-trace your steps back to where you started, that same castle will still be there. The world doesn't shift and change or have any cheats like that to make it work. It is as persistent as the in-game worlds of your other favourite RPGs such as Skyrim or Dragon Age. The only difference is that there are ZERO world borders. You can keep going forever.

Yep, there are no limits to that horizon...
Yep... There are no limits to that horizon...

We've had a few complaints from people saying "but we'd prefer a randomly generated world so that everyone can have their own gameplay experience!" but the fact is, you can! We know that it's a little odd because it's a new gaming concept, but if you want to have a different game world to your friends, you can just go to a new part of the world (it's infinite) and explore to your heart's content! There is literally NO END to the world.
Now, another thing we need to point out is that everyone who plays Malevolence will experience the SAME infinite game world. Do we mean it's an MMORPG? No, we most certainly do not. What we mean is that the in-game world is the same for everyone who plays it. Just like everyone who plays Skyrim gets the same game world. Malevolence's game world is infinite, but everyone will still experience the same world. If you find something really cool - an underwater ruin for example - you can give the co-ordinates to a friend of yours who has the game and they can go and find it! Getting tired of the world map? You can jump through one of the underground chaos portals and be flung to a new place in the world (but be careful, as it could be dangerous!)
How does the game deal with an infinite world? I mean... A planet only has a limited surface area, right? Well actually, the in-game world is a construct of the imagination of the magical Sword of Ahkranox, and so is not actually a planet :-) the game has a very intricate mythos that our writing team has been working VERY hard on, and we're sure you'll love it.

Bae-Aern is a central character in the game's history...

But how does an infinite game handle something like a story or quests? Surely you'd run out of things to do eventually?
Not so! The story is a very open, fluid part of the game that the player generates as they go, but there is a rich, deep and long history that they can discover as they play by finding old tomes around the place. As your fame increases, people who live in the world start hearing tales about you and it is reflected in the way they deal with you.
Every single quest in the game is generated by the procedural engine, which can generate an infinite number of them. Some quests are very short, e.g. "I lost my uncle's dagger in that dungeon, but it's too dangerous to go and get it! Please help me!" whereas others are quite convoluted, multi-tiered and long, for example having to trace the footsteps of a murderer across multiple towns, quiz people for information and find clues. Some will involve the town you're in, or places nearby to it, others will require traveling great distances to achieve your goal.

But in an infinite world, that's a hell of a lot of walking... We've thought of that, too! There are various ways to fast-travel in the game, though you're quite welcome to walk if you prefer (you never know what you'll find!)
The main source of travel in the game is via the Mages Guild. Every guild has their own portal, and they regulate travel via portal magic quite heavily. Each Mages Guild's portal is linked to various other towns' Mages Guild portal. Think of them like the Waygates in Freelancer (maaaan that was an awesome game. If Malevolence ends up being half as good a game as that, we'll be happy)
Earlier we mentioned Chaos Gates. These are illegally created magical portals run by the underground. Because of the tight grasp the Mages Guild has on portal travel, the illegal ones are rudimentary at best, and will fling you to a random place in the world. It might be a billion miles away, it might be right next door, you never know, but it'll cost you gold to use them. However, that being said, you can VERY occasionally find them in dungeons. Very handy if you're being chased by an ogre and need to get away, but you'll never know WHERE you'll end up!
If you're not traveling too far, you can also travel by gryphon, and while you're outdoors you'll occasionally see one flying by in the sky. They are cheap to buy travel on, and they are far less discriminatory with locations they'll go to (as opposed to the Guild Portals which limit your destinations) but not every town has them, as the gryphon riders fly from town to town on their own whim. We're also thinking of adding in airships, but it's early days on that one and might not happen.
Sometimes in Malevolence you'll find a massive ocean that you have to cross...

Your boots might get wet...

These can be crossed by portals or gryphons, as you'd expect, but coastal towns have ports where you can take a ship from coast to coast. It's extremely cheap to travel this way, as the ships are making trade deliveries anyway, so they don't mind earning a few extra gold to transfer tourists. (You can see a VERY quick sneak peek of one of the ships in the trailer. It wasn't just there for show!)
So having an infinite world with infinite quests is all well and good, but surely the loot would get repetitive, right? WRONG! We're also procedurally generating that. Games such as Diablo and Torchlight have done this in the past to an extent, which is cool and has always appealed to us. But wanted to take it a step further. We don't just want the STATS and NAMES of the items to be procedurally generated, we want them to LOOK different, too. So we've been coming up with a system for that as well:

The video above is just an early prototype of course, but you get the idea. Just a little something to make things more interesting while you're looking for loot. While this part isn't totally infinite, there are something like 600,000,000 combinations for each weapon type alone... So that should do you all for now ;-)
We have plans to try and incorporate Facebook/Twitter interaction with the game, too, so if you find a really cool place or item, you can let others know about it, or just plain brag about your character. Not 100% sure we'll get that done in time for the final release, but we're gonna have a go!
One of our biggest aims with the game is to try and establish online communities where people can share things and places they find, since everyone else will get a chance to find them as well, and people can compare character stats, etc.
Speaking of character stats... Since the game is infinite, the character stats couldn't be just straight numbers like in other games. So instead of numbers, you have percentages. For example, rather than having a strength of 40, you'll have a strength of 24%.
All of your stats, when added together, will always equal 100%. If you spend too much time training up your strength stat, certain other stats, like magic, will begin to drop. It's a bit of a balancing act to try and keep your character the way you want (though if you want to be a straight fighter or mage, it's pretty easy. It only gets tricky for multi-class types). As such, there are no "classes" in the game, just different ways of balancing your stats.

Keep your stats balanced well, or things may get messy!

Having it done this way means that you will always encounter difficult challenges along the way, as the monsters in the game also follow this stat system, and it is procedurally generated in them. You could be a straight fighter, but come across an Orcish mage that incinerates you with fireballs before you can reach him with your sword! So you have to be careful.
So yeah, that pretty much sums up the basics of the game, though I'm sure you'll still have more questions... If you do, just post a comment with your question and we'll respond as soon as humanly possible! We just want you guys to know how groundbreaking this game really is!
Also, a couple of notes. Firstly, we're a really small indie group and have very little means of promotion, so please, if you like the game, do what you can to let people know about it! We've got a Reddit article you can bump up, or you can jump on our Facebook page or join our Twitter... Popularity of indie games is usually based on user communication (or the game reaching the ears of someone like Notch lol) so please, get the word out where you can!
In addition, since we're based in Australia, we can't start a Kickstarter page for the project, so we opened up a donation service through Paypal which you can buy us a beer through! (Well... We don't drink... But you get the picture) if you like our work, you can show your appreciation that way (if you have the means) just visit our FAQ page and scroll to the bottom to find out how!
Otherwise, keep up the lovely comments and emails that all you awesome people have been sending, because we get so much out of hearing it! Gives us a real rush and makes us feel like we're really doing something special here! You're all awesome!


  1. Amazing read, guys! Looking forward to it and hope it's going well.

  2. Still shaping up to be excellent, though I'd kind of hope for the FB/Twitter integration to be opt-in, or at least opt-out as a readily available option---that kind of stuff is fine for those that like them but on my end they always come across as...incongruous to the main game and take me out of it in terms of immersion.

    1. Oh yeah, it'd be totally optional. A lot of people don't even have Facebook or Twitter!

  3. Cool description. Just a quick thing: your water image thumbnail points to the wrong picture ;)

    1. :-O we've been discovered! It was about 1am when I typed this up hahaha