Tel Loiryn (TL) stresses 1) swiftness, 2) intelligence, 3) skill, 4) extensiveness, and 5) complexity. In an attempt to break classic concepts of RTS, RPG, and MMORPG, the main changes that will be followed in development of TL are:
Dual Playing ParadigmsEdit
The single player version has a driving story with main and side quests, during which players gradually come to understand and appreciate the complexity of the game, and improve their micromanaging and macro-managing skills. All enemies, and all allies that are not being played by the character, have varying levels of AI, with the best ones being far tougher than their stats would imply at first glance.
The multiplayer version does not have a driving story and takes place after the single player version storyline; players are expected to know the game in detail and have a working understanding of each component and their interactions with each other. Units in the multiplayer version have very high level AI, sometimes comparable to that of experts, and thus may require pro players to team up against them. The multiplayer version also allows players to duel each other, in various settings, with various rules, and with various allies.
Experience, Ranking, and AbilitiesEdit
Experience is a dramatically different concept in this game than in almost every other. Characters all have the ability to unlock every skill available to any character (there is no character class). Characters also have an experience level for each of these skills, which determines the chance of success of performing that particular skill (as opposed to "bumbling up" and becoming very vulnerable in the process). Each skill has levels ranging from 0 to 10. Each level increases the chance of success by 10% (so level 1 has 10% chance of success, level 2 has 20%, and so on). Gaining experience in a particular skill is done by simply performing it enough times ("practice"). Each skill can be leveled up starting from the very beginning of the game and it takes only minutes to raise any particular skill to level 10. Because having a certain, diversified set of skills is crucial to success, players often spend the first hour practicing their skills in relative peace until they reach peak efficiency, after which experience as an ongoing concept is negligible.
Ranking is done for all units with AI, ie. every unit in the game with the exception of the one that the player is currently using (which changes whenever the player switches selected unit). The ranks are applied to individual disciplines. Though taking a weighted average gives the true power of the unit. The applicable AI determines the ranking. Played units aren’t ranked according to what AI is applied to them; instead they can take a combat ‘test’ that scores them based on how well they do.
A plethora of abilities are necessary for even the most basic of goals to be achieved. This is done through expansion of options. The options that are chosen in any interaction depend not on ‘power’ or availability but on the nearly exact circumstance players are in. TL has an extensive array of abilities that is far more versatile than in other similar games; these may involve wit/humor thresholds, marks of intelligence, emotes/interactions, martial arts, archery, agility, thievery, charisma, leadership, magic spells, and other actions.
Most games of related genre start off very easy and slowly become slightly harder as the storyline progresses, with the transition being predictably getting slightly harder every level. Except in a handful of strategy games, these games generally don’t get significantly harder, but get more and more arduous. In TL, while the general trend is toward enemies with better and better AI, overcoming obstacles doesn’t get more arduous, but gets more tricky, because the ‘hp system’ no longer is number-based to such a predictable, step-by-step extent as that of other games. A weak player will find that defeating the first few enemies may be difficult, and after that be unable to make any progress whatsoever. A strong player will vanquish beginning enemies with scarcely a thought, and defeat enemies later on very readily (unless they have nearly perfect AI). While in most RPG games it is impossible to defeat enemies that are far stronger and/or far more numerous than the player’s own forces, in TL an expert player can have a solitary unit take on a battalion of strong-AI enemies and still emerge victorious and without a scratch. Similarly, weak players will find that they cannot hope to win against even the weakest enemies if they fail to pay attention. Experts fill find that defeating numerous foes is just like performing a well-rehearsed martial arts dance, while new players will find it extremely taxing.
While most RPG games focus on defeating enemies, resolving riddles, running errands, and solving quests, and while most RTS games focus on amassing forces quickly, engaging in battles, obtaining upgrades, tactical placement, and strategic build orders, TL focuses less on these concepts, and more on others.
There are far fewer enemies in all of TL than in other games. Indeed, there are only a limited number of enemies in the entire single player mode, after which enemies cease to exist. (This total lies somewhere between 500 and 5000.) Defeating enemies to gain experience no longer is the objective; instead, enemies become more of an obstacle rather than the goal in itself. The goal of TL is achievement, which can take many forms. Solving riddles becomes more apparent, while running errands for others loses significance – running errands for one’s own ends gains in importance. Quests will remain; in fact, almost all enemies in TL are tied to a limited number of quests (most of which can be taken out of order).
In the battalion form of TL, forces are limited in number and often aren’t paid for in the game currencies; instead, they are hired as mercenaries or developed over the course of the story as main characters. Such battalions get a one-time ‘crash course’ of training and then that’s it for whatever quests they are involved in. Oftentimes they can’t be used; only the main characters may be available on some quests, or the main characters and just a handful of weaker allies on other quests. There’s no building orders (in that it is a real time tactics rather than strategy). Tactical placement becomes more important to insuring the outcome of battle, with concepts such as flanking. Upgrades also do not figure in TL except in the form of getting "preferable" (but often not strictly better) items.
Equipment, Costs, and LoaningEdit
TL equipment is based on the concepts that: 1) players will get items that are incredibly expensive and yield nearly no combat or quest benefit (or even go negative), as long as they look good; 2) items that yield combat benefits are low in variety, are unique (have tradeoffs), and don’t have any items that are far superior to others in basic numbers; 3) many basic items can be made incredibly expensive in accordance to their properties and rarity, regardless of how effective they are; 4) effective items can be limited to the player by rarity, even if their actual costs are not that high. Most items do not follow an geometric-cost-for-arithmetic-benefit scheme; instead they are determined (often) by appearance/other desirability factors.
In TL, certain item categories just cost more than others. They can be divided into 1) items that are certainly necessary, such as weaponry and food; 2) items that are absolutely not necessary, such as various clothes, collectibles, and wealth items; and 3) items that are necessary for new players but not for proficient players, such as potions, enchanted jewelry, and shields. Scrolls, books, foods, ceramics, glassware, herbs, runes, and metals are cheap; Potions, jewelry, trimmings, and certain other magic items are magnitudes more expensive. NPC merchants do not charge more when players buy than when they sell, and players can engage in bartering with most of them.
Players can loan items to and from other players online and with NPCs both on and off line. Such contracts are ‘magically’ binding and entail very little risk (loaned items can’t be gifted away or dropped, but can only be loaned, and players whose characters die online still retain their items) and in an inflation-free world there is no interest, only a usage fee that can run up to 1-2% of the item’s worth daily. Players must beware not to loan more than they can make and go into debt, or else they will never be able to recover financially.
Characters, Merchants, and PetsEdit
TL features a handful of main characters that each feature in most of the quests in the storyline. Players can ‘jump’ their selection from one main character to another. The one they had been using takes up the AI based on the character’s rank, while the newly selected one loses its AI and stops doing anything once selected, but instead obeys the player's micromanaging commands. Hence players have to be prepared to take control of a unit’s actions the moment they switch to using that unit. There must always be main character under the player’s immediate control.
Main characters can hire merchants (any NPC in the game who is willing to be a mercenary) to help out when given the command by a main character. They cost a sum of money right up, but are not that expensive; they also have a lower AI (generally) than the uncontrolled main characters. Mercenaries stay as long as players can afford to pay their upkeep, and then they depart, taking whatever players have given them. Any loaned items are magically returned to the player after time is up, unless the mercenary ‘decides’ to loan it longer at interest. Loaning to mercenaries does not yield interest. Mercenaries have to be fed as well.
Main characters can also obtain ‘pets’ – which may happen to be even larger than the characters themselves. Pets include fairies, horses, unicorns, and even the dragon (available in a few single player quests and as a reward for lots of playing time and victories online only because they take up so much space). Fairies give buffs (gentle bonuses) while horses/unicorns give much faster movement, reduced agility (meaning fewer available martial arts moves), and may absorb an impact or two from enemies instead of hitting the character riding it. Horses may be bought from the stables for a very expensive fee.
For new players, the sudden and seemingly random death of main characters becomes a fact of life. In Tel Loiryn, as in other games, main characters cannot truly die, but the differences run deep. Only the unit being controlled by the player (the ‘enlightened’ character) may be directly returned to life by the deity, and only after all other characters have died, and this takes one minute, taking the character to safe haven. Almost all equipment held or worn by the character is dropped on the ground where the character died. If the player has other characters in the engagement, they continue fighting until one side wins. The dropped equipment can be recovered immediately if the player still has characters in the region; otherwise, the player must start from safe haven and fight from scratch again in order to recover the lost items. In this regard, getting pricier equipment is harder to manage because it’s easier to lose it and its value in a single defeat. This also explains why items either are cheap or not very powerful – it allows a quickly recovery to be made. In the case of quests, checkpoints may be reached.
Upon the defeat of any character, mercenary or pet equipped with borrowed items, loans made to the controlling player are cancelled, and the dropped items are magically summoned to the loaner – so the loaner won’t ever have to go retrieve it. Dropped food is spoiled, but this generally doesn’t make a big difference because food is incredibly cheap. Looting by other players is constituted to be loaning – the player who loses it can summon those looted items back if any player picks them up, making regaining items a matter of helping friends. Upon the defeat of the entire force, all mercenaries should be disbanded because a lot of money is lost (though this is not forced). Without a leading force, however, the mercenaries won’t do well, unless the player was already on the verge of winning an engagement.
There is no loading to a previous ‘hard saved’ version of a game. All losses are meant to be recoverable. All main characters can eventually be returned to life with proper equipment or spells by bringing the one returned character to the corpses of the other main characters. If the lack of other main characters means that this stage cannot be reached, they can be returned to beside the first main character through another item (phoenix fire), which becomes available a bit into the game but is prohibitively expensive and rare.
Society is a main portion of TL. While each unit, even civilians and "redshirts" (those merely meant to be killed), have first and last names, there are innumerable people present in the world. A ‘rogue’ player could rather quickly slaughter a thousand civilian NPCs and still make little difference to how things work in the game. Enemies who run rampant through the city and kill off numerous NPCs barely make a dent in the population. When a merchant, farmer, mercenary, worker, or guard dies, another will replace it somewhere in the city/region so that the ratio is about constant; whenever a quest NPC dies, another NPC continues the quest. Society then attempts to resolve the matter by dispatching conscripts to secure the area (which, considering the number of people in the world, outnumber players' characters by 100,000 to 1). However, it is still technically possible for a pro to kill off every single individual in the world; it would just be an incredible hassle. Each of a player’s main characters’ returning also corresponds to the returning of many NPCs.
Unlike in other games, in TL the number of ‘allies’ (or at least NPCs willing to be allies) is far greater than the number of enemies in the entire game. Unless the player is just swift at finding enemies, they won’t be showing up at every corner – in fact, most of them will tend to be stealthy, and few will walk around in the bright light of day. Most people in the game are good. With many quests, certain NPCs become enemies, but if a player attempts to kill them off first, others will be selected instead as the quest-related NPCs.
Given that there are fewer enemies, they are often more challenging to defeat, as their AI has the potential to be anywhere between a weakling-fighter and a nearly perfect fighter. Oftentimes, to reduce the chances that a player’s forces will be defeated by gangs, mediocre players will seek out plenty of mercenaries – and the cheap ones tend to be pretty bad at fighting melee. If players decide to do that, they often will find that the enemies kill more than their number in allies.
Balancing the difficulty of defeating the enemy is the high quality of drops. Gone are the drops that offer 0.1% - 1.0% of what’s needed for a quality item. Defeating a well-equipped enemy can yield enough equipment to fully clad another mercenary or main character in a player’s party, allowing it to grow very quickly. On the other hand, as already mentioned, much of these drops are not all that useful depending on what you already have and what your playing style is (expert players, for example, often find the weight of any armor at all to be a bigger burden than they're worth).
Enemies have a low aggression factor compared to that found in most other games. That is, they rarely decide to fight you right away – though they might if their class isn’t ‘human’ (such as undead, critters, etc). However, the vast majority of enemies in TL are of the human class, and these will need to be perturbed into attacking – which often gives you the opportunity of a first strike – and in TL a first strike against an unprepared opponent could very well be lethal.