Today’s blog is by Alexei Pepers, Senior System Designer, who will explain how Realm Cards combine player agency with procedural generation in Nightingale
It’s been an exciting week here at Inflexion Games, as we took to the (virtual) stage at Summer Game Fest Live to showcase our latest Nightingale gameplay trailer! For this reveal, we wanted to pack the trailer with new footage and details for our community to dig into: More giants! Expanded base building! Calculating Automatons! But one new feature we felt needed a little more of a deep dive was the Realm Cards.
Amongst all the buzz, we knew we’d have fans asking how exactly the Realm Card system works, and what it means for intrepid Realmwalkers looking to explore the farthest reaches of the realms. And while there is still more for us to share about Realm Cards (at a later date we’ll go into specific examples of what kind of cards you might get to discover and how they play out in action) we thought we’d take this opportunity to clarify how they impact gameplay in Nightingale.
Nightingale offers a level of variability and exploration potential within the Faewild worlds beyond your usual survival crafting experiences. The Realm Card system, paired with a sophisticated level design process that blends procedural generation with intentional design, offers you a way to not only discover everything the realms have to offer, but to have agency over how you experiment and explore.
Fundamentally the system serves two key purposes:
Opening a portal in Nightingale is no small feat, and to transition an inert portal arch into an active gateway to another realm you’ll need to provide direction and focus using Realm Cards. Exploring the realms and acquiring magickal ingredients will allow you to learn recipes and craft new Realm Cards, and when you’re ready for adventure you will select a limited number of cards to play in combination. This combination is what will dial you in to which out of the many possible realms within the Fae universe you are heading to next.
Some cards will have a major effect on the environment of your destination, with all the corresponding variety you’d expect in the flora and fauna calling that realm home. Others will have more specific impacts on aspects of the realm such as the weather you’ll endure, which, in turn, may have knock-on effects, such as how creatures behave or what plants thrive. Will your realm be overrun with dangerous creatures? Be a tranquil place to catch your breath? Will it be filled with abundant natural resources, or scattered with the ruins and remains of previous explorers? Dark and battered by storms, or clear and lit up by strange celestial bodies?
These are the kinds of details you will be able to explore by experimenting with and learning what impact Realm Cards have. We want our players to think of the Realm Cards as a gateway to discovering endless adventures within the world of Nightingale.
Something we wanted to provide with the Realm Card system was mastery not through memorization, but through a sense of discovery as you try a variety of combinations and observe the results. Cards don’t often have just a simple and singular impact - they behave differently in combination with other Cards, and impact the realm in deeper systemic ways, creating an aggregate effect. Using a new Card to find new types of Realms is straightforward, but fully understanding how to best take advantage of that Card to get just the kind of Realm you want will require playing with different combinations and studying not just what changed on the surface, but the underlying reasons why those changes happened.
From a creative standpoint, Realm Cards have allowed us as a team to explore the potential of what player influenced procedurally-generated environments can bring to the survival crafting genre. We wanted to give players the excitement of a freshly-generated world without having to start a new game, and to find a balance - where you can be surprised by what you find on the other side of the portal, but you’re not at the whims of pure randomness. The big question in procedural generation now isn’t how to make tons and tons of content: it’s how to make that content fun and meaningful. We hope that letting you play a role in what experience is generated from realm to realm will be a new way for you to apply your own meaning and sense of fun to every realm you explore.
This interplay between player and system creates more depth, variety and replayability, and greatly impacts storytelling potential. We’re looking forward to testing the Realm Card feature when Nightingale goes into playtesting later in the year. Your feedback and comments will help shape the ongoing development of Nightingale - so please join us!
Realm Cards are just the beginning of some of the wondrous discoveries that you will make when playing Nightingale. We’ll dive further in-depth with details around Realm Cards and other gameplay systems in the future, and for now, we hope that we’ve offered a better understanding about how you’ll explore the realms when you get to jump into Nightingale later in the year. Make sure to wishlist Nightingale on Steam and Epic Games Store, and register for our newsletter to stay up to date on when we’ll be playtesting. Don’t forget our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels, where we drop new information and other cool surprises about Nightingale.