We’re not going to have strongholds for the next patch – instead, the Codex system is going to be introduced. Hugo has been working hard on putting content in this, and has even written an article for the new issue of Imaginary Realities to explain what he’s planning for it. For now, think of it like an in-game story system you progressively unlock with clues you find in the game. There’s XP, titles, and achievements that go along with it, and will flesh out some more of the world in which you wander. For those interested in the new Imaginary Realities, both Hugo and I are represented. Mine is about Mercurial, which we introduced earlier this year. Hugo’s is about, as I say, Codex. The whole issue can be found here – as usual, if you like what you read consider writing something for it. The whole endeavor hinges on interesting content being produced and consumed. Write for it, tell people about it.
Anyway, Codex represents a sufficiently significant inclusion to be the headline feature for the coming patch, which will also come with the usual suite of bug-fixes and minor additions. It’s coming at the start of next month, so you don’t have much longer to wait for it.
I’ve been hard at work with the strongholds though, and I’m really pleased with the progress that’s been made. New additions to the system are ‘stronghold knacks’, the ability to hire trainers, set up shops, and negotiate trade agreements with other factions. The system for handling furniture in rooms has also been extensively improved – one of the limitations previously was that you could only have one kind of each type of furniture in a room. Now, you can have as many as you like, allowing you to set up the room to look like whatever you want. All of the random furniture you find in the game is going to work off this system too, and that means we’ll also be able to take a step towards properly procedurally generated room descriptions for the template rooms we have. We can generate wall coverings, carpets, and integrate furniture into the longs, like so:
This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. The floor of the room has been covered in expensive black carpet. A small display pedestal is pushed against the east wall. A king sized bed is pushed against the north wall. A low quality flat pack wardrobe is pushed against the west wall. The area looks extremely insecure, with little effort having been expended in protecting it against the incursions of the dead.
Everything except for the first line there comes from placed furniture and stronghold state. There’s still some tidying up to do with how the descriptions are generated (I want them to be less samey), but it’s largely feature complete. That’s the kind of thing you’ll see taking the place of existing room descriptions for templated rooms, so the Alphabet Street flats for example will soon actually be created like this. You’ll be able to pull wallpaper off the walls, rip up carpets and floors, and pack up the furniture. The long description will be updated accordingly, and you’ll be able to take the nice things you find back to your stronghold to place wherever you want them to go. They’re all fully functional furnishings too – you can sleep on the bed, put things in the display pedestal, store equipment in the wardrobe, and so on. There are even some stronghold specific items to come, such as display frames which let you put photographs and the like on the walls. As I’m sure you can imagine, this also opens up more crafting possibilities for the future – I’d like to let people be able to craft paintings and the like. Boss kills will also come along with furniture trophies as the system progresses.
The new infrastructure for setting up meaningful features in the stronghold is now working well too – you buy the ability to incorporate certain features through knacks (the number of these you can buy depends on the size of your stronghold and the clan it serves), and these let you configure the services you can support. Buy the knack that lets you set up a shop, and that’s what you can do – define one of your NPCs as a shopkeeper, and you’ll find that it’s like having your own general shop right on your doorstep. Not only that, but one where you can set the demand for items. Set up a trainer, and you’ll find one right there in your stronghold rooms. You get to buy primary, secondary and minor skills (although these are assigned randomly – I don’t want people being able to design their own optimal leveling), and the trainer will provide them. Not only that, but the money you spend on your trainer then becomes available to your stronghold on the same basis that it does for the existing factions. Allow other people to use your trainers and you might find yourself acting as your own fully functional apocalyptic civilization.
Trade agreements with factions will be made using the new ‘negotiate’ command – you’ll need someone in your clan to buy it and develop the skills needed to pull it off. A trade agreement means that other factions will buy things from your shop (ensuring a steady supply of money), and if you have strong enough relations with the in-game factions you’ll find that your trainer will even offer some of *their* skills to you. The number of agreements you will be able to support will be based on the knacks you buy, and agreements will require ongoing curation. They’ll also be in contention – a faction won’t be able to keep too many agreements at once, so if someone else has one you’d best get your backside back to renegotiate your own.
This is all for Strongholds 1.0 – I’m sure you can see why I think this is a great addition to the game. I don’t know of a single other game that has anything entirely comparable except perhaps for the Sims. The Sims, however, doesn’t have quite the quest-driven zombie slaying systems we have either. In every sense then, strongholds represent a game-changing addition, and it’ll knock our version up to 1.2 as a result.
Unfortunately, its also going to be last big addition I put into the game for a while because the next thing I want to knock off of my todo list is our much hyped graphical client. There will still be bug-fixes, feature improvements and so on, but my development time will be focused on turning Epitaph into a different kind of text-driven online game. That’s not to say you won’t have anything new to look forward to, just that the more intensive development that Epitaph gets from me will be largely invisible for a while.
With the graphical client, I suspect we’ll patch up to version 2.0.0, at which point we’re going to start making an effort to recruit players. We haven’t really done that at all since 1.0.0, but I’m hoping that we’ll find ourselves fairly inundated with new blood once recruitment becomes ‘try our great game’ rather than ‘try our great text game. Text game. Text. Like, written? And you read the… no? Thanks for your time’.
It’s exciting times for Epitaph – the future’s never looked brighter.
 Or hardly working. HAHAHAHA.
 For one thing, I often like to develop something new to keep myself inspired, so if a good idea comes my way I’ll almost certainly implement it just for a change of pace. For another thing, there are other creators working on other things.