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Update #63: Stronghold!

Stronghold Project Eternity Tim Cain Systems Design Programming Update

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#1
BAdler

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By Tim Cain, Senior Code Wizard and Systems Designer
 
pe-stronghold-title-580.jpg
 
Hello! I have spent much of my time for the last few weeks devoted to making the game’s stronghold system, which was one of our Kickstarter project’s biggest stretch goals, into one of the best systems in the game. Josh has created an amazing and detailed stronghold design, with lots of upgrades and activities and random events that really make owning a stronghold fun and exciting. I want to spend this update explaining what we have made in the game, but first, let’s talk about the stronghold itself.
 
First, a caveat: I am going to describe the stronghold as it is currently designed. This design is mostly programmed already too, but as with all development, it might change as we finish the art and audio, fix any bugs, and tune the game play. So please view this as a snapshot of the stronghold development as it exists today.
 
You will be offered the stronghold early in the game, before you finish Act 1. But the stronghold itself is old and dilapidated, and you will want to upgrade it as soon as you can. These upgrades will, in turn, open up new activities and events that can happen, which will make the stronghold a dynamic and fun place to own.
 
So let’s go through the many reasons why you will want to have a stronghold.
 
Bonuses
There are five bonuses you will receive for getting and upgrading your stronghold.
 
  1. Resting bonuses. Some of the upgrades to your stronghold will grant temporary bonuses to your attributes or non-combat skills when you rest there. As examples, you can build Training Grounds to improve your Strength or a Library to improve your Lore skill. Some of these upgrades are expensive, but you’re worth it.
  2. Adventures for idle companions. You will eventually have more companions than will fit in your party, so you will have leave some of them behind. While they are idling away at the stronghold, they can take part in their own adventures, earning additional experience for themselves and extra money, items and reputation bonuses for you!
  3. Ingredients. Many of the stronghold upgrades will generate ingredients used by non-combat skills. For example, Botanical Gardens create Survival ingredients over time, and a Curio Shop produces ingredients for use by both Lore and Mechanics. 
  4. Special offers. Sometimes visitors to your stronghold will have rare items for sale, or perhaps they will offer you items in return for something else. Pay attention to these visitors. Some of these items may be nearly impossible to find any other way!
  5. Wealth. Don’t forget that by owning a stronghold, you also own all of the surrounding lands and impose a tax on all of the inhabitants. It will feel nice for a change to have someone recognize your high standing and give you the money that you so richly deserve.
 
These bonuses all sound great, right? Well, they are great, but they are just the passive benefits from owning and upgrading a stronghold. There are a lot of activities you can do too, once you take possession of your stronghold.
 
pe-tim-hard-at-work-580.jpg
Tim in his typical Stronghold creation attire.
 
Activities
First and foremost, when you get your stronghold, you are going to want to upgrade it. Upgrades are improvements to various parts of the castle, usually to add to the security or prestige of the place. Security affects how much taxes you collect as well as helps reduce the number of “bad” random events, while prestige increases the number of “good” random events as well as increasing tax collections, too. Upgrades can also serve as prerequisites for other upgrades. For example, you cannot build your Training Grounds (and get your Strength bonus after resting at the stronghold) until you have repaired the inner bailey of the stronghold.
 
Every upgrade costs money and takes time to build, but as long as you have the prerequisites completed, you can have as many upgrades building simultaneously as you can afford. And you don’t have to wait at the stronghold while they are built, either. You can continue adventuring, and you will be notified when they are built.
 
You can begin collecting taxes from your populace as soon as you gain the stronghold. The amount of taxes you collect increases with your prestige (because people know of you and like you), but the amount also increases with higher security, since some taxes are lost to banditry. You will want to keep both of those values high.
 
You can also employ hirelings to stay at your stronghold. These people will provide bonuses to your prestige and security, but they cost money to employ. Some will leave your castle if you stop paying them, but others will wait around to get paid again (but not provide any bonuses until they are).
 
If you have cleared the dungeon and built a prison under your stronghold, then when you are fighting some of the named NPC’s in the game, you will be given an option to take them prisoner instead of killing them. Prisoners are kept in a cell in your prison, where you can visit them and talk to them, and occasionally use them as leverage later in the game. But you will need to keep your security level high, or you might suffer from a prison break!
Finally, several upgrades will produce ingredients used by non-combat skills. This feature, along with upgrades that can improve your skills, makes your stronghold a great place to craft and store items. You can stop by your castle occasionally and make food, potions, scrolls, armors and weapons, and any that you don’t need immediately can be stored in chests and other containers in a variety of places around the stronghold. You know, in case of an emergency.
 
Which brings us to random stronghold events.
 
Random Events
As you play the game after getting the stronghold, whether or not you are physically there, you will be told if a random event happens at the stronghold. Sometimes, you will need to deal with the event immediately, but usually you are given some time to decide what to do.
 
The most common event at your stronghold is having a visitor arrive. There are all kinds of visitors, but they all share one thing. They can adjust your prestige and/or security just by being at your stronghold. Some visitors are wonderful and give good bonuses, and you will want them to stay as long as possible. Some of these visitors can even be employed as hirelings and will stay on as long as you pay them. Others are not so great, and you will want to offer them one of your companions to act as an escort to their next location, or perhaps simply pay them to leave. Some visitors will offer rare items for sale, and some might even offer a very rare item in exchange for one of the prisoners in your dungeon. As you can see, visitors require some decision making on your part.
 
As mentioned above, your idle companions can take part in adventures as those events arise. You will be informed of what adventures are available, how long they will last, and what the rewards will be (in general terms). If you send a companion on an adventure, he or she is unavailable until they complete it and return with the rewards. You can recall any companions early, but then they earn nothing. Why would you ever want to recall them then? Because your stronghold can get attacked!
 
Attacks are the most potentially dangerous of all stronghold events. Occasionally troublemakers (of various sorts) will decide to attack your castle. You will be warned ahead of time of any such attack, so you can return to the stronghold and take part in it directly, if you want. Otherwise, the attack is simulated and you are told the results. A well-defended stronghold can repel any but the most concerted attacks, but there is always a chance of damage which can destroy upgrades, kill hirelings, and cost money. The threat of attacks is the most important reason to keep your security level as high as you can afford.
 
I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into the world of Project Eternity and the role your stronghold will play in the game. No matter how you play the game, your stronghold is certain to provide many benefits and also be a lot fun too!
 

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#2
Nonek

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Has anybody seen a lower mandible? Mine fell off.

 

Sounds fantastic, reading between the lines it seems like the more resources and effort you put in to the Stronghold, the more you'll get out.


Edited by Nonek, 03 September 2013 - 02:16 PM.

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#3
Sacred_Path

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YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHH 8)

 

You will be offered the stronghold early in the game, before you finish Act 1.

 

Great!

 

I'm really excited about the fact that the stronghold in P:E will be a real, dynamic base of operations and be on the forefront of your campaigning rather than being an afterthought.


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#4
George32027

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The random events sounds so awesome. I mean, everthing just sounds so awesome.


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#5
rjshae

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Great! It's good to hear that you're putting lots of work and detail into the Stronghold design. At first I wasn't all that sold on the idea, but this level of development makes it sound like it will be a very worthwhile addition. Thanks for taking people's ideas into consideration (or at least following similar lines of thinking)--I recognize a few of the suggestions that were posted in this forum. :)


Edited by rjshae, 03 September 2013 - 02:24 PM.

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#6
xsikal

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This sounds fantastic!



#7
Acerbissimus

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Overall, I like the sound of everything. Especially prisoners; that's something I haven't seen done before and it sounds like a pretty cool idea. I hope it will be fun to just wander around in your stronghold for a little while if you feel like it.


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#8
GhoulishVisage

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Yes!

I'm very excited about the Stronghold particularly in Project Eternity, and I've been wanting to hear more info about it for quite a while.
It all sounds very fun, and likely something I am liable to spend a little too much time on.

 

I still think that a butler would make a good addition to the Stronghold, to oversee things whilst you're away and to tell you everything that has happened when you come back.
Maybe I just want to play as Batman too much.


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#9
LordCrash

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Wow, sounds cool! :)

 

Thanks, Tim.



#10
Aedelric

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So we can tax our populace but can we choose the amount as in lessen it? Or perhaps use the taxes to help the local populace for some kind of reputation increase?

 

The idea of attacks are great, same with the special bonuses, so far it seems to be everything I wanted in a player home. Only thing I would love to see is an ability to display weapons/armour and unique items found throughout the world or earned through quests. (Similar to New Vegas home decoration but with set display locations you can place them on or swap around) Like if I kill a dragon a choice to add a dragon skull to the wall of my main hall would be amazing.

 

Hopefully you have a few more surprises and hidden secrets in store for the stronghold, this is a feature I am personally excited about.

 

 

Also please do not forget a tranquil garden, planting options would not be bad either! :D


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#11
Arkeus

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So, the most important question is: can you gloat over the prisoners?

"Fool! To think you thought you stood a chance against the great I in all his unparalleled majesty!"

"Fortunately I am as magnaminous as I am magnificent, and I have spared you for your crimes against my person...for the moment. Make no mistake! You suffer at my wondrous leisure!"

 

 

.....Please?


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#12
Gecimen

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Probably the best update yet. Awesome and original features. I especially love the idea of prison.



#13
Gecimen

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Like if I kill a dragon a choice to add a dragon skull to the wall of my main hall would be amazing.

Amazing idea. Top class.



#14
Mpskydog

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I think this sounds like a very fun mechanic - well, more than a mechanic, I suppose, and more of a system. In many applications a 'Stronghold' was usually nothing more than a mechanic, a method to let the player obtain a house or other dwelling during the course of the game. And often couldn't use it for much even when they did have it.

 

So kudos to taking it further without trying to over do it!

 

(And Kudos for your SSI 'cover art'! I so have that game, got it with a bundle of others and still love them!)



#15
Shadenuat

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Should have placed his face onto The Tarantian newspaper instead

"Tim gets his stronghold assaulted

looses tactical stock of chocolate bars

but his hold remains strong"

EXTRA

price 2 coins

 

well update is awesome, but it would be good to see some concept art of what are we going to get there. is that a castle, or a tower, or a small hamlet? I am curious.


Edited by Shadenuat, 03 September 2013 - 02:42 PM.


#16
Rivfader

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So will this stronghold be mandatory to own or not? Personally, I'd rather have my house.


Edited by Rivfader, 03 September 2013 - 02:44 PM.


#17
agris

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If you have cleared the dungeon and built a prison under your stronghold, then when you are fighting some of the named NPC’s in the game, you will be given an option to take them prisoner instead of killing them. Prisoners are kept in a cell in your prison, where you can visit them and talk to them, and occasionally use them as leverage later in the game. But you will need to keep your security level high, or you might suffer from a prison break!

 

That. Sounds. Amazing.

 

There are so many cool things wrapped up into that- there's a ****ing dungeon underneath the stronghold! That in and of itself is an interesting predicament (burrow-based assault on the stronghold planned?). The prisoners concept is also a good one, and really incentivizes getting that prison setup asap.

 

One question: will there be special 'bad' random encounters, for not upgrading the keep? I can imagine delaying the keep ugprades for a period, just to see some custom bad randoms. Maybe i'm weird in that way, but I bet some of the bad random encounters will be both funny and challenging.



#18
mstark

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I can't help feeling I would have been happier not reading this.

 

I'm not meaning to say I dislike the ideas of the stronghold, but I do feel it may take away from the overall experience of owning and growing it if I know even half of everything that can happen to it (I'm probably trying to say I wouldn't have minded seeing a spoiler tag at the start of the update).

 

Maybe it's just me, but I feel that once I know what to expect from a game, it becomes little more than a chore.

 

Other than that, the stronghold sounds great! I hope events surrounding it won't be too disruptive to regular gameplay, though (what's that about certain events requiring immediate attention, will I be teleported? Please don't send me notifications, like angry spam emails, about every little event that takes place in my home while I'm off killing undead.)


Edited by mstark, 03 September 2013 - 02:50 PM.

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#19
Zombra

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Wow!  This all sounds really, really fun!  Looking forward to the game more than ever!



#20
Keyrock

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Awesome update, the stronghold sounds amazing.  One question regarding this:

 

 

 
  1. Adventures for idle companions. You will eventually have more companions than will fit in your party, so you will have leave some of them behind. While they are idling away at the stronghold, they can take part in their own adventures, earning additional experience for themselves and extra money, items and reputation bonuses for you!

This suggests to me that all party members will earn experience individually, rather than all my companions always being the same level as my main character (or a level or two lower or higher because of race level adjustment) like in NWN2?  Am I correct in my assumption? (I hope so, because I am all for this)







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Stronghold, Project Eternity, Tim Cain, Systems Design, Programming, Update

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