Yes, you can solo Nightingale;  no, it's not a steampunk MMO

Yes, you can solo Nightingale; no, it’s not a steampunk MMO

In Nightingale, players take flight by opening an umbrella. Developers at Inflexion Games, the Edmonton, Alberta-based studio founded in 2018 by BioWare alumni, only recently added this to the unusual fantasy, studio art director Neil Thompson told Polygon.

But it can still become something of a badge or other marker, helping curious players identify or figure out something that has a high concept twist. Nightingale, shown in a two-minute trailer during The Game Awards 2022 on Thursday, is drawn from the Victorian era, but it’s definitely not steampunk; and it’s a “shared world survival crafting” role-playing game, but it’s not a massively multiplayer online game.

“We made Dragon Age a dark, medieval fantasy game, and we made Mass Effect a high sci-fi game,” said Aaryn Flynn, CEO of Inflexion and former CEO of BioWare. (He also has developer credits on jade empire and Dragon Age: Origins.) “But we started out wanting to build this kind of contemporary Victorian-era fantasy, with magic, [that] some kind of decor. And then we saw it, [and] we navigated to the right gameplay for it.

A screenshot from Nightingale, showing a character wearing a bowler, jacket and carrying a rifle, walking towards a strange portal radiating mysterious energy

Realmwalkers are humans who explore “fairy lands” through the use of portals, seen here.
Image: Inflection Games

In Nightingale, first revealed at last year’s The Game Awards, players will create a human character from the year 1889 in an alternate history, where humans learned and developed magic alongside technology from the era. In this timeline, adventurers called “Realmwalkers” have traveled from Earth to the “Fairy Lands”, a magical plane of existence, and return to report their exploits.

But a cataclysmic event collapses the portals between the two worlds, scattering humanity and trapping its remains in the Lands. They must survive, become skilled realm walkers themselves, and reach the city of Nightingale, founded by their ancestors as a human outpost for the study of magic.

If this all sounds like the premise of an MMO, you’re not alone; developers have long viewed this game as that, said Inflexion’s production manager Leah Summers. However, the systems they were working with were not suitable for a studio of their size (NightingaleThe team includes about 100 developers). But the crafting and survival gameplay that Summers’ team had come up with was too intriguing to be thrown into a drastic shift in direction to a more traditional narrative RPG.

“The biggest conversation we’ve had when it comes to our survival players is the idea of ​​accessibility,” Summers said. “You have Valheim get out, where, it’s not really hardcore survival; it’s pretty accessible, and so some of the most important conversations we have are, What kind of challenge do we want in our game? How do we want to challenge our players? In an MMO, the way you think about combat, or hordes, is a bit different from the single-player experience. We want to create a lot more opportunities for players to solve these challenges with our survival crafting.

So for those wondering, Can I do it solo? the answer is a clear yes. Nightingale, launch in early access on Windows PC during the first half of 2023, is designed to be a single-player game, with some PvE elements for guest collaborators. The main loop is all about exploring, discovering, harvesting, and crafting, with combat and action featured throughout the journey.

To ensure a consistent experience while adjusting a game to a player’s strengths (or away from their weaknesses), Inflexion introduces a modifier called “Realm Cards”, which is an opportunity for players to draw and set general parameters for what they are. to encounter. “It’s the biome, it’s the kind of creatures and structures you’ll find there,” Flynn told media during Monday’s presentation. “So you can level up your character, you can weaken what’s on the other side, you can give yourself unique attributes and unique perks. [by] play certain kingdom cards.

Thompson, the art director, said Realm Cards appeared at the start of Nightingaledevelopment. “I think we all immediately felt that would be a big differentiator, if we could make it work,” he said. Rather than setting varying difficulty levels (and balancing them all), realm maps would give players a head start on the next chapter of their encounter, or at least give them peace of mind that a particularly annoying opponent will probably not appear.

“What surprised us was the flexibility [Realm Cards] get for us,” Flynn said, pointing to the closed alpha tests Summers has administered since October. “How many combinations and different things players can do to create this meta, so players can find interesting ways to solve problems on their own, in the instance, and from there come strategies and tactics of survival.”

At first glance, Nightingale would compare well to Fallout 76, another large-scale survival and crafting role-playing game whose creators also rejected the MMO label. However, Flynn said the game will feature balanced encounters for two or three players (against AI enemies), but not quite raid-level. “We want to make sure that the vast majority of our content is enjoyable for the single player,” Flynn said. Groups of players will be able to combine their realm cards to create an instance of greater difficulty, if they find themselves there. Obviously, this will lead to better rewards.

The heroes of Nightingale are all personalized, drawing from all ethnicities, identities and representations, Flynn said. That, of course, means customizations galore in costumes, especially when people walk through the Faerie Lands with a vest and a top hat, or a beanie and a bustle. Or the umbrella/glider; Summers said alpha players were already asking if they could have a special umbrella skin, noting their involvement in the game’s early development.

“I think we’ve always been pretty clear and determined to, What’s this Nightingale is, with its ‘gas lamp’ fantasy“, she recalls. “I think when we started thinking more about the survival aspect, we had conversations like, Well you gon’ look pretty fancy surviving.”

Nightingale so far only intended for Windows PC. Inflexion Games envisions an early access period of around a year, Flynn said, before a full launch. Console versions will be reviewed later.

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