Welcome to Trident Games

  • Hi, I’m Shane Slamet, Lead Designer for the upcoming game Citadel: Lands of the Empty Sky. This is the first funded game project I’ve worked on and I’m pretty excited about it. Since I started work on the project, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the game from interested friends and colleagues… Okay, so just my Mum, really.

    To answer these calls for more information, I’m going to be publishing a weekly blog on what’s cookin’ in the Citadel kitchen. At the very least it’ll be a way to defuse situations where I am put at risk of becoming an incredible bore at parties and other gatherings. Instead of talking someone’s ear off for three hours about the subtleties of loot tables, I can simply say “You know, I have a blog.” And they’ll say “Oh.” At most, they’ll murmur something about having to check it out some time. Bang! Just like that! A social disaster smoothly and swiftly averted.

    I thought this week I might start by giving an overview of what Citadel is.

    Citadel is a Massive Online Prose Roleplaying Game.

    Okay, hold up. “But Shane, you fool!” you cry, “There’s already another term for that. It’s called a Multi-User Dungeon (Domain, whatever) and they’ve been around since the early 80s!”

    “Right, right,” I reply, making placatory hand gestures, “Look, yeah, it’s a MUD, okay? But this one is really awesome…”

    And there starts a long apologia regarding how we’re not just making a MUD. Well, at least that’s how I’ve been dealing with it until recently. No more. Here’s the real deal.

    Citadel is, at its heart, a MUD. This is a good thing, and I am unapologetic about the fact. Prose is simply an underutilized storytelling tool in gaming these days, and there are reasons for that which I might explore in another blog post, but for now I’ll point this out: A good text-based game will always outstrip a mediocre Triple-A gaming title.

    This is because there is still something about prose which sparks the imagination in a way that other media can only aspire to. With words, one can paint vivid mindscapes and convey deep undercurrents of emotion. You can weave a deeply involving and personal story.

    Don’t get me wrong. Most MUD prose isn’t exactly Hemingway. It’s written in bulk by people with no training, but enough enthusiasm to volunteer their time free of pay. And a lot of it, taking that into consideration, is still great. Besides, even if you are a published writer, that doesn’t mean you’re any good. To a large extent, it’s the author’s emotional investment that makes the prose worth reading.

    Alright, so Citadel’s a MUD.

    However, this isn’t your grandpa’s “attack monster” speed-typing-fest. Technology has come a long way and we’ve moved with it. Using the excellent SKOTOS engine, we’ve currently got a client which allows for hand-drawn graphical maps, clickable commands, pop-up dialogue windows and a host of other UI enhancements which never existed back in the old days of MUDding.

    In addition, our systems utilize modern MMO philosophies from the ground up. Cooldown-based abilities, class synergies, quest journals, guilds, huge loot tables, instanced areas… These things are considered par for the course these days, and there’s a good reason for that. They work. These are not idiosyncratic modern innovations - they are proven systems, and we have adopted them without hesitation.

    So Citadel’s a MUD with a neat client and new-school game mechanisms at the heart of it. There’s still more to it than that.

    We want to provide a wide and varied experience, as well as end-game content. We’d like to take the usual RPG gameplay that we know works, and weave in some entirely new ideas and systems. This is easier said than done. The more systems you add to a game, the more chances you have to screw up. Adding a broken game system, even if it’s totally optional, can still hurt your game.

    The Social System we’re developing is an example of a brand-new system we’re implementing despite the risks. The system takes the concept of “earning reputation” and takes it another few steps. Our social system lets your character form lasting business and personal relationships with NPCs in our game world. This then extends to the endgame politics and the idea of players influencing the powerful people of Citadel to mold the game world to their own ends. This, in my opinion, is where true RPG endgame play should be - in shaping the world around you.

    Thus, Citadel’s a MUD, it uses modern philosophies, has a fancy client and boasts a few new innovations. Now we’re getting closer, but we’re not quite done.

    I truly believe that Citadel has one of the best settings developed for a computer game. Ever. By best, I mean that it’s not a cheap Tolkien knock-off, it’s not a random mish-mash of real-world mythologies, it’s not some successful licensed setting with all the names changed and it’s definitely not a bunch of disparate genres awkwardly stitched together then passed off as a coherent world.

    Citadel was written from the ground up by Yeshe Englebogen, a man I’m honoured to know and call my friend. Citadel is as much his child as any of ours, and his influence can be seen not only in the world, its cultures, its history and its characters, but is also reflected in some way in just about every game design decision. The races, the classes, the way natural and supernatural phenomena work, the factions, the monsters, the loot, the way travel works… All of it ties into Yeshe’s vision for Citadel.

    Citadel, then, is a MUD with an enhanced interface, modern MMO methodology, brand new innovations, and a truly unique setting. Did I miss anything? It will suffice.

    I sincerely hope you’ll stick with me for these weekly blog posts. We have so much awesome stuff to tell you about that it’s hard to know where to start. Next week, I’d like to walk you through one of our classes, the Guardian, and talk a bit about the design process that goes into making a game class. For now though, have a great week!

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