Monday, October 8, 2018

Every Hair Of The Bear Reproduced: Antilia

Following on from a post about a game I can play but can't talk about, here's a short post on a game I can talk about but can't play: Antilia.

There was a brief moment when I could have played it but back then I didn't even know it existed. Still, if only for the blink of an eye, Antilia was an MMORPG, once. It had some kind of off-the-radar run as an alpha or a beta or an Early Access multiplayer project before the development team took it down to re-envision it as a single-player RPG.

I have no idea how or where I came to hear about it (maybe I saw the failed Kickstarter, which goes all the way back to 2013) but however it was, I've had it bookmarked for a few years now. I even wrote about it a couple of times.

I know a rabbit when I see one.
Not that there was all that much to say. The developer, Right Brain Games, does post periodic updates on the website and occasionally there's a video on YouTube, but progress has been slow and there's not been anything particularly blogworthy. Until now.

Last week I happened to check the website to find this. It's a downloadable, offline version of the character creation suite that Jeff Leigh, the guy who seems to be Right Brain Games as far as I can tell, was talking about on camera in his April update.

I love character creators. Like many people, I can play around with them for hours even when I have no intention of playing the game itself. In this case I'd love to play the game but the character creator is all there is and it makes for a very tasty appetizer.

Single-player RPGs do tend to have much more detailed character creation processes than MMOs. I'm not entirely sure why that is.

It could be that a character in a multiplayer online game is seen more as a Player Avatar than a Character. It might be felt that, given the the long lifespan of an MMORPG, it's best to start with a blank page and let time fill in the details. It may just be that developers know MMO players lack patience so it's best to get them into the game as quickly as possible before they squirrel off somewhere else.

Offline RPGs, on the contrary, seem to expect their players to have all the time in the world and to want to spend it on minutiae in a way that might just possibly be seen by an objective observer as a tad obsessive. Not to say weird...

Antilia indulges that expectation in some style. The demo only includes one of the game's three intelligent races, theTaipii, about whom you can read in some detail, both on the website and in the character creator itself. The other two races, the Sakii and the Reisuii are works in progress about whom little has been revealed so far, other than that one is clearly a kind of dragon while the other is some type of rodent.

As I soon discovered, while playing with the character creator, The Taipii are a handy catch-all, covering a variety of the most popular anthropomorphic tropes. They come in five "bloodlines", known as Felo, Kisan, Koro, Lupan and Vulan, which turn out to be Cat, Rabbit, Deer, Wolf and Fox.

Actually, they turn out to be the same character model with different shaped ears or tails and, in the case of the Koro, antlers. They are all very cute and beautifully rendered but I'd be hard-put to tell one bloodline from another at a hundred paces.

There are a plethora of graphical sliders to play with - everything from Snout Length to Tail Floof. Yes, floof. My favorite was Fur Length, which makes your character more or less fuzzy. Who'd ever want to be less fuzzy?

There's the expected color palette to select from for several layers of fur as well as eyes, ears, tail and whiskers. I'm not clear who's going to be able to see the color of your whiskers but there you go.

After that we move on to weightier matters such as where you were born and what your parents did for a living. There's a wealth of options here, with over a dozen locations and thirty professions to choose from but that's not the end of your decision-making.

Next comes your education, offering a separate set of choices for Childhood and Adulthood. Then there's your Personality, with sliders for where you are on the Intorvert-Extrovert scale, what your Work Ethic is, how strongly you respect the Law and several more crucial moral and philosophical positions to take a stance on.

Finally, in a section labelled Difficulty, you get to choose from a number of handicaps and bonuses. I left these alone and I think I would avoid them in a first run-through should the game finally emerge into playable form. They look to have enormous impact on gameplay - one Disadvantage is Cannot Engage In Combat which means exactly what it says, while another is Permadeath.

I read through most of these with pleasure. It took quite a while. They're well-written and well-considered. You could fashion some very interesting characters from these building blocks while still leaving plenty of space for your own interpretation.

These options aren't purely for cosmetic or roleplaying purposes, though. Each choice comes with a basket of bonuses to your character's many, many stats. Antilia appears to be shaping up to be one of those RPGs that covers both ends of the RP spectrum, focusing both on personality and progression.

Without an actual game to play as yet, none of the stats mean much, although they are mostly very straightforward to understand. The whole thing looks very polished and professional and I'd love to be able to take the character I made and walk her around the world she already seems to know so much about.

Of course, I'd be a lot happier if the game was going to be what it was originally intended to be,  an MMORPG, but I'll settle for anything in a playable state. That could be a while yet, I fear.

For now, we have the character creator and it's a fun toy.

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