Is there RPG life in the wilderness?

As excited as everyone is by Diablo III, you find yourself wondering: what else could an RPG be? Is collecting loot, side-questing, selling to shopkeepers (and repeat) the only way to do it? Hinterland is built off the same fantasy ingredients we%26rsquo;re used to seeing in RPGs, and you can spot the inspiration - Diablo, Rogue-games, Dwarf Fortress, city-builders - but we%26rsquo;ve never seen the ideas mashed up like this. %26ldquo;In making it, we kind of had this %26lsquo;why didn%26rsquo;t someone make this before?%26rsquo; feeling,%26rdquo; says Jeff Fiske, co-designer.

You%26rsquo;re a lord, sent into the wild to explore and left-click any bad guys in your backyard. While you%26rsquo;re adventuring forth, your village grows. Acquired items secure different types of citizens, so recruiting new townsfolk will be your main goal. The idea stemmed from the dev%26rsquo;s earlier experiments in a medieval city-builder. %26ldquo;You don%26rsquo;t get bards unless you can find a magical instrument,%26rdquo; explains Mat Williams, senior producer. %26ldquo;You need ancient tomes to bring a wizard in. You can get a necromancer, but you%26rsquo;ve got to find a crypt.%26rdquo; Once settled, your lord can issue orders, setting the smith to construct swords or the priest to pray for healing - no more buying items off the populace you%26rsquo;re protecting. And if you decide the village can survive without a certain citizen, ask them to join your party and head off into the wilderness.

But don%26rsquo;t expect a medieval SimCity. Hinterland aims for manageable 10-to-20 villager towns, and a relatively small surrounding area that can be patrolled in a few hours (but won%26rsquo;t get old, we%26rsquo;re told). The game leans on randomly generated content to encourage replay and influence your village%26rsquo;s make-up. %26ldquo;If you find a game forest, you can build the hunter,%26rdquo; says Jeff, %26ldquo;but if you don%26rsquo;t... you don%26rsquo;t.%26rdquo; An achievement system will add some structure, but the main idea is roaming the game%26rsquo;s variable world, shaping your own quests along the way. %26ldquo;We talk about how silly it is when you play an RPG, you do some quest and the world doesn%26rsquo;t change,%26rdquo; says Jeff.

%26ldquo;Now, you sort of make your own quests. If you get a sword, and give it to your farmer, and the village gets attacked when you%26rsquo;re gone... you%26rsquo;ve changed the world by giving the farmer that sword. And if he stops making food, it has an actual effect on the world, whether he%26rsquo;s out adventuring with you, or he%26rsquo;s recovering from the injuries he%26rsquo;s sustained helping defend the town.%26rdquo; What could an RPG be? Anything, clearly.

+ Randomly generated encounters and overseeing your mini-community could mean a nice, dynamic balance of lootin%26rsquo; and mayorin%26rsquo;.
%26ndash; It%26rsquo;s on a smaller scale, but will Hinterland have enough structure to lead players while they wander the wilderness?

Aug 29, 2008

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