On the Horizon | Developer Update #1

Dev Blog

Horizons aims to expand upon the core aspects of A’therys (and Minecraft) to provide a more substantial gameplay experience in which all types of players can enjoy.

Cicetil
Daniel

Introduction

Hello everyone, this is Cicetil, the product lead for A’therys Horizons.

Before we get to the main topics of this blog I’d like to give some brief information about myself.

For those who don’t know me, I first started playing A’therys Ascended in early 2014- although I wasn’t too involved with the community or well known in-game back then. I joined the Horizons project in late 2017 to help out as an artist. Some work I did includes the old wiki nation banners.

Over time, however, I became more and more involved with the project and now I’m currently involved with almost every aspect of it. While it’s taken us a while to get to this point, we are now on a path to finally realizing the server which so many of us throughout the years have poured ourselves into.

So with that said, let’s get into our very first Dev Blog!

Horizons Development Blogs

For a while now I’ve been wanting to write something to help people get a better understanding of the inner workings of Horizons and we are now finally in a state where we can do just that. From here on, I plan on posting devblogs once or twice a month leading up to the launch of Horizons later this year.

Each devblog will have a specific topic which it will explore in-depth. Explaining the server’s mechanics, the philosophies behind them, and development history. We will also be including a feedback form with each blog for people to give their own thoughts and suggestions- See below in the conclusion section for more info.

Now let’s dive into the first topic of this devblog - the core of A’therys.

The Core of A’therys

In order to understand the vision for Horizons, we’ll need to take a quick look at the past and what the “core” of A’therys is all about.

For those reading this that have never played A’therys Ascended before or know little about it - A’therys Ascended was a Minecraft RPG server which first launched back in 2012. It combined the freedom of a sandbox game (Minecraft), RPG elements with a custom class system, unique nations which players could join, and towns in those nations which players could create and build up. All packaged into an immersive, player driven, lore filled, fantasy world.

All of these aspects together is what made the “core” of A’therys.

However, when everything else is boiled down, I would say the most important core aspect is the playerbase- the community. Just like with any other multiplayer sandbox game, what matters most are the players and the interactions they have with each other. Players are the lifeforce of the game and you need enough of them to keep sustaining it.

Everything else which makes up the game, or in our case, the server features, are there to provide the tools and environment for those players to use, interact with each other, drive content and keep everyone having fun and continuing to play.

While A’therys Ascended’s foundation worked well at the time, over the years, Minecraft and video games in general have evolved and changed greatly. I believe that not adapting to the times and staying with the same gameplay formula, along with many other factors are what contributed to the gradual loss of active playerbase over the 3 separate iterations of Ascended; up until the closing of EVO.

This brings us to Horizons, its vision, and how we’re using what we’ve learned from the past to help shape the core of A’therys into something which is great once again.

The Vision of A’therys Horizons

While the design details of the server and features have changed much over the course of development, I would say the original vision of Horizons has remained mostly the same-

The vision being:

To expand upon the core aspects of A’therys (and Minecraft) to provide a more substantial gameplay experience in which all types of players can enjoy.

This vision aims to take all the things which made A’therys, *A’therys* and create a more refined experience using the lessons we’ve learned in the past and bringing in principles of modern game design, creating core gameplay loops, player progression, etc. Giving players all the tools they need to create their own content, as well as multiple avenues for them to play the ways they want to.

I will go into more detail about each aspect of the server vision, and the gameplay avenues individually in future devblogs, but for now I will separate the core aspects of this vision and give brief descriptions of what’s planned.

Server Ideals

Using the core of A’therys and the server vision as a guideline, these ideals are the goals which we’ve set out to follow.

Player Freedom

One of the biggest goals we have for Horizons is to maintain the core foundation of Minecraft- the sandbox. Giving players an open world and the freedom to choose where to go and what to do. Choose a nation, join or create a town, build, fight, explore, roleplay or trade, all as the player sees fit; with minimal restrictions.

However, there can’t be *complete* freedom. There must be some limitations to prevent anarchy and so players aren’t limiting the freedom of other players.

Our goals are to provide players with as many tools as possible so they can do the things they want, but also keeping things controlled enough so that everyone can have fun.

Minimal Admin Interference

Another big goal for Horizons which ties in closely with what was said above. The goal is to try and keep Admin and other staff involvement within the game world to a minimum. This is quite different from how A’therys has been in the past, where admins were quite active on the live server, interacting with the players and having the permissions to do just about anything.

This has caused many situations before where Admins have used their powers to influence the game world and how players interact by giving themselves or one group of players an advantage, or accidently using administrative tools in a wrong way.

This has caused many instances of upset or frustrated players when there really shouldn’t have been.

It has also caused a community environment where many players expect admins to use their powers to help them make changes to the world or interfere with player affairs.. I would personally like to try and steer away from this mentality.

In order to help prevent situations like this happening in Horizons, admin guidelines will be very strict and the power admins have in-game will be limited. They won’t be able to play on the server as a player and almost all changes to the live server will be premeditated, communicated and staged on a separate server first before going live.

Community Creation of Content

Moving on, another ideal of ours is to facilitate and encourage the player-driven creation of content. Using all of the tools we provide, players should be able to create their own content- stories, interactions, politics, wars and battles, etc. All without it being driven by staff or special events.

The hope is that with solid core gameplay loops,  this type of player-driven, self-perpetuated content can sustain the server for many years to come, given that regular patches and gameplay expansions are provided over time.

For the last and likely most anticipated topic of this blog, I’ll go over our goals and approach to gameplay with Horizons, as well as giving some brief lists of gameplay features.

A hot topic which has been argued about since the early days of A’therys: RPers vs PvPers- an argument which I believe was spawned by the flaws in game design of previous iterations.

In an ideal sandbox environment, multiple groups of playstyles should be able to coexist with each other in a balance.

A sandbox game should allow anyone to pick it up and start enjoying it by playing how they want to (within the confines of the established game mechanics). Which is why Horizons is aiming to be accessible to as many different player types as possible, and with gameplay systems to support that.

As a basis for Horizon’s game design, we’ve been using Bartle’s taxonomy of player types as a reference. This theory categorizes players into four distinct groups: Killers, Achievers, Socializers and Explorers. In our case, this would roughly translate to PvPers, Builders, RPers and Explorers.

This only categorizes based on the player’s preferred gameplay style. Most of the time, players will fall into multiple categories or participate in all of these things regularly as they play the game.

  • Killers act upon other players.
  • Socializers interact with other players.
  • Achievers act on the world.
  • Explorers interact with the world.

Using these categories as a base, we’ve broken up the server’s gameplay into four main tenets: Community, Economy, Combat, and Exploration - CECE for short.

Community

The community aspect of the server includes all the gameplay features which allow players to form groups and interact with each other. Whether that be two nation groups warring each other, or a small town of friends hanging out and roleplaying. This category encompasses both Socializers, Achievers, as well as any others who want to group up and make connections and stories.

The planned major gameplay systems to facilitate community are: Nations, Towns, Guilds, RP cards, custom chat & titles along with the many new and unique blocks which Conquest Reforged adds- including functional chairs(!). Also, while not a continuous happening, special events can also fall under this category.

Other potential gameplay features include: in-game voice chat, custom RP food & drink and other cosmetic enhancement mods.

Economy

Next we have the economy, an often overlooked but vital aspect of any multiplayer game like this. Economy in the way we’re defining it includes much more than just currency and trading. The economy is what holds all of the other gameplay loops together.

It represents the time spent required to do something, the cost of items, rarity of resources, drop rates, and anything in between. And of course it also includes how players can trade those things with each other in the form of currency, items, or services.

This category best encompasses Achievers- Accruing wealth, grinding mobs and materials for the best equipment and rare items, etc.

The planned gameplay systems to facilitate economy are: A global auction house, player-made chestshop markets, Professions, custom resource gathering with item tiers & scarcity, custom crafting recipes and equipment enhancements, along with any other systems which use currency or interact with the economy in some capacity.

Combat

Combat is one of the most prominent aspects of A’therys, and many other games for that matter. We’ve previously used the Heroes plugin to expand upon vanilla combat with classes and skills, but since we can’t use Heroes anymore, we’ve developed our own custom RPG & skills plugins.

The systems go a little bit further than just predetermined classes.

The foundations for combat include the skill system where players can pick a class archetype and then choose which skills they want to use. This is further expanded by the in-depth attribute and stats system where players can customize and enhance their character and skills by upgrading attributes and using different kinds of equipment. All of this together allows players a high degree of freedom and build customization for their playstyle.

The content in which players can use this combat system is split into PvE and PvP, encompassing both Achievers and Killers respectively. Like mentioned in Economy, achievers tend to be ones to gravitate towards PvE. Grinding for the rarest items, completing the hardest dungeons, and other achievements. Killers on the other hand, just want to fight each other. They enjoy the thrill and challenge of PvP, winning and gaining something to prove their prowess.

The planned gameplay systems to facilitate combat, PvP and PvE are: The RPG (skills, stats, items) system, CustomNPCs for special mobs and bosses, Dungeons, town raiding, and the battlegrounds system which lets players fight each other to capture and control points to earn rewards for themselves and their nation.

Exploration

Last but not least is exploration. This category includes the entire game world and setting for it. 

In the case of A’therys, this is the custom map, lore, and narrative which players can explore and create their own stories with. 

The player type which exploration encompasses is, you guessed it - Explorers.
A sandbox game like this is especially great for explorers. They can spend a long time delving into every crevice of the vast world. On top of pre-built areas to explore, they can also explore other players’ creations which provides potentially infinite content.

While not strictly gameplay systems, the planned things to facilitate exploration are:
The custom world map which contains many unique biomes, the world’s lore (gods, nations, etc), the large and dense nation capitals, other player towns, and a large PvP/PvE region which will contain many pre-built structures and things to explore- ruins, dungeons, landmarks and lots of hidden secrets to discover.

Quests are another way in which we can present the world and give more exploration opportunities.

All of these aspects working together in a concerted manner is the ultimate goal of Horizons’ game design. Giving all player types meaningful tools to play the ways they want to, and using those tools to drive perpetual player-driven content.

Here is a diagram visualizing the major gameplay systems and how they interconnect with each other, or as I like to call it- a mess of lines.

In Closing

Okay everyone, that about wraps up this first Devblog. I know it’s quite a long read (and I can’t promise that future blogs won’t be even longer, sorry), but hopefully this helps give a clearer picture of the vision for Horizons and what’s planned for it, along with my own commentary on things.

As previously stated, there will be more devblogs to come, each expanding on their own specific topics in much greater detail. I think the next devblog will go over the combat system, but I’m open to suggestions so please let me know what you think. Also keep in mind that everything is subject to change. We’re always iterating to find better solutions for things and take a lot of player feedback into account.

With that said, here’s the feedback and suggestions form:

https://forms.clickup.com/36008339/f/12awck-5501/W355SZ7KHRKFYVDYDM

I’m always open to hearing people’s thoughts.

Anyways, thanks everyone for reading. Until the next one, see ya!

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