Behind the Design: Extreme Climates and Acclimation

By Chris 'Joppa' Perkins, 08.21.19

When we set off to make Pantheon, one of the earliest tenets we adopted as a development team was our commitment to making the environment matter. You may have heard us say something like, “We’re going to put the ‘E’ back in ‘PvE’” during a stream or interview. Great catch phrase, but what matters is making that true. That’s what design is all about—taking a high level idea or goal and working out the lower-level details of how it will actually be experienced as true to the players.

Over the last few Behind the Design features, I’ve gone deeper into how several of our “Environment Matters” gameplay systems will work. So far we’ve taken a closer look at the Perception, Atmosphere, and Artifact systems—now we will look more deeply at the design behind our Extreme Climate and Acclimation systems.


The Inspiration

While the premise of believable, interactive climates is not a new idea when it comes to video games, one of the strongest motivators to see it realized in Pantheon has been our desire to bring the lore of Terminus to life and immerse you in it.

Take this snippet, written by our Lead Writer Justin Gerhart, from The Keepings of Castigue: A Night of Five Voices:

“The two of us followed him into the snow lands. I tell you very little of this portion of the journey, as it was miserable to endure and truthfully I don’t recall much. I know we trekked for some time, more than once I thought I had been asleep even as we walked. It seemed as if the darkness of the night were enhanced, as there was a gloom and shadow that hung in the air. It was bitterly cold and the land itself was frost-chapped. In the midst of these surroundings, the mere strides of my two companions, wedded with whatever mystical empowerments enhanced their bodies, transformed me once again into the child with sticks for weapons, and I could not understand why I was there. For all those hours I could barely discern our direction. At length, I drew the courage to stammer a question across my frigid lips.”

The area Narian, Khazas, and Rel-Cirin are travelling through in this part of the story is the Tenebrous Tundra, near the Kingdom Underneath, more commonly known as Amberfaet. These are real, in-game locations, and when you travel there as a player, we want you to FEEL the snow-covered and frost-chapped lands, the bitter cold, and the breath moving across your character’s frigid lips. The more we can make you feel like you are there, the more successful this system will be—the more immersive the environment has become.

But of course part of feeling an Extreme Climate like this is in the many dangers (and opportunities) it will present to your character. Let’s take a closer look at the mechanics.




The Mechanics

**Quick disclaimer: as per usual, I will be sharing information/numbers to illustrate the basics of how this system will work. These are not meant to be indicative of final numbers. Nor should it be assumed that this system and its mechanics won’t continue to change and evolve as we move further in development.**

The Climates


We are planning for 6 Extreme Climates at launch:

    • Frigid

    • Scorching

    • Toxic

    • Anaerobic

    • Pressure

    • Windshear

Each of these Extreme Climates will have 5 tiers of potency with which they can exist in the world—the higher the tier, the greater the scope and severity of its effect on players. Additionally, the higher tier an Extreme Climate is, the more Acclimation is necessary for a player to occupy that area safely.

So what might you experience when entering one of these Extreme Climates? Each climate will have its own set of “core” and “sporadic” detriments it can inflict. Let’s look now at the climate effects using the Frigid Climate as an example.

An Extreme Climate’s core detriment is the effect that will apply to all players immediately upon entering the climate area. The core detriment will typically consist of several layered effects which can be mitigated by increasing the Acclimation score towards that specific climate. The Frigid climate’s core detriment is called Glacial Pace.

Glacial Pace

    • Decreased movement speed

    • Decreased attack speed

    • Increased casting time

    • Increased cooldown time of abilities

In contrast, Extreme Climates will also have their own unique sporadic detriments which have a chance of occurring as long as the player remains in the climate area. The chance a player will be affected by a sporadic detriment depends on the tier of the climate and their personal Acclimation score. Currently, the sporadic detriments for the Frigid climate are:

Frozen Lungs

Player takes a jolt of damage, losing X% of maximum health based on the climate tier. While Frozen Lungs is active, Endurance will drain until empty and will not regenerate by natural means until Frozen Lungs is no longer in effect.

Frostbite

Player takes a jolt of damage, losing X% of maximum health based on the climate tier. Places a counter on the player that will last until the player leaves the climate area. At 5 stacks of Frostbite, the player will be unable to engage in melee or ranged attacks and spell-casting will become disabled. The chances Frostbite will occur will increase dramatically in higher tier Frigid climates.

Hypothermia

This effect can only occur if at least one other Sporadic Detriment is active on the player. Player takes a jolt of damage, losing X% of maximum health based on the climate tier. While Hypothermia is active, the player will lose Y amount of health every second until the player is dead, or Hypothermia is cured.


Acclimation

There will be several ways players can mitigate the effects of Extreme Climates within Pantheon. Certain items and buffs will provide a degree of protection, as well as certain racial passives. There will also be an Exposure mechanic allowing players to temporarily build up a further degree of Acclimation by persisting in the same climate for a period of time.

But the main mechanic which will provide the highest degree of protection is the Acclimation system, through which players can use Glyphs to increase their Acclimation score for specific climates (or combinations of climates), allowing them to enter and adventure in these harsh and deadly areas.

So what is a Glyph and how will they work?

Glyph Details:

    • Glyphs will be rare and difficult to attain. They can be found off of powerful enemies in the world or created by max-tier Crafters through recipes requiring rare and valuable components.

    • When acquired, Glyphs will populate a collection list within the Acclimation window of the UI, organized according to climate type, quality, and body location. Once you have found a particular type of Glyph, you will have it to use indefinitely, allowing you to mix and match your Glyphs more freely as your collection grows.

    • Glyphs will be identified by 3 parameters: (1) The climate type they correspond to, (2) the Glyph quality, which determines how much it will increase your Acclimation score towards that climate, and (3) the part of the body it can be applied to. An example of a low vs. a high level Glyph would be:

Weak Frigid Glyph: Chest (increases Frigid Acclimation score by 10pts

Prime Frigid Glyph: Chest (increases Frigid Acclimation score by 40pts

    • There are 6 parts of the body that Glyphs may be applied to: Head, Chest, Arms, Legs, Feet, and Blood.

    • Glyphs will contribute differently to that score depending on the quality of the Glyph and which part of the body they are applied to:

a) Head - Up to 30pts.

b) Chest - Up to 40pts.

c) Arms - Up to 20pts.

d) Legs - Up to 30pts.

e) Feet - Up to 20pts.

f) Blood - Up to 60pts.

The decision of what types of Glyphs to use, where to apply them, and the overall Acclimation score a player needs for the various climate types is the intended strategy of the system.

An example of this system in action: a player is trying to Acclimate to a high level area in the frozen South, which happens to be located within a tier 5 Frigid Climate. Including buffs, gear, and their racial passive as a Dwarf, they are sitting at a Frigid Acclimation score of 50pts. However, to be fully acclimated to a Frigid T5 climate they need a Frigid Acclimation score of 250pts. In this case, the player would need to use Prime Frigid Glyphs on every available part of the body.

An alternative example: a player is trying to Acclimate to an area with multiple climate types. Perhaps this is a volcanic region that has a tier 3 Scorching Climate and a tier 2 Toxic Climate. To achieve full acclimation in Scorching T3, let’s say the player will need a Scorching Acclimation score of 120pts. And for Toxic T2, the player needs a Toxic Acclimation score of 80pts. In this case, the player would need to mix their Glyphs, perhaps applying their Scorching Glyphs to the blood, chest, and arm slots, while applying the Toxic Glyphs to the head, legs, and feet slots. This would give the player the holistic Acclimation they need to survive in this area.


The Coming Windshear

If you’ve made it this far, you’ll agree that there is a lot of information packed in here! It feels good to get more information out about a system like this, and we look forward to the discussions it will spark.

But what will be infinitely better than telling you about it is showing all of you this system in action, which is exactly what we plan to do with the upcoming content we will be unveiling as part of Project Faerthale—an encounter with Sleepless on the Isle of the Infinite Storm. You can look forward to seeing this epic combat encounter which incorporates the Windshear Extreme Climate as a major component of the gameplay—a chance for us to show off how immersively devastating the environments in Pantheon can be.

Until then, as always — onward and upward we go!

Chris “Joppa” Perkins