In keeping with its focus on discovery, Simkins wants Frontiers’ quests to constantly direct the player towards something new and exciting – rather than what he calls the “FedEx exploration” of picking up an item and couriering it somewhere else. “It’s hard to eliminate those entirely but I try very hard to link them to some interesting lore or to a unique village or something the player wouldn’t have a clear incentive to find on their own. I try to take the same approach to temples/ruins and give the player something to do once they get down there – a puzzle, or a unique item, or a cool machine.”
This also applies to the story. The game starts as your home is destroyed by an ‘Orb’ – the latest in a string of increasingly frequent attacks that continue as dynamic encounters throughout the game. If that wasn’t enough, your uncle – a famed explorer – has disappeared across the “Rift”, an impassable barrier to the South. Finding an answer to these mysteries is high on your to do list.
Unless it’s not. After creating your character, you’ll be given a history, profession and series of “expectations that are placed on you”. But as the player, you’ll be free to decide your own path. “The choices you make from that starting point will take you different places,” Simkins reveals. “You can choose to quit your profession, or simply ignore it altogether. The story and the game world will progress with or without your intervention.”
Beyond your initial choices, you’ll be able to progress your character down a number of skill trees. Pathfinding, for instance, improves path creation, and also gives you access to different modes of travel, including horseriding and hang gliders. “I love hang gliding,” Simkins enthuses. “I love walking up to a cliff, equipping the glider and leaping off, then drifting gracefully down to the rooftops of a city miles away.”
Survival ties into the need to replenish your hunger bar. “You can’t die of starvation,” Simkins says, “but it will keep your health low, and this makes it difficult to use skills and magic.” By investing in Survival skills, you’ll be better equipped to hunt, gather and identify the food you collect, as well as gain bonuses to health. “These types of skills sort of replace the stats you find in a typical RPG.”