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Expeditions: Rome Dev Diary #15 - Companions

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Expeditions: Rome Dev Diary #15 - Companions

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Mon 10 January 2022, 21:18:49

Tags: Expeditions: Rome; Logic Artists; THQ Nordic

This week, THQ Nordic and Logic Artists will be formally introducing the companions of Expeditions: Rome. The developers originally intended to have only a large pool of relatively bare-bones hirelings as in Conquistador, but soon reached the decision to promote five of them to fully fledged companion status. You've got the usual assortment of ancient Roman archetypes - the centurion, the spy/assassin, the African gladiator, the educated Greek slave, and the Scythian amazon. A video will be released about each one every day starting from today, or you can just read about them all in the game's fifteenth dev diary. Here's the first video and an excerpt:

We have a lot to get through today, so let’s get started. Companions are a staple of the roleplaying genre. Originally an attempt to emulate the dynamics of a tabletop RPG group, they have become one of the most beloved and distinct aspects of the genre, and we daresay its greatest storytelling asset. With a sufficiently compelling set of main characters, a story can really tug on the player’s heartstrings – and one of the keys to making a group of characters appealing is to give them enough screen time for the player to get to know them. RPG-style companion characters are perfectly suited for this, as they typically follow the protagonist everywhere, participating in every scene and every crisis.

We’d love to say that we wanted to place our companions front and center in Expeditions: Rome right from the start, but that would be untrue. In fact, we originally envisioned something much more like Conquistador: a large pool of bare-bones praetorians who were mostly just a collection of names, portraits, and stats. The player would be able to assemble their team from these praetorians, and as they were all able to die permanently or be kicked out of the group at any time, none would be integral to the plot. Four of these praetorians did have a slightly special status as the starting party that we would use to tutorialize the four character classes, but once the tutorial was finished, they would be treated the same as any expendable praetorian.

But soon we ran into a problem: if we couldn’t count on the player to have at least 4 people on their team at any time, certain content in the game simply didn’t work. We decided to promote our four starting characters to “companion” status, making them functionally immortal in that their deaths would result in a game over, and then we added a fifth character to the group to ensure that you could fill a whole 6-person team with companions only. Once we had made this decision, we found ourselves investing more and more personality and agency in these four – after all, if we know these characters are always around, we can use them in dialogue and make them important parts of quests.

But let’s take a step back. Having decided that 5 is the number of companions the game will have, how do you decide who they should be? Well, a game – even a heavily story-based RPG – is first and foremost a mechanical thing, and since Expeditions: Rome offers 4 base character classes in combat, of course all classes must be represented among the companions. This spread of combat roles was the seed upon which we built the player’s tight knit second family. A good short-hand that we like to use to steer our creativity when designing characters is to assign a single title or nickname to each of them that hints at an archetype. Then each companion is fleshed out with details that either support that archetype or counter it, until you have a well-rounded character. Let’s go over them now:

The Centurion: Caeso Quinctius Aquilinus

Every Expeditions game is set in a particular culture at a particular time, and in our view that culture must be properly represented within the companion group. In Viking, we invented Asleifr as the stereotypical ruthless macho viking warrior. In Expeditions: Rome, Caeso represents the archetypical Roman centurion – a dutiful and disciplined veteran soldier who loves the Republic and will happily die to defend it.

But Caeso isn’t a stiff professional, he’s a bon vivant who likes wine, women, and for that matter men when the mood takes him. When you meet Caeso, he is well set in his ways, but eventually the consequences of his easy living will catch up to him, and his sense of duty and loyalty will be tested in equal measure.

In combat, Caeso is a Princeps (heavy infantryman). He wades into battle wielding the gladius and scutum of the Roman legionarius, his polished breastplate and his pristine helmet plume providing a fixed point in the chaotic skirmish for his friends to rally around.
As usual, the devstream for this topic is scheduled for Wednesday on January 12th.

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