You can watch Might and Delight's new exclusive Book of Travels in-depth thirty-minute gameplay video over on the PCG YouTube channel (opens in new tab).
Since the team's successful Kickstarter spellbound fans and non-fans alike in October last year, Might and Delight's RPG Book of Travels (opens in new tab) has been making steady progress. The self-described TMO—Tiny Multiplayer Online—will differ from other MMOs and instead focus exploration and companionship, two themes that the studio is more than familiar with.
After around four years of work, Might and Delight have released Book of Travels' first-ever gameplay trailer. It's the first time that backers—and wider fans—have seen the game in action. Since Book of Travels is not your traditional MMORPG, Might and Delight’s art director, Jakob Tuchten, acts as a narrator through the video, taking us through the peaceful world of Braided Shore. We get to see the character creator, how the game's magic system works, all about trading, and of course, some lovely scenery.
I caught up with Tuchten to find out how development is going and to talk in-depth about the gameplay trailer and the studio's future plans, which will focus on releasing the game into Early Access. Book of Travels will be Might and Delight's first Early Access title, and after a successful campaign with 7,000 backers, the team are more than eager to get the community involved in the development process.
"I feel as though this is a project that lends itself very well to engaging with our community," Tuchten says. "We see ourselves a bit like a dungeon master. We want to emulate what the community wants, taking into account what secrets they like, the direction of the game, and which story lines they react to. We want to tailor the game's future to both match that and to also challenge perceptions people have in the game."
Book of Travels is definitely challenging perceptions. Might and Delight have been more than happy to celebrate that Book of Travels is not your traditional MMORPG. Self-described as a "collaborative and friendly roleplaying experience," there are no linear quests or nagging plotlines. Many of the story beats that guide the player through the fantasy world have been set aside. With no overarching goal, no real beginning or end, you are the one in charge of shaping your own journey.
"Our world is serene," Tuchten explains. "It's not plagued by an evil monster or a bad king. It doesn't have that cliché dark fantasy storyline where everything is about to go to hell, and you're the focal point of trying to set it right."
But, just because Book of Travels' world has a peaceful cadence, it doesn't mean Might and Delight have scrapped all means of conflict. Tuchten explains how entering a fight with monsters or bandits is a serious event with consequences, the severity of your decision yet to be decided by the team. Encounters will often be traumatic and will have an emotional aftermath, not something you run into every ten seconds.
"We have the opportunity to actually do combat that is meaningful," Tuchten explains. "When it happens, it involves risk and has a dramatic impact on your character. We debated for a long time whether combat should be a part of the world at all, but we want to convey the serenity or the calmness of the world, and that needed to be accentuated by having a danger just outside of the road."
Roads and paths act as important navigation, but every wanderer knows what lies off the beaten path is worth discovering, even if danger lies in the wilds. Luckily you'll have plenty of skills and abilities to help you explore, and like combat, Might and Delight have approached these RPG elements in their own way.
"There is a sort of levelling up system, but it's not tailored to the same sort of framework as normal MMOs. It's based around skill slots," Tuchten says. "As you progress through the game, you'll get more empty slots for learned skills you get from the world. You may have ten skills but only three slots and each one takes up a certain amount of space. For example, a powerful skill, like the ability to transfer into an animal would take up five skill slots."
Tuchten displays this wonderfully in the gameplay trailer. After taking out a magical knot from his backpack, Tuchten unties it and, in a puff of smoke, his avatar is now a spritely deer. Skills are not something you learn automatically but through teachings from the world's characters. If you want to learn how to fish, you'll need to seek out a fisherman, similarly with tea brewing and knot tying—the two major magical practices in Book of Travels.
Knots hold short-term magical abilities that when untied provide a short burst of magic, and Tuchten shows this in the gameplay trailer by undoing a knot and teleporting to the other side of a river. Creating and drinking teas grant long term magical properties, and must be carefully brewed when you're sitting next to a fire.
Your character's abilities can be heightened with the options you make in the character creation process by choosing talents, backstories, and personality traits. You can choose to have skills in a range of backgrounds—social, physical, mechanical and spiritual to name a few—and these can aid your group in different endeavours.
What I love about the character creator in Book of Travels is that it entirely focuses on different philosophies of a wanderer character. You can choose to be a 'Child of the Mountains,' someone who spent their youth tending goats, climbing rocks and exploring caves. You can also have a naval upbringing, who spent your youth seaborne, learning the language of the waves and the weather. It's refreshing to see a character creator that is intertwined with nature and fantasy without a focus on fighting.
Book of Travels follows in the footsteps of Might and Delights previous games when it comes to communication. NPCs will speak to you in little dialogue bubbles, but you and your party can only communicate through symbols and emotes. It's an idea the studio explored in their first MMO Meadow and its results have created some surprising meaningful player bonds. "It's like how you communicate when you are abroad," Tuchten says. "You make gestures and try to use your actions more than using words."
You can travel in a group or explore the mysteries of Braided Shore on your own, the choice is up to you. There is a wealth of lore under Book of Travels' fairytale surface, which players can choose to delve into. It’s completely up to you. One such storyline is in one of the game's biggest cities, Casa, and it acts as the catalyst for adventure when you first begin the game. It's a storyline I wasn't quite expecting.
"There's been a murder in the city," Tuchten says. "A mythical creature called a Sefra has been murdered and that's never happened before. There's a whole mystery surrounding how it died and how it's affected the politics of the city."
As serene as Books of Travels' world may seem, Might and Delight want its cities to be like the metropolises of the real world—neither good or bad but somewhere in the middle. You'll be doing most of your haggling and trading in the streets of the game's cities. They are relatively quiet during the day, but at night they are bustling with activity and are supposed to make the player feel overwhelmed.
"They're high energy areas," Tuchten says. "We want to create a stark contrast between the countryside and civilization that make you feel like you just want to get back on the road and be collecting flowers."
You don't need to tell me twice. From the screenshots and Might and Delight's thirty minute gameplay video, the world of Braided Shore looks stunning. Alongside your worldly roaming, you can scavenge for roots, seashells, mushrooms and the like to help with spells and with crafting. Survival is an aspect in Book of Travels, with each character having a hunger and stamina meter, but with frequent food foraging and rest they're pretty manageable.
It has Might and Delight's signature patchwork visuals but this time on a grand scale. It may look 2D but there's plenty of depth and, as you explore each area, layers of the scene fade in and out of the foreground, like a delicate paper theatre. It may be a quiet world, but that doesn't mean that it's static. Fields of wheat sway in the breeze, wild animals roam the wild, and, as Tuchten enters a small village in the gameplay video, a train can be seen making its journey in the background—it's a lovely touch.
It’s not often a game gives you the opportunity to embody the archetype of a wanderer but Might and Delight seem to have hit all the right notes with Book of Travels. The studio plans on releasing a small part of the world in Early Access sometime next year, and then slowly opening up the world, piece by piece.
This is the first time that I've felt that an MMORPG has been made especially for the 'stop and smell the flowers' type of player. It's a whole world purely designed for those who let their curiosity guide them and that's pretty special.