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Book of Travels is an online adventure that could change the way we think about MMOs

You can watch Might and Delight’s Book of Travels new thirty minute gameplay video in depth above, exclusive to PC Gamer.

Since the success of Kickstarter fans and non-fans in October of last year, Might and Delight’s RPG Book of Travels has been making steady progress. The so-called TMO-Tiny Multiplayer Online- will set itself apart from other MMOs and focus on exploration and companionship, two topics the studio is more than familiar with.

After about four years of work, Might and Delight have released the first trailer for Book of Travels. It is the first time that sponsors and the wider fans have seen the game in action. Since Book of Travels is not your traditional MMORPG, Might and Delight’s artistic director Jakob Tuchten acts as the narrator through the video, taking us through the peaceful world of Braided Shore. We see the character’s creator, how the game’s magical 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 game’s trailer and the studio’s future plans, which will focus on the game’s release in Early Access. Book of Travels will be the first Might and Delight title in Early Access, and after a successful campaign with 7,000 backers, the team is more than eager to involve the community in the development process.

Book of Travels is an online adventure that could change the way we think about MMOs

« I feel like this is a project that lends itself very well to engaging with our community, » says Tuchten. « We see ourselves a bit like a dungeon master. We want to emulate what the community wants, taking into account the secrets they like, the direction of the game, and the story lines they react to. We want to adapt the future of the game to match that and also challenge people’s perceptions of the game. « 

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The Book of Travel is definitely a challenge to perceptions. Might and Delight have been more than happy to celebrate that Book of Travels is not their traditional MMORPG. Self-described as a « friendly, collaborative RPG experience », there are no linear quests or annoying story lines. Many of the story rhythms that guide the player through the fantasy world have been put aside. Without a global goal, without a real beginning or end, you are 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 of dark fantasy where everything is about to go to hell, and you are the focal point in trying to fix it. »

We have the opportunity to have a fight that is meaningful. When it happens, it involves risk and has a dramatic impact on your character.

But, just because the world of the Travel Book has a peaceful cadence, it doesn’t mean that Might and Delight have discarded all means of conflict. Tuchten explains how getting into a fight with monsters or bandits is a serious event with consequences, the severity of his decision still to be decided by the team. Encounters will often be traumatic and have an emotional toll, not something you bump into every ten seconds.

« We have the opportunity to do a fight that is meaningful, » explains Tuchten. « When it happens, it involves risk and has a dramatic impact on your character. We have long debated whether combat should be part of the world at all, but we want to convey the serenity or calm of the world, and that should be accentuated by having a hazard just out of the way. « 

Roads and trails act as important navigation, but every traveler knows that what is off the beaten track is worth discovering, even if the danger is in the wild. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of skills and abilities to help you explore, and like combat, Might and Delight has approached these elements of RPG in its own way.

Book of Travels is an online adventure that could change the way we think about MMOs

« There is a kind of leveling system, but it is not adapted to the same type of framework as normal MMOs. It is based on skill slots, » says Tuchten. « As you progress through the game, you will get more empty slots for the skills learned in the world. You can have ten skills, but only three slots and each one takes up a certain space. For example, a powerful skill, such as the skill if transferred to an animal, it would occupy five skill slots. « 

Tuchten shows this wonderfully in the game’s trailer. After pulling a magic knot from his backpack, Tuchten unties it and, in a puff of smoke, his avatar is now a lively deer. Skills are not learned automatically, but through the teachings of world characters. If you want to learn to fish, you will have to find a fisherman, similar to how you make tea and tie knots, the two most important magical practices in the Book of Travel.

The knots contain short-term magical abilities that when untied provide a short burst of magic, and Tuchten shows him in the game’s trailer undoing a knot and teleporting across the river. Creating and drinking teas provides long-term magical properties, and must be carefully brewed when sitting by a fire.

Book of Travels is an online adventure that could change the way we think about MMOs

Your character’s abilities can be augmented by the choices you make in the character creation process, choosing talents, backstories, and personality traits. You can choose to have abilities in a range of social, physical, mechanical, and spiritual backgrounds to name a few, and these can help your group in different endeavors.

What I like about the character creator of The Book of Travels is that he completely focuses on different philosophies of a wandering character. You can choose to be a « Boy of the Mountains », someone who spent his youth herding goats, climbing rocks and exploring caves. You can also have a naval education, who spent his youth sailing, learning the language of the waves and the weather. It is refreshing to see a character creator intertwining with nature and fantasy without focusing on fighting.

It’s like the way you communicate when you are abroad, you make gestures and try to use your actions more than using words.

Silent companions

The Book of Travel follows in the footsteps of previous Might and Delights games when it comes to communication. NPCs will speak to you in small speech bubbles, but you and your party can only communicate through symbols and emulations. It’s an idea the studio explored in its first Meadow MMO, and its results have created surprising and meaningful bonds with players. « It’s like the way you communicate when you’re abroad, » says Tuchten. « You make gestures and you try to use your actions more than words. »

You can travel in a group or explore the mysteries of the Braided Shore on your own, the choice is up to you. There is a wealth of information under the fairy tale surface of the Book of Travel, which players can choose to delve into. It is completely up to you. One of these stories takes place in one of the largest cities in the game, House, and acts as a catalyst for the adventure when you start the game. It is a story that I did not expect.

« There has been a murder in the city, » says Tuchten. « A mythical creature we call the geniuses of the world has been killed and that has never happened before. There is a whole mystery surrounding how he died and how it has affected the politics of the city. »

Book of Travels is an online adventure that could change the way we think about MMOs

As serene as the world of Books of Travels may seem, Might and Delight wants its cities to be like real-world metropolises, not good or bad, but somewhere in the middle. Most of the haggling and trading will be done on the streets of the game cities. They are relatively quiet during the day, but at night they are buzzing with activity and are supposed to make the player feel overwhelmed.

« They are high-energy areas, » says Tuchten. « We want to create a strong contrast between the countryside and civilization that makes you feel like you just want to get back on the road and be picking flowers. »

You don’t need to tell me twice. In the screenshots and 30-minute gameplay video of Might and Delight, the world of Braided Shore is breathtaking. Besides wandering the world, you can search for roots, seashells, mushrooms, and more to help with spells and crafts. Survival is an aspect of the Book of Travel, as each character has a hunger and stamina meter, but with frequent foraging and resting they are quite manageable.

It has the visual signature of Might and Delight, but this time on a large scale. It may look 2D but there is a lot of depth and as you explore each area the layers of the scene fade into the foreground, like a delicate paper theater. It may be a quiet world, but that doesn’t mean it is static. Wheat fields sway in the breeze, wild animals roam the wild, and, when Tuchten walks into a small town in the game’s video, a train can be seen making its journey in the background – it’s a lovely touch.

It’s not often that a game gives you a chance to embody the archetype of a vagabond, but it seems like Might and Delight has nailed it with Book of Travels. The studio plans to launch a small part of the world in Early Access sometime next year, and then slowly open up the world, piece by piece.

It’s the first time I’ve felt that an MMORPG has been made especially for the « stop and smell the flowers » type of player. It is a whole world purely designed for those who let their curiosity guide them and that is quite special.