Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen

Created by Ceres Games

A classic single-player RPG featuring a party-based character system and tactical turn-based combat evolved from the SRD 3.5e ruleset.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Finished Map, Coin Design & Combat Beta Status
26 days ago – Sun, Feb 02, 2020 at 01:58:49 AM

Finished Map

As you may remember, a map painted by the talented Francesca Baerald was our first stretch goal. Today, we can proudly present the magnificent outcome. Francesca delivered a masterpiece of a map with a huge number of details and a high density of information for the player. Cities, villages, dungeons, rivers, roads… all the major landmarks you will encounter on your journey through Argea are part of this highly detailed hand-painted map.

As a reminder, the map will be printed and included into the physical game box editions. It will also appear in-game on the map screen, where it will help you plan your journey through the Realms Beyond.

We try to avoid spoilers at this point, therefore we won’t show the full high resolution map yet. But as little demonstration of the level of detail you can expect, here is a small zoomed in part of the map (marked in red color). 

The Central Realms of Argea
Click to enlarge

Coin Design

Along with the map, Francesca also designed the concept art of the coin that will be included in the boxed edition of Realms Beyond. The drawing is exceptionally beautiful, and we let you have a glimpse at what the coin will look like. On the obverse, you can see Conall, the King of Cormac, and the reverse bears his coat of arms and the motto of his kingdom.

The colored version is just an illustration. The actual coin will be minted from metal and therefore be of a single color. It will have a diameter of approximately 40 millimeters (about 1.57 inch).

Backer Contributions

Once the combat demo is complete and published, we will finally work on the backer contributions. For that purpose, we have already added an inventory to our forums, where backers can enter their reward data based on backer tier. Before we can unlock it, we first have to check for potential issues with privacy and copyright (this is especially relevant for backers contributing NPC portraits, since we will work with your photos).

In addition, backers of tiers from 500 EUR upwards will be contacted personally by email, as their reward content requires more in-depth cooperation for its implementation into the game.

Combat Beta Status

We’re still working hard on completing the combat beta, but aren’t quite happy with its current state yet. Apart from a couple of bugs and missing elements (such as monster portraits and SFX), we are also working on the content and encounter design. As the combat beta will be the first public release of our game, we want to deliver a good first impression (especially since some people will likely show off the gameplay on stream or on YouTube). Therefore we can’t hastily release a half-baked and bug-ridden version of it, as this would taint the image of our game in the public eye. We ask you to be patient for a few more weeks, so we can release a polished version we can be proud of and you can enjoy without hiccups.

To make the waiting a little more bearable, here are a handful of screenshots from the first level of the combat demo (we don’t want to spoil the later levels yet!):

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Combat Demo, Character Creation and Screenshots
4 months ago – Sat, Nov 02, 2019 at 03:43:56 AM

It’s been a while since our last update. We’ve been hard at work designing maps and writing quests – and finishing up the combat demo, which is taking us longer than expected. The main reason for that is the combat demo’s scope: rather than just giving you an arena with a handful of fights, we give you a small story, four different maps with varied environments, shops to buy new equipment in, and the full character creation system as it will appear in the complete game.

The combat already works very well, but we still need to finish up the character creation menu and the shopping interface, and the encounters you’re going to face in the combat demo will have to be playtested a couple of times to make sure it offers just the right amount of challenge. The combat demo is the first taste of the game you’re going to get, and we want to make sure the first impression is a great one. Honestly, we underestimated the actual amount of work the combat demo would require. At the end, we don’t want to release unfinished gameplay elements and that’s why we need to spend more time in designing, implementing and polishing than originally planned. Therefore we are moving the release date of the combat demo to January.

Character Creation

The most important part of any RPG is its character creation. Many of us have spent hours trying to create different character builds in Fallout, or assembling that perfect party of six in Icewind Dale or the old Gold Box titles. Realms Beyond is going to offer you a complex character creation tool that gives you all the classic choices you would expect – ability scores, classes, skills, feats – and some unique ideas of our own that allow you to further define your characters and their role in the world. 

Character Attributes via Point Buy or Roll
Character Class Selection
Appearance and Player Portrait

Rather than just picking a race and be done with it, Realms Beyond lets you choose your character’s origin: which region of the world does your character hail from? It is more than just a cosmetic choice, as your character’s origin will influence the knowledge of local customs, politics and events the character has, as well as the reaction some NPCs will have towards that character.

Character Origin

Furthermore, you will be able to select a descent for your characters: which social class they hail from and what they did before they became adventurers. Noble, craftsman, peasant – these descents also come with unique background knowledge for your character. Characters with a noble background will be familiar with the customs of the nobility, while characters with a peasant background will be able to tell a farmer why his crops are failing.

Biography and Descent

The character backgrounds are more than just flavor, as they will occasionally offer unique insights into the events you encounter during the game.

New Screenshots!

Finally, we want to give you some new eye candy to feast on: a few shots of some of the beautiful new locations we have built, and some shots from the combat demo maps in action will follow. 

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Reactive Dialogues (and new screenshots!)
9 months ago – Tue, Jun 04, 2019 at 11:14:18 PM

In the weeks since the last update, we’ve been hard at work designing quests and locations. And to make sure that our quests are as good as they can be and offer the highest possible degree of reactivity towards the player character, we’ve also improved our dialogue system and added a handful of new features to it.

In this update, we’re going to show you the new features of the dialogue system, as well as screenshots of some beautiful new locations we’ve added to the world of Argea. The section of the update that shows off the dialogue tool will contain minor spoilers for early content in the game, as well as a side quest later in the game. If you wish to avoid such spoilers, please take note of the warnings and skip ahead.

In an RPG, it is important that the game recognizes the player’s character build. And since Realms Beyond allows the player to create (or to recruit) a party of six characters, a diverse party should mean that NPCs react differently to each of them. Different characters should also be able to react differently to NPC statements. While most characters might agree with the assessment that orcs are savage barbarians, a half-orc character might object to such a statement.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Dialogue options can depend on many things: the player character’s gender, race, class, ability scores, skills, equipment, current status effects, faction reputation, and more. If you want to find a peaceful solution with the orcs, letting your half-orc do the talking might be a good idea. Similarly, in a village where everyone is prejudiced towards elves because of an old grudge that has never been forgotten, an elven or half-elven character will have a harder time winning the sympathies of the populace.

Warning: minor spoilers for early content ahead!
To skip any spoiler, please jump to the screenshot section at the end.

 In the following example, the player is attempting to escape from prison and spotted by a group of card-playing guards. In the ensuing dialogue, the player can choose to surrender and allow them to drag him into the dungeon cells, ready his weapon and fight, or convince them to play a game of cards with his freedom as the wager. 

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Each yellow dialogue option is associated with a certain precondition. If the player has recruited a certain companion into the party, he or she can offer the companion’s knowledge of secret hallways in the fortress to the guards. If the player is a wizard, he can offer to cast a spell of their choosing for them. If he’s a priest, he can offer them a blessing. And if the player’s character is female and has sufficiently high charisma, she can flirt with the guards.

You may also notice that some of the dialogue options, and the dialogue spoken by the NPCs, contain some conditions in themselves. Things like the player’s gender, race and class will be referenced by NPCs when appropriate, and rather than writing the entire sentence anew, the scripting capabilities of Realms Beyond allow us to just set a condition around certain words of the sentence.

A simple greeting text with conditional parts
A simple greeting text with conditional parts

We shall look at a side quest the player will encounter later in the game to see how these conditions can be used in practice.

Warning: spoilers for a mid-game side quest ahead!

During your travels through Argea, you will come upon several wizards living in solitary towers, dedicated to their research. One of these wizards, a man named Obalor, tells you about his rivalry with a fellow sorceress named Jeralis. Many years ago, she lost her eyes in an accident, and went on to craft a pair of enchanted emeralds to return her sight. Wizards all across the realm have wondered how she fashioned that enchantment, and Obalor is determined to find it out. He hires the player party to take Jeralis’ emerald eyes and bring them to him, so he can examine the enchantment and learn his rival’s technique.

If the player accepts the quest, he must travel to Jeralis’ tower and get his hands on her emerald eyes. One way to do this is to engage her in dialogue and convince her that he himself is an arcane researcher and interested in studying the enchantment. Jeralis isn’t opposed to borrowing her eyes to someone interested in the workings of their enchantment, but the player’s character doesn’t quite strike her as a magical researcher.

This is where more complex conditions come in. If the player’s character is a highly intelligent wizard, he (or she) can easily convince her of being a researcher himself. If the player’s character is a wizard, but has only average rather than exceptional intelligence for his class, he’ll have to bluff a little to make her believe him. And if the player’s character is not a wizard, he’ll have to bluff a lot.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

As you can see, rather than adding several different conditions to the dialogue choice (our editor allows for up to two conditions to be attached to a dialogue choice at once, so adding three or more individual conditions would be logistically impossible, anyway), we have created a new local condition simply named MAG_RESEARCH, which checks whether the player’s character can successfully convince Jeralis of being a researcher of the arcane or not. The custom condition looks like this: 

As you can see from these lines of code, the character will succeed the check if he has a bluff skill of  6; if he is a wizard, he will succeed with a bluff skill of 3; if he is a wizard with INT greater than 18, he will succeed automatically.
As you can see from these lines of code, the character will succeed the check if he has a bluff skill of 6; if he is a wizard, he will succeed with a bluff skill of 3; if he is a wizard with INT greater than 18, he will succeed automatically.

Our scripting system allows us to make dialogue checks as complex as we need them to be for any given quest situation. We can check the player character’s gender, race and class. We can check the player character’s attributes and skills. We can check the player’s equipment, and whether she’s wearing something on an equipment slot at all: a guard might demand your character take her helmet off before she enters the throne room, as it would be rude to enter the royal chambers with a covered head. It is as simple as checking for the condition of BAREHEADED being false.

We can even add dialogue choices based on temporary conditions the player is effected by. When Obalor offers the player the quest to fetch Jeralis’ eyes for him, maybe an insane and hungry character might react like this?

This powerful scripting system allows us to recognize any state a player character may be in, and have NPCs acknowledge everything that is appropriate for them to comment on (like a dwarf reacting favorably toward a fellow dwarf and skeptically toward an elf, a priestess mentioning you should take your boots off before you enter the inner sanctum, a merchant greeting you as a colleague because your character is a member of the merchants’ guild, etc). It also allows for creative quest solutions. Let’s imagine a magic mirror that guards a magically locked door. You can interact with it, but looking into it doesn’t do anything. In another chamber of the dungeon you find out that the door only opens for those who stare into the mirror with blinded eyes – you can cast a spell of blinding upon your character, interact with the mirror while the BLIND condition is true, and the door will open!

As for the quest to get Jeralis’ emerald eyes – there are approaches other than asking her and bluffing, such as intimidation, combat and stealth, but how exactly those can be pulled off is up to you to find out when you play the game! Our quests generally offer at least two possible solutions, usually more. Every player will have a different party and follow a different playstyle, so we try to add multiple solutions and decisions to each quest to offer a large amount of choice to the player – and, of course, a high degree of replayability.

 Quest spoilers over. You may continue reading from here if you wanted to avoid them.

Finally, we’re going to show you some screenshots of a cozy village on the remote island in the Northern sea. Enjoy the scenes of tranquil village life!

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The chopping block, where prisoners condemned to death meet their end. You can sit down in the  tavern next door and watch the execution through the windows, comfortably seated with a mug of ale in your hands. The pinnacle of entertainment in a sleepy little village like this.
The chopping block, where prisoners condemned to death meet their end. You can sit down in the tavern next door and watch the execution through the windows, comfortably seated with a mug of ale in your hands. The pinnacle of entertainment in a sleepy little village like this.
The local physician’s house. He cares for the sick and also serves as the local coroner. His cat is doing its best at keeping the village rat-free.
The local physician’s house. He cares for the sick and also serves as the local coroner. His cat is doing its best at keeping the village rat-free.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
He’s not drinking on duty! He’s merely sampling the ale to make sure it is of high enough quality. A diligent guard would never let his officers taste sub-par ale. He’s just doing his duty. Besides, it’s not like these prisoners need much guarding. They’re locked behind bars, tight and secure, with no way to escape.
He’s not drinking on duty! He’s merely sampling the ale to make sure it is of high enough quality. A diligent guard would never let his officers taste sub-par ale. He’s just doing his duty. Besides, it’s not like these prisoners need much guarding. They’re locked behind bars, tight and secure, with no way to escape.

 And that’s it for today! We’ve given you a more thorough look into how our dialogue system works, along with a glimpse of one of the game’s many side quests – and keep in mind, this is the very same dialogue tool you will be able to use to create new modules for Realms Beyond, so all the power of setting custom conditions for dialogue checks and writing quests with multiple solutions and outcomes will be in your hands! 

Bavarian Support and a new Senior Team Member
11 months ago – Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 12:30:37 AM

We are happy to announce that Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen has received additional funding from the FilmFernsehFonds Bayern!

The additional funds of 100.000 EUR are flowing directly into development, translating into more high quality content for you to experience.

Senior Level DesignerJanos Toth joins our team to fill our world with dangerous dungeons and tranquil villages for the player to explore. He has formerly worked on games like Battle Isle, History Line, Sacred Underworld, Sacred 2, The Settlers 5 and Spellforce 3, bringing plenty of experience with the RPG and RTS genres with him. You can check out his portfolio here.

Soon, we will also post another development update about the game. We have been hard at work optimizing our tools, especially the dialogue tool, in order to allow for heavy branching in quests and conversations, and to give player decisions as heavy an impact as possible. In our next update we will show off the capabilities of our dialogue tool in detail, along with some example dialogues.

Stay tuned!

Development Update #1: AI for Turn-based Combat Systems
about 1 year ago – Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 12:57:31 AM

When we started out working on the combat system we had a lot to do to lay the basic foundations. We had to get our character animation system running and implement stuff like combat logic, hexboard generation from level topology, or hexboard queries for paths and floodings at runtime.

That left little time to care about something as high level as AI (Artificial Intelligence). As a consequence our first prototype for AI ‘grew’ with time. At first, all it could do were melee attacks. Then we added ranged attacks. Then we implemented an enemy spell AI for intelligent placing of area spells (trying to maximize hits on enemies and minimize hits on allies). Finally we included rather specific routines (like fleeing) for characters that suffered from spells like fear. We realized that AI has to be able to deal with script spells that are loaded at runtime (a feature that could be interesting for future modifications). To allow for that we coded routines that simulate spell executions and judge their effects in a more general way.

Thus our prototype grew and grew until we were sure that we covered every capability that could possibly be required. Then we started to build it from scratch to make it more flexible and debugable. And now we feel like we can finally talk about AI.

Combat AI Debug Visualization in Realms Beyond
Combat AI Debug Visualization in Realms Beyond

The paradigm we had in mind for development has always been: What do we expect from a turn based AI?

Well, technically, we expect a lot! A demon wizard that fails to choose his fireball spell over a magic missile, or who fails to place the fireball in a way that maximizes damage on the player party is a no-go. An assassin who simply attacks her closest target instead of trying to stab your wizard in the back is not only little immersive – it also obliterates strategic bottlenecks like doors. And a human NPC ally that is not able to plan his path avoiding enemy attacks of opportunity is an annoyance. So when we talk about expectations from a ‘technical’ point of view, one can say that we expect ‘a lot’. A proper (3.5e based) combat AI has to be able to perform a lot of intelligent choices for enemies that we expect to behave intelligent.

Assuming that we built an AI that is able to live up to those expectations, it is time to consider a different connotation: What do we expect from AI not in terms of quality but in terms of personality?

If every enemy behaved optimally the challenge would be maximized – and immersion would be all but gone. We want goblins to horde around their closest enemy. We want orcs to ignore attacks of opportunity. And an ogre might even be too stupid to leave an area that is affected by a damage-over-time spell. Even beyond ‘intelligence’ enemies should show personality in every decision that gameplay offers: While most races ignore unconscious or otherwise helpless enemies on the battle field and proceed to face those player characters that can still fight, certain foul creatures like goblins or gnolls should be known for finishing off their helpless foes. It’s those little twists that make combats immersive.

We hope that – apart from the challenge of making our AI capable of  ‘good’ decisions – we also do a good job to diversify enemy behaviours enough to allow you to detect patterns and become especially hateful of one enemy or the other.

A combat scene from 'Knights of the Chalice'
A combat scene from 'Knights of the Chalice'

Once again, allow us to mention Knights of the Chalice here (btw, the developer Pierre Begue will launch a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel very soon) . It is owing to that game that we had a very precise idea about what we had to do when we first started prototyping our CPU-controlled opponents. The AI of KotC (and, of course, its excellent encounter design) made almost all combats interesting. It may be prone to crowd in bottlenecks (a fact can be exploited a lot once you get the stone wall spell) but hey – weaknesses are something you also expect from an AI to have fun, another fact that we are well aware of.

Hopefully, we can soon present you some more combat vids that display various AI behaviours. Until then, feel invited to write us (here in the comments or in our forum) what you think about our ideas and what you consider important for a turn-based AI. And if you have a memorable story to tell about a combat against an especially cunning AI: please share it with us.