Updated Wed, May 16, 2012 by Ethec
With iron, Björn could build an anvil. With an anvil, he could build a whole mess of blacksmithing goods, but Björn was more interested in flattening the area around his property and building a wall to keep out would-be thieves. Walls force thieves to enter through areas that can be protected in various ways – lighting fixtures which act as AI turrets, for example.
We asked what prevented folks from filching Björn’s goods while his wall was incomplete. “Crime has a cost associated with it,” he explained. First, crime costs black bile, needed for studying. Crime also leaves evidence. Build up a body of evidence over time, and players will be able to exact vengeance in creative ways, up to and including summoning offline players into the game.
Elsewhere on the claim, Björn had a number of tanning racks with hides laid out, coffers to store his in-process inventory, kilns to dry clay to create bricks and pottery. Pottery is handy to replant foraged herbs and create a sustainable source of herbs. Growing these herbs takes humus (dirt – not the chickpea relish), water, and time – about 3 in-game days. Humus comes out of the compost, what Björn called the “dark god of the wilderness, it eats anything and everything biodegradable and produces humus.”
"You don’t play Salem for nice graphics; you play it because it’s badass to be able to affect the world, because we’re all playing in the same world."
Humus is also needed to fertilize fields, which utilize agricultural concepts like crop rotation and produce four different tiers of output. In order to increase the tier of output, Björn explained that you have to increase the “level” of the field. “Every time I harvest, two meters will increase a lot, and the other two meters will decrease slightly. This causes me to have to cycle – I can’t just grow rye in a field, I need to mix it up a bit with pumpkins or cabbage or cotton. Those are the four we have implemented right now, but we have about 8 more crops in the pipeline.”
If farming doesn’t have your head spinning yet, fields have four other stats that affect output: upkeep, plenty, speed, and influence. Upkeep is how much humus and seed a field requires to be replanted; plenty is how much output you get (“Not the tier, but the amount”); speed is how long a field takes to grow, and influence is how much a field will add to its crop meter once harvested.
Farming, just like in real life, requires patience. “Running through one cycle on one of these fields takes about a week. To get these fields up to tier four, I’d have to keep growing and rotating crops for anywhere between a month and two months.”
By now, you’re probably getting the feeling that just about everything you do in Salem requires a skill and is part of a vast production chain, and you’d be right. “We want to force players to make interesting choices. Coal can be used to fuel smelters, as a fertilizer to increase speed, and even in the production of soap. A lot of the items in the game can be used for a lot of things.
I asked Björn how many production chains are currently in the game. “They’re more like trees or node structures than chains. If we were to compartmentalize things into formal industries, I’d say maybe 8: farming, mining, forestry, hunting, and foraging are currently fleshed out; pottery, metallurgy, animal husbandry, and fishing still need to be implemented.”
To show us what’s possible when players work together, Björn brought us to one of the major player towns currently in the beta. “I announced yesterday that we were going to come this way, and it looks like they’ve dressed down just for the occasion,” Björn quipped, and sure enough, we were swarmed by a host of naked villagers. Thankfully we had “The Lord’s Blessing” dev buff enabled, which prevented us from being attacked by other players (it would have been a lousy way to die).
We got an invite to be their kin, and Björn hastily noted that we shouldn’t accept or take any candy from these strangers. “It cannot end well,” he laughingly added, noting that these players came in from Seatribe’s other game, Haven and Hearth.
“The thing I really want to illustrate here is, their shenanigans aside, they’ve done quite a good job of creating a little village for themselves. They’ve taken random wilderness, flattened it out, built walls and houses, and a town bell - a central object that can be used to organize village members.”
Why create a village? It comes down to PvP, Björn explained. “Most people who play the game this seriously play it for the PvP aspect of it. Death is permanent, it’s extremely harsh, and besides death, you can destroy everything. Murder, vandalism, all the specific crimes have skills associated with them. In order to engage in the higher end PvP, you have to learn a bunch of skills first. And then there’s the real task of creating a war machine – weapons, men, materials - to engage in PvP. So raiding another village is hopefully as much work as building it in the first place.”
For players who love Minecraft-style crafting, Anno-series style production chains, world persistence, or just the chance to kill players, raze villages, and ruin a short lifetime’s worth of effort, Salem is just the kind of game to float your square-rigged boat. Our thanks to Björn Johannessen and the Paradox team for arranging our hands-on access and tour of Salem.