It’s hard to shake the feeling that Cube World lost a whole lot of momentum a couple of corners back. A year and a half ago, the voxelly action RPG seemed poised to become a DayZ or Terraria, buoyed by alpha sales and incremental updates. But its tiny team of two were rocked by DDoS attacks, and fell off the web entirely for long enough to worry even their most dedicated followers.
But they’ve pushed onward throughout, and alpha feedback has led to a brand new way of questing - free from WoW trappings and wholly Cube World’s own.
Originally, Cube World was populated by MMO-style quest-givers: NPCs with exclamation marks hovering above their heads, who clearly indicated exactly where the player ought to be going to collect their XP.
But lead developer Wollay found that quests defined how players moved about the game - and overran their urge to explore. So he and his wife have built a new system which denounces explicit direction.
“Quests are just there and players can find them by exploring,” explained the designer. “E.g. you might find an old crypt and when you enter it, there is a skeleton boss that you have to defeat. Maybe the boss will drop a key or a treasure which is needed for another quest.”
Players can keep track of their active quests via a new, automatically-updated journal - but are now forced to “study the world around them more actively”. Think Skyrim rather than WoW.
The Cube World team will work on more quest variations, items and locations before they push out an official update. And all the while, they have a fascinating problem to contend with.
“The world is generated on-the-fly in a small region around the player while he's exploring it, but we wanted to be able to define quests more globally,” said Wollay. “So I developed a system which allows me to create quests in areas that haven't been generated yet. Complicated, isn't it?”
Yes indeed. Quest-linked NPCs, monsters and items are therefore generated before the land they stand on. Isn’t procedural generation a wonderful sort of madness?