The Tome of KnowledgeMarch 16, 2008
For my first “real” article on WAR, I wanted to jump in and tackle a sea kracken… er, tackle one of the most exciting aspects of this upcoming game. While some folks are justifiably focused on the Realm vs. Realm (RvR) combat, or the 24 classes, or the weird sunglasses that Paul Barnett sports, I get a thrill in my nethers whenever I hear a tidbit about the [dramatic pause] TOME OF KNOWLEDGE.
If I can spread it out for you in a nutshell (props to Sports Night for that phrase), the Tome of Knowledge is the in-game feature that WAR is using to combine quests, lore, accomplishments, unlockable abilities and achievements all in one handy spot. It’s something MMO communities have been clamoring for for years – developers have discovered that people love achievements, even if it only earns you bragging rights or a new title; MMO games have shown that players now expect a clear, helpful quest log complete with directions and goals; save for a few of the more lore-obsessed players, most MMO gamers have a hard time remembering who’s who and what happened in their character’s career; and gamers are eager for alternative paths of advancement. The Tome seeks to fill all these needs, and then some.
Unfortunately, we’re still in the dark about many of the nitty gritty specifics about the Tome of Knowledge (TOK) until the game releases and we can all see for ourselves, so I decided to do a bit of rooting around to see what info has been released on it so far:
- It is a multi-purpose reference tool designed to plop a great deal of info about the game world into the player’s lap
- Graphically, it looks like a book with flipping animations, cool hand-drawn illustrations, and bookmarks.
- The TOK is laid out very much like a novel of somebody’s life, with an introduction, personal journal and compendium. The idea is, as you play the game, you are also writing the “story” of your character.
- It will help reduce the dependence on third-party sources, such as wikis or mods, for information
- You can unlock lore-related information about quests and the world, NPCs and enemy mobs.
- It contains a bestiary that slowly expands with more info about certain creatures the more you fight them.
- It holds a list and details of your quests, progress and rewards for finishing the quests.
- Paul has said that the TOK “belongs to the person at the keyboard, not the character”, however, each character in the game will have his or her own TOK (TOK entries will not be shared between your characters).
- There will be “meta” unlocks that pertain to how you are playing the game.
- The TOK is divided into 7 different subcategories: Legends and Leaders, Noteworthy Persons, Grand Atlas, Bestiary Guide, Arms and Armor, Lore and History, and Warfare .
- You can earn various rewards through the TOK including: experience points, lore rewards (more bits of the story), achievement-related titles (“Dwarf Slayer” for killing 100 dwarves, for instance), abilities/skills and bragging rights.
- The TOK tracks all your kills, which can actually fill up previously unseen “kill X of a certain mob” quests as you play. You can then talk to a specific NPC with the quest and have completed it already.
- Small achievements, such as killing a certain type of mob, can ultimately unlock hidden quests.
- It tries to anticipate any crazy things a player might do and reward them for it, including silly, off-the-wall actions such as (for example) standing in one place for an hour, or dying hundreds of times before level 10.
- Objectives in the TOK come in tiers.
- You are rewarded in the TOK for exploring the landscape.
- Mythic has taken ideas for the TOK from tons of people, both inside and outside the development team (such as gamers like you and I). The Xbox 360 achievement system and the diary from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are both sources of inspiration.
- You can find items in the game, such as books, that will add an entry to your TOK.
- Some quests won’t be obvious and will take a player’s special attention to notice and accomplish them – which will be rewarded by the TOK.
- There are TOK unlocks for the duration of your play or the things that you do at the keyboard.
- Achievements are things that are granted out of the blue, and are often a commentary on your play style.
- Things they track include: kills, deaths, kill to death ratios, kills over time, deaths over time, kills in certain areas and survival in others.
- Everything about the TOK is completely optional and not required to do to progress in the game.
- You can use the TOK to unlock the lore story for all three of the races on your realm.
- Should greatly appeal to collector-oriented players.
- Many of the rewards are more “fun” than “practical”. Titles and trophies are part of the reward system – these might make other players covet your character.
- The TOK will be a great outlet for Warhammer’s playful, comedic side.
- Jeff Hickman stated that he lost count at over “12,000 unlocks” in the TOK so far. Carrie Gouskos said, as of September 2007, they were tracking over 5,000 achievements.
- You get your first unlock the second you log into the game world.
- There is a possibility that you may access some or all of your TOK online, outside of the game, and show it off to others.
The designer of the Tome of Knowledge, Carrie Gouskos, said, “What we’re trying to do with the Tome of Knowledge is provide lots of ways for each player to play and lots of bonus things to do. We provide a checklist for the player, saying, ‘Here’s a list of all these things you can do. Do you want to do them?’”
Yes, Carrie. Yes, I want to do them.
So now can you get a taste for why I’m so geeked out over this feature? I mean, it’s a BOOK. It’s READING. It’s a GROCERY LIST. And yet… it’s completely awesome.
We’ve seen elements of the TOK in past MMO’s, such as City of Heroes’ badge collection system, World of Warcraft’s quest log, and most recently, Lord of the Rings Online’s Deed Log.
Why is balling all of these concepts up and taking them vastly further is such a great idea with the TOK? Because if these previous games have proven anything, it’s that players are absolutely thirsting for alternative paths of advancement and goals past the level XP grind (and honor grinds… and rep grinds… and coffee grinds). Even if certain TOK features are grinds dressed up in very pretty clothing, that might be what it takes to make slaughtering 1,000 slimes fun all over again.
For the avid role-player who lives beyond min/maxing characters, stat-crunching and theorycrafting, the TOK is a typhoon of fresh air blown into our gameplay. Some people aren’t always self-motivated to go off exploring and climb mountains – but give them an unlockable achievement with a tasty morsel of a treat for doing so, and they’ll be ascending that cliff faster than the Road Runner at dinner time.
I can also see the TOK accomplishing something far greater: immersing the player deeper into the game world than any MMO before it. That’s not to say other MMOs haven’t been saturated in lore, but unless you keep a handy journal or encyclopedic mind around to reference and cross-reference who’s who and what happened where, sooner or later all the lore becomes one big blob to you. But if the game keeps it organized and allows you to go back, perhaps months after you did a certain quest for a guy, and lets you read up on who he is and how he relates to the world, you are suddenly reconnected with the lore and the world. Connect vs. Disconnect – perhaps that’s a topic for another day.
I fear I’ve let this article go a little too long for today, so I’m going to stop while I’m five pages into this and assign you a little reading for next week. There will be a test:
- HammerWiki’s TOK entry
- PAX ’07 TOK interview
- EA Mythic Developer Diary: TOK
- TenTonHammer FAQ about the TOK
- TenTonHammer article on the TOK
- Curse Gaming TOK Video
- Keen and Graev’s TOK blog entry
- TOK discussion at Warhammer Alliance Forums