Nightingale TGA 2022 Q&A – Devs Discuss Gameplay Mechanics, Confirm DLSS & FSR

Alessio Palumbo
Nightingale

A new trailer for the online survival crafting game Nightingale aired tonight at The Game Awards 2022, revealing some new features like Caves, the ability to Glide with an umbrella, and new creatures like the Elder Eoten and the fire-spitting Bound.

Ahead of the event, we joined a press presentation with Inflexion Games where the developers talked a bit about some key aspects of the game. To begin with, unlike most survival games, there won't be many different servers that split the community. It will be instead one universe where everyone can play together. At the early access launch, Nightingale will support up to six players at any time, though there are plans to expand that number later.

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The updated roadmap showed Inflexion dealing with Alpha testing right now. The fourth playtest is coming up in a couple of weeks. There will be a Closed Beta early next year ahead of the Early Access debut set for Spring 2023 on PC.

Following the presentation, we had a lengthy talk with Inflexion CEO (and former BioWare General Manager) Aaryn Flynn, who was accompanied by Art Director Neil Thompson and Director of Production Leah Summers.

When I asked about the specifics of the survival mechanics in our previous interview, you were a bit dodgy with the answer. Can you speak a bit now about the extent of the survival mechanics in Nightingale? Do you need to sleep and/or eat?

Aaryn Flynn: Sure. Yes, you need to eat. Yes, you need to sleep. We were currently iterating on those for getting balanced just right, but those are the two big ones. Then we have an additional survival mechanics called Hope, which you have to keep a certain level in order to adventure. You suffer penalties if your Hope gets low and you regenerate Hope by doing various activities in the Realms.

What happens if the Hope level goes down to the very minimum?

Aaryn Flynn: You would get some pretty significant penalties in the game that are going to make it very hard to survive. At that point, you should return to your estate, where you'll regenerate your Hope. So your Hope will come back when you're safe.

We do have a stamina bar as well. As you do activities, you consume stamina, and the stamina regenerates.

Do you use stamina during combat as well?

Aaryn Flynn: For sure.

You said that Nightingale players could select a so-called Respite Realm. Is that going to be less dangerous than the other Realms?

Neil Thompson: That's up to you. Players can choose any realm to be their Respite Realm. We assume that most players will choose a realm where they built out their estate and want to keep it safe. But if you chose to live life on the edge a little bit more, you could pick a dangerous realm and try and fortify your estate and pick that as the Respite Realm. Then that's where you'll go when you die, it is entirely your choice.

Interesting. Let's say that I build my Respite Realm home in a rather dangerous Realm. Will it be eventually attacked by hostile wildlife or NPCs?

Aaryn Flynn: Yep. And you have ways to mitigate that as well, defensive structures, etcetera.

Does that include stuff like turrets?

Aaryn Flynn: That's TBD. We have had the same idea, so we'd love to get those in but not yet.

The exploration of new Realms is going to be one of the main selling points of Nightingale, per your own admission. Are there going to be any dungeon-like experiences that you can get into with your friends? I think you mentioned that there are some encounters where you'll need to have a few friends to succeed.

Neil Thompson: Yeah, we've got Caves and Vaults within all the biomes, which kind of act like dungeons. You can go down into them, there's particular rewards. There's specific encounters that take place in caves and vaults, some of which are creature combat and you could certainly do those as a team.

Aaryn Flynn: The other thing is that survival crafting games offer you multiple ways to overcome encounters. You can build structures, you can craft new gear. We want to make sure players are always feeling those strategic options to take on things you could create. Even if you're a solo player in Nightingale, you might get clever and invest a lot of time in building some defensive structures that would help you overcome a challenge that's typically harder than what a solo player could do just if they were swinging their axe. So you've got other ways to overcome challenges.

Neil Thompson: Caves reward the exploration-minded player as well. While the Vaults are fairly obvious because they're, you know, like temple entrances, Caves can be quite well hidden and you've got to decide whether the reward is worth the effort to find and explore these things.

Could you possibly lure an enemy out of its cave and then attack it with your fortifications?

Aaryn Flynn: I suppose you could. Or you could just build the fortifications in the cave if you wanted to.

Does that mean you can build almost anywhere in the Realms of Nightingale?

Aaryn Flynn: Indeed. The only limitations on building are certain topographical things. Sometimes the ground is too uneven. That's pretty typical I think, but there's no coordinate limitation on building. Wherever the ground says it's feasible for the structure you're building, you can put it there.

To the other point regarding the loot, whether it's worth it or not. Is it going to be any different than regular loot that you could find outside of these encounters?

Neil Thompson: Well, we're certainly hoping to have reward resources that are specific to Caves. Certain things that you can only harvest underground, and if you go underground to get them, then you know that's a hostile environment, so it's going to be more challenging to retrieve them.  Think more like rare gems and stuff like that. Players can mine those out of these places.

Does that confirm a sort of gem-like mechanic where you add sockets to weapons and items?

Aaryn Flynn: It's not as specific as sockets, but gems do play a factor in the magical enchantment of your gear.

You've said that you can eventually get magic weapons.

Aaryn Flynn: Right, you can craft them. You can take your weapons and you can get good enough that you can enchant them with magical properties.

But does your character ever learn magic on his/her own? 

Aaryn Flynn: I think it's a bit of a gray area. We just want to stress that you are not like a Jedi, where you have these magical powers that you've honed over time. You have learned how to tap into Fae magic and these things through your crafting and through other ways and then you're able to imbue what you've got this way.

Certainly for the first iteration of the game. In the future, maybe there are really powerful Realmwalkers out there who have learned some of these things. For now, the player will focus on crafting and enchanting their gear with magical properties and spells.

I see, so there won't be any slinging fireballs in Nightingale.

Aaryn Flynn: No, but you could get something that has a fireball spell on potentially. You could have an ax that, when you swing it, does fire damage as well. Those kinds of things are possible.

How is the loot system being handled? Is it a big part of your progression system?

Aaryn Flynn: It is. Because we're emphasizing crafting, we don't drop loot as an MMO does. We drop resources and recipes for loot that then you recipes for things that you can then go back and craft yourself.

Let's say that I've managed to get a very special recipe for a weapon. Could I become a blacksmith, make the weapon for other players, and get paid for it?

Aaryn Flynn: You can certainly build and trade it. We just haven't worked out the two-way economy of that yet.

When it comes to combat. Is that going to be based on the so-called trinity of roles (tank, DPS, and support), or is it more freeform? How would you describe it?

Aaryn Flynn: I think what you do is inspired by the trinity for sure. It's a pretty easy and common way to look at these things, but you don't pick a class in Nightingale as you do in some of those games. Your gear ultimately dictates what your abilities are. If you want to have some abilities, you have to craft and wear gear that gives you those abilities, that heals, for example. If you want to be more of a tank, then craft gear that increases your defense, go in swinging and you take the damage. It's more fluid in the sense that you can spec the gear the way you want and you can craft the gear that you want. But it is still pretty classic fashion and inspired by the trinity, as you said.

Is there any ability to 'aggro' enemies as a tank in Nightingale?

Leah Summers: Yeah, absolutely. We've got a little crew sling bow, you can give them a little ping, and they'll certainly come after you. We also have a few different types of structure buildings. Bait boxes, for example. You can set up a little hunting outpost, bait a few animals or larger creatures even, depending on what you put inside the bait boxes.

How many biomes are you expecting to launch with in Early Access?

Neil Thompson: Three in early access.

Okay. Do you have plans to eventually add more urban-like environments in some of the Realms?

Neil Thompson: There certainly could be. I think we've always intended that when we get into those deeper Realms, you could eventually find Fae outposts that would be more occupied if you like. Not everything is a desolate wasteland.

The Fae are obviously central to Nightingale. There's a lot of lore and mythology out there, but is there anything specific that inspired you in the creation of this game?

Neil Thompson: A lot of the early inspiration for this was from a book called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which was written by Susanna Clarke. It deals with gentlemen magicians who make pacts with a specific member of the Fae (it's a fairy in this instance) with unpredictable results because that character is capricious and selfish and just out for his own gain basically. We found that very interesting. If you build that into a societal level, to have this race of individuals who are so powerful that they don't need to care about your values or your needs, what is their motivation throughout all of this?

Really their only motivations are selfish ones, like, what can I get? If that's not aligned with your needs, that's tough. They're extraordinarily powerful. The elders who are at the top of the Fae Courts are almost unknowingly powerful. That's always been the idea.

They're off into the deepest possible Realms and whether we ever achieve finding them, we don't know. But the Fae that you meet out in the Realms are either Ronin-like masterless or they're there as warriors effectively. Obviously, Puck is Fae and his motivations are very inscrutable. He's kind of there on the surface to help you, but maybe he's not helping you for your good, maybe he's helping you for his benefit. It's this kind of duality of meaning that's central to the Fae behavior.

Wonderful. I was wondering about that. Recently I've been reading The Dresden Files; I don't know if you're familiar with it - 

Aaryn Flynn: By Jim Butcher?

Yeah. In those books, but it's quite prevalent with Fae in general, there is the idea that, as you said, they are not inherently evil, but they always want something from you when they give you something. You have to strike bargains and try not to be undermined by their insidious ways. Is this angle that you are exploring in Nightingale with the Fae?

Aaryn Flynn: I think it's a good question. It's fair to say that we do like the idea of non-combat interactions with a lot of our powerful creatures. This idea of striking a bargain, that's what the giants doing, right? Give me something, and I'll give you something in return. We don't have to fight about things.

I think those are fun storytelling mechanics and, again, go back to this idea of giving players choices. How do you want to overcome this? Do you want to try to strike a bargain and live with the consequences of that and maybe have to do a bunch of work to go pay off your side of the bargain? Maybe a Fae or another creature wants something that's very difficult to get, or do you just say let's do this and go for them right away? That's again your choice.

It would be interesting if you just killed Fae outright that then you'd get more hostile behavior from other Fae in future encounters as a consequence.

Aaryn Flynn: I'd agree with that. you want your choices to have consequences too. You don't want to just be able to do this and not have that potentially come back to haunt you.

Besides the giants and the Fae, are there other intelligent races that you'll find throughout the Realms?

Neil Thompson: Not at the level of the Fae, but there are certainly creatures out there that have interesting motivations. The harpies are quite interesting because their kind of thing is that they steal your stuff. Or if there are encampments out there, they will go and raid them and take things from them, which is a kind of base level of intelligence beyond just mindless killing machines.

We tried to give it a range where they're not just there to kill you.

I think you mentioned that maybe other races could be encountered in the future and possibly even be added as playable characters in Nightingale, right?

Aaryn Flynn: Yeah, we could. Who knows what other creatures are out there in the countless Realms of the Fae?

Just a couple of questions regarding the technical side. I know you've delayed the game partly because you were upgrading to Unreal Engine 5. How was your time with this new version of the engine?

Neil Thompson:  Good. We're pretty excited about it. We've been testing quite extensively on UE5 with excellent results, and we're looking forward to getting UE 5.1 into the main build pretty much at the end of the year.

We've been in UE5 since summertime and really like Lumen a lot. It gives us new techniques to light certain things. Caves are much cooler with Lumen than without it. So there's lots of fun things like that that really come to the forefront.

Fortnite was just upgraded to UE5.1 with Chapter 4. People have been able to test that bit now it's out in the wild, and there is also an option to enable hardware ray tracing. Is that something you're thinking about?

Aaryn Flynn: Yeah, absolutely. Our co-marketing partnership with Intel gives us some really strong ideas there. The other thing I'll add is that we have a great relationship with Epic. We've had UE5.1 for a while and so we've been able to work on preview builds of that as well. We're really grateful to Epic.

Given the recently announced partnership with Intel, is it still possible that you'll eventually add other upscaling technologies like NVIDIA DLSS or AMD FSR?

Aaryn Flynn: Yes, we're going to have DLSS and FSR in our build from early access. Our relationship with Intel doesn't preclude us from supporting other technologies. They've been very, very gracious about that. We will support all three at launch.

Great! Last one - will Nightingale launch with gamepad support?

Aaryn Flynn: Absolutely. Actually, our UI fellow is very passionate about gamepad support. I think he single-handedly ensured our game was playable on a gamepad. So yes, it is fully playable on gamepad right now.

Thank you for your time.

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