Mar 172012

The slog continues, and I’ve designated the forthcoming companion update as v1.63. I still don’t have a release timeframe, but we’re getting close. Today’s preview should fill in most of the remaining blanks about how companions are going to work.

Reputation Ranks

One of the big new changes in v1.63 is the reputation system. Reputation is basically a new type of experience that is accrued by winning battles and completing quests in a region (regions generally meaning a town and its local area). As your numerical reputation increases, your “reputation rank” in a region levels up. There are a total of five ranks, each of which requires more reputation to achieve than the previous rank.

New daily quests with large reputation bonuses have been added to every region in the game. As of the initial release of v1.63, reputation will only be used for two major systems: seed slot boosting and companion recruiting. In the future it will likely factor into many other systems.

Recruiting Companions

Monsters aren’t captured Pokemon-style. Instead, every time that you fight a particular type of monster there is a chance that it will ask to join you. Whether or not you’re eligible to recruit a monster is based upon your regional reputation rank. Generally speaking, the stronger or rarer the monster the higher reputation rank that it takes to recruit it.

Almost any monster in the game can be recruited to become a companion, and every single species is unique. No matter what type of monster you recruit, they will always join you as a level 1 companion. Therefore, recruiting a monster from a higher level region does not necessarily give you a more powerful companion. An Ice Slime from the Arctic doesn’t have any statistical advantages over a Mage Slime from Bedoe; they’re just different.

The Companion Ranch

Every region in the game now has a Companion Ranch, the place where your extra companions are stored for safekeeping. Companions can be deposited or withdrawn anytime, and your stored companions are shared between all of your characters. However, only subscribers can actually withdraw companions stored by their other characters, and you can’t withdraw companions that are a higher level than your current character.

Every Companion Ranch features a regional Bestiary that shows which monsters are in the area and what reputation rank is required to recruit them. In order for a monster’s information to show up in the bestiary you first need to beat it in battle, otherwise its entry will contain minimal information. Like the ranch companion storage, the bestiary entries are also shared between all of your characters.

Seed Slot Boosting

In order to expand your Stat Seed slots in the current version of NEStalgia, you must to purchase expensive Seed Boosters from a late-game vendor. As of v1.63 those Seed Boosters are going the way of the dinosaur, although all existing Seed Boosters and/or their resulting extra seed slots will still function.

In v1.63 stat seed slots are automatically opened up by raising your reputation to “Honored” in a region (rank 3). Because reputation is not shared between characters, you’ll have to do this on each character separately (the grind up to Honored isn’t that time consuming and can generally be accomplished by completing most of the quests in the region). Although there are currently seven regions in the game, you’ll still only be able to open up a total of six extra slots.

Other Notes

Although I had previously talked about allowing solo players to have only one companion fighting alongside them in non-boss battles, I’ve changed things up and solo players will now be able to utilize both of their companions in all encounters. Partying up with other players will always make for a much stronger team, however, as companions are comparatively weak and don’t always make the best strategic decisions in big fights. Furthermore, any companion who is with you but not in your active party when you group with other players will give you a substantial “Reserve Bonus” in the form of a stat boost or some type of extra skill or ability.

If you have any additional questions about how this stuff works the please feel free to ask in the comments. We’re at the point where most of the implementation is finished, so I can now give plenty of details about what all of these changes entail.

I know that development is moving much slower than anyone had hoped (including myself), but please bear with us just a bit longer. The standalone installer is almost ready to go, meaning that we could theoretically be launching v1.63 alongside the standalone installer, which will mean a massive exposure boost for the game right as we turn our focus over to regular content expansions. Everything is falling into place in just the right way, and I’m very optimistic that all of this hard work and waiting is going to pay off in the near future.