It occurs to me now that I have, in passing, mentioned that Atma’s centerpiece is a system that allows characters to bind animal spirits with their own, but have not as of yet gone into any sort of depth in describing how this system will actually function. Today’s post is therefore dedicated to explaining something that I probably should have covered quite a while ago: Atma’s bestial force system. It is this system that adds the finishing touches to the personality and elemental systems in the game, and understanding how it works is a key aspect of understanding the overall design of the game.
Each animal in the world possesses an essence or “soul”, a manifestation of the Atma that flows through all life. Through the poaching system, characters have a chance at retrieving an animal’s essence after slaying it. There are several options regarding the possible applications of an animal’s bestial force, once obtained in this manner. The first and perhaps most vital of these functions is the ability for a character to undergo a special process linking the animal’s essence to their own soul. This is the form of the primary connection between man and beast in Atma, and has the biggest impact on your character’s capabilities. Linking your character’s soul to a bestial force activates a pair of skills, one passive and one active, which are at your disposal for as long as you maintain the bond (as long as you don’t remove the link or exchange it for a different one). These skills vary vastly between different animals, making your choice for a primary bestial force an important one, capable of redefining your entire combat strategy; I’ll certainly go into more detail on what these skills might actually be in the future. In addition, this connection is the one that defines the form your character’s elan takes, determining the bonus stats you receive on top of the basic defensive capabilities your armor typically grants you.
Another option for utilizing a captured bestial force is to embed it in a spiritwell, one of the possible modifications for your elan. While spiritwells don’t offer the same efficiency as the primary bond in their siphoning of a spirit’s power, they are still an essential source of extra attributes for your character, and the minor bonuses from several spiritwells can certainly add up for a character. Another modification offered by soulsmiths for your elan, unmentioned until now, is a spiritduct, a channel composed of Atma that runs between two spiritwells and amplifies their power if the souls in those wells resonate with one another. Thus, over time, as your character is able to obtain more and more modifications for their elan, and as they obtain more bestial force to infuse in their equipment, the bonuses obtained from those spirits will increase. This growth of spiritual power is further enhanced by yet another application of the bestial force system.
While animal spirits can be used both directly and indirectly to increase your character’s power and expand their capabilities, there is a third and final use for them: enhancing the power of other spirits. It is in this fashion that the attribute gains offered by the bestial force of a humble squirrel can eventually rival those of even the fiercest predators. By harvesting spirits from more powerful animals, and using this essence to reinforce the soul of a weaker creature, you can improve the quality of feebler bestial forces, raising them to a level where their attributes can compete with those of animals that would otherwise never be considered their equals in nature. This addition to the system was added as a careful design consideration, to preserve the uniqueness of each individual animal. By eliminating the idea of a clear “best” animal in terms of statistical superiority, Atma should hopefully allow for many unique, diverse strategies to co-exist without players trending towards obvious power-builds. In short, if you want to play as a blue jay, you should be able to play as one without being concerned that you’ll simply be outclassed by a falcon, or something to that effect. The game at this point will come down to simple balancing, as all MMOs do along the line, but this system should at least make a few allowances promoting fair competition.
Hopefully this post has given a fair bit of detail regarding the bestial force system that makes up the core of Atma, the mechanics layered over the personality and elemental systems, that really define the manner in which this game will differentiate itself from others in the MMO genre. By providing a source for unique skills and attributes, in conjunction with the previously established elemental skills, it is this system that I believe will take Atma from an interesting game to one with a compelling level of complexity and depth in its game mechanics. I’m not looking forward to balancing everything at the end, though; time to get back to work.