Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Yonder the Cloud Catcher Chronicles

I finished the main quest in Yonder the Cloud Catcher Chronicles yesterday, after 11 hours of overall played time. I guess I'd need about the same time again to finish all the side quests and get all the achievements, but I'm probably not going to do all of that. So I would say that Yonder is a short game. Nevertheless, for the €14 I paid for it in some Steam sale it was well worth it. The console versions on PS4 and Switch are a bit more expensive, but still less than half of the price of a "full" game. And for that you get a nice game, which feels a bit like a "lite" version of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: You are running around exploring a much smaller continent, gathering resources, finding secrets, solving puzzles, farm, and craft.

What you don't do is somewhat remarkable: There is no combat in Yonder. In fact, there really isn't any challenge at all. Days pass in game, but nothing bad happens if you take your time and go flower picking. Yonder is one of the most peaceful and relaxed games I have been playing for a while. Obviously that isn't for everyone. But as games in which you don't kill others are harder to find than games in which you do, I thought I give Yonder a mention.

What I really liked about the crafting system was that there is a trade part to it. There is no currency, all trades are barter only. But if you want something from a trader, you can give him items from your inventory that you have a lot of in exchange; each item has a value indicated, and the trader is willing to barter if you offer at least as much value as the stuff you want from him. There is even an element of supply and demand here: In the town with all the tailors, clothing is very cheap. So you can trade for clothing there, and later exchange that clothing at a higher value in another town. You even get NPCs telling you what towns currently have a surplus or demand of what types of goods.

Some of the stuff you can buy, craft, or find is just cosmetic, like different clothing or shampoo to color your hair. But you can also craft various farm buildings, and even machines like a butter churner. You can capture animals and they will produce various goods if you house them in a stable. You can also grow various crops, and even trees on your farms. The whole system is not very complicated or difficult, but it is fun enough to explore for a while.

Exploration is slightly more limited than in Zelda, due to the fact that you can jump, but not climb. If you fall, you automatically deploy an umbrella to glide slowly downwards. You can't really "die", you don't even have a health bar, but if you sink under water for several seconds, you are teleported back to where you came. Of course Zelda is a much bigger and better game, but it comes with a higher price tag and is only available on the Switch. Yonder is not only the version more suitable for kids, but also has wider availability and a lower price tag. So if you are ever looking for a very peaceful game and aren't feeling up for something challenging, you might want to give Yonder a try.

FINALLY! Someone does the economy right!

The problem with "Barter" in the real world is you have to find someone who both needs what you have, and has what you need. But none of that is an issue in a virtual world. Having an "Accounting Currency" that you can't actually obtain yourself assigns value to items and allows a "supply and demand" structure.

This is how on line RPGs should work, too. Hoarding currency is impossible, selling currency via RMT is impossible. Then all you have is "alternate currencies" as in high value stackable items that are freely traded, like those gems in Asheron's Call and the rings in Diablo. All you have to do to prevent that is make them unstackable / soulbound.

I'll have to try this game on steam.
Back when Yonder released, several bloggers I follow were quite exicted about it and I read a few posts very similar to yours. It sounded (and looked) like a game I'd enjoy and it was very cheap so I bought it.

I played it for a couple of weeks and posted about it once or twice. I liked how peaceful it was and I liked the look of it but after a few hours I ran into the same problem I've experienced with almost every non-multiplayer game I've played in the last twenty years: I couldn;t see any point in what I was doing.

Yes, it was fun, to some extent and yes, I have always believed that if you're having fun doing something you don't need any deeper reason to carry on doing it, but somehow that wasn't enough. I also fully understand that the activities I was carrying out in Yonder were no more nor less purposeful than when I carry out the same activities in a multiplayer game - but that's not how it felt.

Without other people around me I felt, increasingly so every time i logged in, that I was wasting my time. Everything that happened happened in a void. I would know about it but no-one else ever would - or, more importantly, could. The fact that, when I play multiplayer games, other people *don't* pay any attention to what I'm doing is beside the point. The point is that they *could* and that makes those activities feel authentic instead of ersatz.

If Yonder had an online version that could be played with other people I'd have played it for much longer than I did. It is a good game. I just can't play it as it stands.

Yeah, I feel ya. "Online" has ruined single player games for me, too. It's not even so much that there are "Other people" on at the same time as much as there are "other people" interacting with the same world, lending a far greater sense of a dynamic world. I don't even mean that those other people are there at the same time I am, or if they even know who I am. But that their presence modified the world in some way, real or perceived. Likewise, my presence, even if completely anonymous and unable to meaningfully interact with theirs, does the same.

For example: Imaging a game of farms. Each farm totally stand alone but on the same road. Even if I never see the farmers, I see the farms, and those farms change over time by the hand of other players. I can look at the farm and know it was not built by a "Farm AI", but by another player. In reality, I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a player and an AI, but that doesn't matter... the belief that it's a player is enough to invoke the feeling of a dynamic world.
I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a player and an AI, but that doesn't matter...

You would be able to tell the difference because probably the human player would find a way to cheat hack his way over the fence and burn down your farm, while the AI would never be tempted to do so.
Yeah! Or totally game the seed market and drive my farm out of business!
@Smokeman, @Bhagpuss, @Tobold Would a game like this benefit from asynchronous "fake" multiplayer such as is used in some mobile games? In Hill Climb Racing for example it appears that you are racing in real time against other humans but in fact you are racing against their pre-recorded ghosts. This allows the AI to direct control all interactions and to control the level of challenge. Every player feels like a winner because they win the majority of their races but in fact the AI selects pre-recorded runs that it knows the player can beat. There is no real interaction between players so griefing is non existent.

The problem with schemes like that is once the player knows those are just ghosts, the illusion of multi player is lost. You have to at least have plausible evidence that there is a 2 way interaction, even if by proxy. If the farm next door develops the same every year, of if I see two perfectly identical farms, it would start to break the illusion.

A much better solution would be to discard the low rent trick of using ghosts or AI pseudo players and even have a "farm chat" where you can discuss your virtual farms.
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