What is the time period and setting for the game?
Africa is set in medieval Africa, when great cities and mighty kingdoms emerged on the northern and southern edges of the Sahara. Camels the so-called "ships of the desert" made the long trek across this ocean of sand. Sundiata ruled over the grassland kingdom of Mali, the Mamluks controlled Egypt, and the Swahili city states traded with Persia, Arabia, and India. It was a time of thriving trade, expanding empires, and epic battles.
The initial release will focus on West Africa, from the Mahgreb region in the north to the Kingdoms of Mali and Songhay in the south. Later expansions, already in concept, will focus on Egypt, the Swahili city states, Great Zimbabwe, and the forest Kingdoms of the Congo.
What character classes are there?
Although Africa does not employ a class-based system, with class-specific restrictions on what player's can learn, players may opt to pattern their characters on one of the following templates:
Artisan: Artisans can weave cloth, carve objects, build structures, and create hundreds of objects to sell to other players. Highly skilled artisans can apply decorative motifs to their wares.
Warrior: Warriors are fighters. They can wield a wide-array of weaponry, including spears, swords, war clubs, javelin, and fighting daggers. Some warriors can equip shields and helmets. Warriors can specialize in different combat styles. Spells, amulets, and other magical items can grant the warrior special abilities or protections.
Sangoma: Shamans who draw upon the power of nature and natural magic to heal and cast spells. They can specialize in one of the four "houses" of magic: healing arts, enchantment, warding & protection, and offensive spells.
Griot: Somewhat akin to the bards and troubadours of Europe, Griots are storytellers and singers. They travel from village to village, telling stories and singing songs about the heroic deeds of the past. Griots can use their songs to mesmerize opponents, empower their friends, and "recharge" the Nyama of spell casters.
Musician: Players can learn to play drums, horns, flutes, and stringed instruments. Musicians can form groups and play music collaboratively including original, player-created melodies & rhythms using a library of sampled instruments. Music and magic are inextricably linked in African society. Playing music can thus bring life-giving rains, heal wounds, strengthen shamans, and power up warriors before a battle.
What skills are available in the game?
Africa employs a skill-based advancement system. To become skilled with a blade, for example, players must practice. Advancement at higher skill levels will require players to study under a master and complete quests. Some of the skills players can learn include:
Animal Taming: Animal tamers can tame lions, cheetahs, monkeys, and other creatures. Tamed animals can be kept as pets, but they must be fed and properly cared for. Pets grow in strength and abilities over time, along with their owners. Animal tamers can breed horses, camels, and pack mules to sell to other players.
Archery: The archery skill allows players to use bows and crossbows.
Blacksmithing: Blacksmiths forge iron ore into iron tools and weapons. Their tools are the hammer, anvil, and the earthen forge. Some magical weapons can only be forged under special conditions such as during an eclipse.
Builder: Builders design and build all player structures in the game: mud-brick, stone, and wooden houses, shops, city walls, siege engines, and fortifications. Builders can make sun-baked bricks, cut stone, and thatch roofs.
Carving: Carvers produce beautiful and functional objects for other players. They can craft a wide array of objects, from musical instruments to ceremonial masks to decorative woodwork. Carvers can personalize their wares with intricate design motifs using an in-game design editor.
Dancing: Dancers can, together with musicians, perform dance rituals that heal, protect, bring life-giving rains, and ward off evil. Farmers need dancers / musicians at harvest time; warriors before battle.
Falconry: A subset of the animal taming skill, knowledge of falconry allows players to tame and train falcons and hawks for hunting small game or scouting.
Farming: Farmers can own plots of land, where they can cultivate wheat, sorghum, yams, banana trees, dates, indigo, cotton, palm oil, and other crop. Fields must be plowed, planted, weeded, protected from pests, and rival tribes. Players can hire NPCs to help them till the soil and harvest crops.
Fishing: Fisherman can use fish traps, poles, and spears to catch fish. Coastal fisherman can use nets and boats to bring in large catches of fish.
Herb lore: The herbalist gathers roots, flowers, berries, mushrooms, and plants. Some plants have medicinal uses and others have magical properties.
Herding: Players with the herding skill can own and manage herds of cattle, which must be moved around between pasturages and watering holes. Cattle must be protected from wild animals and rival tribes. Cattle give milk, hides, and meat, which can be sold. Players can hire NPCs to help manage herds.
Hunting: Hunters are skilled at tracking and hunting animals of all sorts. Individually, they can bring down small game animals with traps, arrows, or spears; working in groups, then can kill big game like elephants, wild boar, gazelles, or lions. Hunters can dig pit traps for large game.
Magery: This skill allows players to marshal the energy of the land (Nyama) to heal and protect friends and strike enemies. A Sangoma can entangle enemies in vines; summon lightning from the sky, and direct gusts of wind to knock down opponents. Shamans can transform the party into a grove of trees to throw off pursuers or cast a journey shrinker spell so they can outrun them.
Mining: Miners mine iron ore, which can be smelted and made into a wide array of items, from plows to armor to weapons. They can also mine gold, copper, tin, silver, precious stones, and salt. Miners must take care against cave-ins and monsters that dwell in the depths of the earth.
Musicianship: Players can learn to play drums, horns, flutes, and stringed instruments. Musicians can form groups and play music collaboratively including original, player-created melodies & rhythms using a library of sampled instruments. Music and magic are inextricably linked in African society. Playing music can bring life-giving rains, heal wounds, strengthen shamans, and power up warriors before a battle.
Pottery: The pottery skill allows players to craft a wide range of vessels and decorate them with various motifs. Pots can be shaped by hand or thrown on a potter's wheel.
Melee weapons: This skill allows players to use bladed weapons and war clubs.
Spear: Mastering this skill enables players to use jabbing spears and hurled javelins.
Throwing Knives: Allows players to wield deadly throwing knives, some of which act like boomerangs and return to the thrower.
Weaving: Weavers can make clothing, tapestries, rugs, and banners. Cotton or wool must be harvested, spun into thread, and then woven on a loom to create fabrics, which can be dyed an array of colors. At higher skill levels, players can create their own intricate designs using an in-game editor. Some items, such as carpets, can be enchanted and endowed with magical properties.
What sorts of weapons and armor are there in the game?
Among the many weapons players can equip are Maasai Spears, Samburu War Clubs, Zulu stabbing spears, Moran swords, Kreish Throwing blades, and Luguru Axes. In the northern regions players can acquire fine Damascus blades, Mamluk composite bows, and even multiple shot crossbows. African weapons are as beautiful as they are deadly. Some weapons in the game may be empowered by incantations or the application of magical substances that the player must gather and prepare.
Players can wear helmets and carry shields. Warriors in sub-Saharan Africa do not generally wear body armor, as it tends to encumber the wearer and slow them down particularly in the heat of the deserts and jungles. They tend to rely more on speed and mobility in fighting. In some regions, however, players can acquire coats of mail or armor of cloth and leather. Players can also add protective "buffs" in the form of painted designs on their skin or magical amulets and charms.
How do the siege and empire system work?
The world is divided into many capturable regions, each containing valuable resources hunting grounds, forests for timber, rich farmland, pasturage for cattle, water resources, caravan routes, metal deposits, precious gems, ivory, gold, and other commodities. Most regions contain cities and towns which can be captured by NPC tribes or player guilds.
Sieges take place every few weeks. To initiate a siege, the attacking tribe must first declare war. The game sets a date and time for the battle, allowing both sides to muster their forces and plan their strategies. At the appointed time, the attacking tribe takes the field, bringing whatever siege equipment they've constructed. If they successfully kill off the defenders and breach the defenses, then they will gain control of the city. If they fail, then the defenders will retain control. Player shops and houses cannot be destroyed in a siege, but city improvements such as walls, towers, barracks, and armories can.
Control of a region allows a player (or NPC) tribe to fortify towns, hire guards, and build structures such as mines and mills. The controlling tribe can also exact tribute from farmers and herders in the region and levy taxes commerce and trade. Set tax rates too high, and the people will grumble. Set them too low, and you won't have enough funds to pay guards and build needed city improvements.
Tribal leaders can elect to strengthen town walls, build gatehouses, watchtowers, barracks, and armories. They can hire guards and even powerful NPCs to guard the town. Tribal leaders can also set quests (from the town stone) for players such as contracts for delivery of needed resources for building or for hiring player mercenaries in times of defense. Rule well, and your city will prosper and grow. Rule poorly and the city will soon slip from your grasp.
How does trade work?
Trans-Saharan caravan routes link the West Grassland Kingdoms of the Niger River region with the Mediterranean coast to the north. The rewards of long distance trade can be great, so long as players can overcome the dangers of the deep desert. Blinding sandstorms can swallow up whole caravans. Mirages torment traders who have exhausted their water supplies. Berber nomads, Tuareg desert raiders, and outlaws prey upon caravans. Players and NPCs can hire guards to protect their caravans. If raiders ambush a caravan and steal its goods, then the merchant can exact retribution by placing a bounty on the outlaws which can be collected by players or NPCs.
How do I get around?
Players can shorten their journey with mounts, flying carpets, magic portals, and vehicles. Players with sufficient riding skill can ride horses, camels, and elephants. In the Magreb region, players can purchase flying carpets and soar above the landscape. Desert travelers can sail across the sand in sand riders sailed craft that glide across the dunes.
What cities exist and what can I do in them?
Cities are centers of commerce, industry, and learning. Players can build houses and shops within the city walls. Some of the many cities in Africa include:
Marrakech: Located beneath the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech radiates a "Arabian Nights" mystique. Famed for its markets, the city is full of storytellers, snake charmers, dancers, soothsayers, and merchants.
Fez: Bustling with artisans and merchants, the market district is a labyrinth of winding alleyways full of shops and stalls. Here one can find tanneries, dye-works, paper-mills, potteries, weaving shops, bakeries, forges, glassworks, and a host of other industries.
Sidjilimasa: Gateway to the Sahara, Sidjilimasa is a staging area for caravans arriving from Fez and departing for the Niger bend. It is a populous town, surrounded by orchards and gardens. The city is surrounded by a wall.
Taghaza: Located in the deep desert, on the caravan route between Sidjilimasa and Timbuktu, this desolate town exists only because of the salt mines in the region.
Timbuktu: Situated on the border of the savannah and the desert, Timbuktu is a rich and powerful city with thousands of inhabitants. It is the gateway to the north and a major terminus for caravans.
Takadda: Is a flourishing commercial center to the east of Timbuktu and west of Lake Chad. Here copper is mined, smelted, and forged. Takadda links North Africa, the Niger bend region, and Egypt together, as well as the forest kingdoms to the south.
Koumbi Saleh: was once the capital of the old Ghana Empire, the "land of Gold." The city has faded somewhat in power and wealth as trade routes shifted eastward to Timbuktu. The Bambuk mines to the south are the basis for the city's fortunes.
What is the Dreamscape?
Africa features a unique "dreamscape" environment, which is an instanced environment players can enter when their characters dream. The dreamscape has a hazy, dreamlike quality to it. Each dream (or nightmare) environment is generated based on the player's past actions and current quests. In the dreamscape, players can talk to their ancestors, receive visions from past lives, and even unlock secret powers hidden deep within their unconscious mind. But dangers lurk in the dark corners of the psyche. Gaze too deeply and you might not wake up again.
Certain spells and magical gems called dream stones allow groups of players to undertake quests inside another player's dreams perhaps to free them from possession. Players will need spiritual weapons to defeat the Jinn and demons that haunt their dreams.
Players can also receive clues in their dreams to quests they're currently undertaking in the normal game space. For example, if a player has undertaken a quest to rescue captives from a slaver, he or she might receive visions of the villagers in iron manacles, being marched to the coast. The visions might give the player clues as to the slaver's location.
What sorts of quests will be in the game?
Africa features a dynamic quest system. Quests "spawn" as a result of player actions and changes in the environment. A pride of lions, for example, might move into an area and terrorize a village. The news would travel through the game's rumor system, thereby generating a quest for players to drive off the lions. Other quests are set by the players themselves. The leaders of NPC and player tribes can set quests, such as defend the village, capture strategic locations, defeat encampments of monsters, drive off outlaws, or gather and transport resources. Other quests require players to complete special tasks as part of a coming of age ceremony, recover lost artifacts, or ambush a group of slavers and liberate their captives. Crafting / gathering quests are designed for artisans and gatherers. An herbalist, for example, might need to collect a rare plant that only grows on a remote mountain peak in order to cure a mysterious plague. A blacksmith might have to journey to the underworld to forge a magical sword in an enchanted pool of lava.
Quests will sometimes come from unexpected sources, such as a whispering well, an ancient Babao tree, or even a talking animal. Some quests will come to the player in their dreams. Questing will be based on exploration (find a hidden location), puzzle solving (unravel mysteries by finding clues) collecting items (rare magical plants, lost tomes of lore), protecting caravans and travelers from marauders, and defeating or outwitting foes.