While planning for E3 this year, I looked through tons of lists of games, companies, and more to see who would all be attending, as well as see who we could set appointments with. Among all those lists I found Gyre: Maelstrom, in development by Evodant Interactive, which instantly grabbed my attention with the idea behind its Toska Engine: an engine that procedurally generates the narrative, architecture (map), events, dialogue, and more.
Ambition is an understatement when paired with the Toska Engine. First, though, at its core Gyre: Maelstrom will be an RPG, with things like crafting, exploring, combat, classes, skills, and more. Just about everything you’d expect to find in most standard RPGs is in Gyre.
You’ll start the game with various choices, like your class, which will then generate the seed of the world you’ll be experiencing. The created city will be roughly the size of Seoul, Korea, boasting a population of near eight million NPCs—eight million androids. You play as one of those androids in one of the three classes: Couriant, who emphasize parkour and mobility; Imperiant, who gain momentum over time and smash through things; and the Polariant, who has a special relationship with the city to the point they can “chat” with it.
Once you get a little familiarity with the setting and the RPG elements, all that is left is to understand the Toska Engine. I say that because literally everything—I mean everything—is controlled by the engine itself. It creates the events for you to participate in, the characters, the dialogue, and it will craft an antagonist based on what you do in the game.
It’s hard to wrap your head around as it’s completely different from everything out there. I asked the developers if Toska will have a database of scripted events, or at least some scripting, to grab from that will inform what it puts out for players. They told me it would not. Even the dialogue will be generated, and the developers assured me that a lot of time has gone into making sure the sentences not only make sense, but Toska will always, without fail, produce a grammatically correct sentence.
The best way they could describe Toska to me was that it functions as an AI Dungeon Master. It starts to read your actions as a player from the moment you start playing. For example, the developers told me that maybe at the beginning you start in a corridor. One player may choose to start to just run down the corridor to get to the next portion. Another may step to the side, look around for a minute, and then cautiously move on. That simple, unconscious choice has already begun to inform Toska of your playstyle. It will recognize caution or brazenness, whether you explore or just rush forward.
It adapts to what events you can explore, even by how you choose to move around. Maybe you’re not into the parkour of the game and want to just run around the streets. The streets will then be where all the action happens. If you’re one who sticks to the rooftops, that’s where it will happen instead.
What intrigues me the most is just how Toska will make a cohesive narrative for you, which is incredibly important in an RPG experience. Pretty much every decision will go into shaping that narrative, from your chosen way of combat (or no combat at all), to how you move around the world, who you talk to and decisions you make, how you interact with NPCs, and more.
Gyre only has the one main quest, and you can just continue to follow it and do what it says to complete the game. That’s up to you. If it tells you to go through a door, you can go through it and continue. You can also choose to look around the door first and maybe stumble upon some sort of event or NPC—something. That secondary thing, secondary quest if you’d like, will always feed back into the main quest somehow. They didn’t go into how that is exactly, but whatever is going on in the main story being generated will be generated to the events you participate in on the side.
This main narrative will be driven primarily by the antagonist. The antagonist, as described to me, will be generated to stand in direct opposition to whatever Toska interprets as the player’s goals and actions. So, let’s say you go along as a Couriant, exploring the city to learn more about the main quest, killing those in your way, etc. The main antagonist will then have desires and goals in direct opposition to what you’re doing, so part of the main quest will be overcoming those hurdles.
Gyre can even become a completely different game if you choose to forgo combat altogether and maybe go with the Polariant class. You could keep the game to 100% political intrigue as you talk to NPCs and attempt to move yourself up in the world. The antagonist would then be someone attempting to stop you from doing so, without combat ever coming into play. There’s not only your main antagonist to consider either, as all NPCs will have their own desires and goals as well, which you’ll have to navigate through to effectively accomplish what you want.
Also, Toska will be seamless. There will be no moments where the game will pause to analyze some previous action you made. Toska is always running, metrics always changing, and it is in a constant state of analysis. The world of Gyre always changes as time passes, including how Toska reacts to you, as well as the desires and goals of all those NPCs. While you’re working to accomplish what you want, the world keeps on moving, and NPCs are doing their own thing as well.
If you’re still not 100% certain on all that Gyre: Maelstrom will be able to do, you’re not alone. I even saw a small clip of the game and Toska in action, and I’m still not certain exactly what the game will be like. To the best of my knowledge and ability, what I’ve described above is what I think Gyre is going for and how it was explained to me. Whether that will be accomplished, or how the game will work in the end, I have no idea. In any case, even if it cannot live up to the lofty goals described here, it is an interesting step in an entirely new direction, which I’d love to see more of as it progresses.
What do you think of Gyre: Maelstrom? How do you imagine the Toska Engine working?