How Vagrus Got Rid of the Time Limit
07 Nov | 3:00 pm


In today’s article, we’ll do our very best to explain how and why we arrived at the conclusion to remove the in-game campaign time limit from Vagrus, and also go into detail about what this entails, especially regarding achievements. We feel that this is necessary because the system has been with us since the release of Vagrus back in 2020 and our players have always had a diverse view on it existing in the first place. So buckle up, time is of the essence!

What Was the Limit?

At the beginning of each playthrough, you were told that you have “about 10 in-game years” to complete the Ambition you selected for your character (which was more akin to 11 years and a bit more, but that’s beside the point). Once you reached that limit, you could not earn Achievements and you could not change your Freeplay Ambition to something else (if you were inclined to do so). You were also told that stories and characters would make “less sense” in-world.

Why Was There A Limit?

Why limit the in-game playtime in the first place? Well, as we were playing and testing Vagrus during the Early Access, we soon realized that years and years in-game can pass by and players can easily play through decades before coming even closer to finishing the game or winning a campaign. Our credo with Vagrus has been “Immersion above all” and playing for 50 years without the world and NPCs changing much went against that. However, considering the size and richness of content in Vagrus (and the tiny team of Lost Pilgrims), accounting for all these NPCs, storylines, and historical events across a century would have been impossible to manage. Besides, those of you who love the Riven Realms have been very vocal in that it felt like a real world due to our fanatical devotion to adhering to its rules, chief amongst which is its colorful and detailed history. Canonically, after the decade Vagrus is set, huge and important changes are coming to Xeryn and those were well beyond the scope of the game or the team, so the only solution was to say that upon reaching a certain date, your story can continue but it will not be in alignment with in-game world history or even some basic storytelling bits (“Why is the bartender not aging at all? Is he an evil specter?!”). Lastly, it also served as a bit of a balancing act for acquiring certain achievements – some of them were challenges only because of such a time limit, and we knew that many players enjoy such challenges.

Too Much Content!

Eventually, after the Sunken Tower DLC, we realized that if we keep adding content, most players will find it extremely difficult to complete a campaign in time without missing out on a lot of stories. Sure, you could play after the time limit but there was no longer a chance to retire in a victory state. This resulted in players rushing Ambitions and only playing side stories later, which was not how we imagined the game’s pacing and flow. Then came Sunfire and Moonshadow, where we realized that even the most veteran players would find it hard to somehow squeeze in that gigantic bit of new content. And so we decided to change the time limit – and we had several options at hand.

Choices, Choices…

So we knew we had to change the time limit but upon reflecting on our options, almost all of them had serious issues. Let’s consider each of them briefly:

  • Option 1: Extend the limit by a huge margin

Why not simply extend the time limit? You change a few numbers, flip a switch, and boom! Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case. If we went down this path, a lot of numbers would have had to be changed, causing all sorts of unforeseen issues in Event scripts, code, and so on. Extending the limit substantially would also certainly break world immersion but would not necessarily solve the issue when the next larger bit of content comes around (and it will!) because it is very difficult to gauge how much it should be raised in one big go.

  • Option 2: Keep extending the limit with every DLC

So why not keep raising the time limit with every bit of sizeable content like DLCs? Well, it basically has the same issues as Option 1, with the added risk of doing it with every major release. More than anything, this option would have just produced a lot of work for the benefit of moving the goalpost momentarily.

  • Option 3: Leave it as it is

Why change it then? Leave it the way it is and worry not about too much to do in too little time. If you are afraid that players will miss out on content, tell them that they can experience it in multiple playthroughs. Sure, this could have worked but we felt that with a game as long and chock-full of content as Vagrus, demanding multiple playthroughs to get the full experience would not be a great plan. Also, considering the sheer size of Sunfire and Moonshadow (plus what is to come later), there would have been way too much content even for multiple time-limited playthroughs and the choices players had to make regarding leaving things out could not be well-informed. Do I leave out the expansion because I have to focus on the Sunken Tower for the Knowledge Ambition? Do I forsake the second half of the Golden Theory and Wyrm War questlines and move on to the DLC, losing out on those achievements in this playthrough? These are the types of questions we did not wish players to contemplate.

  • And so that leaves us with Option 4: cutting the whole time limit system altogether

That was not an easy choice, either. For one, we knew that many players would feel that they had lost something with the limit’s removal – perhaps they enjoyed racing against the (very slow) clock or they never cared for it or achievements or in-world consistency much in the first place. Others, who had already acquired tricky achievements might feel robbed because now it’s a bit easier to get them. We are naturally sorry about all this but as we’ve discussed, we simply had to change the system.

The worst issue with cutting the time limit was something else, however: how will it affect current playthroughs, and specifically, what do we do about achievements in playthroughs that have already passed the time limit and thus deactivated them?

Retroactive Achievements

Achievements in Vagrus come in a few subtypes but for the sake of the explanation here, let us divide them into two categories: Event-related and non-Event-related. Non-Event-related Achievements are typically tied to numbers that can be checked in the background from time to time (even every game turn), like Merchant Lord (Complete 250 Trade Tasks) or Deputized (Start a day with 6 Deputy slots). Event-related ones are trickier, because in most cases, they are tied to specific Event steps, so once they trigger, that’s it. If that happens while Achievement acquisition is turned off due to having passed beyond the original campaign time limit, you simply miss the Achievement in question.

This meant that a lot of players have missed out on a lot of Achievements, probably, that they could now – with the removal of the time limit – feasibly attain; and there is an argument for them now getting these retroactively. This was the biggest issue with our approach.

Luckily, we seem to have found a way to circumvent the issue and indeed award most (if not all) Event-related Achievements retroactively. This is going to happen in the near future, hopefully, with one of the updates. Players will simply need to load their latest savegame in a playthrough that has already surpassed the time limit and the Achievements should pop.

The New Warning

There was still the issue of immersion, which the removal of the time limit accentuates. To make that less painful for those who care, we’ve added a new warning once the old 11-year-or-so threshold is hit. This message informs you that you have reached a time in-world from which point stories, characters, and events will be less in alignment with the setting’s canon. It has no gameplay effects, it is merely there to cover the bases in that regard.

And so there it is, a long-winded but (hopefully) informative explanation of how and why we decided to cut the campaign time limit from Vagrus altogether. We hope that if nothing else, you can appreciate all the thought and care that goes into these changes. Regardless, we wish you all many great adventures in the cruel wastelands of the Riven Realms.

Stay safe, stay tuned, and conquer them!

The Lost Pilgrims Team


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