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Showing posts from June, 2014

Vermin.

Some of the new small monsters.
Every RPG has different stages of character development, or acts;
Act I the noobs. Act II the experienced party. Act III the epic characters.Act IV the demigods. My own favorite stage is the first one. Everything can be dangerous to your party, every piece of treasure is potentially useful, every roleplaying quest seems worth doing just to try and grab some XP without fighting.

After that the experienced party part is still pretty fun, as you try to tweak your characters' skills and equipment, trying to get the most from your team or single character if you're playing a solo game.

Epic characters are only fun if you got them to that point yourself. Being dumped in to a campaign with a pre-written high level character is a pain (There are so many things about the character that just don't fit your "style") and even so I often end up restarting once I get to this point just to see if I can do "better" at making my character…

Comments Welcome and Data Entry

This is actually two short blog posts but I'll roll them together for the sake of brevity.

Firstly, BtS, the author of "The ground gives way" brought to my attention a problem with non-google users not being able to comment on the blog. The problem is now fixed and you should be able to post if you want to.

I do need some feedback on the game, so please do comment if you've got something to say. if you think something looks great, or terrible, please tell me about it. If you can see me heading for a disaster because I've made a mistake in my code or, a concept I'm chasing is fundamentally flawed, please tell me so I can fix it.

Secondly, I've been working on a rudimentary data entry program for my project.





A spreadsheet version of a dictionary.
Until now I've always used spreadsheets for creating data sets for my games. In the past I've spent hors, days, even weeks hand typing data for everything from global environment settings to battlemech stats…

Advice needed on tilesets...

I need some advice on which is the best way to handle building the dungeon.
Right now I'm using prefabs for my dungeon, they have a north south east and west section for each "room":


The basic tileset.
This has several advantages, and also several disadvantages. Firstly I can have curved rooms, I can have tunnels and other interesting shapes. The tilesets can look quite nice with a little work. On the other hand I can't easily get the navigation data before building the map and once the map has been built I can't make changes to the layout, like having active pit traps or believable secret doors. Although the rooms are interesting, they are quite repetitive, and it takes a lot of effort to make even a few different variations. Also rooms are constrained to one size.

A newer version of the tileset with a lot of variant parts for making more interesting rooms.
To create a tile set is a real headache too. Planning how to lay out the UVs, trying to cram as much detail…

The ground gives way.

Sometimes part of game development is comparing your game with others in the same genre. Today I tried out a newly released roguelike, "The Ground Gives Way".

Level 1
I like this game. It's quite fun and the procedural parts fit together well to create a game which feels scripted, like there's a kind of evolving narrative. That's an important part of effective procedural generation, that it doesn't seem totally random. For example I got to level 4 and there were 4 exits to the next level, but all but one of them was an empty room with no access to the rest of level 5. I also found a grill, so I could cook some food if I had some meat (I didn't have any).

Level 4 and my death.
It's a pretty difficult game, but there isn't quite the steep learning curve you get with many roguelikes. It starts difficult and stays difficult. That's because advancement isn't handled through XP and levels, but through getting better equipment.

The funny thing abou…

Philosophy of game design.

Bats.  I designed some new monsters today, with a new armature. I have about 5 different armatures so far, which can be used to create a variety of different monsters just by changing the mesh. However, I did want one more type, and I chose the bat. They can be scaled to different sizes in game and can use different skins or meshes. They can share the same animations or use different ones. For example, the smaller bats will fly, the larger ones  will crawl using their wings like arms.

Oooh! bats!
I'm trying to choose monsters which are interesting in appearance but not TOO fantastic. As always I'm guided by an aesthetic which I've been vaguely describing as old school. It's a philosophy which says no to cartoonish emphasis of an object's features, no to making every monster look like a boss, no to swords which are so large even Conan the Barbarian would have trouble lifting them, and no to chainmail bikinis. 

These days there's a tendency to boil everything d…

Large Monsters in game.

After spending a lot of time going through the code and adding in some special conditions I now have large monsters working pretty much as I want them. Well, as far as movement is concerned anyhow. When it comes to combat there really shouldn't be any trouble, it'll just be a case of checking which characters are next to the occupied squares for the intention of performing an attack.

One of the big monsters in game. The green circle represents the "home" square from which movement.
I've prepared a video which shows how the routes are calculated and how it looks in game.
You can see it below:



Working on this has thrown up a whole host of issues with the code so far. There'll be a lot of polishing going on over the next few days. One problem is that at times the game was calculating things based on a static floor height of z=0.1 rather than a dynamic z=walkmesh_data height. That will have to be corrected if my later experiments with variable height floors will …

Large Monster Implementation.

One thing which has been a cornerstone of my development framework so far has been Large Monster Implementation (from this point referred to as LMI). It's something that I've said I wouldn't give up on.

So as it became increasingly likely that LMI wasn't going to work, or was going to have to require two completely different movement and combat systems working in tandem I became a little downhearted.

A giant spider, and look, it really is GIANT!
I had built my level prefabs to include a two square wide door, specifically to allow plus size monsters. Many of the monsters I had already designed had small and large variants. It was a real downer.

Anyway, my original plan was to have two sets of tile data, one for small tiles and one for large. I would keep track of movement in both, and then share data between them. it was horrible complex to try and code, and I just gave up, just trying to work around the issue on other things that I could actually do.

Today I though agai…

The name of the game.

It's possible that I've settled on a name for the project after nearly 2 years of it being untitled. I'm still not 100%, as giving a game a name pretty much ties down what you want to do with it. From that point you can't go and change a lot of what you've done without the name seeming to be a bad fit. That's unless you've got some vague name like "Dirt" which could be about anything. I think "The Treasures of the Deep Dwellers" is a good working title, though it'll probably be more of a module title, with later releases having a core name. It has the tag line "A level zero adventure" which reflects the idea I have for the game as being more about stretching out the lower levels, that time before players become lightning bolt chucking, +5 sword wielding demigods. I want a low magic, low power adventure, where things like food, potions, scrolls and tools and using your brain is more important than just blasting everything a…

Animations and effects

One of the things I first learned to do when modding video games was to make animated textures. I started out with CIV 2, and moved on to CIV 3 from there. Back then there weren't any 3d graphics, rather we rendered 3d images in to sprites. Usually such sprites were stitched together to make a sprite sheet, or put together using some arcane script to create a .flic animation.

At the time I didn't know anything about even basic scripting, and I really wish I could go back and teach myself. I used to stitch the images together manually, using Corel Paint, or some other crappy image editing software. Some animations had 15 or more frames, with 8 directions, equating to 120+ painstakingly hand placed tiles. It took hours!

These days I use python and PIL to do the whole process automatically. I can even get fancy effects like blending images to loop the animation.

An acid splash animation.
I seriously recommend PIL to any other developer, it's a great little image library and yo…

Oh my goddess!

Although I've tried to focus only on making content, not on fleshing out the game word yet I have had to make some decisions about fluff and flavor.

For one thing, priests need some kind of allegiance, until now I had just been using an ankh as a kind of universal holy symbol as many early graphical RPGs did. The Ankh is instantly recognizable as a holy symbol, but old enough to not be part of a current world religion. No one is going to accuse you of blasphemy or anything like that for using it.

However, I am trying to add a lot of items to the game right now and I'd rather not have to come back later and add more stuff bit by bit. So I added 5 basic religions.

The Ankh of Shishi.
The first religious item is the Ankh of the goddess Shishi. It is the key of life, and priests which follow this religion are devoted to life, healing, farming and the Sun. Shishi is widely worshiped in the hot regions of the south and east, but little followed until recently in the temperate north. …

Revisions

As I go on with the project I try to do a little bit of coding or asset creation every day. Today I made some new helmets for barbarians:


Grimdark Helmets.
As well as revisiting the potions in 3D:

Lovely low poly potions.
I also spend some time everyday rethinking aspects of the game which have not been decided, such as combat, stats, character creation and role-playing. A few days ago I had a brainstorm about Social Status. As it stood, the idea was good, but in a fantasy game there are many different factions, some of them totally incompatible. I decided it would be best if characters could take ranks in different factions at character creation, just the same way as they spend points on skills or attributes, they could lose points of gain them through role-playing. You might become a knight after completing a particularly hard quest, or a high level character might gain control of the council of wizards. A very high level character might become king in a paper and pencil version of th…

Social status

I'm going to be revisiting the way levels are designed, bringing along some knowledge that I picked up while doing some basic 2D tilesets for another of my projects. I'm not sure how it's going to turn out yet, but it could be much better than the current tilesets, and allow different heights in different areas of the level. I'll have to do a bit of testing to see if it works, but better to do it now before I get to much further in. This could be something that really adds to the design of the game.
Anyway, while doing that I've been working on the rule set. One thing that has opened up is the idea of professions, and what they mean to roleplaying.

In medieval times, social status was incredibly important. If a knight and his squire went on a quest, guess who would get all the credit, and guess who would do most of the work. If a man is in a battle and his bishop is there behind him, it would take complete panic for the man to run away before th bishop. If your ki…

Items and professions

After making some more items for the game I found that the potions I'd made before didn't match at all well with the way items are displayed in the inventory.

I've revisited potions, and also made icons for potion ingredients, food, traps, tools and various other things.

Food is going to be quite important because it's replacing the rest function. To rest you'll find a quiet area and consume some food. The characters will do a resting animation and their health will be increased. You won't be able to eat if you're too thirsty so you'll need to drink some water or wine before resting.

Yummy food, and potion ingredients. You can eat the potion stuff but it has a chance of making you sick so it's not advisable.

Because of this you'll have to chose whether you really want to rest or not. Resting because of getting hungry won't happen all that often, if at all but if you get injured a lot you'll start eating up all your rations. There are heal…

Potions

A quick blog today to show off some of the potion models. In game they will have glow or sparkle effects, these are just the basic meshes with textures. I've made 30 unique potions for now. That should be enough to get started with. I've also set up a blend file with all I need to make more types later. The textures are just flat textures, I baked some matcap textures I designed on to a high poly version of the potion mesh.

Yummy, and not so yummy potions wait for the player to find... or make.
Because the game is going to be a pretty low magic setting, potions will be important. Don't expect to be carrying 30 potions of healing. Each potion you find will have a number of charges, or sips. The potion isn't used up until you've drained it dry. For now potions are going to be assigned randomly each time you play. Don't expect a green vial to always be a healing potion, because it could change. Eventually I want to set up a fake "chemistry" for the world,…

Barbarians!

Following on from yesterday's brain storm I'm going to revisit clothing and armor briefly. Before there were four types of armor: Clothes, light, medium and heavy armor, as well as hats and cloaks.

I'm going to extend this to add robes, which can essentially be worn over your armor for extra visual distinction. I also added barbarian furs to fill up some of the slots created by adding the separate robes category:

New to the catwalk this season, dead animal wear.
I may extend these even more to make a whole new category of armor so that barbarians and the like can enjoy visually actuate representation on screen. I kind of hate seeing my barbarian walking around in purple elven chain mail.

I've also moved some of the magical armor out to be "unique" armor. There will be unique items in game, very rare and with their own graphics so they feel even more valuable.

Magical glowing high level armor!
I want to get all the weapons, armor and gear sorted out now because …

Making comparisons.

After several weeks I've finally got back on the project. I spent some time on another game which may help supply some graphical effects later, as well as perhaps speeding up loading time, if I can work out the bugs.

Anyway, I also spent some time playing some classic D&D games to get a feel for what's good and bad about the genre.




Temple of Elemental evil. Short and sweet, one of my all time favorites, it has its flaws but I really enjoyed it. It still looks really nice too, but I could wish for more kinds of weapons and armor.







Baldur's gate. Perhaps it's because the original was designed for a low res monitor, but I couldn't really like this one visually. The backgrounds are nicely rendered, but the big glowing circles surrounding the players were too intrusive, and the method of showing player damage was horrible.

Some things I want:

Characters who are easy to differentiate on screen and have personality.
That means having some items which are purely aesthetic…