Hey, all! I know it’s been a long time in coming, but attached to this post is a map for a one-shot dungeon crawl entitled The Eagle’s Landing. The ‘official’ story is that this underground complex was once the temple of a forgotten goddess of night, but has since fallen to a group of bandits known as the Ragged Eagles. I’ve been designing it to try out the Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin, but, of course, feel free to use it however you’d like in your home game (no commercial or public use, of course).
The Heroes of Greentangle is the current result of all my messing around with C#. The game is a tower-defense role-playing game for the Xbox Live Indie Community, and although it is not yet totally finished the framework is nearly done. Here is a picture of the first tutorial screen (using substituted art elements). The game will have a fantasy-sketch style that should make it look like a story-book.
“What,” you may ask, “makes this an RPG tower defense game?” It’s true that there are a lot of fantasy-themed defense games that say ‘rpg’ styled on them, but Heroes of Greentangle will feature multiple dungeons on an overmap that you can navigate, persistent ‘heroes’ that serve as your towers and can level up, and gold/experience that can make both you and your men-at-arms more powerful.
I am as partial to graphics in my video games as the next guy, although the ability to draw escapes me. I have mentioned before that I was considering (still am) commissioning some good, high-quality art for the UI, menus, etc. for Space Mercs. Earlier, I was planning on using ASCII art (as seen in previous screens) as the main means of displaying the game, however.
After spending today goofing around in GIMP, I have started serious thinking about drawing some very retro art, instead. I don’t have the skills to produce really high-quality stuff, but what do you think about this? It might be a little bit more fun, right?
Space Mercs now has more complex, DnD-like melee combat. The prototype game has been featuring a simple, no-hit roll melee system that simply did damage between 1 and whatever your character’s strength happened to be. Now, characters make a d20 roll whenever a character attempts to melee attack. The d20 roll is modified by your character’s BattleLevel, which is a facet of the game’s unique character-level system.
Here is the code for melee:
An entity calls this method whenever it tries to move into a square occupied by an entity of another team (the teams are currently only Players and Mobs). Initially I was going to have multiple enemy factions that would battle with each other, but I found that monsters would end up killing each other if the PCs waited long enough. Believable, but not fun. Unless I can figure out a way around that, it’s out for now.
Because of the real-time nature of combat in Space Mercs, I had to make sure that missing in melee is implemented in the game, although I was originally planning on having no-miss combat. Without it, the game runs simply too dangerously.
The thing that I am most proud of when it comes to the map maker that I have developed for Space Mercs is the way that the computer is able to create and adapt the tiles that are made in a way that makes them connect in new and exciting ways each time. Unlike in a game like Carcassonne, the “tiles” that the computer uses are flexible. What is an out-of-the-way cupboard in one map might be the crossroads that connects a series of dungeon branches in another.
Here is an example of what I mean. This map tile is really just a few rooms and a connecting (albeit not perfectly straight) corridor that lies between them. When taken into consideration with the rest of the map, however, we can see how the room in the lower left, which might otherwise be taken as an out-of-the-way corner of the map, becomes a dangerous thoroughfare with a doorless hole in its south side, allowing enemies passing by to see into your hiding place. The north-western room, however, was generated with a door in its west wall, providing blocking cover and making the room much safer.
By combining even a relatively small tile set, the way my generator creates connections means that no two maps will ever be the same. Even the strategic and tactical significance of a particular tile can change depending on how and where it is connected to the rest of the map!
(Note: the beacon is the silver-grey ‘:’ two squares north of the player’s ‘@’.)
The thumper beacon is now working in Space Mercs. Success at Mercs is heavily dependent upon tactical, cautious play, and players will find that use of strategic tools such as the beacon will be essential to success. In the picture above, you can see how the thumper draws wandering monsters toward its location, allowing you to plan ambushes or buy time for a strategic “advance to the rear” (retreat).
What was difficult was finding the balance of how strongly beacons like the thumper and several others would influence unit AI. I think that the effect is currently well-balanced, but it will take a bit more work before I can say that conclusively.
Interplay‘s Wasteland has been mentioned on this blog before as a reference that I use when considering which game concepts will be brought forward into the large RPG project I am planning to tackle after the Space Mercs roguelike has been completed. This post will be a brief overview of the things that I like about the game and want to bring forward.
The idea of an overland, go-anywhere map seems to have really hit its stride with Wasteland. Like in its spiritual successor, Fallout, the player is not artificially limited to a small section of the country at the beginning of the game. The only thing stopping you from testing the very boundaries of the irradiated, post-WWIII southwest is an infinite army of grump, leather-clad muties.
This sensation of freedom was also present in the Elder Scrolls games, at least until Oblivion was released. With the fourth addition to the series, the developers went a little insane and decided to level the opponents to your character, essentially committing the gravest crime of good, fair game design–you would never meet a challenge too tough, and would never outgrow a challenge, either. A wolf at level one is challenging, but not deadly. That same wolf is just as challenging when you are level 5. It is the most grievous example of DM-ly handholding visible in most modern RPGs, and it will not be repeated in my RPG.
Shopping and NPC interaction in Wasteland is simple and fairly dense. It is difficult to figure out how to speak with an NPC, how to trade items between your party members, and how to manipulate your own equipment. The game features an admirable level of depth and sophistication, but it is hidden behind an overly complicated control scheme and a lack of clearly laid out buttons.
Simplicity of input aids depth of interaction, which is a concept that I am already exploring in the inventory and tactical combative aspects of Space Mercs.
Finally, combat. Wasteland featured a text- and menu-driven combat scheme that evokes other games from the developer, such as Bard’s Tale. When looking at it from a game designer’s perspective, it is excellent–it features distance, multiple enemies, and dangerous combat that makes a player really consider his next move, lest he die. I want to bring all of these things into both Space Mercs and my RPG project. I will, however, be doing so in a manner more fitting with modern, spatial conceptions of gaming.
I would love to make a really classic-style RPG one day, but I think that my time right now is better spent learning from the ideas of games like Wasteland and then figuring out what made those games great, so I can bring them into the modern era.
Games like these were made by teams of 2 or 3 men (sometimes more, but nothing like the scores-strong development teams of today). That they could do so with nothing more than the primitive programming languages of the past and veritable oodles of chutzpah gives me hope that my own projects will stand a chance, if I am willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears that a project like one of these would require.
Keep checking back!