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.
I’ve only recently discovered Atlus’s outstanding NDS dungeon crawl, The Dark Spire, which surprises me since I’m such a huge fan of their Etrian Odyssey series, which I hope to cover in a later post. Both games are classic dungeon crawls in the vein of Wizardry, Bard’s Tale, and the early Ultima games. Both games are also exceedingly difficult, although the difficulty of Spire stems from a different place than the Odyssey games.
There has been some talk lately about the difference between strategic and tactical gameplay, and how the newer DnD games have been shifting toward a focus on tactics (round-to-round decision makings) rather than strategy (choosing when and where to fight, rather than how). The Dark Spire is a game that perfectly recreates the strategic nature of classic DnD and other crawls due to the purely deadly nature of combat in the game.
Newly created characters have between 1 and 8 hit points, depending on class. Each time you level up, all hit dice are rerolled. This means that a sixth level warrior will usually have somewhere between 28 and 38 hit points, with outliers on both sides. Enemies deal from 1-6 points of damage on a strike, meaning that your first level characters will die from a single unlucky hit. Your warriors are stronger, but not by much. Choosing the balance between fighting for experience and gold and avoiding combat is the challenge that anchors the game.
The game features an automap, but unlike the map in the Odyssey series, your own position does not appear on the map. This isn’t an issue while you are exploring new territory, since you can measure your progress by the map as it is revealed, but it does mean that the narrow corridors can become a maze if you are retracing your steps. Fortunately, the mage class has an ability to find your own position, but are you willing to expend a spell-slot to find your way?
My one gripe with the game is that its difficulty comes from the obscure nature of the game. Weapons do not indicate their damage potential. Skills are not always explicit about their own use. Although the level up system is understandable to a veteran of DnD, a player who has not played 0e and 1e DnD would be entirely in the dark about the way the game works under the hood at all (it even uses descending AC!). At the same time, its combat is nearly as punishing as Etrian Odyssey‘s, but it permits you to save any time, rather than just in town, as Etrian Odyssey does. I think that the nod here goes to Odyssey, but The Dark Spire has enough charm to win over fans nonetheless.
Plus, it includes a “retro” mode that almost perfectly recreates the look of games like Wizardry!
Space Mercs is currently working up to toe the line between tactics and strategy, with items that can contribute to both aspects of proper gameplay. Thumper beacons, for example, will allow you to choose the location of a battle so that it occurs in a long, narrow corridor that will allow your guns to go to work against fast, melee-range xenos.
My next project, which I am plotting but not yet working on, will much more closely hew to the strategic nature of old-school role playing. I am not ready to announce any more information about it yet, but I am very excited by the possibilities it will present to me both as a game maker and a player.
Stay tuned for information on Etrian Odyssey, hopefully coming sometime this week!
Hey all, here’s another battlemat-ready map for your game! The scale is 5′ per square and the caverns are lit by torches. Feel free to insert your own enemies and traps as you like!
Over at Gothridge Manor there’s an excellent post on valuing gems. In a comment, I replied with my own (admittedly simplistic) version of gem valuing for S&W. If you’re interested:
Whenever a player tries to value an art or treasure piece, I secretly roll a d10. For every number BELOW 5, they undervalue it by 10%. For every number ABOVE 6, they overvalue the object by 10% (this can make for some regretful discards when they players are trying to decide what to load onto their mule). A 5 or 6 means they get the real value.
Tim adds the character’s INT bonuses and many social factors (style, etc.) into the equation, but I simply am not a fast enough thinker on my DM-feet to do this (plus, we play S&W, so there’s no INT bonuses). If a player has 15+ INT, I will adjust the d10 roll one closer to the 5-6 sweet spot (I do not tell my players this rule).
When the players go to sell in town, they will receive the price they ask if they are undervaluing the object (I don’t allow haggling in my game unless the players are buying or selling something story-related or epic in value, such as a warship or keep). If they overvalue the object, the shopkeeper refuses and will only give them the correct value of the object.
If players suspect that the object is undervalued, they can pay an appraiser 10-15 gp to analyze an object in any town with at least 1,000 people in it.