Hybrid class system
Thursday, 10 September 2009

Change is becoming a common theme, and now it's time for the class system. In our upcoming dungeon crawl, we will have 6 main, fully fledged classes with 3 specialties, each offering 10 skills for a total of 30 unique skills for every class. So far this is similar to how our first game, Depths of Peril, worked. The major difference is that instead of picking a full class, you can choose a hybrid class!

The advantage and disadvantage of hybrid classes are one and the same- you choose any 2 specialties you want from the 6 main classes. You have a lot of freedom to choose any combination, however, you end up with less skills than a full class has (20 instead of 30). It's the penalty of pursuing two completely different specialties at the same time.

Each specialty has 10 unique skills and/or spells, and also has a number of basic armor and weapon skills (these don't count against the 10 skills). So picking your specialties is a decision about what armor, weapons, and skills you want to be able to use.

Do you want to play a plate mail wearing mage type of character? You can do that. Do you want to have healing spells and be able to pick locks? You can! Do you want to summon fantastical creatures, but still stand toe to toe with monsters in a fight? You should be able to do that too.

Yes I am being a bit vague on the classes. I think I have settled on what the 6 classes and 18 specialties are going to be, but the skills are still very much in flux.

As an aside, with our hybrid classes, I just made what should be an easy interview question much harder. Often we get questions like "How many classes will your game have?" With Depths of Peril this is an easy answer-4. In Kivi's Underworld this question got harder. There are 22 classes total, but they aren't full classes. They each have 2 unique skills and work a bit more like a gauntlet character (they aren't meant to be full fledged character classes). In the dungeon crawl, the full answer is we have 6 main classes, 18 specialty classes, and a possibility of 141 different class combinations (6 full classes and 135 hybrid combinations that make sense).

As usual comments are welcome.

See part 2 here.

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dungeon crawl item system
Thursday, 03 September 2009

I've been putting a lot of thought into our item system for our upcoming dungeon crawl lately. For most action RPGs, the item system is very important.  This is definitely true for the dungeon crawl. Our more casual hack and slash, Kivi's Underworld, has a more streamlined item system, but the dungeon crawl is going to be much more hard core, so we are going to need a cool, full item system.

We are essentially starting with the Depths of Peril item system and building from there. Depths of Peril already has a pretty extensive system with items with many different rarities: normal, common, uncommon, rare, very rare, set, unique, and artifacts. This works pretty well, but I'm adding some things that I think will make it even more interesting: elite items, legendary items, cursed items, ego weapons, set item changes, and procs.

Elite items are technically not new. I'm changing the unique items to elite items. It's really just a name change that fits a bit better. It's always been weird telling people, yes you can find multiple copies of a "unique" item.

Legendary items are a new tier of items above artifacts. Essentially, they are
the most powerful items in the game. The plan is that they will have the attributes that the same named artifact will have, plus one random attribute, adding a huge variety to the top tier of items. However, a legendary item could have something relatively worthless like extra light, be awesome with an extra 100% of damage, or even be cursed.

Ego weapons have some level of intelligence that recognizes enemies and/or friends. If you are fighting a monster the ego weapon considers an enemy, you'll get a large damage bonus (currently +200%). However if you are fighting someone it considers a friend, you'll get a large damage penalty (currently -50%). An ego weapon can have multiple enemy types and/or friend types.

Cursed items are going to make things interesting. No they are NOT like D&D cursed items that bind to you if you equip them. A cursed item has at least one negative attribute, like a strength penalty. I think the cursed items are going to be amusing in many cases and add a lot of variety. Is that cool rare sword with the curse better than your merely common magic sword?

The positive side of cursed items is that they have lower level and attribute requirements to use them. So thanks to the curse, you might be able to use an item that is well above your level. Many times a curse will be bad, but sometimes it will be a blessing in disguise. It also lowers the item price which will be good or bad depending on if you're buying or selling. Some possible pure cursed items: axe of
flabbiness (less vitality), staff of lameness (less spirit), mace of impotence (less strength), long sword of the Idiot (less intelligence), and dagger of clumsiness (less dexterity). Ego weapons with a monster friend type are also cursed items.

Set items are always tricky. If you drop too few then no one can complete any of the sets and the items just end up being poor unique items (now elite items). If you increase the drop rate, you end up with more items from different sets. We've made two changes to help complete sets - set items now have a larger level range when they are allowed to spawn, and when a set item drops there is now a chance another item from the same set will drop. For each successful extra drop, it checks again. So it's actually possible, though not likely, that the entire set will drop at once.

And finally we now have items with skill procs. For those who don't know the lingo, a proc is a spell that has a chance to be cast automatically when something happens.  Currently we have -on hit- procs for weapons and -when hit- procs for armor. You can find items like a sword with a 10% chance to cast a level 5 fear each time you hit a monster, or a breastplate with a 5% chance to cast a level 10 ice storm each time you are hit. The other nice thing is that these are random attributes, so they can appear on pretty much any magical item in the game.

I'm sure I'll make more changes before we ship, but this is the state of the current item system (or in a couple cases about to be). As usual feedback is very welcome.

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Our quest system is unique
Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Pretty much all rpgs have quests, so how is our quest system in our upcoming dungeon crawl different? Well frankly in most rpgs (there are exceptions of course) quests exist in a vacuum. They will sit there forever, nothing can change them and they change nothing either. Your choices don't really matter. There are no consequences to your actions. You can't really fail. Text like "hurry", "emergency", and "or else" are just flavor text and don't mean anything. And every time through a typical rpg the quests are exactly the same as the last play through.

None of this is true for our upcoming game (Depths of Peril is similar in many ways). I'm going to show this with a bunch of examples of the typical rpg and our game. These examples will overlap a bit.

Real choices:

Bonelord has taken Airik hostage and demands a ransom to be paid. In a typical rpg, if you even have the choice of whether or not you pay, either direction is going to end up with you rescuing Airik, either because the choice is phony or you have to use save games when you fail. In our game, you really do have the choice and the choices lead to different outcomes. If you pay off the ransom, you will get Airik back, but Bonelord leaves with your money and is very likely to take another hostage now that he knows he has a sucker. If you refuse, Bonelord will attack and try to kill Airik. Airik is very mortal. If he dies, he really will be dead and you
might be without an important NPC for the rest of this adventure.

Consequences:

Two factions have been at war for a while, but now a representative of each is meeting with one another and trying to broker a truce. In a typical rpg, well neither of these things would probably be possible in the first place. In the remote case that they could, the two would sit in their location forever doing nothing until you killed them. In our game, they will only negotiate for so long. If they finish their meeting, they will declare peace with each other and possibly even declare war on the town now that they have the free time. If you can kill them both while they are still in the meeting though, their respective factions will think they have been betrayed and continue their war. And yes a war between two factions means they will fight and kill each other when they meet in the game.

Failing:

Emma was picking wild mushrooms down in an area in the dungeon that was thought to be safe, but was captured by Scree. Please go rescue her. In a typical rpg, there is no way to fail. She will patiently wait for her rescue forever if need be and she can't be killed. In our game, Emma can definitely die and will without your help. Can you save her before she is gruesomely murdered?

Hurry or else:

Storm is planning to attack the town. Hurry and kill him before the attack is launched. In a typical rpg, there is no point of hurrying, the town is going to be attacked or it's not. It just depends on how the quest was created and has nothing to do with your actions. "Hurry" is just there to make the quest feel intense. In our game, hurry really does mean hurry. In this case, if you are too slow the town will be attacked just as you were warned. If you are quick, like the quest suggests though, you really will prevent the attack.

Random:

Pheros has kidnapped Svana. In a typical rpg, if this is how the game starts, then the game will always start this way. After you have been through the storyline, you have seen everything. In our game, if you start a new town it will be a completely new town. You most likely won't start with a kidnapping quest and there probably will not be a monster named Pheros or an NPC named Svana.

Our quest system is probably different in many other ways, but these are the main aspects. I find much more meaning to quests having real choices, actual consequences, and being able to fail. It's less like watching a static movie and more like playing some old school D&D. The random part is also really cool because you can play through the game multiple times, especially with different characters, and not see the exact same linear storyline.

As usual comments are very welcome.

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Dungeon crawl quests
Friday, 14 August 2009

First sorry for no news for the last few weeks. I was hiking in Colorado with the family. It was very nice. :)

Quests in the dungeon crawl (which I really need to name soon) are going to be similar in some ways to the quests in Depths of Peril. Like DoP they are going to be random, they will be able to spawn more quests, you will be able to fail quests, and they can have consequences if you fail them or just solve them too slowly. There are many differences though.

Each town has a few quests that need to be solved and these will be different for every single town.  This is why you are here. You are the hero come to save the town. Each adventure will start with different quests, will have a different town with different npcs, and will have different world modifiers. But even if everything started the same, the adventure would still play out differently each time. The quests can branch differently, new random quests will spawn, and everything responds to what you do or don't do.

In DoP, the system could spawn more quests during a quest. For example, a unique monster could send an assassin to town. This can still happen, but now the game tells you who sent the assassin to town. This way you see the connections between the quests better. In this game though, the system can also spawn more quests when you fail a quest, complete a quest, or solve a quest.

Warning: spoiler next. For example, not all npcs are what they seem. Yesterday I added a new escort quest. It works exactly like a normal escort quest until you complete it. This is where the npc betrays you, goes renegade, ambushes you with a group of monsters, and attacks you. Most escort question will be what you expect, but every once in a while you might just be surprised. :) I'm hoping to have potential twists to all of the quests to keep things a bit interesting.

There will also be more variations of each type of quest. DoP had town attacks which were really cool and they had variations because the monster type was different each time. However, in the dungeon crawl I'm thinking of at least having raids, town attacks, and invasions. Town attacks would be similar to DoP town attacks.  Raids would be fairly quick attacks that stop on their own. Invasions would be major, full out assaults. All three are basically town attacks, but they are different enough to add a bit of flavor.

I still have one question that I haven't quite answered yet. How specific do I want to make quests? I can make hardcoded quest chains just like most games that are very specific and statically chain to the next quest. If we do this it would be completely random when the quest chain would start though. This would make each quest a bit more immersive, but only the first time. The second time you see the quest, it's boring. Or do I make all of the quests a bit less specific, so that they are always more replayable? This way seems a bit less immersive on the first pass, but you are never going to know what happens before hand even if you have seen this exact quest before. Each time it might branch differently.

Any thoughts? Any cool quest ideas?

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Undead
Friday, 24 July 2009

Most of this week I've been working on monsters. I've had a lot I could say about the monsters, but I've hesitated because I don't want to spoil too many of the surprises in the game. To show a bit of the direction I'm going with the monsters, but not contain too many spoilers I'm going to talk about the undead. This will contain some spoilers so if that will bother you, don't read any further.

We have had zombies, skeletons, and liches in both of our previous games and I think they were cool in both games. Here's how they work in DoP and Kivi: Skeletons are slow and have melee and ranged versions.  Zombies are usually slow, but every once in a while can get a huge movement speed bonus. Liches can raise the dead and have draining and ranged attacks.

In the dungeon crawl, they can still do everything they did before but they also have a lot more depth. First of all skeletons and zombies aren't very bright. When they are uncontrolled they will attack just about anything. So you might find a group of zombies attacking a couple hulks. We've had monsters fight monsters before, but what happens if the zombies kill one of the hulks? If you have watched any zombie movies before you know the answer. Up rises an undead version of the hulk, but now it fights on the side of the undead and the other hulk is screwed. Of course, after they have killed and infected the other hulk, you are likely to be next.

If there was a lich nearby everything would be different. The lich will take control of all of the zombies and they will only attack what the lich allows them to, so in this case they will ignore the hulks and come straight after you. They also act more as a group. If you attack one of the zombies the lich will know and will tell all of his zombies to go kill you. Did I mention that controlled zombies are also faster and stronger? Well they are. If you manage to kill the lich though, the zombies will go back to their uncontrolled behavior and lose their bonuses.

These new changes have other ramifications that are going to be interesting. I'm pretty sure there is going to be a world modifier that increased the chances of undead. When this happens are the undead just going to kill off all of the other monsters? What happens when a horde of zombies attacks the town? How are you going to feel about killing your own npcs after they are zombies?

As usual I think all of the interactions are going to make this a very interesting game and these are just the changes to these 3 types of monsters. I have made a lot of changes to other monsters this week. We will also have a number of new monster types.

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