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PoV
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 1:02 am    Post subject: Development Log - Dungeon Legion Reply with quote

Well, since my plan is to be a little more forward and public with my next project, I should at least talk about it here.

You can disregard that post I made last week about movies and stuff. After a bit of thinking, I decided that project might be a little difficult to find a market for... at least before I finish this one.

Instead, as the signature says, I'm working on a project now that I call "Dungeon Legion".

The name Dungeon Legion is borrowed from a game concept and prototype I did last year. In fact, it was the project I was working on before I started Smiles.



Video: http://www.viddler.com/explore/PoVRAZOR/videos/5/

Initially, the game was to be a sort of RPG+Pikmin hybrid. Command a group of creatures to fight for you (hence, "Legion").

At the time though, the project seemed far too large in scope to see finished any time soon. So, I went with a smaller project (Smiles).

Finally, 11 months after coming up with the original Dungeon Legion concept, it looks like I'm back.

Actually, I did spend some time in December with Dungeon Legion (between Smiles and now). At the time, I was inspired by our little Blender modeling discussion and started experimenting with Blender again.



The concept brewing in my brain was sort of "tactical RPG looking Diablo'esc game". That must sound strange, but what I mean by that is 2D character art in a 3D game world (like you see in many modern Tactical RPG's, Disgaea/FF Tactics). I was convinced that the game had to be somewhat 3D, mostly to appeal somewhat to the ignorance of the general gaming public. It's maybe a rude thing to say, but outside some exotic platforms (Mobile), that's just the way the core games market is.

Heh, that's pretty much all I did. A few renders and tests constructing 3D tiles.

Fast forward to April, Ludum Dare 14. I started experimenting with a top down "game made of rooms"... which I'm sure also sounds rather strange. Being an organizer of the competition, I kinda didn't have all that much time to put in to an entry. I did finally get around to extracting an empty template from my Smiles code, and got thinking a bit about random dungeons.

In the end I bailed on the random dungeon idea. The way I look at it, you can go 1 of 2 ways to get game content faster. Go procedural, which has a tougher initial time investment, and requires much testing to be sure the algorithms don't break. Or make your content (map) making process extremely easy and fast. So that where I ended up.

Making maps easier would mean the entire content development process would have to be simplified. So with that in mind, the concept for Claustrophobia manifested. I.e. "The Detective Game".



This game was a bit of a styles hybrid. In a way, a game vaguely in the style of blueprints. However, being a bit of a retro game nut, some of my conceptual nostalgia seeped in and I ended up with the simple color glowy design you see above.

In a way, the visuals were half inspired by an old C64 favorite of mine, Master of Magic.



Master of Magic was actually one of the earlier inspirations for Dungeon Legion. You'll note how polygonal looking the early prototyping looks. Initially, I wanted Dungeon Legion to be a "that but modern" looking game. Extrude those polygons out in to 3D space to give a 3D look. Also, hang the walls low so they don't get in the way, and use large doors misc scenery. I intended to mock that up but didn't. Anyways, back to Claustrophobia.

The simple look of Claustrophobia could have worked. I still like it actually. The scenery would need to be a little more detailed, but wouldn't be a problem.

But where the game would have to really shine to stand out would have been in the writing and audio. That's where the "detective game" motif came in to play. Graphics styled in such a way that they can convey the message of the situation, but the storytelling, pacing, narrative and audible production quality would have to be top notch to justify the game as a something more than a mere iPhone title.

I haven't spoken too much publicly about my opinion of the iPhone market post Smiles. In summary, a platform as open as iPhone is the wrong place to be developing "exclusive titles" for. Many exclusivity contracts last for a period of time. After that time expires, you're free to port and release the game for other platforms (PC, Mac, etc). So to me, iPhone has joined those such platforms. WiiWare's almost the same way, if you can get past the gatekeeper process, and can afford it.

With that in mind, I could probably pull it off, but it was going to be tough. I mocked up a short scripted scenario involving getting some groceries, but in the end it kinda made clear how much work I'd have to do to get production/performance up to an acceptable level (i.e. lots). The writing itself is something I took for granted. Despite being something as mundane as waking up and going to get some groceries, I realized it was going to take some serious practice and research to make that the most compelling grocery shopping experience I could. ;)

So the question was where can I go from here? And also, is there something else I'd rather spend the next 4-6 month on?

Heh, to be continued...
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PoV
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's kinda funny how I ended up where I am. Madgarden and I chat about weird stuff regularly. Game projects, Commodore 64, making lots of money, cake, etc. Kind of amusing in an dreamer/imaginative/immature teenager sense, when you realize we're both adults (ZOMG I'm almost 30!). I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

So yeah, we're chattin'. I fire that Claustrophobia mockup his way, and talk about it a bit. He throws out an off hand comment about "Master of Magic". I don't think much about it, making some corrections regarding what I was thinking.

A couple days pass by.

"Master of Magic 'eh?". ;)

So after much thought on the validity of the project, I'm ready to switch gears. Again, trying to come up with a nice way to get most visual bang for the least effort. So further optimize my visual style from 2D animated characters to... well... a bunch of circles and glowy things. So Dungeon Legion, Claustrophobia, and Master of Magic collide for a brand new concept... called Dungeon Legion.



The concept isn't fully formed yet, but I think I have a strong enough foundation to work from. After becoming more and more practiced with game prototyping/Ludum Dare, I've grown further and further away from the idea of "Game Design Docs" and other formalities. I prefer lots of notes and concept art, letting the truly good game evolve and define itself through iteration, experimentation, and play. That's how all my prototypes were mere made, and Smiles. PuffBOMB didn't even have physics at first. It was bomberman 'esc initially, but as soon as I wrote a particle system and fire effect, the project snowballed.

The the mockup above is where the new Dungeon Legion has begun. Top down view, 3D scenery, and static simple enemy graphics. One way I've described it to myself is by calling it a "Master of Magic" for PlayStation 2. PS2 isn't the actual target platform, but I think that's the sort of technical angle I want the game to feel like. Something leaning more towards board-game-like visuals on a semi-modern game system.

After making that mockup, the goal and scope of the game has evolved towards some interesting directions. Physics wasn't going to play a very big role in game, but I'm seriously considering as a contrast to the simple graphics, heavily using physical reactions in combat. Knock back, slight air time from heavy hits, pushing things of ledges.

Content complexity, I'm trying *not* to make a content monster. What I want is game that's maybe 1-2 hours in length if you rush. How long it'll actually be, we'll find out. At the very least, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't pulling myself in to one of my infinite length RPG's that I'd conceptualize as a kid (Islandgates).

There's lots more to the idea. In summary:

- Top down metroidvania (items control character growth... I guess it almost zelda-like because it's top down)
- Automatic "MMO'ish" combat. Not precisely MMO'ish, but you automatically engage enemies, and have the option of activating special skills via a pop-up context menu.
- Different radius enemies (bigger is obviously bigger)
- Text display (like in mockup)... maybe.
- Some spoken storytelling.

So that's what I'm up to. I've been spending the past week or so doing experiments in Blender. To my surprise, I'm nearly at a point where I could actually make usable game content now. At this stage, the plan is to build some rooms and elements, and getting them working in game. Of course, there's always the possibility that I could up and outright change my goals or even the game itself, but still. This is where I stand.
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Edited by PoV on Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:24 pm; edited 2 times
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Gil
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, you wandered right into an area very close to mine some time ago, so here are some ideas of mine that might be usable :)

It dawned to me when playing The Witcher. Most RPGs have this really boring way of handling magic. Wether it's a fireball, a wind gust or a splash of water, it all just does some random amount of damage. This is dumb.

I was toying around with an RPG where magic does more fun kinds of things, but I required physics and I don't want to touch physics yet, it scares me, because I have too many physics ideas and I'd wind up spending three years writing a physics engine that I could just download right now. I know myself too well. Anyway.

My idea was that magic could be something way cooler. Wind spells are used for pushing enemies around. Lots of cool stuff like "blow enemy into spike pit", "create shifting gusts to control the battlefield and keep certain enemies away while you finish another first".
Fire spells don't do direct damage. They lit the enemy on fire, so it begins taking damage every few seconds. Your aim is to keep the enemy ablaze. Keep it from jumping in the pool, keep flaming it now and then to keep the fire going. Make sure it doesn't hit you or you go up in flames too.
Electric spells are direct damage, but tricky to use. If you just fire it at an enemy, the lightning will strike it, then go to the nearest creature (probably you), so you use it when you're not near or there is other stuff to redirect the blast to. Most metal objects around the dungeon can catch the lightning and ground it. If it hits X amount of enemies, it stops too. Push the enemy into a pool first, then blast.

The whole trick to the game is that magic becomes a puzzle to use. You use the right spells at the right time and even combine them. Use some water spell or use wind to push enemy into pool. When the enemy is wet, electric attack will not come back to bite you and do its full damage.
Use the wind spells to propel yourself onto higher grounds, over chasms, etc.


So there it is, magic as a physics puzzle. Hope it inspires you somehow :)
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PoV
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a scope thing, I might be avoiding magic and focusing on combat skills instead. But you bring up some good ideas. :)
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a similar idea about magic before... basically, magic is a way to (programmatically) access and alter attributes of objects. Any attributes. Velocity, health, fear, temperature, material... whatever. Then spells and potions essentially become collections of commands, programs that can be combined and utilized in an infinite amount of ways, both white and black.

Throw in a few things like duration of effects and most magic wears off appropriately.

This way you really don't have to design much either... it's emergent. Just think of cool ways to do "magic" as you go along. :)
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Gil
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, obviously, physics-based combat in a dungeon crawler is equally fun :)

I imagine fun attacks like a combo where you push+stun with the shield, then slash with the sword.

The ultimate physics in a dungeon crawler: lure five enemies on some stairs, then push the top one and they all crash down the stairs :D

Domino Diablo baby!
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PoV
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh yeah. I'm excited about being able to dabble with that sort of stuff. :D. Get that working right, and the simple art style should be easily forgivable.

Then a sequel could go to town with all kinds of gravity/impulse based magic. ;)
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Gil
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just foresee space for an expansion.

I imagine that the mechanics will be similar, just with different particles. Start with something simple, leave room for more.

Have you got any idea on target platform and such? I can see this equally well in Flash form as in XBLA as in simple PC executable form.

That is assuming you aren't going for iPhone again.
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PoV
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pretty much. For hand to hand weapons, I'm toying with the idea of having a sword graphic appear adjacent to the character, and follow through with the slash. To simplify combat and reactions, there'll be a sort of implicit line between you and your target (centers of the circles), and the animation will play out between you. Probably have markers placed inside the animation itself, where points of impact and direction of forces can be specified. Those are what actually detect and apply the damage upon contact. As a result of the setup, a normal left to right slash versus a foe could actually push them a little bit to the right. And because it'll auto center the line between you and your target, you don't need to worry about turning to make a subsequent attack.

I want combat to be automated in such a way that you don't have to pick out the precise attack angle with an analogue stick. But free enough that you can move your characters placement, hitting a battle context menu button the moment when your centers align just right, and activating a shield bash or thrust attack to send the enemy off the ledge in front of you. Standard attacking would be a default and automatic action, it's the specials and where you want to stand that you control. That way, you can (hopefully) plan out and perform tactical actions.

I want it on a console of some sort. Once it gets to the awesome stage, I plan to pitch it. Worst case, I've thought about some ways of adapting it to iPhone and PC's, but I'd prefer a system with an analogue stick or d-pad.
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

XNA might be an option? Develop on PC and pitch it for release on XBLA.

Really good platform for prototyping in and it shouldn't be too hard to release on
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An option yes, but not one I'm willing to pursue. If I was to talk to Microsoft again, I'd go through normal channels. One thing I refuse to do is develop for non C++ platforms. I'm not interested in locking my code in to XNA's C#.

These days, I can even develop for Flash in C++ thanks to Alchemy. No thanks XNA. ;)
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had no idea that XNA was C# exclusive, sorry :)

I'm assuming you can do XNA in managed C++, but that will probably not be your cup of tea either.

Flash does seem a decent competitor for these kinds of graphics, especially with all the great tools (for example Alchemy, like you noted) lately.

Let me know when you choose the platform, I'm interested :)
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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I'll admit I haven't checked if managed C++ is supported, nor do I know the limits/restriction. It wasn't supported way back when, so I've ignored it. The "Plan B" though, XNA community store, from what I've heard isn't doing as well as it could be thanks to a clunky user buying interface. Plus the sales figures are unimpressive, even compared to iPhone.

:). I've actually picked platform(s) already, but am being intentionally vague due to some insider information. Nudge nudge wink wink sort of stuff. I still need to develop the idea and pitch it despite the platform choice(s) though. I made the mistake a couple years ago pitching a project before there was a working prototype, so I want to have that before I make anything official or concrete. And if it falls through, there are always other options. :)
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Understood :)
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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Still pounding away on 3D engine stuff.

A strange diversion though. My silly comment about speaking backwards Latin got me thinking about backwords language in general. One thing lead to another, and I came up with a creepy dialect based on English. The only difference is I reverse the occasional pair sound or silent pair for better readability (sh, wh).

Quote:
Death awaits all who enter!

Thead stiawa lla owh reten!

Thead stee-awa la oh reten!

Ahem... then I recorded it, and processed it a bunch to sound like the evil dungeon overlord... there's always an evil dungeon overlord.

http://junk.mikekasprzak.com/Audio/DeathAwaits.mp3
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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why do you overseas people still use "th" if you're not going to pronounce it correctly.

It baffles me.

Also, the D&D geek in me found that sound clip slightly amusing :)
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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny the "th" bugs you when it's the poorly articulated "d" at the end of "Thead" that gets me. ;)

I wanted something rough to give some spoken context to the silly munged language. If I was doing some serious recordings, I'd probably spend the week practicing my articulation and pacing. There are nuances to even my own speech that bother me. :)

The "th" sound for me is always tongue touching upper teeth, and either an airy TV static like sound (Thick, Teeth) or a toned buzz (The, This). Not sure how else you'd "th". I may have oversimplified an "airy TV static" to a click though.

Actually the word should have probably been "Thaed" (Thay-ed), but I noticed I read it wrong on the recording and changed it. ;)
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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A faster method to achieve this new language would be to read in the sentences correctly, but with the word order reversed, then reverse the audio.

A cleaner result could be obtained by then rereading what you hear to get away from the weird reversed speech effect.

Ah, well, it's all good fun :)
Are you planning to actually use this in the game?
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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe. I plan to do some readings/narrative in my normal voice, albeit more serious than my Smiles trailer (far less "Mr Rogers") . I haven't figured out how I'm going to tie things together yet, but I'd like audio to play an important role. There probably wont be cutscenes, but narrative during notable events, or as a prelude to them. A combination of observations and lore.

I don't want to overdo it either, but writing and recording seems like a relatively easy way to beef up an event. Easy compared to producing and animating a complicated cutscene.

I may do some further audio experiments in the coming days. I need some rendering ideas to gestate a bit more.
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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gil wrote:
Why do you overseas people still use "th" if you're not going to pronounce it correctly.
It baffles me.

It's because modern English orthography dropped the letters Thorn (in norTH) and Eth (in THat). English grammarians and lexicographers in Elizabethan times generally (and erroneously) considered Latin to be both a perfect language, and most appropriate language to base their standardization efforts upon. So, we adopted the Latin practice of transcribing the Theta/Thorn sound with the digraph "TH".

And that is your historical linguistics lesson for the day. We now return you to your regularly scheduled ramblings.
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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Uh... WTF? Dude. I just noticed your zombie only has one shoe.
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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Madgarden wrote:
Uh... WTF? Dude. I just noticed your zombie only has one shoe.

Only one hand, too.
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As you would say... "OH SNAP!" And I mean that both literally and figuratively.
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