Size and roguelikes

Just a quick entry this week. I’ve been coding every day this week (apart from one where Dead Space 2 interposed itself) and a ton of work has been done, including more combat mechanics, severing limbs, armor and weapons being tethered to limbs correctly, displaying all possible combat messages, creature queries displaying more injury detail, species pages on creature queries, pathfinding, and starting a new ‘class’ of enemy.

This class is for enemies that are larger than just a single square. Originally I was intending to stick with the roguelike norm – any creature, whether a Titan or a gnat, takes up just one square on the map. Increasingly, however, I thought this was a terrible idea, so I’ve decided to allow some creatures to be larger. Some creatures can be two squares (e.g. ‘Q’ is the symbol for large quadrupeds, so an elephant may be ‘QQ’), some creatures can be four squares, some nine, one creature can be a long sequence of letters (which will be unveiled far, far in the future) while another species is totally unique (and equally far off). The only one of these to make it into the first alpha will be dragons, and so I leave you with a screenshot of a dragon attempting to fry me. The fire is in its early stages and needs a lot more work; as for four-square-creature pathfinding, large creatures normally have the ability to knock aside trees, and may (depending on strength and other factors) be able to break through walls and similar.

Superweapons

A lot of the discussion over on the Bay12 thread has been around the role of magic in the game. Although it’s a long-term goal and I’m focusing far more at the moment on procedural generation of the world, combat mechanics, and spawning weapons/armor, I thought I’d stick up a bit about where my thinking on magic was coming from. For this, I need to say a bit about how ‘superweapons’ function in Tiberian Sun, one of my very favourite games, as it serves to illustrate much of my thinking (and it’s been a while since a post about game design in general, and I felt like writing one).

There are two main superweapons, one for each side – the multi-missile and ion cannon . These are powerful, have a wider spread of damage, and require no special resources – they simply recharge on their own if given time. However, there is a third semi-superweapon called the chemical missile, which by contrast requires you to harvest a ton of resources, does damage over a very small area and can only one-hit weaker buildings and base defenses. Until now, I’d always felt that the chemical missile was, by far, the less useful of the two, and not really something that important to deal with. However, I now think the opposite, for one key reason – you have control over the chemical missile. If you devote your resources to harvesting the resource required for constructing them, you can churn out a chemical missile potentially every 45 seconds or so, and nothing can stand against that (at least, the toughest AI can’t). By contrast, nothing you can do can speed up the multimissile or the ion cannon. Once they are built, they require no management or consideration, whereas the chemical missile requires much more effect, but if focused on, produces a far greater reward. Thus, this is the first thing I want for magic-as-superweapons; once you have, say, a character who can cast it, you still need to manage them. They won’t just recharge their attack every so often without intervention. The more you focus on them, the more regular their contributions will be.

Secondly, let’s look at superweapons from another game – Supreme Commander. Superweapons in this are all units, effectively, and they can move around the map. By contrast to most RTS games that feature superweapons, the superweapon is not simply a building that you hide at your base and never move out. You are forced to move the unit/superweapon around and, therefore, into combat, in order to get any kind of useful effect from it.

Yes, some of them are artillery or whatever, but even so. This the second important point – the superweapon (i.e. the mage) is a unit like any other, and a fragile one, and must be protected. Simply having them and leaving them in your home city doesn’t give you anything of use. Obviously this will mean mages are a primary target for your forces just as your mages will be a primarily target for the enemy. The specifics of magic (beyond the in-thread discussions) are months and months away, and I’m not really thinking about them in any more detail at the moment. Currently coding is mostly on a brief hiatus while I finish a draft of a thesis chapter, and then coding will resume working on weapons, armor, combat, and generating some of the ruins and ancient cities for the first alpha. Next week’s blog entry will probably be about weapons, armor, and how ‘realistic’ (or not) combat is turning out…

The benefits of invincibility

Today’s blog entry is a pair of screenshots, which show you a ton of what I’ve been working on this past week of nothing-but-coding. This is when I looked at myself in the middle of combat with two enemies (both off-screen to the left), and what kind of information shows up when you do. Until next week, I leave you with some violence I have only survived because the player character is currently (for testing reasons) invincible. Basically, this screenshot should showcase the query function – listing creatures and objects on a square – what querying a creature looks like, and a few recent changes to the UI. There’s also been a ton of work in creating libraries of weapons/materials, the mechanics of wielding weapons/wearing armor and lots of other stuff, but I’ll talk about that next week. I know it needs a bit of fine-tuning, but basically, things are really coming along now. Until next week!

And also a less exciting technical one dealing with equipping weapons, inventory management, etc:

Weapons. Lots of weapons.

Firstly: thanks to everyone who posted and contacted me with initial alpha feedback. It is hugely appreciated – once the initial alpha is up, I will either open a forum or create a specific post/page for feedback. In the mean time:

This is a pretty game-mechanic-heavy blog entry, and is also pretty screenshot-light. You have been warned.

Weapons divide down into four categories: stabbing weapons, cutting weapons, hitting weapons, and impaling weapons. Each has an advantage and a disadvantage. Each also has a “to-damage” chance, and a “to-penetrate” chance, which is how effective it is at cutting through flesh, rather than just damaging it, and hitting the bone beneath. For creatures that have only one ‘layer’ – like skeletons which have only bone, or Shoggoths with only ‘flesh’, the to-damage chance is used. For creatures with chitin instead of interior bone, the chances are simply reversed – the to-hit chance will damage their chitin, while the to-penetrate chance determines whether you manage to hit the weak flesh beneath.

Note: you and any other creature can, technically, wield anything you’re strong enough to pick up (which is to say, you can wield an Orc arm from the start of the name, but never will you be able to swing a Titan’s corpse). However, non-weapon ‘weapons’ are generally so ineffective it will likely only be a last resort you would ever do this. I’m also working on a variety of unarmed/barehanded combat options, too.

Also, in terms of advantages/disadvantages, I will not here list things like price, availability, etc. Simply how they perform as weapons.

Stabbing:

Stabbing weapons consist of kunais, daggers, knives, and sais.
ADVANTAGES: Light; therefore easiest to wield very accurately.
DISADVANTAGES: Shortest reach; can be harder to target body parts on larger, more complex creatures.

Cutting:

Cutting weapons consist of scimitars, shortswords, sabres, katanas and longswords.
ADVANTAGES: Can occasionally be used to parry incoming attacks (as well as a shield); very small chance of pinning foe to objects.
DISADVANTAGES: Requires more skill than other weapons, thus requiring higher dexterity.

Hitting:

Hitting weapons consist of clubs, flails, maces and axes.
ADVANTAGES: Can knock back targets; stun targets; and break bones without needing to get through flesh first.
DISADVANTAGES: By far the heaviest class of weapons; therefore hardest to wield accurately.

Impaling:

Impaling weapons consist of spears, pikes, halberds and ranseurs.
ADVANTAGES: Longest range, so can hit up to taller creatures; can pin creatures to objects.
DISADVANTAGES: Unwieldy, so greater dexterity required to use accurately (mitigated if you haven’t moved the previous turn).

Accuracy of weapon use is dependent on two things – strength vs the weight of the weapon, and dexterity vs how ‘wieldy’ the weapon is. If you wield a weapon too heavy for a character of your strength to use effectively, your accuracy will decrease. Similarly, if you wield two weapons whose total weight is too high, your accuracy will decrease for the same reason. The more unwieldy a weapon you wield, the harder it is to use it accurately, so you’re far more likely to land a knife accurately than a halberd, given the same dexterity.

This then ties into another factor, which is the height of creatures. The shorter the attacker is and the taller the target is, the fewer parts of its body it can hit. Without a long weapon, you cannot hit the head of any creature a Cyclops or taller, for example. By contrast, large creatures hitting small creatures are much more likely to hit! Effectively, the quality of your weapon; the type of weapon you wield; the height of your target; and your strength and dexterity determine your effectiveness in combat.

So, the key question – do these four types seem balanced?

Coming Monday 24th: Options for a new player, and embarking on your adventure.

Coming Monday 31st: The URR map, and the existence of ‘battlefields’.

The Great Alpha Consultation

Welcome blog readers! This post is intended to give up-to-date info about the current state of Ultima Ratio Regum and my initial plans, and to let you – wise, well-traveled blog-readers that you are – tell me what features you’re most interested in seeing.

The alpha currently looks like this (click either to enlarge):

Currently, the initial alpha has four key focuses. They are as follows:

– Creatures.

Currently, all creatures in the game, player and AI alike, consist of a large number of body parts – heads, arms, torsos, legs, wings. The system I’m using allows any number of each body part be added to a create – say, three heads for a Hydra, or six arms for a Naga, or eight legs for a giant spider – and the game works things out based on this information, such as: how many legs does it need to walk?; how many weapons can it hold?; and similar. This relates to what counts as a kill – if a creature has one head, it only takes one broken neck or one shattered skull to slay it. More heads means a tougher foe.

By time of release, I hope to have perhaps a dozen different species (with their own subtypes, classes, etc) wandering around the overworld, and, hopefully, in dungeons. Depending on what people say, this variety could be a key focus for the early alphas. However, I am inclined to keep the number of creatures relatively small until you can recruit the intelligent ones and tame the animal ones properly…

– Combat.

Creatures will aim at whichever part of their foe’s body they think is most damaged. The player, on the other hand, has free choice of which body part to aim for, the success of which (as with creatures) is dependent on Dexterity. Body parts are not just “arms” and “legs” and the rest – each breaks down into many smaller component parts. A head, for example, can consist of all or few of: flesh, a skull, horns, eyes, ears, a neck, a jugular, and a windpipe. Damage is handled appropriately – a slashed jugular fountains blood, while total loss of eyes results in blindness. I am uncertain, thus far, how you – and other creatures – can regain lost limbs if they have time to heal themselves after a battle. Anyway – the alpha focus is on the depth of combat involving damage to flesh, damage to bone, damage to body parts, how damage to difference areas affects how you/a creature perform in combat.

You can also pin things to trees with a halberd, or knock them into a river with a battleaxe lodged in their skull, down which their corpses might subsequently float.

– AI.

Creatures will regroup, assess the battlefield, charge, flee, berserk, pick up and drop items, exchange armor, manage their ammunition, and more. A group from the same species fighting in unison will follow the orders of whichever of them is considered the ‘leader’. If not the player, the leader will be the creature they consider the most impressive – this is another potential focus for the alpha. I want to have creatures rising and falling within their own civilizations based on how impressive (or not!) their deeds are. If you are leading a group – recruiting allies has been greatly simplified for this first alpha – you are able to give commands to those under you, who will in turn give commands to their underlings. Again – if people think this sounds like an interesting focus, it’ll get more initial work. AI and army management will nevertheless be a central focus of the game in the long run.

– User Interface.

This is one I want a lot of feedback on. For any complex game – and therefore, any roguelike – a good UI to tell the player everything they need to know quickly and efficiently is vital. In Ultima Ratio Regum, you can view the condition of the body parts and armor of any creature (yourself included) that you investigate using the ‘Query’ function. You also get information about their alignment, faction, species etc, but that’s all in the very early stages. Key mappings cannot currently be changed, but I think they’re all pretty logical (‘e’ for eat, ‘w’ for wield, etc). Still – as the game becomes more complicated, I want to keep the UI as smooth and easy to use as possible.

So, those are the four major points I’m focusing on for the initial release before the end of this year. The initial question, therefore, is – do any of these strike you, reader, as being particularly worthy of initial attention? Which need trialing early? Which can wait? And is there any one of them you think looks the most important? While I hope to get all four to a reasonable standard before the end of the year, one in particular can certainly become the main goal if many people argue for it.

 

Beyond the first release, and those four major goals, there are other objectives. Again – opinions on which of these people want to see first would be great.

 

– Riding.

Currently, you cannot ride anything. Riding will both increase your effective health – since some hits will hit your steed – allow you hit higher off the ground against tall creatures, and potentially allow you to move faster, depending on how I get the speed system worked out. You will obviously be able to ride horses, but also a variety of other creatures you might tame.

– Siege weapons.

Ballistas, catapults, trebuchets galore! Load them with whatever you want; rocks for damage; burning pitch to set things on fire; or the corpses of your foe’s allies to devastate their morale.

– Taming creatures.

Just as intelligent creatures can be recruited, some animals can be tamed. The process will likely involve tracking them down, providing them with corpses or animals to hunt, aiding them, all the while making sure they don’t decide to take a bite out of you. Trying to tame the stronger wild creatures could prove interesting…

– Initial magic.

While basic spells like ‘fireball’ and ‘magic mapping’ will exist – at least, for the time being – I have planned complex systems for necromancy, geomancy, pyromancy and hydromancy. Generalized magic will come first, and the other four will come after. Only certain classes of certain creatures will be able to use magic – it will be a relatively rare, high-level endeavor. At least, beyond those basic spells.

– World generation.

World generation is currently basic. It includes ruins, mountains, land, forest and oceans, but they do not structure themselves in a particularly logical manner. In order to improve this, I think I will significantly need to rework the way maps are stored, which is proving difficult. Anyway – eventually I want both a greater variation in landscape, and a logical progression between deserts and plains, tundra and taiga, etc. Species and their cities will spawn in their appropriate areas.

– Villages.

Villages will be small, contained, and can be ruled by any number of different things – a powerful member of their own species, a member of another species, a worshiped creature who resides nearby, a demonic creature, or anything else. Some villages might contain people secretly practicing necromancy; others might harbor escaped fugitives; others might be under the thumb of a larger empire nearby; or anything else. I will likely implement villages prior to cities, but I’m not certain.

– Cities.

Cities will be few and far between – perhaps only three or four per world generation. They will be large, contain a high number of creatures from their respective species, and be an obvious hub for player activity. In a way, the number of cities can only become higher once a superior map system is resolved which allows me to store much larger worlds.

– Survival.

Whether on your own, in an army, or leading an army, you need food, water, and shelter to survive. The larger the focus, the greater the logistical requirements. Even if you’re on your own, you’ll need a fire to keep warm and ward off creatures; food and water to survive; and ammo, and… everything else an adventurer needs. This will be a big move towards realism, and towards the ‘strategy’ aspect once you get an army up and running.

– Armies.

At first, a player starting a game will be on their own. Then, you can join an existing army and fight in their campaigns. Then, if you survive and rise up the ranks, you can lead an army. This is a big one. As soon as this becomes a little more complex, the easy alpha ability to recruit allies will be removed, and you will instead be able to find a military to enlist in. Or, y’know, don’t, and go around in a band of vagabonds. Whatever takes your fancy.

And so, without further ado, here endeth the consultation. If you want to be kept updated, you can read this weekly devblog, join the Facebook group, the mailing list or follow the game’s twitter at UltimaRegum and be notified the moment the alpha appears!

Coming Monday 17th: Weapons. Lots of weapons.

Coming Monday 24th: Options for a new player, and embarking on your adventure.