Character creation

Let’s talk about character creation for a bit. Or, more specifically, character creation in roguelikes.

NetHack gives you very few initial options. The player is allowed to choose their class (Wizard, Barbarian, etc), race (Human, Dwarf, etc), gender (I’m sure you can work these out) and alignment (Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic). Your starting statistics, maximum statistics and the skills they can/can’t learn (and the extent to which each can be learnt) are determined by your choices on the above, and are fixed for the remainder of the game. If you spawn as a Wizard, you simply cannot reach the highest skill with the axe, for example. You have minimal options, and background algorithms determine your skills and, therefore, your gameplay (to a large extent) from those few initial choices.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Dwarf Fortress character creation screen in Adventure Mode gives you a wealth of options. As well as picking species, gender and hometown, you can fine-tune your stats and your skills to whatever degree you want. In Fortress Mode, you can choose what exact supplies you take with your band of adventurers. In contrast to NetHack’s sparse options, and the relative opacity of how skills function, DF lays almost everything out for you at the start and gives you a huge number of options. However, importantly, there are no ‘class’ options (at least in Adventure Mode), and you simply choose which skills you desire.
These differences got me thinking about the level of choice I want to give the player in URR. I knew i wanted to give you a large level of customization, which moved me away from any kind of ‘class’ system and towards one focused on stats and skills, without boxing in the player’s options.

Initially, you select your species, your gender and your age. Your home town is selected at random, based on those owned by your species. I considered letting you select a town, but that would reveal the map, and exploration, discovering new lands and the like are going to end up as a significant goal in the game.

Once these are selected, you will then (this is being programmed at the moment) be taken to a screen on which you are given a hundred points to allocate into different areas. These include:

– Base stats:

These are strength, endurance, dexterity, willpower, and intelligence. The more you try to raise one above your species’ starting stats on the point allocation screen, the more it costs. Which is to say, putting one point into ‘Strength’ costs 10 points; the next costs 15; the next costs 20; and so on and so forth.

– Starting skills:

These are cheaper than stats – while the Strength skill applies to weapon damage, how much you can carry, how well you can chop down trees, pull back a bow, and many other things, skills only determine a single one of these. They are therefore a lot cheaper, and a lot more numerous. For instance, bow use is determined by Strength and Dexterity (stats), and Bowstring Stability, Wind Accommodation & Bow Accuracy, while the number of shots you can fire per turn (initially 1) is ruled by Targeting Speed and Drawing Speed.

– Starting items:

You can choose to spend points loading out your character with starting items. You can get going with any piece of armor of a number of qualities (some would be too valuable to spend even your full 100 points on!) and a variety of other items too. Likewise, a number of weapons of various materials are available, but you can currently only begin with two of those. You can also spend points to start with cash.

Once you’ve used up all your points (any remaining unallocated points are converted into the currency of your species), your game begins! In the initial alpha, you will spawn out in the forest, but you’ll soon be spawning in a home village, chosen randomly. Of course, balancing the cost of the different menu options is something that’ll take time, but for now, the values I’ve tentatively assigned seem reasonably balanced. This’ll be one of the many calls for feedback in the initial alpha, too. I debated letting you choose a weak initial ally on the menu (say, an attack dog), but I felt restricting it to these three was stronger. Can anyone think of anything else you could initially select?

Lastly, I still aim to have the initial alpha out by the end of the year, but I’ve had many people say to me that they’d prefer to have a bigger alpha released when it’s ready than ‘force’ a release before next year. So, while that’s still my aim, if there are initial combat/AI features I want, I will likely focus on implementing them, rather than meeting the rather arbitrary deadline I’ve set myself.

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

Coming Monday 7th: More detail about combat; stunning, unconsciousness, blood loss, impaling, and more.