I, Arkeus

A blog of my current game projects and interesting tidbits I find

For Fate

I don’t think I’ve given too much information on For Fate yet, so I wanted to give a higher level overview of the various things I’m planning for the game. I’ve been working on various systems, planning things out and so forth, so now is as good a time as any to talk about it. A lot of this is subject to change, and perhaps I’ll do more overview posts as I get more things locked down, change my mind about features, etc. So here goes!

Story

Kal and Elle have long waited for the day they can visit the Temple of the Makers and read their destinies from the Book of Fate. The book, granted to the citizens of the world by its Makers, contains a destiny page of every person to be born into the world. High Law states that upon a citizen’s 16th birthday, he or she may travel to the temple to read their fate. As Kal and Elle reach their 16th birthdays, they travel to the Temple to read what the Makers have in store for them. While Elle finds her fate to be more frightening than her worst nightmare, Kal finds his fate blank. Circumstances set them out, each with a mission: Kal to discover his unwritten destiny, and Elle to protect herself from her unwanted Fate. Their paths lead them through war, death, and a secret of the Royal Family. Only together can they conquer their fates and uncover the secrets of Project 4f7.

[Disclaimer: This is a brief introduction as the story currently stands. There is an incredible amount of flesh out before anything is written in stone.]

Battle System

The battle system will consist of a typical turn based battle system with a party of up to four characters at once. As you explore the world you’ll see enemies wandering the map, and upon touching them you’ll engage in combat. A lot of monsters will be avoidable, some will wander aimlessly, while others will attempt to engage you if you get to close. This allows you to attempt to avoid monsters if you choose. However, the battle system is intended to be a fundamental part of the game, and attempting to avoid all monsters will result in your party getting crushed from lack of power.

Casting an Icicle spell

Moves are based on a modified version of an ATB system. Each character has an active time bar that fills. Once full, your character will be eligible to attack. However, rather than waiting until your bar is full, pausing all ATB bars, choosing moves, and then continuing, you can immediately choose the attacks for your character before the ATB bar is full. This allows you to queue up all the moves for your characters ahead of time, so they are ready to unleash the attacks as soon as the bar is filled. This drastically speeds up the pace of combat, making it feel more faster paced. If a character reaches a full ATB and has not yet chosen moves, then the ATB bars will pause. This allows you take all the time in the world to plan out your attacks without penalizing you for not being able to decide on moves fast enough, but still gives you the freedom to queue ahead of time if you know what you want to do.

Each turn you will choose multiple attacks for your characters. This system is heavily influenced by the battle system found in Final Fantasy XIII. Each character begins the game with 2 command slots which you can fill with moves. Basic moves will use only 1 slot, while other moves will use multiple slots. An example of this is early on you might choose to fill your bar with 2x slash attacks (each using 1 command slot) or 1x icicle spell (which does aoe damage, but takes both slots for the turn). As you progress through the game, characters will gain more slots (the current planned maximum is 6 slots, and I expect skills to take between 1 and 3 slots each).

For each character you’ll be able to define 3 command sets. This is a preset of commands that you can use to quickly fill your command bar. This allows you to define a set of moves that you use often, and choose that set for the turn with 1 click, rather than choosing all the spells every time.

Skills will range from single target magic damage, to heavy aoe attacks, to buffs to your characters, to heals, to attacks that deal damage over X number of turns. See the character system for more information on skills.

Duh duh duhhh duhhh duhhhh duh duh duh

World

As you progress through the world you’ll visit various areas. You’ll encounter towns, forests, caves, mountains, and more along the way. While there will be a main storyline that you follow as you progress, you’ll encounter hundreds of side quests to complete. Some of them will be incredibly simple, such as exploring a mountain searching for a flower to help cure a character’s illness. Others will be much more in depth, and may span a large course of the game. While these are completely optional, you’ll find tons of story, powerful items, and special bosses as you do these quests.

An example of one of the many detailed maps you'll explore

Character/Class System

At any time in the game you can have up to 4 characters in your party, but you’ll find other characters to join you as you complete both the main storyline and side quests. You’ll be able to swap these characters in and out of your party whenever you are not in combat.

There will be 5 classes in the game (Knight, Archer, Cleric, Wizard, and Rogue). All characters will have a class, and you’ll be able to change your class at any time. When you win battles as a specific class, you’ll gain experience for that class. All 5 classes will have a separate level. For example, you might have a character that is a level 7 wizard and level 3 cleric. Each time you level up a class, you gain access to choose 1 of 2 skills for that class. One example of this is that when you hit cleric level 4 you can choose between a spell that does shadow damage over time to a target enemy or a spell that slightly heals each member of your party. This allows you to customize how your characters play, even if you want multiple characters of the same class.

When a character is currently in a specific class, they gain a bonus. A character who is currently a Wizard might gain +40% wisdom stat, -20% magic damage taken, but also -30% defense stat. You can level up characters as a single class (up to level 10), or level them up in multiple classes in order to mix and match spells. However, your character level (which defines how much stats you have) is separate. So even if you are constantly leveling up different classes you get different skills, your main combat level will continue to rise, and you’ll still become more powerful as you level. That way you aren’t forced into a single class until you max it out.

In addition to class stats, some characters will be tailored towards certain classes. Each character will have a trait which defines a permanent bonus they have. One optional character, might, for example, have a “Wise” trait that increases their wisdom by 10% and mana by 10%. While it won’t shoehole them into a single class, you might find the bonus worth it to focus on classes that rely a lot on spells (wizard and cleric, for example). The main characters will likely have more general traits that will apply to all 5 classes.

Item System

Rather than a typical JRPG item system, I expect to have a very customizable item system. Items that drop will have randomized enchantments (possible in the form of affixes). That way, if you’re fighting in an area and you get 3 Short Swords, you might find that one of them comes with +strength, one with +agility, and the other with +gold find and +haste. I’m also debating other forms to further customize items that you get, such as an enchantment system, to add additional bonuses to items, along with a socketing system, in order to place gems in items to give them further effects.

Not all items will be randomized though. Special items (in particular, very powerful items) will have set stats, though you may be able to customize them through gemming and enchanting. The game will include many dungeons for you to search for these items, some dropping from powerful bosses, others hidden through treasure chests scattered throughout the land.

I’m also playing with the idea of a crafting system. The idea I’m currently playing around with is that you don’t need to spend time leveling up your crafting skill to craft anything, but if you do level it up, you are likely to get better bonuses to the items that you make. This way if you ignore crafting through the game, but want to craft some powerful weapons towards the end, you’ll be able to. But if you invest the time into leveling up crafting, you’ll be able to get those extra little bonuses that may help you defeat the extra powerful boss.

Other

The game will include a large number of goals. There will be a giant collections of achievements to go after, minigames (currently setting my sights on also included a card game that you will discover cards for as you explore the world), side quests, dungeons, and much more.

A house with test dialog/test avatar

While I am actively working on the game, I expect that this will take quite a long time to finish. I’ll probably be taking weekends off to participate in Ludum Dare, and maybe even putting it on hold for other projects (for example, if I feel the urge to work on Diamond Hollow 3 or Trisphere 4.0). However, feel free to ask any questions you have about the game, and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Death Consequences

Was walking home today and was thinking about how I should handle the consequences of dying in battle. I’m not a fan of losing everything since your last save when you die, for a few reasons. First, it’s extremely frustrating if you aren’t constantly taking time to save and then you lose a bunch of progress. Second, I have to make the game much easier otherwise I lose a lot of players due to that frustration. And finally, because I think saving is something you should do before you quit, not something you should be forced to do constantly even though you have no intention of quitting.

As such, I think the solution I’m going to go with is that if you saved on the map you are currently on, you’ll return to that spot when you die with all the monsters on the map respawned. If you didn’t, you will simply return to where you entered that map, also with the monsters respawned. However, any progress you’ve made you will keep, including items, experience, treasure chests, etc. This way you are penalized, but there is much less frustration involved. Also, if for some reason you are underleveled, this will help catch you up both by keeping your experience, and by the monsters respawning.

This also makes me want to have an auto save feature (such as after every battle and every map change), but I’m not entirely sure about that. I know a lot of people like the freedom to save back and forth between different save files. Perhaps I will have an option that will auto save to whatever file you loaded/last saved to, and allow you to turn it off. That should cater to both audiences, and by having auto save on by default, you won’t lose a lot of progress if flash suddenly decides to crash.

Any thoughts?

New Blog Theme

I got fed up with a lot of details about the old blog theme, so I finally got around to installing a new one that I like. This one is less cluttered, and is also much more friendly to posting short updates like this. The old theme required to have a thumbnail, and also only showed short excerpts on the front page which wasn’t very friendly to anyone actually wanting to read posts.

In addition (after some initial fuck ups) comments now work better than before. There is a simple math captcha, and you can also post anonymously without registering now. Hopefully this will help promote conversation (and also save me from the admin panel being full of spam posts pending approval).

Items and Particles

Been working some on For Fate lately (World of Warcraft kind of pulled me in again, so I’ve been spending quite a bit of time there). I’ve made a lot of progress on using items during battle, and also in doing that, got some basic framework done to adding particle effects to skill animations (see below for an example of using a potion to heal).

I’m honestly looking forward to when all the basics of the battle system are complete so that I can get back to rewriting the world generation so I can create new battle maps. I’m tired of the fact that all my screenshots look example the same. :P

Next on my list is working on the victory screen for winning a battle. Then I’ll probably get around to framing the battle system, such that I can start a battle from the world map and gain experience and exit back to it, rather than simply hardcoding everything.

Arzea And Other Progress

I’m not dead! (I know you were worried…)

I knew I said I’d try to post more, but somehow that turned into not posting at all. If I believed in following new year’s resolutions I’d make one to post more…

Anyway, my work has been scattered lately. The end of last year saw the release of a lot of high profile games, so that took quite a big chunk of my time. I still haven’t even taken Skyward Sword out of the shrinkwrap though, as much as I’d like to. Also, Ludum Dare 22 took place at the end of December which I participated in. You can view my entry (Arzea) by clicking here (screenshots at the bottom of this post). After it was over, I spent a bit of time improving it and making it longer and I expect to release it soon.

Before all that I had continued to make progress on the For Fate battle system. Hopefully when I get some of the later details ironed out I’ll make a post detailing the battle system in its entirety. Most of the basics of it are done. However, I’m starting to get into areas of the battle system that require dependent systems to be in place. Currently I want to get the item-usage in battle working, but for that I need the entire backend for items and inventory to be in place, which is what I have transitioned to working on.

Anyway, I’ll try harder to post more than once every four months! Hopefully I’ll start having more to show at some point soon, but unfortunately backend systems don’t lend themselves well to screenshots.

Anyway, here are some screenshots of my Ludum Dare 22 entry. I managed to place 11th overall, and 5th in two separate categories:

Valion Bloodline

I’m going to try to be more proactive about posting about my projects, rather than going weeks without saying a word. Even if in the end the posts end up being lame like this one. :)

I’ve still been working on some of the systems behind the battle system in For Fate. It’s coming along pretty well, and hopefully I can get all the basics in either this weekend or next.

However I started doodling trying to come up with a symbol for a bloodline in the game, and it kind of got out of hand:

Swastikas EVERYWHERE

I had specific reasons behind the direction of the symbol, though sharing that would spoil things, so I’ll keep quiet on those. However, I think I finally came up with one that I like. Here’s a quick mockup of the one that I chose:

Valion Bloodline

And yes, I am keeping a notebook containing various things on the game, from story ideas, character details, to planning out code. I might at some point just move back to using Google Docs, so I can work on it no matter where I am as long as I have a computer, but I really like that I can doodle and draw diagrams really easily in a notebook. :)

Introducing: For Fate

While it is still in its earliest stages (having only been working on it sparingly in the last couple weeks), I thought I’d post some initial information on my next big project, For Fate.

In short, the game is going to be a full length JRPG, very similar to what you’d find on the SNES (early Final Fantasies for example). The game will be using REFMAP tiles as a base, heavily modified as I see fit. Here’s an overview of some of the features I’m currently planning. Please note though, that these are all very early and still in the idea phase, so many of them will change.

* A large continuous world filled with various environments. There will be no overworld, but there will be different main points (towns, mostly) that will let you teleport between the ones you’ve found, to allow you to get around faster.
* A deep story, spanning many characters.
* Tons of side quests.
* A turn based battle system very similar in style to Final Fantasy XIII. You’ll control all 4 characters in battle, and each will have a command bar allowing multiple commands per turn. It will be active time based.
* 5 different character classes. You’ll be able to advance the characters under any class (and branching into multiple classes). You’ll find various recruitable characters throughout the game, in addition to the main characters.

A very early shot of what the world looks like so far:

Placeholder text, of course. :)

I have many other features I’m still working on, and I’ll talk about them in the future (and also go more in depth on these features as they become more fleshed out). So far I’ve spent a lot of time working on building the overworld from bitmap files, but I’m planning on instead building using bitmaps, converting to tile layers, and editing them using a tile editor. This will give me the speed of generating large complex maps quickly, but also give me the fine grained control that a tile editor gives me. This weekend I’ve started on the battle system, and I’m making great progress on the attack sequence system and the ability animation system.

Hopefully I’ll have more to show soon! :)

Diamond Hollow II Complete

In the time I’ve been away from my blog, I’ve been busy finishing up Diamond Hollow II. It took quite a bit longer than expected, but I’m happy with the result. You can check it on Kongregate by clicking here. Expect information on various other projects soon!

Diamond Hollow 2

What is Diamond Hollow 2?

Diamond Hollow 2 is the sequel to a Ludum Dare 20 game entry, Diamond Hollow. The game played much like an arcade game, in that you repeatedly attempted to climb as high as possible to escape a cave, shooting monsters to defend yourself, collecting diamonds and upgrading your skills along the way.

Why make a sequel?

The original game was fun, but it was very limited in scope. As it was made over the course of a weekend, it had a single aspect to it. I enjoyed it enough that I wanted to expand it into a full-fledged game. The result of that expansion is Diamond Hollow II.

What features does Diamond Hollow II have?

Diamond Hollow II has quite a few new features, the main one being multiple modes. The game’s main mode will be a 7 chapter story mode.

Story Mode

In story mode, rather than the screen constantly scrolling and you scrambling to keep up, you’re free to roam up and down the cave as you please. The goal of each chapter is to reach the top, and defeat the boss at the end. Along the way you’ll encounter various types of monsters (instead of the very simple slimes and plants of the first one), collect many colors of diamonds, and explore various environments. Each chapter looks visually different than the others, so you won’t be staring at the same grass and dirt tiles the entire time.

The Sandstone Caves

As mentioned, each chapter ends with a boss fight. The bosses will be much more powerful monsters that have various abilities that will be much harder to defeat. Don’t be discouraged if you lose though, throughout the levels are checkpoints, including just before the boss, so even if a boss provides a challenge for you, you won’t have to play through the entire level again.

As you progress through story mode, you’ll encounter new equipment, including 4 unique guns, an x-ray scope to allow you to discover secret areas, a suit that allows you to temporarily survive in lava (there’s water too!), and boots that allow you to double (and triple!) jump. You’ll also find many items hidden in the levels for you to search for, including heart crystals to expand your maximum health and giant red diamonds to collect to unlock special modes.

The Professor

Overall the story mode alone is much much more in-depth and captivating than the entire first game.

Other Modes

In addition to story mode there are a few other modes planned. Unlike story mode, these aren’t as far along in development, so they may change before release. First, there will be a Lava Escape mode, that will play much like the first game. Except rather than just trying to outrun a randomly scrolling screen, you’ll be attempting to outrun constantly rising lava. The scrolling will be much smoother and more forgiving than the first mode, while still providing the constant scrambling to stay alive feeling.

A couple other modes that may be in the game are a time attack mode (quick levels designed to speed run as fast as possible to earn trophies), a run mode (horizontal auto runner mode, a functionally different game type), and a boss attack (fight the bosses one after another, including a heroic boss attack mode where the bosses are much stronger and have new abilities).

 

The Dark Volcanic Caverns

Overall

While the game is far from being complete, I’ve made great progress and am continuing to work on it whenever I get the chance. It’s exciting to reveal many of the features, and I can’t wait to get the game into your hands to play. Please leave comments if you have any ideas or suggestions! I’ve made sure to take a lot of the feedback left in comments on Kongregate in order to make this as great a game as possible.

Ludum Dare 20 Results

Ludum Dare 20 judging officially ended a few days ago, and I thought I’d look back on how Diamond Hollow did, and how I think I could have improved. The different categories that were judged were Innovation, Fun, Theme, Graphics, Audio, Humor, Overall, and Community. In total there were 288 entries.


Fun – 1st Place

The results of the fun category were exciting to say the least, as it’s the category that I was aiming at the most. Placing first in any category on my first LD is great, but I’m especially happy that it was this one. :)

Community – 3rd Place

I have to admit this one I wasn’t expecting. However, I’m not going to look into it too much, as I’m sure not all the people voting really do read the blogs and watch the timelapses of the entries, so it’s probably not anything to be really proud of. But if you do want to see the timelapse of one of my monitors during the competition, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydpMKrwKrUY

Overall – 5th Place

There isn’t much to say about this category either, other than there is room for improvement.

Graphics – 6th Place

Graphics were something that I probably put too much time into, but I’m glad it paid off. I’m not a great artist, so making even simple art takes me a lot of time, so devoting the time I did put me back a lot in terms of gameplay. However, I’m glad that people liked the result. There is a lot of room for improvement here. The biggest one being that there is one very simple type of environment in the game, and it’s the same all the way up the cave. There is nothing to break the monotony of grass platforms in a dirt cave, and I think that probably hurt me a lot. In retrospect, it would have been simple to make slightly different tile types (such as dirt instead of grass, etc) without adding much to the art OR development time, and would definitely have been worth it. Making more variety is something I will try to do better next time.

Audio – 16th Place

This was the biggest surprise to me, and I’m not sure where people got the idea that the audio is any good at all. I’m going to make the assumption that it was the sound effects, because I can’t to hear the original music without wanting to take sandpaper to my ears. But somehow people were able to bear through it, and it sounds like some even enjoyed it. Even more than graphics though, there’s a ton of room for improvement. While making the game I downloaded the FL Studio demo, and went through a ton of tutorials on youtube, and then just ended up winged it, clicking random notes until it slightly resembled music. For the next one I will likely prepare some, learn how to use the program effectively so I’m not spending 4 hours just trying to figure out how to create music. :)

Innovation, Humor, Theme – Low

These three I’m not surprised at doing terribly in because I tended to ignore them throughout the competition. In terms of innovation, I decided that in the time I had, I’d rather take some elements from familiar games and combine them in a way that was fun, rather than come up with an original concept. In terms of theme, as soon as the theme was announced I decided to ignore it completely and just tie something into it in the end, mostly because I wasn’t too happy that a “silly” theme won, and I didn’t feel like it was worth crafting a game around, especially when it’s a quote from another game. There was definitely a few games that took the theme and made it interesting, but it was just so broad that anything could be made to fit it a little, and it seemed better to do that with something fun than try to make something tailored around it fun. And finally, in terms of humor, I threw a ton of Portal-like quotes in there that seemed to be hit or miss for people. Some people liked them, and others didn’t. I suppose, depending on the theme, I may put more effort into humor next time around.


Overall I am very pleased with the results, and hope to do it again in August.