In short programming is well under way, but there’s very little interesting to talk about with it. The tasks aren’t interesting enough to be worth discussing outside of a tutorial setting, and design worked has ceased for the time being. Next week I might have something to talk about with respect to some trial runs of smaller map sizes, but for now just assume nothing worth talking about happened when I don’t post.
I spent most of this week working on yet another draft of all the classes. I feel pretty good about the progress I’ve made in that I’ve come up with a solid template for building PVP class’ attacks- now that I look at the previous draft it’s quite clear I was very scattershot with them last time. Coming up with a good template for map abilities is a little trickier, and I haven’t quite nailed it down yet.
At this point I finally realized that I haven’t really been applying an iterative approach to these parts of the game. I’ve been building lengthy class lists and then just inserting them into the game wholesale. This worked pretty well for the Co-Op classes since party dynamics are pretty key, but it keeps flopping when it comes to the PVP classes.
So I think I’m going to take a different approach this time. I’m going to start with only two classes, and I’m going to make them the most basic all-around entry level classes possible. Once I’m comfortable with what makes those classes tick, I’ll start to expand the roster. I won’t just be applying this to the classes, though. New equipment and card designs will be built in the same way.
After I finish writing this entry I’m going to sit down and design a very basic set of starter classes, equipment, items, and cards. After that it’ll be off to the races to implement the new changes. Once implemented, I’ll start testing them out and getting a feel for how everything works at the most basic level and make adjustments needed. I’ll start to understand the feel of these systems, and be able to add new things with that feel in mind. New stuff will be added in small bursts, and tested/adjusted after each addition.
At this point I’m sitting here with a completed design doc that outlines the changes for this next update. Not really happy about how long the whole process took, though mostly satisfied with the theoretical results. Most the changes are light, and I’ll be able to produce the update rather quickly as a result. They seem to hit all the right notes. Next up I need to update the design of the classes as well as design equipment/cards that fit the new systems. I might start doing some programming in between since I’m uneasy with how long this design phase has gotten.
There are a few things that leave me a little uneasy. In the old build positive spaces were able to either give players gold or experience. In the new system these spaces just give a random reward from a deck. While this allows for more flavor (and the deck in question can be manipulated, which adds its own layer of strategy), it also means that is one less consideration (“do I need gold or experience?”) for players when deciding where to move. Other things have been added to give this consideration, but I fear whether it’s enough. Time will tell.
Other than that, I mostly just can’t wait to see this new plan in action.
This week started with me confronting what had been giving me such unease about the new dungeon system: pacing. Right now we can fit roughly 8 battles into a 4 player game while staying within the hour mark. That would allow for, say, 4 dungeons that consist of two battles. Not a very satisfying dungeon crawl. General pacing would have to be improved to make room for more dungeons.
I then had a realization that we could dramatically improve multiplayer pacing by resolving everyone’s combat simultaneously during the end of the round. Which then led to the realization that we could improve it even further than that by making sure _everyone_ is in combat on the same schedule by placing battles on a timer. Naturally the problem is that doing this requires redesigning pretty much the rest of the game and even theme around it.
I wrestled with the concept for most of the week but eventually realized it was too dramatic a shift for this late in the game. I do think it would result in a better game, though. Something for the sequel.
With that realization I went back to the dungeons and realized that even with the relatively minor pacing tweak there just wasn’t enough headroom for the dungeon system. And in the process of considering throwing away most of the existent game I began to realize something. Our current branch system isn’t that bad. It’s just lacking content to give the branches relevance. We already have a hint of it with classes that allow pvp interactions on the map- better not get too close to that class, or they’ll bite you! Better follow that class if you want to steal their heals! The real problem is that the lack of player abilities that allow for map placement was missing which would add a longer lasting layer of branch strategy. And a little more fundamentally, the branches are lacking a certain reward for traversing them in order to create situations where you want something a branch has but don’t want to deal with another player’s traps.
I got so used to never adding much content to each version of the game that I have begun to actively misdiagnose the problems with each version as systems rather than just missing content. Honestly, I suspect previous versions were similarly mistreated.
So at this point it’s more a matter of adding a little bit of extra seasoning to the current version before going on to adding the missing content to it. I’ll also need to trim the length of the branch system a little bit and start to speed up some animations that slow the pacing down to improve it a little less invasively. I still feel a little uneasy about some of these additions but at least the problem of game length that has haunted me isn’t too hard to fix with the branch system.