Thursday, December 13, 2012

Preparing for 0.6

The 0.6 series is due to release sometime this month or, at the latest, January. For this post, I'm going to discuss some of what's changing in 0.6, why that is, and a couple of the design challenges I'm facing currently.

First up, the absolute removal of the D6 system. There's been a not-so-surprising amount of growing pains from this transition and I think it is going to take a while to fully work out all the kinks. Ultimately I believe this change was for the best. It is a bit easier for me to invent new items, enemies, and mechanics on the fly now that I don't have to build them all around the D6 system. This is mostly done and ready for release, but I'm still tinkering with item interactions and, of course, balance.

Item diversity. This has been improved a decent amount in the current development build. Drops are slightly less linear and there's even a handful of items with special abilities (though there are only two special abilities as of this writing). Overall, I'm not hugely satisfied with how items are generated at the moment. I can't really narrow down the exact reasoning. If anyone has suggestions for a Roguelike that does item drops differently from the norm, let me know. I've played Binding of Isaac, and I like how that game generates items, but I'm not sure if that's what I want to do for @Star Wars.

Enemy diversity. If this taught me anything, it is that @Star Wars has too many enemies and/or not different enough enemies. The mini-bosses are one thing, but most of the enemies are pretty similar with one or two minute differences. There's a few exceptions - I think Dewbacks are pretty cool and unique. I probably spread out their knockback ability too much and it has diluted their impact on the game a bit. Overall the game needs more Dewbacks - not enemies that knockback - but enemies that are fairly unique and feature a distinctive ability and/or stat set.

Combat. Combat is the cornerstone of most Roguelikes and @Star Wars certainly isn't aiming to be the exception there. Subsequently, it needs a lot of work as far as combat goes. There are too many mechanics and especially too many mechanics that are never explained to the player. This plays off the item and enemy issues - working on those will positively impact the combat experience. But the actual combat code and design needs some love too. I'm looking at ways to make combat a little slower without making it boring and also slowing down hit point regeneration.

Skills. Skills got kind of faded out when I merged them and I can't say that surprised me. I need to do something to make them more interesting (Sil style, perhaps?) or just get rid of them altogether. As they are right now, skills are just a balancing ache and don't really benefit the game in a huge way. That's certainly a good enough incentive to chop them out, but I'd like to play with making them more interesting before I outright remove them. Skill changes may not necessarily come with 0.6a (beyond the aforementioned weapon skill merges).

More incentive to explore. Right now the player just explores because they have to or because their gear is a tier or two behind. I'd like to see more consumable items, unique items, items that only drop from mini-bosses, and just generally heightened incentives to explore. The @Star Wars are a decent size, so having the only truly interesting part of exploring being finding the exit is, in my opinion, unacceptable for the long term health of the game.

The goal with the 0.6 series is going to be to push the game from "dev builds that I release publicly" to "kind of a game". I doubt the mark is going to be hit squarely with 0.6a, but I'm hopeful that the closing version of 0.6 is "kind of a game". Still, I like doing regular releases - it helps (slowly) build up attraction towards the game and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Ultimately though, moving the game away from development builds and into fully playable and winnable builds is a priority. The number of people willing to play a Roguelike is relatively small - I imagine the number of people willing to play an unwinnable and, to some extent, unplayable Roguelike is much, much smaller. Feedback is a good thing and I want to start earning some in the not-to-distant future.


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