Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What I Learned From Dead Man Walking

Hi. In the midst of working on Dead Man Walking 1.1, I thought it'd be interesting to talk about what I learned while developing it. It'd be nearly impossible for me to fairly go over just what I learned from the 7DRL given how much additional time I've invested, so this post will go over everything related to Dead Man Walking - 7DRL and 1.1 alike.

First up: accessibility. Dead Man Walking is really easy to get into - there's no character creation process and the number of funky controls is greatly reduced when compared to traditional roguelikes. Beyond that, the theme of the game ties directly into the core mechanic (Willpower) and the game wastes no time telling the player that.

Making the game very easy to get into was a conscious decision during the 7DRL stage of the game. I didn't have a lot of time to make an interesting character creation system, so the best course of action (in my mind) was to simply not have one. This seems to have worked out for the best.

Second: gradual build up in difficulty. I deliberately made the first floor quite easy. Death on the first floor requires a very serious tactical failure and should only be a possibility for the most novice of players. There's only one enemy type to face on the first floor and it's the simplest enemy type there. This allows players to learn the controls and collect some items with relative security.

When a player descends onto level two, two major changes occur: you find a new enemy type (the skelly) and you begin encountering bosses. Each floor introduces a new boss and a new enemy type (though they aren't necessarily related). This is a trend that the game begins on floor two and carries on till the end of the game (on floor five).

Third: streamlined consumables. This is a change in 1.1 wherein the player is no longer capable of collecting healing flasks. Instead, they begin with a set number of flasks on each floor and must utilize them appropriately  This means less inventory management and more interesting gameplay.

Fourth: bosses don't have to be tank & spank. This technically started in the 7DRL version with Yreek the Invincible, but has been expanded to cover every boss in 1.1. One of the major design goals in 1.1 is to ensure that no boss fight will let you easily stand in one spot and smack a boss until it dies. Generally speaking, those types of bosses are fairly uninteresting and they barely even feel like a true boss. Bosses in 1.1 utilize a variety of new mechanics to keep fights interesting and potentially deadly.

This is something that I tried and failed in @Star Wars. However, new mechanics and a better idea of what makes a boss fight fun has allowed me to make more enjoyable boss fights. This is one aspect of Dead Man Walking I'm definitely planning on putting into @Star Wars.

Fifth: no need for excess. I chose to make three uniquely different weapon types instead of making a whole bunch of different weapons with a long list of tiers and all that traditional madness. In general I believe that this works quite well and that each weapon fits a play style nicely.

On the topic of weapon types, balancing a game around the player only having access to melee is much easier. While I have no plans of removing ranged or melee weaponry from @Star Wars, only working with one type of distance for the player has allowed me to carefully construct enemies that work within that spectrum.

The most significant takeaway for me is this: a game doesn't need to be long or complex to be fun. Dead Man Walking is focusing on being short and polished. In my opinion, it's already superior to @Star Wars, though @Star Wars can only benefit from Dead Man Walking in the long run.


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