Download Dead Man Walking [trunk 5-22-2013]!
It's been almost a month since the last trunk release or, really, any news at all about Dead Man Walking. I've taken some time off from development and spent a while thinking about the design principles that make Dead Man Walking the game it is.
If you played the last trunk build, you'll know I had a variety of ideas to improve the longevity of the game, including the ability to upgrade equipment. The way that was implemented is not something I now consider satisfactory, so I've taken it out for the time being. If I can think of a better way to implement it into the game, I'll consider putting it back in.
Beyond that, I've removed bleeding from the game. I think it was one of the more confusing mechanics and there wasn't really a good way to explain it with the existing UI without just adding clutter. I've replaced bleeding with a new mechanic, Cursing. It is ultimately meant to serve the same purpose (high damage in a short time frame) while being less confusing overall. Being cursed will immediately remove a large chunk of your hit points and reduce your maximum hit points for a while. Enemies take a quarter of their maximum hit points as damage - that means there is a mechanical difference between how being cursed affects the player and how it affects enemies, but I think that's okay.
The next major change in the pipe is the ability to miss. I think a well-constructed to-hit system has the potential to add in "tactical" randomness and open up more interesting equipment options. Note that those equipment options aren't really present in this trunk build, but I'll be expanding on it in the very near future. The old to-hit system was based on Brogue's, but I've decided to move towards something a little more straightforward (in my mind): the player should have a 2-out-of-3 chance to hit, on average. The major exceptions here will be highly evasive monsters (there won't be many of them) and players that choose to go for bonus accuracy on equipment. Ideally players that choose to go for lots of bonus accuracy will become aware that they're doing so at a cost - sacrificing damage or block to get a more consistent hit ratio is a trade that should be interesting.
Beyond the addition of a to-hit system, I've also been working on critical strikes. I've been struggling with a way to introduce critical strikes that won't break the game. Monsters would need to either deal very little damage when not critting or I would just have to accept the fact that the player will take random, massive spikes of damage. I decided to do something a little different: critical hits get rolled just before the game checks if a hit will actually land or not. If a critical hit is successfully triggered, the hit automatically goes through, dealing bonus damage for players and just letting monsters ignore dodge for a moment. This is another example of a mechanical difference between players and enemies - some hardcore enthusiasts may see this as blasphemy, but I believe it's a justifiable solution when trying to create a balanced and fun environment.