Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Finaly, talking about some gameplay.

Tferl development started longer ago than I would really care to say. Almost the entire time since I first started with it it has not been in active development(as you can probably tell by what has been released so far). Tferl was never that far from my mind though, and I thought a lot about the setting and game play even when I hadn't touched the code for months. This has given me an advantage of knowing pretty well what I really want in the game. Instead of just jumping in to make "some roguelike", I now have a good idea of the game I want to make. Hopefully this allows me to avoid some problems as I develop the game in the future.

Without further rambling from me, lets get into one of the goals that I want to hit with this game.

How to start a new game

One thing that some roguelikes do that annoys me is when character creation is overly complicated. This happens fairly often in roguelikes with class systems.

As a player it can be very confusing when entering a new game. When you have literally hundreds of possible character combinations to choose from, it can really slow down an inexperienced player from actually entering and playing the game.

One of the other problems I have with classes in roguelikes is that they limit some of the big decisions that are possible further into the game. If you for instance create a magic user, suddenly half the items that you now find are deemed worthless, all from one early decision that you made when you had the least amount of investment in the character. Most classed roguelikes suffer from the problem that each class has too similar of a lategame between games.

I would prefer a roguelike to have almost all of its complex game changing choices to be added in at different points later in the game, and ideally there should be no point in the game where there are no more strategic choices to be made.

I really liked how Brogue plays in that it is items that are what differentiates one play-through from another. You don't know how the game is going to play out until you find your good item drops and you begin to enchant them. This makes for good varied late game play, but at the trade off of having a weak predictable early game.

The unfortunate problem caused by having a predictable and less interesting early game is that it discourages quickly restarting a game after a loss. In a game like Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup, I find it incredibly easy to restart a game when I am playing with different classes each time. It almost seems like each character combo is a completely different game. When I restart a game of Brogue I know almost exactly what to expect from the first few floors, and I know that it will require a reasonable amount of time for the game to differentiate itself from the last one.

The problem is that each of these approaches have major drawbacks.

What I plan on doing about it

Ideally one would want both a varied early game, and a just as varied late game. One would also want the game to be quickly picked up by new players while also providing early game options for more experienced players.

I mulled this over in my head for quite a bit and I think I have come to an interesting solution.

From the start I have wanted a system without classes (and possibly levels). This was greatly influenced by both rogue and brogue.

But as I thought about the problems mentioned before I wanted to try out something different than what rogue or brogue does. This led to some ideas on a starting shop system.

Instead of starting off at character creation screen, you instead are given a fixed amount of money to buy your character's starting equipment. Starting equipment will be anything from armor and weapons to consumables and magical equipment. I hope to make the starting system interesting enough to allow strategy in choosing starting play style. Because these early game items are far from enough to get through the entire game, the late game should still vary widely depending on the items that are dropped.

One problem that I foresee could happen is the already mentioned starting complexity problem. It can make it more difficult for both new players to get into the game and experienced players to restart after death.

In my eyes this problem can be reduced in three ways.

The first is to give new players a "starting" option so that they can quickly begin playing without having to confuse themselves with a huge multitude of options. In the case of this game, a basic warrior or magic build to choose from. These builds would have basic and easy to understand items, perfect for a new player. when they are ready the new player can make up their own item builds.

The second option is to include features for faster restarts. This would include saving item builds to load later, to either edit or use as a quick start.

The third option is to unlock new items in the store through play. This would reduce the staggering amount of items that would confuse a new player, while gently introducing them to new items as they play.

Predefined builds and build saving/editing are both something I would like to implement. The unlock system is something I am still contemplating on.

Next time

I think this is enough of a blog post for now. This one took me much longer to write than I would have liked. No date on the next one, but I think it will be an interesting post.

As for the game, I am still working on it when time allows (far less than I would like). A new build should be out in not too long, but it is still almost just a tech demo. Things are still chugging along though.

Monday, July 30, 2012

TFCRL version 0.0.2 release!

TFCRL version 0.0.2 release!

Not too much new stuff in this version. A lot of what I worked on was internal code cleanup for increased productivity later. But other than that:
  • Items!- Items are now displayable on the map. As well as pickup-able. There is a good old fashioned inventory screen as well. It is very low featured right now, but I think I will begin improving it soon.
  • And that is all that is visible if you just download the game right now sadly. The way I was doing items was completely reworked to a much better/standard way of doing things, and I may very well change the way I did map features/control actions to this better way soon too. Before things get out of hand complexity-wise I hope.
I realize that I have not yet said what the controls are yet. So here they are:
  • numpad for movement(with numlock on).
  • i for the invintory screen
  • , for picking up things
  • Q for escaping the program
You can download the latest release here:

My next development post is about halfway finished, it should be up in a day or two.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The TFCRL story.

Unlike some roguelikes, I ideally would like story to be a big part of Tfcrl. Not a narrative of events like those in many more linear single player games, but story that comes out in the atmosphere and setting of the game. World building is something I really enjoy, and I am hoping that Tfcrl will give me some good opportunities to put some interesting ideas into the game.

General story of the game:
The world is in crisis, the elements have become increasingly dangerous and hard to control. Fires seems to have a mind of their own, leaping out of fireplaces to destroy entire villages in great infernos. Tornadoes and hurricanes have destroyed crop harvests making famines more and more of a possibility, to say nothing of their pure destructive powers applied to peoples settlements. Even the earth seems to be constantly roiling underneath one's feet. Distant rumors say that volcanoes have popped out of the ground where none were before. The ocean gives no respite from the dangers on land. Massive ships leave on long voyages never to return. The world is in crisis.

Believing the world is coming to an end, the common people have increasingly turned to the mysterious dangers of the old elemental cults. Even though their actions likely empower the forces of the elements, they have lost all other hope.

In a college on a remote island, thankfully away from most of the horrors of the mainland, a possible solution to the world's problems have been found. Academic magi of the long thought useless school of arcane magic have made a key discovery. If huge amounts of magic energy is applied in a certain precise way, a small portal into the elemental planes can be created. Through much research, the magi have determined the source of the worlds turmoil. The four elemental sibling gods, named Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, have gone to war with one another for complete control over the power of the elements.

Unfortunately, the magi only have enough magical energy to send one man, and a small selection of equipment, into a newly created portal. This one man is charged with assaulting the forces of the elemental gods and ultimately facing each of them in combat. Though unlikely, if this one man can succeed he will return victorious with the powers of the elements, ushering in a new golden age for all of earth's residents. This one man is you!

Next Time:
This is of course a rough draft of what the story will likely be in game, but I think it is important to grasp the game's setting so that some of my planned design decisions make sense. In the next few days I will be posting what I think of as central goals of what I want this game to be, as well as features that will help to meet these central goals.

Unfortunately due to a recent death in the family I have mostly been unable to work on developing the game itself. I am still motivated though and hope things settle down enough so that I can resume working on it soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TFCRL 0.0.1

The Four (forty?) Challenges Roguelike release 0.0.1

Instead of a lengthy post on design decisions for what I want this roguelike to be, I opted instead for a relatively quick and dirty post in the interests of getting stuff out there. At the moment it is more of a tech demo than game, but this should change over the next few months. My hopes is that this blog encourages me to put out updates quickly and often.

Interesting(?) feature list so far:
  • Line of sight algorithm implementation - As this was something I did with almost zero research, I am surprised at how well it turned out to be honest. It seems fast enough for a java implementation. Only problem is the lack of sight range of long walls when a character is right next to them. I plan of fixing this if it seems to create too many problems. Included is a basic map for looking at the line of sight stuff.
  • Completely customizable controls - A feature that I feel is lacking from roguelikes I play is a customizable control set. Mine should allow a player to remap (almost) any key to any function in the game. It should also be easy to make presets, and I plan to have presets for some of the basic roguelike control schemes. (angband, nethack, adom, ect)
After putting down this feature list it sadly doesn't seem to be very much. Most of what I have done so far though is lay the groundwork for more features down the line. This should hopefully pay off with increased speed of development.

Special thanks to Slash and his wonderful java roguelike library!

If you would like to try out what I have created:

Download runnable .jar file and source code at:

What roguelikes are to me.

As you can tell by the name of this blog, I like roguelikes. I might even love roguelikes. I like and play most types of games, but roguelikes have always had a sort of magic to them that just makes them my special favorite. Something about the roguelike recipe makes it an exquisite experience to a gamer like me.

So this leads me to my topic. What exactly does a roguelike mean to me? What are the elements of a roguelike that make it a special experience?

In my opinion there are four different traits that make a roguelike special. These traits are permanent death, turn based gameplay, procedurally generated content, and a high level of difficulty.  These four things  are rarely found together outside of the genre, and are one of the main reasons a roguelike virgin should take the plunge.

By themselves, each of these elements are not necessarily good game design, in fact adding most of these alone to the common game would usually be a bad decision. However each trait plays well off of the others, and using all four of these together can give the fun distinctive roguelike feel to a game.

High Level of Difficulty
Roguelikes are well known to be have an unforgiving level of difficulty. Hard difficulty is not exactly an uncommon feature in games, but it is one of the guiding principles of roguelike design. Not listing difficulty would result in a skewed view of these other features. A high level of difficulty means that choices should actually give concrete meaningful feedback, with a threat of harsh consequences for bad decisions. Victory should almost never be a foregone conclusion.

With the idea of difficulty comes the aspect of an end win condition. Roguelikes should be goal oriented, with the end goal being very difficult to achieve. Without a well defined end goal the difficulty becomes more of a burden than it should be. When you finally succeed in beating the game for the first time, a huge amount of satisfaction should be gained from doing what you once thought was the impossible.

Permanent Death
Permanent death is perhaps one of the most infamous traits of the roguelike. It almost seems like a modern game designer would recoil in horror at the mere mention of permanent death. Indeed, a game needs
be completely designed around the idea of permanent death for it to not ruin the game. It is no coincidence that all three of these other elements are also designed so that permanent death will be able to work in a way  that is enjoyable.

Permanent death is the ultimate punishment that a game can give to a player. In a roguelike, permanent death is to be expected and frequent. Permanent death used well can be an effective teaching tool. Used badly, and it becomes the reason a player never plays the game again.

Proceduraly Generated Content
Permanent death causes many problems when it is just thrown into a game, one of the biggest being the question of how to keep a game interesting after many times playing through the same content. If a designer is to have any hope of a player playing through the content of a game more than a few times, they must add a fairly large amount of replayability. Without randomly generated content, the game has the possibility of feeling like a puzzle.

Turn Based Gameplay
While it is possible to use a real-time method of gameplay in a roguelike, the success of the other three traits are increased greatly with the use of a turn based system. Permanent death would seem unfair if a character could die due to an inopportune sneeze or a bit of bad lag. Likewise, how random could random levels be in a real time permanent death environment be and still be considered fair? There must be some limit to the amount of unexpected dangerous things that can be thrown in the face of a player all at once.

Thankfully turns allow the player to play at their own pace. They need not be reliant on their own physical skill of controlling a character, but rather they can rely on their command of tactics and the knowledge they have of the game systems in order achieve success. After a player gains a certain amount of familiarity with the game, the turn based gameplay allows an almost calming experience that a real time game of the same nature can never have.

In Conclusion
I could argue that a game using all of these traits should be classified as a roguelike, but I would not go that far. Roguelikes can ultimately be described as games which are like rogue, and while rogue uses all four of these elements extensively, there is much more to rogue than this. In the future I plan on posting more on this and other topics.

Next Time
A common trait among serious roguelike fans is that a significant portion of them eventually try, and some even succeed, in making their own roguelike. My attempt has been more than a year in the making, and not entirely successful, my next post will be on the planned roguelike.