Quite a large update today. I'm starting what I plan to be about a month or two of basically going over every system, mechanic and piece of content in the game and giving it a complete overhaul and re-balancing.
As of July 22, this will be exactly one year since I started this project and I believe it will likely take about another year to get the game completed so this is pretty much precisely the midpoint of development.
Over the past year, I've added tons of stuff to the game and made a ton of a progress but oftentimes many of the additions were made without a ton of thought or planning since my focus was simply on getting the code working.
During the course of the past few months when I was investigating the direction I'd like to take the game in the future I realized how messy and incomplete much of the existing work was. The pieces are all definitely here and its actually working very well given the chaos of the dev process but I believe that this is a great time to take a step back and consolidate everything we've got so far.
So that's the plan for the next month or so. Basically go back, rethink each feature and push, pull and rework until everything is cleaner, more balanced and just generally working well together. The plan is that, at the end of this period, the entire game should basically be transformed into something much more stable and in line with my vision for the final product. From there, it should be much easier and quicker to move forwards.
In my experience on previous projects this is basically exactly where we should be. The first half of development tends to be quite hectic and messy but you get all the pieces on the table. Then around the midpoint you trim the fat, rework existing stuff and generally unify the existing mess until a solid center is built. Finally, over the course of the second half, you basically build out the game itself from that solid center. In my experience, its this second half where most of the actual content is developed so I'm quite excited right now since I believe once everything is cleaned up in the next month I should finally be able to really get to all the 'cool stuff' we've been discussing since Alpha.
I've got a ton of notes that I'll be compiling that describe roughly what I'm trying to achieve with this rework in regards to each system and also a ton of plans as to how to achieve that. I'll be posting these notes sometime in the next few days just to give everyone an idea of why some of these changes are been made.
Obviously this period will be quite messy with wild swings in balance and quality. The biggest challenge here and what caused so much trouble in the last month is that pretty much everything I'm trying to do right now is completely interconnected i.e. changes in one system completely depend on changes in many other systems in order to 'work'. So since I obviously can't just 'do it all at the same time', many of these changes wont 'work' until another change down the line is made. So just please bear with me, at least for the first few weeks here. I think once we get the biggest tangles dealt with, the rest of it will come apart at an increasingly rapid pace.
As mentioned above I'll be going into much more detail about the plan and rational in a few days but I should mention at least one critical assumption I'm making here. I definitely plan to grow and expand the game once this rework phase is over, but, within the context of this rework, I'll be treating the game as it currently is, with its current scope and length. So rather than balancing in anticipating of some future larger scope I'll be working with the assumption that the game is approximately one hour in length and mostly linear. Its my hope that, if we can get the balance correct within this context, any later expansions will be much easier since I can just 'spread' the balance out.
Leveling and Experience:
The biggest change and one that will be adjusted as we go along is that I've changed the player level cap to 12 and spread out experience, talent, skill and attribute points accordingly.
Basically the issue here is that, given that the game is currently only about one hour in length, 20 level ups is just way to many. First, it breaks the game flow every 3 mins (approximately) and forces the player to fiddle in their character screen. Second, since there are so many level ups, the power gained from each level up has to be kept small to stop high end power creep. This creates the undesired situation where your constantly interrupted from gameplay to make choices that are quite inconsequential.
The goal will be to have a lot less interruptions (level ups), but for each level up to be much more meaningful. I'll be reworking the attribute, talent, and skill system accordingly in future updates, but this is a first stab at tackling this issue. As part of this rework a bunch of changes were made:
- Smoothed out exp for enemies. Previously exp = monster level, so a level 1 rat gave 1 exp, a level 2 goblin brute gave 2 exp etc. Changed it to be 10 + level so that the level 2 goblin brute doesn't give x2 exp.
- This smoothing then allows me to make weak, swarmy enemies like rats and maggots give 1/3 as much exp.
- Just to give an example of why this makes a big difference. Previously a rat nest, with its 6 rats was worth 7 total exp compared to a level 1 goblins 1 exp. Since the previous spawn system would just spawn say 15 enemies on UD:1, you could get absolutely wild swings in the amount of exp per dungeon level just based on what was spawning.
- Regarding the point above: the spawn system now spawns enemies so that their total exp is equal to some desired total based on dungeon depth. This will definitely need some balancing work to get the numbers right but basically this should fix a ton of wild swings in balance. It was previously possible say in the desert to have 15 rats spawn on a level in one run and then have 15 mummys spawn on the exact same level in another run. Not only did this create wild swings in difficulty, but the amount of exp the player would gain would also swing wildly.
I'll be going into the 'why' of many of these changes in a few days. Much of this is basically temporary quick fixes or preemting much larger changes that will be coming later so these should be treated as temporary iterations that are part of a larger plan. I started trying to explain the rational for each change but it got to long so I'll just list em, and give a more concise overview later.
- Reversed direction of passive talent bonus so that the small +2 bonus is first and the large +4 bonus is last.
- Casters now start with power shot instead of attunement which has been removed for now.
- Warriors now start with a hand axe instead of a short sword
- Generally reducing the number of start talents (big reworks to the way the player acquires talents will be coming to fill the gaps).
- Classes now start with -attributes in their non primary attributes rather than a bonus.
- Gain 2 skills points per level instead of 1.
- Charge can now 'crunch' enemies against walls for crit damage.
- Protection can now result in 0 damage (basically makes protections more valuable).
About half of the big rework plan is in regards to the player, the other half will be a complete reworking of many enemies and their abilities. Will basically be going over the entire dungeon in multiple passes, working to make enemies more interesting to fight, adding new abilities or filling holes in the spawn table etc. Again, I'll be going into more detail as to the overall goal of these changes in a few days.
- Orbs of Storm for enemy storm mages that chase the player and throw little sparks (has a limited duration like all summons and killing the caster will dispell it).
- All archers now have 2 cooldown in order to reduce long range spam.
- Reduces all mages projectile damage, again to reduce long range, unavoidable spam damage.
- Reduced the cooldown significantly on orbs of fire so that fire mages toss them much more often. Reduced their AoE and damage accordingly.
- Will at least note here, that a big part of the changes to NPCs will revolve around reducing a lot of the unavoidable damage (especially projectiles) and replacing it with stuff the player can dodge, run way from, dispell etc.
- Elephants, yaks, goats can now charge (this needs better animation/graphics to make it clearer whats happening).
- Reduced the hit points of most ranged enemies
- Reduced the hit points of all spawners (if the player can get LoS it should be relatively easy to kill a spawner, rather than having to always tank through all its summons).
- Storm mages will now use 'shocking grasp' instead of throwing spark projectiles.
- Goblin brutes now go berserk as before.
- Berserk now increases movement speed (since most berserk enemies are slow, this simply gives them 'normal' movement speed).
- Fleeing enemies will now eventually stop (was annoying to chase them down).
- Blink frogs have been made fast (the entire blink mechanic is gonna need a rework).
- Removed the net portion of spider webs since it tended to just result in immediate, unavoidable deaths unless the player had some powerful consumable. So for now, the player is still unstabled on the web, but otherwise he still has his turn to act i.e. step off.
Along with a lot of the balancing and reworking will be drastic changes and improvements to the games UI. I won't be focusing on this quite as much as general mechanics, but I'd still like to chip away at it. Completely reworking the UI and controls will likely be a future phase in itself.
- Shift + Space defaults to rest
- When resting, the popup text now indicates if you rested to full HP or full MP.
- Mouse now highlights tiles on the mini-map
- Popup text now indicates when abilities have charged (completed cooldown).
- Enemies now show their ability damage on mouse over.
- Clouds now show their damage on mouse over
- Big top text now indicates where stairs will take you when standing on them (previously there was no indication when actually standing on the stairs).
- When using < or > to fast travel to stairs, you will now get a dialog option when there are multiple stairs.
Alright, well that's it for now! Thanks as always for all your support and feedback! Will be posting some of my notes in the next few days.