Game System Refinements and New Enemies

Quite a bit has been done since the last post. The most obvious change is that all the old enemies are gone, replaced with new enemies sporting my own art. It isn’t much, but it will do for now. There are now four enemy packs featuring Japanese spirits, shadows, ninjas, and terrors of the deep. The days of skeletons everywhere with the occasional dragon are gone, and won’t be coming back.

Mechanically, some additions to the combat system have rounded things out into a rock-paper-scissors style. Attacks are blocked by guard, guard breaks do full damage through a guard, and an attack against a guard break becomes a counter, doing bonus damage while the guard break does none. This also counts for the mega versions of those attacks. With the addition of a ticker that displays the attack history of the current battle, a player can get a feel for an enemies attack pattern and skillfully smack down enemies using strategy rather than raw stats.

With that in mind, another drastic change has been made. Now, leveling up still restores health but doesn’t increase stats for either the player or the enemies. This puts significant emphasis on using a strategy to defeat each enemy, rather than just trying to grind up the power to mindlessly blow through any opposition. In fact, grinding doesn’t give you anything at all right now aside from a pathetic amount of materials. This gives incentive for the player to head for the boss asap, only making detours for event spaces if they’re along the way or very worthwhile. You’re supposed to be heading for the top of the tower, not mindlessly visiting every single square in a floor in a long winding S shape in an attempt to circumvent any difficulty in the game by grinding enough to one shot the boss with a basic attack.

Numbers are all small now to exaggerate the importance of every little tactical advantage. Weapons do 2 damage on average, with 1 for small fast weapons and 3 for large slow weapons. A yellow armor has no effect on incoming damage, while a green armor reduces damage by 1 and a red armor increases damage by 1. If you have more power than the enemy has vitality, you do 1 extra damage. Mega attacks use up all your focus, and add 1 damage per focus used up. With class and enemy health ranging from 5-15, each point of damage becomes very important, with many battles ending with one side at less than  health. Bosses and rare monsters have a habit of throwing out a full power mega attack in the first few turns than WILL kill you in one shot if you don’t anticipate it and react with a block for a mega attack or a normal attack against a megabreak.

When players an enemies do generally do 2-4 damage per hit, and have a max of 15 hp, having the speed advantage suddenly becomes even more important than before.

The overall effect of these changes has been that a player who fights the same enemies a few times finds themselves skillfully turning aside powerful 1 hit ko attacks and smacking down bosses and powerful monsters unscathed and feeling like a total badass. Now, you might think at first glance that this is the same kind of boring feeling of overwhelming power that I made these changes to avoid but there are key differences.

In the old system you felt strong because you boringly grinded enough monsters to have so much power that the boss stood no chance against you. There was no payoff from killing the boss this way other than completing the level. Like being a bully, there’s no real satisfaction from squashing an enemy who has no chance against you regardless of skill level because of a difference in stats. Now, sure you may be able to take down the boss every time and feel strong because of it but… the difference is that the boss stood a chance. The boss could have killed you several times, you had no numerical advantage, all you had was your wits at optimizing your gear, experience in anticipating what strategy the enemy will use, and skill in using that experience to your advantage when attacking and defending.

Every single action in a battle counts. Your health pool is a very small, very finite resource. You will be trading attacks with your enemy and that means falling low enough that a mega attack can 1 shot you, so you better be parrying those as they come and managing your focus enough to use guards, guard breaks, and potions when you really need them.

Oh and, you won’t be having a lot of potions. They use to cost 50 each and after a few levels you’d have enough potions to spam 12 of them in a tough fight if you had to, now they cost 25 more each time you buy one so that cost escalates fast. Potions are very valuable now, you don’t want to waste them.

It feels really smooth. Once you’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt, just enough to understand how the turn action rock-paper-scissers works and to be able to learn the enemy action pattern by watching the action history ticker, you’ll be kicking ass all the way through floors without breaking a sweat and casually dropping eldritch horrors, not because they stood no chance against your stats but because you had a strategy that allowed you to win with 2 hp left without wasting potions and were confident enough to adapt it on the fly when the enemy got a few luck blocks evades in without panicking. The feeling when you have 2 hp and you block the ‘Great Old One’s 12 damage mega attack only to turn around and guard break him 2 turns later for the finish is pretty sweet.

Recognizing that many people may not enjoy the traditional roguelike permadeath that some do (like me), especially with a system that forces you to continuously face new enemies who can easily kill you at any time if you don’t know their patterns (in a manner reminiscent of Dark Souls), I added an option to character creation to enable Hardcore mode. It’s disabled by default, when enabled you die and the game autosaved after death like normal, and when disabled the game doesn’t save after death so you can continue from the place you were right before you moved into the square you died in. This should allow people to explore the content without having to restart the tower every time they fight a new enemy or get careless.

I will however be adding all kinds of special unlocks and achievements for players who play the game on Hardcore mode. An idea that comes to mind is to allow players who have defeated an enemy a certain amount of times (say 10) on hardcore mode to play that enemy in a separate mode where you are a monster at the top of the tower, trying to fight you way out. It will play the same as the normal game, except traveling the tower in reverse and of course with the player using an enemy as the class. Defeat Cthulu 10 times on hardcore and get to play as him? What else do you need for motivation? That there will be achievements and unlocks for escaping the tower goes without saying.

For escaping the tower as Cthulu, how about: “Achievement Unlocked: The End is Neigh”

Yeah, that sounds nice.

About Maynard Price

My name is Maynard Price. I am an undergraduate student at RPI (representing class of 2013 :D) majoring in computer science and minoring in game studies. I’m aiming to break into the game industry after I graduate, and so I’m developing a portfolio (currently too embarrassingly small or lame to bother posting). I have some experience in developing games in c++ using SDL, but I’m learning to program in AS3 using Flash Develop (probably with Flixel). I’m down for anything really. Small projects, big projects, etc. I just need experience and practice. I’ll be doing my own thing too, but I definitely need to get some practice working with others on larger projects.
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