7DRL 2017: Westbound and Down

This is my third 7DRL, and this year I’m hoping to kill two birds with one stone by exploring some alternate gameplay concepts I first explored in last year’s entry, Auto FireAuto Fire introduced car combat and exploration of a (poorly-rendered) cityscape and in the ensuing year has been extended to 3D, with richer generation, an overworld countryside, and a variety of superior UI and tools.  None of which I’m going to use this week, see below.

This year, with Westbound and Down, I want to explore some of the “Convoy” style aspirations that I have yet to put into Auto Fire…  Traveling from town to town and taking on cargo missions between outpost cities in a post-apocalyptic western U.S.  Instead of exploration combat, the player must drive “blocker” for a convoy of trucks that is continually harassed by bandits and other road hazards.  Upgrade your car and convoy vehicles, hire drivers, maintain your stock of ammo and fuel, and take on loads with higher risks for greater rewards.

The tough part of this year is that even though I’ve progressed quite a bit with Auto Fire’s codebase over the last year…  in the spirit of making this a fresh 7-day effort, I’m working from the code from 2016’s 7DRL and seeing what I can construct within those confines.  I hope to create an alternate movement model (forced directional movement, with most of the maneuvering involving lane-changes and acceleration/deceleration), a regional highway map, a cargo quest structure, some interfaces for cargo and hireling loadout, and hopefully some FTL-style dialogue encounters which could lead to bonus salvage or ambush.  That’s a fair amount of stuff, but I’m hoping I’ve got enough to build from…  and if I have to hack up my code a bit to try something, that’s okay, I can take any successes and work them into Auto Fire later, hopefully the “right way”. 🙂

Brass Tactics unveiled!

I just spent the week down in San Francisco showing my new game at Hidden Path Entertainment called Brass Tactics.  It’s a real-time strategy game built from the ground up for VR.  The reception has been quite good from the press and developers, and I think we’ve created something special.  Looking forward to finishing it off this fall!

Hidden Path Entertainment: Brass Tactics Info

Tom’s Hardware: ‘Brass Tactics’ Brings Tabletop RTS Gaming To VR Battlefield

Endgadget: ‘Brass Tactics’ is a VR RTS that puts you in a clockwork battlefield

Ars Technica: Finally, VR has a legitimate RTS contender in Brass Tactics

 

Skate Knight Update

(Formerly Cardinal Cell)

Quick update for now:  Over the past month I’ve been getting a lot of base functionality in:

  • Dwarves knock enemies around in addition to stunning them.
  • Items and monsters are flung from the sides of the screen at Stage start.
  • Bonus gold is awarded for kill chains.
  • The gold collected is tallied at the end of a level and each survivor grants a gold bonus.
  • The player earns stars based on the amount of gold collected.
  • The moon arcs over the sky from the start to the end of the night, because that is the length of our hero’s prison sentence.
  • I can lay out a custom level for each individual venue, with 12 “hour” stages each now.  The player can select from a set in the main menu and try for a high score in each.

Forgive the temp sprites…  We’re still nailing the look.

Some work in progress

The Power of Art

I had a lot of fun last weekend with my game Cardinal Cell.  It was pretty fun in the end but it was ugly enough to make babies cry because I cobbled together the art on my own.  I could have maybe increased the quality another quarter-point on my own before finishing off the 48 hours…  I could have chosen a style.  I could have smoothed out the busy textures.  However, I was focused on closing the book with features-features-features.

I’m pretty confident that it was a mistake on my part…  while I go through other people’s games I constantly have to tell myself to not let an ugly game influence my assessment of its fun… or let a pretty game get away with dull gameplay.  Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way the world works.  Those of us with weaker art skills have a challenge to overcome.

Because the game looked so bad I did a quick reskin this weekend to use some pixel art and audio that I had handy.  I think the gameplay stands well on its own, but the revamp makes a difference in my opinion.  A friend offered up some real art and we’re going to rebrand it as…  wait for it… Skate Knight.

If you’re interested in seeing what a few hours of stock graphics and sounds can do for a game, check out the game on itch.io below.

 

Break for Ludum Dare 37

In a frenzied less-than-48 hours I cobbled together an entry into this weekend’s Ludum Dare.  I’d been wanting to play with the idea of fantasy battles using the mechanics of 2048.  The result isn’t pretty, but I do Ludum Dares primarily so I can doodle on an idea without giving a damn about how ugly it comes out. 🙂

CARDINAL CELL

After a night of heavy drinking in a foreign land, you are captured by local law enforcement and forced to stand trial for heinous crimes you have no memory of.   You are sentenced to 24 hours in the CARDINAL CELL. If you survive, you will be set free.   The help of your former drinking buddies is the only assistance you can hope for… because the Constable is rounding them up and throwing them in after you.

Click on the image to give it a shot and enjoy!  Maybe even throw me a vote… 😉

Loops and destruction

In the past few days I’ve managed to add a whole bunch of loops to the city generation.  This was achieved by adding optional exits to the blocks that I lay down…  These are invisible overlays that, if a road tries to enter a block that doesn’t have an entrance on that side, can be stamped down over the existing block to let it link back.  It helps a lot with the four-lane highways in particular, which would act like a barrier that didn’t integrate into the rest of the street maze if I didn’t allow it to reconnect.

citylayoutweek3

More loops are important because driving and having to turn around is fairly bad…  the fewer dead ends the better.

Once the map is complete, I put down more obstacles and overgrowth.  Then finally I take some Perlin noise to the map and add destroyed swaths, both rubble and driveable stuff, just to add interest.

I think I can move beyond generation for the time being.  Now it’s time to get fog of war back in so that the map feels more mysterious and ready to explore.  Then I’ll lay out a boss battle fortress…  woo!

Hiiiiiighway

I’ve made more progress in sealing up road connections, adding more variety and, most of all, creating 4-lane roads!  I’ve still got to work on seeding out the highway before the map is built, so we have a big thoroughfare in there.  Pretty soon I should be far enough to start getting Fog of War back in (which was ditched when I made the move from 2D to 3D back in May).

Also, Unity has had some nice sales lately and I stumbled onto this, which I jumped on.  At first glance the pack seems to be selling a bunch of muzzle flash VFX and so on, but it also includes this sweet modular turret system which includes a bunch of different weapons that can be separated from their turret bases.  How cool is that?

weapons

I was starting to make plans towards learning some basic 3D modeling so that I could make weapons like this…  typically they are attached to the side of a vehicle or something.

In my case I want the player to be able to see the weapons in their inventory, and then place them out on a grid.  So, while I will still need to find or create some of the more unusual models (what does a smoke screen sprayer look like?), I can get pretty far with these guys.

CityGen – Making it fun

I managed to carve a good chunk of time working on city generation over the 4-day Thanksgiving, but I wish I were done.  My core accomplishments was in creating single-wide alleys, more crafted patches for both 2-lane and alley roads, and most importantly:  Allowing patches to be rotated when placed.

This allows me to create more variety, not just because things look different when rotated, but also because I can spend my time on crafting unique areas without having the create four direction rotations of them.  It’s getting there…citylayoutweekend2a

The biggest problems beyond variety is playability.  The most interesting maps should have some interesting tactical spaces, and more importantly enough loops that give the players a better sense of exploration as well as not punishing them as much for getting some speed going (which dead ends can completely wreck).  Typical Roguelikes (Dungeonmans included) introduce at least a few loops so that exploring the map doesn’t force endless backtracking.

A whole bunch more work is needed, including:

  • Make additional large patches with interesting tactical features such as open areas, wide runways and so on.  This will help keep the game from just being a bunch of corridors.
  • gen
    A strange street flow perhaps, but I just wanted to try some more interesting tactical layouts.

    Create an evenlarger 4-lane road type and seed the map with a couple of large roads.  This should present some neat places to build up some speed.

  • Checking patches before they are laid down to make sure that they are not blocking off an adjacent road (this leads to a series of roads that lead to nowhere).
  • When the map has been expanded as far as it can be (usually a set value, such as 1000 attempts at placing a patch), make sure that all the “unexplored” road tiles are capped with dead ends or are connected up to their neighbors.  (Again, this avoids road connections that terminate abruptly.
  • Add some “overlay” rules and tagging that allows for “optional” entrances into a block.  This way if I try to lay down a block next to another block, I can more easily “bust a hole” between the blocks as needed.  This will be huge for generating loops.
  • Create a few rules to evaluate a “good” map, including if there is enough space to explore and that there are areas suitably deep in the city where boss areas can be placed…  and if those criteria are not met, throw the whole map out and start over.

I basically need to take this as far as needed until it’s fun, and then step away from it and worry about making it perfect later.  Something like this could take all of my time for many months if I let it.  Over time I’ll try to add new models, streetlights, textures, buildings and so on, but I need to work towards something I can play again.

Once the map generates well (hopefully in another week), I’ll need to properly populate it with encounters, and create a boss area fairly far from the entrance that players need to play towards.  Once I’ve got that I’ll be back to having a game loop and can push to sharing a build out.  That’s something I really want to get done before the holidays.