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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperPlaytestingDefender's Quest - Tower Defense / RPG
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larsiusprime
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« on: September 28, 2011, 03:20:51 PM »

Hey guys, larsiusprime here, I worked on Super Energy Apocalypse and CellCraft, if anybody remembers those.

Old-ish video (working on a new one):




We just released the first demo for our new game, Defender's Quest! The idea is that it's a streamlined tactical RPG. The battle system is a bit tower-defense inspired, where each character in your party is a "tower," but each one is unique, and levels up, learns skills, and equips stuff independently of all the others.

The demo is browser-based, but the final version will run on Mac, Windows, and Linux. I've got the installers working for all 3 operating systems, just trying to iron out some kinks before I upload them, so all we've got right now is the web demo.

We chose to focus on three things: story, customization, and tactics. So, we don't have a sprawling overworld, random battles, romance sub-plots, spikey-haired emo kids talking about their feelings, etc. Instead, we've got our attempt at a snappy, fast-paced story, lots of individually designed balanced battle sequences, lots of character classes, skill trees, equipment, etc.

We've tried to strike a balance between depth and streamlined-ness. I wouldn't say "simple", but the idea is not to totally overwhelm the player with boring minutiae.

Here's a picture from a late-game battle:



We spent a lot of time on the battle system, trying to make each of our six classes unique, interesting, balanced, and strategically deep. Your goal is to defend your main character from enemies. To defend herself, the main character can summon friends, as well as "boost" them with energy she gets from killing monsters.

Each defender can have up to five special attacks, but they can't use them all right away. "Boosting" a defender will give them an in-battle stat bonus, and enable their next attack. So, when you upgrade skills, it's important to pick between simple attacks (available immediately) or advanced ones, which are more powerful, but need some energy investment before they become available.

Overworld image:



Character customization:



This demo version comprises the first 2 Acts of the game (total 7). We hope to have the final version out by November 2011.

I'd love to hear what you guys think, particularly:

Story
Tutorial flow/pacing
Characters
Battle System
Skills System
Challenge System
Anything else!

« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 09:38:37 AM by larsiusprime » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2011, 04:25:09 PM »

I played it for a good while, for about an hour it seems : P My playing was interrupted by the game freezing when one of my archers died.

I really like the concept and it is well executed. Some skill trees could branch more but other that that I can't really think of any constructive feedback. The story seemed interesting enough and I really enjoyed the game : )
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2011, 05:23:10 PM »

Sorry to hear the game crashed! Exactly where were you at when it happened? Also, was it your main archer (Ketta) or a generic (hired) one?

If anyone else experiences a bug, let me know and I'll do my best to fix it !

Also: the game auto-saves pretty aggressively, so your progress shouldn't be lost. You'll lose the progress in that battle, but hopefully nothing else.

UPDATE: I think I know what's causing the bug. The game is trying to display some dialogue when the ranger gets knocked out, and it's probably sending bad information which causes the game to crash. If you go into options->gameplay, and set to "show dialogue" to "never" it might fix the problem.

I'll update the demo file tomorrow with a quick patch so this doesn't happen to anybody else Smiley
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 06:10:35 PM by larsiusprime » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2011, 12:21:28 AM »

I had a lot of fun with this, even if it wasn't really an RPG and more of a Tower Defense game. Pacing, everything, seems good.

I think I would prefer something I can download onto my computer, though, for this.
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2011, 03:54:27 AM »

Hi, I've tried the web demo up to act II and it was fun to play.

However i noticed on my laptop really big lags going up while i advance in the game.
Watching my computer process, i saw that firefox was increasing greatly in memory while i advance in the game. I'm not a flash programmer and i can't advice about anything on this topic, but at the end, the memory was so full it freezed my PC and i had to kill firefox process.

Is there anyway you have some memory leaks somewhere ?
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2011, 05:25:47 AM »

@Starsrift:

I hear you! I've got a downloadable version of it, I just can't afford the bandwidth right now, so I'm creating a torrent file for it today if I can. I'll let you know when it's up! This week I'll probably only be able to upload the Windows installer, but I plan on getting the Mac and Linux versions up if I can, though that might have to wait for the full version.

Also, what is it about the game that makes it "not really an RPG?" I'm not trying to be argumentative or anything - I'm just genuinely interested in the fact that you had that impression. My design approach was, "I'll make a streamlined RPG, and then change the battle system," but obviously it didn't strike you the same way. As this game is a bit of a hybrid between two genres, perception will be really important in later marketing, so I'm trying to find the best way to "label" the game.

@Deidril:

There probably are some memory leaks. I've only posted the demo on this and the flixel forums without telling the public at large so I can catch any immediate problems like this and fix them this week. I thought I'd fixed the major memory leaks a while back, but obviously I need to dig into the profiler again Smiley I have some ideas where they might be and I'll make that a priority.

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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2011, 07:28:04 AM »

Also, what is it about the game that makes it "not really an RPG?" I'm not trying to be argumentative or anything - I'm just genuinely interested in the fact that you had that impression. My design approach was, "I'll make a streamlined RPG, and then change the battle system," but obviously it didn't strike you the same way. As this game is a bit of a hybrid between two genres, perception will be really important in later marketing, so I'm trying to find the best way to "label" the game.

I should preface by saying that's my opinion, and not a ludological evaluation.
It has a story, but lots of games have stories. It has statistics, but most games have statistics, RPG's being one of the foremost in actually exposing these statistics to the player. It has units increasing in value, but again, that's something that other Tower Defense games do, though perhaps not to such a continuing extent. I think the reason my opinion swings that way is because the characters don't feel heroic - they feel like tower units I'm placing. I can't direct them to move, and I have the scantest control over their attacks, with the exception of the "god" unit. It's a matter of choice, and my gameplay choices that are the most important are Tower Defense choices - where to place the units, which ones to use, and which ones to Boost first.

I think in an effort to make a non-ludological argument I wound up making a reasonably sound ludological argument. Well, shit. Oh well. . . Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2011, 07:42:06 AM »

Ah, interesting! I actually hadn't heard that particular line of reasoning before. Cool!

There's two things I'm interested here:

1) What makes an 'RPG' and RPG?

I believe that's one of those questions that will never be completely answered given how ill-defined the genre is (ie, RPG's have no obvious test like an FPS - "is it in first person, and do you shoot?") When I posted this on Gamasutra we had a nice, loooooong debate about that! We went back and forth on genre conventions, prescriptions, and all the esoteric philosophical stuff about "necessary and sufficient" conditions, etc.

The gamasutra article I linked tries to determine what features all RPG's have in common and what exactly is the secret sauce. Eventually the consensus more or less was "a focus on character growth and meta-game", which isn't exactly a strong exclusive definition, as you pointed out, and considering how many other games lift RPG elements now.

I'm more interested in THIS question, however:

2) In the player's eyes, what are the key elements of "RPG"-ness?

This second question pertains more to perception and marketing. Whether my game is or isn't an RPG in the theoretical sense is important to me personally as an academic exercise, but as a developer I'm more interested in the practical question of "How do I send the right signal about this game to my audience?"

I should preface by saying that's my opinion, and not a ludological evaluation.

There is no 'wrong answer' to question 2, since anyone's opinion is by definition an accurate reflection of their own perceptions as a player, so don't pull any punches or moderate your response! And I'm open to hearing any responses to question 1, too.

The expectancy violation theory of communication (my wife has a Master's in COMM) says that someone's response to something is largely a function of their expectations. If you expect a movie to totally suck, and it's kind of okay, hey, it was awesome! If you expect it to be totally amazing, and it's just okay, then it SUCKED. That's what I'm trying to avoid here.

I'd prefer to avoid these responses from players:
"Why'd you call this an RPG if it's really just TOWER DEFENSE? Man, this game SUCKS."
"Hmmm... I'm looking for some sweet tower defense action, but this just looks like another lame tactical RPG, I'm gonna skip it."
"Tower Defense AND RPG? You got sardines in my avocadoes!"

This would be awesome:
"Tower Defense AND RPG? You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"

So, that's kind of the presentation challenge I'm exploring. Got any thoughts?
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 07:49:15 AM by larsiusprime » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2011, 09:39:30 AM »

@Deidril,

I ran my profiler and found the problem! Apparently there's a pretty huge memory leak in the flixel framework with regards to audio playback. I'll have the new build up by the end of the day, and I'll edit this post to signify it's up.

UPDATE: Plugged the memory leaks, and in doing so introduced more bugs Tongue. Nothing major, but I'll have to post the fix tomorrow.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 02:23:09 PM by larsiusprime » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 03:15:23 PM »

Tried the demo, have feedback. The game is good and generally well executed so I will try find areas for improvement and focus on the negatives:

First, on Opera it didn't work at all after clicking new game: the percent loaded metre has extremely low granularity--ticked 5%, 99%, then wait forever. In FireFox it works, though.

Good:
* Interesting with RPG spice to the trite Tower Defence form. Currently I think it is too much mainstay Tower Defence and too little RPG flavour. Can the RPG elements be boosted even further?
* The screen wave effect when entering battle adds nice ambience.
* Customisation of hirelings is a good idea and adds to the game. It could be expanded on even further.

Bad:
Between-battle:
* Photographic backdrops jars and clashes with the drawn cartoonish character styles. Annoyed me and made immersion impossible.
* Cut scenes have big black areas that makes the story part and the controls seem disparate and lack layout cohesion.
* The GUI elements (most of all the arrow buttons) are also clashing with the rest of the theme and mood.
* Buttons with related functions are positioned far from each other, sometimes in surprising places, which makes the interface non-intuitive.
* Purchasing weapons and hiring invites grinding, which is one RPG element that perhaps shouldn't be carried over.

In-battle:
* The in-game GUI is cluttered and overwhelmingly information-dense.
* The icons for the two first classes are almost identical and difficult to discern between.
* One must move the cursor over large distances to perform actions: boosting, spells, summons, clicking defenders, etc. This is tiring.
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2011, 04:10:57 PM »

Hey! Thanks for the helpful tips! I'll try to address them before final release.

1) I'll download opera and see if I can reproduce your bug.
2) "Can the RPG elements be boosted even further?" - What do you mean by this? What RPG elements would you like to see expanded?
3) Customization of hirelings could be expanded - got any specific ideas?

Other comments:

1) "photographic backdrops jars and clashes" - what style would you suggest instead?

2) "Buttons with related functions are positioned far from each other" - which ones specifically?

3) "Purchasing weapons and hiring invites grinding" - did you find yourself grinding a lot, or do you simply suspect that you will grind later? We tried to balance things so that you will usually never have to play the same mission challenges more than once simply to gain XP and scrap - the idea is to encourage people to try higher difficulty challenges (which are uniquely designed), but if you found yourself playing the same missions multiple times we'll look into it.

4) I can change the character design / hair colors so the first two classes don't look identical.

5) "one must move the cursor over large distances" - we've got hotkeys for most functions (you can see them in the interface, and change them in the options menu), I find this reduces the amount of mouse movement I have to do when I play. Did you use the hotkeys? Does this solve the problem for you?
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 05:27:56 PM »

I'd prefer to avoid these responses from players:
"Why'd you call this an RPG if it's really just TOWER DEFENSE? Man, this game SUCKS."
"Hmmm... I'm looking for some sweet tower defense action, but this just looks like another lame tactical RPG, I'm gonna skip it."
"Tower Defense AND RPG? You got sardines in my avocadoes!"

This would be awesome:
"Tower Defense AND RPG? You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"

So, that's kind of the presentation challenge I'm exploring. Got any thoughts?

For expectations, I saw "tactical RPG" and I was thinking along the lines of X-Com, Final Fantasy Tactics, TSOG, so on. But I also continually surprise myself with how much I enjoy Tower Defense games, inasmuch as I <3 tactical RPG's. (Steam claims I've logged ~40 hrs in Defense Grid, not to mention a couple other of the TD games...)

I think if you presented it as Tower Defense/RPG, it would set expectations rather... perfectly and succinctly.  Wizard

After some consideration, I do have this additional feedback to offer: You don't adequately explain the leveling/skill system. I kind of just stumbled across it, actually, and I was all, "Wow, I can make them learn new attacks, cool!"

So give us some more details. When's the full version coming out, are you stamping a price tag on it, what's the deal, yo?
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2011, 05:37:18 PM »

I think you're right. It's super tower-defensey, so I shouldn't hide that but rather proclaim it from the rooftops Smiley

And I can definitely put some better tutorials in for leveling and skills.

More details:

Full version is coming out November 2011 (God willing and if the creeks don't rise...)
Price tag: I'm going to release it on Steam if they'll have me, but I'm very interested in doing a pick-a-price/pay-what-you-want promotion on my own website's storefront.

Final version will be cross-platform mac/win/linux downloadable. Will post the windows downloadable installer tomorrow if I can get my web-seeded torrent set up.

Anything else you want to know?
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2011, 06:55:53 PM »

Ah, I remember some posts about this game on Gamasutra. Good to see it approaching release.
 
Final version will be cross-platform mac/win/linux downloadable.

Sounds like a good candidate for a future Humble Indie Bundle. Smiley

Going to check it out, will have some feedback later tonight.
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2011, 07:25:46 PM »

I would super love to get in on 'teh Bundlez :D They're absolutely drowning in submissions, so it'll be tough to stand out amongst the crowd... but here's to hoping!
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2011, 08:03:58 PM »

Wow, been playing the demo since my last post, and it's super engaging. Really enjoying the ability to recruit/equip/customise all the heroes, the fact that the protagonist has abilities of her own, and the story's catchy. Looks like a really solid game so far.

Minor quibble: the music when you are defeated... sounds a lot like the game over music in FFVI, maybe? Or some other 16-bit RPG, at least. There was also a small typo somewhere in one of the first few story sequences.

All in all, I'm convinced that I want to pay money for this Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2011, 05:02:34 AM »

Thanks, Destral! Just to give you an idea, the final game includes 6 spells, 6 character classes, and 5 more acts of delicious story and tasty challenges, including some super awesome boss fights.

If I can convince the rest of the team, I want to go for some kind of pay-what-you-want promotion, but if not, about how much would you say this experience is worth to you?
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« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2011, 07:31:04 AM »

Just updated the demo file to version 0.5.0.2!

If you still see version 0.5.0.1 in the corner, try clearing your browser cache.
Check it out!

Fixes:
-The first time a ranger dies, you should get a dialogue pop-up, instead of a crash
-Fixed a few memory leaks in the flixel library
-Optimized file size (downloads faster)
-Optimized game speed a little
-Fixed various other tiny bugs here and there

Your old save files should still work. If they don't for any reason, please let me know!
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« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2011, 07:31:59 AM »

How many levels are there? From the difficulty of the 2 and 3 star battles of the first levels, it looks like it'll have a fair amount of replayability, but does it have any challenge modes or an endless mode once you're done with the main story?

I'd say anywhere up to $20, from what I've seen so far, although I'm an indie like you and I appreciate that everyone's gotta eat, so $20 might be stretching it for the average gamer. $10 is a nice round figure that I doubt people would balk at for a solid, deep game like this.
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« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2011, 07:36:42 AM »

We've been thinking of putting in some extra challenges after you've beaten the main game, but none of that's in the full-version build yet. If that's a big selling point, then we'll definitely put it in.

As for levels - let me pull up my spreadsheet...

32 battles (for a total of 90 individual challenges, not including the tutorial battles and casual mode challenges)
8 of those battles are boss/mini-boss battles (24 boss/mini-boss challenges)
There's 9 towns.
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