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kingdinosaurgames
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« on: July 01, 2014, 04:10:12 pm »

The world has forgotten your name

Kickstarter Sep 22nd
Kickstarter
Greenlight

Video Dev Log #1  


Video Dev Log #2  


Video Dev Log #3  Youtube


Introduction

That Which Sleeps is a turn based strategy game in which the player takes on the role of an awakened evil from the world's past and must manipulate a living, reactive world from the shadows using a cast of unique corrupted Agents.  The player must balance an aggressive approach utilizing his considerable power and eager hordes with the need to remain unknown to the Champions and Heroes of the world.

  • Corrupt, conquer, charm, and manipulate - with a fully realized world driven by thematic AIs that follow their own interests you can pursue multiple paths to victory.
  • Customize the world with your choices at the beginning of each scenario, choosing an Ancient Evil and selecting his origins and what dire deeds he has wrought on the world.
  • Make difficult choices with limited agents, choosing to send your Prophet to rouse the orc hordes or beset Kings with maddening dreams will greatly change the flow of the game.
  • Disrupt the Balance of Power by creating famines in the farmland, stoking the flame of old vendettas, or recruiting pirates to the sea.
  • Watch the fame of your Agents rise and heroes will begin to hunt them down. Let them fall as scapegoats and keep your name secret, or imbue them with dark power and take the fight back to the heroes.
  • Each action you take leaves clues behind that cunning heroes can decipher, eventually leading them to the truth.  Kill or corrupt them before they find a receptive ear at court.

Why a devlog?
We've been getting the word about our game for a while now, but while we've had success generating interest we haven't found the proper venue to generate real discussion on the game, its development and its several unique mechanics.  Hopefully we can get some of that going on here!  

Art Assets
We unfortunately have no talented artists at our tiny indie studio, so many of the assets of the game are from OpenGameArt.org, the most fantastic site I've found for art-challenged developers.  In addition, our menus make use of various basic NGUI assets, and the map is an art style licensed from Campaign Cartographer.  Altogether I'm pleased with how things have come along, but we are looking to generate some money from a kickstarter to actually hire an artist to help us with the Agents and Heroes.

The Game Itself
The game is turn based, with an intended playtime of 3-5 hours - the player acts as an awakened evil who begins the game incredibly weak but grows stronger over time and due to certain actions on the map.  The player manipulates the world by recruiting Agents, most of whom can be recruited when certain criteria are met (such as infiltrating a guild, or burning an elf village).   Agents move around POIs (Points of Interest) and perform Challenges such as Infiltration, Terrorize, and Ritual - these challenges take multiple turns and have several tiers of difficulty for the actions.  

Village POI, Defensive Stats near Top

The speed at which the challenge is performed is dictated by the Agents relevant skill for the challenge vs the Regions defense against that particular challenge and any opposing leaders/heroes.  While the agents slowly perform these tasks, they generate Threat based on their profile and the type of action being done, a high enough threat attracts random heroes or even worse the attention of the nation itself, which may send a champion to stop you.  Heroes and Champions will have to find you in the POI, and at that point a battle may occur.

City POI with tooltip and expanded History Pane

Whenever you perform a challenge, successfully or not, you leave behind clues which heroes will decipher.  Basic clues may only help the heroes hunt down that particular agent, but if you have agents working together or have bolstered them with dark power the clues may suggest even more - which will eventually lead the heroes to learning about the your return.  They will attempt to inform the leaders of the world to this fact, and if they are trusted, the world will ally against you to destroy you.  Hopefully you have destabilized the world enough by this point that your armies, or agents, can guarantee your victory.

Agent with Skills - the Bottom Menu shows Challenge Strength vs POI


Scenarios
The world maps are custom made, and populated "logically" with interesting and thematic factions.  Though this takes us longer to do than having a random setup, the worlds actually enhance the value of replays as you come to learn the characteristics of the world leaders and the map itself.  

Old One Selection

In addition, you can select from scenario options at setup.  Not just the Old One that you will be playing, but also how you fell, what you did as you slumbered, and how your agents worked to bring about your return.  This can greatly affect the world, and your strategy to overcome it.

Scenario Setup Choices

Also importantly, we have a fully-functional in-game editor that makes creating new scenarios a breeze.  This means that user-generated content should ideally extend the lifespan of the game for a long time (hopefully).

Values Based AI
One of the best aspects of the game is the Values Based AI, both for leaders and heroes.  The AI in the game is playing "The World" and not you, generally speaking you are simply an irritant to most of these powers at the beginning.  Understanding how the AI thinks is key to winning the game.

Nation Screen - shows culture/government which both affect AI

Some examples: a Sentimental Hero will return to his home town if something happens to it, a Vengeful Barbarian will pursue the agent who killed his love against all other considerations, a Glory seeking King may do the right thing often enough but if no routes lead to glory he will create one.  

That's not to say behaviors are entirely predictable, Heroes and Leaders have a Spirit attribute that works much like health - the lower it goes the more "unstable" they are and prone to follow their vanities and whims.  A high Spirit hero will be much more likely to do "the right thing."

Challenges
Well, Art is really our only major concern.  Most of our testers have been enjoying the gameplay, but we've received several comments that the bland menus ("it's like playing manilla envelope rpg") are getting in the way of enjoying the game.  Hopefully we'll be able to rectify that with a kickstarter, but otherwise the game will come as is.  

Going forward
Ok so that was a long post - I want to know what elements of our design do YOU want to hear about, or want to see gameplay footage of.  The game is very close to being feature complete, though still lacking in content and Art - and we want to get as much feedback as possible before things start getting locked in.  I can't say when a demo will be available for the public, because we don't have that level of polish yet, but everything I can do to generate meaningful feedback I will try!

« Last Edit: September 22, 2014, 11:52:56 am by kingdinosaurgames » Logged

noaqh
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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2014, 11:08:33 pm »

a nice project... really remind me of my childhood with all the turn-based cities and battles
Best with luck and hope you will found an artist to create the game own charms later Beer!
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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2014, 01:56:40 am »

Cool, not enough such games!  Smiley
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kingdinosaurgames
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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2014, 09:32:54 am »

Yeah we're going for something of an old-school TBS meets DnD map meets Board Game feel, mission accomplished on that front I feel.  The hurdle is ensuring that the Agents, Heroes, and Armies match up graphically, which currently they do not.  I'll be posting our current graphic assets for those soon, because we really want to gather feedback on how much work people think needs to be done for it align with our vision for the game that the map currently represents.
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2014, 06:44:10 am »



Apologies for no new screenshots today, I am on the road moving to Texas.  I will make amends next week with a video.

Government Types

I wanted to talk more about the nations that you'll find in the game, an specifically about Government Types, to give you a better idea of how the game is customized.  Let's think about what it is that a Government Type can affect:
  • Military potential and capabilities
  • The heroes and champions it can raise, and how it manages challenges
  • Diplomacy and leadership
  • Potential for corruption

This makes Government Types extremely important, as that list essentially covers the type of game you will be playing. 

Let's go ahead and list the the current Government Types, and I will supply example characteristics of each. 

Feudal Monarchy

Special - Feudal Monarchies are separated into Baronys, which have individual rulers.  This allows for greater diversity of focus as each Baron runs its own AI, but also can create devastating civil wars and revolts as entire Baronys may revolt together.  In addition, serfs can be encouraged to revolt, especially if they greatly outnumber the aristocracy in a POI.

Military - Feudal Monarchies maintain small regular forces, but due to their heavily structured social life they can raise massive levies on short notice.  However, this does depend on the Baron being willing to raise these forces.

Heroes and Challenges - Feudal Monarchies are inclined towards honor and duty, and tend to create military and leader minded heroes, and are also prone to sponsoring heroic guilds for advanced classes.

Diplomacy and Leadership - Feudal Monarchies have very strong relationships with similar culture groups, but suffer a stronger penalty towards others.

Potential for Corruption - Feudal Monarchies have inherent checks and balances that regular Monarchies do not, a corrupted king may be overthrown by the Barons, and a corrupted Baron, while powerful, can be ousted by his King. 

Republic

Special - Republics are generally more popular with their subjects, gaining sufficient enthusiasm to raise emergencies conscripts if the state is threatened.  However, unpopular actions will result in great dissatisfaction and public disorder is common.

Military - Republics raise volunteer forces and only rarely force conscripts to work, this leaves Republics with competent forces but often with inferior commanders, as a republic is loathe to entrust an individual with too much power.

Heroes and Challenges - Republics attract open-minded and diverse sets of people, with an even blend of basic classes.  Advanced classes will often tend to be leaders.

Diplomacy and Leadership - Republics have a Leadership Council instead of an individual leader, with generally more average results than a specific leader.  Diplomatically they tend to favor peaceful negotiations.

Potential for Corruption - Republics lack strong leaders, but allow for mass participation thus is it easy to gain low levels of influence but extremely difficult to gain full control over a republic without arranging for a coup (which is certainly a good option.)

Tribal Federation

Special - Tribal Federations are available to Fringe civilizations, and represent a relatively organized state that still lacks "proper" trappings of civilization.  Tribal Federations do not stockpile goods, but use excess to perform immediate actions.

Military - Tribal Federations maintain small units, but the population is available for immediate recruitment when in danger.  Their unis lack the cohesion and diversity of civilized armies, but have high morale and gain bonuses for terrain defense and also translate terrain defense into an attack bonus.

Heroes and Challenges - Tribal Federations react slowly to challenges, lacking the type of structure to alert the nation as a whole to dangers.  However, POIs may spontaneously defend themselves when threatened. 

Diplomacy and Leadership - Like all Fringe nations, Tribal Federations have trouble dealing with civilized nations.  They can be lead by a council or by an individual, and generally tend towards isolationist positions.

Potential for Corruption - As Tribal Federation's react slowly to challenges and generally have lower order it can be very easy to corrupt them.  However, allegiance in the tribe can shift and a corrupted ruler can find himself undone with continued support, though corrupted councils are more stable.

That's all for now, like I mentioned I'm in the middle of a move so I can't provide a large update but I wanted to hopefully get some dialogue about how nations work as its a system we are proud of.  We'll discuss some of the other nations like Oligarchies, Magocracies, and Theocracies in a later update.

Please let us know what you think, follow us on IndieDB or Subscribe to our mailing list!
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« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2014, 07:45:52 am »

That Which Sleeps

The world has forgotten your name

POIs

I wanted to talk a bit about Points of Interest (POIs) which are the nodes on the map that agents, heroes, and armies move through.  The reason we went with POIs was to give the world a thematic feel while also being able to control the tactical and strategic flow of the game.  There are 4 major types of POIs, which are :

  • Cities
  • Villages/Hamlets/Towns
  • Ruins
  • Other

The most important to the flow of the game are definitely Cities and Villages/Hamlets/Towns, so let's take a look at their structure and impact on the nations of the world.
Villages generate Food, Lumber, and Ore

Cities and Villages
Cities and Villages have an important binary relationship, villages produce the all important raw resources needed for nations to function such as food - used to keep cities from starving as well as march armies, lumber - builds ships and improvements, and ore - recruit troops, keep them in fighting shape.  These resources come in small denominations, and thanks to the low security of most villages they are substantially easier to disrupt then cities. 

City POI generating trade, gold, and lore

Cities on the other hand are very hard to infiltrate for Tier 1 and 2 actions, requiring a talented agent or the city to be in a weakened state.  The most obvious way to weaken a city is by disrupting its supplies, blocking off trade routes, or causing it to starve.  They do produce Lore and Gold - lore is used to research new spells and techniques, but also helps heroes decipher clues which leads back to your identity and existence in the world.  Gold is the universal currency that can be used to recruit mercenaries, smooth over problems, or hire heroes to help a struggling nation.  In addition to these two fundamental resources, Trade allows the nation to form routes with other nations.  These routes can be used to generate good will, lore, or gold depending on the other nation.  However, if a City is not using its maximum available trade routes (due to blockade, politics, or raids) it suffers penalties to its order. 

Ruins and other POIs

Ruins and Other Sites

The remainder of the world is either Ruins, or a Unique Site.  Ruins are the most common of the other sites, and serve as dangerous adventuring destinations for heroes, and also spots where powerful agents can go to recruit deadly minions or search for ancient treasure.  Ruins have a trait that says how deadly they are, and this can be obscured by certain agent actions - making heroes stumble into their own ruination. 

Other sites can perform a variety of functions - some of them are homes to more exotic races and have their own resources they generate, others may be home to ancient cults, towers of titans, or possibly just abandoned tracts of land.  Understanding these POIs and what they have to offer will be critical to winning the game at higher difficulty levels.
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2014, 10:01:15 am »

Let's talk Agents and Events!

Alright, it's time to talk about the bread and butter of That Which Sleeps, the Agent.  When the game starts, the player has only one Agent, The Prophet, but has the ability to recruit up to 5 more agents.  If the Player clicks on the Agents screen, he will see that he begins with 4 Agents unlocked, The Prophet, The Rake, The Peddler, and The Hermit.  These are your standard starting agents, and will generally always be recruited.  All other agents are hidden, but the requirements to recruit them are listed.  In addition, any corrupted leaders or heroes that are capable of switching sides can be selected.  

Design Note - We originally conceived of the game as having as many Agents as you wanted on the map, but limiting the amount of actions you could take a turn.  This was discarded because it seemed that it allowed for more strategic options having a set number of Agents that increases as the game goes on.


The Prophet

Take a look at the screenshot above, when you first click on an agent or on his icon in the Upper Left, the menu at the bottom of the screen appears.  This allows our idea of the map dominating the screen to remain, while also letting the player see the agents abilities against challenges.  Any available challenge is listed, with the relative strength of the agent vs that particular challenge in each of the three tiers.  Challenges will be the subject of next week's posts, but most result in Events, which we will cover below.

Design Note - Challenges are the primary way agents interact with the world, and are designed to take multiple turns, allowing heroes to grow suspicious and encouraging conflict.  It creates many scenarios where you have to weigh the value of going for a Tier 1 outcome vs the heroes learning more about your intentions.

The major agent screen only opens up once the Agent or his icon is clicked again.  Other posts address the contents of the Agent page in greater detail, so let's move along to our topic of the day, Events.


A Sample Event

Event's are broken into three types - World Events, Political Events, and Action Events.  The event above is an Action Event, showing the Peddler using one of his unique abilities.  The hero being affected is shown on the left, and the agent taking place in the event is shown on the right - clicking on either one will let you see their information.  Clicking on any of the valid actions will show the result in the main box, which can be highlighted to show the details of the particular enhancement.  

Design Notes - The decision to make Events and Challenges the cornerstone of That Which Sleeps was the most difficult choice we confronted.  Although it moves away from the smooth, map-based gameplay we really love, it gives a more thematic, interesting, and strategically complex experience.  The result is a game that takes longer to play and requires significantly more reading, but feels much more rewarding as not is the game more fulfilling but you gain a greater attachment to your agents.


Political Events

Political events may or may not be a large part of your game, depending on the approach you take.  Many of the Infiltration challenges result in your receiving influence in the nation your agents are operating in, also your agents can become friends of the nation, welcome at court, or even trusted advisers which gives you much larger bonuses when they are in the capital of that nation.  Using this influence wisely is hugely important, getting people involved in wars, closing libraries, or even digging up old ruins for you is massively beneficial.  However, you can eschew this entirely by instead trying to affect the decision makers priorities.  A xenophobic warmonger will want to go to war without any further influence from your agents.

Design Notes - A Political Event is spawned by almost every AI Crisis, and shows a subset of possible choices that any given AI entity may make.  These entities range from kings, to councils, to heroes, and even leaders of guilds.  If all of these were shown it would obviously be overwhelming to player, instead the player only sees them if he has a certain level of influence with the relevant AI entity.   We wanted this functionality from the start, being able to manipulate governments is one of the parts of the game I enjoy the most.


Random Event affected by Will Over Fate

World Events occur throughout the world, and range from Random Events such as those shown above to more mundane declarations of affairs.  Generally speaking you will not be able to respond to these updates, but certain spells, abilities, and agents will give you some options.  In the image above, the Old One chosen has the Will Over Fate ability which lets him expect his Dark Power to augment the Random Event.  

Design Notes - These are your necessary events to let the player know what is occurring in the world, boring but necessary updates.  However, seeing as how some of these can be affected by what choices you have made it does introduce another level of strategy.  

We've taken a look at Events today, and next week we'll finish off the "how do I play this game?!" combo with Challenges, the fundamental action of any Agent.  Please please please post any questions, comments, feedback you have because we really want to know how people are feeling about the path we've taken.

Want to help make this game the best it can possibly be?  Click below to join our mailing list!

« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 10:06:28 am by kingdinosaurgames » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2014, 12:19:21 pm »

Looks very promising, I wish you good luck!
I'm going to keep an eye on this devlog.
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2014, 08:45:04 am »

That Which Sleeps
Worldbuilding: How to make a map

As a turn-based strategy game, the vast majority of our gameplay takes place on an overland map.  So many questions immediately emerge - do we want it to be tiles, 3d, 2d, sprite based, procedural, drafted?  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the longest portion of creating That Which Sleeps was settling on the final map design. 

Our final design:
  • Utilized a third party cartography toolkit
  • Each map hand crafted onto a single (or multiple adjacent) sprites
  • Purely 2d
  • Would show the towns, ruins, and other POIs graphically as opposed to being abstract

I want to take you through a couple of stages of our early map design so you can see what direction we took, and why.

Tiles and Procedural Generation
We originally went with the classic "tiles" such as you would see in Civilization and other Civ type games.  We used some OpenGameArt.org assets like the kind you see below to prototype a typical Civ experience.

LPC Terrain - traditional Civ feel


RPGish Feel

Neither of these generated either the aesthetic we were going for, or the functionality.  We weren't creating a Civilization type game, we were introducing the player to a living world that needs to be taken in somewhat like Europa Universalis, but without the player's inherent knowledge of the world.  For that we needed a large map that was easy to understand, that had natural borders and points of conflict.  We decided it was important to take a more handcrafted approach.

Procedural Generation of a Sprite with Dynamic Layering
I began searching for the secrets to the fantasy mapmakers and cartographers that have been making incredible maps for years now.  Much of it required a fine artistic ability, which we did not have, but I did find an algorithmic, procedural approach at The Cartographer's Guild.  The best part is the author starts with "I may be giving away the farm with this one" and I admit when I saw it I was shocked at the amazing results.  Just inside GIMP we were easily able to create interesting maps with variant biomes, at an appropriate scale and easily recognizable at a glance.

We thought we had what we wanted, and our first demo map that we used for almost 6 months is below:


Procedural Generation from the Cartographer's Guild Thread

The map was actually fantastic, all of the procedural steps from the GIMP tutorial could be taken into the engine and replicated to create a changing aesthetic.  Seasons, elemental destruction, occupation and corruption appeared perfectly on the map.  What did not appear perfectly was agents, heroes, and armies, they looked out of place and cramped on the map.  Also, when zooming in, the map granularity did not hold up the quality of the zoomed out scale.  Our options were either rethink the way we wanted to represent heroes/agents/armies or find another style.  I was truly committed to a classic RPGish feel for the agents and heroes so we went for our final option.

Campaign Cartographer and Licensing Restrictions
Too much time was being spent on finding our map solution, so we decided to try and minimize the level of creative talent needed and go with a prepackaged solution.  We explored a few, but Campaign Cartographer 3 offered the best possibilities.  We created a quick demo map, dropped in some agents, and liked the overall feel.


The first Campaign Cartographer Map

Perfect!  It was quick to make, looked good, scaled well, and worked with our sprites.  The downside was that the license for CC3 only allowed us to use the resulting sprite as a single unit, we could not use any of the images or terrain dynamically as tiles or sprites themselves.  Not ideal, but an acceptable limitation until such a time as we can afford an artist to create map sprites to our satisfaction.

Working with the archipelago map above, we eventually decided to create our fist real scenario.  We decided to approach it first without buildings, and we tried to leverage OpenGameArt for cities and such, but they appeared too out of place.  We then resigned ourselves to treating the entire map as a single sprite, cities and all, and created our final first true scenario, The North Burns, which you can see below.


Without buildings, our attempts to find proper OGA to replace the buildings was futile


With buildings, looks great but we have to operate within the licensing restrictions

And that is how our maps came to be!  Though sad that we can't use the buildings dynamically, we now have a process that allows to easily create scenario maps, and combined with our in-game scenario editor it makes it remarkably simple to create living, breathing worlds.  More importantly, it lets me focus on the actual development of the game. 

Lesson Learned - We spent too much time before getting to a solution that only cost us a small licensing fee.  I had been well aware of Campaign Cartographer before development began and should not have sought to create a solution where one already existed, especially given our lack of artistic talent.

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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2014, 10:37:21 am »

I love strategy games like this. Can't wait to play it. Sorry if I missed it somewhere, but is there a release date set yet?
« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 10:43:46 am by dqhendricks » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2014, 12:21:11 pm »

We're launching our Greenlight and Kickstarter campaigns next month - Kickstarter is just to get an artist to revise our Agents and Heroes so we'll move right into Early Access after we get green-lit, so hopefully in September!
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2014, 07:35:50 am »

Mods Mods Mods

The topic of today's post is, you guessed it, Mods!  A strategy game that lacks procedural generation requires a wide variety of scenarios to enable sufficient replay value, knowing that we have made it a focus from day one to ensure that the tools we have make it easy for ourselves, and modders, to create quality scenarios with minimal effort.

Formatting and Folder Structure
All information from the game is saved into XML, which makes it highly readable though it does bloat the file size compared to something like EU's approach.  The central settings folder contains global xml files that have the generic Old Ones, Agents, Game Settings, Events, etc.  All scenarios have a sub folder that contains their specific XML files, and any Global XMLs present overwrite the Global XML in the Settings folder allowing the game to be highly customized. 

Each folder contains a resources folder that holds all the art, music, sound that are included in the mod and an xml manifest for the files. 

None of this should be particularly new to anyone in the mod community, and the best part is that if you don't know what I'm talking about you can completely ignore it because we have...

In-Game Editor
Editor in View Mode

The In-Game Editor lets you quickly whip up a scenario, or simply modify one by adding in your favorite characters or making the Old One your dog (my dog was our test demon for some time).  It has three modes - view, build, and edit which together allow you to construct the perfect world for demonic conquest.

In View Mode, the simplest, you can scroll around and view your construct making sure everything looks ok.  Clicking on a POI or a Unit will bring up the information the player would see.

Editor in Build Mode

Build mode lets you drag and drop in your background image that will define the game map, as well as drag in the POI boundaries based on your settings.  Each POI is marked here with a light black border for easy identification.  It also has a few extra convenience modes to make some of the grunt work less onerous, like a road setting which lets you drag between two POIs to create a road connection.

Keep in mind that although the background is a static sprite, you can put as many sprites as you want down - utilizing pseudo-tiling if absolutely necessary.  All of the POI defined areas will be marked with control markers, and the boundary area will be the click box to pick up interactions.

Editor in Edit Mode

This is where the heavy lifting gets done, while you created the outline of your world in Build mode you need to populate it with all of the statistics, history, and meaning in Edit mode.  Clicking on any POI or Unit will open a menu built to look as similar as possible to its view equivalent, and let you populate it with relevant details.  Most of the values are tied to DropDownLists which get their value from globals, which can be edited through the menus on the left of the screen.  Make custom effects and buildings and add them to POIs to truly customize the player's experience, and craft Champions powerful enough to challenge the Agents of the Old One.

You'll need to make nations, which require a culture and also a leader to take charge of them.  Make complex dynasties for a nation, or just leave a single Dictator. 

After setting up the POIs, Champions, and Armies of the world you can modify or create new Agents and Old Ones.  Too much work? Just make some new spells, items, dungeons - whatever you want.  The game will fill in the rest with generics or procedurally generated AIs/Heroes. 

Plenty of possibilities abound for modding, making famous literary or movie worlds or just making a world of 100% thief heroes.  Lots of possibilities, lots of fun, and I really  can't wait to see what people make with our tools.

As always follow us below to stay up to date on our KS and release news.

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« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2014, 03:02:30 pm »

A much more interesting Pandamic? Yes please!  Grin
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« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2014, 06:15:34 pm »

haha that's a great observation, we toyed around with an iOS Pandemic type game with this theme, where evil aggregates and has to be fought by heroes who have strengths versus generic evil types (paladins beat corruption, clerics beat plague, wizards beat eldritch, etc).  In the end we decided we wanted a more in-depth strategy experience and also a more interesting game to make, so we moved down this direction - but clearly the influence can still be seen with passively/actively corrupting the agendas of the various institutions which can be said to move like diseases.  Merchant Guilds spread over sea trade routes and open new guildhouses and Order chapterhouses are built by heroes thinking they're helping the fight against evil while the whole time spreading your own influence.  And cabals... well... cabal cells are just plain fun....

To be fair, their is an ability tree for Old Ones that deals specifically with spreading pandemics across the world but it is currently a placeholder.  We will doubtless put in a method to customize the symptoms and methods for transmission just like you saw in Pandemic.
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2014, 11:21:23 am »

Integrations, Inspirations and Lessons Learned

There was an interesting Reddit Post on /r/gamedev asking "What feature did you most regret cutting" and it made me nostalgic about the early days of development when we were first trying to create a Turn Based Strategy on the PC that incorporated the incredible developments that Board Games have been making over the last few decades.  In addition, the last DevLog Watch over at Rock Paper Shotgun had a huge focus on Procedural Generation, the buzzword to end all buzzwords.  We're going to look at the reasons why we moved away from Procedural Generation, a typical approach for a strategy game, and instead leaned in the direction of Europa Universalis which is also not so coincidentally inspired by boardgames.


Successors 3rd Edition

Just look at that beautiful map, look at it.  Successors is a relatively early board game to adopt the Point to Point system (which we call Points of Interest), and is a perfect example of a streamlined yet complex game that is almost inherently comprehensible simply by looking at it.  It doesn't need multiple screens, menus, or dynamic displays to get itself across.  It is richly embedded with theme through geography and the connections of the points themselves, and the abstraction from a hex-based combat system means that strategy takes precedence over tactical considerations while at the same time adding a swift pace to the game. 

These games and the others like it give the player a grand strategic feel that even something like Civilizaton can fail to, because you are not bogged with with an abundance of details.  At the same time what is lost results in a faster game that may be less complex but never fails to satisfy a strategical minded player.

We took the POIs and the beautiful hand-drawn map and said this is something that most PC strategy games lack, even though the technology exists to procedurally generate maps doesn't mean it's the path we should take.  That's not to say I don't enjoy procedural games, they are fantastic, but the current development paradigm so greatly favors them that we wanted to illustrate the benefits of the static approach.  When was the last time a procedurally generated game made something as richly complex and at the same time comprehensible as the Near East?

We did away with the structures that were essential to the pieces and brought in the dynamic display that a PC game can offer, moved the tables and modifiers to easily accessible sub menus, and added animations to the obviously static board game pieces.  In other words we kept the elegance of the map design which has been optimized to exist in a small space and gave it as many benefits as possible.


Here I Stand

The Point to Point system married itself to what is called Card Driven Games, which use a hand of cards to simulate the possible actions you can take.  You can either use the points for actions or use the event on the card itself.  Wow I can't get enough of this brilliant idea.  Wrapping functionality in richly descriptive historic events was a brilliant move, and forcing a sacrifice between event vs actions was just such a great solution to the problems of how to add dynamic elements to a board game. 

But what does this have to do with That which SleepsAbstraction yet again - developers struggle to create AI agency that will form memorable moments, but in the scale of how we see the world it seemed promising to explore bringing together a more typical AI making use of basic game actions with pseudo-dynamic trigger able events. 

Consider what equivalence we have in current PC games, the Pope in Total War or the Germans in Hearts of Iron.  Both of these have "special actions" they take as per their historic role, the Pope calls crusades, the Germans if they reoccupy the Rhineland trigger an event.  We wanted to take these static, historic events and make them truly dynamicThat Which Sleeps AI's have a range of possible actions based on their personalities, skills, government types, religion, etc.... The behavior of a wise, strong leader vs that of a cowardly one shouldn't just be reflected in basic mismanagement of units or build orders, they should result in appropriate societal events that reflect their predispositions. 

Schedule Update
I finally moved in to my permanent place in Austin, there was definitely a delay and I have a pile of bug reports to address as we move towards our Demo release and Kickstarter/Greenlight campaigns.  If I get the next three weeks of pure development I think end of the month is a realistic goal, but if we fail that it will definitely be coming out to you the week after.  We did complete one video which I'm reviewing now and should be releasing this week, with a gameplay video to follow (development permitting).

Bonus Strange Bug Story
So I was testing something particular and plowed ahead with trying to get the Fringe civilizations to unify under one of my agents, and the Grand Alliance had formed... I noticed that the Necromancers and Lizardmen kingdoms had joined them... and they were republics??? 

How did this happen.... so I went back and checked all the logs.  It appears that the Necromancers got a random event that ports can get that gave them a trade route, AI for trade routes had always been written for Civilized Cultures so they started to act like that with their trade route.  They formed a route with the Golden Republic of Toln, and used the trade to get better relations.  Eventually the Gold Coin merchant company expanded there, giving them a second trade route, which they created with the Lizardmen kingdom which had formed prior based on a Quest.  While I passed turns focused on the Fists of Errus plotline they all gained relations, approaching the cultural bound and the threshold for "Cultured Civilzation Revolution", and at some point reformed into republics, forming a close alliance with Aventura and Toln.  The Wayfarer's Adventurers Guild even opened a branch in lizardman capital, spawning a lizardman hero.   

Honestly, I loved that this could happen - but........ I do need to re-write Trade AI for fringe nations.  They probably should not prioritize gaining relations with cultured nations, but instead use it for their own needs.  This was such a cool outcome though, I may make allowance for this behavior given certain leader traits (possibly Progressive, Trade, etc) so it could be manipulated into occurring.

As usual, please follow us to get updates when we jump to Kickstarter or have our demo!

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« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2014, 07:36:22 am »

Independent Powers

Let's talk about asymmetrical gameplay a bit.  That Which Sleeps is already a game that distorts classic strategic gameplay and symmetry, the world is playing a game of armies and politics while you wage a shadowy war with agents and dark powers.  However, we wanted to create additional hidden threats that aren't tied necessarily to nations or specific POIs.

Introducing Guilds, Orders, and Cabals

They fit the niche that we wanted, and in fact were developed from an original idea of a religious system that existed outside of national boundaries.  We originally wanted a Pantheon of Gods each with his own power and followers, with a major emphasis on the game being reducing the power of the gods or ensuring they won't side with the heroes in the final battle.  However, we decided we couldn't do justice to the notion so we put it on the chopping block. 

But from the ashes rose Guilds.  They're not just a practical mechanic, they also go along with our emphasis on theme and epic events - you can infiltrate a guild and gain spies in all of the areas it has a guildhouse, you can overthrow the guildleader and begin utilizing it for your own agenda, you can recruit advanced units, lure heroes in for false quests, poison trade routes.... there are so many thematic and strategic options that a Guild provides.  Not to mention multiple types, most of which are initially negative for you, like Adventurer Guilds that train adventurers in advanced classes, Merchant Guilds that promote trade, Mage Guilds that research spells and enhance lore, Underworld guilds that rule the night...  Not to mention sparking a Guild War...


We quickly realized that Guilds were AWESOME and a lot of fun, but still niche enough that they could be ignored.  We wanted to add a more compelling focus with the same mechanic, so thus was born Orders, which were originally static POI Enhancements that provided certain bonuses.  Orders spread much slower than Guilds, requiring sponsorship from the hosting nation, but have multiple agendas that give powerful passive bonuses as well as active events.  Orders attract heroes, who join and can gain the specific abilities or classes of the order - if you are playing as the Undead Old One raising your horde of zombies you don't want the Order of Light training everyone to use holy spells. 

Orders are harder to infiltrate and generally don't provide the spies in all areas bonus, but corrupting an Order is a very satisfying experience, slowly turning a holy order into plague spreading apostates is great - and will lure out heroes eventually to waste their time closing down chapterhouses.


Cabals are the final of the independent threesome, and are hard to infiltrate for those without ritual magic. Uncorrupted, they are a quest pivot point and can provide spells and items for heroes that challenge them - they also may perform special events such as summoning demons, researching new spells, or unearthing artifacts, which may or may not benefit you. 

Where they SHINE is what they spread, which is a "cell".  Cells have singular, devastating effects depending on the nature of the cabal.  A cell of necromancers will raise an undead horde from the cities graveyard, a cabal of summoners will attempt to raise a great demon, etc - they spawn high threat but also high stealth quests that can be a great distraction, or if you support it with your agents can be highly effective at overcoming some national defenses.

PRESS COVERAGE
We got covered in Rock Paper Shotgun!  This was really great for us morale-wise, RPS is a site I check daily and I really respect the writers, giving us some coverage on the DevLog is a real point of validation.  We also got covered by the fantastic Craig Stern over at IndieRPGs with a nice Announcement Article.  This was a little earlier than we had expected to get coverage but we will hunker down and make sure the demo stays on track for this month.

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« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2014, 08:27:22 am »

I just wanted to thank everyone who has signed up for our mailing list over the last week, since the articles came out we've had a huge amount of support and it means a lot seeing that the game resonates with so many people!
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« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2014, 09:53:36 am »

Terrifying Logo, Polish and Localization Support

Been a dynamic couple of weeks since we got on Rock Paper Shotgun, and with the outpouring of support we decided to switch gears from functional display to finalizing assets.  As part of this process we hired an artist named
Julio Iglesias, whose art you can see here, to give us some nice box art and logos for our Kickstarter and Greenlight campaign.  Postmortems always mention the importance of an eye catching Box Art so here we go:


Suitably terrifying

We were very happy with the look and feel, from the theme of world domination the presence of looming evil.  We had the artist make a few logos and banners as well which really helped.  We stuck with Cinzel Decorative as a font because it really has a nice look to it.




All in all, this was a great investment and it helps us look a bit more professional.

Polish
Feedback on the game has been almost entirely positive, except for my poor default NGUI GUI windows.  I've heard it looks like salmon, and I've heard "it feels like I'm playing manilla envelope simulator" - more constructively we've been told that people like the functionalism and the fact that it maintains a boardgame feel but it's a little too dry.

This is where we decided to push for some changes, we bought some GUI asset packs from the Unity Asset store and combined them with the OpenGameArt resources we've been curating.  In addition we've begun to reach out to artists to see what they could sketch out as proposals.  We began our changes with the Scenario Generation screen, let's take a look at a before and after.

Before: Old One Selection

After: Old One Selection

I am a fan of complex gameplay reduced to simple mechanics and interfaces, and of not weighing down the player with excessive distractions that slow down the game, so making a more elaborate GUI is a precarious situation to be in.  What I did was maintain the prior functional structure and just change the NGUI Windows to more flavorful borders, and at the same time utilize new GUI structures to better arrange some of the salient details that people should be seeing. 

For instance, the two orbs next to the Old Ones represent their "Base Agent" and "Time to Awaken" amounts which are important when determining which Old One to play.  I adjusted tooltips to show up instantly for the abilities on display as well as the values and made the tooltip itself much larger and more descriptive. 

We are now in the process of updating ALL of our GUI assets, which also led to our decision NOT to release the two videos we had created as anticipated.  We'll wait until all the GUIs are updated, then redo the videos and release so people can get a look at the finished product.

Localization
Editor in View Mode

BEFORE YOU SAY ANYTHING "yes we know" that the translations above are horrible.  Let me explain the methodology.  First off we had to go back and ensure every string is being loaded through a "GetLocalizedString" function, and that any texture or sprite that needs localization has to be loaded through a similar method.  We decided to grab a simple Unity Asset Package called Localization Package, which honestly I think should have been cheaper for what it is but it does get the job done.  What I do like is the google docs functionality that you see in the photo above, it puts the strings in this google document and then "Auto Translates" via google.translate to create entries for other languages.  It then allows us to share the document as necessary to let professional translators come in and clean it up.

However, as this is a game that is intended to be modded we had to write in some support of our own.  The XML files that store the information for the Scenario now have <EN> language tags within any string, simply adding any other code for another language allows you to add additional support.  As .NET Strings are Unicode ready this allows us to just straight upload the XML file and have dynamic modding support.

The only "surprise" consideration we ran into while prepping for localization was the size requirements for other languages, we increased the size allowed for most fonts by 10% which will hopefully handle most use cases.  As the game expands to gain full localization support we'll handle the outliers as they appear.

THATS IT FOR NOW - videos delayed until we do the whole GUI overhaul, but we're looking at doing the Greenlight/KS shortly thereafter and targeting a release for the demo either midway through or towards the end.  Remember, hug an indie dev - we crave human affection.

As always follow us below to stay up to date on our KS and release news.

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« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2014, 08:42:02 pm »

This kind of reminds me of a small indie game I played ages ago called Endgame: Singularity. In that one you played as an AI that has just been created and escaped into the internet. It was much simpler than this is looking, which is great because I felt that Endgame: Singularity was a really interesting game but didn't have a lot of depth.
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Dragon's Wake - Devlog
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« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2014, 08:50:47 am »

Wow I remember that game from a while back.  Thematically That Which Sleeps follows the ideas of an AI in that it is relatively omnipotent (the world is displayed to you at all times) but your ability to directly interact with the world is limited -  you need corrupt an agent (like the AI corrupts a node) to make use of them.

Conceptually an AI type game would be fantastic to make, I'm not sure if you're familiar with Shadowrun and the "Renraku Arcology" incident but I've always thought that would be a fantastic basis for a PC game.
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