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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogs[0.3 alpha now released] Shardpunk: Verminfall (xcom/darkest dungeon/steampunk)
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Author Topic: [0.3 alpha now released] Shardpunk: Verminfall (xcom/darkest dungeon/steampunk)  (Read 21730 times)
bryku
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« Reply #200 on: December 04, 2020, 01:27:00 PM »

December has arrived! It means that after one month of full-time (well, kind of, due to all the crazy stuff that hit in November) game development I am back in my day job.

Does it mean that my development speed will decrease again? Yes.

However, the work I did in November included creating a development plan and a more detailed game description. I also have the whole backlog for graphical assets ready. All of this will help me out with my search for a publisher. Man, I would love to get back to full-time game development.

Anyway, I want to write more about one gameplay feature that I had a problem with: using Fusion Cores.

Basically, a Fusion Core is an item that you can find during your journeys. Its main purpose was to unlock entrances to shelters which were present at the end of every level.


You spend a Fusion Core, and the shelter becomes active.

So Fusion Cores were somewhat similar to fuel in FTL or in Pathway.

The main unanswered question was: what should happen if the player does not have a Fusion Core to unlock the shelter?

There were several ways to approach this. First, the most interesting one: getting rid of Fusion Cores.
I mean, that would surely solve the issue! The player would be able to enter every shelter as they will.

Another approach - and one that would not be about ripping a feature out - would be to introduce some kind of a penalty for the player. In Pathway, if the player runs out of fuel, they can decide to continue their travel on foot. It does damages the health of your characters though.

Now, this wouldn't work in Shardpunk, as the characters already travel on foot. And the whole thing is different, as I need these Fusion Cores to unlock the exit, not to move around the map.

I decided to make shelters optional, so I've added an alternate way to end a level. Each combat level will have a "regular" escape route that does not require unlocking any doors; the characters simply leave the zone and the player proceeds to select the next travel destination. You don't enter a shelter, so the punishment is that you don't get to heal up or recover stress.

Now, this introduced new problems (or should I say "challenges"). After each combat - even if you don't reach a shelter - the characters are getting more hungry.  However, what stops them from eating food rations even if they are not inside a shelter? Surely they are able to find a moment - even when they're running away from rats - to grab a bite of something, right? So I've made sure that a feeding phase is present after every combat, even if no shelter has been reached.

What is more, a character can eat more than one food ration at a time, to better replenish their hunger.



Also, the hunger meter is being displayed as a bar now. You lose one hunger point after each combat. Previously it had three states (not hungry - hungry - starving).

What is more, some characters might acquire a quirk that requires them to consume more food.



Lastly, to make this stuff more real, I made sure that each day is divided into parts. So instead of a whole day passing, only a part of it does.



That's it for this entry. Take care, and thanks for reading!
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vdapps
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« Reply #201 on: December 04, 2020, 03:04:23 PM »

I stumbled upon this thread for the first time. Looks solid and very well crafted, pixel art is great and from screenshots I can see that lot of details were added to game. Something for hard-core fans. I played first two X-Coms from 1994 and 1995, they were great games, so this have attracted my attention as wel.. Coffee
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bryku
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« Reply #202 on: December 18, 2020, 01:50:36 PM »

Let's quickly discuss the core gameplay loop of Shardpunk, shall we?

We start with the "combat" phase. Characters need to reach the end of the map, avoid getting killed and try to find stuff along the way. The "stuff" includes resources necessary to craft items that can help in combat and food supplies that are necessary to, well, survive.



After the exit is reached, characters enter a safe place (if they have a Fusion Core - I described it in my previous entry) or simply they quickly rest. Entering a safe place allows them to perform some extra stuff (like healing, recovering stress, possibly upgrading their weapons as well).



After a mission, characters need to select the next location, and the loop starts from the beginning.



However, there's still that food feature thing. The trick is that characters need to eat after each mission. If they don't, they suffer penalties.

Now, in my previous entry I said I introduced a hunger bar.


The hunger bar was going down with every mission, and the player was suffering from penalties. It turned out however that this is not working well - or should I say, it was not really fun.

You see, I have introduced another stat to take care of (like HPs or Stress). What was more, there was no clear indication of where a character would start becoming hungry, then Starving. Sure, a nice UI design could take care of that - but I started to think that this stuff was too complex.

I considered dropping the food feature completely. Characters would not be gathering food and there wouldn't be any food-related penalties. This sounded tempting, but I wanted to give this one more try.

Right now I am busy changing this system into a simpler one. Food will still stay in the game. There will still be a food distribution phase after each mission. However, not eating would simply deal damage to characters.

As simple as that. No "hungry" statuses that reduce your aim (which can become very frustrated).

There is one issue with this approach: even if we assume that not eating deals you 1 HP of damage, there is a possibility that not eating will kill your character. This might become too punishing so I'll have to keep an eye on that feature.

Anyway, we will see how it goes.

Oh, and I need to find a different name for "missions". When you're travelling through the city overrun by vermin and trying to get from point A to point B, you don't really want to have a "mission completed" text displayed. It sounds too military-ish...? It's not an "expedition" nor a "quest" as well... I'll keep looking!

Take care, everyone! My next entry should be out on 1st of January, so I should prepare some yearly summary post, I guess.

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Ramos
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« Reply #203 on: December 18, 2020, 03:57:31 PM »

I like the depth the screens between missions give, especially the travel map.
I see you want to simplify things but remember there is a difference between complexity and depth. For me, depth is good execution and overall feel of the game while complexity is good for hidden mechanics and random generator conditions.

I also love what you did with the hunger/food mechanic, that really brings a nice survival feel to the gameplay.
On the bad side yes it may become a bit hard for a player, on the good side, it will give more depth and will make the player be more involved in his decisions.
NOTE: hard is good/ frustrating is bad



As for the "mission complete" note, there are plenty of possibilities, just use your imagination. You can go for more military but more random approach such as "objective achieved" or go for more "romantic" and create a pool of text that will randomly play out a text line with the similar meaning "another day passed and your heroes survived" or "you managed to lead your squad through difficult times" and so on.


the spice must flow, keep the updates coming
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ENAY
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« Reply #204 on: December 18, 2020, 06:05:17 PM »

This is looking great, is the game really only 30% completed. That rat monster style enemy reminds me of the trolls from a game called Moonstone on the Amiga.

Keep up the good work.
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Alain
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« Reply #205 on: December 19, 2020, 11:46:29 AM »

Thanks for sharing your thought and development process concerning the hunger mechanism, bryku. Such mechanisms can get cumbersome for the player, but I have the feeling that you have it totally under control and will find a nice solution. I'm looking forward to see how it turns out in the end. I've been working on a hunger system for my game over the last weeks as well, but only for the enemies, which is way less relevant than in your case.

I'm looking forward to playing Shardpunk, it is exaclty the kind of game that I enjoy in my freetime and your visual style is the icing on the cake. Wishlisted!
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bryku
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« Reply #206 on: January 01, 2021, 10:42:58 AM »

We all agree that 2020 was special in one way or another. Nevertheless, I made some progress with Shardpunk throughout the year, and I'd like to review the ways game evolved during that time.

Quasi-dynamic levels

I first implemented that feature at the beginning of 2020. Every combat level is put together from predefined pieces to achieve a quasi-random nature.

Some of the level visuals are then randomly placed (lights, wall/floor decoration) to make it look even more unique:



Later on, I expanded this mechanism to handle closed locations (e.g. sewers) - I had to make sure that such levels are passable from start to the end, so proper level metadata had to be added.

The tactical layer

This went through a total overhaul during 2020. It started as an airship management thing (as back then the idea was that your team would be drifting above the destroyed Capitol in an airship), with production slots and other stuff:





This approach had few major issues (too heavy UI, not supporting the "hopeless" vibe of the game) so I changed it to a shelter layer. Here's the latest shot:


Note that there is a common action points pool on this screenshot instead of individual ones. I am testing this approach right now.

Experience and leveling

This is strictly bound to available character types and I will surely write more about it in a separate entry. Long story short, I was experimenting with different approaches to leveling and I believe I will go with a similar approach that Pathway game had (number of unique characters, each having unique skills).

Handling loot

I'm fond of simplifying the inventory management phase and getting rid of the encumbrance mechanism that allowed me to reduce this bulky UI:



Into this one:



Map travel

This is the thing that - when finished - will make the core gameplay loop complete. It is already possible to enter shelters, selecting the next mission, gathering resources and crafting some basic combat items (grenades, stimpaks). There's no final chapter mission present yet, but there is enough stuff available to test whether the gameplay loop is finished.

Summary

The development in 2020 progressed in a similar way to 2019 - using an iterative approach and trial-and-error way of choosing which feature is fun and which isn't. There were two demos released, both of which provided me with valuable feedback on the game.

The main thing that was different in 2020 was the development speed in November, as I temporarily made Shardpunk my full-time job during that month. This allowed me to do some significant progress AND helped me to create a development plan for the rest of the game.

Does it mean I have a clear roadmap for Shardpunk? Well, kind of. We all know that planning in software development can be difficult. Too many moving parts, too many situations in which you need to get back to the drawing board and rethink something.

Was the roadmap helpful in some way? I believe so! I made some nice progress with finding a publisher; nothing is official yet, but do give me a month or so and hopefully I'll be able to share some nice information with you.

I wish you all the best in this new year! Take care!


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Ramos
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« Reply #207 on: January 03, 2021, 10:29:38 AM »

Happy new year bryku!

And congratulations on your future publishing deal!

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bryku
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« Reply #208 on: January 04, 2021, 02:26:04 PM »

This is looking great, is the game really only 30% completed. That rat monster style enemy reminds me of the trolls from a game called Moonstone on the Amiga.

Keep up the good work.

I guess 30% is still a fair thing to say. Content-wise, I have less than 1/3 of the game's chapters in place. And there's a lot of polish that needs to take place.

Yeah, this stuff takes time.
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bryku
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« Reply #209 on: January 06, 2021, 06:02:09 AM »

Thanks Smiley But - we'll celebrate only after I sign it Wink

Happy new year bryku!

And congratulations on your future publishing deal!


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bryku
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« Reply #210 on: January 15, 2021, 02:55:26 PM »

I am not sure whether I mentioned it before, but I had an issue with the "retired soldier" character type. I mean it looks badass and has that great combat suit. The problem was that he was moving too slow compared to other characters:



He obviously had no choice, as that combat armor - even if powered - was surely heavy.

Now, there was another issue present: the weapon. I am planning (well, already started part of it) on having modular weapons in the game - meaning that every weapon will have different parts that can be swapped (scope, barrel, energy core, etc.). Every character type will have a single weapon proficiency, and characters with the same proficiency will be able to swap certain weapon modules.

The problem appeared when I was planning my next "heavy" class character (the "retired soldier" character is a "heavy" class guy). I don't want to go into too many details, but that other character will be physically smaller - so their combat suit would have to be smaller as well. And because combat suits have their weapons embedded (it's basically an arm extension), weapons for different sizes of combat armors would've been incompatible.



Why on earth would the Empire create multi-size, incompatible heavy weapons anyway? That would be a huge inefficiency. Waging war against the Rat Vermin is expensive, one needs to optimize!

So the new soldier is using a lighter version of the combat suit:



And the combat suit allows him to carry a universal, one-size-fits-all heavy weapon:



Heavy weapons still have the slam attack available, to satisfy all the player that like solid AOE attacks:



And you can see that - due to lighter armor - this character is able to move faster, which solves the first issue!

That's it for this entry! I hope that 2021 is going great for all of you!

Take care!

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Ramos
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« Reply #211 on: January 15, 2021, 03:37:53 PM »

I like what you did with the light version of the heavy, you basically stripped down the armour and left that nice exoskeleton look to it
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Alain
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« Reply #212 on: January 16, 2021, 04:42:05 AM »

Both combat suits look very cool and I love the animation on the weapon charging up to fire!
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