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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsSTARMUSH - Warlocked-inspired RTS on otherworldly drugs
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Author Topic: STARMUSH - Warlocked-inspired RTS on otherworldly drugs  (Read 3703 times)
GoatSkulls
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« on: September 30, 2018, 07:47:23 PM »




From the depths of an unknown world, we awaken.

Damaged and deeply alone, an entity directs the lifeforms housed within it onto a surface shrouded in perpetual darkness and choked with forests of mold. From the nearest acid tarn to the distant ashen fields, titanic carcasses mark the landscape, their ancient forms richly veined with remnants of organs and biomatter we need to survive. Beyond our dwellers' pale lanterns lies the unknown, and the future into which we propel ourselves.


GAMEPLAY:
Classically-inspired-base-building RTS. Select and direct units about the surface, harvesting resources, building your settlements, defending them if necessary, and engaging any aggressors you encounter. At your disposal is a modest array of beings you may awaken suited to both offensive and defensive strategies, though there are some among them capable of far more...

>MAIN CAMPAIGN (single player)

>SCENARIO MODE (currently single player only, may change)

>MULTIPLAYER (two-player splitscreen with USB gamepads!)

>MAP EDITOR (for creating multiplayer maps)

Controls are split between the mouse and a set of hotkeys, allowing you to use the normal leftclick/rightclick movement scheme while performing/toggling supplemental actions like building / dreamcasting with your other hand. This all essentially means multicasting, building, etc. is easily accomplished without having to deselect everything, and without having to click the bejeebus out of the mouse. It is a small but effective change to classic controls I think. Multiplayer uses USB gamepads. Both schemes are remappable.


A quick snippet of gameplay. A well-established base awakening new techs, constructing new buildings, and moving out with a force into the shroud of war. On the left of the GUI, you can see the submenus/building etc. being worked with the hotkeys


DEVLOG DEETS:
I will chart progress / info here and in subsequent posts on whatever I am presently working on. Because it is a large and complicated project (at least for me, that is), it likely will not have a defined direction, instead just focusing on tidbits here and there. I will also make mechanical/how-to posts about the game as needed / requested / just for fun. I will update the roadmap at the bottom as things chug along, and add other stuff like release dates etc. when appropriate.

WHY?:
This might seem a bit silly, but I feel I need to justify and explain this a little bit: I dearly miss the feeling of early RTS games, the first two Warcrafts in particular, and I want to see something new that is rooted not in MOBA mechanics, not in casual or streamlined gameplay, not in worn fantasy tropes and hollywoodisms, not in macro-directed optimized systems, and definitely not in a system designed from the ground up to be an e-sport. None of these things are inherently detrimental to games on their own, but I can't shake the feeling that they are stepping on the muddled and perhaps clunky point that early RTS games were getting at. This is my personal rickity patchwork sort-of-homage to Warlocked(GBC) as well as the early games of Blizzard that I held dear as a kid (and still do). I hope some folks find it fun.



DEVELOPMENT ROADMAP:
Here are the important things listed with their completion percentages.


ESSENTIAL TASKS FOR ITCH.IO RELEASE
(COMPLETE!)> main engine / single player

(98% done)> graphics / tileset work

(60% done)> campaign map composition

(75% done)> campaign writing

(COMPLETE!)> multiplayer mode

(COMPLETE!)> multiplayer maps

(20% done)> sfx/music

SECONDARY TASKS (when I have time between main things)

(20% done)> scenario map composition

(70% done)> map editor

(30% done)> menu/submenu polish
 
(50% done)> more multiplayer maps! 

(20% done)> general screen comp polish
« Last Edit: March 30, 2019, 06:00:08 PM by GoatSkulls » Logged
fearless_donut
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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2018, 11:24:02 AM »

Hey, it looks promising and i like the mushrooms! Command&Conquerer in a mushroom world exactly fits for an old man like me.
Will there be only classical rts mechanics or you'll add something new here?
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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2018, 12:15:23 PM »

Wow! I agree — promising (like, unbelievably promising) is a great way to put this! From the concept art, to the initial .GIF, to your passion behind a recreation of what I like to call actual RTS games is just sublime.

Keep this up! Also, I'm getting an 80's vibe from the title font Wink
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« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2018, 12:59:40 PM »

This game strikes all the right chords with me.

Will be following closely Ninja
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« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2018, 01:19:57 PM »

Quote
This might seem a bit silly, but I feel I need to justify and explain this a little bit: I dearly miss the feeling of early RTS games, the first two Warcrafts in particular, and I want to see something new that is rooted not in MOBA mechanics, not in casual or streamlined gameplay, not in worn fantasy tropes and hollywoodisms, not in macro-directed optimized systems, and definitely not in a system designed from the ground up to be an e-sport.
i support that
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2018, 07:36:06 PM »

Tiberian Sun is the only old school RTS I'm still really in love with. Definitely feeling the similarities - strange growths taking over a post apocalyptic landscape. I like your art style, and usually I don't go for chunky pixels. The cover art is really good too.

I hope, while staying true to the genre, you can innovate in your own way. While it's great to revisit the classics, that doesn't mean they can't be improved or have new vigor pumped into them.
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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2018, 04:06:18 PM »

Really nice art style (though the perspective on the mushrooms seems off), posting to follow.

I'd also second this:
I hope, while staying true to the genre, you can innovate in your own way. While it's great to revisit the classics, that doesn't mean they can't be improved or have new vigor pumped into them.
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GoatSkulls
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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2018, 10:25:30 PM »

Hey, it looks promising and i like the mushrooms! Command&Conquerer in a mushroom world exactly fits for an old man like me.
Will there be only classical rts mechanics or you'll add something new here?

Hah, indeed! Though I would say it is much closer to Warcraft I/II than C&C. As dear as the C&C series is to my heart, there are many projects that have followed in its footsteps fairly faithfully, and I fear I could not really compete in that field at least...

There are several new mechanics that shuffle things up a bit, the primary thing being the system that works in place of traditional magic in fantasy games. I will explain a bit more below.

Wow! I agree — promising (like, unbelievably promising) is a great way to put this! From the concept art, to the initial .GIF, to your passion behind a recreation of what I like to call actual RTS games is just sublime.

Keep this up! Also, I'm getting an 80's vibe from the title font Wink

I want you to know that your use of the phrase 'actual RTS' made me smile all day. The game I have made / am making here may not be perfect, it may not suit many folks, it may be a bit dated etc. But I am very glad that somewhere out there someone else knows the feeling of what I am getting at, that which we have not had for years in RTS games. I am honored to take a crack at it, whether or not I succeed.

I am also glad you picked up on the font. The picture posted is actually a WIP, so the font needs to be finalized / edited, but it will definitely be similar and remain faithful to the 'old SF book you got at a used book store' vibe. An allusion to my inspirations in writing perhaps.

This game strikes all the right chords with me.

Will be following closely Ninja

Thanks! It means a lot. Hopefully I can put a melody to those chords.

i support that

Thanks! I am glad I am not the only one who feels this way. On a side note, your combination of username and icon makes me happy.

Tiberian Sun is the only old school RTS I'm still really in love with. Definitely feeling the similarities - strange growths taking over a post apocalyptic landscape. I like your art style, and usually I don't go for chunky pixels. The cover art is really good too.

I hope, while staying true to the genre, you can innovate in your own way. While it's great to revisit the classics, that doesn't mean they can't be improved or have new vigor pumped into them.

I sadly never played Tiberian Sun until about a year ago! I really like it. Definitely getting those Red Alert 2 engine vibes, but in a cooler (or maybe just less campy) futuristic setting.

In regards to art style-- whew! I am glad it passed your test. I am also sometimes annoyed with the overuse of minimalist pixel art, but in my case I think I used it to play to my strengths and cut down on art development time, while also trying for a more unified style. There are few things worse in the artsy part of my brain than mixed sizes of pixels, so I opted to actually develop art / render the game at this resolution and fit things around it, rather than trying to fake its resolution or pixel style.

In regards to changes made to early/mid 90s Blizzard/general RTS conventions, in response to both you and fearless_donut:

Most of the mechanics in the game emulate Warcraft II on a basic level. Left click / drag selects (up to 6 units at once), right click commands based on context--i.e. while you have a tech selected, right clicking on a carcass will see them running down into its depths to harvest resources, right click on mush will have them start to chop it down, right clicking on damaged building will have them repair it, right clicking on enemy will have them attack etc. etc. This is all very similar, but there are big differences in how building commands, construction, and what passes for 'magic' in this world work. 3 main points of interest here:

1) Building production/research, construction, and 'spells' (not magic in the conventional sense, I will get to this in a later post) are all handled through the same hotkeys, defaults are 1-6. The Tab key opens the construction menu when held if you have a tech selected, minimizing when you let go of the key. With the construction list open (i.e. you are holding the tab key down), holding down a corresponding number key snaps your mouse to the grid and displays the build reticule for placement, dependent of course on resources, where you can build etc. Left clicking on the spot you want to build on will prompt the nearest selected tech to deselect itself and run along and begin construction. You can see this in the first gif. Construction otherwise works in the traditional manner, techs making a little site that they build within, adding to the hp with the sprite expanding until the building is complete, whereupon they come out again and go idle, ready for more commands.

Building production and research are as simple as pressing the corresponding hotkey when you have a building selected. For instance, If you select a Node structure, you will see that the hotkey number '1' corresponds to making a tech unit, wheras if you select a Bath structure, you will see that '1' labels a melee upgrade, and so pressing '1' with the Bath selected will begin research on the melee upgrade.

This all sounds a bit complicated, but everything is labelled in-game, as minimalist as it might seem at first. Try putting your hand on the default keys (left pinky on TAB, ring finger on '1', middle finger on '2', and so forth), and it should make a bit more sense. Keys can be rebound to whatever you wish from the main menu, though, so you can select whatever feels right to ya.

What makes this interesting is that you can have a caster, a builder, and melee units all selected at once and your hotkeys still work wonderfully-- holding a number key labelled in the left GUI will cast that spell when you left click, and holding TAB will open up the build menu for you to select from / give construction orders with left click, but this entire time you can use the right click to still move around, without anyone being deselected / selected individually (unless their job / hotkey command you give them requires that they run off to do something). I have demonstrated this in the bottom gif below, and will explain more there.

2) The setting and story will provide something a bit different in its content and how it is told, though I will not say what or how for fear of spoiling anything. Rest assured it is not a cookie-cutter conquest with castles and kings and whatnot, not a campy modern take on a world war, and not a 'you the player are playing a game!' fourth wall thing.

3) The way that "magic" works here is pretty weird. Only one of the spells vaguely resembles traditional fantasy fare, and as I have demonstrated below, even it works a bit differently. In regards to the other spells, I would say they are closer to rituals than anything else, but I will make a more detailed post soon on how they work / change the game up while trying to not give too much away. They are truly the biggest change from RTS tradition, and profoundly affect the way the game is played.

Really nice art style (though the perspective on the mushrooms seems off), posting to follow.

Thanks! In regards to perspective, heck yea it is! The angles are pretty wonky in practically everything because of my tile / bounding box constraints. Normal sized units are 7x7px, buildings range from 14x14px to 35x35px, so everything is boxy and a bit unforgiving in design/comp. Given more time I could probably correct it, but for better or worse I have grown attached to its clunky nature.

Here are a couple o' gifs!


Advancing into the darkness with Prots, Gunners, and Farcasters.


With a dreamer as part of the group, you can use the number keys to cast stuff. Here, using the spell 'lanterns of the dead' allows you to 'paint' with fire. If you concentrate it and hold it in one spot, you can even create a massive explosion! Be more careful with where you aim it than I was... My poor units. It has other uses as a spell, but I should get to that in a later post.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2018, 10:35:26 PM by GoatSkulls » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2018, 10:32:07 PM »

Cool, has more of a Command and Conquer feel with the HUD stack and the small soldiers running around.

Which makes me want to ask, the resolution is 190?  How did you decide on that?  Does it fit into a display or did you just like the size?
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GoatSkulls
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« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2018, 10:40:44 PM »

Cool, has more of a Command and Conquer feel with the HUD stack and the small soldiers running around.

Which makes me want to ask, the resolution is 190?  How did you decide on that?  Does it fit into a display or did you just like the size?

The resolution is 320x180, of all things. This was chosen after much finangling with figuring out how much action fit on screen, how view ranges affect shroud and its proportion to lit/visible areas at any given moment, and how two-player splitscreen looks to / affords both players enough space. If I ever figure out enough optimizations to get four-player splitscreen working at a solid 30FPS on a low-end computer (very close!, but it is not priority at present sadly), the resolution doubles to accomodate them, and as a bonus because of my small sprite size (all game assets together fit in like a 500x500px space. Or some number to that effect. I forget, but it is neat and small), you can still see what is going on and it is not too small, even on a tinyish laptop.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2018, 10:49:31 PM by GoatSkulls » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2018, 01:21:16 PM »

Dreamcasting showcase!

Here I will talk about the basics of the three other abilities your dreamers have available to them, and some of their interactivity / weirdness that sets them apart. All of them rely on Venium, a psychoactive substance that you naturally produce as a byproduct of harvesting body parts from the carcasses that litter the landscape. This is represented in a meter on the bottom of the screen, and is shared between dreamers in real time. It regenerates, but rather slowly, so you must be wise in what dreamers cast and when.

Call to the Subcylcanians
The most basic ability available to dreamers is their ability to bring forth from the ground a two headed wormlike creature. These beings are able to sense soft mud, and can instantly burrow to another patch when selected and ordered to do so. Any units caught in their maw when they emerge will be devoured. Additionally, if you direct your units to them, they will be shuttled through their body to appear out the other end! In this manner you may cross obstacles like acid, mountain ranges, thorns, mush, etc. provided there is soft ground to pop out of.


In order for the dreamer to call the being, it must draw two symbols, which may be drawn wherever you choose provided they are on soft muddy ground. The dreamer is lost in the process.

Lanterns of the Dead
(see the previous post for a gif of it) Dreamers may weave and bring forth eruptions of a strange cold fire. You may use the mouse interface to draw while holding down the respective spell key, and if you concentrate it in one location, it will create a potent explosion. The fires that are started serve as an obstacle while they are burning, and in this way may be used not only as a direct offensive weapon, but as a sort of wall to stop an advance for a brief moment. It also serves as a counter to the next ability.


Eater of the old ones
The dreamers eventually develop the ability to spread an unknown disease. When cast by the dreamer, a puff of spores will appear where you targeted it. Any unit in close proximity has a high chance of being infested by it, though it is not guaranteed. After an uncertain period of time, most units will die from it, and in expiring, spread the spores further to any other units nearby. It does not distinguish between friend and foe, and is very dangerous in the later stages of the game when units are more likely to be plentiful and clustered about. If you act quickly, you may use the Lanterns of the Dead spell (shown in the previous post) on your own units as a counterspell, effectively burning the disease away, though the efficacy of this is limited by how much Venium you currently have stored. This has another use and interaction with the final dream, which I will explain in its entry below.


In this example I cast it on my own units, illustrating all the more clearly how it is indiscriminate.

Awakening the Sleeper
Dreamers may, when provided all your Venium stores, draw a scrawling image on the ground and fall asleep on it. Things advance as normal with no changes to speak of, but your interface will inform you that a temporal distortion has been detected. At any point after this, whether minutes or hours away, if you direct another dreamer to use this ability, instead of going to sleep they will draw a new image, and use its power to awaken the one who sleeps. As this occurs, the interface wavers and collapses. When the screen recovers, you are at the point in time when the first one fell asleep, but they have disappeared. Being used in single or multiplayer, this essentially amounts to time travel, and can be used to reverse poor decisions, gather intelligence, and mess with other players' plans (as it affects all players time perception). This ritual comes with a couple of caveats: It may be averted if the sleeper or the one awakening them is destroyed, and it may be corrupted if mixed with the Eater of the Old Ones. If this particular mix occurs, the world itself takes on a radically different form with new mechanics, but I will say no more on the subject, as it is better discovered and not explained.
   


First, a dreamer consumes the venium and goes to sleep.


In the future, after a catastrophe has occurred, we decide to awaken the sleeper, such that we may remember a time far away and removed from our current position. Thus, we may act with prior knowledge of what is in store for us, and be better prepared.







And that's it for now! I am working on tweaking the fine bits of the dreams shown here and their interactivity, but next post I will showcase the splitscreen multiplayer.
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2018, 05:03:39 PM »

The dreamers seem like a really cool, unique sort of unit. Working in the surreal/lovercraftian vibe is pretty awesome, not the usual vibe of an RTS. I'll be very curious to see how the time travel mechanic feels in practice--especially in multiplayer it seems like it could get frustrating.
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2018, 10:46:44 PM »

The dreamers seem like a really cool, unique sort of unit. Working in the surreal/lovercraftian vibe is pretty awesome, not the usual vibe of an RTS. I'll be very curious to see how the time travel mechanic feels in practice--especially in multiplayer it seems like it could get frustrating.

To be honest, time travel hasn't come up much in multiplayer playtesting so far, but when it did, it was a one-off kinda thing. This is likely due to its high cost (i.e. the life of one dreamer and two dreamers in total to cast, not to mention the time to set up any meaningful change), but there are some other reasons at play here I think.

Most players, whether new to RTSs or not, ended up taking other routes to fighting, and clashed early enough that their resources were put towards countering each other rather than prepping defenses. In multiplayer, it is a sort of ultimate defense measure if you have the resources to spare, and because the dreamer is destroyed on waking, you can't spam it without setting another one up, which erases your previous temporal 'point' you went back to, meaning things will advance normally for at least the time it takes to awaken another dreamer / set up the spell / wait for enough time for it to matter etc. as I mentioned before. This all being said, I would love to see people try harder to abuse it just for the sake of testing... I will keep an eye out.
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« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2018, 08:39:00 PM »

Thought I would show a quick gif of the splitscreen multiplayer in action:


Just a bit of early base building in a dark valley.

Note: If this or any other images seem squished/cut off in your browser (like the player on the right up here), just hold left click on them to expand to their full width.


Most of the standard multiplayer maps that come bundled with the game are the classic 'one peasant/worker only' type by default, i.e. you start with one worker and no base, and can therefore choose where you want to begin building. I think it is pretty spooky and suspenseful to start a map this way, but I could totally add additional defaults down the road if people want 'em.

Also of note: multiplayer is entirely played with gamepads! Because of this the control scheme is a tad different, like having scrolling submenus when you hold a respective cast/build button instead of just hotkey holds in mouse mode, but multicasting/multibuilding still works the same, so little is lost in the shuffle except for the scrambling of dpads instead of mice. All these controls are remappable for ease of use.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2018, 08:45:05 PM by GoatSkulls » Logged
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« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2018, 02:44:14 AM »

The game looks great! Always used to love this style of game, back when I first started playing things like Age of Empires!

I notice you've only marked sfx as 20% complete and I was wondering if you'd like a hand with that? I'd love to get involved and help out, as it looks like great fun! (I'm a sound designer btw, not just some guy).
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« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2018, 06:35:02 AM »

The game looks great! Always used to love this style of game, back when I first started playing things like Age of Empires!

I notice you've only marked sfx as 20% complete and I was wondering if you'd like a hand with that? I'd love to get involved and help out, as it looks like great fun! (I'm a sound designer btw, not just some guy).

Thanks! While sound design is not really mapped out fully yet, I have a background in music, and since this is a bit of a passion project at this rate (i.e. I will not likely ever break even), I figure I need to take the opportunity to practice doing it to learn more about managing sound design and direction in larger projects like this. Thanks for the offer though!
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« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2018, 03:25:06 AM »

Thanks! While sound design is not really mapped out fully yet, I have a background in music, and since this is a bit of a passion project at this rate (i.e. I will not likely ever break even), I figure I need to take the opportunity to practice doing it to learn more about managing sound design and direction in larger projects like this. Thanks for the offer though!

No problem, I've followed the topic to keep updated as the game looks great! In case you do ever want some help, or just a second opinion, feel free to get in touch!
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« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2018, 03:29:33 AM »

I'm amazed how with so few pixels it's totally readable.
Great work !
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2018, 06:57:27 AM »

I'm amazed how with so few pixels it's totally readable.
Great work !

Thanks for the kind words!

It took a while to get to this, but the most economical solutions in animation were often the most effective: having the vast majority of the animations in game confined to two frames means that each action is greatly exaggerated. Combine that with nearly every attack and utility animation intentionally using whiteish colors in recognizable shapes (shot, swing, explosion, unit production/research glow, etc.) to contrast the all-enveloping shroud of war, and it really helps it to pop out at a distance when there is a lot going on.
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« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2018, 10:03:43 AM »

Oh man, these graphics are great!
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