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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsBattleJuice Alchemist – An Alchemical Action RPG
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Author Topic: BattleJuice Alchemist – An Alchemical Action RPG  (Read 4024 times)
Alain
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« on: November 23, 2020, 08:39:45 AM »

Hey everyone!

I'm Alain, a solo dev from Germany and I make a 3D action RPG. If you want to read a couple of sentences about me first, here is my obligatory introduction post. I am very new to this forum and I think it is a shame I did not find it earlier. It seems to be a great place to watch games of other's grow and present my own. Maybe I can interest some of you for the project I am currently working on.

My game is called BattleJuice Alchemist and I want to start in broad strokes of information before I get into the details:




Created by: Alain Brunotte
Published by: Alchemical Works (Alain Brunotte)
Release: Steam (late 2021)
Website: www.battlejuice-alchemist.com
Language: English
Contact: [email protected]
Social: Discord, YouTube, Twitter


BattleJuice Alchemist is a singleplayer action RPG with realtime close combat and (in my opinion) quite unique deck-building-like mechanics. You explore a procedurally generated world in top down and third person view, craft equipment and loot in classic action RPG fashion.

I do everything myself: game design, programming, 3D and 2D assets, music and do not buy any assets. The exception are sound effects, but sound design comes from me as well. I started development in Unreal Engine 4 in May 2018 and have since then put over 3500 hours into making the game. I plan to release it on Steam in late 2021 (self-published). The first few hours have been playable for about a year now and were playtested by quite a few testers so far and I want to dive into public playtesting soon.

Here is the announcement trailer from earlier this year:








BACKGROUND

Story-wise the setup is like this: Juice, the alchemist, is called to a town called Cherokee Creek to fight the demons that roam the lands. I do not want to tell you much more about the story and focus on gameplay in this post. But you can watch the short cinematic trailer here:




There are no classes or different playable characters in the game. You always play Juice, the alchemist. But in classic RPG fashion you can flesh out your character, "Juice" is just always the nickname. There is character customization and character development, where you distribute attribute points which you gain while leveling up. You all know the drill. What is a bit different in my game is that there are no skillpoints or feats, but I will talk about that later. If you are interested in some details about character customization, I made a video about it:



To watch the full video on YouTube click the GIF ↑





WORLD

The wilderness you explore is procedurally generated. I went for a tile based approach and procedurally populated the landscape with trees, houses and much more. Some of them are themselves pieced together procedurally as well. I made two videos talking about the generation of the tile based landscape and some of the procedural objects:



To watch the full video on YouTube click the GIF ↑





GAMEPLAY

You explore the world in classic action RPG "isometric" top down view. Technically it is not really isometric, but I am sure you know how I mean by it. Players can always switch into third person view if they like. I went for this route after figuring out that I had to work on a level of detail that holds up when the camera is closer to the player anyway, because close combat is fought from this perspective. So why not allow the players to zoom in whenever they want to.
I also made a video about the basic gameplay:






SKILLS & ITEMS

I think you should have a basic idea about how BattleJuice Alchemist works generally. The deck-building aspect comes from the fact that you draw flasks from a random pool of equipped flasks. Once this pool gets bigger, you get more passive bonuses from the equipped flasks but it may become less predictable what kind of flask you draw.
Another special thing about the game is that you don't use weapons like swords or bows or guns as you know them from many RPGs. You always play as an alchemist and all you do with regards to fighting is throw flasks and drink potions. This was the premise from the beginning on: I love Diablo 2 so much, but always found it a shame that you don't really use most potions later in the game. I wondered if it was possible to make an action RPG where using potions is the main thing you do. I made a video where I explain how flasks substitute skills in BattleJuice Alchemist and how you don't use any other weapons in the game:


There is much more I could talk about here, but I think this post has been long enough as it is. If you are interested in the project, there are more videos on my YouTube channel. I talk about my 3D design process, where I found inspriration for the game, or just thoughts related to game development in general.

So what is next for the project? I have been playtesting the first couple of hours of the game with friends for almost a year now. The next step is to do more "public" playtesting through Steam (Steam Playtest or if that is not possible beta keys). I will make a detailed update video about the state of the project and upcoming steps very soon. The idea for this initial post was to inform people who are interested about the game in general. In the future I plan these posts to be a bit more process oriented, like what I am working on and how features or creating content is coming along.

I'd love to hear your feedback on what there is to see so far. I will post updates on this devlog here and hope some of you like what you have seen from the game so far. If you really really like what you read and want to follow the development more closely you can join the Discord. Thank you so much for reading!




DEVLOG VIDEOS
(click the GIFs to watch on YouTube)

DevLog Video #01 -  Let's Talk Maps:




DevLog Video #02 - Old School Games & Enemy A.I. Inspirations:





« Last Edit: February 23, 2021, 04:07:19 AM by Alain » Logged

Alain
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2020, 12:00:32 AM »

Hey there! Here is a little dump of screenshots. I thought they might blow up the initial post too much, so here we go:

















« Last Edit: November 24, 2020, 12:08:27 AM by Alain » Logged

marcgfx
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2020, 07:35:29 AM »

Looks like a quality game with a pretty unique art style. It seems quite hard to read though. Maybe you could ease up on the contrast for unimportant objects in the background, if that does not kill the style?
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vdapps
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2020, 01:40:58 PM »

Welcome to the forum. Your game looks great, impressive for one man project. Gentleman
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Alain
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2020, 03:19:53 PM »

Thanks vdapps and marcgfx, I am glad I found my way to the forum!

Looks like a quality game with a pretty unique art style. It seems quite hard to read though. Maybe you could ease up on the contrast for unimportant objects in the background, if that does not kill the style?

The issues concerning readability were brought up before. I put working on them quite low on my priority list, because I was telling myself that the textures have to work in top-down and third person view, so I need a high level of detail, even if it looks noisy in top-down. But this is a bad excuse and I need to figure something out and make it work. I moved it up on the list and will take the time for an overhaul soon. Thank you for pointing me into that direction marcgfx!
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Alain
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« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2020, 01:14:42 AM »

I made a GIF recapping the video about how I use simple procedural generation to populate my world with objects like trees and buildings.



If you have more time to spare, you can watch the full video on YouTube by clicking the GIF ↑

(I also added the GIF to my initial devlog post)
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 01:33:29 AM by Alain » Logged

JobLeonard
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2020, 01:40:38 AM »

Welcome to the forums!  Coffee

Oh, to be a teenager/college student again with time to sink into action RPGS and similar long games...


But I can still follow and enjoy the devlog! This project looks great (but yeah, readability suffers a bit in the current art style) and "feels" great too, based on the description
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vdapps
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2020, 09:09:42 AM »

Nice to see that even if newbie on this forum, your posts here are as if you were here for years. Nice presentation in your thread. I like your last gif recap, which will take you to vid on click. Good idea.
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Alain
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2020, 09:41:05 AM »

Welcome to the forums!  Coffee

Oh, to be a teenager/college student again with time to sink into action RPGS and similar long games...

But I can still follow and enjoy the devlog! This project looks great (but yeah, readability suffers a bit in the current art style) and "feels" great too, based on the description

Thanks! Oh yes, I also miss sinking my teeth deeply into games. Even when I take a day off, I can't sit down and play for longer than an hour, because I get a bad conscience.


Nice to see that even if newbie on this forum, your posts here are as if you were here for years. Nice presentation in your thread. I like your last gif recap, which will take you to vid on click. Good idea.

I'm glad you like the presentation, thanks Smiley
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TwistingYarn
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« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2020, 02:53:40 PM »

this is cool! i liked the video on procedural generation  Smiley
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Alain
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2020, 03:07:55 AM »

Hey there! Here is a quick update: I made the first video DevLog for BattleJuice Alchemist ever.

My video DevLogs are supposed to be more personal and less scripted videos, something like a diary. In this one I briefly show my YouTube recording setup, talk about savegames, the quest system, the upcoming Steam playtest, and MAPS! I love maps and used to draw them a lot in the past for my pen and paper RPG campaigns.

Thanks for walking a while with me on my development journey.

You can watch the full video on YouTube by clicking the GIF ↓



(I also added a DevLog video section to the initial post of this thread)
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2020, 03:46:55 AM »

At work so will watch later, but the gif has me curious Smiley
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vdapps
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« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2020, 04:32:41 AM »

Nice!

May I suggest to still stick also with written devlogs with short animations? You can have both, video and written.

For fans which are already deeper hooked into your game, video devlogs, yes they do much better presentation.

But to attract new fans, IMO better to write short text devlogs and combine them with screenshots / short anims on all platforms where you are present (be it here on TIG, itch, indieDB, Steam, etc..). As newcomers will hardly want to watch videos, but indeed, they can be quickly attracted by animated gifs or webp animations by browsing thread.
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Alain
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« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2020, 08:39:39 AM »

At work so will watch later, but the gif has me curious Smiley

Cool, I hope you like it!


Nice!

May I suggest to still stick also with written devlogs with short animations? You can have both, video and written.

For fans which are already deeper hooked into your game, video devlogs, yes they do much better presentation.

But to attract new fans, IMO better to write short text devlogs and combine them with screenshots / short anims on all platforms where you are present (be it here on TIG, itch, indieDB, Steam, etc..). As newcomers will hardly want to watch videos, but indeed, they can be quickly attracted by animated gifs or webp animations by browsing thread.

Thanks vdapps, this is some really valuable feedback I hadn't thought about. I thought "more is more" and that a video about a topic is the best way to go. But I'll try to sprinkle in written posts with a gif or two to try and get new people interested in the project.
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vdapps
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« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2020, 09:07:32 AM »

I'm just talking from personal experience. 'cause of time constraints, I almost never watch video devlogs, maybe sometimes just barely by skipping.

But yes, I did lot of times got attracted to game, by seeing pictures and short anims (it's also your case, just few shots told me: this game looks solid and attractive, it's worth checking).

Of course, if you have fans deeper hooked into your game, video is good way to give more. But I guess, making few screenshots and anims is not much work in addition when compared to creating video itself. So you can have best of 2 worlds. More for hooked fans (videos) and quick attraction for newcomers or time constrained persons (pics, anims).
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2020, 08:54:04 AM »

Hey, found the time to go through your devlog! Coffee

Your videos are super interesting, thanks for sharing your techniques. Kiss And the game itself looks really cool and quite unique with the high contrast art style. The pop-up book in the trailer looks great too. You seem to be making very good progress as well! Really impressive how much you seem to have done by yourself in such a relatively short time.
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Alain
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« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2020, 11:23:15 AM »

I'm just talking from personal experience. 'cause of time constraints, I almost never watch video devlogs, maybe sometimes just barely by skipping.

But yes, I did lot of times got attracted to game, by seeing pictures and short anims (it's also your case, just few shots told me: this game looks solid and attractive, it's worth checking).

Of course, if you have fans deeper hooked into your game, video is good way to give more. But I guess, making few screenshots and anims is not much work in addition when compared to creating video itself. So you can have best of 2 worlds. More for hooked fans (videos) and quick attraction for newcomers or time constrained persons (pics, anims).

Beside a video, I am planning to squeeze in a written post with pictures about my AI soon, I hope you will like it vdapps Wink



Hey, found the time to go through your devlog! Coffee

Your videos are super interesting, thanks for sharing your techniques. Kiss And the game itself looks really cool and quite unique with the high contrast art style. The pop-up book in the trailer looks great too. You seem to be making very good progress as well! Really impressive how much you seem to have done by yourself in such a relatively short time.

Thank you so much Prinsessa for taking the time and for the kind words. The cinematic trailer does double duty as the intro sequence when you start the game and it was a lot of fun to make. I'm glad you like it!
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Alain
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« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2020, 05:05:43 PM »

BATTLEJUICE ALCHEMIST DEVLOG:
Enemies' Idle Behaviour



Hey everyone! I thought I'd try out a written devlog post as vdapps suggested. It is basically the script of my latest video with a few pictures for those of you who prefer it in this format. For those who like to watch the video, you can watch it on YouTube:



click GIF to watch on YouTube ↑

So what is it all about? I made a stupidly over-engineered need-driven behaviour system for the enemies' idle behaviour in BattleJuice Alchemist. They now waddle around looking for water, food, rest and cover. They learn which of their needs are hard to fulfill and remember that when making their decisions which strategy to follow.Let’s begin with the enemies’ AI behaviour as it was in BattleJuice Alchemist before I started working on the overhaul.

In Unreal Engine you can use behaviour trees to control AI behaviour. The behaviour for my enemies while not fighting the player was quite simple: If the enemy was close to the player and not sleeping and could not see the player, it was idle. In this case the enemy first walked back to its spawning location, which we could call its home. Back at home, it walked around randomly or went to sleep, if it was night time that is.

A funny thing is that enemies waddled around aimlessly before the overhaul and that the finished AI waddles around in a quite similar fashion, but let’s not talk about that and start designing our super sophisticated AI and see where it takes us. The first thing I did was to add a system of needs the enemies can act on. I decided to have four needs: Food, Water, Rest and Cover. I wanted to be able to monitor an enemy’s needs at any time, so I added them to their UI.


If the bar is full means that the need is completely fulfilled. As these values are not crucial for the player to know, I might make it optional to show them or not. But we will leave them on for now.

The value for Food needs to decrease over time. When the enemy is sleeping, Food diminishes slower than when it is awake. It is the same with Water, but for Water I even took rain and fog into consideration. I mean, if the weather is damp, it is not necessary to drink that much, right? I hope that makes any sense. There is a quite elaborate weather system in BattleJuice Alchemist, that I simply pulled the values from. The need for Rest is more simple than for Food or Water. Enemies get tired when awake and even more tired when moving around and doing things. Cover is maybe the most complex value. I thought about having a need for social interaction, but decided to boil that down and integrate it into the Cover value: Enemies want to be close to each other, because they provide each other Cover. That is when they don’t all fall asleep at the same time. I took inspiration from Half-Life’s Houndeyes here. Do you remember those three-legged doggies? They spawn in groups and when the pack goes to sleep, the leader stands on its back food and watches over the others. In BattleJuice Alchemist there is no pack leader, but the last enemy nearby does not go to sleep, when all others around it are sleeping, so it can provide them Cover. Other sources of Cover are trees and buildings for example, but also fog or even Water, if the enemy is amphibian.

This brings us to another point: After the needs were in place I added characteristics to the different enemy types.
Enemies could now be amphibian or nocturnal or loners, all of which influences their behaviour. Now that all needs were implemented and also diminishing correctly, I could have the enemies act towards replenishing them. So let’s take a look at what the new behaviour tree looks like.

If the enemy is not sleeping and not in a fight and cannot see the player, it stops looking at the player and then starts acting towards fulfilling its needs. If there is no need to act on, the enemy starts sleeping or walks home.

If Rest is the most urgent need, the enemy goes to sleep, but only if there is enough Cover.


If the enemy is thirsty, it starts looking for a source of Water and drinks there, if it is hungry, it searches for an area with edible plants.




If the most urgent need is Cover, the enemy simply walks home.The idea behind that is that all the enemies meet at the home location and provide each other Cover there.


Okay, now we already have some pretty cool behaviour, but I wanted to go a bit further. I made a variable called “Wellbeing”, which is calculated as the average of all needs.


The enemy only starts acting towards the most urgent need, if its Wellbeing is low. It then decides on a strategy how to increase its Wellbeing. The main factor is simply, which of the values for Food, Water, Rest or Cover is the lowest. But I also made a simple system, that makes the enemy AI a bit smarter. The AI evaluates the strategies it used to fulfill its needs. For example, if it could not find Food when hungry, it gets biased towards choosing to search Water instead of Food, even its urge for Food is more pressing than its thirst. Put simply, the AI learned that food is hard to come by where it lives. So the creature focusses on the problems it knows it can fix to increase its overall Wellbeing. You could call that a very simple form of memory or learning.

Now that we have super smart enemies, we can hook up their brain to our other systems. For example, Wellbeing is checked, when the player approaches.


If the enemy has a low Wellbeing, it acts more aggressively. Also, Wellbeing influences the physical fitness of an enemy, which means this enemy does more or less damage. As a finishing touch I added the behaviour that enemies check out items that are lying on the ground. Some items replenish a need value, but checking out items also has a nice side effect: it makes the enemies more likely to interact with the player, because the player is very likely to check out items on the ground, too.


So what does this all lead to? We now have an AI that makes enemies waddle around following their needs, which essentially does not look so much different from what they were doing before. But I really enjoy watching them and it makes me happy to know that they themselves  now know what they want. As I said, I think what I made here is totally over-complex for an action RPG. But I hope some of you appreciate it in one way or the other.

If you watched the video, you may realise, that this text was really almost exactly the script for the video. Let me know if you think it is really nice to have this in written form or if it is unnecessary. Another thing I'd love to hear your feedback on is whether you think I should have the enemies' needs hidden on the UI as a default. I have the feeling that they are simply of too little relevance, even though I personally like seeing them. Playtesters have had trouble understanding my game as it is, so more clutter is something I think I can't afford. I'm looking forward to hear what you think.

Thanks for reading!

(As a side note, I added a list of links to written devlog posts to my initial post)
« Last Edit: December 21, 2020, 03:48:35 AM by Alain » Logged

vdapps
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« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2020, 06:40:23 PM »

Wow so this is really elaborate AI for just little critters walking around! Very nice!

Regarding written vs video, my idea was written, but in shorter form. Basically, letting know what's new, scratch the surface and more details in video. If one doesn't have much time, he/she can still follow compressed info in written devlog. In case of more free time and raised interest, there's video with nitty gritty details.

But anyway, you write very good, despite of longer post I red it entirely, it was very interesting to read this enemies AI behavior. Also I checked video quickly, you have talent for making it and talking to camera. Gentleman
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2020, 03:06:45 AM »

Super interesting read, really cool system you're putting together there! Of course the more real they are as individuals the eviller it feels to fight them. Sad I feel like Hades solved this well narratively by making everybody literally immortal underworld gods. Cheesy I guess they could retreat in defeat instead of dying to signify the end of an encounter, but I know I'm in a minority for even caring about this in the first place so I won't push it; just some thoughts that came up in my mind. Tongue Didn't know Unreal has a built-in visual AI editor, that's really cool!
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