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September 25, 2021, 12:36:53 PM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsLegion Hearts - Tactical Autochess RPG
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iMaple
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« on: September 07, 2021, 05:35:36 PM »

Hello Gentleman

I'm creating Legion Hearts, a strategy RPG blending tactical autochess battles with roguelite deckbuilding.

It's a mouthful to say and probably a handful to actually make, so let's see where this goes.

Here's a picture of my desk to kick it off.

« Last Edit: September 19, 2021, 07:11:15 AM by iMaple » Logged
iMaple
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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2021, 05:47:05 PM »

Initially, I wanted to make a JRPG with Valkyrie Profile style combat. Every character would have 1 attack and 1 special attack with differing cooldowns, and the game would slowly progress in 1 second "ticks". Your focus would be to accurately put down status effects and set up combos.

That's about as far as I got with it though, because the idea didn't even appear fun on paper so I tossed it in the bin.

Here are some concepts for archival purposes and future prosperity.



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sambloom
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« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2021, 08:46:38 AM »

Very interesting, what are you building it in? The 2D top-down you have in that "Formation" image looks dope
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iMaple
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« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2021, 10:17:30 AM »

Very interesting, what are you building it in? The 2D top-down you have in that "Formation" image looks dope

Thanks! Building it in Unity, but threw together these concepts in GIMP on a 640x360 canvas just to sanity check the pixel sizes of everything and get a rough idea of how much stuff I can cram into the UI screens.

Here are the revised designs for the combat system ft. Google Slides. It's similar to a mobile game I enjoyed called Brave Nine, and it's about setting up the turn order of your characters to beat the enemy formation in an autochess battle.

The gameplay is still about trying to time and stack status effects, but I feel this implementation is a lot less clunky than my initial design and doesn't require a controller to play.

On a higher level, I'm going to try and combine this with a roguelite deckbuilding element similar to Slay the Spire, where you make decks out of characters and then slowly build up a strong roster as you progress in a dungeon.

Still just some loose ideas on paper, but I'm feeling a lot more confident about this one.



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luckylogic
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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2021, 12:27:54 PM »

This has potential to be my kind of game. It will be interesting to see how you integrate deckbuilding. Are you thinking that each character has its own set of cards, or the units will be a bit more disposable with the cards spawning units on the battlefield?

And everybody loves a bit of setup porn. How are you finding the ultrawide for game development?
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iMaple
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« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2021, 02:21:10 PM »

Quote
This has potential to be my kind of game. It will be interesting to see how you integrate deckbuilding. Are you thinking that each character has its own set of cards, or the units will be a bit more disposable with the cards spawning units on the battlefield?

And everybody loves a bit of setup porn. How are you finding the ultrawide for game development?

Hey, glad to hear. Funnily enough I'm not much of a deckbuilder/roguelite player at all but I wanted to try and use this mechanic for something I'd play myself.

So I'm thinking the characters themselves are the cards - each one having a different target behavior and skillset like in Raid. But you start a campaign with only a handful of characters from your "army deck" and they can only be deployed a number of times before they're exhausted and have to be discarded.

Then you could draw a new character from your deck after each battle, meaning you slowly cycle through your characters while you progress in the campaign. So you'd have to win battles on a tactical level with what you have at any given time, but still try to conserve some to make sure you can build a strong enough hand to overcome the battles that get more difficult over time.

It pretty much comes down to building synergies between the characters to make it fun I think. Say character 1 stuns their target, while character 2 deals double damage against stunned targets. Or set effects if you have three similar characters deployed.





As for the display, probably one of the best productivity investments I've made. I always worked with multiple monitors but hated the weird gap(s) and the constant head turning, so this is basically that but more convenient.

I'm using FancyZones which allows windows to snap to what are invisible rectangles on the screen, and I set it up in a way that I have 16:9 zone in the center with 8:9 zones on each side. So usually I run the main app in the middle, and then have some spreadsheet, youtube video or chat to the sides.

Now, it's not much of a gaming monitor at all, but I think for work it's really good and it runs off my laptop just fine.
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iMaple
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« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2021, 01:31:57 AM »

Alright, got the battle system barely working with some basic characters and skills.



Think it needs really tight animations to feel good while also not taking too long. Also not a fan of the current target selection, think it's both unintuitive and too complex. I'll probably streamline the attack patterns and go with the angled 3x3 grid. This would basically force units to attack the next closest lane, of which there would always one, in case the adjacent lane is empty rather than having an arbitrary criteria like there is now.



Creating all these different effect categories is going to be a massive pain though.
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luckylogic
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2021, 08:53:47 AM »

Fancy zones or similar sounds like the way to go. I might reconsider now. Thanks

Best of luck with the idea. Your ideas seem to be coming together quite quickly.
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iMaple
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« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2021, 12:06:47 AM »

Quote
Fancy zones or similar sounds like the way to go. I might reconsider now. Thanks

Best of luck with the idea. Your ideas seem to be coming together quite quickly.

Cheers! Been sitting around on the idea for quite some time beforehand, so I hope I can speed through the prototype phase a bit quicker.

Also got got a logo made for the game now that I roughly now what the genre will be. Quite happy with it, think it's going to be really versatile in regards to what it can sit on.



Took a while until actually settling with the name - other shortlisted names were Vagrant Skies and Lotus Kingdom. Basically, something that thematically supports collecting characters. Vagrant Skies ended up being too abstract to visualize and Lotus Kingdom was some gambling trademark, hence settling with Legion Hearts.





Credit to Nina Pykthina, check out her portfolio here.
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iMaple
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« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2021, 03:30:27 AM »

The box art for the game was done by Max Berthelot as I'm a big fan of his style. The theme is inspired by a PSP game called Jeanne d'Arc and a coin from my home country.




Thematically, I wanted to show a medieval knight coming into contact with advanced technology. The story beyond that is still very much up in the air. I'm not even sure if she's going to be the main character.

Think it fits the "strategy RPG box art" trope well, but it might need a refresh down the line depending on what exactly the genre of this game will be.

Couldn't decide on a color for a while, so I made wall prints out of the rejected versions.


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iMaple
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« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2021, 01:15:27 AM »

Legion Hearts has a simple website now. It consists of Home - News - Gallery - Presskit and some Legalese.



Can't say much about the design, it's a Wordpress theme called Rein I liked and customized a bit. It's main goal is to increase our organic search visibility over time and keep interested players engaged through our devlog.

I think having a home for the game before we can get a Steam page up sounds pretty useful - especially if we want to add an online component or release on other platforms in the future.

We also launched a newsletter, which sends monthly recap of devlog entries directly to our subscribers. Sources say you become mildly cooler if you subscribe. Click here to become mildly cooler.

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iMaple
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2021, 03:53:43 AM »

Got some more character concepts done by Max Berthelot in a similar style to the box art. Really happy with them!



I wanted something "not too anime" but "not too western" either. I guess Metal Gear Solid style might be the descriptor I'm looking for. It's also much more affordable compared to very clean lineart.

Not sure what story role they're going to play, but I quite like the idea of getting the characters first before creating the world they live in. Designing around limitations and all that.
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iMaple
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« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2021, 12:01:22 PM »

So after trying out all kinds of different assets, I've decided to remove pixel art from the majority of the game. This is no longer a pseudo SNES JRPG, so I'm not sure why I didn't reconsider it earlier.



Making Legion Hearts a pure pixel art game while having it look good and functional is going to be prohibitively expensive and restrictive I feel, so I'll go with 2D illustrations for all backgrounds and work with a more clean UI.



I think I'll keep the battle sprites pixel though, I think that looks kind of nice even in isolation and makes them feel more collectible to me, while also standing out from the illustrated sprite style that most autobattlers have. Going from 48px to 64px feels quite good and reminiscent of PS1 era sprites.

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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2021, 01:49:02 PM »

Wow - especially the last 3 screenshots look really awesome! Really like the illustrations and the detailed backgrounds. Gives a very nice sense of place and depth.
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iMaple
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2021, 05:19:38 PM »

Wow - especially the last 3 screenshots look really awesome! Really like the illustrations and the detailed backgrounds. Gives a very nice sense of place and depth.

Glad you like it! Took a while until I was able to find a background artist that I thought would complement the character designs well. I'm not much of an artist at all so instead of trying to direct I mostly look for portfolios where I can just point at something and say "more of that please". I don't really have the budget to go all out with art just yet though, so I'm just looking at getting an asset for every screen to see what works and what doesn't.

To that end, I also got a UI friend designer friend to help out and make my google slide designs less amateurish. I think the illustrations / battle sprites / ui all having separate styles works quite well.





The UX itself feels quite decent on PC too, although the mobile version might need some tweaks for the drag and drop interactions. Trying to make it as modular as we can so we are able to reuse menu's all over the place. Autobattlers in general are very menu heavy so I think this will pay off in due time.

While it lacks any kind of styling right now, I think that might be the way to go with the artwork taking most of the focus and colors being used for a UX purpose as they really pop. If I get any money together to make this game for real, I'm probably gonna gun for a technical artist to help me get the most out of the visuals.
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iMaple
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« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2021, 10:26:03 AM »

Got some environment mood illustrations done by Gourd to help flesh out some loose story ideas.






Think we're going with a pretty flexible narrative premise of you playing as a rogue Valkyrie who travels around the many worlds of Yggdrasil to build up a personal army and take revenge on the gods who wronged you in some way.

This plays into the character collection mechanic quite well and I think it's a nice way to bring a lot of thematic diversity to an entirely human cast of characters.

Quite ironic how we did come back full circle back Valkyrie Profile, but hey, whatever works.
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iMaple
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« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2021, 12:15:01 PM »

The first playable prototype is out! It contains a test campaign, 15 playable units and a janky dialog system featuring a gripping narrative written by yours truly.



If you want to give it a try, sign up to our newsletter to get the password and the download the build from the play page on our website.

Really happy we got to this milestone - while it's super rough around the edges, I think the core loop has potential. Balancing this will be tricky though to find the right spot between too challenging and too easy.

Going get some early feedback and see if there's any low hanging fruits to fix before heading off and trying to get money to actually make this thing.
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iMaple
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« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2021, 03:13:09 AM »

So we're applying for some small grants in order to actually fund the development of this game.

Ballpark budget to soft launch Legion Hearts is probably going to be around 500k. I live in Switzerland and government funding is super limited, so we'll probably have to scrape it all together with a combination of crowdfunding and private investments.




Here are some of the pitch slides we're using for the initial application. Should be a given to anyone who's done this before, but it's always fun to see how much different a pitch is when geared towards players compared to a corporate entity.

I think we have decent shot here, but it's also a test run of sorts to see what sticks and which parts of our pitch need refining.
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