Thursday, May 3, 2012

Player Interfaces

One of the things I feel is most important about game design is that the interface used by the player should be easy enough to figure out without needing to read a thick user manual.  In fact, I want Lands of Adventure to be put together well enough that a user manual isn't even necessary at all.  The game is littered with helpful hints and obvious clues as to how it works.  This is not because I think people are dumb or anything...I just think that *I* wouldn't want to play a game with a terrible I'm certainly not going to torture the people who will be playing this game with one.

Simple and easy to use.

I'm not going to say that the interface I've designed is original by any means.  If anything, I have borrowed ideas from the folks who came before me and wrote all those great CRPGs of yore.  People who have played SSI's series of Gold-Box games will find this layout familiar and intuitive.

Getting a quest from the town mayor.

I think that it's a good thing that I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel.  Paying homage to the old-school CRPGs means taking what worked from them and implementing them in this game.  It's what I hope players of those games will like about this one.  I mean, I personally would have loved it if people had been building games like this over the years...but there are, sadly, not many that I can name.

The overland map, showing the areas that can be visited.

The scope of the world isn't very large.  It takes place in a village called Waystop and the areas that surround it.  When an area opens up and is available for the characters to visit, a "Travel" button will appear.  If a quest is in progress, hovering over the button will remind the player *why* they want to travel there.  In the example above, the mayor has given a quest to go to Darkfell Swamp and eliminate the Goblin Chieftain and his followers, and it's easy to see what's going on.  If a player leaves a game in progress and comes back four days later, or if they have multiple locations that they can travel to, I think this will make it easier for them to make a choice of where they want to go.

And now, for the 3D exploration window...

Exploring the old keep in Darkfell Swamp.

It's still a work in progress, but it's functional.  The player can move around in the dungeons, and events will trigger based on where they are.  The code wasn't as hard to figure out as I thought...but getting the walls to line up right...that was some serious work.

At this point, there's no auto-map feature in the game (there may be one later, it just depends on how hard it will be to implement).  This particular dungeon isn't very big, so I don't imagine anyone would get lost in it, but others may be larger.

Then again, I guess the "old-school" way would be to dig out some graph paper and map the heck out of it....but that was never one of my favorite things to do.  And, since my goal is to program the kind of game I would want to play, we'll see how it all works out.

Encountering some goblins.

Just like games that have come before, exploring dungeons and locales will trigger events.  One of the freedoms I have in programming the game myself is that I can program *any* kind of event I want.  I'm not limited by what can be done like I would be if I used a CRPG development engine (like Unlimited Adventures, Neverwinter Nights, or RPG Maker VX).  The sky isn't even the limit.  I can go really outside the box and do something different if I wanted.

But, even if I do that, I will still keep things as close as possible to the way things were done in those old-school CRPGs.  After all, isn't that the point of this whole project?

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Character Generation

Obviously, the first thing that a player will want to do when starting a CRPG is to generate characters.  As I mentioned in my last post, a player can build a party of four characters.  These four characters can be one of four basic archetypes (or classes), that I will discuss in more detail later in this post.

The character creation screen once the game starts.
The character creation screen allows a player to visually create their characters by clicking in the boxes to start the generation process.  If they generate a character that they don't like, they can click on the same box again to replace a character they already generated.

The character creation screen with characters after they've been generated.

Once a slot is selected, the player will start by generating attributes.  Being as this is an old-school style CRPG, the rolls are completely random, but I have built the game so that no character ends up being useless.  Still, there's a lot of fun to be had in rolling attributes over and over again while you try to get the best possible scores. Admit did it at one time or another...

Attributes are generated on this screen.

Each character has four basic attributes that are used to help determine how good they are at various different things (like hitting a monster with a sword or disabling a complex lock).  Each one of these attributes is also tied to a class.

Strength -  Warriors benefit most from this attribute, as it grants bonus damage when using weapons.  Other classes can use it as well when they find themselves resorting to melee combat.

Intellect - Most important to Sorcerers, who use intellect to determine how many spell points they have.  A high score in intellect can also lead to additional damage with their spells.

Agility - Scouts need agility to perform special attacks successfully.  They can often get in critical strikes, and having a good agility score will make it easier for them to do so.  All classes can benefit from agility, which makes it harder for the enemy to hit.

Willpower - Priests use willpower to determine how much extra healing or damage their divine spells will do.  It also grants them a bonus on their spell points.  Additionally, all characters use willpower to resist magic when attacked by spells.

Character class selection screen.

As stated previously, characters can pick from four basic archetypes.  Since you may not be able to read the text on the picture above, I'll reprint it below:

Warrior - Warriors are masters of weapons and armor.  They can use any kind of weapon and any type of armor to help defeat their enemies in battle.  They have more Life Points than any other class.

Scout - Scouts excel at moving stealthily in order to sneak up on their enemies in combat.  They can use any sword or dagger and can wear light armors.  They don't have as many Life Points as a Warrior, but they can sometimes deal critical strikes in combat for extra damage.

Priest - Priests call upon the powers of the divine in order to heal their comrades and to smite their enemies. They are limited in their weapon selection and may only wear light or medium armor, but they have a good amount of Life Points.

Sorcerer - Sorcerers bend arcane energy to their will, allowing them to create damaging spells and protect themselves from strong enemies.  They may only use clubs or daggers in battle, can only wear cloth armors, and have fewer Life Points than any other class.

With the exception of picking a picture and icon combination for your character, that pretty much covers character creation.  I wanted to keep things as simple as old-school style choice, I suppose.

A character sheet example.

Of course, many things in the game are still being developed and could change over time.  But, the basics of the system are in place (a system of my own, since I cannot afford to license someone else's RPG system for this project).

So, until next time, I look forward to your feedback.


The first question someone reading this blog might ask is "What the hell is Lands of Adventure, and why should I care?"  Those are really good questions.  Luckily for you, I have the answers to those questions and I'm going to share them, free of charge.  Aren't you glad you kept reading?

Lands of Adventure is an old-school style computer role-playing game that is currently in development.  I've been working on it off and on for the past couple of months between going to school for computer programming and doing a million other things.  I have no idea when it will be finished or when it will be available, but I hope that it will be in my lifetime.

Naturally, there are other questions that usually arise when I mention my project, so I will aim to answer them here:

What is 'old-school syle' and what does it mean?

When I say 'old-school style,'  it means that I am building the kind of CRPG that I loved to play in my youth.  The game draws inspiration from the CRPGs that came and went in the 80s and 90s, like The Bard's Tale, Pool of Radiance, Wizardry and Phantasie.  In these games, you built a party of adventurers and headed out to kill monsters, gather treasure and fulfill quests.  The stories were relatively simple and straightforward, the battles were unforgiving, and death came often to parties who were caught unprepared.  Most importantly, they were fun.

What kind of features will the game include?

When I started working on this game, my first step was to think about what kind of features I wanted to include and what kinds of things I wanted the game to have.  What did I miss most from the games in those eras and what did I want to bring to fans of those games?

Right from the beginning, I wanted to include a turn-based combat system.  That's probably the feature I miss the most from modern day CRPGs.  But, I wanted to create a system using battle icons so that players had a visual reference rather than a text-based combat system that games like The Bard's Tale used.  The combat system in Lands of Adventure will be more akin to SSI's Phantasie series of games, which were the predecessors to their Gold-Box series of games (like "Pool of Radiance").

Additionally, I wanted players to be able to create a party of characters rather than just a single solo character.  Party-based adventuring is where the fun lies, I believe.  So, players will be able to create four characters and pick from four different archetypes (Warrior, Scout, Priest and Sorcerer).

Finally, I knew that I wanted some kind of pseudo 3D engine for exploring dungeons and such.  Taking a cue from the games of old, I have created a working 3D exploration engine that will bring back memories of playing Wizardry or Might & Magic II.  Players will use a 3D window to navigate through dungeons and evil strongholds. 

Are you doing this whole project yourself?

No.  I am doing all the programming and story development tasks.  But, the artwork either comes from public domain sources, or from an artist going by the name of Uatu (I assume that is not his real name).  He graciously allowed me to use his work in my program, and I'm thankful for that.  You can find his homepage here:

How much will the game cost?

It will cost me a lot of time.  But, I suppose that it will be worth it.  As for you guys, it won't cost a dime.  When it's done, or when it reaches a state where people can play with it, I'll release it as freeware.  The feedback I get and what I learn from this experience is far more important than any kind of money.

So, all I want is feedback.  Even before it's released.  If you think it looks great, let me know.  If you think it blows seven shades of monkey balls, be sure to let me know that too.  I can't fix it unless I know.

So, stay tuned for the next installment, where we'll look at character creation and you'll see some screenshots of the game...