My limited development time is being divided between the combat/encounter system, and everything else. I find that things actually progress faster this way than trying to focus on one thing in its entirety. Also, this helps me work out how the different parts of the game will interact with each other.
At this point I'd say combat is 70-90% done. The rest of the game should pick up quickly once it's finished, because my skills and natural inclinations are stronger in other areas (which is one reason I focused on combat first.) In particular the building system is probably going to be the next big thing I tackle after combat's finished.
The game world in terms of physical maps is expanding, in the sense of each area becoming larger and in the sense that I'm conceiving of the content as more sandboxy than I was. This grows out of the fact of randomly placed monsters on the map being replaced with random encounters. With random monsters I had to channel players into narrower areas to make sure that monsters and players didn't just keep missing each other. With encounters being determined basically by number of steps (with a significant random factor, obviously), not only do I not need to "herd" players and monsters together but having more expansive areas and longer potential distances between areas gives me more room to work with in terms of varying encounter rates, and makes such variance significant.
To put it simply: if there are only twenty steps between the town and the dungeon then pretty much everyone will either get zero to one encounters along the way. If the path is longer and more winding, then the ability to avoid encounters becomes more significant... and the ability to take/make shortcuts becomes a way to avoid encounters, too.
My character generation system is continuing to evolve to allow for more (and finer degrees of customization of abilities. Players who appreciate highly flexible and deep character generation will benefit from that; players who just want to jump in will find the "pick a template" system no more complicated for the behind-the-scenes changes, and will have more interesting choices from among the cookie-cutter classes.
One of the big changes is that Fighting Style has changed from a "pick one"/all-or-nothing system to something more like Primary Skills. You get two points to put in one or two different styles. Each style has some benefits that apply even when you're using other weapons/tactics, so you can go for interesting synergies, or you can pick one style to focus on, or you can pick two not-really-compatible styles so you have more options in combat.
This changes how the Combat Primary Skill interacts with Fighting Styles; before it just basically increased the benefits of your Fighting Style. Now it gives you one extra point to put in Fighting Styles per level of Combat PS. Again you can stack all the points five deep in one place, or spread them out. First thing I did after making this change was make a non-traditional "tank" character, an unarmored spear-wielding monk who draws aggro like crazy but is capable of (automatically) fighting off a whole crowd of enemies.
It can take a deep understanding of the system to figure out how to make something like that effectively, but once it's made anybody can use it... it's no more complicated than fighting with any other character. And that's exactly what I'm going for. Deep strategy and customization for people who want those things, fast and fun gameplay that's accessible to people who just want to hack and slash. (Or to build, or to socialize, or whatever.)
The other big change is that I've upped the number of points for Primary Skills from 3 to 4, with the maximum level of any of them at start remaining 3. When trying out different character classes, I kept lamenting that I didn't have one more point to put in _____... not for reasons of power level, exactly. If I thought the power levels were off I'd just increase them across the board. But it's a matter of definition. I like the idea of characters being able to focus narrowly or broadly, but I don't like the idea that all players who choose a narrow focus (and let's face it, the majority of players will pick one area to maximize, if they have the chance) will be nigh-identical. Now everyone who wants to be a "pure" fighter will have Combat PS 3, but we'll still see a divide between slightly faster and more alert fighters who have their extra point in Exploration PS, or tougher ones with their point in Survival PS. The rogueiest rogues might all sink points in Stealth PS to max it out, but some of them will put the leftover point in Combat PS to maximize their backstabbing and assassinating, some will put it in Exploration for mobility, some will put it in Social or Luck or Mechanisms for whatever various reasons.
And finally, I'm taking a Jobs system that I devised to be part of the later progression and making it part of character creation. The plan was that at levels 3, 6, and 9 you'd get a point to put into a Job, which would have benefits comparable to your Primary Skills but more specific.
Combat PS gives +25 to all attacks, Undead Slayer gives +25 to attacks against undead. Mechanisms gives +25 to anything having to do with... mechanisms, including locks and traps. Burglar gives +25 to just dealing with locks and traps.
Burglary is the specific reason I decided to push Jobs up to level 1. I couldn't see making everyone take a point of Mechanisms PS to get one of the standard fantasy thief abilities, but I couldn't see my way towards fitting lock/trap-fu into either Stealth or Exploration.
And here was a sub-system of the game that allowed you to basically pick a single area to excel in. So, I moved it up. You get one Job Point at level one. Not only does this help you make an archetypical fantasy thief/rogue, but it makes just about any other character concept more easy to convey. It gives another way for characters to broaden (or heighten) their focus. It gives another way for two people who pick the same main Primary Skill to make their characters different.
It doesn't actually add much complexity to the game. No Job has its own mechanics or game systems. If you add Undead Slayer to your "Paladin" character it doesn't give you any new active abilities or hotkeys or anything you need to keep track of. You'll just be better at fighting the living dead than other comparable enemies. If you add Merchant you'll get slightly better prices and succeed more often when you haggle.
I've filled in some entries on the RetroQuest wiki, and I have some more that I wrote on my laptop during a power outage. I haven't edited the main page yet, though... don't plan on doing that until I have a good baseline set of articles for it to link to.
Aug 22 2011, 11:59 am