Getting Better

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 8 comments

There are certain things that come with being an independent developer. You have to become a business.. a brand. It’s no longer just about building the game. You need to worry about business and marketing. Public perception can feel very important.

I admit I’ve never been very good at the business side of things. But an independent developer is also still a person, and sometimes that’s the weak link.

Lately I have been going through a rough time. That’s a bit of an understatement, but the details aren’t important right now. The bottom line is that I haven’t been able to get much done on the game, and that’s why I’ve been quiet.

I will finish Monsters’ Den Godfall. The game is not cancelled, or anything like that. I don’t have the money to complete it (in terms of paying contractors) so I will still have to try a smallish Kickstarter at some point. But not yet.

I appreciate the messages and questions about the game . I’m incredibly grateful that you are still looking forward to the game and following it’s progress. I don’t take the interest for granted at all– it’s the most precious commodity a small developer can have. Lately I haven’t been equipped to steward that interest properly. I’m trying to figure out how to do all of this better.

Things are not back to normal yet. I have help and support, but it’s going to take some more time. I may be quiet again for a while.

Thanks for your understanding and your patience. You can still feel free to contact me here or in private.

 

 

 

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Godfall Screenshots

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 13 comments

It’s been a while since the last update, but the game continues to progress. I’m still working towards launching a small Kickstarter to get the funds I need to pay for the rest of the art. I’ve also recently taken on a couple of weeks’ worth of contract work to help pay my own bills. It only makes me more excited to get back to working on Godfall in earnest.

Here are some current screenshots showing various parts of the game. You can see the evolution of some of the interface, as well as the dungeon and battle screens.

 

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Loading and Saving

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 14 comments

Traditionally in Monsters’ Den the game saves automatically in the background. There’s no need to explicitly save the game, and there’s also no rolling back to an earlier state. What happened, happened.

While I do like this aspect I don’t think it’s core to the experience. Despite some vague similarities, the game isn’t a roguelike. So for Godfall I’m strongly considering moving to a more conventional load/save scheme. Unlike the “slots” in Book of Dread, you’ll be able to have many saves per campaign. The game will still create autosaves occasionally, but you can also manually save as well as load an earlier game.

There are some strong reasons to do this, not the least of them technical. With Chronicles, especially, there were all sorts of issues with saved games failing or becoming corrupted. It was (and still is) kind of a nightmare. Manual saves are less likely to break, and it’s more likely that I can communicate to the user that it’s happened. (Often with Chronicles it seems like Flash wouldn’t save properly as the game exited, and in that case it’s too late). It’s also a somewhat more natural way to do it in terms of player expectations. Most games work like this. Lastly, it accommodates a wider range of playstyles– if some people want to keep loading games until they get every fight absolutely perfect, why not let them? I could still add an Ironman mode.

The downsides are that it loses a little bit of Monsters’ Den feel, and that it creates the possibility that some progress could be lost if the game closes unexpectedly or the user forgets to save.

But really, I want to hear what you think. Is this something you care about?

 

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Company Advancement

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 13 comments

Character advancement has always been a big part of Monsters’ Den. That remains true, but in Godfall you also have a wider responsibility– to advance your Mercenary Company as a whole. Here are some of the ways you can do just that.

Company Level

When members of your Company level up, the Company earns some experience. When enough experience is earned, the Company itself levels up. This represents the institutional knowledge and wisdom of the Company as a group. At each Company Level, the player may select a Doctrine from a new category.

Doctrines

Doctrines are bonuses that help to specialise your Company. They represent different ways that the Company can be managed and focused. There are six categories, with three Doctrines in each. Only one Doctrine in each category can be selected, although the selection can later be changed for a price.

For example, in the category Missions, the options are:

Back Channels - More missions are available to choose from each month.

Mission Planning - Increases the number of missions that can be accepted at once.

Bounty Hunting – Increases the gold earned from bounties. Reduces the Influence cost to request bounties. (I’ll talk more about bounties another time).

Reputation

Each of the (currently seven) human factions in the game holds an opinion of your Company. This opinion can go up or down depending on your actions, but most commonly by completing missions that impact on their interests. At certain thresholds of reputation, each faction can extend additional perks to the Company.

Influence

Other than Gold, Influence is the most important resource in the game. Influence represents favours owed and the ability to convince others to do what you need. It is mostly earned though completing missions, and can be spent on numerous things.

The Keep

The Keep is the home base of your Company, and provides several unique services. The range of services can be increased through construction of new buildings within the Keep. These buildings are powerful, but require Influence to build and have an ongoing gold upkeep cost. Some of the construction options include:

Quartermaster - a special shop that allows you to purchase rare and otherwise unavailable items using Influence.

Reliquary - allows items with Relic stats to be installed, providing their bonuses to the whole Company. (I wrote about this years ago, it’s still in the game).

Library - allows research into the location of unique Artifacts, generating quests to retrieve them.

Callstone - enables the party to teleport directly back to the Keep from the field.

 

 

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Taking Inventory

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 25 comments

At the moment I’m in the middle of a big re-design of the inventory system in Monsters’ Den. For better or worse, you spend a lot of time interacting with inventory in these games– so it’s a very important system.

If there’s anything you love / hate about the inventory in Monsters’ Den or other RPGs, now is the time to tell me.

 

VERY WIP. No new interface art yet.

VERY WIP. No new interface art yet.

 

You can see that I’ve abandoned the “sliding panels” approach from Chronicles as space-inefficient. Now it’s a single large box with tabs for bags. But the core of the new design is to combine the Inventory, Shop and Loot screens into one. The layout and method of interaction are now always the same. Any inventory interaction you can perform- whether it’s selling, equipping, moving or using an item- can be done from any of these screens.

This is very important to me, because the ideal I want to accomplish for this game is that you only have to look at an item once. In most RPGs, you find an item and a loot interface pops up. You look at the items and decide whether to take them. Then you go into your inventory and find them, compare them to your current equipment, and perhaps equip them. Then later you visit a shop and sell the unused items (after first looking at them again and making sure you don’t need them). It is so much cleaner, especially in a largely loot-driven game, to be able to do all of that at the moment of actually finding the item.

(Oh, and there’s no more concept of discarding items- an item that leaves your inventory is always sold.)

In previous games, the shop interfaces have always been different to the inventory interface. In Book of Dread the shop used a list inventory unlike the party’s grid inventory. This was just so that I could show the item’s name, instead of a wall of icons. Having got over my fear of the wall of icons, Chronicles had a shop that was controlled by clicking on icons, whereas inventory operations were all based on dragging items. My reasoning for this was straightforward- in the context of the shop, there is only one interaction you can have with each item. If you own it, you want to sell it. If it’s the shop’s item, you want to buy it. So I went ahead and boiled that down to a single click. These reasons seemed good at the time, but in both of the these cases the overall interface complexity was increased and the user was asked to understand a new set of behaviours. I don’t think this is desirable any more.

The loot screen has always needed to serve a couple of functions: you need to be able to choose which items to take and which to discard (sell), and (later, in Chronicles) you need to be able to choose where in your inventory the item goes. These are interactions already present in the inventory screen, so combining them makes so much sense I’m annoyed I didn’t think of it earlier. The loot is implemented as another (temporary) bag, with some additional features (like auto-loot) within it.

This approach also has obvious benefits in terms of the amount of work it requires from me- one interface instead of three. Or it would if I hadn’t already built all three before embarking on the redesign. Game development!

 

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Elegance vs. Simplicity

Category: Monsters Den ChroniclesMonsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 31 comments

When I was implementing the (new in Chronicles) “action clock”-driven battle system, I was faced with a problem. In the previous system every character took one turn per round, and so regeneration and skill effect durations were all tied to turns. But now having a higher Quickness stat meant that a character would actually have more turns. On top of the obvious benefits of acting more often, they would regenerate more quickly and effects on them would expire more quickly.

I spent a long time thinking about how to address this. Eventually, I settled on what seemed an elegant solution: since the action clocks filled up in real time, why not use that time to measure effect durations and space out regeneration ticks? It put all characters on a level playing field and helped tie all of those systems together. Unfortunately, what I’ve only come to realize lately is that while I was in love with the elegance of it, from a player’s perspective it is terrible.

Elegant it may have been, but it was also far too complex. To answer a simple question like “will my character get a turn before this effect expires” requires either an intuitive grasp of the timings that a player is not likely to attain, or a large amount of additional user interface. I did my best with the Chronicles interface, but it was already far too crowded and so this kind of vital information was not readily available. That’s bad. It cripples the strategic element of the game when a player doesn’t feel they have the information they need to make the correct decisions. I need to fix it.

So, with Godfall I have a couple of options:

  1. Improve the interface so that the system is more comprehensible to users
  2. Move back to using character turns

I am heavily leaning towards option 2. I’m less convinced now that the variation between characters is a huge problem, and there are ways to partially mitigate it. For instance, regeneration values can be higher on heavier equipment. I’m growing convinced that this is one of the missteps I made in the transition from Book of Dread to Chronicles.

 

 

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Faction Preview: Renouncers

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 7 comments

I’ve been sick for the past three weeks, so nothing has gotten done. Let’s try to get back on track.

Renouncers are one of several new factions in Godfall. They are humans who reject the rule of the Clerics and the dominion of Aristei, and choose to flee the safety and security of the cities. They are an uneasy mix of free spirits, criminals, heretics and madmen. They band together only in the interests of survival.

 

 

As you might expect, individual Renouncer bands govern themselves, submitting to no higher authority. Some act as simple bandits, taking what they need from the unwary. Other bands seek to avoid any further contact with other humans. In either case they are fugitives, and it sometimes falls to the Companies to track them down. Once captured or killed, they are delivered to the great prison work-camp known as the Hive.

Humanity is too precious to waste.

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Brief Note: Movement

Category: Monsters' Den: Godfall Comments: 15 comments

In the previous Monsters’ Den games, I’ve resisted adding a movement skill to combat. My feeling was that party positioning was one of the key tactical considerations, and finding the right balance and living with the tradeoffs of a given configuration was important. Being able to change it at the start of every battle seemed like enough flexibility.

The Minotaur in Book of Dread could shuffle the party formation, but that was just part of the challenge of dealing with that particular monster. However, in Chronicles these types of abilities became more prevalent. Additionally, some player classes got the ability to change their position– but not all. As I move to push these position-changing abilities further in Godfall, this disparity starts to seem like a bad idea. So I’ve changed my mind.

 

move_skill

 

This is a standard skill like Pass Turn and Retreat. All characters will have access to it (including monsters). It costs no power but it’s a full action and has no other effects, which leaves room for class-specific movement powers to still be  useful. I don’t think it will end up devaluing the initial formation too much, because using a whole turn on simply moving is not something done lightly.

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Creature Feature II

Category: Monstrum Comments: 5 comments

Here’s some more new creature art, originally posted over on the Facebook page.

You’ve probably also noticed that the site has a new look. An overhaul was long overdue, and I’m not completely happy with this one yet– but it’s better. I still need to go through and refresh the actual content on the pages.

 

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Putting the Pieces in Place

Category: Monsters' Den: GodfallMonstrum Comments: 10 comments

Things have been quiet again, at least publicly. As well as working on development, I’ve been trying to figure out everything I need to have in place to formally “announce” (or re-announce) the game.

For an indie developer targeting the PC, the importance of getting on Steam really cannot be overstated. In almost all cases, not being on Steam will doom your game to obscurity and failure. To test the waters, I created a Greenlight Concept page for Godfall. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response so far, and it’s settled into a decent chart position in Concepts, without any promotion from me at all (I haven’t previously posted the link here or to social media).

That’s great, as far as it goes. But Concepts is not “real” Greenlight, and votes there don’t ultimately count towards getting your game listed on Steam. The success of the final Greenlight campaign is so important that I’m terrified of screwing it up. I need to be ready, and so I need to:

  • Get the game into an attractive state. At the very least I need to be able to generate screenshots and videos that I’m proud of, but a playable demo would be ideal.
  • Have good promo material. This overlaps with the previous one.
  • Continue to grow the game’s social media presence. This is something I can do now, to ensure I can get back in touch with people when their attention will really count.
  • Improve press contacts. This is a problem because working in Flash for so long made me complacent. In Flash you don’t have to hustle to get eyes on your game, the portal’s do it for you. I’ve had years of good opportunities to work on this and I’ve squandered them.
  • Get a better web presence. If I start getting publicity and more eyes on the game, I need to be able to make a good impression. Redesigning this website will be a priority. I would also love to be able to get a couple of URLs related to the game, but I’m not willing to pay what the squatters are asking. Even negotiating with them makes me furious.

If I managed to accomplish all of that, the time will definitely be right to throw everything I have behind a Greenlight campaign.

However, there’s also the real possibility that my money won’t stretch far enough to do what I need to, and I may have to consider crowdfunding. That’s a scary prospect for me. I’d really prefer to avoid it if I can, and thankfully I still have a while before I have to decide one way or the other. It can be a great generator of publicity, though, and that might end up even more pivotal than the money. If I do have to seek crowdfunding, it would probably be worth starting Greenlight early to run in parallel.

This was a bit of a boring business-y update, but that’s my life at the moment. Here’s a picture to make up for it– the kind of heartwarming, truly emotionally affecting moment that you can only get from Monsters’ Den.

 

art_skeletons

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