DoC for everyone!

** UPDATE.  Below is a post I made in October 2015 when I decided to make DoC available to Android and all iOS phones and tablets.  Since then, Android app has been released on 1 June 2016 : GOOGLE PLAY STORE LINK **

 

Well, almost everyone.  I have exciting news: I am now in the process of porting Dungeons of Chaos to the Unity5 engine.

Which will mean DoC will be available to all iOS and Android devices (*insert boring disclaimer about old operating systems here*).

I had a few other game projects running but have concluded that DoC is where both my passion and my expertise lies, and I have just got so much positive feedback from fans that I think wideing the fan base by making it cross-platform is the way to go.

There are obvious challenges in doing so, which I was aware of before, and here is the latest take on them:

(1) User interface, how can I make it work on devices with screens as small as a smartphone?

This was my biggest concern.  In the existing build under XCode, it was always the question what would prevent an iPhone port.  Answer was the UI challenges.  Now, through gaining more expertise in Unity5 via my other 2 projects, I think I am comfortable finding a way.  There are still about a dozen buttons that are relevant while wandering around or fighting mobs, but I will probably make some dynamically disappear and reappear as relevant.  Bars with available fight spells and skills will probably slide in and out of the right side, so I can retain enough space for the fight arena.  The issue under XCode was that I did not even use buttons, I just used layers in the Tilemap and registered the clicks on the respective Tiles.  So this main obstacle is now theoretically resolved as I know what to do.

(2) Fight arena and map display, how can you accurately click the tile you want to click on a screen as small as a smartphone?

 Several solutions, all are technically possible I just need to make a decision: in overland map mode, I will introduce a zoom function.  problem solved.  everything you need to see from a distance you can still see when zoomed out, everything you need to interact with would be close by so zoomed-in view will be fine for that.

In fight mode, the issue is more complex.  In fact, the reliance on click-to-bash actions may be something I need to rethink.  I know the auto-fight option is everyone’s darling now so a zoomed out view would be fine since you hardly ever need to hit a specific tile accurately at all.  But for those boss fights where you use specific / daily / powerful skills and spells, I will need to think of a way that you can see a lot of the arena while still being able to select a target.  I don’t want to introduce target lists etc, that would be a major deviation of how the engine was built and take too much time to change.

So I will now go full steam into the Unity development, and hopefully in a few months many more people can enjoy Dungeons of Chaos.  Since I don’t want to remove the current DoC App from the App Store, I will probably give it a new name like “Dungeons of Chaos – next generation”, which will also hint at the Chapter3 development of having a bunch of adventurers trying to find out what happened to the initial set of heroes…

Volker

this is how the main inventory screen will look like for example, feels nice and readable on my iPhone:

(ignore the character pictures in lieu of items etc., I just put dummies into the images)

Unityprototype_inventory

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Chapter upon Chapter …

Have just taken stock of all the bits and pieces I still need to do and conceded two things:

a) once finished it would create a ‘Chapter 2’ that is about 4 times bigger than Chapter 1.

b) I got no chance finishing this in a few weeks.

So I am about to re-define where I will draw the line, I think if Chapter2 has twice the depth and content than Chapter1 then it will please the masses, and waiting much longer for an even bigger release would not actually be a good idea because it means people have put down the game for too long.

So I am now taking the following into consideration when defining Chapter2, with a view to release before the end April:

– includes ability to change SOME classes (where the storyline develops that you encounter the respective guild: warriors, knights, priests for sure, probably also geomancer, exorcist, assassin.  unlikely: warlock, marksman, samurai).  I want class progression to be linked to side-quest achievements so that is why it requires content being built. Half-way through this and about to build the actual user interface for it which should not be too complicated.

– includes class insignia. DONE.

– includes new spells and skills.  Still a fair bit to do on this front.  I am not short on ideas but I want things to be balanced, so am trading carefully.

– more challenging monsters. DONE.

– enough off the track exploring.  DONE for the maps developed so far.  Still need to beef up the northern valley, swamp, frost mines.

– NPC depth and some interesting characters and jokes.  on the back burner.  hope to get this done when all else is finished.

– some meaningful randomised locations, with two being infinite re-creating locations.  for those that like to grind.  Concept is done but they are not built yet.  I want to include a way that these have rare chances of spawning a really challenging location.  just need to find some headspace to design this.

– what will not be included in Chapter2 under this approach is a direct confrontation with the evil forces, that will then be Chapter3.  Maybe I will make it so that they have split up to spread terror and you can kill some of the winged ones in specific settings in Chapter2.

If people want to help me, they could:

– email me with some suggestions on spells and skills.  Always looking for something that is not just brute force but a balanced special feature that adds tactical depth: something powerful but short range, something area effect but not good against all types of enemies.  Something that drains a lot of spell points. Something only useable once or twice a day.  Something that leaves the user/caster with a debut (slow/paralysed/stunned for a while).

– some suggestions for pure stand-alone mini locations/hidden treasures

– funny little villages. I have to build some for the valley and these take time.  Something like the “All the way INN”.

Email me at dungeonsofchaos @ gmail.com with any suggestions!

And thanks for waiting.  I promise it will be worth it.

Volker

 

Balancing

Ok, this one is a tough topic.  Balancing.

Can mean many things to many people.  One aspect is: if the game has replay value where you can select different classes, races etc., then it should retain a certain debility/difficulty.  I don’t believe in that concept, rather it actually gives a different (=interesting) game feel if you had experienced an easy game and then you have to think a bit harder playing with more complex characters.  Or you had a tough run and can then enjoy blasting monsters away and exploring everything more easily.  So I am not concerned if someone says it is hard to complete the game with monks and barbarians only.  It may still be interesting to try it.  My main rule is: SAME IS LAME.  And another rule I follow is: I don’t want to claim that I know what exactly it is about my game that is fun.  May be different for everyone.  You can play it in many different ways, for example setting a high or a low difficulty.  OR grinding and exploiting loopholes/spawners etc.

And that leaves me to the second type of Balancing: to make sure a monster is worth twice the XP of another one because it is twice as hard.  This is a type of balancing that I would like to achieve, but find really hard to do.  First of all a monster is hard depending on how you approach it.  You will find the PESTILENT SLIMES in Chapter2 really tough the first time you come across them, but later you know how to deal with them.  STONE GOLEMS are a problem if you have a melee-focussed party, but with a few spell casters or archers that can stay out of reach, you will be fine (eventually).  But if you notice something REALLY out of whack in that regard, please let me know.  I think everyone is mature enough not to exploit something and than complain later that he could, but some balance in how players are rewarded is my goal.

Another type of Balancing is relevant for multiplayer games: there the developer needs to make sure the player does not feel disadvantaged vs. other players due to the choices they made.  IMHO: that is bullshit.  That makes a lot of games LAME.  They try to make up for it by other means but I think that approach is futile.  Choices are only meaningful if they alter the outcome.  If all big choices lead to the same outcome (class choice), and all small choices lead to disastrous outcomes if not made perfectly (min/max-ing), then that is not a game for me.

So please enjoy my game in whatever form you like.  If you just love trawling through the very last corner of every randomly generated orc lair, be my guest, it is there for the taking.  If you love to spend ALL your money on that slightly off-balanced powerful item with the unusually low price, go for it.  I think there are certain elements of the game where your exploits or too-perfect choices can make the fights quite easy, but I think that is fine with me.  You should decide for yourself whether you counter that with a high difficulty setting.

Feedback welcome, let me know how you experience DoC in that regard: any dull stretches of gameplay? or is it particularly pleasing in that you found a way you love to play it?  Leave a comment below, keen to hear your views.

Monster behaviour

So, I think it would be an interesting read if I explained how monster behaviour is configured in DoC.  Apologies if not.

I would not call my monster behaviour routine ‘AI’ because for me ‘intelligence’ would entail that the entity would either make an attempt to define winning vs. loosing behaviour and make preferential choices, or (far beyond that) observe and understand the rules that a fight follows and define experimental strategies.  Computer enemies in most games do neither of these two.  Mine is no exception.

That is simply because half-arsed AI is not impressive or enjoyable at all.  Predictable but unique monster behaviours is however.  You learn how a monster behaves and adapt, preferably as a required step to actually beat it.

So here is how monsters behave in DoC (as at 1.6.4.  Maybe I will expand this later):

Each monster has a starting number of spell points, and a certain extent of ability to regenerate them. For some this is relevant, other monsters don’t use spell points at all.

Each monster then has a unique set of actions (between 2 and 12 is normal), each consisting of:

– the minimum and maximum distance to the closest player, as a condition to determine if an action is considered when it is the monsters turn.

– required pre-condition.  this is also checked to see if the action is ‘available’.  The boss spider for example has an action that spawns a brawler spider, but only if the precondition ‘50% hp’ is met.  So essentially the boss spider spawns an ally when it lost half its hit points. a really good trigger mechanism that most games use for boss monsters for example, makes the fight tougher after initially looking to work out or the player.  ‘placetomove’ is another common precondition used for the ‘advance’ action.  most actions have ‘none’ though.

– spell points required. zero for most actions, but spell casters obviously have spells that manifest themselves as actions, and they can run out of spell points to use these.  There is also a monster action called ‘blood ritual’ which has a negative spell points requirement, effectively meaning that the monster recharges its spell points.

– ‘recharge needed’ and ‘recharge counter at start’ combined are a very important parameter. walking or hitting or shooting takes time, but those basic actions do not have a recharge counter.  any special ability does though.  for example an orc may call for help, effectively spawning another orc or two at the fight arenas edge.  This ability has a ‘recharge needed’ of 700, which equates to about 7 turns.  The ‘counter at start’ is 400 so at the start of the fight the orc is 3 turns away from having this action available to him.  Setting ‘counter’ to 1000001 and ‘at start’ to 1000000 effectively means a monster does something ONCE but never again, and very early in the fight.

– ‘chance if possible’ is the next parameter.  this is very important.  if an action has all its preretirements met (distance, spell points, recharge counter) it is included in the list of available actions at the monster’s turn.  Out of those actions, each has a chance of being chosen, proportionate to its ‘chance’ parameter against all the others. So if I really wanted that skill with a 1000001 recharge counter to be used ONCE and at the very first turn, I would give it a high chance as well.  The “50% HP” action from the boss spider is such an example, when it is available I want it to be used as an absolute priority.

– ‘time required’.  Once the action takes effect, this is a timer to determine when it is again the monsters turn.

The above determines the behaviour in terms of choosing actions.  Actions include:

– moving towards players

– moving away from players

– hitting a target close by

– shooting from a distance (min distance would usually be 2 and max distance would be the range of the attack)

– ‘shooting’ an area effect spell

– blast: hit everyone in a set distance from the caster

– spawn someone, either close to caster, at edge of arena, or close to players

– heal himself or others

– buff himself or allies

– debuff players (cursing)

– write a message to the fight log

– dying

In combination, you can create really unique behaviour. For example in Chapter2, an enemy will summon a lava orb next to the player that explodes a short time after.

The lava orb is a monster with the following actions:

1) message “The strange ball starts to vibrate…” – super high chance to be used, super high recharge with counter filled up (=so not used more than once), so this will be the first action.  time it takes = 100 so the next action is 100 ticks later.

2) blast: fire damage to all <2 away.  super high chance to be used, super high recharge with counter 99 ticks away from being full.  so this 2nd action taken effectively after the message above.  time it takes = zero.  so the orb does another action right after.

3) die.  recharge = 99 ticks away from being used but super low chance to be picked.  only picked because it is the only action left available.

So the above is how a bomb behaves.

More normal monsters are easier to model of course, such as an orc:

– ‘advance’ with 500 chance to move forward a step. used when min distance to next player is 2.

– ‘melee’ if in range 1.

– ‘buff’ to use a rage skill every 400 ticks (recharge).  any such effects has many more parameters of course (what is buffed: accuracy, evasion, damage etc.) and a timer how long it lasts.

I hoped that provided some interesting insight how monster behaviour is created.  Feel free to comment or suggest improvements.

6 weeks in — great reception drives great motivation

6 weeks in and the reception from the RPG community has been very positive.

Follow THIS link to see ALL reviews (globally, all regions) for this App to date, really proud about the great reception so far!  There is almost a clean 5-star feedback so far.  The LITE version (aka ‘demo’) allows everyone to test the game before spending money on it, which really has gotten a lot of positive feedback as well from those that have found it not the type of game for them.

Big thank you to the fans!

If there is anything particular you really loved and want to see more of in Chapter 2, please reply to this post or email me at dungeonsofchaos @ gmail.com.  I am working on Chapter2, having just filled an A3 sheet of paper with a font size 4 writing full of the core story.  Filling over 20 locations already, now adding optional side quests, achievements requirement to be allowed to change player classes (warrior, knight, priest, exorcist, marksman, wizard, warlock, geomancer …).  Lots of work, as I also want to expand the skills and spells and build some intricate monster abilities and tactics.  You will find Chapter 2 generally a bit harder in terms of winning fights because I think I underestimated the expertise of my main target audience.

The first month of being an App owner

It has just been one month now since I released Dungeons of Chaos.  Being my first App I have really had a roller coaster ride in the first weeks.  First surprised that everything works smoothly, then a few hectic updates as some (smaller) bugs did pop up.

And daily Sales stats are certainly keeping a developer on the edge of their seat, unfortunately as was to be expected with an App that is neither multi-platform nor trying to appeal to modern real-time or first person enthusiasts, the sales are not impressive.  But I was not making this game to make a lot of money (and I think the price I set reflects that).  I wouldn’t mind that of course but I set out building this game wanting the kind of game I could not find myself.  Something that lets me spend timeless hours exploring the developer’s imagined world with bits of detail here and there to make that enjoyable.  And amass cool loot and beat the crap out of many monsters.

That seems to have worked even better than I imagined.  The feedback and reviews I get are very good, and drive my motivation to build Chapter 2.  I am still trying to understand how the AppStore works, apparently unless you have 5 or more ratings in a country they don’t show themselves to the user in that country, even if other country have plenty.  Some similar imaginary border seems to apply to reviews.  So worldwide (full version), ALL ratings are 4 or 5 stars.  That makes me very happy.  And the reviews so far really excite me.  I will paste them into the bottom of this post.

So as reviews come in (and reports of bugs subside), I am really pumped to flesh out the next Chapter.  I don’t want to give away too much, a few visual appetisers are included in the SNEAK PEAK section.  I will keep adding to that as well over the next weeks.  I have a good storyline going so far, have defined over 15 static maps/locations of which some are as big as the island was, and a few randomised locations including one that allows for unlimited replay opportunity for those that really love grinding.  And I think visually it will not be repetitive at all.  The monsters are all additional new types to expand the repertoire (including the grandpa of the young dragon you may have killed in Chapter 1), and the locations include an icy mountain pass and valley, an elf city high in the trees, a foresaken old battleground, the depths below the Lord’s castle, a fortress sieged and taken over by minotaurs, a swamp, a druid’s cove, an outlaw encampment, some old mines, the valley that connects most of these places and where a lot of the nasties will be that started the adventure, etc. etc.  And some odd places that can best be described as ‘chaos rifts’.

Thanks for everyone so far that has played it and fed back their thoughts, appreciation, suggestions and encouragement.  Keep checking this site, and watch out for an exciting update in March!

Volker