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Inventory, Items, and Abilities

Posted by JTippetts, 08 February 2011 · 217 views

procedural random generation perlin noise
Started work on the inventory today: bags, boxes, etc... I'll be glad when this part is done, if feels too much like book-keeping. I also did a "magic numbers" push, and while there are still plenty of 'em left, damned if I didn't squash a whole boatload of the little buggers.

Item stacks. I've decided to not do stacking items for now, and not just because I'm a lazy freak. (I am.) But also because I have a feel for this game now, and I think an over-arching theme will be resource scarcity; and bag-space is just another resource that I want the player to have to manage carefully. Carrying around six stacks of 20 health potions isn't scarcity. Each and every slot that the player owns needs to be carefully devoted to that which will help his survival, and success or failure in each venture can come about as a result of the equipment carried. Now, I will implement various storage bins and chests as needed; I want people to be able to collect all manner of interesting things. But the personal bag-space of the player is going to be limited; how limited remains to be seen.

This is the fun stage of a project right now. The TODO list just keeps getting longer and longer, and it's a beautiful thing because it's no longer filled with things like "Implement the engine" but rather with things like "Consolidate item definitions and build a standard table structure", "Fix item picking, it's somehow broken", etc... Concrete, easily achievable tasks that I can pick and choose from to see some real progress made. It's difficult for me to get to this state, but once I get here it's awesome.

It's also kind of difficult, because now I'm into the thick of things, and every change or addition has consequences, many of them unforeseen. Codifying the item tables means coming up with a generalized structure of an item, which means coming up with the system for Using items, which has bearing on Combat Skills and Abilities, which means I need to codify a standard structure for them (no more "test projectile"), which means I need... well, you get the idea. But as complex and mind-boggling as it can be I think that this, right here, is the soul of game development for me: sorting order from the chaos of ideas and half-formed inspirations.

No screenies today, not much new to show visually, but I'll post something tomorrow when I've got bags and boxes somewhat working.




So, is there a story line for the game developing? Based on screenshots and your description of it as a survival game, tt feels kinda Goblinson Crusoe to me :D
Yeah, I'm kinda fleshing out a scenario where you are an apprentice goblin wizard teleported into the wilds by your master to continue your apprenticeship by not dying. You have to travel the islands to find food and raw materials to survive and to build the things you need to continue learning magic. I've got a crafting system in the works, that's very Horadric Cube-ish: ie, you drop in a stack of wood and a chunk of volcanic rock, hit the button, and out pops a limited-use wand of fireballs. Something to that effect. As you advance, and gain knowledge, and obtain access to more and rarer materials you can build more powerful 'Horadric Cubes' (I'm calling them workbenches, although not all of them are benches) that enable more powerful recipes. So far in my plan, power advancement is 100% equipment driven, no experience levels or permanent upgrades to your character. It would be entirely possible, through extreme stupidity, to lose everything and have to start from scratch with your starting equipment: a basic Drawing Board and maybe a Wand of Warm Puffs of Air. (Hard Mode anyone?)
Goblinson Crusoe FTW. Props to yckx for that one.

Trouble with this whole procedurally generated, open-ended game stuff is that you end up feeling like no matter what you do, there is only more of the same to come. Progression through something requires structure for me (but then WOW bored my tits off).

Biggest challenge in my project is making levels. You can make them by typing something and pressing enter. Use that to tell a simple but interesting story. Too much freedom can lead to disinterest.

Just my 2c.
Yeah, that is definitely true, to a certain extent. My problem with procedurally generated systems is that so often the procedural system is the whole point of the game. The designer just makes a big sandbox, and despite all the hype, sandboxes to me just aren't fun after the first couple hours. For me, the key is to provide the same kind of structure and even narrative flow that you can get in a packaged-content game. That's hard, but I've got one or two ideas that I'd like to play with.

1) A lot of sandbox games don't provide a goal, or push you toward that goal very strenuously if they do. I think that even in open games, there needs to be a goal, some kind of "win" condition. In the case of Goblinson Crusoe (which, yeah, really is an awesome name; kudos yckx) that win condition is "become a master wizard." This could possibly be accomplished by building a master-level artifact, or by defeating a master-level wizard. Survival just for the sake of survival gets boring.

2) A lot of open-world sandboxes rely on emergent behavior for their entertainment. Emergent behavior is cool on a certain level, but doesn't really scratch every itch. In order to provide a narrative flow, there has to be something controlling that narrative other than just the rules of a complex system. Some sort of director, making things happen. Has it been awhile since the player fought a big battle? Have the director stage an attack on his home camp. Stuff like that. I could have the director keep track of current time spent in the game, or current distance from "home base", and scale encounters accordingly. This one could be an interesting challenge to try to implement.

3) Reducing the feeling of "sameness". This is a hard one to do, and takes a lot of effort. Different tilesets, different island layouts, etc... can go a long way toward helping here, but all those take work. Different encounters set-up by the director can help as well. The director can build special islands to provide an extra-special challenge: maybe an island occupied by a human fort and patrolling human soldiers, or a pirate cave haunted by ghosts. This hinges on a complex and thorough world generator, but I think this task is made a bit easier in that my islands are discrete levels, basically unconnected or unrelated to neighboring islands, so I don't have to worry so much about the neighborhood and making things "fit" together.

4) Long-term expansion and tweaking of the game, continually adding features over the life-cycle of the game. Kind of like how Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft are always under development. The anticipation of new features can keep people on the hook for awhile.
On rare occasions a muse whacks me with her board-with-a-nail-in-it of inspiration.
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