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Combat Log is back (sort of)

Posted by JTippetts, 17 October 2013 · 451 views

Goblinson Crusoe Urho3D hex-based rpg turn-based rpg
Got the combat log back:
Posted Image


It doesn't store history beyond 64 messages, but it does have a scrollbar now so you can go back and review those last 64 messages. Currently, it's a global log but tonight I'm working on making them unit-specific, with interceptable global messages for events that need to hit all the logs. I'm working on the inventory system now, which is gonna involve digging into the particulars of Urho3D's drag-and-drop. Pretty curious to see how I end up implementing that.

I read the recent Rampant Coyote blog post about expendable items in RPGs, and it's gotten me thinking about expendable items in GC. I have a rather long history of playing roguelikes, especially Crawl and Nethack, and at the end of every game I always have just a huge collection of consumables that I was saving for great need. Often times, I'd even forgotten about some particular item that might have saved me from a messy death.

Consumables are a tough thing for me. I have a hoarder instinct. If something is rare and of limited use, then I can only justify using it in the most extreme of circumstances. That means I'll probably never use it, since I can always convince myself that the current circumstances aren't extreme enough, and that there is something worse lying ahead that I better save it for. I'm a pessimist, you see.

GC currently supports charged items that become unusable once the charges wear off, but I'm thinking of doing away with that. Either an item is so common that making it charged/expendable is sort of pointless, or it is so rare that I'm never going to actually use it. I'm actually doing some vigorous thinking about the interface I want to present to the player in general, and a number of my ideas do away with the traditional inventory altogether: something I had once latched onto as a good idea, especially if I do a hot-seat multiplayer mode, where watching someone do the inventory Tetris would be infuriating.

While it's been a bit of a brain-bender untangling the UI system, it's starting to pay off. As I write more boilerplate and become more familiar with how things work, I should be able to make more rapid progress with iterating on the UI system.

I'm also going to try to update more frequently. I've found that it helps me to stay motivated, even if (as with this post) I really don't have a great deal to say.




Hey, I'm saving those 99 elixirs for the last boss!

 

There's was this old and unsuccessful RPG for the Nintendo 64 called "Quest 64". While not very popular among RPG enthusiasts, it happens to be the first RPG I've ever played, so it's very nostalgic to me and I've beaten in at least eight times, maybe more. In Quest 64, you don't have money, and can't buy items. You only get items from dungeon chests and very rare monster drops. The primary items are ofcourse the ones that restore your health, and the ones that restore your mana.

 

Because there is a finite number of both in the game, I'd always save them as much as possible - but, tromping through dungeons and fighting bosses, occasionally the need to use one or two of them to survive became necessary - while regretting the use of it beforehand, after using it, it made winning the battle or getting safely out of the dungeon that much more enjoyable, because it was such a "close call", that I had to use my lifelines (to use a 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' gameshow term) - the usage of the item almost validated or confirmed the intensity of the struggle I just survived.

 

(Also in Quest 64, if you ever used all of the health items or all of the mana items of a specific type, you can get a free one in whatever town you are at - so you always can have one, but you can't have more than one unless you find them in dungeons)

 

In my favorite game of all time: King's Field (King's Field 2 in Japan), it takes a different route that is also satisfying to me: All items are finite and found in the world, with the exception of health and mana potions. Like the Zelda games, you get glass bottles, and early in the game you find a fountain that you can fill the bottles with. Returning to that fountain is the only way to replenish your consumable stocks (you unlock two shortcuts that lead back to the fountain for easier travel).

 

This method preserves the whole "danger of the world" and 'survival' feeling for me that Quest 64 also had, though it seems to lack the "validation of the struggle", because you know you have infinite potions where Quest 64 you had 'infinite' with only one potion at a time, or more than one at a time but finite.

 

Rhetorical designer question: What feelings are you wanting players to experience while playing Goblinson Crusoe, and how can you design your item usage to encourage or underline those feelings during gameplay?

That's a good question. And I shall ignore the rhetorical flag and answer it, sort of. When I first conceived of GC, the central tenet was "resource scarcity". I had built a procedural island demo as the very first playable prototype, but it wasn't until a couple days later, after watching Castaway for the umpteenth time, that I first visualized the main character as a Goblin on a raft and started thinking about what sort of scenario could take place on a sequence of randomly-generated islands.

The main idea was of using what you can find/scrounge up in order to first survive and eventually to thrive. I always had it in the back of my head that GC was an apprentice goblin wizard. After spending quite some time just trying to not get killed by creeps, you'd eventually (if you survived) attain the level of Master Goblin Wizard.

But even as a master wizard, there should always be that ever-lurking threat that it can all go sour at any time. Run out of some crucial spell component at the worst possible time, encounter a too-difficult pack that burns through your reserves leaving you empty when it's done, etc... Very much a castaway situation, where disaster is just a fall from a rock or a rotten tooth away.

A secondary tenet has always been one of crafting. It sort of fits the goblin wizard motif in my mind: fashioning charms and totems from assorted bones and bits that you find. Carve a staff from a magical tree branch and decorate it with fetishes to boost your favor with the lightning gods. That sort of thing.

So, the current operating idea I am on right now is that rather than a traditional inventory, your character maintains a Resource Inventory. It's pretty much just an inventory of crafting components. No inventory management, no stack limits or shuffling around.

There would be two chief gameplay modes (I hate modes, typically, but this idea sort of jives with me). The first mode, Base Mode, is you puttering around on your home island. Home island is fairly safe, but small and the resources are limited. In the beginning, you clean out a few critters (stocking their corpses away for food, of course) and cut down a few trees to build a workbench. The workbench allows you to craft other things, such as carving a rudimentary staff or assembling the pieces for a basic wizard's lab. Base Mode is where you make most of your preparations: carving runes into your staff to add usable combat skills to your repertoire, fashioning totems and fetishes to provide passive boosts, eventually perform complex minion-summoning or golem-constructing spells to provide battlefield companions, etc... You can upgrade your equipment from some of the rarer components you find as you progress, allowing you to upgrade the runes and totems and make yourself more effective in battle.

The second mode, of course, is Combat Mode. This is the turn-based hex combat you see in all the screens I've been posting. In Combat Mode is where you gather the various resources that you need to survive and progress from island to island.

In combat mode, most of your runes will burn resources when used. These resources consist of: Movement Points (all actions use them, including movement), Energy (Replenished by eating Food), and Crafting Components. For example, one of the first combat skills you can get is Hurl Log. It's crude, of course. You throw a chunk of wood. It burns 1 Wood, and (will) strike for small damage. Eventually, you can craft a Goblin Flint Striker that lets you combine a Flint and a Wood using the skill Hurl Flaming Log. This is the prototype skill you can see in the screenshot (which currently does nothing other than a glowy particle projectile, since I still haven't ported my payload components or battle stat systems over).

Using this craft-based system, I can still have the rarity and resource-scarcity of a consumable item. That is, you might have the skill Hurl Flaming Log, but without a Flint (more rare than Wood) you can't use it. And since Flints are used in other skills, you have to carefully conserve them.

Ideally, I'd like to provide a system as flexible, as far as options provided for the user, as a traditional inventory, but without forcing all the bookkeeping tasks of inventory management on the player. It might be an effort doomed to fail, but I'll give it a whack at least.

So I have to ask at this juncture: have you played Don't Starve?

 

It's pretty cheap on Steam right now, and it has a *lot* of the elements you are looking at. To my mind it pretty much exemplifies the trope of resource constrained survival alone in a harsh world.

I haven't played Don't Starve, although I've heard of it. Maybe I'll take a look, thanks for the refer.

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