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GrindQuest - a browser based casual strategy RPG
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GrindQuest - Devlog 1: Casual Strategy RPG in your browser
It is about time to share some information about my work in progress game project called "GrindQuest". This game originally started with a different theme and execution compared to how it is presented today, but thats another story. GrindQuest is a casual strategy RPG that can be played directly in your web-browser. It takes place in a colorful cartoon fantasy world and is presented in classic 2d. Each player takes control of several Hero groups that can be levelled and customized in many ways. Players are competing in this online game by climbing up the arena ladder or becoming the most powerful player on the server. Besides that, GrindQuest offers many possibilities for solo adventures as well but there is strong emphasis on multiplayer competition and social play.
The Name of the Game
GrindQuest was originally a idle clicker game hosted on Kongregate. The game concept was pretty simple - you grind your way through hordes of enemies, constantly upgrading your character. The original GrindQuest used ripped graphics from World of Warcraft and was taken down due to copyright issues. The game returned in a censored version a bit later, but was not able to hold up the momentum it generated before. During it's bloom, the game caused quite some hype around it - sadly development stopped and the game went the way of the Dodo from there on. Time to take up this great name and the simple concept behind it and put it on proper feet again!
Contrary to the original GrindQuest, my project uses all licensed cartoon artworks. I make heavy use of stock art, as Im not able to invest a fortune into creating all unique sprites. The stock art has been chosen with special care, the individual artworks are high quality and blend together very well. Minor to major modifications are also applied, ranging from simple re-colors to total conversion of sprites. The art of GrindQuest was created by freelance artists like Daniel Ferencak, Dmytro Nedvyga and others. The bright and colorful cartoon art style is also family friendly and timeless.
GrindQuest uses basic web-technologies like PHP and a mySQL database to get the backend ticking. On the frontend side, Framework7 is used in combination with PhoneGap - this will (hopefully) allow deploying the project on Google Play as well as the App Store later on. GrindQuest is not a real phone app, instead it comes as a "hybrid-app" designed for iOS, Android and the most common and up to date web-browsers. The game still has more the look and feel of a regular web-site, lacking animations until I find a solution for this issue (mostly because I am a programmer and not an animator).
Core Game Concept
Simply put, GrindQuest is a Hero group management simulation with lots of RPG and turn-based strategy elements blended in. You start with a single hero to level and upgrade. After that you add another bunch of Heroes until you have a group of about five characters. Later in the game players will be able to collect and upgrade dozens of characters and assign them to various Hero groups in order to fight monsters, compete in PvP combat and fulfill epic quests.
Each Hero character is compromised by a set of statistics like Attack, Defense, Health and so on. In addition, Heroes can equip items like weapons and armor and can learn various skills to increase their combat capabilities. Heroes can be levelled and promoted and will grow stronger by doing so, the maximum level cap in GrindQuest is something like 450 - and insanely high number! Building a powerful "uber" Hero takes time and players will have to stick with their parties for weeks if not months and foster them carefully. The same is true to equipment upgrades - as all weapons and armor can be levelled and promoted (= grinded) as well - more on this in a later blog entry. This game is called "GrindQuest" for a reason!
Combat is mostly automatic: You assign a Hero group to attack another player, raid a certain Dungeon or complete a specific Quest and the rest is just number crunching. The strategic component comes from choosing the right Heroes and Skills in order to be victorious. Of course, level and equipment is also important but the composition of your Hero party is the key to success: Mages easily zap Warriors, while Archers defeat Mages and Warriors trample down the Archers. Take a look at your opponents forces and adjust your own party in order to make the most out of it.
Hell of a Grind!
As "grindy" as the concept sounds, in the later stages of the game you take more and more the role of a "Hero party manager" and get less involved in the grinding itself. You assign several (not just one) Hero groups to raid and fight and let your remaining Heroes invent new Spells and Skills, heal wounded party members and craft Items and Equipment.
Cost & Scope
The game is planned to be free to play - although Im strictly against pay-to-win concepts. GrindQuest will include a optional premium shop with a few items: The most important one is the "supporter package". Each player can buy this package only once and it grants a mild ingame advantage alongside some cosmetic changes. The earnings from this package are exclusively used to cover my artwork expenses. I plan to include up to three of these packages to finance future art expenses as well, therefore a player can decide how often (= how much) to pay for this game (nothing or up to three times). The main purpose of each package are not the resources included, but a key that opens up another area of the worldmap. The packages therefore act as content expansions to the players. Being a F2P player limits you to the basic areas, paying players will get access to all the epic lands of the GrindQuest world. As I am the only developer for this project, Im not aiming too high in terms of Monetization, Scope and Community. Yes, this is an online game but No, it won't be an MMO. At its heart GrindQuest is an oldschool casual browser game - like the ones we saw in early 2000 - with a bucket of fresh paint applied to it.
My name is Tobias, im also known as Fhizban in other areas of the internet. Hailing from Europe, I develop, maintain and finance this project all by myself. All expenses are currently paid out of my own pocket. To me, GrindQuest is both a hobby and a passion. This being said, I might be looking for people to join the project on a volunteer base, at a later stage. Mostly in the areas of sprite animation and community management.
Im writing this by the end of 2016, the project is currently only about 35% done. I don't plan a public release before mid of 2017, another 8-10 months. Mind you this project is a hobby, developed in my spare time.
Thanks for reading and your interest in the project.
The upcoming blog posts will cover the various little sub-systems of the game in detail.
Get ready for the hell of a grind!
GrindQuest - Devlog 2: Player Towns & Buildings
Every RPG requires a town - or at least a shop - to serve as a safe haven to the players. While full fledged AAA RPGs feature several towns with uncountable shops and NPCs, most mobile/casual games only provide one or more shop interfaces. There is a reason to this, as detailled, sprawling cities are often plain unneccessary when the core loop of a game can be boiled down to constant fighting and upgrading.
An argument for having several towns is the ability to have shops of increasing quality. This approach allows better control of the players progression through the game. When designing the Town aspect of GrindQuest, I took influences from mobile RPGs as well as city-building games and blended both of them together, to achieve a simple but interesting result:
GrindQuest features only a single town throughout the whole game, this town is a players hub and one of the most important elements in the game. When you start the game, your town merely consists of several empty lots. Players then start to build shops, houses and other buildings one by one. Each building serves a unique purpose that expands the features available via the town menu.
Look and Feel
It should be noted that players cannot directly move around Town. As GrindQuest is a browser based game with a strong mobile influence, it was decided to keep things as simple as possible: You merely navigate through (colrful) menu's in order to access a shop or upgrade a building. This rather abstract approach is common in most mobile games and even more common in browser games.
Furthermore, the whole town is just a fancy graphical menu. I try to keep things as simple as possible and utilize a mobile touch slider in order to represent most objects in the game. So currently, all buildings are aligned from left to right on a plane that you can swipe via touch and drag (or dragging with the mouse as well). I will stick to this system because it allows me to create dozens of menus on the fly, but there will be graphical improvements in the future: Like adding a parallax background with several moving planes, exchanging the background with a better one as well (note some buildings are painted above terrain features because it's just a picture). And finally decorations that the players can buy are planned as well (like Trees and Street Lights) - to spice up things a bit more.
Let's take a look at the various buildings implemented so far:
The central building of every town is the tavern, this is also the first building you will acquire in the game. This spelunky is a meeting point for heroes of all sorts from all over the land and the main source of new Heroes. Upgrading the Tavern increases the quality of available Sellswords as well as number of Heroes available at the same time. Please note that the most powerful Heroes cannot be acquired in the Tavern and must be found in a different way. Hiring a Hero requires a one time investment, so you basically buy the character once from the Tavern. Finally, Heroes are paid using rare Gems instead of Gold Coins - a currency that is much harder to earn. Please note that Gems have nothing to do with ingame payments or anything related to real money.
This is the building where you can buy all sorts of weaponry to equip your Heroes with. Better weapons not only allow your Heroes to deal more damage during combat, the various weapon types interact with each other in a Rock-Paper-Scissors system: Each weapon is strong against another weapon type and therefore more effective (we will learn more about this later on). Most weapons have more effect when the Hero is placed in the front row while some weapons are also very effective when fired from the back row (again, this will be explained later in detail). Most weapons in this shop are bought using gold. Upgrade the Weapon Smith to have access to more and more powerful weapons.
Armor Store & Item Store
These buildings function very similar to the Weapon Smith: The Armor Store provides you with protective gear like Armor, Helmets, Shields and other Accessories. It should be noted that in GrindQuest each Hero only has 3 equipment slots: One for the weapon, a second one for Armor and a final one that is called "extra". This extra slot depends on the Hero Class and can be another piece of armor, a special accessory or a secondary weapon. This means some Heroes are more geared towards attack, while others are more defensive when it comes about equipment in general. While the Armor Store is focused on Armor, the Item Store provides "Extras" in the first place.
Here the players can buy Skills and Magic Spells as well as special Items like Potions. Potions are used to apply a temporary buff on a Hero (we will go into detail later). Skills and Spells are classified as Abilties: Each Hero is able to "equip" three of these Abilities and is limited to Class Abilities. All Abilities in this game are passive, as combat is passive as well. By choosing the right Abilities, you can further finetune your Heroes and influence their combat tactics. It should be noted that you have to buy the abilities for each Hero individually. This means if you have two Rangers and want each of them to have the "Rapid Fire" ability, you must buy that abilitiy twice. On the other hand, you can remove abilities from your Heroes again and equip them to another Hero - if the Class allows it.
The Market provides the aspiring Hero party with all sorts of consumeable Items. This does not only compromise Food but also Grindstones, Elemental Spheres and other Items. Between battles, your Heroes heal automagically so there is no need for Healing Potions in GrindQuest. There might be rare injuries or dead party members later on, but the typical "HP Recovery" is not required in this game. Instead, consumeables serve a different purpose: You "feed" these items to your Heroes in order to grant them bonus XP, effectively accelerating level up's. As the level cap is very high in this game, you will need all the XP you can get your hands on. Im going even a step further with this system, as Weapons and Armor can be leveled as well (referred to as "grinding"). The Grindstones available at the Market allow you to improve the quality of your Items. And this is an absolute necessity, as Items do not gain experience through battles. Again, we will go more into detail later regarding the "food system" of GrindQuest.
Finally, the: Quest Board! Imagine all the townspeople and wandering merchants come here to write down the jobs they have to offer for your Hero party. The Quest board allows you to browse, view and accept Quests. By upgrading the Quest Board, more powerful Quests become available and those reward you with better payment and rare items as well. Of course, it is perfectly possible to play the game without any quests at all - but that's not a wise decision. As the extra income Quests provide allow you more economic freedom - think about all the Heroes (and their equipment!) that you have to buy and upgrade. So, when you complete a "raid" (later...) you will not only gain "loot" from it, but also a quest reward. Quests usually require you to finish a "raid" at a certain difficulty level or gather a specific amount on resources. But more on that later as well. :-)
Future Building Types
I have left out some important building types that will be added later to the game (of course, there is always room for improvement and expansion): The Guild Hall as well as the Auction House. Note that all buildings mentioned above have already been fully implemented into the game, while the final two exist only in theory so far. As far as ideas go, there is no end to the possibilities in a game like this. But, I would like to keep things reasonable complex until the rest of the project is done and tested.
Thanks for reading, stay tuned for another journal entry in december!