### Project: The Seven Spells Of Destruction

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Hi all,

It's been a very long time since i last worked on this project. Now that Mr Boom's Firework Factory has been released, i decided to turn my attention to other projects, namely this one that has sat languishing on my hard drive for many years now since 2015. On deciding to restart this project, I had to take stock of the situation, not only technically about how outdated the code was and how badly written it was, but also on how to build from what i'd learned with Mr Boom's Firework Factory. It's safe to say now that this previous game was a critical success, but pretty much a commercial failure - this isn't to say that this will cause any issues for me, as I was extremely careful not to "bet the house" and only spent small amounts on the development and promotion that i could afford to spare or even lose.

On the flip side this meant that the community around the game was very small, not large enough to sustain it upon release. As such I decided that a change of approach was needed, if i was to recoup anything at all from such a huge and complicated project as The Seven Spells of Destruction, which is an open world role playing game inspired by the Fighting Fantasy novels of the 80's and 90's.

## The Release Approach and Timeline

I decided that in the case of this game my approach would be to somewhat open up the alpha testing. For the next two years at least, I would have open and free alpha testing, with the game freely available via itch.io, and trusted close fans who had stuck with me throughout Mr Boom and retained an interest in this project would be given steam keys.

On the subject of steam, i would set up a steam page as early as humanly possible, pay for the steam direct fee, and build a page within weeks of announcing that the game was restarting. This steam would bootstrap a much larger fan base into spending multiple years gathering wishlist entries.

After two years, in August 2021, if development goes to plan, there should be enough features in the game at this point to flip the switch and move to a full-on steam early access model at a fixed price of approximately \$12. This price has been selected as the price point other competitors in the open world genre are charging - this includes indies, with equal sized open world games, and also AAA studios selling their older back-catalog, e.g. Bethesda's Skyrim.

Within five years of this release date on early access, I plan to complete the game to a condition that it can be called 'done', and make it an actual non-early-access release.

It would be nice to pick up 3D artists along the way to help with content generation, but as with Mr Boom this isn't essential to my plan or schedule. As you can see, i'm currently using a lot of off the shelf art, and can do a lot with it, but i'm sure there are improvements that can be made!

## The results so far...

I announced this plan a week ago today, and in the past 7 days, i have gained 30 alpha testers (it's easy to gain testers when the game is free!) who offer feedback regularly on my discord server. I have also produced a trailer (see below) which has been used to bootstrap the itch.io page, be included into the embryonic steam page, and used on woovit. The response has so far been far more successful than the initial similar one for Mr Boom.

I've also run an ad campaign on facebook to build a following there, in the past week I have gained 500 followers on that network, who are responding well to the Seven Spells Of Destruction videos.

Speaking of videos...

## The trailer

With the limited content at my disposal, i have created a simple trailer to promote the alpha, and have distributed this on various discords and websites:

As always, feedback on this entire plan, and on this rudimentary trailer is more than welcome, in fact mandatory! You will leave feedback... just kidding 😀

## The plan going forward

The plan now is to fix bugs. A lot of bugs had to be fixed just to get this far, let's not even get started on how much of a pain in the ass it is to upgrade a large project from Unreal Engine 4.10 to Unreal Engine 4.22.3, with a whole load of editor modules and a lot of C++, which also included an update from Visual Studio 2015 to 2017, and threw a lot of modern C++ warnings and errors.

I've had to rejig the way the whole game displays, due to tone mapping, i've had weird bugs with the camera rotating as the player walks, I've had strange bugs where the player's sword and shield grow to the size of a car. Bumper sword's got nothing on that. I should have captured a video as it was possible just to walk through enemies and slaughter them due to the size of the sword's hit box and the speed of movement of the edge.

Please do let me know what you think of this plan, and if anyone wants to offer any kind of help, well you know where to find me. For those of you who want to actually try out the alpha, you can download it on itch.io.

I'm glad you've decided to go back to this project. Looking forward to future of this game.

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• ### Similar Content

• By Pepsidog
I'm wanting to create a hybrid game between turn based and action.  I'm looking to create a system where the player has a list of attack or move options on their turn, but I want to add a skill minigame in order to make the game more engaging for non-strategists.  I figured some sort of minigame or something.  Any ideas are welcome.  Thanks in advance!
• By Ey-Lord
Hello everyone

I am here to gather your opinion, remarks, ideas or any constructive criticism you may have about what I am going to present. Don’t be shy!

A bit of background:

I am working alone on an indy web-based game, a simulation of RPG (idle game) where the player controls a group of 4 characters that he can sent into battle and that will fight automatically based on some AI preference that are similar to the FF 12 system (but more complex / powerful). He then earns some experience and resources that he can use to improve his unit’s gear, talents and skills. He has a lot of control on what skills his characters will use and how/when.

What brings me here today:

The AI of Monsters. I have the AI settings for players covered (basically a bunch of if/then/and/or/else settings that he can combine and order so that his units will act as he intends in battle). I’ve been working on the AI of monsters for quite some time, made a long break and came back recently to it.

Short description of the battle system:

No movement involved. Battle is fully automated. Players setup its units AI settings before battle and monsters are controlled by a separate AI. This is a 4v4 battle, like FF7 with some kind of ATB and any time a unit fill its ATB, it can play and the then the next unit who will fill it will play, etc. The player is completely free of his playstyle and may create very offensive group or very defensive ones. 4 healers or 4 tanks is completely possible.

The battle system is very complex and allows for very varied and sometimes unusual strategies, like killing your own allies to proc an “on death buff” that will be devastating for the opponent.

What I want for my AI?

It needs to be fun to fight against and challenging. Ideally, I would like an AI as smart as possible (not omniscient but thinking as a human would). I know that a super-smart AI is not always the best way to make a game fun or challenging but in the context of my game, this is the result I want to achieve. It may seem unfair to have the AI try to kill your squishy while your tank is standing right there but my class design gives the tools to players to counter that so it’s not an issue (tanks are not purely aggro based for example). I want players to always be challenged by AI moves and that they must carefully think about their strategy because if they leave a big hole in it, I want the AI to exploit it.

In practice, it means a few requirements:

No dumb decision / do not fall into obvious player’s traps Exploit obvious flaws of the opponent Act in coordination when appropriate with other units Able to find who should be their focus in the player’s team (some notion of threat) Find the best move to use and if there is some kind of combo possible, use it

These requirements are harder to meet than it looks. The issue is the sheer number of different mechanisms and strategies available to players and to monsters as well. For example, there are many cases where killing or attacking a player unit might be detrimental (units that return damages or that gain power when you hit then for example).

What I have tried before?

I have tried or at least reviewed many different AI concepts so far.

-          A simple copy of my player’s AI system (hierarchical if/then/else). It was easy to script as I already have the UI in place for players so I can quickly define a basic AI for any new monster’s group. The main drawbacks are that it needs to be written for every monster group, it does not allow smart targeting and cannot find the best target or the best skill to use. It will also make dumbs decision as the targeting options cannot assess threats at all.

I’ve rules out planners since for purely selecting the best pair of (skill, target), they do not seem to match my needs.           (H)FSM or BT does not seems to match my needs as monsters do not have states / transition condition that can lead to something useful for me.        I’ve ruled out aNNs as they might, with proper training, be able to find the best action at a given time but it’s very tedious to implement and will not solve my need of finding combo or coordinating with other units very well. (plus, let’s be honest, I’d be a bit out of my depth to program them)           I have spent an extensive period of time trying with tree searches. Mainly: monte-carlo with random sampling and came to the conclusion that due to the complexity of my battle system, it is excessively costly to compute any kind of reliable data this way.
-        My current AI system is a version of my first one (the same as the players) but with access to some “smarter” targeting function that in theory allow to choose the best target. These functions work by gathering data for thousands of simulated fights during the AI time to play (1 second). It’s a first step to find the best target but not very accurate (lots of big flaws that can be exploited by players) and it is very time consuming and that is something I’m trying to get away from. I do not want to use 100% of the players CPU as I do now.

What is my latest idea?

I started to study more in-depth the Utility theory as described by Dave Marks (I read his book and watched his GDC AI lectures as well). I liked the idea. I like that I can start on something relatively simple and add more considerations as things progress to handle more and more situations. While my work began as something very close to utility theory, it evolved a bit afterward. Here is what I plan on doing to compute a unit’s best course of action:

A – Score every of its move (each move is a pair [skill, target]).

B – Chose the move according to a selection strategy (highest score, weighted random, random amongst the top scores… lots of different selection algorithm can be used there).

So far, easy, right? Let’s dig deeper into our first phase of scoring (A), which is the hard part. For all the damage or healing skills:

Step 1: The final scoring of the move [skill,target] will be function of the a “Survival” scoring for the player team and for the enemy team. An example of this relationship could be: Adding all the survival scores of each unit in Team A and divide the result by the addition of all the survival scores for each unit in team B.

Step 2: The survival score of each unit will be its Health after the move we are evaluating, divided by the total damage per turn that we estimate other units can deal to her (minus the total heal it ca receive). [This a step where we can process damage and heal over time as well]

Step 3: This damage per turn estimation will be, initially, the sum for every unit in battle of the damage or heal per second it can deal to that unit. For example: If I’m alone vs 2 bad guy that can deal 1 dmg/turn and if I can deal 1 heal/turn, the damage per turn estimation against me will be 2-1 = 1. [This is not optimal since we are counting the damage of each unit once per enemy unit but it’s a start]

Step 4: To compute the DPS or HPS of each unit, we review the unit’s skills and compute their output against the unit we want to evaluate it against. From that, we construct a skill sequence to maximize the damage output and once we got the optimal skill sequence, we can compute its DPS or HPS output and pass it along for Step 3.

It might seem like a lot of work, since, in a world with only damage or healing skills, the DPS or HPS sequence of each unit will be the same in every situation and as such only the damage done or healing done by the skill evaluated would be enough. But…

The tricky part comes from buffs and debuffs. If we use the above algorithm, (de)buffs that changes the damage or healing someone does or receive will be evaluated correctly as it will change the damage or heal per second output of units and it would affect the survival score and the final scoring. That is why I chose to include DPS and HPS computations for each unit for each move.

This is all fine until we consider (de)buffs that changes the power of other (de)buffs. Like: I cast a buff that double the length of all my future buffs. My algorithm can’t evaluate it correctly. It’s a situation that will be common enough in my game and I want my AI to deal with it. Note: there are more complex situations where a unit could buff a buff that buffs a buff that buff a buff [….] that will end-up buffing a damage or healing skills, but those cases will not be addressed as they will hopefully be rare and too cumbersome to compute anyway.

So, my goal is to score properly buffs that:

Buffs the damage or healing output of someone           Buffs that buffs a skill that does the above

L    Long story short of how I am doing that. I’m using my initial algorithm but while also estimating damage or healing per second change for each dps or hps sequence.To do that I’m evaluating every move of the unit (or every unit in case of AoE but lets keep it simple with single target) that is targeted by the buff. So, we are switching PoV here compared to the initial unit we are evaluating (unless the move evaluated is buffing itself)

-          I’m doing the above in 2 situations:

o   A : After a cast of the buff skill I’m evaluating

o   B : Without the cast of the buff, just like if it was that unit’s turn to play

-          Using a sort of min/max approach: if the unit targeted by the buff is an ally, we will take the best branch of our tree in A and compare it with the same branch (pair [skill,target]) in B. If the unit targeted by the buff is an enemy, we want to lower their maximum score and will select the tree branch that does that in A to also compare it with the same branch in B.

-          The information we extract here are DPS or HPS delta for each sequence of DPS/HPS for each unit vs each other unit.

-          Then, we go back to our steps 1 to 5 and compute our scoring for the move (buff) while using our new dps/hps deltas to get better and more accurate dps/hps sequence for units affected by the buff.

This is basically it. I’ve ran a manual version of the algorithm in 2 different battle settings to test it and see if it gave good results. It worked. Not flawlessly but it worked. Lots of cases will still require tweak and additions to the basic idea but I think its promising. (taunts and CCs are not easy to deal with but it’s manageable)

What I like is that I can add more considerations later (as in the utility theory) like: resource cost, general unit strategy (cleave or focus), behavior (careful, lunatic, reckless). While this will still be a bit time consuming it should be a good order of magnitude faster than my current AI. It also does not prevent me from adding hardcoded AI move if I want to “script” more some monsters. Debugging and tweaking might be a bit painful though, especially when fights will involve lots of skills & stats but that’s an issue that most AI for my game would likely have anyway.

To come back with my initial goals:

No dumb decision / do not fall into obvious player’s traps
o   Not perfect but it should choose the best target whenever possible

Exploit obvious flaws of the opponent
o   Same as above

Act in coordination when appropriate with other units
o   This can be done simply by adding weight to some targets or computing moves for all units of a group before deciding which one to take (for example to take the best move vs a specific unit, on average)

Able to find who should be their focus in the player’s team (some notion of threat)
o   It will naturally focus the unit who is the easiest to kill and debuff or CC the ones that deal the more heal/damage. But, to better solve this, we will need to add other considerations to the AI scoring process, It should not be *too* hard

Find the best move to use and if there is some kind of combo possible, use it
o   Combo are very often in the form of buff/debuff setup before an actual damaging or healing skills and my AI can compute up to a 3 moves combo (buff > buff > skill that dmg or heal) which should cover most cases.

I’m quite happy with my initial tests. I’m not going to be coding it now. My goal was to reflect on the subject on paper and try to see if designing my AI would be a roadblock or not for my project. There are a few other area I want to design and take time to really think about before getting back to my project full time. I’d love to hear your toughs and feedbacks about my AI ideas. Do you see huge roadblocks I’m missing? Does it sound ok to you?

If you read that far…. thank you and I can"t wait to hear from you guys😊

• By EchoCell
Hello folks! I’m looking for advice on which engine I should go with for a 2D game I want to make. The goal is to make a side-scrolling beat’em up/2D fighting game hybrid where the main levels are in beat’em up mode, but the boss battles are in 2D fighter mode. The combat controls (combos, special moves, etc) would be the same in both modes, and the game would include a tournament mode that is entirely in 2D fighter mode.
I have minimal game developing experience, and am essentially a noob. I am mostly familiar with RPGMaker, but have also experimented lightly with Unity. I have zero programming knowledge, and thus am partial to engines more accessible to complete beginners.
What engine(s) would be best suited to this kind of game? I am interested in both M.U.G.E.N and OpenBOR, but I don’t think either would allow the kind of genre-crossing I want to accomplish without significant programming skills that I don’t have.
Also - and I realize I’m thinking too far ahead - I would like to be able to release this game via HTML5 and just host it online somewhere if possible. Otherwise I am okay with it being PC only.
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• By mujina
What could be a way of avoiding using inheritance and virtual methods when designing components for an entity-component-system?
I'll be more specific about my design issue:
I currently have different classes for different kinds of colliders (let's say, CircleCollider and LineCollider).
My system that checks for collisions and updates the positions and/or velocities of my entities should be something like:
for entity_i in alive_entities { collider_i = get_collider_of_entity(entity_i) // components of same kind are stored contiguously in separate arrays transform_i = get_transform_of_entity(entity_i) for entity_j in alive_entities { collider_j = get_collider_of_entity(entity_j) transform_j = get_transform_of_entity(entity_j) if check_collision(collider_i, collider_j) { update(transform_i) update(transform_j) } } } my problem is that I don't have a generic get_collider_of_entity function, but rather a function get_circle_collider_of_entity and a separate one get_line_collider_of_entity, and so on. (This happens because under the hood I am keeping a mapping (entity_id -> [transform_id, sprite_id, circle_collider_id, line_collider_id, ...]) that tells me whether an entity is using certain kinds of components and which are the indices of those components in the arrays containing the actual components instances. As you can see, each component class is corresponding to a unique index, namely the index position of the array of the mapping described above. For example, transforms are 0, sprites are 1, circle colliders are 2, line colliders are 3, and so on.)
I am in need to write a system as the one in the snippet above. I can write several overloaded check_collision functions that implement the logic for collision detection between different kinds of geometric primitives, but my problem is that I am not sure how to obtain a generic get_collider_of_entity function. I would need something that would get me the collider of an entity, regardless of whether the entity has a circle collider, a line collider, a square collider, etc.
One solution could be to write a function that checks whether in my internal entity_id -> [components_ids] mapping a certain entity has a collider at any of the indices that correspond to colliders. For example, say that the indices related to the collider classes are indices 10 to 20, then my function would do
get_collider_of_entity (entity_id) { for comp_type_id in 10..20{ if mapping[entity_id][comp_type_id] not null { return components_arrays[comp_type_id][entity_id] } } return null } This could turn out to be pretty slow, since I have to do a small search for every collider of every entity. Also, it may not be straightforward to handle returned types here. (I'm working with C++, and the first solution - that is not involving inheritance in any way - would be returning a std::variant<CircleCollider, LineCollider, ... all kinds of components>, since I would need to return something that could be of different types).
Another solution could be having some inheritance among components, e.g. all specific component classes inherit from a base Collider, and overrride some virtual collide_with(const Collider& other) method. Then I would redesign my mapping to probably reserve just one index for colliders, and then I would actual colliders in a polymorphic array of pointers to colliders, instead of having a separate array for CircleColliders, another for LineColliders, and so on. But this would destroy any attempt to be cache-friendly in my design, wouldn't it? That's why I am looking for alternatives.
A third alternative would be to just have a single, only, Collider class. That would internally store the "actual type" ( aka what kind of collider it is ) with dynamic information (like an enum ColliderType). Then I would have all colliders have all members needed by any kind of colliders, and specific collision detection functions which I can dispatch dynamically that only use some of that data. (Practical example: a "Collider" would have a radius, and the coordinate for 2 points, and in case its type was "circle" it would only make use of the radius and of one of the 2 points - used as the center -, while if it was a "segment" it would only make use of the 2 points). My gut feeling is that this would bloat all colliders, and, even if the bloat could be reduced - using unions in some smart way for storing members? I wouldn't know how -, then still the design would be pretty brittle.
I'm clueless and open for ideas and advice! How do you handle in general situations in which you have components that can be naturally modeled as subclasses of a more generic component class? Inheritance? Smart hacks with variants, templates, macros, custom indexing? Dynamic "internal" type?