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Scythemantis

Mortasheen - monster-raising horror

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To start off with a disclaimer, I am unfortunately one of those people who has nothing more than a very fleshed-out idea and less than zero programming knowledge. I did, at one time, have a programmer interested in working on a demo, but moved on to a project of his own before anything playable was finished, so my game is just another elaborate hypothesis for the time being; no big worry, as I've been pursuing a number of other mediums for the idea, but your input on my gameplay concepts would be deeply appreciated for the day I make the right connections or learn to program my own damn self. Reading my concept isn't integral to answering the two most basic questions I have, so you can skip to the end of this post if you aren't interested in critiquing specific ideas. Game type: 2-d turn based tactical RPG. Theme/setting: Mortasheen is a "Monster trainer" universe with elements of Lovecraftian horror and morbid humor in a grim, post-apocalyptic setting. I currently have 220 finalized monsters uploaded at http://bogleech.com/mortasheen.htm , with some typical examples including: http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/chainsawkid.jpg http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/escarghoul.jpg http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/gravesnitch.jpg http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/pestequirm.jpg http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/eyedra.jpg Every creature has its own unique powers, habits, origin and function in the Mortasheen world, where monsters are created, like organic robots, to fulfill every imaginable role in society. Basic play concept: The player would use a wide range of resources to engineer monsters in their personal laboratory, choosing from a variety of brains to determine the creation's stat distribution and further customizing them with weapons, parasites and even viruses. With a band of up to ten custom minions, the player would undertake quests for various ruling factions, plunder villages, compete in death sports, uncover the bizarre secrets of their world and slowly climb the social ladder of monster civilization. Some other proposed gameplay features: -Party members would serve as much purpose dead as alive; corpses are an important resource for many weapons and abilities, and some monsters alter the entire combat environment after their demise. -In addition to engineered monsters, players could collect randomly generated zombies (many possible stats and abilities with a paper doll design setup) to train as minions or even breed to create special monster species. -Players could similarly capture normal, living humans for a variety of insidious purposes, such as fusing them with insects (creating yet another subclass of monster) or brainwashing them into underlings with an atypical selection of character classes such as the plaguebearer (manipulator of enemy stats) nightmare clown (randomizes normally predictable combat elements) and corpse doctor (would allow you to mix and match the traits of your dead monsters during battle into a temporary new combatant) -Your character begins its life as an artificial monster itself, a sort of protoplasmic blob mass-produced to work for a mysterious government body. Through various actions in the game you would gradually evolve towards humanity or wildly monstrous alternatives. QUESTIONS: -Does it detract from strategy for all party member types to be evenly matched stat-wise, or does it simply add to the value of their unique abilities? My current idea is for all monster species to have identical stat totals, but with distribution determined by the player. All monsters can also wield the same weapons, but have at least one special power unique to that species. -How much fun does personalization bring to a game? It's currently such a big theme (I'm obsessive enough about my concept to have written out the entire carefully-structured list of player character dress-up items and lair decor) that it's almost beginning to overshadow combat as the #1 focus. I'm thinking more and more in terms of a "mad scientist SIM" sort of game, or Animal Crossing with a monster battle sub-game. [Edited by - Scythemantis on May 9, 2008 2:45:38 AM]

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I have a similar idea for a tactical RPG. The decision for matching stats will probably depdending on how those stats interact with the abilities. I planned to have different stats set for each creature, but I was going to balance it out by what abilities are available for that creature. As for your second question, I think it would be cool to have some customization as long as it helps out in combat (i.e. equippable accessories).

Edit: Love the art. Pokemon meets Lovecraft.

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Looks like a design with lots of potential! The art looks great, too (and I think will go along way in getting more help onboard eventually).

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-Party members would serve as much purpose dead as alive; corpses are an important resource for many weapons and abilities, and some monsters alter the entire combat environment after their demise.


I like this idea, especially if some monsters create an area of effect type influence on the map when they die. I think a great thing to invest in would be status effects that are not necessarily good or bad-- not just a monster that explodes when it dies, but maybe one that slows others down (because of the goo?) or makes them fight harder regardless of what side they're on.

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-Players could similarly capture normal, living humans for a variety of insidious purposes, such as fusing them with insects (creating yet another subclass of monster) or brainwashing them into underlings with an atypical selection of character classes such as the plaguebearer (manipulator of enemy stats) nightmare clown (randomizes normally predictable combat elements) and corpse doctor (would allow you to mix and match the traits of your dead monsters during battle into a temporary new combatant)


Great for theme. Are the humans fighting back, or are they just resources on the in the world?

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-Does it detract from strategy for all party member types to be evenly matched stat-wise, or does it simply add to the value of their unique abilities? My current idea is for all monster species to have identical stat totals, but with distribution determined by the player. All monsters can also wield the same weapons, but have at least one special power unique to that species.


Evenly matched totals I think is far more exciting, even though it could be unbalanced. The key is to balance the utility of each stat in gameplay terms. You could, for example, decide that moving is a huge advantage over attacking, and thus make attacking cheaper. Or likewise with defense, but for a different reason-- to prevent combats from dragging on or ending up in stalemates.

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-How much fun does personalization bring to a game? It's currently such a big theme (I'm obsessive enough about my concept to have written out the entire carefully-structured list of player character dress-up items and lair decor) that it's almost beginning to overshadow combat as the #1 focus. I'm thinking more and more in terms of a "mad scientist SIM" sort of game, or Animal Crossing with a monster battle sub-game.


Speaking as a programmer, I almost always vote in favor of stat and gameplay customization over extensive visual customization. I know that the latter has far more draw, but the former is far easier to develop. Different lair backgrounds and maybe art overlays would work well if you have a pretty uniform system of placement, because in the long run you'll have to examine and test all those looks (even for simple things, like whether or not giving you gravesnitch a spiky hairdoo draws over other monsters or some such).


As a player, I think in the long run more monsters that do different things and perhaps evolve along different paths which give different ways of playing the game is far more exciting than a bazillion different looking monsters that pretty much do the same thing.

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Original post by Scythemantis
-Does it detract from strategy for all party member types to be evenly matched stat-wise, or does it simply add to the value of their unique abilities? My current idea is for all monster species to have identical stat totals, but with distribution determined by the player. All monsters can also wield the same weapons, but have at least one special power unique to that species.

The problem is that the worth of stats is completely dependent on your game mechanics. It is exceedingly likely that your mechanics will ultimately favour some stats over others. So by limiting stat totals, you guarantee that monsters with high values in those stats are inherently stronger overall. And if players can determine stat distribution, then there will be optimal distributions leading to some level of homogeneity among strong teams, which is generally undesireable.
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-How much fun does personalization bring to a game? It's currently such a big theme (I'm obsessive enough about my concept to have written out the entire carefully-structured list of player character dress-up items and lair decor) that it's almost beginning to overshadow combat as the #1 focus. I'm thinking more and more in terms of a "mad scientist SIM" sort of game, or Animal Crossing with a monster battle sub-game.

I think there are different classes of gamer. Some really get a lot of fun out of personalisation, others get more fun from competition, etc. While I generally avoid advising anyone to compromise on their vision, the thing about visual personalisation is that it costs a lot in terms of assets, while only benefiting a certain section of market. Use Nintendo's research to your own benefit - are Pokemon personalisable in the way you're thinking about?
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To start off with a disclaimer, I am unfortunately one of those people who has nothing more than a very fleshed-out idea and less than zero programming knowledge.
My current project may be of some interest to you - keep an eye on these boards.

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I seem to have slipped up and put "tactical" when that's more a secondary idea for now; battles are first being conceived as menu-driven with static graphics, but with mechanics that could be immediately translated to strategic board-based gameplay. It's just that 200+ character types + walking animation = years worth of graphical work.

Either way, battles are intended to be somewhat fast paced and hectic. Instead of one attack per turn, a monster would have ten actions that could be spent however it pleases, with the average weapon or ability counting as two actions, so anywhere from 1-10 attacks can go off per turn, per combatant. To avoid confusion, only one special ability (things like thievery, transformations, anything other than basic damage/block/dodge/heal) could be chosen at a time, and takes effect at the end of a turn.

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As for your second question, I think it would be cool to have some customization as long as it helps out in combat (i.e. equippable accessories).


Yeah, there's stat customization and then there's the character customization, which I explain better below. It's mostly just your main character you could completely control the appearance of, and it doesn't directly participate in battle, but I've considered that your character type and certain accessories might have some overall effects on battle.

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I think a great thing to invest in would be status effects that are not necessarily good or bad-- not just a monster that explodes when it dies, but maybe one that slows others down (because of the goo?) or makes them fight harder regardless of what side they're on.


Exactly :) Some nullify the special damage types (heat, chemical and electrical) poison both parties, sprout fungi either side can regain HP with or generate tiny, neutral enemies like maggots and leeches. When zombie type monsters drop to 0 hp, all of their attacks can still be activated by their living allies (in the tactical concept, their bodies picked up as weapons) the idea being they never truly die, they just get too beaten up to move of their own accord. You still lose if that's all you have left, of course.

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Great for theme. Are the humans fighting back, or are they just resources on the in the world?


It varies. Mortasheen is essentially a whole gigantic country of mutants and monsters who's cryptic government leaves them to fend for themselves and do whatever they please so long as they're physically capable. Neither good nor evil, but coldly Darwinian. This forces the more technologically advanced human communities to be either heavily fortified against random, roving bands of monsters (such as yours) or have something special to appease them with, while the less privileged live as nomads or in hiding.

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Speaking as a programmer, I almost always vote in favor of stat and gameplay customization over extensive visual customization. I know that the latter has far more draw, but the former is far easier to develop. Different lair backgrounds and maybe art overlays would work well if you have a pretty uniform system of placement, because in the long run you'll have to examine and test all those looks (even for simple things, like whether or not giving you gravesnitch a spiky hairdoo draws over other monsters or some such).


Yeah, graphicswise I just intend for your main character and dwelling to be extensively customizable. Not about to tell anyone they have to draw a hockey mask 300 times. Human minions would have predetermined outfits for each class just to avoid confusion, but different possible bodies underneath, same as yourself (skeletons, skinless zombies, androids, whatever can be stuffed into the same outline) and monsters at most a few palette swaps.

Gameplay-wise, while the different minion types would have the same basic stat totals, most monster species would have some minor distribution differences (+ atk - def, etc.) further augmented by the brain you give them (even them out with the - atk + def brain or focus them even more on offense) and additional stat-altering organs that would cost equipment slots (and could be scavenged by allies or enemies in death). Additionally, there is a "magic" (psionic) system and different creatures of course have varying access to it.

I might add some kind of tier system to separate the little creatures from the big tankish things, but not so far apart as to end up like Pokemon, where one end of the spectrum is guaranteed worthless in a fight against the other (there are nearly 500 different pokemon now, but the same 20 or 30 completely dominate the metagame)

I've toyed with the idea of throwing HP, MP and traditional stats out the window, though, in favor of a system where stats are based on bodily tissues and combatants use them differently. Bone might determine one monster's ability to do damage, but muscle might equate the attack stat for another. Zombies might not care about blood loss, but suffer when their flesh is damaged. I think this might have too much potential to get more confusing than innovative, though. It might just be too much to worry about when choosing your attacks.

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The problem is that the worth of stats is completely dependent on your game mechanics. It is exceedingly likely that your mechanics will ultimately favour some stats over others. So by limiting stat totals, you guarantee that monsters with high values in those stats are inherently stronger overall. And if players can determine stat distribution, then there will be optimal distributions leading to some level of homogeneity among strong teams, which is generally undesireable.


I'd definitely want to avoid scenarios where everyone ends up picking from the same handful of tactics and it just becomes a needlessly drawn out rock-paper-scissors. It's that balance vs. variety dilemma that plagues every game there is.

[Edited by - Scythemantis on May 10, 2008 11:53:28 PM]

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