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Announcement

Monstrous Wars V1.04 Notes


Found another game breaking issue, and resolved it. In version 1.03 the game comes to a halt during a dream sequence in the Rayo Hotel.

  • Added aforementioned missing map


I'm hoping it's the last big issue for this iteration/batch, but this is what public releases are for ya'll. Also I'm unsure if anyone in the middle of playing can have their save transfer over to version 1.04. If you can, try to find out where the .LSD(save) files save to on the hdd. Try replacing the new save file with the old ones so you can just continue from where you left off instead of starting over from the top. Thanks for your patience.

Announcement

Monstrous Wars V1.03 Notes


Upon downloading version 1.02, and playing for a short period of time, you may have noticed that you cannot enter the police station map without the game crashing. Version 1.03:

  • Added missing map and fixed teleports

  • No longer necessary to download RTP to run the game


Sorry for the inconvenience. This is an announcement to anyone who downloaded V.1.02, or you haven't tried it yet, simply replace with version 1.03. Thanks.

Announcement

Monstrous Wars V1.02 Notes


A few months back, I posted about a Mega Redux that was underway to make some radical and necessary shifts for the game. The feedback I got from the community of RMN was great in the initial run, and I considered it a lot when I created the changes. I hope to keep that tradition alive. Monstrous Wars V1.02 is now live. The changes for this demo/update are as follows:

  • Gave Saitek a modern make-over

  • Reworked most of the major dialogue

  • Adjusted the story to be more comprehensible

  • Added new characters to battle with

  • Added 3 new dungeons

  • Added more skills

  • Made necessary battle balancing adjustments

  • Added more secret areas to discover

  • Cut the fat

  • Exhaustive beta testing


Overall the story is much more cohesive, pacing is better, and the dungeons, they are puzzle-rific. Playtime 2.5-3hrs Here are some screens to whet your appetite. Enjoy.






Known Issues:
  • Running sometimes skips teleports, so I'd suggest letting go of shift as you hit the edges of a map.

  • Sometimes you fall through solid collapsing floor tiles. I'm trying to find the cause of this.

Game Design

Dungeon Design


Introduction:
The dungeon design process can be a grueling one, but it is a necessary and rewarding practice that constitutes a sizable portion of game-play, especially in RPGs. There is a topic that poses the question "how well planned out should your game be?" Well, dungeons are complex creatures, and deserve considerable thought and planning. What follows is a list of steps that outlines my own personal creative process:

1.)Function in Story Arc
What is the dungeon's utility within the context of story at large? Why is it important to traverse its contents? In the example that I'll be using to demonstrate, The Dream Palace, it is the 3rd act in a training program that the main character, Toshi must overcome for personal mental and physical growth.

2.)Location/Concept
Establish the setting of the dungeon. This is more important than it may seem like at first. The environment that you create for the context of the dungeon directly affects its design in terms of the types of puzzles and enemies you'll have to face there, as well as contributing to the overarching atmosphere, which is also related to point 1. Emphasize its unique characteristics.

EX.1: The Chateau level in Uncharted 3. It's an old abandoned mansion in the woods, that is at least 100 years old. That's rich enough to stand as a satisfying setting, but midway through they set the place on fire, and it becomes even more exciting as you try to escape, it changes the spatial dynamic of the layout and alters the paths you can and cannot enter.



EX.2: For The Dream Palace, I'm using cliffs that are embedded with palatial features and caves, that have puzzles spawning between the interior and exteriors. There's a climbing aspect that highlights the utility of integrating vertical elements in 2D games. I explore that idea a bit in this post.

3.)Sketch Layout
Bust out the pen and pad. Call me old fashioned but I like to plan out my dungeons on paper. This is because it's nice break from staring into the depths of the monitor but also because it's traditional and immediate. If I have an idea, I can scrawl it out, however crudely, and see if it might work. The other benefit of drawing them out on paper is that you can see the entire layout at work at once and make decisions based on that omniscient view. It might be easier if you have a chipset in your head for the dungeon, so you can draw the maps with the tiles in mind to make it easier once you actually get to mapping.

EX.1: Here is the sketch for layout for the first section of the dungeon:

As you can see, artistic talent is not entirely necessary. I wanted to start off simple, to ease the player into the dungeon, so it can become more complex as you traverse it.

While I sketch the maps, I label them with numbers, and keep a second sheet dedicated to explanations, listing the rooms in order, and what their function is, the puzzles involved, contents of chests, enemies to battle, etc.


4.)Implementation
This part is made much easier since I already have the plans mapped/worked out. I just simply follow the plan, which means making a lot of maps based on small sketches. And if I forgot something, I have the explanation sheet to guide me back into my original thoughts. Because of this, I like to get the maps out of the way for a major section first, so my dungeon in game is also a rough shell of the final product.

Ex. Here is what those sketches roughly translate to in game:

(Exterior)


(Interior)

5.)Eventing
This is the set where you go back and make everything work as you originally planned for it to. This means, setting up puzzles/mini games, making fight-able enemies, filling in your chests, and setting up your traps for the player. The maps get filled in with events that allow each room to serve its function/role in creating the obstacles the player must face.

6.)Improvisation
Because of the benefit of hindsight and preparatory sketches, you may get better ideas once you start to make/implement the dungeon. Don't think that you have to follow your outline to the T, it's just an outline, a rough cut that is flexible enough for improvement and interpretation. Most people aren't going to get everything perfectly to how they want to on the first attempt, the importance of redux is paramount. Sometimes good ideas come to you in the heat of the moment, which is the beauty of improv.

Ex.In my notes (if you can read them) for room #7, it says that lighting the torches a certain way will make a new switch, and that switch will open a new path. When I got to making it, I thought that that extra switch was redundant, so I nixed it and made the torches open a new path directly.

6.)Playtesting
It is the responsibility of the game designer to make sure that the dungeon is playable, and works as you want it to. I play through my dungeons countless times diligently trying to break the game as much as possible. Redux and repeat so that it's airtight for when others play it.

7.)Beta-Testing
Even after you have gone through the dungeon a million times and fixed every conceivable glitch and it all works flawlessly, you need to make sure that everything is balanced, that other players will know what to do, that you're puzzles aren't overly complicated or difficult to solve and that all your battles are fairly balanced. This is where beta-testing comes in, ship it out to a few people, and let them see if they can figure it out for themselves. You need to have reliable people for this, with respect and knowledge of the game creation process, to offer rewarding criticisms and feedback.

8.)Redux
Continue tweaking based on feedback from above steps until everything is perfectly as you want it, and perfectly reasonable to expect a player to traverse the dungeon, that its overall difficulty isn't too demanding and that it fits its place within the greater context of the game.

Dungeon Content:
But what are the components that comprise a dungeon? How will you know which elements to plan for in your initial sketches?
Here is a formula based on the general over aching obstacles typically found in dungeons:

Dungeon= battles + puzzles + minigames + traps + (mini) boss + reward(s)

The order that they go in is variable, and you can play with the function/structure of each one, but remember to put them in an order that pleases game design, that is, it conditions the player into behaving a certain way. (That you as the game designer WANT them to behave in.)

Ex. battle>puzzle>reward, is a good set of 3 different content types. It challenges the hero/player physically (battles) and mentally (puzzles) and rewards them afterwards for their efforts, which positively conditions them into doing the same thing again. Using the prize of chests as an incentive for players to complete challenging tasks.

Likewise, negative conditioning comes into play as well. For example, if all of your chests had enemies in them instead of treasure, the player would actively avoid chests. You can use punishment to make sure the player doesn't keep making the same mistakes.

Ex. There's a spike trap that decreases HP by 10, so when the player walks into it, they lose HP, so they are conditioned to not walk into it again. It seems obvious, but only because it is a deeply rooted trope and because spikes show an immediate physical danger, but the principles behind it are sound.

So work the structure of your dungeon in a way that is gratifying and switches up game-play types to keep it interesting.

Well that's all for this post, which seems more like an article. The next one will be about different puzzle types, so watch out!

Game Design

Enter the Dream Palace!

So, I've started production on a new dungeon: Thy Dream Palace. It's the third leg of the Training Trance Program, (first being the Junkyard of Despair, and second The Temple of Artemis). It will be available in the next demo release.

The interior is based on the dream cave from the beginning of the game.


I came up with the concept when I was researching and exhausting puzzle ideas. I was studying Golden Sun II, and watching youtube playthroughs, I became enamored by it's great design, and realized it had borrowed some elements from Zelda (Ie crumbling platforms, block and switch puzzles, etc.) One of the main things that stuck out to me, was the climbing on walls mechanic. It's so simple, even in terms of RM, but adds a vertical element to level design that is often missing in these types of games. Being also a fan of Uncharted, and cliffs I couldn't help but implement something similar. Here's an example of it in action, from Golden Sun:



Another thing that I found impressive, was the interplay between interior puzzles, and exterior climbing mechanics, how they interact with each other and open new paths. And while I was unsure about how to approach a 3rd dream dungeon, the ideas quickly began to culminate.

It's been a while since I compiled chips from multiple sources, but I think I still got it, here's what I came up with for the design for the exterior of the cave/palace:



Although it is a remix of different chips, mainly CT dirt, and MnB cliffs, I had to mix it with some custom material from the previous area of Babylon to warrant a more unique look, but the result is a totally different atmospheric experience from the aforementioned area. I already used these same cliffs as the base for Saitek in the beginning of the game, but I wanted to take them to the next level, to push them to their fullest potential. Before, the cliffs were thrown layered in corners, made way for smaller, industrial-esque buildings. Which is fine, for what Saitek is, and the design it calls for, where nature is getting stifled, and technology is taking over. Here, it's true cliffs incarnate, with nature and dream intertwining, and nothing holding it back.

The design of dungeons really relies on it's location first, and the mechanics second. The rest is synthesizing that with battles and puzzles to create a unique environment to traverse. But there should always be rewards for the exploring player, and negative reinforcement for unwanted behavior, be it battles or puzzle restarts. (I plan to write a full on article about the art of dungeon design in the future, which would elaborate on these points.)

This will be a true test of wits for me as a designer, and by studying other games and testing my own puzzles from previous dungeons, I think this will stand as a testament to my accumulated knowledge. The only question is how trippy do I make it? Do I keep up the nightmarish dreamscape cemented with the junkyard, or perhaps tone it down a bit, to a more focused, personal journey?

I hope you guys enjoy playing this as much as I enjoy creating it. I hope to have the demo out by the end of the summer, ie, August, so look out.

Announcement

Mega Redux Announcement

Ok, so I posted this game for release something in 2009, and have seldom updated it's profile page since. This led to many of you assuming the game was dead, but I can assure you, that I am working on it diligently, just not in the eye of the public stratosphere. Hence a new blogpost, an attempt to share some of the progress I've been making, and what I've learned in doing so. (I have some game design articles in mind that I want to post up).

That brings me to the title. You may be thinking, what is a mega redux? Well, after spending some time away from Monstrous Wars, I came back to it with fresh eyes and more experience. I played through it, and realized just how disjointed the game was, which is also reflected in Nemo's well done review. I knew something at the core was broken, and thus became obsessed with rectifying and tweaking the game's main elements such as story and dialogue because I knew the outer layers were well polished and satisfactory.

I knew what was wrong with the game, and after brainstorming a bit, I came up with what I felt were strong solutions. I made the story make sense, rewrote dialogue so everything was communicated more clearly. Additionally, I played with some graphics for the sake of consistency. More importantly, I went through the map tree and slashed a lot of superfluous content, so the game's pacing flows more, and its design facilitates a model that rewards exploration but doesn't suffocate the player.

This is the art of redux that I am a proficient advocate of, and I think that its effects will be readily apparent for the better. I plan to release a 2nd demo by the end of the summer, that will, in addition to previous remodeling, add 2 major dungeons of gameplay. (One of which I would consider my magnum opus of dungeons, after studying games like Zelda:LttP, Wild Arms and Lufia II). I have also synthesized the constructive criticism I received on this site, and have taken it all into consideration when constructing the mega redux.

Anyways, here are some new screens to take the edge off until then, and take a look at what's to come ahead.





Thanks for the support, I will update this blog from time to time for anybody following this project!
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