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When a series of murders reveals uncomfortable truths about the holy city--the Polis--Enforcer Rita Eangiere's faith in the Polis, its Archons, and its gods begins to waver. As she follows the threads between one murder and the next, she finds herself caught up in a plot that threatens to plunge commonfolk and noblefolk alike into chaos. Can Rita discover the machinations that are destroying the holy city from within?



Essences drive this game's combat, lending battles both simplicity and strategic depth. Taking damage of an element grants the target that element's Essence, which can be used to cast one spell of that element. If a battler has no Essences when their turn starts, they Surge, gaining one of each Essence and a huge list of bonuses for that turn. Combat revolves around breaking down the enemy's defenses with Surging while, at the same time, trying to prevent the enemy from doing the same! Do you spend your Fire Essence to improve your damage or to blast an enemy? Do you use your heal now, and risk not having the appropriate Essence when you need it? Take care not to back yourself into a corner!

Rita is sworn to protect the people. But what--or whom--is she protecting them from, exactly?

Latest Blog

Nov 27 2014 -- Feature: Skill Augmentation

What is Skill Augmentation?
With the assistance of Myla, a personality relevant to the events in the Polis, you can exchange prayer tablets--the basic component of an artificial Precept--to enhance the potency of a spell or shift it towards disciplines of magic outside of its original intent. By folding the stored Essence of the "wrong" tablet into a Precept, you can create a skill that borrows some of its power from that same "wrong" Essence.

(If that sounds like world-building fluff, it's because it is.)

Skill Augmentation is a form of customization that prompts the player to properly manage a resource (tablets) over a long period of gameplay. The player must critically think on which skills are most useful to them, and whether the player can afford to spend their myriad "currencies" on enhancing that particular skill. Would they be better served by enhancing a different, competing Precept? Would they prefer to hold their tablets and see if they get a new Precept worth enhancing? If the player enhances their main nuke to gain a buff-dispelling effect, they must suddenly hold that spell to respond to enemy buffs instead of simply employing it for damage.

Every other element of Essence Enforcer's gameplay happens on a per-mission level. You can rearrange your skills between characters how you please, you can take as many tries as you like for a given mission, and your HP and status resets between missions. Skill Augmentation and tablet management is the first form of gameplay that Essence Enforcer offers that has lasting ramifications over the course of your playthrough.


Tablets of Bronze quality or better can be hard to come by. Unless you're the developer, cough.

Why add Skill Augmentation?
Design-wise, this is a solution to a problem no testers brought up, that has to do with how gameplay extends into mid- and late-game encounters. As the game progresses, keeping your own party's stats up and the enemy's stats down will be mandatory to mitigate the damage enemies will be capable of.

The issue with this was that stat modifiers weren't very compelling at all. In the demo, stat modifiers were completely streamlined, you either dealt +30% or -30% damage, or took +30% or -30% damage. The only stats you could modify were Damage Dealt and Damage Taken, and only to a single intensity in either direction. This simply couldn't support an endgame where both teams are constantly struggling to gain the advantage needed to secure a crucial kill. So, I revamped stat modifiers.



Allowing both parties to modify maximum HP and healing output as stats opens up a ton of interactions with draining skills, abilities that heal a percentage of health, skills that trigger at critical HP, and so on. More interactions and decision points between skills is never a bad thing, to a point.

Three of these four stats--Maximum HP, Healing, and Damage Taken--are defensive by design. Not only to increase each others' effectiveness, they each respond to different kinds of incoming damage. Improving healing is a better countermeasure to sustained damage over time, for example. On top of all that, the secret fourth defensive stat--an enemy's Damage Dealt--forces the player to prioritize which targets are the greatest threat at a given time, based primarily on which Essences they're holding.

As the game goes on, the damage potential of enemies becomes a larger and larger portion of what the player can survive on their own. It becomes increasingly important to use stat modifiers to bridge the gap. 1,000 damage isn't conventionally survivable, but 422 (1000 * 0.65 * 0.65) is much more manageable at the end of the game. It gets to the point where enemy dispels can be the most dangerous action in their arsenal.

How does Skill Augmentation help?
The skill pool in Essence Enforcer has to be constrained due to how skill slots are handled. To keep in-battle information clutter low, each character can equip up to 16 skills, meaning there can only be so many skills to collect. Having an available pool of 400+ skills is meaningless when you can only take less than a tenth of them with you. Furthermore, once you have that many skills in your game, some will end to overshadow their competition. Players will take their best available single-target heal, their best buff dispel, and so on.

Contradicting this, however, many players derive enjoyment from constant improvement in their skills and capabilities. Given that I can only hand out so many skills before some of them see neglect, I began to search for ways to expand the pool for players who enjoy diversity. At the same time, I wanted a solution that didn't require me to dilute the pool with a bunch of same-y filler spells; meaning that as the player added newer spells, older spells would go away. This line of thinking about skill replacement eventually led me to skill Augmentation.


Skills will become increasingly more complex each time they are Augmented.

Eventually I was lead to a system where skills can be Augmented several times, and each augment adds one or more effects to the skill. This adds meaningful power to each skill--adding an HP drain effect to what was previously a pure nuke, for example--without pushing the skill up and above its competition.

For example, Riposte and Cripple are both Physical nukes with equal damage. The former blocks one attack for the user, and the other prevents the target from healing HP for a turn, giving them different use cases. Augmenting Riposte causes it to dispel Damage buffs on the target, raise the user's Damage for several turns, and add a critical-hit mark to the target; but a player with a fully-Augmented Riposte will still find Cripple useful for its heal block! If Riposte simply dealt more and more damage each Augment, Cripple would be comparatively worse unless it too was Augmented. By adding more effects--not necessarily stronger ones--Augmentation allows a player to diversify their toolbox without trivializing the decisions between different available skills.

Lastly, as the player accumulates more Precepts and Augments those skills over the course of the game, they'll find both their own skills and their opponents' are increasingly complex in how they're used and how they interact. This is a wonderful side-effect of adding Augmentation: the player must consider more and more information as the game progresses, and weigh their decisions more carefully between one skill or another. Two different heal-blocking skills may offer dramatically different additional effects, and the player must decide which they need now and which they need to save. Do they use the heal block with a dispel and risk the enemy buffing themselves, or do they use the heal block with a drain attached and risk missing out that healing later on?

It also gives the player a point of lasting personal improvement. Learning an enemy's attack pattern will help the player only so long as those enemies show up. Learning a cool skill interaction inside their own kit, however, will help the player for the entirety of their playthrough, giving the player room to improve at playing Essence Enforcer and providing the satisfaction that comes with increasing mastery at the game's challenges.

Conclusion
I wanted to push out an update on my recent progress without spoiling any developments, but it will be a while yet before I produce any story events that don't constitute some form of spoiler. So, I pushed out a gameplay blog instead. I have an existing feature in mind that I'll probably blog about down the road; as well as another, yet-to-be-implemented one, if either of those prove looking forward to.

Either way, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read all of this jabber about Skill Augmentation! The ins-and-outs of designing a game around strategic decision-making has always fascinated me, starting with, "How is it possible to lose at a game where you have unlimited time to plan your moves?" The answer seems to be, vaguely, "give the player more chances to make mistakes," but that's a topic for another blog post entirely.

With Skill Augmentation, I hope to create a huge stream of decisions for the player to consider and weigh and select based on their needs and preferences. If the player, scrolling through the list of available augments, feels themselves to be in a candy store picking out treats, I've succeeded in some small way with this feature. Augmentation provides many opportunities for mediocrity, no chance for failure (you can always acquire more materials!), and no small chance indeed for the player to succeed purely due to their own informed decisions.

From what I understand, players like to succeed under their own power.

Posts

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shayoko
We do not condone harassing other members by PM.
515
Really nice artwork
i can only request to make this game short
(i dont want to see anymore projects go into hiatus or canceled) :(
rather it be short and completed then
a big project that's never to be seen
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7565
Ooh... this looks interesting!

Subbed.
This game caught my eye the moment I saw it in the Screenshot thread.
well it looks like I don't have to make an oathguard game now because this looks like a slightly more colorful and upbeat alternate version

at first glance, looks unique in terms of both style of gameplay and world. that's enough to pique my interest in this world of vx rtp and pixel rougelike games

will be watching v closely, good luck brah.
let me know if you need a beta tester/other assistance.
let me live vicariously through you...
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10114
I don't like the yellow... it's a bit too harsh for my brain :(

Other than that this has a bit of style. I like.
Amazing! Okay, I think you don't want your opinion because I love all the rpgs buuut... I think this game is awesome!
author=mellytan
well it looks like I don't have to make an oathguard game now because this looks like a slightly more colorful and upbeat alternate version

I am not certain why you'd dismiss your project simply because a similar game exists. Make your game.

(edit: this is certainly not an upbeat project!)
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10114
author=LouisCyphre
(edit: this is certainly not an upbeat project!)


Sure it's upbeat! And hip! *makes gangster affiliation hand signs*
author=LouisCyphre
author=mellytan
well it looks like I don't have to make an oathguard game now because this looks like a slightly more colorful and upbeat alternate version
I am not certain why you'd dismiss your project simply because a similar game exists. Make your game.

(edit: this is certainly not an upbeat project!)

i was mostly being facetious bro but thanks anyway

also i was referring to the colors, eg pink haired anime girl etc

also the quote at the bottom of the description reminds me of rival schools
Excellent Really nice artwork.
Waiting anxious for play
Craze
it's been a long winter
12846
shayoko
Really nice artwork
i can only request to make this game short
(i dont want to see anymore projects go into hiatus or canceled) :(
rather it be short and completed then
a big project that's never to be seen


now this is the positive message we need as the first post on a project
Max McGee
sorry for all those times i was a dick now plz play my gams
9219
Hey, about how long does the current demo take to play through?

e: noticed a bug. saved in (or after completing? not sure) chapter 2 but the save file still says 'chapter 1: murder in the polis'
author=Max McGee
Hey, about how long does the current demo take to play through?

e: noticed a bug. saved in (or after completing? not sure) chapter 2 but the save file still says 'chapter 1: murder in the polis'

Chapters contain multiple missions. The demo contains only Chapter 1 missions.

e: oh I didn't answer your question

The demo can take anywhere from an an hour to three, depending on your reading speed. So say my testers, at least.
Max McGee
sorry for all those times i was a dick now plz play my gams
9219
The demo contains only Chapter 1 missions.

I am positive that prompts have popped up in the demo saying Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

Anyway, that's a pretty substantial demo. A lot more gameplay than I managed.

Edit: I am pretty sure I could turn this game's core mechanic into a pretty rad board or card game pretty easily.
I've tried several times to use this mechanic on tabletops, actually. Digitizing it gave me a lot of freedom to up the complexity of the spells themselves!

You should be seeing only prompts for "Mission 2," 3, etc. Unless something is grievously wrong, though. Mission prompts have the Law-and-Order-esque low piano key noise. Chapter prompts are a couple of seconds longer, draw a line across the middle of the screen before displaying text, and do not mute the BGM.
Max McGee
sorry for all those times i was a dick now plz play my gams
9219
Yep, it says "Mission", that's my error.

* Rita uses Might Charge.
* Patrick uses Might Prayer.
* Wightwisp uses Ban Phys.
* Wightwisp uses Ban Phys.

Oh you motherfucking motherfuckers--!!

Edit2: Realized later that actually I COULD have used the Mow Down I'd been setting up because the second Ban Phys canceled out the Ban Effect of the first one. Fascinating.

Edit1: Typo: "explaination" other than Outsiders. "Rejuvinate" is also misspelled, "raized", "immitations", etc.

I think I have actually found myself in a total deadlock against Parasite. Basically, the only Precept that Rita can use is Glaciate, so she has to Glaciate every turn (you can't pass, right?) which gives Parasite the Essence to do Ebbing Tide which damages us and heals him and we seem to be stuck in an infinite loop. It is very frustrating but I see no way to break the cycle.

Ok...I managed to break the cycle. And die. And have to replay the mission. D'oh!

Edit3: Later...



"By impeding us, you risk the wrath of the Gods! Now face the might of my inexplicable animu lolicon sparklefaeries!"

What the actual fuck, those monster graphics just knocked me right out of immersion. Have to take a break for a while. Not because of the sparklefaeries, but because that fight killed me in one round in a way that was total bullshit I could do literally nothing to avoid.
Right. Because the animu portraits didn't.

And... thank you for being very descriptive in how they killed you. You have given me exactly zero information beyond "look in this monster troop, somewhere."

Please be specific on how you died. Was it surged Tempest, perhaps?
Max McGee
sorry for all those times i was a dick now plz play my gams
9219
author=LouisCyphre
Right. Because the animu portraits didn't.

And... thank you for being very descriptive in how they killed you. You have given me exactly zero information beyond "look in this monster troop, somewhere."

Please be specific on how you died. Was it surged Tempest, perhaps?

actually the animu portraits didn't bother me because they weren't lolisparklefaeries. I am not bothered by style as much as by content.

I am pretty sure it was surged tempest. I think a precept I hadn't seen before called "Overload" also happened? And I was pretty sure it was one of many instances of enemies starting the battle in a surging state "because fuck you". It was definitely notable because you only have to lose one party member to die in this game and they totally took both from full to dead in one turn.
What this tells me is that you... didn't hit them. The only troop with that configuration is Mission 6 battle 2, which is a fight that allows you to act first. There are in fact, only two fights in the game where you can't act first, and I specifically reduce their initial damage in both instances.

Therefore,
author=Max McGee
starting the battle in a surging state "because fuck you".
is false. Unless, of course, you can recreate the issue. If you can, please refer to my PM inbox because I'd like to know immediately in the event that such a thing actually occurs.

edit: I have been led to the following conclusion. This game's design (unintentionally!) preys on common jRPG habits, such as buffing one's self at the start of battle or focusing down a single enemy at a time.

The usual flow in battle, as testers describe it, is that the player should first use their AoE spells to establish Essence control over their opponents. Other damaging spells should also be used for this purpose in the first couple of turns. Only after this initial "early game" step of the fight do typical jRPG patterns emerge.

These are concepts that are critical to success in this game, and they are barely mentioned or hinted at. I think that's the issue you're having, Max. I gave you the tools to succeed but then simply assumed that they'd be used properly, when every convention of the genre tricks the average player into using them incorrectly.
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