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Showing posts from March, 2011

Dungeon design journal #4: making a monster

Introduction

If you are using Inform ATTACK, how much code does it take to create a monster? Six words.
The boar is a hostile person.I have spent a considerable time coding up three monsters for my dungeon crawling game. The third one took me about 1600 words, which is a little more than 6. Where does the discrepancy come from?

One of the main design goals of almost any tactical combat game should be to make the enemies as diverse as possible. This is not necessarily easy. Desktop Dungeons, which features only a handful of monsters, has only few good ones. Mostly it is just the "raise one stat, lower another" approach: a monster with a lot of health but little damage, a monster with little health but a lot of damage, a monster with high magic resistance but low health. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has many awesome monsters, like hydras and ugly things, but also (certainly on the earlier levels) a lot of monsters that feel more or less identical. And I for one wasn't impressed…

Dungeon design journal #3: design philosophy

With the basic system in place, the times has now come to think about content. In fact, I have already coded up two rooms -- one of which is the Entrance Hall, which doesn't do an awful lot. But before I dive into content creation, I should spell out my design philosophy, both to make it explicit for myself, and to get some early feedback.


Thematic background

The thematic background of the game will be sword & sorcery: gritty and violent fantasy that takes place in crumbling civilizations built on the ruins of even older empires. It is a world where wizard don't throw around fireballs and other flashy weapons of mass destructions, but cast curses that trap the soul or rot the body -- curses they have learned in a search for forbidden knowledge that left them more demon than human. It is a world where horrific monsters threaten mankind everywhere, but where no elves, dwarfs, orcs, trolls, faeries, or any of the other "races" of Fantasyland have ever been seen. It i…

Dungeon design journal #2: further dungeon generation

After getting the basics of randomly generating the dungeon map in place, I spent some time cleaning up the code. This is a necessary step in any larger project: whatever you have written after several hours of obsessed coding may work, but it is almost certainly not pretty. Cleaning up the code can be as easy an rearranging it and adding headings, but more commonly also involves separation (any part of a routine that might come in useful elsewhere should be written as a stand-alone routine) and rewriting (of code that is either ugly or not as general as it could be).

One thing I tried to do this time is reducing the number of global variables I used -- using local variables for local properties is neater and less prone to strange bugs later. However, I don't think you can send local variables to rulebooks. You cannot, for instance, write "consider the monster scoring rules for (guy - a monster) at (place - a location)" and then use "guy" and "place" …

Dungeon design journal #1: random dungeon generation

Would it enhance my productivity if I start a public design journal for my projects? That is one question I'm willing to answer by performing an experiment, and the other question is: will anyone be interested in reading these posts, or will they just clutter up Planet IF? The second is the more important one.

I am torn between two desires. On the one hand, I want to write a showcase for the ATTACK extension that is just good dungeon crawling fun. On the other hand, I want to write a piece that is important in terms of story or character or, well, anything artistic. I first considered some far-fetched ways of putting them together. I then told myself sternly that I had to make a choice. I have finally decided to just do both at the same time. Fail-proof strategy right? Anyway, here is the first design journal for what is going to be the unapologetically tactical game -- which I haven't named yet, so I'll call it Dungeon for now.

The basic idea was given to me by playing De…

IF Theory Reader: "Crimes against Mimesis" by Roger S. G. Sorolla

So, after a decade the IF Theory Reader has finally appeared. Great news, obviously; but, as the editor (Kevin Jackson-Mead) warns us, it may "not necessarily represent the state of the art in interactive fiction theory". IF ten years ago was different from IF today. Which is not to say that we cannot learn anything from these essays, of course, only that we have to approach them with a certain caution. (As well as with a certain laughter and a certain step of the dance, as always.)

The first article in the reader is the famous Crimes against Mimesis, by Roger Sorolla. For the greatest part, it reads as a discussion of what was wrong with old-school adventure games:
Objects that make no sense in the fictional context, but are just there to enable the player to solve puzzles.Different literary genres mixed together without rhyme or reason.Puzzles that have no connection with the fiction -- especially gratuitous mazes, riddles, and so on.The lock-and-key syndrome, where the who…