Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.
Probably because I have been reading so much about them again, some weeks ago the idea came into my head that someday, when I am much, much improved in my programming ability, I might try to make a roguelike game of my own.
Not with an expectation of popularity, or whatever, but because as a long-term goal I think it is difficult yet something I potentially could do. I'd like to try it. I want to become able to do such things. So I'd better work harder on developing my skills and finish those other projects of mine, right?
My first idea was to try and make some sort of World of Warcraft roguelike, mainly because I'd been saying for a while that if such a thing existed I'd play it, but also because a lot of the pieces of such a game seem to already existed. There are roguelikes with overland areas and multiple dungeons, ones with NPCs who give quests, and there is even an (under development) version of Diablo, which I believe has a similar random item scheme. Not that this would make such an undertaking anything near trivial for me. Most of the features mentioned previously are found in variants of the Angband codebase, which presumably are relatively easy to transfer across games (since I witness developers of those games speak of doing so and having done so), but DiabloRL at least runs on a different, closed engine, albeit one whose descendent is intended partly as a tool for easy roguelike making by others.
Anyway, even if those parts were easy, making it into the game it is supposed to be would still be a project of years. How does one convert a game designed to feature death as a painless, minor and frequent setback to a genre which has permadeath as a core mechanic? Or a game designed around multiplayer interaction, especially when it comes to defeating bosses, into something fit for solo play that still feels somehow like its inspiration?
I suppose one could compromise by making the spirit healers impose a harsh and permanent penalty, without the option of running to one's corpse in order to recover? But then why would anyone play a class other than shaman or warlock? Recent reading about the release in English of Shiren the Wanderer on the Wii suggests the idea that perhaps experience and items achieved in a dungeon cannot be kept unless it is completed (and survived). Surely a large part of the problem here is that I don't have a well-defined design problem or goal to work to, and am just speculating wildly about what such a game could be. That seems fine to me, as far as I know such wild speculation is a workable way to build a pool of ideas from which more coherent conception and design goals can be constructed. What can it be? What should it be?
Well, attempts to emulate the multiplayer aspect shouldn't result in players having to grind and maintain large stables of near-equal level characters to tackle dungeons a la Pokemon; I'm almost certain of that! Anyway, in the hypothetical future where actual coding work on this game happens I'd best start with something simple, probably something much simpler than making a basic demo Elwynn Forest to romp in, but the idea serves to say 'start simple'.
And I should probably make an actual development document for such ideas sometimes, but first I'm making a post because (right now) I enjoy being creative publicly and think maybe it is a good thing to do so. So, ideas and conversions and such?
Resting in inns / cities: get rid of, probably. That mechanic was aimed at decreasing addictive play by rewarding taking breaks. I don't think any game made by me is going to have that problem.
Flight points: Excellent idea for dealing with expansive overworld in my opinion. Unlikely to have flight animations but still! Free 'portation between visited zones. What if that could be integrated into some kind of save point mechanic? Let's not get carried away.
Hunger mechanic and food scarcity: "Drat! I could've taken the Lich King if only I didn't starve to death three chambers away."
Anyway, those are relatively superficial questions.
Classes and races: Obviously got to feel like the originals but how to do it, I don't know. Especially with the being built for inter-class synergy.
Multiplayer aspect and 'group' quests / dungeons: don't know. Maybe just build for a solo PVE experience - I don't intend to try for actual multiplayer, but if I could find a clever way to simulate it that would be great. Maybe some sort of limited cooperation like the original game's Dungeon Finder interface? Laugh now; me pulling that off is funny. And now I laugh again, because what if you could at points activate such a task-focused queue and be given temporarily a handful of random NPCs to assist you for something, working like NetHack's pets or Crawl's summonses?
Talents: presumably, might not require much innovation
Professions: someday maybe?
Quests: probably reduced to 'enter dungeon X and kill entity y'
And from the other side, it would certainly be turn-based and rendered in ASCII because that and random playing area generation is the point. Oh! What about randomised items for identification? Items don't play thaat much role in the game, so probably more would need to be added (and some that aren't good!) for having to identify them to be a worthwhile aspect of play. Which leads to... what is the scope? Is it meant to be a grindy, lengthy process like the original, or something quicker and simpler? And I don't know the answer to that.
All of which brings us to the other thing: the WoWRL idea ended up being a bit superseded a few days ago by a new inspiration. I was watching a Korean period martial arts film, English title Shadowless Sword and thought it would be a lot of fun to make a game in which the player character could do things like the characters in that film, or similar films... you'll need to use your imagination, it's just ASCII and text.
But it seemed an immediately compelling idea: make a roguelike game in which the focus is the combat itself (although to impart motive energy and some sort of sensibility probably there will need to be some sort of quest or goal, which will likely take on an importance) and the player is encouraged to pull off impressive feats with eir character.
I envision it as being that most enemies in the game would fall into the category 'mooks' and be little threat to the main character, tempered by frequent bosses with similar abilities to the player character. Perhaps a system in which skilfull or impressive stunts are rewarded, and thus faced with a boss or mini-boss opponent the player can use the swarms of mooks to build up some sort of luck (or whatever) bonus in order to pull off still greater feats and defeat eir foe?
I was thinking at character creation one would select from among a set of skilled-combat archetypes as character class, then be encouraged to specialise within that archetype by developing skills within that archetype's range. So I have been trying to think of character concepts which could be useful and fun to play in such a game. I don't, when it comes to it, know enough about that area of fiction to embark on a categorisation project, but perhaps I can learn and work from what others have done and know. Or how much distinction to make between styles - I was originally thinking you'd have wuxia-style character and... what else?
The film I saw isn't a wuxia film, I think, because that seems to be a specifically Chinese category, so either despite the characters having similar abilities to those in the few wuxia films I have seen there needs to be some distinction made, or a more general category made. Or I need to learn more to understand better the disctinction. What else?
I suppose the questions are more like: what is the term for the archetype found in many Asian films of the skilled warrior who fights with a variety of weapons and performs feats beyond the ability of ordinary humans? Who fights with a single weapon? Who fits with no weapon, or improvised weapons? What degree of distinction is useful to make? At the moment to me it looks like the useful distinctions are weapons / unarmed, with an option for specialising into a specific weapon for the former or improvising environmental weapons for the latter. I want to support things like fighting an entire battle with one's sword still in its scabbard (but still being used), or fighting an entirely evasive battle. Often, from what I've seen, important characters' weapons are also important or special, though more often in the sense of cuts through other blades / isn't cut through by other blades and being of high quality, rather than having, frex, a fiery aura. I always have difficulty telling if this is representative of the weapon's or the wielder's quality, but presumably a blend of both.
What else? In the realm of Western character types, Hollywood action films fall short. The characters may be skilled and resourceful, but not when it comes to the actual fighting in ways this game is meant to capture. So instead... swashbucklers and jedi. Yup. The primary criterion is 'character types who do fun and interesting things in battle', so nyah. Those present fun possibilities. The other closest approximation would be superheroes, but I don't want to write a superhero design interface and anyway I think the flavour doesn't quite fit.
I still have the nagging feeling that I'm not making a distinction between some character types who ought to be, and that I'm overlooking adding at least one category, but in neither case do I know what. At one point I thought to add a more directly martial character type like the European knight or the manga / anime character Guts, but in retrospect I think I was reaching and it wouldn't be interesting enough to justify itself.
Talking with people about this led to what could form a design goal for the project: the hypothetical player should find the content portrayed convincingly enough to run with be able to reasonably believe any two character types stand a fair chance with each other.
Would probably be a smaller game than the World of Warcraft one, but I wonder if it would be more difficult to write. It's the sort of thing that thrives on highly interactive environments. Oh! That's another thing - jedi characters probably benefit from having blaster bolts to deflect, but that might interfere with the balance of everything else. I thought about having each class initially begin in its own, segregated mini-dungeon but that's probably a bad idea, a stop-gap solution. Introduce gunslingers as a playable character type? Oh, that's enough, that's more than enough. Let's stop here and work on what's immediate.
Now here's another big question: years from now when (maybe) I've learned enough to actually code such games, will I still want to? Tess suggested if I want to make games I could start with a sprite game for the Android platform, maybe I should look into that.
I need better tags for this.