Character and Item generation

I’ve been working on BONES of the LOST GOD’s Character and Item generation this week. First of all, here’s an example character, wearing a few items:

The stats rolled might look a little off if you’re used to Dungeons & Dragons‘ traditional 3-18 range. Instead, each ability score falls in the range 11-16, with lower numbers being much more prevalent. Ability bonuses scale much more linearly as well, with no dead spots, so getting an extra +1, even at the low end, should feel like a genuine improvement. It’s going to be a brutal game, but you’ll have a whole party of hapless heroes to use, and an infinite stream of fresh recruits, so the odds are still in your favour.

I’ve also got some encumbrance and quality ratings in there. Each item generated is unique (albeit built from templates), so I can track the durability of each item separately. Because your items can break, and you can’t carry an infinite amount of stuff, there’s some tactical decisions to be made before setting off into the wilderness. It also opens the door for having perishable items, field repair kits, and all sorts of other little mechanics.

You can have a play with the generator herelet me know if you manage to roll up someone cool! Both player characters and NPCs are going to be drawn from the same pool, so each time I need a NPC, or to populate a roster of potential new recruits, they’ll be coming from the characters created by this generator.

Next up I’ll be fleshing out the items a little more, and then having the game automatically generate a new party of characters for newly-registered players.

There and Back Again

Welcome to day one of full-time development of BONES of the LOST GOD! A few weeks ago, I resigned from my web developer/devops role at Unnamed Small eCommerce Company, worked out my notice, and left, just so I could be here today, starting work on BotLG full time. This is it. This is what I do now; work full-time on this browser-based game that’s a love letter to old-school tabletop RPGs, text adventures, and party-based RPGs of yesteryear.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

I’m working from my own little hobbit-hole, sat at my little desk in the living room. I have my small curated selection of RPG handbooks to my left; a sleepy cat to my right; a mug of tea; lofi hip hop beats to relax/study to playing in the background, and my IDE of choice fired up and cursor blinking. I had wanted to start the week with a Twitch stream, or perhaps a podcast, but in a cruel twist of fate, I’m currently full of cold and less than presentable. So we’ll save that for another time.

Today I’m going to mainly downloading things, configuring things, composer installing things, setting up my Trello board of things-to-do, and getting started with a bit more of a professional attitude. Character (PC and NPC) creation needs finishing off, and in the spirit of NaMuBuMo, I want to work on my location editor.

Wish me luck.

If you want to learn a little more about BotLG, there's a brief synopsis of the project and my goals up on my Patreon page. I'd love you to take a look, and if you're interested, throw in your support alongside the other brave and virtuous souls already subscribed.

Mapping BotLG

It’s October now, so that means NaMuBuMo is upon us! This seems like a perfect excuse to take some time to plot out the world of BONES of the LOST GOD; luckily, I have some geography already, from it’s first incarnation as a play by mail game. I’ve started a Twine project to help with the mapping, more for the editor’s layout and connection tools:

There’s a lot more stuff in Rooksfoot that needs adding — the forge-shrine to Phaestus, Myxile’s Menagerie, the various Guild Houses, the offices of the Statistique, the Temple of Anama, the Halls of the Stone-Blood Fists, Froome’s the chemists, Wilson & Co., (a cheese shop of some good standing), and I’m sure a bunch of other places that got mentioned once in passing.

That’s great and all — Rooksfoot is the main hub location after all — but it’s also a little daunting given that BotLG is now a lot more graphical, with each location having a couple of sentences of description, but more significantly, a tiled map to explore (complete with fog of war and line of sight). I’ve made a start on a graphical map editor, and, while not strictly in the spirit of NaMuBuMo, I’ll be using some time this month to also work on that.

I can lean on some procedural generation to create some of the maps — the forests, for example, and some of the more dungeon-like content (like the Rat’s Nest, and the eventual procedural dungeon beneath The Skull), but I think much of the city will end up being hand-made. I’m thinking I can use a traditional dungeon generator to dig out room shapes, and then re-connect them with wider passageways and hand-decorate them to produce some sections of the city; but to really do justice to some of the more “iconic” locations, like the ribcage arena, I’ll be making those from scratch.

A few new sprites

I’ve been doing some edits to Quale’s Scroll-o-Sprites to create some new creatures, I’m particularly pleased with the cat wizard and horse soldier. The bear-man is also kind of interesting; it makes me wonder if I could eventually come up with something to represent an owlbear.

I’m thinking of chopping the sprite sheet up further into heads and bodies, to see if I can create something like the system Pokemon Fusion uses, but that’s a job for another day.

Pathfinding, redux

This evening I got pathfinding working around a larger, scrolling map. I thought this would be best demonstrated in motion, so here’s a little YouTube video of it in action:

I had to turn the sprites down to 32×32 from 64×64, as the view seemed too claustrophobic that zoomed in. This has some unfortunate knock-on effects for the mobile client — I think at 32×32 the tiles will be too small to accurately tap on — but I’ll tackle that another day.

Point of view

Last night was the inaugural meeting of my new after school study club, and it was a very cosy, pleasant experience. We went around the table and talked about our various works-in-progress, discussed the merits of various database/model frameworks, and eventually settled down to work on our individual projects.

I spent the time getting field-of-view and fog-of-war working in Bones of the Idle. I already had some code from an earlier JS roguelike project to hand, so with a bit of refactoring I was able to slot that into place:

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view” — Goethe

The darker areas around the edges represent tiles the player has seen before, but currently cannot see (fog of war), with brighter tiles they can currently see surrounding them. As you can see, their field of view isn’t a perfect circle, as it’s being obscured by the nearby trees.

Now that the player can be placed on the map (which in turn can be larger than the view port, a new feature over the previous code base), the next obvious step is to re-implement pathfinding and get them moving around and scrolling. I still want that to be verified server-side, so again I’m hoping to take the existing code I already have, give it a polish, and drop it in place.

Aesthetics

I spent a bit of time last night working on the new look for Bones of the Idle. I’ve been on a bit of a lo-fi vaporwave kick at the moment, and seeing how much of the game is supposed to evoke a kind of wistful nostalgia for late 80s/early 90s BBS door games like Legend of the Red Dragon (1989) and classic ASCII roguelikes (Rogue, 1980), as well as early pixel art gems from the 8-bit eras of the Spectrum and Commodore 64, vaporwave seemed like a good fit.

Some vaporwave discussion on YouTube

Prototyping

I prototyped some UI elements like simple buttons, basic form elements, overlays and popup boxes, and ended up implementing them on the main home screen, which I think looks pretty good now:

It’s aggressively neon, the green glows in a totally tacky way, and I’m mixing green and pink in a way that shouldn’t exist in nature. In short, I’m pretty pleased with it.

I’ll be sticking mainly with this colour palette (top row), which I think most would consider to be canonically vaporwave, but I’ll also be experimenting with the colours on the bottom row, which are the 180° hue-rotated compliments. In theory they should compliment each other well (if used sparingly), but I’m no designer or colour theorist. I’m pretty confident in my skills for the more technical aspects of getting this game built, but the look and feel of it is something I’m really going to have to work at and pay close attention to.

What happened to June?

Here we are in the middle of July, and there’s a conspicuous lack of changelog notes for June. So what happened?

Most of June was spent in an existential funk as the project floundered a bit and I found it hard to keep working on it. Some of code was getting a bit smelly, particularly on the client-side, and I found as I was working on new content (skill-driven combat, specifically) a lot of the structural assumptions I had made early on were proving to be incorrect.

So it’s time for drastic measures to get things moving again. Co-incidentally, the folks at Debian released buster, the new version of their distribution recently. I took this as a bit of an omen and upgraded my server. It went pretty smoothly, and it gives me access to the latest version of PHP, and so the latest version of Laravel, too.

I created a new project, and I’ve been slowly porting over the decent code and rewriting the bad, paying particular attention to the client, where I’ve completely re-written the network handling, and made some pretty massive changes to the display canvas.

The upshot of all this is that the game is looking… different. Better, I think, but certainly different. The colour palette is a lot more high-contrast (and dare I say it? vaporwave aesthetic) and the visible map area is much larger. I realised that what I really want to be implementing is a more roguelike experience, with larger, scrolling maps to explore. So that’s where I’m heading.

Changelog, 2019-05

May was a huge month for Bones of the Idle. For one thing, it got named and stopped being “that browser game project”. But it also got pixel art sprites, maps you can wander around (with A* pathfinding), crafting, and skill-based combat. It really went from being a proof-of-concept to being an actual game.

Environment

  • The player is now visible on the map and will move to a location when the map is clicked. Pathfinding is calculated entirely server-side and starting an action is now co-ordinate based and validated by the server.
  • The forests are now (potentially) infinite, with new maps generated by the server on demand. A small town consisting of pre-generated maps has been started.

Combat, monsters and NPCs

  • Monsters (and players) have a selection of stats that influence combat. Both now also have combat skills that have individual effects, strengths and weaknesses.
  • New monster: giant forest rat
  • Initial work on NPCs you can converse with.

Items and crafting

  • Crafting is now implemented with two skills: woodworking and cooking. Interacting with a crafting workbench opens up a new UI that shows all the recipes available to you, and allows you to specify how many products you want to start crafting.
  • New recipe: process oak wood
  • New recipe: wooden skewers
  • New recipe: rat on a stick

User interface

  • Player health and energy are displayed as a pair of progress bars above the map. Players now slowly recover health while performing any action other than combat, and can quickly recover both health and energy by eating food, or resting at specific locations.
  • New popup overlay windows for player stats, inventory and item details.
  • Clicking an item now pops up a small window describing it, and allows you to use certain items. Items with a use effect show a small yellow star next to their name.
  • Many, many visual updates and tweaks, including full mobile browser support.

All my to-do notes and outstanding bugs are tracked on this public trello board.

Pathfinding for robots

Bones of the Idle is the result of multiple separate coding projects coming together over the course of six months or so. I made each of them with the intention of learning something new, then in typical fashion abandonded them once I was happy with the fundamentals. What’s been gratifying to see is how each of those projects has fed directly into the game. All that time wasn’t wasted after all!

The largest piece of the puzzle was an event-driven mini game, envisioned as a clone of the World of Warcraft mission table. I used it as an excuse to learn Laravel and play around with Bootstrap, and it still forms the basis of much of the back-end today. It was styled like a typical Bootstrap admin panel, heavy on text and progress bars, and when you complete some herb gathering or tree logging in the game today, that’s a much-sped up version of finishing a mission that originally would have taken hours or even days to complete. Although it had locations with different objectives in each, there was no sense of the player existing anywhere beyond a room-like “container”.

The next project to get folded in was a roguelike engine I made in Javascript, to experiment with the excellent ROT.js library and the Command design pattern. That resulted in the maps we have today, with the player visible and moving around, interacting with the map elements to complete actions. Unfortunately, the disconnect between the old location code and the new maps lead to a few inconsistencies that needed tidying up.

For one, the player’s position and movement wasn’t often validated server-side; with a little bit of JavaScript know-how it was possible to teleport yourself around the current map. In fact, alpha-tester extraordinaire Simon did just that.

It wasn’t hideously game-breaking, considering the server didn’t (yet) care if you could reach a given tile before allowing you to interact with it; but annoying nonetheless. What was a little more disturbing was an auto-farming function he managed to come up with, that sought out rats, trees and flowers to farm, and automatically clicks on them. The game wasn’t even in proper alpha state, and already I had my first scripted bot to contend with.

The solution was to make movement a lot more robust and to handle pathfinding server-side. I used the BlackScorp/Astar PHP package to handle generating paths, and changed the client side to request a path to follow, rather than having it make up one of it’s own. Now the server only saves genuinely accessible positions for the player, making movement much more controlled. In addition, the server also validates that players are adjacent to the action nodes they’re attempting to interact with. Some botting via Javascript injection is still possible (and likely always will be; that’s just a cost of having a JS client), but at least now you can’t do things that are impossible by playing manually.

Long-term, I’m not too worried about JS injection and botting. I’m going to make sure everything is validated server-side, so bots can’t outperform human players, and aim to make enough actions that require human interaction that botting becomes perhaps an interesting diversion, rather than the best way to experience the game. I might not support it per se, but I was genuinely excited to see the stuff Simon had come up with, and it certainly gave me plenty to do.