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.

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.

Upcoming game jams

There are two game jam events coming up in the next couple of months that are of distinct interest to me. Next month, the Mud Coder’s Guild are holding a month-long jam in association with the folks at Written Realms, the first National Mud Building Month (or namubumo, if you’d rather).

NaMuBuMo challenges you to create 100 MUD rooms (or substantive locations) in 31 days, mirroring the long-running NaNoWriMo novel-writing challenge:

Writing up 100 rooms in 31 days doesn’t sound quite as daunting as 50,000 words over 30 days but making an interesting world in those 100 rooms (or more) within that month will be more challenging than one might suspect. Like NaNoWriMo participants are expected to craft this world within the confines of the given month, concept to completion. There is no one holding you to that or any other rule but yourself, of course, and there is nothing to gain other than personal satisfaction.

Secondly, November will bring 2019’s Procjam. It’s always a great event:

The goal is to Make Something That Makes Something – that could be a videogame with procedural generation in, or maybe an artwork that uses generative systems somehow, or a physical card deck that randomly creates Shakespeare plots – whatever you like, whatever makes you excited to make things. As usual, we encourage you to make it your own by starting early, finishing late, or adapting the times to make it healthier for you. We can’t wait to see what you’ll make!

This year’s announcement post from long-time organiser Mike Cook contains some further news; after this year he’ll be stepping down and is looking for volunteers to take over the reins.

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.

What makes “Clicker Games” good?

Here’s a nice little YouTube video from RealityEscape on what makes a clicker game good:

Just in case the name didn’t give it away, Bones of the Idle has a strong idle/clicker component. When you’re gathering materials

There’s a few points raised that I want to briefly talk about in the context of Bones‘ design:

Ascension

I kind of have a system in mind for “ascension”, whereby players will be able to retire characters in exchange for a regular offline income. You get to start over with a new character, and every day you’ll receive some income and items based on all your retired character’s skills. Potentially these retirees will appear in the game as NPCs.

Autoclickers and scripting

I don’t care, in general. The client is written in Javascript and executed in the browser, so there’s only so much I can do to stop people using the developer console to script things. All the important stuff is server-side and validated there, but there’ll still be little shortcuts dedicated students of Javascript could uncover. I just have to minimise what scripters can get away with, and try not to sweat the small stuff.

Monetisation

Bones of the Idle is free to play, and there’s no adverts. It’s also not going to be nagging you to spend money. However, my time has value, and I’m not adverse to money. I set up a Ko-fi page here, where people can chip in with donations if they feel the game is worth it.

If I ever add anything resembling micro transactions — in general I have no issues with them, when done well — I’d have them be ethical, not lootboxes, and definitely not pay-to-win.

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.