ATTACK MOUNTAIN DEVELOPER DIARY 4
DEVELOPER DIARY 4: THE WORLD OF LEGEND OF THE TIME STAR
The Fortress City of Foghold is the world’s crown jewel. Nestled between The Northern Range and the plentiful land of Ardvale Fields, Foghold is a major center of commerce and the arts, not to mention home of The High King and his legendary Royal Knights. Foghold’s denizens enjoy the highest quality of life out of all the world’s major cities, thanks to its strategic placement that provides an overabundance of resources. It is well-protected and nearly impenetrable thanks to its high walls and few points of entry. It casts an unmistakable profile against the the sky, both inspiring and imposing at once.
The World of Time Star
In Legend of the Time Star,you’ll explore a vast and exciting world teeming with life and adventure. Whether you’re deep in Bolgard Grotto searching for a lost treasure, or scaling the snowy peaks of the Northern Ridge on the tail of a dangerous creature threatening a nearby town, you’ll encounter a wide range of beautifully rendered environments full of mysteries for you to uncover. In today’s developer diary, we’ll reveal some of the locations in Legend of the Time Star for the first time, in addition to explaining the linear/free-roam aspects of the game. Excited? You should be! Read on!
Linear + Free Roam
Cross section of game progression / environment map
Legend of the Time Star has both linear and non-linear aspects, like many of its inspirations. The chart above helps break it down; the red line that runs vertically through Hyder’s Wood, the game’s first major town, and Fresh River Ridge denotes the story path. This is the general direction the narrative will guide the player in as they advance through the game’s main story arc.
Towns are the largest on the chart for a reason. They’re the player’s safe zones; here, the player can sleep/recover at the Tavern, modify their equipment at the Forge, buy items at shops, and get medical attention if they so require it. Players will also find a wide range of unique characters to interact with in each town, some of which trigger side-stories, which are smaller story arcs that provide additional content to those who wish to leave no stone unturned. In addition to providing the player with great rewards, side-stories also shed more light on the world of Time Star and those that reside in it. Each town provides side-stories tied to the areas around it; in the chart above, for example, the player will find side-stories tied to Bolgard Grotto, Hyder’s Wood, the Crash Site, and Fresh River Ridge. The game’s main dungeons – ones that the player must beat to advance the story – are usually tied to the nearest town, and located in one of the main areas it services.
Each offshoot in the chart above is a unique environment with its own enemies and additional side-stories separate from the ones provided in town, meaning the player doesn’t need to rely solely on towns to stumble upon things to do. Players don’t need a reason to go to a location, just the means to do so (whether that’s a unique ability or simply advancing the story). Once they’ve got access to a locaton, they can go there whenever they please - whether it’s to hunt a rare creature, discover an unexplored dungeon, or simply see what the area has to offer.
For this reason, Time Star is both linear and free-roam. The player doesn’t have to advance the story until they’re ready; if they want, they can spend hours clearing all of the side-content available to them at their juncture in the narrative before moving on. On the other hand, if a player’s simply interested in completing the main story of Time Star, that’s fine too. It all depends on your playstyle and what you want to get out of the game.
Bolgard Grotto is nestled deep within Hyder’s Wood, accessed via an abandoned mine that runs beneath the southeastern edge of the forest. While it houses many rare resources, its large, twisting caverns are also home to many dangerous creatures. The deeper one goes, the greater the risks – and rewards. It’s even said that a complex catacomb exists somewhere within its reaches.
In addition to main dungeons that are part of the game’s core narrative, there are also unexplored and unlisted dungeons for the user to uncover. These dungeons range wildly in size and goal; some dungeons might be a single room containing a fiery battle against hordes of enemies, while others might be a half-hour long dungeon crawl capped off with a unique boss and loot.
There are two ways to discover these side dungeons; one is to purchase Dungeon Maps from a vendor in town, which marks the dungeon’s location on your map. The other? To stumble upon the dungeon yourself.
No place on the planet is quite like the Doldrums. This damp, dangerous swampland stretches for countless miles in many directions; to go in without a map is considered suicide. This is likely the reason that humans without hope have been coming here for centuries to ‘give themselves’ to the swamp, allowing themselves to waste away within its confines. Those that do so rise as Fungal Drudgers; depressed, moaning beings controlled by a mysterious and woeful life force. These lifeless husks used to spend their days staring at the skies and wailing, keeping to themselves. They were considered harmless until the Crash filled them with a mindless rage that has turned them into vicious monsters.
How Big is the Game?
Time Star will contain roughly half a dozen towns along its main arc, with each one servicing a handful of surrounding locations in addition to one or more major dungeons. This works out to approximately 36 different unique environments to explore, full of exciting adventures to undertake!
Long abandoned, the Ruins of Gom reside in an arid canyon of the same name. Foghold’s archives describe Gom as an ancient warrior that once ruled the desert alongside his army of Claymen - humanoid creatures borne of special clay pits unique to the region. No one has seen a sign of the Claymen for centuries – however, if they exist, it’s said that they do so within the walls of these ruins. Rumor also has it that Gom’s amulet, the supposed source of his power over the Claymen, is buried here along with the warrior’s lost remains.
That’s the end of today’s update – with each day we’re a step closer to revealing the gameplay video. This is not the last diary regarding the game world – we’ll be revealing more locations and information in upcoming diaries! Stay tuned.
Want this game to become a reality? We need the support of the gaming community to make Legend of the Time Star happen. Back to our Kickstarter today!
ATTACK MOUNTAIN DEVELOPER DIARY 3
DEVELOPER DIARY 3: ARMOR / THE FORGE PART II
Hi everyone! Today, we’re going to talk about something near and dear to the hearts of many RPG fans; armor. One of the staples in character progression in RPGs is equipment – not just the weapons you wield, but the armor and accessories you wear. We’ll be breaking this one down into three big pieces: acquiring and equipping armor, gem slots, and upgrading your armor at the Forge.
A high-level armor design, initially unveiled in the wallpaper. Click for bigger version
Making Armor feel Special Again
The user can access their Hero’s equipment via the in-game menu (brought up with the TAB key). This allows them to tweak it at any time using a familiar slot-based system. The diagram above displays the different armor and accessory slots the player will have open to them. Most are self-explanatory, but there are two things that may have stuck out – the Rune Bracelet slot, and that giant yellow box that reads ‘Armor’. We’ll be addressing the Rune Bracelet in its own update when we discuss magic in greater detail – WAY too much to put here!
In Legend of the Time Star,getting a new suit of armor is a major milestone. While there are a lot of different items and equipment for the player to acquire, we wanted armor acquisition to feel special, so we put extra weight behind its impact on your Hero. Not only does acquiring a new suit of armor change the character’s entire appearance, it also dramatically boosts their abilities in a few ways that we’ll explain below. Because of this, armor suits are not as densely distributed throughout the game as other equipment. We currently plan to put six different suits into the game, which when matched against the game’s expected length, means you’ll get a new suit of armor roughly every sixth of the way through the game.
So when do you actually get new armor? Well, that depends! Some are built into dungeons. Others are acquired as part of the story. Others, still, are optional, and you can beat the entire game without getting them!
Properties and Progress
Armor provides the following key attributes. These are the main variables that change from suit to suit.
- Defense: Defense is the backbone of damage mitigation in Time Star. While other equipment types provide defense, none of them provide nearly as much as the armor slot (with the exception of Shields). The biggest difference users will notice when upgrading to a new suit of armor is that their damage reduction will be significantly better.
- Gem Sockets: We’ll get into these further on in this update. Gem Sockets are one of the major ways to boost armor’s stats and imbue it with special properties. Higher level suits of armor have more initial Gem Sockets and have a higher Gem Socket cap.
- Special Traits: Most suits of armor provide the user with a special trait that makes each suit even more unique. The potency of these can be boosted by intelligent Gem Socket use in addition to upgrading the armor’s stats at the Forge.
Building A Better Breastplate
Since there are fewer armor suits in the game, we had to think of different ways to make each suit last longer, in addition to ensuring there are enough options for customization and stat tweaking to keep players feeling like they’re constantly improving and advancing their character in a meaningful way. Since Armor functions differently from Weapons, we had to also think of how make armor customization function differently within the Forge.
One of the things we added into armor suits is the aforementioned Gem Sockets. The amount of gem sockets a suit of armor starts out with depends on the tier of armor it is; the later on in the game the user acquires the armor, the more gem sockets it’ll likely start out with.
So, what do they do? Simple: the gems that the user finds from treasure chests and loot drops – the very same ones mentioned in our first look into the Forge – can be plugged into an armor suit’s gem socket at the Forge, to give it different properties!
Each and every gem in the game provides a different type of improvement when used in this manner – when combined with the fact that many of the armors have multiple gem slots, the combinations are endless and you’ll be able to finetune and bolster your armor to match any situation you may encounter.
You won’t know what a gem does until you see it at the Forge, either – there, it’ll show up in the available gems list alongside its bonuses.
Let’s use an example scenario. Let’s say that you’re about to venture deep in the The Doldrums – a dangerous swampland that is the birthplace of the game’s menacing Fungal Drudgers. The Doldrums contain a lot of creatures and environmental hazards that inflict Poison, a status effect that gradually reduces your HP until you’ve either cured it with an antidote or have seen a doctor in town.
Before departing, you head to the Forge. Your current armor has two gem sockets, which currently house attack power-boosting Tiger Gems. Since you still want your attacks to pack a bit of an extra punch, but you also want some poison resistance, you swap out one of the Tiger Gems for a Viper Gem, which improves your poison resistance by 30%. With that done, you’re going to fare much, much better in your journey through the Doldrums.
That’s not the only way you can upgrade your Armor at the Forge, however – there’s a second way! Just like weapons, you can upgrade your suit of armor to higher levels! This utilizes the same system – collect a set of specific items and then bring them to the Forge, pay a small fee, and make the upgrade – but the improvements are very different and, in some ways, longer lasting.
There are five upgrade tiers per suit of armor. In addition to increasing its defense dramatically with each tier, most armor suits will receive additional gem slots as they’re improved, which dramatically increases their value and longevity as a useful piece of equipment. A suit of armor at level 1 might have one gem socket and decent defense, but upgrade it to level 5 and it may then have three gem sockets and as much defense as a much higher-level piece of armor. This means that players can still rely on a favorite armor suit they acquired earlier in the game, even if they get something new that is better in different ways.
This system provides a great degree of flexibility to how the player outfits their Hero. Most armor sets can be made into whatever you can think of – if you want a high-defense armor that makes you immune to fire damage, or an armor that dramatically strengthens your magic damage while at the same time giving you mana regen, you’ll be able to make it happen!
Is there one in this game? Suffice it to say that yes, there’s an ‘Ultimate’ suit of armor in the game and yes, you’re going to have to work for it. When you get it, though…you will remember what it was like to bust your tail for an item in an RPG and then wonder how you ever lived without it.
That’s the end of today’s Developer Diary! A bit on the shorter side, because we’re still working hard on getting the prototype ready for public viewing – also, there’s another developer diary coming tomorrow about exploring the world of Legend of the Time Star. It should give you guys a better perspective on how you’ll be getting from place to place, as well as the overall scope of the game. Stay tuned!
Want to make this game a reality? We need your help! We’ve got 13 days left and need to spread the word to keep the pledges coming in. Check our our Kickstarter page here!
ATTACK MOUNTAIN DEVELOPER DIARY
DEVELOPER DIARY 2 - BASIC COMBAT AND CONTROLS
Great art, great music, excellent animation – none of it means anything if the game isn’t fun to play. In today’s Developer Diary, we’re going to drill down a bit on combat, and explain the basic mechanics and how they’re is incorporated into the game. We’ll also talk a bit about general controls, too. Ready? This one’s pretty long and has a lot of info in it, so you might want to go grab a coffee or a cup of tea before you start reading. Enjoy!
What is an Action RPG?
How does Wikipedia define an Action RPG?
“Action role-playing games (abbreviated action RPG, action/RPG, or ARPG) form a loosely defined sub-genre of role-playing video games that incorporate elements of action or action-adventure games, emphasizing real-time action where the player has direct control over characters, instead of turn-based or menu-based combat. These games often use combat systems similar to hack and slash or shooter games.”
That sounds about right, doesn’t it? Unlike a game such as, say, Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, everything related to combat in an ARPG happens in real time. Each button press equals an action, and each action has an immediate consequence. For pacing, the difference between a turn-based RPG and an action-RPG is tremendous. You can’t put your controller down and lament for ten minutes about what spell to cast on a boss in an action RPG. If you’re swarmed by ten enemies, they’re not going to wait for you to figure out what to do; they’re just going to jump on you.
Every game is essentially a huge group of spreadsheets put together that dictate its rules – the difference with RPGs is that a lot of those spreadsheets are more transparent, closer to the surface, and players have a much bigger hand in tweaking the numbers in those spreadsheets to provide themselves with the best advantage they can muster. This is the common thread that runs through all RPGs, action or otherwise.
Through and through, Legend of the Time Star is an action RPG. Today we’ll shed some light on how the ‘action’ part of that comes into play.
The Feel and Inspiration
Let’s talk a bit about some games and studios that, collectively, have been a big part in defining the gameplay for LoTS.
The AM team grew up playing all sorts of games, but for Time Star we have focused a lot on bringing back that satisfying, but nuanced feel that many of Capcom’s games of the 90’s so easily captured. One great example, despite the fact that it’s a beat-em-up as opposed to a platformer, is their acclaimed Dungeons and Dragons series. Take a look at the Fighter class in that game – every sword strike felt immediate, yet at the same time they had a ‘weight’ to them. You felt each hit, and it was for a few major reasons;
- Responsiveness - Our mantra for gameplay in general is to provide a 1-to-1 ratio for user input/result. What we mean by this is that when you press a button, you get immediate feedback. It’s really important in games where every second counts that the user doesn’t fight with the controls; they need to be able to pull off any maneuver that they cook up in their mind without having to worry if the game’s going to be able to understand or keep up with them. If there’s even a half a second’s worth of lag between a button press and its resulting action, the entire experience suffers.
- The Details – When you hit an opponent in DnD, you feel like you did some damage. This is because of the way the entire package comes together – the collision detection is excellent, and the moment your blade hits your target, you’re rewarded with a variety of different feedback types – the crunchy sound of steel hitting flesh, the split-second pause at the moment of impact, the brief flash of the target sprite. It gave you a moment, no matter how small, to absorb and register the events currently occurring in the game. If it’s a really heavy hit, all this would happen in addition to a screen shake, and after that moment of absorption your opponent would be sent reeling, tumbling a few feet away.
This game was also unique in the fact that it had moves tied to special commands. For example, players could do a powerful upward strike by using the command down->up->attack, or a what was called a ‘sliding strike’ by rolling the joystick from down to front before hitting attack.
Here’s a video of the Fighter from Dungeon and Dragons: Shadow over Mystara in action. (Feels good just watching it, doesn’t it?)
Their Dungeons and Dragons series obviously isn’t the only one that captured this feel – a lot of their games did. Street Fighter, Final Fight, Magic Sword, Knights of the Round, King of Dragons, even The Punisher - the list goes on for a long time. We want Time Star’s combat to be technical and nuanced while at the same time be satisfying and flashy, with players able to pick it up and immediately feel as though they know how play it.
Square’s Secret of Mana series also had a large impact on how we structured the game’s combat. Where Capcom nailed the feel, Square excelled at bubbling that ‘spreadsheet’ aspect to the surface. Numbers fly each time a strike is made, and it’s hard to argue that anything’s more satisfying than seeing a huge number fly off of an opponent after nailing a particularly juicy critical hit or spellcast. When combined with other heavy RPG elements like stats (HP, MP, Strength, Constitution, etc) and an expertly balanced equipment system that heavily impacted how your character fared in battle, it’s easy to see why Square was at the forefront of the action RPG movement in the early 90’s.
As an aside, we have a special place in our hearts for Legend of Mana. We know that it’s not from the same era as these other games, but it’s one of the last games we all played that gave us that nostalgic feeling we want to bring back with Time Star.
Finally, the Castlevania series had a big impact on us, namely after it made the leap from point-a to point-b sidescroller to ‘Metroidvania’. As an all-around package, games like Symphony of the Night, Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and those that followed had very satisfying progression in terms of your moveset expanding as you advanced through the game. It’s also the only game out of all the ones we’ve mentioned so far that is a true platformer, just like Time Star. Just like LoTS, you’re locked onto a 2D plane in these games, and that has serious impacts on the way the game’s laid out. If you can’t reach a ledge that leads to another area, for example, you can’t go there until you satisfy some requirement in the game world, whether that’s defeating a certain boss or acquiring a certain piece of equipment. Like many other ARPGs (which at the end of the day, the ‘Metroidvania’ games are), you also are treated to damage numbers whenever you deal damage or damage is dealt to you.
Furthermore, Castlevania games did a great job making your weapon decision feel meaningful; you could opt to fight with quick jabs by using a very fast short-sword, or sacrifice speed for raw power by brandishing a great axe with a wide, arcing swing. Not only did it allow you to match whatever playstyle you felt like using at the time, it also allowed you to make on-the-fly decisions based on the enemies you were facing. We’re looking to do this same thing with Time Star’s Forge System by allowing players to decide whether to use one-handed or two-handed swords and customize them based on their needs.
Many other series have impacted the game in certain ways, but when it comes to combat, these are the major ones. We’ll be getting more into these inspiration breakdowns in future Dev Diaries. The takeaway here is that we’re after responsive, varied, pulse-pounding combat that is impacted by your play style, as well as the decisions you make while customizing your character.
So What’s it Like for Time Star?
A (messy) page from the director’s sketchbook, outlining some of the game’s moves and techniques.
Combat in Time Star occurs within the game world, in real-time – there are no cutaways or ‘switching to battle mode’. This means that if you’re outside of a town, you should stay on your feet – anything can happen when you’re in the wild. For the most part, enemies will be spawned as soon as you enter an area, and will respawn each time you return to said area; but there are also chance encounters that will leave you ambushed. You could pass by some bushes, for example, only to have a horde of monsters leap out in an attempt to take you down using the element of surprise.
In case you’re wondering, yes, you see damage dealt on-screen with each strike. If this isn’t your thing, we’ll be making it optional, with the ability to toggle it on/off via the settings screen.
There are two control styles currently, but the main one is keyboard only with the mouse used for UI navigation. We are currently establishing a mode that we’re calling ‘Modern’ mode, which utilizes WASD movement and relies heavily on the mouse for combat. (Terraria did something like this.) However, it requires a lot of deep-dive from a design perspective to determine its viability for Time Star, so we’re going to talk about the keyboard only for the sake of this Dev Diary. We’ve selected a cross-section of controls taken from the game’s Design Doc to show you here. We’d like to stress that this isn’t every move in the game, just some of them, and that we’ve truncated each technique’s description for the doc heavily for readability.
We’ll start off with the basic controls so that you have a frame of reference for the combat moves listed.
(All commands assume player is facing right).
Walk (← →): L + R Arrow keys
Allows the player to walk. Players can only walk left or right.
Jump: Space Bar
Allows the player to jump.
Crouch: Down Arrow key
Allows the player to crouch. If the player is in tall grass when crouching, beasts are 50% less likely to notice them. Players may move when crouching, though their movement speed is reduced by 45%. The user will remain in a crouching position as long as the crouch key is being pressed.
Sprint: Double tap and hold → while standing or walking
Allows the player to run at 150% normal speed. This effect is ended when the player collides with any obstacle, such as a wall, door, or enemy, or the player lets go of the arrow key.
Roll: Double tap → while crouching
Causes the player to dive and do a singular roll in the direction tapped before returning to a crouching position. This is useful in combat because it ignores collisions for most smaller opponents, allowing the player to get behind them. It’s also useful – and sometimes necessary – for getting through smaller spaces.
Action Button: A or Shift
The action button is the catch-all button used throughout the game. This button’s context changes based on the player’s immediate vicinity. By default, the action button is used to attack, but this is superceded by other available actions. For example, if the player is standing in front of a switch, pressing the action button would cause the player to throw the switch instead of attacking.
Another page of move concepts from the director’s sketchbook. Note the fifth-grader style font that’s completely intentional.
Combat Techniques, Offense
Technique: Quick Attack
Command: Tap Action Button
The standard and staple technique that causes the player to strike swiftly with their weapon.
The Quick Attack, in addition to being a staple move in the player’s arsenal, also shoots a crescent-shaped projectile out over a very short distance in front of the player. The projectile is destroyed upon first contact with an enemy or obstacle, or when it reaches the end of its lifespan. When an opponent is struck by both the projectile and the direct strike, damage received is determined by whichever roll was higher. For example, if an opponent were to take 15 damage from the projectile and 25 from the direct strike, they would simply take 25 damage.
Technique: Fierce Attack
Command: Press/hold Action button
A strong attack that deals more damage at the cost of a longer wind-up.
The Fierce Attack’s wind-up leaves the player vulnerable, so it should only be used when the player has an opening. Unlike the Quick Attack, Fierce Attack does not shoot projectiles. If an opponent is struck with this attack, they will suffer knockback. More heavily armored creatures may only be staggered, and the heartiest of monsters may suffer no ill effects at all.
Technique: Jump Attack
Command: Press Action button while jumping
While in the air, the player will draw their weapon and rapidly spin with it in hand, creating a whirlwind of weaponry that damages everything within its radius. The player will spin until they land once the jump attack is initiated.
The Jump attack is an invaluable attack with a variety useful applications, due to the fact that the attack can be initiated from at any moment after the player has left the ground. It can be used to damage and escape opponents when surrounded when activated the moment after jumping, strike an airborne opponent when the player is in the air, or get the drop on an enemy or group by activating it right before landing near them.
The another page from the design sketchbook – you can kind of see some interesting stuff from the other side of it, wonder what those are about…
Combat Techniques, Defense
The player blocks a physical or projectile attack with their shield, taking only a fraction of the damage. If the player is not using a shield, they will parry instead and will take a larger fraction of the damage.
Block is based on a few variables: the first is the user’s block chance. The higher the user’s block chance, the higher likelihood the player will block the attack. Block chance can be increased via certain item types or skill tree . The second is the player’s action at the time of the strike. If the player is attacking, their block chance is reduced by 90%. If they are casting, block chance is reduced by 75%. If they are moving, the chance is reduced by 50%. If the player is standing and not performing an attack or casting, their block chance is normal.
Command: Action Button (timed)
The player swats a projectile aside, taking no damage from it.
To deflect a physical projectile, such as an arrow or rock, it must first be tagged as an applicable projectile. If it is, it will flash white moments before impact. If the player presses the action button while the projectile is flashing white, it will be deflected once it reaches them. The player must press the action button once for each projectile: if multiple projectiles are incoming, the player will need to hit the action button once for each one to queue up the deflections. There is no theoretical cap on how many projectiles can be deflected at once, but it assumed that eventually enough projectiles would overwhelm the player and cause them to take at least some of the damage. This technique is useful for damage mitigation when under heavy fire and can mean the difference between life and death if used properly.
Command: Action Button (timed)
The player retaliates after an opponent’s unsuccessful attack with a Fierce Attack. This attack is a guaranteed critical strike with knockback and stagger (on regular opponents only).
When the player successfully blocks an opponent’s attack, the player will flash white momentarily. If the player hits the action button during this time, the opponent will be staggered and the player will immediately and swiftly strike them with a guaranteed critical Fierce Attack. The player remains invincible for the duration of the swing, becoming vulnerable again as soon as the animation is over.
Counterattacks are unlocked through gameplay and are useful when going up against a tough opponent one on one, especially if the player has skewed their skill point spending in defensive trees that improve block chance. It’s also useful when being attacked by multiple weaker enemies, as a counterattack does significant physical damage that can cripple foes.
That’s it for today’s developer diary update! Stay tuned for our next one, coming next week – trust us when we say you’re going to love it.
Oh, last thing before we go - you’re likely wondering about magic. Well, we felt that magic deserved its own update, so you’ll see a dev diary on it in upcoming weeks.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone, and if you like what you read, reblog it! As always, be sure to check out our Kickstarter and donate if you like what you’re reading here! We need your help to make Legend of the Time Star a reality.