Monday, November 23, 2009

Design Goals of Magecrawl


While magecrawl is still in major development and there are major areas of decisions that haven't been made, I have a few overarching design goals and principles that I'd like to stick to.


While to qualify what is exactly a roguelike is a difficult question, magecrawl should fit squarely into the category. I'm aiming for things such as productively generated content, permadeath (see below on instakills), and very much the "ascii feel".

Libtcod (via libtocd-net) provides a great way to give a game an ascii feel while still be reasonable to program and look good. Productively generating conent is what keeps the game worth playing again after winning. I hope to add some sort of optional content for those who "assention" is not enough.

No obscure knowledge needed

Games such as Nethack all but require a large base of obscure knowledge to win. While some knowledge between games should transfer over, that's the primary way one can get better at games, sometimes the amount needed to win goes overboard. Reading a gold detection scroll while confused, polymorphing into a cocktrice to use their eggs as weapons, and the entire identification game in Nethack are prime examples.

Instakills are not fun

In games with permadeath, walking down the stairs and dying is not fun. The skill in playing a game should be primary in getting out of sticky situations, not playing the game a few hundred times to memorize all the things not to do. Read "Fake Difficulty" for more on this.

The tricky part with this goal is not making the game easy, or trivial. I want some areas to be fiendishly difficult, and I don't mind killing the player when they do stupid things. Running should sometimes be the best option, as running into Sigmund in Crawl can be.

Arcane theme

As the name suggests, magecrawl has something to do with magic. Every character will have some sort of magical ability. This does not mean all you can play is squishy robe wearing glass cannons. Based upon the (skills/class?) you choose, wading into melee, calling down fire from heaven, or sending others to do your dirty work should all be options.

One nice things about sticking to the theme is that it allows for better fluff and some ideas that wouldn't be possible otherwise. In a future essay, I'll talk about my plans for economy which have magic as its linchpin.


While I hope that I'll come up with many other great ideas and features in the months (and years?) ahead, these are the foundational ideas I'll try to build upon.


Brian said...

Very interesting. Perchance, have you spent any significant time with Triangle Wizard? If not, I should think there many a good aspect to view through a prism with it for MageCrawl.

Also, be sure and stop by Roguetemple to keep things lively on the project as things happen.

donblas said...

I have not. I'll take a look this weekend at it, as I haven't had to chance to play it yet.

Brian said...

Excellent, though we are on the cusp of the next "minor" patch(many fundamental gamechangers/enhancements) any day now seemingly, so that might be something to keep in mind.

The game pretty much has a staggeringly breakneck pace of evolution/development/notion incorporation.