Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: Dance of Death

As is every so often when I come across a game that looks interesting, this is a review of "Dance of Death", a flash game that was mentioned on RGRD. It's a "tech demo" at this point. As a flash game, it's very difficult to have issues getting the game to run, point your browser at the link and go.

The first thing one comes across when they start the game is in the title screen, and then the character creation screen. I like the tabbed panels with shading, which makes it somewhat obvious when one is done. One issue I came across is that one can tab over a panel without spending its points and type a name to finish. Doing this will create a massively underpowered character, and being able to do so is most likely a bug.

Since this game follows the standard practice of asking for name/race/stats/skills before the game starts, please don't consider it a criticism of it in particular. Games that do this ask the new player to answer questions they most likely don't have answers to yet. If I've never played before, how do I know what stat distribution I should use. Without playing the game, I have no idea of the usefulness of various skills, and so figuring out a skill distribution is difficult. I'm planning on the future of posting an entry entry on this point, so I digress.

Beyond that, the character creation does a decent job at explaining what skills do as I distributed stat and skill points, so I created a melee fighter.

The game has the feel of nethack in terms of room layout and color scheme (mostly white on black). Starting off on floor 0 was a bit humorous, as all real programmers number arrays that way (but maybe it should be floor 1). Controls seemed easy and expected. There was no diagonal movement, bump to attack was obvious and expected. Bump to open doors also worked as expected.

Field of view, monsters with pathfinding, and equipment all are there. Each "slot" of equipment seems to have a single item type, and I'm unsure it does anything at this point. It seems that inventory "Examine" is broken, but beside that everything works as expected.

The map generator seems to generate reasonable rooms with doors and stairs. Monsters were a bit sparse for my taste. 

There is a "Skills" pane that show your skills and attributes, along with an exp pool. It appears to be just stubbed out for now, and shows some of my stats as negative, which is amusing. 

For the first "tech demo" of this game that I've heard of, consider me pretty impressed. Development can be followed at the development blog here. I'm looking forward for further development, fleshing out what this game has to offer beyond infrastructure.


Nolithius said...

Hi Chris,

Most of the items you pointed out were right on point as far as not being implemented or being placeholders; except for diagonal movement, which is implemented, but currently only works with NumLock on.

I can definitely appreciate the concern with having a thorough character creation before having a feel for how useful a skill is or how well it fits your play style. To mitigate this, I plan to have a "quick character" option in the future, in which you'd only pick your Race, Gender, and a Build which has optimal stat and skill distributions.

Also, keep in mind that, typically in a roguelike, your first few characters are unlikely to survive long enough to make you seriously regret your build! In any case, I have designed (but not yet implemented), a system for Stat/Skill "respec" through which you'll be able to organically redistribute your Stat/Skill levels.

With the current boom in roguelike releases, what made you decide to take a look at, and review, Dance of Death?

Thanks for the support and feedback!


Ebyan "Nolithius" Alvarez-Buylla

donblas said...

As the author of a roguelike that's also in in "Tech Demo"-land, seeing your post in RGRD peaked my interest. :)

Flash is an interesting platform to base a roguelike in. As I noted, it provides almost 0 installation issues and is very crossplatform. How are you planning on handling save/load? Will those savefiles be associated with a given PC/Browser?

Nolithius said...

I've worked with C++ and SDL to put together roguelikes in the past, and though I miss the raw power of that combination (being able to clear the screen and redraw at 60+ fps comfortably, for example), Flash definitely takes a lot of the headaches out of the equation!

As far as save/load, Flash has its own system for storing data on your machine through the SharedObject class, whose operating system-specific details are entirely managed by the Flash virtual machine.

As you can probably imagine, not having to operate on files directly represents another huge time/sanity saver!

Ebyan "Nolithius" Alvarez-Buylla