So I thought about the game a little more (including about some of the suggestions and comments I got) and came to a few ‘decisions’ (nothing’s set in stone yet of course) about various gameplay mechanics.
The two characters will have a predefined class. Sol will be a warrior and Luna will be a mage (suggestions for better class names are warmly welcomed.) I revisited the first Ardentryst to see what worked well and what didn’t. I found that most players had an expectation of a certain kind of character when they picked which hero to play as. For the warrior character, Pyralis, they wanted to get the toughest armour and strongest weapons and paid little to no attention on his (admittedly limited, but still worth using) magical abilities. For Nyx, our mage hero, most players were keen on using her spells. And that is how I designed the game to be, the two classes have their primary strengths and also secondary strengths. But fewer ran around with Nyx’s Magic Crossbow (15%) and even less with Enchanted Sickle (8%) (See the full list here!) because they knew what the character was meant to be and played that out.
The reason I wanted to give both characters the opportunity to have both Might & Magic(TM) abilities was so that if they had only played as one character (instead of playing through twice as you should *shakes fist*) they get a bit of both worlds.
Which brings me to the new Ardentryst. With both characters at your disposal you don’t need to have multi-skilled characters. Now, this is just from a completely game-mechanic-oriented point of view. I think it will be more constructive and less confusing to assign each a “hard” class and really work with it. (As a side note, this means we can pour more effort into richer custom animations for the characters.)
The fighter can have offensive and defensive moves, which hopefully with some good design will flow into combat a lot better than it did in the first one (slash things a lot, try out new moves once you learn them, discard for life and go back to good ol’ slashing.) Moves that attack differently, for small enemies or large, for groups of them or dispatching a single creature. A good swordsman should feel like a big of a strategist, working with the armour and weaponry that he or she has bought and the skills that they have poured their EXP into.
A mage on the other hand can have offensive and defensive moves too, with defensive moves either being buffs (it’s a possibility, though I don’t want the mage to become a second-class citizen) or the usual healing spells. Some spells may affect a range such as around the player or in front of the player, or, like chain lighting, hop from target to target. Some spells may have certain effects, which is a tactic I started but never finished in Ardentryst 1, whereby you might be able to stun monsters, poison them, etc.
The other aspect of a two-characters platformer was what the inactive character did while you controller the active character. qubodup’s brainstorm session came up with a novel idea of the secondary character staying “out of the line of fire”, which I think would add a nice touch. Sol swings his sword and Luna ducks out of the way. Luna starts to cast a spell and Sol runs over to the other side of Luna 😛 (these kinds of finishing touches do sometimes make it into the game, such as the visible breath and heat haze in the original Ardentryst snow levels) I think I will just have the inactive character darkened/faded following the main character. The player will be able to switch to the other character when they’re close enough to each other and standing more or less still. That should work fine 🙂
I would really love to make the player’s decisions important in all of this, unlike in the first Ardentryst. Reflecting on the initial “distribute your skill points” screen, it was pretty much useless. After 5 or 10 levelups all the characters were essentially the same, unless you were a hardcore player, e.g. doing a minimum EXP run.
In this instalment I want the players’ decisions to have real implications, but at the same time have no bad decisions. Maybe some may work better but it shouldn’t be an unforgiving process. For example, base stats will increase every level. Skill points (not sure how many, but let’s say 2) are acquired every level, which can be put into your current skills- whether they be attacks, spells or passive abilities (also another possibility.) A skill will have a few levels of upgrades that can be applied to it. For example, and I’m just making this up as I go along: Basic Slash – a basic attack. Upgrade to Advanced for +10% damage and +5% attack speed, and upgrade from that to Expert for an additional +15% damage and +5% critical hit. After that the skill is maxed out, and only ‘gets better’ as the base skill it uses gets better (of course.)
Ideally, it should be a tough decision which skill(s) to advance. But they should all have pronounced effects readily visible to the player, making them really in control of their character’s development.
Speaking of all of this, I should mention how I’m planning to solve the EXP dilemma, of which I mean if the player decides to only use one character, the other will be disproportionately weak. Firstly, EXP will be shared on the basis that if the character is watching, they are vicariously gaining combat experience. This balances out the characters’ levels a bit nicer but still doesn’t fully solve the ‘problem’ that they aren’t experiencing both sides of the coin. Throughout each chapter I will introduce various puzzles or situations that involve the careful use of both characters in different ways. In this way, the player grows accustomed to using both characters and funs will be had by all. The boss battles will most certainly be interesting and require a bit of thinking as well as planning– rather than just “a really hard monster.”
And finally, the flow of the game. It will be heavily story driven, from start to finish we follow the characters on their journey. Each chapter will tell a portion of the tale and separate the story into memorable chunks (the idea is to have a set number each of a variety of elements, such as boss battles, puzzles, shops, towns, etc., per chapter, to organise the game into a comfortable and predictable book-like format.) In each chapter there will be side quests which you may choose to take or not. You may not even be aware of the ability to take the quest if you never explore.
Okay! That was a massive idea dump! Felt a bit relieved after writing all that down too. As much as I like cutting code and getting messy with the game engine, there are days I want to take a look at the bigger picture and see where everything’s heading down the track and actively seek to design the game well rather than have the game’s design dictated by the code.
I guess it’s about time I revealed some of the storyline, but I’ll save it for another time 🙂