Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

7DRL start: A Wall Of Souls

March 5th, 2017 2 comments

My favourite week of the year is back :) This year I’m making a game that in many ways is similar to last year’s The Trapped Heart. ‘A Wall of Souls’ is about a lone knight trying to free his Queen from some nefarious force (exact plot still being worked out). The knight will have a number of “soul shields” following him, and being cut off from the shields equals death. Enemies will have ‘soul points’ that look similar to the shields from The Trapped Heart, but this time the way to kill enemies is to surround their soul points – ie. position yourself, your shields and walls to cover up those sides of the enemy. An enemy with 6 shields needs to be fully surrounded.

That’s the vague plan of the game. In addition the shields themselves will have mechanics and abilities attached to them, and there are more to collect over the course of the game. And a bit of meta-gaming I’m playing with is that every time you die you leave a statue of yourself, which can help restrict the environment in future games.

This will be the first game in which I play with a hunger clock – over the course of the game you will gradually get slower, so that what were once easy enemies are suddenly going faster than you.

How well this all works I’ll have to find out. And how well I can explain this to the player will also be a challenge…

Best of luck to everyone taking part! I look forward to all the cool and innovative new roguelikes I’ll get to play in a week’s time :D

Jupiter Hell, successor to Doom the Roguelike, now on Kickstarter

November 15th, 2016 1 comment

Kornel Kisielewicz, developer of Doom the Roguelike, has just released a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the development of Jupiter Hell. And whilst Jupiter Hell is the successor to DoomRL in many ways, it’s immediately obvious that it promises to be so much more:

3D graphics in a roguelike? A *turn-based* roguelike? And with it an original metal soundtrack and vocals from Mark Meer, who performed the voice of Commander Shepard in Mass Effect. This is going much much further than a simple “DoomRL 2″…

Now I should make evident I have a vested interest here. I am very proud to be part of the development team for the game, as Designer and Lead Writer. So I’d quite like to see this succeed! But beyond that I think this game offers a special opportunity – a chance for roguelikes to reach further than they have before.

For many years now we’ve seen roguelites (Spelunky, FTL, etc) do well with a more mainstream audience, whilst the traditional core of the genre still remains very niche. Dungeonmans and ToME are doing better than most, but still have limited impact. I refuse to believe the gameplay is at fault here. Gameplay is precisely what makes roguelikes great! Ultimately it comes down to presentation, and having the right visuals and interface to entice a wider audience in.

Some say roguelikes are too difficult for normal players, but then I see the success of Dark Souls and the new X-COM games (including Ironman Mode having high popularity!) There is a clear audience for games that provide challenge and depth. Jupiter Hell could be the game to finally bridge the gap to the rest of the gaming world. This could be the game I introduce to friends who’ve never managed to get into ADOM or Brogue, but who I know could come to love roguelikes.

And though it has these appeals to a wider audience, Jupiter Hell is still very much a hardcore roguelike. It’s turn-based, with an adaptive animation system so you never have to wait between keypresses. It even has an ASCII mode! This is something new and old players can fully appreciate.

28 days to go! Help us make this happen :)


7DRL Start: The Trapped Heart

March 4th, 2016 Comments off

Woohoo, the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge is here again!

I’m not starting just yet, but I will be soon… I discussed my ideas for this a little on a recent 7DRL episode of Roguelike Radio. I’ve been quite inspired by an indie RPG that came out last year called Undertale, which does a lot of fun things with metagame information, showing different dialogue on replays and so on. This is a really interesting new space to explore, and as much as people balk at how far Rogue Legacy takes meta-gaming I think we should be doing a lot more to experiment with mechanics like these.

My game this year is called The Trapped Heart. It’ll be 1HP death, hex-based and with some interesting new combat mechanics. So not much different from the last couple of years for me ;) I hope it’ll be fun, but I hope also to have an interesting story built up across multiple plays.

An artist called Oleg has agreed to work with me this year, so hopefully it’ll look amazing too! I’ll be posting updates on Twitter and

7DRL Complete: FireTail

March 16th, 2015 Comments off
FireTail gameplay

The fire spirit facing off against the Queen of Ice

In FireTail you play the last spirit of fire, battling against unending legions of ice, and ultimately against the dreaded Queen of Ice. You can download for Windows, Mac and Linux through

And wow, what a week! It started with recovering from an ear operation, and on Friday my computer decided to explode. I managed to break the T-Engine in new and interesting ways, but thankfully the angelic DarkGod came to the rescue and sorted out my weird bugs. What’s been a big highlight this year is getting such a polished looking game, in no small part thanks to the wonderful work of Oryx, providing me with custom tiles for the enemies and terrain.

Some interesting features of the game:

  • You leave a trail of fire as you walk. The number of neighbouring fire tiles determines what powers you enact.
  • You have free movement on fire squares, making the fire tail of important tactical advantage.
  • Progression is based on the fire tail – when you level up you assign skills to the lengths of the tail, changing what skills are triggered when you’re surrounded by x fire tiles. The higher the number the more effective the skill, but the harder it is to get into a position to use them.
  • You die if you get surrounded in ice terrain or ice enemies. Positioning and freedom of movement is vital in combat.
  • 7 levels, 6 interesting bosses, and a bunch of enemies all with their own powers.

I’ll do a video showing off some bits of the game when I get a chance. For now please download, enjoy, and give feedback!

7DRL Start: FireTail

March 9th, 2015 Comments off
Firetail bird

This is a Firetail bird. It has absolutely nothing to do with my game.

The 2015 Seven Day Roguelike Challenge has begun! I have started work on another T-Engine game, called FireTail. This draws a bit from the mechanics of DataQueen, with a few novel ideas thrown into the mix. A big aim for me this year is to have the game mechanics be a little more approachable. Many people struggled last year with the way DataQueen used several new mechanics all at once, making it hard to adjust to the gameplay. Also a lot of people never bothered reading the instructions, which is sadly how people approach gaming these days. I hope FireTail will have the mechanics be more intuitive/obvious to those without the ability to read.

FireTail is (or will be) a game about a fire spirit in a world that is slowly freezing. The levels will be filled with advancing glaciers and ice-themed enemies. As with DataQueen you have no hit points – instead you die if you become encased in ice. A big part of the game will be the firetail – the spirit leaves a trail of fire as she walks, and these give her free movement and extra ability options. Tactical use of the firetail will be central to the game.

Hopefully this will be both playable and fun :) Good luck to everyone else taking part!

Procedural Generation Jam – 8-17 November

September 23rd, 2014 Comments off

A new game jam is on the horizon, the Procedural Generation Jam:

Many people are using this as an excuse to make a 7DRL. But you can make any sort of procedural game you want on the week, or concentrate your time on some procedural tools instead. I’ll be making a roguelike where procedural generation is part of the mechanics of play! Hopefully it’ll also be fun.

To kick off the ProcJam there will be a day of talks in London from developers who use procedural generation. This will include Mark Johnson of Ultima Ratio Regum, Tanya X Short of Shattered Planet, Hazel McKendrick of No Man’s Sky and me! I’ll be giving a talk about how to include the player in the procedural generation, which is something I’ve tried to do with a lot of my games. You can get free tickets to the event or watch remotely via the livestream.

I’ll be hosting an episode of Roguelike Radio in the coming weeks with a few of the speakers, talking about the purpose of the jam and why procedural generation is so cool :)


DataQueen – 7DRL Success

March 23rd, 2014 6 comments
DataQueen screenshot

Destroy the gridbugs, protect the data!

Last week I completed DataQueen, my 4th successful 7DRL. It’s a hex-based roguelike with a number of unique mechanics that makes it very tight and tactical without ever feeling too overwhelming. The feedback I’ve received has been immensely positive, so I may work on polishing this more (and have had the generous offer of someone drawing a tileset for the game). You can download the game here:

[Edit: Note there’s currently a little bug when you first run it that might make the game hang. If you restart the bug disappears forever. Yes, I’m confused too…]

The big concept I wanted to try in the game was from the board game Hive, where you only die if you get surrounded. This seemed like a cool idea to port to roguelikes! So enemies can’t attack you directly, and movement is very important.

DataQueen combat screenshot

You can set up several attacks to trigger at once.

At the same time you have a wheel of special abilities called the “hex wheel”. For each hex direction you move in you have a special attack that hits in that direction. You can gain new hexes and place them on the wheel as the game progresses. This gives a range of tactical options all tied to just the movement keys. Every turn the wheel spins, meaning you have to plan moves and positioning if you want to chain attacks together. The abilities have all been designed to combine in interesting ways, encouraging the player to make multi-turn attacks.

Movement itself is made more interesting by giving you free movement on green grids. This lets you reposition yourself for different attack directions very easily. Moving onto blue grids converts them to to green, but enemies will do the opposite, quickly eating up your useful tactical space. This cuts across all the mechanics in the game and adds a lot of tactical depth. To progress you need to connect pink grids up with green grids, so the war with enemies is mostly one of terrain (and not dying).

DataQueen upgrades screenshot

Upgrades! The UI artwork was done by daftigod.

The base enemies all have unique abilities which can challenge the player. Most enemies die in one hit, but they can be a huge problem in mass numbers. Each level there is a boss, and each of these requires special tactics to overcome. It makes for a challenging game that hopefully never feels unfair.

I’ll be doing a developer Let’s Play video of it soon, talking about some of the design choices and how the game operates. For now you can hear me discuss the game a bit on the latest episode of Roguelike Radio, alongside discussion of lots of other cool 7DRLs! Let me know if you have any comments about the game, and anything you’d like to see changed – feedback is hugely appreciated.

Anatomy of a Procedural Music Engine

June 15th, 2013 Comments off

At IRDC last week I gave a presentation on the procedural music in Mosaic, and it’s about time I put it online. I’ve also updated the game itself a bit, with WAY better sounding music and some enhancement of the player powers. You can find the latest versions here:

Here are the slides from the presentation itself (pdf, 1.68MB). But they won’t make much sense on their own, so here’s some notes to support it:

  1. Introductory slide with the @ symbol / treble clef combo that was at the heart of Mosaic.
  2. Proteus was an influence with its procedural music. In particular it made me want to make a game that was beautiful.
  3. Tonematrix was another big influence, a sequencer you can play in your browser. The grid and the on/off switches made me immediately think of a roguelike where you move around the space and control it. Hence Mosaic!
  4. So I had this idea of music based on the grid, and the player wandering about, and it fused with a bunch of others ideas about creativity and procedural art, and so Mosaic was born! I spent most of the week on the look and the mechanics, but come the last day I knew the time for music was near…
  5. …But I didn’t know anything about music. So, with about 7 hours left before the end of my 7DRL week I went to Twitter and asked the important question – how the feck do I make music?!
  6. Michael Brough, magical indie dev extraordinaire, responded in good fashion with a hint towards the “pentatonic scale”.
  7. To Wikipedia! Except none of this musical terminology makes sense…
  8. Some further reading down the page and I’m still confused, but I pick out a string of notes – ACDEG. I think right, I’ll try these notes out!
  9. But first I tried a bunch of piano notes and shoved them into the complete game engine, copying Tonematrix pretty exactly.
  10. Er, it worked, but it didn’t sound fantastic. The notes didn’t go well together, it all sounded messy. Tried a bit more with xylophone and harp, and there was some improvement. So, new idea, how about a whole orchestra?
  11. Firstly I got a load of notes from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra – a really great resource! Creative Commons notes for almost all instruments – here’s the torrent file.
  12. Next I looked up Pachelbel’s Canon in D.  Y’see it wasn’t an entirely new idea, I’d thought before that an ultra cool thing to do would be the Canon in D procedurally. This was a more advanced idea than just a Tonematrix clone, and now was the time to try it out. The actual music terminology was beyond me, but I looked at the note sequence and saw how they moved in wavy lines. So, right, wavy lines, lots of notes – can’t be that hard, right?!
  13. I assigned instruments to different lines of Mosaic, with the trombones as enemies. There’s a deliberate set up to this – harp and bass are at the top and bottom as these tend to get turned on a lot. The brass notes for enemies are deliberately distinct from the strings from the grid. This isn’t just random, it’s procedural!
  14. And wow, just wow, it sounds good! I was amazed, truly amazed, that with bugger all knowledge I had quickly managed to cobble together something that worked and sounded pretty decent. I got different feedback on this, mind – some people said it sounded fantastic, others that it was utterly awful. Turns out it depends very much on how you play, which is in itself a cool feature!
  15. Now the code, which is beautifully simple. This has been reorganised since 7DRL week but is basically the same in function. Every 0.25 seconds a tonal_shift is set – which way the notes should go. This is balanced towards small shifts, but can have a whole 5-note shift on the pentatonic scale (so a whole octave). The code looks along the current column, and on each tile if level = 1 (meaning a coloured tile) then it plays the corresponding note for that tile – self:playNote(i,1) (the 1 just means volume = 100%). It does the same checking for enemies and plays trombone notes if present – playNote(11,1). The pulse references are just for graphical effects to show notes being played. The playNote() function, not shown, decides whether that instrument follows the tonal_shift or goes its own direction, and does some admin-type stuff on pitch changes to meet the pentatonic scale – this is much better now than on the original much more note-limited 7DRL.
  16. Since the 7DRL week I’ve had lots of ideas for procedural music tied to gameplay. Sounds that are based on the environment and your interactions and events in the game. Sounds that are altered in a number of ways based on the numbers in the game. Roguelikes are especially suited for this, as using plain mp3s gets really repetitive. There’s a lot of potential here! I hope to explore this more in future.
  17. Lastly, some advice I’ve received from various sources, and a few things I found out myself – especially the last point. Music really is a deep rabbit-hole to dive down. If possible avoid this and fake things as best you can!

I wrapped up by then playing a bit of Mosaic live, which seemed to go down well enough.

I hope some of this is of interest and helpful to others! Was a lot of fun, and it’s still cool to muck about with. Rogue Rage in particular has a lot of potential for application of procedural music. Have a go yourself – it may seem intimidating, but it’s very cool when you get it working!


7DRL Start: Moasic – An Introspection on Self-expression

March 10th, 2013 Comments off
Mosaic @

Concept art only – not representative of final product ;)

As of 6pm GMT on Sunday 10th March I am beginning my Seven Day Roguelike.  Hopefully I will shrug off last year’s failure and resume my previous run of successes!

The name of my game is Mosaic, and it will include a mishmash of ideas that have been floating around my head for a while.  In particular it will include:

  • Simple 4-way controls. No other controls at all.
  • Strings of moves trigger wider special moves.
  • You change the map with your moves. The whole game interaction will be about crafting the map around your movements.
  • You die in one hit, but the terrain you construct will act as temporary defence against enemies.
  • Incorporating Conway’s Game of Life somehow.
  • Procedurally generated music based on the terrain you construct (a bit like Tonematrix).
  • Some arty fluff about self-expression and creation.

I’m also hosting a London Afterparty on the evening of Sunday 17th for 7DRLers to meet up and play each others games / weep about their failures.  If you want to join in sign up here:

Good luck to everyone taking part!  It’s gonna be one hell of a big crop of games at the end  :D

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The Roguelike Incubator

December 1st, 2012 3 comments

A few months back I set up a project called The Roguelike Incubator – an area for less well-known roguelike developers to put up their games for feedback, with the caveat that they also give feedback to other developers.  A joint back-scratching exercise that everyone could benefit from.  Developer feedback can be especially insightful, with ideas for design mixed in with coding knowledge, and in general this helps with the struggle to get decent feedback on newer and smaller games.  The project went well for a few months, with my own game Rogue Rage receiving excellent feedback, but has gone quiet lately.

We’re now looking for new developers to join the circle.  All you need is a RogueTemple account (easy to set up), an in-dev roguelike with a playable build, and a bit of time to trade with others.  The activity is all publicly visible, but it doesn’t get a lot of attention, so it’s a great place to put up unfinished works for constructive criticism.  If you’re interested then check out the latest thread I’ve started on the call for new developers.

Note that previously the Incubator was wrapped up with the idea for a Roguelike Bundle.  I’ve realised now this may have been a mistake, putting too many restrictions on people, and I’ll be looking to do something a little different with the bundle idea in future.  The Incubator is instead open to all, and I hope to see a much wider participation in future.