Archive for March, 2011

My 7DRL Highlights

March 29th, 2011 Comments off

Of the 46 successful 7DRLs this year I have played and reviewed 39 for the committee, which is due to publish its results soon. There are a few duds but a lot of very successful games, and some real gems in there too. Here are some of the ones that I feel are definitely worth checking out from this year, in alphabetical order:

benhem’s ssh game – I wish it had a name… but this is a funky first-person 3D-esque dungeon crawler entirely rendered in ASCII, and hosted on an ssh server. Gameplay is nothing special, but the presentation really is – check it out now!
Defender of the Deep – Play an orc, kobold or goblin and fight against the pathetic “good” races. Has a lot of variety to play and fun items and abilities.
Destiny of Heroes – A very pretty game with a nice assortment of dungeon generators (is it only roguelike devs that get turned on by these…?)
Devil Might Laugh – Start as a ghost and gradually become more corporeal as you ascend through hell. Interesting to see a real change in gameplay over time like this.
EmoSquid – 3D game world represented in 2D slices, and with full 3D control. It takes a while to get used to, but it’s very funky.
GnomeSquad – Get the post-7DRL version to fix the dungeon depth, and enjoy X-COM style gameplay with some cool classes.
God of Change – Very entertaining game where the monsters get completely new abilities over time. Procedural fun in all its glory.
Inversion of Control – Play a pet and try to guide your heroic master, with the options to give orders and mind swap now and then. Excellent AI on the master makes this very enjoyable, and post-7DRL version has some nice tiles.
kusemono – An assassination game where you must sneak close to an enemy before doing a final dash to slit its throat. Cruelly punishing, but fun nonetheless.
Magicko – Combine elements to create special spell effects. Could be fleshed out a lot more, but it’s cool for what it is.
Monster Slayer Show – Slaughter enemies in front of crowds to gain glorious ratings. Has some very snazzy weapons. My best score so far is 766.
Pitman Krumb – Nice 3D graphics and solid roguelike gameplay – a very rare combination!
Rook – A short game where it’s impossible to move into a position of death, meaning the only failure is checkmate. A very unique cross of chess and roguelike rules with pretty use of simple ASCII.
Stygia – Simple dungeon crawler with a Frozen Depths-esque heat mechanic and a nice variety of weapons and armour.
The Man in the Mirror – A very polished story-based game, where you control a man breaking out of an insane asylum. Mirrors are the central theme, with alternative views of the world helping to set the atmosphere perfectly.
Twelve Hours – Defend a town from hordes of undead alongside other heroes. Some decent AI and an enjoyable game.
Vicious Orcs – As ever Jeff Lait does not fail to impress with this quest to kill some very evil orcs. Ultimately it’s a dungeon crawler done really well, with especial emphasis on making melee combat fun without having to add extra commands. Cool mechanics like portals back to town and a special role for gold also serve to spice up the game. Overall my favourite game this year.

Some might consider Broken Bottle to be good too, but far be it for me to say ;)

I did not manage to get the following games working, in spite of much effort: A Little Anxious When It’s Dark, Anauroch, Geiger-AD42, Monster Enthraller, Storming the Ship. If these are amazing titles then all the more shameful. I also haven’t had a chance to try out Rogue: The Cardlike, but I’ve heard it’s quite good.

You can find a full list of all successful entries with links to them at RogueTemple.


Broken Bottle: 7drl post mortem

March 21st, 2011 3 comments

I’ve enjoyed reading some other post mortems and figure that now it’s a week after the challenge I might do my own.

Broken Bottle splashscreen image

I made this splashscreen image to alleviate some coding stress - only took a few minutes with a stock image and some Photoshop filters

Broken Bottle was a vague idea I had for a while – I wanted to make a really gritty post-apocalyptic game, with a dark world and a flawed hero. I wanted something far more serious than the Fallouts. I wanted the player to feel unnerved by certain game actions, and I wanted alcoholism to play an important role in gameplay. I wanted a sprawling open wasteland game, with various areas to explore and factions to encounter (yeah, that never made it in). I had a general idea of a story about an alcoholic that had abandoned his daughter. I never thought I’d try any of this in 7 days…

It was only on the eve of the challenge that I decided I would definitely give it a go. I had planned before (and publicly announced before) that I would be making a sequel to UNSTOPPABLE, but as the Saturday approached I became more and more unhappy with this limited scope and this idea resurfaced. I was also disappointed to find out no one was planning a T-Engine based game after ToME4 won Roguelike of the Year. Finally on Friday night I thought screw it, I’m making a post-apocalyptic game, and I’m going to use the T-Engine. I can learn Lua and a whole new engine in 7 days, right? Initially my idea was to be called “Mineshaft Gap”, a simple jokey game involving exploring caverns and killing commies. But as I started writing an intro text some of my darker designs crept in, and Broken Bottle began to take shape in my head.

Picking up Lua and the T-Engine from scratch wasn’t easy, especially since the documentation for the latter is very thin on the ground. My only real programming experience beforehand is making quite simple games in FreePascal. I had never used other people’s algorithms before, and even wrote my own line-drawing and circle-drawing code. This was more than a step into the unknown – it was a completely different world. My only reference source was a small example game provided with the T-Engine itself, and the utterly massive ToME4. Scary stuff!

On the first day I stripped out bits of the example module I didn’t want (like all the talent code) and started getting the interface set up in my desired style. This took… a crazy amount of time. Simply setting up a little list of the player stats was a mammoth task. I copied code from ToME4, I fiddled, I tweaked, I went through error after error until finally it began to take shape. I made rats and dogs as my first basic enemies, and used the standard dungeon generator that comes with the engine. At the end of day 1 a very very basic game was in place, and I continued adding things bit by bit. Most of Sunday was spent tweaking the interface more to use only washed out colours (annoyingly the T-Engine over-rides this in certain areas) and gave a simple end-game. With the start and end done I just needed a middle.

ToME4 screenshot

Much code copypastad courtesy of ToME4 - many thanks to DarkGod! Wish my game looked so pretty :(

Lua was easier to get used to than I expected. The only thing I had to look up was how to comment. The T-Engine is a bit more mysterious though, especially as I’d never worked with multiple code files and object-orientated stuff before. Some things came easy, others were aggravating. Putting in an inventory system was pretty painless, even though I’d never coded items before – the engine sorts out most of the grunt work. Making weapons cause extra damage in combat took many painful hours though, as I tried various approaches and encountered problem after problem. DarkGod was very useful on IRC, but he wasn’t always there, so I was often in the dark, tearing my hair out as I tried to understand the errors.

On Tuesday I started writing some story pieces in work. I hadn’t planned to have much of a story, but it all just came naturally, and I’m quite proud of what I wrote (it’s the highlight of the game really). I had to physically stop myself putting in too much humour. As it is I partly regret the Palin reference – it’s just wrong in tone. The last thing I wanted is a game plagued with poor reference-based humour like Fallout 2. Getting the hallucinations/dreams in took some work, as did having them spread out the right amount so they’re not seen too quickly or so far apart that they’re never seen in the game. As it is I guess the drunken dreams should come easier, but I’m happy enough with the implementation. I also added in alternative descriptions to most enemies for when the character is drunk, with the intention being to have the world feel different when inebriated. I never got to fully expand on this as much as I would have liked.

Broken Bottle hallucination example

The story became important for me, both for its own reading merit and setting the grim scene

As the days went by I got very worried – a lot of important features were still missing, like negative effects from alcohol abuse or withdrawal, and every bit of coding always took longer than I expected. Most importantly I needed the piranha mechanics. The piranhas were an idea I’d had for a long time (inspired by Brazilian street kids) and the game wouldn’t be the same without them. With a bit of help from DarkGod though I manage to get them stealing and running away – the code itself is actually very simple, since most of the work happens engine-side. He also helped me with making them flee from gunshots (and with making gunshots even happen). I’d initially wanted the children to only approach the player in packs, but I scaled back that idea due to time constraints. I’m very happy with how they are in the game, and every time someone tells me “I hate those fucking piranhas!” I know I have done my work well :)

The last night of coding was painful, as my to do list was still very long. My girlfriend was staying over and she really didn’t appreciate me staying up coding till 5am :/ But I was still trying to get combat working properly, and every change I made just seemed to make new errors. I was sleep deprived from the week in general, and doing the most basic correction was an effort of will. Eventually I got the combat doing what I wanted, I retuned various things and got the game shipped out 4 hours before my 9am deadline. Ah, the sweet slumber that welcomed me after…

Broken Bottle piranhas

Fucking piranhas! :P

Alas, the game had some bugs. Nothing game-breaking, but the 1.1 release was still vital. It fixed a big bug with the piranhas stealing items (I forgot to give them inventories for the items to go *into*) and a bug when trying to kill yourself, whilst also tweaking a few things. I took the opportunity to add character sheets (copied some stuff from ToME for that) and removed HP regen based on feedback that it was too easy to just rest up between fights.

1.1 ain’t perfect, but I’m happy enough with it. It’s not exactly a work of art that will move you to your soul, but I hope the somewhat unnerving story and atmosphere will be appreciated by some. If I were to go further I’d add far more varied text to the game, with different combat messages based on enemy type and weapon type and drunkenness. I also had plans for achievements (well, “traits” – some would be negative) that never made it in. There might be some other tweaks too, like changing the effects of alcohol, and some of the dialogue could do with being more Americanised (I wanted a Grapes of Wrath feel to the language used). As it is I’m proud enough of doing what content I did get in and working, and the linear nature of the game doesn’t make it replayable enough to really justify updating much further. And, after all, it’s a 7drl, and my 7 days are long up.

Watch this space for a report on the highlights of the 2011 7DRLs. I’ve reviewed 28 so far…

Home-page update

March 16th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve given my homepage a lick of paint – you can check it out here.

I’ve made a little logo/banner on there for Broken Bottle that looks particularly snazzy, but otherwise it’s fairly simple. It just looks less 90s than the previous white on black site. I’m mostly proud to have a portfolio of four games to show off! Just over a year ago I had but one… I’ll maybe touch up the Gruesome banner at some point, but otherwise I’m happy enough with how the new page looks.


7DRL Success: Broken Bottle

March 13th, 2011 2 comments

I have made a new game in 7 days!  And have updated it a little bit since as well…  I present “Broken Bottle”, a post-apocalyptic game with themes of alcoholism and brutality:

Broken Bottle gameplay screenshot

To download it you either need to download the T-Engine and put my module into the game/modules/ folder. Windows users can download this complete package.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, following an alcoholic with a murky past as he tries to ascend to the surface. The game has a grim and dark theme, with story elements revealed through game progression, and through hallucinations or dreams induced by alcoholic abuse or withdrawal. Alcohol is a core element of the game – living without it is difficult, as it highly replenishes stamina which is used up in melee (fighting on very low stamina will make you miss most of the time). There are also withdrawal effects if you go without for a long time. On the other hand abusing alcohol too much can be bad for you, and can even send you into a immobile state.

Me vs Time

March 10th, 2011 Comments off

Must… stay awake….


Nearly there though! Losing sanity but no pain without gain etc.