Once A Rogue (Dev Blog) 3/2/16

We are Darksword Studios (cliché name yes we know)! The five of us, (Ian, Julian, Conrad, Robin and Stasha (Avix)) are proud to tell you about a project that is currently in the works.

Our game, “Once A Rogue…” is a 2D rogue-like RPG that we’re hoping will allow for up to 2 players (local cooperation only). We derived inspiration from games like “Binding of Isaac”, “Diablo 2”, and “Payday 2” to devise a dungeon-explorer type game that fosters a “controlled” random level structure as well as character progression in the form of evolving skill sets. Seeing that random dungeon generation is a stretch goal, we may end up strictly piecing the levels together by hand, but if that is the case, there will still be a considerable amount of variety for the player to experience. If we achieve the random level generation goal; rooms will be predefined but stitched together randomly using an intelligent node mapping algorithm (avoid pure simplicity and pure complexity). The player(s) will be confined to one room at a time which will either consume the screen (fixed camera) or allow for panning within larger rooms (fixed track camera). Each room will contain random spawn points that introduce enemies of varying number and difficulty based on the average skill (measured via soul count / skill points) of both players and the current stage. Exploration and discovery of the dungeon level are encouraged- but the boss room (Significantly harder room that will allow transport to the next level) will be fairly accessible from the start in case players are skilled enough (and do not wish to grind).

The look of this game is heavily inspired by Binding of Isaac in terms of the perspective of play and the type of gameplay that is present (top-down camera with side-view avatars). The theme is medieval and we will have backgrounds that reflect typical rpg settings (cave, forest, dungeon, castle). The player will start as a base rogue character and their form will change to a more specific type depending on which skill tree they rely the most heavily on. Scenery and enemies found within the game will adhere to the same medieval trend (for example there will be torches on the walls, and goblins will be an enemy) The overall tone (feel) of the game will be kind of light and cartoony (dictated by the light-hearted art style), but we want there to be darker undertones especially when it comes to the overall story. Speaking of which, the base story is as follows; All is well in the kingdom before a horde of monsters floods the land and steals people’s souls. The protagonist(s) are out travelling in a nearby mountain range during the attacks. By the time the player(s) return, all of the monsters have escaped into the forest, caves, dungeons, and castle. The kingdom lies in ruin, and the rogue(s) decide(s) to fight the monsters and reclaim the souls. In doing so they gain more personal power, as they are harboring the life force of other people as well as their own. Not too much is clear to the player(s) initially aside from their objectives, but the player can seek out story fragments to understand more as they progress through the levels.

(*Listen to a potential forest theme composed by Avix)

As far as game objectives go, the player will consider the following goals in order of least to greatest importance: clear the room, clear the floor, kill the boss, gain souls / skill points, build their character, progress through the dungeon areas (4 total), and finish the game. Optional objectives include being a completionist on every floor, collecting story fragments / engaging in optional story rooms or events, choosing an ending (1 of 2), and continuing after the final level for a purely arcade style highscore experience. The player’s incentive to beat monsters and bosses is that they gain skill points by absorbing their souls (Yes, we know- this sounds like Dark Souls). These points may be assigned in four separate skill trees that each define a unique play style. The four skill trees are the warrior (survivability), the mage (distance attacks/ special abilities), the archer (strong distance attacks), and the rogue (high close combat strength/ agility). The player doesn’t have to pick one skill tree; they can and should create hybrids (this is a snippet inspired by Payday 2’s skill system).

We haven’t fleshed out the intricate mechanics of combat as of this moment, but we have solidified the basics. The player(s) from the start will have a warrior’s sword, archer’s bow and arrow, and magician’s staff (rogue’s dagger?). Buttons will be mapped to attack with a specified weapon, and combat will be carried out in real time. Enemies will either auto target the player(s) upon entry to the room, be passive until attacked, or runaway upon being attacked. Projectiles and physical attacks will be registered based on collision boxes. The player(s) will have a specified health bar (possibly also a sprint bar) which they will have to manage. Dying will result in the restart of a level (also the loss of all souls gained during that level) while success will be marked with the accumulation of souls and progression. In order to manage spells and special attacks, we may implement a hotbar where the player(s) can select which basic skills / special skills they would like to have ready to use. This could be altered at any point to ensure the player can customize and perfect their combat techniques.

We hope that our game will appeal to a wide spectrum of gamers including both casual gamers as well as those seeking more of a challenge. With our slight cartoon-like graphics, we hope to also appeal to children aged 13 and up. Specifically the art style was chosen to give an otherwise serious game, a lighter and more charming look. We want to put an emphasis on teamwork and story building rather than senseless hack-n-slash oriented violence. With a stretch-goal of an achievement system, we also hope to attract those players that take great joy in completing games 100% through. Through the use of procedural generation to harbor replayability and the vast amount of customization options available to the player creates a “play how you want” style that creates a fun atmosphere for the player through numerous play throughs. We also hope that the engaging story, amount of level design variety, interactivity and openness in terms of combat, and sense of adventure / discovery will create an enjoyable experience for the player.

If you are interested in this project and would like to see more, please leave us a comment below! The basic development time that we are estimating for this project is 3 months, by the end of which you will be able to download and play it for yourselves!

*Some concept art of a four direction room (Created by Robin):

A Four Direction Room