Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Post Mortem: Dungeoneers

Last week, I participated in another Game in Ten Days (GitD) contest, this time with “Dungeons” as its theme. I’d have preferred to finish my works in progress before joining another game jam, but the theme was just too good for me to pass up. I eventually made a Flash game whose working title was “Dungeon Dweller Exterminators,” but I changed it to “Dungeoneers” upon release.

I wish I had blogged each day about what I had done if only to keep an accurate record of my working process. I was pressed for time, however, so I chose not to write about it. Next time I join a game jam, I really should keep a journal of what I do.

Currently, my game lets players hire adventurers and form a party of up to four of them to explore the four levels of a dungeon. All the action takes place in a top-down view of the dungeon, although I would have preferred using an isometric view if only I had enough time to implement it. Players can move the entire party by clicking on any part of the dungeon level with the mouse. Once the adventurers encounter enemies, however, they will automatically decide which of them to target. I wanted players to be able to also choose targets for each adventurer to add more tactical depth, but I didn’t have time to implement that. Neither was I able to provide an in-game tutorial or instructions on how to play the game, although despite that, I found that players were able to figure out what to do. The worst part was that I didn’t have time to design the levels to make them tactically interesting or to test my combat system thoroughly. That failure was what voters zeroed-in on.

As of this writing, it appears that most if not all of the votes have been sent, and it is obvious that my entry won’t win. Unlike the last GitD that I joined, though, I did get a few votes this time around. Not everyone who voted gave feedback, but I am grateful to the ones who did. Because of them, I know that my game may be an ugly duckling now, but it has the potential to become a beautiful swan. Below is the feedback that I received on my game:

  • Not really good at its current state, but gives a hint of what can become of it after some polishing, and that looks really promising. Most of the things I could suggest have to do with polishing x or y aspect, so I’ll just skip those. Gameplay wise, the combat system seemed rather strange; units seemed to have a really shitty accuracy. Even the rangers would miss half of the time while the enemies were next to them, which reminds me that Diablo/that-demon-thingy seemed to be the only enemy able to hit (and kill) my units. Some work and you may have a solid game there.
  • Neat start, but like…I have to ask—what’s with the combat in this game? I started writing this post while my two knights were wailing away, and they’re STILL at it. The chance to hit seems absolutely abysmal (players don’t typically like games where their characters miss all the time) and, on top of that, the time between swings is really slow. Makes the combat VERY uninteresting. Speed up the attack speeds, and mitigate damage through armor/absorption/reduction rather than evasion. I finally gave up on the…thing (skeleton?) I was fighting and ran down to fight some red thing. If I’m still fighting it when I finish this post, I’m just going to give up. Still, with some work, this could be pretty cool.

    PS: My knights are STILL fighting the red thing in Dungeoneers and everyone is still at full health. WTF?
  • Seems like it could be very fun. It is disorientating at first though.
  • I don’t know what it was but the fighting between people and creatures was extremely slow and tedious, and since that was pretty much all there was to the game, I’m afraid I didn’t stay for long.
  • I made a team of exterminators and started working on the rat infestation problem at the church, but then I ran into a skeleton that neither of my guys could hit and it couldn’t do anything to them either, so that was that. Bug report though: clicking on the skeleton generated a null object reference error. Thought you might want to know.
  • Receives my second vote for being a good quick mouse navigable game.
  • An interesting game but sadly not a very good game. The best thing the game has is the pathfinding system. It freaked out a bit when both you and the enemy were trying to get to each other but otherwise it was very strongly done.

    The combat was really shallow. Apparently the Knight has so much armor nothing can hit him, even at level 1. Sadly, he also hadn’t really hit anything that is not a rat. The monk dies far too easily to tell if he can hit the skeleton/humanoid enemies on the 3rd floor. Ranger can actually shoot from a distance but it’s far too hard to see if he’s even attacking. Barbarian does good damage but also takes damage and dies a bit too easily. Considering that you gain so little money running the dungeon killing rats you can’t level up or gain new people to your party without serious rat grinding. I’m not even sure you can damage the skeleton guys or the final boss.

    Controls were ok but also left a lot to be desired. All you can basically do is tell your people where to go and let them to the rest. This leaves us with very little strategy. If you click a living thing on the map you get a little rotating triangle selection over it but it doesn’t seem to do anything at all. The opening screen was also very confusing as clicking the church without any people at all doesn’t explain anything.

    All in all the game has good promise but feels highly unfinished.
  • Has potential, but as others have found, the combat just doesn’t seem to work, and that’s a pretty fundamental part of a dungeon crawler. All the effort on this one seems to have gone into the menu screen.
  • my trusty Knight 2 thought he’d found a solution to the horrendously slow combat speed – making use of the excellent pathfinding to sprint for the stairs right away every time.Then he met an epileptic dragon, and since it seemed unlikely to hurt him, he couldn’t bright himself to attack it. This wasn’t the epic adventure that was expected of him.
  • Decent concept, but needs a bit of work.

    I tried grinding far enough to get one of every fighter but the ranger (I thought maybe the monk would be good against the skeleton, but started with the knight and barbarian), but the third floor was still impossible (as far as actually harming the enemies). I also tried a single knight at level 3 — but the only noticeable difference between a level 3 knight and a level 1 knight is that he’s four times as expensive. “There’s no turning back” is kind of weird when you discover that there is turning back (as in exiting via the stairs you came in from).
  • A proper dungeon crawler, with pathfinding and adventurers! I don’t really know what is good about different classes, and my pair of knights have spent the last 5 minutes fighting a skeleton(?) with neither side doing any damage. Looks promising, but unfinished, way too ambitious for 10 days

Based on the above comments, there seem to be two consistent patterns that come up again and again.

  1. Combat, which happens to be the central part of the game, is the one that is most poorly implemented. Attacks take too long to execute, and often, little to no damage is dealt.
  2. The game has potential, but it would take more work to get it to an enjoyable state.

When scheduling an I.T. project, there is a quick rule of thumb that says that about 30% of the entire time should be spent on designing the application, 40% on programming, and 30% on testing. If memory serves me right, what really happened was that I spent maybe 40% of my time designing the game, 50% programming it, and only 10% or less testing it. I used up much of my programming time creating a pathfinding and targeting system that would enable opposing teams to move across walled rooms and fight each other. Hardly enough time went into combat resolution.

As always, my efforts are not wasted. I now have some good code that I can always re-use in other projects. More importantly, I have the seed of a game that may wind up being engaging if I polish it just right.