Derange #1: A New (Old) Nightmare

That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

This is the first in a series of dev blogs about our new upcoming horror game, Derange. This will be an semi-regular series detailing aspects of the game’s development, design choices, notable features and other things I think are pretty cool leading up to release. Like previous dev blog series, such as the one for Mythos: The Beginning I plan for these posts to be relatively in depth, describing how the game plays and how certain features work in pretty exhaustive detail. As such, if you don’t want to be spoiled on the finer points of how Derange plays or some elements of its storyline, you might want to stick to my Facebook or Twitter posts. You have been warned.

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So, what is Derange, exactly? It’s a retro (ie. Playstation 1 era) style survival horror game inspired by the original Resident Evil and John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse trilogy” of films (that is, The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness). Playing as either college student Jessica Kessler or software engineer Nathan Romero, your mission is to investigate the disappearance of your friend Dr. Edwin Prestor, whose last known correspondence has brought you to a seemingly abandoned New England manor. When you arrive, you find the estate’s inhabitants transformed into creatures that are no longer human, and you’ll have to discover the source of the horror to survive.

If you’re a survival horror fan, you probably know the deal by now: explore the creepy mansion, gather supplies, ammo and keys and solve the odd puzzle while evading monsters that can outnumber and overpower you. It’s a pretty standard setup for your typical late 90s survival horror game, but it’s something that’s never really been translated to the RPG Maker engine. It’s a formula that’s close to my heart and the main goal with Derange is to provide the closest approximation of the genre possible. The objective is to create what essentially feels like a 2D Resident Evil game, complete with all the trappings: scarce ammo, horrifying monsters, inventory management and limited saves (a future devblog will go into detail about how all of these things will work).

Making a worthy successor to the classics of survival horror is something I’ve attempted before with the One Night series and with Mythos: The Beginning, but have never actually pulled off in a way I felt truly captured that experience. In that sense, Derange can also be considered something of a followup to those games. It certainly shares similarities with those games, at least thematically, but my design goals are a little different this time. Where Mythos was an experiment at combining an RPG with survival horror elements, Derange is a straight survival horror game. And where One Night attempted to hearken back to the survival horror games of old but ended up only meeting them halfway (no inventory management, clunky turn based RPG style combat, obviously repurposed stock RPG Maker menu screens etc.), Derange aims to do the concept justice.

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Long story short: survival horror has moved on from the 90s, and they just don’t make games like this anymore. Derange is a die-hard fan’s love letter to the genre. I want to make a time capsule representing everything I loved about those games (and, by extension, everything that worked well in my previous attempts at the genre) – something familiar, shaken up a little and repackaged for a new generation.

Next time: how Derange captures the essence of a traditional survival horror game.

Posted in Games

One Night: Ultimate Edition Release Info

They’re coming to get you, Barbara!

Last month, I announced One Night: Ultimate Edition, an overhauled re-release of my very first survival horror game. Since then, we’ve been hard at work updating One Night for a modern release, rewriting every single line of text, recoding the engine from scratch, and implementing some desperately needed quality of life tweaks that, quite simply, were far beyond my technical skills in 2007.

Needless to say, it’s been quite a task, something much larger and much more challenging that what I originally envisioned. Our original plan was to have the game ready by the end of November, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. Taking a game with a codebase as messy, badly optimised and, in some places, as outright broken as the original One Night and updating it to the standards of something I’d release today wasn’t easy. It’s a wonder the original game even worked with all of the clunky systems 16 year old me built into it. Despite all that, we’re finally seeing One Night: Ultimate Edition come together as a playable title.

So then, release info: at this stage, we’re aiming to release the game in early January 2018. This gives us another month to finish polishing the game and to make sure all of the overhauled systems function as intended.

Also, while I originally announced that One Night: Ultimate Edition would retail at a price of 3.99 USD, we’ve since decided to release it as a free to play title after all, maintaining the spirit of the original release. I’d like for One Night: Ultimate Edition to serve as something of an introduction to my horror titles for new audiences – the idea is that if people like it enough, they’ll go on to buy Mythos: The Beginning and other survival horror games in the future. Eventually, we’ll update the other entries in the One Night series for Steam as well, which will thankfully be a much easier undertaking.

Here’s hoping.

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Announcing One Night: Ultimate Edition!

The horror returns.

Are you ready to survive the horrors of “The Complex” all over again? That’s right – today I’m officially announcing One Night: Ultimate Edition is coming soon to Steam and itch.io, the first in a series of updated re-releases planned to bring the One Night series to a brand new audience. Just as its name suggests, One Night: Ultimate Edition is an overhauled re-release of the original One Night, featuring a brand new soundtrack, an updated engine, new maps, an entirely rewritten story and other cool things.

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Now with updated screen rendering!

First, let’s get the most important (and contentious) thing out of the way: One Night: Ultimate Edition will be a commercial release, retailing at $3.99 USD. There are a few things I’d like to clarify about this price. First of all, it’s mainly intended to offset the Steam Direct fee and other associated publishing costs. Secondly, this price point puts it in right about the same ballpark as the Steam re-releases of RPG Maker horror classics Mad Father and Misao, which were both also previously available for free. Finally, the original free version of One Night (complete with its cheesy writing and outdated engine) will still be available at no cost wherever you originally downloaded it from. You’re not really paying for the game itself here – the idea is that you’re subsidizing the considerable work required to update a 10 year old game to a presentable modern standard.

So, if that’s the case, what are you paying for? What exactly is new in One Night: Ultimate Edition? Behold!

What’s New:

New graphics and overhauled environments.

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Every map in the game has been touched up.

The original One Night was made in 2008, using basically just the RPG Maker VX RTP and whatever handful of “sci-fi” tiles 16 year old me could find laying around. Needless to say, it hasn’t aged particularly well. In the Ultimate Edition, each and every room in the game has been tweaked (and in some cases, entirely rebuilt from scratch) to make each location more visually appealing. Important rooms are now distinct and contain unique set pieces, and The Complex now actually resembles a place where real people may have actually lived and worked. Maps aren’t the only visual elements that have been spruced up, either – monster designs have also been entirely overhauled, both to make them more intimidating and alien and to make each monster type more visually memorable.

Engine improvements and quality of life tweaks.

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Can you believe it took 10 years to get a wound counter?

As my first full featured release, One Night had quite a few design oversights and engine limitations that I simply couldn’t work around at the time. Do you remember monsters continuing to creep up on you while you mashed through flavor text, or not knowing exactly how much health you had left? The Ultimate Edition updates the game’s engine and mechanics to work how they were originally intended. Monsters will no longer move while text is displayed. You can now see how many wounds you’ve sustained at any time. You can actually take files and memos with you, and your inventory is organised by item type. In addition, the screen rendering code has been completely rewritten to upscale better and more smoothly on modern systems.

New and revised gameplay content and pacing.

Not everything in the Ultimate Edition consists of tweaks to already existing content. I’ve thrown in some new stuff, too. Where the original late game (just before crossing over to the other side of the “merge”) was mainly boring backtracking with the same old enemy types, we now have new monsters that show up to make exploration tense again. A couple of new rooms have been added to The Complex, and the game progression has been slightly tweaked, meaning you’ll do different things in a slightly different order. Exploration and puzzles have been streamlined and some new scares have been added in, too.

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Completely rewritten dialogue.

Last but most certainly not least, every single line of text in the game has been rewritten. What was amateurish storytelling 10 years ago is now actually functional. The personalities of the main cast are far more apparent than they were before, and the convoluted backstory has been streamlined and tightened up. Even the descriptions you get when examining scenery have been redone to be more informative and flavorful. Continuity nods and foreshadowing to the events of later games have been tossed into the mix here and there, and additional story content to allow Mythos: The Beginning to serve as a prequel is also present.

Where and when can I get it?

One Night: Ultimate Edition is currently going through the Steam Direct submission process. This process usually takes a couple of weeks, and an additional rule is that a game page must be shown as “Coming Soon” on Steam for at least 20 days before going live. Please stay tuned for more specific release information.

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Heroes of Legionwood Character Building Guide!

Greetings, heroes!

Just like the previous games in the series, Heroes of Legionwood features a fairly diverse character building system, at least for an RPG Maker title. One glaring limitation with RPG Maker is that it’s often quite difficult to provide detailed information on game mechanics, and a common request from players is for an easy way to understand just how everything works. It’s taken a while since there was just so much to cover, but here it is!

Character Building Guide on Steam

This Steam guide is an official reference document detailing everything you need to know about character advancement in Heroes of Legionwood – how stats influence combat, a full list of techs and suggested roles for each class. If you’re the type of player who likes to plan out your character before starting a new playthrough, you owe it to yourself to take a look!

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Heroes of Legionwood: End of Days is coming July 28!

Hello heroes.

You’ve been waiting for the end, and it’s finally here. After a hectic few months of beta testing, balancing and bug hunting, we’re happy to announce the chosen release date for Heroes of Legionwood Episode 3, which will be dropping on July 28th, 2017!

We’re aiming to release DRM-free versions of the game on
our website[darkgaia.com], https://darkgaia.itch.io (along with the previous two episodes) and IndieGameStand[indiegamestand.com] at midnight, 12:00 AM Australian Eastern Standard Time on this date, with the Steam version to follow soon after.

DRM-free versions of the game will be standalone executables and, much like the IndieGameStand versions of Episodes 1 and 2, will not require ownership of the previous installments to purchase. The Steam version, as per usual, will be DLC. Save files will be cross compatible between all versions.

It’s important to note that, like all Dark Gaia Studios titles, the Steam release will be handled by our publisher, Degica, so the Steam release may not coincide exactly with this projected release date, but we will do our utmost best to try and make sure all versions release at relatively the same time. We’ll also be discussing the possibility of a “Complete Set” containing all 3 episodes at a discounted price, but this is still a ways off.

Are you ready to save Legionwood from the Darkness once and for all?

Posted in Games

Heroes of Legionwood #10: Final Touches

Hi everyone.

So, this is it. Despite numerous delays and quite a few missed release dates, development of Episode 3: End of Days is in the home stretch. Beta testing has begun in earnest, and we’re busy adding the final touches to the game’s content and balancing everything to make sure it plays as smoothly as possible.

As such, this isn’t really a devblog that goes into detail about any one thing (since I don’t want to spoil everything this installment has to offer) but is instead a kind of brief round up of some the cool things we haven’t mentioned yet.

Stealth Minigame!

While previous episodes weren’t light on puzzles or dungeon obstacles by any means, one thing they all seemed to have in common is that they were very passive. Aside from some of the stuff in the Weave in Episode 1, there hasn’t really been much in the way of active, timing based minigames or challenges in Heroes of Legionwood. Episode 3 contains a brand new stealth challenge (two of them, in fact, but they’re mutually exclusive and you’ll only see one in a given playthrough) where you have to sneak through a dungeon undetected. Stay out of sight and carefully dodge between hiding spots and you may just make it through without any trouble. Bring along a character with the Subterfuge talent and you’ll have a number of extra options at your disposal. If you don’t want to do things the quiet way, don’t fret, as you can just choose to fight your way through if you really want to!

Multiple Solutions!

As mentioned in a previous devblog, one of the main design goals of Episode 3 (and one of the ways in which it differs a little from previous installments) is a focus on player choice and non-linearity. Going hand in hand with the revised talents system, every quest in End of Days contains multiple solutions or different variations depending on your talents and previous choices. There are more Speech checks than ever before and almost every major NPC can be persuaded in some way. When entering some areas, you’ll be given multiple different ways to proceed (such as sneaking through or going for a no-holds-barred assault). Lesser used classes such as Gunner and Shaman have special options in certain quests to give them more utility. Even seemingly minor talents like Mercantile and Scouting may be put into use to even the odds in a couple of encounters.

The Great Outdoors!

In an attempt to return to Episode 1’s larger scope after spending most of Episode 2 in the city of Port Alexis, End of Days features an increased emphasis on outdoor areas and overland travel rather than dungeon crawling (though there’s still certainly plenty of indoor dungeons to plunder). You’ll cover quite a lot of distance in Episode 3 as your journey takes you across the vast Sonoran Desert, through winding canyons and even to places beyond Legionwood itself. Make sure you’re stocked up on supplies and bring along a character with the Scouting talent to make your travels a little easier.

Ending Slides!

Finally, we want to give you a glimpse at the ending. End of Days has 3 main endings, unlocked by conducting research into the Darkness, and each of those has variations depending on your choices throughout all three episodes, how you handled certain quests, your romance (or lack thereof) and your character’s overall morality score. If you’ve played any of the Fallout games or the original Dragon Age, you’ll be familiar with the ending slides describing what happens to each of the locations you’ve visited after the events of the game and what impact your character had on them. End of Days does something pretty similar, and we’re confident that you’ll be happy with the story’s resolution.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for release date info and a couple of final announcements. We’re nearly there, folks!

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Heroes of Legionwood #9: Overhauled Talents

Hello again heroes.

This update is kind of a devblog and patch notes in one as it’s time to go into detail about Episode 3’s overhauled Talents system – something we’re also porting back into Episodes 1 and 2 with today’s 2.0 patch.

So, as I just said, the Talents system has undergone a considerable overhaul in End of Days. This is to facilitate the emphasis on different quest solutions in Episode 3 (as detailed by last week’s devblog) and add a little more depth to character growth between levels 20-30, where skill trees are mostly already filled out and options for spending AP were previously lacking. The main change you’ll notice is that your character’s Talents now have multiple ranks:

In contrast to Episodes 1 and 2, where Talents were pretty much a binary flag (either a character has it, or they don’t) the game’s most used Talents now come in three consecutive rank: Basic, Advanced, and Master, representing increasing levels of aptitude. Speech, Subterfuge, Mercantilism, Herbalism and Alchemy have all been split into these three ranks (Knowledge, Medicine, Awareness and Scouting remain unchanged) and how they work has been drastically changed.

  • Speech now gives your character a base 50% chance of successfully persuading an NPC (previously, you always succeeded no matter what), with the Advanced rank bringing this up to 75% and Master making it succeed all the time.
  • Subterfuge now works similarly to Speech, giving you a base 50% chance of disabling traps or finding hidden passages (and it’s now possible to fail and permanently break the trap/passage mechanism), with Advanced and Master ranks increasing this chance to 75% and 100% respectively.
  • Mercantilism now grants you a 25% discount when purchasing items from shops, with Advanced increasing this to 50% (the previous base game value). Where Mercantilism is really different, however, is with the Master rank, which expands the inventory of most shops in the game and unlocks rare, special items for sale.
  • Herbalism works the same at its Basic level. However, the Advanced rank causes more harvest spots to appear in the game, and Master makes the rarer herbs (such as Harp Leaf and God’s Mint) much easier to find.
  • Finally, Alchemy also works the same at its Basic level, but becomes much more useful at the Advanced and Master levels, which expand the number of mixable items and reduce their costs by 50%, respectively.

Needless to say, these changes allow for many more options during character creation and give your characters something to strive for outside of combat, which brings us to the 2.0 patch. In order to maintain consistency between all three episodes, we’re also implementing this system in End of Days and Resurrection, along with brand new and revised skill checks to make use of the new ranks. Your characters in the first two episodes can now access the Advanced and Master ranks of these talents, and they’ll actually unlock new content in the game.

Posted in Games