Derange #3: The Hivemind

Hello once again, horror fans. In my previous update, I described some of the ways that Derange seeks to emulate the traditional tropes of 90s survival horror. Following in the footsteps of Resident Evil and Silent Hill isn’t all there is to Derange, however. If all I’ve managed to do in the final product is retread what’s already come before, then what’s the point in playing it when you could just stick to the classics? In this update, I’m going to introduce just one of the unique new features in Derange that aims to do things a little differently: the Hivemind System.

Sounds cool, you say, but what is it? Well, to put it simply, the Hivemind System is a mechanic that allows Derange‘s enemies to react to and learn from your actions as a player. It’s kind of like the AI Director in Left 4 Dead, but with more of an emphasis on keeping the game tense and catching you off guard. As you play Derange, the monsters you encounter in the mansion will “remember” your movements and communicate with each other, eventually manifesting new behaviors and abilities in direct response to your actions. The goal, of course, is to make the enemies unpredictable. In other traditional survival horror games, most enemies are static and are easy to deal with once you’ve memorized their movement patterns and what they’re capable of. In Derange, however, the monsters will “evolve” to adapt to how you’re playing, ensuring they’ll always be a threat.

Hivemind2

The Hivemind changes enemy properties on the fly.

So, how does it work? At its core, the Hivemind System “watches” what actions you’re performing in the game and adjusts the enemies accordingly. Let’s say you’re playing cautiously, carefully evading enemies, avoiding fights and stockpiling your healing items. In this case, the Hivemind System will enter “offense mode”, making all of the enemies faster and more aggressive so they have a better chance of catching you. The longer you continue to play cautiously, the more aggressive the enemies will become – they’ll learn to open doors, will use more effective hunting tactics against you, and their attacks will deal more damage.

Hivemind

Saving often tells the Hivemind you’re playing cautiously.

What if you’re playing a more aggressive game though, killing every enemy you find and dealing with threats in a more pragmatic manner? The Hivemind System will start to play defensive instead, mutating the enemies so they become gradually harder to kill and making them more likely to gang up on you rather than attack one by one. These are just a couple of examples; there are dozens of different variables at play that will affect what the Hivemind System does next. It’s capable of reacting to almost anything you do, and nearly every possible action in the game can cause its “play style” to change. The end result is that hopefully you’ll feel like you’re being hunted by something intelligent and calculating, something doing everything in its power to destroy you.

That’s all for today. Next time, we’ll cover Derange’s dual protagonists and how your choices can affect the game.

Posted in Games

Derange #2: Tools of the Apocalypse

Welcome back to the Derange devblog, horror fans. It’s been quite a while since my last update (organising a wedding and then getting married has a way of eating up my spare time, it seems) but I’m finally back, bearing the latest portent’s from Derange‘s development. Last time, I talked about how Derange aims to translate the old school, Playstation 1 era survival horror experience to RPG Maker. This time, I’m going to elaborate on just how I’ve managed to emulate that experience, and the main features that make Derange subtly different from my previous survival horror games. Without any further delay, let’s get into it!

Inventory Management

On the surface, this is the biggest difference between Derange and my previous games, and the one singular feature which I decided from the very start had to absolutely, without compromise, be present in the game. Unlike in One Night and Mythos: The Beginning, in which you could hoard items to your heart’s content, your character in Derange can only carry 10 items at a time.

29594709_10157621651099466_353132088199116914_n

Weapons, health items, ammunition and key items all take up a single item slot, requiring you to make tactical decisions about what you need to bring with you in any given situation and what you’re willing to leave behind. Surplus items can be stored in a Resident Evil style item box (usually present in save rooms and other strategic locations) and will be available for you to take later, but managing your inventory on a moment to moment basis will be a big part of the game – just like in the classics.

Limited Saves

In One Night and Mythos, you might remember how saving your progress was restricted to save points in specially designated rooms. This prevented the player from saving whenever they wanted, but provided you could make your way back to the save room you could basically save as many times as you liked. Whenever I’ve watched a Let’s Play or walkthrough of the One Night games, it’s been glaringly obvious to me that this system did little to inconvenience or tax the player in any considerable way.

Save

In Derange, you now require Blank Tapes to save your game, in yet another mechanic I’ve blatantly stolen from Resident Evil. Whenever you save, you’ll use up one of these precious items, so you’ll have to think twice about whether you really need to save the game at any given moment. Do you drop a save right now and risk not having a tape when you really need one, or do you press on and risk losing progress? That said, if you do manage to run out of Blank Tapes you won’t entirely be out of luck: you’ll still be prompted to save after major events in the game, such as completing the prologue or defeating a boss. Resident Evil essentially became impossible if you ever ran out of ink ribbons, but you’ll still have a lifeline in Derange.

Less Numbers

One thing I never really liked about the One Night games, but didn’t really have the skill to do any differently, was that it displayed the player’s health as an exact number of hit points (Mythos gets a pass here, since it’s an RPG). It was possible to determine exactly how much damage enemies dealt to you, and how many more hits you could afford to take before dying. You could effectively “min-max” your health and only use healing items when you knew you needed them. In the classic survival horror games, you never knew exactly how much health you had left, and it made the combat so much more tense.

30073061_10157689497089466_4827135468808141972_o

Likewise, Derange doesn’t show you an exact number. Instead, the status screen shows your character’s general condition: Unhurt, Bruised, Injured, Dying or Poisoned. Additionally, outside of the status menu, the screen will slowly fade to black and white as your health ticks down (yes – like a cover shooter, but at least this way you won’t have to constantly open the status screen to check your condition). This gives you a vague idea of how close to death you are, but doesn’t tell you exactly how much more damage you can take. When the status screen says “Dying” and you don’t know for sure whether the enemy around the corner will finish you off, exploration and combat are much scarier.

29872825_10157689497114466_950691271248553016_o

And that’s all I have time to share for today. As you can see, we’ve managed to translate some of the main mechanics of traditional survival horror as closely as we can, while still trying to add a few small modern touches. I don’t often see these features among RPG Maker horror games (or the survival horror genre in general these days) but, being a purist, I feel they add so much more to the atmosphere of the game.

Next time, we’ll cover the Hivemind System, something that makes Derange a unique horror experience.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , ,

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.

29512907_10157625482754466_2218535517413909847_n

 

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.

29511124_10157626300479466_4915401155883931288_n

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.

Posted in Games | Tagged , ,

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.

22894536_10157120234304466_245189246211761780_n

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.

23131766_10157143541109466_215482772823915300_n

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.

23316448_10157143571009466_6500999735491470937_n

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.

newenemies

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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!

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , ,

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