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

Heroes of Legionwood #8: Quest structure and focus

Hello there, heroes.

Development of Episode 3, End of Days, is coming along smoothly, so I thought I’d treat you all to a series of dev blogs detailing several of the game’s features and plot elements. In terms of design philosophy and goals, End of Days is actually a little different to previous installments of Heroes of Legionwood in a few notable ways, and I thought it’d be interesting to go into detail about what exactly you can expect.

The first notable difference between End of Days and the previous episodes is its scope and quest structure. Funnily enough, this is simply carrying on a pattern already established by Age of Darkness and Resurrection, which were both subtly different. Episode 1, Age of Darkness, focused on a journey over a relatively large geographical area, featuring several towns and sidequests requiring backtracking to previously visited locations. By contrast, Resurrection‘s structure was much tighter, featuring adventures set inside and around one city with a little less linearity.

End of Days is different yet again, returning somewhat to the linear structure of Episode 1 but retaining the content density of Episode 2. In short, you can expect Episode 3 to be a little more linear when it comes to area progression, with less of an emphasis on optional content, but with more to do in each area and a much bigger content ratio in the main story. To demonstrate this, check out Episode 3’s opening dungeon in comparison to the sewers from Resurrection:

As you can see, in terms of sheer size, Episode 3’s dungeon is definitely bigger, but there’s more to it than that. Unlike Resurrection‘s opening dungeon, this cave in Episode 3 has different versions depending on how you ended the previous installment, with different enemies, a different objective and alternate ways through. There are a number of skill checks and talent uses that affect the difficulty and the boss fight, too, and provide options for different party builds. Compared to Episode 2, there’s simply more content here – what might have been reserved for optional sidequests is right there in the story dungeon instead. The trade off, of course, is that there’s less of a focus on the optional stuff this time around. Side quests still exist, of course, but they’re much simpler and there are fewer of them, at least compared to stuff like the shipwreck exploration or the Champion’s Arena in Resurrection.

Most of this structure is due to the scope and context of Episode 3’s story. Basically, the stakes are high in End of Days (hence the title). The Darkness is finally descending, and you’re racing against time to re-unite the Lore Shards and stop it before there’s nobody left to save. You’re not simply searching for something, like in Age of Darkness, or engaging in faction politics like in Resurrection. With that in mind, it doesn’t really make sense for your characters to be meandering around doing sidequests. Instead, you’re moving quickly from one self-contained area to another in a linear fashion, but in each area there’s much more to do and more scope for your choices to affect the story itself. We’re wrapping up story arcs here – it’s all about building up to a satisfying conclusion.

And that’s all for now. Join us again next time and I’ll go into detail about how exactly we’re going about this. Episode 3 is where the consequences for your choices will finally start to manifest in a big way.

Posted in Games, Writing

The End is nigh!

Long time no see, adventurers!

It’s been a while since we’ve posted an honest to goodness dev diary about Heroes of Legionwood, so we thought we’d just report in and let you guys know what’s going on with End of Days, the third and final episode of the game.

The good news is that work on Heroes of Legionwood: End of Days is well underway and, despite some initial hurdles and delays, we’re well on track to release early next year. We don’t want to reveal too much about the content of the episode at this point (mostly because some of it still subject to change) but in terms of story and player choices this is going to be the biggest installment yet, and simply taking into account everything you may have done so far in Episodes 1 and 2 is no mean feat!

That said, here’s a quick list of things that will definitely be making it into the episode, and our main priorities at the moment:

  • Different opening questlines depending on your faction choice in Episode 2.
  • Continuation of your companion friendships, rivalries and romances.
  • Branching mid-game questlines to account for even more choices.
  • The chance to permanently lose party members.
  • More revelations about the Darkness and hints concerning its origins.
  • Multiple endings.

At this stage, we’re aiming for a February 2017 release, but this isn’t set in stone as this episode is easily the most ambitious one we’ve done so far. Stay tuned towards the end of the year as we’ll slowly dole out more previews and info about the episode’s content and story.

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On the Edge of Madness

If you haven’t noticed, at Dark Gaia Studios we’ve been on a bit of a DLC binge lately. Back in June, we released the Combat Overhaul for Legionwood 1 on Steam, followed by a nice helping of engine upgrades in July. Last month, the Director’s Cut DLC for Legionwood 2 went live, adding extended endings and a slew of other cool things, hot on the heels of the long-awaited Journey to Charn expansion. All of these additions are part of a plan to refresh our existing games throughout the latter half of 2016, to bring something new to the table even while we’re busy working on Episode 3 of Heroes of Legionwood.

Now, with the Legionwood series squared away, we’re finally turning our attention to something altogether more horrific as we proudly announce Edge of Madness, a free DLC for 2015’s Lovecraftian adventure RPG Mythos: The Beginning which will be available this October.

edge-of-madness

Probably the biggest DLC we’ve done so far, Edge of Madness is a free update for Mythos: The Beginning which adds over 2 hours of new, playable content while also building upon and overhauling existing game features. Unlike any of the Legionwood DLCs, Edge of Madness makes a bunch of detailed changes to the original game, and even contains some complete system rewrites. We’ve never overhauled any of our games to quite this degree before, but the major goal of Edge of Madness is to make Mythos feel like a brand new experience.

The reason for such a huge update is pretty simple. Looking back over the last 12 months since its original release, it’s clear to see that Mythos is probably our most polarising game. This isn’t really surprising. From the very onset, Mythos’ design was bound to be hit-and-miss; as an RPG trying to be a survival horror adventure game, it was never really sure what audience it was trying to capture, and a number of pretty glaring design flaws (mainly in the combat system) didn’t help. This is kind of the point of Edge of Madness, then – it’s an attempt to “reboot” the game, consolidate its confused design into something more focused, add depth to the RPG elements while keeping the horror intact, and turn Mythos into something that’s actually fun to play.

Here are some of the more notable features we’re working on:

Expanded character creation and combat overhaul
expandedchargen

I’ve always felt that Mythos works as a survival horror game, but a large reason it didn’t resonate with players is because it didn’t quite do anything interesting as an RPG. Skill checks were too arbitrary and combat was either too hard or outrageously broken, depending on your character, meaning most builds turned out the same. In Edge of Madness, we’ve overhauled the entire combat system and completely rewritten the skill and damage formulas. Combat is now a viable option, and different character builds feel more meaningful. You’re now able to select your character’s starting talents and skill checks are far more prominent in the game world, giving you more ways to progress through a given area.

Rewritten dialogue and endings

One of the more glaring criticisms of the original game was the dialogue. It was voice acted (and pretty horribly so), which limited how much input the player’s choices could actually have on a given conversation. In Edge of Madness, the heavily panned voice acting has been removed and new lines have been added to flesh out the conversations. NPCs now have more dynamic reactions to what the player says and will exhibit more autonomy. If you’ve offended somebody, or made them lose confidence in you, it’ll now be far more obvious.  In addition, all of the game’s endings have been expanded with extra scenes that provide more resolution to the player’s choices, making them feel more weighty.

New areas and scares

edgeofmadnessscreen

Since we’re focusing on making Mythos feel more like an RPG, that means we have to address length and pacing. At ~6 hours long, Mythos is a pretty short RPG, even for an RPG with a heavy emphasis on adventure game elements. While Edge of Madness won’t turn Mythos into an epic, it will (hopefully) make the pacing feel a little more natural. Most of the new content is interspersed throughout the mid to late game, where good scares are noticeably lacking in the original release, and focuses on psychological horror. From a first person dungeon crawl in an underground cavern to a paranoia filled chase through a dense forest, there’s plenty of new stuff to prevent your character growing complacent.

There’s plenty more in Edge of Madness that we haven’t mentioned, but this dev blog is getting a little too long as it is. Trust us when we say Edge of Madness will make Mythos feel like a brand new game. It’s coming for you this October.

 

 

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Heroes of Legionwood #7: Doing the Ending Justice

Well met, Legionwood fans!

It’s been a busy couple of months here at Dark Gaia Studios. Early last month, I released the Definitive Edition of Legionwood 1 on Steam and followed it up with the Director’s Cut DLC for Legionwood 2. In between bug hunting, moderating forums and making sure the releases have been as smooth as possible I’ve been elbow deep in RPG Maker, plugging away at a currently unannounced side project and, of course, spending most of my time working on End of Days, the third and final episode of Heroes of Legionwood.

Here’s what Episode 3 looks like right now:

The above image may not mean much to players, but it represents a whole month’s work tweaking weapon stats, editing classes and balancing a new stable of enemies. Unfortunately, however, not everything is going according to plan. The good news is that we’ve made a good start on Episode 3. The story’s been finalised, the script has been written and, in terms of actual development, the basic foundation (engine tweaks, enemy and character stats, new equipment, save importing from Resurrection etc.) is pretty much done. If things continued at this pace, the game would definitely be ready in time for its planned December release. The bad news, however, is that progress has been pretty slow lately… and it’s likely that you won’t see End of Days this year.

Given the usual style of these dev posts, you might be forgiven for thinking Dark Gaia Studios is a rather sizable team. The thing is though, aside from a couple of people I hire on a freelance basis, the “studio” really just consists of me. Without revealing too much, recent weeks have made it clear that End of Days, at least what I plan to do with it, is far more ambitious than the previous two episodes, especially for just one guy. To do justice to the ending I have in mind and make sure everything fits together and all of the loose ends from player choices are accounted for, it’s almost going to have the time commitment of a full length standalone game — and this is why I ended up opting for three episodes after all, instead of trying to condense everything into Episode 2.

So why is Episode 3 going to take so long? It’s all about the ending. Let’s talk about the Mass Effect trilogy for a moment, a series I’ve mentioned before as a good example of a story centered on player choices. Mass Effect had the right idea. From the very start, it was marketed as a series that would be shaped by the player, each decision having far reaching consequences that all led up to vastly different conclusions. The first two games took nearly three years (each!) to make, and all said, the series contains thousands upon thousands of variables that are different in each player’s story. Then the ending happened.

masseffect3ending

Despite having two 80+ hour games worth of player choices to resolve, Mass Effect 3 was given a development cycle of just one year by its publisher. What we ended up with was a far cry from what was originally promised: a conversation with three options that triggered three strangely similar endings that were the same for everyone, previous choices be damned. To this day, Mass Effect 3 is still reviled for its ending, and it’s all because the game was rushed to release before the developer had time adequately resolve what they’d spent the previous six years setting up. I don’t want to do that with Heroes of Legionwood. While my series is nowhere near as complex and filled with variables as Mass Effect, I want to make sure it works. If you’re going to promise players that their choices will matter, you have to take the time to make sure every possible permutation is taken into account. Maybe having the same ending for everyone isn’t so bad, but how they get there should be personal.

With that said, I know you’re all eager to see how the Heroes of Legionwood story ends (and I’m eager to finish it) so please accept my apologies. At this stage, the planned release date seems to be “whenever I can get it done”, and I can’t offer you anything more concrete than that. Just know that it will be coming.

Eventually.

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Heroes of Legionwood Devblog #6: The Phantom Pain

Hey everyone. It’s Devblog time again!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a development update for Heroes of Legionwood, basically because I’ve gotten stuck right into the next installment and there isn’t really a whole lot that’s different on a mechanical or design level from Age of Darkness. However, there are some major changes currently underway with regards to how the next installment will be structured, which I feel are worth talking about — most significantly that the game has slowly (over the last few months) changed from an episodic trilogy to an epic two-parter and we’ll be embracing this format moving forward.

Yes, you read right: Heroes of Legionwood is doing a Metal Gear Solid V. Basically, the plan at the moment is to combine what were originally going to be Episodes 2 and 3 into a single game, roughly twice the length of the currently released Age of Darkness. In this sense, Age of Darkness is something of a standalone prologue to a deeper “main game” which expands upon the concepts and story elements introduced in the first installment. If you remember way back to my early development updates, this is in line with my original vision for Heroes of Legionwood as a series of distinct games that connect to form a larger story arc, rather than mere “episodes”.

A concept, funnily enough, that is already established in the RPG genre:

There are a number of reasons why I’ve decided to do the next installment in this way. The first and foremost is that I feel that Age of Darkness kind of works as a game in its own right. It has a complete story arc (cleansing the Weave and laying the groundwork for removing the Darkness) and an ending that does provide closure, though obviously still leaves things open for a bigger conflict yet to come. Just as I originally intended, Age of Darkness doesn’t feel just feel like an “Episode 1” to something larger — and I want the next installment of the game to also feel like its own distinct entity, not simply a DLC. If I combine Episodes 2 and 3, I can really ramp up the stakes with the larger conflict that’s foreshadowed throughout Age of Darkness instead of watering it down in order to split it into two standalone games as originally intended. Ultimately, Heroes of Legionwood should feel like two separate games that just happen to combine to form a larger story, not three continuous acts artificially sliced up.

There is, of course, also the matter of the upcoming RPG Maker MV to consider, and the time that will be required to become comfortable enough with it to eventually begin working on a brand new project. According to the Dark Gaia Studios Facebook page, something a lot of people are holding out for is a mobile RPG set in the Legionwood universe, something that’s actually possible in the new engine. If I can minimise the time I have to spend dealing with the logistics of releasing two games by releasing just one game instead (and believe me, a lot of the stuff I have to do around release is actually very time consuming and tedious), I’ll be able to more evenly divide my time between Heroes of Legionwood and any future products that RPG Maker MV will bring to the table.

Ultimately, I just want to make Heroes of Legionwood: Age of Darkness and Heroes of Legionwood: Resurrection each a memorable experience in their own right, not just parts of a greater whole. I want this game to be less Taletale Games, and more Harebrained Schemes. If Age of Darkness is Shadowrun Returns, the next installment should be Shadowrun Dragonfall.

What do you think?

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Calvino Noir [Review]

I seem to be on something of a Noir kick at the moment. After the fantastic first episode of Blues and Bullets, I decided to give Calvino Noir Limited’s stealth adventure game Calvino Noir (heh) a go. For a PC port of a mobile game, it isn’t too bad and it nails the authentic noir atmosphere, but too many flaws get in the way and turn it into a frustrating experience.

Check out my full review on SteamFirst.

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