Friday, May 13, 2011

Encounters

In my first post, I mentioned several classic games that were my inspiration and model. In this post, I want to talk about two areas in which Dark Delve deviates from its source inspirations.

Many computer RPGs, especially early games, combat encounters are frequent and randomly generated as a chance to occur with each step, or after a certain semi random number of steps. I wanted Dark Delve to feel closer to the most classic of RPG inspirations, Dungeons and Dragons. When a DM puts together an adventure, they typically build both a map and encounter key. Dark Delve is built the same way, when an encounter is defeated, it stays defeated. In fact you can even listen at doors to get hints to what might be found on the other side. This is a tactic that really becomes important on the more difficult game modes where the player is advised to seek out treasure to boost their strength with minimal exposure to encounters.

Dark Delve still features some random combats, but these are much more akin to the wandering monsters also seen in those early DnD adventures, and serve to keep the player tension up even in large cleared out sections. These encounters are much less frequent though, and typically not as dangerous as those found in the set encounters.

As far as the population of levels themselves, the encounter and treasure locations and specifics are randomized at the start of each game, allowing the game to retain higher replayability. What was the site of a desperate battle the last game might be a simple empty room in the next game.


Another area I wanted to address in Dark Delve was the mentality some Computer RPGs foster that you save all your SPs/Mana and consumables for the boss fight, and just auto attack your way through the rest. Encouragement to do otherwise comes in several forms.

Performance Awards
Your performance in each battle is graded based on your speed in defeating it, amount of damage taken, efficiency, and the encounter’s relative challenge for your characters. To receive high marks, you are going to have to use your spells and items. The amount of experience, gold, and quality of items found are all tied to the combat grade. The highest ranking is a rare accomplishment, and comes with the best rewards such as scrolls of teleportation or the ability to change the allocation of a character’s skill points.

Renewable Resources
A small amount of HP and SP are regenerated after each battle, the exact amount also tied to the combat grade. Also there is a renewable resource in the form of Chain Breaks. Each attack that lands in combat generates a chain point and Breaks are special abilities which spend a character’s accumulated chains (with increasing effects per point) and cost no SP to use. Each character can have up to 5 points, and as they reset with each battle, there is no reason not to use them. In fact, for the best combat grades you are going to want to pay close attention to your chains, as your combat grade improves if you can end the battle with as few unspent chains as possible.

Saved Progress
Running out of resources in Dark Delve is also more forgiving due to the nature of using set encounters rather than relying on random battles. Player progress is maintained, even if they retreat back to town to rest and restock.

Difficulty
One philosophy I tried to keep in mind while building Dark Delve, was to have less frequent, but more interesting combat encounters relative to most RPGs. As such I hope you will feel engaged and interested throughout your exploration of these dangerous halls.

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