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MAJOR Gameplay changes in the works…

Hi friends, fans & family! I have some exciting news to share but before I get to it I’m going to tell you what my vision for “Guardian of Gridvale” is/was and where it is now…

The vision

When I first began working on “Guardians of Gridvale” I had a couple of goals:

  1. Show the enemies upcoming actions so that the player doesn’t have to guess/figure out what the AI will do
  2. Make sure that skills manipulate positioning of heroes and enemies and alter the environment itself
  3. Have a timing mini-game to give an extra “oumph” when attacking

Goals 2 and 3 were fairly “easy” to achieve from a design perspective and I kind of knew how to approach them but showing the enemies upcoming moves proved to be tricky. Why? Because I didn’t want to straight up copy “Into the Breach” and so I thought of different ways of achieving this. The design lead me to make a system where the player makes moves and the enemies update their upcoming moves. This all sounds good and well in theory but I ran into some problems…

The problem

  1. It is difficult to implement. You have to take into account where enemies will be and make sure they’re not in the way of each other in the future for example. It also needs to be computed very often which has implications for how smart the AI can be. Undo functionality was messy and error prone too. 
  2. The logic behind how it works is difficult to explain to the player and a lot times how the enemy will react to my moves becomes a guessing game which was the opposite of what I was going for.
  3. The design is not tight and unique enough. It is not traditional turnbased gameplay nor is it entirely new. You could for example just turn off the enemy intentions and the gameplay becomes the standard I go, you go.

The realisation

So as I was working on the game a week ago something hits me that was sort of gnawing at the back of my head for a long time… 

This is simply not as fun as I envisioned. It is not as creative as I envisioned and I felt that I was failing to make what I set out to make. 

So I started thinking… What if the enemies show you their moves but don’t update them at all? “Into the Breach” gameplay is about protecting buildings so getting away from attacks is trivial: you just move out of the way. My game is about combat though so this won’t do. And then it hit me!

What if the enemies are in “overwatch”? “Overwatch” is a mechanic popularized by XCOM where units aim at an area and fire at the first enemy that enters that zone.  

I ran some tests and found that I could do a lot of fun stuff with something similar. What if the enemies move and end their turn aiming at the heroes? If the heroes try to move they are instantly attacked. Eureka!

The solution?

I implemented this system this week:

  1. Enemies move and end their movement targeting heroes
  2. Player has their turn. If a targeted hero tries to move he gets fired on before completing the move. 
  3. Enemies get to attack (if they haven’t already during the player’s turn).

Here’s two gifs that show you enemy movement and them attacking when the archer moves:

This improved the game immensely imho. It is pretty easy to grasp for the player and pretty unique. I did however need to fix a couple of things:

  • Heroes can now move+attack or attack+move. No longer is a hero’s turn over after an attack.
  • The player will get their ass kicked because the enemies do so much damage. To counter this I came up with giving the player a completely free turn. That’s right. The very first turn you get to move and attack without a reply from the enemies. This gives you a lot of freedom when positioning your heroes. Then the turn sequence starts. 

But does this mean that the player can’t avoid damage? No. You have several way of doing this:

  1. kill attacking enemies before they can attack.
  2. Use defensive skills like blocks, parries, dodges, teleports etc
  3. Use offensive skills like pushing/pulling away the attacker so his attacks is canceled. Use attacks that swap places with enemies or charge right passed them etc. Unlike moving, using attacks does not cause the targeting enemy to fire.

This will indeed make the game “puzzlier” which some of you might not like but rest assured there will never be “perfect” solutions. You will take damage for sure and be forced to manage that. Trust me when I say that the game has been much improved by this move. It’s way more fun now! Can’t wait to show let you try it!

If you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter which is the only way of getting in on the very first, crude/raw demo of the game. Here’s the link: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/sinistersiamese

Thanks for reading!

// Luis

Turning “Guardians of Gridvale” into a roguelike/roguelite

Hi friends, fans & family! I have a bunch of text coming your way today so I’ll waste no time and get right to it!

Genre change

A major change perhaps… or not? I am going to make “Guardians of Gridvale” a roguelike/roguelite. I know it sounds like a big change but I promise that most of the things will remain as they are: you will still manage a group of heroes with the same tactical, turn based gameplay! There’s just gonna be a greater focus on randomisation and less focus on a “main story”. The banter between heroes etc will still remain. Why am I doing this? Well here’s my reasoning but first a picture of the hero selection screen…

It was my intial idea

This game was born because I wanted to try to make something somewhat similar to ”Into the Breach” but with another setting and some different mechanics. I loved the idea of having banter between heroes and flesh that out in comparison and when I mentioned the game on social media a lot of people wanted a tactical RPG and not a roguelike. I caved but now I’m thinking that I shouldn’t have and need to be true to my initial ”vision”.

It’s a genre I love myself

I practically only play roguelikes/roguelites these days apart from those rare occasions where I have time to play something more time consuming (and that’s when I play my RPGs 🤪). I don’t have time to play more involved, epic story games at this moment in life unfortunately.

“Easier” to get the main loop in place

I practically get rid of the “main story” part of the game if I make a roguelike. Banter will remain but I don’t have to make an overarching story which probably wouldn’t be super good anyway. I also will have fewer parts that depend on each other allowing me to just make a beginning and an end and have whatever is randomized in between. Whether it is ACTUALLY easier remains to be seen but a lot of the things I have planned will be easier to implement with a few tweaks…

Possible to expand upon

Since the game will be made with replayability in mind, adding more heroes, items, maps and enemies is an obvious way of adding to the longevity of the game. It’s harder to make people come back to a game that has a big story focus once they’re done with it.

More commercially viable

Steam loves strategy games and roguelikes and while I’m definitely not making this for money my game will have a better shot at a tiny bit of “success” with streamers and the audience this way.

What will this mean for the game then?

⁃ The tactical combat will remain untouched. You’ll still use the environment, the swingmeter and see enemies attack intentions.

⁃ Maps will be handmade. The game will pick a map and randomize enemy and hero positions and maybe some other stuff but retain that “handmade” feel as much as possible

⁃ I won’t stray from my goal of having varied objectives. I don’t really like “kill all enemies” style missions

⁃ Banter between heroes and humor will remain a pillar of the design

⁃ Your starting party will be picked by you with more heroes appearing randomly during the course of a run. You’ll unlock heroes to get more to choose from.

⁃ There will be a bunch of items and equipment in the game. I’ll tell you more about those at some other point but here’s a picture for making it this far 😀

⁃ There might be “choose your adventure” type text situations to handle with different choices available depending on your current party etc. I say might because it’s not a priority but I think it would be fun to do. Still, that takes work and I don’t really have much time…

Loss conditions

What is the loss condition and what will carry over between runs? Good question. This and a lot of other things will be determined through experimentation together with you, the player.

I will be playing even more roguelikes/roguelites going forward so give me your recommendations! Games with a party of several characters are extra welcome!

Thanks for reading ❤️

// Luis

Playing defense

I’ve told you before how the Swingmeter affects attack damage and this time I wanted to talk a bit about how to defend in Guardians of Gridvale. There are no timing mechanics and no random damage when it comes to your enemies attacks. Defense is mostly a matter of positioning even though there are some defensive skills and some equipment that’ll boost your chances of not getting your ass kicked. 

Enemies telegraph their attacks

One of the main features of Guardians of Gridvale is that the enemies show who they will attack on their turn. This gives you a clear indication of what the threat level is for each of your heroes. Moving your heroes might however change your enemies plans so keep that in mind. If a hero that was previously unreachable get’s in closer an enemy within distance will update his intention to attack that hero. Checking how much damage your hero will receive is crucial to minimise damage and not get KO:ed. 

Defensive bonuses:

There are plenty of different tiles that provide defense bonuses. Tree tiles will grant a defense bonus as will hills and houses for example. Roads on the other hand will provide defense penalties so keep that in mind before rushing in to attack. The other way of getting a defense bonus is by standing next to a companion. In other words, positioning really matters and can often be the difference between life and death.

Undo button

Guardians of Gridvale features an undo button and let’s you move your heroes around to check what positions are the most favourable for you. Put a hero in a position where they will be stomped by several enemies? Press Undo and choose a different position to see how that would play out. Note however that as soon as you perform any other action such as attacking or using any other type of skill, the chance to undo is gone and your current positions are locked until next turn. 

Defense bonuses and positioning really add up:

Here’s a bit of math for you (everybody loves math right :D). If a hero with a defense of 0 gets attacked by 3 enemies that each does 5 damage, how much damage will that hero receive? That’s right, 15(!) damage. However, if the same hero instead stands on a forest tile (+1 def) that is next to a friend (+1 def) and puts himself in a position where 5 enemies can attack him, he receives the same amount of damage. Don’t underestimate how much of a difference those bonuses can make.  

Here’s a short little gif to show you how this works:

Hero selection and the core loop

Hi friends, fans & family!

Core loop 

The last couple of weeks I have been focused on tying the core loop together. The various game parts are still in an unfinished state and need more love. Right now I need to tie all the different screens together to get a proper flow going. The core loop will probably go something like this:

  • Select a story mission or “random” mission
  • Select which heroes go on the mission and equip them, select new skills, level up etc
  • Play mission
  • Get loot, rewards and XP
  • Go to camp to rest, get to know the heroes etc
  • Rinse and repeat

Hero selection

The part I’m focusing on right now is the “Select Heroes Screen” which means I’m adding new heroes among other things.

There will be a total of 8 unique heroes to choose from and which heroes you pick will depend on a lot of factors like for example:

What are the conditions for the mission? How many heroes can you send? Is every hero available? Are there any heroes that need extra XP? What is your play style?

I’m taking care to make sure that the player has an incentive to rotate their squad but I don’t want to do it in a heavy handed way. I’d like to make the player WANT to rotate their squad without them HAVING to which is not the easiest of things and time will tell how well I succeed with that…

Apart from this I’ve been rewriting and fixing A LOT of code since I’m getting very close to the part where I will be adding content like crazy and the parts of the code where I will mess around the most need to be in top shape so they’re easy to change and maintain.

// Luis

Swingmeter mechanics

Hi friends, fans & family! 

Today marks the beginning of a new era! It has been two weeks since I put op the steam page and started gathering followers and wish lists. I am satisified with the results so far and now that far more “players” are going to start seeing the game I will begin to go more in-depth with the mechanics. Today I’m gonna focus on the “Swingmeter” which has turned out to be a quite divisive feature. I actually ran a poll on my twitter: https://twitter.com/SinisterSiamese/status/1454680974986514438?s=20 where you can see quite clearly that not everyone is excited about it so I decided to dive a bit deeper this time. Let’s begin!

The feature

The swingmeter appears when the heroes perform some types of attacks. It’s a moving slider that is stopped when you click the mouse and is one of the many factors that decides how much damage an attack makes. It’s important to note that attacks don’t “miss” so even if you perform poorly on the swingmeter mini-game you will still do damage albeit slightly lower. You can score a critical, a normal or a poor hit. 

The controversy

Some players absolutely hate timing mechanics and feel that one of the main reasons for playing tactical turn based games is because they are games about thinking and not reacting. They tend to assume that the swingmeter is more important than tactical thinking but that not true at all in this case. 

The details about how damage works

There are multiple factors affecting your damage output in the game: equipped weapons & armor, passive and active skills, tile bonuses, tile penalties, defense bonuses from allies… I’ll talk more about all of these at some other time but the takeaway is that the swingmeter adds a damage bonus/penalty after ALL of these factors have been applied and it won’t be an exaggerated factor. The timing mini-game is meant to be a bonus, NOT a requirement! 

The fallback

If you happen to be one of the player’s who isn’t too happy about the swingmeter I just want to make it clear that the feature can be turned off in the options. The damage bonus/penalty will then be applied randomly and function the same as in most traditional turn based games. Just random damage in other words. It will also be possible to tweak the speed of the swingmeter if you like it but find it too challenging. 

All of this will need lots of balancing and iterating and might change a lot before the final version though once people start testing the game 😅

Until next time and thanks a lot for following my progress! 

September update

Hi friends, fans & family! 

Hope you are all doing well! September is the month I was born and now I’m 40(!) which means I have to start speeding up development so I can get the game done before my daughters send me off to an old folks home! I’ve done A LOT in the past weeks and I can’t waste time so let’s gooooo!!! 

Night scenes, lighting, camping

I have been wanting to implement a camping system for the game since well… the actual beginning and I’ve had quite a strong vision for what that would be like. Problem is that it’s a lot of work but… I now have a skeleton in place! I have fiddled around with the lighting in Unity and started making night versions of my current tile sets. Making night versions of the tiles was pretty easy since I just took one of the finished tile sets and fiddled around with the color, saturation and lighting sliders. The lightning on the other hand was a bit more work but thanks to Youtube tutorials I fixed it. I also made some of my lazy trademarked (:D), 2 frame animations to breathe some life into the scene. What do you think? How the mechanics will work will be saved for later…

Dialogue system and actions

I’ve reworked the dialogues and moved them out of the mission json file that I had earlier. This will make it much easier to localise if I decide to do that in the future. It also keeps the files from becoming to messy. Besides that I refactored my mission structure and now have a much better system in place. The coolest part is that I can now send in different actions and tie them to the dialogue so I can for example have a line that says “Oh no! We’re being ambushed by psychotic, dolphins!” and write code that executes as soon as that line of dialogue has been clicked. The dolphins would then animate in to the scene for example. This lets me do some simple “cutscene” style stuff.

Skill tree layout

I did another pass on a possible layout for the skill trees. This part will require lots of work before it works properly but now it’s finally starting to look kinda good. At least I can start preparing for some cool screenshots for the Steam page. 

Wall tiles

I’m gonna have some castle stuff like in Fire Emblem so I started drawing some walls. They are now implemented and look like this:

Title screen cleanup

I’ve also been cleaning up the title screen and removing stray pixels etc. Here’s what the background for the upcoming menu screen will look like:

Upcoming stuff:

The goal right now continues to be getting that Steam page up and running. I’m gonna add one or two more enemies and then I’m gonna start working on that trailer so I can finally put up the page. The goal? To do it in October. Let’s see if we can make that happen! 

As always, a MASSIVE thank you for supporting the development of the game. I would never have gotten this far without other people interested in the game! 

// Luis

August Update

Hi friends, fans and family!

Last day of August and I really can’t keep putting off posting something 🤪. Maintaining a dev blog is not always easy cause unlike social media sometimes it feels like you’re just speaking into the void. Much fewer comments and interaction in general but the honest reason is because it requires more typing 😂

I’ve had a looong vacation this year and have worked a little less than usual but I’m getting back to speed in the last weeks of the month. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

POLISHING

My main focus right now is putting up the steam page (yes the demo has to wait for now 😬) and to do that I need decent screenshots and a somewhat good looking trailer. For that to happen some things need to look better. I’ve added some colored text to the swingmeter, some stars as a hit effect, push arrows for UI feedback and updated a bunch of skill icons in the UI among plenty of other things. Here are some gifs to show some of it

How to kill a spider
Skill icons and keyboard shortcuts

NEW CHARACTER

I’m aiming to have 8 playable characters and from the beginning I knew that I wanted a bard/troubadour/minstrel. I will not have all 8 in the demo and probably only mention them fleetingly in the marketing materials but having plenty of heroes to choose from is super important to me. I have a pretty solid idea of what this girl will be able to pull off in combat and although she’s distinctly a support unit, she has some quite powerful tricks up her sleeve. Any fun name suggestions?

BUGS & REFACTORING

I don’t want to bore you with the details but as usual there’s been a hefty amount of bug fixing going on. AI, selection and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve also changed big pieces of code to make them more flexible and easy to work with since some parts will be touched more often than others.

ROADMAP

As I mentioned earlier the no. 1 thing right now is the Steam Page. Why? Because it’s important to have it up early to start gathering wishlists. Wishlists are pretty much the only somewhat reliable way of doing a forecast of how well you’re game will sell. The way it works is that everyone that wishlists the game gets updated when the game is released and when it’s on sale so it drives quite a lot sales. Another thing is that when you reach certain thresholds the game gets even more visibility on the platform which drives even more sales. In other words: wishlists are important.

I would be so happy if in September I can say that the page is up but before this year is over might be more realistic. Either way, the sooner, the better.

Thanks for reading 🙏// Luis

Revised plans and a level editor

Hi friends, fans & family! Hope life finds you well!

I am having the best vacation with my family! Lots of spare time and lots of relaxing. The heat over here is killing me however but walking around half naked all day is definitely worth it :D.

Let me tell you about some of the things that have been happening lately!

Level editor

I have thought long and hard about what I want the game to actually be. From the beginning the game was supposed to be something like XCOM with randomized characters etc. but it has since grown into something else entirely. Guardians of Gridvale is nowadays an RPG but a lot of the stuff that I implemented in the beginning and a lot of the thoughts that I had back then have been sticking around which has sort of muddled my design. I’ve finally decided to cut ties with the past and make this game a fully fledged tactical RPG. 

What does this mean? Well, the game will now focus on a good story, characters and handcrafted content and not so much on procedural generation, faceless heroes and random story bits.

As a result of this, I thought that it would be wise to make a level editor. Here’s what that looks like:

With it I can carefully placed all the tiles and all the enemies an export it to a file. I still have to do some things manually in the file but the hard bits are done and this makes my life soooo much easier!

And speaking of editors… I’ve brought onboard someone really skilled to take a look at my writing and give me tips for improving it etc. He will only help on an hourly basis but that will surely make the story better!

Mind control

I also took the time to clean up a lot of code so I have re-factored and changed a lot of things to give the game more flexibility when it comes to designing new stuff. This allowed me to implement a cool mind control skill among other things:

New tiles

It also made it much easier for me to make new tilesets. Here’s a desert one:

Deadline

Besides these things I’ve also started to really think about how much stuff I should cram into the game and when I ”need” to finish it and this has led me to make a list of features with different ”levels” of implementation. I will work my way through the list and polish the must-haves first before I tackle the nice-to-haves. I have no idea where that will take me but I’ve set my internal deadline to 2023. Whatever I have by then will be released!

Discord server

Oh and one last thing… I HAVE A DISCORD NOW! There’s not much going on there yet but there surely will be. Check it out: https://discord.gg/nVgnJ6N6nM

With that I leave you guys for this time! Thanks for reading 🙏 // Luis

Hotter graphics and loot

Hi friends, fans and family!

I’ve been busy doing all sorts of stuff lately and here are some of the highlights:

  • New graphics. Scale has changed a bit, houses have been added. Mountains are now rocks and forests are single trees. Grass has been given a facelift and water has been much improved.
  • UI Polish. More details on the frames etc
  • Started working on the steam page. Lots of work left before I publish but I have a decent descriptions and some nice artwork up.
  • Added loot mechanics. Loot is now randomly dropped by enemies. In the victory screen when a mission is over you can open the bags and see what you’ve picked up. Still needs polish to look good but we’ll get there.
  • Refactoring the code base. Doing some major changes in the code at the moment to make it cleaner and remove problematic bugs and future pain. This will allow me to make some really cool stuff going forward. Stay tuned…

I will try to post a bit more frequently but it’s not that easy now that I have two little monsters. Have to get used to that ;D

Thanks for reading! // Luis