Author Topic: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game  (Read 900 times)

Drasnus

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The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« on: February 04, 2017, 08:59:33 PM »
Hello,

I was invited on twitter to join Exilian so I thought I'd finally make a post.

I'm one half of our team Havensoft, currently making a top-down action game called The Spell:
https://twitter.com/TheSpellGame


After an attack on his homeland, the exiled Wizard Arik travels back to his old kingdom to defeat their army and confront his fellow wizards.

The game is a mix of violent action, tactical use of spells and some puzzle solving. Arik is fragile, but extremely powerful, and the goal is to use his mana as efficiently as possible to defeat crowds of enemy soldiers.

His powers are physics based, he can shoot bolts of kinetic energy and throw heavy objects around. As each wizard is defeated Arik will gain their powers to add to his arsenal.
 
Levels are mostly destructible, he can break down walls to make an escape or set fire to a table then throw it for massive damage.

The game also contains some puzzle solving and exploration.

Here is our announcement trailer from when we released our prototype in November:

We've updated it since then, so the trailer is slightly outdated.

A more recent one, still being tweaked:
https://my.mixtape.moe/drisoa.mp4
Mirror:
https://files.catbox.moe/g1epqb.mp4

We've released the bulk of our work so far as a free prototype:
https://rystech.itch.io/the-spell

It is intended as a proof of concept and a way to get feedback on the game, and eventually we're planning a greenlight and crowdfunding campaign.

We'd like to get some feedback on what we have so far, as well as advice for moving forward with it.


Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2017, 10:27:48 PM »
Welcome to Exilian, good to meet you & hope you stick around :) This looks fun!

I'll have a go at playing the prototype soon and write up some thoughts for you.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2017, 10:52:26 PM »
Welcome to Exilian, good to meet you & hope you stick around :) This looks fun!

I'll have a go at playing the prototype soon and write up some thoughts for you.
Thanks

:)

Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2017, 11:11:19 PM »
Right, I played up until I got an "out of memory" type error, which happened shortly after retrieving the fourth key, then I played a full run after that which I completed. I enjoyed it! The game's selling points are very clear; the destructible terrain all works well, the combat was generally smooth, the graphics work nicely. The theme and cutscenes have a lot that is good, the graphics in them are lovely, and there's some good character grounding there.

The combat and physics engine is really impressive, occasionally eg burning walls just feel like they're going all over the place regardless of physics, but generally it feels very well worked out and makes for very well constructed carnage all over the place. It took me some time to work out what gave me cover and what didn't in combat - I definitely expected boulders to when I started out and it confused me that they didn't, for example.

I liked the cutscenes, and indeed I'd be happy to see more of them - I also really loved the puzzle areas. I certainly felt like implanting more bits of backstory/world building would be a good idea, you've got the systems for "interact with thing" built already so it can be very streamlined with the rest of the game. Having some more of those around, even if it's just looking at a tapestry here or a sword there, would add a lot. I assume that each of the wizards corresponds to one of the castle zones, but I think that might have been better fleshed out beforehand; even outside plot relevant bits like that, having occasional things to look at, even if it's just some made up backstory about the vegetation or weaponry or something, would be fun.

Dying felt like it had weirdly little penalty; going back to the start of a scene is usually no big deal, so I often felt I was being more reckless than seemed to fit the spirit of the game; rather than try and find optimal solutions to take out guards, I'd just go in, aim for max damage and start throwing carts around, if it didn't work out, try again.

Definitely enjoyed though, will playtest again, look forward to seeing more :)
(Also, if you decide you want voiceovers on the cutscenes, I'm a traditional storyteller as a hobby and have an English-accented baritone that I'm happy to lend and hire out!)

Some more notes:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2017, 04:36:30 PM »
Thanks so much for taking a look, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Could you go into more detail about that crash you experienced?

This is all very useful feedback and I'll be referring to it as we continue to update the prototype. We've got an autosave system in the works which should help out a lot in case of crashes or things like that, we could also potentially use it to make death less of a slap on the wrist.

I'll be sure to go over the tutorials and make some of the things you mentioned clearer, as well as fix that spelling mistake.

The way the guards work is that upon seeing you, they 'shout' for help which will draw any other guards within range to the place where they spotted you. I did notice some playtesters can be overwhelmed when they enter the first combat areas, I was thinking I might add a couple more maps to the woods area to better demonstrate some things.

I'll have a think about ways to include more world information. There are a few secrets in the demo which offer a few more hints about the other wizards, but those are deliberately not explained as a reward for extra-observant players. Each puzzle section contains at least one. I'll see about adding some more descriptions to help the pacing.

We're not sure if we'll use voiceacting yet, but if we do I'll keep you in mind. :)

Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2017, 09:37:08 PM »
Glad to be useful :) I don't think you need more combat areas in the woods, maybe just more information through them in a more staggered manner - the length feels right as it is now.

As for the error: I'd just got the key from the area where one has to blow the gold into a magical path. I think I'd tried to head back into the main area rather than going straight down to the area with the glass-zombies and then it crashed with an "out of memory" error message.

Other thoughts: Please make a fullscreen mode if possible, my most common cause of death now is "accidentally deselected the window when attempting to throw tables north/up". Also, it's not sufficiently clear from the graphics that the "afterburn" of the fire throwers won't kill you; that may be intentionally unclear so you have to discover it yourself, but it felt odd that there wasn't a more different graphical effect for it. A sound mute option would be useful too.

As for the demo secrets:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: February 06, 2017, 10:45:14 PM by Jubal »
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2017, 11:06:51 PM »
Glad to be useful :) I don't think you need more combat areas in the woods, maybe just more information through them in a more staggered manner - the length feels right as it is now.
I was thinking of an area where some soldiers are facing away from you, and there's a conspicuous boulder that you're encourage to try throwing at them. I've noticed some playtesters try to go through the game using nothing but the bolt, and then find themselves frustrated when it becomes less effective.

Quote
As for the error: I'd just got the key from the area where one has to blow the gold into a magical path. I think I'd tried to head back into the main area rather than going straight down to the area with the glass-zombies and then it crashed with an "out of memory" error message.
I'll look into it, thanks. My best guess is that it's related to a small file the game saves upon entering each room so that it can reload that layout in the event that you die.

Quote
Other thoughts: Please make a fullscreen mode if possible, my most common cause of death now is "accidentally deselected the window when attempting to throw tables north/up".
There is a fullscreen mode, but the game launches in windowed for... no real reason really. It's in the options, or by pressing F4. I'll add F4 to the control list.

Quote
Also, it's not sufficiently clear from the graphics that the "afterburn" of the fire throwers won't kill you; that may be intentionally unclear so you have to discover it yourself, but it felt odd that there wasn't a more different graphical effect for it. A sound mute option would be useful too.
The flames on the ground are the same as the ones from the flame spell. It seemed frustrating for your own fire to hurt you underfoot, so having it slow you down was a compromise. I can see how that would be confusing though.

Quote
As for the demo secrets:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Unfortunately not, you can change the colour of the crystal lights just for fun, but that's such a good idea I might have to steal it.
Quote
EDIT:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Now you're on the right track, there's an easter egg in that first secret if you're observant.

Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2017, 11:21:42 PM »
My first run I only used the bolt, which does get increasingly tricky. I almost always have the telekinesis as my other selected option: fire occasionally but that's shorter range and if I'm being chased by close combat troops it seems more efficient to just chuck a large furniture item at all of them. Wind I think I only ever seem to break out for the bit where I have to blow the gold out the bowl.

Further in easter eggs etc:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2017, 11:36:22 PM »
My first run I only used the bolt, which does get increasingly tricky. I almost always have the telekinesis as my other selected option: fire occasionally but that's shorter range and if I'm being chased by close combat troops it seems more efficient to just chuck a large furniture item at all of them. Wind I think I only ever seem to break out for the bit where I have to blow the gold out the bowl.
Yeah I struggled to make the wind useful, and it turned into more of a tool than a weapon. You can use it in the fire maze to make your run through it significantly easier.

Quote
Further in easter eggs etc:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


Quote
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2017, 07:10:52 PM »
OK, did another complete run-through! I died I think 3-4 times overall.

Major thought - one thing that makes the game a lot easier is that often when one leaves an area then returns, the troops have all gone back to their original positions. This makes it fairly easy to walk in, snipe, walk out, walk in again, snipe the next one, rinse & repeat. I tended not to do that much because it's a tad slow, but had I been more worried about dying I might have done it more.

I have now found:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2017, 07:25:31 PM »
OK, did another complete run-through! I died I think 3-4 times overall.

Major thought - one thing that makes the game a lot easier is that often when one leaves an area then returns, the troops have all gone back to their original positions. This makes it fairly easy to walk in, snipe, walk out, walk in again, snipe the next one, rinse & repeat. I tended not to do that much because it's a tad slow, but had I been more worried about dying I might have done it more.

I have now found:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
You're quite right about the troops resetting, it was included as a precaution so that you don't leave a room and then return to find yourself immediately surrounded, or respawning and getting killed over and over. Do you have any suggestions that might make this work better?

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2017, 10:19:09 PM »
Hm... It's difficult - I think there are a few interlinked things with that and death penalties and combat pacing that all boil down to a question on how you want the player to play. You've got some mechanics in there (shouting for help, line of sight for guards) that point to a fairly tactical, fairly sneaky gameplay style. On the other hand, the fact that literally every guard in the zone gets summoned very fast by one shout then means the combat pacing after that point is extremely fast and mostly involves a lot of running backwards and dodging and maybe maneuvering to a point where you can throw a table if you're lucky. It currently feels like the sneak-related mechanics are underused. So it depends - if you want a lot of continuous explosions, gore, and carnage, which the system is well built for, then you probably want to keep death with a fairly low penalty, and it consequently doesn't matter too much if you run into a room and go straight into combat.

If on the other hand (and this would be my inclination, but it's not my call to make) you want to try and work out a slightly more sneaky play style (which to me would fit the theme better, it doesn't feel light hearted enough a game for the player to want to shrug off getting murdered to death repeatedly), then you want a significant hike to the penalty for dying and some combat tweaks might help. For example making the "cry for help" (or people running from hearing an explosion or whatever) radius-limited rather than affecting the whole level, and making it a more obvious action for the soldier to do (maybe difficulty-balanced by making eg the spear and crossbow troops a little tougher). That would greatly decrease the likelihood of retreating through a door with ten guys in front of you. I guess there could also be some sort of warning in place if there are lots of enemies the other side of a door so the player knows to go in shield-up, but that might be tricky to implement. Or, perhaps more easily, put it on a timer after you leave a room (say 30s) that the guard positions reset. That would make the "sniping" tactic so painfully slow as to seriously discourage it.

That's a bit of a ramble and I've no idea if it's at all helpful (I'm always terrified about giving people advice on such things, as a hobbyist I have very bad but-I'm-not-a-real-game-designer syndrome :P ), but it's some thoughts anyway!

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2017, 11:32:50 PM »
Hm... It's difficult - I think there are a few interlinked things with that and death penalties and combat pacing that all boil down to a question on how you want the player to play. You've got some mechanics in there (shouting for help, line of sight for guards) that point to a fairly tactical, fairly sneaky gameplay style. On the other hand, the fact that literally every guard in the zone gets summoned very fast by one shout then means the combat pacing after that point is extremely fast and mostly involves a lot of running backwards and dodging and maybe maneuvering to a point where you can throw a table if you're lucky. It currently feels like the sneak-related mechanics are underused. So it depends - if you want a lot of continuous explosions, gore, and carnage, which the system is well built for, then you probably want to keep death with a fairly low penalty, and it consequently doesn't matter too much if you run into a room and go straight into combat.

If on the other hand (and this would be my inclination, but it's not my call to make) you want to try and work out a slightly more sneaky play style (which to me would fit the theme better, it doesn't feel light hearted enough a game for the player to want to shrug off getting murdered to death repeatedly), then you want a significant hike to the penalty for dying and some combat tweaks might help. For example making the "cry for help" (or people running from hearing an explosion or whatever) radius-limited rather than affecting the whole level, and making it a more obvious action for the soldier to do (maybe difficulty-balanced by making eg the spear and crossbow troops a little tougher). That would greatly decrease the likelihood of retreating through a door with ten guys in front of you. I guess there could also be some sort of warning in place if there are lots of enemies the other side of a door so the player knows to go in shield-up, but that might be tricky to implement. Or, perhaps more easily, put it on a timer after you leave a room (say 30s) that the guard positions reset. That would make the "sniping" tactic so painfully slow as to seriously discourage it.

That's a bit of a ramble and I've no idea if it's at all helpful (I'm always terrified about giving people advice on such things, as a hobbyist I have very bad but-I'm-not-a-real-game-designer syndrome :P ), but it's some thoughts anyway!

I'd say it's a mix we're going for. The game was created from the idea of making a game in which you play a 'proper' wizard. Not just a generic mage, but someone like Merlin or Gandalf, with exceptional power and some real stakes in the world he's in.

Facing tons of enemies and destroying half the level goes a long way to making the player feel that power, but I'd still like to make dying matter so that the player needs to be smart about how they're going in. There has also been a lot of tweaking back and forth in regards to the difficulty. Some players apparently find this game very difficult (quite a lot of people give up when they reach the camp battle), so we've been trying to find our footing when it comes to challenge.

The shout actually does have something like a radius. Enemies check the pathfinding distance between themselves and a noise to see if they should react, so more open spaces are more likely to draw enemies. We could certainly try reducing it though.

The stealth mechanics that are there sort of emerged naturally. They were originally implemented so that the player could escape from combat to catch a breather, or lure enemies into traps, but it became possible to sneak through a level if you're really careful. Knocking enemies out using walls or small objects makes the least amount of noise, and you can use the telekinesis to throw objects around corners without revealing yourself.

One idea I've been thinking of is to implement different enemy behaviours, so certain enemies will only run into combat if you enter their starting radius, and will return to their posts if they lose track of you. It will probably help to space out the encounters a little more while still being vaguely believable.

I might take your advice on the door thing. The main issue is preventing enemies from immediately killing the player and locking them into an endless death loop, there should perhaps be a minimum distance from the door they have to be.

Also while we're on the subject of difficulty, what do you think of the player slowing down when they get hit? It'd make running through the level trickier, but could also seriously annoy some players.


Quote
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

At the moment the wizards are:

The Kineticist (you) - Physical forces
The Alchemist - Transformation magic
The Elementalist - Elemental forces, fire, ice, electricity, etc (the player has the fire power in the prototype to show it off, but it wasn't intended to be a starting power)
The Illusionist - Light (lasers, illusions, glass constructs)
The Necromancer - Undead soldiers, corpse magic
The Cosmologist - Space and time manipulation
The Animancer - Living things, plants, growth
The Ontologist - Knowledge, existence




Jubal

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2017, 12:17:02 AM »
I think different enemy behaviours & returning to posts would be a great idea. I agree on the large scale power - it's definitely a feature - but I currently feel that the combat is often a little too fast/crowded for me to think on the hop about how to maximise damage rather than plugging away fast with the base attack. It's a really, really difficult thing to balance though. My guess would be that people who find it very tough may be people who are running around less? It's super easy to end up getting a bajillion arrows in you on the camp zone if you're not moving and sidling around constantly. A really radical suggestion could be to make the shield a one-tap feature that lasts for X amount of time, which could give the player time to work out tactics without getting shot to death, but that's just off the top of my head and there are probably a lot of downsides I haven't thought of.

As to the door - if you had position reset after 30s OR on player death?

The player always feels quite walking-pace to me as is - I think if the player was going to get any slower, they'd need to be able to take quite a bit more punishment to balance it out. I do end up catching a fair number of arrows with my face as it is...

It's a good wizard set, and the theming all works well :) Am I right in thinking that the Ontologist is not represented in the castle, whereas the others are?

Also (this is probably too much of a spoiler but the question is bugging me):
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Drasnus

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Re: The Spell - A top-down fantasy action game
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2017, 01:01:09 AM »
I think different enemy behaviours & returning to posts would be a great idea. I agree on the large scale power - it's definitely a feature - but I currently feel that the combat is often a little too fast/crowded for me to think on the hop about how to maximise damage rather than plugging away fast with the base attack. It's a really, really difficult thing to balance though. My guess would be that people who find it very tough may be people who are running around less? It's super easy to end up getting a bajillion arrows in you on the camp zone if you're not moving and sidling around constantly. A really radical suggestion could be to make the shield a one-tap feature that lasts for X amount of time, which could give the player time to work out tactics without getting shot to death, but that's just off the top of my head and there are probably a lot of downsides I haven't thought of.
I'll test out that idea then, and make some enemies stay in position unless directly threatened.

The main thing I noticed with some players was their overreliance on the projectile, especially firing off all their mana too fast when enemies are still at dodging range. That and not using walls for cover.

It took awhile to figure out how to balance the shield, but I think what we came up with works alright. It uses mana, so keeping some in reserve is encouraged, but using it won't affect the cooldown for the other spells. It means if you get surrounded you can use your last bit of mana to safely push through, and you're rewarded by being able to cast again sooner than if you'd used an offensive spell.

Quote
As to the door - if you had position reset after 30s OR on player death?
Since dying just puts you back to the start of the room, there wouldn't really be any penalty to dying that first time and then resetting. I think the 30s thing might work well, you can either wait around for it be safer, or push through all the enemies you fled from.

Quote
The player always feels quite walking-pace to me as is - I think if the player was going to get any slower, they'd need to be able to take quite a bit more punishment to balance it out. I do end up catching a fair number of arrows with my face as it is...
That's a good point, what if it was just knights? They're the slower, sturdy class so it might make more sense for them to be harder to run past.

Quote
It's a good wizard set, and the theming all works well :) Am I right in thinking that the Ontologist is not represented in the castle, whereas the others are?
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Quote
Also (this is probably too much of a spoiler but the question is bugging me):
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Spoiler (click to show/hide)