8 February 2017

Idea that will never be a 7DRL

Please excuse this quite silly rant about my old idea for a 7 Day Roguelike.
TL;DR: In the end, it's practically randomized, anyway :P

#DogmeRL 7DRL

A Dogme 95-inspired Roguelike, featuring:

No message log!
No keyboard interface!
No random maps!
No permadeath!
No grid-based tactics!
No item identification!
No MacGyvering your way out!
No resource management (consumables, healing, food clock)!
No hack'n'slash!
No rpg system!
No dungeons!
Modular gameplay!
Emphasis on story!
Play as a party!
The full Roguelitelike experience in one package!

Check and mate, suckers!

I've long wanted to make an Anti-RL that "breaks all the rules" for what a RL is. It struck me now that it would be ideal to combine with two other things I've been wanting to do, namely learning a bit of Godot, and making a game for my kids (targeted age around 6-9).

In the end, I would aim to make something that doesn't fit the genre definition by any stretch, while retaining that good ol'e RL feeling.

Tail of Eugor

For the actual game, I figured the basic interface is a touchscreen Roguelite with minimal text and easily graspable (hopefully deep/fun) gameplay.

The scourge of elephants
The setting rips off various sources. Take a silly mangaish/fantasy universe like Mario, Sonic or Lego: Ninjago, throw in some White Wolf's Exalted, mix with Tove Jansson's Moomin (and more obscure references) ... I decided to just go ahead and make the heroes furries :D So you have this magic stone age world inhabited by tribes of biped animals wielding magic just cooling it with gods and spirits who still tread the earth of this young world. In the rivers and wetlands dwell frogs and hippos, striking secretive deals with daemons of the depths; whilst elephants rule the plainlands from their walled cities of byzanthine bureaucracy, but fear the wild mice who roam the woods. You get the general drift.

On the list of anti-features, some almost give themselves, some merit more consideration.

EUGOR: Featuring
Modular Gameplay™
INTERFACE: We're on a touch screen with graphics, so no ascii or keyboard. We don't want turnbased, gridbased tactics, but we do want modular gameplay. So let's make it a bit like a jrpg (bear with me). There is a walk/explore mode where you tap wherever you want to go on the map. NPCs walk around in real time. If you bump into an NPC or feature (or if an NPC bumps into you), you engange that being (bump a person to speak, bump a monster to fight). This engagement can be handled in a separate mode with alternating turns for combat/actions. Put on top: an overworld mode to travel between the different maps, designed like an overworld in a typical Nintendo console game, with each place a node, and paths between those nodes.

NO HACK'N'SLASH: Since it's for kids, I don't want combat to be the main way to solve everything. Sure, some spectacular fighting scenes with earthquake hammers and the like, but it might be better to give the hungry lion a pancake to make it happy. Maybe it will even join you on your quest!

NO IVENTORY HANDLING: Instead of inventory, the player collects "gifts" (objects, skills or characters who join your party). Your gifts determine what you can do, depicted as icons in a menu. You can always try to use any gift in any encounter? If you have Icarus Wings, you can use them to fly over the river or escape from a fight. If you have Persuation as a gift, use it to calm your enemies or get special favors from friendly NPCs, etc. Gifts may sometimes not work (angry bees won't be persuaded, troll immune to sleeping magic), and gifts are not comsumable. The gift Itching Powder would have infinite charges, it's just a thing your toon can do. Throughout any one game, you'll just get a handful of gifts, so there's no looting and no identification subgame. While there is leeway for some "easter egg effects", there should be no "complex interactions" like dipping, throwing or collateral demolition.

Uh … Follow the
dotted brick road?
NO RANDOM CONTENT GENERATION: The biggie. I'm actually planning to cheat on this one :) I would venture to replace random content generation with (drum roll) stochastic content generation! It would be deterministic, but provide replayability akin to randomness, by dynamically generating the world based upon the player's choices :P

First of all, each level/node you visit is prefabricated. If "elemental temple" is a place, you always get the same layout, with the same designated spots for your acolytes and abbess, your braziers and you vortex of elemental doom. Each place should be a small screen, so the "temple" is really just a little shrine that your avatar can cross in less than ten strides..

Second, the overworld map is predetermined, divided into four zones to visit. From the starting zone are borders you can breach to enter Zone A or Zone B, the midgame zones. Here you need to prepare and to find the key to enter the fourth and last zone, where the endgame takes place. It could be structured a bit like one of those exemplary analyses of Zelda levels, with bombs to breach weak walls, branches to make you feel like you're choosing your own way while carefully guiding you past mandatory choke points, etc. The midgame zone you choose to enter first should be set as the main branch, with the remaining midgame zone tagged to remain as an optional bonus branch.

Third, the player gets to choose some parameters at the start of the game. This is where it starts getting stochastic, as we're doing the equivalent of setting a random seed. Consider the following:

«Just send me the money»
"Eugor was a young …
    1) frog 2) mouse 3) elephant 4) fox 5) chicken
… who lived in a …
    1) cabin 2) town 3) shrine 
… by a …
    1) river 2) ravine 3) mountain 4) great wall
… Eugor's neighbor tribe were …
    1) frogs 2) mice 3) elephants 4) foxes."

That gives a little more than 4^4=256, a fine, round number of starting positions. Your choice of species will set a starting gift, like frogs can swim, mice are fast, whatever. Your starting map ("cabin", "town" etc.) has its predetermined follow-ups, so if you choose "cabin" it has paths to "woods" and "town", and if you choose "town", you get "shrine" and "ferryman" as followups. Choosing to start in the town means you won't get the shrine or ferryman later in the game, but are guaranteed to come across the woods and the cabin. A level like "natural source" will play out differently if you're sent there to talk with a guardian, or to steal a treasure, and whether that happens in the early or late game. Also, factors like climate and player race may affect which species inhabits a particular place (facing slow, mighty elephants or quick, crafy mice makes a difference).

Off to see the wizard, biatch!
Visiting the swamp or the desert first might become a strategic choice, since it determines if you'll be facing salamanders and scorpions or spiders and platypuses.

Envisioned on this scale, with 4 zones, I'd probably need around a dozen locations. The game should be scaled to a small proof-of-concept, taking less than an hour to win. Still sounds more like a 7 Month Roguelike to me. It can be done, though. The hard part would be to get the design just right.

I might actually give it a shot (but probably not as a 7drl) if the right conditions arise, as I've really been wanting to check out Godot for mobile games, and I would love to make something silly like that, that my kids (and other random peeps) might enjoy playing.

As always,