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  Mechanic #055 - Amalgam

Category: Tactics
Posted: 08/29/07

A combination of several of the entries into a single turn based, side scrolling, banner-sized dungeon crawl.


Recently, I had something of a major breakthrough in regards to Mac programming. That is, I thought I understood it, except when I actually tried to implement stuff, I found things didn't quite work like I was expecting. After some soul searching, and a rather strange analogy of Robocop versus Knight Rider (I'm serious - it made all the difference), I've figured it out, and I'm ready to start on a project. The fact that I'm turning 30 in just over a month also helps to light the fire under my ass.

My problem was which game to make. I wanted something that was uniquely my own idea, but something with minimal art requirements. The art requirement turns out to be the most defining aspect, since I'm really slow with pixel art (I'm sort of a perfectionist). The best bet, artistically, turned out to be [#022 - Tiny Crawl]. Characters and animations only need to be drawn from one direction and I could get by with relatively few animations in the first place.

But Tiny Crawl has one major flaw, which is sort of what it was designed for. It's too damn small. The idea was to create something small enough that it could be used in the smallest banner to advertise your website. So, Tiny Crawl was basically a novelty designed around a constraint I had no reason to adhere to. But that's basically what I wanted. Long story short, I decided to combine several of my ideas into a single idea. Perhaps it is a little less original because of it, but I think there's still a game worth playing in there.

  Stone Soup


As you can see, the idea is still primarily Tiny Crawl based. It's a dungeon crawl from a side view, but I've expanded the area a bit to allow for a taller dungeon. As you can see, there's slopes, ladders, and multiple floors there.

The game itself is kind of a simplified version of [#023 - The Long Road]. That is, there is only one long path that scrolls horizontally, never vertically. There's no exploration. Only moving forward. The doorways don't actually take you to different floors or planes. Instead, they are more like teleports. For instance, you could enter the door on the left and then immediately come out through the door on the right, skipping a small part of the level. There are other functions for doors, like shops, treasure rooms, and what not, but the important thing is to remember that they don't move between rooms, only between other doorways on the same linear path.

The game itself is turn based, like a Roguelike. You move one square or make one action, then all the enemies do. I'm convinced that you could make a dungeon crawl with such limited options. In fact, I think that traditional and trite traps, like lava pits with platforms moving across them or spikes that pop out of the ground could take on new strategic meaning in a turn based game. In a way, it's half dungeon crawl and half puzzle game.


To give you an idea how that works, imagine a room where the floor is entirely spike traps the pop up at specific intervals (5 turns down, 1 turn at ready, 2 turns spikes extended). Now, you've got to fight against enemies in this environment using the Roguelike turn based movement. Do you move or attack in any particular turn?

The interaction is similar to the simplified Roguelike interface detailed in [#053 - Alphabit Rogue]. Basically, you load up stuff into your quickbar. To activate something, just hit the number and then a direction. When nothing is selected, the default action (walking or attacking) will be selected based on what's in front of you.


Ranged combat works in eight directions. Though it's not exactly, each unit occupies one square on the map, including flying ones. Some creatures could conceivably take up more, but they have a single square where their attacks originate. From this square, they may shoot an arrow in a straight light along any of the diagonals, straight up, or to the left or right (I forgot to draw the up diagonals, dammit...)

This means that archers are mainly useful at the edge of platforms, and even then, they are extremely limited in where they can it. This is intentional. The purpose of Roguelike movement is to create a tactical situation where your location and movement control the field. If archers could hit any unit on the field with no effort, survival would largely become a matter of healing potions and to-hit chances. Likewise, I want the player's character to be largely melee based and don't want them to pick off enemies with ease from a distance.

That's pretty much it. In my blog, I'll be discussing the technical concepts of this idea as I seek to implement it, and further ideas and novelty twists. I find it interesting that by taking elements from a bunch of my more unique ideas, when I put them together, it produces a less unique game as a result. For instance, The Long Road is interesting when it is an entire game on one linear path, but when it's just a single dungeon, how does it differ from a level from Super Mario Bros? As presented here, this is little more than a turn based platform RPG, like Zelda II or Wonderboy in Monster Land. I'm hoping to make it more tactical, like a Roguelike, rather than exploration or loot based.

Mainly, I'm hoping that this is a start to a more intriguing concept down the line. I've always thought that if I could just get a turn based side scrolling game, there's a world of potential there to be unlocked. I guess we'll see...




Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.