I have been working on my roguelike game The Ground Gives Way (TGGW) for a couple of years now and it has been in a fully playable state for quite long, so I have decided that it is close to release. In this first post I will explain the main ideas of the game and why it is different from other roguelikes.
I have been very inspired by other roguelikes while designing TGGW of course. I have played most of the major ones and several others. The game design is influenced quite a lot by POWDER. The similarities lies in small levels, cardinal movement, short game time, difference in weapon types etc. That said, the game plays very differently from POWDER. However, most inspiration actually comes from the Castlevania series (in particular the GBA and DS games). This is visible especially in the interface, but also in the item system and mechanics of monster drops.
Simplicity and Complexity
I have tried to design a game which is very simple to play and to learn, using as few keys as possible while maintaining the depth and complexity that roguelikes are famous for. The interface and playing mechanics is inspired by console games (that are usually played with a game pad) and the game has a intuitive and simple user interface. Contrary to many roguelikes, TGGW doesn’t have a “command set”, rather it can be played with the arrow keys and the z,x and SPACE key.
The complexity of the game comes from its many items, monsters and dungeon features. One of my design goals was to make a game where all games are truly different from each other.
TGGW is strongly centered around items. The majority of progress your character makes will be through items. There are hundreds of unique items in TGGW with very different properties. There are many ways of obtaining items: finding, purchasing, getting from monster drops, get them improved by specialists or enchanting them. It is unlikely that you will ever find all items in the game even if you play it hundreds of times. There are many unexpected and secret ways of obtaining certain items.
The categories of items are what you are used to in RPGs and Roguelikes: food, potions, scrolls, equipment, weapons, armour and magic wands. There is a simple identification system that requires you to try potions, scrolls and wands before you know what they can do. There is also no bias on where you find items – you are as likely to find the best weapon in the game on the first floor as on the last floor (this is similar to Nethack). For this reason, the game can be as interesting in the early game as in the end game.
An important design goal of TGGW was to make every item interesting, while still having very many of them. This is possible by making the items have both benefits and drawbacks. There are few items that are strictly better than any other item, instead you have to decide which items to use and equip for your current character. Different weapon types are very different from each other: clubs are quite weak but can be used to push monsters away, while spears are strong but won’t work well in open spaces. Weapons made out of iron can inflict a lot of damage but impairs your ability to use magic etc.
TGGW has no experience points, no levels, no classes or races. In order to progress, your character has to explore and find items and equipment. You have 11 equipment slots that can be used. The character has a number of practical attributes and a set of properties that may be altered by your equipment and item usage.You can find or buy equipment in the dungeon. In each game very different combinations of equipment will be available, forcing you to improvise how to build your character. Your character’s progress will depend much on what is available in the current game and your decisions on what to equip. In some games, it is also possible to train your stats (by paying money) or to boost them by consuming special food. There are also many ways of improving your character temporary (by consuming potions for instance), but these effects will wear off as soon as you rest to recover your health.
Because of the large amount of possible items and dungeon features, it is likely that your characters will be highly different from each other. Some may be relying on melee combat, while others rely on protection, archery, stealth, magic, or something else, or usually some kind of combination of the these. At the end of the game, your character will likely have weak points and strong points and it’s up to you as a player to know these and act accordingly.
While many roguelikes and RPGs in general are based on planning or determining your playing style (by choosing a class/race combination), TGGW has the opposite philosophy. Each character starts out the same and you have to build your character by improvisation – depending on what you happen to find (like Rogue).