cranking a full-scale rpg inside a tiny iphone arto koistinen dicework games

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  • Cranking A Full-Scale RPG Inside A Tiny iPhone

    Arto Koistinen

    Dicework Games

  • OverviewIntroduction - What is RimelandsPart 1 - DesignCore MechanicsCharacter DevelopmentBalancingPart 2 - ProductionProduction per topicDesignArtCodeTesting*

  • Introduction - What is RimelandsTurn-Based RPG for iPhoneDevelopment time about 1 yearOriginal schedule: 6 monthsExtended with a month or two once, twice...5 months for updatesStarted out as a simple puzzle-based RPGWhat went right?Combat systemIts a full scale mobile RPG!What went wrong?Too many bugsStory would have needed a lot more work*

  • Introduction - Design GoalsTransparencyThe player should be able to understand how the game system worksIf you lose, you should have at least have some idea whyVarietyNo single best buildNo outdated talentsApproachabilitySuitable for mobile playPlayable by non-hardcore players*

  • Core Mechanics - Dice System*

  • Core Mechanics - Dice SystemWhy dice?Familiar to most players, even nostalgic to someEasy to visualizeMany digital RPGs use dice or dice-like systems under the hood anywayNot just a visual gimmickEarly on, the dice were just a visualizationRe-rolls added to justify the dice rollingDid it work?Yes! It was probably the most praised feature in the game*

  • Core Mechanics - Dice SystemWhat is a Dice Pool?Common in tabletop gamesCharacters skill is measured by number of diceEach dice can either be a success or failThe number of successes determines the outcome*

  • Core Mechanics - Dice SystemBenefits of the Dice Pool approachEasy to visualize Non-linear probability curveProblems with Dice Pool approachCritical Hits (Piercing hits in Rimelands)Rewarding extraordinary successTraditional criticals (hitting the highest number on a die) not applicable to dice poolsTakes a lot of screen estateLimits the stat range*

  • Core Mechanics - Dice SystemLuck versus StrategyDice bring luck to the foregroundHarder to balance by cheatingPlayer cant influence luck, but can affect the oddsComplexity versus varietyYoull need enough variables to be able to produce a large amount of items...But too complex mechanics will confuse the playersRimelands was too complex!*

  • Core Mechanics - Character DevelopmentWhat is Character Development?Possibly the defining feature of RPGsIf done well, adds depth and variety to the gameA good way of slowly introducing new mechanicsIf done badly, the character will get better so that the player doesnt have toCharacter Development is often a hardcore feature, but it doesnt have to beLevels are a good way to measure growth in characters power*

  • Core Mechanics - Character DevelopmentCasual levelling is possibleWorked well in RimelandsSimple decisionsDont flood the player with too many choicesNo initial decisionsNo character creationCant expect the player to make meaningful choices before playing the actual gameWhat are the common expectations?Choices should be visibleVisible gear is mostly a must-have The system has to be non-linear in some way*

  • Talents


  • Talent Overview3 Talent treesEach tree is split into two paths:Barbarian: Offensive - DefensiveAssassin: Stealth - SniperShaman: Fast - Slow38 TalentsAll talents are unique, though there are similarities:Mana regeneration talentsBoost talentsDamage per turn talentsDivided to skills (active) and boosts (passive)Skills are active talents (attacks and so on)Boosts can modify other talents*

  • TalentsWhat makes a good talent?Bring something new to the core gameplayEnergizing Wind will give mana when making piercing attacks with magic - turned out to be a very essential part of the gameplayTalent should not outdateWindstrike, Battle Charge and Crippling Shot remain usable for the whole gameTalent should speed up the combatBattle Charge gets rid of the frustrating run to your enemyStunning takes away an enemy turn, making for less waiting*

  • BalancingBalancing is important and a great deal of workYou will need a spreadsheet to make it workGeneral balancing guidelines are goodAverage enemy should die with 3 hitsEnemy balancingBe careful with healing enemies, they can make a battle long and boringPlayer should be able to prevent healingEnemies with high HP but low damage are usually boringThey dont generally offer much of a challenge, they just feel like work*

  • BalancingGear balancingDice vs DamageWhich is more effective? And which seems more effective?Active gear is more important than passive gearPlayers tend to favor offensive to defensiveGear needs varietySword +1 vs Sword +2 is not a choiceSword of Magic Damage vs Sword of Physical Damage is better, but it assumes that the player knows which is more effective in any given situation*

  • Casual ApproachCan an RPG be a casual game?

    ... is Rimelands a casual game?*

  • Casual ApproachEnjoyable by people not usually into turn-based gamesEasing the player inYes, we pretty much failed this oneTutorials are importantDont choke the playerAvoid a lot of obscure statisticsAn RPG enthusiast may know that Strength equals melee damage and Dexterity equals ranged skill, but not nearly everyoneDid you include Charisma just because D&D has it?*

  • Production - OverviewTwo full-time developersArto: Code, story & designPeter: Art & designMulticlassing is essential! Two part-time developersJarkko: Level designNelli: Concept, web & cutscene artOutsourcingWolf modelMusic & soundsBoth tailored and bought from the webAnimations*

  • Production - Unique Selling FailsNo character classes, support for hybrid charactersDidnt really work, too much work to balance correctlyA single class character was nearly always the best optionRandomly generated levelsEnded up being a bit boring, a lot of work to iron out all the bugsWould need more variety (random non-combat encounters, etc)Blueprint systemWas supposed to bring the community in (you could trade blueprint codes), but was too confusingCodes were leaked immediately*

  • Production - DesignVery iterative design cycleEasier when the designer is the same person as the coderPrototyping beats writing design documentsDont panic!Analyze feedback properlyFeedback often shows the symptom, not the causeWhat are the essential features?Anyone can list a dozen things that an RPG must have, but which ones are truly essential?What are the hidden features?No one will list spell effects as an essential feature, but it must be designed too*

  • Production - CodeDont reinvent, use available tools as much as possibleTheres a lot of tools and plugins available for freeMost of the paid Unity plugins are quite cheapWith 3rd party plugins youll know the code has been tested to work. Thats essential when your own QA resources are limited.Develop your own toolset early onIf you find yourself doing the same task often, it may be worth your while to automate itCoder needs to use the toolset too!*

  • Production - CodePlan testing earlyAn RPG is a QA nightmare - youll need to think how to test things as quickly as possibleA playground level is a good way to test new featuresPlan essential features early onSpell effect system may not be vital for playing the game, but it can be a pain to add in beta*

  • Production - ArtRecycling Assets*

  • Production - Art*

  • Production - Art*

  • Production - ArtRecyclingMore content with less assetsGet repetitive in the long run - lack of unique bosses was a definitive minusEven non-essential art should be done early onIts easy to leave things like spell effect to later parts of the productionVisual effects are a part of the core experience, even if they dont affect the gameplay*

  • Production - Level DesignWYSIWYG level editor*

  • Production - TestingYou have to play your game. A lot. And then some more. This applies to every member of the team.Add tutorials early on, thats the best way to know if your mechanics are clear enoughFree testers are readily availableUnreliableOnly 10 - 20% of testers actually do anythingPaid testersMovie tickets or small money rewards to motivate testersOften not very professional eitherHard to get good feedback*

  • Thank you!*