What with all this talk of pocket dimensions and wizards and somesuch, we thought it would be helpful to give a little tour of the sorts of things you’ll see in the upcoming Dungeons of Dredmor expansion pack Conquest of the Wizardlands.
Daniel and I talked about how to approach writing this post and we’ve agreed to do something a little different that we haven’t done in quite some time. Instead of just listing the features, we’re going to dig a bit into the game design process and discuss the thoughts behind the decisions we made in coming up with these features and their functionality.
Let’s start with the big feature that may do the most to change how Dredmor is played.
Pocket Dimensions & You: A Room Without a View
How’s it work? Simple: find some keys to the pocket dimension that a sodden wizard left in the dungeon (the game will make sure you keep finding keys until you pick the stupid things up). Once acquired, a new UI element appears which allows you to jump into the pocket dimension as if you were using a skill.
Like a skill, this dimensional key has a cooldown. When you return from the Pocket Dimension back to the dungeon, you will appear in the same space. Note that time and magic work differently and handwave handwave cough something or other so you can’t heal or digest food and booze in the pocket dimension or otherwise exploit it to get out of trouble.
Unless you go from the Pocket Dimension to The Wizardlands. But that has risks of its own.
But let’s back up a bit from all that and talk about limited inventory space.
Inventory has been a problem in Dredmor forever. This is of course a game based around finding piles upon piles of silly objects in the grand tradition of looting that made games like Diablo strangely compelling. We need the multitude of items for the sake of the act of looting as well as to be a vehicle for delivering so much of the humor and backstory – such as it is – of the Dredmor universe. In short, Dredmor wouldn’t be Dredmor without all the useless crap lying around.
Players, however, tend to be driven rather mad by the highly limited space in their inventory, and quickly, as it can be filled up within the first dungeon level. People write us letters about just how awful this is, trust me, and we read them.
Yes, we could just make the inventory infinitely large. But this creates a few problems: of UI implementation (which can be fairly simple, if potentially tedious to use), and of gameplay balance (which is not so simple). Apart from skills & spells, items are the solutions to problems met in the course of gameplay, so allowing the player to hold every single item in the game means they can solve any problem in the game by shuffling about in their bag and pulling out the magic wizzawoozle. Worse yet, this makes every game of Dredmor rather similar by allowing the player every option at the same time rather than forcing them to make choices about what they will take with them and what they will leave. Take the wizard hat OR the knightly helm, not both.
Ideally the player has to make hard decisions about the set of solutions they will have on-hand to deal with the dungeon. See for example our 7-skill system that both limits and enables gameplay (– far more elegantly than our limited inventory system, I must concede).
So: The Pocket Dimension gives you an effectively infinite inventory with the gameplay-relevant friction of a 32 or so turn cooldown on using the portal key.
Aside from inventory concerns, the pocket dimension does a couple more things for the game:
First, it lets the player customize their own space in the game in a small way. Do you like candles? We can do candles. Do you like piles of bones? We’ve got those too. You can change the tileset to your favourite level, from The Fungal Halls to The Subterranean Forest (including a few new tilesets only found in The Wizardlands, which is a subject for another post).
Ah, but the catch, and the second point: This encourages player investment in the game beyond just that of each individual character. You must earn each piece of decor and each tileset by visiting the level on which they appear. These will be retained for the instance of the game, meaning that when you start a new character they will have the decor you’ve earned with other characters — and your pocket dimension will retain its decor. This goal of encouraging player investment in the metagame goes in-hand with the expanded Menagerie, Trophy, and Achievement screens that will become accessible through the main menu.
Meet The Bankster
Daggers and Polearms do look very cool, and will be changing up how weapon skills work in Dredmor, but they’re fairly straightforward problems. The Bankster, on the other hand, makes things weird.
The Bankster is, naturally, a rogue class skill but acts a bit like a wizard in that it uses a resource to create spell-like effects. This resource is of course Zorkmids aka your money.
Upon entering the dungeon, you tend to be absolutely broke. For a Bankster, this is not a problem at all: you can take out a High Interest Loan from Brax to fund your start-up. Careful though, there’s a good chance you’ll get the Bad Credit debuff after taking out a loan and this will make future loans and use of Bankster skills a bit risky. Let’s talk about that risk.
Using any Bankster skill has a chance to cause one of a set of Bankster-themed debuffs, currently “Cooked Books”, “Frozen Account”, “Poor Investment”, and “Bad Credit”. Each reduces a few primary stats and will cost you zorkmids as upkeep each turn. Further, having Bankster debuffs on makes it more likely that even more debuffs will appear as you use the skills. It’s a risky business, Banksterism.
The Bankster’s primary method of getting rid of these debuffs is through the Dump Toxic Assets skill which, for a modest Zorkmid price, lets you externalize costs onto a hapless monster rather than yourself (along with a cloud of toxic gas, for good measure).
(You can also use the de-curse effects from other skills to help rid yourself of Bankster debuffs, but be aware that I’ve shamelessly nerfed some of the old favourites to encourage more, ah, creative accounting. … which should totally be another skill. Let me write that down … OK.)
So the core mechanic at work is the interaction between your Zorkmid levels and Bankster debuffs. Zorkmids are increased by the dungeon level you are currently on (supply and demand, my friend, supply and demand) and costs are reduced by the core Bankster attributes of Savvy (and their effect occasionally enhanced by Caddishness), but these stats — as well as your Zorkmids — are drained if you don’t manage your debuffs correctly.
Other skills in the Bankster skill line:
- Insurance Fraud : Take out a policy and reap the rewards as you are beaten to a pulp!
- Hire Contractor : Charms a monster; bribery is such an ugly word.
- Fiscal Hedge : Pay Zorkmids to alleviate damage to yourself.
And to cap it off, you can use the Bailout when you need to escape from all the consequences of your fiscal, ah, maneuverings.
From a design standpoint, introducing a whole new set of mechanics based around Zorkmids to the game is going to be a nightmare to balance (especially when someone keeps leaving Crownstar Addendums in fountains) but we think it’s just too much fun to pass up.
We never could cut a good joke. Hence: Dredmor.