Category Archives: Dungeons of Dredmor

Dungeon Creation and Beautification

With most of the foundational art assets completed I’m shifted my focus on Dredmor toward producing content for the game. In particular I’m polishing the dungeon tilesets and creating new dungeon objects (as the game items have actually been finished for a long, long time).


Let me take a moment to explain how Dredmor tilesets work (and used to work, and how they will work). Here’s a cut from the first dungeon’s tileset:

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The Part Of Making Games That Isn’t Making Games

  1. Make game
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Something is missing here, see, and what’s missing is what really does the trick for the commercial indie game development thing. It is those developers that can fill in point number 2 that are successful, I think, regardless of any sort of brilliance in point number 1 (and sometimes making up for a lack of it).

We’re all doing something to carry some of the weight of step two, Derek handling hosting and coding online things, Daniel spearheaded incorporation and is our business guy probably because everyone else hates the idea of doing it more, and Nicholas has shadowy “industry connections”.

As for me? I do art. And it turns out there’s more to a game than the graphics.

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The Insane Vortex of UI Redesign

This wouldn’t be Gaslamp if we didn’t completely redo a major game system once a week.
And this wouldn’t be the ongoing Dungeons of Dredmor beta if we didn’t completely redo between three and five major game systems every week!

Let’s talk about UI redesign.

Here’s the main game UI in Dredmor 0.4:

(Click on any of these images to view at full size.)

Not so bad, right? Rather archaic and clunky, perhaps. But the clunky UI has what we might call character.

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Experimental Perspectives on Tilesetting

We’ve got a little design problem in Dredmor that Daniel has named “fighting arrows”. See the little arrow at the bottom of the screenshot on the left? It points to a blobby-monster just poking its little eyes out from behind a wall that otherwise covers it up. The arrow is a helper icon to make sure you notice that there’s a monster.

No, this is not elegant. We’ve also got issues with doors being difficult to see behind walls. Well then, how do games deal with the problem of stuff hiding behind walls?

One solution which came up was that of Zelda: A Link to the Past — they made it so that there is no ‘behind’ walls. See the right screenshot: everything has a rather subjective take on perspective. The player sees the face of all of the walls, no matter what direction they face! One column is seen from the front, another is seen from the right, and there is even some weird overlapping balcony thing. The world of A Link to the Past has a take on perspective that would make Escher proud, and the game manages to get away with it.

Could we?

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Dredmor Beta 0.3 Changelist

Dredmor Beta 0.3 is now live. I have to go poke the Win32 one, since really OS X is now on, uh, beta 0.3.1 (and we’re on 0.3 on Win32; the change is just an updated skill panel which David somehow delivered in between my compiling the two builds.) Most of our changes this round have been balance related, as well as resolving a few crash bugs and making some Fun Stuff work again.

Next update: 0.4, the UI Rewrite of Doom where we take everything we learned from playtesting 0.1 and 0.2 and redo the user interface, again. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were modular libraries that we could use to reconfigure our user interfaces on the fly, and across the codebase, without major code changes?

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In the pipes and on the books and all over my laptop.

So the beta goes, and I think I should first thank the people who have been giving us feedback. As David has alluded to, much of our consideration over the past months has been toward things that internally we’re comfortable with only because we don’t have new sets of eyes telling us what we *should* be doing, so it is extremely helpful to our goal of making a fun and exciting game for you all! =)

One of the things that is currently whirring in the backs of our minds is what some people refer to as the “tangibility” of a game interface. You know what I mean if you’ve ever played Megaman or World of Warcraft. Everything clicks, thuds, blinks, flashes, and makes you aware that every time you click or press something, you know that it’s working. These sorts of tiny queues are imperative to game immersion, and something that I’m slightly ashamed that we’re only now really addressing in earnest.

After that, we’re hoping to have an online store up. I’m currently investigating the ability to sell lutefisk online, but it might just be illegal.

Regarding Dredmor:

A lot of little stuff is getting fixed right now, but mostly gameplay balancing is resting heavily on my mind. It’s unfortunate how much getting the game in a state of balance and polish seems like a give and take between balance and polish (not necessarily of course, but many polish ideas remove balancing elements, and vice versa). Here’s an example…

On the outset, melee characters had a problem: not only did they not have any magic (which was bad because magic is really fun), but if you run around and just hit everyone with your sword, you get overwhelmed by baddies because you can only hit one guy at a time, while that wizard in the corner with his awesome magic can fireball ten guys at a time.

One of my early ideas to combat this was really bad for polish, but great for balance: the characters got what I was calling “maneuvers”, which would allow them to attack large swathes of area with their weapon. The balance issues were dealt with: it was like a fireball of sword! But then I got a little carried away, because I saw this as an opportunity to close the gap between casters and fighters: I wanted the fighters to be able to queue attacks that they could stack on top of their big area attacks so that they could do cool combo maneuvers, but while it seems cool in theory it was awful in practice. The system was totally confusing, there was a ton of ghastly code that needed to go into the game, and players didn’t even use it. So polish lost this battle big-time.

We’re trying new ways of incorporating these ideas. There is no more “attack queuing”, which was the worst part of that idea. Not only is having multi-step processes something you want to avoid, but there was no instant gratification, which is also an issue. Instead everything happens as you click it. The ability to combine abilities still exists as well, but I’ll leave that to you guys to figure out =)

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The Interaction Problem

Oh playtesting, how you tear down my illusions, besiege the fortress of my ego then poison its well and set fire to its stores of grain.

Fig. 1: The good part of Dredmor’s interactivity.

It is shocking just how surely a player will ignore tutorial text. The help button is effectively invisible, ignored, the text left sad and unread. Whatever it is, the “go away” button is clicked via Skinnerian response to years of training at ignoring inane popups. Yes, Nicholas passed me a link (or possibly a newer one) to Jeff Atwood writing on the subject when this issue of the tutorials being completely ignored came up, and it got me thinking.

Fig 2. The bad. Don’t ask why it says “Axe” on that lightbulb.

We’ve got issues.

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Beta: From making a game to making a game good

Yes, this is how we do things at Gaslamp.

The other day I was banging on the latest release candidate for Dredmor’s Beta v0.2 for Nicholas and I noticed that rather than things simply not working or, worse, crashing the game I was coming up with more issues that had to do with balancing and tweaking the game. It’s a fine point that we’re reaching; This is turning into an exercise not of making a game anymore, but of trying to make a game good.

It’s a good place to be. Soon, I keep telling myself, it’ll happen.

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