Sunday, April 26, 2020

Bleaktide Part 2: Player Characters

Note that this is part 2 of a series. In this installment I introduce the classes available for player to choose from.

Like a few of my game developer friends I'm a bit of a game asset junkie. I love finding good game assets online and tinkering with them, often letting whatever I have available guide me. I do this primarily as a hobby -- I do release a few of my games, but often I just work on them to entertain myself and keep my overly active brain occupied. I tend to spend a fair bit of money on purchasing asset packs but I enjoy it and they're typically well worth the cost.

In this instance I purchased a really good art pack containing evil looking boss characters and I liked the idea of being able to play as what are usually considered the bad guys. I recommend clicking the images to see the zoomed in versions.

The Crypt Lord was the first class I implemented. He's a necromancer type who focuses on death-related abilities.

Using 3rd party content is frowned upon by some (unique bespoke content is obviously the ideal), but if you want to work on a project of any decent scope in your spare time as a pet project you don't really have much choice. Most advise that we lone wolf developers keep our scope small so as to have a chance of actually completing projects. However, I've already released a couple of smaller projects and what I typically find is that I struggle to maintain enthusiasm and passion for those smaller projects because they're not really the kind of game I'd want to play myself.

Focusing on larger, more ambitious projects may not be advisable if your main concern is finishing and releasing a product. However, for me, although I do keep the possible goal of eventually releasing the game in mind, I prefer to think of it as a creative outlet where I get to build my own world and characters. Part of the fun is the the world-building, map creation and coming up with the lore and history of the world.

The Mire Brute hails from the swamps of Bleaktide Crevasse. He's got a big gut and an even bigger hammer. He also has only one eye which they say is not good for your depth perception.

So my approach with this game was to treat it as a passion project without worrying too much about release schedules, task boards, backlogs and so on. This also gives me complete freedom to do as I please without having to worry about whether something like the Steam store would deem my content acceptable. There is a lot of dirty humor and some ridiculous game features that really just make the game that much for interesting to me.

For example players can express various emojis (smiling, laughing, crying, burping, farting and many others). One of the emojis present is the 'aroused' emoji which results in hearts fluttering above the player's head and a massive erection sprouting forth from between their legs.

These two handsome buggers are expressing their love and affection in the lewdest way possible. If you look closely you can see that they're both sporting impressive chubbies. I hobbled together their mutton daggers by attaching a turnip model to some arbitrary plant model and then tweaking the textures / materials to get the desired look.

Of course, 3rd party content only goes so far. Typically you're going to need a lot of it and it's not really going to fit together. So I do end up modifying the art quite significantly to achieve the look I want and also to make sure different packs look like they belong together.

The Dark Templar is essentially a fallen Paladin. His animations aren't great so I'm probably going to have to modify them or make new ones. Customizing weapons has proven easy enough, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do about other custom gear like armor, helms, boots and so on. But that's future Damien's problem.

To the crowd that are anti 3rd party content I just point out that movies re-use "character models" all the time (how many movies do you see the same actors in over and over) and the use of stock footage and even 3rd party music tracks (typically produced by production houses like Two Steps From Hell) has been part of the film industry for years.

She may dress scandalously but she's still a refined lady at heart.

I'm hoping to introduce more female player characters at a later stage, though it has been pointed out to me that my target audience is probably primarily male and so I should perhaps not make too big a deal out of that requirement. Most female character art is quite sexualized, which draws a fair bit of criticism from the politically correct crowd. But this is my game and I'm just going to roll with whatever I feel like at the time -- I don't really care much about that stuff. The game is going to be crass, profane and full of gallows humor, just because that's the way I like it.

He's a Tauren Cowboy, but he's also a cow boi, in the sense that taurens are pretty much cows.

Each of the classes has a description at the top-right. Initially I went all technical, describing their roles, specialties and abilities available. I then decided to change the descriptions to be more lore-based and focusing on the story-telling element. But I was lazy and not in a particularly inspired mood when I tried to work on that. Instead I just added ridiculous descriptions (as you'll see if you select the images to see the zoomed in versions). Right now I actually kinda prefer my daft descriptions to the more serious ones I had in mind.

I was hesitant to add this guy because I already have the Crypt Lord. I was thinking of just making him an alternate skin for the Crypt Lord. But I really love the character so I might just keep him.

All classes will be able to summon at least one or two minions, although some classes such as the Beast Master specialize in summoning minions and so have more available to them. I've not yet implemented the summoned minions, mostly because getting them to intelligently follow the player and behave with some degree of common sense will take a fair bit of work and so I'm procrastinating with that feature.

He's one of those nature loving types who can whisper to animals and convince them to do his bidding.

So that's the end of this entry. If you'd like to learn more about the world in which these characters reside check out the next installment:
Bleaktide Part 3: A Tour of Silverglade Village

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Bleaktide Part 1: Visual Style, Mood and Influences

Note that this is part 1 of a series. In this installment I discuss the basic premise of the game and talk about some of my influences in coming up with game's overall mood and atmosphere.

Around late October / early November 2019 I started work on a new pet project with the placeholder name 'Dungeon Crawler'. The game is a dungeon crawler (big surprise!) with a dark theme and lots of black humor thrown in.

It is now almost 6 months in and I have settled on 'Bleaktide' as the real name for the project. I've made substantial progress pretty quickly, mostly because I leveraged much of the framework and content from a previous (now abandoned) project which I jokingly called Skymorrowindblivion.

Early concept scene trying to nail down the desired look and feel.

The premise is that there is a central starting village serving as a hub for various nearby dungeons for you to explore, leveling up and collecting loot as you go. I'm hoping to support multiplayer and have been doing some preliminary work on the networking and keeping the multiplayer aspect in mind while designing the framework. However, multiplayer is still in a very rough, early state.

The initial look was grim and gritty. Over time the look became more colorful and stylized, though the gritty color scheme shown here is still supported as a graphics option.

Inspiration: The Wheel of Time

Initially it started as me just experimenting with creating a village scene with a dark, moody setting inspired by the early Diablo games (the town of Tristram in particular) as well as the book cover art of the Wheel of Time series.

This is the cover art for 'The Eye of the World', the first book in the 'Wheel of Time' series written by Robert Jordan (and completed by Brandon Sanderson). I always loved the style and wanted to achieve a similar (but somewhat darker) feel for my starting village. This cover art was created by Darrell K. Sweet.

This is a screenshot of the main village in Bleaktide. Although darker than the Wheel of Time cover, it bears some some resemblance in that it's a medieval fantasy village set against a blue evening sky, illuminated by orange light emitted through the windows of the surrounding buildings.

Inspiration: Diablo

Back in 1997 I encountered the first Diablo game and was struck by it's gloomy, gothic theme. You start the game in a town called Tristram, a forlorn ruin of a place with haunting beautiful music contributing to the sombre mood. Diablo 2 was great as well, and Diablo 3 was good in its own way. But there was something I liked about the simplicity of the original game -- a town serving as a hub to a single dungeon located beneath a corrupted cathedral nearby.

This is an art piece by artist Peter Lee depicting the cathedral in the town or Tristram from the Diablo games. While I enjoyed all of them, the mood of the town in the original game, with it's haunting music and desolate setting, left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to evoke a similar mood in my own game.

Here is a link to the original Tristram Village Music. The selection of music for my own game is also heavily influenced by this.

For Bleaktide I wanted to go for a similarly gloomy feel with a similar premise, except that instead of only a single dungeon to explore I wanted the main village to serve as a hub to several nearby dungeons.

A top-down view of a part of the game's starting location, Silverglade Village.

And for reference, here is a top-down view of a part of Tristram from Diablo 1.

The first character you meet is Loremaster Taerim. He serves a similar role to that of Deckard Cain from the Diablo games. I even placed him next to a well as tribute.

That concludes this introductory entry. check out the other installments if you'd like to follow the progress of the project or learn about many of the design and technical decisions.

Here is the next installment:
Bleaktide Part 2: Player Characters