Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 20, 2010
Yeah. That Frayed Knights thing. The indie computer RPG with its tongue planted in its cheek in development. This is an update. And I’m sure you will find it the latest of all of my updates up until this point.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on content. Specifically, the LAST dungeon of Frayed Knights 1. Actually, it’s not the last one the player will visit, but with its completion we have all of the world geometry in place. It’s all tweaking / polishing / optimizing now.
This was a replacement for another level that had already been “done.” Done, but it just wasn’t working. The previous was poorly laid out, and had proven impossible to optimize correctly. (Programmers terms – the engine uses portals – old-school tech – to optimize “interior” geometry. These are notoriously finicky in this engine and have very explicit requirements to have a prayed of a chance of working correctly. And without them, your interior level runs poorly and the lighting looks like crap).
So after a bunch of debate, vague discussions about “fixing” the level, and some concentrated efforts to try and tame / redesign the thing, we finally agreed that it just needed to be completely redone. Brian, who had done the original, was more than happy to agree. It had been his first completed dungeon with the tools / engine, and he’d learned a lot of tricks since then to make better levels.
Unfortunately, after agreeing to this, Brian has been afflicted with a bad case of Real Life, and so all work from him has stopped for the time being. This is the problem with being an indie and working with contractors whom you can only compensate in intermittent, token payments of beer money.
I’ve been working around the problem for a bit, but finally decided to do it myself. This is, in areas of artistic endeavor, generally not a Good Idea. I’m not exactly the talent when it comes to this kind of thing – as an artist, I’m a pretty okay programmer. However, I do suck less than I used to, and I decided I was going to cheat.
Specifically, I was going to borrow some geometry from the previous dungeon and re-use it. And not only that, but I was going to swipe some geometry from another level that never been used in the game. By borrowing the best pieces of two previous dungeons, I could maybe arrange them according to the desired gameplay, and link them with some custom material of my own that might not suck too badly.
Of course, I underestimated the time requirements of even that.
However, we’ve ended up with a big freakin’ dungeon. Maybe not quite Tower of Almost Certain Death big (my other major contribution to the dungeons in the game), but still big. The entrance, a couple of bridges, and what we call the “Escher Room” remain mostly intact from the previous dungeon. I don’t know what Brian was on when he created the Escher room – it certainly wasn’t part of my specs – but he took it and ran with it. His justification for it was folded into the storyline around the dungeon, which we’re keeping.
Story-wise: This is currently the lair of a tribe of goblins which are now divided into two factions – a larger but weaker majority oppressed by a nasty thug named Gorash and his army of goons. But they didn’t build this place.This place is far older than them. And it has its own secrets. One secret was discovered by Gorash and allowed him to make his bid for overlordship (with a bit of clever deceit and misdirection to find a use for it). But the dungeon is divided into an area principally occupied by non-hostile commoners, and the rest of the dungeon off-limits to any but the hostile elites.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but those are the basics that drove the dungeon design.
One odd bit that I’m still working with is that the dungeon is encountered before it is possible to “complete” it and unravel its biggest secret. I’m still working out the hints and dialogs in the game necessary to make sure the player “gets” that the solution is going to require a great deal more adventuring outside this dungeon itself. What I really don’t want is players as stubborn as I am refusing to leave the dungeon until they’ve figured out the final “trick,” searching endlessly for something they may have missed. Instead, the party will have to retrace Gorash’s actions to discover what he learned, a quest that took him all over the caverns.
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