Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I spent mine making puzzles =D
Now’s a good a time as any to talk about the next wave of iteration that will be coming to Vidar soon. Back in September I posted feedback received from IndieCade that I’ve taken very seriously. I have also been again ruminating on the (perhaps obvious) statement that a fun game is one in which all of the unfun things have been removed.
Having to backtrack in the cave is “unfun.” Currently the system requires the player to start back in Ice Cave 1 at the start of every day, unless they have certain rewards. The way I solved this problem is that waypoints are scattered throughout the NPCs and the cave in an effort to make sure you get at least a few, and shortcuts allowed you to bypass puzzles you had already completely. However, even under this system players would backtrack 2-4 maps each day. It’s a lot of walking without doing. And in fact, it was making puzzle solving nearly impossible, leaving the player with just a few short minutes once they actually reach where they left off.
There are some key elements of that system that I don’t want to lose. First, there is a sense of exploration. If I were to move to a system where, say, the player advances puzzle to puzzle without exploring the map, without occasionally backtracking, it looks more and more like a puzzle game and less and less like an RPG. I don’t want there to be such a disconnect between the town and the puzzle, I want gameplay to be similar-ish. Second, it allows me to bring quests into the town at will. If the player just advanced in a single direction, without having to revisit earlier portions, it might be possible to completely bypass quests, or the levels would be so jampacked with quests that it seems like just a lot of items piled into one area. Third, quest rewards in a game that lacks combat and gear are tricky, and providing waypoints, shortcuts, and extra time was a nice way to do that and have meaningful impact.
I am aiming for a system that keeps those pros, but gets rid of the backtracking. Here’s the current idea:
- When the player starts on Day 1, they enter the cave as usual. If they finish Ice Cave 1 in under the time limit (currently still 10 minutes, but will almost certainly be shortened), they are given the option of continuing to explore Ice Cave 1 until the time is over, or ending the day early and returning to Vidar. If the player does not make it out of the first room in the time limit, a checkpoint is indicated.
- When the player returns to the cave on Day 2, if they finished Ice Cave 1 then they’ll start at the entrance of Ice Cave 2; if not, they’ll be teleported to the checkpoint they reached. Either way, they do not start at the start of Ice Cave 1 (unless of course they couldn’t beat the first puzzle in the time limit, in which case, we have a balance issue).
- Every time the player reaches the end of a room, they can either end the day early, continue to explore the room they’re in, or teleport to any room they have been to previously and explore that room (potentially for a time penalty).
- The number of rooms will be reduced to 4 ice, 4 dark, 4 water, 4 boulder; a perfectly efficient player can beat the game in no fewer than 16 in-game days, and there are essentially 8 days of “cushion” (assuming no rewards).
I believe this solves all of the “unfun” problems of backtracking. I also believe this solves another problem, where players felt compelled not to explore because they didn’t know how long the dungeon was, and so just kept trying to solve puzzles under the belief that they were way behind. Here, a player who is on time or better is given no other option but to take time and explore. This also means that if, because of the randomness, a player ends up with a quest that involves a significant amount of backtracking, the calculus will be between losing at most a few minutes and doing the quest, rather than losing potentially an entire day. Players can still spend an entire day trying to wrap up quests if they think it worth their time.
None of this has been built yet. I’ve been spending a lot of time coming up with new systems, and this I think will be a strong iteration of Vidar to make it a better game. Expect these tweaks in the coming weeks.
And now, have some patch notes!
Developer’s Build 0.4.3
- New Mechanic: Tricky Boulders. They don’t behave like you’d expect them to, and it’s incredibly infuriating to a few of the villagers.
- Added Boulder Cave 1 Options 3, 4, and 5
- Added Boulder Cave 2
- Added Puzzle 64
- Added dialogue for Szabina in Boulder Cave 1 Option 1
- Added dialogue for Barnabas in Boulder Cave 1 Option 2
- Added a gab bar for Szabina in Boulder Cave 1 Option 1
- Decreased the rate at which books burn in Boulder Cave 1 Option 1
- Added conclusion cut scene for Boulder Cave 1 Option 1
- Added conclusion cut scene for Boulder Cave 1 Option 2
- Fixed position of certain stalagmites in Boulder Cave 1 Option 1
- Fixed a bug that would prevent passage in Boulder Cave 1 Option 2 after Barnabas leaves
- Fixed Barnabas’s sprite in Boulder Cave 1 Option 2
- Reformatted Sandor’s and Szabina’s spritesheets
- Added Robert’s, Rozsa’s, Tamas’s, and Tomi’s spritesheets to the game. All 24 villagers are now in the game (at least, on the continue screen!)
- Added the following items to the game:
- Blood and Madness: The Boy King’s Rule
- Iconography in Ridon
- Beauty in Language
- The Grass is Greener
- Rise of the Mother
- The History of Life: Volume I
- The History of Life: Volume II
- Ceiling tiles have been edited to be more flush with the tile alignment in the Boulder Cave. The player can no longer stand behind them. This has been done to clear up confusion concerning the puzzles.
- Added light indicators for entrances and exits to Boulder Cave 1
- You can no longer walk on the holes or ceilings in the Boulder Cave
- Separated out stalagmites and “shorter” stalagmites; you can now hookshot over shorter stalagmites, but cannot walk over them