Slimming Down -or- Decreeping Features

At this point, a million concepts have been thrown against the wall. After a lot of mindless coding and flailing about carefully planned experiments, Harmonia's gameplay finally feels solid. However, there are a lot of leftover ideas, concepts, and "features" that make the game overly complex and ultimately take away from the fun. In the spirit of good design and fun, it's time to clean house and produce a leaner, meaner Harmonia! :D

Why so many features!? A Historical Journey

Back when Harmonia was a private hobby project, I had the luxury of using it as a test bed for a variety of gameplay concepts. Every zone in the game was a little experiment with new engine features - a randomly-generated cavern, an 8-room Zelda-style dungeon, a long scripted quest, a goofy mansion with logic puzzles (ugh), blah blah blah. Some of the experiments included wacky stuff like random spell generation and day/night effects. In the extreme case, some zones were made to intentionally break the engine to see if it still worked :P

What's getting cut, and why is this a good thing?

Several planned features are going to be shelved, much to my disappointment. This includes proposed classes, zones, quests, spells, factions, graphical features, and (for now) an awesome PvP system. There's certainly time for these things after release, but there are plenty of incomplete features that need extra work, polishing, and some rather thorough testing. Extra weight is being dropped off as well - redundant features, abilities, areas, etc. What's </i>not</i> getting cut is everything that's fun, which should be most of the current game, I hope :)

Slimming down is good because, in addition to hitting proposed release dates, it will make the game feel more focused and unified, rather than 10 games put together as some sort of grotesque Frankenstein's monster. The engine can certainly be a tool for testing other concepts, but for future games - not this one.

Skills and Spells

75% of the abilities are being cut. Once multiple character control was in, it made no sense to have so many skills for each "unit". So now, each character has one thing they're good at, and that's it. Magicians will learn better versions of their spells, of course, but most if not all of their utility spells are currently gone. They could possibly make a resurgence as spellbooks as quest rewards, but that's not essential, so consider them gone.

Here's the current table of skills and spells. All of these abilities are currently completed:

Class Skill(s) Description
Soldier *Bring, *Return, *View, *Suppress Utility spells for group and dungeon management.
Knight Pierce Armor values greater than zero (which is average) are cut in half.
Warrior Guard Increases defense of the warrior and holds adjacent enemies.
Archer Adapt Increases sight radius and night vision of the archer.
Bird Soldier Focus Increased attack speed followed by short exhaustion.
Magician *Blaze, *Freeze, *Desoul, *Spark Standard elemental spells with varying ranges and AOE.
Priest *Heal, *Aura, *Antidote, *Revive Healing, AOE healing, and other forms of healing.
Monk *Slow, *Support, *Negate, *Resist, *Attack (De)buffs for agility/defense, magic resistance, and attack.

* This skill/spell will be renamed. These names come directly from good ol' Shining Force, back when it was originally a fan game. But now it's not. Intellectual property blah blah blah

Classes

The original plan was to have classes that gain levels and promote to other classes, branching off. This implies adding way too many classes, so, reluctantly, it's cut. There are plenty of other ways to customize your characters using different equipment, rolling with different personalities, and simply from the sheer variety of characters you may earn randomly through quests and such. Aside from very specific "secret" classes, the current 8 is more than enough. Furthermore, the possible combinations of forces adds an insane amount of variety, so no more is necessary! :)

Weapon Types

Harmonia has a lot weapon types - about 20 or so. There were plans to have multiple levels of these weapons, so you could train them up, learn a variety of special attacks, blah blah blah it's gone. In its place is something a lot simpler - remember those skills that were cut? They're being redistributed to the weapon classes. All player classes will be able to use all weapon classes, aside from the Wing which is bird-specific. Characters will still have to train them like they do now, but they will always be at 100% strength - just without the skill.

Here's an incomplete list of skills for the various weapon classes:

Class Skill(s) Description
Sword Channel Uses MP to inflict magic damage.
Lance Charge Attack pushes an enemy out of the way, thrusting you forward.
Spear Repel Attack pushes an enemy back, keeping you in place.
Halberd Swipe Melee attack hits two adjacent enemies.
Mace Bash Knocks an opponent down, preventing movement and spellcasting.
Bow Ice Shot Freezes an enemy in place for a short time.
Crossbow Strafe Shot Allows a move action after an attack rather than before.
Longbow Long Shot A normal attack with +1 additional range.
Ankh Smite 50% chance to inflict heavy light damage. Very effective against undead.
Wand Missile Non-elemental ranged magic attack.
Rod *Burst Earth-based AOE damage.
Wing Dive Attacking a foe also moves your character like a chess knight.


Zone Design and Loot

There's a variety of equipment painstakingly coded in the game. Each piece is unique with differently balanced statistics. However, at one point, I made a zone that generated random equipment in the style of Nethack, which produced equipment like this:

a +1 uncursed orcish dagger
some blessed ringmail
a -2 cursed hawaiian shirt
some +1 iron shoes

Although this gear is pretty generic, there was a real sense of reward when you found the occasional +2 piece of equipment that suited a character's build. More importantly, it made each mob much, much more valuable and fun to fight when there was a small chance you could find some rare item.

This system later evolved into something much cooler for a procedurally-generated cavern zone:

a magical sunstone blade of vision
a -3 olive green mithril helmet
some +1 dark matter boots of strength
a +2 mighty orichalchum axe of healing

This zone worked so well for levels 1 through 30 that it's now the method for all equipment in the game. This means less coding of individual objects aside from the occasional zone-specific keyword. This should make every zone a lot more compelling to play, which means Harmonia won't need nearly as much content as originally intended - which is VERY GOOD for my workload and/or sanity :)

Random Mobs

Although this technically (and literally) qualifies as a new feature, this system can be applied directly to mobs because of the game's scripting system. This should add yet more variety to running through a zone without the need to design dozens of new creatures. The only reason I'm considering this is because it takes no extra coding. It will literally use the exact same code as the random equipment generation. The current zones will stay as they are, but new content will use the new model.

Possibilities for mobs in a slime zone could play out like so:

a blue slime (lv3.0)
a red slime (lv3.0)
a small red slime (lv2.5)
a large blue slime (lv3.5)
a green slime warrior (lv3.2)
a green slimebeast (lv3.2)
a magical slime (lv3.2)
an armored slimegician (lv3.5)
a glowing blue slimelord (lv3.7)

Zone Consolidation

There are probably too many zones, and most of these zones, if not all, are incomplete. So, instead of finishing the proposed billions of zones, bits of pieces of incomplete areas will be glued to the better zones to make them feel fleshed-out. It's better to have a small amount of feature-complete, polished, and tested areas rather than twice as much broken stuff. In other words: Quality > Quantity. The world map will need to be reduced as well, much to my disappointment :( It looks pretty, but about 50% of it is totally unused, so... It's gone!

Graphical Feature Freeze

No more fancy effects. The game already looks fine, so I'd like to work with what we have. That being said, there are a few things that need to be in the game which aren't - projectiles for ranged attacks comes to mind, as well as spell effects. The FOV code will need an upgrade, too, because it's really stupid :P New sprites and tiles will still be produced, but there won't be any fancy glow effects of animations or what not.

Bugfixes are, of course, always fair game. There is, unfortunately, always plenty to do in that department. Wahhh.

Client Work ... is still required :(

The Harmonia client still doesn't support everything the server can do. That's why I've been playing around with text-based Harmonia Classic to do so much work lately. A big reason for this slimming-down is so the client can finally get on its own two feet, firmly ushering in the era of "Not Using Telnet because Telnet is kinda dumb".

The next step for the server is to send menus to clients in order to use all of the commands. Then objects (not just mobs) will need to be synced. This includes player inventory. There's also no shared vision between your players, or a proper character selection screen, blah blah blah I'M WORKING ON IT :(

And more (?)

That's everything off the top of my head. Which is still a lot. I just now finished all the stuff with the random gear (which is awesome, by the way!), so it's back to work on the client! To the code dungeon, I go... Those whips smart.

I will finish this game.
I will finish this game.
I will finish this game.

(Bart Simpson joke)

-- Synival


Harmonia
Harmonia Game Engine
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