Monday, 19 May 2008

Metaplots and Dungeons

All Roguelikes have metaplots, even if its only to give a thin veneer of reason as to why our little '@' hacks his (or her) way through dungeons. In Angband, the goal is obstensibly to defeat Morgoth. In Crawl, its to recover the Orb of Zot. In Nethack, its to recover and ascend with the Amulet of Yendor. Larn has an unusual plot device - the goal is for the player to traverse a dungeon in search of a potion that will cure his ailing daughter of 'dianthroritis'.

I haven't decided what the metaplot for Kharne will be yet, although I'm very interested in exploring different aspects of Roguelike gameplay during the different phases of the game. To this end, like Crawl, I'm going to implemente themed dungeon branches. Unlike Crawl however, I want all the different dungeon branches to be theoretically accessible from the town level (with one exception I'll come to later).

Each dungeon branch will consist of 10 levels, of increasing difficulty. There are 9 branches, therefore there are a maximum possible 90 levels to delve through.

Before describing each dungeon branch, there are a few important things I'd like to note about the intended gameplay:
  1. The challenge to the player should increase as he/she delves deeper. This isn't just a matter of throwing bigger and tougher monsters at the player (although this will happen), rather, I'd like to throw the player into progressively tougher and tougher situations. I have a few idea for implementing this other than some of the standard Roguelike fare, e.g. Vaults, Mutations and increased Monster AI.

  2. I want to avoid Angband-style grinding (e.g. the so-called "Stat-Gain" phase). It won't be necessary to visit every single dungeon or indeed every single dungeon branch - in fact doing so will increase the chances of a death since levels will be dangerous. Dungeons are semi-persistent - whilst within a dungeon branch, levels are persistent, but as soon as you leave the branch and return to town, they will disappear, Angband-style.

  3. I want to allow multiple paths through most of the game, to increase replayability. This would be as well as the standard roguelike randomness replayability. To achieve this end, all dungeons with the exception of the final ones are completely optional.

Player start out in the town level, called the Nexus:

The two introductory dungeons (suitable for levels 1 to 5), are The Wilderlands and The Fortress.

The Wilderlands is built using the cave-generation algorithm whereas the Keep uses the rooms-and-tunnels approach. The Wilderlands will be very much themed upon an outdoor feeling, with animal-themed foes, whereas the Fortress will have a martial setting and will be filled with goblinoids. It is intended that the player uses these two dungeons to learn the basics of Kharne's gameplay and to start the gearing-up process.

Beyond that, there are two intermediate dungeons (suitable for levels 6 to 10) - The Mausoleum and The Keep:

Both use the Rooms-and-Tunnels approach, and the Mausoleum is an undead-themed dungeon whereas the Keep is filled with magical artifacts and creatures. At the moment, I'm intending to have the first vaults appear in the later levels of these dungeons (although vaults aren't implemented at the moment), and the purpose of these are to equip the character with items that are necessary to venture further in a safe manner.

The Advanced Dungeons are suitable for levels 11 to 15 and are basically the Elemental Planes - the Planes of Air, Fire, Water and Earth:

At the end of each dungeon, on the bottom level, is a heavily guarded Elemental Key. This serves two purposes - one of these must be collected to allow the player to enter the final Dungeon (it doesn't matter which elemental plane it comes from), and also one will allow the player to resurrect once, with some....far-reaching consequences (I'll discuss this in more detail in a later post).

And then we have the endgame dungeon, suitable for levels 16 to 20, and the final part of the game. At the moment, its called the Abyss, and its filled with demons and devils and other similar creatures. There will be a macguffin at the bottom of this dungeon, the obtainment of which will be the game's victory condition.

Although the majority of foes in each dungeon will be specific to that dungeon and themed to fit in with that dungeon's theme, there will be a set of common foes across all non-Abyssal dungeons. Some of these will be in the form of demonic and elemental "invasions", with creatures scaled appropriately to the current dungeon difficultly (effectively these will operate as moving and non-permanent vaults). Other will be in the form of rival adventurers and adventuring parties. I'm especially looking forward immensely implementing these, as I remember fondly in Baldur's Gate the first time I came across a rival adventuring party.

Oh, and there will be one other special dungeon...which is specifically tied to player ressurection. I'm still working out the details, but to give you a bit of a hint, this is one of my favourite tabletop-RPGs of all time.

1 comment:

Mario Donick said...

I REALLY like the concept you describe here.