Astronovus: Mercenary Company is now on an indefinite hiatus. Finishing the design for that game will be a goal for the future, but the scale of the project is too large for me to take on alone at this point in time. Instead, I have recently been working heavily on a level design project utilizing the Elder Scrolls Creation Kit titled, “The Tomb of Ansaris Vahrline.” The “Tomb of Ansaris Vahrline” has been designed to be a 3-level dungeon overrun by a large number of necromancers and their slaves. The story in brief is that a necromancer organization has undertaken great archaeological efforts to uncover this tomb, but no one is quite sure as to why. If the player chooses to embark on this adventure, they will discover that this tomb houses the corpse of a once-mighty necromancer, Ansaris Vahrline. His significance lies in his knowledge of the Forgotten Prince, Nefkymnath (the Daedric Prince of un-life and immortality). By venturing through the tomb, the player will discover the necromancer’s intentions and discover that there are darker events afoot than initially believed. I have the map for the entire tomb drawn out and I am currently working on level 1 of the dungeon in the Creation Kit. Level 1 comprises of the Overseer’s Chambers, Slave Quarters, and the first two (from left to right) cavern crossings. The current design map is below, but it is subject to changes as I see them necessary. I will later be posting screenshots and videos of my work within the Creation Kit as well as a design document later down the line.
Since early January, I have been working on Astronovus as an independent study under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Gerald Voorhees. Throughout this passed term I feel like I have learned a lot about the game design process – but the most important lesson I have learned is the necessity for documents outlining goals and objectives. In the early stages of the project, I assumed that these documents were simply for the purposes of communicating the information to other parties – this assumption has cost me a lot of time for aspects of gameplay that might not even come to full fruition. While I cannot deny the fun and excitement of essentially “discovering” what I wanted in the game as I went along, it did cost me a lot of valuable time that could’ve been spent designing the core components more clearly and playtesting them. So a hard lesson has been learned and I am now going to be working on the design on a macro level, slowly moving inward as I solidify the processes of the game. The documents I have on the website are, for the time being, still considered to be part of the game. I will be working more on addressing the macro level issues and posting the documents on this portfolio blog when they’re finished.
For the past week or so I have made a few decisions that will greatly affect the gameplay and overall experience of Astronovus: Mercenary Company. For those of you who have read the documents prior to the current version, you’ll have seen some major changes in the overall mechanic of character progression and even in the combat. In roughly one more week I will be posting the newest version of Astronovus with massive updates, including some pretty major scaling down of the game. By this I mean that players will now only be able to progress 5 ranks instead of 10 (ranks are the equivalent to levels). I have also decided that until I can work out some of the more massive issues with Engineers and Medics (largely the problem of crafting and how it affects the game experience) they will no longer be a part of the game. This was not an easy choice to make, but as a single person working on this project, I need to focus on the tactical gameplay aspects I am aiming to achieve. Perhaps, if this project is successful, then I will be able to give more time and effort to including more ranks, reincorporating the deceased classes, and adding bigger and better things into the armory and abilities section; but until then, I will have to move forward without them.
So I have added a rudimentary combat system, it still needs to be tested and tweaked however. But this post is more about my progress with the character classes. Some minor changes have been made such as renaming a couple of classes, but a big change is the way gaining ranks works. Initially I was planning on dictating which skills will progress with each rank purchased, but in my eyes, doing this to the player would be unfair. A player that wants to specialize in heavy weaponry shouldn’t be forced to adhere to a strict ladder of ascension where they have to learn several skills they don’t intend on using. Instead, I have changed the structure to allow this method for each rank:
“(#) of skills +(#) and (different #) of skills + (different #).”
This should allow players the freedom to choose which skills they deem more important than others while restricting them from simply placing all of their points into a single slot too quickly. In my experiences, when given this opportunity, maxing out a skill as fast as possible ruins the playability and fun of a game as you’ll likely end up tipping the balances out of whack (items only available to people with high level skills become available too early and combat becomes too easy etc.). So now I am working on the problem of the experience cost for each rank. Each class has a role to play, but some demand different skills than others. Adepts need more ability points to focus on gaining powers while Commandos are more skill point based. The other three classes fall somewhere in between this area. I am wondering now if it would be unfair to charge different Experience Point costs for each class to gain ranks. This would be introduced to compensate for that fact that some classes receive better skill point or ability point bonuses per rank to meet the demands of their specialization. There are obviously other solutions, but this is the one I have been thinking most about and it does have its obvious pitfalls such as the question of, “Why should I play the character that gains ranks faster if I get better things from another class?” I am considering my options in this area, but that is the current update for Astronovus: Mercenary Company.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I want Astronovus to turn out, but honestly I have been hitting several roadblocks in the process and I think it’s because the entire project isn’t turning out as I want it to. Though I haven’t created a full game before, I do believe that in order to make a game, the creator would at least have to say it’s something they would play and so far the entire game is turning out bland and repetitive, mostly just taking the rules from other games and setting them in a universe I want. I am going to change this. The kind of games I enjoy most are RPG’s (Elder Scrolls series, Diablo series, Mass Effect series, etc.) and tactical games including the Dawn of War series, Chess, Starcraft, and most recently Gratuitous Space Battles. I am going to try and mix the fun elements of a pen and paper RPG with the enjoyment of tactically defeating an opponent. I am not quite sure of how I am going to do this, but I will be drafting some ideas and I’ll be updating the Player’s Handbook that is posted on the Astronovus page accordingly when I begin filling in the details.
As a side note, I will also (over a period of time) work on making this site more visually appealing. I am going to be learning some basic web design skills while I work on various projects so this portfolio will hopefully be nice and spruced up soon.
Hello everyone. This is my first WordPress post and I’m going to keep it brief as I’m writing it on my phone. This is a work in progress for me. I’ve already posted a page for my pen and paper RPG Astronovus, which is my major undertaking for the meantime. But I’m a guy that likes to focus on multiple projects at the same time so I will also try posting some design documents intended for the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and other games as this portfolio expands. For now though, you can visit the Astronovus page and view the game document.