It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post. Over the summer I had been working on Daughter of Dreams significantly, but unfortunately, most of my designs ended up not working out. Considering the start of a new quarter at college, which was an especially busy quarter for me, I decided back in September to take a break from Daughter of Dreams until I had significant free time again. This has turned out to be a really good decision, and the ideas I had during the summer have been maturing during my break. What I have now is much more solid, so I am excited to now begin in earnest with the development of Daughter of Dreams, as the quarter is over and I have the entire month of December to focus and get some game development done.
I'd like to start this new phase of development with a new blog post covering the most significant changes to my plans and designs. My goal for the month of December is to get a fully working prototype of the combat system into the hands of my alpha-testers. I've been working on character design and story as well, but those are backburner until I have a game engine running.
The first major change to my design is to develop a turn-based combat system. This deviates from the common design of a Zelda-like, which usually has real-time action combat. However, I do not think this is a requirement, as I believe a Zelda-like depends a lot more on key item progression.
The combat in Daughter of Dreams specifically is not fully designed yet. But there are a few features I am considering. I will expand this as I develop the prototype.
- I will use small numbers for combat values, like the way it is done in the classic Paper Mario games. This allows for a more strategic type of turn-based combat, compared to large number systems, as the player can predict exactly how much damage their attack will do and which strategy will be most effective.
- Combat will be positional, like a tactical RPG. I am thinking that the combat will take place on a grid, and attacks will target particular cells in the grid. I believe this will create a unique element to the combat, and allow me to design abilities that require more strategy than simply which will do the most damage.
There are several reasons that I decided to shift to a turn-based combat system. A turn-based combat system is much more theoretical than real-time. I mean that the enjoyment of turn-based combat depends less on the art and animation, and more on the pure design and balance. This plays into my strengths, as I am primarily a designer and programmer, and not an artist. Additionally, a turn-based system better supports multiple characters being present, as they become members of the combat party. This will help with the story-telling of the game, which I want to be a major focus.
I have written previously about the world-building of Somnar in Daughter of Dreams and I believe those elements will mostly remain the same. I have not yet shared many details of the plot itself, but I would like to write about a few ways that the new combat system will allow me to tell a more engaging story.
- The story will depend on many different characters joining the party. This allows me to explore the interactions between characters, have character development, and create conflict through their interactions. Before, I felt restrained to having the main character lead the story on their own, with others becoming background characters limited to specific interactions.
- Characters will maintain their progress between cycles. Daughter of Dreams has always been planned to be procedurally generated, where the main story takes place over multiple cycles. My plan is for character progress to save between cycles. This includes character development and combat abilities and the experience they have gained. With the new design for combat, there can be a sense of progression that is earned over time, through many cycles.
While I am shifting to a more RPG style turn-based combat system, I still want to preserve the Spirit of Adventure that is key to Zelda-like games. I have not considered this aspect very much yet, but I do plan for there to still be procedurally generated dungeons, though the puzzles may depend more on unique dungeon-specific mechanics than key item progression. There is also an opportunity to allow particular characters certain abilities in the overworld (outside of combat), which I will explore as I develop the prototype. Overworld and dungeon exploration, as well as puzzle-solving, are still key design pillars.
This is just a summary overview of some of the ideas I have considered during my break over the past few months. I will hopefully expand more on particular elements once I have more design done on paper. I plan to write several more blog posts soon, covering more about Daughter of Dreams and a few other topics. Finally, my priority now is to create the combat prototype. Stay tuned for updates!