June 23, 2021

[Progress Update] Combat Prototype

Last December I made a major change to the design of Daughter of Dreams as I pivoted from real-time combat to turn-based combat. Over the last few months, I worked to develop a prototype turn-based combat system. A little bit ago, I finished the entire system and produced a version that I shared with my internal alpha-testers. This post is a wrap-up on the turn-based prototype. I will document the progress I've made so far, and share what improvements I plan to make next.

For this progress update, I created a commentated video that showcases the entire combat system. If you are not familiar with the project thus far, I recommend skimming through it a bit. It is easiest to understand how the game works when it is shown in actual gameplay.

There are a few primary systems implemented in this version:

  • Performing actions and attacks on the turn-based grid-based battlefield.
  • Damage handling, modifiable combat stats, and status effects.
  • Simple enemy AI and a few basic enemies.

There are also two characters implemented, with a full set of unique combat abilities each. There are posts covering their abilities in detail here [Sonya] [Lydia]. Their abilities are not finalized (I have major changes already planned). However, what I have so far does showcase the overall idea I have for both of their characters, and how I plan to design abilities generally.

Conclusions

This is actually the second prototype I developed, the first one being a real-time combat engine that I developed last summer. That one ended up feeling stale, and unoriginal. I wanted to do something more interesting and within my skill set, so I pivoted to turn-based combat. I talked about this in-depth in a previous blog post.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this new system. From the alpha-testers gameplay, I saw that they were all able to quickly understand the combat system (even without a tutorial). Furthermore, I was able to develop some mechanics that I have genuinely not seen in any other games. Fire Emblem (if you only had gambit attacks) and the upcoming Project Triangle Strategy are the closest direct comparisons, but I am also drawing inspiration from Chrono Trigger, Paper Mario, and traditional JRPGs. I really believe that what I have has the foundation to be something unique and incredible. I will be moving forward with this prototype to develop the full game, and I am excited to see what I can do with this game!

Future Development

My next update will be focusing on two things. (1) Polishing the combat system, and (2) adding the inventory and equipable charms, which will be a foundational mechanic for creating custom strategies. The specific changes I have planned address each of these points:
  • The combat system needs to be more readable and provide more information to the player. I will be adding context-sensitive UI and more information about attack types and enemy weaknesses. I will also be streamlining the controls, and updating the UI.
  • I will be adding charms that can be equipped to modify a character's combat stats. Along with this, I need a way to view the current stats for each player and show how different stats will affect their abilities during combat. This mechanic is similar to charms from Hollow Knight and badges from Paper Mario and I think it's really important to encourage strategic play.
  • I will be updating the enemy AI to be more nuanced and easier to understand. Due to the complex nature of attacks, it is currently hard to tell where on the battlefield is safe or in range of enemies. I will try to simplify the design of enemies and provide some telegraphed indicators of what the enemies will try to do.
  • The current abilities are not well balanced. Sonya in particular is unable to effectively synergize with her abilities. I have plans to refactor all of the combat abilities and damage values, including some significant adjustments to the AP system. I don't think this will be very hard fortunately since the foundational mechanics are already in place.

Stray Thoughts

It has been a long while since I wrote a blog post. This alpha-version was actually finished a while ago. At one point I wanted to write once per month, but other things took priority. Now I am into summer break, however, and I believe that development for Daughter of Dreams will be pretty consistent for the next few months. Stay tuned for more updates on this project, and some of the other things I am working on!

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