I am finally getting back to work on Project Gorgon, and after a few days of “Oh my god this is a full-sized MMO what the hell is wrong with me” terror, I got back into the swing of things. So what am I working on this week? The four combat skills in the pre-alpha. They are Fire Magic, Sword, Unarmed, and Werewolfing.
Now for pre-alpha I only really need one combat skill to prove you can kill things. But I went overboard and am doing four. The final game will also have a ton of auxiliary skills that add to the combat skills — for the pre-alpha, I’m just providing one auxiliary skill for each one.
I picked these because they help me flesh out the tech. (The werewolf system in particular is a huge special-case-fest that has helped me stretch the system’s boundaries dramatically.) But I want even the most mundane combat skill to be unique and flavorful… hopefully a bit of that flavor will seep through even in this early form.
Let me know how these sound. Fun? Terrible?
Every player starts with Unarmed skill and can Punch things. However, if you punch a tiger, that’ll go about as well as it would in real life. Unarmed represents martial-arts skill, and it’s hard to get good at martial arts. It’s easier to kill a tiger with a sword than with your bare hands. Unarmed is not really a starter skill — however, it can be useful as a second skill. Punching doesn’t require any energy, so you can keep punching right up until the bloody end. This makes it handy to mix with Fire Magic, which uses a lot of energy.
Unarmed gets more dangerous at higher levels, but it’s never as good at murdering as, say, Sword. But it has great special abilities, like stuns and knockback kicks.
All combat skills have non-combat synergies: skills that help make it more powerful. For the pre-alpha I’ll implement Meditation as the synergy for Unarmed. Meditation is very simple: you pick an item in your inventory and choose to meditate on it. This gives you a Combo that will work for the next 24 hours. The combo you learn will be based on the item you meditate on. So if you meditate on a piece of armor you might get the combo “Punch, Punch, Kick” to deal extra damage. If you meditate on a sandwich you might learn “Kick, Kick, Cobra Strike” instead. I’m not yet sure what the exact system will be, as I haven’t implemented it yet.
But here’s the important thing: you can never meditate on the same thing twice. You can meditate on a Starter Sword one day and an Apple Pie the next, but once you’ve meditated on something, it’s useless for further meditation: no Starter Swords or Apple Pies anywhere will work. However, ordinary items work just as well as rare items, so it’s not like you need to hoard special things to meditate on — you just have to constantly find new things to use. There’ll be thousands of items in the game so this shouldn’t ever be a severe limitation… but eventually it might be something you need to keep in mind.
Meditation will have other uses (for instance, it boosts your Max Power for the Psionics combat skill), but for the pre-alpha I don’t think I’ll get any of the other uses implemented.
Sword skill is a good baseline combat skill. It does average damage against most enemies, and it can chop through armor just as quickly as it chops through flesh. Its special powers are centered around keeping an enemy from building up enough Rage to use their dangerous Rage Attacks, which makes the skill both offensive and defensive.
I’m still trying to get a handle on Rage Attacks — figuring out how often they should go off, how violent they should be, that sort of thing. So I’m not yet sure how important it is to be able to stop Rage attacks… but I’ll get things in the right ballpark eventually.
You learn new Sword abilities just by leveling up in the skill. There are also some secret techniques that can be purchased from trainers, but those are very rare for Sword.
For pre-alpha, Sword’s synergy skill is Calligraphy. (Historically, Chinese and Japanese martial arts are tied closely to the art of calligraphy.) I’m not sure how Calligraphy works yet, though. I was planning to do Blacksmithing, but that skill needs more tech than I have right now, so I grabbed Calligraphy from the list of skills. However, the design notes for Calligraphy make it seem extra-special dumb. So I’ll see if I can think of something else… I’ll let you know how that goes.
Fire Magic is the easiest offensive magic to learn. (That’s true because the placeholder text on one of my NPCs says so. And hey, sounds canon to me.) For a while I was worried about “how can I make fire magic fun?” Then I hooked up the explosion for the Fire Burst spell, and realized: no worries. Exploding stuff is inherently satisfying.
Fire Magic does good damage and it has range. However, many things are resistant to fire, and fire magic is highly Rage-inducing, which means your opponents will get to use their Rage Attacks more often. (Of course, if it’s a melee monster that dies before it reaches you, it doesn’t get to use its Rage Attacks. But if you’re fighting an archer or a tough meleer, you’ll need to use some tactics.)
You learn new Fire Magic spells by researching them. This is just a crafting recipe: you plug in some raw components, click Research, and it tells you if you learned a new spell. There are quite a few Fire Magic spells to discover — I’ve already coded eight or nine varieties of Fireball alone. For instance, the Long Range Fireball is great for pulling. The Superdense Fireball makes enemies more vulnerable to fire, and the Agony Fireball does less direct damage but more slow-burning damage. You’ll have to figure out which ones work for you.
Fire Magic also has a few strategic spells like Fire Wall — a stationary fire pit that burns anything that gets close.
For the pre-alpha, I’m going to use the Lore skill as an auxiliary for Fire Magic. You increase your Lore by examining weird items and fixtures in the game, reading lore books, that sort of thing. It’s an exploration skill: the more you explore the world, the more Lore you’ll have. Lore boosts your mana pool so you can cast more spells. (That’s not what Lore is intended to do in the final game… it won’t even be directly related to Fire Magic. But since it’s already implemented, I’m hooking it to Fire Magic for the time being.)
In this game, a werewolf doesn’t have a convenient “manimal” form. They can only transform into a super-large, super-violent canine. Most NPCs are too afraid to talk to a werewolf in wolf form. Wolves also can’t wield weapons or tools. But one thing werewolves are good at is murder — preferably murder with friends.
During the full moon, you’re stuck in the wolf form for three straight real-world days. Outside of that time period, you can change back and forth voluntarily… well, you can become a wolf any time you want, anyway — changing back requires a skill check, as the wolf spirit doesn’t want to be repressed. At higher level this is only a mild hindrance, but at first you’ll get stuck being a wolf for hours at a time! (In the pre-alpha it’s always easy to change back, though, to make testing easier.)
Werewolf attacks do good damage, but are hampered by armor — it’s more difficult for them to kill heavily-armored foes. If two werewolves fight together, they can use Pack Attack to boost each others’ damage output — the more Pack Attack skills used in rapid succession, the more damaging they are.
Werewolves also have some techniques for sussing out enemy weaknesses, which they (or, more likely, their non-werewolf friends) can take advantage of — anything from Fire Vulnerability to Seafood Allergies. Some weaknesses are easy to take advantage of; others are quite difficult or even impossible. (The fiction is that the wolf is studying them to figure out what will kill them best… though this ends up being pretty surreal. How did the werewolf discover this kobold has a fear of snakes? I have no idea! And… I’m honestly not too worried about it, either.)
I plan to add two skills related to werewolves in the pre-alpha. First is less of a skill and more of an annoyance. Beast Talking is the skill that determines if you can speak. For each word you say, it does a skill check — if you fail, that word turns into a snarl or growl. Newbie werewolves will have to practice talking a while before they can even chat. (This is really just for flavor — it’s a shallow skill that’s easy to level up, so it’s just a … a thing. Verisimilitude… which is code for “me having fun” and making sure the chat system is versatile.)
The other skill — the useful combat augmentation skill — is Howling. This is as simple as it sounds: you Howl. You can do this anywhere outdoors, but the higher up you are, the more effective it is. It’s also more effective if more wolves howl with you. So you’ll want to find a tall outdoor spot, say at the top of a hill, and then start howling. If other werewolves hear it and want to join you, they can. The more wolves howling in the same area, the more effective the boost is.
After howling, for the next several hours (depending on your Howl skill, the altitude, and the number of wolves), you get access to special Combos. These are randomly picked, so some days your combo will be “Bite Bite Claw”, other days “Claw Bite Pounce”, etc. If you have enough werewolves in one spot, maybe you can even unlock multiple Combos… not sure yet.
I actually coded the whole “turn into a wolf during the real-world days of the full moon” system before realizing how useless that is for pre-alpha. Pre-alpha will only last for a month! So I’m going to speed up the process so the moon goes through a new phase every day, making every eighth day a full moon.
There’s some other skills in the pre-alpha (such as Mycology and Gardening), but these are the combat skills. I wanted to add a few more, but then I realized “what the hell am I doing? Four is already three more than the minimum requirement.” In fact, one of the reasons I’m posting this is to help put a stop to feature creep. No matter how cool they might end up being, the Psionics and Taming skills can wait!
Let me know how these sound. Everything is fluid so I’m sure they’ll all change over time. What I’d most like an answer to is this question: “when you think of <skill X>, what is the most fun thing you can imagine doing with it?” And if you have suggestions for other synergy skills, I still need more of those, too.
The werewolf combat icons are wonderful. I love ’em. Here’s a few: