The design of levels and gameplay roguelike on the example of Cogmind
For many years I used a fairly standardized approach to the design of each new Cogmind card, and although now they are already going into the tens, I never considered it in my blog. This is mainly due to the fact that a detailed analysis of the whole process will require revealing a bunch of content, because all the most interesting cards are located after the first stages of the game.
But after the recent release of Beta 8 , which added a very interesting map at the very beginning of the game, we had a great opportunity to discuss the design of the cards without really worrying about spoilers, because basically this content is already quite easy to find.
In this article, I will go through all the stages of the design and implementation process, from start to finish. In the process of creating Beta 8, I made a lot of notes about the process itself, especially in order to share them with readers and give a clear picture of what is happening.
Keep in mind that unlike most Cogmind cards, due to their nature, this particular card has mostly static layout and content, and procedural methods are not used as much. Therefore, in the process, some stages are missing, but I will consider them in a separate article. On the other hand, for the most part, a static map in itself provides unique analysis capabilities.
Before you start working on each map, you need to come up with one or more concepts on which the map will be built, and in this case we had several goals:
- add more potential variation, especially early in the game
- create more elements that attract the plot at the beginning of the game
- help new players
For a very long time, my notes on the possible elements of Cogmind contained the concept of “abandoned laboratories” - a way to access strange and curious technology, so when I felt that I needed a new gaming area to achieve all of the above goals, I thought that this concept was very suitable for her.
As soon as I decided that I would most likely do it (a few months before the implementation itself), I began to revise this part of the notes from time to time and supplement them with new ideas and considerations. With each new addition of new ideas, I deliberately avoided rereadingprevious notes on this topic, but simply added new thoughts below. This allowed me to maintain a unique way of thinking that helped me to come to potentially very diverse ideas or even to the same ideas without even realizing it (it happened because days passed and even weeks passed and I forgot the details of my previous ideas). It is worth noting that randomly repeated notes about the same ideas can actually be valuable, because they reinforce these ideas, sometimes with different justifications, or even direct them in different directions, which I did not think about in the previous notes!
This process led to writing about 2,600 words of rough notes on this topic, which, like all my notes, are arranged as nested lists in a TXT file.
All draft notes about the new map in my text editor.
I usually just delete the draft notes when I implement their contents or convert them to more formal notes elsewhere, but this time I decided to save them to share with you. You can download / read my original notes here (to display correctly, you must turn off line wrapping!). Since taking notes is a top-down process, you may notice that with each addition, they become longer and longer, because I obviously went back and forth at different times. They even have a “final result”, followed, as usual, by “final final notes”, followed by the note “no, wait, the final final notes contradict this”.
In brief, the new mini-faction game called “Exiles” from another robot society has its own laboratory, which gives the player a new sensory ability (called FarCom) and access to equipment prototypes from a pool of possible items. From the point of view of the plot, this fraction becomes the very first acquaintance of the player with the lore of the world. Therefore, it’s good that I returned to adding this card aftercompletion of the rest of the world, because it can be properly combined with my knowledge of how the game should be held in terms of plot and gameplay. If I had done the opposite and tried to create this map from the very beginning, then I most likely would have to repeatedly update or change its content in the process of building the rest of the world. (The Cogmind world was almost completely built from start to finish, without jumping back and forth.) I am not a fan of cutting out old content and making major changes to it; I try to do everything right the first time.
Therefore, at the end of October, when it was time to add Exiles, my first task was to organize these rough notes. Usually this means that you need to reread them and get rid of stupid ideas, make them more holistic and clarify incompletely understood points, making sure that everything fits together and reinforces my vision of this card.
However, I did not spend too much time on this phase, then that this time there were too many notes, and more importantly, after some time they would still be converted to a new look. Having removed a few optional fragments and made minor changes, I quickly started creating a real map design document.
Card design paper
The final step in planning before starting work on the map is to bring all the relevant entries into a simple format that I have used since the start of Cogmind Alpha.
In general, each card has its own text file with a description of its design. I call these text files “applications” because their idea came about when I started using these external files as attachments to the original Cogmind doc, a huge file that, by the time the first public alpha was released, after two years of development, had become a little cumbersome (besides I did not like the program and format that I used to create the original dzdok, and I wanted to start moving away from it, because by that time the entire initial design document had already been implemented).
Applications for different cards, added over several years. EXI is the designation for Exiles; compare its size with other files. It turned out to be one of the most difficult maps, with tons of possible content and various scenarios.
Design documents of cards break their contents into several standard sections, which present at least the following:
- Purpose: The main purpose of adding a map
- outline: a brief description of environmental factors, including terrain and objects that the player will see
- residents: descriptions of all enemies (in the case of Cogmind, these are robots), which can be found on the map
- gameplay: the main interactive elements of the map, including all the causes and effects associated with dynamic content
This is the main four sections, but some cards have one or two additional categories of notes that apply to a particular card. For example, the “location” section has been added to the Exiles map design document, because unlike most maps, it has many important comments on how to get to this map and its general location in the world. It also has a large section on “parts concepts” for collecting ideas on a set of equipment prototypes.
You can read the whole Exiles map design document here.(here it is also worth turning off line wrapping). If you read the draft notes from the link above. you can see how they evolved into a real design document, which has tripled in size (about 7,500 words in it). Some minor details of this document may differ from the finished implementation, because I sometimes make changes at the last moment, and they are not always reflected in the notes; but for the most part they are accurate.
High level design
It is extremely important to expand the initial process of creating a map design to include vision outside the map itself . It is necessary to determine in advance how the card corresponds to the overall picture regarding the player’s strategy, because this can have a serious impact on the content of the card, and if you don’t be careful, a poorly designed card may require significant new changes if the players consider that it or not too interesting, or of little use for them in the long run. *
(* Now there is one side card in Cogmind, which, unfortunately, meets this definition: Recycling. This is a fairly simple and small card that has its own unique mechanics, but its advantages are not as attractive to players as I initially saw when I I created it in the early stages of Cogmind Alpha. At that time I was just starting to add side cards and since then I learned a lot, including from the gradually matured community of the game. I have plans to improve it, but this is not a priority to version 1.0, because she is q freely away from the main road.)
I did not want to waste my time and time of the players, therefore the Exiles card in particular has consequences for a long-term strategy, and in order to properly integrate it into the overall gameplay, it was necessary to take into account the different needs, goals and tricks of the players.
Like almost all additional Cogmind branch cards in the world, Exiles offers its trade-offs by simplifying certain gaming areas while increasing complexity in others.
Key Exile Long-Term Strategy Decisions. Note that some “flaws” may seem good (or at least neutral) to one player, so this graph can be interpreted differently. (I chose the most standard look.)
There are other random Exiles scripts that can affect the choices available, but here I will only look at the most common ones. In addition, the graph above shows only the most important strategic decisions - individual prototypes can change the player’s potential route or even incline him to certain character configurations, because they are randomly selected from the pool of options. All in all, this single card has actually opened up many new options! I will talk about these options below.
As planned, the standard advantages provided by the Exiles card (one free prototype + FarCom) are especially noteworthy in the short term, but have disadvantages in the distant future, so they become an excellent choice for new or inexperienced players. I do not want to say that they cannot be useful for experienced players either - one of the users has already climbed very far thanks to the use of FarCom, which essentially does not allow the use of Research branches in the later stages of the game, even though the player usually gets access to the most effective tools to cope with the vast complexities of the game.
Thanks to compromises, visiting Exiles is much more interesting; in fact, they are necessary, because without compromise the player could easily become too powerful, and without hesitation, he laid a route through this map. Naturally, not every obvious drawback must be present on every card, because in many cases a drawback is an inherent cost of a player getting items or battles with those on this card. But here I must emphasize that all the inhabitants of this card are friendly to the player, and getting to it is quite simple, therefore more stringent measures were required.
Well, planning is over with, while getting down to implementation .
We have already carried out a high-level analysis and we already have quite detailed plans that can be followed when building a new map. The first step will be the manufacture of all entities and objects, that is, in fact, any object that can be created separately. We use the “pieces first, then puzzle” approach: we break up a large project into the smallest pieces and first work on each of them.
But at this stage I still don’t even add them to the new map - it does not exist yet.
Since such a huge amount of content requires a lot oflabor, adding each new element to the map often requires thinking at several levels (local, map scale, the scale of the whole game), which is much less effective than focusing on as few aspects as possible without the need to constantly go back. Effective work not only faster, but also improves the results.
So, the plan is to create all the fragments, and then simultaneously combine them.
Personally, I prefer to start with fragments that require the most implementation time. The most important thing in the list of such elements is what seems to me curious or interesting, but in the end “optional”: rare special events, objects, etc.
Things like the Beta 8 Chronowheel from time to time travel a lot of time. This is one of those things that I think about: “so, today I’ll do it”, and at the end of the day: “so, I have to finish it tomorrow”, and then, after a couple of days: “yes, it’s definitely time to finish it today "(And sometimes this still fails to be achieved).
But it is precisely such content that makes the project what it really is: a world created with love, and not just a “game that needs to be sold in order to make ends meet." If you leave these complex optional things at the end of the release cycle, then the likelihood that you will have to refuse them is greatly increased: I see that the deadline is on the nose and there are many more mandatorytasks, not to mention the fatigue that builds up towards the end of the cycle.
In the end, I am always happy that I did these pieces of content, but I need to force myself to plan correctly to achieve this.
Items are the minimum building blocks of the map, so we will start with them.
Initially, in notes and a design document, they are listed in a completely random order, but for the sake of efficiency, I sorted the list to combine them into categories. For example, all types of projectile-firing weapons should be created in order, because they will use similar pieces of data and code. This makes the list work more natural, without having to jump between different areas of code / data and increase the mental scale of the work.
However, before getting down to code or data, I worked on a completely different area: graphics. All art for new items (there are more than 30) was created in a few days, because, I repeat, it makes sense to perform similar tasks in bulk. It may be more difficult to withstand when such a process lasts for several weeks or more, but for a single developer who, despite the long development process of the game, can perform only one task at a time, efficiency becomes very important.
The art of some prototypes of EX-technologies from Beta 8. Each of the new core NPCs that I planned for a new card “signed” its prototype with its own name.
Immediately after the art, I took up the ENT. Each of the new items has a lore text. Seeing that in some cases it allows you to determine or improve the characteristics of the subject, I wanted to ensure the accuracy and integrity of all texts. Therefore, all these fragments were written at a time, and this is important: it is understood that the player will detect and read them in a certain order.
And finally, the time has come to directly create dozens of items - adding data, balancing their characteristics, and so on, which generally took a couple of weeks. Some items could even take only 30 minutes or so, while others, such as the aforementioned Chronowheel, could take several days.
The Latent Energy Streamer (LES) weapon adds a completely new resource called latent energy, which can potentially be used later on, but so far it has been added only for a single weapon, although it took several days to realize it.
Hidden energy can be found on the map, and more often it is concentrated next to stationary elements of entourage like cars and doors.
LES activation, which also detects nearby hidden energy.
LES attracts this energy and focuses it, creating a destructive volume of electromagnetic damage, but it has a side effect: a weapon destabilizes nearby explosive machines, breaks automatic doors and even harms its owner. In fact, many Exiles prototypes have negative side effects, so you can give the player such powerful details in the early stages of the game.
A shot of LES. It took some time to improve the animation of the shot, it differs from shooting from conventional weapons in that it is more connected with the environment - it draws lines to the hidden energy that is used to shoot.
LES itself has a unique label that displays the amount of energy available nearby, and also shows the damage interval into which this energy can be converted. These values change with natural fluctuations of local energy, as well as with its application and slow recovery.
I am very glad that LES appeared in the game (and I can’t wait for myself to use it in the usual passage), but if I postponed its implementation in the development cycle for later, I’m not sure that this happened.
Behind the items is another building block: NPC. Some of these bots use new items, so they could not be created before, but now the items are ready, and we have everything we need to build the bots. An entity (robot) is a fairly self-sufficient small unit of development, independent of the map itself (but which will become part of it), therefore it is a good candidate for an early creation. The construction and balancing of the bots took some time, but since I was able to focus exclusively on them, it will be easier in the future to arrange all of them on the map.
There are four important new NPCs on the Exiles map, each of which has a dataset defining their properties. And this is a pretty big set!
Here is an example of data from one of the new NPCs called 8R-AWN. (I moved the data line a couple of times so you don’t have to scroll it too long.)
After completing the creation of their data, I passed them through a separate program that can analyze the design of the robots and let them know if they will have excess mass, problems with resources, overheating in battle and other problems. Their characteristics can be changed if necessary, and only then go finally to the card itself .
Although not really ... At this stage, I decided that before embarking on the map I would realize the FarCom sensory ability that the NPC player can give. You can also work on it as an isolated system, because I will test it in detail, and not immediately develop a suitable way to get a sensor in the game. As a piece of the puzzle, you can attach it later.
FarCom in action: it shows a dim circle in which hostile 0b10 bots are detected. (The circle does not pulse very well, but in gif it is hardly noticeable.)
From the point of view of the overall design, there are so many differences between FarCom and ordinary attached sensors that there is no obvious preferred detection method for all situations. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Comparison of standard sensors and FarCom. Green cells are positive, red cells are negative.
However, FarCom is obviously a boon for beginners who get a free way to detect threats from a distance without having to use any knowledge to do this. It is difficult for novice players to find sensors (and figure out how to use them!), And besides, details, unlike FarCom, can be destroyed.
Without a doubt, FarCom's most significant advantage, very attractive to experienced players, is that it does not take up a single slot of parts. This is especially true in the early stages of the game, when two slots are a fairly large part of the free Cogmind slot. Players using sensors try to get by with one slot (only an array of sensors without an interpreter), but to get the same level of detail as FarCom, you need to select two slots for these sensors.
One or two slots freed up means that you can attach more armor to the robot, more storage space, improve aiming and / or use any number of other auxiliary options, and this advantage extends to the entire process where FarCom is active. Of course, FarCom is still not the subject that everyone wants to take hold of: the table above shows that it has serious shortcomings in the later stages of the game.
In general, I am very pleased with how everything turned out.
Scheme and integration
It's time to create a map! Well, or something like that ...
I always start with empty sheets of paper, because it seems to me the most natural, fast and free way to work.
Planning for the overall layout, content, and communication with the Exiles map world.
The main part of this page is occupied by graphs linking this new map with the rest of the world. The route the player needs to go to get to this map and return to other areas are important factors that determine rewards and difficulty.
The Exiles map is available either from a depth of -10 (in fact, the lowest level!), Or from -9; By the way, at the same depth is Mines. However, if they appear only at one depth, then the entrance is hidden inside the Mines; therefore, I added a special indicator that allows observant players to find out if they are at the same depth as Exiles. I didn’t want the players wasting their time in vain, going around the whole depth of Mines in search of an entrance that might not be there, so I added the so-called "sensations of the level "- the mechanics used in many classic roguelike, for example, in NetHack , ADOM and Angband , in which when you get to a new card you get a log message that reflects a special aspect of this card.
The first example of using Cogmind “level sensation”; Added to save players time when searching for Exiles.
Also, players can read the ENT terminal in Exiles terminals, which explains the scan.
As for the way back after visiting Exiles, I thought it might be worth sending the player back to the main path through Lower Caves, but this was when I was still trying to limit the design to the existing options. But as a result, I decided to add a new Mines depth of -8, which can only be achieved by returning from Exiles. This improves the gameplay (Mines are the smallest and simplest maps, suitable for weak players), and more logical (it should not seem that Exiles is too close to Complex, therefore, you can not directly return to it from this map).
An in-game world map showing the route of a player who visited Exiles and returns to -8 / Materials through -8 / Mines. This Mines depth is usually not available directly in the opposite direction from -8 / Materials to avoid adding unnecessary exits to this map.
The small shapeless fragment in the upper right corner of the paper draft is actually quite important, it determines the general I / O locations for the card itself, which, in turn, can affect the design of the entire card (terrain layout, content layout, event timings ... ) These most important points determine the flow of gameplay. The player enters from the lower right corner, and almost immediately there is a connection leading to the exit (mainly necessary to provide other robots with a way to enter the map from this side - I will tell you more about this later), the main content area will be in the middle, and further to the left there is a second "rear exit" from the card.
Finally, in the left * part of the notes there is a list of ideas for things that need to be added to the map of the map itself, which I will sketch in the next step.
* I’m left-handed, so I usually place the paper horizontally and fill the pages with notes from right to left.
Having worked on the connections, we must proceed to create a more detailed sketch of the map layout!
The first version of the reference sketch for the Exiles map outline.
This is a static map, where there are interactions with important NPCs, so the scheme should take into account the process of passing a new player getting on it for the first time - what will he see first and what will he think so that the order of passage makes sense?
So, having completed the brief preliminary sketch shown above (based on the previous general list), I had to interrupt and go directly to the content, in particular, to the dialogs. Yes, the NPCs are not yet located on the map, and the map itself is not there yet, but by writing the dialogs in advance, I can make sure that not a single NPC says too much. Otherwise, it would be necessary to transfer some lines to others, which could affect the map scheme (and it did).
Having finished with the dialogs, I made another pass on the map sketch, creating a second, more specific iteration, corresponding to the dialogs:
Second iteration of the reference sketch of the Exiles map outline.
The player enters the map from the lower right corner, sees another corridor leading to the exit, but there are no enemies nearby, so you can safely continue research. In addition, in the tunnel in front of the player there are several “fake” power sources - this mechanics was possible only thanks to Exiles technologies, and therefore it will be new for the player. Curious players may want to study them, and then continue to explore the map, first meeting in the 8R-AWN corridor with a welcome speech / introduction. Then the players move to the central area and find the second important NPC, EX-HEX, which sets out a little more lore and suggests finding EX-BIN to help with the project. After that, the player can move anywhere: either learn more about this place from NPC prototype testers in the southern region, or head north. to get the main bonuses of this card - FarCom and prototypes. Both directions are quite suitable for the first passage. Then the player can exit the map by turning back to the east side, or, most likely, passing through the back exit.
At this stage, I moved on: I created the entire additional ENT from the terminals and dialogs with unimportant NPCs, because there could be something in them that could also affect the map scheme (in fact, the scheme has not changed, but be that as it may, the completion of the creation dialogue has become a good way to maintain the pace of work, while still in the “screenwriter mode” - here it is, efficiency!).
Then it's time to use my next tool: REXPaint . I turned the reference sketch into a REXPaint general outline, measuring the distance between cells so that everything fits correctly, is not too compressed or too spacious, and so that the average player’s field of view from any point opens the required amount of content.
The Exiles map takes shape at REXPaint. So far, this is just the only layer containing the general scheme, input and outputs, but without objects and other details. Also, there are no separate details of the scheme that may arise / become necessary after adding objects.
And after saving this file, it can already be added to the game!
(This card has a completely static scheme, so it skipped some of the steps that many other cards may require. More on this in the appendix.)
Now it's time to build the gameplay itself, starting ... outside the map.
This is a newbie-friendly map located outside the main path, so I wanted to add a few ways to push new players in that direction. Therefore, before starting work on the map itself, I again decided to develop the process of passing, starting with how the players are most likely to find it for the first time. The 8R-AWN robot, which is the executor for Exiles 'brains,' the first player a player encounters when visiting their laboratory / cave, sometimes performs tasks for 'brains', and a player may encounter him on other maps when he performs such tasks .
At one of the first Materials levels, corresponding to the Exiles depth, the 8R-AWN can be found paving the way for the exit from Mines. The probability of finding it there is higher for new players who have never seen Exiles before (unless they used seed, because the seed content generated must be constant and independent of the player’s history). Noticing the player, 8R-AWN invites him to follow him, and continues to destroy hostile robots along the route until the exit. (Or if the player was in the far part of the map, then he can simply find the path from the destroyed robots when the 8R-AWN left the map a long time ago.) The robot will get to the exit, and if he spoke with the player before, he will wait until the player will arrive, after which another dialogue will begin and the robot will continue to lead him to the hidden entrance to Exiles.
Another possible encounter with 8R-AWN occurs during the invasion of Mines. The sudden attack of the Assembled swarm is a rather bad situation for an unprepared player, so it’s good that the 8R-AWN can appear here and save the situation by using special technology to disconnect them remotely. In this case, if he sees a player, he will also lead him to a hidden entrance.
In fact, it took several attempts to design this hidden entrance. The wall was supposed to open automatically in front of a friendly player, but I did not want the player to see it from afar, considered it a dead end, without ever approaching it. Therefore, the trigger was positioned so that the walls opened as soon as they fall into the field of view of the player.
Exiles entry design on a Mines map. From the player’s point of view, it seems that the corridor continues until it turns around the corner, after which the hidden doors open automatically, provided the player is friendly.
This input is located as a guaranteed blank, using the method before generating the card described here .
In the same post, the link above describes methods for creating data / scripts that specify Exiles content, which is a static map from one giant blank.
At this stage, we can begin to arrange all the objects created earlier - objects, NPCs, dialogs, ENTs, etc. Therefore, this is a fairly quick process, because all objects are already ready. This is better than constantly stopping for their gradual implementation. Instead, I can now focus on their location at the macro level, rather than worrying about low-level details.
We again follow the flow of passage, going to the map on the right, only this time we use additional REXPaint layers for drawing cars (gray lines) and marking the positions of entities and objects (green letters and green numbers). Cars and other items of entourage, including invisible triggers, are marked with green letters in upper case.
The corresponding data is written to a text file, the characteristics of which I described in the article Map Prefabs, in Depth .
Finished Exiles in graphical form, because it is easier to read with syntax highlighting turned on. (Some lines are very long, but because of them it was not worth expanding the images, so I just cropped them.) The file is also available in text form .
In the process of adding objects, I create a list of all the tests that are necessary to confirm the correct operation of the content. I also constantly think about what can go wrong and what needs to be studied when everything comes into motion. This list will be quite important in the future, and therefore you need to write down each element, and not try to remember everything or start tests from scratch. Despite my efforts during the initial implementation, usually a lot of things do not go as planned, and it is definitely better to work out everything systematically, rather than wait for a wave of bug reports from users.
This is a rather large map, so I did not wait until everything was placed on it, and started testing, conducting a series of tests and deleting the list items in the process.
Having finished with the main content, I moved on to more superficial elements.
Mechanics FarCom I realized much earlier, but still there was no animation, which is to be played at the time of this ability of the Exiles. Cogmind has several full-screen animations that play when you get serious abilities, so FarCom should not be an exception.
EX-BIN uses FarCom Aligner to add it to its system.
Another element that I always leave at the end of the content creation phase is sound. Working with sound effects forces you to focus not on code, but on tasks, including managing a bunch of audio files and processing them in Audacity. It’s more efficient to work on them all at the same time, so when I get to something that requires sound, I just leave a dummy sound and add this item to the list that I need to do after the rest of the content.
Visualization of the sounds of the surrounding area around FarCom Aligner. Brightness means volume. If you want to read more about this, then I already wrote about the sounds of the environment .
There are other sounds that are not related to ambient sounds. They also need to do.
I keep repeating that the Exiles map is “static”, but that does not mean that there can be little variation in it!
There is the usual variability created using the workpiece data described above: standard items in storage rooms are randomized, as are prototypes (which have a fairly high degree of variability, because the items can significantly change the gameplay, but in each passage they appear in different combinations) .
Variation is also created due to the fact that a player may or may not meet 8R-AWN before visiting Exiles; therefore, unique dialogue options appear.
But the most significant variation is caused by the fact that players do not always find a card in its standard state. There are actually fourdifferent scenarios, and in the text presented above, only the first is described. In the process of generating the world, the random state of the map is selected from the following options:
- 51%: standard scenario described above. This state is also always forcibly selected under various conditions of the world outside the map, so the true percentage is higher.
- 12%: devastated. Exiles have already cleared their terminals and left the lab.
- 12%: destroyed. Complex 0b10 already attacked Exiles and the map was damaged in battle. There are no more survivors on it, but useful remains have remained in the region.
- 25%: equivalent to the standard scenario, only 0b10 forces will attack while the player is on the map.
First I created a basemap, then implemented the 0b10 attack (in fact, this is an attached event), and then moved on to two other options, because they were easier. More complex map options should come first, because they may require changing parts of the map to work properly. Therefore, if you leave difficult options for later, you will have to spend time reworking the previous work! It is difficult to predict in advance all the necessary changes, so this priority is important.
It was easy to create devastated and destroyed map options, because in essence it is modified data and REXPaint cards.
Harvesting destroyed Exiles in REXPaint with all data layers. Comparison with the previous standard scenario shows the presence of new wrecked cars, randomized (and randomly shifted) wreckage, exploded areas and other procedural content, for example, robots that can be put into parts.
The attack scenario required the most time, because I had to watch the same battle again and again in order to see all the possible results and to understand if they corresponded to the expectations. I had to spend a couple of hours observing attacks, repeatedly adjusting various parameters to get the desired results.
Exiles are attacked by 0b10. I turned on the display of the entire map for observation and debugging. 8R-AWN covers the flight, and EX-DEC sets a guard turret before departure.
Almost everything is finally ready! At this stage, the "usual" way of passing is ready, but there is another important stage: measures against sly ones.
Naturally, some players will try to get any possible benefits, even if they even require explicit theft or killing of allies, so these opportunities need to be balanced.
Note: not all roguelike must be so balanced, some of them even amuse themselves with their complete imbalancebut for the most part, Cogmind was conceived as a very balanced gameplay. Even if some players manage to expand the boundaries due to their extreme dexterity, I want to be careful that certain actions always seem more rewarded than others, and players see them as the “right path” to the goal and give up all other opportunities.
Although Exiles is a friendly nation, players looking at them as a means to an end will try to kill these robots. The solution to this problem was a little more complicated than usual, because the Exiles gameplay is not limited to one card - hostile behavior of players can begin when they have not yet seen 8R-AWN, so the behavior may change at the next meetings, including on the map itself .
Above, I gave a graph of strategic decisions that a player can make regarding Exiles, and the whole reason for choosing these decisions is that you have to pay a price for each of them. Players can choose from the following options:
1) Use the standard approach: take one prototype from the Exiles storage and use it and the FarCom scan functions to help you through the main areas of Complex.
This is the easiest option, suitable for new players. They will lose the ability to “imprint” in Zion (usually this is another good help for beginners, but it is not available until the middle of the game), and in the later stages of the game they will have to avoid the branches of Research, which are deadly for players with FarCom. In terms of balance, this is necessary because these branches contain alien technology and some of the most powerful items in the game. FarCom simplifies the passage of many other cards, but the inaccessibility of these resources becomes the price.
2) Take one prototype and FarCom, and still visit the branches of Research .
This is an extremely difficult option. Entering the Research branch with FarCom instantly launches Maximum Security mode - the most powerful Complex response, which is essentially an instantly activated version of High Security with even more attacks (in fact, these are endless waves of increasingly complex opponents entering the map). This mode was added to Cogmind specifically as a reaction to FarCom, but it made sense to include it in some other situations, so I used it in them.
In the draft design notes, you can see that the initial FarCom countermeasure for Research offshoots was the release of Tracker robots, a new kind of fast and deadly prototype bot. Later, I decided that Maximum Security would be the best solution (mainly because it is even more frightening), but having already fully prepared the addition of Tracker robots, I decided to at least make them part of the redesigned interception squad system.
Interception units are another form of compromise at Cogmind. Initially, it was thought of as very difficult, but the players learned the strategies so well that it ceased to be difficult - now good players are carefully considering whether they want to risk intercepting them.
Ideally, FarCom’s sensor mechanics and other building blocks, as fundamental as MaxSec and the new interceptors, should be asked at the early stages of the map design process, but until I have come to a good decision and I had to temporarily leave everything as it is. In addition, I was eager to release Exiles for Beta 8, so I had to postpone it and I did not make a decision until the completion of the final stage. Some major changes are better to wait.
3) Steal all three prototypes from the Exiles repository and increase the difficulty in the caves in the middle of the game.
Those who are strongwants to assemble several prototypes, they can do it, albeit by paying for it. Firstly, FarCom will stop working, because having stolen all the prototypes, you have not followed all their instructions; however, for some players it can be a positive event, because for them it will be possible to visit the branches of Research (and, if desired, “capture”!).
The prototypes are quite powerful, so it is necessary that a price be charged for their theft. For this option, I added a new hindrance: experienced thieves (Master Thieves). Although they are not found so often, thieves hide in Cogmind caves, so I created their special look, even more effective and specifically tracking the thief player when he makes his way through the caves. If you steal from the renegades, they steal from you - this is an eye-to-eye deal. (Thieves swiftly rush and try to tear the part from their target, and then run away and after disappearing from the field of visibility hide forever.)
Some time has passed since the release of Beta 8, and according to statistics, experienced players choose this route more often than others. I'm not sure if this will be necessary, but if such a route always provides an advantage, then it is worth considering other changes, for example, allowing experienced thieves to drag details from the player’s inventory as well. However, I do not want to make this compromise as expensive as the connection between FarCom and Research - this should be the choice that players want to make in certain conditions.
4) Steal all three prototypes, but stick only to the main areas of Complex, avoiding caves.
Although not the easiest option, it is still easier than going through without visiting Exiles. Theft of all prototypes means the loss of FarCom, but using sensors instead of it and avoiding caves means safety from thieves and at the same time the possibility of covert raids on branches of Research to find the best parts. Avoiding caves does not mean that you cannot take advantage of the middle stage of the game, but they are optional and there are still useful branches without caves that you can visit.
5) Kill Exiles, in particular, 8R-AWN, to take its excellent configuration from prototypes, as well as steal all three prototypes.
In fact, this is the most powerful result for the player (assuming he does not need FarCom), but at the same time the most dangerous option, because 8R-AWN is quite strong, and Cogmind is weak at the beginning of the game. However, players still choose this option.
I added the possibility of attacking a Hero of Zion player for all his hostile actions, but this attack is not guaranteed, so players can play in such a way as to realize the potential of their cunning. Better he attacks only in some cases, and this will be an unexpected event related to the lore.
As you can see, when adding a new card there are quite a few features! We need to think about how the players will react to each of the possibilities, and whether they consider the various compromises to be worth their price. When I make such decisions, it is very useful to play on my own; In addition, I always read about how the game is played by the players.