Last year I reviewed the quirky card-based dungeon crawler Guild of Dungeoneering, developed by Gambrinous, and followed that up with the review of their first expansion, Pirate’s Cove, which added more cards, more quests, a new class and a host of new and horrifyingly hilarious monsters and lyrics for that cruel bard.
Last month, Gambrinous released a brand new expansion for Guild of Dungeoneering called Ice Cream Headaches which has a massive heat wave strike the Guild’s homeland. The Guild Master, ever the wise and humble man, decides to pay a visit to the icy mountains of the Ice Cream Monks to ask what is going on, why they haven’t released their tasty treats. But on arriving he finds them under the heavy assault of Abominable Snow Men, Ice Cream Elementals and worst of all, Brainiacs, living, moving and very powerful disembodied brains. Continue reading Hands On – Guild of Dungeoneering: Ice Cream Headaches
Only a few more days till we kick off the big event!
I first want to thank all the people who’ve donated so far, thanks to you we’re $106/500 for my participation and $1000 for Team Tomb Raider‘s efforts overall. That is amazing! And there’s still time for more. We hope to reach over $3000 between all participants, but if we can hit my $500 goal, I’ll be more than happy!
Annoying Game Mechanics are those that just make you groan when you see them in a game. You’ve seen them at their best but you’ve also seen them at their worst. You can’t love them but you can’t hate them either, but you can definitely be annoyed!
This week the mechanic I’m having an issue with is Timed Sequences! I’m pulling this one from the 1001Up.com archives, as this was the last AGM to be featured on the site, and it was a video! Thankfully, there are no records of it ever existing and the world is a happier place for it. You don’t need me mumbling on video with poor audio. You already have me mumbling on video with good audio!
Sometimes games need to add a bit more pressure to your current task. Maybe they want you to hurry the hell up before the nuclear reactor blows up, or maybe they want you to hold on to dear life and withstand something unfairly difficult for a little while before something else happens! These are Timed Sequences, events or segments in a game where you have a finite time window to complete a task. Unlike other Annoying Game Mechanics, there are two types of Timed Sequences:
Timed Tasks, as their name imply mean you have a set time to go about your business. Maybe it’s escaping a room before a bomb blows up, or escape a crime-scene before the police arrive, or lock your doors before someone comes barging in. These timed sequences add tension to a sequence. The gameplay remains the same as do all the rules, but now you have that timer pressuring you.
Survival Countdown sequences are not specific tasks, not simple objectives to follow. Instead your only goal is to survive or hold on until the time runs out or some other even triggers. Real Time Strategy games are fond of this one, of giving you a five minute window until victory triggers with the difficulty ramping up the more time passes. While the previous mean to increase tension, these are frantic and meant to test your composure and reaction time.
If done properly these sequences do exactly what they’re meant to do, they add tension and make for exciting gameplay. They make you nervous enough to make mistakes as you fumble with the controls, but lenient enough that you can commit errors and still make it through. The successful ones add an incomparable adrenaline rush to your game and in doing so enhance the player’s immersion.
If they screw up, on the other hand, the only thing they’ll cause is stress and frustration, becoming tall walls the players need to overcome to move along with the rest of the game. They kill the fun and immersion they tried to enhance and make sure the player doesn’t have fond memories of the game.
The staple of an annoying mechanic is that it’s seen both good and bad days. The following are some of the best and most disappointing uses:
Every Metroid game has at least one timed sequence, usually in the form of an escape. From leaving the self-destructing planet at the end of Metroid 1 and Super Metroid to the reactor core meltdown in Metroid Fusion. These sequences are exciting and tense but you have enough leeway to royally screw up and still make it out in time.
Warcraft III has a few of these. The most memorable one is the last mission in the Undead Campaign, where you summon the Burning Legion to Azeroth. The enemies become ever stronger and the units come out faster and it’s a frantic race to keep your defenses up until the time is done. Thankfully your new masters send you aid in the form of demonic units to help vanquish your enemies and give you some breathing space!
Guild of Dungeoneering has an interesting take on the timed tasks. Some dungeons will feature a “sleeping” monster. The creature will come after you in a number of turns and you have to do your best to gear and level up before it does. The best part about it is that if you manage to reach it before it wakes up, it will take a hit to its stats, making the fight considerably easier.
Resident Evil games also have a tendency for self-destruct escapes. Resident Evil 2 is the most memorable of them in my opinion by having a boss fight right in the middle of it. It would be stressful if not for two reasons. First, the timer is generous enough. Second, by the time you get to the boss you’ll have a massive arsenal with which to take the boss out with time to spare. So it works as a wonderfully tense situation.
One of the most memorable stages in StarCraft is the mission where you must hold on until evacuation comes by resisting attacks by the Protoss and Zerg. This is the mission where Kerrigan falls. It was wonderfully paced and by the end you hate to leave her behind.
The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth has a wonderful starting timed sequence. You have to jump out of bed and block out the entrances to your room before the villagers can come after you. From then it escalates into a chase sequence where each locked door adds a bit of time for a breather. If you’re playing on the PC version—in which the main character moves at 1/6 of the normal speed—this extra time is vital!
Final Fantasy VIII has a fantastic timed sequence. While fighting Seifer on the Lunatic Pandora, Odin will appear and attempt to kill him only to die in the process. You then see Odin’s sword flying through the sky and a mysterious hand grabbing it as it parts the clouds. If you then stretch the battle on, eventually Gilgamesh will show up, kill Seifer and take Odin’s place as your new summon. It’s entirely optional but very rewarding!
Dracula 2 added these to the game, but they are outstandingly frustrating. With the poor resolution on its static backgrounds, finding the latch to close the door or the mirrors to move to kill a vampire is a bit of frustrating pixel hunting that will annoy you to no end.
Batman: Arkham Knight added VR challenges for the Batmobile, where you race from one end to another or have a limited time to do something with the clunky tank. By that last sentence you should know why this is a bad one. The Batmobile has worthless maneuverability, making each turn take so much time that completing the challenges becomes painful. It doesn’t help that time boosters are so out of the way that it’s pointless to get them.
Guild of Dungeoneering makes the list again but this time with its monster chase quests. In these the monster is coming after you and will get to you in a matter of turns. With the way the AI works for determining its next move, these quests can be very frustrating when your character walks straight into the monster’s path.
Various JRPG, including Xenoblade Chronicles, have unbeatable boss fights where you just have to hold on for a certain number of turns until something else happens. These sequences feel cheap and are insanely punishing and barely beatable. Worse still, if for some reason you out-level the content, then it feels as though you lose by plot even if you manage to defeat the monster.
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness has a few of these. The first one is at an old lady’s house, where you must escape before the police get there, but not before you find a journal. The only problem is that the journal is nowhere in sight. So you look around and of course, it’s in the kitchen? What? The time you have to do this is very tight and the ridiculous location for the item just adds to the confusion.
Later on you need to escape from a room where someone set a bomb, but even the smallest of missteps will make the thing go boom.
Time to spare, especially with a rocket launcher! (Image Credit: Game Informer)
If the Batmobile handled as you’d expect, this wouldn’t be so bad! (Image Credit: VGFaq)
The wait is well worth it! (Image Credit: IGN)
Make sure you check the kitchen…because that’s where you hide secret journals! (Image Credit: Tomb Bugs)
The bosses move too fast and your AI can go the wrong way!
Yeah, that’s pretty much how you do it, stacking Ziggurats! (Image Credit: Green Leaf – YouTube)
Lock and bolt that door, you have no time to lose! (Image Credit: Pagb66 – YouTube)
Last month, during Rezzed 2015, I had the chance of visiting the Versus Evil room and check out some of the of the publisher’s amazing lineup for 2015. Toren drew my eye with its surreal environments and ICO-like gameplay, but the one to really tickle my geekiness was the visually simpler yet much quirkier Guild of Dungeoneering, a card-based game where you build the dungeon for an adventurer but then use cards to help him fight, becoming part Dungeon Master and part player.
Last Thursday I met Colm Larkin from Gambrinous (a word that according to Colm comes from an urban dictionary and means, “to be full of beer”) during the One Game a Month meetup they organise, to talk a bit about the game and its development.
Guild of Dungeoneering’s (GD) started out as a simple One Game a Month prototype, one of many he developed over the months, to get his feet wet in game development and design. As time passed he decided he wanted to turn one of them into a full-fledged game and picked this title because it evoked fun memories from his childhood, as he fondly remember playing Dungeons & Dragons with his older brothers. The RPG is the title’s strongest inspiration, as well as many other tabletop games.
At the start of development, Colm thought it would be a three-month project. It’s now over a year in development with four full-time members on the team and a part-time artist, this in part thanks to Versus Evil taking them on as publisher. Once he had a demo built, Colm says he spent the next few months looking for a publisher, but not large ones like EA or Sony but the small but powerful like Versus Evil and Revolver Digital.
It’s thanks to having a publisher that they’ve been able to go to events such as GDC, PAX and Rezzed, so they can show the game’s progress and core gameplay. The build they showed at Rezzed and which other sites covered in the past months, consisted of a single dungeon to explore. The version I saw had significant progress, having multiple dungeons, catchy theme-tunes (more on that later) and the ability to build up your guild, to expand its rooms and skills, giving you more adventurers and powers to choose from when you go out exploring for loot & glory.
During Rezzed I thought Puuba games The Weaponographist was the only non-unity title on show, as every other developer seemed to favour the engine, but I realise now that Guild of Dungeoneering was the other one, as they’re using Flash, Flex and Adobe Air for its development. The upside to this is that it even runs smoothly on Colm’s 8-year-old laptop, which for me only expands its potential customer base, as people still using older operating systems will be able to play it without issue.
One of GD’s more striking’s features is its simple yet charming art style. Colm mentioned he interviewed a number of artists before settling for his friend Fred Mangan who lives in Australia. He based the style on what he could do on his own, with his own drawing skills if he didn’t have an artist working for him. Fred liked the idea of ‘purposely bad’ and polished Colm’s original ideas and sketches into the current look. He’s one of two members of the team not in Dublin, the other being the game’s primary designer who lives in London.
One interesting thing to note is that the artist has done very little in the way of animation for GD. Colm says they “animate by cheating,” making all animations programmatic, adding effects via code.
For the music, they went for traditional Irish music, which works really well in a dungeon-crawler fantasy game. The composer actually found a traditional singer and between the two of them created the game’s theme song “This is the Guild of Dungeoneering,” which plays from the main menu and which they were excited to have people hear. In addition to that, there are many more in-game songs. Every time I died for example, a song would play out lamenting my death but basically saying, “meh, there’s more where that one came from!” Helping to sell the cynical corporate guild idea Colm loves, to make you question if you’re really the good guys or just some monstrous organisation sending chumps (the starting class) out to die.
We shared a laugh when the composer, Steve Stems, turned to us, dead serious and said, “I hate the song,” referring to the main theme. “It’s good, but I’ve heard it so many times and it’s been stuck in my head, I hate it now.” He mentioned.
Part of the deal with a publisher is that they need a fixed goal as they can’t afford to keep a game in development indefinitely. Because of that, and in his new role as Director—or Overlord as I suggested, to make the titles more interesting—Colm has had to shut down some of the team’s ideas for content, even something ‘simple’ as battle music, keeping it focused on the single player dungeon-building, guild-expanding experience. There will be no overarching plot, just different tiers of adventures and possibly even challenge/harder modes. As we spoke, and joined by Owen Canavan (another developer in the team) and Steve, I had the opportunity to see Colm in his director role live, mediating with team members and keeping them focused on the end goal. It was perhaps one of the most interesting moments of the night as you rarely see indie devs talking shop with one another.
Colm says that if the game does well and has its audience, they’ll spend the next year developing add-on content, which could even include some multiplayer functionality. One mode he’d love to see in the game is a cooperative/competitive multiplayer mode, where you have to decide if you’ll use your resources to help your adventurer, or screw with the other player’s little chump.
One question I love to ask developers is what would they do with their game if money and time weren’t a consideration, if they could do everything they wanted, what one thing would they add to a game. Colm was perhaps the first one to tell me, “I have no clue. I’m more used to working with the constraints of time and money!”
More than anything, he’s sensible and grounded on Gambrinous and GD’s future. He’s been working full-time on it for over a year after quitting his previous job. Thanks to a start-up incentive by the Irish Government and the publishing deal with Versus Evil, he could hire staff and pay them, but everything from expansions to sequels to other games in his head all depend on GD being successful. “If it is, we’ll use it to build more fun stuff…if it doesn’t, then we can at least say ‘we had fun building this thing we love’ and we’ll disband.”
Guild of Dungeoneering is set to release later this year and Colm is confident they can finish the game within the next two months. As he states, “We’ve already added systems, now we’re adding content.”
I want to thank Colm Larkin for taking the time to talk to me and for introducing me to the One Game a Month event. I had a fantastic time and I will be talking about that soon.