Yesterday, we tested Seventh Cross v17, which was the culmination of another 3 weeks of work. I'm happy to finally report that the test went splendidly! I think we have a game structure which we can flesh out, refine, and vary enough to create a Level 99 Game on top of!
Building the bone structure of a new project is always the hardest part. After this will come content, characters, scenarios, and all the other fun stuff. But before all that, let me tell you a bit about what v17 is all about.
Castle exploration was the big addition to this version of the game. The castle we created served to capture that classic Castlevania feel, as well as create a sense of progression and urgency as we trekked further towards our final destination.
The game featured a simple resolution system that gave players a small number of important choices each turn. You draw a card from your deck, and you can use one of its two effects, or discard it for a card from the universal shared deck.
This worked fairly well for dealing with monsters, traversal challenges, and explorations. However, there was still a bit of fiddliness when it came to the more complex battles (boss challenges). These fights were about the right length, but not quite threatening enough. I'll be working on how to make the battles a bit more exciting and threatening, without increasing their complexity.
The goal of the game is not just to simulate another genre, of course, but to give players a feeling of cooperative accomplishment, and to let the story unfold from the choices the players make. To this end, it's more than just the challenges and bosses.
The game also had a scenario attached. As we explored, we encountered paragraph-adventure style events, where our choices ultimately determined what ending we got when we beat the boss (we got the OK ending, but not the good one, in this game). It also gave us a chance to get to know the boss and the villain characters, as well as discover some unexpected allies along the way. While we very nearly cured the virus our mad doctor villain was creating, one of our allies also very nearly triggered the "betrayer" ending by becoming consumed by that same virus. Overall, the game did a good job of creating the story and making us feel like we were working together.
In the final game, my plan is to allow these events to be scripted from an app, so that players won't know exactly what they're going to encounter on successive playthroughs of the same scenario. Also, it offers the possibility of procedurally generated castles that could provide endless replayability.
Overall, I was very pleased, and the players who partook in the test were all eager to try again, which bodes well for the game's development.
In the next version, I'll work on these changes:
- Improving the depth of choices that come from the player's deck, and the risks and rewards of using the shared decks.
- More defined abilities for the individual characters.
- More aggressive monsters that can threaten the player and raise tension.
- Some unique rewards for exploring different areas of the castle.
- Improved Level-Up/Gear system.
- More "pressure" to explore the far reaches of the castle and clean up unfinished areas, rather than just rushing directly to the bosses.
I'll let you know how it goes when I have it finished up! Look out for more soon! :D