Seventh Cross, version 16
It's been a little while since I shared progress on Seventh Cross, so allow me to catch up! We've done a few versions since my last editions, and are now on v16.
Let me preface this by saying that decisions about the kind of game you're going to make are really, really tough!
Versions v13 and v14
When I left off, I was just about to test version 13, which didn't go as well as I had hoped. By simplifying the game and bringing everyone to a central system, I lost a lot of the charm that we had discovered in v11 and v12.
From my experiences with these games, I've come to feel that I'll have to choose between making the boss an automated opponent and an interesting one. If I simplify the game to the point where an AI-boss can fight toe to toe with the players, it's too simple to be immersive. If I keep the complex mechanisms of the game intact, there's no way an automated player can manage it all.
Beyond even that though, all these boss-battle games reminded me that I was losing out on a portion of the game that I really wanted to capture–the exploration of the castles and discovery of secrets. The combat portions of the game were becoming so heavy that there wouldn't be any opportunity to explore properly and let the story unfold.
For that reason, I've decided to split the Players vs. Boss experience off into a separate game and work on that as its own project. For the release edition of Seventh Cross, I want to stick closer to my original Castlevania/Dark Souls vision, and keep the Shadow of the Colossus paradigm for a separate project that I'll work on in parallel.
Version 15 - Back to the Castle
After I decided to step back from the raid bosses, it was fairly easy to remember what the original vision of the game was and how those elements would play together. I managed to put together v15 in about 2 weeks by combining a lot of notes and flavor created in the past versions.
Version 15 brought the game back to a more traditional paradigm. I put in a board with different castle locations, where players can move around and explore. Delving down through the rooms reveals NPCs, traps, treasures, and monsters to encounter.
Players use the tools in their decks and the gear they have acquired in order to resolve these encounters, and each one has different choices. When you meet an undead knight, you can fight it as normal for EXP and gold, or you can use your holy magic to banish it forever and steal its gear, or you can use necromancy to seize control of it and add it to your party permanently.
As you explore, the clock tower ticks towards midnight, and the final boss grows stronger while interfering with your exploration.
The initial prototype of this tested well, and we saw a lot of potential in this more rogue-like exploration.
Version 16 - The Whole Adventure
I've finished up designs and printed the cards for version 16! Version 16 expands on what we liked in v15, while improving on a few things.
The castles are built a bit larger, allowing for more exploration and movement based effects. Players can stumble upon secret rooms and passageways that expand the castle, as well as face bosses in order to find artifacts (upgrades that affect the whole party), gain levels (improving their chances in exploration), and unlock new checkpoints (which make adventuring further into the castle safer).
There is also a very Dark-Souls-inspired of checkpoint mechanic where players can only cash in the results of their adventures if they make it back to a checkpoint safely. You spend all the gold you make during an exploration upon return, and anything unused is lost. So there's real incentive to push just a little further in order to get the best items on the market...
Heroes can also suffer Anathema, which slowly unlocks their monstrous powers and tracks their descent into madness. Transformations can greatly expand a player's abilities, but they come at great risk. If a hero ever acquires a fourth transformation, they are removed from the game and replaced with a powerful bonus boss. The player will have to start a new character, but many team-wide bonuses like Artifacts and Levels mean they will still be able to adventure alongside the party.
We have a few other plans going forward, but this test will tell if we have the formula right to move forward with this design. If it all works out, I'll let you know about the more exciting plans we have in mind! :D