Design

Empyreal: Spells and Steam Train Preview!

Work is underway for our next big project

Empyreal: Spells and Steam!

Here's a look at what's happening in December to prepare us for the new project!

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What is Empyreal: Spells & Steam?

Empyreal: Spells & Steam is a rail-building game set in Level 99 Games's World of Indines (BattleCON, Pixel Tactics, Argent), and the next major design from Trey Chambers (Argent: the Consortium).

As a captain of industry, it's your job to bring the industrial age to this world of magic. Build railways to connect key resources to your network, then supply them to cities around the world. Each magical resource you harvest will enable new technological developments that improve your capabilities. Each contract you fulfill will build up your infrastructure, leading to the development of new company-specific powers. Mine mana from the land to enable the construction of more lines, balancing the opportunities of the moment against the depleting environment and the machinations of your competitors.

Only the savviest and most creative industrialist will be able to lead the World of Indines into the modern era!

Where are we now?

With the game design for Empyreal finished up, we're now working on components and graphic designs.

Fábio Fontes has put together 8 train cars to represent the 8 companies that are playable within the World of Indines. Each of these companies has their own disposition and powers, providing a different game experience each time you play. The train cars are roughly one inch in length. Here's a list of the different companies, together with their cars!

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Here are the original concept sketches for the 8 different train cars! Each company has a unique car, and Fábio has created 3D versions of those cars so that we can create miniatures to put in the game box! You can click on the cars to zoom up and get a better look!

Above, you can see rendered versions of the individual trains, as well as 'painted' renders (also kindly created by Fábio) that show what these train cars might look like if you painted them yourself!

We'll post a more formal introduction of each of the industry captains and the companies they lead in a few weeks! By that time, we should also have some visuals of the cards and game board ready to show you!

Temporal Odyssey: Traveler Spells

Temporal Odyssey: Traveler Spells

In Temporal Odyssey, you play as a dueling Time Traveler. Banish the opponent Time Traveler by destroying their Stability and dealing the final blow! In this post, we provide some examples of Spells and how they define each Traveler's play style.

Game Design is Messy

After my most recent post, showing the changes and updates that we've made to Seventh Cross, I got a comment asking about many of the mechanics and paradigms that we had been testing in the boss-battle focused versions of the game, and what would happen to those segments. I started to put together an answer, but it got detailed enough that I felt it deserved its own post.

In designing a game, as with any kind of art, you don't know exactly where you will end up when you start. In my designs, I build a rough outline of the feeling that I'm trying to capture, and then I throw different colors against that canvas until the idea starts to take shape in a way that I want it to. In the Seventh Cross design diaries I've posted so far, you can see how the game's scope and focus have shifted as we develop, and how one core idea can mean a lot of different things.

With Seventh Cross, my goal is to create an immersive adventure game. For many versions of that game, I put a heavy emphasis on boss battles. However, that portion of the game grew and grew to the point where it eclipsed the other elements we wanted to introduce. When the boss battles were the most fun and interesting, the exploration had to be heavily reduced due to time and mechanical constraints (as learned in the v10-14 versions). With a compromise between both, I would only achieve a half-baked battle system and a lackluster adventure segment (as we tried in v15 and 16)

It became clear that to do battles on a scale and depth that I wanted, I would have to cut out much of the exploration and adventure gameplay that I had in my original scope, or end up with a very lengthy and disjointed experience as I tried to force all of the disparate mechanics into one game. It wasn't possible to make a full adventure game, and a full boss battle game, and keep things fully cooperative, and keep the legacy aspects I had in mind, all in the same box.

This faced me with a difficult decision. Which game was the real Seventh Cross? In the end, I decided to step back from the boss-rush version and produce the game that I felt was more resonant with the original adventure/exploration path I had set out on. This game would allow me to keep most closely to the vision expressed on the project's overview page

These kinds of tough choices come up fairly often in design. As many elements are added and removed, it's easy to forget the original vision behind a game, to decide that your plan is obsolete, or simply to succumb to the temptation to go in a new direction from your first intentions. 

The important thing to take away from these culls is that as long as you keep your good ideas on reserve, nothing is truly lost. All the knowledge and innovations we gained from testing out the boss-rush game will come in handy for upcoming projects. It's much better to deliver two focused, complete, and tightly built games than one all-encompassing hodge-podge, after all.

I have big plans for the boss-battle game as well, but I have to tackle one thing at a time. I'm confident that both of these two games will turn out better for not being forced into one another's molds.


Also, I want to say a special thanks to all of you who have been following along with these updates and who have been leaving comments, encouragement, and questions. It's good to know that people are interested in what I'm working on. It really pushes me to think hard about the choices I make, and to make sure I'm delivering on all of your expectations.

I look forward to sharing more complete versions of both of these games with you in the near future!