Monthly Archives: September 2013

worldmap

Travelogue takes place in the Midlands, an area controlled by five great merchant houses in the wake of the collapse of a great empire. To the north are freezing wastes where nothing grows, and to the south are rich and fertile plains where expansion has been held at bay by the local nomadic peoples. The Midlands themselves are divided into six major regions.

The Northlands

The northern extents of the Midlands are a cold and desolate place, with lumber and fishing comprising most of the trade the northern towns rely on to live. The northernmost settlement is Farport, which survives by being perfectly positioned to take advantage of seasonal winds and fast ocean currents to trade with lands across the sea. The towns of Mynasthorpe and Rownshackle sit a bit further south, where the weather is milder and hunting and lumber can provide for their needs.

The culture of the Northlands is one that respects need, where a lack of hospitality means sending a traveler to their death. In Farport, bonfires are set up in open areas near the docks so that workers and beggars both can warm themselves against the cold nights. At the same time, people can often become isolated and strange when the snows set in and travel between the towns and isolated farms and settlements becomes blocked off. There are legends of wanderers relying on the hospitality of hermits who turn out to be witches, madmen, or worse – usually with the traveler discovering their secret just as they’re leaving.

Some of these stories have no doubt been fed by the legends of Witchwood Grove, a place where the cold weather of the north seems to be held at bay, and yet also a place where the forest behaves strangely. Those who seek the shelter of the grove often do not return.

The Old Empire

The heart of the Midlands is the castles and forts that were once the seat of the Empire. In the wake of the Empire’s collapse – split across three brothers who squandered their holdings – five great houses turned to trade. As each city began to learn how to rule itself, these houses provided for most of the connectedness of the realm – carrying news with trade goods, funding joint ventures to repel attacks and bring order to the roads and the regions. And yet, people here remember the old ways, and there is a strong monarchist sentiment in many of the families that once bore titles and arms. Many have suggested that the Midlands once again needs an Emperor, someone to unite the cities and provide for a unified defense of the southern border, to finally drive back the nomads.

Of the cities in the Old Empire, two are of particular significance. Fericant was once the seat of the Empire, and much of the realm’s nobility resides there. At the same time, it has made a new name for itself in the mercenary companies that ride out from its gates. Fericant has the best trained soldiers of any of the cities, and that skill can fetch a good price when other cities need to use force to solve their problems. Fericant is also home of House Roenald, the source of much of the physical currency – millarensia – that is used in the Midlands. Their mines along the edge of the Crown Mountains dominate the trade in metals.

Subarat, the home of House Landt, is perhaps the center of trade in the Midlands. Almost any good one might desire passes through its markets, brought in by road or by sea. This creates a small problem – there is such competition over pricing that it is hard to make money selling at Subarat’s market unless you have some kind of special deal.

The Point

To the south, a great solitary mountain interrupts the coast-line and projects out into sea as a large peninsula. This is known locally as ‘The Point’, and its cities are the gateway to most of the trade from southern countries and lands across the ocean to the south. Aside from its trade, the Point is known for two things – its inclement weather, and the great mountain of Spiral Tor which looms over all of its cities. The winds coming off of the ocean are always strong and often bring with them nasty storms. Sailors often have to shelter at Cornic Bay to avoid the seasonal hurricanes. The mountain, on the other hand, is a more subtle danger. A great twisting road that takes five days to travel winds up its slopes, left there by an ancient people. Bandits make their homes in the many caves that dot the Tor, for they are the only ones desperate enough to brave the strangeness that is said to happen there.

One of the great houses, House Kernil, makes its home at Sparrow Point. This city was once only a small town due to the steep cliffs that made sea trade nearly impossible. House Kernil changed that. Thanks to the artificers and engineers they have brought in, they have turned this difficult region of the coast into a business opportunity. Ships dock against the cliffs below, and goods and people are raised and lowered on great lifts built into the cliffside.

The Gatelands

As one travels south, the land becomes smoother and the climate more suitable for farming. Eventually one reaches seemingly endless, untouched plains. The people of the Midlands would have gladly expanded south except for the many nomadic tribes. The Midlands has a history of war with the nomads, though at the same time there is much trade that slips past the posturing of leaders. Almost all of the horses found in the Midlands can be traced back to trade with the southern people. The Gatelands is the boundary where a number of military forts and homesteads sit as close as they dare to lands claimed by the horsemen of the south. Barm’s Fort protects the region in the wake of the Scarhold incident. This is also the place where House Idran of the town of Omen, and House Dumori of Dumori Manor can be found.

Eastmarch

Since expansion to the south was blocked, settlers from the Midlands began to range east along the border of the plains. They found a land of bogs and marshes. The most intrepid of the settlers worked to drain the marshes, creating the settlement of Morvinsburg. Others sought to learn to secrets of the land, and chose to live in the marshes as they were. While many died in this endeavor, Black Oak Township stands as a monument to their success, and the exotic goods that come out of it – medicines, glow-weave, and other products of the marsh – are the reward for their perseverence.

Recently a path was found around the Crown Mountains starting in Morvinsburg and heading north along their eastern rim. The land found beyond the mountains was fertile and uncontested, and many settlers began their journey north. This has brought a surge of growth to the towns of Eastmarch, and they have become the jumping-off point for northern expeditions.

The Green Lands

Beyond the Crown Mountains is a paradox – a land with long growing seasons and moderate weather, despite being far in the north. Something about this land seems almost mystical, as if the fading that happened to the magic of the Midlands has not quite reached here. Those who make their home in the Green Lands speak of wonders and terrors within its forests, for supposedly there are places where the rocks move of their own accord. Bits of this substance, a strange form of jade, have been starting to make their way back along trade routes.

A group of scholars followed the trail to investigate this phenomenon and discovered the Jade Tower, a building constructed of the stuff and seemingly impervious to any attempts to breach it. A town has sprung up around the tower, filled with people seeking to uncover its secrets.

Merchant

The Merchant must wander the lands in search of good deals, trade opportunities, and the like. Their goal is to obtain 30000 millarensia by the end of the year, in order to start a new business that can grow to rival the Five Great Houses. Different goods are available for different prices amidst the 17 cities of the Midlands, and the Merchant must balance price differences, travel hazards, and the amount of material they can transport per trip in order to make a profit. As a Merchant, you will likely be trying to upgrade your capacity and speed, acquiring a horse, a cart, and eventually a wagon or a ship in order to make money as fast as you can.

Beyond finding effective trade-routes and doing the back and forth of buying and selling, you can invest in towns to improve their prices for you, and can do jobs for the Merchant Houses in order to create new economic opportunities. Some cities may be able to start trading in certain goods after you complete a quest, and as events in the Midlands unfold other things may impact prices in the short term, creating opportunities for you.

The Merchant’s core skills are Barter, Contact, and Repair.

Barter: This skill impacts the prices you obtain when buying and selling. Each point of Barter adjusts prices up (or down) by 5%. Additionally, as you get more Barter, the shop interface will begin to display information about whether or not the price of a given trade good is better (green) or worse (red) than the average, and eventually will even highlight the best trade as far as profit-per-unit-rate available in each shop. Outside of the shops, the Barter skill can let you make deals and manipulate people based on their desires, whether or not you actually have something to offer.

Contact: This skill lets you find people in cities and in general deal with people in ways that best suit their social expectations. With this skill you can get audiences with aristocrats, find masters who can teach you new skills, and also effectively pretend to be someone you’re not. Most cities have a master of one skill, but that master can only be found with a character whose Contact is high enough, or if the city Population gets high enough (set by the number of other players doing stuff in that region at the time).

Repair: While items in Travelogue do not have a durability per-se, things like carts and wagons can break down. Repair lets you deal with these mechanical breakdowns. Beyond that, Repair represents a bulk of mechanical know-how – if you need to construct a bridge, use a block-and-tackle, create a functional lasso or climbing harness, or other such things, Repair is the right skill for the job. While a Scout can Climb over a hazard in his way, the Merchant (armed with the right gear) can create a permanent bypass that removes the hazard from that road entirely, so that they don’t have to deal with it again when they come back that way.

Mercenary

The Mercenary is trying to make a name for themselves before the end of the year, by hunting the legendary dragon Golrung who is said to lair in the eastern limits of the Crown Mountains. Golrung is not often seen, but whenever he makes an appearance it is cataclysmic. A few years back the fort of Scarhold and all surrounding lands for miles in every direction were burnt to the ground by the dragon. Even now, the land has become thick with shadows and nothing will grow.

In order to do this, you will need to find the secrets of personal power strewn across the land. Magic has dwindled in the last millennium, but there are still treasures of the ancients to be found, weapons and armor that will give you the power to defeat the dragon, and training techniques that will make you strong enough to stand against his wrath. The Mercenary will mostly be concerned with the various dangerous lairs and dungeons of the Midlands – Witchwood Grove, Roc’s Nest, Scarhold, Spiral Tor, and Golrung’s Cave. Powerful individuals may have jobs for you in the cities to help pay for the arms and training you will need to prevail.

The Mercenary’s core skills are Offense and Defense.

Offense: Not only does Offense determine your chance to actually land a blow on your enemies (along with Brawn), each rank of Offense unlocks new martial techniques that you can use, from dealing extra damage to attacking many enemies at the same time.

Defense: Defense and Dexterity determine how good you are at avoiding attacks. Each point of Defense gives you access to a ‘defense card’ that you can use to augment your defenses during a given round of the fight. Some defense cards help you resist damage, while others let you avoid blows entirely. Using defense cards wisely is key to defeating the more powerful enemies of the game.

Scout

The Scout is beholden to a nobleman to journey to all of the significant places of the Midlands within the year. They must visit each of the 17 towns and 5 dungeons or they will not receive the support needed to lead an expedition to discover new lands across the sea. In some sense, the Scout is the most open out of the three classes – they must go everywhere, but what they do is completely up to them. In order to help with this task, the Scout receives a number of skills related to travel.

The Scout’s core skills are Survival, Scout, Climb, and Swim.

Survival: Every day of travel consumes a day’s worth of food… normally. With the Survival skill, you have a certain chance of finding food as you travel, meaning that you can extend meager supplies for longer than normal. The skill also impacts all manner of wilderness scenarios and knowhow, from hunting to identifying plants to surviving snowstorms, rockslides, and forest fires. Especially when traveling in the hills and mountains – the most dangerous areas of the game – this skill is key.

Scout: This skill helps you spot things and find things. It can help you detect an ambush or navigate your way through a thick fog or even a maze. You can use it to follow trails and track people or animals.

Climb: This skill is useful for getting up or down. There are many times where you will encounter a ledge, cliff, pit, tree, or other thing you would wish to climb, and this skill controls your success at those endeavors.

Swim: Though much of the game occurs on solid land, there are rivers, pools, waterfalls, bogs, and the like. Navigating these hazards successfully requires the use of the Swim skill.

We’ve got a new trailer for Travelogue, courtesy of Whiskeyninja! And along with that, we’re announcing the release date – September 15th!

Over the next few days we’re going to feature various aspects of Travelogue – the classes, the cities, things like that. Expect the front page of this site to change to be more Travelogue-focused for the next few weeks after the release as well.

SpeedlinesI got a lot of helpful reviews over the last week, and this has helped me focus on a few elements of polish that are pretty lacking. The big comment I’ve been trying to address tonight has been about the sameness of battle actions – they’re mechanically different, but they aren’t visually different.

So I’ve been playing around with battle effects. Of course I can make lots of little ‘slash’ animations from different angles, but these aren’t necessarily distinctive on their own. To help with that I’ve been messing around with full screen battle effects, and I realized that some of these things could be useful tricks for other Javascript/Canvas developers. Its kind of long, so I made a separate page for it: Speed lines tutorial.

 

I was sort of in a weird haze the last two days when it comes to Travelogue. The game is done. Thats what the fact that my list has zero entries left on it should say, right? But I knew that there’d be a lot of little things that needed to get done before I could actually put the game up on the store and start to sell it, and I was having difficulties seeing that path forward and knowing exactly what I should be doing with the short time left before release.

This is new ground for me. Finishing up a game to something that ‘has everything I had planned for it to have’ is one thing. But figuring out what to do after that point is an undiscovered country.

Clearly if I can make the game look better on first impression, that will directly correlate to how well it does, whether people are willing to review it, etc. There’s also the whole marketing side of things – am I ready for when I’m going to have to be promoting the game? Are there more things I could do pre-release to build interest? Then there’s all the little fiddly things that I’d like to pretend don’t exist: should I make a Nullsoft installer for the Windows players, or just package everything in a zip that includes a linux and windows executable and let people run it from wherever? Should I try to have an in-game update mechanism (advice from others is mixed here – evidently first-time indies tend to botch making auto-updaters secure and there’s a whole mess of liability issues there).

So it sounds like its time for a new list for a new period of development:

  • Make a couple of banner ads and show them around, see which people like more (and plan to test their performance post-release)
  • Press kit, press releases, etc.
  • Make a better gameplay video, 1-2 minutes long, with lots of cuts to interesting bits of the game.
  • Actually set up the Node-Webkit package that people will eventually be downloading. Make sure it has stuff for Windows, Linux, Mac; 32bit and 64bit. Find someone with a Mac to test it for me.
  • Make sure that you can actually get the game when you buy it!
  • Make the Fastspring store page look like this site
  • Set up Desura and itch.io accounts and see if I can host the game there too.
  • Make the ‘landing page’ for Travelogue ads look compelling and have a good ‘call to action’. Maybe make a few landing pages to see which works best.
  • Play Travelogue straight through and see if that makes me want to change stuff.
  • Set up a new home-page for this site that specifically showcases Travelogue and has the blog elements below or following a link.

 

Expanded Rebound ReconI posted an update to Rebound Recon (new directory because I had to retain the old version for Ludum Dare judging). Here are the changes:

  • Higher resolution and viewscreen, so you can see more of the level
  • Controls for fine-tuning trajectories
  • Right click to remove nodes
  • 9 new levels

The new first level is an auto-win just to give an idea of the goal and how the game works. I may change that later if people have strong feelings about it.

Left: Low karma visual effect, Right: Effects off.

Someone’s been naughty in Rownshackle

So I’ve mostly spent this weekend working on various bits of polish for Travelogue. Different attacks and different types of weapons have different sound effects in combat now, and there’s a difference between a hit and a critical hit in some cases. I also put in some flashing lights and a few extra animations to generally break up combat a bit and give more cues as to what is actually going on. One of the attacks that the mercenary-quest endboss has involved something like 120 1/64th notes on a distorted guitar with a taiko drum as backup, and a reverb filter with the wet level turned all the way up and the dry level turned all the way down. I was not sure if it was going to sound like anything or just like a cat walking on a keyboard, but it does actually sound pretty good in-game. The other thing along these lines is that I added a mild shading effect to the worldmap that slowly changes based on the karma of the region. Things are a little darker in low-karma places and a little brighter in high-karma places. I’m thinking about adding stuff like little graveyards/battlefields/etc that show up at different values as well, but I’m not sure I should focus on that more than just adding more events that are dependent on the current karma/unrest/wealth levels. Note the sharp line in the above image is for comparison – it doesn’t appear in game. Oh, and there are forums now. Enjoy!