About this project
The vision for Serpent in the Staglands is a mix of the addictive build customization of ARPGs and party control and role-playing elements of games like Baldur's Gate and Darklands. A throwback to cRPGs of the past with fresh new role playing designs and combat mechanics.
During your search as a god's mortal avatar, you'll plunge into the Stagland's deep combat and open world exploration. Skills, spells, and aptitudes can be individually customized for up to five different party members of your choosing. With an expansive variety of build options and branching paths to choose from, the game will offer significant personalization and replayability.
The real time combat is frenetic and can often turn into an onslaught of magical assaults and frenzied attacks as soon as it starts, so the ability to pause the game at any time to issue out orders (or get a grip on your party's situation) can be welcome relief. Though you become more powerful and earn more skills as you progress, the range of dice roll outcomes grows larger and more unpredictable. This creates variety and cultivates the need to strategize in order to survive. Our combat system is meant to be a challenge; death can always be around the corner.
The art process allows for us to keep our characters unique with lots of details, armor sets, and enough fabulous cloaks to keep warm and stylish in the coldest of blizzards. We love seeing small details, so every one of our animations, like our backgrounds, are hand-drawn frame by frame. We plan on having 8 main armor sets with color/cloak color variations, and plenty of unique weapons and equipment. We meticulously designed all the menus and art to be as interesting and thematic as possible for your viewing pleasure while playing.
We're in an alpha stage of the game right now, and have no intention of releasing it without it being a finished, polished product. To reduce any feature creep, the main system components, dice roll combat, and gameplay mechanics are already completed (more info in a graph below on where we are in development), and are now at the stage of creating levels, dialogue, enemies and more art.
If you’re interested in this project, that probably means you have a solid experience of classic rpgs or tabletop rpgs - and that makes you an invaluable partner in its development. One of the fundamental parts of roleplaying is the discussion and ideas that are created with those who are playing. We're thrilled with how development has been going, the game so far, and the direction we are taking it we're excited to see what aspects can be improved with your help. With Kickstarter we have an easy opportunity to hear and implement ideas from an invested community. We gathered a lot of feedback during the release of our previous titles, Isle of Bxnes and Bridge to the Moon, both during the beta releases and after the initial post release and the games benefited greatly as a result.
The game is currently in development for PC and Mac and Linux, and with the help of Kickstarter donations, we plan to release it Winter 2014. Our hopeful Kickstarter funds will help us create the game without having to freelance or pursue other projects during development, purchase resources needed, as well as garner valued community feedback and beta testers.
In celebration of getting our first stretch goal, our composer presented us with one of the combat tracks that will be featured in the game:
Trapped in the Staglands by an unknown force, the usually indolent moon lord Necholai embarks on a quest for information and answers, desperate to return to his sanctuary, and furious at the presumption of one who would try to hold a god. Far from his source of power, Necholai is forced to take a mortal form to traverse the Staglands in disguise and look for answers.
As his avatar, you must rely on your skills, along with the help of a trusted priest and the poor souls you find and wrangle into your traveling party. On your journey, you and your companions stumble through traps, intrigue and mutinous offspring as you explore Emerald Mines, the port town’s Guild Houses, the forest domain of the Wandering Lady, and many more dangers across the Staglands peninsula.
Serpent in the Staglands features a classless role-playing system, where you create builds via any combination of the magic, combat and aptitude skills available to you. The game boasts over 100 different skills and synergies, along with a vast number of inventory items to help min-max any build you can imagine. Our goal is to give you freedom to create any class you’d want to role-play, make them accessible to build in-game, but difficult to master strategies for. The skill points put into these builds all come from the same bank, so your choices every level add holistically.
We've avoided many MMORPG trends commonly seen in RPGs today, instead creating an entirely unique combat mode. You won't find any skill cooldowns, experience limited use per battle skills, or see a Scrabble board worth of skills and spells littered all over your screen. We designed what we believe makes for a fun tactical RPG: micromanaging team strategy and planning skill output—not button mashing. Your characters are loaded to the brim with what skills you give them, and they trigger independently. Spells are more omnipotent and are cast and held over a duration. With enemies wheeling and dealing the same spells and skills as you are, your strategies and builds make all the difference between a quick victory or defeat.
Fighters can choose between melee, ranged weapons or throwing deadly elixirs that explode at their enemy's feet. Each party member can have up to three combat skills selected (changeable anytime for variation during battle), which can trigger at specific times, act passively, or synergize with spells or weapons. Some trigger every attack or every (X) attacks, some upon your current enemy’s death, some dependent on your health status, and some at the beginning of a battle. While active, combat skills require no additional work for the player aside from choosing an enemy or position. The combat skills, like spells, are split into four grades, and are unlocked with a combination of strength and dexterity stats. You can put points into skills to increase the power of the skill, and different skills affect the potency of other skills across grades.
Magic in the Staglands specifically is based on six schools, Illumination, Linking, Transforming, Flesh, Forging and Herbology, and flowed initially from the six powers of the land's capricious deities. Spellcasters in the Staglands have no limit on how many spells they can memorize and have access to at any given time, but most spells require strict concentration to cast—they often need the wizard to hold the spell with all their might to keep it effective. For instance, a wizard who wants to cast disease contagion on his enemies (a potent high level spell where a wizard creates a cancer that jumps from enemy to enemy) cannot do anything else while the spell is running its thorny course. The spell skills are grouped into four grades, and are unlocked by intelligence stats. As you level up, you can put skill points into a spell to increase its potency, and different skills affect the potency of other skills across grades.
Aptitudes are branches of knowledge and persona that affect how your characters interact with the world around them. They also buff certain combat and spell skills. The mortal avatar of the moon god Necholai is completely unique to how you choose to play as him, and you’ll learn early on that he’ll want to beef up his Aptitudes if he wants to relate to the people in his wanderings. Aptitudes can affect conversation and interaction with the environment, as well as potently increasing the power of skills and spells.
Each Aptitude will have 5 available levels you can choose to put skill points into. Harbinger, Song Weaver, Woodwise, Philosophy, Linguistics, and Herbology are all elements of social interaction and general scholarly knowledge that you’re able to advance for your characters. Many NPCs you’ll talk to will have knowledge of or be affected by your knowledge of particular aptitudes. For example, a Song Weaver probably couldn’t sway a rough bandit into giving him or her information with a musical tale, but a Harbinger could forcefully persuade him. These choices can lead to larger branching paths in the game.
Dice Roll Interactions & Combat
Each character stat has a negative and positive dice modifier - the sides of that die and number of die are completely dynamic, meaning they are all essentially an XdX.
Spells, combat skills, inventory items and ailments can affect these modifiers, and usually deal damage with the same system but with a damage die. We'll go into more detail in this with specific examples in an update for those interested in the gameplay innards. We think it's a beautiful system that scales well, keeping the game as chaotic in early levels as it does later on. We can't wait for beta testers to get their hands on it!
The Staglands is an icy country in the world of Vol, and is one of the world's youngest inhabited regions. Dominated by a coastline that keeps the merchant guilds wealthy and sea trade ever flowing, the land also boasts of the illustrious Emerald Mines and a vibrant capitol with a bazaar of wondrous spices and diverse cultures.
To the North of the Staglands sits looming mountains, encapsulating the peninsula but for a small mountainous path. Beyond are rolling plains filled with dangerous clans of beasts and men. So dangerous is the land itself that the populated countries have constructed spires and tall fortified towers to protect themselves.
The history of the Staglands is punctured with fierce skirmishes along the border. Between overreaching its northern border and harboring an abandoned magical spire, an end to the war isn’t likely to come in the near future. To the South lies the sea and a vibrant archipalego inhabited by the Varuchovs. Though trade routes and roads are carved out through the lands, drifting too far is still unconquered woods, rivers and mountains. The population haven't named all the denizens that haunt the waters at night, or found an end to the hulking monsters and packs of wolves that still hold dominion away from the towns.
The people of the Staglands worship the six ancient deities that originally roamed the lands, although it is well known that these gods and goddesses can be a capricious lot.
Serpent in the Staglands is being created with Unity 3d. Part of our Kickstarter proceeds will go towards buying Unity 3d Pro (which can provide much more efficient pathfinding technology than we currently have set up, as well as more optimized lighting solutions).
Risks and challenges
1. Finishing the game by our deadline, Winter 2014. While we are very confident that we will make our deadline and are content-ready (systems being completed), there is always the risk that a sudden hurdle will arise that will push us off our goal. However, this is not our first project launch as Whalenought or in previous work and as a tight two-person team we are very flexible and believe we can overcome any issues that threaten our deadline. We’re 100% dedicated to this game and are efficient home office denizens who can only be taken away from a crunch by two loud cats that share the space.
2. Testing & QA. Having a polished and bug-free game is a high priority. While the bulk of the testing will fall on us, getting beta testers through this kickstarter will help us ensure that we have the best product possible before release. To offset the risks of a buggy game, we’ve set aside a couple of months in our development schedule solely for QA. Testing can be unpredictable and realistically may push back the game if a lot arises, especially if co-op is included (though this could be launched after release and tested separately to fit schedule). While we’ll aim to set aside that time and begin testing and pushing builds out to those who want to participate as early as we can, this can be a definite deadline risk.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
There just being two of us means we're not using money on offices or any overhead, just food and the occasional notebook. We don't need to pay salaries or have them ourselves, this is for us to survive keeping a lean lifestyle for the duration of development. The Kickstarter funds we're asking for will allow us to finish development of the game and acquire additional resources we'll need for effects and the engine.
We've been prepping the majority of it for over a year and were focused on creating a solid group of systems that we can use for the game. After a milestone we decided it was a good place to try to get some support to help finish it or it was going to be taking a trip to the Iso-Cubes. All the main systems are already completed:
Complete ruleset implementation and player/enemy combat interactions
World interactions/Aptitude interactions
Spells & Skills for characters & leveling
Designing all skills/spells
Quests & narrative progression
Party control and management
Art pipeline and implementation
World and lore planning
What this leaves is the development of most of the maps, a lot more art art and animations, and polish of what we currently have, which we're shooting for completing by the end of the year with the Kickstarter help and aid of previous funds. Since the research is done, and a lot of the content is already planned, everything should run like a well-oiled mecha tri-whale, and we'll be able to concentrate on that content exclusively for most the duration of the remaining development process until main testing occurs.
Yes, you can pause the game at any time, in or out of combat.
Our initial timeline right now is established for PC/Mac development testing, where we started development, but will begin testing with Linux in the very near future. We're hoping it goes as smoothly as the PC / Mac development has, but just a disclaimer of sorts: if there is some sort of development concerns with Linux, we may have to stagger the release to be done after the initial launch. We'll work as hard as we can to make sure that doesn't happen, but the more beta testers we have hacking away at it in a Linux environment the better.
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