Hello again everyone! While everyone has hopefully been out and enjoying the sun, we've been hard at work shaping Chasm into a fun and challenging experience. We still have a lot to do before we hit Beta, but we're getting closer every day! Here's an update on just a few of the things that we've been focused on lately.
DUNGEON GENERATOR IMPROVEMENTS
The dungeon generator is the secret sauce of the game, but we really haven't touched it too much since the Alpha. It's been working great, but, as with most things, it was still ripe for improvement and optimization. A wishlist of additional features and improvements had been building for the past year, and back in June we decided it was finally time to start working away on the last major revisions to it. Some of the changes were very straight-forward, like having the generator favor long horizontal hallways (where all the action happens) over the tall vertical rooms (meant more for connecting paths together).
Other changes, however, took quite a bit more effort. One of the things we've wanted to do for a long time is to save your world layout so it won't have to be re-generated every time you boot up the game. It sounds like a simple enough addition at first glance, but it was anything but trivial. The rooms are populated with items and enemies after generation, so new loading and saving routines had to be written to handle all the dynamic elements of the game. In addition to much quicker load times, this change also fixes a big problem a lot of Alpha testers ran into: getting your save games trashed when we pushed out an update to the dungeon generator.
One other noteworthy improvement is the new and improved dungeon branching. We realized we made a big mistake cutting the branches outright during the Alpha phase. They were kind of a pain then since they were too long, and usually lead to an unsatisfying conclusion like passages you couldn't traverse yet. After more experimentation, we realized they're still needed occasionally to make the dungeons feel less linear, but they should be shorter, and should always lead to a great reward like an item or gold stash. With all these changes completed the dungeons are feeling better than ever!
BALANCING FIRST PASS
Another of our top priorities once we got everything together was doing a first pass on the balancing for the full game. This primarily comes down to adjusting item and monster stats, but also includes other things like dungeon lengths, drop rates, trap and hazard damage, and much more.
Enemies, however, are where the bulk of the work has been so far. In the Rough Cut build we announced back in June, the enemies were all essentially Level 1 (making it a pretty easy playthrough!). This is because we develop enemies in an isolated test room, and numbers are the last thing on our minds then. Our focus at that point is on the AI behaviors, visual design, and fun factor. (if you'd like to know more about the enemy creation process in the future, please let us know in the comments!).
This meant we had roughly 80 enemies in the game to go through and figure out stats for like Level, XP, HP, and Attack damage. I also used this opportunity to tweak enemy attributes like movement speed, attack tell timings, animation playback speeds, as well as just generally polishing them up a bit. This first balancing pass is still far from perfect, but it's a big first step towards getting things to where they need to be.
You may remember that we announced last fall that production on the soundtrack had wrapped. We decided then to hold off on doing the final masters since we weren't sure if we'd need any more tracks or want to change anything once we had the full experience together. Now that we're finally there, we've had the opportunity to finally see first hand how the soundtrack fits together over the course of the entire game, and figure out any unaccounted for situations we might need music for.
Having time to digest things and let them sit for a while has been a huge benefit. We're now able to come back to it fresh ears and figure out any possible improvements or final tweaks that could be made. Jimi also took the opportunity to add even more instrumentation to the tracks and significantly improve the mixing. A couple of the 20 tracks we just weren't happy with though, and we decided to go back to the drawing board for them. We're in the process of wrapping those new tracks up now, while simultaneously working through the final masters for everything else. We're really excited for you to experience the full soundtrack, but in the meantime, check out the final mastered track for the Mines area!
Even with all the progress that's been made over the past two months, we still have quite a bit of work left until we hit Beta. Some of the things next moving into our focus are:
- Core Map Revisions: Last month a second pass was completed for the maps in the first half of the game, but the second half of the game still needs some attention.
- Boss Revisions: We've had some time to play the boss fights over and over and figure out what we like and don't. Powerups have also been shuffled around leaving some bosses expecting you to have abilities you don't. A big list of changes has been made, we just need to start working through it.
- Improve spawning system: We're not totally satisfied with how enemies are placed in maps, and would like to possibly improve things and add some additional features like definable groups of enemies that work well together.
- NPCs and Side-quests: We still have a little design work left nailing down the final list of town NPCs you will rescue, as well as their side-quests. Once that is complete we can start programming them.
- Cut-scenes: There's only a handful in the game, but we are in the process of planning out the scenes and figuring out what new assets we need before they're scripted in-game.
And one last update: for those of you going to PAX Prime in Seattle next month, please be sure to come by and say hi!
I know I say this every monthly update, but I wanted again to express my gratitude to all the backers and fans who have been patiently looking forward to playing Chasm. Everything’s coming together far better than I ever had any right to hope for. Thanks again for helping us make this happen!