I hereby proclaim that last night, we entered Round 2 of the official AURO Beta!
The last post here at dinofarmgames was just about exactly one month ago, and at that time I was embroiled in a bit of a crisis regarding the abilities. Things just weren’t working, they weren’t balanced, and worst of all, many of the abilities just weren’t interesting. There’s always this lingering fear in the back of your mind when you’re developing something original, and things aren’t working: maybe this idea is just fundamentally flawed! Oh, no!
But, we kept hammering and hammering away at it, and I think that now, it’s looking pretty good. I have to really thank a new wave of testers we got from over at fantasystrike.com, guys like Carlos(aka specs), Vivafringe, Banewlf, link6616 and several others. To quickly give back a bit to that great community: everyone should go check out the games at Fantasy Strike! They’re free to play, really fun (especially Puzzle Strike, probably my favorite deck-building game), and designed by one of the world’s leading bad-dudes of game design, David Sirlin. Their community is full of thoughtful people, too who really contributed so much to this Beta. So thanks again to them.
Oh, also, check out our new Jelly sprite!
The Abilities Have Landed (For Now)
AURO’s special tactical abilities are the core of the gameplay, and so it’s critical that we get them useful, balanced, and interesting. At this point, I think I can say that we’re pretty much there. The three trees seem decently balanced at all levels of play, they have their own identities, and most importantly, I think we’ve managed to preserve what’s exciting about them. Ice Floe is slippery madness, Air is the nimble bouncing ninja, and Fire is chaotic death everywhere.
Now, during this past month (which actually felt more like 3 months; I was surprised to see that it had only been a month since that last post), there have been probably a dozen times when I thought the abilities had landed, when they still had a way to go. So, it’s possible that we still have some major surgery to do, but I think for now it will mostly be a turning of knobs. We also still have to add a couple more monsters, such as the SQUID (who actually serves an important purpose of being an anti-monster-funneling monster), which also will bring the game together. And I still am not sure what to do with the Liches…
But anyway, here’s the abilities that we’ve landed on, after dozens of different approaches, going back to old versions, tweaking, and other madness:
THE FIRE TREE
Fire Staff – Auro’s staff bursts into flame. His pushback normal-attacks, which normally won’t push a monster back if there’s another monster behind him, now turn monsters into missiles that kill other monsters in their way. Further, when he does knock a monster back, that monster leaves a trail of flame. As though that weren’t cool enough, when Auro’s staff is ablaze, he can walk through a blaze without harm!
Rocket – Auro charges two tiles in a direction, killing anything (except Heavy monsters) in his path! Cooler yet, if he lands in a flame, he can charge again for free!
Explode – Auro sends all adjacent monsters careening outwards two tiles in every direction. Also, he can use this power to expel flames further out, multiplying them.
THE AIR TREE
Jump – Auro bounds through the air two tiles in a direction, sailing over any monsters on the way. He can also land on top of a monster head or pillar to jump again for free. Jumping on monsters leaves them in a strong wind current, causing them to float motionless. Hitting them out of the current sends them flying twice as far as normal.
Rush – Move one tile in a direction, pushing a monster back if there’s one in your way, and leaving a current behind you. Might sound dull, but it’s incredibly useful since abilities don’t take a turn to use!
Gale – Howling winds push all monsters on-screen one tile in a direction, leaving Currents behind them.
THE ICE TREE
Floe – Leave a diamond-shape of slippery ice-tiles in an area. Monsters will slide across this, and you can send them flying off to their doom.
Chill – Freeze a single adjacent monster. You can then push around the frozen ice block which will leave trails of Floe!
Abomination – Become a terrifying ice-beast! Monsters all run from you in fear! Instantly crush any monsters you touch, and better yet, you can move over Floe without passing turns!
What’s Next? Non-Gameplay Stuff
We’ve involved a large wave of new testers now. Basically everyone who contributed to our successful Kickstarter should have gotten an email about their invitation to the Beta, which we hope will kick the forum activity into a higher gear. It’s always really inspiring to know that there are people waiting to play the next exciting build of your game, and to get feedback on it right away.
In terms of implementation, what I’m actually excited about is the prospect of moving away from core gameplay. For nearly two full years now, we’ve been focused entirely on getting this gameplay to be sound. Now, it basically is sound, and so we can start putting resources elsewhere. Here’s just some of the things we’ll be hitting up next:
- Andrew has been working on some metrics stuff, which will be really useful. This would also include a feature to save replays, which would also be helpful for us.
- I’ve started designing the interactions for the tutorial, which is of course vitally important for a game as weird as ours
- I’ve also started really getting down to the writing of the in-game dialogue for Story Mode. It’s a lot of fun, and Blake has been helping a lot in keeping the characters in-character.
- In addition to filling out our monster roster, Blake has been finishing up the new logo, and I think he’s about to get started on rendering our new HUD. Exciting!
So, these are the kinds of things we’ll be working on now. That’s not to say that gameplay won’t continually be modified, tweaked, and possibly even surgery-ed if it proves necessary. It just means that we’ll be letting that kind of dwell for a bit, while we
We’ll be exhibiting the beta at a small New Jersey IGDA event in two weeks. This will be our first time showing people the game in person like that – scary! Anyhow, that’s what’s been going on down at the Dinofarm!