Indie Game

Devlog #7: We accidentally made a multiplayer version of Soul Reaper. Yup.

If you’ve been following Power Level Studios’ stories, you know we’re working on a game called Soul Reaper. Soul Reaper is a not-so-serious retro rogue-lite RPG with monster-catching mechanics and deep loot and skill systems. You can play the prototype here: http://powerlevelstudios.com.

Making games with limited resources

Some of you may remember us mentioning that the game would be released in Q4 2018: https://medium.com/power-level-studios/how-long-does-it-take-to-make-soul-reaper-11e0d9cc0f82. In that article, I explained the main reasons why the game would take that long to make. In a nutshell, content, game balancing and polishing are what takes up the most time and resources.

The problem is, as with any startup and indie game developers, resources are scarce. Money and time are limited. For Power Level Studios, I’m lucky that I can do many things due to all my previous experiences, but I still can’t draw professionally or create music, so I need money to hire people. It’s not a bad thing to have a team though and I’m very grateful for people helping me make this game a reality.

Team and collaborators

Team and collaborators

The purpose of this paragraph will make more sense as you read more)

So what’s this about accidentally making a multiplayer version of Soul Reaper?

Again, if you’ve been following our stories, you know we make happy accidents sometimes. See this story where we accidentally created a game that was played by 3M+ players: https://medium.com/power-level-studios/how-our-first-game-project-accidentally-reached-3-million-players-3d16b55f349a.

That’s a lot of fish eaten in one day!

That’s a lot of fish eaten in one day!

Now on to this “accident”. 2 months ago, I was working on a feature to simulate combat between units/monsters in order to see how well they do against each other, for game balancing purposes. Sure I have spreadsheets that show me the results, but I wanted to see in practice that everything made sense. When I finished the prototype for the combat simulator, something struck me: “that feature would make a great asynchronous multiplayer game!”. And it really does in my opinion.

Almost everything is already in place for it. The combat, loot, souls and monster-catching systems are all done and are pretty solid already. All that’s really missing for a minimum viable product is the server part. But it’s simple: combat happens locally, and the results are sent to the server. Players are then ranked in leaderboards. At least, that’s the gist of it.

So what’s next? Does that mean Soul Reaper will take even longer to make?

Maybe. It may set us back by a month or two. December 2018 would be too competitive anyway.

BUT! Here’s where it gets interesting, and potentially unexpected:

We’re making a second game!

“The f***” you say? Hear me out. We’re actually splitting Soul Reaper into two stand-alone games:

Soul Reaper: Rise of the Unreaps; and

Soul Reaper: Unreap Commander.

(More info on what “Unreap” is: https://medium.com/power-level-studios/new-and-exciting-feature-reap-and-unreap-summon-reaped-monsters-in-combat-726b80d089fd)

Rise of the Unreaps (RotU) is the game we all know and love. It’s the original idea for Soul Reaper. It’s a single player game with a big emphasis on exploration, combat and story.

Unreap Commander (UC) is an asynchronous multiplayer version of Soul Reaper, focusing on monster team building as well as Soul Reaper’s signature fast turn-based combat, and loot and souls systems. Alpha is scheduled for release in January for PC and potentially mobile too.

UC is almost done already. Both games share the same assets: monsters, souls, sounds, music, etc. It even has enough content to be released as an Alpha version.

So why not release Unreap Commander already?

It’s not as fun as it could be yet. It’s missing some key features to make it fully enjoyable.

One of the most important missing feature is party management. If you’re fighting monsters against monsters, you need a way to organize how you want your team to be arranged for combat.

WIP: Team Selection Screen

WIP: Team Selection Screen

The server-side stuff is not done yet. Frankly I don’t think this is going to take too long since most of my profesional experience lies in backend development.

It’s not strategic enough yet. A higher level team will mostly always win at the moment. That’s no fun. I don’t want the grinding to be the only way to success. We’re working on key features that will make combat and team building more strategic.

Think of it like a Tower Defense game. You upgrade your units and place them on a map to defend something. The game sends units to attack you and you watch how well your strategy worked. For the next round, you tweak it based on the results you saw. It’s very rewarding to see your strategy succeed. That’s the idea here. How well you build your team, based on different factors, should define your success. And not all builds will be good in all scenarios. In fact, most won’t. You’ll need to adapt based on your opponents.

So the focus is on Unreap Commander then?

Yup! We’re aiming for a very ambitious January 2018 deadline. Surrender your soul to Soul Reaper at soulreaper(at)powerlevelstudios.com if you want to be part of the pre-alpha.

We’ll have more information in the coming days on how Unreap Commander will work. And no promises yet, but we might make our Trello board public so that we’re completely transparent on everything we’re doing.

What do you think?

Are you looking forward to Soul Reaper: Unreap Commander? Do you think it’s a good idea? What do you like/dislike the most about this idea?

Have you ever made similar happy mistakes?

First published here:  https://medium.com/power-level-studios/devlog-7-we-accidentally-made-a-multiplayer-version-of-soul-reaper-yup-46a56f052ff

Devlog #5: MASSIVE Prototype 3.0 update

Ok, ok, we’ll try not to put MASSIVE for each of our updates. But it’s true though, it is a very very big update, focusing around a very important feature: Combat. It will be available on http://powerlevelstudios.com at the end of September, or early October. In the meantime, you can try 2.0!

Here’s a summary of what you can expect from 3.0:

Vault-ful of improvements for you, reapers of souls: much improved combat, complete with AOE attacks, buffs and debuffs, and Unreap!; arm yourself with new unique legendary loot and soul gear, and reap new exciting monsters’ soul!

Warning

This is very much still a prototype. It still has LOTS of bugs.

Changes

Here’s a full list of changes:

Combat:

  • Grid system for better tactical combat and Area Of Effect (AOE) attacks

  • AOE: Double, Line, Column, Cross and All

  • Unreap feature: summon monsters in combat to fight alongside you

  • Controls instructions

  • Much improved UI

  • Soul Reaper talks

  • Shows all types of damage separately

  • Buff/Debuff indicator

  • Random visual objects in combat background

  • Even faster combat flow

  • Fixed many combat-related bugs

  • Fixed Burning Drake attacking 3 times instead of one

Loot:

5 new, game changing, legendary loot:

  • Carapace Shield: Slotted Soul Actions get applied to all targets;

  • Worm Threaded Necklace: Slotted Soul gets unreaped twice (summon twins!);

  • Paw Pendant: Life on Kill now also gets applied on Hit;

  • Red Rose: Slot Soul Actions cost 0 spirit; and

  • Beef Up Belt: Slot Soul levels up twice faster.

5 new Soul Gear:

  • Sharpener (Stabby Squirrel, Bubbly Fish, Feline Clawer): Life On Kill On Hit, Life on Kill;

  • Holy Shield (Saint Squirrel, Shield Turtle): Life regen per turn, Life on Combat End, Armor);

  • Disgusting Mask (Burning Worm, Octoblader): Burn on Turn, Return Damage Percent;

  • Spirit Sucker (Bubbly Fish, Saint Squirrel, Cursed Snake): Spirit Bonus, Spirit Steal, Spirit on Hit, Spirit on Combat End; and

  • Slow Death (Octoblader, Burning Worm, Cursed Snake): Burn on Turn, Poison on Turn, Slow Chance.

3 new monsters:

  • Shield Turtle (Heavily protected turtle boosting its own defenses (buff))

Burning Worm  (Dangerous worm returning physical damage dealt)

Burning Worm (Dangerous worm returning physical damage dealt)

Feline Clawer  (Deadly assassin dealing LINE AOE damage)

Feline Clawer (Deadly assassin dealing LINE AOE damage)

1_-bVGvs3rgXc53v9CW0SRww.png

Other:

  • Game balance tweaks (still a lot more to do here)

What’s next?

Prototype 4.0 will mostly be about the intro of the game. This means better story, a tutorial and a main screen. But also UI improvements.

What do you think?

Are you looking forward to the new changes? 3.0 will come out in the coming weeks on our website. We’ll leave 2.0 and 1.0 up so you can compare versions.

We think 3.0 is a major step in the right direction. Do you agree or disagree?

First published here:  https://medium.com/power-level-studios/devlog-5-massive-prototype-3-0-update-e6b89f710c84

#Devlog #3: Soul Reaper Talks! Now he can’t it keep it shut!

For people who have been following the development of Soul Reaper, you have a pretty good idea of what kind of character he is. To say that he’s not a very serious guy/being is putting it lightly. If you haven’t seen him in action, you can check out our social media pages below or download our prototype from our website.

Why make him talk?

That wasn’t part of the plan actually. And we don’t even know if we’re going to use it in the game. We don’t currently have good enough equipment to produce high audio quality.

I don’t remember what led to it, but I was looking for a software to change my voice so I could talk as the Soul Reaper. After a few failed attempts, we stumbled upon Voxal and it worked great. I played around with the settings for a few hours to find a voice I think is suitable for Soul Reaper.

When writing the dialogues for the game, I would always narrate it out loud as if I was the Soul Reaper saying it. I think it’s much easier to write dialogues that stay within the theme if I can act it out. If it doesn’t feel right, then I re-write it. But with my own voice, it was always harder to judge if it was still “in character”. I haven’t re-written anything yet since the Soul Reaper has a voice, but I have a feeling things will change for the better when I do.

Why the current voice?

The current voice is not at all what I had in mind initially. Since the game is inspired in parts by Castlevania, I thought it would make sense to try something similar to Death in Symphony of the Night.

                                Original inspiration for Soul Reaper’s voice

After playing around with Distortion, Pitch, Reverb, Chorus, Amplification, Low/High pass, Echo and 3 Band Equalizer, I came up with a top 5 settings, all in Low/High pitch variations. Death in SotN has pretty high pitch and Alucard has pretty low pitch.

Initially I was aiming for high pitch since the Soul Reaper is a funny character. But when I was showing people, they didn’t get the high pitch. Granted, they were not players of the game, so maybe I shouldn’t have listened to them, but I thought they were kinda right though.

So we tried low pitch, more like Alucard. I think the result is much better. Like Alucard, Soul Reaper is a badass. He needs a badass voice. And his smart-ass comments seem even funnier with a deeper voice.

So where are you going with this?

Nothing certain.

If we get access to better audio equipment, maybe we’ll put voice-over in the game. Currently, it’s a great tool to stay in character when writing the story line or anything else related to the game really.

Another thing I’m playing around with is face motion capture to animate the Soul Reaper’s face. I’ve had pretty good results so far, but it’s very taxing on my CPU. The software we’re using is still in beta, so we’ll see if that gets resolved in the final version.

We also have other promotional ideas, but we’re keeping this low profile until we know for sure that we can pull it off.

What do you think?

What do you think of Soul Reaper’s voice? Do you think it matches his character? Have you used Voxal or other software before? Have you had success with it?

First published here: https://medium.com/power-level-studios/devlog-3-soul-reaper-talks-now-he-cant-it-keep-it-shut-9c96a758d50b