Branching conversations are the staple of cRPGs. They reinforce the feeling that the player has meaningful choice in the game, as well as that they are indeed role-playing a character.
In Elemental Enigma you will talk to NPCs, as well as inspect objects and solve puzzles using a branching conversation system. Often the skills and the abilities of the player character, as well as the whole party, will be tested to unlock special conversation options. Choices in-game, as well the order in which the player chooses to pursue quests, will have an impact on them as well.
The idea is that the full game cannot be experienced in a single play-through, that how the player chooses to develop their character, how they choose to interact with the game world, will put them on their own path. Some differences will be minor, some may end up being major, but the end goal is to give the player choices, and have these choices matter.
Of course, building a game with many branches and options can get complicated. It’s important to track and react to what the player has done and how. Data required to make it work can blow up in size very, very quickly. Thankfully that is not a new problem and many games, have managed to deal with it. Knowledge and processes developed by others are being employed while making Elemental Enigma so that the best possible, most immersive experience can be provided to the player.
In the currently developed demo, there are already a number of branching interactions. Here’s an example of the data structure used to define one of them:
One of the main activities in the game will be solving supernatural mysteries. There might be weird noises coming from an abandoned building during the night, there might be a person who disappeared years ago, but can on occasion be seen in a specific place, there might be a house which turned hostile and started torturing its inhabitants, and many more. Fans of modern urban fantasy and creepypastas should have an idea what to expect.
Solving these mysteries might take many forms. A ritual might require performing, ancient scriptures might need deciphering or arcane machinery might call for being found and operated. The skills your character and their party have, will be crucial in overcoming such obstacles. And although opposition is to be expected, and combat might be unavoidable, progressing through the game will require more than just defeating enemies.
It’s quite common for 2D isometric games to have objects obscure other objects, e.g. player character be obscured by a wall that they are standing behind. Ideally the level design would make sure that situations like that didn’t happen, but in reality due to other considerations like visual or combat design, that is not always the case.
Although some games do just ignore this problem, it can have an detrimental effect on gameplay – “Where is my character?” – Pixel hunting for a head sticking out of a bush doesn’t seem like a good time.
There are multiple ways to solve that issue. Some games just fade out the obscuring object, some create a bubble around the character that makes cuts through the obscuring object. However the clearest and cleanest solution I found was to just render the character in some different way over the wall, bush or another object that would otherwise hide it.
This is much easier to do for 3D games, but with some shader and post processing shenanigans I got this to work pretty well. Now when the player party, enemies or NPCs are obscured by level geometry or decorations, they will be shown clearly. This should make navigating the player and companions through a map, or during combat much less of a hassle.
This week a number of things have been fixed and improved under the hood, including saving and texture filtering. There are still some glitches when rendering some floors and objects on occasion, but they should be fixed soon as well.
Most noticeable change this week was adding of some furry NPCs to the demo map. There is a small meadow where cows and pigs hangout, away from everyone. They are friendly and if the player is friendly to them as well, they might even provide some assistance.
There will of course be human NPCs as well. If not in the forest, then for sure somewhere outside 🙂