Birth of the Big-eyed Crown (Pt. 2)


Editor's Note:

This article is quoted from "FY", who is the game designer in charge of scene and cell design, and also the only girl in our team. So, in order to protect our cute lady, we won't show you her photos, unless… the game reaches 10,000 Wish Lists on Steam! LOL…

Our young lady will share with us her opinions on cell-making: When we speak of the design philosophy of RNG games (Roguelike), what comes to mind?

When we speak of the level design of roguelike games, we find many of them actually don't require too many set pieces. Let's take a step back, games like Fuurai no Shiren, The Binding of Isaac, Crypt of the NecroDancer, etc. don't have those breathtaking "cutscenes" in traditional RPGs. Instead, it's an artifact, a boss fight, or a unique trap that lingers through players' minds.


Randomly distributed enemies and breakable walls in COTND


Boss fights in COTND are quite intriguing. The Band is my favorite.


As far as randomness is concerned, roguelike games don't require ingeniously designed fixed levels. One of the main reasons why everyone loves making (or playing) roguelike games nowadays is that: game developers manage to use a small amount of resources to retain gamers for a long period of time. Players are obsessed with the feeling of challenge, excitement, and uncertainty brought by randomness. And yet, if it's a fixed puzzle, no matter how ingenious it is, after being solved 10 times, it will eventually lose its charm. Besides, it's very expensive in terms of design cost. When we talk about value for money, those ingenious fixed designs don't go well with random roguelike dungeons.

So why do we still add quite a number of fixed designs to our dungeons?


In-game screenshot, all liquid responds to electricity


It has a lot to do with our playstyle that requires the strategy of using elements and terrains. See our last article Birth of the Big-Eyed Crown (Pt.1) for more information on our elemental gameplay. 

What on earth are elemental terrains? You can think of them as special traps or contraptions that carry different interactive effects, which give players a totally unique experience. In other words, this game is composed of all types of special contraptions. Players surely don't expect the same result triggered by all contraptions, otherwise it's no different from auto-attacks.

So… our game is basically a level game that is built around contraptions! Yep, that's how it works! (Sheesh, are you serious about it, my lady? Doesn't sound cool at all)



As a result, it's a huge challenge for our level design (randomness in dungeons is far from enough~~). Not many games have ever faced such a challenge. Sounds pretty risky, we're just little kids.

Well, how are we supposed to conquer the issue of "using elemental terrain?" It remained a pain in the neck for the entire rainy winter. After months of exhausting consideration and debates, we saw a glimmer of light:

Are we going to make a level game like Super Mario, in which every cell is regarded as a puzzle and players must capitalize on the puzzles in combat? The solution to any one cell cannot be marked as 0 or 1, so we have to return to the essence of these games (infinite sync-turn-based dungeons), management of resources. 

Put it this way, a cell encourages players to use elemental combos to turn the battle in their favor, which will save lots of resources for them. A good player knows how to make use of the scene to save resources and enter deeper levels of the dungeon, while a rookie might get trapped and has to first find the solution to the current level.

In our game, players can make use of a scene is these ways:

1. Leash monsters to terrain with debuffs

2. Use terrain to deal wider-ranged and greater damage

3. Use objects to deal damage (control)

4. Use objects and terrain to produce chain effects

5. Transform and utilize terrain

All of these are smart tactics for this game. But bear in mind, when you're practically in a level scene: enemies appear in random locations; terrain is transformed into random elements; and players spawn at random locations. This is why the puzzles in cells are sometimes clear and sometimes ambiguous. In the cells with clearer hints, players are more likely to efficiently solve puzzles and finish combat. In others with ambiguous puzzles, they need full consideration, and there're usually a wide variety of solutions rather than a fixed one. Let's take a look at some of the cases.


Here are some of the in-game cells:

1. Combo between two objects

a) Cell 1: The crossbow fires at an oil drum. Oil and water are blended together, creating a large area of slowing effect


A cell being designed


b) Cell 2: A row of explosive barrels. It seems they must be detonated to deal some serious damage


A cell being designed


In cell 1, the optimal solution is to shoot out the oil drum with the crossbow. In cell 2, most players might wait until monsters gather around the explosive barrels before detonating them. Others might choose to ignore them (note here).


2. Put terrains to rational use, kite monsters and clear levels unharmed


a) Cell 3: Players may leash the pig into the fire via a wise choice of route


A cell being designed


b) Cell 4: The highly damaging Fire and Blast terrains are behind the Boss. How are you gonna leash it there? C'mon, you can do it!


A cell being designed


In cells 3 and 4, players' choices might begin to diverge, because these terrains impose various requirements upon them (such as methods and routes of leashing, transformation of terrains according to different types of monsters, etc.). In such cases, the solution to each puzzle in a cell is no longer unique or fixed. Players may find their way out using personal preference. 


3. For some mechanisms changing per turn, e.g. spikes, players may utilize their turn-based features to turn the tide of battle in their favor.

a) A spike cell without monsters. Players are required to pass the spikes without taking any damage


A cell being designed


b) A cell room with monsters. It seems players may capitalize on spikes’ turn-based changing feature to deal damage to the monsters


A cell being designed


In conclusion, perhaps we need a game with puzzles in every cell with solutions between 0-1 instead of a unique one. Besides, due to the game's random entrance location, monster-spawning location, and elemental terrains, players are encouraged to use their imagination to clear levels.

And that is today's article. Be sure to leave your comments if you have any better ideas. The most important thing is the way of thinking instead of an answer. During the process of room design, after further discussion and study, our level design team has come up with a new set of methods that draws inspiration from some of the games on the market, as well as some urban designs. We'll talk about that next time. See you guys!


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