Archive for January, 2013

Occult Chronicles Update

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I should start with a huge apology for the lack of updates to anybody who was following this blog or interested in my games.  For the last few months the thought of writing anything about how the project was going immediately elicited a knee jerk procrastinate response.  It was almost like I was in a cave and the thought of seeing light at the end of the tunnel was something I didn’t want to jinx by talking about it.  I think at this point that I do see some light and I will skip the obligatory train joke. 🙂

So where does The Occult Chronicles stand?  I’ve got one last shipment of art coming in for a final group of encounters that I really didn’t know that I needed until recently.  It’s mostly for the levels under the mansion that I had originally envisioned as a single small basement level and is now a more sprawling dungeon/caverns complex.  Yes, I gave into a scope creep that cropped up as I was testing out all the encounters on the upper levels i.e. Main Floor, Second Floor and Attic.  It took me months to first create all the data objects in text files and then create all the description text that goes along with the encounters.  It was exhausting. But since December I’ve been able to move around the mansion and test out all the encounters and make sure the bugs get fixed and the correct text comes up.  In the course of doing this I discovered that my design was a little lacking in ambition and challenge.  The game flow was thus; the player moved around the mansion and explored and encountered all the haunts, cursed furniture, demonic apparitions, secret libraries and most importantly clues and then set about going down to the basement to confront the mission finale.   But knowing that you just had to find and open the basement door and then do some minimal exploring to find the final mission tiles made the whole thing a little too predictable.

So I went back to some of my source texts for this game.  I was reading “The Rats In The Walls” by H. P. Lovecraft and the expedition beneath the Exham Priory inspired me to create something like that for this game..but with the twist that it would be more like a death trap dungeon experience to set it apart from the game play on the above ground levels in the mansion.  So I started going back over some old D & D modules like The Tomb of Horrors and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and had a lot of fun revisiting scenes from my childhood.  TPK style.

The end result is that you now have to search for the final mission tile area somewhere on the second sub level.  There is a third sub level that sort of acts like the Catacombs do in Dungeon Quest which is a game that I wrote about a while ago that has also inspired my design for The O.C. You can fall down into the third level in a variety of ways that I don’t want to spoil but the classic pit trap is the primary way.  Once down there you will need to grope around and find a way to get back up to the second level.  I had the most fun devising a bunch of traps that can end up insta killing the player if the Grim Reaper card is revealed during the results phase of a failed evade trap challenge.  Before you scream in outrage that it will be unfair or unfun or ungentlemanly to do this you can set the game to “Normal” mode and wake up in the foyer with a headache and try again.  The default mode is “Reaper” which means permadeath….Game Over man.  That’s the way the game is intended to be played.  I would change the name to “Care Bear” or “Wimpy” mode but the graphic for the button is “Normal” right now and I don’t want to spend the time ordering a new one.  Although I’m still wavering on whether it just might be worth it.

So things are looking good. I will try to post some more updates and maybe even a screenshot or two. The problem I have is that posting almost anything visual seems like a spoiler.  I’ll see if I can come up with some generic stuff.  I make no promises but I hope to have the game finished this Spring.  I will probably do a buy in beta (very late beta….should be very polished by then) but I still haven’t made any final decisions.

On a side note: I have been playing Elder Sign: Omens on my Kindle and really enjoying it.  I can see why everybody likes the iOS/Android games but I’m still not convinced that I can offer the type of complexity that I like on such a platform.  And I think you really need to design specifically for the touch screen.  ES:O can pull it off because the design is simple and elegant.  I haven’t beat the Cthulhu campaign yet but it’s been very enjoyable trying and I really love the push your luck aspects with the dice pools.  I find myself constantly having to make tough decisions about which items to use and how best to match the characters to the adventure cards.  It’s a fun game, the FFG art is wonderful and the theme is priceless.

Here is the Queen of Pentacles Tarot Card from my upcoming game The Occult Chronicles