Archive for the ‘Occult Chronicles’ Category

Mission #3

Friday, April 5th, 2013

In the Belly of the Beast
Some idiot in Research designed a new psychic-kinetic anomaly detector and the high ups decided that they needed to find an appropriate testing ground.

That’s where you come in. The Amity Estate has been abandoned for years. The last tenants were reputedly driven off by poltergeist activity that was abnormally focused and violent. The O.D.D. has listed the place as warranted for observation and quarantine but a lack of resources has meant that surveillance has not been continuous.

Your assignment is to visit the estate and determine its current psychic-kinetic activity level and its suitability as a proving ground for the new gadget.

Mission #2

Friday, March 29th, 2013

The Elder
Despite the loss of two entire Tactical Operations Teams, operation Driven Stake has been a major success. The vampire clans have been smashed, two elders have been destroyed and those remaining have been driven into hiding.

Mop up operations continue apace and recent intelligence indicates that some minor nosferatu elements might have taken refuge in the abandoned Corvinus Manor.

Your assignment is to visit the manor and determine the nature and extent of any vampire clan activity that is ongoing there. You should begin your survey in the morning and plan to finish before dusk to ensure your safety.


Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I’m still working on getting the game ready for release.  Progress has been measured but steady. I’ve finished 3 games in the last 7 years or so and this is always the toughest part. It requires a tremendous amount of self discipline to just sit down and finish off all the not very fun dirty work.

I do want to talk about how the Win condition for the game is structured. In many rogue likes the final boss is always the same. That doesn’t really matter a whole lot because in some cases you could spend a life time and never reach him. 🙂  I’m not kidding.   But, while I want The Occult Chronicles to be hard and challenging, I want the end to be fairly reachable.  Like I have stated many times before, my goal is to make a board game like experience, so I needed to design both an attainable win condition and a thematically varied one as well.  I had originally toyed with the idea that Betrayal House on the Hill implemented so well, which was an ending that depended on what you had actually done in the house.  In that game, a huge variety of endings can be triggered by a particular configuration of game states and the omen card that is drawn. But I soon found that unworkable with my limited resources.

So instead, I decide to go the more traditional way, with an End Encounter set up in the basement of the mansion that varied depending on which mission you selected at the beginning of the game. It’s primarily just a way to add different thematic flavor to each game. Choosing one mission over another doesn’t change any of the mechanics in a significant way.  In each case you need to gather clues and then find and confront the final encounter. But I really like the thematic flavor that each mission adds. You see the different mission choices affect the final mission rooms i.e. each mission has a unique set of rooms where the finale takes place. You also get different random encounters added into the mix. The story text for each time a story icon triggers is different of course. And finally some of the clues are unique to each mission. i.e. you can find a set of fake robes for the Cultist Sacrifice Mission that will give you a big advantage when you try and infiltrate the Inner Sanctum and stop the return of The Great Tentacled One.

Here is the image for the first mission that you can choose along with the text description that is presented

The Key and the Gate

There have been rumors surfacing recently concerning the revival of a cult devoted to The Tentacled Ones. These creatures are said to be slumbering in an outer dimension and intent on returning to our world to assume their places as earth’s rightful rulers.

Reports of missing young women from the neighboring town have kindled suspicions that the ancient Lovecraft Estate might have new residents intent on some nefarious summoning or gate opening ritual.

The stars do seem to be right for a ritual. You have precious little time remaining before a celestial conjunction not to be seen for another thousand years could be used to the cultists’ advantage. Our analysts believe that a human sacrifice will be required.

The Occult Chronicles Web Page

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I’ve had my amazing sister Katie put up the foundations of The Occult Chronicles webpage on my Cryptic Comet website.  It consists of an Overview page which sums up the game play pretty well. I’m going to try and create a game play/designer notes video and put it up on Youtube but that’s going to have to wait until after the launch. All my efforts right now are focused on finishing the game.

Once I think it’s ready, I’m going to do a buy in beta like I did with Six Gun Saga.  This lets me sleep at night because some bugs and the occasional script error are not completely unexpected and players who buy in should understand that and hopefully even contact me with save games so I can fix things.  On AE and SI, I almost stressed myself out to the point of a nervous breakdown with a lot of the bug hunting.  I DO NOT expect that there will be many, but there are always things that slip by.  Some quests are pretty complex for example, with multiple options for solving them and there might be branches or interactions that I haven’t anticipated.

So, if everything goes according to plan I would like to start the Beta Buy In around late April but it may slide until early May.  I’m feeling very positive about where the game has ended up. My goal was to create something that a single player board gamer who can never find friends for Betrayal House on the Hill or Mansions of Madness would love to play.  I hope that I have done that. I think so. There are so many neat things in the game to discover.  While I’ve been testing I’ve come across a few that I had forgotten that I had made and was pleasantly surprised.

I’ve also lowered the prices on AE and SI to $14.99 each or $25 for both.  It’s a bit of an experiment to see if the conventional wisdom is correct. I’m hoping that it brings up volume and revenues. I’d still like to get them both on steam someday.  Gabe, Valve, Steam call me.

The price for The Occult Chronicles will be $19.99.  I’ll probably set up a Greenlight page once I can get a video finished. I’ll post the link here if that happens.

Thanks again to everybody who plays my games and supports my design efforts.



Moving Things Along

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I just spent the last few days changing a major design feature and despite the ripples it sent through my code base, I’m glad that I did. My original vision for Occult Chronicles was a computerized version of a board game where you move your investigator around the haunted house and whenever you enter a room and something happens, an “Encounter” card is drawn.  Usually, you read the text, resolve anything that needs resolving…skill challenges, etc. and then discard the card and move on.

I decided originally that I did want some cards to hang around on the board.  I called them unique encounters and they were often scenarios where you could come back to complete a quest, or have more options after you had improved your stats or found more objects during your exploration.  Random encounters were the opposite in my mind. They popped up and you decided either fight or flight. Thematically I justified this by telling myself that the patrol of cultists or gaggle of zombies that you randomly encountered in a room moved on if you fled.  Poof. If you killed them all of course there was no need to track them. But what happens if you decide that you are not ready to handle a random encounter and you run away?

It always bothered me that they just seemed to vanish.  I was also trying to be a little more board game like and less traditional rogue like in this aspect.  I know when I play rogue likes, one thing that sort of bothers me is the goofy one step, two step dancing that sometimes happens when you are navigating, running away or trying to use ranged attacks.  I wanted abstraction and not a lot of tactical maneuvering. But I thought there was a better strategy element that could be added if the random encounters didn’t just go poof.

So, I now have a system where after you decide to run away from an encounter (and succeed in the tarot card challenge after you pick that option), the encounter can now remain on the board and actually chase you around a bit.  I’ve also created some rules so that you can actually lose your pursuer by carefully moving around the corridors and rooms of the mansion.  You get a one space head start so that it’s not right on your tail and after that if you can break line of sight from one room to the next i.e. leave a room before the encounter has trailed you into it, then  you are free.  The encounter will either wait a few turns before randomly walking around the mansion or pick a random door immediately and go through it…which may or may not be your door.  It sounds more complicated than it is but the end result is that the running away/sneaky strategy just got a bit more interesting.  And now there is more tension as well.  If you keep running away from things the air space starts getting crowded. So you have to keep that in mind as you plan your strategy out for which rooms to visit and when to push on to another level.

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

Sale Time

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Ok I’m in the home stretch on The Occult Chronicles.  The famous last 10% that feels like the final turn on the 400 meter sprint.  The bad news is that I won’t be making the October 31st release date that I had hoped for.  Right now I’m shooting for January or February.  So I’m having a sale to raise some funds to finish off the art for the project.  Kickstarter seems a bit too much for something like this and I’d like to save it for a TBS or maybe a mega expansion pack for this game.   I’d like to ask any longtime supporters to spread the sales news around in any way that they can.  Tell your forum buddies, post on your blog or get a soap box out and stand on it at a street corner etc.  You can get 50% off any games that I sell for the next 10 days.  Just enter the coupon code OCCULT when you go to check out.  The deal doesn’t apply to the SI & AE bundle but you will get a better price by adding them to the cart separately and then using the code.

I’ll have some news pretty soon about development.  I have just about finished all the data entry on all the “encounters” in the game.  I went back and created a special “Quest” card mechanic that let me link different encounters together.  It took some time but I think it was worth it.  Now you can try and communicate with some of the denizens of the haunted estate and get into some interesting situations.  I had a lot of fun thinking up ways to let you do things like play angry ghosts off against each other and beat demons at their own Faustian game.  You can always just go mano a mano with them the old fashioned way with tommy guns, spells and psychic talents if you prefer but there are some neat things to discover if you dig a little deeper sometimes.  Anyway, thanks for everyone’s continued support.  I think the wait will be worth it for this game and I’m very excited about how it is turning out.

Occult Chronicles Update

Friday, May 4th, 2012

It’s become apparent to me that I will not be able to release The Occult Chronicles in June like I had hoped.  At the time it seemed like a reasonable goal but it seems that I have traded AI Hell for Data Entry Hell and I’m not sure at this point which is worse.  Making games is tough work.  Making games by yourself and not having henchmen to order around to do the myriad of menial tasks that are entailed in putting a game together sometimes seems impossible.   So in order to give myself some peace of mind and more importantly the time to really polish this thing off, I’m going to pin my new  semi official release date onto the 31st of October, 2012.  It’s a strategy horror survival adventure rogue like game so that seems like a fitting choice and it will hopefully motivate me to get to the finish line.

Right now I am slogging my way through testing out all the actions that the various weapons, heroic feats, spells and psychic talents offer to manipulate the tarot card game.  It’s so boring but so necessary.  I’ve returned to the main foyer with a generic “encounter” that I can run to test out the different actions.  The screen shot below shows how the game is looking at this point.  The icon for your O.D.D. agent is a place holder from Solium Infernum of course.  (Can’t seem to get word press to not distort these so click on them to enlarge if you are interested)

Here is a screenshot of the Tarot Card game that you play when you resolve an encounter.  Lot’s to explain there but I’ll leave that for a later date.  Coffee break is over.  Time to get back on my head.

Archiving The Stories

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

The Occult Chronicles is a thinking man’s rogue like….. a “strategy rogue like” is the term being bandied about.  It’s focus is on the random generation of a large explorable game space. This means not only the map but all the things that can interact with it and each other.  I’ve pushed my art budget to the limit to pump up the item count in the game and also pushed my mind to come up with ways to get the elements to combine in unique and hopefully emergent ways.  150+ unique encounters, 60+ unique items, 40 spells, heroic actions and psychic abilities, 40+ edges (passive abilities), 22 Major Arcana, and over 100 unique room, basement, cave and dungeon-like tiles.  The game is huge.  And the fun is in each play through finding cool things and figuring out how they can help you to accomplish the specific mission that you are on.

The archives are a sorely missed part of my previous games that will serve to document in a meager way each unique story that is played out through the combination of all those previously listed elements. So after you have collected a lot of this “stuff” and with tense trepidation walked the many creaky corridors and pushed open a bunch of squeaky doors, and either emerged  alive with your mission accomplished or lie decomposing propped up against a moldy wall after having bled out, it will be fun to go back and see how far you got by examining your agent and all the things that he/she collected along the way.  I’ve also implemented an “achievement” system where medals are handed out based on your performance and the difficulty level that you chose at the beginning of the game.  I’m shying away at this point from adding a numerical score because of the many problems with getting the number to really match the quality of play for all the different styles that I’d like the game to accommodate.  If you sneak around and cleverly avoid some encounters that might have yielded large score points it’s difficult to adjust for that.  Right now I think the medal system will be enough to quantify how well you played the game.  Here is a rough mock up of what the Agent Archives will look like.

Rolling The Bones

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

This is just a quick update on the status of my next game The Occult Chronicles.  Things are moving along well.  Not as fast as I would like but the ball is being advanced.  I had to go back and redesign some of the game systems because of an idea that struck me while I was doing design work for a more classic 2 player turn based strategy game for down the road.  I like to take breaks from the drudgery of doing UI work or data entry and work on designs in my notebooks.  I was playing around with dice this time and it struck me that it might be cool to add some type of customizable dice to the game that the player would acquire and manipulate like he did other items i.e. weapons, spells, special abilities etc.

So I came up with the idea of bones.  You can collect them and use them in a lot of instances where the game wants you to determine a random outcome.  The strategy aspect comes in the way you can pick which die you want to use from your collection and how you upgrade the dice.  Right now these are mostly triggered by using items in you inventory.  Say you have a pistol and you trigger its action during a challenge, then you might need to pick a bone or two from you collection and roll them.  If you get over a certain threshold number then the pistol’s action is successful and you can proceed to use it during the challenge.  That’s the general concept.  The bones don’t have pips though in general. They have swords, cups, wands, and pentacles.  You can also bump up the values on individual faces as you upgrade them.  You might start with or find a basic die with 3 blank faces and 3 faces with 1 sword on them.  Later you might change a blank face into another sword or bump a face up to 2 swords.  You can also upgrade the die by changing it from a d4 to a d6 (which means the max face value can now be 6). You will need to build your dice pool up to synergize with your character’s abilities and items.  Here are some of the dice you might come across in the game.  You can click on them in your inventory to see the layout of their face values.