Lots of very boring work has been going on here in Squid Tower, but I’m closing in on a working Vertical Slice of game and the possibility of an Early Access release on Steam this year is looking good.
The number one thing I’ve been thinking about is loot. It turns out that Waves: Arena Tactics is all about loot and while that was never my intention at the beginning it’s how it’s ended up.
Loot can be bought from the shop, crafted (eventually) but mostly it is found during Dives. The reason you try to get deeper into a system is because that’s where the good stuff is kept. Deeper you go the better the loot and therefore the deeper you can go. It’s circular. Get deep enough and maybe you can crash the entire system and gain immense Notoriety (essentially experience points).
The idea I struggled with for a long time was that all loot should be fair and balanced; an ideology that was a hold-over from working on MMOGs for so long. This ideology is complete hogwash in a roguelike dungeon crawler like W:AT. Depending entirely on the players own skill level to improve over time is “pure” but results in most people just giving up out of frustration. There is also a physical upper limit on what a player can achieve meaning levels can never get more dangerous than that. Increasing quality of loot is what makes a Roguelike work and I am embracing it entirely.
Loot is digital in nature in W:AT. This is a world of bits and bytes not swords and treasure. When you pick something up it gets added to your download manager and queued up for download. Should your connection be terminated before the download completes then you’ll lose the loot (although leaving through the level exit will always complete all downloads instantly). Considering that the best loot is guarded heavily an unauthorized download attempt might cause a significant system response. Picking something up is only the start of your job collecting loot not the end of it.
I’ll go over all the types of Loot in the game and give some examples.
All equipment is stuff that you can equip to your avatar. Fairly self explanatory. The majority of Loot is equipment and comes in 3 versions (V1.0 to V3.0) and each version is just flat out better than the previous one. Most V1.0 equipment can be bought from the shop as your Notoriety increases but the better versions need to be found by Diving deeper. V3.0 equipment tends to only be found in the most secure systems at the deepest levels guarded by the nastiest programs. Eventually crafting will allow you to create alpha and beta versions giving you an incremental increase towards the next full version by combining your spares (therefore v3.0b would be the best equipment you can get).
Your Avatar has several slots you can put Equipment into. There are 3 Program slots (Primary Weapon, Defence, and Super Weapon) and 5 Upgrade slots (3 Accessory slots, a Modification slot and a Booster slot). I did toy with the idea of borrowing Eve Onlines slot system but found it was quite cumbersome on a joypad, there are however similarities between the two.
Your Programs are the only way you can directly interact with the programs populating a system. They should be fairly self-explanatory but I’ll go over them anyway.
Primary Weapons are your basic attack (gun). Primary weapons use no energy and are always available. They are the bread and butter of the game and take one of 3 forms (I’m working on a fourth but I’m not committing to it yet) – Projectile, Beam and Thrower. Projectile weapons all launch a projectile that takes time to hit its target and often have an explosive element, high rate of fire and a large spread. Beam weapons all fire continuously and have zero travel time hitting instantaneously, they’re great at single target damage. Throwers are very short ranged but require very little aiming and often have a secondary effect like burning, stunning or knock back.
Defences are non-damaging programs that are intended to keep you alive a little longer. Defences always use up energy and may have a cool-down period after using them. Once a Defence is triggered it lasts for a fixed duration of time so knowing when to use them is critical. They can however save your life. Examples of Defences are the “Slow Field” which slows down everything around you, the Energy Shield which makes you temporarily invulnerable, self-heals, cloaking devices, teleporters, EMP blasts and sometimes they just give you massive buffs (for those that believe attack is the best form of defence).
Super Weapons (New better name suggestions welcomed) user up energy in order to kill things very efficiently. Smartbombs are the simplest example being great for removing all the chaff you may find yourself swarmed by. Some Super Weapons just do lots of damage or clear the screen while others are more about area denial such as lightning storms which last for a while striking enemies randomly inside their area of effect.
Upgrades are passive bonuses and can be used to tailor your Avatar to a particular play style.
Accessories manipulate the 8 base Stats in the game and define your Avatar: Health, Attack, Defence, Speed, Energy, Health Regen, Energy Regen, and Hacking. Health and Speed are obvious, Attack multiplies the damage of all your weapons while Defence absorbs some of the incoming damage your suffer. Energy is used to run Defences and Super Weapons and Hacking is used to crack open files and databases you find in the game (some files need a higher hacking stat to access at all). Health and Energy Regen just represent your avatars ability to passively regenerate those two stats.
Accessories come in many forms the most basic of which is just a single stat modifier like +10 Health. More complex forms might offer a larger single stat increase at the expense of another such as the Turtle which offers +15 Defence at the expense of 10 Speed. Others may offer small gains across many stats which is only useful when you have 3 of them stacked up. With 3 versions of every Accessory there are already over 100 Accessories in the game and the potential for even more in the future.
Modifications offer passive buffs that can be quite game changing but always come with a significant downside. A lot of the team buffing auras are modifications such as Healing Auras which increase the Health Regen of everybody within a certain range. Other modifications like the Vampire regenerate your health as you cause damage to enemies or they might just add a secondary effect to your attacks like a stun or burn effect. The downsides might just be sacrificed stats or debuffs (the Vampire Mod has a negative Health Regen so it might kill you).
Boosters only last a single level but provide a massive bonus during that level. The only way to gain extra-lives is by equipping an Emergency Backup Booster giving you a single life that lasts for one dungeon level. Other Boosters may give you a huge bonus to your stats or negate the Downside of a Modification. Boosters being consumable means that there are a lot of them out there and simple versions are readily available from the Shop.
Every level contains a number of Passkeys which are required to be able to unlock the level exit and in some cases well protected files. They aren’t very fancy but they are required to get deeper into the level. Passkeys are only ever contained in Databases which must be hacked (staying within proximity of the server until the security is broken down) which has a tendency to draw the attention of the system defences. Not all Databases contain Passkeys but they always contain something worth your time unlike Files which sometimes contain nothing at all or even worse Viruses.
Yep Money. However we’re not talking gold coins as this is a digital universe. As a hacker sometimes you’ll find data that somebody might want to pay for (or will pay a ransom for). When this happens the offending files are converted into cash as soon as they finish downloading. These files might be a database of user names, payment details, credit card numbers, nude cell phone pictures or CCTV footage of illegal nuclear waste dumping. Whatever form it takes it’s worth money to the right (or wrong) people. Eventually I’ll add Bank systems that only ever contain large quantities of money but that’s for a different time.
Pickups are temporary little boosts dropped by programs in the system as they get terminated. You can also find pickups inside files. The most common pickup dropped by all programs is energy. All programs use energy to run so when you terminate a program you can steal the energy before the system reassigns it. Some pickups might boost your stats temporarily as well.