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Post feature RSS Crimson Keep Design Talk 2: Abilities and Mana

This week Ian talks about some of the abilities that are in the game, their design, and the mana system for the game.

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Hey everyone! Ian here, game designer and artist for Crimson Keep. Thanks for checking out this article, for more news about the game you can follow us on twitter @neckbeardninjas

Let's talk about some abilities this week. In my quest to play every first person hack and slash game one of the things that has always let me down is the lack of depth. The Elder Scrolls series has been the standard for quite awhile when it comes to an immersive, single player, first person hack and slash RPG. But I've personally never been a huge fan. In particular the requirement to pause the game, or setup hidden hotkeys to switch between abilities, makes it difficult to pair more than a few abilities/spells together for a meaningful encounter. It seems like most people play these games by spamming the left mouse button and turning down the difficulty. The most attractive thing to me in video games of any type, is being constantly challenged, requiring improvement of the character, the player, or ideally, both. And that's what I'm striving for with Crimson Keep.

One aspect of our venture into the first person RPG is merging the gory, first person action of games like Dark Messiah, Dishonored, and Hexen with the interesting ability system of MMO's like World of Warcraft, or even MOBA's. In Crimson Keep the player will have a choice of several classes, which each have a wide selection of abilities. Every few levels the player gets to choose one of three abilities for that playthough. The goal being to provide a large amount of replay-ability as well as a way to cater to play styles of different players. Diablo III has its faults, ranging from a boring, poorly told story, to an art style many felt was markedly less dark than previous entries in the series, but I'll be damned if I didn't enjoy getting a new ability or ability perk every level. The best part of the game for me was figuring out which strategy I liked best for slaying hordes and hordes of baddies.

Our programmer, Ben, recently finished implementing the abilities for the Berserker class. The Berserker is a unpredictable melee powerhouse who uses barbaric tactics to gain an upper hand in battle. Here are some examples of the Berserker's abilities. Please note that they don't look too flashy yet, but in the end they will each have unique animations and particle FX to accompany them.

Gorge: This ability allows the player to consume the corpse of a fallen enemy regaining hit points in the process. Straight out of roguelike's like Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup, butchering and eating corpses has been commonplace for the genre for awhile, and we're happy to bring it into the first person experience!

gorge small

Berserk: For ten seconds the Berserker goes into a frenzy, swinging wildly, hitting every enemy in its path. Great for packs of weaker enemies!

berserk small

Smolder: One of three elemental axes the Berserker can throw. This one burns the enemy increasing the damage they take for 10 seconds.

smolder small

Roar: The Berserker looses a terrible cry, scaring enemies in the surrounding area away for several seconds. Excellent for breaking up crowds so you can deal with them more strategically.

roar small

We've certainly got a long way to go, especially with the visuals, but as you can see, we're making progress! One thing you might of noticed, that I'd like to address, is the mana system.

In the original design document I was going for a more standard MMO/Moba ability system, relying, as they do, heavily on cooldowns and mana costs to balance the game. But in single player, PvE focused games specifically, cooldowns do little else than encourage the player to wait around. And, I don't consider waiting around all that fun. I came to this decision after reading some of Ben's blogs at his website.

So I removed basically every single element of the game that might encourage waiting in any way, regenerating health, cooldowns longer than 5 seconds, and added a hunger system that put a tinge of urgency into the game as well. Crimson Keep is not a game about waiting, it's about combat, becoming more powerful, and surviving the deadly depths of the keep. After removing the cooldowns I ran into another quandary however, how do I make the player use multiple abilities, and not just save their mana for one ability they like the best. And since using abilities is fun, how do I give the player to opportunity to use them often without having regenerating mana. Simple, we gave each ability it's own mana pool, and killing enemies recharges them.

Ultimately this puts a somewhat new system into the hands of players. They are encouraged to use abilities because if any of their abilities are at maximum mana when they slay a monster, you lose those free mana points. But they are also mindful of how they use abilities because of their small mana pools. I think it's a very nice happy medium, and in the end, it will be fun to play and experiment with.

I hope you enjoyed this boring write up on abilities. As always, feel free to let me know what you think about anything I've written or showed you. Any feedback is much appreciated.

Here's a couple more pictures of new stuff from the game this week:

barrel gif


isbeorn - - 837 comments

Sounds very interesting. I didn't quite understand though, what happens to an ability's mana pool if it is full when you slay an enemy. You say it decreases the mana pool? Is that if the enemy was slain using that ability, or regardless? I'd understand that using an ability removes from that mana pool, but you made it sound like a special case when the pool was full.

P.S. Oh and I just LOVE that skeleton's sword swing. That's what caught my eye for this game.

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IanAtherton Author
IanAtherton - - 155 comments

Hey, maybe I worded it poorly. I meant when the ability's mana pool is full, and you kill a monster, you're not getting mana for that ability because it's already full.

P.S. Thanks!

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isbeorn - - 837 comments

Right! That makes sense.

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Neon-Ghost - - 1,605 comments

This game is very spoopy

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IanAtherton Author
IanAtherton - - 155 comments

Thanks, we have some darker inspirations like Diablo and Hexen, but it's not explicitly a horror game. But there's nothing wrong with the occasional spoopy moment!

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cohanesian - - 1 comments

Very interesting solution. I am currently working on a solo first person action RPG myself and you brought up some issues that have been bugging me as well. I agree that cooldowns aren't always going to be the right answer for every game, and it looks like you guys came up with a cool alternative. Great stuff so far, I'll definitely be following this project as it progresses.

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IanAtherton Author
IanAtherton - - 155 comments

Thanks! I'm pretty happy with it, but we'll see how it fairs once a bunch of people start playing it.

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