Archive for March, 2010

Laser Spigot postmortem

March 30, 2010

Laser Spigot didn’t make a huge splash (the pond of roguelike gamers is pretty small anyway), but it was well received by the judges at the Roguetemple challenge evaluation and the early testers on #lispgames. It’s unfortunate that I’d declared it done except for bug fixes by the time I’d released a test version, because the #lispgames folks made some suggestions that would’ve improved the game, and the challenge judges offered some critiques and ideas that shed light on the game design and how to improve it. I consider Laser Spigot “frozen” for the time being (I really need to restore the focus on my primary project), but maybe I’ll do an enhanced version for the Roguelike Release Party this fall. I definitely want to do another hex RL.

Here’s my thoughts along with what I’ve come away with from the feedback I’ve received:

  • Text prompts should persist on the screen longer than a single turn.
  • You should be able to access the help screen while playing.
  • A look feature would be useful (I was going to do one with the mouse, but cut it due to time constraints and the very small number of items/monsters in the game).
  • Another day spent adding a few more enemy types and adding more variation between the levels could’ve really improved things.
  • The laser controls are a bit wonky – maybe the laser beams should move first, so they don’t (sometimes, inconsistently) block the player moving behind them.
  • A move to fire the laser and step backward would be cool (suggested by one of the anonymous judges).
  • I really should’ve spent the five minutes it would’ve took to make sure the game doesn’t try to play the same sound effect twice or more simultaneously, resulting in clipping distortion.
  • The map generation algorithm isn’t ideal, usually resulting in the player entering in a central hub and having to explore the outer edges for the next stairs down. It would be better to start the player near a corner of the map, so that the direction to explore in becomes more clear.
  • I have doubts about the basic energy conservation mechanic as the sole physical constraint on the player, since most or all of my successful runs have involved some boring recharging in a remote corridor (usually following a RepairBot around to drain tiles as he fixes them). Adding energy capsules would provide some motive for exploration, but might make the game too easy.
  • Foiling idle recharging by spawning additional seekers (or worse) over time was my original, unimplemented idea.
  • Items, along with the aforementioned map generation changes, would make the exploration aspect of the game more interesting.
  • The major unimplemented idea, which I originally envisioned as central to the gameplay, was to be the ability to project a forcefield in a straight line outward to block pursuing monsters.
  • Amusingly, someone complained that the monsters were too smart and outwitted the laser, but they contain no logic to avoid the laser at all! It emerges as a consequence of their path-finding – the laser beam blocks the path toward the player, so pursuing robots route around it unless they’re trapped or the cost is too high.
  • Was one screen of introduction text really tl;dr?

Thanks to everyone who played Laser Spigot.

7DRL “Laser Spigot” and February Diversions

March 15, 2010

Lots of work done during February (and early March), yet silence on the blog. In fact, I’ve gotten some interesting things done over the last few weeks, most of which aren’t directly relevant to the game. Game-wise, the progress has been toward the ship designer and a fair bit of work put toward some general graphics routines which took more time than it should have.

First, I’ve gotten a development environment set up on Windows and ported the game to it. Previously, I’d been working exclusively in Linux. There’s a few issues and bumps along the way, but everything basically works.

I’ve done quite a bit of work that’s entirely off-topic – a few days spent sketching out what a Lisp to C++ translator might look like, a simple pixel art animation tool called McPixel (not useful for this project, but definitely for things in the future, including an idea for a side project I’d like to tackle in the near term), an NSF player, etc. A few days wasted toying with a bot for the Google AI challenge right before the deadline, which I never bothered submitting because I knew I’d need a few more to produce something competitive.

More interestingly, I spent last week doing an entry for the 2010 7DRL contest, called “Laser Spigot”, which was a lot of fun to make. It is minimalist as roguelike games go (no lighting, inventory management, or experience points), but fast paced and with a polished presentation. It uses a hex-based map layout. I was skeptical of this idea but wanted to try it, and it turns out to be a real joy to control, as you can map the movement directions to a 3×2 region of keys such that they fall under your middle three fingers naturally. Much more intuitive than, say, the Nethack control scheme.

I’ve had reports of compatibility problems with some people’s machines running this, which I haven’t investigated yet. If anyone finds this won’t run on their machine, I’d appreciate an email with details (whether there’s a message box with an error, or if the screen just flashes and nothing happens then the contents of the file “errlog.txt” if it exists). It’s probably an OpenGL issue, but I’m sure I can work around it once I identify the problem. I plan to release a Mac version, but I can’t promise when, as I do not presently own or have access to a Mac.

I enjoy the hex-based controls and the general style I’ve developed for this game enough that I’d love to build a more full-fledged roguelike around them. Laser Spigot was feature-complete on its fifth day of development – the sixth day was spent finishing the introduction screens, packaging the Windows binary, doing the web site, and fixing a couple last minute bugs, so really you could call it a 6DRL. There’s only so much I can do in five days, and at that point it felt like just piling on more stuff (monsters, items, etc.) wouldn’t do much to enhance the game play.

Download Laser Spigot now! (7 MB, WinXP or later, requires OpenGL 3D accelerator).