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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Malevolence - the endless RPG

Zed

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Tags: Alex Norton; Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox; Visual Outbreak

Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox is an indie turn- and grid-based first-person RPG being developed by Aussie team Visual Outbreak. In this day and age, just hearing it's turn-based might spark an interest in some. But Malevolence does something different as well. The game procedurally generates the game world, creating an infinite experience - and not just geographically.

After some buzz on the glorious Codex forums, we got in touch with Creative Director Alex Norton to see if he could shed some light on various aspects of Malevolence and how the game will play in practice. Here's a peek:

The player does not control a party of heroes in MALEVOLENCE, which is otherwise quite common in turn-based RPGs. How do you make turn-based combat tactical and fun with a single character?

MALEVOLENCE is all about the character progression. Your abilities, spells, feats, etc, evolve in an infinite way during the game, meaning character maintenance/tweaking is a full-time job. Because of this, every aspect of your character comes into use while playing the game, but at the same time, everything you do has a consequence. As you practice and get better in one field, you will start to suffer in others. It's this balancing act that keeps things interesting for the player. But keep in mind, MALEVOLENCE is played in the style of a classic RPG, but is, in actual fact, more of a very advanced roguelike. Hence the single character aspect.​


You claim that MALEVOLENCE is almost entirely procedurally generated -- weapons, items, dungeons, cities, creature stats and even dialogue. Is the procedurally generated content based on the player character's level, on current quest objectives... or something else? How do you balance the game's challenge and how do you implement plot goals in a procedurally generated world? Are all quests going to be procedurally generated as well?

Yes indeed. All quests are generated by the game, and yes, they are somewhat based around the characters level. That being said, the game most certainly does not spoon-feed you. Many modern RPGs make it so that the game levels with the player. MALEVOLENCE does this, too, however it does so in a much more harsh way. At any point, no matter what level you are, you will be able to find things that are much too easy or much too difficult for you. That way, the player can choose their pace of gameplay and follow the path that is right for them.​


One thing about procedural generation is that it seems to be in danger of making the game too generic, both in its looks and its gameplay. How do you introduce enough variety in it?

Well the short answer is that in an infinite game, there's always going to be eventual repetition of 3D assets, voices, textures, etc. It's just the nature of it. However, we have a large variety of biomes, environments, buildings, dungeons, etc to keep the player occupied. Think of it like the DIABLO series. They would re-use the same assets, but rearranged in a different order and it had great replayability. Most people assume that we're making an infinite game so that people can play it forever, but that's not actually the case. We're making an infinite game so that people can play it for as long or as short a time as they'd like, rather than have to have it end. There's nothing worse than reaching the end of a game that you love and wanting more!​

Read the entire thing right here!
 

EG

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Why must it always be procedural with you people!
 

DarkUnderlord

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Damn, game looks nice. Still unsure about the whole grid-based movement thing. I think it would just annoy me.
 

Mother Russia

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Pure and utter crap.

What the FUCK is wrong with people? How can they claim to make 'classic' games when in fact the gameplay is anything BUT classic?

'Classic' games have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. They don't go on 'forever' Only shit games do.

Also, turnbased but no party? Is this dude stupid? Does he even understand the entire point of turnbased in a crpg?

Lastly, a pox on roguelikes and those that play them. Roguelikes are what led to Diablo, which in turn led to the death of turnbased + partybased and that transitioned into the shit churned out today.

Lesson to be learned: Just cuz some autistic 'tard programmed a 'roguelike' and it had all these geeky symbols and shit that doesn't mean it's classic or hardkore. It means the dumbfuck didn't have the money to do it properly. If he had, the game would be Diablo ++++++++++ NEW SHIT.
 

Mortmal

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Thats what i thought, its a semi turn based system, they said turn based but its something like dungeon Hack from SSI with prettier graphics and exterior environements.Nothing wrong with that i like those kind of games, i guess if you like DM clones and daggerfall you will like that, but wizardry fans will be butthurt again :)
 
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I didn't quite get it, is there anything to do except roam endlessly and kill monsters and eventually trade at guilds and merchants? Like real quests, or meaningful actions? Or some "social" interaction with npcs?
 
In My Safe Space
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Lastly, a pox on roguelikes and those that play them. Roguelikes are what led to Diablo, which in turn led to the death of turnbased + partybased and that transitioned into the shit churned out today.
No. I tried playing Diablo roguelike - basically a roguelike with Diablo setting and mechanics and it's incredibly primitive when compared to normal roguelikes.
If Diablo would be a continuation of the roguelike tradition, it would have much more complex mechanics, survival elements, lots of skills and stuff to do with them, etc.
 
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Continuation doesn't necessarily mean it's more complex. Remember how ME was the grand evolution of rpgs?

I didn't quite get it, is there anything to do except roam endlessly and kill monsters and eventually trade at guilds and merchants? Like real quests, or meaningful actions? Or some "social" interaction with npcs?

Looks like we got our first request for romances :smug:

He only says there will be generated quests. Maybe eventually you can get an important one, but will be allowed to keep playing afterwards ( since the idea is that the game only ends when you want to, and meaningful actions tend to lead you towards an endgame )
 

Stelcio

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These six core stats are represented as percentages, rather than numbers. Instead of having a strength of 50, you'll have a strength of, say, 30%. As you keep performing feats of strength, that percentage will (very) slowly rise up and up. But the higher your Strength rises, the more other skills will fall. First things like Wisdom and Intelligence will start to suffer, then Dexterity and Charisma and so on. The reason that this happens is that all six stats, when added together, must always equal 100%. Instead of individual statistic numbers, what the player has is what is called a 'stat pool'. This number is based on what level you are. When you first start a new game, each of your stats is sitting at 16.67% (adding up to a total of 100%) and your stat pool is 100. That means, rounding up, that each statistic is worth 17. However, if you buff your strength up to 30% by using your muscles a lot in the game, your Strength value will be closer to 30, but your Wisdom and Intelligence will now be sitting at 10 each. You spent too much time practicing with a sword and your magic studies suffered for it. When you go up a level, your stat pool number increases, but your individual stat percentages stay exactly the same. This way, your stats DO go up, but the actual balance across them all stays put. That means everything you do in the game has consequences, however, the game is actually monitoring everything you do, and letting you be better at the things you do most, while atrophying the areas that you use least.

For a player who wants to be a straight fighter, or a straight mage, this is no problem, as they just have to play the way they play and things will just work out. But for someone who wants to multi-class, then they will have to actually train - just as in real life - to maintain the balance of their statistics. To speed up the process, however, or to correct deviations, you will be able to pay money at various guilds to train certain statistics up and get the most out of your character. An example is the Fighter's Guild. A warrior can pay to train his Strength and Constitution, or a ranger can pay to train their Dexterity, but other stats will suffer from it. It'll just mean you don't have to grind it out to get your stats where you want them.
This is stupid and absolutely not like real life, because it means:
a) all of your stats will instantly jump up once you level up, just because
b) getting better in one sphere causes decline in other (why?!)
c) the best way to avoid the atrophy is to... do nothing! :retarded:

It's innovate just for the sake of innovating, no sense at all.
 

EG

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b) getting better in one sphere causes decline in other (why?!)

Ah, this takes me back (to being 10 years old and thinking that'd be a good idea) . . . and the bullshit answer is

"We only have a limited amount of time to exist. If we spend all that time strength training, we will getter dumber, as we're not practicing our smarts."
 
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Your stats don't all go up, that way there would be no atrophy. What happens is that you'll always have 100 "skill points", which will adjust according to your actions. Like, if you got 10% more strength, you'll lose that 10% from other skills (most likely those opposed to athletic actions).

The idea is that you won't end up with a Warriormagethief that is good at everything like in TES.
 

Stelcio

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b) getting better in one sphere causes decline in other (why?!)

Ah, this takes me back (to being 10 years old and thinking that'd be a good idea) . . . and the bullshit answer is

"We only have a limited amount of time to exist. If we spend all that time strength training, we will getter dumber, as we're not practicing our smarts."

Why training both keeps us from getting better in both then? :smug: Truly a bullshit answer. :thumbsup:
 

Stelcio

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Your stats don't all go up, that way there would be no atrophy. What happens is that you'll always have 100 "skill points", which will adjust according to your actions. Like, if you got 10% more strength, you'll lose that 10% from other skills (most likely those opposed to athletic actions).
once you level up
Instead of individual statistic numbers, what the player has is what is called a 'stat pool'. This number is based on what level you are. When you first start a new game, each of your stats is sitting at 16.67% (adding up to a total of 100%) and your stat pool is 100. That means, rounding up, that each statistic is worth 17.
 

Metro

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Agreed. Not a fan of the percentage based stats. Just seems like a quick/lazy way to balance things. That said I will still probably buy this game during a sale because I enjoy rogue-likes and infinite loot/quest 'grinders.' Not everyone is a fan, c'est la vie.
 

EG

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b) getting better in one sphere causes decline in other (why?!)

Ah, this takes me back (to being 10 years old and thinking that'd be a good idea) . . . and the bullshit answer is

"We only have a limited amount of time to exist. If we spend all that time strength training, we will getter dumber, as we're not practicing our smarts."

Why training both keeps us from getting better in both then? :smug: Truly a bullshit answer. :thumbsup:

Wait, wait, wait. I-I can fix it.

If you train both, you gain a smaller increase in both, but lose in others!

Oh . . . You beat me to it, Knight.
 
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Continuation doesn't necessarily mean it's more complex. Remember how ME was the grand evolution of rpgs?

I didn't quite get it, is there anything to do except roam endlessly and kill monsters and eventually trade at guilds and merchants? Like real quests, or meaningful actions? Or some "social" interaction with npcs?

Looks like we got our first request for romances :smug:

He only says there will be generated quests. Maybe eventually you can get an important one, but will be allowed to keep playing afterwards ( since the idea is that the game only ends when you want to, and meaningful actions tend to lead you towards an endgame )

I'm really not trying to be edgy, but I loathe romances in crpgs. And wish there never was/were any in the games. Well, except brothels. They can add flavor to a post apocalyptic world. :D Anyway, I don't know, this game COULD be good. Will wait to try it first to see if it's my cup of tea.
 

Stelcio

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Wait, wait, wait. I-I can fix it.

If you train both, you gain a smaller increase in both, but lose in others!

Oh . . . You beat me to it, Knight.
No, you can't fix it, it's forever broken.

If you train all of them, you don't get better in any of them. By saing 'both' I meant strenght and smarts as in your maxim.
 

EG

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If you train all of them, you don't get better in any of them.

Exactly.

And it's perfect: Never greater than your common denomination.
 
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The point is that it'll still result in a 100% total. So a lvl 10 character will be all-around better than a lvl 1 character (otherwise there would be no point in leveling - see Oblivion, where a high level character can be just as wimpy as one fresh off the tutorial), but he'll still suck (for his level) in abilities he hasn't invested on.
 

Stelcio

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The point is it's not like real life. Training means nothing, it's just skill budget management.

Also it's stupid, as there's no point in making a build, as instead of playing with it you'll have to watch if it doesn't collapse in result of your actions. A proper RPG should encourage specialization, not cripple it.
 

MisterStone

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So someone's making a high production value version of Crawl. Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I just don't understand why they refuse to use to word 'roguelike' to describe their procedurally generated first person turn-based RPG. It's not like the invented this shit...

If it turns out well, I'll play it. No point in nitpicking some random stuff they say on their development blog about 'just like in real life'.
 

darkpatriot

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Instead of individual statistic numbers, what the player has is what is called a 'stat pool'. This number is based on what level you are.

As I understand the quote the higher level you are, the bigger your stat pool to split according to the percentages. So even if a percentage drops from 16.7 to 10 you wouldn't drop from 17 points to 10. If you had 150 total points in your stat pool by then it would only drop to 15. If the pool was 200 by that point it would actually have raised to 20. How much actual stat point atrophy there is depends on the rate the stat pool increases compared to the rate at which a percentage can atrophy(if the rate were high enough there wouldn't be any actual stat point atrophy).

It seems like an interesting enough mechanic that I can't recall seeing before. I don't really understand why people are shitting over that specific mechanic. If I'm understanding it correctly it is pretty much every level up you gain 5 stat points with the chance some stats can decrease(and the points lost in the decrease would go to another stat so you don't actually lose the stat point) and you don't get precise control over where they go.

I guess it is the not getting precise control over how they are distributed that some don't like. That is a separate issue than stat atrophy being possible though.

Edit: Just had another thought. Assuming the rates that the stat pool increases and the percentages change are static (linear) as you get to higher levels you can pretty drastically change your stats around with this system. It allows for you to have a way to respec your character that fits much more organically with the rest of the game systems than the normal way games let you respec. A button or merchant that you can pay gold to for a respec. Respeccing your character can be a pretty important feature for a game that aspires to be infinite. You wouldn't have to restart the game to try a new type of character.

Their mechanic for stat increases actually seems to be very well thought out for the type of game they are making and those of you who think it is dumb are in fact the dumb ones.
 

Wavinator

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Sounds like definite :incline: if you're a sandbox gamer. Devil, of course, will be in the gameplay, but I'm already liking the philosophy of not letting you powermax and randomizing things like the spells. I'm interested to see if they can avoid the curse of so many open-ended games, though, in the form of lack of closure. Many seem to just end up meaningless if you play for too long (something narrative games prevent by cutting you off). Maybe there'll be some sort of in-game attainment or challenge that will cap the whole experience.
 

Stelcio

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It seems like an interesting enough mechanic that I can't recall seeing before. I don't really understand why people are shitting over that specific mechanic.
Something being new doesn't mean it being good. And I don't "shit" over it, I raise some issues which you didn't refer to, like no sense in building your character in any specific way and not being realistic contrary to what dev said.
Edit: Just had another thought. Assuming the rates that the stat pool increases and the percentages change are static (linear) as you get to higher levels you can pretty drastically change your stats around with this system. It allows for you to have a way to respec your character that fits much more organically with the rest of the game systems than the normal way games let you respec. A button or merchant that you can pay gold to for a respec. Respeccing your character can be a pretty important feature for a game that aspires to be infinite. You wouldn't have to restart the game to try a new type of character.
And you actually think that's good?! It's like putting a WIN button in a game, you just have to press it enough times. WTF?! That's the whole point of building a character - you open new possibilities to your character, closing the others in result. You choose, you wage your options, you make some actual strategy of play. And this system is just "grind me enough for INFINITY". :retarded:
 

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