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The Darkness Below: a retro CRPG in the making

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Hey guys,
i'm vlzvl and i'm creating a dungeon crawler game titled The Darkness Below. The game itself its on early stages of development and i am focusing at the moment into appropriate graphics and game mechanics, not stories, world or levels.

As you will find from the images, i am a serious fan of Might & Magic and Eye of the Beholder series, which i believe they're the most influential in RPG history. My goal is to make a game that plays like these series.

As you will see, graphics is not my main focus rather the gameplay, exploration, concept and sheer length and also keeping true to my influences. I still believe that RPG should focus primarily on characters and less on surroundings and eye candies.

Check some early imagery:

A house in the forest!

screenshot-1.jpg


Inventory and equipment:

screenshot-2.jpg


Taking on a quest!

screenshot-3.jpg


Venturing into a dungeon…

screenshot-4.jpg


That's all for now.

PS. I'm using a custom cross-platform 3D game engine, a product of mine named Jolt3D! I started developing the engine long ago. You can find more information in my very old page here, it isn't updated or supported anymore. This game is based on a much newer version of that engine (still unpublished, but coming as well), although it uses modern & cross-platform technology (OpenGL, OpenAL).
I am the sole person on this project. That requires a lot of work on my side so be gentle, allow some time for things to happen, there's no Unity or neverending set of assets to choose from or a team to speed things up.

PS2. Check my Patreon as well for development updates.

Thank you for your time.

EDIT:
This page has been updated with new links to older imagery, which it took me some time to gather it up.
 
Last edited:

Jaesun

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Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech
You will need to keep in mind, many of those art assets you are using are still the property of various Publishers and you could be slapped with a cease and desist order.

But that's fine for an early prototype. BUT since you are currently asking for money, be careful. Just be sure to NEVER under any circumstance, distribute any of those art assets. Period.

*Most* people can't even tell which old game you are pulling those art assets from (but I recognize them). You are at some point, going to have to develop your own art assets. Good luck, this sounds interesting!

:salute:
 

Dorateen

Arcane
Joined
Aug 30, 2012
Messages
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Location
The Crystal Mist Mountains
Looks like a worthy effort. Are you going with a customizable party including races?

Also, will combat be turn-based or real time?
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
You will need to keep in mind, many of those art assets you are using are still the property of various Publishers and you could be slapped with a cease and desist order.

But that's fine for an early prototype. BUT since you are currently asking for money, be careful. Just be sure to NEVER under any circumstance, distribute any of those art assets. Period.

*Most* people can't even tell which old game you are pulling those art assets from (but I recognize them). You are at some point, going to have to develop your own art assets. Good luck, this sounds interesting!

:salute:

I am quite strict at using public domain or attribute-share licenses for my graphics as i am not an artist, keeping licenses + urls alike.
What graphics or old game are you referring to?
Thank you for your honest comment =)
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Looks like a worthy effort. Are you going with a customizable party including races?

Also, will combat be turn-based or real time?

Yes, i will use races, professions (similar to classes), 7 stats and 7 resistances, similar to Might & Magic but differently named and/or mechanically changed as i want to separate them slightly from D&D and M&M.
I don't plan to bloat game mechanics at this time, just some *working* and unique options to choose from:
Specifically, the initial races will be:
  • Human
  • Dwarf
Professions:
  • Knight (used as Fighter)
  • Priest (used as Cleric)
  • Wizard (..)
Stats
  • Power (i.e. strength, might, melee damage)
  • Comprehension (i.e. spell slots, kind of intelligence)
  • Diplomacy (i.e. personality, charisma)
  • Toughness (endurance, base hp)
  • Quickness (battle initiative)
  • Technique (dexterity, might be used for accuracy and/or protection with some armors)
  • Clearheaded (state of mind, luck, abstract use on various occasions)
Resistances (protects again spell-based attacks and/or weapons enhanced with some magic)
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Air
  • Earth
  • Energy
  • Soul
  • Mental
This part of game mechanics may change and/or staff added along the journey but don't want to bloat it and instead keep it simple and *familiar*.
I do plan of making it more complex like epic paths, godhood, lichdom, opening a whole lot of depth but this requires perfect game mechanics first.

In adition, the combat and movement is *turn based*, similar to Might and Magic 3-5.
However, the animation between movement will be done in real-time like Lands of Lore or Grimrock and the monsters themselves will animate as well after party moves.
In front of the party monsters can take maximum of 4 squares and they can attack all 4 of them in-order (if they're occupied).
In addition, monsters can occupy as well 4 squares left, right and back of the party! In populated areas you could as well be attacked by 16 monsters maximum =)
I wanted to do such thing to replicate these wonderful fights in Magic & Magic 6-8 where you battle against dozens of monsters, however here we're still turn-based!
There will be animation for monsters but very simplistic, 4 frames per monster (not attack frame), similar to Might & Magic 3-5 unless i have more arsenal i.e. hiring designers.
I will try to improve all this thing of course, is just im focusing elsewhere at the moment i.e. editor, fights and game mechanics.

Finally, i am going to release a game mechanics *Rule book*, similar to D&D player handbook but with entirely different rules (tailored specifically for CRPGs, not pen & paper), that will both serve as kind-of-manual (there will be a separate manual of course) and game mechanics description in depth, so it can be used from anyone want to create his own game using my own game mechanics! It will be licensed as CC0. I did this because finding a clean "open ruleset" out there to use is not that easy.

Thank you for your interest!
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
You will need to keep in mind, many of those art assets you are using are still the property of various Publishers and you could be slapped with a cease and desist order.

But that's fine for an early prototype. BUT since you are currently asking for money, be careful. Just be sure to NEVER under any circumstance, distribute any of those art assets. Period.

*Most* people can't even tell which old game you are pulling those art assets from (but I recognize them). You are at some point, going to have to develop your own art assets. Good luck, this sounds interesting!

:salute:

Ah yes, the navigation keypad is straight copy from Might & Magic 3-5 =) I am going to change it, i just used it to boost my early development and kinda forgot it there. It's around 30 years old but hell, rules are rules. thanx
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Hey,
some time has passed since my last post and just wanted to share what i'm doing with this RPG =)
First, i'm sorry that my images in the opening post aren't shown anymore. I made a grave mistake of using the image link from Patreon and can't edit the post :(
Anyway, here's a lot of new dungeon crawling imagery:


Crawling the sewers and encountering a Goblin!
Notice my new GUI and new navgation pad, which i believe fits well with background:

image-1.png


The goblin yelled his bigger friend (a Goblin Warrior with higher level, HP and weapon).
Notice the yellow border on first character; that means its his turn to act while everyone else can't use their items.

image-2.png


The first character strikes a blow with his long sword,
doing 17 points of damage, which is just a test; 17 a rather big amount, i gave him a Power of 50 :).
Notice the flashing of monster when it hits, which is kind of similar to Eye of the Beholder)

image-3.png


Alexander belongs to the Priest profession and he can cast spells like Wizard,
although mostly he does the healing rather damaging. In this situation, he casts the spell Jetfire from his Wand and 7 charges are left. Notice the little flame graphic in the center; it's actually animated and has around 8 frames. I'm still working and plan to make it fully 3D i.e. to be driven out from caster towards its target but it requires some additional work.

image-4.png


Some other wall set that reminds me Eye of the Beholder starting level.
Notice on the minimap that changing a wall set is not global i.e. it's applied to specific quads rather the entire level.

image-5.png


Another wall set, more evil looking,
perhaps the Crypt of a mighty Lich =) Scenario and world building is still on papers.

image-6.png


Here is my very ugly, yet perfectly usable editor that i build levels, floor, ceiling, walls, trees and more.
You can clearly see the dungeon in 2D and also a dynamic 3D preview of the dungeon being built (similar to Legend of Grimrock level editor). I can move freely the dungeon while i'm building it, which is great help and minimizes working time and reduces bugs. Still, very ugly and uninspiring =) but it will get better.

image-8.png


In my original post i wrote about a "rulebook" that im planning to publish, along with my game.
Free and CC0 (public domain) license and it's just the game mechanics of the game, detailed to the last bit. It can be served both as manual and as a guide to game mechanics in general. The language in it depends on the topic, as it's targetting both players and game developers. There's even some coding examples in it to achieve some mechanics. Currently it has around 30 pages and covers around 60-70% of game mechanics.
Notice that the final version will come as PDF and will be vastly different and much better in quality.

image-9.png


A random page, describing some weapons in the rulebook, in alphabetical order.
Only the weapon list takes about 3 pages =) There are lots of items and these are only the base items. What a "base" item is? it's something you can use to craft a final version of an item i.e. a "Longsword +1" is a base item but a "Longsword of Flaming +1" is a derived weapon which has some enhancement that causes fire damage.
I dare not to visualize myself the total number of final items in the end, but it will be vast.

image-12.png


_____________________

As you can see from images, my main focus the last 2 weeks was the turn-based battle system.

A quick note here:
As you see, i like to post imagery rather some videos. It's not that i can't or won't like doing a video footage, it's that my laptop is not that strong to record a video.
I'm using a Celeron laptop with 2GB to develop this game and believe me, even if i record a game footage with 10 fps, the result is choppy and i don't like see such
a footage. Someday, i will upload some version for public show but only when i stabilize my file organization for the game. Unless i find / acquiring a stronger computer,
i can't do any footage or upload anything to youtube in that time. However, you can be sure that the game will be ridiculously optimized =)

OK, that's all for now.
There are many staff i have to work, here are some of them:
  • Events and triggers
  • Spell effects and animations
  • Monsters
  • Itemization placement on world
  • Settings
  • Resting
  • Weather effects
  • Game mechanics
  • Scenario, world building etc.
That's a massive work waiting for me =)
I hope you like what i see and i would be glad to see some replies =)
 
Last edited:

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens


This is the first, unofficial demo for "The Darkness Below", a dungeon crawler cRPG coming on PC & crowdfunding and possibly other systems. The game i am developing (only one developer here) will play like Might and Magic 3-5 (movement and combat) and Eye of the Beholder (riddles and presentation). My goal is to make a cRPG that feels & plays exactly like these two legendary series.

Fortunately, i am an old gamer and grew up with these games in 3.25 floppy disks on a 486dx, 66mhz. I still remember the awe, the atmosphere, the riddles and the sheer length of these games. This will greatly help me to convert my vision into a game. At the same time i am disappointed by the today games. As an oldie (ok 39yo, oldie gamer), i don't really like some much eye-candy. I rather prefer a 16-color palette dungeon crawler if the game is truthful to the past rather a 32-bit color, made by some 18yo developer that was not even born back then and suddenly learned about crawling.

I don't like promises. My game will be similar to EOB 1/2 and M&M 3-5. This is what drives my game development, so it's safe to promise you at least that. I hope you like what you see. Expect many improvements / videos as the game develops. Thank you!!

PS. no sound work yet !!
PS2. Youtube seems to re-encode the video, so the somewhat "washedup" quality.

TODO:

+ Events and trigger
- Spell effects and animation
- Monsters*
+ Itemization placement on world
- Settings
- Resting
- Weather effects
- Game mechanics*
- Scenario, world building
etc.

+ done!
* improve / modify / add
 

Dorateen

Arcane
Joined
Aug 30, 2012
Messages
4,047
Location
The Crystal Mist Mountains
Friend, what you have done there is distilled the essence of how a computer role-playing game should be: party entered a dungeon, killed a creature and took its stuff.

By the way, not sure if you mentioned, is movement by mouse only (clicking on the direction pad) or can the player use arrow keys on the keyboard?
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Friend, what you have done there is distilled the essence of how a computer role-playing game should be: party entered a dungeon, killed a creature and took its stuff.

By the way, not sure if you mentioned, is movement by mouse only (clicking on the direction pad) or can the player use arrow keys on the keyboard?

Thank you very much for your inspiring words!!! I am really trying not to bloat the game with unnecessary stuff, just sticking to the basics and progressively add stuff if they seem to work with the big image. There are other things i never mentioned. For example, decisions on events will DO have consequences later as the game stores and uses them from-file.
An event may have multiple decisions as well. I like to add much role-playing to the game, not just making huge maps with progressively stronger monsters, then call it RPG.
Some decisions may not be available because of some things you may did in some level, that may open another branch in adventuring etc.

No, i did not mentioned anything about keyboard movement but i do plan key movement because i understand the mouse clicking is perhaps too old nowadays :)
I plan to use ASDX for movement and QE for turning. Perhaps i could add a binding as well if the functions will reach a big number, this will be no problem at all.
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Resting, Doors & Monsters

Hello,

i worked a lot on party resting, doors and some new monsters on these days and packed everything in a lazy-ass video.



You can see the door layout; this is just one layout. Animation is still not supported on open / closing the door, just coded the mechanism. For now, simply clicking on it will open the door, otherwise an event trigger (found on some XML data in game files) will dictate the action.

You can see such an action in the first door, where the door is not opening if your party is not strong one (Power statistic). This will help later when i develop levers & keys so i can open doors remotely by an action trigger. In the first part of video you can see the resting mechanism and its options (long rest & fully healed). Both consume 1 food.

"Until fully healed" rests your entire party (alive members) to full HP & SP (spell slots actually, not points) and it is obviously slower. The second part of video shows some new monsters i made up, with some basic-ass animation. Some of these monsters may be removed in the future or re-worked, just added them for better variation. Every level will have its own set of monsters, this i know for sure. Technically, the implementation of door was the most challenging because of various reasons:

- a door must be opened / closed in 3D
- a fitting frameset must be applied on the door (the white stones)
- the adjacent wall sets (next to door) must be used in real-time
- there should be a hole in the wall set of the door (sadly, OpenGL does not support "holes" in triangles)

Programmatically, i had to do lots of rendering-to-texture (a programming technique where you render offscreen some image parts to dynamically build the final texture, piece by piece). Sometimes it is really preferable, because the amount of image files would be ridicously big due to many combinations.

That all from me now. I think the resting & door mechanism are decent for the current state of the game.
Hope you like it and i would love some opinions.
 

Dorateen

Arcane
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Messages
4,047
Location
The Crystal Mist Mountains
Looks like the party walked in on some slime, rodent, cactus convention.
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Looks like the party walked in on some slime, rodent, cactus convention.

You are right :) By looking it again it seems funny but not realistic.
I just wanted to fill an entire area of every monster my editor can currently handle and the result ended too colorful and unrealistic.
I also wanted to demonstrate the death mechanism (grave) and the laziest way was to create an area of unbeatable monsters for some quick deaths :) Frankly, only the Tree Elemental would be enough to wipe out an entire party of 1st leveled noones but that would be boring.
In the real dungeons, i will use maximum of 2 to 3 monsters because i think it works the best.
By the way, movement by keys is already implemented (QWE,ASD). Indeed, i find it easier but i used mouse out of habit 8)
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
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Messages
180
Location
Athens
Worked a bit on a new point light shader to improve the dungeon's atmosphere so that it looks more chilly and mysterious and less lit.
My previous point light shader was pretty basic. My new shader takes into account attenuation (the loss of light intensity over distance) and hides
things if they are far away. It can also help with my light spells later. Some pics.

Original point light shader:

image-1.jpg


New point light shader from the same dungeon square:

image-2.jpg


Another take that shows the use of attenuation; fade to black smoothly:

image-3.jpg


This may looks like a rather small change in any game but lighting is very important to my game. Torches may be worn out, light spells may be expired, light spells may have elevated versions with stronger lighting, some areas may have multiple torches attached to walls, magic items may emit different kind of colors, spell animations in real-time, some levels may be in total darkness etc.
 
Last edited:

Jack Dandy

Arcane
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Feb 10, 2013
Messages
3,039
Location
Israel
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Very neat! Dungeons should be spooky.
Care to show the new lighting system in motion?
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Very neat! Dungeons should be spooky.
Care to show the new lighting system in motion?

Thanx man 8)
Yes, spooky, underground and cold is what i have in mind currently for this game.
I will upload a video later today, showing some random dwelling, some battling and some different wallsets,
i did not had the chance to make a full test playing with attenuation values on different environments.
It is still not perfect; not much support for multiple sources and certainly can be further optimized using some GLSL api i have in mind.
 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
I was supposed to upload yesterday a video, showing my new lighting system but i found a pretty nasty problem, related all down to OpenGL.
The blackened color of new shader shown the problem; transparent sprites (such as monsters, chests, doors) show "grey" edges where their transparency starts, especially from distance. One can spot this problem in one of my previous images.
Specifically, the problem has to do with OpenGL blending system. One can not safely assume that his "transparent" PNG texture will be shown as is, because sadly OpenGL *will* use the RGB values of transparent pixels (!!!!) to blend with opaque, adjacent pixels.
Many paint programs such as Paint.NET or Photoshop just apply the white color for transparency. And this is what one sees as "grey" edges.
I had to deal with this before "showing" off the quality of the lighting shader.
Turns out the problem can be solved in different ways, all of them at least annoying:

- I could use Photoshop and their "solidify" plugin to fix my PNGs
- I could use some program to premultiply my alpha values, then use other OpenGL blending mode
- I could use an alpha channel instead of the plain, old magic wand -> clear

All these things were recommended from Stackoverflow to Unity forums.

However, i found another solution to this dreaded "grey edge" blending phenomenon.
It seems bilinear filtering is responsible for this crap. But in my game i am not using bilinear filtering, at least on game world.
So what was the problem? Well, it turns out the mip map filtering, which was set to bilinear (obviously) !!
I spend a good amount of hours before figuring it out, then disabled the mipmaps on doors (only), because they caused the biggest problem to my
new lighting shader. You can spot the stupid grey edges on a door in my previous post images. Of course this means doors wont have the best look when you are looking at them from a distance but it's a solution i will gladly accept (to this moment).
You can spot the "grey" edges on the rats as well (new video), but i think they look ok as "something creepy moves in the dark". But on doors, it was plain out annoying.

Ok, here's the video:

 

vlzvl

Arcane
Developer
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
180
Location
Athens
Very cool!
Can enemies intelligntly "split" or "group" up?

Thanx my friend!
Well, the monsters have some "basic intelligence" at the moment. Every monster / enemy deployed in the map have a "starting square", that is, the square i've put them via editor. Monsters can "chase" you up to a point, then they start retiurning to their "post". I find this logical and you can say it's a small bit of intelligence.
About moving, i am not using at the moment any pathfinding system such as A*; I found that implementing such a system in a maze-like environments it's an overkill. Instead, i am using a simple distance-by-square and the monsters just pick the closest square to you, provided the square is still passable and not taken by another monster.
Monsters are smart enough not only to choose free squares in front of you, but also in your back and on your sides as well and hit you from there.
You could see me watching my back and sides for nasty rats.
If i were in the middle of this rat hole, these guys would hit me 16 times a round (a square can take up to 4 monsters).
If a rat can not hit me, its always on the move to find a good spot; if it's hitting me, it stays there 8)
So you could say that they always "split" or "group" up for the worst of me but they act alone.
Their movement and square occupation is about the same as in Eye of the Beholder; However, i do not remember if EOB monsters could
actually hit you from backrank; in my game they can.
However, since my game is event-driven i can code a "grouping" of monsters just as easy. I remember a situation on Might & Magic 6 where you could end up surrounded by dozens of angry dwarves (insta death) just by opening a door. That is an intelligent grouping :) For my engine, it's easy to setup up this kind of encounters.

PS. i still don't know how to "brofist" others, is there a restriction due to my few posts? thanx
 

Jack Dandy

Arcane
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Feb 10, 2013
Messages
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Location
Israel
Divinity: Original Sin 2
I think you need to post a certain amount of posts, but not sure how many. Anyway, thanks for the info. Keep it up!
 

zwanzig_zwoelf

Graverobber Foundation
Developer
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Nov 21, 2015
Messages
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デゼニランド
PS. i still don't know how to "brofist" others, is there a restriction due to my few posts? thanx
You have to be here for a year or so unless you are a patron.

Speaking of your game, have you tried keeping sprites properly rotated (direction of camera + 180 degrees @ Y axis) instead of looking at the origin? Just asking whether it's intentional or not since it looks somewhat bizarre to me. ;)
 

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