I’ve been thinking about roguelikes for quite some time now. With their endless gameplay and permanent death, they manage to capture the attention of many players on very many numbers of playthroughs. Someone can play The Last of Us once or twice and be happy with their experience, but the roguelike player would not get his desired share until after playthrough numbers nearing the hundreds. There are some who spend their entire careers just playing the same roguelike games (Check out Ryan Letourneau or Northernlion, whose Youtube channel is filled with hundreds of playthroughs of The Binding of Isaac alone. He just put out his 818th episode just hours before I wrote this.).
I’ve been itching to do a roguelike ever since Spelunky appeared on the scene. Spelunky was probably the game that kickstarted the inspiration of many modern roguelikes such as The Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, and recent hit Downwell, so I’d like to pay some homage by making a roguelike platformer, similar to Spelunky. Well, not exactly similar. Spelunky took years to make and involves randomly generating massive levels at once. Before we continue, let’s take a look at what we have available to me as of right now:
Stencyl and Flash
Stencyl is a free game creation tool that is incredibly user-friendly and is very well suited to the game developer who cannot code in the more conventional programming languages. In Stencyl, we can export our game or prototype in Flash.
Stencyl is great for me as I am no programming genius, and it allows me to get prototypes done really quickly. It, however, comes with some limitations on what we can do with the game. For one, its Flash export option has very bad performance issues. If there’s more than a certain number of things happening in the game at an instance, the game slows down, potentially slowing to unplayable levels. This alone makes random generation like in Spelunky almost impossible. It also doesn’t make transitioning between levels smooth, so making an endless level is really difficult and is outside the scope of my abilities. Another thing we have to keep in mind is that we only have a month or so to complete this prototype of ours.
With the limitations clear, let’s think of a game!
Shadowfall is an endless roguelike platformer where the player climbs a near endless tower. The tower is made up of many sections, each with randomized platforms and enemies so that every playthrough is different (at least, that’s what I’m hoping for.).
So why is the player going up a tower? Well, they are a Knight of Light or a Paladin, being chased by something sinister. Let’s call it the Darkness, a large shapeless entity of shadow and evil. It’s consuming the world, and the player has to reach the top of this tall tower where a Light jewel can destroy the Darkness and save the world. Hence, Shadowfall.
In this game, the Darkness will be climbing the tower after the player. If the player stays in a particular section for too long or falls into the Darkness, the player dies. The player will try to reach the top of the tower, and they will fail many many times along the way, just like most roguelikes. With each playthrough, however, the player will face Shadow minions. Killing them drops Light orbs, which the player can collect and save up across their many resurrections to buy items from a “Heaven” shop that will help them with their remaining playthroughs. This means that the more the player plays this game, the more powerful they become, even after dying. This will, hopefully, promote more playthroughs.
So there we have it. We have the player who is a representation of a fighter for Light, enemies who represent the shadows, and a goal, which is the player has to reach the top of a very tall tower to save the world.
Let’s go over what kind of assets this game would need, starting with the player’s character. The player is a fighter for the Light, a paladin of sorts. He’s super bright, wears armor, and can somehow jump with said armor so he must be really strong or magically inclined.
Standing on the opposite side, there lies the Darkness and all its fiends. They are dark, shadowy and deadly to all that is good. The Darkness itself is a massive being that can envelop the entire screen. Shadowy tendrils reach out to try and grab at the player as the player climbs the tower. The Darkness’s minions are made of shadows themselves and take a more solid form similar to monstrous creatures.
The world of the game is a fantasy world. Of course, you can’t see much besides the inside of a tower, but setting this world down as a fantasy place sets the style that the tower will look like, as well as all the platforms and items. This, by the way, is the Tower of Light, and so it is one of the last structures still standing in this shadowy apocalypse. However, the Darkness attacking the tower and climbing after the player will have its effects on the tower, making darkness leak out of the cracks, for example. As the player progresses, the walls get brighter as the player nears the Light jewel.
So we have a basic idea on what the game is going to look, feel and play like. So what’s the plan to get this prototype done?
- Stencyl is the chosen tool to put the game together.
- Art assets will be searched online. They should be free, easy to use and fit with the theme. Sites like OpenGameArt.org have loads of free art assets, for example.
- Adobe Photoshop will be used to edit or create art assets whenever I require to make art assets more suited to the game.
- Audacity, another free tool, will be used whenever audio comes into question. It’ll let me make edits and make tracks work with Stencyl when needed.
Got any suggestions? Questions? Advice? Comment on this page! In the meantime, try out a REALLY early build to get a feel of what the core gameplay is like: Download (1MB)