Game Development

Blog 826: Fragment v0.03

Look at me, with my monthly update cadence. How long will it last? As long as there are bugs to fix, I imagine, and it looks like there is still no shortage. When will I get to actually shipping some “new content”, that mythical “rest of the prologue”? Well, I’ve started working on the next couple of levels, but it’s still early days so they’re staying behind the Insert Disc 2 message for now (but I’m sure if you’re a l33t h4X0r you can datamine their skeletons from the archives).

Actually “no new content” is a bit of a lie — I’ve finally implemented the inventory weight limit! Read all about how and why I’m going to frustrate you below (or just head over to Itch and take on the burden for yourself).

Fragment v0.03

As is tradition, you can carry a whole heap of junk right up until you can’t run anymore (I have not implemented an inability-to-move-at-all threshold, because that’s going too far even for me). This is funny because I love to cart all the loot home in other games, and so I am directly implementing a mechanic that will cause me great anguish. (Or maybe I’ll subconsciously make sure every level has just the right amount of loot to fit. Who knows?)

To be fair, limitations on loot-hogging often lead to interesting decisions, and isn’t that what games are all about? Do I keep a spare weapon in case my current one disintegrates before I can repair it? Do I carry a stack of repair kits in case I get into trouble? Is it worth hanging onto this heavy but unidentified item in case it’s something good? Should I hang onto those metal ingots in case I meet a blacksmith who can craft them for me? All that, dear player, will be up to you.

Nobody has yet reported finding the Metallic Crystal that’s hidden somewhere in the Academy wilderness, nor have they reported that it’s impossible to identify because there is no shop that offers Services…

There was one burning question about weight limits that I sat on for a while: that is, whether equipment you are currently wielding should be counted or not. I had opinions on both sides and although a straw poll on Twitter ended 3:2 for “not”, I kept swithering.

In primary inspiration Baldur’s Gate, worn items still count. This means a weaker character does not have as much room to carry much extra (see Branwen, who as a Cleric gets heavy armour and a hammer but isn’t all that strong). However, in Baldur’s Gate you have six characters to distribute items across, so you can pretty much always fill all the available slots before you run out of weight; in Exon there is just you, and weight limit upgrades will be few and far between.

But if worn items don’t count, then your encumbrance will change as you equip and dequip things. This would introduce weird exploits like wearing a heavy thing you want to sell and only carrying the lighter one you actually want to use. Besides: if you choose to use a heavier axe for its higher damage output, and a heavier shield for its superior protection, why shouldn’t you be unable to carry as much as a result? This makes it balanced, right?!

Should your weight affect the movement speed of freight elevators? … Just kidding! … unless…

The thing is, I do want you to be selective about what you cart around. Especially when we get deeper into the game, and you’re far from anywhere you can readily offload your junk, I don’t really want you to be stressing over every crap sword dropped by a random enemy; Exon might be an ARPG but it’s not a loot-grinder. A piece of equipment should either be clearly better or clearly worth money so you can ignore the dross (unless you’re really tight for cash, but even I don’t really enjoy those first faltering steps out of Candlekeep where you’re scrabbling for your first precious gold pieces).

So the decision is made: items you have equipped will count towards your encumbrance limit.

This also adds another dimension of desirability equipment, as swords and shields are affected by both Quality and Material factors. While better materials will naturally do more damage/offer more protection, this may also come at a cost of weight; a Titanium sword will weigh less than a Gold one, but a Gold one might do more damage for a similar price (yes I know gold is soft and shit for weaponry in the real world, shhhhhh).

Well, you probably won’t get better than level 1 materials and qualities in the prologue so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Most weapons are not particularly heavy so it won’t be THAT big a deal.

As for the rest of the changes… Bugs in the save system. More terrain changes. More sound effect tweaks. A total rewrite of the trigger variable system. The usual.

Having shipped the demo has put me in a peculiar situation. Previously, I’d just make stuff and, beyond a few screenshots and accompanying one-liners, it wouldn’t matter a whit; but now, I’m making stuff and fixing stuff and then I’m like “welp, that seems like enough to be worth uploading” and then I do.

Not necessarily because I expect people to replay the demo with the updates, but just in case anybody new comes along and finally gives it a go, I want them to play the best version possible. And for anyone who doesn’t read this blog, I want to show the world that I’m not just a pump ‘n’ dump, fire ‘n’ forget kinda guy. I am in Exon for the long haul.

I won’t ship the game episodically, though. Once the prologue is complete I’m going back to my cave.

And you tell me...

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