So I have a level editor for Exon. It’s still a bit sketchy around the edges, but it does the job: I can place decorations and modify terrain and live happily ever after.
But in a singleplayer RPG, decorations and terrain are only half the battle. These things have no life but the life I build into them, and that means I need a level scripting system.
Can you see where this is going? Oh yes.
The wonderful world of Unity editor tools is one of the most complex and irritating worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure to explore. Alas, it is one that I have to explore because I want to make it very easy to build levels for Exon. I want it to be as easy as farting out Warcraft III maps was, back in the day. Once I’ve built the engine and all the relevant bits, I want to shut Visual Studio down and never write another line of code for the rest of my life.
To get even close to that ideal, I have to go through a whole WORLD of pain — and the realisation that maybe, just maybe, one bloke in his bedroom can’t hold a candle to one of the greatest engineering marvels of the videogame world. Whatever happens here, nobody will be building the next DotA inside Exon.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Exon‘s core loop is based on Westwood’s classic and criminally-underrated action-RPG Nox. This manifests itself most clearly in the movement system: hold the right mouse button to cause your hero to walk towards the cursor, leading them around the world like a little mouse following the cheese.
Similarly, I took the melee attack system, where each click causes a single sword slash, damaging whatever has the poor fortune of standing in your blade’s path.
Except then I realised that, actually, I didn’t. Nox has a more complex and interesting “stamina” system controlling its attacks than my naive cooldown attempt, and it contributes immensely to all the feelings I had been struggling to recapture.
I might spend most of my time gushing over story-driven role-playing games and shooters, but I’m still partial to a real-time strategy every so often. I like building up a base and training all the little people and sending them off to conquer in my name.
The thing I don’t like about RTSes is that they’re all designed to be played against other people in fair and balanced short-form matches, whereas I like sinking into stories and experiencing them at my own pace. I want an RTS without that multiplayer pressure, one that has the time and space to ride all the way into the sunset.
I’m too busy building Exon to even consider a different project, let alone one of such magnitude, but it’s fun to think about these things now and again. So let’s talk about the RTS that I’ll never make…
It doesn’t take much more than proclaiming yourself to be like Baldur’s Gate to get me interested. It’s a type of RPG that’s been underserved in the last decade or so, with occasional delights like Drakensang and Dragon Age: Origins mostly edged out by 1st- and 3rd-person action RPGs, which are fine but scratch a different itch. Sometimes you just want to command a small party of fun people in real-time with occasional pauses.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker proclaimed that it would serve this niche, but also isn’t from the 90s, so I decided it was worth a look.
On the subject of my latest Exon video, I was told it “looks a lot like Warzone 2100“. I replied that I had never heard of this game, let alone played it, but if it’s an a late-90s/early-00s 3D game then I’m interested.
Turns out that not only is it a grotty old 3D RTS, but it was open-sourced in 2004 and is now patched-up and totally free. Jackpot!
It’s been a while since I last wrote anything, that’s for sure. Before I get to rambling about the reasons (excuses?) for that, here’s a new video of Exon: from starting the game to playing an Arena match to indulging in the side-questy exploration that will make up… the actual game. Some glimpses of the inventory, journal, shop windows and even a surprisingly seamless performance of the save/load system are included!
When the Freedom Slips Away is almost half as old as me — I finished it in 2006, making it 14. I was 16. I was still in school!
Time makes fools of us all, and much as I don’t like what Blizzard have done with Warcraft III: Reforged, I have to concede that it is now the “official” way to play maps and, since I’m still alive enough to deal with the situation, I feel compelled to do what I can to keep my seminal works in good order.
So I give to you: When the Freedom Slips Away Gold, a huge raft of bug fixes, a few compatibility tweaks, and some Known Issues that I can’t touch.
Head over to the download page to get it!