This one is, without a doubt, the largest release of our beta period. I've said that before, but this one tops the rest -- and won't be topped between now and 1.0, either, I'm quite confident. There's so much in this one it's almost hard to know where to begin...
Let's start with equipment, because it was definitely the single weakest mechanic in the game circa release .721. These have had quite an enormous overhaul in a lot of departments based on player feedback. The clarity of just what the heck equipment does, and what you are wearing at the moment, has been vastly improved. But along with that, the actual utility of equipment has gone through the roof compared to what it was, too -- the actual functions it performs is more useful, and its durability is way higher, too.
To be honest I found myself skipping equipment most of the time, like a lot of players were reporting they were doing. It was to the point I was very seriously considering just removing equipment all together. But now I find it personally exciting to find what is in a chest when I find one, because it's actually useful and interesting and changes how the game will play out for my character for a little while. I'm quite excited about how that changes the weakest mechanic into something that I think is actually quite strong now.
Strategic End Of Turn Report
This is the big thing that Keith has been working on for most of the time since the last release -- this has been quite a job, but the results are stunning. Before the end of turn report was basically a "wall of tiny text."
Now the report has a sidebar of easy to read, color-coded buttons with summary-style information. You can use the arrow keys to move your cursor over the various buttons and see details in a much larger, more readable font.
As Keith pointed out to me, the lack of clarity on the old end of turn report was actually making the game artificially harder. Players were not recognizing trouble spots (like dwindling food) until it was too late. They'd notice when people started dying or morale was in the pit, but not when there was a negative food trend just starting. The new end of turn report really makes all of those sorts of trends and events a lot more obvious -- I think all of us are about to get a lot better at the strategic game!
Combos Out, Concentration In
Back on the adventure mode side of things, we've removed the extremely opaque "combo" system that was previously in the game. It was so unclear that even most advanced players didn't know it was there -- and a few who had noticed the effects of it thought there was some strange glitch!
The purpose of the original combo system was to encourage players to use a variety of spells; but that's already being handled via monster variety and circumstances of the level design. To my great delight, actually -- handling this intrinsically is much better than trying to lead the player by the nose to using multiple spell types.
The new Concentration system has an entirely different purpose: rewarding perfection during high-level play. Basically, it's something for the really hardcore players to focus on improving their skills at. If you are at full health, then every enemy you kill starts giving you progress toward increased Concentration. When your concentration is higher, you do more damage. But any time you take a hit, you lose a single bar of concentration.
So it really is something for the perfectionists, particularly on higher difficulties, and otherwise this mechanic mostly stays out of the way and isn't something that we're balancing around for normal players. It's kind of a "stretch goal" for those who like that sort of thing, but not something that is expected for normal play. This was the result of several player suggestions, so we'll see how the community likes it -- should be fun.
Yet More Strategic Refinements
In general it seems like people are loving the direction that the strategic game has been taking lately, which is great. But there were some definite problem spots that we've now ironed out. Specifically:
- The wounds system was rather frustrating in practice. It was too easy to get into a death spiral with that. We've taken away the wounded status on NPCs, and changed around how the clinic works to more generalized healing.
- The mana resource had become pointless/frustrating, and so has also been removed. The mana producer buildings have been given new NPC-class-specific functions that you can activate, instead. These are basically like single-use powerups on the map that you can use at your discretion -- new weapons in your arsenal!
- There was a persistent complaint that all of the wilderness areas were kind of useless / that you were too powerless in wilderness areas. Having these open areas for maneuver is important, but having the ambient threat be something you can't deal with in these areas was definitely problematic. You can thus now build fortifications on all the base wilderness tile types. The fortifications act like small housing, providing some cover from ambient threat for nearby NPCs -- and like hovels or shacks or groves, they are too small for the overlord or his monsters to bother smashing.
- There are also a number of other important improvements, such as to ivory towers, infighting, and so forth. But these are more minor by comparison, and you can read about them in the full release notes.
Art Updates! And Furniture!
There's a ton of new and updated art in this version, and a ton of new background objects -- furniture, rocks, other small objects, etc -- throughout the game now. The Vorgga henchman now has his graphics, and Demonaica has a near-final version of his graphics minus a final round of shading.
The main menu has been finalized now as well, and the graphics for several parts of menus in general have also been improved. The intro story scroll is gone, and there is now a briefer intro story that is just fixed on the screen when you start a new world. The intro credits scroll is still there, but split into two columns -- one for Arcen and co., and one for the community. The new main menu is now actually fitting with the awesome intro music that plays, and finally delivers the first impression that we wanted people to have when they start up the game.
And there's a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff, too -- various bug fixes, changes to how lighting works for your character, enormous numbers of wall crawler behavior improvements (I spent a solid day and a half on that alone), and a lot of HUD improvements. Also one new enemy.
Starting tomorrow I'm going to be back on the new-monsters trail, trying to wrap up the new content of that sort before we hit our two weeks of polish and bugfixing. I'm clearly running a few days behind on my monsters work, but given all the other things we've been able to accomplish I think that the temporary re-prioritization was definitely the right call.
More to come soon. Enjoy!
This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game. If you have the beta on Steam, it will automatically update for you. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have the standalone game, you can download that here. If you already own the first game, just use your existing license key to unlock the sequel for free!