This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Xbox Wire.
Dark Quest 2 is a turn-based RPG inspired by legendary board game Hero Quest. The core idea of the game was to make a board game system while understanding that you are making a video game and not a board game.
The game originally started when I was working for a company in London. While there I used to watch videos in the background about RPGs and board games.
The management complained about the videos and I was asked to stop. It was right about then is when I brought up a notepad and started writing in XML, in what I called at the time the ultimate scripting RPG engine which would allow manipulation of everything in the map in real time.
A week later the management complained again, that even though I stopped watching videos, that now I brought up a notepad and started writing things. They went on to explain me that this is not acceptable and asked me to take a few days off to reconsider the job. Shortly after that we parted ways and I moved to my hometown to begin development of the game.
I started with squares, a grid, and some basic artwork to create a playable prototype. Even though it was playing well there was something missing. It was too complicated and required too many interactions to do something. After several more attempts I was unable to make it work to my liking and abandoned it… until about a year later…
I went on a camping holiday in and there was this morning where I was hanging out with this girl. She was about to check out from the camp and we were sitting outside the reception. She reached to her bag to take a bottle of water and as she tried to drink from it but it fell off from her hands on the floor and she was like “Oh my god, its cursed!”…
Right that moment it hit me… The curse of the bottled water… What if… there was a party of heroes going in this grand adventure and standing in front of a massive doorway with a lion head fountain next it along with inscription that reads: “The door will open once you drink from the fountain, the water is poisonous and will bring death to the one who drinks it.” You would have to sacrifice someone in your party in order to open that door and continue. This would give the game a sense of adventure, you would need to think about who will you sacrifice.
I returned back and started over development of the game and this time everything seemed to be working magically well about which eventually led to the release of the first Dark Quest.
One of the most important aspects of the game was to make it fast by creating an automatic turn-based system so you don’t have to press an end turn button every time. This was critical to make the game fluid and simple. Another important part was numbers. In board games you usually have small numbers to represent health, attack and other attributes as dice numbers can only go so high. This was identified as another key part as low numbers allow you to better read and understand what is happening and giving more value to a singlet digit. When a hero with 3 health points loses 1 from an attack then it becomes a big deal.
Exploration: Each quest is designed to be a maze. The player must have a feeling of being lost as they try to find the exit. Making turns here and there can lead to dead-ends, traps or unexpected situations.
Adventure: Throughout the dungeons you will find many situations that will cause you to consider course of action. For example, there are rooms that contain horror and heroes will have to test their sanity as they pass through. If they fail, they become insane and begin attacking each other blaming as they blame for what is happening. Another example is when you go through the palace and you find these giant axes that are ready to fall in your head. Sending forth a hero with high perception has higher chances of making it through in one piece. Rumor also has it of cursed gold in the depths of the palace… beware!
Hidden traps are also essential in giving you a sense of adventure as quite often the game will trick you into thinking the room is safe only to find out there was a hidden trap somewhere. The game will also create situations where it can make you paranoid about some room where you are absolutely convinced that there is a trap here making you go step by step to other side of the room only to find out that the only traps were in your imagination.
The Sorcerer: The sorcerer being a crucial part of the game there had to be something about him. You had to feel his presence and that he is always looking at you. We decided to put him in the loading screen as you enter the castle in a way that tells you “I am here and I am watching you”. A simple psychological trick to also remind you what your ultimate quest is and that you are not alone.
Luck: Without luck there is no adventure. Every part in the game has been designed to have some luck factor in it without going to too far. A perfect example would be the dwarf disarm trap skill which has a 9/10 chance to succeed. There is always that a chance you might fail and everything can fall apart. Another key mechanic in the game is the infamous skull of fate. This skull will create a random event ranging from killing an enemy, creating gold out of thin air, healing you to nothing at all. Having a good roll on the skull can sometimes change the outcome of a room battle.
The game has around 28 quests, there are several paths you can take to reach the tower of the sorcerer and how many quests you want to complete is up to you. If you feeling confident in your party’s strength you can go directly to the tower but be warned… you will face strong magic that you might not be able to defend against. Scattered around the castle there are artifacts of power that will grant bonuses to your entire party. Such bonuses can make the difference between staying alive with 1 health point and claiming victory and being completely wiped out. There are also secret rooms hidden away in the corners of the castle with treasures that will significantly boost your party’s economy.
One of the key elements of any board game is that it is designed to be played together with your friends and family. The XBOX naturally allows you to gather around the living room just as you would with a board game thus it offers a similar experience. Being able to be next to your friends and talk about the adventure you embarked upon and discuss various strategies as you go room by room it is something to be experienced. The game supports up to 3 players together each taking a turn in a sequence.
The sorcerer is watching us even as we speak my friend. You are young and have much to learn but the time is upon us. You must now enter the castle to face madness, horror and death on your ultimate quest to defeat the sorcerer and his minions. I shall speak with you again when you return – if you return.
See the rest of the story on Xbox Wire
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