There was a certain charm to the classic, turn-based RPGs that hasn’t been seen in the world of gaming for many-a-long-year. Big developers seem unwilling to touch the style of RPG that was the seed of the genre, yet a handful of indie game developers are taking on the task.
Alex Norton is among them, and has a few tricks up his sleeve to make the game appealing both to the old-school gamer, and those who have little interest in the classic style. Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox is first-person RPG, with an infinite world, and with classic gameplay styles that can be turned on or off.
“Malevolence has MANY features to appeal to the modern audience, such as high-end graphics, a AAA quality music and sound score, the option for quick, reflex-action gameplay and piles upon piles of procedurally generated loot,” Norton said via e-mail.
“But at the same time, we’ve got extra options for the classic fans, such as our optional ‘hardcore classic movement style’ which takes away all movement animation and makes the player “pop” into each new grid square, just like the classics! All of these features are able to be turned on or off, so the end result will be quite customizable to all sorts of gamer types,” he said.
One of the key features will be the turn-based style, reminiscent of the more memorable RPGs of the 1990s. It was a style that let players take time choosing their next moves—much like a well thought out game of chess.
“When a game is real-time, you can’t play it slowly,” Norton said. “Sure there are slower points to the game, but eventually a fight is going to break out and it turns into a button mash-fest.”
“However, we understand that some people (especially more modern gamers) like to play their games fast, so Malevolence has a few little tricks to allow people to play it as if it’s real-time, or at least very close to,” he said.
The UI will also mimic the old-school drawn portrait and big icons, but after a few people asked what was up with the UI, he added an optional modern UI for them.
“It has shocked me how unknown the history of gaming is to the majority of young players. I’ve always been of the mind that to truly appreciate something, you should be able to appreciate where it has come from,” Norton said.
“The classic RPGs which Malevolence draws inspiration from were from 20+ years ago, but their influence has drastically changed the world of gaming as we know it,” he said. “AAA titles such as Skyrim,” and while it has been frustrating that younger games aren’t familiar with its history, gamers who do “have gone out of their way to send us very long emails detailing just how excited they are to be able to re-live that form of game in a modern setting.”
Malevolence isn’t all about bringing back old-school features though. Norton is also bringing a few unique features to the genre.
The game has an infinite, randomly-generated world, but it also has a storyline within it.
“The world builds itself using a formula based on the player’s co-ordinates, so as you travel, the world is being built around you. But if you go back the way you came, everything is still there,” he said. “A lot of work has gone into that formula to make it generate as incredible environments as we could muster.”
According to Norton, most of the work right now is going into perfecting the dungeons, but after that, outdoor environments and cities the engine creates will be the focus.
The game’s story will also be generated by the formula. “Everyone who plays the game will experience the same world, but because it never ends, we’re hoping that will inspire people to start communities where they can show off places or items they’ve managed to find that other people may not have found yet,” Norton said.
“All of the quests, items, NPCs, even dialogue in the game is generated by this core formula, so as the player keeps exploring, the game keeps making more content for them to play with,” he said. “It took nearly two years to get it to work, but it’s working beautifully!”
This will be backed with procedurally generated content, which according to Norton, “means is that the in-game world only exists when the player is looking at it, as it is generated according to the co-ordinates of the player. Instead of levels that are hand-made by level designers, the game relies on a set of very advanced mathematical formulas which generate the world around the player according to where the player is in the world at any given time.”
The system lets players travel on forever, and the game will keep generating content as they go. The same system generates the items, quests, dialog, and other features, “so the player will never run out of things to find and do,” he said.
(Images courtesy of Alex Norton)