Welcome, Delvers! The end of June is upon us, and we’ve been hard at work on several major game systems and some more imaginative art streams. We hope you enjoy the monthly update!
The focus of development this month has been to build out the AI system into something much more complex, nuanced, and interesting, in order to facilitate more challenging and strategic combat. Our goals are to make enemies feel natural, giving them a true “detection” system so that they can react to (and differentiate between) threats and prey, allow for different modes and behaviors for a single enemy, and create inroads for more challenging gameplay — such as some light stealth mechanics and other player strategies.
The old AI system, while efficient, was hard-coded and difficult to modify. There were few behavior states, and we were relying too much on enemy movement parameters to give them uniqueness. The new system we’ve been working on reads from an AI database (spreadsheet CSV file) that is very easy to edit. This allows us (or modders) to add new and interesting AI behaviors in minutes.
Previously, enemies could only target and track the player; they can now acquire different targets and change their behavior accordingly — based on line of sight, hearing range, being touched, being damaged, etc. With our fight-or-flight system, they can prioritize running from their predators over chasing prey, or decide to turn and attack their predators when low on health. They can search for an ally with the lowest health and try to heal them, or search for the creature (or player) with the lowest health and focus all their efforts on finishing it off. Enemies can go into an alert state when they hear prey — increasing their sight range on the fly, causing them to be more attentive; but they may only begin the chase once they visually spot something to attack.
These are just some examples of what we’ve accomplished in the last few weeks. Our goal is to make these features highly demonstrable in the next build, creating example rooms where we hand-design scenarios to test out the AI system with specific enemy types.
Our next goals are to (completely) finish the physics refinements, finalize the last remaining character control tasks, and move back to dungeon generation full-force. We hope to bring you some exciting news about dungeons in the next update!
(And Art Livestream Catch-up):
As unveiled in last month’s update, we’ve been occasionally brainstorming ideas for the companions/familiars on our weekly livestreams — which occur (almost) every week, on Fridays, 3pm CST, at http:/twitch.tv/Pixelscopic
We’ve decided to officially call these creatures “Companion Sprites” in the mythos of the world. They are elementally-based spirit creatures that can be summoned through totems in dungeons, and appear as small, floating beasts and fantastical beings, from a discombobulated head to an exploding tunafish. Kind of like Pokémon-eque Patronus helpers, they can appear and vanish as needed, in order to aid the player through offense, defense, and other utility functions.
The inspiration behind the Companions came from various mythologies around the world. We looked to mythology in order to come up with more unique and unexpected ideas — the thought was not to stay true to the source material or attempt to bring real-world myths into the Delver’s universe, but rather to remix mythological ideas into something new and creative, in order to give the Companions a bizarre twist. In other words, we wanted to make them one of the most twisted yet fun and colorful elements of the world.
Based on one of our stretch goals, we will be adding the ability for a second player to take over control of a Companion in the main campaign, for a limited local co-op “co-star” mode. For those who want a strictly solo experience, have no fear: you’ll be able to find Sprite Companions in the game and use them without a second player — they will simply be AI-controlled.
The artwork is still under development, and the names may not be final, but below we’ve selected a subset of the Companions and provided information about their inspirations and mythological sources. Meet a few of our favorite Companions!
——— SIREN ———
Greek mythology tells of women with the wings and beautiful songs of birds, luring men to their graves in the sea. From those myths, the Mermaid appears in lore across all cultures, a dangerous mix of fin and flesh. We took both of these concepts to deliver and all-encompassing Siren: a winged mermaid. She wears a Noh mask to pay homage to the Eastern interpretations of the Siren, and has a shock of wavy pink hair to denote her alignment with the Howl element.
——— BARGHEST ———
Based on British lore, the Barghest is a mix of ghost and wolf. Often said to herald death and known for its association with the grave, we gave it the Grim elemental influence. The Barghest hunts and haunts with eyes aflame, and this inspired us bestow Fury as its second element. And for who knows what reason, the mythological Barghest makes the sound of rattling chairs when it walks — so we gave it a wooden stool for legs.
——— KHEPRI ———
To the Egyptians, the scarab beetle rolling its ball of dung along the ground symbolised the forces that rolled the sun through the heavens. To avoid having too many animal-like Companions, we drew inspiration from the cartoon villain Archimedes, and his use of mechanical insects. Our scarab possesses the Arcane element, meant to add a mechanical, chemical, and clockwork-esque look to its mysterious power. The orb Kepri holds is to further symbolize its relation to the sun and also the moon, since in the Delvers mythology, Arcane energy is aligned with the Moon God.
——— WULVER ———
The Wulver is another werewolf-inspired Companion based on traditional Shetland myth. This is one of our more peaceful creature inspirations, preferring to be by rivers and being very fond of fishing. With that in mind, we wanted to combine a large wolf and some angler element. This gave us a fish-eating dog with a fisherman’s cap. We added a few fishing hooks for earrings as the finishing touches for our aquatic werewolf, to further associate it with the Surge (water) Element.
——— KOHARA ———
Based on a Polynesian Goddess, Kohara, the Mother of all Tuna, is one of the most outlandish ideas we’ve worked on. Maori and Polynesian lore speak of a flash of lightning, out of which tuna are born to the ocean for the first time. Modeling our Companion after this idea, we wanted to make a creature that combined the volatile nature of lightning and thunder with a tuna fish, so we created what looks like an explosive Fish Stress Doll. The idea of a kamikaze tuna was too laughable to pass up.
——— SUBURBAN PHOENIX, aka Lawn Flamingo ———
This Companion was born from one of our contractors suggesting that the Thrive (plant) element be modelled after Topiary visuals, which lead us to a discussion of lawn ornaments. While it has been suggested that the Flamingo is the actual bird behind ancient egyptian legends of the Phoenix, we modelled our idea more on the quintessential Suburban Americana yard decoration. It may go without saying, but some ideas for Companions are meant to humorously break the fourth wall, just slightly.
——— AKANAME ———
This is perhaps one of the grossest Companions to date. The Akaname is a Japanese Yokai (ghost) that lived in outhouses. It is the personification of a fear that we have all felt at one time or another: the fear of using a restroom in the dark. In contrast to its foul and filthy mythology, our Akaname has become one of the cutest of the Companions. We joke that it ended up looking very muppet-like, more like a female Oscar the Grouch as opposed to a malevolent creature who waits to attack people while they’re on the can. Aligned with our Spoil Element, (the element of poison and decay), it was the logical elemental tie-in for a creature associated with unsavory of bathroom humor.
——— OROCHI ———
As our Companions have progressed, we have begun to set visual themes for each element, and as mentioned with the Akaname, the Spoil element has a subtle sewer theme. Based on the ancient Japanese tale of Kusanagi, Orochi is more or less a Hydra, sans regeneration. We dubbed our version the “Pipdra”, a portmanteau of “Pipe” and “Hydra” during one of our livestreams, as a way to combine the poisonous Spoil and the chemical/mechanical Arcane element.
——— STORM CROW ———
A great many legends across North America feature the Storm Crow, which foretells violent thunderstorms. But we also like the allusion to Norse myths relating to crows that arrive in the wake of battle. We had to give it a Valkyrie’s helmet and shape it to look like it was made of lightning, which ties it both to these mythological sources, and the elements in our universe.
——— A BAO A QU ———
The A Bao A Qu is an unusual folk tale centered around the Tower of Victory. Based in Malay legend, it is said to rest at the base of the stairs within the tower and follows those trying to ascend (an analogy for ascending to Nirvana). It is said to feel like peach fuzz if touched, and appears as a specter. So we clearly had to slap some eyes on a peach and gave it a cute, ghostly cloak to align it with the Echo (ghostly) element.
Thanks again for sticking with us, and we look forward to bringing you lots of amazing Delvers news next month!