bouncertree

Hey everyone!

It's the ides of August, which means it's time for another infodump progress report for Defender's Quest 2. If you missed the last one, you can read it here.

If you want to get these updates in your inbox every month and haven't already, please join OUR NEWSLETTER -- it's the best way for us to reach you about updates about DQ2!

Oh, and I fixed the progress tracker. Sorry, apparently that was broken for a super long time.

So here's what we've got for you today:

  1. Boilerplate
  2. Summary
  3. Commit Log Firehose

First the boilerplate

Boilerplate

Spoiler Alert:
We're talking about a WIP game in an unstructured firehose way. So, spoilers.

Unspoiler Alert:
Just because something's in the log doesn't mean it'll be in the final game.

Line Item Illusion:
The number of bullet points is only a rough indicator of the amount of labor. A 1 line item might have been 10x as much effort as a 5 line item. Or vice versa.

Yes I owe our early backers a build:
It's been months since our last build, and I want to get the next one out sooner rather than later. Unfortunately my last set of changes have really torn up the pavement, so I'll need some more time to stabilize. Thanks for your patience.

Customer support:
As always, if you're unhappy with your pre-order for any reason, contact leveluplabs@gmail.com with the email address you originally ordered form (or any other info to track down your order) and we will cheerfully refund your money.
For everyone else who is patiently bearing with us, you have our sincere thanks.


Summary

this month has been spent deep in the weeds of character skill trees, and doing some major rearranging to the party structure.

(SPOILER WARNING)
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In Defender's Quest 1, we had 6 unique character classes, and the ability to hire generic clones in the form of recruits, up to 36 characters.

The current plan for DQ2 is 8 unique heroes, each with their own character class, supplemented by up to 16 additional "minions". The two parties you follow, currently codenamed "The White Hats" and "The Black Hats", will have 4 heroes each, and up to 8 minions each. This makes for a total max party size of 24 characters, but with a lot more variety between the characters.

In our last draft of the game progression we had sort of muddled things. In the first sequence of the game where you follow the white hats, you would get all four white hat heroes (and no minions). In the second sequence of the game where you follow the black hats, you would get only the first two black hat heroes, as well as two black hat minions. I can't remember why we wanted to try it this way, but it was extremely confusing -- minions are weaker single-purpose characters, and mixing them in that early in the black hat sequence made it very unclear what they were for and left me without a clear direction to design and balance things.

So we changed things up to keep it simple -- first sequence: meet all four white hats, go on some missions, fight a boss. Second sequence: meet all four black hats, go on some missions, fight a boss. There's your basic introduction to the game (and is probably the amount of content that will constitute our eventual demo version).

Now that we have all 8 hero characters and the pacing in which you meet them nailed down, the design for the rest of the game falls into place. The purpose of minions becomes clear: supplementary single-purpose characters that fill out your ranks, while your core team is made up of flexibile multi-purpose heroes.

With those 8 character classes locked down, the next obvious thing for me to clear up is their skill trees. So for the last month I've been filling these out and coming up with all the relevant actions they can take, trying to carve out a clear identity for each character, both as an individual and within their party, as well giving them room for multiple different build strategies.

This design process has four steps:

  1. Fill out all the skills
  2. Create accurate dynamic descriptions
  3. Go implement all the abilities to match the descriptions
  4. Test & balance it

Steps 1 & 2 of this process are done. Once I finish 3 and 4, I'll do another pass on all the levels and redesign them explicitly around the kinds of skills we're giving you.

White Hat Skill Trees

Here's a brief overview of what we've got so far for the white hats (keep in mind character class names are unthemed placeholders mostly signifying mechanics). We'll save the black hats for next month.

Zerk

  • Melee
  • High DPS
  • Flexible & resilient
  • A berserker by any other name

Here's an example of the "Zerk"'s WIP skill tree:
zerktree

This character is the cornerstone of the white hats, the very first character you get, and bears an intentional mechanical resemblance to the DQ1 berserker. You've got three basic ways to spec this character -- with each row having a general theme. The top row for nearly every character is simply more damage, so there's your basic "Killing Stuff" build. As for the others:

  • Middle row: "Not Dying" -- Deal more damage to attackers, drain health from enemies, retaliate against enemies that attack you.
  • Bottom row: "Being Fancy" -- utility and status effects that require some thinking to pull off, but can synergize well with other units for a big payoff.

Long Shot

  • Ranged
  • High DPS
  • 2x damage bonus for hits at long range
  • "Glass cannon" sniper / chemical bomb launcher
  • Has ice / acid / electricity effects

Here's the "Long Shot"'s skill tree:
longshottree

Despite the superficial resemblance to the DQ1 ranger, this character is very different. The Long Shot (as the name implies) has enormous range and hits really hard, but has a slow rate of fire. Also, you do more damage to targets in the outer half of the range radius. Also, instead of firing a hail of arrows like the DQ1 ranger, Long Shot's attacks all consist of single shots, though that includes shots that either fragment into shrapnel or explode with flavored splash damage. Some highlights from the skill tree:

  • Middle row: "Being Fancy" -- let shots pierce targets to hit multiple enemies, make shots give off additional shrapnel, or douse them in acid (damage over time that also eats away at armor). Useful stuff, but requires thinking to pay off.
  • Bottom row: "Buying Time" -- chill and freeze, the hallmarks of the DQ1 ice mage, find their place here. The level 5 bonus on this row is "shock", which is an electricity themed stun. (Electricity can't be cancelled by fire the way ice can, but both electricity and ice flavored attacks gain a bonus against enemies with the "wet" status).

Bouncer

  • Melee
  • Low DPS
  • "Tank", special focus on Crowd control
  • Lots of knockback

I'm pushing this character hard towards crowd control. He's now all about being plopped down in a lane to hold back the tide and buy time for everyone else, while soaking up attention and damage from aggressors. His base melee attack "slap" will cause him to draw attention from enemies. His higher level attacks are split between AOE attacks with a % chance to KNOCK BACK enemies through the air, and melee attacks that SHOVE enemies back along the lane path.

Here's the skill tree:
bouncertree-2

  • Middle row: "Chain reactions" -- Flavors like "shockwave" cause KNOCKED BACK enemies to do damage to those they land next to. Whereas "bowl over" and "strike" cause SHOVED enemies to deal damage and status effects to enemies they hit while being shoved backwards.
  • Bottom row: "Debuff" -- the new status effect "flip" will very briefly stun an enemy by flipping it onto its back, during which time its armor counts for nothing. "Cripple" will cause a small but permanent debuff to an enemy's speed. You can also increase the distance of shove.

My general philosophy is to make sure that "the fun stuff" always works -- I hate RPG's where you get all these powerful status effects that do nothing because they have some stupidly low % chance to hit, or everything's immune to it. Obviously, I can't let this wreck the balance of the game, particularly with boss fights. Rest assured I have some techniques up my sleeve to deal with that, while still letting the "fun stuff" work.

White Splash

  • AOE
  • Low/Medium DPS
  • Healer/Buffer/Debuffer

This is a weird class, but I really like where they've ended up. It's also one where we're fairly committed to a theme -- insects. The White Splash heals defenders by releasing a cloud of stinging bugs with abdomens laden with healing juices and steroids, hyperdermic stingers at the ready. Foes are dealt with the same way, just those bugs have the garden variety pain juice in their pointy bits.

In any case, let's look at the skill tree:

whitesplash

This could probably be tightened up a bit to make each row a little more distinct, but the general idea is:

  • Top row: "Killing Stuff" - more damage for the damagey skills, more inspire (attack buff to friends) for the healey skills.
  • Middle row: "Not Dying" - more healing for healey skills, more life drain aura (friends gain a % of the damage you deal as health) for the damagey skills, and straight up invincibility at boost 5. The "swarm" status is a bit of an outlier on this row, and I might move it. I'll talk about that below.
  • Bottom row: "Being Fancy" - a mix of different things that all require situational prowess. "Reflect" sends projectile attacks back at attackers, and "Harvest" makes killed enemies give more Juice (this replaces DQ1 PSI). We have "Shock" again here, as well as "Barrier" -- a more powerful version of Reflect that also bounces back melee attacks. Finally we have "Larva", which I'll get to in a second.

"Swarm" -- This is a special Damage-Over-Time variant only the White Splash has. The special feature of a swarm is that if the enemy its attacking dies while there's still time left on the status effect, the swarm will fly to the nearest enemy in range and attack them.

"Larva" -- this infects an enemy with a larval parasite. When the enemy dies, a number of swarms will burst forth from them.

I could probably write several whole articles about all this stuff, but I'll save that for when we have a build ready.


Now, the commit log:

July 15 - August 15:

  • Mapping out white hat skill trees

    • Rearrange all the skill trees
    • Establish a clear identity for each character
    • Establish a few key builds for each character
    • Map out all new status effects / flavors etc
  • New Zerk (class) stuff

    • Make skill tree descriptions correct
      • Thorns: fix stray "+"
      • Cleave: needs description
      • Blaze of Glory: needs description
      • Mortal Wound: needs description
    • Thorns status
      • Repurpose equipment-based thorns ability (retaliation damage vs melee) as a status effect buff
      • Activate as self status when attached skill is launched
    • Cleave flavor
      • In addition to normal damage, deal X% of the enemies' remaining health
      • Add differentiating bouncing number visual
    • Mortal wound flavor
      • Add visual doom indicator ticking down above enemy's head
      • Instant kill when mortal wound status expires
      • Deal with edge case for combining mortal wound flavors
      • Add "DOOM!" text visual on expiration kill
  • New Long Shot (class) stuff

    • Make splash projectile attacks work
    • Make skill tree descriptions correct
      • Chill: set amounts that resolve properly
      • Chill: (technically any flavor) -- when going from 0-X% chance, show X% as green
      • Strike-through: show "+1" for first point
      • Shrapnel: show "+1" for first point
      • Shrapnel: show damage value for each shrapnel piece
      • Acid: show AmountAlt values
      • Shock: show a description at all
      • Make clear that flavor applies to shrapnel as well
      • Make clear that flavor applies to splash as well
  • New Bouncer (class) stuff

    • Make skill tree descriptions correct
      • Flip: add description
      • Shockwave: add description
      • Cripple: add description
      • Bowl over: add description
      • Strike: add description
      • Distance: add description
      • Add "shove" flavor to shove/expel
      • Fix "Bounce" text so it doesn't say "Foe is pushed back 0 tiles"
  • New White Splash (class) stuff

    • Make skill tree descriptions correct
      • Fix "increases healing power of"
      • Add a description for REFLECT
      • Add a description for BARRIER
      • Add a description for INVINCIBILITY
      • Add a description for LARVA
  • Big list of phase 3 issues

    • sequence 2 (black hats) should introduce all 4 black hat heroes, and save minions for later
    • Scrappy: use acid, not poison
    • Shrapnel:
    • Start with 4 projectiles
    • Fix projectile collision logic
    • Indicate how much damage shrapnel pieces do
    • Clarify whether shrapnel shot flavor also applies to shrapnel projectiles themselves
    • Clean up how shrapnel dmg/dps is displayed (two lines)
    • Bouncer: rename attacks
    • Boost 1: Slap
    • Boost 2: Bounce
    • Boost 3: Shove
    • White Splash
    • Infuse text: "HEALS each friend"
    • Life Drain Aura should add "by this attack"
    • Reflect instead of poison?
    • Change poison to swarm
    • Swarm: on death, finds closest enemy. If in range, transfer remaining time to that enemy
    • Skills menu in general:
    • Top lines should be bold
    • Top lines should showcase most relevant info (usually DPS)

New Black Hat: Collector

  • Replace sequence 2 minion drop with this
  • Basic setup
    • Placeholder graphics / metadata / skill tree template
    • Initial skills draft + icons
  • Design first two skill columns
    • Seeker: deploy an autonomous weapon
    • Refresh: some kind of healing

New Black Hat: Ultimate

  • Replace sequence 2 minion drop with this
  • Basic setup
    • Placeholder graphics / metadata / skill tree template
    • Initial skills draft + icons
  • Design first two skill columns
    • Rip: melee
    • Blast: ranged

New Eliminator stuff

  • Make skill descriptions accurate
    • Increase Slay
    • Poison: fix +green text
    • Tar: add description at all
    • Flee: add description at all
    • Plague: add description at all
    • Terror: add description at all
    • Smother: add description at all
    • Mortalwound: fix typo
  • Mortalwound:
    • countdown to death
    • display the countdown

New Collector stuff

  • Fix techniques
    • Seeker: add basic "collector" projectile details
    • Seeker: add shrapnel
    • Destroyer: add basic "roamer" projectile details
  • Fix/add descriptions
    • Seeker: add "extra unit for collection" stat add
    • Destroyer: add "extra time for roaming" stat add
    • DPS: fix/remove where relevant

New Ultimate stuff

  • Fix skill descriptions
    • Better icon for splash radius
    • Boom: splash radius increase
    • Skill names