March of the Machines: DQ2 progress report for December 2020 + January 2021

In the December/January progress report we talk about three new "machine minion" characters that help fill out the party.

March of the Machines: DQ2 progress report for December 2020 + January 2021

Hey everybody,

We skipped December due to the holidays making hash of my schedule, so now we're doing two months of progress reports in one!

First up, the new build version 0.0.15 is live on Steam for Windows and Linux (Mac in permanent limbo going forwards).

The biggest thing to talk about is minions.


Minions are the main "big reward" the player will be able to look forward to after completing the first two sequences. Minions differ from heroes in the following ways:

  1. They are non-human
  2. They do not have speaking roles in the story
  3. They are simpler & more straight-forward than Heroes

Minions are simple and fun extra units that you can fill out map coverage with and serve as a good money sink both in and out of battle.

Both White Hats and Black Hats will have four minions apiece, for a total of eight minion units. Each party gains their first minion on a specific mission as part of normal story progression, and the rest can be purchased at a town location afterwards.

Coming soon: a less worse interface

White Hats minions will be themed as Machines, and Black Hat minions will be themed as Parasites.

Machines and Parasites both adhere to the general minion principles listed above, but have their own design rules.


Machines follow these rules:

  • Each machine is unique
  • They have higher total HP than human units
  • They do not regenerate at all
  • They have two active technique skills (boost level 1 and 2)
  • When they die they explode in a spectacular and useful way (and can be infinitely re-summoned for their normal summon cost)
  • You can't recall them to get your Juice investment back, but you can manually detonate them to trigger their explosive effect

All of the above are oriented around making machines a sort of temporary fortification unit that can take a bit of a beating but is more likely to die in the long run than a hero unit. We're also trying to make it so the player doesn't get as upset when a machine dies – and sometimes even looks forward to it or plans around it, because of the usefulness of the death effect.

Each machine is also themed around a very specific use case, "do one thing, do it well." You have things to sink skill points into, but they're all focused around a very specific idea. Broad multi-purpose flexibility is for hero units, we want to reduce the cognitive load of what minions are for.

(Note that in the latest build absolutely none of the machines are balanced yet, I've just been working on getting their rough designs functional.)

Let's go over a few of our first minions.

Machine #1 - The Penetrator

First up is the "Penetrator" (name will definitely be changed before release to avert snickering from 13-year olds).

This machine minion is all about, well, penetration. Instead of the traditional circular or square attack ranges, it employs a long cross-shaped range. Using this unit effectively requires ideal positioning along straight paths:

And it's explosion follows the cross pattern, bomberman-style (it'll look much better when we have some actual art)

Let's look at the skill tree:

The two skills on the left are the boost 1 and boost two attack techniques. The first throws out a single projectile, the second sends out four in a starburst pattern in all four cardinal directions.

The skull on the right, detached from the tree, represents the explosion technique that triggers on the Penetrator's death (or manual detonation), regardless of boost level.

The bonuses are generally consistent across the board:

  • Straight damage boost
  • Damage boost specifically against high-HP enemy types, so you can make this thing particularly effective against damage sponges.
  • Strike-through, literally adding penetration to your projectiles. (For the explosion, we use a pushback flavor instead)
  • Armor piercing

Machine #2 – The Spread Shot

This unit is all about spraying a bunch of bullets around:

It doesn't have the incredible range of the Long Shot, but neither does it have the minimum range penalty. Nor will it (when I get around to balancing) have the DPS advantage of the Zerk or Long Shot, but if you want to put lots of flak on the screen, this is the machine you want.

All of its attacks are spread-shot projectiles starting with 3 shots each. Bonuses:

  • Add damage per projectile
  • Add an additional projectile per shot
  • Add penetration to the projectiles
  • Let projectiles bounce off screen edges an additional time

And of course, when the Spread shot dies, rather than exploding in a generic cloud of fire, they burst into a cloud of projectiles:

(And yes, you can make those projectiles penetrate/bounce/etc).

Machine #3 – The Healer

The Healer is exactly what they say on the tin. All they do is healing and buffing, they have absolutely no way of damaging enemies at all.

And of course, blowing them up causes an explosion that heals and buffs everybody around them.

I've tried to keep the minion skill trees as straightforward as possible, but the Healer in particular presents some challenges because repeating the same status effects on a boost 1 skill and a boost 2 skill is a lot more redundant when those are healing skills targeting a small number of friendly units.

What I'm going for here is to make the boost 1 heal bonuses immediate emergency aid – keep friends alive right now, especially melee units. Boost 2 heal bonuses are more about entrenching your position and helping out ranged & AOE units.

Going bonus by bonus:

  • First bonus is just more heal power, as usual

For boost 1:

  • Reflexes (status buff that gives chance to dodge)
  • Inspire melee (attack bonus for melee attacks)
  • Status buff (improves potency of friends' status effect attacks)

For boost 2:

  • Protect (status buff that absorbs damage directly)
  • Inspire ranged (attack bonus for ranged/AOE attacks)
  • Range buff (increases the range of friends)

The "explosion" obviously heals all friends in range. But beyond that, it has some extra goodies:

  • Buff max HP of friends for a limited time.
  • Inspire (for all attacks)
  • Reflect (block some damage and send it back at the attacker)

The fourth minion is the "Tank" and isn't done yet, but the general idea there is that they're a big fat unit that absorbs damage, has no active attacks on its own, but has a lot of fun ways to react whenever an enemy tries to attack anything within its range.

Overworld evolution

Another little thing to touch on before we hit the changelog spew is the overworld.

I'm still greyboxing it, but I'm now doing two things in particular:

  1. Visually divide up pearls into specific "regions" where we can expect visual & thematic differences in battles
  2. Start to chart out the path that the final game map will follow when art comes online

Rather than the typical "overhead view" that most RPG overworld maps go, we're playing with the idea of doing a sort of stylized "side view" with a lot of emphasis on verticality, like how some old D&D modules used to do it:

In DQ2, the parties are basically on a long-term "submarine" journey into the depths of their planet's toxic atmosphere, and we're going to use the vertical dimension as an aid to getting this story theme across. Every big "jump" in the story's intensity will be accompanied by a literal visual "plunge" in vertical descent:

This will continue to evolve over the coming months as we roll this game towards its final form.

Now for the changelog spew:

  • Redesign world map layout
  • Place world map "biome" background placeholders
  • Create purchaseable minions
  • General minion structure
    • Reorder in party
    • Detached "detonate" skill
    • Make skull appear in party screen
    • Make skull appear in battle
    • Rename "recall" to "detonate" for minions
    • Death/recall triggers explosion
  • Penetrator minion
    • Set up skills
    • Set up stats
    • Cross shaped range
    • Bomberman style explosion
    • Fix skill descriptions
    • 8 points per skill
    • Fix armor pierce mechanism
    • Starburst description
  • Medium Shot
    • Remove long range penalty
    • Description for bounce flavor
    • Implement bounce flavor
    • Implement bullet hell detonation
    • Reflexes status
    • Melee inspire
    • Status buff status
    • Range buff status
    • Healing explosion
    • Max HP buff