Parade of Parasites: DQ2 progress report for March 2021

Parade of Parasites: DQ2 progress report for March 2021

Howdy Defender's Quest fans! Today we have a progress report and a new build up on Steam for Windows/Linux.

As we covered in March of the Machines, each of the two parties in Defender's Quest 2 (known as the "White Hats" and "Black Hats" respectively) has their own set of helper defender units called "minions."

Re-iterating the design principles of minions:

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

The four White Hat minions are loosely themed as "machines" right now, and are characterized by having relatively high HP, no regeneration at all, simplified skill trees, and they explode dramatically upon death or recall.

The four Black Hat minions we're introducing today are pretty different. The theme we're going with for now is "parasites." (That's a metaphorical placeholder term as we haven't necessarily committed to a biological theme for these critters).

Leaning into the overall design plank that "White Hats are straightforward, Black Hats are weird", the parasites are super weird. The basic rules for parasites are:

  1. On placement must be linked to a Black Hat defender that becomes their "host"
  2. Have 1 token HP and any damage they receive is transferred to the host instead
  3. If the host dies, the parasite dies
  4. Any status effects they get are mirrored to the host, and vice versa.
  5. Each parasite's single attack takes on some characteristic of their host

Parasites are a sort of extension of their host in this sense. First you place your parasite, and then you pick your host. Here's a graphic of their placement logic:

You can also do it the other way around, picking the host first and then picking a placement location. After some initial testing it quickly became obvious that we'll eventually need some sort of visual connection between host and parasite to keep them straight, and also to signify the transfer of damage from one to the other (some sort of pulsating tube is the current plan). That'll be in the next build probably.

Now let's take a quick look at Parasite skill trees:

Parasites have four attack techniques each, one for each Black Hat defender they can attach to. In battle, they will only use the attack that corresponds to their attached host. This specific design doesn't lend itself well to a traditional tech tree where you're investing a bunch of points into stuff – if only one of these techniques is going to be active at a time, it makes no sense at all to put scarce points into a column for a host that you're not planning on immediately using in the next battle. The ideal strategy would then become to plan ahead for the next battle, clear all your points, and then dump them into a particular column, for every battle. That doesn't sound like fun.

Besides, the point of minions is to be simpler than hero defenders, with a lower cognitive load. Core strategy should focus on the main Black Hat characters, with these parasites as a sort of accessory. To that end, we made it so that instead of skill points you invest, you just freely pick one of three modifiers per column at any time.

What this means in practice is that there are two choices for each parasite:

  1. Which defender should they pair with to be their host
  2. What bonus should the parasite pick to specialize

And that's it. Keep the cognitive load down but the choice simple and meaningful. The parasites themselves are just named "Parasite 1", "Parasite 2" for now and all have the same graphic, but I'll differentiate them soon. In terms of underlying mechanics, each has a different focus:

Parasite 1 = Melee
Parasite 2 = Ranged
Parasite 3 = Area of Effect
Parasite 4 = Debuff

As of this writing these four new characters are still very incomplete and are likely super buggy, but they are in the game at all which means the basic pylons for the minion system have been sunk and I can fix it up from there.

I've also stubbed out the next two sequences of the game (which is to say put a bunch of placeholders in that I'll fill in later). You should unlock the first machine minion early on in White hats phase 2, and then be able to obtain new machines from shops afterwards. Likewise, you unlock the first parasite minion in Black hats phase 2, and then can obtain new parasites from shops after that point.

All of these minions are super unbalanced and some of their features are still not implemented fully yet. But it's all in, which puts a final nail in one of the biggest pending systems for the game. There's a good bit of fixing up after here, but it's good to finally have this part of the game take concrete shape so I can get back to level design.

Thanks for all your patience!