Rebalancing -- DQ2 Progress Report for September 2022
Rebalancing levels in response to testing & fancy scripts to auto-balance the economy.
Howdy Defender's Quest fans!
Version 0.0.36 has been uploaded for our early backers & testers to check out.
The main thing we accomplished in this last month was a big rebalancing effort. Testing showed pretty conclusively that 1) the game was too difficult across the board, especially for new players, and 2) new characters were being introduced too quickly. To that end, we're fixing the pacing of the initial phase of the game considerably. We've added six new "pacing" battles to the first two phases to give you a little more time to play with freshly introduced characters before we immediately move on to the next one. To keep our overall scope fixed, we also used this as an opportunity to remove an approximately equal amount of battles from the back end of the game that felt like dead weight and were causing the end game to drag. We still haven't finished designing the new pacing battles, but we've rearranged the map for where they ought to go (for now they're just duplicates of the preceding battle), and we'll fill in the combat details this month.
One thing we have done, however, is go over the game's overall balance and tweaked the reward, experience, and money formulas so that you're progressing at a rate that feels better and gives you more resources to make interesting choices.
You might recall the internal "wavegen" script I've talked about in previous posts that we use to automatically balance our levels. Our level designer has now built some economy tools that helps us rebalance the reward schedule from a higher level, too. Rather than go into a bunch of different text files and tweak our individual per-level reward values directly, we can edit one master file that looks like this:
The basic way this works is that we define an overall "baseline" reward curve for all of our standard rewards like XP per level and gold per level. Then we define multipliers centered on 1.0 that tell you how much that particular level deviates from the default curve – should you get a little less than average here, or a little more than average, and so on. We also defined "grind" rewards (what you get for beating the level even if you've already beaten it) and "perfect" rewards for beating the level without letting your ship get hit. We can define this sort of thing for each mission track (normal, and advanced).
There's a few other notable changes. For one, we've brought "star coins" back from the dead, after wrestling with some balancing decisions with items. Now that the game's more mature, we've found the need to price cannons in a separate special currency + a nominal amount of scrap so that cannons don't compete directly with the player's budget for weapons & armor.
This is part of a design pass we're taking on cannons in general. Another decision we've made is that each cannon should be upgradeable, making the cannon more powerful but also making it equippable by either party's ship (unupgraded cannons are specific to one ship or the other). Throughout the game we constantly mix and match the two parties, so this is a way to make sure that all your cannon purchases stay relevant towards the endgame. We've also adjusted the base laser cannon; it's free now, but has a short cooldown. Additionally, we're going to give the user the option to purchase a new "fast laser" cannon that has the features of the original laser cannon design. Pardon our dust while we get all these new item design intentions into the build – the item shops in the current build are still somewhat placeholder-y, but we should finalize this soon.
Over the next two months we'll be focused on adding in advanced missions, finishing item design throughout the game, and getting as much art in as we can. A lot of stuff is starting to come together, and 2023 will be an exciting year to work on Defender's Quest 2.
As always, thanks for your patience. See you next month!