The Production Blog of Sword 'N' Board
So the start on the more advanced Item mechanics has finally started! While I've had the main mechanics and uses for all of the items on paper for a while I finally went through and started developing the other uses, and puzzle implementations for a lot of the items and how they can be used together with other items as well.

With older Legend of Zelda games, there was a limit to what items you could use at a time, and this game will be no different. However, when certain items are used along with other items the effect of the items being used will be much different.
For example, the Mallet can be used for a few different reasons, damaging specific enemies, solving certain puzzles and clearing out types of Obstacles, but for the most part it's a Hammer! Sure, you can attack with it, but you pretty much just hammer things with it.

But, should you then decide that you would like to use the Mallet with another item instead of your trusty sword, like say a bomb, the way the Mallet is used is much different and in a  way that can trigger switches and be used in different types of puzzles. (thought I won't say exactly what that combination does, I can't spoil everything can I?)

This adds a certain level of complexity to the game that I really hadn't thought about, but I think really is going to add something more to the game than just being a normal adventure game with monsters to beat on.

In a lot of ways I want to recapture the feeling the original Legend of Zelda had with making the player have to explore around the world and look for clues. In later Zelda games, the object of exploration became less and less of an emphasis, and I always missed that.
There was something really fun about bombing random walls, or burning trees in hopes of seeing them fall away to reveal a cave opening, or a hidden staircase, and that's something I really want to bring back. There's something exciting about finding something in a far off corner that's entirely hidden from view that you found on your own.

Not only that, but I want people to really have to think about their play styles, and the items they are using and make sure that an item is always useful.

Many different adventure games that are based around items and their mechanics always seem to have 1 or 2 items that really just sit there in your inventory and never get used and this is something I really wanted to avoid. I always want an item to have a purpose that you'll need to use it for, and I never wanted a item to be "padding" for the game and just be something that you forget about.
I also definitely want to make sure that the puzzles are far beyond pushing blocks, and bombing cracks in the walls, and I really hope that the Item mechanics and the puzzles will really help the game stand out on it's own.

It was a strange and frustrating few days last weekend. I reached a point when working on Dungeon assets that almost everything felt like it just wasn't working, or didn't look right.
It wasn't that anything looked bad, but it really all seemed to look entirely too much like The Legend of Zelda. While this game is obviously highly inspired by it and pays homage to it in a lot of ways, i was starting to realize that a game who's core theme and idea is about pretending and using your imagination was really starting to lack exactly that. Imagination.

While I think I've done a great job with coming up with fresh new mechanics for the game to help set it apart, the theme of the game itself was still lacking something. I just couldn't put my finger on it.

So, I set out to try and change things up a bit, and really embrace the theme of the game. The game is really at it's core about a much more simple time before the Internet existed when kids had to use their imaginations to keep themselves entertained. When we would make our own props and our own weapons out of whatever we could find laying around and we would have pretend adventures in our back yard, and I really needed to embrace that theme.

While one could argue that since the dungeon's in the game are largely in Sidd's head, they could look as elaborate as I wanted them to, they still needed to carry with them a look that suggested this kid with the help of his father made these things to help him better imagine the adventure that he's on.

What started out as a very Zelda like concrete Dungeon of bricks and mortar, has turned into a much more themed, cardboard themed Dungeon, after all a large portion of the title is "Board" and that needs to remain a recurring theme throughout the game. I also assume that Sidd or his father may have put a lot of this together in his backyard, and some of that environment should also show through in the Dungeon.  

After toying with a lot of different ideas and drawing a lot of the stuff out on paper I finally reached a look that I think is really going to not only compliment the game, make it stand apart from the game that's inspired it but also make it really stand out on its own.

To be honest before I had all of this figured out, I got extremely worried! This was really one of the first major hurtles I've had to deal with through development that really made me worry about the future of the game.

But now I'm even more determined to see where it goes, and I can't wait to see where this ends up!
So, as soon as I have a full license for Construct 2, I should be able to get the Beta finished, and up and ready! Luckily that's relatively cheap, so I should be getting that here in a couple weeks, but I'm not going to let that impact production at all!

So now, it's on to designing dungeon assets! I also do want to let everyone know that my buddy Josh was able to get the theme for the dungeon finished which is absolutely awesome, and incredibly creepy! I definitely think it's going to go with what I have planned for the dungeons really well.

Doing continuous walls for the dungeon, at different angles and directions has proven a little bit of a challenge but nothing I haven't had to deal with before. It's a matter of putting them all together and getting them illustrated, but in a way that you can use them as puzzle pieces. You have different corners, that face different directions, and different walls, and they all need to fit together seamlessly. So far though it's working out really well!

The Overworld assets are pretty much done, though I'm sure there may be 1 or 2 things I think of later on, that I'll add down the road, as I always do!

I definitely want this game to be a lot more puzzle oriented than the Legend of Zelda was. I've been replaying and watching replays for various Zelda games and I'm seeing a lot of things that can be improved upon. Don't get me wrong, I love the Legend of Zelda, but there's definitely a few things that I want to see about doing a little differently.

I'm definitely going to make sure that those principles and basic mechanics are there in the Beta, as I think getting the feel of the game across to the people playing as quickly as possible will be key, even if all of the art assets aren't competed at the time.

The Beta will consist of a good portion of the Overworld (though not all) and part of the first Dungeon (though again, not all of it), as I definitely think that will be enough to get all of the main mechanics for the game across to the player, at least that's my hope.

I'm also currently looking for a way to get to Pax, as there's several different Indie game companies that put together a mass Indie game booth, and I'm hoping I can get to be a part of one of them.

Until next Friday, I'm off to work on some Dungeons!
The May release date for the game is looming not that far away and there's still a lot left for me to do! Not only that, but I have even less of a timeline for the Beta if I expect enough people to be able to play it before the game is finally released, so time is of the essence!

I'm still trying to decide how much content the Beta will have. If it will be mainly the Overworld for players to explore, or if I want to include at least one of the dungeons as well. Or, do I want to include more than that? It's going to be a strange balancing act.

Not only do I have to pick a good balance of content for the Beta, but I'm also noticing that the game itself is going to be a bit of a strange balancing act as well.

I've seen a lot of games lately that really pad themselves with a lot of useless content. Usually to create a sense of artificial depth for the player.

You take a much loved series of mine for example, The Legend of Zelda. Especially for this example, lets use A Link to the Past.

In a Link to the past there comes a point where you get a wand that is able to set fire to things, including torches. When you first get the wand they introduce the mechanic of lighting torches to exit a room with 4 different torches and then from there on, you know that if you see an unlit torch, that you can light it! Sometimes, you can also use those torches to give you light in a dark room, or some times you may just choose to leave them alone.

The problem with this as a mechanic, is they then continue to beat you over the head with this for the next 8 dungeons at random points in the game... you see a block, and you move it but nothing happens! Oh, there's an unlit torch! And then you light it and the door opens, or a passage way is revealed.

The problem with this is that once this becomes a mechanic that you no longer have to think about, it basically becomes pointless. It's not longer rewarding in the sense that it gives you something to think about and thus gives you a sense of satisfaction for having figured it out yourself. Now, when you see an unlit torch you really don't have to think about it at all. Instead, you to go your menu, equip your item, and light the torch. Giving you one extra little thing that you have to do to get that door open, without any real reward.

Now, the torch lighting mechanic unless used in some new way to make the player really have to think about it again, becomes "padding" for the game. Something that creates some artificial complexity within the game. They did a great job with refreshing old mechanics within The Ocarina of Time, which was really great!

These are definitely things I'm going to have to keep in mind when designing my own mechanics. I want to make sure that each of the items can be used in multiple different ways in many different situations. In a game that's largely about exploration and puzzle solving, I need to always have people thinking about what they should do next!