Dragon Snacks: Stage Bending, Camera Shake, and Roguelike Experiments

Jan 10, 2023

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Happy New Year

With the busy holidays behind us, it’s time for us to get back to work. We don’t have any major announcements this month, but we do have several smaller things we’ve been playing with to make Duple Dragon even better. 

In this edition of Dragon Snacks, our recurring feature where we collect some of the smaller bits and bobs from our development, we play with bending our stages, shaking the camera, changes to how you gain mana, and more.

Stage Bending

No, this isn’t a new Avatar spinoff. So far Duple Dragon’s stages have always moved in a straight line down an infinite road, and while this is functional enough, we’ve long wanted a way to make this feel more dynamic.

Through some math magic and the power of shaders, Caleb has come up with a way we can literally bend the entire stage programmatically. This would allow us to create bends in the road, or a gentle back and forth, all dynamically as you play. This feature is still in progress, but we’re very excited about it, and we think it will have huge implications for how exciting the game looks while playing.

Take a look at this early prototype of the effect!

Camera Shake

Another visual addition we’ve been playing with in our Roguelike experiment is camera shake when you hit negative items. Ian worked hard on creating a nice looking shake effect which changes in intensity depending on how bad the item was you hit.

So far we like this effect so much that we’re considering moving it into the live version of Duple Dragon. It might sound like a small thing, but it makes a really big difference while playing. You now feel it when you hit something bad, and that helps to understand how well you’re doing.

Roguelike Progress and Mana Experiments

As we continue to experiment with the Roguelike redesign, we’re taking a close look at some of the most basic building blocks of the game. One of these areas is Mana, and how to give players more of it.

Mana is used up when you activate one of your Powers. In the live version of Duple Dragon, Mana recovery can be quite slow overall right now, and we don’t think this is as fun as it could be.

We want using powers to be at the core of your play experience, so we’re looking for ways to speed up Mana recovery so you can use them more often. We’re trying a number of things, from giving you more base Mana regeneration, increasing the amount of Mana potions that appear, and a more experimental idea: Mana combos.

Mana Combos

This concept may not make it into the game in the end, but it’s something we’re playing with right now. Here’s how it works:

Mana Potions, instead of giving you a set amount of Mana, now start a little mini-game we’re calling a Mana Combo. The goal is to collect 10 fireworks in a row without missing any or hitting negative items. If you succeed, you fully recharge one of your powers. If you get less than 10, you get a smaller amount of Mana restored based on how close you got to 10 fireworks in a row.

Our goal with this system is to reward skillful play, and to make recharging your powers more interesting. The main downside to it is that it’s quite a bit more complex and abstract than the live version of Mana Potions, so we’re still evaluating whether we like it or not.

Back to Basics

In the live version of Duple Dragon, Souren and Ian worked hard leading up to launch on creating a huge variety of possible stages to play through. This library of templates is how our weekly stages are generated, and the current set of templates was built with the goal of getting as much variety as possible, and we were pretty successful at it. Too successful, it turns out!

While variety was great for our endlessly rotating weekly stages, we’ve found with our Roguelike experiment that too much variety is actually a bad thing. The Roguelike experience is at its best when you’re making strategic decisions to overcome upcoming challenges. In order to do that, you need to have some idea of what that upcoming challenge will entail. In our current system with all its emphasis on variety, there’s almost no way to predict what kinds of challenges a stage will contain, even if you know the theme of that stage.

To combat this, our current plan is to take things back to absolute basics and see what works. We want to make stages within a given theme be as similar as possible, and focus more on having a large variety of themes without a lot of variance, rather than a lot of variety within each theme. Only time will tell how this approach pans out, but we have high hopes for it.

Thanks for Reading

That’s all for this month. As always, thanks for reading and following our development.

– Caleb, Ian, and Souren

Stay in Touch

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