Psychopomps Are Missing Progress Report for June 2022

 Hello, and welcome to my fourth progress report for Psychopomps Are Missing, the RPG Maker MV game I'm currently developing. This is a quarterly report about the progress I've made towards completion of the game. If you want updates more frequently than that, I recommend subscribing to the $5 tier at my Patreon, as the diary entries at that tier include updates if I've worked on the game that day (along with information about other projects I've got in the works). Videos about the game are  available on my YouTube channel, which you can watch here. I've also started releasing builds of the game on my Discord server in the #game-development channel. The messages that contain the download links are pinned.

As my measures for determining when the game is complete are no different than what I laid out initially in the first progress report article, I recommend checking it out if you want to know how I am determining the completeness of Psychopomps Are Missing. Also, to avoid repeating the same thing over and over again, I'll mostly focus on what has changed since the previous article, so at least giving it a glance will help with context. And now, without further ado, let's get into it!

So, What's the Current State of the Game?

As is to be expected, the game is still very early on in development. Like in the previous article, I'll start by discussing the state of the core mechanics, then I'll go over each region. The game's introduction still needs revision once the game is further developed, but I have added some disclaimers and other direct tutorial information for the release through Discord. Overarching story elements will eventually warrant their own sections, but that time is still quite a ways away in the future!

State of the Core Mechanics

For clarity, I'm going to use a list. These elements are in no particular order.

  • Classes have had a huge revision. I was feeling very dissatisfied with a number of issues, which I have begun to fix (there are some issues that still need ironing out). The two main issues were not having enough skills early on, but then having too many as a character finished the class-development phase. The primary goal of the revisions was to address these two issues. Additionally, I've rebalanced the classes by changing stats and properties, changing quite a few skills (to make them feel more interesting, and to make skills within a class seem more appealing), and worked to give final classes clearer identities.
    • To summarize, I've changed it so that characters can only get a maximum of two skills from a class (instead of all five) and most classes only require you to get one skill from any given class they require to be used. However, characters also get access to all of a class's skills while they're using that class without having to learn them first. I go over this in more detail in this video.
    • I mentioned last time that I'd made three of the four unlockable classes available before completing Ashdala. I'm currently thinking through how I might do the same for the fourth one.
    • I've made big changes to how I'm calculating experience points requirements as part of these revisions. Specifically, I'm just using a big matrix of values, rather than a formula. Given that total levels are low, this was far easier than trying to find a formula that'd accommodate all of the variance I wanted.
    • I've also heavily adjusted what gear which classes can use. This has generally resulted in gear being more usable, which I'm hoping will loosen up the experience some.
      • Each character had an offhand they could always use. As part of this change, I've removed that from most of the characters (Sophilia can still always use Gauntlets).
    • I've implemented more class-specific mechanics, particularly for final classes. Many of these still need playtesting!
      • Wizards are able to wield Staves (Mage Staves and Cleric Staves) in their offhand slot.
      • Magical Girls no longer use weapons, but instead get a second offhand slot. They do get a stronger-than-normal unarmed punch if you have to perform a normal attack.
      • Dervishes are currently set to always be dodging, but have very low weight capacity and armor, so they can't use heavy gear very well. This may prove to be overpowered; if so, I'll adjust it.
  • Core battle mechanics are overall in a fairly solid place, and I've taken steps to address the exceptions I noted in the previous article.
      • Last time, I brought up some issues with armor and defensiveness. In addition to changes to element rates (see below), I've adjusted how armor and weight work.
        • Armor now provides specific base properties per armor type, in addition to an element rate. These additional properties are weight, evasions, and armor caps.
        • Class defenses are now capped by gear armor caps. The portion of your defenses derived from your class is limited by these caps. So far, I feel like this system addresses many of the problems I've had with past systems, because it switches where limitations are being placed (i.e. armor limits defense instead of class trying to limit armor use), which I think works better.
          • I do need to figure out a good way to communicate some of these stats in the shop interface, particularly caps and weight.
        • I've also changed how I handle weight. Previously, your weight cap was a quarter of your maximum stamina. Exceed that amount, and you'd begin to suffer penalties. Weight capacity is now its own stat. This change was made to make it easier to balance the game, and to make weight a more significant part of selecting gear.
    • The adjustments I made to mana have proven to work well. Because mana is no longer restored by the healing device, you have to pay attention to it and manage it. This means restoration items (such as Ethers and food) are significantly more useful, as is equipment that gives you mana regeneration or causes you to gain mana when you hit enemies.
    • I've made some significant changes to types. Last time, I discussed how I'd added element rates to types: Classes, Armor Types, and Enemy Types. I did this to make it easier for the player to identify enemy weaknesses and resistances to the nine damage types. However, there were some problems that I've tried to address.
      • I have simplified types. My original implementation had whatever multipliers for types felt logical to me. However, playtesting has shown that this did not alleviate issues, since it was extremely difficult to remember weaknesses and resistances, and effectively impossible to know how multiple types would interact—if Type A resists Arcane and Type B is weak to Arcane, is Type A's resistance enough to overcome Type B's weakness, leading to the enemy still resisting Arcane? Or is Type B's weakness great enough to overcome Type A's resistance? It was impossible to know!
        • What I've done is followed Pokémon's example and only have 0x, 0.5x, 1x, and 2x multipliers for type values. This makes it easier to remember how things work, since if you know a type is weak to something and another type resists it, you'll know that those cancel each other out.
          • I've also tried to make consistent patterns with Class weaknesses and resistances. For example, spellcasters are typically weak to Slashing damage. My hope is that this will make it easier to figure out weaknesses and resistances over time, as the player should be able to begin combining categories of things in their mind.
      • I've removed element affinities from types. When I first implemented this system, I'd assigned element affinities (which modify your effectiveness with damage types) to both Classes and Enemy Types. This was meant to mimic the Same-Type Attack Boost (STAB) system of Pokémon, where using a damaging move that matches one of your types results in it dealing 50% more damage. However, because damage types and defense types aren't the same in Psychopomps Are Missing (unlike Pokémon), this could produce very powerful results. Overall, playtesting showed that it made selecting what skills you wanted to use (and especially learn) confusing. In addition, I have other systems dedicated to boosting damage of specific types, so the overlap is unnecessary.
  • I wrote last time that, "adding locations to the Crossroads of Reality/Pocket Dimension Portal is in place, but needs a bug fix (there's a notification that pops up when you unlock a new area that resets itself on zone transition). I have tried to fix this bug, but the fix meant that the popup would not properly go away if you left the triggering map too quickly. I've tried to fix that bug, which has made it harder to cause, but it can still happen, so I've got some more fixing to figure out." I am pleased to report that I have at long last figured out a fix to this bug!
  • I wrote previously that, "Abyss Gates have had no mechanical work on them. I am placing the image I'm using for them in various environments around the world, but they don't do anything yet. Note that the Abyss Gates are currently planned to be functional when you rescue 30/100 missing psychopomps." This is still accurate.
  • Equipment concepts are in an overall satisfactory place.
    • The changes to classes have also made equipment skills more valuable.
    • The increased equipment slots I previously added have been playing very well!
  • Character stats have received an upgrade. They now also provide a small effect on some element affinities and rates, as well as slightly reduce your vulnerability to certain conditions. I've also modified the user interface for allocating Character Stats to more clearly demonstrate their impact. Additionally, I've added a spot to this interface where you can see how many character stat points you've allocated to the currently selected character stat (you're limited to 40 per stat; you get one character stat point for each missing psychopomp you rescue, and you can reallocate them per-character for a fee).
  • There's a weird bug that causes player-character battle animations to sometimes not play. I have no idea why this is—it just started happening one day—though it seems to happen primarily with the death state? Like, they'll just freeze up and not move. It's very perplexing.
  • I've created an enemy proxy system. For those unfamiliar with RPG Maker MV, you do battle with what are called "troops", which are arrangements of enemies, including their positions, along with a few other things. When a random encounter occurs, a troop is selected at random from a list of options for the player to battle with. This system works, but it means creating variety can be a very tedious process. Enemy proxies address this by enabling me to make enemies to place in troops that get replaced at random by an enemy from a list when a troop that the proxy is in is chosen. I can therefore make far fewer troops without having to sacrifice variety, which will speed up development some.
  • I've added a few more options to the options menu.
    • You can now select several different skill layouts: Full, Compact, and Icons. These let you adjust how skills are presented to you.
    • You can toggle information skills on and off. These are skills that show up in your skill list (if on) that provide information about the current character's stats, element rates, and element affinities.
  • Overall, core mechanics are in a reasonable spot design-wise. There are definitely still bugs to fix, though. I also have a few things I want to try out, chief among them being a change to how Preparations work.
    • I modified Preparations to always reduce your stamina regeneration by five, and set that to be the only drawback, aside from only being able to use one at a time. However, I want to experiment with allowing you to have as many preparations active on a character at a time as you'd like. I'm not sure how this will play balance-wise, but I imagine the stamina regeneration penalties will add up quickly, so I don't think stacking preparations will become overpowered.
    • As always, there are likely small things I'm forgetting, or other things that may come up. However, I'm feeling fairly confident with where classes are at present, so I imagine only tweaks will be needed, as I've put in enough playtesting to feel like I've worked out the design issues, leaving me with just implementation polish.
I think that sums up what I've got to say about the core mechanics fairly well. Note that this section will have a tendency to be volatile in terms of overall contents, since I'll use it to focus on changes made since the previous quarterly report.

State of the World

As a reminder, the world is composed of two hub zones (the Crossroads of Reality and Pocket Dimension) and ten world regions (The Abyss, the Wandering Wood, Ashdala, Avarei, Bowan, the Kingdom of Dolfy, Cybernight City, the United Streets, Ghymnipolis, and the mashup location). Let's go over each of these! Note that what makes for a completed hub zone is different from what makes for a completed world region.

The Crossroads of Reality

This is a fairly small zone that consists of the rescued psychopomps, a portal that can take you to any location linked to the Crossroads of Reality, and Yerovaepern, the only psychopomp to not go missing.

I've not done much with this zone since last time, though I have added some dialog to Yerovaepern so that they can provide players of the early-access version with some gameplay information, including gameplay tips. I don't expect to retain this functionality for the final release, however, as I want to incorporate the information it currently provides into tutorials that I've yet to make.

The Pocket Dimension

This is a primary hub where you can heal up, change character classes, look up class information, buy common items, advance character stories, as well as other useful things. I still need to make individual character rooms, but I don't plan on doing that until closer to the end of the production cycle.

I've done minimal changes to this zone since last time. I have added some minor tutorial information in the form of sparkles on the primary replicator and the healing machine to indicate that the player can interact with them. These sparkles will disappear after the first interaction, which also comes with additional tutorial information.

The Abyss

I haven't done anything more with The Abyss than I had previously.

The Wandering Wood

I've not done anything to the Wandering Woods since last time to the best of my recollection. It still needs enemies and some other things. I have gotten lost in it numerous times while playtesting, though I'm slowly learning routes through it. The remarks I had for this zone last time still apply.

Ashdala

I've not done much with Ashdala since last time, as my focus has been elsewhere. I'd say that the estimate of about 50% done is probably still accurate.

Not much doesn't mean nothing, though! I have added some chests to one of the divine realm areas, and I've likely done a few other small things here and there. I think enemies will need some adjustments after some of the changes I've made.

Oh, actually, speaking of enemies, I know at some point I overhauled orcs and goblins to use character classes and drop loot. I don't remember if that was before or after the last one of these, but I suspect it was after. So that's been a change!

Playtesting has also shown that several bosses need tweaks. Some of the minibosses are decidedly too powerful (King Derrick in particular), while the area boss, Varata, is arguably too weak. That said, I don't think Varata should be quite as challenging as King Derrick currently is.

Avarei

I've not done anything with Avarei since last time, as my priority has been elsewhere. It's still extremely far from completion.

Bowan

I still haven't implemented anything for Bowan.

The Kingdom of Dolfy

I believe that the Kingdom of Dolfy is still more-or-less in the same stage of development as it was in the previous update article, though I have assigned enemy types to the Dolfian enemies.

Cybernight City

I still haven't implemented anything for Cybernight City.

Ghymnipolis

I still haven't implemented anything for Ghymnipolis.

The United Streets

I've not done anything further with The United Streets than I previously had done, though I have figured out some ideas for a region within it and enemies for that region. It still has a lot of work to go.

The Mashup Location

This is the region for which I've done the most work over the last three months!

To explain, this region consists of two areas, the sci-fi Eidenomuth and the fantasy Anorrophraj. It uses a concept similar to an entrance randomizer to shuffle the connections between the maps of both areas. These connections will get periodically re-randomized as the player traverses between them, though defeating the area boss will end the randomization effect. I got excited over some ideas for these regions, so I ended up focusing on them, particularly Eidenomuth. This notably included figuring out how the transition randomization technique will actually work. I made a video about this particular aspect, which you can watch here.

At present, Anorrophraj is still in the concepting phase, though the concepts are significantly tighter and more fleshed-out than they had previously been. I have made some enemies that will be shared between Eidenomuth and Anorraphraj, though!

Speaking of enemies, I've made the enemies for Eidenomuth, including a unique "shield" gimmick where they protect their hit points with their mana. This particularly rewards skills that attack mana directly!

I do still need to put the enemies in most of the maps, as they're presently only in one of them. However, I don't plan to do this until I've finished the rest of the maps, as that'll make testing the connections between maps more challenging. At present, I'd estimate that I've finished around two-thirds of the exterior maps for Eidenomuth. I still have quite a few interiors to make, but I'm happy with progress thus far. Also, these maps are visually complete, so they won't need me to go back and add details, like many of the Ashdalan maps do.

Finally, I've made a lot of gear for Eidenomuth. The way it primarily works is that enemies drop various components that you can bring to an NPC, who will craft the gear for you. I'm overall quite happy with this system, though I'll likely need to adjust drop rates and/or prices some. I'm not going to do either until after I've added chests, though, as my current plans are for chests to contain these crafting materials.

Overall, I'm quite happy with how things have progressed with Eidenomuth, and I look forward to seeing it continue to come together!

Wrapping Things Up

The last three months have been focused primarily on Eidenomuth development and reworking core systems. I feel like the core systems are coming together, as I slowly-but-surely find solutions to niggling things that have been annoying me. While it is possible that more reworks will need to occur, I feel like things are likely in a much better place, and one that I find more satisfactory. I'll need further testing to confirm this, of course, but from what I've done thus far, it feels like things are in a good place, and only tweaking will be necessary.

Thank you all for reading and for your interest in Psychopomps Are Missing!

Please consider supporting Sientir's creativity and writing by subscribing to him on his Patreon.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tutorial: Making an RPG Maker MV Plugin

Seeking Tension's Source

Things I'm Learning About Making RPGs (in RPG Maker MV as Me)