Design Background

I started the project originally because I was getting bored with waiting for Notch to add more content to Minecraft. I had picked up Terraria and played it a bit, and saw good ideas I could borrow from it as well. I had been talking with someone about things that would make Minecraft alot more fun, and a game started to form in my head.

Of course I’ve played many games in my lifetime so I’m going to wind up borrowing concepts from places I think are fitting. I’ve borrowed graphics as well, but I’m making sure to alter them to avoid any kind of legal issue. The last thing I need is court action, I can always pick up Phoenix Wright if I’m in the mood for it. But enough of this, let’s get into the meat of the game.

Minecraft roots

I started getting the idea for this while I was still playing Minecraft. I got into the game at some point after the Survival Mode had been introduced to it. I liked the exploring quite a bit, and the idea of surviving was fun. It turned out that most multiplayer servers were filled with people that just wanted to build things, and there were no monsters in any of them, so I stuck to single player.

After I had hit the bottom layer of caves and found enough diamonds, I found there wasn’t much else to the game. It was a little disappointing. I started looking into mods that people had made and played around a little with them. There weren’t nearly as many as there are today: Mo’ Creatures had just gotten the fox, and there were no vehicle or gun mods. One group had started an NPC mod which featured NPCs that would build structures and gather resources for you. I thought that was a great idea.

At my day job at the time, I was working with someone who was into Minecraft at the time. We’d spend all day talking about things that would make the game more fun, and I started looking into modding myself. The biggest problem was that Notch was obfuscating his code every release, and that would mean the modders would have to unobfuscate it if they wanted to continue building. That always took a long time. I gave up on the idea after an update halted my studies. So I put the ideas on the back burner..

Terraria roots

While I was still addicted to digging, I found another game that had been released, Terraria. The NPCs and bosses were the most important things that Terraria added to my Minecraft experience. You could go to hell, you could fly to islands in the sky, you could get more health and there was magic. Overall it was a way better experience.

Once I had “done everything” a couple of times and had all of the best stuff, I found that the game still felt incomplete. There was no real goal to the game other than to beat the bosses and get the best stuff. There was no You Win!! state. After you had gotten strong enough, the bosses were easy to beat. The NPCs were of very limited use, and there was no reason to bother protecting them because they’d just respawn after a while anyways.

What was missing

The goblin invasion event in Terraria was a cool idea but since NPCs respawned, there was no real point to it. I wanted to defend my town because the consequences would be dire if I didn’t. The NPCs just ran away from any attackers after taking damage, and the attackers were never actually after the NPCs. The invasion wound up being a bunch of monsters just targetting you and continually spawning until you had beaten enough of them. I wanted the NPCs to fight for their lives, and for the monsters to go after them as well.

I wanted to be able to form parties with NPCs and take them with me. I understand that there’s a bit of a work to do to give AI commands, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The thing that holds back AI the most is that games strive to be multiplayer, and who needs NPCs to follow you around when you’re going to be playing with friends? Alot of time has to be spent on AI work, and that takes time away from other stuff. Of course the multiplayer mentality will always put NPC code to the back burner.

For me, the single-player experience is the most important part of a game. The multiplayer is only a feature for me. If I can’t play it and have a solid gameplay experience in single player, then I’m not interested in trying out multi. As development matures, I expect I’m going to have to repeat this over and over. Single player or gtfo.

The boss fights were pretty much meaningless in Terraria, as well. There was nothing to unlock, and the bosses didn’t drop anything you couldn’t already find underground. The exception to this was the Skeletron battle – you had to kill Skeletron before you went into the Dungeon or he would spawn once you went deep enough and kill you in one hit.

So, with all of the above in mind, I started forming a game design that would incorporate all of the things I talked about above…

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