Thursday, May 24, 2012

Evolution of Slarty's Spawning Technique

Warning: This post may not be as sexy as the title implies.

I've been wanting to write a bit about my creature spawning strategies for a while, since I've put a lot of thought into it over the past few years. This is one of those things that can really ruin the magic, so I've held back. I'm hoping to go light on the specifics, and just focus on where I've been, what I've learned, and where I'm going.

The first spawns I ever created were for Metzetli. I started with the initial jungle area, with a goal to make "South Forest for 6th circlers". The spawns took heavy influence from South Forest, which contains a very varied spawner, with chances of some extremely difficult challenges (for the level). I added my own tweaks to this style by overlapping very quick spawners that had about a 90% chance of junk and a 10% chance of harder things, with slower spawners that focused on the beefy stuff. The element of danger is always there, with very quick spawns which usually result in 3 vultures, but could sometimes result in 40 rudremau. This got rid of the problem I saw with most hunting areas, where the retreat was either always dangerous (because the tough monsters spawned too fast), or always a cakewalk (because the tough monsters spawned way too slowly). Now it's usually fine, but you never really know what you'll find.

I used something like this style for a while, but I was really starting to question the idea of "junk" creatures. The idea was it allows weaker characters to tag along and still contribute, but that really doesn't scale. What is considered "junk" when you're fighting sazajas? Note the comical grey wyrm spawns in Tepui, that was a junk spawner, it didn't make sense, and it wasn't really fun. The Mountain Glen was a large scale experiment in having a lot less junk, and it was the first (large) area to get rid of my patented "dual spawner" system. This reduces the unpredictability, and lets me focus on a more consistent and targeted challenge. It was pretty successful, I think people enjoyed it a lot. Looking back I think Metzetli's spawns are still more fun than Mountain Glen, partially because I spent a lot more time on Metzetli spawners, but part of the problem was Mountain Glen was a halfway step. There was still junk, but there was less of it. And it largely used the spawning strategies of older areas which has a mix of "always junk spawners" and "always good spawners", which can make things predicatable and boring.

Still, I deemed the experiment a success, and moved even more extremely in that direction, practically eliminating the idea of junk spawns. I try to keep variance by creating lots of different spawner types with slowly increasing difficulty, then you mix the rate and amount of each to keep things interesting. The Lily Pond expansion was the first full on experiment with this style, and then Estuary after that was the biggest high level experiment. You can actually see the spawn strategy evolve as you go deeper into the Estuary, as I learned with each release. I still feel my newer areas are vastly more predictable than my older ones, which saddens me a little. I also think retreats spawn a up with tough monsters a bit too fast with this new style. It makes recovering from a tough situation too difficult, and too reliant on long chain runs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Valley Critters are, Like, Totally Cool

I think Valley creatures are some of the best designed creatures in Clan Lord, and I've taken huge inspiration from them. You've got:

Valley Panthers - A little more powerful than everything else, but not by much. Rewarding, and satisfying to become powerful enough to beat. Generally average stats, when you vanquish it you can probably either hit it, or brick it, but not both, and almost exactly when it's a high kill, you can usually do both. Great feeling of progression.

Valley Cougars - There is something subtle about the stats that I don't want to spoil which makes these really interesting to fight. Back when they were created, they were possibly the only monster to use this trick well. Ground breaking.

Cave Cobras - Not ground breaking, but terrifying. I love this type of creature.

Stinging Beetles - The feraler that demands your attention, and teamwork, to take down. Very fun (sometimes aggravating).

Sasquatch - Boring, plentiful, rewarding creature. Too slow for my liking, and the stats aren't interesting to me, but always good to have some staple for an area.

Angry Mother Sasquatch - Boss monsters are the best.

On top of that, the creatures are all pretty close in level, but far enough that you get a great sense of progression as you get stronger (see Valley Panthers). I think the area was ahead of its time, and you can usually identify these creature archetypes (and the way they're spawned) in all the areas I've created. When I'm stumped and can't think of good stats for a creature, I still just take the valley panther and scale it up. I'm always happy with the result. And I've taken the idea of annoying feralers well beyond where it should ever go.

I think I've done my fair share of innovation, but the Valley is still a big source of inspiration. You really can't go wrong copying that formula.