Thursday, 14 December 2017

Chewing the Qud

Recently, I've been fascinated with the weird world of Qud. Fully realised in the game Caves of Qud, developed by the nice chaps & chapesses over at Freehold Games. I'd bounced off the game early in its development, because I seem to have a fear of open spaces in roguelikes. I see a full screen of open space no matter how it's elaborately decorated, and I see a screen, without tactical definition, without corridors or columns to use in my exploration and survival. However, I've been getting more and more excited about Qud as this year has rolled on, and particularly after watching the Roguelike Celebration 2017 on Twitch with all its refreshingly enthusiastic community, pomp and circumstance.

So, I thought I'd do a piece to open the front door and peak inside the rich and verbosely stunning world, and perhaps let some of the sunshine and the stink of slime moulds float in...

Since I've followed Qud for a number of years, I know it was inspired by the tabletop RPG Gamma World, amongst other things. Whilst I'm not familiar with that gaming system, I thought I'd seek out any commercial fiction centered around the setting, to get me in the mood.

I found this title "Red Sails in the Fallout" and it had some really good reviews, so I bagged it on audiobook and have been enjoying the exploits of these anthropormophic heroes, a mutant quoll scavenger called Xoota and a mutant lab rat scientist called Shaani.

In Qud, Water is everything.

I'm no expert in Qud, I'm just an explorer beginning the journey and want to help others get a toe-hold into this exotic but dangerous world. Gather your waterskins and torches and lets get crackin'.

1) Character Creation

Qud front loads the character creation with an overwhelming amount of choice and information. So to get you going without worrying too much about what is on offer, my advice would be go with something straight forward but interesting. I pick a Mutant, that is more physical in its mode of survival.

Horns, claws, thick fur, night vision, good hearing, a poisonous stinger and a skunk or squid like ability to exude sleeping gas out of its pores. I boost strength and toughness, and a little in agility, and try to minimise the negatives on my more mental attributes (intelligence, willpower and ego).

Lastly I pick a sub-type class as Marauder, which gets Axe proficiency, butchering, and a charge in ability - good with the Horns.

If you have come from Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS), I guess this would be a little like a Minotaur Beserker. But it's not really. Because I have a poision stinger and some sleeping gas. So I'm going to call this a Raker. And thus I name him "Rake".

Let's pretend this is sort of what I look like, but with a huge poisonous Stinger tail.

I think the hive-mind generated newbie advice is often to choose a True-kin human Paladin. They get a lot more bonuses and are possibly hardier. But who doesn't want a stinger or sleeping gas?

You get a limited number of mutation points, but you can take on some mutant defects to swell that pool a little more, so I chose Analgesia which gives you an extra 2 points, and means you can't quite determine your exact health state, but you have a general idea. I can live with that. I have horns!

Roll with what you fancy, but go steady on the fancier more mental mutations until you feel comfortable in the game. A good Raker will get you so far, so you feel like you've accomplished "something" before your demise. Whereas if you take on mechanism a little beyond your expertise, you might be looking at an early demoralising smack-down.

2) Welcome to Joppa, now indulge yourself a little

You enter the world of Qud in a peaceful place called Joppa. There's plenty to look around and see, some people to talk to. Just get your bearings.

Since you're new, and you start with very little.. it's time to be a bit naughty. Do a little light-fingery. Become a thief. Just to give you a leg up. A head start. A little boost.

There are three huts, with chests in. Explore them, open the doors, and make sure you CLOSE THE DOORS, before having a snoop through the contents of the chest.

You may find some useful items, or it may all be rubbish. With the door tightly shut, stuff the items into your backpack. You're going to do some questing for these kind folks, so you're sort of just helping yourself to an "advance" of the rewards you'll get later. Rake has horns. And gives off sleeping gas in excited moments. He can live with a little guilt.

Grabbing whatever you can should help out, especially if there are artifacts on offer.

With inventory bag bulging, lets take a moment to revel in the tile based glory. The two tone sprites do a good job of depicting the quirkiness of Qud, without going too far and spoiling the imaginative overlay you can bestow on the place and the peoples. If your sprite is white, you're ok. My analgesic health state says "Perfect". If it goes green, to yellow, to red, you're in trouble, you should FLEE! Simples.

Now lets bask in the other glory, if you're a little ASCII Curious. As you can see Qud does ASCII justice also. If you like your roguelikes as Rodney intended, then et voila.

3) Get some Quests

Time to talk to the town folk and see what you can do to help. The Red guard Mehmet will give you the Red Rock quest. This could be construed to be your starting quest. Accept it.

Next up. In the bottom left hand corner of Joppa, there is a merchant called Argyve, he will trade and identify stuff for you. But he also has an immediate quest to seek two Artifacts. You may have looted some artifacts from the chests (naughty Rake!), this would be an ideal time to make Argyve's day. Talk to him, and accept his Artifact quest. Give him an Artifact. You gain Experience!

If you have another artifact, do it again. He will award you with more Experience! You may level up! This is a rather fine bonus to your start in Qud. Extra hitpoints, skill points and a mutation point! Woohoo!

Talk to him one more time and he'll tell you of another Quest for the Copper Wire. You can help him build the Weirdwire Conduit. Accept the Quest.

In the top right hand corner of Joppa there will be a shrine to one of the worlds Sultans. Go visit it.

When you read the Shrine, you'll be bestowed with the knowledge of a sacred place for that Sultan and you'll get a quest to visit it.

Have a quick look-see of the Quests..

4) Check yourself

First things first we need to check yourself out. Make sure you are best suited to adventuring, before you set off into the wilds of Qud.

4a) Inventory

A quick squizz at your inventory, so you know what is in your backpack. Luckily the inventory is sectioned into categories for your convenience. Make sure you have food, water, torches (if needed) and possibly ammo if you have any ranged weaponry that needs it. Also keep an eye on weight, you can only carry so much.

4b) Abilities

Most important to your survival is your abilities. Make sure you know what they are, and that they are hot-keyed for ease of use.

Move the cursor down to the ability, hit Enter, and press a number. D1 my charge ability, is activated by pressing '1' on the keyboard. Important combat abilities slot in the low numbers, utility, buffs or escape skills slot higher up. Always know where your SPRINT skill is, I think the game defaults it to number '5' for you. Some abilities can be toggled on or off, like my butchering.

4c) Character Sheet (Attributes, Skills & Mutations)

This is important to check now and then, because it gives your base attributes and mutation levels along with any resistances and progression you may have made. This is where you check your Skill points accrued, any Attribute or Mutation points to spend.

Since we've levelled up, we can spend that Mutation point. Move the cursor over to the Mutation and hit Enter.

I arbitrarily decide, I want slightly better Horns. So I spend the point bringing Horns to a level 2 mutation with a 2d4 damage increment on the 20% proc. More gore damage the better when I charge at things. Boost whatever mutation you think will help you early on. Remember you're still a little vulnerable even though you think yourself a level 2 experienced master thief!

Since we have Skill points it may also be worth checking out the available skills to purchase and their costs for something to work towards when we earn more points.

This is your skill tree, with each main skill having specialisations and bonuses that often cost skill points and have certain attribute requirements (see items in red as being lacking, they can be skill point cost eg. 100sp, a prior skill in the heirarchy eg. Cleave, or a physical attribute eg. 23 Strength).

Since I'm a Raker, I'd like to boost my Axe skills by getting Cleave and then Charging Strike. So I need to collect some serious Skill Points 250sp to afford both. I have 70sp in the bank.

4d) Equipment

Have a quick butchers at what you are currently kitted out with. You can see all my equipment slots, and current protection and damage potential.

A quick rule of thumb cheat sheet (as far as I understand it):

Blue diamond = Armour Value (AV) - protection
Dim circle = Dodge Value (DV)  - whether hit or not

Higher AV usually has a penalty to DV.

Cyan Right Arrow = Penetration Value (PV) - whether you penetrate
Red Heart = Damage (as dice 2d4 = 2x4-sided die rolled) - how much damage you do

PV is compared to enemy AV. If PV = AV you'll do 1xDamage, if higher you may do multiples.

My horns and stinger have high PV. Which is why I'm a Raker!

4e) Faction Reputation

Make a mental note of who likes you. Dogs (and Goats because I'm horny - that come out wrong!). Green is like, Cyan is neutral and red is Hostile. The Children of Mamon REALLY don't like me.

5) Adventuring Time!

That time has finally come. If you slip off the Northern edge of Joppa, you will enter the world of Qud. At any point you can tap '-' (minus) and zoom out to the World Map. A colourful sight to behold. You stand just outside Joppa in the bottom left hand corner. The Red Rock mines are just North of your current position.

The World view is fixed, Qud's regions are mapped out, however each tile on this map can be several screens worth of procedurally generated landscape with a whole plethora of flora and fauna and other humanoids with which to interact positively or negatively.

Let us press '+' (plus) and zoom back in, to continue Northwards to Red Rock.

Wandering the lands you will stumble upon some strange creatures, some ambivalent to you passing through, some who are hostile to you and want to see you come to harm, or be their next meal. A handy tip is to always check an area with the 'Alt' key, hold it down to see only living entities and their intentions (green = not hostile, red = hostile). This one view alone with become invaluable in determining threats and finding your way out of overwhelmingly tricky situations.

Often its worth looking at the creatures and finding more about them, because information is power in the precarious pursuit of survival.

You pass a salty stretch of water, where a brooding rosepuff grows. You are amazed by the undulations of the spores into a rose plasma. Each plant or animal examined will often reveal their status, their difficulty and their relations with you. Who would want to disturb such a perfect example of mutated life in Qud, when it neither wishes you good nor harm?

Remember to check water pools, most are brackish and salty and of no value (unless there is a way to purify them of their salt content?), but you may stumble upon a fresh source of water, and indeed it is a necessity for life and survival but also in the World of Qud, fresh water is a currency with which to arm and kit yourself out with useful weapons and tools.

Be mindful of the scarcity of fresh water.

I continue Northwards. And make it to Red Rock! I finish one step in my Quest there. More Experience!

The glowcrows are attacking the feral dogs as we explore the area, which highlights that the world of Qud is a living breathing vicious place to be.

I start to explore the crimson sediment ruins, and I am chased off by a Horned Chameleon. I gird my loins and head down begin a charge at the creature!

He is tough, but he cannot withstand the mighty bulldozing a charging Raker can deliver! My horns gore the creature into an early grave! Leaving only a spattering of it's blood behind.

No sooner have I recovered that I am irritated by an Irritable Tortoise! I give him a taste of my Axe to irritate him further.

It bites me somewhat, nibbling me injured.

Instinctively I let loose a cloud of my sleeping gas, a musky smelling pheromone to ease it's irritation.

And when it drops asleep, I move away to assess the situation. The shelled monster nods in and out of consciousness.

And with that, I level up again! Getting stronger, more attribute, skill and mutation points to spend to hone my hairy frame into a Rakish force to be reckoned with!

I shall leave it there, with the Tortoise at peace, for now. With my Axe poised to end its irritability once and for all.

I hope this little foray into the World of Qud has piqued your interest for the endless challenges and possibilities abound. A desperately cruel and radiated world full of mutations and factions of hate, but also a beautifully poetic living world, where you truly are a part of it, trying to survive as best you can, with only Darwin's help in understanding the selection pressures and the mutations you can mould yourself into.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Celebrate your Rogues!

What is absolutely fascinating to me, and a real joy is to be able to experience the annual Roguelike Celebration.

A gathering of roguelike enthusiasts, developers, players, forward thinking speakers demonstrating their latest ideas and design philosophies. A real bonding of the community in every sense.

I can't thank the organisers enough for making the whole celebration available to watch on a service like Twitch. Not only can you be there in real time, but you can catch up later at your leisure.

Be sure to check out, the meta-progression talk given by Jim Shepherd (developer of Dungeonmans), and the fantastic news on ADOM's future by Thomas Biskup, not to mention the live playthroughs of Caves of Qud and Nethack, and the whole spectacle, diversity and enthusiasm on display.

Watch Roguelike Celebration 2017 from roguelike_con on

You should be able to catch up with previous sessions with Roguelike Celebration on Youtube, including one of my favourite talks from the #roguelikecel 2016 by John Harris on the Difficulty in random games.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Beware of the Golden Krone!

If you have a fondness for the Halloweens and you like to cosy up to a fright night on All Hallows Eve, then I have good news for you.

The Golden Krone will be stalking your Hotel dreams tonight!

Golden Krone Hotel is now available on Steam in Early Access and this Gothic Horror Roguelike is primed to spook and delight you in equal measure.

This pixel art traditional roguelike is soaked in blood and bathed in light, where you tip toe on a thread between vampire and vampire hunter, where lighting or the lack of it dynamically alters your tactical decisions, and illuminates or shades your path through the Golden Krone Hotel.

The shifting perspective between the lightbringer Human adventurer and the desperately needy Vampiric survivor, really plays out in the mechanics and provides a strong thematic foundation for the action to be lifted beyond the "usual" roguelike adventuring.

So as you bob for your apples, suck down your pumpkin soup or devour copious quantities of black pudding, throw a few shiny coppers down on the game to book your room at the Golden Krone Hotel, and settle in for a night of terror-ific excitement!

To get the lowdown on Golden Krone Hotel and it's development, listen to the developer Jeremiah Reid talk with Darren Grey on the Roguelike Radio Podcast Episode 138.

Or for a general look at Horror across the roguelike genre, check out Roguelike Radio Podcast Episode 140.

Or check out the recent Rock, Paper, Shotgun article

Or check out the devs blog

For a quick look see at the game in action, I would recommend Waervyn Plays:

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Cogent Mind

The 7DRL that has been in mechanical incubation for a few years has finally arrived on Steam!

Cogmind is the story of the mini-mechwarrior ascension of hunted AI from a vulnerable naked Core to an armour plated, tech scavenged, weapon besotted, killing machine! The Rise of the Robot. Your mind to the cyber mind.

The hardware heart beating at its core is a traditional roguelike that has been tweaked and tinkered with to provide an explosively tough gauntlet of survival.

Your prime directive is to escape the depths of this robotic prison, using only your sensors and ad hoc construction abilities, using salvaged components from slagged bots who got in your way.

There is a lot to like in the basic premise of the game, but it shines in its Matrix-like presentation, in its effective delivery of information when building your escape "mech" and in the visceral action depicted with dramatic explosions and powerful realistic sound effects.

Did I mention that the sterile labyrinth environment is deformable, a couple of good rockets and you can pretty much cut your own way through the rock!

The game is often pitched as a robot building game, but for me, the level of detail, variety and complexity on offer reminds me more of the design process required when putting together an effective Battle Mech. Subsystems such as locomotion being open to multi-legged, treads, wheels, hover or true flight, multi-slotted weaponry with a deliciously obscene number of options, and an array of utility tech that keeps getting more interesting and tactically useful as you ascend towards your freedom (and possible doom!). These subsystems require careful balancing with your build's limits on weight, heat generation, core protection as well as power and matter resource management. The struggle for survival also takes a toll on the durability of all your components. The machine under your control is not one that takes part in Robot Wars. The machine is more like a sophisticated piece of military hardware such as a MechWarrior or Battletech frame, yet it is built from the ground up, according to your designs or playstyle.

Since the quality of hardware available to you is dependant upon how high you've managed to climb in the complex, and you get zero experience for killing hostile bots, you need to assemble something that just works enough to get you to the next staircase up. But perhaps you can refine your build based on what you find, perhaps it evolves into something better, more sustainable... this more than anything keeps you chomping at the byte and propels the action forward.

All components have detailed specifications, and elaborate ASCII artwork to accompany the depth.

The game runs in both ASCII or tiled mode, and seemlessly weaves the same magic in both modes.

The game is soaked in lore, but not in an overtly obvious way, its hidden in terminals that can be hacked at risk to your anonymity. You can perform cyber-hacking wizardry that will clone your chosen components into blueprints that can be assembled at fabrication stations.

The environments are varied and comprise of procedurally generated zones where a whole ecosystem of hostile and non-hostile bots go about their business whether that be patrolling the area, or cleaning up scrap parts, or fixing the zones infrastructure. There is plenty of diversity on offer in terms of what bots you'll come up against, if you like their kit, you can kill and salvage (or even steal it).

It's a tinkerers paradise. There is always something new to pickup and consider integrating it into your build. There is always something better, somewhere else. And the journey is a battle to out-configure the calamities you will face on the way.

The game delivers a beautiful action framework, lavished with interesting detail and engaging danger, where you can actively take part in an emergent narrative, with surprises galore!

My hopes are that the game will reach an extended audience of not just the diehard roguelike players, but also the tinkering dungeon crawlers and the mech building tactical players who want a deep and interesting challenge.

This is most definitely a traditional roguelike, but it carries the genre into new exciting territory and its a wild ride!

Strap a couple of Particle Guns onto your frame and lets get the hell out of here!

You can check out Cogmind here:

Cogmind Website

Cogmind BLOG

Roguelike Radio Episode 109

If you want to see what Cogmind is like, and learn its mechanics in an easy to follow Lets Play, I'd recommend Quill18's latest run.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Burning HOAK tree!

I was exploring the joys of Crawl's Hill Ork and Abyssal Knight (HOAK) combination, having stepped out of the Abyss, commanded by my deity Lord Lugonu to spread my corruption - when I got into a spot of bother.

I was being hounded by my fellow orcs, and their Beogh Priest, and they'd brought a menagerie of Phantoms, Yak's and Centaurs along for the massacre.

Desperately seeking shelter in my inventory sack, I fumbled out an unknown magical potion and quickly guzzled it down! It transpires (pun intended) that it was a potion of Lignification, which roots me to the spot and turns my body into a Tree! These orc puppets of Beogh are now gnawing at my bark, but doing very little damage to me.

I'm not entirely sure this pause in the pounding will last long, and without any other course of action available to me, I commune with the Lord of the Abyss himself. Lugonu answers my call for Corruption, and he claws at the very fabric of reality around me spreading his Hand of Corruption across the very ground where my roots where so firmly planted! From the Abyss, in pours an army of Abyssal Creatures!

The Green Very Ugly Thing being most prominent to my pitifully paralysed awestruck knot-like eyes!

All manner of unmentionables turn up, with the Worldbinder bringing more and more creatures of suppuration and demise to the fore. These minions of the mortal dungeons did not know what hit them! They were suffocated with the noxious fumes of pestilent death oozing from Lugonu's summoned horde.

If I could move anything, I would have cracked a smile through my pithy canopy and let some sap ooze out to show my glee. Revenge is sweet and sticky.

Amidst the brutality displayed by the thrashing horror and others, I fumbled around trying desperately to find anything that could treat my wooden wounds. I had no idea how long my preserving bark would last, nor whether the creatures of the Abyss would look favourably upon a lowly Hill Orc minion of Lugonu.

Foolishly reading out a scroll of immolation, I almost burn myself to the ground, but the fog of the Abyss soon dissipates the heat, luckily.

As the Corruption fades away, the dark forms shift and meld back into the night of the Abyss, my lignification also falls away.

I am dumb-founded at what just happened.. on the brink of death, I turned into a tree, called forth an army of unspeakable hate that laid waste to my attackers, and then as I uproot myself and take on Orc form once again, the death lays about my feet, along with a lot of loot, and a hint of satisfaction at witnessing Lugonu's power to protect his own.

The self satisfaction was short-lived though, as Ogz the HOAK went on to be frazzled by a pool of Electric Eels on the same level.

2806 Ogz the Fighter (level 9, -8/83 HPs)
Began as a Hill Orc Abyssal Knight on June 30, 2017.
Was an Elder of Lugonu.
Killed from afar by an electric eel (10 damage) ... with a bolt of electricity ... on level 8 of the Dungeon on July 7, 2017.
The game lasted 01:11:30 (8227 turns).

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Two Accessible Roguelikes: Midboss & Cardinal Quest 2

It has been a while since I've managed to pen something regarding roguelikes, and immediately I need to bring to your attention the possessive phenomenon that is Midboss.

Midboss is a gorgeously animated isometric crawler where you fight, defeat and possess other creatures, in order to take on their powers and become stronger by surgical selection of leeched powers.

Midboss recently released on Steam, and there was a whole episode of Roguelike Radio dedicated to it, in conversation with the developer Eniko over at Kitsune games.




Now, I also have to mention my return to the 4 directional action of Cardinal Quest 2. I avidly played the first installment of the game on mobile, but the further refinement of the game's core ideas into the sequel left me a little cold initially. I think I was too set in the extremely streamlined mobile centric ways to appreciate the work done on the sequel.

The early more "open" levels of the game, not speaking to the dungeon crawling desire.

Well, I'm happy to say I have returned to the experience, with a more open mind, with the freshness that only a break from genre can bring. CQ2 keeps the essence of the streamlined more accessible game, but it enhances the overall action with more options and much more variety in terms of environments and monsters.

I'm pleased to say, Cardinal Quest 2 seems to be taking up the mantle of accessible complexity for a new generation of traditional roguelikers.

With the Steam sale in full swing it could be time to harvest all those lovely new and not-so-new roguelikes as a long-term investment for the future.

Monday, 24 April 2017

7DRL - Brazen Berry Bonanza

It seems such a shame that the 7DRL challenge is over so soon, even with the few weeks afterwards awaiting the reviews, and then it all goes quiet again for another year.

I thought I might do some posts extending the exposure of some of the titles developed, and an easy start to this would be to present the ones I reviewed, whilst gathering whatever information I could on them..

So, here's the very first one I reviewed in my batch:

Brazen Berry Bonanza

by Ethan Hoeppner

Information and Download (Windows)

Playable on Web:

BBB is a puzzle game with roguelite tendencies, it centers around land expansion and berry growth, both affecting where the player can go, and how important an area is to protect from the encroaching enemies. You harvest the berries for points, and the seeds for resources to use to continue growth, or to destroy the enemy infiltration and their berries. if the enemy ripens 5 of their berries you lose. So there is a competing balance between protection of you crops and sabotage of the enemy harvest.

It provides for interesting placement decisions and emergent offensive/defensive play.

Completeness: 3

Well put together game, can leave player in no possible move situation, relies on enemy progress to end game

Aesthetics: 2  

Solid colour blocks, with pixel fruit, and the all important @ make it minimally satisfying and easy to see terrain assets and incoming dangers, needs a hint of more personality.

Fun: 2

I enjoyed the exploration of interactions between mechanisms, limited grow/seed resources makes for an interesting and emergent puzzle.

Innovation: 3

Environmental growth (organically builds map) & seeding, to harvest resources to gain points and push back/hinder the enemies.

Scope: 2

Bite sized terrain acquisition/defense puzzle, there is a seed to an interesting mobile title here if developed further

Roguelike-ness: 2

@ symbol, procedural terrain generated by grow/seed mechanics, seed ripening competition, real time expansion, more mechanics puzzle terrain/resource acquisition/defense game.

Searching for more info on the title, as luck would have it, I managed to find a Youtuber known as Deadly Habit who had covered the game, so I'll urge folks interested in the game to take a look at the video below and the channel.

If all goes well in the future, I'll document the titles I reviewed and will hopefully have some time to do some more 7DRL titles from this years batch.