Monday, January 21, 2008

Why Real-Time?

Probably the most major design decision I've made is the choice to go real-time instead of turn-based. It is the most unroguelike decision I can make, if I'm aiming to be a classic roguelike game. It introduces additional complexity, but it will add to the feeling of a real, living, breathing world. I've always thought that the random created worlds are what really give roguelike games their charm.

I don't want to make the game twitch based because of this design decision. I don't want to make it into a hack-n-slash game like Diablo. I'll have to thoroughly test the gameplay to ensure that I am getting the benefits of real-time play, while retaining the naturally strategic play of a classic roguelike game.

This design decision also introduces a few other wrinkles that will make the game differ from a normal roguelike. The main difference will be that maps will have to be completely visible by default. If you couldn't see what is coming and/or how fast it is coming then you won't be able to react appropriately. This could lead to a very frustrating, and very difficult game. I'll still retain some dungeons that are unlit on entry, but I will ensure that the dungeon is populated in such a way that the real-time nature of the game doesn't effect the lack of visible area.

Our hero stands beneath a cloud and shoots a projectile at his enemy.

So the question begs to be asked. Why the choice of real-time over turn-based? I previously mentioned that it will add to the feeling of a real, living, breathing world. I plan to accomplish this by adding as much as I can to take advantage of the design choice. I will have creatures that move by themselves, independent of player input. I will have spells that animate when cast, projectiles that travel in the direction they are shot, and status affecting clouds that will drift through the map. These are only a few of the examples (and currently the only things implemented showcasing real-time effects), but they go a long way to show what this could bring to the genre.

So far my prototype that is showcasing my real-time effects is going pretty well. I'm curious as to what peoples thoughts are on this matter. I know it's pretty established within the community that classic roguelikes are not real-time, but I figure I would give it a shot. I never claimed to be a classic roguelike after all.

What are peoples thoughts on a real-time roguelike? What do you think the advantages or disadvantages of such a system are? Most importantly, if you were making a real-time roguelike, what kinds of features would you add to take advantage of it?


Reverend Russel Lunchbox said...

You would lose a little bit of combat complexity in making it real-time, but you would gain a bit of pacing and excitement. There is nothing quite like surveying a situation, taking your time to decide the best strategy, and then unleashing on your opponent with all the fury of a thousand suns! Real-time is nice too, though.

Enne said...

I'm curious about your decision to make the maps entirely visible by default. Does this also mean that the enemies can see the player from anywhere as well? ;)

Maybe I'm just dubious because I wonder if the tactical elements of taking cover, hiding, or ambushing might be even more interesting in a real-time game.

Good luck! I'm excited to see where this project takes you.

Tom said...


this means of course that it's almost impossible to have swarms of monsters in your game. Which means you will need encounters with individuals which are strong. This might prove to be interesting or frustrating or both ;)


Kamil said...

If you design carefully you could have both realtime and turn based game and let the player to chose which type of game he prefers. Baldurs Gate is doing this. It feels like real time game by default, but you can pause at any time and give commands to your units. You can also set up autopause feature thus making the game feel like turn based.

SidD said...

Overhead display/clouds will obscure the real action and hamper gameplay.

You can display shadow of the clouds at the players feet. Render the cloud as a solid rectangle and paint with with 80% transparency. That might give you nice effects with minimum obscuring.

rsalsman said...

enne: I had thought that enemies would react as normal roguelike enemies. More specifically they would have no knowledge of the player until they saw, heard, or smelled them.

tom: Not impossible to have swarms of enemies, but they couldn't be like your normal swarms found in other turn-based RLs.

kamil: I was definitely going to have pause functionality, but I hadn't thought of an auto-pause feature. This would actually be a great compromise. You could enable auto pause and then configure a "turn length" so anytime you take an action a certain amount of real-time processing would happen and then the game would pause. I like that and I think I'll write that into the spec. It certainly would not be difficult to add.

sidd: I agree, and this is something I've found with my initial implementation. The way I have the system set up is that each tile could theoretically be drawn to the screen in a different way. Some tiles can be text, some could be rectangles, and others could even be graphics if needed. My focus isn't clouds right now but I'll keep your thoughts in mind down the road.

Krice said...

So now you are uncertain whether it's going to be real-time or some pseudo turn/real based with auto/manual pause.. this is cool, I just so want to see what happens;)