13 Jan 11

How to make spells NOT crap

The goat pictures are delightful, Lekonish. Keep sending them. :3

I sometimes go into mini-spasms of self-righteous Internet fury when I hear the occasional Internet citizen complaining about Minecraft’s Technical Excellence nomination in the IGF (supposedly because a game in the Alpha/Beta phase cannot possibly justify the existence of minor bugs and whatnot).

I think, more than anything, it makes me incredibly self-conscious about the fact that our own game has an Excellence in Design nomination when — to be quite frank — the existing freeware has some horrendous game design screw-ups in quite a lot of areas.

Today, I’ll highlight the well-known whoopsie-doodles in the glyph system: you know, those endearing spells like IMAWAL, ENDISWAL and the various teleport magics which most veterans arguably convert on sight. It’s nice that even these crappy offerings serve a purpose as conversion fodder, but for the upcoming commercial version of DD we want to iron out absolutely every crease possible in order to make the game even more swollen with interesting decisions and creative tactics.

We want to perform most of this ironing by doing two things: (a) taking advantage of some fancy new Unity DD features including totems, auras, swamp maps and resurrecting enemies which actually make conventional play tactics incredibly ineffective and (b) altering the game’s weaker spells to become more deterministic and actually serve a unique function.

Here’s a few of the glyph changes that have gone into the new design:

– WEYTWUT no longer randomly teleports the player: instead, it can be used in conjunction with LEMMISI to swap places with remote enemies. This has several uses so far, including disorienting enemies (making them take more damage), forcing tougher enemies to leave the radius of beneficial auras (more on those later), and giving the player more breathing room in tighter dungeon situations such as the plant-choked swamp challenges (more on those later, too!).

– PISORF has also ditched the random teleport element in favour of physically knocking back enemies: an acceptable way to clear a blocked path, sure, but more experienced players will realise that the knockback effect has far, far more uses than initially expected. It’s a great way to deal with magic resistant monsters without actually engaging them, as all knockback damage is considered physical in nature.

– IMAWAL still petrifies enemies as before, but now turning an enemy into stone will afford the player a +50% experience bonus from the next enemy fought. Shrewd players can save up some unfortunate level 1 foes, condemn them to stone, then hack away at higher-level monsters to blaze a path towards level 10 far more easily. This is almost critically necessary in challenge dungeons which deliberately shortchange you on the number of monsters available, and is an absolute godsend against some of the nasty level-draining monsters that we’re currently testing.

– ENDISWAL enjoyed some marginal use in the freeware (and was an important part of the Transmuter bonus character’s play style), but now all classes should find it far more useful for the STONESKIN effect it provides — every wall destroyed with this spell will contribute slightly towards an enchanted layer of earthen armour on your character, increasing your overall physical resistance. Useful to pump before boss battles, or just when you have the spare mana lying around!

These are just a few of the changes we’ve put in (and we’ll most likely continue tweaking as the testing process wears on) but we hope this instills faith in loyal fans who have concerns about the shoddier elements of our spell system. If we can ensure that every glyph pickup or conversion becomes a meaningful choice instead of a pre-destined decision, we’ll go to sleep at night knowing that the goats won’t arrive to chew on our toes.

When next I post, I’ll probably be chatting about how godawful the Earthmother has been and how we plan to turn that around completely. Cheers for now!

6 Responses to “How to make spells NOT crap”

  1. Lekon Says:

    Wow. Awesome getting a mention for the pictures, sure, but you took some of the most meh of glyphs and I’m already seeing how damn useful they’ll become.

    Hell, almost makes the fireball seem bland now. Will there be a new rapid fire glyph, OMGPEWEW? I can see Imawall becoming incredibly useful for Transmuters especially.

    Now all the totems and swamps and rezzing enemies have me super curious what special things you guys are cooking up. Hope you all can show it at the IGF ceremony!

  2. Anders Elfgren Says:

    Very nice. Have you considered changing the names of the spells to be a bit easier to remember?

  3. Despayre Says:

    Wow great stuff..Now stop taunting me and let me give you money already! 🙂

    Seriously, if you guys put up a preorder page, I’d be buying it right now and smiling while I did it.

  4. pakoito Says:


  5. pzkrakz Says:

    very cool. i never liked the transmuter due to the sheer amount of time the game takes to go around nerfing so many walls. the new glyphs are great.

  6. Brent Says:

    Sounds great! Look forward to giving you some moneys (and playing a polished mac version)!

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