Visual feedback and title screen music
In today's devlog, we will talk about how familiar symbolism and weighted pauses can help convey information about game mechanics and we will showcase the title screen music for Epicinium.
While originally prototyping Epicinium, we made a point of avoiding certain traditional mechanics like HP bars and instead designed everything to be mathematically discrete, almost like a board game. Although we're relatively pleased with how the combat system and damage model allow experienced players to strategize without having to crunch numbers, we have to be careful about the line between innovative and complicated.
As a specific example, whenever a unit moves away from an enemy unit it is subject to an 'attack of opportunity' where the enemies fire upon it as it moves. Because the unit's figures are actively moving around the screen, it is hard to also pay attention to where it is being shot from and sometimes you don't even realize until you notice your unit is gone. It doesn't help that the figures might have already reached their destination by the time the shots connect.
To better communicate what is happening, units now stop moving when an attack of opportunity takes place, and the enemies that have been triggered to attack are highlighted with a red exclamation mark as they take aim. Similarly, when a unit uses its Focus ability, friendly units next to the target also have an exclamation mark pop up to indicate that they will join in on the action.
Once this train of thought took off, we realized we could use this same approach to solve another problem: players sometimes forget about units that they've built in an earlier turn and it is easy to overlook a small settler when it is surrounded by buildings. During the planning phase, units without any orders now have a question mark appear over their head to draw your eye towards them. Once you click on the unit, the question mark disappears. It also adds a little character to the game at a time where nothing else is actively happening.
Title screen music
One of the most requested features for Epicinium is music. We plan to have a dynamic system for gameplay music that allows us to blend in and out different layers depending on the context. This would make it possible to change the music to reflect the content of the gameplay;
for example if you are just building and farming the music would be more relaxing, whereas tanks shelling cities would be accompanied by
a more bombastic soundtrack. This will take a while to add to the game, so we'll tell you more about it in the future.
For now, we have focussed on finding a sound that reflects the main themes of Epicinium, and this has resulted in the music that plays on the title screen. We went with a mix between militaristic drums and chiptune synthesizers to create something that hopefully evokes a bit of apocalyptic dread. Take a listen!
Both the visual feedback improvements and the title screen music have been added in version 0.17.0, which was released yesterday.
Due to a bug in the patcher, Windows users that have already played before may need to download the package manually and extract the contents into their game folder. If you use the itch desktop application, you can just update the game normally.
When we added functionality to have the patcher itself be patchable as well, we wisely decided that the game should patch the patcher before the patcher would patch the game. Not so wisely, we forgot to add a negation somewhere and instead the game and the patcher both tried to patch themselves. We develop in Linux where this is apparently allowed, but in Windows the game and the patcher fail to update. Before each release we have a pre-flight check where we also check to see if the Windows client can patch itself, but ironically these checks were passed because the game failed to patch the patcher; the old patcher was still able to patch the game and everything seemed fine, but new players started with a patcher that was useless. Even worse, we now have a chicken-and-egg problem where we cannot patch the game because the patcher is broken and we cannot fix the patcher because the game only patches itself.
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