When we started this project we had a pretty clear vision for what we wanted. 4 player local and Internet co-op, a game that rewarded skillful play without being reliant on highly dexterous execution. A game that you could put a lot of hours into getting good at, but still invite some friends to try it out with you and play a bit more casually. Through this long twisty road we've been on there have been quite a few variations of the game that we eventually named Emberscape.
Our first prototype was a real time 2d beat-em-up perspective, similar to Castle Crashers. We then moved on to a real time isometric view of a hex grid. Next we tried out the variation that ended up with what you've seen in previous blog posts. We were fairly happy with this variant for a long time. We did extensive paper prototyping and then the digital implementation(s). This version of the game was ok, maybe even good, but not great. We kept running into seemingly little issues that just ate away at our time. An interface for 4 players when you have cards with lots of text and a variety of status effects is surprisingly complex. Even after we did multiple iterations on this problem there was still too much complexity, too much text, and most frustrating for me personally, a perceived lack of design space where it seemed there would be ample opportunities.
Today we're here to talk about yet another attempt to cage this beast that is the idea of Emberscape. We've returned to the real-time nature of our original prototype but with an art pipeline that allows us to do 3d. You can see here one character from the 2d version of the game and then the 3d version of that same character.
In this latest and hopefully final version, the battle gameplay is much closer to games you've probably played. If you could imagine an environment from a top-down perspective like in Diablo 3, the new Gauntlet, or Dungeonland in a small'ish 1-2 screen area, where the characters you've chosen for your adventure can fight the forces of the Emberscape with their chosen (and customized) abilities. Battles are relatively short, lasting just a few minutes.
When not in combat you'll be exploring the world on a 3d hex grid. Think of the Civilization or Total War maps with their cities and oversized people walking around. Your party is just one of those units, off to do, well, whatever it is you decide to do. We'll be going into more details about the overworld map and how that fits into the battles in a separate post but you can think of it sort of like a mix between FTL's navigation within a system and Don't Starve's randomized but persistent map. Every game world will be unique, but once you explore bits and discover where things are, you will have that knowledge as a resource until the end of your game.