RMMV Northwall 2: Haven (Early Demo)

Zevia

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Sequel to Northwall, a complete ~10 hour game made with VX Ace.

The game is still in very early stages, just the introduction (which includes two "boss" battles), but I'm looking for some playtesting and feedback on the systems and initial impressions. In short - based on the first few minutes of the game, is it something you would want to play more of? Why or why not?

Download Links
Windows: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6n2rsl7i0uiob0k/Northwall 2 - Haven.zip?dl=0
Mac OS X (I do not have a Mac, so I'm unable to test if this link works. If you are using Mac, please let me know if you run into any issues): https://www.dropbox.com/s/6n2rsl7i0uiob0k/Northwall 2 - Haven.zip?dl=0

If, for some reason, you encounter an error or can't reach the end of the demo, please let me know.

  • No random encounters - every battle is a boss battle. Every fight feels meaningful. Every bit of combat tests your capabilities and feels like a challenge.
  • No "hand-holdy" tutorials. The game should teach you how to play through the interface and "normal" gameplay. If you don't understand how something works or why something works the way it does after interacting with it the first time or two, then I want to know why it doesn't make sense and thoughts on how I could maybe make it clearer without adding "tutorial" sections to the game.
  • Difficult, but fair combat. If you get a game over, you should feel like you want to reload and try again. If at any point, you reach a game over screen and feel like the game is just not fair or properly balanced, that's something I want to address and improve - though if all you do is spam attacks, I'm probably inclined to say you may just not be my target audience. Combat should be thoughtful and strategic, not rely on random chance or easy one-ability spam for success.
  • No dedicated healer party member! Every action should be an interesting decision and no one should ever feel pigeon-holed into doing the same thing every turn.
  • 100% only Zevia-written Plugins. I have not included any Plugin assets whatsoever except ones written by me. No matter what needs to be done, I want to be the one behind the Plugin. Most of them have licensing that specify they are only to be used for my games or for my purposes, so my game can feel truly unique.




After the events of Northwall, Tilana and Varsena traveled through the portal they found in the eastern cave and discovered a much larger continent than the one they were familiar with. With Tilana recognized as a leader among the "monsters", she found herself and her followers in need of a home. Knowing firsthand just how humans reacted to orcs, ghosts, and people like her, she decided to construct a new settlement to act as a home to those humans would dismiss as monsters, heretics, and beasts. This home would be called Haven.

On this new continent, a "beast" has been captured and imprisoned, forced to fight as a gladiator. When another "beast" is thrown into her cell and told the two of them will be fighting together, a journey begins to reach Tilana's new sanctuary. Of course, there is no promise of utopia - even a safe haven will demand choices and decisions of all its citizens that could threaten the very stability of peace and growth set out by the town's founders.

  • 100% Unique Plugins - no community Plugins whatsoever, all custom code has been written by me. As mentioned in the goals section, if JavaScript is needed to do something, I will write it myself. I've performed significant overhaul to much of the UI and default systems in an attempt to provide a truly unique game within the RM community.
  • Strategic combat - no basic attacks! The basic attack command has been completely removed, in favor of three categories of skills: Weapon, Magic, and Special. Equipping different weapons (or transforming into a new form) provides different weapon skills, while Magic and Special abilities are innate to the character using them. Combat is designed to demand counters based on abilities available to your characters.
  • Custom music score by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Please see the Credits file included with the game for all music tracks included.
  • No random encounters. Combat should be deep and intricate, just like the first Northwall game. This time around, all random encounters have been removed and every single battle has been designed as a "boss battle". Filler content, begone!
  • Significant choice system for dialogue. Almost all the main character's lines are chosen by the player from between 2 and 4 choices. As the game expands and progresses, these choices will have far-ranging impact on gameplay and story.

Sprites:
Beastmen Sprites: hiddenone, Kadokawa, Avery

Tilesets:
Blood tiles: com_sho

Music:
All music modified by Steven Bateman (Zevia) to create loops within the song

Trio for Piano, Cello, and Clarinet by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4547-trio-for-piano-cello-and-clarinet
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Dangerous by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3587-dangerous
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Prelude and Action by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Clean Soul by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Sound Effects:
15 Thousand People by Stephan Schutze
Link: http://soundbible.com/1767-15-Thousand-People.html
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Modified by Steven Bateman for looping background sound effect and for an alternate version for "muffled"

Applause Sound by Mike Koenig
Link: http://soundbible.com/988-Applause.html
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Modified by Steven Bateman for an alternate version for "muffled"

Crowd Boo 5 Sound
Link: http://soundbible.com/488-Crowd-Boo-5.html
License: Personal Use

Crowd Screaming, A.wav by InspectorJ (www.jshaw.co.uk)
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Modified by Steven Bateman to use the first 12 seconds and fade out

  • When the gate opens to the arena, sometimes the screen flickers and sometimes not.
  • Sometimes unequippable "Wolf Claw" weapons appear in the party's inventory.
 
Last edited:

jonthefox

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omg, HYPED! I absolutely LOVED northwall. I will playtest when I have a chance and give some thoughts.
 

padr81

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What sorcery is this, I think I might be more excited for this than for Cyberpunk 2077!
 

The Stranger

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I never thought I'd see a sequel to Northwall. It's looks great!
 

ShadowDragon

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I tried the game out quickly, its really nice, I love the choice windows though,
really well done.
 

jonthefox

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Ok, I played the demo! Some thoughts....

-As with Northwall, you have a real talent for setting the stage and immediately drawing the player in. I was hooked right away.
-Love the dark atmosphere.
-Story has a good balance of exposition and progression of plot - this is also something you are really good at, that I loved about the first game.

-Combat is nice - I like the strategical options. I have a few minor criticisms, which are similar to the ones I had in the first game. Specifically...
-I think there are a bit TOO many options - especially from the get-go. I think it's better to give the player maybe 3 or 4 skills and let them get comfortable figuring out their uses and advantages and disadvantages, and then let them start acquiring new options as the game progresses. You have 2 skills per weapon, with 4 different weapon choices, WITH transform + 2 beast skills, WITH 2 new skills upon transformation. AND, this is multiplied by the different skills for 2, and quickly 3, different characters. It's a lot to understand and keep track of, especially since many of the skills are not that clear. Which brings me to...
-I was unsure of how some of the skills work exactly. Example, First Strike - at first I thought it meant I would act first for 2 turns, but then I saw an enemy use it and thought ok, so does it just give a free attack? Is it in addition to my normal action, or does it replace my turn as an autobattle attack? I'm still unsure. Given all of the complications, I didn't even bother trying to understand or use Oil Strike; I just rotated between shock, engulf, and magic missiles. I similarly didn't try to understand or figure out how to effectively use Surge. There were just too many options and I stuck to the few skills that were straightforward and comfortable (and I didn't understand Engulf until I used it - I thought it would do fire damage straight away and inflict burn; when I saw 0 I thought the hydromancer had made the guard immune - but no, I realized it doesn't do up-front damage, it does damage over time).

Ok, that was kind of a wall of text, but I hope the feedback is useful to you! Overall I really enjoyed the demo and can't wait to see more. This also makes me want to replay the first game...
 

Zevia

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Hey @jonthefox,

Thanks very much for the feedback. That's exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for.

I definitely want things to make sense without needing to pointedly pull the player aside and say, "Here is how things work." If it doesn't immediately make sense, but makes sense after one or two times of using it or seeing it, I consider that a success.
For example, the reason engulf didn't damage the guards isn't because engulf does no upfront damage, it's because the guards have a very high magic defense. The lore ability (which doesn't use a turn or even an action) shows you their high MDF and before the battle, your mage says that she'll handle the hydromancer if you handle the guards (as a hint that the guards are difficult for the mage to handle and the hydromancer is difficult for you to handle).

Without very pointedly saying, "THE GUARDS HAVE HIGH MDF, SO USE PHYSICAL ABILITIES," what thoughts do you have on how I could communicate that the intention is to have your mage focus on the hydromancer? Alternatively, the mage's Magic Missiles skill from her weapon does physical damage, so you could still use her to go after the guards if you use that.

Additionally, what made abilities like Surge and Oil Strike feel overwhelming to use? Surge is the mage's only way to get healed, so I figure at the very least, that should be pretty straightforward. Is it too much text in the descriptions?

First strike is just counterattack, except you hit first. It's not an active ability, just a passive one that fires whenever you are attacked. What do you think I could include to better communicate what it does without putting in dialogue that says, "Here is how first strike works"?

For the weapons, I'm really aiming to make it so that it doesn't matter which weapon you end up using for the first couple battles - they all work differently, but the battles should be equally difficult regardless of which you use. That way, even if you don't know what you're doing at first, as you use weapons, you can start to understand their benefits and drawbacks for when it might make more of a difference.

Do you think it would be better if each weapon only gave the basic ability that doesn't have a cooldown? They each provide 2 abilities - one with a cooldown and one without. The goal was to not have a basic attack command, but I worry that stripping out the cooldown ability basically just makes it a fancy attack command.

As a follow-up: did you get a game over in either of the battles? How did you feel the challenge level was for the first two battles? I'm aiming to not have any random "trash" battles at all and for everything to basically be a boss fight. Do you think it was unfair or unbalanced at any point?
 

jonthefox

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You're welcome! Ok so...

Oh wow, I really had no idea that the guards had high MDF. I did use the Lore ability, and LOVED its function! So, not sure how I missed that. I did catch that bit of dialogue, but for some reason, I dunno, I wanted to try focusing down the guards first and dealing with the hydromancer afterward, since he seemed like more of the boss enemy. It is kind of unintuitive that the guards would have high MDF - and also unintuitive that magic missiles is physical damage; I wouldn't have known that had you not told me. I think I'd suggest changing that line of dialogue to be something like, "those guards have high magic defense; you take are of them and I'll deal with the hydromancer!" This does spell it out a bit more explicitly, but I think would be appropriate for the 2nd battle of the game and the player's still learning the system.

I think it might've been the text description yes - if Surge is simply a way for Quinn to heal, then the information can be shortened to just let the player know it's a heal. I think I also just reached my frustration threshold - I was too tired to try and understand any more skills so I decided to just use the plethora of options I already did understand.

Ohh, for First Strike...then I'd change the description to something like, "when attacked by an enemy, you will automatically hit that enemy with a preemptive strike."

For the weapons, I'm torn. Part of me wants to ask you well then, what's your purpose behind giving all those choices, if they're meant to be equal and the player also doesn't yet know what it's up against? At the same time, I think it's SO cool that the player chooses which weapon they want to use. Personally, I'd just take away one of the lycanthropic skills - I never used the speed one, so that feels unnecessary to start with. I'd also consider taking away one of the transformed skills - I used the feast skill to heal myself, but you already have a healing skill in the non-werewolf form, and I only needed the vicious bite when the hydromancer used water bubble. This way the player would have: 2 weapon skills, a lycanthropic skill (heal and remove bleed), the transform and the more powerful attack when transformed. Even that's a lot to start with but should be less overwhelming for the player.

Did not get a game-over. I felt the challenge level was fair - I was close to dying a couple times. Oh, also - the protagonist had died in the first fight, and I was going to lose...but after a bunch of turns, I revived. How did this happen? I was confused by that. Does the KO state auto-remove after a number of turns? That also was not clear.
 

Zevia

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The description for the magic missiles ability does say it deals physical damage - when you hover over it, it says "Element: Physical". Do you think I could do more to communicate that the magic missiles skill is physical damage?

I'd like to not include any dialogue that references stats or is a thinly-veiled reference to stats - something like, "Those guards have high magic defense" or anything like that is something I'm really trying to avoid. I really want all the elements of gameplay to be logically included in the game without ever having to pull the player out of the moment to remind them they're playing a game and to give them "tutorials". I can try and think on how to communicate more that the mage is largely ill-equipped to deal with the guards.

Surge is not just a way for your mage to heal - it is how she heals herself, but it also means your next spell (so not magic missiles) does more damage and lets you act again faster. The idea is that you can chain Surges together, such that you Surge, cast, Surge, cast, Surge, cast, or you could use it as soon as it's up - Surge, cast, cast, Surge, cast, cast, what-have-you. It's supposed to be a relatively cheap TP ability that you can either store up or use frequently, depending on the strategy. Do you have any ideas for how to better communicate what it does?

When you say you reached your frustration threshold because you were tired - do you mean from the game, or from playing the game at a time that you were tired? If the former, what about the game made you feel tired?

The idea behind giving all the weapons to choose from is that I'm really trying to impress the idea of choice on the player. They get dialogue choice options and weapon choice options - that choosing what gear to equip changes how you play the game. If I wait too long to present that, I worry that they may not understand that different weapons give different skills. But I don't want to punish them at the beginning of the game for choosing the "wrong" weapon. For that matter, I don't ever want a weapon to be the "wrong" choice - I just want it to change up the way you approach a fight.

I can maybe change up the description on the spear to explain a little more explicitly what first strike does, that should be a pretty straightforward change.

The speed skill (for both characters that have it) not only makes you get turns more often, but makes you immune to the harried state that both fights have. Not using it means the enemies act as often as, and often more frequently than you. It significantly boosts a character's performance - do you feel that when you use it? If not, what do you feel like happens when you use it? What would you rather it did to make it feel like something you'd want to use more?

I don't want to take away the feast skill because your companion's only healing ability otherwise is on a long cooldown and he's much more likely to die. If I took away a transform skill, I'd want to remove the pursuit one - but I don't like the idea that transforming only gives you a single skill, especially if you go from two weapon skills down to one from transforming. It feels like a nerf.

Still, maybe I can remove the harried state from the first couple fights so that the speed skill isn't necessary and give it at a later time. It makes the first fights a lot less interesting, but if they feel overwhelming, perhaps it's worth the tradeoff.

My plan is to not add any revive skills or items to the game. I don't like them - they're very boring and uninteresting to me. It's just such an obvious thing to do - if player is down, spend turn using revive. There's no tactics, no strategy, no decision-making for the player to make. So yes, instead I made the knockout state be an actual knockout - it's not a death, it's a temporary state of unconsciousness. It automatically removes after 3 turns and restores the character to 33% of their MHP. I tried to communicate that knockout is a temporary state by showing that it only has a 3 turn duration on its icon (just like every other state) - do you have any thoughts on how I could communicate that "knockout" is not a death state, it's just temporary? Again, the goal is to not have to pull away from the story to highlight to the player, "Hey, if a character is reduced to 0 health, they will get up again after 3 turns, so you only lose if everyone is knocked out in a short period."

EDIT: What if I made the character, when "downed", not actually be on the ground with the "death" animation, but just kneeling with the "wounded" animation, so they don't look like they're dead, but they're just out of commission? Do you feel like that would just make the player think, "Why am I not getting turns with this person?"
 

Zevia

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Just updated the original post with links for new downloads - including one for Mac OS X. I do not have a Mac, so it'd be helpful if someone who does could confirm that everything works as expected.

Updates include:
  • Removed the skills Lunar Speed and Adrenaline Rush. They will be given to the player later in the game.
    • Enemy slows have been reduced to compensate for losing the ability to remove them
  • Added some new dialogue that appears as an option while choosing a weapon that allows the player to ask their companion about each of the weapons to get an in character idea of the benefits of using each.
  • Added some new dialogue during the second fight where the mage more explicitly suggests to the player that the guards have defenses against magic and the mage should focus on the hydromancer
  • Expanded the description of first strike on the spear weapon and the riposte ability to help clarify that it's a passive ability granting automatic attacks.
  • The death state has had its flavor and display redesigned:
    • The state is called "Down" instead of "Knockout" or "Death"
    • The icon is no longer a skull and crossbones but spinning stars
    • Actor sprites no longer use the death animation when downed. Instead, they will use the "abnormal" animation to appear wounded.
    • There is a state overlay for the Down state to help indicate the actor is afflicted by something.
    • The face graphic for downed actors grays out in the battle status window
    • The 3 turn timer on the state icon remains
    • All the above changes should hopefully communicate that "death" is a temporary state (and that the actors are not dying or knocked out, but just "downed" and will get back up on their own)
    • If all members of the party are downed at once, then the state overlay is removed and the sprites change to the actual death animation as the game over logic is processed
  • Wolf claws magically appearing in the party's inventory should no longer happen
I battletested both fights with these changes several times and am still happy with the level of difficulty present with the speed skills removed, but the speed debuff not being quite as effective. I'll make Lunar Speed and Adrenaline Rush abilities that are probably granted at level 2 (most likely after the intro once more of the game is developed).

I reviewed the descriptions for Surge and Oily Strike, but don't feel they could be simplified much. I still want complex skill interactions, so for now, I'm choosing to otherwise leave abilities as is and leave it up to the player to read descriptions and test things out on their own to decide what they want to use.
 

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