RMMV THRONE | Dark Fantasy Soulslike RPG

thedeanreynolds

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STORY:

To the residents of Trople Isle, it would not be evident the end is nigh. The moon rises in the East and falls in the West, as it always has. After all, these are cosmic matters; he consumes systematically and indiscriminately. Far beneath the fields where citizens work themselves to the bone, a heat festers. In a last-ditch effort to protect her throne, the moon selects her avatar-- you.

The sun will rise in fifty moons. Are you prepared to intercept?

FEATURES:

As expected from any contemporary RPG, players battle bosses, adventure unknown realms, and gather collectibles.
However, THRONE individuates itself with many unique features:

“Small open world” reminiscent of Dark Souls (Levels organized to interconnect in a satisfying way)
Roguelike elements such as randomly selected dungeon layouts and loot
Driving 50 "day" in-game time limit before the end of the world
100% hand-illustrated graphics
Grinding is a thing of the past-- character progression attached to puzzle solving, adventure, and challenging battles
Boundless lore from notes organically integrated into the world
Atmospheric, crepuscular lighting
Moving but minimalist piano soundtrack
Retro turn-based combat inspired by SNES-era JRPG classics
IMAGES:

SCREENSHOTS:







OTHER:


I would be happy to answer any questions you may have! All constructive criticism is welcome! You can be sure that a free demo is coming soon. :)
 
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alice_gristle

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I'm a low-key fan of the first Dark Souls, so this sounds good! I'm interested though, why did you choose to include a time limit? Also, how are you going to integrate randomly-generated dungeons into the compact DS-style level design? My first thought was that those two things do not mesh...
 

thedeanreynolds

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I'm a low-key fan of the first Dark Souls, so this sounds good! I'm interested though, why did you choose to include a time limit? Also, how are you going to integrate randomly-generated dungeons into the compact DS-style level design? My first thought was that those two things do not mesh...
Thank you for the enthusiasm. Superb questions!

1) The time limit is in place to facilitate change in the world, as well as to drive the player's adventure. Each individual day as no time limit. Instead, a player chooses whether to advance to the next day by sleeping in a bed. Therefore, players are encouraged to check on things as time passes. For example, new characters may appear, and areas may open or close. Toward the end of the 50 days, the player should really be able to relish in a sense of impending doom. :rock-left:

2) Here's how the system works: The game picks from several premade maps when you enter a dungeon. These maps have similar contents, but different layouts and puzzle solutions. Because these maps are all carefully built, we still pay close attention to geography and how things interconnect. All loot is randomly picked, except for items which are important for pacing such as keys, and some lore exceptions.
 
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Kest

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I feel like you can have a dark fantasy setting without also making it difficult for the player to see things. They shouldn't have to squint. I think this game would hurt my eyes, based off those screenshots.

ex. I remember Diablo 2 being dark but that's more the art design and atmosphere than the visibility.
 

bgillisp

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I second @Kest . I grew up in the middle of nowhere and we had no lights at night on most streets and I could see more than I can in your screenshots. So unless the entire game is in a pitch black cave, that's not even realistic dark.
 

thedeanreynolds

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I feel like you can have a dark fantasy setting without also making it difficult for the player to see things. They shouldn't have to squint. I think this game would hurt my eyes, based off those screenshots.

ex. I remember Diablo 2 being dark but that's more the art design and atmosphere than the visibility.
Respectable opinion-- the problem deserves some attention. A brightness slider might fix the issue. I'll also look into Diablo 2 for reference. However, the darkest areas are intended to be obscured from vision. Do you have trouble discerning things in even the lighter places, or is it just that there's too much dark space on the screen?

I second @Kest . I grew up in the middle of nowhere and we had no lights at night on most streets and I could see more than I can in your screenshots. So unless the entire game is in a pitch black cave, that's not even realistic dark.
Your critique is welcome! I want the darkness, but maybe I can find a tasteful way to lighten up the forest.

EDIT: Small tweaks have been made to the lighting system for visibility, including a brightness slider.
 
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bgillisp

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Hope it helps. Also *moderator hat on* I merged your posts as we do ask that you make those replies one post please.
 

Kest

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Do you have trouble discerning things in even the lighter places, or is it just that there's too much dark space on the screen?
Bit of both really, and on multiple monitors.

I'll also look into Diablo 2 for reference.
It has strong contrast/silhouettes with muted colors, and the screen edges are dimmed rather than obscured. It feels dark even when thats not always the case.
 
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onipunk

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Assuming that the screenshots in the post are after you've tweaked the brightness...I still can't see much. I think if you choose your colour pallette correctly, you can make a game that looks dark without actually having to use and abuse lighting effects. I get it, lighting adds atmosphere, but it kills readability and that's more important to me, especially if you're going to have puzzles in your dungeons. The randomised dungeons I'm not sold on, I'm just not that big a fan of randomly generated levels in general and the way you're going about it, by intricately designing a bunch of rooms that get swapped in and out on the fly, sounds like it's an exponentially larger amount of work for not much reward, when that time could be spent building new content in new areas. For me, the replayability of a Souls game comes from trying out different builds and strategies and seeing well how you can tackle situations that once stumped you with newfound skill. The world of Souls is static, and never changes in its level design, but it has a lot of replayability because of the stuff I mentioned, plus how well-designed its world is with secrets, hidden areas, optional encounters and new paths that you might not have found your first time around, and I think you stand to lose that with a randomly generated layout. The prospect of playing the game again just to see what new rooms the dungeons might have doesn't entice me, but playing it again to find entirely new areas and content off the beaten path? That's MUCH more likely to make me do a second run.
 

thedeanreynolds

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Assuming that the screenshots in the post are after you've tweaked the brightness...I still can't see much. I think if you choose your colour pallette correctly, you can make a game that looks dark without actually having to use and abuse lighting effects. I get it, lighting adds atmosphere, but it kills readability and that's more important to me, especially if you're going to have puzzles in your dungeons. The randomised dungeons I'm not sold on, I'm just not that big a fan of randomly generated levels in general and the way you're going about it, by intricately designing a bunch of rooms that get swapped in and out on the fly, sounds like it's an exponentially larger amount of work for not much reward, when that time could be spent building new content in new areas. For me, the replayability of a Souls game comes from trying out different builds and strategies and seeing well how you can tackle situations that once stumped you with newfound skill. The world of Souls is static, and never changes in its level design, but it has a lot of replayability because of the stuff I mentioned, plus how well-designed its world is with secrets, hidden areas, optional encounters and new paths that you might not have found your first time around, and I think you stand to lose that with a randomly generated layout. The prospect of playing the game again just to see what new rooms the dungeons might have doesn't entice me, but playing it again to find entirely new areas and content off the beaten path? That's MUCH more likely to make me do a second run.
Thank you for the valuable and challenging critique! The darkness is being taken into account. In game, the player character uses a generously bright lantern. Additionally, many enemies and map elements light up. As for the second statement, Dark Souls 2's NG+ showed gamers that exploring a small open world with revised enemy placements, puzzles, and item placements could be extremely satisfying. By extension, randomly picking entire dungeons (rather than rooms) circumvents the disjointedness you allude to. In this way, dungeons are still carefully crafted. You can rest assured that largely secret areas and encounters are part of THRONE as well; this is an integral part of soulslike adventure. As passion remains high, there is no reason to worry about the workload.
 
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alice_gristle

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1) The time limit is in place to facilitate change in the world, as well as to drive the player's adventure. Each individual day as no time limit. Instead, a player chooses whether to advance to the next day by sleeping in a bed. Therefore, players are encouraged to check on things as time passes. For example, new characters may appear, and areas may open or close. Toward the end of the 50 days, the player should really be able to relish in a sense of impending doom. :rock-left:
Okay, that sounds cool! Kind of like a soft time limit? I'd hate to see an exploration game slip by because a hard time limit was tick-tocking away... :smile:

Also, since everybody is talking about darkness, Imma chip in a bit. Remember Dark Souls 1? When I think about it, that game didn't really have that many dark areas. Yup, you can quote me on that. :biggrin: The overall feeling is like you're trudging through dark forests, marshes, caves, and catacombs, sure. But they weren't actually dark - in most places, you could see around pretty well. So, how did they do it, if not by actual lighting?

They used a lot of muted and cold colours, for one. Even well-lit places, like Firelink Shrine, were made predominantly of cold blues and greens. Grayscale, too, of course, and earthy browns. Don't remember many maps with warm colours - Izalith, yes, and the Demon Ruins, but they were peppered with black and grey, too. Anor Londo, yes - but there the warmth is, for all its splendour, kind of washed-out. That's not just colour-work, either. The sheer size coupled with the sheer emptiness made it feel abandoned and forlorn.

Another thing they did was contrast. DS1 was never all black. Like, remember the Catacombs? That was dark and sucky. Except, sizable parts of it were actually open, airy, and flooded with icy blue light! How about that? The dark parts seem all the darker when they transitioned into areas that weren't dark. Conversely, when FromSoft did a thing that was all dark (dayum you Bloodborne!) it wasn't half as exciting.

Soo... dunno what you can glean from that, but hope it helps a bit!
 

onipunk

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@alice_gristle summed up perfectly what I was saying about colour choice, really the only areas in DS that stand out to me as dark are areas like the Tomb of the Giants or the Gutter where the darkness is a central mechanic that affects gameplay and not just atmosphere. Another game that uses colour choice excellently is Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight, if you look at the Karst City area it looks like it's drenched in constant night, but there are no engine-based lighting effects in play, it does it all through dark blue and grey colours in its art. If you're hand-drawing all your assets you have the freedom to make whatever colour pallette choices you want, so I would definitely consider working more cool tones into your assets, and seeing how it looks. You can still use lighting to augment it, but I think it's worth that extra effort.
 

thedeanreynolds

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Okay, that sounds cool! Kind of like a soft time limit?
Definitely.

They used a lot of muted and cold colours, for one. Even well-lit places, like Firelink Shrine, were made predominantly of cold blues and greens. Grayscale, too, of course, and earthy browns. Don't remember many maps with warm colours - Izalith, yes, and the Demon Ruins, but they were peppered with black and grey, too. Anor Londo, yes - but there the warmth is, for all its splendour, kind of washed-out. That's not just colour-work, either. The sheer size coupled with the sheer emptiness made it feel abandoned and forlorn.
Another thing they did was contrast. DS1 was never all black. Like, remember the Catacombs? That was dark and sucky. Except, sizable parts of it were actually open, airy, and flooded with icy blue light! How about that? The dark parts seem all the darker when they transitioned into areas that weren't dark.
You're absolutely right; Dark souls 1 in particular used a deeply powerful color scheme. The small amount of outwardly warm color was used to highlight the remaining life in a dead world. If anything, the darkness in the Tomb of the Giants can be seen as disrupting this idea. I'll look into toning down some of the warmer colors. My main intention with the true darkness is to convey a sense of candid reality which is absent in many RPGs- maybe this could take a more emphatic and contrasting role.

[...]Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight, if you look at the Karst City area it looks like it's drenched in constant night, but there are no engine-based lighting effects in play, it does it all through dark blue and grey colours in its art. If you're hand-drawing all your assets you have the freedom to make whatever colour pallette choices you want, so I would definitely consider working more cool tones into your assets, and seeing how it looks. You can still use lighting to augment it, but I think it's worth that extra effort.
In the screenshots I studied, I noticed the artists still used dark values for background elements. I can see how having clearly defined collision objects is important. It's interesting they chose to use cool colors even when the moon is red in the background. Cool colors really do work wonders in making a nighttime setting.

Thank you for breaking things down in my language, guys. Your feedback is extremely helpful :)
 

alice_gristle

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Thank you for breaking things down in my language, guys. Your feedback is extremely helpful :)
Great to hear we're being a help instead of a hindrance! :biggrin: Also, if you're interested in further deepening your colour thing, check out Josef Albers's "Interaction of Color" (1963). It's a landmark work... or so they say. I haven't actually read it myself...

Boundless ancient lore from notes organically integrated into the game world
Also, this! As a writer, story things always strum my heart-strings! Any chance you could tell us a bit of what your story and/or lore is like?
 

thedeanreynolds

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Any chance you could tell us a bit of what your story and/or lore is like?
There's a story teaser on the main post now :)

Miscellaneous lore: The game begins on Trople Isle, a farming nation. Trople is governed by a militant religious organization called the Fraternity of Knara. Most residents expend every ounce of their energy in service to the fraternity. The main exports of Trople are tubers such as radishes, turnips, and potatoes because the dense canopies do not allow much moonlight to penetrate. Speaking of canopies, the largest trees on Trople, "griswalds", often reach to 200 meters in height. Ancient ruins of strange design also populate the island, waiting to be discovered.

Also, here's the world map. It's not super relevant to the story, but it gives some context for people who are interested.
 

eluukkanen

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I must agree with the look of the tilesets being very nice here! Great for visual atmosphere building. (THEY ARE HAND DRAWN?!?!?!?!)
 

alice_gristle

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Cool map! Is the entire game going to take place on Trople, or are you gonna send the player abroad in the world? Also, potatoes! :biggrin:
 

thedeanreynolds

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I must agree with the look of the tilesets being very nice here! Great for visual atmosphere building. (THEY ARE HAND DRAWN?!?!?!?!)
Your recognition means so much! They are hand-made on a drawing tablet, yes. :)
Cool map! Is the entire game going to take place on Trople, or are you gonna send the player abroad in the world? Also, potatoes! :biggrin:
Thank you, Alice! Yes, basically! The game references foreign kingdoms occasionally, so the world map is just for context. It's similar to how item descriptions referred to faraway places in Dark Souls. Actually, most adventure in THRONE takes place underground. I'm trying to give some general world building stuff rather than spoil things like character interactions.
 

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