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      Press — rogue like elements

      Proc Gen My Friend

      Proc Gen My Friend

      If there’s one genre that’s taken the world of indie games by storm in the last few years, it’s the roguelite. Or, perhaps, the roguelike-like? While the specifics of what to call these games is often argued, most of them are addictive, replayable, and challenging thanks to the magic of procedural generation.

      Procedural generation is a technique that game developers employ in order to create content that generates its own unique challenges. This means it can reduce development times and costs, and thanks to its unpredictable nature, sometimes surprises both players and developers.

      What Is Procedural Generation?

      Simply put, data of any sort is procedurally generated when a mathematical algorithm is responsible for its creation. In the world of gaming, a wide assortment of things can be procedurally generated. For instance, a developer could create level assets like pits, enemies, obstacles, story elements, and power-ups and then, using procedural generation, set these things to appear at somewhat random locations throughout a level.

      The advantage of using this method is that potentially thousands of unique levels could be created without human intervention. This drives endless replayability. A procedurally generated game could be enjoyed for ages longer than a game with traditionally generated levels thanks to players enjoying “new” levels years after the game’s development has ended.

      Where Is Procedural Generation?

      As mentioned earlier, procedural generation has its place in level generation. However, good procedural generation is more complex than our illustration may lead one to believe. When used to fill out a video game level with obstacles, for instance, parameters still need to be determined in advance so as to keep the game both fair and fun. What if a poorly coded procedural generation algorithm threw an abnormally large number of enemies at the player in the first level? It’d certainly make the game more challenging, but it’d also make the game less fun for new players. A game can’t enjoy longevity if it has no early life to speak of!

      One deservedly well-loved roguelite that balances procedurally generated content with pre-determined elements is FTL: Faster Than Light in which players guide a ship through a galaxy full of hazards with the goal of delivering a message to the far side of the galaxy more or less in one piece - and then to defeat a massive, incredibly powerful enemy ship. While FTL can itself be beaten in a couple of hours (technically), the overwhelming majority of playthroughs end in death. Yet, players come back to the game over and over again, thanks to its use of procedural generation. There aren’t an amazing number of enemy types or items, the game’s story is neither lore dense nor dialogue heavy, and yet it’s a game that keeps people hooked.

      Every new run in FTL presents new possibilities. It’s a bit like gambling, really: you could be blown out of the sky in the first sector or, thanks to random chance and skill acquired through playing, you could make it all the way. The random elements in FTL keep it challenging and replayable. However, they’re not the only reason why the game works - it’s also well balanced, carefully crafted, and manages to be challenging in other dimensions without being unfair and frustrating.

      Putting It to Work

      For our own game, Bite the Bullet, we recognized the value of procedural generation and, early on in the development cycle, put it to work. Bite the Bullet is a run-and-gun platformer with RPG eating elements. Choose a class based on your diet (like the vegetarian Slaughter of the Soil or the carnivorous and blood-soaked Gorivore), eat your enemies to turn them into XP, and unlock powerful abilities (like Appetite for Destruction, which lets you eat incoming enemy projectiles). This set-up opened the door for a number of procedurally generated systems.

      For example, there are plenty of side quests, bonus modes, and hidden areas in Bite the Bullet, but getting to them is a quest in itself. See, in BTB, side quest locations are randomized, so where you found that rideable hamster in a certain level isn’t where you’re going to find it the next time. Although the core of each level is designed by hand, this procedurally generated content keeps the gameplay fresh and engaging.

      One of the most exciting possibilities that procedural generation offers is in terms of equipment that becomes available to the player. In FTL, you’ll occasionally receive weapons and ship upgrades, each with their own pros and cons - each new combination of items opens up fresh gameplay possibilities. In Bite the Bullet, we take things a step further: weapons can be combined with mods in order to change their effects. Love your missile launcher? Well, you can combine it with a mod that allows you to shoot multiple missiles simultaneously. Not enough for you? That’s alright, it wasn’t enough for us either - you can find an incendiary element that sets fire to your foes.

      Worth It?

      We knew that for Bite the Bullet, procedural generation offered a lot of advantages, but it also came with some risks. The technology is brilliant, but it does have its limits. For instance, procedural generation is not well suited to creating strong puzzles. That’s why Image & Form, after having used procedurally generated levels in Steamworld Dig ditched them in the sequel, in order to create puzzles that procedural generation wouldn’t.

      Similarly, we were concerned about how procedural generation would impact the core mechanics of Bite the Bullet. We wanted levels that showcased all of the player’s abilities - jumping, dashing, and (of course) EATING. For example, the game’s calorie meter is drained for significant player actions, encouraging the player to keep gorging himself on his foes. If the procgen system didn’t sprinkle enough tasty enemy treats throughout, players would be a starving, weakened mess. This was another reason to design the levels by hand.

      Game design is undoubtedly tricky business. What on the surface looks like a small decision can, with poor management, turn into an imbalanced and precarious catastrophe. Creating video games is as much an art as it is a science. Procedurally generated elements, exciting as they are, do not come without the ever-present element of risk.

      And yet, we are driven to include them. The magical spark of possibility that they open up to players is too powerful to ignore. At Mega Cat, we’re taking the risk, and we’re putting in the work on Bite the Bullet to create a game that you’ll love for a long time.

       

      Ready to chow down? Wish list Bite the Bullet on Steam! You can also step into the kitchen and help test the game by joining our Discord!

      We Got Dungeons - A Tactical RPG for the Sega Genesis! Dev Log 1

      We Got Dungeons - A Tactical RPG for the Sega Genesis! Dev Log 1

      We got danger. We got battle. We got tactics. We got choice. We got story. We Got Dungeons. 

      Imagine that Neil Gaiman wrote a novel about Buffy the Vampire Slayer investigating some weirdness in Earthbound. Now imagine that this novel was actually a tactical RPG with some rogue-like elements and a unique progression and customization system. Now imagine that this RPG came out for the Sega Genesis in the 90s.

      Still with me? Good…

      Features

      We Got Dungeons is a tactical RPG with:

      • Procedurally generated dungeons - every dungeon and every room has different layouts for enemies, traps, hazards, and treasure. No playthrough is the same!
      • Multiple storylines. Pick your lead character and experience 9 different tales about coming to terms with yourself and your world.
      • 90s theme - take on the other side with retro video games, Pogs, and VHS tapes in the mall, in the park, and beyond
      • Tactical combat - choose your party and engage with evil troll dolls and possessed grunge kids. Use strategic positioning and mastery of skills to pull through challenging encounters and battles.
      • Unique customization - The Skill Board system gives you complete control over your characters. Equip any ability, any perk, any stat increase you want -- if you got the room for it, you can use it.

      Story

      In a 90s suburbia, not everything is as fly as it seems. Beneath the veneer of normalcy lies cynicism, doubt, and dissatisfaction with life. People want something, they just don't know what that is. But forces from the beyond think they have the answer, and things get weird when they begin to enter our world through the mundane. Weird like your neighbor’s basement going down ten floors. Weird like movie rental stores that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. Weird like your favorite VHS tape trying to choke you to death.

      These forces are launching unannounced, unplanned, uninvited visit to our reality. It’s an unbidden invasion of suburbia, an unsought for contact from beyond the screen that separates us from them… and it all starts in your town…

      Characters

      So who is gonna step up to stop this invasion? Who can we depend on to turn the tide of this sinister threat? The military? Superheroes? 90s cartoon characters?

      Actually, the world’s last hope is your mother. 

      Eschewing the traditional RPG/tactical RPG heroes of knights, wizards, and rogues, We Got Dungeons features ordinary people in a situation which is definitely buggin’. Luckily, the weirdness that is creeping in from the other side is amping up some of their everyday abilities. Let’s meet a couple of our unsung heroes:

      The Troublemaker

      She’s a high-school delinquent that cuts class, smokes, and runs afoul of the local neighborhood watch. Whether it’s flaunting the town’s “No Skateboarding” laws or tagging the convenience store with graffiti, you know the troublemaker is to blame.

      Her skateboard and spraypaint come in handy as useful weapons, and she has a variety of skills (like bullying and shoplifting) that maker her a versatile character.

      Your Mother

      Dear old mom. Everyone has one. Always there for you, she’ll love you forever, no matter what you do. But don’t let all those bedtime stories, embarrassing baby pictures, and boo-boo kisses fool you; when push comes to shove, mom is who you want on your side to fend off the forces from beyond.

      Mom can make you feel better, easing all your troubles and woes with a hug. Or she can totally mess up your social life by grounding you. Either way, the weirdness invading our reality is sure to find out that there is no such thing as “just” a mother.

      We Got More...

      Want more dungeons? Keep reading our series of dev logs here. More classes, tons of weapons, armies of 90s enemies -- we are pushing the Sega Genesis to its limits for this one. Next time we’ll introduce some abilities that put the "Tactic" in "Tactical RPG", and a dungeon boss you may recognize from a famous basement…