All posts by Charles

Queen of Monsters by Jay Barnson (Frayed Knights)

If you’re here, chances are you’ve heard of Jay Barnson, author of Frayed Knights.

While FK2 was in the works for a while, Jay has since taken on an entirely new endeavor and become a fantasy author. While most would-be authors take steps forward and back for years, even decades and many ultimately fail to finish their first book, Jay has in just a few short years been published five (soon to be six) times!

The Blood Creek series are the first four. (I’m about to finish the second one… I read more slowly than he writes!). Witches, sorcerers, a mirror world and snallygasters in a fun Apalachian mythos setting.

Now his second series is taking off with Queen of Monsters: The Vanished, which I finished reading a couple weeks ago. I was about to write a review on Amazon and it seems I fail to qualify due to lack of recent purchases. So I thought I’d share my thoughts here, and encourage RPG fans to support an author as he rises from our ranks. Maybe that’ll even help him find time to resume work on Frayed Knights 2!

Which reminds me, I failed to complete the first FK after some 16 hours. I need to amend that once Sovereign is done.

Something needs to be said before I proceed. Jay and I are friends. I visited him on my way to the West Coast a few years back. He visited me in Paris on his way to Le Havre the year before, and then again in Southwestern France with his lovely wife Julie. Good times.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, Jay’s writing shines because of well developped characters and original settings. Queen of Monsters takes place in a parallel world that the main protagonist Aiden Holt (not related to any New York police captain as far as I know) and Kaela are teleported into in mysterious ways that the first book does not yet fully reveal. Others had disappeared this way from our world before, and Aiden had taken a particular interest in those unexplained disappearances. He had learned everything there is to know about many of them. Now that he too has been taken, he finds himself hearing the other side of the story for some of the most famous ones, as he himself takes part in the adventure. Ultimately, he will be confronted with some of them, not knowing at first if they are friend or foe.

There is a particular geopolitical situation in this new world, and Aiden finds himself forced to serve in a military outfit faced with hostile rival nations and… Monsters. Lots of them.

But Aiden and the other “Sparks” aren’t your typical grunts. The trip to this medieval world frought with conflict has augmented them, each in different ways. The first installment of Queen of Monsters take you through the coming of age of the young protagonist, Aiden, Kaela and a few others. Aiden’s, however, is trickier than most and a delight to see unfold.

Survival in the Spark ranks is the exception, and shifting balance of power between factions isn’t helping. Aiden’s journey in this context is just beginning and I will be in line for the coming installments to find out what Jay has in store for him and his friends.

Queen of Monsters: The Vanished Book 1 is available on Kindle and paperback.

Sovereign Teaser 2

Easter egg, flight, magic, arabs and more! 🙂

Easter egg

The older goblins played Wasteland. So there had to be a Scorpitronbot. It’s a nasty thing, just like the original. Thankfully (sort of), the goblins are clutzier than ever.

Flight

It’s a treat to just take off and cross that Endless Sea in a matter of seconds. Much safer than walking on Water and way more convenient than relying on a boat schedule. (Ah yes, it isn’t fully implemented yet but there will be time, day/night and schedules).

Magic

You’ll miss it if you blink but there are 4 schools of magic (Elemental, Light, Illusion and Necromancy. All 4 are available to any caster class. Eventually…

Arabs

One of the most prominent NPCs is the Sultan of Sahalaad. A good justification for that incredible Middle Eastern architecture!

Tech

Goblins, Gnomes and other factions dabble in the arts of logic and science. Goblins still claim their genius is stolen by all the others, and they’re still delusional (see Underworld).

Short term plans

It’s very, very hard to post updates during development. It seems to be run by a completely different part of the brain that turns back on when projects near completion.

There needs to be a study on this.

So… years after my last post, finally some news!

Iron Ruler

Iron Ruler is set to release on July 19th July 22nd. Of this year! At least that’s what I told Steam, so now I’m accountable.

There’s a new trailer!

Check out the newly released tentative Steam page! You can even wishlist the game there.

Iron Ruler was a side project. When I lacked the enthusiasm or inspiration for Sovereign, I had something to fall back to with the perspective of adding a title to the collection. The AI stumped me for longer than I expected though, so it wasn’t the smooth ride I was hoping for. But it works nicely now. I lose to it sometimes 🙂

How much will it cost, you ask? Why, absolutely nothing! It’s not big enough to warrant a price tag and I want to focus on the RPGs. Maybe it’ll help sell those so I can announce the sequel to Sovereign (which already has a title, a main page, and it’s awesome if I dare say so myself.)

Underworld

40 updates!

The most important of which turned out to be identifying and fixing an issue that remained a thorn in my side for years. There was an incompatibility with NVIDIA graphics cards. The game would freeze every 10 minutes or so on those setups. My desktop PC worked fine, but I had the issue with an old laptop. That led me to think the game was too resource hungry so I attempted to improve it on that end, but it was the wrong diagnosis.

Most of the reports on this issue included the player reassuring me that it was OK. They’d just quicksave often and the game loaded up fast enough. No big deal. Except it was a big deal, and I almost gave up on Sovereign because of it. There were enough negative reviews and refund requests caused by this to make me wonder if it was worth all the trouble, just to have another unstable game crippled by unsatisfied players.

Then one of the reviews included the player’s specs, and I thought to look into the graphics card. Finally.

Sovereign will be freeze free, as Underworld is today!

Sovereign

I annouced Sovereign almost a decade ago.

Feature creep set in. Big time.

The idea was to replicate Underworld with a surface world. But I quickly envisioned more (as my announcement post suggested already).

It needed a new magic system. With lots more spells.

New classes.

And lots of passive and active skills.

Then the event module, which worked nicely for Underworld’s scope, did not allow me to sustain something that much bigger. It was a mess. It’s nice and coherent now.

About 200 maps.

As for the main questline, let’s just say it changed a few times.

I’m working on a new video and a Steam page that I aim to activate as Iron Ruler launches. I’m thinking there might be some synergy between the two. Also it should allow for a somewhat more reliable ETA.

I’m looking at Q4 2022. But I’ve been overly optimistic before…

Gog

Gog turned down Underworld again. I’m guessing it’ll be the same for Sovereign. Oh well.

Iron Ruler on Steam Greenlight!

Hello everyone,

While I’m steadily making progress on Sovereign, the sequel to Underworld, I’m not quite ready for a new anouncement on that front. There will be one soon showcasing things like a new GUI and flight, but I’ve mostly been focusing on content lately and that is best discovered while playing the game.

I’ve been working on a secondary project as well called Iron Ruler. It is a small turn-based strategy board game based on an old classic called Lords of Conquest.

 

Similarly to Underworld, I added new rules to the original formula’s combat to make it unique and, hopefully, more exciting.

It’s a small project that’ll be priced well under $5.

If it sounds like something you’d enjoy, please stop by the Greenlight page to upvote it. I hope it’ll clear before Greenlight shuts down…

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=899064895

Thanks for your support!
Charles

OlderBytes

Swords and Sorcery – Sovereign is on Greenlight

As of today, the sequel to Underworld is on Greenlight!

 

Swords and Sorcery – Sovereign expands on the formula by adding basic (gring-free, farming-free) crafting, factions, new skills and spells, and, of course, a very large open world that the world map hints at without quite revealing that it is only the known world. It does not display everything.

 

Please do stop by to upvote! 🙂

Moving on to Sovereign

A few months have passed already since the release of Swords and Sorcery – Underworld’s Definitive Edition. The game was well received by players, as Steam comments suggest, which can only mean one thing. The sequel, Swords and Sorcery – Sovereign has moved to the #1 priority.

A greenlight campaign has been in the works, and the following teaser will be found on top of the page and followed by more details on mechanics. Character stats and magic have evolved. Interaction with NPCs will be somewhat deeper and factions are forming nicely. I am still on the fence about the crafting and combat is, as of now, still pretty much what it was in Underworld.

SSUDE delayed, Paris Games Week footage

SSUDE delayed

I “commited” to a release date, November 3rd, and the game isn’t ready yet. I would like to apologize for this, as well as taking so long to offer an explanation and a new date.

I took part in Paris Games Week which took place from Oct 28th to Nov 1st. My plan was to have the game all set before it starts, but the localization was a tougher nut to crack than I had hoped and it caused some bugs that made even an English only release… Well not impossible but not good either.

I hoped to be able to finish during evenings after the convention but those things are more exhausting than I remembered… Or I’m getting old? Nah, that’s not it.

On top of that player feedback from the event uncovered some features that really need to be added before release. A solid tutorial is one, and there are a few others. Quite simply, if I (or the volunteers, Jason and Dimitri, that were helping me out) weren’t there to explain the game to newcomers I would find the game screen changed and no one there playing. Ragequit.

Because it’s deep and complicated 😀

On the other hand with a quick introduction many people really got into it, and that even includes quite a few youngsters I wouldn’t have suspected could find an interest in this type of game. That’s all good news, but it requires some extra work. A few more weeks.

I hope to finish before November ends, but I’d rather not “commit” to it. I hate not meeting deadlines and they’re so hard to evaluate.

Paris Games Week

I captured some footage of SSUDE players at Paris Games Week. It took a bit of time to edit and blur the kids’ faces, as promised to the parents who gave me permission to film.

 My apologies for the delay and thanks everyone for your support! Back to work 🙂

Character Creation and Levelling

Previous versions of Swords and Sorcery – Underworld had very basic character creation and levelling systems. They were in fact very close to Might and Magic – the Secret of the Inner Sanctum (Book I). Not entirely the same, but close. You had to roll for attributes. New levels earned you fixed and randomized extra points for each attribute (MMI attributes did not evolve with new levels).

Underworld Definitive Edition changes a bit in that respect. Each character starts with a fixed number of points for each attribute (how many depends on class). You have a pool of six points to distribute and with each new level you will have 3 more.

Skills are learned automatically at the corresponding level. In the following video you can see a party being created from scratch and in the second part all characters earning level 9 (4:50). Several characters earn skills at that level.

Sovereign will be very similar, but the number of points will differ and you can choose to invest in skill points as well. Those skill points can be used to learn from teachers accross the world.

In my previous entry I mentionned that weapons no longer added damage points to an existing score, but multiplied it. This works because base attributes are capped at 20. So multiplying that by 5, 10 or even 20 gives adequate results. Of course a x10 or x20 weapon will be rare and its requirements will make it unuseable by a low-level character. Weapons also have a minimum strength requirement.

The attributes work as follows:

  • Strength determines damage dealt in melee. It will be multiplied by the weapon’s coefficient to determine the melee score. If the character has two weapons (ambidextria) the first weapon’s coefficient is applied to base strength, then the same with the second weapon. The three values (base strength + weapon 1 bonus + weapon 2 bonus) determines the melee score.
  • Endurance determines how many hit points the character will earn at each level. During character creation HP=endurance. When levelling however Luck will also come into play (+random(luck)-4). Luck can turn out a negative score that will reduce HP earned but in case of a negative result it is changed to 1.
  • Accuracy determines the chance to hit with both melee and ranged attacks. With luck it is checked against the monster’s accuracy and luck. It also determines damage dealt with ranged attacks. Strength still plays a part in that in the sense that the ranged weapon has a minimum strength requirement that is correlated with the weapon’s efficiency (most of the time). Luck intervenes here as well, adding damage exactly the same way it adds HPs earned when levelling.
  • Speed determines combat order.
  • Spirit determines proficiency in Priest spells. It determines how many HP a healing spell recovers and how much damage an offensive spell inflicts. The same luck check is applied here as well.
  • Intelligence is to Sorcerers what Spirit is to Priests. Luck intervenes in the same way. A monster’s intelligence (and luck) will also determine whether they spot a Rogue after a stealth attack.
  • Luck is very important for beginning characters because random(luck)-4 can give negative results and starting attributes like strength have but a few points. It is also important because it plays a part in just about all checks. Accross the board, the number of times Luck will give an extra edge or penalty like extra damage, HP and SP during levelling, or causes a miss or hit really adds up. As the character progresses however the ratio luck to primary statistic lessens.

My next update will be about items, inventory and shops. Thanks for reading!

Combat on the new engine – Definitive Edition

 

Swords and Sorcery – Underworld evolved quite a bit since it’s Gold version release… Almost three years ago. I scratched everything and built a new engine. Now I’m going to ease back into the habit I never had of making steady updates by showing a quick combat video. And commenting on the changes. The best stuff is at the bottom 😉

 


[Edit] – Following discussions with players of the previous version, I made various changes to the screen layout. Clutteredness is out. All enemies now appear on screen.

 

 

First of all, there are portraits. These are visible throughout the game but in combat there are a couple things to take note of.

  • They are layed out in their actual combat positions. There are three rows of two, which represents their actual position in combat. Therefore the first two are most exposed.
  • Characters (and monsters) are grayed out when out of melee range. (It does NOT mean they are inactive, nor does the highlighting indicate which character/monster is up). This allows for many things, including tactical positionning options. These include: join or leave melee, order everyone forward or to retreat, or move to the front. there is also the protect option (given the character carries a shield) which allows him or her to set themselves alongside or in front of a companion and physically “share their armor”. They effectively change position in the roster. Monsters can have similar behavior.

The combat log now appears in real time in the top left corner. This allows for much quicker combat since there is no longer a need for a pause to allow players to follow friendly and enemy actions.

Visual effect for spells.

All options appear in the bottom row and can be clicked or activated with their keyboard shortcuts (those appear on the left when hovered). Several actions are unlocked later with the earning of new levels. Naturally, spell casters are rewarded with new spells.

  • Ambidextria allows Knights and Rogues to use two 1H weapons.
  • Stun allows the rogue to immobilize a foe for some time (how many rounds depends on an accuracy and luck versus the monster’s endurance and luck check).
  • Burst allows the archer to shoot three arrows simultaneously (with damage per shot reduced by 25%).
  • Later, Barrage allows the archer to shoot all visible targets (up to 10) with a 50% damage score.
  • Berserk allows the Knight to hit all enemies in melee with a loss of 50% of his/her own life bar.
  • Bleed allows the Rogue to inflict cumulative damage over time, but you’ll need a high level for this one.
  • Powerhouse allows the Knight to replace 1H weapons with 2H weapons. Meaning potentially two 2H if he/she chooses to not carry a shield.

To make this work better, I redesigned both the monster and item database. Monsters now have the same attributes as characters. Some attributes like endurance, spirit, intelligence and luck are used in different checks, allowing for much more variety of resistances and weaknesses. This info can be collected with a spell called Read Mind that’ll help you figure out how to defeat the tougher enemies in later stages of the game.

Another example is the Rogue no longer systematically leaves stealth mode after an attack. An accuracy and luck versus intelligence and luck check determines whether he/she remains unseen or is spotted by the target. If the target is killed by an assassination, the Rogue will remain unseen no matter what.

Weapons now have a penetration and minimum strength score. I added this mainly to accomodate the Archer. The Archer’s damage now exclusively depends on his/her accuracy and luck (to a lesser extent of course), regardless of strength. But to use a more powerful weapon, the Archer will have to match the weapon’s minimum strength. Penetration is deducted from the target’s armor score before determining final damage. While this helps balance the Archer’s contribution to the group, it works the same for melee weapons (whose damage scores are determined by strength.) But bows tend to have higher penetration scores than swords or daggers.

To further accomodate this system, I changed the way weapons work as well. They no longer add to the character’s damage score but multiply it (+0.20*Base Melee, +5.5*Base Ranged…). The weakest ranged weapon (sling) adds 20% to base ranged damage (the accuracy score). The most powerful melee and ranged weapons exceed 10*. Scores of armor and special items have attribute bonuses and many can be enchanted later in the game.

I’ll explain in my next entry how the entirely new character creation and development system works in this context.

Thanks for reading!