An Indie Oldschool Role-Playing Game

Developer Update #1

Developer Update #1

on May 8, 2013 | 7 comments


We’ve kept ourselves busy since the official announcement post three weeks ago, although a lot of the work has been done under the hood, either through programming or brainstorming. Here’s a quick run-through of how things are progressing.


Polishing the Level Editor

Before moving further with the development of the game engine and assets, we polished a bit the Level Editor, so that creating testing environments is easy and intuitive. Rather than a user interface made of a viewport surrounded by various panels, we went ahead with making the grid layout full screen, to maximise the work space. Buttons in the top left corner open up various floating panels (Menu, Levels, Objects, Inspector…) by a simple hover of the mouse. Once you’re done with the panel, hovering away closes it again. This approach minimizes clicking and the UI feels fast and responsive.

A toolbar is found at the bottom with the various tools – as with panels, everything is accessible using keyboard shortcuts. Holding Alt for example switches to pan mode so that you can quickly move the grid around without leaving your current tool. Oh, and did we mention the zooming slider in the lower left corner? Selecting objects is easy too, even when multiple are present in the same cell: left-clicking quickly cycles through them, while a right-click opens a selection dialog, allowing you to pick the exact one required. It’s not yet implemented, but a hotkey will also allow you to access a dialog box with search capabilities and select by name any object in the scene.

The inspector panel is obviously central to managing your levels. As the game system revolves around an entity-component model, most components expose their essential controls in the inspector for easy tweaking. You can remove or add any component to any object, bypassing the need to define multiple objects in the .lua definition files when there is only slight variation between them. Offset and Rotation components for example will allow to fine-tune the position of the object in 3D space. If you want an illusion wall, you can just remove the Blocker component from a wall object, and the party will be able to pass through. You will also be able to add a Script component to an object, providing some direct control through a self object exposed to the lua script, instead of having to resort to separate script entities objects.

Here’s a short two minutes video of the level editor in action. It showcases the user interface as discussed above, the live preview option (how could we live without it?), and how the Blocker component of a barrel can be deactivated via the inspector to allow the party to pass through.

There’s more cool features coming, notably for exteriors, but we’ll keep that for another post.


The Good Old Inventory

The basic principles of creating environments having been laid out, the next thing we set on working on is the items and inventory systems. The inventory GUI, which was roughly sketched, was almost completed in the last week, along with the programming of the backbone of the item system. Nothing revolutionary here, but that’s coding that had to be done (and feel) right.

A screenshot of the inventory panel in its current state.

A screenshot of the inventory panel in its current state.

We’ve also been doing a lot of concepting on how the items should work, in terms of game mechanics. Unlike Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder or Legend of Grimrock which feature a finite set of predefined items, the loot in DarkDale will contain a random element, and you will be able to find (or make your own) enchanted equipment. There will also be a material system (similar to what was present in Dragon Age: Origins) which will tie in with key plot elements. More on this soon as well.


Mapping out the World

What would a role-playing game be without a map? The main plot, social & geographical aspects of DarkDale were sketched out long ago, but we set on drawing an actual map of the kingdom to better guide our next design steps. It is still a rough draft, but here it is as a preview:

Kingdom of DarkDale, first draft.

Kingdom of DarkDale, first draft.

As you see, DarkDale is a small kingdom in a valley enclosed by mountain ranges, in a semi-northern temperate climate. Its military power cannot obviously match that of the vast surrounding Empire of Ga’en, but it has retained its independence in the last centuries due to its protected geographical situation and its relative economic wealth. Two important resources, Skaal, a very hard steel forged from the Skaalstone ore in the northern mountains, and Glimmerwood, a particularly strong and flexible wood with strong affinity for magic, have given birth to an important commercial network controlled by powerful guilds.

All is not well, however, or we wouldn’t have a story, wouldn’t we? The recent and sudden death of the King has thrown DarkDale in a period of political turmoil driven by urban corruption. Enemies from inside and outside wait to seize the opportunity. And our inexperienced (yet!) party has to sort it out, wondering who to trust and what to believe. So no lord-of-darkness-that-will-overtake-the-world to overcome, but even if politics are politics, don’t worry, there’s an ancient evil lurking somewhere in the deep.

That’s it for now, more soon as we continue developing the items system, including making some assets and coding the physics system that will allow us to throw, deposit or pickup things around the 3D world.


  1. Looking good. 🙂


    May 8, 2013

  2. Looks VERY promising, hope to see some update anytime soon , about the system and it´s world .

    Great Work Everybody!


    May 21, 2013

    • Thanks for the encouraging comment… I just posted an update introducing the items system.

      Georges Dimitrov

      May 23, 2013

  3. Hi again Georges,

    I would like to post a question: From your posts I have understand that items found by players in your game will have a random element. Why did you go for such an option, which is more common to action rpgs (like Diablo for example). Story driven rpgs, almost every time feature a predefined set of items, found in specific places. After all, that’s why ther have a story behind. You solve a quest and you find a specific item, which you may need in the future. I don’t know but I think that this randomness will hurt the game making it more action oriented. Is there a possibility you rethink over this option?


    June 10, 2013

    • Hi Greco,

      I’m not considering diablo-like level of randomness, it’s silly. All the main quest items will be placed in fixed locations, as will be most of the “Unique” items. Most “normal” items will also be hand placed. The random element is there to make exploration and equipment collecting a bit more unpredictable, especially for side-quests, and also to make trading and economy less linear. Shops for example will have one or two rotating random more special items, like Might & Magic or The Bard’s Tale used to do (Diablo ripped off the idea).

      For example, in a small side quest involving clearing a cave of bandits near a village (standard fare to grind some equipment/experience/gold) the chest at the end might contain a “medium-level melee weapon” along 2-3 other fixed items (for example, a Steel Plate, a bow and 6 arrows). So you might end up with a Silver hand axe, or if you’re really lucky an enchanted Frost Skaalstone mace, or a Silver sword of dexterity. Things like that are non-essential to the story but give a little “What am I going to find?” thrill. You might get just that steel helm missing from your armor set, or if you get a third pair of steel gloves, just go sell it in the nearest shop.

      But magic items will be relatively rare, and all loot will be in tables that make sense, power and setting-wise. You won’t find a super ring of power off a random wolf, there will be fighter’s stuff in fighter settings, scrolls & tomes in mages settings.
      Might & Magic games had a story, lore & quests, yet were all about random equipment. BG2 had some random elements, DA:Origins more recently was very much story-driven, yet had a semi-random loot system too. Hey, even Chaos Strikes Back had a randomized loot system.

      Georges Dimitrov

      June 10, 2013

  4. Thanks for the answer Georges. I am happy you clarified this, and it is perfectly OK for me. For one moment I feared that you were pursuing a pure action rpg (diablo like) randomness. Another question, regarding randomness: Will encounters be random as well, like in bard’s tale for example (regarding both the enemies and the location). And a last one: Will there be a luck attribute which will increase the possibility of getting a higher random loot or a better item?


    June 10, 2013

    • Encounters will be either fixed or with spawners, exactly like in DM, EOB or Grimrock. Depending on their AI (guarding or roaming) Monsters might wander around however, so you might not always see them in the exact same places. Exterior areas will have a bit more randomized spawners for wild animals or highway bandits for example. But again, any randomness I put in the game, the fundamental design principle is that it has to be transparent to the player (ie, look and feel as if everything was scripted that way), and only there to make the game feel more fluid and natural.

      Right now, I haven’t considered including luck as a specific attribute, because there shouldn’t be enough randomness to justify it. But maybe some kind of temple blessing as a quest reward might help with luck… we’ll see.

      Georges Dimitrov

      June 10, 2013

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