Development Diary: Gameplay Design Goals
Greetings everyone to this installment of our Development Diary. In our previous one, we covered the goals to get into early access, which you can read here:
In this development diary, we will be going over the gameplay design goals and how they affect you as the player when you get your hands on Ethereal Metropolis in Early Access. Let’s get right into it!
Goal One: Fun is Priority Number One
Ethereal Metropolis is a game. While we can talk about all these fancy-schmancy design goals, the most important of them is to have fun. Whether from blasting down the Converted in easy mode to fulfill your power fantasy, to facing very unfavorable odds in the hardest of difficulties, to collecting all of the lore cards-- our game brings something for any type of strategy game player.
We design all of our mechanics and systems with the central question of “Who would find this the most fun.” We also simultaneously consider the question, "Who would find this the least fun.”
There are many weapons, abilities, and armor players can choose from in Ethereal Metropolis. Craft builders and min-maxers may find it the most fun, but more casual and story-oriented players may find it overwhelming and the least fun part of the game. So, we streamlined the process to balance the interests of the two with an intuitive, in-depth customization process to create your builds, so you don’t have to sink hours to create your perfect squad.
We want you to have fun with the sandbox and world we have given you. After all, who wants to play a game that's no fun in the first place?
Goal Two: The Average Survive; The Masters Thrives
The average player will make it through the game just fine. They will play around with some of the builds and the abilities and experience the story we crafted in Ethereal Metropolis. But what about the masters? The ones who learn the mechanics inside and out find the most busted builds, the ones who break our game because they min-max it to the moon and back? Those people will thrive in combat of Ethereal Metropolis. For example, the arms race prevalent in the game.
We have designed the arms race algorithm to follow the gradual rise in difficulty that is to be expected in video games, primarily single-player games. The average player will play around it somewhat and bust through the Converted just fine. Yet it is also dynamic and gives players a new experience as they react and try to counter the new Converted strategies.
Yet masterful players can purposefully manipulate and play around with this algorithm in some 5D chess maneuvers. They can plan out the reactions of the Converted well in advance and develop the counter to which the Converted tried to create the counter-- if that makes any sense.
In Early Access, you will have access to various abilities, learn them, master them, and thrive. And that is only one mechanic out of many we are specifically designing. Other mechanics include lore card libraries, upgrades, and ability trees.
Goal Three: Your Will, Your Way
When we started development, we wanted players to have the freedom to almost the degree of a sandbox where you choose your squadmates, armors, weapons, and abilities. We wanted to give players tools to defeat the Converted in their own way and will since it is one of the game's core themes. We also want players to figure out the most OverPowered (OP) builds in the game and let them go crazy.
In early access, you will have four squadmates: Orishidat dealing ranged damage, Farcos dealing melee damage, Dillesaro who eats damage for breakfast, and Fjorjinn doing the healing.
Each character will have a subclass which allows you to play in your own way. One such example and one of my favorites is Fjorjinn’s. While she can traditionally heal, she has access to a subclass called “Oath of Hope,” which focuses on granting allies massive damage and aiming buffs against targets for allies. You don’t need to heal your allies if your opponents can’t even attack you in the first place. Flinging enemies into the air for guaranteed hits and amplifying the weapon damage is very powerful in of itself after all.
Not only will you have access to abilities, but characters will be able to equip armor pieces that give them specific stat increases, allowing them to specialize in builds and complement what they have. An armor that compliments Fjorjinn is the Cursebreaker Armor. This armor grants her passive regeneration of resources required to cast her healing abilities. This allows me to spam them quicker and support my allies in the fight.
But that is only a small bit what is to come in the future! With more characters and more abilities, your will find its way through the squadmates you command on the battlefield. With each character having six abilities, armor sets, and weapons in Early Access, you will be able to experiment and toy around with various builds and playstyles.
Goal Four: Facilitate the Pooling of Knowledge
Knowledge and strategy are power and success in Ethereal Metropolis. We have been designing the mechanics to facilitate discussion and pool knowledge about our game. The mechanics themselves are thought of to be principles. Yet the application of said principles vary between each unique scenario players will find themselves in. Tangential to fun in the game is discussing the strategies and tactics used in fighting against the Converted.
With a reactionary arms race paired with abilities, armors, weapons, and then layer on procedural generation of maps, no playthrough will ever be the same. We want players to discuss the effectiveness of the solutions.
With all of these features, we wish to encourage you all to come together and find the most broken builds, talk about your gameplay experiences, and find the most fun you can while playing our game. Not only will you unravel the mystery of the mechanics, but in turn, begin to unravel the mysteries of Cervinae packed into gameplay.
While there remain many things to be explored in the world of Cervinae and Ethereal Metropolis through its gameplay, there are just as many, if not, more mysteries in the writing itself. After all, you will be uncovering The Greatest Lie ever told…
In our next development diary, we will be going over the Writing Goals of Ethereal Metropolis. We will be delving into creating the world of Cervinae, its peoples, the history, and of course-- the cast you are playing as.
But we can’t spoil it all here! We hope that you have enjoyed this development diary entry! We will be publishing our next Development Diary next week talking about our writing goals!
Kailoulou, Founder and Lead Creative Director