And so, 7DRL 2021 has come to an end. Just like last year, I had an ambitious vision (aka "overscoped"), took a week off work to implement it, and ended up cutting out some features to finish by the deadline. Still, I think the final product is quite fun and addictive, and I am excited to see players engage with it!
The game is greatly inspired by a Chinese childhood simulator Chinese Parents - it inspired the name loop of the game: develop stats on the Mind Map, study new skills, and then choose what to practice at the end of each turn. That said, I've added a ton of original mechanics: Tournaments, Mind Map monsters (aka "inner demons"), special powers that affect monsters and tournaments, and other interactions between these components. I also cooked up a tree of over 100 medieval/fantasy skills to explore.
Any person who's dabbed into the world of Roguelikes is familiar with the perennial argument about what really counts as a roguelike. While rating the 7DRL games last year, I realized that I care about some features much more than others. For example, I absolutely require the game to be turn-based, but care much less about permadeath and procedural generation (i.e., I'm happy to play an otherwise-traditional-rogulike with prebuilt rooms). Another feature that I really enjoy is the richness of content - the exploration of "what else is out there?" is one of my primary drives in playing.
So, Medieval Upbringing is probably not a Roguelike in some people's eyes (where the hell is "@"? Where is the numpad movement!? WHERE ARE THE WALLS I CAN HIDE BEHIND, PLANNING MY NEXT MOVE???) - but it includes the features most dear to me in a roguelike. It's absolutely turn-based. It requires you to plan ahead on both micro level (which cell on the Mind Map do I unveil next to maximize my chances of XYZ?), and macro level (which skills should I practice to make sure I can learn this skill 3 turns ahead?). Every character starts with a profession that unlocks a unique skill subtree, so the game can be replayed multiple times with a relatively new flair. It even features a skill called "Rogue", you guys!
One feature that I spent unexpectedly large amount of time on were Tournaments. The original plan was to have Tournaments as a tactical decision-making minigame (maybe even a traditional roguelike within the game!), but I quickly realized that this would take up the rest of the week, and I would likely fail miserably. So instead I turned a Tournament into a comparison of stats (compounded by relevant skills) between the player and the other virtual inhabitants of the player's world. There is also a dice roll involved to introduce some randomness and let underdogs prevail from time to time.
For example, in a Swordfighting Tournament, we could take 5x the strength, 4x the dexterity, and 1x the constitution, sum them up, multiply the value by 50% if the participant studied "Swordplay", by another 50% if they studied "Expert Swordplay", and by another 20% if they studied "Parrying", and roll a single dice to add/subtract 50% from the resulting value. Each pair of fighters goes through this process, and the participant with the higher value advances to the next round - and so on til the finals. I ended up making two types of tournaments: bracket-based, with 2^K competitors split in pairs, and absolute placement, where everyone just rolls the dice once and the highest value wins. For instance, Chess and Swordfighting are good examples of bracket-based tournaments, but Pentathlon and Potions Contest are absolute placement.
The main difficulty with this model was in generating believable opposition: I wanted a model where the player can predict the results of the competition, but it's not just a hardcoded "if your strength is over 2000 and you have this skill, you win". I ended up generating a population of 5000 citizens, each of them of different age and talent level - and their stats and skills are a function of these parameters, plus some randomness. Then, for each tournament, we pick the most qualified citizens that will compete against you. This way, your competition is consistent within a playthrough - if you go to a Blacksmiths Competition and get your ass kicked, you know what stats / skills you need to have a shot at winning next time (the game tells you your and the champion's function values). I tweaked the maximum stats of these citizens in a way that in my playthroughs, I could start winning the tournaments aligned with my skills, but only towards the end.
One of the persistent requirements I have for my games is a leaderboard - a way for people to see each other's results and have some friendly competition. Considering that roguelikes are inherently single-player games, but I personally enjoy competition, I cram these leaderboards in every game to create some level of "social" aspect.
Medieval Upbringing has possibly the most advanced metrics collection I've done so far - the game lends itself well to tracking statistics, and currently sports a table of 7 meaningful metrics to sort by. Moreover, there are tons of built-in achievements ("win this tournament", "defeat this monster", "learn this many skills", etc.) which hopefully will enhance the experience. (Unfortunately, the presentation of achievements is rather meh - a browser alert telling you of getting one, and a dry list hidden in Information.)
Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for playing - if you have feedback to share, or just want to post the screenshot of your final achievements - please do so in the game comments. Cheers <3
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