Last Update: March 2013
Objective: Game Design - Re imagining "Voyage to Farland" the indie mobile game for android devices
Created and Owned by: Peculiar Games (Patrick Casey)
- Around 2012 i did some work for a visual pack for this game. Most of the stuff I did required a complete overhaul of the game to be implemented. That is up to Patrick Casey to decide.
Voyage to Farland is a "Mystery Dungeon" style graphical roguelike game where you move in a turn-based manner through randomly generated dungeons, find lots of items, numerous scrolls and weapons to help you defeat strange monsters. Can be extremely difficult due to its randomness but its an addictive and fun to play roguelike. Closest thing you can get to Mystery Dungeon Shiren as an android game.
Compared to rpg games out for the android, Farland is different in a good way. Its addictive and fun but a bit underrated, probably because it doesn't have much advertising or maybe due to the fact its aimed for the hardcore players (be it the killer difficulty that can turn off casual players or the somewhat dull presentation of menus and story that may repel today's young gamers who are used to being spoon fed with tutorials and colourful stuff.)
Unlike angry birds, the shitty fruit cutting games or any other mobile game that involves the words "zombies" in its name, Farland is not a game for the casual player to pick up and play. (Mind you neither was shiren, the game that has inspired Farland) I'm not saying it should be aimed for casual players, but i think casual players dominate the mobile market and maybe that's why Farland remains somewhat underrated.
To summarize Farland is good. Gameplay is simple and catchy, keeps you hooked with random dungeon exploration, numerous pickups, obscure monsters and simple combat mechanics, but dated looking j-rpg menus, basic visuals and harsh presentation is where Farland lacks.
- Game Highlights
- Visual Style of Farland
- Story and Characters
- New Stuff
- Extras & Unlockables
1 - Game Highlights
- Simple turn based combat
- Randomly generated dungeons
- Obscure monsters, not regular stuff from your average sword and sorcery rpg games.
- Nice variety of items to collect and use each with descriptions.
- Good amount of dungeons to keep the average player busy for days
- Hardcore difficulty that forces the player to start from scratch after each death
2 - Visual Style of Farland
Farlands visuals consist of few different styles. Some realistic, some cartoonish, some detailed some simple. When a tile of certain style is placed next to a tile of another style (like an ultra realistic building next to a simple tree) makes the tree look like a placeholder, giving the scene a "beta product" look. I guess I should be focusing on a certain type of style for my visual expansion. Guess that would be a cute, cartoonish look, something similar to the cover photo.
The artwork above shows first drafts of monsters, items and a few other sprite designs i did after playing Farland for a few hours. Some where completly changed (like the bumble) most had minor changes done and some were obsolete and scrapped.
All of the monster sprites are animated, causing a pain in my ass when I'm remaking them. Below is a complete sprite sheet for the "Nosferatu" monster. It silently floats around, hits people with its claw and has a special "gaze" attack that has random effects on the hero. The nosferatu will be getting a fancier dress every time he levels up. Even though it is a monster, the player can become nosferatu or any other monster in the game and use its properties and special attacks against other monsters.
3 - Story and Characters
Voyage to Farland's website describes the story as "You’re a homeless wanderer searching for your long lost sister. But to find her you must first prove your resolve in a quest through the unforgiving Iya Gorge to find an evil witch that kidnapped children from the village. Defeat the Spirit Witch and the Path of No Return will open, leading to ancient ruins and a haunted castle beyond..."
The game itself doesn't go in that deep but opens with an intro where a crow wakes up the protagonist who seems to be searching for his or her sister (it is unclear if the main hero is a male or female) who are then ambushed by evil old ladies (which are a common monster type in this game) and the scene goes into a loop of old ladies and the hero chasing each other left and right.
Unfortunately this will be the only story related scene till you manage to find your sister. I know this is a roguelike and roguelikes don't have much when it comes to stories but still some more story related events to hook players into the game and keep them pushing to see another level of the dungeon would have been nice. Not anything as complicated as a chapter from a novel but something more like wish there was bit more to it. Maybe with simple dialogues between the crow and the hero like "Ok we reached the cute forest what now crow? Lets go and ask that nosferatu by the tree or look theres a piece of scarf that belong to my sister, must be this way then."
The green dressed hero of Farland seems genderless as it is never told if the hero is male or female. There are no clues about his or her past, all we know is he or she was looking the missing sister before waken by the crow.
After looking at the hero sprite and artwork done by Patrick himself, I tried to create a similar but more detailed, more unique hero. Keeping the genderless look as much as possible by covering the chest with a cape and giving considerable long hair. (Which i later decided to turn it into a pony tail and now i wish i had never done that since the tied up hair made the hero look more like a guy from the front) The new dress is not as plain as the tattered rags but is still somewhat in poor condition. The cape is ripped, the trousers cuffs are folded to shorts probably due to severe rips. Heavy damage on the boots due to a long and rough journey. It could be said that my new hero had a bit of time to prepare a belt pouch and don whatever he or she could find before attempting to go after the missing sister but something terrible must have happened in the way, thus the poor condition.
Although not visible in the game, the crow accompanies the hero throughout the journey via a portrait in the menu. As far as i know all it does is to stick in the menu and warn the player when the hero is about to die. Not much useful but still a nice touch, wish it was kind of more chatty by randomly taunting enemies, complaining about dungeons, giving out remarks about items found and such. This could have given the crow a personality. On the other hand some people may not like text popping out from the menu so maybe there can be an option in the main menu to shut the crow up if people find it annoying.
There is a tutorial dungeon in the game (which is shown the first time you play) where some basic text information is given as the hero progresses in the dungeon. These texts can have the crows portrait next to them as if the crow is talking. This will the on the that will allow the crow to be used as a tutor on how to play the game.
Shiren the wanderer had npc characters appearing randomly in dungeons, most of them were giving tips when interacted. Some also offered help by healing or upgrading weapons. In farland these npcs either fight by your side or give you items. Dialogue is straightforward, the hero moves next to the npc and presses the attack button and the npc spills out whatever it was ment to say.
The hero encounters a few npc characters who aid the hero during the voyage. These npcs are mostly the children from the village. Why has the evil witch not taken them? How did they managed to hide when the witch was collecting the kids? The kids themselves don't say anything to answer these questions but one gives you a cookie another gives you a raft and so on.
There also is a wise owl and a friendly maskboy that can join the hero as allies and aid in fights, assuming the hero can find them.
A nice addition to npcs would be wandering shopkeepers and a simple trade system. These shopkeepers will randomly roam the dungeons and will barter items they have. The player would have to guess the estimated prices for items on sale and offer items with similar value. This way the hero can make better use of its items instead of throwing them at the monsters.
4 - Items
There are plenty of items that can be found during the voyage to Farland. Inventory space is limited but almost every item can be hurled at monsters so its not so much of a concern. Items such as shields and weapons will cause damage while items such as rotten herbs will poison and such. Some items such as weapons and shields can be upgraded and sharpened. Some items can be mixed and some become something else when tossed inside a change pouch.
Items can be categorized as weapons to kill monsters, shields to protect the hero from damage, herbs for healing and poisoning, pouches for various uses, cookies to suppress hunger, vials to trap monsters, steel shots to use as ranged weapons, beads for protection.
One of the most fun items is the empty vial, it allows you to trap a monster inside it by throwing the vial to the monster, then after picking up the thrown vial again, the hero can now drink the vial and become the monster inside the vial complete with the special abilities of the monster. So much fun to become the beetle and swing monsters around like a rich man swinging a wad of cash for a fat belly dancer.
5 - Monsters
Monsters in Farland are not your average sword and sorcery rpg stuff. There are no savage orcs, skeletons, knights or wizards. You get tons of absurd stuff instead such as grumpy old women, Japanese oni masks, boxes and other weird stuff. My favorite ones were maskboy (some guy in a mask who causes sickness when he lifts his mask) and oni masks coz they seemed real creepy.
I tried to make the rest of the monsters look creepy just like the maskboy and oni mask but also tried to maintain the cute, comic book style as much as i could.
Oba Monster - Oba stands for old lady in Japanese. These are old ladies who travel forests complaining about tea prices as they look for children to kidnap and eat.
Boxxer - A regular chest which got possesses by imps, now it waits for adventurers to pick its lock
Beetle - A peculiar type of beetle that uses its claws to toss its victims around till they get dizzy
Ghost - This one is a dull old ghost. Wish it could pass through walls and other obstacles... oh wait maybe it does... but probably doesn't :)
Bee - A giant bee that drops its giant honey load on the hero. (that sounds bit like porn)
Nosferatu - The ugly vampire guy with a peculiar gaze, from the classic horror movie.
Oni Mask - Oni are Japanese demons. Something like a western ogre but with better hairstyle. We don't get to see Oni's in the game but their masks come to spank the hero's ass.
Tinbot - A golem that has a coal furnace instead of an heart. Its endless desire for a real heart causes it to rip the shit out of other living things around it. Don't know what happens in rainy weather tho.
Maskboy - A plague doctor who went mad after being infected with the plague or a psycho from a cheesy slasher movie. Who cares, anyone looks cool with a giant knife and a mask anyways.
Gray Lady - A Japanese geisha style hot chick who died in a cold forest. Now the gray lady tries to lure people out to the cold and freeze their ass for revenge.
Spark Droid - Prehistoric clock work robot who seems to be dressed as if from the redcoats era (if the had any robots back then) who was probably made to win the war by hurling lighting bolts to its enemies. Must have short circuited and gone haywire.
Cat-a-pult - Its a mad cat riding a catapult that lobs items at the hero.
Each monster family has 3 levels. Every time they level up they gain different abilities and change colour accordingly. I want to use a similar approach for my visual pack but with a twist. I want to show the monster becoming more powerful by adding visual changes to them. (uhh, that's what the visual pack is all about isn't it?)
I thought of two different ways to improve the visuals. First way could be to show the players the monster are getting older as they level up. Like the level one nosferatu can be the clean shaved dude from the movie but once it reaches the second level it can grow some hair and a beard as if he has been living for centuries and no barber is accepting him because the way he looks) so when the nosferatu reaches his last level then we will be looking like a rockstar more than a nosferatu. Not sure...
The second way can be adding small cosmetic modifications to the monster without changing the main sprite. (like extra armour for the tin bot, spikes for the beetle etc)
6 - Dungeons
Voyage to Farland has 4 main dungeons, each dungeon is divided into numerous floors with different visual theme. Some floors have certain types of monsters while others have different ones so you dont get to see all the monsters in a single floor.
Training Dungeon: This is the default dungeon you get to play the first time you start the game. It can also be accessed from the main menu. If you're new to Mystery Dungeon style rogue-like games, try this out. This is an easy dungeon with only a few floors. When you pick up a new type of item, a little explanation will be given on how you can use it. After clearing the dungeon you'll find yourself in the "Wilderness Village" ready to take on the more challenging dungeons.
Iya Gorge: this is the base dungeon in the game, begins with wilderness village and ends with a boss fight. To leave the the village the player has to walk north and go through what looks to be a window in a house but is actually an entrance to a cave. Once through the window errr i mean cave, the hero arrives at cute forest which is actually the first real floor in the game (and my favorite floor due to its colour palette) All items are already identified by default in this dungeon.
Strategy Dungeon: (unlocked after certain events) this dungeon can be found in one of the houses at the wilderness village and is a challenge dungeon with single-floor puzzles to solve (more or less the goal is to get to the exit alive but doing so is tricky and mostly die or do stuff). These are actually real fun to try out. If i recal correctly there should be around ten or so challenges. (wish there were 20 or 30 its almost like a casual pick up and play while waiting for the tube style dungeon.) After completing each challenge the player is awarded an item and can either drop it to the warehouse to use it another time or start the journey with it. These also allow the player to learn a few tricks with some items. Items and companions aren't allowed into the dungeon.
The Path of No Return: (unlocked after certain events) this is the more classic Rogue style dungeon, with many items unidentified by default. No items or companions are allowed in with you. You start from level 1, empty-handed and try your best to survive. Test out unidentified items to see what effect they have, then name them with a label you choose. If you make it to the end of this dungeon, a surprise is in store... Yay :)
The Vial Trial: (unlocked after certain events) this is a specialty dungeon where you are tested on your ability to use vials to capture monsters, take on their form and use their special abilities and attacks (using the ranged attack button) to survive and clear the dungeon. I must have mentioned that vials are my favorite item due to the ability to morph into monsters.
7 - New Stuff
More pics will be added sometime soon, this part is still wip
While Farland's dungeons seem to be total random by theme, its monsters are mostly related to asian culture. I'll try to imagine a new monsters, items and traps without straying too far from the current capabilities of the game code. Something else i would take note is the fact that there are plenty of items and monsters already so there is no need to make another sword that can hit +10 because it feels awesome to break testicles in a single hit. No point in making another clone of the same monster because mine sounds more cool then the current monsters. What i will be focusing instead is creating new stuff that feels new and different from the default stuff.
Hungry peasant: These are ordinary peasants who are cursed by the insatiable hunger and lust inside them. They will eat any item they find on the floor. Eaten items are gone forever so better hurry up and explore every dungeon for loot before they do. Higher levels can have poison breath ranged attacks.
Water kami: These water spirits are weak by themselves but have a high chance to dodge incoming attacks. They also posses the ability to morph into the strongest monster in the room. They turn back into water kami forms when leave rooms (walk in corridors)
Slime monster: there can be no asian themed rpg without slime, bloody things are like traditional jrpg stuff :) Slime monsters are weak opponents however each hit will have a chance to downgrade the weapon. There is also a low chance that the monster will multiply by mitosis once killed. Higher levels will have increased chance. The deal of this monster is to force the player to change weapons and not stick to the best.
Angry sumo: some slow moving, fat and angry sumo wrestler who cant be hurt from frontal attacks. It moves once every 3 turns so it is possible to outflank it and attack from behind. Its spacial ability would be a flying head butt (just like honda from street fighter.) that would allow the monster to "attack move" 4 tiles in a single direction but will have a low probability to use it. Even better every time the sumo gets hit it can get the sumo flying in pain (using attack move to hit whoever is at the other side of the attack direction allowing the player to use it as a ranged weapon)
By itself it seems like an average monster but when ganging the player in group with different monsters, flanking the angry sumo can end up being difficult or fun.
Naked ninja: a naked ninja who can randomly teleport using smoke bombs (like using a teleport pouch) Typical hit and run monster. Level 2 variants can use "steal item" special ability that allows the ninja to grab an item and teleport away while level 3 ninjas can use throwing stars as ranged attacks and also steal stuff. The stolen item drops once the ninja is killed.
Flail: a spiked mace ball tied to an iron chain, this weapon has a high chance to hit compared to a regular weapons. ideal for killing water kamis
Soul Claw: has a chace to drain small amounts of life from the monster and add to players life.
Scythe: this weapon will hit the front and side tiles, ideal for fighting a group of monsters surrounding the player from 3 directions. Compared to other weapons the scythe has a lower chance to hit its targets.
Yari: This long spear can be used to hit enemies 2 tiles away. The attack hits the first and the second tiles both but have a lower chance to hit than a regular attack. When thrown it will pierce through all enemies in a single line until it hits the wall. Will be destroyed once thrown.
Stinky Herb: A smelly, stinky herb that gives out an awful odour when chewed. Once the hero eats the herb he will be poisoned and slowly loose health. However the herb smells so bad that no monster will dare to touch the hero for a short period of time.
Monster Portal Trap: once tripped, this opens portals that teleport additional monsters into rooms
Vending Trap: takes a random item from the player and gives a "food" item. Food is seriously scarce in this game but items are plenty. Maybe a trap that takes items and gives food would make things bit more tolerable. It could take your most valued items and turn them into herbs so it may be a good or bad trap depending on the situation.
8 - Extras & Unlockables
I have to admit that I'm a sucker for trophies and any type of collectible extras sections in games. These unlockables are useful for giving reasons to carry on playing games once they are finished (or giving stuff to do without bothering to finish the game itself). Voyage to Farland has two extras that can be accessed from the games main menu named as the menagerie and noteworthy.
The noteworthy section lists highest dungeon floor and highest levels achieved and such if the hero has found a titan shield or befriended the wise owl. There are 14 noteworthy events to unlock. This part is pretty much sufficient but adding more stuff to unlock wont hurt anyone. Some easy ones like killing a certain number of specific monsters to gain a title, some hard ones like completing each dungeon without using scrolls, some event based ones such as finding a specific item that appears every few games. Another nice touch can be trackers that keep the players statistics such as the total number of monsters killed, number of times the hero died, total gameplay time, number of acquired items and such.
The menagerie allows the player to look at all the monsters (and npcs) the hero has encountered on its journey. Its a gallery that allows the player to view and rotate character models from the game, giving bit of information such as the name and charm point of the character. Adding concept art and vital information about monsters and items can allow the menagerie to be used as a game glossary and art collection. Even better there can be a kill count on monsters and something like every 50 kills some new information can be revealed. (like hp, attack power, special abilities and exp gained after each kill) Sounds somewhat logical to me as the more of the same monsters the player kills the more acquainted the hero gets about them.
That's it for now but it ain't over till I say its over and I ain't done with this post yet. Now go and start looking at the pics over again till I add new stuff.