05 August 2013

Dungeon Ascendance

Last Update: Aug 2013
Whats all this about? In game art for Dungeon Ascendance, the sword and sorcery themed puzzle game for mobiles. 
Developed By - Seramy Games


Dungeon Ascendance Google play store





I have recently finished the artwork of Dungeon Ascendance from Seramy Games and had a fun time with drawing various types of dungeon stereotypes with bloated heads. Before I go into detail I'll just point out that you can find two versions available at the Google Play store if you would like to try it out;
Paid Full Version (12 classes and 15 dungeons)
Free Demo Version - (ad-free, 4 classes and 5 dungeons)

dungeon ascendance play store cover



Dungeon Ascendance is a mixture of dungeon exploration and puzzle solving. Both parts are kept to a simplistic level where exploration consists of wondering around the uncharted dungeons, revealing potions, abilities and enemies while the puzzle part consists of deciding who to kill and what items and abilities to use when and in what order. Sounds somewhat retarded but it turns out to be incredibly addictive after a few plays. Levels can be finished in 5 to 10 minutes making it an ideal pocket game.

DA may look like an RPG or Roguelike at the first glance but it only borrows some basic elements from these genres such as random dungeons, permanent death, monsters with different stats etc. It may put players off if they are looking for something similar to an RPG or roguelike but I'm pretty sure it will reward players who accept this abomination as is.


Players get to pick one from a list of twelve heroes (fighter is the default and the rest becomes unlocked with progress.) who each have different abilities and skills. My favourite hero is the Knight who can increase his attack by hitting each different monster once, bouncing from one enemy to another in order to gain considerable damage bonus. There is also a bard hero who starts with no special abilities but has the ability to learn the skills of other heroes.

  

Each dungeon is a challenge where you have to destroy the boss monster (dungeon master) who happens to sit on the stairs that lead to the exit. Kind of makes you wonder how the hero manages to enter the dungeon and why not exit via same route but you wont be wondering that for long as the game doesn't take itself so seriously to make you ask such questions. In fact it has a tongue in cheek humour set from silly boss names and dungeon descriptions. Which I find it to be a good thing.

Players can only kill the boss if they are strong enough and the only way to become stronger is to kill the lesser monsters one by one until the hero levels up to match the boss. The puzzle part lies on which monster to attack when. Luckily there are signs placed on the monsters to aid the players by giving information about the threat level of the monsters. Mess with someone stronger than you and you will be running for the nearest food tile for healing and when you finally find a food to heal, you will notice the monster heals around too. That's a mechanic that forces the players to think before attacking everything in a mindless manner.  


There are also various other items, power ups and ability pick-ups to aid the heroes on their way to kill the overgrown dungeon masters. Similar to combat, careful planning is needed before consuming collectibles. Spending these pick-ups too early or out of place will cause the players to find themselves in a situation where the only option would be to commit suicide and restart the dungeon. 



Players get to unlock new dungeons and new hero classes by completing dungeons. Each dungeon has a different theme and monsters to accompany it. Tutorial and easy dungeons seem rather simple to complete due to weak monsters and bosses but harder and challenge dungeons will really test skilled players.

That's more or less all there is to say as DA doesnt have much to talk about but has lots of fun under its simple looks and  is rather catchy once you play. 

There was the chance to draw lots of generic dungeon stereotypes so that's why we decided to team up and work on its visuals. I tried to keep the minimalist look for the menus. It gives a clean, pick up and play sort of no-nonsense feel to the game and everything seems to be easy to understand. Each monster type has its unique look that is easily distinguishable and simple animations make things easier to grasp. Each dungeon has tiles related to the theme of the dungeon.

I tried to pick a cartoon-ish style (as I do with most stuff) due to the tongue in cheek nature of the game. For the bunch who prefer old school sprites there is always the option to revert to the old tile set.

  
 

Looking back at DA

What I like about DA
+ Easy to learn,  quite addictive.
+ Quick to play (5 - 10 mins per game) makes it an ideal coffee break game
+ Tons of stuff to unlock and achievements to earn
+ Many heroes and monsters with different abilities require different tactics

What I don't like
- Disconnected levels, No sense of progress apart from unlocking heroes and completing achievements.
- Replay value is open for discussion once players manage to unlock every hero and see every dungeon.



Improvements and ideas

There are still some stuff left which I would like to work on and some ideas I would like to throw out;

A slightly more interactive dungeon selection system where people can see their stats and dungeon progress on a world map sort of thing. Tiny graves next to the crypt and dead trees with thorns next to the Forest dungeon etc. Once the player completes a dungeon these graves and haunted trees would disappear and if the player manages to clear the dungeon by killing every monster in it will cause the dungeon to collapse and the area around it will turn into happy grassland. The ideal outcome of the game would be to turn the entire world into happy grasslands where the sun shines. So this can give somewhat a purpose other than clearing the dungeons for the sake of it.


Something I found lacking in DA is the connection between levels or plays. Once each play ends the hero goes back to level one without any loot or items from the previous dungeon. I wish there was some way to connect the levels together. A way to achieve this could be to implement a loot (gold coins, artifacts, money or whatever) system so players can spend the loot they acquired from the previous dungeon to give a feeling of progress. 

However buying items and increasing stats before levels may cause balance issues, monsters should be tweaked dependig on the players equipment to keep the game challenging. Maybe loot can be spent to visually customize the hero so players can spend the loot to dress up the hero and see their hero getting stronger (or older?) after each play.

If heroes are to grow old there can be a game mode that makes the heroes become more powerful with age but it will also put a use limit on the heroes so they will die after a certain number of plays. Players will try to survive each dungeon before all their heroes die.

A ranking system to evaluate players performance can spice up the replay value. Players can earn ranks depending on various things such as the number of heroes lost, number of dungeons replayed, amount of food or potions used etc.

Screen glow can be a better and more easy way to show negative and positive stuff (damage, debuff, stun etc.)  happening to the player. This can help people who aren't familiar to DA's rules. This can also make the action look bit more dynamic.


Maybe a log text above the items menu may be useful to tell players what's going on, if a potions is used or not etc. but it may also look ugly by giving not too vital info on small screens. 

No need to mention but there is also the endless possibilities for new heroes and monsters. It shouldn't be too hard to add and balance more enemies. I've come up with some enemies for the fun of it;



Centaur Savage - first strike, runs away to a random tile after each hit.

Vampire Knight - Drains life and heals itself with every melee hit so its better to use ranged magic against it.

Mummy (Toilet Paper Man) - curses the hero and causes potions to be unusable for a couple of turns. (similar to poison and weakness abilities of other monsters.)

Toad - Poison explosion when killed, causing poison to anyone effect by the blast. (this game needs more exploding monsters, so fun the reveal the map and hit people at the same time :))

Possessed - high damage, very low hp

Hell Dweller - magic attack, unaffected by the first magic attack, explodes when killed (fire explosion)

Rogue - has a chance to steal potions from the player

Mad Alchemist - magic attack, has a chance to drop a random potion when killed.

I would also like to work on a complete set of achievement icons as most of the icons burrow stuff from in game art. But stuff like the "underdog" make things somewhat hard to describe with a tiny icon. Life is full of small challenges :)





The Way Things End

DA doesn't care for what happens to the heroes at the end so I spent some time (which I seriously shouldn't have) thinking about what situations the heroes would find themselves at the end. Maybe a screen with a single picture and some text can tell what happens to each of the heroes when they manage to clear every single dungeon in the game. Such idea can be implemented to the game by making the heroes can transform into a new heroes that resembles their old self but with different skills or maybe they could transform into something completely irrelevant and new. (so the knight wont transform into a stronger knight)

I tried to stick to the general humorous approach of DA so here goes;

Beserker (transforms into Aggressive Hobo) After defeating every single dungeon master in the realm the beserker has gathered endless loot and riches. However as things settle down he notices that he has been hurt below 50%  in the process so he goes berserk again, smashing every single loot he has found, leaving him penniless again. He discovers true happiness lies in the frenzy of battle, not the riches.

Priestess (transforms into Killer Elite) The master of healing notices how she has killed more than thousands of creatures so she decides to stop pretending like a healer and heeds the natures call to becomes a master assassin.

Knight (transforms into Overnight Deliveryman)  : After all the running in the dungeons, the knight figures he can run far beyond an average human, the noble lad he is, he decides to put his skills for good use and becomes the first express parcel delivery man in the realm.

Wizard (transforms into Grumpy Celeb) With all the hype of dragon and sorcery movies in the cinemas, the wizard gets discovered by a talent hunter and finds himself engulfed in a new sort of magic... The magic of Hollywood.

Barbarian (barber of fleet street ?)

Bard (lead singer that damages people with its bad voice ?)

Illusionist (second-hand car salesman ?)

Fighter ? (remains fighter as it is not a proper class so nothing special here)

Rogue ?

Translocator? (Master chief or Cook due to skew ability ?)

Battle Mage ?

Ninja ?