When I describe Proelium, I tend to call it “an MMO boss fight in a box.” As I mentioned in my post on “Inspiration”, it is our central adversaries that make up the core of our flagship title. Some of these antagonists are massive single creatures, while others are groups of smaller enemies, but each represents a unique challenge players must overcome to emerge victorious. Today, you get an introduction to one of our formidable foes and a sneak peak at what steps we went through to make the Hydra.
I never really know how difficult any particular monster will be when I start working on it. Some monsters come to life almost fully formed while others take weeks of perpetual tweaks just to be playable. The Hydra, thankfully, belonged to the former group.
The inclusion of a hydra was almost a forgone conclusion once we landed on our sector based combat. Few mythical or fantasy creatures represent the challenges involved in destroying an enemy piece by piece quite like this multi-headed monstrosity. The simple mention of it’s name practically fills out a targeting system by itself.
My first version of the Hydra was simple and came together very quickly. The actual layout of the sectors have remained consistent to this day with heads radiating from a central body and a few small attacks bothering the players in the form of claws and the ever-annoying tail. However, Proelium is a game where art speaks as loudly as mechanics when it comes to player engagement, and I knew I had to find some placeholder art for it before I was comfortable testing with others.
Thankfully, I was able to use Google Image Search to find a hydra sketch that was remarkably close to the layout I originally intended. This six headed hydra, drawn by Mila Stardream was fantastic for the picture, with each head landing in almost the perfect location. I used my simply atrocious Paint.net skills to remove the superfluous head (sorry Mila), and our very first test card for the Hydra was born.
Shortly after we added art to our original Excel Monster Cards, we realize that our simplistic monster stats would not work for a game that should be playable and fun for groups ranging between two and six players. To account for this, we broke our design philosophy into a two-pronged approach with one version of the monster being for 1-3 players and the other version being for 4+. This approach greatly improved testing and dominated our monster development through the beginning of 2015.
In mid December of 2014, I decided to buy Photoshop and teach myself how to use it to increase the quality of our prototypes. In our run up to PAX South in January, we decided to use what I had learned to upgrade our simple Excel prototypes into more public friendly versions using an overlay I developed with the help of our character artist, Holly Hansel. Once again, I used Mila’s hydra , simply converting it into a vector graphic to match the 10 inch x 10 inch requirements of the card.
After returning from PAX, we were emboldened with our choices in the game and decided it was time to find an artist who could help bring our vision of these Monster Cards to life. After an exhaustive search of some very talented artist, we found a kindred soul in Ruk Trumata. He understood our themes, knew our inspirations, and we could tell his art would be a wonderful fit. For his first monster, we wanted to see what he could do with the Hydra; needless to say, we were not disappointed.
During PAX, we also received a lot of fantastic input from players and other designers, causing us to once again go back to the drawing board regarding out monster scaling. Namely, players wanted things to escalate more than our previous approach would allow, so we decided to leverage what we learned to make even more powerful forms of the monsters. Now, instead of breaking up stats based on group size, the Monster Cards have four levels, letting larger groups find much greater challenge as the game progresses.
As testing and art assets continue to evolve and improve, we find ourselves more and more excited about the look and feel of Proelium. With the assistance of our talented artists and the wonderful insight of our testers, we believe our game is becoming the type of product we can truly be proud to stand behind.
As a closing note, I made a gif showing the amazing improvements Ruk is doing to his original sketch, and let me tell you, we are loving it.
Thank you to everyone for checking out our progress.