Borderline [7DRL 2017] [Success] and postmortem

Hello all. That is my hmm… 4th 7DRL attempt (6th if you count OoC ones), perhaps not the best one, but neither the worst.

It is a success and can be downloaded here:
https://github.com/konovod/borderline/releases (for Windows, Mac and Android. Linux version can be built from source)

It is a hybrid of 4X strategy and roguelike. It lacks roguelikish ascii-aesthetics (and lack aesthetics at all, i know), but gameplay is imo close to roguelikes. Or maybe not. Well, try it yourself.

In this game, you must capture alien planets, research technologies, build ships, and protect your territory by minefields. The roguelike part is that the player is an only human ship capable of FTL travel (they stole it from aliens, check story in readme.txt), so the only way to change priorities on planet or get research levels from it is to jump there (wasting precious time).

Combat is mostly automatic, it have some mechanics inside (different fireranges of ships, partial damaging) but player just have to push forward until he wins or lose.

There is also a (short) story in game, with prophecies (1 item), eternal love (1 item) and misunderstandings. This story limits the length of game, so even though there are about 100 star systems on an average map, winning is possible and maybe too easy (at least for an author). Overall gameplay isn’t very deep, but there is still some tactics required and there are some interesting situations (especially when alien starts counter-attacks).

When starting a game i had a choice – either use a cool new language, Crystal, or an old workhorse, Pascal. But at the last day i discovered that my linux video driver don’t works after update, and Crystal don’t support Windows, so the choise was obvious.

Pascal means more verbose code, but has stable crossplatfrom engine, so i hope to spend most time to the game itself, not solving problems of compiler or library bindings.

What went good:

  • Crossplatform. well, there are some rough edges, like too small elements on android version, but that is due the GUI building, not the engine.
  • Gameplay. As always, at a first half of 7DRL my most serious concern is “the idea is risky, will it be playable at all or just boring and repetitive?”. And this year i’ve skipped most of the first weekend (started at 20:30 Sunday), so this question settled me 5 days of 7. But when all moving parts was in place, gameplay appeared to be well, not ideal, but pretty funny. There is even a small period of time when it looks exactly how intended – humans empire is pushed hard and player must spread time between building defences after losing systems and gathering force to continue expansion.
  • Most of the planned features was done. At first checklist looked pretty dangerous, but except for scouts and colonies size all mechanics was done and i have even time to add story and a small balance test.

What went bad:

  • GUI. It is relatively easy to create acceptably looking forms in ASCII, just draw a border, maybe add one or two extra rows here and there and it is done. But when doing the same on pixel level the code become a mess and a result still looks pretty ugly. Different sizes of font adds more ugliness. Usually i’m trying to have GUI as minimal as possible and instead show all information on actual game field with units, but the game idea forced me to add e.g. the battle screen:
  • One of the problems of game is lack of information – player see actual state only of the current system, so it is possible that aliens already destroyed everything else but he will not discover it and still try to conquer next one bastion. This was intentional, but now i understand that it makes the game pretty unpredictable. Player have no chance to understand alien invasions mechanics, BTW it’s pretty fun, “seed” from captured planet escape and some time travel randomly in search for support, but then returns gathering all ships on the route and seeking revenge. But player just see that eventually the system become dead and he most likely won’t even meet invasion force.
  • The code is a mess. At first I thought that it would be fun to eventually improve 7DRL to something closer to big 4X game, but then [lack of time -> hardcoding features and mechanics -> add more crunches] made it almost impossible without full rewrite.

Well, thanks for the attention, good bye, going to have some rest and start checking others 7DRLs. Right now i’m feeling envy to those with beautiful graphics and\or genially simple gameplay ideas, but this hopefully won’t stop me from getting a pleasure playing them.

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