Ratopid DevDiary #27 - New Dungeon and Lizard Invasion

1 Jun 2024
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Hello all, it’s Cassel, developer of <Ratopia>. As expected, May was really busy. Although there were many events, we focused on development by operating exhibitions and external events with minimal staff to add as much content as possible for the next major update.

Thank you to everyone who visited "G-Fusion" and "PlayX4".

The long-awaited next update is scheduled for June 17 (KST). The content is still not as polished as we would like, and many bugs are appearing in every test, which is quite concerning. However, we want to release it to users quickly to get feedback and develop in the right direction. After June, we plan to increase the level of completion through subsequent updates and numerous hotfixes, so we ask for a lot of feedback. In this development journal, we will introduce the new dungeon and invasion system added in the next update.

New Dungeon 

The "King's Chamber" dungeon, which appears in the deep desert biome, is the third boss dungeon added to <Ratopia>. It brings the Pharaoh Weasel mummy summoning concept from our previous game <Ratropolis>.

Initially, we envisioned this dungeon as one where players would constantly face mummy weasels from both sides, trying to stop them from stealing artifacts. Players would have to use defensive structures to block these weasels and succeed in looting before they die. As time passes, new enemies with unique traits and elements that players need to destroy would appear, making it a dungeon where players must quickly decide whether to attack, defend, loot, or build.

We designed this dungeon with the expectation that only skilled players would reach it. Therefore, we aimed to provide challenging content through more complex and new systems. However, it didn't turn out as planned. Combining various systems with boss battles required development costs and time equivalent to creating a new game. How it eventually turned out will be explained in the later parts.

The Initial Plan and Concept that seemed simple 

We began development with strong determination and enthusiasm, thinking it would be simple. However, we soon faced various issues. Most of these problems arose from poor control convenience. It would have been ideal if the rats moved and defensive structures were built automatically as players intended. However, in <Ratopia>, the movement, troop management, and construction systems required players to press many control keys. This made the structure too busy and hectic to enjoy the content we wanted to provide in the dungeon.

Therefore, regrettably, we started to change the systems to simplify the original plan. To ensure smooth progression, we significantly reduced the elements that players needed to destroy within the time limit and almost halved the types of enemies appearing in the dungeon. This was an unavoidable choice considering development costs and time.

The Mummy Weasel Breeding Process 

In this dungeon, it was necessary to drastically shorten the construction stage of structures to improve convenience. The first step was to compress the materials needed for building defensive structures into a single resource. Initially, the plan was for players to explore the “King’s Chamber” or defeat enemies to obtain various construction materials. However, identifying and targeting different types of resources among moving enemies was very difficult, and transporting multiple types of resources to the blueprint took too much time. Therefore, compressing the material resources significantly reduced the inconvenience by allowing players to carry only one type of resource.

The next feature we added was automatic acquisition and automatic supply of materials. Even though the resource materials were unified, it was still difficult to aim and pick them up among the enemies. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to improve it further so that resources would be acquired automatically when the player character approached them. By displaying the status of the acquired resources at the top and automatically consuming the materials when building, we were able to completely eliminate the inconvenience of resource transportation. Since there are no citizens or drones in the dungeon to build in place of the leader, this level of convenience improvement seemed necessary.

There would have been no need to unify the construction resources. 

We also tried adding rest periods between enemy appearances to provide time for construction and reorganization. Additionally, we placed sand tiles to allow construction in previously unreachable areas. Improvements were repeatedly made to ensure a comfortable play experience, such as adding braziers to indicate the direction of enemy appearances.

While we spent a lot of time improving convenience, the work to enhance the boss battle also took unexpected time and costs. This dungeon was developed with a focus on defense content rather than boss battles. As a result, even when the boss appeared at the end of the dungeon, it could only summon mummies or strengthen the summoned mummies, which was deemed too unimpressive given its appearance.

Therefore, to make the Pharaoh Weasel a more impactful character like other bosses, we decided to add attack patterns. Initially, we thought simply moving one tile left or right to avoid attacks would be too trivial, so we added several attack patterns that cover a wider range. However, the more ambitious we became, the more development time it consumed.

Could this development ambition be the curse of Tutankhamun? 

With the update date approaching, we could no longer afford to spend much time on the dungeon, and we were very worried about whether the current dungeon with all the changes would work properly. So, we decided to ask experienced <Ratopia> players to test it during the PlayX4 exhibition.

Unexpected problems began to arise. The "King's Chamber" dungeon required interaction with the central sarcophagus to start the main game. However, most players could not even begin because there were no instructions about this. We had to verbally guide them to proceed to the next step, but then they didn't notice the approaching enemies. Although we intended for players to build defensive structures to defend themselves, not a single person built any. Seeing it not function as intended made it clear that we needed to provide much more detailed explanations.

Despite spending months developing it, players were stuck from the beginning…

We also spent considerable effort on the final battle with the Pharaoh Weasel, but the demonstration ended without players properly experiencing these systems, which was quite disappointing. Nonetheless, I’m grateful that we were able to identify these issues now, and we plan to use the remaining time to refine the game. Another dungeon, which I couldn't introduce in this journal, also has many discovered problems, so we will need to speed up our work.

Lizard Invasion 

The lizard invasion is a new type of invasion that appears after the weasel invasion and targets cities with a high prosperity level. There were several ideas for the invasion method, such as an aerial assault on the player base or an appearance on water tiles. However, we decided that the most suitable method was for habitats to form around the city, gradually expanding and applying pressure.

Unlike previous invasions, this one focuses less on reinforcing city defenses to repel the invading enemies. Instead, we wanted players to train soldiers and launch expeditions outside the city to attack the lizard colonies. This approach introduces new tasks for players and offers a different experience from the usual invasions.

To achieve this, several new features had to be researched. First, there needed to be scenarios where enemies did not invade even when the invasion cycle was reached. We also had to implement a feature where lizard soldiers would appear to defend their colony when it was attacked. Additionally, as time passed, the lizard colonies needed to grow and exert increasing pressure on the player.

Will you really destroy the bustling, happy lizard village? 

As we developed this new invasion system, it required extensive research and testing, along with various design considerations. Notably, we had to think about what to do if players trapped the lizard colony with walls, whether players could actually find the lizard colony if it didn't invade the city, and if it could serve as a more intense threat and pressure than the weasel invasion.

One quick way to resolve these issues was to apply the existing invasion system. Although I was reluctant to do this because it made the new invasion too similar to the previous ones, it had the advantage of ensuring that the defensive structures players had built up to that point would not become worthless.

Knock knock. It's your neighbor, just stopping by to say hello~ 

Thus, the method where enemies from the lizard colony invade the player’s city was applied. As the lizard colony grows, more lizard soldiers appear, making them harder to deal with. We were worried that this might lead players to destroy the lizard colony as soon as it appears. If this happens, the elite lizard soldiers prepared for the later stages wouldn't even get a chance to appear, and the late-game crisis would be resolved too quickly, potentially leading to boredom.

We wanted players to face multiple battles, gradually overcoming the crisis rather than driving out the lizards completely in one fight. Therefore, it was necessary to make it difficult for players to immediately eradicate the lizard colony.

To achieve this, there needed to be a mechanism to protect the lizard colony when it was attacked immediately after its creation. We decided to introduce the 'Kingzard,' the leader of the lizards, making it difficult for players to defeat it without sufficient military strength. This was intended to encourage players to invest time in training soldiers for their attacks.

The once bulky Kingzard had to go on a diet to be able to roam outside the dungeon. 

Since the Kingzard was added as a powerful guardian of the lizard colony, it needed to possess strong combat abilities and high intelligence. It could swiftly chase down soldiers attacking the lizard colony and deliver powerful stun attacks. Even when isolated by the player's baiting strategy, it could teleport back to its base to avoid being easily defeated. However, making the Kingzard so powerful introduced new challenges when combined with the lizard invasion system.

If the scale of the lizard invasion is too strong, it creates too much anxiety for the player. Conversely, if it is too weak, there won’t be enough military pressure, which could lead to a lack of motivation to attack the lizard colony. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to resolve this dilemma. After much deliberation, we decided that even if the lizard colony grows, the invasion scale does not become excessively strong. Instead, the size of the defending lizard forces would significantly increase when the player attacks the lizard colony. To compensate for the reduced potential invasion scale, we decided to address the reason for attacking the lizard colony by having the citizens' happiness decrease as the colony grows.

Although players might still feel uneasy not knowing how low the happiness could drop, the pressure should be lessened since the city won't be destroyed in one go by an invasion. Additionally, to reduce stress from late-game invasions, we plan to add events that prevent invasions and events where players could incur losses in trade due to the lizard colony, to balance the game.

Although players might still feel uneasy not knowing how low the happiness could drop, the pressure should be lessened since the city won't be destroyed in one go by an invasion. Additionally, to reduce stress from late-game invasions, we plan to add events that prevent invasions and events where players could incur losses in trade due to the lizard colony, to balance the game.

Let's provide money and food so the lizards don't starve. 

This covers the content we developed this time. I would like to introduce more, but we need to continue working on the remaining tasks, so I’ll stop here. We will do our best to continue development in the remaining time, so please look forward to this update! Thank you for reading this long post.

Steam Store: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2244130/Ratopia/

Discord: https://discord.gg/rprfSp6ct2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CasselGames/

Twitter(X): https://twitter.com/CasselGames

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