The Last Blog #11 – Prologue release

Published: Category:Dev BlogWritten by: pingu

Hello mighty heroes,

So, it’s been a while since we last wrote a blog post… We’ve been quite busy with other things. (yes, looking at you 2020)

Despite the mega-mess we are in with the covid situation, we are glad to say that it didn’t impact the game development too much. The team adapted well to remote work and last minute changes, it’s not ideal but overall we can’t complain. We hope that everything is fine on your side. Wear a mask and stay safe!

We also had to expand the team to reach all of our objectives, so it took a little bit of time for everything to run smoothly. The good news is that we now have some real firepower in terms of production, we can implement new features a lot quicker while preserving a stable state of the game.

So big cheers to Adrien who joined the art team, Robin, Rack and Anthony who joined the dev team and Eloïse who joined the communication team!

The prologue [insert creepy jingle]

So yeah, back on track! A few months ago we participated in the Steam Festival with a nice little demo. It was very important for us to gather some early feedbacks on the game, so we could make some adjustments before any kind of release. So a huge thank you to anyone who reported anything about the demo… it’s a tremendous help for us!

We identified some areas where the game was lacking. The two main ones were:

  • Melee weapons seemed underwhelming compared to ranged ones, for a lot of reasons.
  • The production phase was kind of messy, it inherited from old design choices that were not consistent anymore, so the learning curve was too high for our own taste (and the flow was very bad).

Another big weakness that we observed ourselves and which didn’t please us from a design standpoint was that despite having multiple skills for each weapon, it was often more simple and even more optimized to use only one basic skill and spam it 5 or 6 times during a character’s turn. That was not satisfying.

So with that in mind, we made some last changes on the main features of the game which would hopefully correct these flaws – and I think we reached this objective.

We also continued to implement items from our (big) feature list which still wasn’t present into the game, despite belonging to the core game experience.

We worked hard, and are now proud to present the latest, fresh from the oven, build of the game in the form of a free Prologue!

Why a Prologue?

  • With that, we are able to show you a new version of the game and get some more feedbacks!
  • For now, it’s the best way on Steam to get some attention from players before release… that’s not ideal, but it’s the only way to get some real exposure and hopefully give us the most chances to make our real launch a success.

A successful launch for us is mandatory, because it will give us the strength to update, update, update the game in the long run. That’s something we want to do, but if the game sales don’t look promising, it could jeopardize everything :/

So if you want to help us: download the Prologue, and if you like what you see, Wishlist and Follow The Last Spell on Steam! That’s the best way to help us. You can also leave a review on the Prologue which will help us gain traction, and spread the word on social networks!

New features

Workers system

One of the biggest change in the Prologue was reworking the way the production phase was working. We had this legacy system where the heroes could help during the day with production of building by using their Action Points. There were a lot of flaws in this system: it was counter-intuitive, not self-explanatory, and we commited the most terrible sin a game designer could ever make: 1 feature had 2 functions and 2 ways of working (during nighttime, AP regenerates at each turn and is used to launch attacks; during daylight they would serve as a one time boost to help produce things)

On top of that, we faced hard balancing issues because gaining new AP for your heroe – or worse – recruiting a new hero would dramatically enhance your “help production” capacity, so well… it was a nightmare. The UX was also very bad (select a hero, then choose the skill in the action bar, then select a building…)

So now we have a new “resource”: workers. You use them to help during production phase and you can get more by building new houses. It’s a self-contained system that works really well and corrects all the flaws of the older system. You still have to carefully think about how to use these workers efficiently, there is a little board-game feel about it, AND it makes so much more sense from a lore standpoint (not that we cared that much ;)), during day the people of the city that you protect every night get to work and your mighty heroes get some hard earned rest.

Buildings selection + upgrades

We expanded on our base building gameplay: you can now click on buildings and select them. They have their own action bar: you can destroy, repair, use workers, use their special ability when there is one… and now you can even upgrade them!

We have the basics of the system implemented: each building has 2 upgrade paths for now, with varying effects. In our minds, the upgrades should take an important role during mid-late game when your city is fully built.

Skills limit system

To correct a lot of things we didn’t like regarding how the skills were used in battle for now, we added this system: each skill now has a limited number of use each turn. It’s not as hard as a consumable skill, but with that you naturally have to make use of at least 2 or 3 different skills each turn, which is more interesting for us in a design standpoint: we can now design very strong skills, but with only 1 use per turn for example. Or we can make low cost skills but with limited uses, etc… Before that we only had the AP and Mana costs to balance the power of the skill, and it was just not enough…

Moreover, this system enabled us to give a little edge for Melee weapons: they tend to naturally have more uses than their ranged counterparts. It helps giving them a bit more love. Ranged weapons have this really strong advantage of enabling you to kill from afar, so we had to balance them down since we removed the need of having ammunitions for them (best decision ever… it was really annoying).

This skill limit works a bit like ammunitions in the end, but in a really less irritating way.

1 additionnal skill on every weapon

This being said, we deeply felt the need to expand the arsenal of skills available to the heroes since you have to play a lot more with different skills.

We had in mind from the start to add new skills for high level weapons, but we felt that they were lacking depth from the beginning, so we just added 1 new skill for EVERY weapon in the game!

We also tweaked a bit every older skill to adapt to the changes.

The idea was to add another low level / low cost skill that would easily be usable like the first skill of each weapon. These 2 skills should be in general the less situationnal ones.

New special skill effects

We already felt that we were kind of limited by the possibilities of doing different unique skills, but adding a new skill for every weapon made it clear for us that we needed new toys to play with. So we added a bunch of new effects which can be used by skills:

  • Isolated: bonus damage to enemies who don’t have any other enemy standing next to them. Backstab ’em all!
  • Momentum: bonus damage scaling with moves you made before launching the attack (think of a Charge!)
  • Follow: if you kill the enemy, you take its place. Ninja!
  • Opportunistic: gives bonus damage to targets already inflicted with a debuff or bad status effect like poison or stun. You sneaky bastard!
  • Inaccurate: makes the weapon deal less damage after a certain range. Useful effect we use on ranged weapons, to tune them down a little bit more.
  • RegenStats: just a basic effect to make AP, Move, Mana or HP regenerating skills.
Effect example – Inaccurate

New level ups UI

A “simple” quality of life change: now the level ups are managed directly in the character sheet, so you have access to all the information about your character while making your bonus attribute choice. It’s less beautiful that way, but it’s 100x more usable, so we had to do it.

Secondary Attributes

We also added some space for the player to track the modifiers he/she has on a secondary set of attributes. For now, only perks, items and traits can change these secondary attributes, but we are thinking about expanding on it in the future.

New enemies

A lot of changes here!

We added a lot of variety in the basic “clawer” enemies. Now some have little modifiers on them: some move a bit quicker, some have a bit of armor, etc…

We also added new special enemies which always have a little something peculiar. We’ll let you discover their behavior ingame, but here is the list of what monstruosities you may encounter:

  • The Splitter (Tier 2)
  • The Winged (Tier 2)
  • The Archer (Tier 2)
  • The Ripper (Tier 3)
Gargoyles (Winged)

Wounds system

Another thing we didn’t like, is that we felt that special effects such as Stun or Poison were… not that useful… because there was no difference between a full health enemy and one who had only 1 HP left. So your priority as a player was to kill the weakened ones as soon as possible.

To correct this, we added the baseground of a new feature: a wounds system. Reaching certain HP treshold, enemies and heroes alike will get some big maluses. With that, you can totally just weaken some enemies and leave them be while you concentrate your fire on other foes.

We may expand on this feature later, but it’s already giving great effects to the flow of battle.

Battle UI revamp

We changed a lot of small things in the UI, such as the way the enemies gauges work and displays, and most importantly we added a lot of feedback on the targeting system: you’ll now clearly see if you have a chance to hit one of your comrades, etc…

Traits system v2

We reworked how the Traits are generated for heroes. The goal was to make them more impactful on the characteristics of your team.

Now each hero has a first Trait which will define what occupation he/she had before the end of the world, and the 2 other Traits are more “genetic” ones.

We also added some hidden system which enable us to balance the generation of Traits between the starting team, so that if you get very lucky on one hero, you’ll get worse Traits on the others. You may end up with funky teams with one “chosen” hero and two useless ones, but overall the system balances the team so that you won’t feel the urge to re-roll every game 😉

Miscellaneaous

  • Save system: you can now quit and reload your game. Sweet!
  • Lifetime stats: a shit-ton of stats for your little heroes. Just for fun for now, but we may expand on the feature at some point…
  • Starting heroes: to make the game a bit more accessible, we now generate 1 melee hero, 1 ranged hero and 1 magic user. For now it does the job, later we will expand on the idea.
  • Heroes generation v2: now there is less randomness in the primary attributes at generation, the real differences between heroes come from the Traits they come with. I won’t go into too much details, but we changed how the starting crew is generated for a more balanced experience.
  • Animations & small fx: we added a lot of eye candy, like small animations when the buildings are constructed, blood and damage fx, etc…
  • AI: we completely reworked how the AI works, to let our designers create more interesting behaviors in the future. (we already have implemented new behaviors like archers shooting from range or winged enemies trying to circle the city)
  • New portraits: a batch of new portraits for your heroes. We are working on a cool new feature for the portraits, we’ll talk about it in an upcoming dev blog entry 😉
  • New perks: we reworked the perks to work with the new systems we have. It’s still heavily work in progress, but it does the job for now.
  • Main attributes rework: we reworked some attributes. We changed the old accuracy into a secondary attribute and replaced with damage bonus for the 3 types of weapons we have: melee, magic and range.

Have fun!

Sheesh! Yes, that’s… a lot

We hope you will enjoy the Prologue as much as we had fun developing and playing it! And stay tuned for the next releases, there are still A LOT of new toys incoming for you to happily slay monsters all night long.

A final word: Jacques, our Art Director, made this great artwork to celebrate the release of the prologue!

-The Last Team

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