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Big, fat Fate interview

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Big, fat Fate interview

Interview - posted by Saint_Proverbius on Fri 27 May 2005, 08:00:39

Tags: Fate; Wild Tangent

1.) What made you want to make Fate? What experience did you have leading up to Fate?

I've always been a fan of rougelikes, and obviously Diablo. Blizzard deserves a lot of credit when talking about this game, as I've employed most of the interface advances that they invented. I've been at WildTangent for about 7 years, and built a lot of different projects during that time, from advertising-based racing games (NASCAR, etc. ) to space sims, to a port of Tony Hawk 2. But you've probably never heard of any of these things, nor me :)

2.) Fate employs a random dungeon generator to create the levels in the game. Can you tell us the constraints on the generator? Does the tileset for each level affect the generation scheme?

The tileset itself does not affect the generation scheme - there are template files that lay out the boundaries of level size, path twistiness, sparsity of tunnels, room count ranges, room sizes, dead endedness, etc. Then there are tileset 'window-dressings' that go over that base structure. Each level template also has a large script of rules that defines what props can be placed, and where.

3.) Fate features pets who not only fight with you, but can also haul treasure up and sell it for you. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for pets? Any particular thing about the pets that you feel makes them interesting?

Pets are really inspired by the classic roguelikes. I couldn't quite get in teaching your dog to steal for you, so instead, I really focused on polymorphing and features to remove tedium. Being able to transform your pet into other creatures with fish is pretty rewarding and fun, and adds some strategy to a lot of the battles.

4.) There's a Renown system in Fate, meaning that as you gain fame, you can raise your skills higher and use better items. Can you tell us a little bit about why you added this? What makes gaining fame fun and interesting for the player?

I think that more than anything, Fame is just a more enjoyable measurement of your progress than 'Level 5' - having a renown of Respected just seems more satisfying. I also wanted a secondary leveling process for boosting skill, and a way to actually purchase those levels as an extra gold-sink ( the minstrel ). There were also initially ideas that your Fame would translate into the gameworld - you'd see bigger and bigger statues of yourself, and items would begin to be named after you - but those features had to be deferred to a later version.

5.) Fate has randomly generated quests to spice up dungeon travel. Can you tell us a little bit about how this works? How are the objectives decided on? How does it plot where the quests will be and how this affects the dungeon generation?

Basically, quests are pretty simple. I believe there are 6 base types, and they are all variations on the 'Kill Foozle' 'Retrieve Item' quests we've all seen, ad nauseum. So instead of investing them with a lot of trappings to try and disguise the fact that they're pretty cookie cutter, I've tried to just streamline the process so that it is less narrative, and more goal-driven. Quests can only appear on levels that you have not visited yet, so they serve as 'downward propulsion'. There is also some strategy in 'packing' your quests into unvisited levels to get the most fame and experience per level. They don't affect dungeon generation at all, in the end - they just use the dungeons they are given to work with.

6.) When a character completes the main objective, he can either retire or go further in the dungeon. What's the limit of the dungeon levels? What's in the game to keep the player going deeper and deeper after he's completed the main objective?

There is no effective limit to the dungeon levels - you can just keep heading downward. There's a PRACTICAL limit, as your character's level caps at 99. Eventually, you just won't be able to handle the tougher creatures, and will have to call it a day - or really tweak your magical loadout.

Many of the Elite and Legendary items in the game are only available at levels below the 'endgame' quest level. So if you want to pass them on to your descendent, you'll need to delve a little deeper. Moreover, ALL items at deeper levels have better enchantments, so you can max out the enchantments on amulets, or rings, or other helpful bits you might want to pass on.

7.) Once retired, a player can create a descendent of that character. What are the advantages of doing this? What about retirement and descendents do you feel makes the game better?

The primary advantage is that you get to pass on a family heirloom, which automatically gets a 25% bonus to all magical effects. Weapons and Armor passed down also increase in grade. Your descendent also starts out with better fame each time you retire, allowing them to use more potent items earlier in the game. I think retirement allows you to strategize in a little different way - you can actually spend some time pre-building and enchanting items with an eye to the type of character you want to play next time. There are a lot of different tactics concerning what you might want to hand off - a midgame item? Something that can be equipped right away? Or a staff full of gems that can be broken out to buff early items? I think it's a fun addition that adds a little extra replayability.

8.) Fate offers shrines/altars with random outcomes occationally in the dungeon. Can you tell us a little bit about them? What they do? What are the advantages and disadvantages of characters using them?

Most of these are inspired by the classic Telengard, which had Shrines that you could donate money at to receive stat bonuses. There were also Thrones that you could pry the gems out of. In addition to Magic Anvils, they add little moments of risk to break up the dungeons - should I or shouldn't I? The rewards can be pretty amazing, but the penalties can really stink. I think that sort of permanent-effect risk is part of the fun of roguelikes.

9.) There's fishing in Fate. Can you tell us a little bit about fishing? How many types of fish are there? What determines the power of the fish and type of fish when fishing? Anything about when you fish up an item instead of a fish?

Fishing is a simple and fun diversion for the most part, with some nice benefits.

Primarily, you can catch fish that transform your pet into new creatures, each with different strengths and weaknesses. I want to say that there are about 20 different breeds of fish, or somewhere thereabouts. There are also different sizes of fish, which determine the duration of the transformation - Flawless fish are permanent. You can also find magical items and gems inside of fish, as well as unique Artifacts. With enough time spent, you can pull some pretty amazing stuff out of the water.

10.) Most rogue-likes and Diablo style games have classes. Instead, Fate uses a skill system. Any reason why you went with a free form skill system? Any upsides and downsides to this?

There are a couple of reasons for this -

Primarily, I wanted players to be able to change the direction of their play midgame. Having a universal skill system with diminishing returns lets you switch between without too much of a penalty - especially since you can buy skill points.

Also, it's frankly a lot easier to balance than a classed system, and quicker to develop. Since all characters can use all skills and spells, they don't have to complement each other as rigidly.

The updside is real flexibility with your character - you can have a spellcasting tank, a summoning archer, basically whatever you like.

The downside is that the skills and spells don't have the same tailored 'uniqueness' of skill trees that makes each playthrough VASTLY different. You can play through the game very differently, but you can always dip in and taste everything if you want to. With a classed system, the next time you play, you really discover something different that you had no access to before.

11.) There are eight weapon skills in the game. Can you tell us a little bit about how they work as you advance them? How do they affect your ability to kill critters?

Weapon skills are the simplest - each point invested increases base damage dealt by 1 and Attack Rating by 1 - at lower levels, this is extremely potent, while at higher levels less so. This makes it easier to skill up in multiple weapon types and still get a return, which is one of the advantages of dual wielding...

12.) Can you tell us a little about the mod kit for the game? What can you change with it? What can't you change with it? Any other limitations?

The mod kit basically includes all my 3DSMax plugins used to make the game, a viewer that you can see all 3D assets with, and preview animations, and some documentation on the various plain-text data files in the game. I used wordpad to make all the data files, so they're pretty readable as is.

You can change all the 3D art in the game, including the town, tilesets, weapons, armor, monsters, characters, heads, spells, etc. All of the 2D textures are uncompressed PNG files that are easily editable. Sounds are also standard formats.

You can add as many new monster types as you like, you can modify existing ones, you can add or modify spells, items, or townsfolk. You can totally rebuild/rearrange the town and change all the merchants. You can add new level types to the dungeon. You can add new kinds of breakable items and chests.

You CAN'T add new skills or change the underlying rule system, and you cannot add 'fixed' levels other than the town. You also cannot change the default controls of the game, or the camera angle.

Basically, you can make an entirely different roguelike within the bounds of this game.

13.) You've mentioned a version 2 of Fate. Can you tell us a little more about it? Any plans for it? What you'd like to see in the game?

There are no firm plans, but I would love to do it. In version 2 ( if it comes to pass ) I would love to add even more classic roguelike stuff, and really increase the depth of the game as far as item/monster/pet interactivity. I'd also like to have the ability for premade quests to be inserted, as well as premade levels. Melee-specific spells would be great. A greater emphasis on fame, as mentioned in one of the earlier questions. There have been a lot of requests for Multiplayer, so that has to be considered as well...

I'd like to thank Travis Baldree for taking the time to answer these questions about Fate.

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