Ruin of the Reckless #4 – The leveluppening – Part II

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Hello again friends! Today we are going to talk a bit about the philosophy behind Ruin of the Reckless, and then we will discuss how that philosophy impacts our solution to the ‘leveling up’ issue that we talked about in the last article.

So, when it came to solving the issue I came back to a talk by Rami Ismail (50% of Vlambeer) where he discusses the theming of games and how they stress those themes with their mechanics.

A game I don’t personally enjoy, but which every designer should respect. (Fez)

I can’t track down the video, but the example Rami used was ‘Fez’; specifically how early in the game you encounter a 2D world, as you progress it transitions to 3D, and then the game starts exploring concepts of 4D movement. For the player, it’s a good design because as they learn about the world it gets more complex… ( and more interesting) but here’s the real trick; As you progress in the game, you are exploring a society’s progression through time, the history of man kind as a primordial (2 dimensional race) it’s an allegory, an involved metaphor. Fez is trying to tell us where we came from. You can decide if it succeeds or not for yourself.

Any one who has seen the stellar ending to Braid knows that its mechanics match its theming.

So the mechanics of the actual gameplay re-inforce the theme. That’s a neat trick, and no mean feat for a designer to accomplish.

So I guess the question is, what does any of this have to do with leveling up in an action rogue-lite game like Ruin of the Reckless?

Well first, let’s ask what our theme is? In Ruin of the Reckless, the player plays as a displaced spirit, lost between worlds. After dying foolishly due to his own ego, he finds himself in a place where the strongest spirits are those that died in the most reckless ways… whether they died through foolish bravado or courageous self-sacrifice… they all end up here, and they have to play by the tower’s rules.

What is ‘really’ going on inside that tower…?

This mechanic of ‘foolish recklessness bringing reward or punishment’ is the central theme of the game. We encourage our players to take risks, and those risks are the key to gaining power. For example, staying on one floor too long to collect extra items will bring ‘ghost’ type enemies in. The longer you stay, the more will come. But perhaps there’s something very important you want to recover before you get chased out…

So when we sat down to tackle this question about leveling up, we wanted to choose a solution that both improved on our predecessors and also expressed the theme. We also wanted a solution that could add a lot of variety to the early game progression, because you’re going to be dying and starting over a lot, we want that to be fun and exciting rather than incredibly frustrating.

Enter The Skill Orb


A skill orb in it’s… natural… habitat.  MWAHAHA
This is a skill-orb. Three will spawn on every floor of the tower. They take about a half second to consume, and during that time you are vulnerable. Once you do consume it, though, you will gain a permanent new ability. This orb is an orb of scavenging; it adds extra gold drops to enemies.

There are a few catches though. Most importantly, skill orbs are fragile. Enemies won’t prioritize them to attack, but they will try to attack you and if any thing hits a skill orb at all, be it you or an enemy, it will rocket off and explode. That means that you may never get to see the ability it would have granted, and it definitely means you will have fewer choices when you level up.

Another catch, you can only equip one skill orb each time you level up. Choose carefully.

Also, as mentioned, the orbs explode when they are destroyed. Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki once said that a game designer should always make sure that ‘miracles can happen.’ What will players call it when an orb rockets over from off screen and saves their life? I hope they are pretty happy about it.

We are also really happy with the way this influences player decision-making. Whereas in the system described in our last article the player says “Hmm… here are three abilities, which one is the best” and then takes that one… Ruin of the Reckless is asking players to make a much more complex decision.

1) Do you carefully cut through the tower protecting the orbs, avoiding fighting near them, so that you always have the maximum number of choices when you level?
2) Do you use the orbs aggressively as a weapon, taking advantage of the fact that they explode to make short work of enemies?
3) Do you check each orb early on each floor, try to figure out which one you want, and do every thing you can to protect ‘that’ orb?
4) Do you skip the orbs on this floor and hope you have better luck next floor (knowing, that on the next floor you might not be able to protect the orbs you want any way.)

5) How much are you willing to risk to get the best possible outcome from the skill orbs you find?

You can also buy skill orbs in the shop, or at the beginning of the game when you pick out your starting equipment, decisions… decisions…

Players get excited when they find the orb they need to progress their build… and crushed when they realize they let it get destroyed by a slime. Another thing is that the orbs stack; allowing for lots of different early game combinations that feel really different… and since the game gets harder as you progress… it gets harder to pick up the ‘ideal’ orb as the game goes on… meaning whatever abusive build you’re trying to get going, it will be a real accomplishment if you manage to put it together.

That’s all for today.  Tune in next time when we will talk about… something really neat that you definitely won’t want to miss. (hopefully…)

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