Aug, 04
The future of KeeperRL

You might have noticed a bit of radio silence from me in the last couple of months, and this is because I’ve been somewhat burnt out after the six-month push for the Alpha 30 patch, and I needed a bit of a break. As KeeperRL has been in development for more than seven years now, I think it’s good both for the game and for me to distance myself every once in a while to take a breath.

Alpha 30 was originally intended to be a milestone update, after which KeeperRL was going to transition into a Beta stage, but I ultimately decided against using these official terms to avoid confusion, since nowadays they mean different things to different people. Nevertheless the focus of development has been shifting and will shift even more. If you’re interested, these are the areas that I intend to work on the most in the upcoming year or two.

Content additions

For a while the highest item on my list of new features has been to add more playable factions, and the Gnomes that came in Alpha 30 were part of that plan. There are three new factions that have a 99% chance of making it into the game, and they are:

  • Dwarves: focused on equipment and combat tactics.
  • Necromancer: summoning ‘canon fodder’ and researching mutation magic.
  • Adventurer guild: exploring and looting, with a smaller base-building component.

Whether a new faction is added to the game is decided based on my ability to create rich gameplay for it, one that’s meaningfully different from what already exists. For the above list this is pretty certain, and there are three more factions in my notes that are a bit more unfinished and ‘risky’: Dragon, Peasants, and Greenskins. I will also look through some mods to search for new, cool ideas, which I know that clever KeeperRL modders have come up with a lot of :).

The other major area of content that I’m going to work on are new secrets, which I’m a very big fan of, and which I think can work really well in KeeperRL. I also need to start gathering data on how players deal with specific secrets, to make sure their difficulty is right. I haven’t received much feedback on what came out in Alpha 30, and I’m very curious how people liked it, so please let me know if you have any comments :).

Quality of life improvements

For a long time players have complained about clunky combat and bad unit AI, which make battles cumbersome as you keep switching between single and full control to stop your troops from doing dumb things. I have a couple of solutions that I think should fix many of these issues, and that are simple enough to add on top of the existing, already complex user interface.

The first is an explicit classification of all units into ‘melee’, ‘ranged’, and ‘healer’ types, which will affect their behavior in battles. The game will offer default choices for all creatures, but the player will be able to tweak them at any point to force desired behavior. Based on their defined type, a creature will attack head on or stay in the back of their group.

The second improvement will be a system of explicit orders in both the real-time and in the turn-based modes, using an extended drag & drop interface. For example you’ll be able to order a chosen team member to wait at a spot or to explore a given area without having to control it directly.

Of course these are only some of the improvements that I plan to add, and a lot more will come based on your feedback.

Game balance

KeeperRL has never had any systematic work done on game balance, which I’m sure greatly affects gameplay. For example there are many ways to structure enemy difficulty: some allow a lot of freedom, but can also be too boring, others make the progress more rigid. The player’s development curve can also be tweaked by changing the availability of resources and general difficulty. This can take the game from being mildly boring to very exciting with relatively small changes.

I’ve been working a semi-automatic tool in the form of a mini text-based game that simulates most strategic choices in KeeperRL, and which uses real content from the game. It would give insights on the difficulty curves, and allow tweaking things without having the replay the full game dozens of times. So far my attempt didn’t work out, but I’ll put more work into it, as it could potentially allow huge improvements.

Modding support

Modding has been a big part of KeeperRL for the last couple of years, and there are always improvements and requested features waiting to be added, so I will definitely put more work into this area.

One thing that I’ve been casually working on is a tool for modding randomly generated maps, which is currently not possible. It involves writing code similar to the current Effects system, which roughly defines what features an area consists of, but leaves it to the game to randomize it. You can find a preliminary version of the tool here.

Since it’s an external tool with its own (very simple) map display, it allows rapidly prototyping new levels without having to actually run KeeperRL and manually explore your levels. I expect to be able to use it myself to add a massive amount of new level types with relatively little work compared to the current system.

Bonus question: when will KeeperRL leave Early Access?

While we’re discussing the future of KeeperRL, it seems fitting to try to answer the most common question that people ask me :). I don’t have a date or even a fixed plan for releasing the full version of KeeperRL, since an open-ended style of development has suited me the most so far.

Announcing a 1.0 release has a big symbolic meaning, and it’s also a one time opportunity to have a lot of new eyes look at the game, so it makes sense for me to try to make it as complete as possible before taking this step.

Therefore I’m very likely to continue working on KeeperRL for at least one or two more years, which is how long it might take me to work on the features listed above. In any case, a 1.0 release doesn’t mean the development stops, and since the game is open-source, and the modding community is very active, you’ll likely continue to see new stuff coming out for a long time after leaving Early Access.

COMMENTS

Home Forums The future of KeeperRL

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  • #11837
    Keeperman
    Participant

    New factions, people love them.

    Combat improvements, always welcome.

    Modding support is huge. Keep it up.

    I think these are the right decisions. People who think you should leave early access often think that you will give up working on the game and leave people stranded. Once they get over this idea and see that you have chosen the best path to ensure future development, they normally see sense.

    #11893
    Hunteil
    Participant

    Take your break you need it. You’ve done great!

    I agree quality of life would be a big help for alpha version. Having to send a single unit out to scout is a time sink while you have other things to do. Also alittle more descriptive text on what to expect for a action or building object. (Like knowing eyes will block paths. Or that picking up limbs have no purpose. Or how to use the whipping posts.) Maybe add patrolling paths.

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