Skeleton Wars

Back in 2006 I started doodling on a game which I had wanted to make for quite some time. Basically, I wanted to see something like Warlords, but with more fantasy races (orks, elves, etc). In 2008 I revisited the thumbnails which I had done, and cleaned them up a bit. I also wrote a bunch of stuff, but didn't make anything public, because it was an unfinished mess. Today I compiled a simple page using the now old material. So, here it is, my Skeleton Wars page. (It's still a mess.)



I've also been secretly updating my Doctor Who page. (Also still a mess.) I'm looking forward to seeing what Matt Smith and Moffat will do.

26 comments:

Randito said...

Ah, always a fan of the classic Warlords II. Heroes added a lot to the equation... especially heroes riding flying animals across the mountain ranges to attack your castle tucked away in the mountains. Heh.

FishyBoy42 said...

Oh man, these factions are great. Love the Snow Bunnies and the Nosferatu. The Gnomes are also a pretty cool idea.

iameren said...

wow what activity, woot!

Always nice to see you some new doodles. Even better I like the stuff you take a step further, like the giant crab 'macra' in the doctor who page.

Galspanic said...

Wonderful to see new stuff you are working on. I have a question for these long pages of images. What size are the original sketches you do for these concept art pieces? they look pretty detailed for being so tiny.

Randito said...

Warlords II got the scale right for the game. Long enough to be interesting, but not too long.

Warlords III wasn't much fun. The units movement rate was way too high; most units could effectively move the dimensions of your screen length on one turn. So, you could never tell if your units were vulnerable to attack.

Arne said...

The thumbnail concepts are scaled to 50% of the original size.

Warlords II was for the PC, so I never played it, though I did research it a bit. It looks much nicer than the original.

Yeah, I dislike games which are claustrophobic. Resolutions are much higher today, thankfully. IIRC 2x2 of my tiles take up 88w*44h pixels. So even on a 1024*600 notebook, that's 27*23 tiles (-GUI). The original Warlords had 8x9 I think.

I haven't thought much about movement length yet. Since some units will suffer penalties in some terrain, movement should be long enough to make rounding issues less prominent. If the units move too far, then strategy elements (such as blockades) will suffer and it will be hard to get a clear view of what's going on. Between 3(slow) to 7(fast) tiles as average movement seems okay. I don't know yet. Really fast units moving on roads are a special case, and then there's trying to move through mountains...

Maybe a resting feature could allow units to transfer a small amount of remaining action/marching points or whatever to the next turn, making it possible for a unit to 'charge up' and pass through mountains or some piece of terrain which would otherwise be off limits due to rounding. This would allow me to use shorter movement and it would add the strategy of resting. I don't like having like 99% of the action points needed for a move and seeing them go to waste).

Galspanic said...

Thanks for the information! I had one other question; are the duck warriors a tip of the hat to Trondheim/Sfarr's Donjon series?

Arne said...

The ducks are actually inspired by an old Swedish RPG called Drakar och Demoner (and Mutant, the sci-fi version), where you can play several kinds of Anka (duck). The black ducks were pirates, iirc. For quite some time they looked just like the Disney ducks, but later they moved to a more realistic look.

You could play and encounter all kinds of talking animals. Think of "Cat Shit One" rather than internet furries. The setting was mainly Nordic.

MalcolmLittle said...

Anka all the way! That was my favorite race in Drakar & Demoner. Not so good in-game (compared to other races) but way cool. I hated how Americans always got all 'that looks like Howard the Duck'. Screw that! Anka is the shit!

Mr.Thompson said...

First off, Love the art work. You've sort of inspired me to draw more so that I can imbroid my game design work with pictures to get across my point.

A few things on Skeleton Lords. How would you imagine balancing working? What about cities?

There are possibly two ways, one would be to have a hero character change the city to its own city, thus producing the heroes type of units, e.g. Orcs. This would mean you would have to balance all the races, quite a hefty task.

But if you did it the other way and had all the cities produce a certain type(s) of unit even when captured and balanced the whole world before (give the map points to spend on units, weaker units use less points and stronger units use more) This way it would all be fair as the player might own a few weak cities and a stronger one. I don't know which way I prefer, I can of course see dawn flaws with both.

Keep up the drawing though.

Arne said...

I just added some thoughts on that onto the page.

I prefer unbalanced games, such as MoO where you can put limitations on yourself by playing Mrrshan instead of Psilons for example. There's different kinds of balance though. I think if a faction behaves in a way that seems right for them, that's the right balance.

Randito said...

Warlords II was great because of the asymmetry. You could play the dark evil dudes with really slow heavy infantry. (Forgive me, I forgot their name). Or, you could play the horse lords with really fast expensive units. That aspect made it replayable -- even though the map didn't change.

Concerning hero units... heroes in Warlords II were strong units, but they could easily die if unsupported. They upgraded by questing in ruins and temples. Quests would give artifacts -- i.e. +1 to every unit in the stack -- or even very powerful allies -- strength 9 devils and magicians. Heroes became end-game units that could move really fast (when riding their flying dragons) and take out most units.

In practice, it worked well. You had already conquered most of the world and were ready to knock off the stragglers and finish the game.

Mr.Thompson said...

Why don't you simply do away with heroes? and have each character able to do all the things the hero can do like quests and leveling, that way if you wanted you could have a big army of men or you could have a few highly skilled and seasoned heroes. That would be a good feature, shape your own heroes instead of them being handed to you and them stating they are a hero?

Galspanic said...

How strange. I just stumbled upon Drakar och Demoner while looking at the work of Paul Bonner. I didn't see any Anka though. I shall investigate further. In regards to the main discussion, I think the idea Mr.Thompson comes up with is good. I like the concept of veteran units becoming hero units.

Arne said...

Håkan Ackegård illustrated D&D and Mutant

http://ackegard.com/gallery/main.php


Regarding heroes, it's difficult to know in which direction to go. All I can do now is try to build a table of my options then see what balance works in practice, if I ever get that far.

I guess I just dislike the term hero, so I replaced it with general. Otherwise I pretty much want to go in the direction described by you guys.

So, perhaps all units have individual stats which they can level up. Anyone can become a general. Another option is to have the player select a regular unit which then gets stats which can be leveled. Either way, I think it would be fun if you as a player can select a unit and watch it rise to power. Some troops might be more suitable to lead an army though.

These army leaders have a bunch of stats which gives the units under their command a bonus. They can also find artifacts and tame beasts. So, you could select a Gnome and have it ride a Sphinx, and wield some artifact weapon. I'm not sure how I'd draw that though, perhaps it would need to be separate images, or cleverly combinatorial ones. There's also some special cases with say the large Nagas who of course can't ride around on horses or whatever. Then there's the Blobs who lack arms...

Randito said...

@arne. re: movement length. I think 3(slow) and 7(fast) works well as a movement rate for the turn. Having slow units plod through the mountain pass headed to your castle is great fun and builds tension, as you rush to build up your defenses. Any more than that, and the strategy behind fog-of-war, terrain, and unit choices diminish. I wouldn't worry about the rounding problems regarding movements. Just have a reasonable default or minimum. For example, you can always move one space even if the terrain costs too much. "Saving up momvement" is a game complexity that kind of deters from some reasonable mechanics and defaults.

@mr thompson: re: heroes changing the kind of units that a city can produce. In Warlords 2, you could add a type of unit to what a city produced. In theory it was pretty cool. In practice, you ended up building the killer unit you wanted to help polish off the end-game. i.e. Build griffins for flying and city-taking abilities. You could limit this "add production" mechanic to basic units. And allow certain heroes with certain abilities -- Summoner -- to allow more fantastic creatures to be produced at cities.

@arne: re: generals. Having units that can "level" up is kind of a nice feature. But in practice for other games, it comes across as kind of ho-hum. Civilization 4 has this feature. And countless others as well. But in Warlords, your units don't really live long enough to get any real benefit out of it. Not to mention, you usually have lots of units. I think this feature would get lost in the sea of Light Infantry that are dieing on the castle walls trying to break the defenses. Balancing all the units, all the factions is tough enough, without adding experienced units to the mix. I do like the idea of promoting units to generals or leaders. At most, a player could 1-3 of these guys in their games. In this approach, generals are more like icing on the cake, than the fundamental part of the game. They would have skill-trees for upgrading to specialize their behavior. In Warlords II, leaders made it a lot of fun, but they didn't deter from the meat of the game -- producing units and taking over castles.

Arne said...

I made a quick resolution test.

http://androidarts.com/skeletonwars/hex_resolution.gif

Of course, a portion of the screen would be minimap and GUI.

Mr.Thompson said...

@Randito - I like that idea, of having a player's hero building things that relate to their skill set, maybe also some artifacts they have?

Necromancer can build Crypt, graveyard, etc. But a Necromancer with a fire sword artifact could combine the two and allow him to produce flaming skeletons from his graveyard.

Overly complex? What happens when that city is taken over? Keep the same buildings? Raze the buildings and start fresh? Or an option between the two?

I also like the idea of having what you can produce according to resources around you, say if there were a heard of wild horses (ranging in breed, level, etc.) then the player could produce mounted units, or if there was a tribe of orcs near by you could recruit from them as well as recruit from your own cities limited forces.

@Arne - More pictures please. I would like to see the Barbarians have a chained up bear or some sort of beast or slave. I really like the fact that death dwarfs only have one single unit but I would like to see another perhaps a cannon unit? Or maybe something with a closer range (maybe a bayonet) and what about some hero designs? Not pushing you, just like to see this develop.

Galspanic said...

I definitely like the idea Mr. Thompson puts forward about units equipped with certain artifacts being able to produce special structures. I've been tooling around with that idea for a game in my free time. I also like the idea of units equipped with specific artifacts being able to alter the type, or flow of resources. It sort of sets the unit as a catalyst for the player to take advantage and customize, which is interesting to me. Two players could have completely different armies while using the same core units. This begins to resemble the Age of Empires tech tree style, though.


I love picturing a gnome riding a sphinx. What about the term "Champion"? or "Elite" unit? is that slightly more palatable than "hero"?

Mr.Thompson said...

An idea came to me. I know this sort of throws out most of your unit types but why not have it human based, in which each city can produce the same units, swordsmen, archer, Horsemen then have the player's character and objects change them units at leasuire. Meaning you could produce swordsmen but introduce your necromancer character and turn them into skeleton swordsmen. That way you still have the three core units but then introduce all these variations. I know this probably doesn't sound like the idea you were going for, so I'm going to shh and save it for my own design ;)

Some more examples, Vampire hero turns all the units into vamp units, same with werewolf, elemental mage (armed with different element power (defined by skills or armament) so flaming units or earth encrusted units) etc.

Wiley said...

On the subject of SF ducks, I was always fond of Dr. Qwack, the Duck headed guy in Xenophobe. There's a game that was ruined by emulation. Once you no longer have a limited number of quarters, you realize the game just goes on forever with no real changes.

Sam Nielson said...

You're so prolific it's scary! It's too bad they don't give you a team and just let you redesign every one of these games.

Randito said...

@Mr Thompson: I also like the idea of having what you can produce according to resources around you, say if there were a heard of wild horses (ranging in breed, level, etc.)

Civ 4 had a similar model. It had generic resources available to a city: food, production, and trade. However, speciality units were enabled by "strategic resources" -- i.e. horses enable Horsemen, iron enable Heavy Infantry. These strategic resources were more limited than the regular food and production type resources. It gave the players something to fight for and trade for.

Something like this for Skeleton Wars kind of shifts the focus from beer-and-pretzels strategy game to a grand strategy game. Arne's design decision to have resource tiles (food, production) is already leaning that way. It's about how much game complexity you want to add.

Anonymous said...

W O W ! ! ! !

These are amazing designs. Would love to play this game!

Anonymous said...

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roaringheart said...

wow. very cool sketches. just enjoyed watching them.