About Exalt

Roguelike

Exalt is a roguelike game. If you don't know what a roguelike game is, I suggest you visit RogueBasin for an excellent overview, and for lots of other roguelike related material.

Game vs. Engine

Exalt can better be described as an engine that accepts as input the definition of a game. What that means is the world that a character is in with all its areas, creatures, items, quests, etc. are all defined outside of the Exalt game logic. In fact, during character creation, you are required to select a 'world' that you would like to play in. Once your character enters a specific world, that's where they are and that's where they'll stay.

As your character moves around their world, the content is generated randomly based on rules defining whatever it is that's being generated. For example, each area has a definition file that provides the engine with everything it needs to generate a version of that area and connect it with other areas of the game. These definitions can contain 'hard coded' parts and/or random parts, allowing for certain things to always be the same, always be different, or a mixture of both.

Exalt will naturally have at least 1 world that comes with the engine and will be considered the standard world that everyone plays in common. I'll be releasing the editors I use to make the standard world so that other people can create worlds of their own and share them with the community.

Delivering on this aspect of Exalt is what I would consider my mission statement. For simplicity, the name Exalt will generally mean the engine plus the standard world.

Defining Features

The engine aspect is a major defining feature, but what about gameplay? Well, there are a few things that I tend to keep in the forefront when designing anything in Exalt.

No Classes

Exalt does not have a class system. Instead, any character can do anything they please, and your proficiency at any particular skill will be based on how often you use it. As your level increases in certain areas, you'll gradually define who and what your character really is.

Nothing's worse than finding a great artifact early on, but it's not something that fits in well with the class you chose at the beginning. A good design of a world will allow for the player to essentially choose what they want to become by allowing them to choose to do the things that will get them there - lots of optional quests at the beginning that will hone certain skills, multiple areas with different kinds of creatures and item drops, that sort of stuff.

Fantasy Theme

The standard world for Exalt will be fantasy based. I'm not a fan of wackiness or anachronisms. I also want most of the items and creatures to be recognizable. A pet peeve of mine is having to read a detailed description of a race during character creation just to figure out what it is, let along what defining characteristics that race has. I'm not talking bland here, just not outlandish.

Spoilers and Insta-Death

I know that some people really love NetHack for all the crazy ways you can instantly die, and the only way to know about them is to have a character that it happens to. I'm not one of those fans. I don't have the kind of time that I used to, and I want my characters deaths to be a result of my bad decisions, not randomness.

This goes along with spoilers. I haven't really defined to myself what level of spoilers I'll have in Exalt. I don't want players to have to have a browser open as they play the game, but I also don't want to eliminate the thrill of discovery either. It's something that I'll have to balance and get a feel for when people actually start playing.

Combat and Magic

I just want for there to be very different ways of playing the game, and many different combinations of those ways as well. Melee combat will have different styles, like dual wielding and shielded, as well as ranged. Magic will be divided into schools, and should require a different approach to defeating creatures. Different items should benefit different skill sets and should lead to meaningful decisions about item management. All of the ways of playing (with a reasonable amount of specialization) should be at least valid for beating the game, with sections or phases of the game being slightly more difficult for some.

Religion

For a long time the only roguelike I had ever played was Angband, which doesn't have a religion system. Recently I've looked into games like Dungeon Crawl and NetHack and have found that religion adds a lot to the feel of a game. I love it! I envision a religion system that is a little smaller in breadth (less gods), but possibly deeper and more involved. I haven't worked out the specifics in my mind yet, but it will be a fun aspect of the game to explore.

Tactics vs. Grinding

Dungeon Crawl is very tactical. You have a finite amount of time and resources because of the role of hunger and how levels and creatures are generated. Angband on the other hand, is a grinder - it's as long as you make it. Levels aren't permanent, shops buy from you, and there's nothing compelling you to delve deeper into the dungeon. I want to strike some kind of middle ground of these two:

  • Players should want to continue forwards, but not with a "You die if you hang around too long" imminence hanging over their heads.
  • Resources should be limited in ways that force the player to make meaningful decisions, but not so much that they feel crippled.
  • If money is to play a part of the game, it should be valuable throughout the game, and not just desperately needed in the beginning.

Exactly how am I going to balance all this out.....I don't know yet :)