Shattered Pixel Dungeon in 2020
Hey rat punchers, happy new year!
Just like last year, I’ve decided to do a blog post talking about my longer-term plans for the game! Unfortunately, I had significantly more work outside of Shattered in 2019 than I anticipated, so this year’s list isn’t as different from 2019 than I would like, but there are new things! It’s crazy to think that Shattered has now been in development for a bit more than five years.
For 2020 I want my core focus to be making some big game system additions/changes to get Shattered lined up for finally being released, instead of being perpetually in beta. I want to call Shattered released when the game is at a point where if I were to stop releasing major content updates, I would be happy with the state that it is left in. I really want to push towards this state in 2020, but it would be silly to commit to it just yet.
Please note that this is not a specific plan or roadmap. I’m happy to share some of my broader goals with you guys, but I really try to avoid locking something down until I’m actually developing it directly. Everything I’m about to discuss is speculative and may change. These also aren’t necessarily the only things I will be doing moving forward, but rather most of the major things I’m considering. Finally, not all of these things are guaranteed to happen, especially as we get further down the list.
These are things I’m giving more immediate priority to because I have a fairly solid idea how they will all fit into the game. I’m hoping to get most of these done in 2020 and make progress on the rest.
Boss and Enemy Improvements
In late 2019 I made improvements to enemies in the sewers and prison, and as you may have already read about, I’m currently working on making similar improvements to the other areas in v0.8.0! While I don’t think v0.8.0 will be the final time I ever make changes to enemies, it will be a major change, as almost every enemy in the mid to late game is getting substantial adjustments. The main focus of these changes is to give enemies more interesting and varied things to do, and make bosses more engaging and balanced.
Audio and Art Improvements
Since 2019, when I initially teased them, the hero splash arts by Aleksandar Komitov have been completed! These splash arts will give the player a better visual impression of the heroes they’re picking in character select. I hope to get these splash arts ingame soon, possibly in v0.8.1. You can click the image to see a larger version, and even pinch to zoom on mobile!
I’m afraid there hasn’t been any progress on new music yet, but new audio is coming in another form: sound effects! I’m working with Charlie (a.k.a. s9menine), to add some more variety to the various sounds heard throughout the game. The first of these SFX should also materialize with the release of v0.8.1.
New Gameplay System
I teased this one initially back in the 2019 blog, and it’s still coming! After finishing v0.8.0 and v0.8.1, I plan to move on to working on this new gameplay system for v0.9.0. I expect this system to have more gameplay significance than the alchemy overhaul, but it should also be less complex and easier to implement. This system should significantly amp up player choice when it comes to heroes, allowing people to better tune their character towards a particular playstyle. I don’t have a full design yet, but I’m hoping to tie this system into class armors as well.
Environment and Quest Improvements
Now that enemies are in the process of being improved, the environments and quests are big candidates for major upgrades as well. My plans for this are still pretty similar to what they were in 2019: quests need to be made more interesting and elaborate, and the new levelgen system I added in v0.6.0 needs to be used to create more interesting and varied levels. v0.7.5 had a small taste of this, as Goo’s floor now uses a new ‘figure-eight’ style of level layout. I’d like to keep extending this and add more layouts and unique rooms which apply to different regions of the game. Thus should really help regions feel more varied than they currently do.
For alchemy in particular, 2019 saw improvements to many recipes within the system, including the addition of alchemical catalysts, overhauls to boss and bomb recipes, and increased flexibility in dart tipping. Alchemy is in a much better state now than at the start of 2019, but many recipes still need work. I never want the system to feel overbearing or mandatory in terms of power, but clearly many recipes have room to be stronger. In 2020 I plan to continue evaluating categories of alchemy recipes and making tweaks so that more recipes are interesting and worth making.
I also expect to make improvements to equipment items in 2020. 2019 saw the addition of ally items that were actually powerful and interesting, and a total overhaul to enchantments to make them more accessible and varied. I expect many of the big updates in 2020 will have a significant impact on overall game balance, so I will be looking to evaluate items and adjust as necessary so that they remain balanced and interesting as the game’s landscape shifts. Hopefully there will also be opportunities to make some of the game’s less interesting items more engaging to use as well.
I didn’t end up making any progress on this in 2019, but it’s still in the pipeline! As I mentioned in 2019, I want to expand the current guidebook system to be able to contain a variety of collectible documents relating to overall story or character backgrounds. This creates a reward that persists between runs, and is also not in the face of people who don’t want to do a bunch of reading. I’ve got a lot of backstory for the various environments, enemies, and heroes floating around in my head, and I really want to try committing some of that to writing within the game.
Alternate Boss Behaviors
Now that both Goo and Tengu are in a pretty solid place, and the other bosses have adjustments coming soon, it’s time to start thinking about enhancing variety! The plan for this, as mentioned in 2019, is to bring in some of the randomized boss variety many roguelite games have by giving each boss alternate behaviors. This means that while you still fight the same character every time, the environment and their abilities may change from run to run. Goo and Tengu are both good candidates to receive this treatment first, as Goo is a relatively simple boss and Tengu is designed around having independant boss phases that go in a sequence. This also gives me an opportunity to give Tengu a bit more polish as feedback on the second phase of his redesigned fight has been mixed.
Over the course of 2019 I converted the game to run through the multiplatform LibGDX library. This means that a single codebase can now build the game for android, desktop platforms, and (in the future) iOS! This solves one of the major blockages to Shattered being widely available outside of Android. There are still logistical hurdles (and legal hurdles in the case of iOS), but the technical challenges are pretty much completed!
While I can’t commit to an iOS release yet, the Android version of the game should pretty directly translate to iOS devices. Desktop computers, by contrast, have a very different control scheme and different user expectations. The desktop build already has some very basic features such as mouse support and keybind remapping, but I hope to do more with it in the future. A full desktop-specific UI would be lovely. In the short term I hope to make the game available for desktop computers via itch.io, and in the further future I might try to release on Steam as well.
While the ingame supporter menu only received some wording tweaks in 2019, I did launch a Patreon! I’m very pleased with the steady progress the Patreon has made over the last roughly 6 months, and I plan to continue expanding it as time goes on.
As for ingame monetization, I’m planning to start making steady incremental improvements to the supporter features over 2020. This will start with some interface improvements, and will likely move toward extending supporter features and perhaps tiers as the year continues. I will be sure not to be overbearing with it though, the goal is for me to make enough to keep making games full time, not as much money as possible.
These are things I want to do, but they have less of a priority. They may depend on other things being finished first, I may not have a complete idea of how they may work, or they may not be worth the time commitment versus other updates. As these are still longer-term plans, most of them are very similar to what they were in 2019.
Two new Classes
As mentioned in 2019, I think there’s design room for 2 new classes, to bring the total number up to 6. Similarly to the existing classes, these new heroes would each focus on a general gameplay archetype, with more specific strategies evolving from items and subclasses. The plan is for one of them to be a divine magic user and the other a weapon specialist. I haven’t made by mind up on this yet, but I am considering having them both heavily tie into the new gameplay system described above. Though all of the heroes will tie in that new system in some way…
As mentioned in 2019, I am considering reworking the challenge system to remove challenge stacking and instead have each individual challenge be more interesting. I definitely do want to preserve graduating difficulty though, so if challenges no longer stack some will definitely be harder than others. In the shorter term though, I’ve accepted that I should spend a bit of time continuing to improve the current challenge system, given that a full rework is probably a ways off. Over the next few updates I hope to improve a few of the existing challenges, and maybe add a couple new ones.
Similarly to challenges, the badge system needs a full rework to add enhanced variety and to improve the current user experience, but I’m warming to the idea of doing more incremental changes here instead of entirely reworking badges in one update. Specific things like redesigning the badge UI will have to be done all at once, but I may start looking to add a few new badges every so often, when I am certain they will fit well into the game moving forward. Conveniently, unlike challenges, any badges I add should be able to easily fit into a redeigned badge system with little effort.
Just as in 2019, I think there’s room to expand the shop system to be more dynamic and interesting. For the existing shops, I’d like to streamline the buying/selling process through a better interface, and probably give each shop a unique shopkeeper as well. I think there’s also design room to add some semi-random shops throughout the dungeon, which might have more limited but exotic stock.
Improved New Player Experience
In 2019 I mentioned improving the guidebook, but since then I’ve expanded the scope of this idea beyond just that. The guidebook is still a good place to start, but there are various things that can be tweaked about the game to make it more encouraging to new players, while not just directly telling them what to do. Snakes were an example of this, as players are now consistently confronted with an enemy that heavily rewards surprise attacking, which gets them thinking about the environment more. Other examples of this might include adding a few badges specifically focused around earlygame progress, or starting players off with a short guided tutorial about the game’s interface and core mechanics.
These are neat ideas I have which I currently do not have a place for, either due to not having a working design in my head, or because of the significant effort required. These are the sort of things I might look to do after otherwise having finished Shattered.
As mentioned in 2019, I have some rough ideas for adding more subclasses. As the game’s equipment and classes have become more diverse, it might be nice to make some more subclasses which take advantage of that diversity. This absolutely has to come after adding new classes though, and it’s important that I have enough good ideas to ensure that all of the new subclasses are interesting. This is the sort of place where I can fulfill some common user requests that aren’t quite enough to be a full class on their own, such as a minion master, alchemist, or a trapper.
New Item Type
As mentioned in 2019, I think there’s room within the game’s design for one more type of equippable item. This would be a ‘modifier’ item, which is more about tweaking gameplay variables than giving direct power or utility. Equipping one of these might provide the player with a unique side benefit (such as making rare enemies spawn more often), or provide a larger active benefit in specific circumstances (such as giving the player some form of temporary boost when levelling up). For now other things take much higher priority, but I’d love to look into the design of these properly at some point in the future.
Finally, a new stretch goal! In most roguelike games a daily works by allowing players to each play a separate run with the same dungeon generation, and then be ranked against eachother based on score. Dailies have a new dungeon generation and rankings for every day. Shattered is played in multiple short sittings by a lot of people, so I might like to be more flexible and offer multiple runs within the span of a week instead. This is a very tricky technical challenge, as it requires a server to record scores and rankings, and is vulnerable to cheating, but is a staple feature of successful roguelikes and I’m sure one many players would be excited for.
As mentioned in 2019, It would be awesome if Shattered had more floors, but I don’t particularly want to make the game longer. An alternate path solves that problem by offering a sort of ‘hard mode’, with new environments and enemies which tax the skills of experienced players. Of course, adding in such a path would be a gigantic time commitment, so it isn’t something I’m seriously considering right now.
Whew, another long read! There’s still plenty of work to be done on Shattered, and I’m really excited to start knocking items off this list. Here’s to a great 2020!
You can discuss this blog post on the Pixel Dungeon Subreddit!
Lastly, if you’d like to help me make these plans a reality, please consider making a purchase in the Google Play version of the game, or supporting me on Patreon! Patrons get early info about upcoming game updates, which will include most of what I’ve talked about here once I start developing it.