I have a lifelong obsession with Video Games. Not just a like, not just a love, something more. The multitude of worlds that I've explored and optimized from within all have a special place in my mind and my heart. They have helped me grow as a person, both mentally and emotionally.
My favorite games have always been those with a theorycrafting component. They stimulate my mind the way no other game can. I have made charts and spreadsheets, filled notebooks full of builds and optimization notes. Explored the maths and logic behind design decisions and delved into the why's and how's of different formulas for stat calculations. Unfortunately, some of the games I've theorycrafted are just not fun... I love to see what the numbers do but the games themselves are tedious and boring, while staring at Path of Exile's Skill Map or reading through the skills for Darkest Dungeon give me such a thrill.
Eternal Quest is a game for just such people. It's an idle game for theorycrafters. Don't be fooled by the cartoon graphics or the simple tutorial - there is a depth of mechanics in this game that rivals games such as Diablo III, Path of Exiles, World of Warcraft and the like. And, by removing tedious things like 'game play' you can go from theory to practice overnight, with as much or as little interaction with the game as you like.
What makes theorycrafting games great?
I have thought a lot about this over the years and I have come to the conclusion that what I love most about games, and what I believe other like-minded people love, is Options. By options I mean as many viable choices as possible. Path of Exiles is a great example, with their skill map presenting a huge array of possibilities, from Macro to Micro. Which Major Nodes do I want to get to is a macro choice, and which path do I take to get there is a Micro. All the nodes to very interesting things which change how the game is played and create a dynamic new canvas for you to work with.
Expanding Options means players need to progress Laterally, not Linearly. Linear Progression is, of course, always the goal... see how far or how high you can get... but there are two ways to do that. The first is to get stronger gear and higher numerical values. The second is to find more optimal combinations of building blocks (block = skill, item, class, whatever). Higher values are boring... finding optimal combinations is fun! Thus, progression in this game is focused more on earning more options rather than gaining more power and no one item or skill should be more or less powerful than any other... just different. Rare or Unique items should not be sought after because they are stronger, they should be sought after because they have more interesting abilities or synergies.
An essential part of lateral progression is the creation of limits on linear progression. To be clear, a limit on Character Progression, not World Progression. The World should scale infinitely while the player can only get so strong. In this way one can see exactly how far a build can get you. This is an important distinction with Eternal Quest that I believe has never been done before. In fact, most games are built the opposite way... your character can progress infinitely while the world stops progressing. Diablo 2 had Normal, Nightmare and Hell mode... but eventually you could conquer the world and beat the game... at the same time, your character could keep getting stronger afterwards, only hitting the level cap after beating the same world several times.
Eternal Quest is the opposite. You hit your level cap by the end of Early Game, you hit your Equipment Cap by the end of Mid Game and you hit your Artifact Cap by pushing into Late Game. Once everything is capped out, there is still an infinitely progressing world to deal with... which means you'll have to try many different routes to see how far you can progress.
Caps are, on the surface, not fun. People expect to get stronger and stronger and don't like feeling limited. But progress caps are necessary to halt linear progress and force players to think laterally. When you know you only have 60 skill points to play with the decision of where to put those points becomes difficult, especially when you have many viable options for where to place them. When all of your equipment can be upgraded to the same level, the player doesn't have the choice forced upon them to abandon their low level equipment for higher level stuff... they must choose between a plethora of hopefully balanced abilities.
No Statistic Caps
One thing I absolutely hate in games is Statistic Caps. Whether it's 40% max Cooldown Reduction in League of Legends or 75% Resistance in Diablo 2 or whatever. Placing an artificial cap on this kind of progress is annoying and wrong, for 2 reasons. The first is that it makes certain combinations of building blocks impossible. You will not use 3 Cooldown Reduction Items if it means 15% CDR is lost to the abyss, even if the rest of the abilities on said item will synergize well. The second is that it makes hitting that cap feel optimal. In Diablo 2, you had to hit that 75% Resistance in Hell mode or else you took way too much damage from Special Enemies and could not progress... in fact, it felt like the game was balanced around everyone having that 75%.
With clever use of Mathematics and appropriate use of diminishing returns, artificial caps are unnecessary. Resistances is a prime example. If you use Linear Returns on Magic Resistance, for example, the first 25% is not worth as much as the second or third 25%. Using Diminishing Returns, the first 25% is added flat, the second 25% will increase your resistance by 19% to 44% and the third by 14% to 58%. Even though on the surface it looks like the game has stolen 17% of your stats, it actually works out mathematically that the last 14% is exactly as effective as the first 25%. Using this formula, no artificial limit on Resistance is necessary and a player can, if they so choose, optimize up to 97% or more legally and appropriately.
Another issue I have with games is when their building blocks are either too complicated, or have too many modifiers. If an item has more damage, attack speed, reduced enemy defenses, adds lightning damage, grants a higher Item Loot chance AND gives you a free level 8 skill (Cranebeak from Diablo 2... typical item), that's just way too much stuff! It would be better to give each of these stats an individual way to be acquired instead of lumping them together and saying 'here's a prebuilt item for you!'
Furthermore, if you can equip 2 weapons, armor, helmet, boots, gloves, 2 rings and an amulet, that's a lot of gear to manage. Creating more Equipment Slots does give you more options, but I asked myself... how important are these options? Is it fun or tedious to manage 9 equipment slots?
The answer I came up with is that simplicity is key. By keeping things down to one offensive item and one defensive item, equipment has been streamlined to simplicity and your equipment choices become more meaningful. Furthermore, every piece of equipment has only one or two bonuses on it, beyond the item's base stats, with a few notable exceptions.
Similarly, everything in the game is kept simple. Every choice should be meaningful and viable and every option should be simple and clearly defined. Furthermore, no two options should be overly similar.
How widely can things expand?
Eternal Quest started out as a very simple game, but over the past two months since our soft launch on Kongregate the system has been upgraded tremendously. It went from 5 skills trees to 7 skill trees (with 5 skills per tree), meaning that through skills alone we went from ~180,000 options to ~1,600,000 (assuming you max out 6 skills with your 60 total skill points). At launch we had 19 Premium Items and have since multiplied that number to ~60 build defining options, giving roughly 900 equipment combinations. The addition of a Prestige System gave 35 Artifacts to be placed in up to 5 slots, or an additional 320,000 possibilities. There are also 10 build defining talents to choose from. This means, in total, there are ~4.6 QUADRILLION potential combinations! The amount that this system can expand is limited only by developer creativity. I am the primary creator but my brother has also been helping me with ideas and I'm listening carefully to player requests and suggestions as well. With 15 more Artifacts and 8 more skill trees already roughly planned out and hundreds more possible premium items, the potential of this game is massive.
I have, however, done my best to present things simply and reveal the game's complexities bit-by-bit. A new player will begin with 5 trees, basic equipment, a single talent and no artifacts. This is how it was at the beginning and this is how it will remain. When I add new features (such as a Crafting System and Pets/Companions) these will also be unlockable after progression, so that the player can be introduced to the process slowly and carefully.
Free to Play!
Free to Play is an important part of the current Video Game landscape and I am dedicated to this distribution model. First and foremost this is a game that I love and I want to share it with as many people as possible. There are no pay-to-win mechanics. Period. Everything is a level playing field for everyone. EVERYTHING is accessible to players for free. Some things are difficult and time consuming to get for free, but everything will be achievable. All premium items will drop, all pay-classes will have associated achievements and even cosmetics will be earnable by 'farming' pay-currency.
I'm excited! Lets go!
The game is currently available on Kongregate at Kongregate.com. I consider this to be a pre-release build as I am updating it constantly with new features and improvements. It already has 130,000 plays and a dedicated group of obsessed players! My hope is, once it's ready, to go for a Kickstarter Campaign to get this game polished and ready for launch on Steam and Mobile.
If you want to help then please, help me get exposure and post with comments and suggestions! I'm open to everything and I always read everything written to me, even if I don't respond right away.
Thank you, and good theorycrafting!