Introducing: Auro, The Golden Prince

Prince Auro (Click for high-res image)

EDIT:  Everything in this article is now wrong.

Above is prince Auro, the main character of Dinofarm Games’ upcoming game, titled Auro, The Golden Prince.  Today, we’ll be introducing you to the basics of the game and how it works.  But before we get all theoretical on you, you should know that Auro be a cross-platform launch, reaching Android, iOS as well as your Windows/OSX/Linux machines.

100 Rogues was a game that started as a “POWDER clone”, but by the time it was released, it wasn’t even close to being that.  It evolved into its own unique take on the Roguelike genre.  Over the past year, Auro has evolved from “another unique take on the Roguelike genre” into something that can’t easily be described with genre-names anymore.  In fact, the original working title for Auro was “The Roguelike”; the early idea was that Dinofarm Games was going to try to create the quintessential Roguelike game and introduce another group of players (Android gamers) to a genre that many of them had never even heard of.  But now, Auro could best be described as a “Dungeon-crawling strategy game”.

Let’s start out by saying that the basic framework of Auro is similar to that of 100 Rogues, or any other roguelike game.  You crawl dungeons, fighting monsters, gaining experience and death means the game is over, but you live on forever on a high-scores board.  However, some massive changes have been made, which I will get into below.  First, I want to outline a few of the game design philosophies, or design goals.

So, now we can get into the brass tacks.  How did these philosophies manifest, exactly?

  • Hex-Based – Build your game for the platform.  That’s what we did in 100 Rogues – it was built from the ground up with the iOS touchscreen in mind.  Our initial thought was 8-directional movement, which is the norm for roguelike games.  However, in order to do that, you really need a virtual d-pad, because dividing the screen into eight touchable “move-direction” segments is too accident-prone.  However, we dislike virtual D-pads because there is no immediate feedback telling you that yes, you’ve pushed the button.  With 100 Rogues the solution was to make the game have four-directional movement.  However, in hindsight, this did put a serious hamper on strategies that had to do with positioning, and it made it almost impossible for enemies to navigate around objects to get to you.  So, for Auro, we’re splitting the difference, and going for hexagons, which war-gamers and strategy aficionados have always liked best anyway.  This way, the screen is divided into six  segments, which is enough to give the player a good amount of choice in terms of movement, but few enough that they can click-to-move reliably.
  • Hit points don’t increase with levels – It isn’t more fun to fight monsters who have more health.  It isn’t more fun to have more health.  What’s fun is when the decisions the player has to make in combat are interesting.  As a designer, if I can’t just “scale up this super-monsters health”, then I am forced to create interesting monsters who are defined by what they do, not how many hits they take.  Auro will increase in difficulty because choices become more and more complex as the game progresses (more information about this later in this post).
  • Neither does mana/energy, because it doesn’t exist! – There’s no longer an “energy” system of any kind.  Instead, abilities simply work on cooldowns.  The advantage of this is that the player is encouraged to use all of his abilities in a battle, rather than just his favorite one three or four times.  I took this from Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, which has a “spells per day” system which creates a similar behavior.
  • Levels are mostly linear – Roguelikes are about many, many things.  One of those things has always been exploration.  Auro, however, is entirely about tactics;  exploration is not related to the core mechanic.  In addition, I’ve never seen a “map” system that I liked in a game – ever.  The problem with maps is that if you let the player see it all the time (like an overlay or on the HUD), that’s all he looks at.  If you don’t let the player see it all the time, then they have to go check it again and again.  I understand that exploration has actual value in roguelikes, as not backtracking too much is actually related to the food management aspect of the game.  For Auro, randomly-generated, but almost entirely linear levels (we think of them internally as “courses”) are most appropriate.
  • There is no “food” system – Normally, food systems are required in roguelikes to reduce the amount of grinding that’s possible in the game.  In Auro, monsters/items don’t respawn, and so there’s no need for a food system.  Furthermore, the player gets score bonuses for completing levels faster, so there’s no reason why a player would want to just wander around in an empty level.
  • There is no “equipment” system – You can get a sword, or a shield, or things like that – but it’s all expressed through the disciplines system, described below.  If you want a sword, get the appropriate skill and boom, you’ve got a sword!
  • Your character cannot hold items – There’s no real “inventory”.  Well, there’s one type of item that you can hold – scrolls.  These will work almost exactly like the skills from the disciplines, and will be incorporated into the same skills menu.  There are also other “instant-use” items, like potions and tomes that get used the moment you pick them up.

Now you are saying,  “that doesn’t sound like much of a game at all, Dinofarm!”  But that’s only because I haven’t told you about the game’s central mechanism:  The Disciplines system.

Pictured above is only a mockup, of course, but it’s enough to give you an idea.  Each row – labeled Swordsman, Guard, Fire Wizard, etc – those are the individual disciplines in the game.  Each time you get a level in Auro, you can take the next skill in any discipline, starting from left to right.  In a finished game, we’re shooting for letting the player get about 10 or so skill points – enough to max out two trees, or get decently far in 3 or 4 trees.  The idea is to allow the player to customize their character and discover lots of synergies (both emergent and hard-coded by us) between skills.  One example of a synergy would be using Snowball to turn someone into an ice block, and then kicking the ice block several tiles into a hapless monster.  We’ll have more details on the Disciplines system, and these kinds of synergies, later on.

We hope that this is enough to let you know the kind of game Auro is.  It’s still early in development, so you can expect that much of what you see here will be significantly different in the final product.  We’d love for you to help us improve our game by leaving us some comments here on the blog!  Let us know what you think, and stay tuned.

Auro is currently scheduled for an early 2012 release.

keithburgun • 07/16/2011

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  2. Jobeesh 09/21/2011 - 2:42 am Reply

    Have you played Bastion? I recently read your article on Gamesutra and skimmed through this one here. It seems like Bastion accomplishes a lot of what you’re working on with Auro in terms of being closely focused on the core and the player’s decisions, though in a different genre. If you haven’t played it yet I highly recommend it.

    I really look forward to Auro and your future posts!

    • keithburgun 09/21/2011 - 2:54 am Reply

      Thanks Jobeesh! Yeah, we have played Bastion. It’s a little like Auro, but of course because it’s real time that is a major game-changer. I think that our game is more pensive and hopefully deeper, while Bastion is a bit more “everything on the screen is happening!” We also won’t have a voice over.

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  4. Hayo 09/30/2011 - 10:44 am Reply

    Very interested in your upcoming game Auro! Are you optimizing it also for Honeycomb tablets ? I am associated with http://www.tablified.com/ to review Android apps that are optimized for Honeycomb, and could through there also help you with exposure for Auro when you’re ready to release it.

    I’ve also found you on Google+ and added you to a circle. Will also share your posts “On Diablo” and “Introducing: Auro” there. Would you care to circle me back?

  5. Lazy 10/03/2011 - 12:01 pm Reply

    I love it when developers put time and taught into the core design of their game. This sounds very promising. I will definitely buy it on release.

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  8. Emmanuel 10/31/2011 - 9:54 pm Reply

    Screenshots, where ? I am intrigued, I wanna play this ! What resolution runs this at ?

  9. GW 11/20/2011 - 1:11 pm Reply

    PLEASE don’t limit this to a device-ONLY release! I’d love to see those who aren’t into tech that enforces evolution (and have slow connection speeds anyway) a chance to play this game. I hate that SO many great little RPGs are being pushed out the door as device games without regard to old school gamers who aren’t too tech savvy (or hell, have bad eyes and can’t see for shit on those tiny device screens). Or hell, just don’t want to deal with the App Store and it’s crappy “WE OWN YOUR PERSONAL INFO. DEAL WITH IT.” mentality.

    Fingers crossed that this gen is a TRULY indie game (as in everyone who wants to play it CAN without regard to platform as long as they have a PC). Even if you end up with something that slow connection users have to ply in chapters (more work, right), I say someone should support these folks. May as well take their money if they’re willing to spend it, right?

    • keithburgun 11/20/2011 - 5:52 pm Reply

      The game is slated for release on Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and OSX. Is that satisfactory?

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