Pixal: The world that never was

About 5 years ago, I set myself to finish Pixal. One of the big things I had to do was creating a huge world which players could explore with their expeditions.

pixal3years

I begun by pasting together the output of several runs of a fractal/voronoi terrain generator, doing small modifications for them to fit.

pw9-scroll
The whole world

In order to ease the edition of the world, I divided it into 350 32×32 tiles sectors (total world size: 800×448 tiles). My sister was entrusted with the huge work of creating the individuals maps by hand.

grid-terrain-rivers-2x
The world divided in 350 sectors

In addition to the ground level, we also created a subterranean / underwater map and another one for the “skies”.

There was a server side component which swallowed the TMX maps into the database and allowed players to browse the world. Then, to make scale even grander, I allowed zooming into each one of the tiles, generating another persistent map (32×32 I think), in which you could create your own buildings, or explore caves (randomly generated using CA). Then the project collapsed under its own weight, even though all this hard mapping work was finished.

 

In the end, Pixal was never released, and this world was left unexplored.

subi11
Underwater sector I-11
j3
Ground level J-3
aire2
Air sector E-2

 

The tale of Pixal

Eight years ago, back on November 2007, I started a project. I wanted to do something different than I used to do back then.

I worked on the project for about 3 years investing about 700 development hours and learning a lot in the process, but the project never went public.

469_41304912562_862_n.jpg

I can think on two reasons why it happened:

I never had a clear idea on what the game was going to be

I started the project thinking on doing something pretty simple so you could create a virtual character and buy clothing for it.

1-buddy

Then, for some reason, I added combat to the mix, probably because I just have something with Fantasy medieval combat.

2-fighter

But I actually think that choice was ok. Developing a doll-dresser was not very exciting in the end. The combat model evolved becoming complex and interesting, and I put a tournament in place where people could participate. By then I was using the open source graphics from Dungeon Crawl.

2-fighter-combat

By the end of year 2, the game was actually pretty fun, or so it seemed based on playtester’s feedback. You could create a group of pixals, make them participate on a tournament and buy equipment for them. Fights were based on a deck of skills you had, where you earned new cards as you leveled up. Good players got weekly medals, new equipment was spawned daily on the stores. Denzi, one of biggest contributors to the pixel art of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup had joined the team and provided a slew of awesome pixel art. (hint: Most of it is being reused for Ananias today) Everybody was happy.

3-tournament

However, fueled by player feedback and some books I had read on the subject of virtual worlds, I wanted more.

It all begun with the idea of providing alternate activities other than fighting; I toyed with the idea of the city where the fights took place, and now there were other buildings where the pixals could work for money. The idea started evolving to the point where I wanted to create an entire world where expeditions of pixals could explore the world, build settlements, trade stuff. A virtual economy, a world browser.

pixal3years

I failed.

Not only was the world browser a huge undertaking, I also didn’t actually know how to make exploring the world an interesting adventure…. I had people creating a huge 3 levels map for the world which I never ended up using. I added a zoom feature, including random cavern generation for the detailed terrain and a rudimentary system for placing tiles into the world, which would eventually become buildings. I then tried adding guilds (?). None of that made exploring the world fun.

If I had had a clear goal on what the game was going to be, I could have released on 2009, at least as an initial version; developing the world browser was not needed to have a working game, and actually unleashed a ton of risks into the project which actually happened. Which brings me to the next point…

I underestimated the effort.

Developing the world browser was just too much for me… just from the technical perspective back then we didn’t have widespread and readily available tools for bidirectional interaction with the server from a browser (such as modern websockets), but that was only part of the problem, I also lacked the skills required on game design and world building to create a compelling experience and an interesting world.

I tried to work around this by planning, separating things into modules, estimating, organizing stuff. But in the end I hit a point where no matter how I tried to look at the project, I could see no way forward.

Eventually, I ran out of energy and abandoned the project, just to pursue a second one which would suffer a very similar fate…

…but that’s a story for another day.

From time to time, I feel the urge of rolling all the world browser thing back, and do a public release of just the tournament… but times have changed, there’s much more competition now… maybe no one would care.

Px2+Troria, advancements on combat+design, last stretch for oryx challenge

Did my best trying to finish “something” on time for the challenge, but although the engine is in a pretty good shape, I’d still have to generate decent / balanced content and test thoroughly to produce a quality product.

I’d like to thank Oryx however, for giving me a reason to resurrect the project and give it a fresh air, I’ll definitively finish this once I get some spare time (and I believe I’ll finally have some spare time soon :))

Here are the advancements:

The first, test map

Battle Setup
Battle Setup
Round Results
Round Results
A more advanced map of Troria
A more advanced map of Troria
Skills
Skills

New Project: Troria, and the revival of Pixal

For the Oryx Ultimate Roguelike Challenge, I’ve decided to revive the pixal project, remaking the engine from the ground up.

I’ll elaborate more on the Pixal aspect soon, but for the moment here’s the advancement on the Troria Project:

Troria will be a mobile game you can play from your browser; explore the world of Troria becoming stronger and wiser while battling fierce enemies and roaming a huge world, all from your phone or your computer.

Moving between locations and exploring takes real world time, so get ready for an expansive experience, your characters will live their quest while you do your everyday things.

I’ve spent most of the time redesigning the pixal engine into something simpler, modern, more fun and accessible. Also with a more robust and scalable architecture. The engine already loads the scenario from a JSON file and provides persistence for the player data.

So far, I’ve managed to establish the backend to support the following operations:

  • Signup
  • Login
  • Character Creation
  • Movement
  • Exploration

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 11.45.38 PM px2 Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 11.51.41 PM 1385838160258 Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 11.56.50 PM