Revisiting a game you developed years ago, Part II

This is part II of my postmortem series on "LambdaRogue: The Book of Stars" (LR:TBS). Part I is here.

In the last 6 days (after I uploaded LR:TBS to, I have played my own game a lot. The good thing is that I have forgotten a lot of the details, so I can look on it partly through the eyes of a new player. I hope this allows me to identify parts which still work well and parts which require work.

Let me start to say that in all the time I have only won the game once, and that was long before the current version 1.6.4. Since then, I always died "yet another stupid death" (YASD). Sometimes I overlooked that a monster came in a strong variant, sometimes I was poisoned, sometimes hit by a trap, sometimes starved to death, and so on. So when I did test late-game content previously, I cheated (there's a cheat console built in the game, but you can't activate it in the published version). This way I was able to test if all quests work as intended, all item stuff is okay, and so on. But I never solved the game.

Now, years later, I played again, and of course lots of YASDs happened. But I also noticed some, hm, issues, which make the game maybe harder than it should be.

But first, let's look at the good things:

The Good: Things I still like

I'm still quite happy with some important things:

  • the setting in a post-technological underground world and the story elements you can experience while playing the game in story mode from start to end, including the various side quest lines and the books you can read for getting more background about the lore
  • the decision to randomly generate dungeons whenever you visit them (this is a debatable topic in the roguelike scene; I made it this way because I like Angband for this reason)
  • the character system and the battle system -- in the very early years of the game, I had re-done it several times, and I think it still works fine.
  • the possibility to combine items to create new ones, the possibility to dig for hidden rare items, the possibility to collect resource you use for crafting other rare items
  • some of the boss monster's abilities (such as the Lonely Librarian who throws with scriptures and hides behind bookshelves)

The Bad: Things I want to work on

Well, it's not really catastrophically bad, but I noticed there are some things I'd like to address:

  • later (deeper) dungeon levels, where enemies are harder and stronger, feel a bit grindy to me: Either you or they or sometimes both of you do only small damage to each other, but as both you and they have lots of HP by then, battles take too long. I identified two reasons for this, which follow now:
  • the artificial constraint that many items can only be used by certain classes (professions), and only if you've reached a certain character level. Both makes finding these items pretty disappointing if you're playing the wrong class or are still two levels below minimum.
  • the somehow under-powered enchanter class, which is supposed to be able to win the game by magic (called "chanting songs" in LR:TBS), without falling back to melee or ranged combat -- currently, songs take too long to refresh (and there's no item to reduce this time) and maximum PP rises too slowly in contrast to the PP affordances of more powerful songs (and items that regenerate PP don't regenerate enough)
  • some dungeon levels have not enough variation, because some dungeon "themes" have just a small amount of "puzzle tiles" (which are used for stiching a level together)

The Progress: What I'll do about it for LR:TBS 1.7

I've started work on the next update to LR:TBS (the first one since 2012). Besides integration of the 40x80 graphical tileset, some visual changes to fit the user interface in windows (like inventory, status, etc.) better with the pixel art style of the tile set, and some general bug fixes, I've started to work on all the aspects listed under "The Bad".

On the one hand, this is nothing dramatic that would drastically change the game; on the other hand, the impact is significant enough to allow for a more "fluid", maybe faster, game, esp. in the deeper levels.

This is especially important for coffeebreak mode, in which the game is stripped of all quests, and you really just go down to the deepest level and kill the end boss monster.

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