Hello and welcome to the Caledonian Games Developer Journal. This will be a regularly updated journal of progress on many of the games made here at Caledonian Games.
As games are conceived, discussed, organized, and created; Caledonian Games owner/developer, Scott Allen, will post notes and images to help visitors see the Caledonian Games Creative process in action.
December 15, 2012
Making Cults of Lunae™
In this post I would like to get back to being more demonstrative of my process. To do so I will outline a game creating process that began almost twenty years ago. Back in the mid 90’s I was a production artist for a small team that worked diligently for the better part of six months on a game project called Bloodrill. The efforts resulted in a dynamic and richly promising game demo and we debuted the project at the E3 Expo in Atlanta. Unfortunately the team fell apart when the project leaders couldn’t agree upon methods for progressing with technical matters in the game but the experience was extremely valuable and a lot of fun.
One thing in particular that I took from the project was the time based game mechanic that controlled the ebb and flow of the game based on moon cycles. This concept was the starting point of a new strategy game I began working on called The Cults of Lunae™.
Current working box cover art for Cults of Lunae™
Making Cults of Lunae™ is was like reviving a lost love. My experiences with Bloodrill left me with bittersweet feelings. I gained so much great experience with that project but felt so frustrated that the fruits of our labor never came to fruition. Through Cults of Lunae I am able to take some of the best elements of that project and breath new life into them through this sci-fantasy themed strategy game.
The key elements I wanted to reenvision from Bloodrill were the player’s gaining privilege through their allegiance to competitive gods, and the time mechanic that determines a players various strengths based on the lunar phases of the worlds two moons. Those two concepts gave me a strong foundation to build from. In this post I will explain the premise of the game, the various gods that a player can pledge to, the races and the resources they control, and nature of the lunar phase function in the game.
Cults of Lunae is a hex map PvP game where players align with a celestial deity to become the living incarnation, or “Avatar,” of that god. This allows an Avatar to harness special powers bequeathed by their deity. The various mystic powers that the Avatar has to command derive empowerment from the two moons of Lunae. The moons are in constant cycle around the planet, shifting in each players turn, effectively changing a player’s strategy as one power literally waxes while another wanes.
These Avatars are as living gods on the landscape of Lunae. As the representatives of gods, Avatars can not only summon the magic of their deity, they can also call upon and command the creatures and residents of Lunae to fight, build, and gather resources to aid in development and conquest. These residents will be scattered across Lunae which is made up of different land types each possessing it’s own specific resources and cultures.
In Lunae, ancient tales tell of a world that once had only one moon, the orange moon, Cadmion. In the old times the world was wrought by purely elemental forces as it only knew the destructive forces of Cadmia’s elemental Gods. Myths tell of a night when the purple moon, Tyria first appeared. This new moon brought the aesthetics of the Goddesses to Lunae. With their arrival came time, life, death, and connection to the cosmos.
Now Lunae landscape, still shaped by the elements, is balanced with the powers of a diverse set of Gods. As such Lunae has diverse living communities. These communities thrive when working together toward common goals but in their vanity each god has claimed one as their own. The gods and goddesses are greedy and each on wishes to elevate themselves to primacy, uniting all the races of Lunae in their name.
As an Avatar, you are your deities champion seeking to subjugate the races and rule Lunae in their name.
The elemental gods of the moon Cadmion are:
Pyroth – God of Fire
Typhon – God of Storms
Cragus - God of Earth
Pelagos - God of Water
The aesthetic goddesses of the moon Tyria are:
Anachronia – Goddess of Time
Necrasia – Goddess of Death
Anima – Goddess of Life
Galatia - Goddess of Stars
In Lunae their are eight different terrain types each with it’s dominant species. The species tend the lands resources and will be put to service by the Avatar’s.
The Centaurs of the Plains
The dominant race on the Plains hexes are the Centaurs. These horse men are gifted agriculturalists and fierce warriors. They grow grains that are needed for all races to feed armies. The centaurs grow flax sufficiently without external resources but harvest oats when supplied with bronze implements and create flour from wheat they can harvest when also supplied with granite for milling stones.
The Elves of the Forest
The Elves are the dominant race of the Forests. They tend and harvest trees that all races use in construction of upgrades and certain weapons. Elves can sufficiently grow pine without external resources but cannot havest maple without granite axes, and may not harvest ebony without iron saws.
The Salamandra of the Swamp
The Salamandra are semi amphibious humanoids that rule the Swamp lands of Lunae. They are gifted tribal herbalists that can harvest medicinal herbs and mushrooms that are useful to all races in healing wounded warriors. Without external resources they may only create minor curative salves from Leaf, a medical herb harvested at the edge of the swamps. With flasks derived of desert silica they may create stronger healing tonics from a species of mushroom common in their lands. Better yet, with oats from the Plains they can create a hardy algae porridge that can ward off the effects of disease and poisons.
The Lizardmen of the Desert
The Deserts Lizardmen harvest minerals that are useful to all of Lunae. Without the resources of others they can only harvest the clay used for basic ceramic implements but can form glass from silica sands they are able to dig with limestone tools and with granite hammers they can break down useful salts.
The Orcs of the Canyons
The Orcs of the canyon lands are as rough as the landscape that surrounds them. When not fighting to establish the rule of their barren lands, they are busing mining the sandstone landscape for gemstones…well at least when motivated to do so. The Orcs are not easily driven to hard work without bribes. The Orcs can easily mine coal, which runs in plentiful veins throughout their lands, and they will require no excessive encouragement to do so. In order to get them to work harder, hungry orcs will demand flax breads to mine Quartz and fresh trout to mine the highly useful and valuable diamonds.
The Dwarves of the Mountains
Myths tell that the Dwarves of the Mountains are born of the stone they work. The stone is used for many structures of use as well as important weapons and implements in Lunae. In their youth dwarves are taught to mine and shape common limestone but they need iron tools to mine granite. To mine obsidian, the hardest of their stones, they need the use of diamond edged tools.
The Cyclops of the Foothills
The cyclops of the foothills are the children of Pyroth, God of Fire. They easily work bronze in the crucibles of their deep caves within Lunae’s Foothills. They need coal to heat their crucibles hot enough to work iron and need to add flux derived of limestone to form steel.
The Water Sprites of the Rivers
The agile Water Sprites, stewards of Lunae’s great rivers, happily harvest the plentiful perch that gather in the shallows of river pools without outside assistance but they need maple fishing poles to catch trout, and they can make a richly sustaining salmon jerky with salts from desert Lizardmen.
While each of these races can add strength to an Avatars wealth and military might, they become vastly more effective when an avatar shares resources from one claimed territory with another. As shown within the description of the races are ultimately interdependent. The Centaurs of the Plains, for example, are automatically at level one of both military strength and resource production. They can attack with their base strength attack value and produce flax, but they need bronze implements from the Cyclops to harvest oats, and they need maple wood for the creation of bows to increase military strength. All regions are dependent in this way upon at least two other regions.
In this way, a player’s success very much hinges on resource management that can support improvements and improved military forces to compete against rival Avatars. This would suggest that the player who accomplished these goals most efficiently would win every time. While excellent management is a great benefit, the Avatar’s mystic powers, well timed and concerted with military strategy can turn a nearly hopeless battle into victory. The Deities and the powers wielded of them by the Avatars are the wild card element to the game. A player with superior resource management skills who had amassed a dominant force could lose out to a crafty player who played defensively until just the right lunar moment to unleash celestial powers that could turn the tide of battle.
The powers available to each mystic powers available to an Avatar are primarily determined by which deity they align themselves to at the game beginning. Each deity provides their Avatar with six different spells unique to their focus of power. For example, Pyroth God of Fire can unleash firestorms to devastate enemy forces or walls of fire to create a line of defense in retreat. Others spells may be more nuanced. Anachronia, Goddess of Time, for example, can alter time itself, reducing enemy forces to previous states, or shifting the moons to change their own or opposing forces available spells. That segues us nicely to how time, marked by the lunar moment, effects the game.
The lunar moment is determined by the phase of Lunae’s two moons, the orange moon Cadmion, and the purple moon Tyria. At the beginning of each player’s turn, the very first thing they must do is advance the dials on the lunar tracker by one space, revealing the current lunar moment. This signifies the wax and wane of both moons throughout the passage of time in the game. Based upon a player’s moon chart, they can see which of their mystic powers is available in any given turn. The well played usage of these powers can accelerate the rise of a player’s power, turn the tide in battle, or allow a defeated Avatar to recover more effectively from a loss.
That about does it for my explanation of Cults of Lunae™. The concept is in many ways mostly complete but there is still a lot of work to be done. I will do a short Q&A to explain the processes I still need to follow in order to bring this game to a playable form.
Q: How are you going to handle combat in the game? What is your process for making such a decision?
A: The current model for handling combat in Cults involves battling forces to tally up the forces attack values and the rolling a d10. The player whose total attack points is higher subtracts the difference from the opponents forces. If in a round an attack is made and the attacker’s value is more than 10 higher than the opponents force value it results in a rout. The losing force is divide in half and is forced to retreat 1 space. This battle system is fairly basic and I far from set in stone. I think that it’s one of the areas I will change the most in early game tests.
Q: What more needs to be done with races and resources?
A: As seen in the game description above, the relationship of races and resources is fairly clear. At this point the bulk of work in that area has to do with races upgrade paths. As races utilize external resources they will be able to upgrade and gain special abilities. It is those upgrade paths and nature of those abilities I will be working on further. It’s important that you provide strong impetus for players to work toward upgrades but also find balance between the races so that each in their own way is equally valuable.
Q: How much graphic work is required for the game? What have you done so far?
A: The graphic art work for Cults of Lunae™ is one of my more daunting tasks. I am perfectly capable of planning the designs and creating icons used for various game indicators. The higher quality art used for images of the deities and races will require commissioning unique art or purchasing relevant stock imagery. In either case its a great expense to undertake without first having some certainty of publishing.
As of now, I have made a mock up for the lunar moment tracking wheel. I also have collected some imagery for the various terrain types and have assembled a couple of prototype map hexes. Aside from that all I have is the cover art shown at the top of this page. Ideally to finish the art for the game, I would purchase the rights to use some models/renders from a failed fantasy themed RTS video game product. The models could easily translate into useful renders for in game tokens and images placed on tables that show potential upgrades. The trick is finding the right contacts to get hands on such materials.
As you can see I have some questions of my own to answer yet. I’m not too worried about it because I view this game as a long term project for a few different reasons. One is that the amount of work yet to be done is substantial and may require significant investment. Another reason is that I feel this game in the end will be fairly complex and require many hours of intense strategic game play. This is not a bad thing. There is definitely a market for hardcore gamers but I feel more casual titles are perhaps better for my initial launches as the possess a potential to hit a larger target audience.
So that’s about it for my current discussion of Cults of Lunae™. I will update this or create further posts as news changes. When I come considerably closer to a predictable publish date I will post the game assets in greater detail in the future releases section of the Caledonian Games site.
Please come back soon. My next post will be about another exciting future title. The wild and dynamic semi-cooperative RPG, Warriors of the Wasteland™!
Till then take care and happy gaming to you all.