Copper Dreams - Sneaking & Character Progression

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A new kickstarter update for Copper Dreams and more information on two important systems. This update focuses on Sneaking and how your character progresses. Copper Dreams has gathered 31K out of a 40k goal with 9 days remaining.

Sneaky Agents!

Sneaking is a largely viable way to get through a lot of the game, even if all agents aren't skilled in it. Prancing around with skull fractures and lungs filling with bile can take its toll, and unless you're armed to the teeth, slipping away under the cover of shadows or jumping into a duct is a bit more predictable. We've made sneaking a combination of simulation and dice rolling, giving characters and enemies the ability to hone various aspects of stealth.

Sound

Enemies can be alerted to your presence from your noises, including footsteps, throwing items, jumping, doors and gunshots. As you get closer, you are more likely to be heard, although if there is a wall or some other obstruction between you and the enemy they receive a negative modifier to their roll.

Sight

This one is obvious, but the player is detected from a certain distance away via a vision cone from enemies. Crouching is a good way to hide behind smaller objects if you know an enemy is coming your direction. Being in light gives a positive hit modifier in combat, and being in a darkened area gives a negative one.

Detection

Once detected, enemies will engage in combat. They instantly roll for initiative after seeing you, and if they can will call for backup. Their call can be interrupted with an attack. If they can't call for backup, either by word of mouth or radio, they'll begin to engage in combat.

If you run out of combat your enemies will remember your last known position and pursue you. Remain hidden long enough (or continue to outrun your opponent), and they'll give up and enter an alerted patrol stage.

If more than one enemy is engaging you, they'll attempt to flank you. They'll also utilize their abilities and equipped weapons responsibly. This is a large part of the engagement combat system we'll be working on for your alpha for testing! In a more simulationist system like this, smart AI is paramount, so we aim to have scripts for enemies that are lethal and appropriate. Enemies will have wide ranges of intelligence, including flushing you out with grenades, suppressing fire to stall you for other enemies to get into position, and mind-hacking your crew to fire on each other or walk out into the open.

Enemies don't have a hive mind vision, so you can also be sneaking or have characters waiting to ambush enemies giving chase. Toying with their senses is part of the fun, and challenge of encounters. Some enemies have enhanced senses and abilities to combat player savviness, such as giving chase with enhanced jumping or running speed.

Alert Status

Enemies have various states of being alerted to your presence. They'll either be patrolling as normal, running to these patrol points in a panic, or searching in random locations near the sound or location they heard a noise.

If an alarm is sounded or backup is called in a high-security syndicate controlled building they'll come from outside and go through a sweep of the entire building before calling it off. If it's the Mayflower Initiative (the most powerful syndicate on the Island) they can have a tendency to leave behind a Copper Face or two sneaking around. Better to hope not.
[...]

Changing the focus to surviving gameplay instead of searching for XP

Having a focus on stealth (and manipulating enemies) begs the question of how you actually reward that. A simulationist method, at least pen-and-paper wise, usually nets growth of a skill by use - something like Burning Wheel (or Mouse Guard, if you've been so lucky to play that). This works great when there aren't reloads, you're not spamming abilities, and there are limited uses with consequence. In a CRPG that has an immediate, obvious drawback: it fundamentally boils down to spamming when there is an abundance of content to use them on without consequence. Fire a gun to gain a gun skill? You're finding the nearest pack of rats or unsuspecting bandits and unloading until you're the best gunslinger around.

There's certainly ways you can mitigate these types of loopholes, but the problem would remain: your progression is dictated by how much you can use something. Unless there's a very limited amount of times you can use something or do something, maybe in a choose-you-own-adventure type way, this ultimately ends up as a grind. For many types of games this method of gaining XP works perfectly fine when combat is predominantly what you're engaging in, and there's a massive level range of enemies and obstacles to constantly be using these abilities against to practice on.

Normally games just reward you for some combination of combat, skill use or completing quests. While this gives a very D&D-like moment-to-moment purpose for character progression, this also dictates how you play the game, especially in a CRPG when that's just calculated simply by a computer. Netting XP for only quests, for example, means meaningful player progression is only done by grinding quests, same with combat or skill usage.

While that has merit if those obstacles are the primary focus of the design, it also detracts from less tangible things that don't give you XP - discovering puzzles, secrets, avoiding combat in clever ways, or using skills that don't give XP or only low amounts of it. Gaining XP in this way also requires scalability to last - if you're netting XP and levels constantly, things need to be scaling with you or spread out how their difficulty is scaled, but that often boils down to rolling larger and larger pools of dice at one another.

That doesn't work well with a simulationist system where survival and tactics are more important than level or stat blocked challenges. We don't want to push certain ways of getting through combat, we just want you to be able to play the game however you want and be rewarded equally for it, assuming you're playing it well.
More information.
 
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Capt. Huggy Face

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Glad to see you two break $30k. Only 10 more to go. Hope it doesn't stop there.
 
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Hexprone

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<pedant>"observance" doesn't really mean "observant-ness" tho</pedant>
 
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Hexprone

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open


The image above (which probably isn't loading because it's 18 MB big -- it's included in the update if you can't see it) looks super-cool, and is the first piece of media for this game that I've found really striking.

However, all the other images of gameplay have been zoomed much further out. Will this level of detail be visible in game? Will we be able to zoom freely in and out, or will this kind of view be the one used in dialog scenes, or what?
 
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Whalenought_Joe

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Will it be possible to gain a vision cone of enemies line of sight through some technology or upgrade?

It certainly could be! Those cones actually exist behind the scenes, and we've talked about that as an eye cybernetic but haven't decided to add it in, as it wouldn't be all too useful. You can move in the game completely in a turn-based fashion (where the world only moves when you do), and those vision cones are quite predictable, so you can really take your time and plan stealthy maneuvers for all party members as needed. The level layout is also fairly geometric to also make sensory mechanics like that easy to predict.

Glad to see you two break $30k. Only 10 more to go. Hope it doesn't stop there.

Thanks, we hope so too! We're so grateful and happy with the response we've had so far though. We knew we we're pitching something that's hard to easily compare to other games, which is ideal as we're trying a lot of new things but that also makes it terribly hard to market. The remaining updates planned hopefully help get more attention for the final days!

However, all the other images of gameplay have been zoomed much further out. Will this level of detail be visible in game? Will we be able to zoom freely in and out, or will this kind of view be the one used in dialog scenes, or what?

Yes you can zoom in quite close in-game to get a good look at things, and cinematic clips, opening the character sheet/inventory as well as dialogue will also zoom into a closer perspective of your characters. Pulling back the camera allows it to be a bit more useful to see surroundings during more strategic gameplay though.
 
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Hexprone

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Cool. The pixelated face of the close-up character not only looks good, but ties this game visually to the design of SitS, giving your company a clearer "brand" -- up until this shot, Copper Dreams has seemed a complete about-face from your previous game, which is a fun challenge for you as creators but can risk throwing off a fan base -- particularly a very niche one.

So, more of this, is what I am saying!

Those cones actually exist behind the scenes, and we've talked about that as an eye cybernetic but haven't decided to add it in, as it wouldn't be all too useful.

I agree with Silver. Even if it's not really needed, I think a toggle for visible line of sight markings would be helpful in getting players used to how detection works -- and if it's an underpowered cybernetic, it could be the free upgrade you get right at the beginning that teaches you how that process works, too.
 
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Sensuki

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There is a fog of war in the game, which obviously takes the player vision cone into account. Players should be able to get an understanding of enemy line of sight by simply looking at how much of the Fog of War they can see - which is what people do in most games that have Fog of War. I don't think it's necessary to show the vision cones by default, even in a toggle.
 
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Whalenought_Joe

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There is a fog of war in the game, which obviously takes the player vision cone into account. Players should be able to get an understanding of enemy line of sight by simply looking at how much of the Fog of War they can see - which is what people do in most games that have Fog of War. I don't think it's necessary to show the vision cones by default, even in a toggle.

Yeah that's the idea —the player character's volumetric line of sight acts as an abstraction of that character's in-world senses. That's why enemy models only appear when they are in it, otherwise reduced to just noise indicators. It reveals what that character can see for the player, mitigating how much of a player-advantage system that is. And as you said, it acts as an effective 'reverse vision cone'.

Instead there are mechanics to compliment sensory systems: when wall hugging corners your line of sight extends to the tile next to you, increasing your vision radius to two tile locations so you can get a visual down a hallway/around a corner. Part of the design of a simulationist system like this is making player skill actually matter — obfuscation of excessive visual systems like that reward player savviness.

However there are cybernetics that enhance senses without just outright showing visual systems — you can throw cybernetic eyes as an item that extend a character's line of sight (sort of like a Wizard Eye), X ray through walls, see enemies in the dark, and so on.
 
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