Indiemas­ter

Pre­pare for the Ad­ven­ture Time of your life “If you had a Panini al­bum as a kid, it’s time to rekin­dle your sticker ob­ses­sion”

Games Master - - Contents -

Why go on one RPG ad­ven­ture, when you can go on 100 tiny ones in The Swords Of Ditto?

Some­times it’s okay to admit it: life can be stress­ful. There are only 24 hours in the day, food to eat, re­la­tion­ships to man­age, sleep to en­joy, a tricksy so­cial me­dia per­sona to main­tain and, oh yeah, games. Games that can hap­pily eat up hun­dreds of hours in what feels like sec­onds. ( We’ll just sit down to Stardew Val­ley for an hour or two. What do you mean it’s dawn? We still need to feed the chick­ens.) What we need is a game that feels like it’s a hun­dred-hour RPG ad­ven­ture but is ac­tu­ally less time-con­sum­ing. Say hello to The Swords Of Ditto, a ‘com­pact’ ac­tion-RPG with a rogue­like twist. “The orig­i­nal con­cept was to make a ‘Link To The Past Gen­er­a­tor’ – a game that cre­ates a brand-new Zelda-style ac­tion RPG ev­ery time you play,” says di­rec­tor Jonathan Bid­dle. “I also wanted to do a mod­ern take on this idea, which is one of the rea­sons that co-op was in­tro­duced (the other be­ing that I have kids, and co-op games are in­stant hits here).”

Pick up the Sword – yes be­long­ing to the town of Ditto – and you’ll start your ad­ven­ture as a ran­domly gen­er­ated char­ac­ter to try to save the world from eter­nal dark­ness. Die valiantly in your at­tempts and 100 years later a new hero picks up your weapon to con­tinue your quest and keep the dark­ness at bay. “We re­fer to each ad­ven­ture in The Swords Of Ditto as a mi­cro RPG. Each of th­ese mi­cro RPGs con­tain all of the things you’d ex­pect in a nor­mal RPG – an over­world, dun­geons, char­ac­ters, gad­gets, lev­el­ling up, and loot – but ac­cel­er­ated,” con­firms Bid­dle. “We’re try­ing to get play­ers to see a lot of va­ri­ety in a short space of time, and for that time to be short enough that they want to go in again.”

Blade run­ner

Each ses­sion is bite-sized, mak­ing it ideal for a perfect chunk of RPG time be­fore bed. “We’ve aimed for an ap­prox­i­mate playthrough of a sin­gle ad­ven­ture to be about two hours long, but re­ally, it will take many times that to see ev­ery­thing that the game has to of­fer and to ex­pe­ri­ence the story arc that we’ve built across the game as a whole,” Bid­dle says. “Play­ers keep their XP and level as they play, and the RPGs gets big­ger and more in­volved as sto­ries are fin­ished and new features be­come avail­able, so that two-hour win­dow be­comes a play­ground in which to see new things.”

Im­pres­sively, this is a ran­domly gen­er­ated world. From your char­ac­ter to the en­vi­ron­ments and the weapons you dis­cover in the shape of stick­ers, ev­ery­thing has been con­structed in a unique way. “The ran­dom gen­er­a­tion is

built into ev­ery facet of the game. Pretty much ev­ery­thing changes. We wanted the game to of­fer some­thing new ev­ery time you played,” con­firms Bid­dle. “It’s cer­tainly been chal­leng­ing. If the game was a nor­mal, pre-built RPG, then I’m pretty sure we would have fin­ished it ages ago! We don’t ac­tu­ally pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ate the lev­els – they’re built by hand and then el­e­ments of them are ran­domised and swapped in and out. We did it this way since we have a lot of level de­sign ex­pe­ri­ence and we also knew that we would need au­thored con­tent to cre­ate aes­thet­i­cally sound lay­outs. The big­gest chal­lenge has prob­a­bly been cre­at­ing dun­geon puz­zles that have in­ter­change­able so­lu­tions.”

Friendly fires

And yes, ‘Swords’ means you can bring a friend along for the ride, but don’t ex­pect it to be­come twice as sim­ple to de­feat your foes. “Hav­ing an­other sword in the bat­tle makes de­feat­ing the en­e­mies eas­ier, but since the in­ven­tory is shared, then that other per­son is also a li­a­bil­ity – they just are an­other op­por­tu­nity for your health items to be used up!” teases Bid­dle. “An­other way this is bal­anced is through the re­vive me­chanic. When a player per­son runs out of health, they fall un­con­scious to the floor, and it is up to the other player to wake them up with a lov­ing hug. How­ever, the wak­ing player gives the other player half of their health, so re­viv­ing can make the game more dif­fi­cult too.” Aww, but surely we can fo­cus on the lovely hug for a sec­ond be­fore wor­ry­ing about the next puz­zle?

Oh, and if you had a Panini al­bum as a kid, it’s time to rekin­dle your sticker ob­ses­sion. Ch­ests, shops, and char­ac­ters hand over new abil­i­ties and pow­ers in the shape of equip­pable stick­ers. “You can un­lock new sword moves, or leave a trail of fire be­hind you when you roll. You can poi­son en­e­mies when you hit them, be­come in­vis­i­ble in bushes, recharge your health au­to­mat­i­cally, and many more,” Bid­dle says. “There are lim­ited edi­tion stick­ers that have even more special abil­i­ties on them, and you can find sealed packs of stick­ers around the game that need to be opened by the spe­cial­ist, Lik, in the Sticker Shack. You can swap abil­i­ties in and out by chang­ing what stick­ers you have stuck on your char­ac­ter, chang­ing your strat­egy in re­sponse to dun­geons that have dif­fer­ent kinds of chal­lenges and en­e­mies in­side them.”

The Ad­ven­ture Time-style vi­su­als are the ic­ing on the cake, de­liv­er­ing a hand-drawn feel to ev­ery frame. “We felt that a car­toon-style game would give us a great op­por­tu­nity to use the high res­o­lu­tion to show fa­cial ex­pres­sions, such as those that were used in Wind Waker,” ex­plains Bid­dle. “We wanted to em­brace pos­i­tiv­ity, and see the joy on our char­ac­ters’ faces as they went on this fun ad­ven­ture to­gether un­der a blue sky, and this style al­lowed us to re­alise that.” So much for com­pact – we can’t wait to lose hours un­der that blue sky…

The car­toon art style came from a de­sire for things to make the most of 1080p, and “em­brace positvity”. For­mat PS4, PC De­vel­oper One Bit Be­yond ETA Spring 2018 Web http://bit.ly/gmsword­sofditto

Die be­fore you com­plete your mis­sion and the is­land will be thrown into dark­ness un­til your next ad­ven­turer gets there. Spoiler: the is­landers don’t like that much.

Co-op makes mon­ster bat­tles a lit­tle eas­ier, but puz­zle with a friend and you might end up knock­ing one an­other out with nasty traps. At least you can re­vive your pal with an apolo­getic hug (at the cost of half your own health).

If you’re suc­cess­ful in your quest, your next ad­ven­turer will find a statue of you when they re­turn to the is­land 100 years later. Be­hold our glo­ri­ous mon­u­ment!

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