Welcome to Planewalker Games! We are the home of The Broken Hourglass, a new CRPG in development for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers.
Inside the Engine: Creating Level Paths

On the fourth Monday of each month, we explore the code underneath The Broken Hourglass, the game environment called "WeiNGINE." This month, we explore the underpinnings of experience progression, the level path system.

Last week we discussed level paths in The Broken Hourglass from a player's perspective. As a follow-up, we will use this month's Inside the Engine department to consider how level paths work from an engine perspective, and show how to create a new one.

There are a number of engine functions which govern the spending of experience points on character abilities. _attribute_upgrade causes a character to spend XP to purchase points in a valid skill or attribute, while _toggle_trait adds a trait to that character. Supporting functions like _can_toggle_trait (to ensure that there are no unmet prerequisites for the trait) and _attribute_upgrade_cost can help us determine whether the purchases we want to make are possible.

But rather than reinvent the wheel and apply this logic every single time a character levels up, we have a function which performs the skill buying and experience bookkeeping automatically. This makes the creation of a new level path extremely easy by following just a few simple rules.

The function is called _generic_level_path and its arguments are listed below:

Broken Hourglass Interview at Rampant Games

Jay Barnson of Rampant Games has just posted a meaty interview with Planewalker Games about our upcoming title, The Broken Hourglass. Read the interview here.

Rules and Mechanics: Level Paths

Praise and tangible rewards are two tried and true payoffs of the role-playing experience. The third is experience points, or XP. 

Experience is earned in four major ways in The Broken Hourglass:

-    Completing quests, or a portion of a quest
-    Defeating opponents in combat
-    Listening to dialogue
-    Exploring areas

Under the standard rules in The Broken Hourglass, when characters reach certain experience point thresholds, they become eligible to level up. The process is similar to the concepts of "classes" or "levels" in other systems, but with a twist reflecting the point-buy underpinnings of the system.

Advancement is managed with level "paths." These paths represent a template of study, behavior, or personal focus roughly analogous to a character "class." Paths include the Scout, the Diplomat, the Marauder, and the Soldier. Paths automatically buy traits and points in primarily attributes and secondary skills to reflect the priorities expressed by the path--for instance, characters following a Diplomat path invest heavily in social skills. The player character may employ any path the player wishes to follow (or no path at all--see below for more details).

Joinable NPCs, on the other hand, have certain preferences and opinions about the way they should manage their personal development. Halima, who has devoted most of her young life to the study and advancement of her magical talents, will not consent to follow the Soldier path--it is simply too far from her interests. Meanwhile, Nekos the gladiator has little interest in becoming a spellcaster. Some NPCs can be convinced to explore different paths as you get to know them and they see new opportunities for themselves, however.

Here's how a level path works:

Inside Mac Games Podcast with Planewalker

The podcast crew at Inside Mac Games recently interviewed Planewalker Games about our upcoming title, The Broken Hourglass. Links to the half-hour recording, including several download sources and podcast feeds, can be found here. (Hint: For non-iTunes users, we've had the best luck using the "Odeo" link.)

Our thanks to IMG for taking the time with us! 

Moonshine, Chapter 2

The four-part tale Moonshine continues this month. Unlike our previous tale, which highlighted some of Mal Nassrin's richest and most talented, Moonshine offers a glimpse of how the other half lives through the eyes of Klavel, partner in one of the city's illicit pitfighting rackets. Missed Chapter 1, or our earlier serial On the Fly? See our complete list of serials here.

By Sonja Littell-Trotter

Chapter 2

The morning is dark.  The heavy gray clouds breeze by overhead, hardly seeming to linger long enough to drop rain.  Maybe, like the gods, they're just too far away to care. 

The gods... Lord, Larius isn't the only one moody as a girl these days.  Why had that woman bothered him?  It could have been age and whisky mixing unkindly.  Old men do weep more; I'd seen it myself.  When they were my age they were hale and hearty, hearts like granite; but gray their hair and they'll spill tears for a dead leaf floating on water.  I had no clue for his concern. I hadn't recognized her, and Larius and I have been around each other since before my eye and I parted company.

It had been a bad night, anyway. Professionally, at least.  My hip was bad today, but not as bad as I'd feared it might be.  The overcast sky has captured some warmth under it and that helps. A little. 

I can't get Larius' face out of my head.  I remember the melting anger and pain in his expression.  I wonder about that. Doesn't matter, I guess. What really matters is whether he's nursing a grudge along with a sore head.  Gods know I've got enough to deal with today without having to coddle him.  Did he know that woman?  I admit that I don't care about much when I'm drunk.  Besides, I was having trouble recalling details.  Had the man told him her name?  Had Larius needed him to?  What had he asked that man, and what had he known?

Nekos: Hero of the People?

Nekos portraitNekos is one of the characters who may join your party in The Broken Hourglass.

Any long-time resident of Mal Nassrin knows the draw of the arena--many a dusk settles on the city with the crowd still roaring in appreciation of a marathon battle. But the spectacle has survived the test of time on its personalities as much as violence and escapism. Although the anonymous undercard combatants come and go, one name has stood out for years--Nekos.

As a gladiator, Nekos has a record of victories and titles unparalleled in the arena's history, including the last two Champion's Cup tournaments-feats which not only gave him the most Cup wins on record, but made him the oldest fighter ever to take the top prize. But he sees himself as more than just a champion gladiator. When he steps into the ring, he is part fighter, part orator-he has been known to lecture and engage the audience in topics ranging from the right way to tell uncooperative children bedtime stories, to the importance of saving money for lean times.

His accomplishments are indisputable. But what does the man, woman, and child on the street think of Nekos, owner of "the most recognizable arms in Narimir"?

Pilipo, arena souvenir vendor:

"Nekos? Sure, I root for him. Who doesn't? I've been watching him fight since... wow, ever since I was a boy. I guess I never really thought about it before, but Nekos must be getting on.

Still, you don't see many glads who are able to pick up a barbarian, hold him clear above his head, and plant them in the dust-even those new guys who must be half his age!"

Persethone, widow and professional mourner:

"When will that young man learn that you can't get respect in this life running around with dirty, scraggly hair, all covered with sweat? What good does that do any of us to see? Real work, that's what he needs to do! I've got floors that need a good resurfacing if he wants to show off his muscles."

Marko, laborer:

"Nekos? Bah! Arena? More like a dancehall. I wouldn't go see him and his bunch of old ladies if you paid me. You can't see a good, honest fight there. You gotta find yourself a pit--sure, they're illegal, but I know a place--and look for the guy who's real quiet-like before the fighting starts. More often than not, it's the quiet ones what got the killer instinct. Put your money on them.

All that gabbing Nekos likes to do, he wouldn't last two minutes in the pits. They don't care who you are or which councilors you know there. All that matters is fighting, and when it comes to fighting, those gladiators sure know how to dance!"

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