This update introduces abilities to the game, finally making experience and class levels useful!
In Westward, each player is multi-classes; everyone can progress simultaneously in the 4 classes of the game (soldier, merchant, craftsman and explorer). One earns experience (XP) for a specific class by performing class-related actions: fighting for soldiers, exploring for explorers, etc. Enough XP allows to LvlUp in a class, which grants Ability Points (AP).
Since this update, a new menu now allows to spend these AP to acquire passive abilities (see below).
At this point the amount of available skills is relatively limited, but now that the functionality exists, the number of skills will quickly grow.
Under the hood, it was also interesting to try and design this cleanly. The solution I found is to treat all aspects that can be affected by an ability as stats, i.e. player-specific numerical attribute. There were already some battle-related stats (damage, defense…), but now stats are more general: they can pertain to your chance of foraging more from a plant, to the amount of items you can carry, etc.
Having all these numerical attributes grouped together allows to manage them easily, and to apply modifiers based on abilities. It will also make future changes very easy, like the belt system where you can buy and equip belts of various capacities: belt capacity can be considered a “stat” and can then easily be modified. This means that the range of possible equipment effects will be exactly as large as the range of possible ability effects, which opens nice perspectives.
A playable game at last?
This new addition also marks in my opinion a very significant milestone: the game now has a full set of interacting gameplay loops and can really be considered a game. I see two main aspects to be fulfilled for an online multiplayer game to be considered as such:
– An obstacle to overcome or a foe to beat: this is present since a few updates, with the introduction of the enemy civilization which actively attacks players and opposes their progress;
– A progression system: in addition to progress through equipment, this update introduces progress through experience and abilities.
In summary, players can perform various inter-related activities to improve themselves and use these advantages to overcome the enemy civilization, which in turns unlocks further possible improvements.
Please note however that although the main principles are now in place, they remain very basic and will have to be refined and improved in future updates. Improvements to the visual quality of the game will also play a big role in improving the overall experience.
There is a lot left to do, but I feel that at this point everything is possible. I have carried out this project on my own for more than two years now, proving that I have the vision, technical skills and more importantly, the discipline to tackle such an ambitious project. The biggest technical challenges have been solved early on and the groundwork for the main systems has been laid (UI, battles, networking, …), opening the way to more incremental changes with high added value. At this point, further progress is only a matter of time and user feedback.
Speaking of user feedback brings me to my final comment. Although the game is public since the beginning, it has attracted only so many eyeballs so far. I feel that for the continuation of the development, it becomes crucial to gather much more feedback.
I’ll therefore start taking steps to begin creating a community around the game, in the form of a few communication channels and eventually a wiki to store information about the game mechanics. This community will be essential for moral support, advice and feedback (to which I’ll be particularly attentive), and possibly even financial support. On that note, I have now fully dedicated my Patreon page to Westward, and have added Westward-specific rewards. The milestones can also give you an idea of current and future expenses.
As usual, news and updates will be reported in recurring dev logs; see you soon!