The RogueWare Project

"Game Recklessly"

Dev. Blog

Year-End Aims and Goals

Posted by Chris Crooks on December 1, 2013 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The final month of the year is upon us, and a flurry of development is in progress, with an overall goal to make the game pitchable to publishers by January. As many of you have correctly observed, dropping expectant gamers into the middle of an experience with no tutorial and little instruction is a significant barrier to entry, and so I'm currently developing four in-game tutorials that will slowly introduce the myriad concepts of this game in small, easy-to-digest sections, peppered throughout with essential advice from Gaius and Lydia. It was always our aim to do this, but getting the prototype to actually run at all had been our primary concern. Now we are trying to add the accessibility this game needs to reach a wider audience. As always, your ideas, suggestions, complaints, and feedback are appreciated and solicited. I will be posting the update with the first tutorial soon, which I have already finished.

Furthermore, there is going to be intense playtesting and debugging as we try to polish this thing up to respectability. I'm going to revamp and spruce up the battle system, as well as iron out the many obnoxious glitches that seem to plague the visitor/quest system and market. If we have time for additional content, some more narrative elements will be added as well as a random element to surveyed land, with a possibility of finding supply caches, magical sites, or even squatters who must be driven off. I also want to add the ability to collect firewood directly from forests as opposed to the time-consuming chopping of timber which is fine but hardly the only realistic option. The amount of firewood gathered will be randomized based on a Survival roll, but the time-saving aspect of not having to spend more actions chopping it up should be handy during those hard winters. As a little more icing on the cake I'm going to attempt to add a bit of music here and there if I find time to actually write it. I will likely be posting some of my prototypes on piano regardless, so you can get a flavor of what I'm going for musically.

As a final noteworthy goal for all you patient rogues who are alarmed at the lack of site activity, it is our mission to publish two updates a week - one related to the FreeHolder prototype and how it is progressing, including a possible update of the prototype itself, and a second, content-based update that will vary but should give you more information on how our mind-gears are turning. It may be game reviews, or a podcast, or a piece of music, but whatever it is, you should weekly have a little something to get your fix. I've written two game reviews already and will most likely be publishing them today or tomorrow.

Thank you all who keep an eye on this site and who wish us well in our journey of game development. It's an exciting time in an exciting field and I feel priveleged just to be able to participate. Talk to you soon!

Pre-Cade Build Upgrade

Posted by Chris Crooks on October 2, 2013 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi everyone. We just posted a new build we will be using at IndieCade to wow various persons. It contains a number of bugfixes and a much fancier looking battle system that is functional if a bit wonky at the moment. It's mostly just a better proof-of-concept for the whole thing, with some flow and nifty icons and character art. Enjoy. Feedback is very encouraged. Wish us luck!

Click this link to play the latest build!

5/5: Save & Quit, Combat Preview, All Classes Available

Posted by Matt Crooks on May 5, 2013 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Howdy Rogues and Roguettes,

We didn't quite hit our goal for the end of April, but boy are we close.  Every starting class is now available at the start of the game including the Gladiator, you can now save and quit then continue a game later and a preview of the combat system is available.

Now I say combat preview because it's not yet hooked into the main game.  What you do in this test battle won't open up any roads, reward you with loot, or affect your reputation with a faction yet.  But we've left the player with an array of weapons and armour that they can try out and then by pressing the middle mouse button, you can open up a test round of combat with three bandits.  

Club Sauce also provided us with a better background for the HUD, a nice dark cobblestone texture.

More to come this month as our deadline for Indiecade 2013 approaches. Give us a like, stalk us on Twitter. Tell a buddy.  Play the demo.

Oh, and Happy Cinco de Mayo.

4/21: New Build, New Systems

Posted by Chris Crooks on April 21, 2013 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (2)

Hey everyone,

Wanted to announce a new developer's build going up today, with a number of key new systems somewhat implemented. Of particular note is the much-improved magic class, the Initiate. Rather than simply being a useful gatherer of medicines, the new Initiate-only action called Enchantment is now available. For a cost of one rare, uncommon, and common reagent you can attempt to enchant a plot with a myriad of useful but temporary effects, Currently available are:

Dreamscape - Adds an extra gather point to a plot. 

Secret Upwelling - Farmland or Sapling plots will be automatically watered each turn.

Familiar Spirit - Enchant a plot to provide a small amount of basic resources automatically each turn.

Wintersun - Ward your villa against cold, negating the need for wood during the winter.

Remember you can only gather rare reagents from the appropriate terrain type during its favored season. Also, you can start your main as an Initiate and choose your starting skill from a small randomized list. 

Additionally,  the basic espionage actions, Gather Info and Smuggle Goods, are up and functioning. although there are some button toggling issues when smuggling goods at the market. Gather Info lets you examine the Market and Forum at a blocked town, as well as revealing if any day labor quests are available, and your knowledge of the town will decay over time rather than last one turn. Critical rolls double the length your information network lasts.

Smuggling goods allows you to sell goods at a blocked town market,hopefully at a substantial black market bonus. There is a risk of getting wounded if it fails, though, and wounds prevent you from working at all until you're healed. The ability to add mules to smuggle more is not functioning yet, although I doubt anyone has made much use of mules yet. 

Also the Forums at each town are enabled and have a bit of functionality. There are some visibility toggle issues but a town will spawn with permanent residents based on its size, and those residents can be talked to to get a variety of tips about the game. Resident quests and trading are still non-functional. Visitors will also appear and leave various towns from time to time, and similarly they can be talked to but that's about it at the moment.

There's a new resource list that shows what you have as icons, only spawning new icons when you collect that resource type. There are a huge number of icons that still need to be created, and what we have so far is mostly to the credit of Club Sauce, a Rogue who has stepped up to contribute some sorely needed initial artwork to our demo. We our much in his debt,  as we are to Thundercliese, who has more or less been our head playtester for the last several weeks, contributing detailed notes on a number of bugs that we need to squash. Props to him as well.

There's plenty more features, but you'll just have to take a look for yourself, or wait for an official release. I just want to remind everyone that this is a development build, and there are no guarantees about the level of playability of this is more or even the same as the previous build. I mean, I can guarantee it with this build, but dev builds are code snapshots that are generally unplaytested, so player beware. Next on the dock, hopefully tomorrow - I'll let you start saving the game. :) I will upload build with saving as soon as I have it, and it works.

Thanks to everyone for your support, enthusiasm, and contributions. We are making something truly amazing here. Enjoy the build!


4/17 - RogueSpeak #1

Posted by Matt Crooks on April 18, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday, Chris and I threw together an impromptu Podcast or whatever the hell the kids call it these days.  You might want to sit down, cause It's 38 minutes long. (Download it here:

We did get through quite a lot - Why we're making games, a previous prototype idea we scrapped called Space Panic, what Roguelikes are and how they influence us, FreeHolder's status, and our chances at Indiecade 2013.

If you're not sure who is who, I'm the one who speaks less eloquently and clearly isn't used a microphones.

4/8 - IndieCade, Demo Portal, Not Enough Hours in the Day

Posted by Matt Crooks on April 8, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

In order to take our first major step into the industry, we've been looking for ways to get some substantial feedback on our first project, and hopefully some genuine excitement for a finished product.  It just so happens the Sundance of Indie Game Festivals is right here in Los Angeles. IndieCade 2013 is perfect, since they both encourage works in progress and whether or not our game wins any awards or makes the final cut we'll get a chance to meet lots of potential collaborators, talk to press, and maybe find new avenues of funding.  Now the success of all of those things depends squarely on the quality of the game we bring.  Even though we have to submit by May 31st (June 30th, if we late submit), we still get the opportunity to keep updating the game all the way up until show time in early October.  They want to see everyones latest and greatest afterall. 

Speaking of the latest and greatest, Rogues now have access to the FreeHolder prototype!  I spent the last weekend figuring out how to host our prototype on the site.  I finagled a solution using Google Drive, and created a public link.  Now if we ever end up having a whole lot of people trying to play it at the same time, we may need to find a bigger bandwidth solution, but I don't see that becoming a problem anytime soon, and if it does, well frankly that's a probably we'd love to have.  And so you may have noticed on the front page on the top right i've added a link to what i've dubbed the FreeHolder Prototype Demo Portal.

A few things to keep in mind:

-There is no tutorial mode yet.  I'm working on the script for it but it's a ways off.  We're hoping we can get to it by the end of the month.  A wiki wouldn't be a bad way to go, but I'm not certain we're at that stage yet.  There's a lot of balance work that can't be addressed until all the major systems are in place.  So for the time being you may be stumbling through the game.  I'll try to draft up a walk-through in the forums, hopefully this weekend.

-Speaking of systems, we're still missing Combat and Espionage.  We plan to have them finished by the end of the month so we can focus May exclusively on testing, bug squashing, and polishing.

-Feedback is really important.  We want to ecourage everyone to report bugs and feel free to bring up anything about the game in the forums - Questions, comments, complaints, whatever.  It should be useful for new Rogues to see questions they might have already answered.  Besides, I can't make an FAQ until I see what questions most people have about the game!

Chris is currently hard at work fine tuning animals and breeding.  Also adding in some new Rancher skills, like handfeeding, a new minor skill which brings up livestock from 'Normal' to 'Hefty Fine' status in exchange for some tasty grain.  Hefty Fine of course gives more nutrious (and valuable) meat.

We'll have that update for you tomorrow evening!  But there's still a ton of stuff to do in the meantime, so what are you waiting for?  Farm Free or Die!

3/8: Long Overdue Progress Report

Posted by Matt Crooks on March 8, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Sorry for falling off the radar, I had a particularly busy Februrary.  I'm currently in the process of finding new work - I've been working full time for nearly 3 years as a Marketing Specialist, with a 2-3 hour per day commute through downtown LA.  Needless to say this schedule hasn't left me with the wherewithal to aid my hard-working brother who's been doing the heavy lifting for the FreeHolder prototype since we first conceived it. So I'm on a personal quest to find more time for RogueWare and less time wasting gas parked on the 101.

Earlier this year I set out our Q1 goals.  They were ambitious to say the least, but nothing gets done without setting goals, right?  Chris churned through a whole slew of features in January and February, and we playtested the hell out of them as we went, squashing bugs every day.  But towards the end of February we hit a technical wall on the combat system and have lost some momentum.  

With that in mind, we're pushing back our Q1 goals to the end of April.  We're hoping to have a demo up on this website by then.  It's important to us that we work all the major features into the game before we let you guys give it a go.  Every time new major systems are integrated it takes time to playtest it out to squash bugs and see how it affects the other systems.  And at this point the only major systems we're lacking are Combat, Espionage, Morality, and Scoring.  All of the other systems we've listed are basically integrated and ready to be built up as we move horizontally along the game design.

Classes/Skills - Though we only have levels 1-3 and only about half of the classes, the system is in place and easy to make additions to.

Events/Quests - Weather is in, Dynamic markets are in, quests are a work in progress.

Towns/Roads - We needed to get these in to allow for combat and espionage.  Towns are randomized every game (gotta keep it roguelike!), by their town type (gives the player some knowledge of a towns likely resources), and ownership (Roman, Belgae, Gaulic).  Keep those roads clear if you want to access those markets!

Customizable Villa - Use resources like wood and stone to build up your Villa.  Build new rooms to bring in new characters, a workshop to craft items (yes crafting is already in too!), and storage facilities for your crops and equipment.  I realize we use the word 'villa' generously, as the player technically starts in the equivilant of a thatched roof hut.  We'll likely change what we call the player's homestead, we just haven't settled on that yet.

I like to think of this as vertical game design.  We're building up the features which we can then expand horizontally to create the whole game (IE: turn it from it's current 15 min -1 hour game to what we hope will offer as much as 10-20 hours of play time for a single game, if the player has the skills to make it that far.)  

In other news we finally got our LLC registered with the state of California!  Further encouraging us to get our asses in gear and get our first title into production, as there's an annual $800 franchise tax and our coffers are empty! 

Also, our very own Rogue Club Sauce has offered to help us with the prototype art.  He doesn't boast any professional experience, but he wants to try his hand, and we want to let him!  If and when he gives us some new art to put in, we'll be sure to credit him on those updates and screenshots.

2/5: Systems, Meta-Systems, and Playing God

Posted by Chris Crooks on February 5, 2013 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (1)

As more and more of the (albeit incomplete) systems of our game slot into place, predicting precisely how they're going to interact is never easy, and I don't mean simply from a technical, programming perspective. it's a bit like playing God and trying to make a habitable planet by throwing meteors at it. Here you are with this great idea (Earth) and you can see the blue jewel proudly shining out in the inky blackness of your mind. In reality, it's a molten lump of rock right now, and somehow you have to create that beautiful planet from the bottom up when all you can visualize is the top down. So you can try a few meteors. Maybe a few bounce off harmlessly. Maybe one gets lodged in a particular place, and all of a sudden it's clear that that is where that particular meteor belongs. Sometimes, you have to rely on that intuitive sense of where your game is trying to take you. Sometimes, you try a meteor when a comet is what's required. You only learn when that promising planetoid is once again blasted into oblivion by your poorly aimed solar storm. It was just supposed to graze it.

Iterative design is an interesting phenomenon. I've experienced it before but not at such a rapid pace (thanks to Construct 2 for that). Matt and I turned a corner where we were able to see every piece of the puzzle before us - a new experience for me. Once enough of the game was tested and implemented, it immediately sort of "filtered" our vision and made a lot of previously completely unthought-of systems apparent to us. Suddenly I could see what had to be done to get us where we wanted to go.

The only problem is, although I know what has to be done, I'm not sure how it will all come together in the end. I sincererely doubt that this will be the roguelike perfectly balanced ballet of death that we want it to be right off the bat. At least, not without strong community support and playtesting. This will be a lot more exciting for y'all when you're digging into 2014 Strategy Game of the Year Freeholder in alpha form. :D We are looking forward to showing you a game that should get you excited about playing it. Repeatedly. To look for bugs. Ahem.

1/28: Stuff to Get Excited About

Posted by Matt Crooks on January 28, 2013 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Tonight?  We Feast.

I'm happy to report progress has been steady.   We recently put out some systems we want to have in place before the end of Q1 in the forum which I feel bear repeating on the blog.

Classes/Skills - Boy do we have lots in store for you here... A total of 9 classes, each with 15skills. Each class is centered around the use of a particular skill type, like Survival, Agriculture, or Combat. Initially, they receive a bonus action point towards skills of their type, meaning Rangers can perform extra Survival actions each turn or Witches can perfrom extra Magic actions. Later on, they will have the ability to choose from a small selection of special action types that give them something cool to do each round. The Agent can learn to take the Craft Poison espionage action, the Healer can learn to take the Tend Wounds action, etc.etc. Each time you level you can improve an existing skill or learn a new one from your class. Agronomists make farming a breeze; Ranchers make animal keeping a much more profitable affair. However you play, your characters will evolve in that direction and provide you with new jumping off points for strategies.


Combat - Originally we hadn't conceived a combat system for this game, but it became clear combat would become a neccessary component of owning land out in the ancient boonies. (Rome's empire is only in its infancy as the Republic is falling.) Right now the combat itself should be automated but your strategic choices beforehand greatly influence your success. Wounded characters won't be able to work.

Events/Quests - Bad weather, market spikes, plagues and pests can befall you (and occasionally helpful weather or demand for your crops). You can also embark on month-long quests where your characters roll for success or failure based on the relevant skill and receive quest rewards, including experience. Quests will be offered by Residents as well as Visitors, and may also be contextual based on intelligence information you have received (for example, if you know Roman Legionary squad is coming to your farm in 2 months, you can undertake espionage quests to delay or prevent that attack).

Towns/Roads - Access to towns can be troublesome. You need to keep the roads clear of bandits if you want to maintain access to towns where you can take your product to market, learn new skills, or find day labor in a pinch. Each town will have a generic type which determines what can be sold and bought there by default. Each town may have one or more permanent Residents as well as a slew of rotating Visitors that travel from town to town throughout the year.


Espionage - The Agent class will allow you to accomplish your objectives with stealth, espionage, bribery, and even assassination. Espionage provides a low-visibility way to influence events without the Rome-enraging slaughter of Legionary soldiers. Trade on the black market, craft poisons, and even influence Roman Law!


Magic - A robust herbal medicine and magic system allows mystically-minded characters to branch into 1 of 3 different magic classes: Witch, Arcanist, or Healer. Each provides a huge variety of supplementary skills to plug holes in your overall strategy - the Witch has a great variety of helpful domestic spells, and is especially adept at gathering magic reagents and brewing potions from them. The Healer focuses on keeping your workers healthy and productive, as well as providing religious bonuses useful for feast and festival events. The Arcanist has a wide variety of abilities, from stunning enemies in combat to enchanting items, and has the best ability to see the future of any of the classes, providing s/he has the spell reagents.

Customizable Villa - Add rooms to support more workers, crafting workshops, ore smelters, storehouse space and more. Fortifcations, kitchen, and heating upgrades will also be available to make more efficient use of your food and wood. Your max Villa size and types of buildings will also expand as you get further in the game.


So far the experience of designing, implementing, playing, fixing, replaying, redesigning etc., has been nothing short of awesome.  I can't deny i'm having a blast working on this game and it's clear Chris is as well. 

We might be on to something here... And once we get an artist aboard to help us realize this vision we could be making games for a living in no time. :)

1/25: Morality In Games

Posted by Matt Crooks on January 24, 2013 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (2)

Chris has been busting his hump developing the prototype and we've been enjoying the playtesting so far.  I have to say Construct 2 has served us well. It might be a little clunky/inelegant at times, but for quickly putting your ideas to work, you can pretty much do anything without having to do any real coding.  Still takes a good logician though! 

As I said, i'm trying to be more forthcoming with Screenshots, so here you are:

FreeHolder Prototype (1/24/13) - Super-ultra-mega-pre-alpha - Note: Cursor not visible, but currently over 'Forest' tile, getting ready to hunt.

Everytime we bring another system into the game it changes the difficulty of the game, and we need to balance accordingly.   While we're still working on implementing the core mechanics of the game we've been discussing an idea for a long-term meta game within FreeHolder. 

We decided the players should be presented regularly with moral decisions in this game, and as such, the players actions will place them on a 2-dimensional scale of Good/Evil and Lawful/Chaotic (Using D&D terminology right now, these might change).  Where you fall on this scale would have a hand in your reputation, which may alter the events that befall you.

Some Examples:

Several years into a game we expect the player to get pretty sick of having to pay off the Roman Census to keep them from returning you and your fellow escapees to your previous Master.  But maybe you're just plain sick of the man and you're not going to take it anymore!  So the player is given a choice:

Continue to payoff the Roman Census (Lawful) or Attack the Corrupt Officials (Chaotic)

The ramifications as well as rewards will of course be significant.  Taking the chaotic path may require some extra effort training up combat for your characters to protect your land.  But with the extra money you save not having to bribe officials, you might find that you'll have the money to purchase your freedom sooner.  But don't expect the killing of corrupt census takers to go over well with Rome...

Slaves were an essential part of ancient economies, and as deplorable as enslavement is, it can be difficult to argue with free labor from management's point of view.  Considering the player's initial legal status as an escaped slave they may be more inclined to free any slaves they come in contact with.  Or on the other hand, maybe now that the tables have finally turned you want a chance to reap that sweet sweet free labor on your newly held land.  Well we're considering this as an option.  A slaver caravan approaches your land.  You're presented with a choice (providing you have the money).

Purchase slave and Grant his/her Freedom (Good) or Purchase slave and Force Servitude. (Evil)

Bringing in legal status for all characters won't be too difficult, since its the players mission to buy their own freedom from the get go, but we'll have to make a distinction between slave labor and freeman labor.  I'm thinking freepeople who work on the farm take some form of pay along side their food, whereas slaves need only be housed and fed.

These are just a few ideas we have in the works.  And these sorts of things are a long way off from being implmented, but I'm curious what people think about  having these sorts of decisions in a game.  Feel free to comment and offer your thoughts.