I’ve been hard at work with the game the last few days… There are many bugs to hunt down and features to test!
Part of the fun of playing the game is the refinements you can add to make gameplay better. For example, I realized that swapping between player statistic screens was a bother, having to go back out to travel mode and press a different key. So I changed it so you can go back and forth between characters while on a stat screen by pushing left and right.
Another change was to have it so you can select a player while using services in town; previously the active character was automatically selected. I decided the whole “active character” thing is best kept in travel mode only.
I’m running close to empty in most of my modules for space; several modules I only have around 100 bytes or so of free space left. This means no major new features can be added, and it makes me nervous about any huge changes that may need to happen.
So on the topic of spells…
One thing I’ve noticed after playing the Ultima series is how under-utilized spell systems tend to be. In Ultima III the most used spell in the game was disarm traps, because it was the only way to safely open chests left by monsters. In Ultima IV many spells weren’t used because you had to mix them before you could cast them, which made improvisation in combat difficult. Ultima V had some fun-looking spells like Flame Wind which NOBODY ever used because by the end game your party was strong enough using magic axes to not need spells.
So when I wrote up my spell list a long time ago, I had a goal. I wanted a spell system that was easy and fun to use, and had spells you would WANT to cast because they were cool or useful. In particular, because it was tactical 2D combat, I had a bunch of spells that altered the terrain by creating walls of fire, barriers, and similar things.
But now that I’m actually PLAYING the game, I’m not using those spells at all. In fact, the list of spells is very long with ones I haven’t touched or needed to. So now I’m asking myself “Is this or that spell really needed?”
I originally had 72 spells in the the game. I realized that most of the spells in the first book were getting ignored because they were just pale copies of more powerful spells. I also changed a damage type in the game which meant I had a serious spell gap where the players would have no means to cause that kind of damage. As for the terrain altering ones, they are consuming a lot of memory to support and create, and passive effects like them are just not as fun as I thought.
So now I’m taking a moment to remove the code for these spells and tighten up the spell list. I now have 60 spells instead, which I think is more manageable for both the player and the designer. That also means I can free up a little space in the combat module as well.