Topi Ylinen (PBR)

Peleron’s Brilliant Rebirth (or PBR) is a pseudo-roguelike CRPG by Topi Ylinen.  With the project just recently becoming publicly active again, I shot Mr. Ylinen an email with a few general questions about his ambitious project.

What kind of development cycle do you foresee for PBR going forward after it has apparently been quite a long time since the last public release?

“I’m hoping to get a bit more frequent and better thought-out/conceptualised updates from now on. The rather long delay between versions 0.103 and 0.104/0.105 was due to a number of reasons. Although there were a couple of players who completed the Master Dungeon and helped me iron out certain problems, the initial versions (0.100 – 0.103) didn’t attract quite as much attention as I had hoped. (On the other hand, I can hardly blame the players when pretty much every other spell you attempted to cast used to say “unimplemented spell effect”, not very exciting, eh? The most recent 0.105 release at least fixes that.)

Then I started implementing the second starting location, Voldival. I drew a huge town map on a large sheet of paper and then started building the maps, one after the other. I had also started sketching out the quest code and it was turning out to be much bigger design challenge than I had anticipated. All things factored in, at some stage I simply lost motivation. Real life kept pressing me hard, and I directed my energies elsewhere.

Then, after a time, I returned to PBR and decided to take a different approach. Rather than try to implement a dozen different kinds of new features (like quest code) at once, I should first try to make the ones that do exist playable. And also keep adding new areas to explore at the same time. The current 0.105 release fits this pattern: it is a “spells” release (meaning that it implements almost every remaining spell in the game and a lot of new ones) and also adds one more predesigned dungeon to explore. The actual list of changes is of course much longer than that but that’s mainly because the version has been “in the works” for 2 years!

The next version 0.106 will be a “skills” release. It will implement almost all skills that are available to beginning characters, including the rather complex ones like Alchemy and Smithery. The only skill that probably will not be implemented is the Disarming skill since monsters don’t currently “wield” their weapons

That would need to be implemented first, and it is not a high-priority feature addition.

Version 0.106 will also properly implement the two high-level skills that one of your characters can learn upon assuming the high-level profession currently available in the game

Not sure yet whether 0.106 will include any new playable areas. And no schedule for 0.106 yet.”

What spurred you to go at things from a party based and CRPG mindset instead of the usual solo venture?

“The simple realisation that many of my favourite computer games were actually party-based CRPGs. Having a party of characters instead of a single character added a layer of strategic complexity that I greatly appreciated, even if my party configurations often turned out to be rather stereotypical ones. Like, “melee tank – thief – priest – wizard”.

In many ways, I didn’t initially set out to build a roguelike – I was making relatively complex CRPG with lots of character development and strategy options. The user interface is of course 100% traditional roguelike; that’s mainly due to my personal background. A roguelike user interface felt natural to me, and I knew how to code it, so I used it. But the underlying game – the game system and the game world – could be just as easily used in any other kind of CRPG concept, e.g., in a Baldur’s Gate style game, in a realtime first-person CRPG or even in an MMORPG. Come to think of it, it might actually make a heck of an MMORPG – the game world is definitely unique and different (after all, the game world has been a personal labour of love since the late 1980s), and the game system would allow for a lot more depth and strategic complexity than the prevalent MMORPGs of today (that I know of) do.”

Are there any Roguelikes or RPGs in general you have drawn good ideas or just general  “stuff that works well” from?

“I don’t consciously examine other games with the intent of finding new ideas, but I used to play a lot of CRPGs and related games when I was younger. There were games I didn’t like that much but I thought they contained some neat concepts. Then there was a handful of games that I enjoyed thoroughly, and I would be lying if I said that no detail in PBR was influenced by those games.

Eventually, of course, I’m aiming to remove the “foreign” game world material – this means especially the two predesigned dungeons – and replace it with stuff that is better aligned with my own Ikoniel world. I used an external source of inspiration for those two predesigned dungeons simply because I wanted to quickly create something playable, and detailed dungeon planning & design from the scratch can take a lot of time.

When I started building the game, I didn’t immediately start planning & writing the actual code. Instead I took a paper notebook and started planning how the game mechanics should work if it were a pen&paper RPG. My initial inspiration for the game system owes a lot to a well-known CRPG, but I wanted to take it one step further. What I ended up with was a game system that – with its complex calculations, modifiers and special cases/conditions – would have probably been too complex for an actual pen&paper game (well, except for the old Rolemaster or Advanced Squad Leader veterans, I guess), but in a CRPG that is not an issue when the CPU takes care of all that for you.”

Favorite Roguelikes personally?

“I’m a very traditional kind of guy, really. Nethack and Angband are the ones I have played the most. I like Nethack because of its details and relative depth (but hate the arbitrariness – your success depends too much on blind luck, my first ascending character found a Wand of Wishing near the beginning!), and Angband because of its epic scope and feel. Angband is also better for strategic planning since once you know the game, you know how to play and develop different kinds of characters effectively. In Nethack you would be worrying about the food all the time. There are still random elements in Angband that can cause unexpected YASDs, but that’s the fun part of it, isn’t it?

Moria was the first roguelike I ever played, and even though Angband (when it was released) quickly superseded it for me, I still have very fond memories of Moria. Like when I encountered my first invisible opponent. I couldn’t see it – that was scary! Eventually I took it out with some well-placed ball or bolt spells and felt like I had achieved a great victory.

And then of course there are the numerous NH & Angband variants. Can’t say I have played them all. But I liked some of them a lot – especially the ones that changed the basic game content so much that it felt like a fresh new experience, like Cthangband did. The sense of discovery, again!

Adom is probably the newest(!) roguelike I have played. I never quite got into it, I just kept dying and couldn’t get the hang of it or how I should have played it. The same problem with Omega. They are probably great games, they just weren’t for my kind of a player.

One very different (semi)roguelike that deserves to be mentioned: Alphaman! The post-nuclear holocaust roguelike. I played it just briefly and, yes, kept dying all the time, but I had a great time with it.”

Graphical tileset/sound/music planned to exist at some point after everything is fully situated?

“Yes. My todo list says under category 4b (“Not essential for the core game, will/could/might be implemented when *everything* else is completed & working”)
“- Add graphics
- Add sound”

Thanks for your time Mr. Topi Ylinen!

The homepage for the project is located at  http://www.kolumbus.fi/topi_ylinen/peleron/

– Getter77, 05/04/2009

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