This Just In: Dracula’s Castle in Steam Base Builder Fest

We’re very pleased to announce that Dracula’s Castle is taking part in the Steam Base Builder Fest.

The festival will showcase games that emphasize building habitable spaces—whether a single building or collection of buildings—as the primary game mechanic (sounds familiar!) and is a celebration of  current and upcoming base and city building games of all kinds. There shall be all kinds of sales shenanigans happening.

The fest runs from JAN23 to JAN30 starting at 10AM PST (Pacific Time). Head on over and enjoy the spoils!

Link to Steam

Dev Diary #7: Quests And Upgrades

Warm greetings, Children of the Night. Today, I’m going to talk a little bit about quests and how they work in this early iteration of the game. Development-wise, we’re at a junction where the background simulation is working in a relatively stable state; keeping track of minions and what they produce, saving the game state etc…

So the next logical step is to begin fleshing out the game experience through quests. After all, Dracula does need to get to England to look after some urgent matters!

Upgrade My Quests Please

So, I think it can be a bit of a tricky thing, implementing quests in a colony sim. It’s a natural enough progression coming out of the tutorial. You can have something like “Build this room type and make sure it’s up and running” but you can’t just sort of do that forever.

So we find ourselves down one of the tricky ends of game design. Not only do we have to ensure an even flow (quests vs. how long it takes to complete them) but we have to start to incorporate some of the narrative now as well.

We’ve been busy working out how that all fits together, and the minion upgrade mechanic looks like just the ticket — but from a technical point of view, we’ve also had to implement the framework for the questing system itself.

We’re pretty happy with how it’s shaping up, our quests can have multiple tasks which need to be completed before quest completion, here’s a sneak peak:

The no-longer-static-quest-log a.k.a Mighty Quest Journal!

Dracula is Here!

Eagle-eyed readers might have spotted someone hanging around in the throne room in that gif above, yes it’s true; Dracula has arrived.

He’s not up to much *yet* but here’s where you’ll be able to manage things like the skill tree (or tech tree if you prefer), inventory & equipment and last but not least; you’ll be able to dispatch Dracula to Transylvania to take part in other activities like feeding on the population, following up on quests, investigating things, sneaking up to things, running from things… But we need to keep some stuff for future devlogs, so stay tuned to hear and see more on the game’s development!

The king has entered the building…

If you haven’t done so already, make sure to visit the game’s Steam page and hit that Wishlist button!

Thanks for reading and till next time!

Kept you waiting, huh?

So… it’s been a while! It’s safe to say I’ve had one hell of a year. I focused a lot on the game’s announcement at Halloween. (Well, in fact I had to learn how to even *do* a game announcement in the first place!)

After that I dove pretty hard into learning all about marketing. It turns out it’s all true, what they say about indie game marketing. It’s incredibly important but it’s also incredibly time consuming (not to mention hard). I basically got stuck in for the entire first half of 2022.

Then we moved house, twice. The second time to a new country (well, I guess technically it’s not old, it’s where I’m originally from!). And I became a full-time parent for a spell.

I was still able to put some visible improvements into the game though! And got around to doing a fair amount of bug fixing and camera control improvements.

The Expanse

The first change I’d like to talk about is the castle canvas and how the rooms are built. Originally I had a pretty static rectangle canvas to build rooms on. A bit like what you see in Fallout: Shelter if you are familiar with that game.

But I wanted something that engages the player a lot more and really promotes expression of self. So now, you can basically unlock castle rows as you play. It’s neat in that it also sort of reflects the increase in Dracula’s power in the region (one of the concepts I really want to explore in the game).

Animation of castle expansion.
To the moon! The circle of the moon!

You’ll be able to build out to the sides too and then up from any given “branch”. This way I’m hoping people can come up with really cool designs and try to do things like build an accurate reflection of the castle from Castlevania III for example!

Division of Labor

The other thing I’ve done with the NPCs, is to separate what I call minions (comee mes buddies!) and laborers/workers, and build two new room types for them to “sleep” in.

So, basically the rooms serve a similar purpose; they determine the maximum number of minions (the tomb) and workers (the sleeping quarters) that the player can have.

  • Number of workers and minions is limited by number of these rooms built.
  • You can assign workers and minions to most castle rooms. Although not all rooms will take workers and not all rooms will take minions, you probably shouldn’t be able to assign a skeleton to the kitchen for example… altough… A skeleton with a chef’s hat does sound fun. We’ll see. 🙂
  • Passive bonuses. Having more tombs will give a bonus to undead type minions, having more wolf kennels gives passive bonuses to wolves, etc… – Not only that but the number of rooms built will also confer passive bonuses to Dracula! (Depending on the spec)

That’s most of it I think. As development progresses we’ll start to see more interesting rooms that draw power and have special functions. Here’s a peak at the new rooms!

Can’t look at this without hearing draugr.
It’s a bit dark but hey, at least they have a bucket.

The Little Things

Actually, the last thing I wanted to show are some small improvements to the UI and player experience. The first gif shows the new tooltip in effect alongside the new notification system. The second shows off the tutorial system a bit more.

Dev Diary #6: Heavy Lifting

Of Tutorials and RPG Elements

These past few weeks I’ve been hard at work attacking the game’s development from two angles, the Guided Tour as it were; and the foundational work for the combat, loot, skill, crafting and questing systems. So basically all the ingredients that go into any good RPG soup.

The first thing I’ve done is to create the Necromancer room. No more buying NPCs to test with off a debug menu (“sweet relief!”).

The tutorial basically gets the player to build a couple of rooms and place some minions. I got a nice little outline effect to work for this, it took a bit of convincing to highlight the right stuff (especially any blocking objects) but I got there in the end. Here’s a pic of the tutorial in action along with the Necromancer room, the highlighting and a guy I’ve decided to call Skullmo.

The bois getting ready for some draggin’.

The eagle-eyed among you will also notice the room tilt and lighting changes. Oh and new doors! Bye-bye old weird blocky wooden things.

This was also a good opportunity to rework the dragging to make it feel a lot smoother. It’s better but it still needs tweaking.

Wiring in tutorials is actually a bit of a chore code-wise but it pales in comparison to getting in RPG mechanics. I know I said I wouldn’t spoil the combat side of things too much, so here’s a couple of screens of the work in progress.

There’s actually a ton of stuff that needs to happen in the backend for this to work elegantly and be scalable, so I’m pretty happy with the progress so far.

Wrong place wrong time, Eric!
Combat outcome window, subject to change but it’s a start.

So that’s the basic combat mechanics in. Obvious next steps are some tasty vampire loot and equipment and for that; we’ll head back to Dracula’s Castle!

Thanks for following along to my developer diary, if you’d like to catch up on the progress you can read the first post here.

That’s it for this update, I’ll leave you with this scene transition I’ve been working on. Very much inspired by the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum games, I’ll admit.

Fly my pretties! #maniacallaughter

Catch you next time!

Dev Diary #5: Mortal Combat and Vampire Polish

Thems fightin’ words.

Hello my dark denizens of the night. A challenger appears! Unfortunately I’ll have to be a little less divulgent going forward. I want to keep at least some surprises in the box!

This makes a dev diary somewhat tricky to write but I’ll endeavour to do so all the same. If you’ve been following the series, in Part II I spoke a little bit about the building aspect of the game, Part III took a detour and went into some detail on vampire clans and in Part IV, we touched on the exploration aspects of the game.

Implementing one of the combat systems is the next logical step for me now that the basic version of the feeding mechanic is in. It’s a big piece of work and a core pillar so it will take time. However! — it also means that we’ll be a step closer to the vertical slice and playable demo. But keep in mind that I’m aiming for a decent level of polish for the Pre-Alpha demo build.

It also means that the loot, customisation and skill systems will need to be implemented in basic form. Which is bad news for me but excellent news indeed for the demo! Again, while the implementation will be core tech, I want a baseline level of polish before releasing the vampire horror of Vlad Tepes upon the world.

Vampire Polish

The month of June really has been one of polish for our little vampire game. From a systems perspective, I’ve successfully wired the base building, travel and feeding mechanics together into a core loop.

Furthermore, some polish was added to the visuals in order to make the look & feel of the game a lot more vampire-like. Mainly, I focused on adding post-processing volumes with bloom, colour-grading and some tone and tint adjustments.

Here’s a before and after of the Transylvania Map screen:

Vampire Polish - Map Before
Before, bog standard.

And after the post-processing was added:

Vampire Polish - Map After
After, with the “vampire polish” applied!

It’s such a fun process to play with, here are some variations I can use for things like low health, different forms, skill perks etc…

Vampire Polish Effects
The castle must be leaking, just look at all that blood!

Other things went in too, like placeholder music and weather! There’s a rain system implemented with a chance to spawn thunder and lightning if it’s intense enough.

Here’s some of the changes that have been made to the Castle/Build screen:

Dracula's Castle Build Screenshot
Before, I like it but I think it can be better.
Vampire Polish - Castle After
After, here we go! Much more vampiric post-polish. Bonus: It really makes the lightning pop.

Don’t worry, if you prefer the old look you’ll be able to switch back in the game’s settings. So, the build is starting to really gel into something playable now. It just needs some additional mechanics to really round out the experience.

Here’s a gif of the newly implemented v1.0 feeding system. a feast for your eyes!

Just nipping into town for a bite.

The other development this past month was some store page visits from SteamPeek. I hadn’t heard of this site before, and I love it already. Check out what games are being attached to Dracula’s Castle as similar titles! Needless to say, I went on a proper wishlist spree after discovering this.

That’s it for this one folks. More development news next month, stay tuned!

Dev Diary #4: Local Vampire Terrorizes Town

Sometimes it’s nice for a vampire to get out of the castle, you know?

So, building on our core gameplay pillars (you can check out my initial thoughts on the building game pillar in one of my previous vampire diaries), let’s talk a little bit about exploration mechanics, in other words – the vampire stuff you do outside of building the castle, tending to your “guests” and looking after your monsters.

The first thing to consider was what this would look like. In my mind, I always pictured a sort of long shot view down a dark Transylvanian valley at night, with the soft glow of town and city lights punctuating the dark forest. This is a start:

Dracula's Castle Map Screen
Who to terrorize next?

I’d like to iterate on it over time though, for example; I’d like some fog maybe, and to add more little details to the scenery and towns (like smoke stacks etc…) and essentially try to add even more mood to the setting.

So what I’ve done here is essentially established a number of locations for Dracula to visit. The general idea is that some towns will have slightly different traits and will be dynamic to some extent. Towns might start becoming aware of Dracula’s presence and begin to change. An example of this would be Dracula feeding too many times in the same place or getting caught perhaps, or taking overt actions like fighting the local militia or generally just being, y’know, a legendary vampire lord milling around down the pub.

Dracula's Castle Town Screen
What a terrible night for a curse!

All this should have an effect on the town’s mental state; which will, in turn, affect things like victim availability and/or type, resistance, patrols etc… It might even attract the attention of vampire hunters. /gasp!

Speaking of which, Van Helsing (and others?) will be active on the map. There’s a chance that Dracula can be confronted while on his way to and from the castle. Changing form might have some interesting outcomes for these situations!

The other side of this is that it will be the backdrop to the quest system. I quite enjoy games like Fallout Shelter but I find the quest systems usually lacking in them. This is where Dracula’s Castle takes a more traditional stance and will attempt to marry some heavier RPG elements to the base game.

The backdrop is, of course, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, being the massive Castlevania nerd that I am, I’ll be finding ways to whisper sweet nothings into that series’s ear. The challenge here will be in figuring out what fits, and how to utilise the map screen to really enhance the feeling/sense of place.

The other challenge, of course, is in making the activities meaningful. So, going out for blood, “guests” and wives is a given. But what will be some of the other rewards for venturing out from the ramparts — apart from acquiring loot?

Dracula's Castle Vampire Activities Screen
Nightcrawler fun in the small township of Markeli.

And finally, the other thing to consider is that not all players will want to bother with this side of the game and would prefer to simply focus on the base builder game or colony sim aspect of working on the castle. So most likely, I’ll have an option for the AI to sort of manage this content if desired, albeit at a reduced efficiency so I don’t end up in a situation where everyone just defers to the AI.

Well, I think that just about covers it for this entry! Tune in again next time for more details on our progress, and if you’d like to really help me out, you can always head on over to Steam to wishlist and follow the game if you haven’t already.

Dev Diary #3: Vampire Clans and Powerful Lords

What makes a vampire lord so powerful, they may lead vampire clans?

Good evening, my hungry visiting bloodsuckers!

Well now, vampire clans. I was going to initially devote this dev diary (or should I say… vampire diary?) to the Explore pillar after having covered the core Build pillar in the previous vampire diary (still feels weird). Instead, I’d like to talk about a concept I’m quite a fan of, vampire clans.

Vampire clans appear most visibly (to me anyway) in White Wolf Publishing‘s outstanding World of Darkness RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade. As a matter of fact, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is one of my all-time favourite PC games (and role-playing game for that matter). Actually, probably the best vampire game I’ve ever played if I’m being completely honest.

My First Taste of Vampire Clans
Pretty sure I instantly fell in love with this character. ©Activision

To be fair it was developed by Troika Games, whose underrated gem Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura I also enjoyed tremendously. In fact, these legendary developers were responsible for the original (and best?) Fallout game!

Sidebar: I’m also a huge fan of their other works (of sheer art imo!) like Wasteland 2, the Pillars of Eternity series, Tyranny, Torment: Tides of Numenera and The Outer Worlds. Now, rather brilliantly, they are associated with Obsidian Entertainment (of upcoming Avowed fame and hence the mention to The Outer Worlds), who are themselves responsible for the rather excellent Fallout: New Vegas; and are basically Black-Isle Studios.

Yep. The Black-Isle, responsible not only for developing Fallout, Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment and the Icewind Dale series, but for also publishing BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate and its sequels! (Barring, of course, Baldur’s Gate III, which is is the expert hands of Larian Studios, they of Divinity fame)

Someone over at Microsoft knows what they’re doing. (Bethesda of course inherited the Fallout franchise and went on to give us Fallout 3 and 4)

In short, there’s some serious, serious, game design pedigree involved in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. I’d be a fool not to learn from these guys.

Their implementation of vampire clans, and the source vampire clan ideas and mechanics in White Wolf’s vampire RPG is definitely inspiration worthy. My intent is to try and marry some vampire clan characteristics and abilities (that have almost become tropes) to Dracula’s powers and techniques.

My main question is; if Dracula was part of one of the vampire clans, or hey, even founded one! — What sort of abilities would he have? Without betraying the source material in Bram Stoker’s masterpiece too much. (But then, I’m willing to be flexible here, I adore Castlevania after all.)

Finally one of the other vampire works I admire hugely is Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire, based on Anne Rice’s novel of the same name. Starring an absolute belter of an all-star cast; Christian Slater, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, (an absolutely incredible and break-out role) Kirsten Dunst and Puss in Boots himself; Antonio Banderas.

Vampire Clan Charlatans
That woman is probably not having a fabulous evening. ©Warner Bros.

Well, not to spoil anything, but Puss in Boots Marius is a most powerful vampire lord who leads a vampire clan from a base in the Paris underground. Le Théâtre des Vampires. A fake theatre troupe, they basically have no morals and go around killing anybody and collecting blood like this big European elitist, privileged, high society gang of scam artists. IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.

So probably they are Ravnos (gleefully practice their arts of deception and theft) with a mix of Giovanni/Ventrue. Maybe a bit of all three. But it’s interesting to see the sort of clan culture at work in the movie, their values; and how it ultimately affects the sensitive Louis de Pointe du Lac.

So going forward, I’m going to put some work into seeing how vampire clans can work with Dracula’s Castle. I’ll be keeping the implementation details under wraps for now but they’re sure to make for many an interesting vampire diary.

As they say in France, à plus mes amis!

Dev Diary #2: Strong Building Game Foundations

Or, Building A Good Building Game Needs To Start Somewhere!

Hullo Dear Readers!

Where to start talking about a building game? So, last time on Dev Diary™… I said I’d kick off by talking about some of the key pillars in Dracula’s Castle. And so today, after a brief detour to talk about Sim Tower, let’s dive right in with our first topic – building! (I guess this is appropriate, y’know, for a building game…)

Like so many of the great building games out there (let’s not try to reinvent the wheel too much), you’ll start the game with a limited set of prebuilt rooms, these being Dracula’s quarters at the top and the entrance to the castle at the bottom. We’re calling these rooms our foundations as they’re the gateways to the rest of the game’s mechanics. (Also I guess that’s what you put pillars on? –Marketing Ed.)

In our alpha build at the moment, the castle is full size but what I’d like to do is add a mechanism where you must build floors as you go (possibly tied to the labour resource), and as you do this, the physical height of the castle increases. This building upwards might be a good analogue to Dracula gaining more and more power as the game progresses.

The moonlit top of Dracula's Castle.
Not a bad view from the top of the dark castle.

This would mean that Dracula eventually gets a moonlit penthouse/throne room to pace around in while he mulls things over. For this design I’ve got strong imagery of the opening level of a certain PSX platformer (and one of my all time favourite games) in mind but with a bit more Bram Stoker.

And essentially these quarters are where you’ll be able to customize Dracula (more on that later) and manage various castle affairs.

Now for the other pre-built room, the castle entrance… Every now and again, a member of the local vampire hunter clan will appear at the castle in an attempt to take down Dracula, for these events they will appear at the castle entrance then proceed to fight their way to the top for a final confrontation.

I’ll have more to share on this gameplay mechanic later on as it will tie into the castle’s monster menagerie, loot, stats/equipment and other systems.

Entrance to our building game.
Every good building game needs to make a great entrance.

And that’s it for this entry. Thanks for reading! Going forward with the diary entries on building, I’ll get into more detail around the different room types you’ll be able to build in the game and what they mean in terms of the overall game mechanics.

Until next time!

PS: Feel free to join our Discord server to chat about the game concepts as development continues.

Is Dracula’s Castle Basically a Weird Sim Tower game?

Or is it a Colony Sim?

Short Answer: Yes, Dracula’s Castle is indeed a Sim Tower game. Well, maybe a SimTower game is more accurate. Tower Sim perhaps?

I was recently re-tagging Dracula’s Castle on Steam to get some more accuracy out of the Steam algorithm and part of that is assigning genres and sub-genres to your game. In the end, I went with Colony Sim – because it seems to be the best fit – but I couldn’t not think of Sim Tower.

(And thinking of colony building games, the idea of Dracula running a colony seems a bit absurd… Maybe I’ll do a sequel game: Dracula 2142, where he’s in charge of running a moonbase on Titan.)

What Even Is Sim Tower?

If you’re not familiar with the term Sim Tower, let me explain. It’s a game that was released back in 1994, well actually it was called SimTower: The Vertical Empire.

Sim Tower by Maxis
SimTower, ©Maxis Software.

This is well before The Sims began it’s domination run in the early 00’s. It was a curious game, originally a Japanese creation by Yoot Saito, one which got onto legendary SimCity creator Will Wright’s radar and was subsequently localized for Western audiences and rebadged with the Sim (or Sims?) brand.

The Sim spin-offs were usually very original, I remember as a kid being fascinated by SimAnt as well (the fact that it made me think of Honey I Shrunk the Kids probably helped). I loved SimTower for its originality at the time and in fact I had a lot of fun many years later with Star Wars: Tiny Death Star, which greatly reminded me of it. (It also happens to have the best Star Wars pixel art, ever. Not to mention the Imperial March brilliantly re-imagined as an elevator tune!)

So here’s to SimTower and the plucky young Yoot Saito! Maybe it’s time it officially got its own sub-genre?

To those of you coming back after reading Dev Diary #1, hey I made it back! I guess this isn’t technically a Dev Diary but I am working on something. Hopefully I’ll have it up soon.