Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thy Shadow Consumed

I did threaten that I might be working on another game, and here it is. May I introduce you to The Consuming Shadow (Beta).

Those of you who remember my Chzo Mythos series of adventure games may appreciate that I'm coming back to Lovecraftian horror with this one, but this isn't a point-and-click adventure. I like to think of it as a 'Survival Horror Roguelike'.

The idea came to me almost exactly a year ago, during my Christmas break from ZP. I'd been playing a lot of FTL: Faster Than Light at the time, which is a game I quite enjoy. I like the sense of being a small thing up against massive odds, having to prepare yourself with the constant threat of your pursuer hanging over you. It occurred to me that that sort of gameplay would fit a Lovecraftian setting very well, and thus were the seeds planted for Consuming Shadow. I've been working on it pretty solidly since then.

You have 72 hours to travel from town to town, resolving randomly-generated dungeons in cursed towns and restocking supplies in safe ones, beset by random events and encounters all the way. Ultimately, you must find information on the Banishment Ritual, a sequence of four runes that must be incanted at a specific location to stop an evil ancient god from re-entering the world and slaughtering humanity.

But there's also a puzzle aspect. One of the four runes of the ritual will be the rune of the god you mean to banish. There are three gods exerting influence upon the world, but only one of those is attempting to invade. If you piece together the ritual but banish the wrong god, then you have failed at the final hurdle. You also need to gather enough clues as to the gods' identities to be able to make, at the very least, an educated guess.

In the grand tradition of Roguelikes, if you die, then everything will be lost: ammo, equipment, information, everything. You must go back to square one with everything re-randomized: the dungeons, the ritual, the invading god, and all the facts relating to the gods. However, with each death you are awarded XP based on how much progress you made, and each level you attain adds an upgrade you can apply at the start of each life. The game is intended to be obscure and challenging at first; you're not expected to pass it on your first attempt, but to use each life to learn a bit more about how things work and how to handle the minions of the shadow.

Finally, bear in mind that Consuming Shadow is very much a beta, and I'm looking to get feedback on it that can be applied to future, bigger versions. A full version would certainly have a wider range of random dungeons, monsters and events; as it stands it's probably going to repeat itself a fair bit. Other features I have in mind for a full version include collectible world-building documents, monster profiles, and different unlockable playable characters with different gameplay styles. Suggestions welcome.

With all that in mind, here's the page with the download link. Let me know how y'all go with it. Bonus points if you record yourself playing for Youtube, 'cos that's as good as a focus test.


  1. This sounds REALLY cool, and I'll be trying it out a bit later. Great to see new work from you!

  2. playing it now, it's a really fun Beta. Expect a review and feedback on my blog http://indiegamerambling.blogspot.co.uk/ at some point soon.

  3. Here's a couple of thoughts I've had whilst playing the game:
    1) I wasn't aware of the existence of lockpicks until the game asked me to start jamming them in doors. A section in the briefcase for little throwaway items could solve this problem, or a number somewhere on the dungeon screen displaying details like that.
    2) You move really slowly relative to how big the areas are, even when you're running. I get that that's to build atmosphere, probably, but it's rather frustrating, especially in conjuction with this other issue:
    3) Movement's a hassle. Having to move your mouse from the main screen for combat down to the bottom of the screen for movement's quite tedious. I think movement controlling might be better if it was just done with arrows, and the up arrow being used to go through doors or examine things.

  4. Alright, this was quite a fun game. The mad ending made me feel good inside.

    Having to learn or copy all the town names and positions at the first look, in order to ge able to efficiently take jobs, is just a big inconvenience. Would be better with the map superimposed on the "look for work" screen.

    I second the note above about the movement difficulty.

    A second chance the first time you click a suicide button would be nice. It's quite irritating.

    It get's quite easy after a while, although I guess one could always challenge oneself by not using the upgrades. Some kind of reward for that perhaps?

    The random events are just random, would be nice with some "blue" choices, based on your equipment. So the flashlight could help you identify/scare away a pack of monsters easier, something to drive you to aquire items more, right now I'd almost never buy any.

    It's a bit unclear at first just what is taken down as notes and what isn't, like whose house it is, what is mockery or praise. These non-note notes, I assume they're important, so a way to take them down as notes once you want to would be great.

    Un-improved lockpicking is absurdly hard it seems, or I'm just unlucky.

    Overall though a good game already.

  5. @Johan: not sure what you mean about the suicide button problem. You do realise it essentially triggers a quick time event, not an instant game over?

    As for problems, I'll second the movement/combat issue. It's especially annoying when out of ammo and trying to melee attack something that keeps moving away. I know combat in survival horror isn't supposed to be easy, but this takes the piss a bit.

    Other than that, good game that I'll be playing more and watching the development of.

  6. Yeah, I'll concur about the movement issue. It would be nice to be able to use keys as well as the mouse to do stuff, to be able to move backwards while aiming (though I imagine you wouldn't be able to move while shooting). The way the movement system works now feels more frustrating than anything.

    Also, the way that recovering an important text has a habit of spawning a 'boss monster' is somewhat predictable, I have to say. Also, I have managed to actually kill one of them on my first run, but the coated bastard kept re-spawning indefinitely for some reason, which was kind of a problem, considering the doorway he was coming from was kind of in the way of the exit. Perhaps a timer on the 'boss' spawns would be nice to give you a chance to nab the loot and escape.

    But all in all, a nice, tense game, still in my first batch of runs, I might comment more when I beat it.

  7. Sledge: Didn't realise that no.

    Also I think you could well remove almost all sight backwards when exploring, it's seldom needed and it'd be a lot more scary. I remember playing Scarab of Ra some twenty years ago, where you move around in a labyrinth and can only ever
    look one way, the scariest things was knowing you could always be followed and having to turn around sometimes to find the mumnmy standing there to zap you. Though, with all the monsters making sounds it might require another silent monster to make it worthwile.

  8. Further thoughts:
    * I get that combat should be tense, but the lack of keyboard controls also hinders your ability to simply flee, as well.
    * Having melee attacks on the right mouse button would do wonders for not accidentally wasting ammo by putting your mouse in the wrong spot when you need to attack quickly.

    Also, I suspect that the tall man with the static is an amalgamation of Cabadath and the Slender Man, considering the former serves Chzo, and static is one of the latter's many hallmarks.

  9. First of all, I'd like to thank Yahtzee for such a good and atmospheric game.
    Second, I second all notes on movement/melee controls
    Third, something should be done about "wasted" ammo: nothing pains me more than reading a message "you found 3 bullets" when I already have a full magazine. Can't I tuck them into pocket or at least leave them where they are and grab them once I'm done with the dungeon?
    Fourth, all superfluous hints about gods. I already know who is invading, what rune and what color each god is associated with, as well as their relations to each other. I can basically write a book on them; all I need is the ritual - but the game keeps bombarding me with info I already know. "Color red is associated with Lust!" Thank you very much, but I'm already aware that Chzo is God of Lust and that he is associated with rune Agn, which is properly drawn in red. And no, I don't need to know God of Pain is his ally - I already know that Chzo had a feud with God of Disease, which makes name of his friend rather obvious.
    Fifth, speaking of obvious - maybe relationships between gods should be randomized as well? I.e. sometimes all of them are rivals, sometimes - all friends?

  10. Hi!
    Thank you for making and sharing this awesome game, I had a blast playing it. And wasted a lot of paper for figuring out the clues. You truly stand out among game reviewers as someone who can show how it can be done. As for the game itself:


    - Using drugs allows you to cast spells at no cost. I don't know if it's a bug or feature, but with it you can easily brute-force all two-rune spells (there are only 20 possible combinations.) With that, and one simple observation, you can easily figure out the three-rune spells. Once you have the kill-all spell and enough drugs, then all the mazes boil down to the alternating sequence of going to a room and casting the killing spell.
    - If you clear a minion-gathering room, you can immediately go to spells and click on a rune. Then the "room cleared" message pops up, which closes the spell-casting menu, but the rune you clicked still hovers in mid-air.
    - Find a box (eg. dropped by a monster) and open it by clicking the question mark. You will get a message describing the contents. You can then click on the screen to dismiss the message, but if you click too close to the question mark, the message will re-open immediately. This is also true for cabinets and bodies.
    - Perhaps it would be a good idea to make it impossible for the clue "God associated with rune X is NOT the one invading the world" to appear twice during a play-through. Once you have two of those, you can trivially figure out the invading god and you don't need any other clues (except the ones for the banishing ritual.)
    - When a random event occurs during driving, your destination is sometimes cleared and you have to set it again to resume driving.
    - It would be nice if the arrows on the GPS screen could toggle between destinations in a sensible (ie. consequent) way. If I click on the left arrow I'd like to select a destination immediately to the left of the one previously selected. Right now the order appears to be random.
    - I actually like the movement limitations. It's not a call of duty game, it should not be feasible to move and attack at the same time.

  11. Well, the movement limitations are less to do with not moving and attacking at the same time, and more to do with controls that feel like that they're actively hindering the player. It feels like the game was designed for a tablet, not a PC, and the controls just feel incredibly unnatural.

    You can have controls that prevent you from shooting and moving at the same time, but not having keyboard controls really hinders your ability to actually move around and retreat from foes, not just fighting. It would also help if the player had an emergency dodge move to get past enemies in their way that they don't want to fight, but can't be abused all the time for whatever reason.

  12. When I'm in the car, there's a massive black box with a grey border taking up the top left quarter of the screen, and a massive white box taking up the top right quarter. They cover up most of the map, and occasionally dialog boxes appear under them. And there's random white letters and numbers covering the bottom half of the screen. When I hit a drunk bloke, the white box appeared over the top of everything when the text had finished typing as well.

    That shouldn't happen, should it?

  13. - enemies are drawn on top of the user interface (the larger flying minion flew over the buttons while I was casting a spell)
    - game crashed when the tall man (?) ( the minion that appears after opening Chzo's box ) walked into me and I shot him: pastebin.com/NexxSHkn

  14. At some points returning to a room put me in a different door than the one I exited. Only happened if I tried to avoid monsters by repeatedly reentering new rooms.

    At one point I entered a room through a downward door and got stuck in a locked door at the right side of the room, had to exit the dungeon to get free.

    Text of different kinds like tutorial, objectives or clues can often overlap in the same place. Maybe wad.

  15. At one point I stunlocked the leader of the minions (the swinging chandelier-thing) in the doorway and melee'd it to death, but then I couldn't retrieve the object as it appeared to drop outside the room. Had to re-enter and kill it again at a more appropriate spot, wasting precious ammo.
    At another instance, a large fly-monster got stuck in the ceiling and out of reach as I shot it. Tried to do it again a few times, but I guess it has to be a very specific shot.
    P.s. Maybe a function for the spacebar? Making it another attack button may be redundant, but combined with clicking it can give just a slight chance of surviving the unfortunate 'shoot yourself' sequence at later stages of insanity.

  16. Ey, Yahtzee!!! I just bought Mogworld!!

    You owe me 5 quid!

  17. The more interesting name for this game would be "Thy Shadow Condemnet"

    1. Condemned*
      Like in this Doom episode, remember?

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