Frost And Found: Road Not Taken

By Adam Smith on June 18th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

Jim was the first member of RPS to wander down the Road Not Taken and we’ve barely seen him since. It’d take a brave or foolhardy individual to follow in his footsteps, trekking deep into the life sim roguelike puzzler, and I reckon I’m the right man for the job. The video below shows the core mechanic in action, portraying the game as a cross between the developer’s own Triple Town and Bomberman. Except with lost children and twigs instead of bombs. The video doesn’t tell the full story though – Road Not Taken is a game of secrets. Each playthrough lasts for a maximum of 15 in-game years, although death will often occur before that time, and multiple lifetimes will be required to discover all.

Spry Fox have written many a blog post about the development process and the most recent highlights the ways that player progress is tracked and communicated.

I like to think of Road Not Taken as an iceberg floating in the ocean: a tiny percentage of the total game is visible above the surface when you first start playing, while the vast majority of the game lies unseen, waiting to be discovered. A large part of that depth comes from all the unusual creatures and objects you can encounter as you explore the enchanted forests of the game. Another large part comes from all the secret tools and boosts you can create if you know what you’re doing. (For example, if you combine the right number of red and white spirits lurking in the forest, you can create a useful magic axe.)

In our previous playtest builds, none of this was surfaced to the player. Since Road Not Taken is a roguelike, we simply expected players to assume that they would encounter different and/or more challenging objects and creatures as they progressed. And we expected players to stumble upon a few of the simpler crafting recipes in the game, and consequently realize that there must be many more recipes just waiting to be discovered. But neither of those things happened, so we realized we needed to do a better job of communicating with the player.

Triple Town is a clever and charming little game that I’ve spent a lot of time with during train journeys. The addition of narrative progression, crafting and roguelike qualities is intriguing. Out before the end of the year, this is one to keep an eye on.

, , .

10 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Danc says:

    Daniel Cook of Spry Fox. Happy to answer any questions. Or talk about chipmunks. Or Sunless Sea (I’m quite excited about that one even though I have nothing to do with it.)

    • mickygor says:

      I’m pretty excited about Road Not Taken, but I have a more pressing matter. I switched to Windows Phone 18 months ago, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. My one regret is losing Triple Town though – is there any possibility of a WP8 port?

      • Premium User Badge

        Danc says:

        @mickygorslayerofmiceenemyofallthatdisneystandsfor Triple Town for Windows Phone: Not impossible. We haven’t forgotten Windows Phone. Despite the vicious, vicious rumors.

    • Frank says:

      I’m a fan of Spry Fox and your blog, though I haven’t read it in a while.

      Do the recipes follow Minecraft’s model (wiki lookup) or randomize at the beginning of each play-through (as in most roguelikes)? I much prefer the exploration and discovery involved in the latter.

      • Premium User Badge

        Danc says:

        Recipes follow the wiki model. The pacing is such that it will generally take you many plays to accumulate recipes so for the most part I haven’t seen players getting bored.

        Something that’s not readily apparent is that it is really hard game…balanced closer to Don’t Starve in many ways. So we went with a community discovery model like you might have seen happen in Fez or Dark Souls. I’m curious how that will work out.

        All the puzzles and NPCs are of course mixed up each time, so there should be a good amount variety each play through.

        • Frank says:

          Ok, thanks. Sounds cool. I’m expecting it to be hard, based on how Triple Town played.

    • toxic avenger says:

      Just wanted to pass along a word of thanks for the wonderful little game, Triple Town! By the looks of it, I’m primed to love this new game, too!

    • Gothnak says:

      Great work on Triple town, a rare game that both myself and my partner love.

      My favourite game on iPad at the moment is Dream Quest, a roguelike CCG with god awful graphics. That comes from the FTL school of game design where multiple playthroughs gradually unlock more content and perhaps more starting options.

      Are all the rules in place when you first play the game, or are elements unlocked in future games once you have accessed them in earlier games?

      i.e. are you augmenting future games by exploring in current ones?

      I ask this as if a particular combination creates a specific, powerful item then you’ll end up trying to do that same thing in every playthrough, which may make them less varied and less about exploration and more about repetition.

      Also, when is the release date? (I hope you are keeping the charming sfx style from Triple Town)

      • Premium User Badge

        Danc says:

        The main thing that persists across lives is the knowledge and crafting recipes you’ve collected. This ends up being rather powerful over time.

        There are charms you collect as well. A small set of what you’ve collected so far persist across lives, but it is randomized so you tend no to get the same things that you got on a previous run.

        Release date is this summer!

    • Premium User Badge

      tumbleworld says:

      So this video is giving me Pengu vibes, all be it turn based. Is that fair?