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.