Another important aspect that I would like to address in the development of RPGs is how characters cure damages and injuries. As mentioned in the previous post, in Lords of Xulima characters are not automatically healed after each battle, but instead must be cured by other means.

Traditionally, characters in RPGs are healed by resting for a period of time, through the use of potions, spells or by requesting help at a temple or from priests or clerics. In many RPGs, like Wizardry or Baldur’s Gate, the only drawback to resting was that there was a possibility of being ambushed by enemies, but it was a matter of chance, so you could always just save your game and load it in case your rest was interrupted, so in practice, rest and recuperation were practically worry free.

Ways to limit rest

  • The characters age:
    This mechanism was used in the first Might & Magic, the characters grew old and were penalized for their age and could even die of old age (depending on their race and other factors). This was original and realistic, but it can cheat the player in a way, forcing them to guess how their future actions will be affected by the aging mechanism. How many times can I safely rest? 20, 200, 2000 times? Will my party be made up of octogenarians by midgame?
  • Time limits:
    This is similar to the first mechanism but uses other rationales, like the 100 days that you were allotted to finish the first Fallout before the water at the Vault ran out. There can also be time limits set on missions within the game, which has been used in many different titles.
  • Rest limited to specific places:
    In other RPGs, like Final Fantasy, the option to rest has been limited to specific places like inns or other save points. This feature adds some tension to gameplay, but it also feels a little forced and artificial. Why can’t the group of hardened adventures rest wherever they want? They are able to rest at an inn and regain all of their hit points, but they are incapable of lying down to rest and recuperate in a forest or a field?
  • Rest limited by resources:
    Another option that eliminates the above problems is the one taken by Might & Magic VI. In that game, the group had a number of units of food (which could be purchased at village shops and was represented by apples) which were consumed when resting or traveling between regions. This method meant that when you needed to travel to a distant location you needed to decide where you would stop for rest and to replenish your stocks. This added a great strategic component to the game.

And in Lords of Xulima?

Lords of Xulima food and town

It’s a good idea to stock up on food before embarking on a dangerous journey…

We were inspired by Might & Magic VI and have adopted a similar mechanism. We have taken the idea a step further in order to adapt it to our game system. In Lords of Xulima, the fundamental component is Food Stocks. The food level is always displayed on the screen and lets you know how much time (in days, minutes and hours) of rest you can take before you run out of your food stocks.

How can your food stocks be used?

  • Resting:
    To recuperate all of your hit points and powers and to cure minor wounds, your party will need to rest for 8 hours. To cure the fatally wounded condition, they must rest for 24 hours. This will consume your food stocks if you rest in the wilderness, but not if you rest at an inn.
  • Traveling:
    While your characters are traveling, time is passing and food stocks are being consumed. The rate at which they are consumed is affected by the type of terrain being traversed. For example, traveling through desert or snow consumes 5 times as much food as traveling over a grassy plain. An Explorer with the ability “Pathfinder” can reduce the rate of food consumed during travel. The more developed the ability the lower the rate will be. The exception to the traveling rule is that when your party is in a village or town no food will be consumed as they move.
  • By certain actions:
    For example, breaking a lock when you are out of picks takes time during which you consume food. The amount of time depends on the difficulty of the lock. Another example would be breaking through a barrier of ice, which could go a lot faster if only you had the right spell to melt the barrier instead.
  • Other methods of consumption:
    Some enemies, places and special situations can also cause you to use or lose food stocks.

How can you increase your food stocks?

  • Buying food in villages:
    You can visit food vendors in the towns and villages you visit, but these will only fill your reserves to a certain point. When buying from vendors the price for each day’s worth of stocks increases exponentially. For example, you can buy two days’ worth of food for 200, three days’ worth for 400, 4 days’ worth for 800, etc… If you already have 3 days worth of food, you would only be able to buy a fourth day’s worth for 800
  • Finding Food:
    You can find food stored in bags, chests, replenish at water  fountains etc…
  • Gathering food from the natural environment:
    Fruits, seeds, nuts… These do not provide a lot of food, but they regenerate every few days.
  • Hunting:
    An Explorer with the ability “Hunting” is able to collect food from the remains of enemies slain in battle. The amount that can be collected depends on the level of the ability and the type of enemy (don’t expect to find much food in the living dead you have just defeated, but you will be able to collect sustenance from your more palatable foes)

What happens when your food stocks hit zero?

If your food stocks are completely depleted the group will not be able to rest and you will have to find an alternative method to cure your party members or you will need to return to the nearest village to stock up. On top of this, your party members will be hungry and weak, which will cause them to take a penalty to attack and casting actions (amongst others penalties). The group will not die from hunger. (However, there will be a Hardcore Mode in which the party will die if they have no food.)

The food stocks mechanism in Lords of Xulima is a crucial component that adds a new strategic element to the gameplay system, one that gives it some aspects of an old Roguelike game.

The player decides when and how long to restIs it better to rest now to cure my one fatally wounded party member, or do I risk it and save my rest for later when I might have more wounded party members? Do I try to force open this door, or will that take too much time and consume too much food? The Explorer, a profession that usually is undervalued in most RPGs (at least in the video game format), has abilities that can really have a major influence on the success of your party. An Explorer who is leveled in “Pathfinder” can move the group at great speed across deserts and tundra while only consuming a minimum amount of food. An Explorer who is an expert at the “Hunting” skill can help the group to save a lot of money by collecting food from fallen enemies instead of buying it in villages.

10 Responses so far.

  1. Janus says:

    I love it! Having to worry about food supply by tying it to resting adds a lot of strategical depth.

    One thing feels wrong though. You write:
    “In other RPGs, like Final Fantasy, the option to rest has been limited to specific places like inns or other save points. This feature adds some tension to gameplay, but it also feels a little forced and artificial.”

    And then you explain your system:
    “When buying from vendors the price for each day’s worth of stocks increases exponentially. For example, you can buy two days’ worth of food for 200, three days’ worth for 400, 4 days’ worth for 800, etc…”

    That feels just as forced and artificial in my humble opinion!

    Why not solve this problem by encumbrance? If you buy a lot of food, you will have to carry more, which in turn causes your party to be slower and use more food for the same distance travelled. This would feel way more natural and realistic I think.

    • Aric says:

      Hi Janus,

      I’m glad you like the post and really appreciate your feedback! We will definitely think about your suggestion.

      I’ll be sure to reply back after we’ve discussed it as a team.

      Aric
      Numantian Games

  2. Horrorscope says:

    I appreciate your explanation and ideas. However for turn based I think it is a good idea to put everything back to max after every fight. That way you know the players will be full health, mana points etc, all the options will be available to them. That way you know the state of the player. For the player it keeps it moving and you don’t have to feel the need to rest to get that full on effect.

  3. thak says:

    The exponential cost for food is easily explained–a simplification of spoilage.

    “Normal” food will go bad much more quickly than “preserved” food. Think about the difference between a chicken sandwich and beef jerky. Jerky is _far_ more expensive per pound than uncured meat–and lasts a whole lot longer.

    If that was the explanation of why it’s more expensive, it might seem less like hand-waving.

  4. JimGagne says:

    I’ve played RPGs since the Apple ][ days. I’m definitely more of a casual gamer. For me, the fussier and more obsessive game mechanics are, the more annoying the game becomes, and I’m apt to become bored and move on. So my choice — again — would be to make this a player option.

    • Hello Jim,

      We also are big fans of player choice. There are a number of ways to play Lords of Xulima and opportunity for different experiences depending on how you play the game. That said, the food mechanic is certainly part of the game. It adds a really interesting element of strategy when you go exploring Xulima.

      While in the comments above the exact mechanic of buying food may be a little confusing, the in game implementation is straight forward. Low on reserves and need more supplies to make a long trek to the next village? Stock up by gathering food or buying from the vendor.

  5. Ken says:

    Interesting choice. Explaining the cost difference by the need to process longer lasting food was also what came to my mind while I read it, which you then verified in your reply to thak.

    However, one part of your example calculation doesn’t float right, and I’d hope it’s just a typo.

    “For example, you can buy two days’ worth of food for 200, three days’ worth for 400, 4 days’ worth for 800, etc… If you already have 3 days worth of food, you would only be able to buy a fourth day’s worth for 800″.

    Buying a full four days worth of food costs 800 total in the example. Breaking that down: The first two days costs 200, the third day costs 200 more, and the fourth day costs another 400. However, you then say that if you already have 3 days, it’ll cost you a full 800 for just one more day of food. I would hope that the fourth day of food would cost you 400, and not 800.

    • Vic says:

      The more days of food you have, the further you can journey and the more tasks you can accomplish before having to re-supply. Having to pay that much more for additional days makes sense from a game balance and mechanics perspective, either way.

      Sometimes when faced with filming a documentary on food spoilage or making a game… developpers go with the game =P

      :)

      • ericfromabeno says:

        Vic, Ken isn’t nitpicking the ideology, he’s saying that the math seems to have been misspoken, that’s all. Aric misspoke in the post, if you’re not paying attention it sounds like you can buy 4 days’ worth of food for just 800, unless you already have 3 days worth in your stocks, then the 4th day’s worth BY ITSELF will cost you 800… Ken was just saying that the language used was a bit confusing.

        To simplify the question…

        Is the true game mechanic this:
        1 day’s food: 100 = 100 total
        2 days’ food: 100+200 = 300 total
        3 days’ food: 100+200+400 = 700 total
        4 days’ food: 100+200+400+800 = 1,500 total
        5 days’ food: 100+200+400+800+1,600 = 3,100 total

        or this:
        1 day’s food = 100 total
        2 days’ food = 200 total
        3 days’ food = 400 total
        4 days’ food = 800 total
        5 days’ food = 1,600 total…

        either way is fine by me, I’d just like to clarify.