The Dark Unknown: Demo Released!

I’ve been remiss in reporting on this, and for that I apologize to Goldenflame Dragon. But it is true: there is now — finally — a playable demo of The Dark Unknown:

Thank you for your patience, and I have finally put a playable demo online. You can find it at . Try not to break it too badly. If you do play, please do fill out my little survey afterwards, but, I’ll never know if you don’t. 😉

The demo is web-base; click on through to check it out. At that link, Goldenflame has included a few recommendations and notes to help ease you into the game:

Before you begin, you should read the Player Reference Guide.

The keyboard commands are explained in detail there, but to refresh once you’ve read it, here is a handy Reference Card.

NOTE- the game does not use the mouse at all- even on the title screen all UI interaction is performed with the keyboard! To choose options on the title screen, use the up and down arrows and the Enter key.

There are two ways to access the Dark Unknown demo- locally or remotely. Locally is recommended, but involves downloading the game to your computer. Remotely allows you to play it from this server, but there will be noticeable load times for some music and graphics.

Now, the demo was released in late March (oops!). Since then, Goldenflame has made a number of updates to it, thanks in no small part to the numerous bug reports submitted by Ultima Dragons:

I believe Tailrace now surpasses Shadow of Light in number of bugs submitted! A relatively minor looking bug (drinking a red potion to cure disease reports success more than once) turned into a minor _refactor of all of the spell code_. But that’s done now, for now.
List of some of tonight’s work:
* The King will no longer hand out multiple copies of the Treasury Token
* The box for Kyvek can be opened again
* Red potion now says “nothing happens” if you drink it while neither poisoned nor diseased.
* Drinking green potions now works.
* Footsteps on carpets are now the cobblestone footstep sound, not the grass sound.
* Minor dialog fixes, leading to tomorrow’s project of some major dialog fixes.

The above changes were made at the end of March. As April dawned, another fix was made to one of the game’s quests:

Updated the demo online- the prisoner will now appear when you are raised to level 2 rather than waiting until the next time you enter the castle; scrolls that require targets should work now; a few more minor tweaks. The zip file is uploading now, the remote version is updated.

This was followed by some work on the Almanac, the game’s manual, and on spells:

Today, I wrote about 1500 words for the Almanac, did some graphical experiments which failed, and decided the Return spell should be much lower level than it is, so I dropped it to 3, bumped Telepathy to 4 and bumped Ethereal Vision to 5.

But as April rolled on, Goldenflame shifted his focus back to bug-fixing:

Got another _giant_ pile of bugs from Tailrace, which I spent the evening working through. In the process, revamped a bunch of conversation trees in ways that will be mostly invisible to the user but removed some edge cases that he had, probably gleefully, found.
Going to try to print some more mailing labels before bed. Some KS backer rewards will be put in the mail tomorrow, if all goes well.
Here’s the change log:
* Fixed typos in introduction, dialog, and descriptions.
* Merged conversation trees for anyone who had more than one. This removed a number of exploits and edge cases.
* Fleeing enemies now removed from the timeline, so they will stop trying to flee.
* Screen redrawn after enemies flee.
* Leaving a combat map no longer says “Escaped!” if all enemies are dead.

And then there was this bug:

It’s a single entry, but it’s a pretty important one:
NPCs that die on their own turns no longer return from the dead.

In mid-April, Goldenflame began working on adding a new command to the game:

Flame Blade no longer makes flaming projectiles. (It was supposed to be melee only and wasn’t.)
I’ve put in most of the code that will be required to add “Open” to the commands list. I am bowing to the accumulated pressure of the fact that basically everyone has accidentally gone into the options menu when they meant to open a door. I’ll finish it tomorrow, and bundle that in with the new version of the demo I hope to put up.

The reason for this was explained soon thereafter:

I’m not above admitting I was wrong.
When I started this, I merged as many buttons as I could- wear/ready, open/use, and while descend/klimb/enter share functionality I didn’t merge them because people don’t feel like going up stairs is Entering anything.
Then I let some playtesters at the game. At the Bash they were all people who had played Ultimas IV and V, which this most resembles, and every single one of them that I watched brought up the Options menu at least once, by accident, when trying to open a door.
Then I had someone play the game who had _not_ played Ultima. Who was not a gamer at all, in general. And while they were able to figure out doors because I specifically call them out in the player reference guide as being opened by Use, they were unable to figure out how to open chests- they tried Look, Search, and Get, and then gave up.
So I was getting it from both sides- both experienced _and_ inexperienced players were looking for an (O)pen command, for different reasons. As such I have now added it.
The Options menu can now be accessed from ctrl-O. (U)se still works on anything that can be Opened, but the subset of things that can be Used for which Open makes sense will also accept that command.
The demo has been updated with this and sundry other fixes, including removing the infinite XP bug Tailrace found. The Player Reference Guide includes Open but I haven’t fully rewritten the Commands section to reflect its presence.

The map editor also saw some improvements:

Lot of progress today.
Some improvements to the conversation editor.
ESC now leaves the battlefield if you’re on a combat map and all enemies are dead.
Added a new terrain: underbrush. Revamped the Ellusus and Land of Lost Hopes maps to include it.
New items: Brown Potion, Deep Blue Potion, Flute, Drum, Harp, Lute, Mortar and pestle, Crystal Mortar.
New features: Apple tree, herbalist sign, cartographer sign, whitesmith sign, courthouse sign, music sign, 2 tombstones.

As did dialogue:

Dialog improvements. Hazel can Cure you if you are poisoned or diseased. Removed Seahorses as a monster type (they’re kinda goofy anyway) so I can use their graphic as water elementals. Added the ability to have dialog responses differ based on status effects on the PC. And Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

A few new graphics were also added to the game:

Couple new graphics, including a grandfather clock. Do not yet have a tick-tock noise for it but it’ll be on the list of ambient noises to set up.
Made a lot of progress remaking the main castle map. I’m a lot happier with it now. Not yet done, but then, I guess neither was the old one. Once I actually slot it in as a replacement I’ll need to change a bunch of details, especially in the library, but it’ll be worth it.

And, as April drew near to its end, he switched to working on maps:

I’ve finished making new maps for the main castle, though I haven’t implemented them because there are other changes I need to make first.
Fixed a crash bug from fleeing monsters, and another from exporting games if the browser is set to not allow a new window to be opened. Also another from dying to a trap.
Speaking of which, trap damage is now typed, so fire resistance will help against an explosion trap.

Most recently, street signs have seen some work:

Added street signs- none are on any maps yet but I gave up on making my own and just stole more graphics from angband.
After player feedback, added blank lines between segments of long responses that are broken up by [MORE] prompts.
Refactored DrawMainFrame to remove a frequent source of careless errors.

Goldenflame tends to jump between different areas of the project quite frequently, so it’s not surprising to see him yet again working on multiple different aspects of the game at different times throughout the month. But all of it is indicative of the great progress he is making in realizing The Dark Unknown…which you can now check out online, today.