Soulash in 2021 and beyond

Greetings fellow gods,

It took me over 2 months after the end of last year, but as my son just had his birthday, I thought there could not be a better time to share my Soulash development plans for 2021. Probably not many of you know, but exactly 4 years ago, when my son was born, I've decided to start working on "my next game", with the intention of "finishing it" this time. At the time, I only knew that I wanted it to be a roguelike, and I absolutely needed to start by building an engine from scratch. It had to be in C++, a language I've never worked with, just in case I change my mind about what the game would be, and I needed to have as much power as possible, so the technology would not restrict whatever I envision.

And so a no-name trading roguelike was born, where the goal would be to move items from town to town, buy low, sell high, and fight monsters occasionally. In the end, I couldn't make it fun, so I decided to go back to basics and focus on combat, first and foremost. As a big fan of the Dungeon Keeper series and its "it's good to be bad" saying, I thought there are not enough games about being a bad guy and exploring the world's fate from such a perspective. Then the idea behind Soulash took root. I think it took 2 years of development before this direction even emerged. Still, because I started from the ground up, all of that work didn't go to waste, as I was finding the game I wanted to make when I built the core systems and iterated over existing mechanics. Looking back at it, it might not have been very efficient but turned out to be a perfect solution for the indecisive guy who loves to jump to a "new great idea" and start games from scratch over and over. I still jumped to new ideas, but I didn't have to start from scratch.

This introduction gets us to 2021 and decisions for the future of Soulash. Right now, the most significant goal is to release Soulash on Steam as a stable, complete version 1.0. Because of that, I had to look through my ever-long list of tasks and reorder them to support this direction by moving the non-essentials back. To get to 1.0, we will need to get through 3 big patches: Gods, Endgame, and Graphics mod. Top all of that with a final polish of existing systems and mechanics, with the release on Steam.

Let's start with the incoming v0.6 Gods update. The patch will introduce a new moddable component into the game called "On Destruction", which will trigger when an entity dies, in our case, a god that came to the world to take you down. This component can support different, massive effects, like for example:

  • Destroying every tree in the whole world.
  • Replacing every grass tile into rotten grass tile.
  • Start raining.
  • Changing rain weather to snow wherever rain was falling in the world.
  • Teleport player to any location in the world.
  • Remove day or night.
  • Remove fatigue so that no entity will require sleep anymore.
  • Reduce durability of all existing items in the world and make crafted items indestructible.

Winter is coming

Winter is coming

World change test

World change test

And a couple more. Killing a god may significantly impact the entire world or change gameplay in a meaningful way. Not all of the gods will challenge you during a single playthrough, but a randomly chosen handful from the existing pool so that every playthrough may be affected differently. For v0.6, 16 gods will come with unique dialogues that can provide important information to the story and unique abilities that killing them will provide to the player character. Still, as with most things in Soulash, it will be easy to introduce more through modding, as the new system is robust and flexible. The v0.6 patch will come out in April/May.

Then we move to v0.7 Endgame. It's not set in stone yet, but I have a general idea of getting there and how the game will end. To avoid spoilers, it's probably best I say nothing at all about this patch, other than its goal is for the game to be finishable and to have a way to achieve final victory with the character. The v0.7 patch will come around September.

Next, we plan to jump straight to 1.0, where the graphics mode will be introduced with final polishing changes to the game. Patch 1.0 is scheduled for release on Steam and Itch simultaneously, at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. The final date may depend on the amount of polish required, we will set it soon after v0.7. If nothing changes in Steam policy and it will still be possible to get the keys, everyone who supported the game on itch by purchasing a copy will also receive a Steam key, so no worries there. To those who love ASCII mode, just like me, don't worry. The ASCII will stay in the game as an option. The images below are the first draft of the graphic mode that will come to Soulash.

I see a sacrificial goat

I see a sacrificial goat (right-click open in new tab for full size)

Let's burn this village to the ground

Let's burn this village to the ground (right-click open in new tab for full size)

With the release of 1.0, the game will be complete. However, it doesn't mean the development will stop, or we won't see any more features in the game post-release. After 1.0, there are 2 paths available for us. We can start working on a sequel or another game on the same engine or extend Soulash above and beyond. There is a list of big, meaningful ideas we've discussed together over the years. We all want to see things like building, generating random worlds, getting mortal servants that will do our bidding, factions, more interactions other than combat, more robust character building with many combinations of skills, Linux support. Some of these things might not fit well into the current Soulash gameplay or story but would fit perfectly into a sequel or alternative sandbox mode. However, to get there in a reasonable timeframe, the team building Soulash needs to scale beyond my part-time involvement, and for that, we will need funds.

The growth process already started with the creation of graphics mod. To get us this new style, I've started working with Xiclu, a very talented graphic designer, to create the new graphics mod and flesh out the existing ASCII version. For now, I'm able to cover this from my full-time job, but I would like to try to raise the bar above that new limit to have a chance to deliver a roguelike that can be among the best in the genre. In the coming months, we will try some things to get the extra funds that will enable us to pick up the pace and deliver more. We will start with a Kickstarter campaign to present our vision for what Soulash can become with your help, which will include a working demo of graphic mode, and then we will move from there.

If you're wondering how you can help us with Soulash right now, the most impactful way to do it is to spread the word. Tell everyone who might like the game that it exists and why you enjoy it. Share your experience on Reddit /r/roguelikes, Twitter, or Facebook. Everything else will come naturally. 

I'm very grateful to all of you who helped the game grow over the years and hope to see you all enjoy Soulash in the years to come. Thank you!

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