Talisman Prologue - Development Diary

We thought it would be good to show the progress of Talisman Prologue over time during its development. We've created a video which shows this in a really nice visual way, using a program called Gource and weaving in captures of the game at various stages of development.

Software projects are displayed by Gource as an animated tree with the root directory of the project at its centre. Directories appear as branches with files as leaves. Developers can be seen working on the tree at the times they contributed to the project.

We hope you find this interesting. Enjoy!

Build 1Talisman - The Magical Text Adventure Game

This is the first version of Talisman we had up and running, back in August 2011. You could only play as the Warrior and all you could do was move around the board. All input was via numbered choices.

We realised this early that Talisman is a game where you must wait for the player to decide what they want to do and prompting them to cast spells, check their inventory or ditch cards every turn wouldn’t be a pleasant gaming experience. This made us think very carefully about how the UI would work. There’s a lot of information to show the player and we wanted to avoid a cluttered screen. Eventually, Rob made this version play itself, so that an entire game would whiz up the screen in a few seconds until the Warrior lost all of his lives.

Build 2As if by magic, a UI appears!

By October 2011, Mat had added a simple UI which included the Talisman board. This was running on an iPad and all elements of the UI were interactive. You could pinch the screen to zoom-in on the board and view it in more detail. Suddenly, elements of the artwork that I’d never really noticed on the physical board came to life, such as the dinosaurs sat in the Hidden Valley and the tiny man confronting the Sentinel. We hadn't decided at this point what our primary platform was going to be – mobile/tablet or PC, so we designed the game in a way that would work on both platforms right from the start.

We realised at this point that Talisman fans had never really seen the board in this much digital detail before and we had a strong feeling that the board itself is such an integral part of the game that it’s almost like a character. Having seen an attempt at a 3D version of the Talisman board, we felt like some of the character and detail is lost compared to a 2D board. It’s important to us that we deliver a game that’s as close to the Talisman experience as possible and so it was back in October ’11 that we decided we would definitely go with a 2D board.
There’s no character on the board at this point, so we highlight where the player is by using a red glow around the space. The yellow glow is a movement choice.

This is what zooming-in on a space looked like. Some of the spaces have a lot of text in their instructions, so we decided to have the space text at the side of the space. On the physical board, the text for each space is on a scroll at the bottom of the space, but we knew that we should separate the text from the space rather than have the text on the space as part of the texture like on the board, mainly for translations and also to show more of the space. On the physical board there are things lurking under those scrolls! Also, we have very limited amounts of space on an iPad screen so fitting the text under the board space was tricky. Later in the development, we realised that by having the text at the side like this, we were restricting the player’s view of the board and so this idea was ditched.

You might also notice that there’s a timer up in the top-left corner of the screen. Back then, the quests were timed, so the first Warrior quest was ‘Find two weapons and kill an enemy in 5 minutes’. This made for a VERY different game experience and it was extremely tense as you saw the clock counting down, flashing red when you only had a minute left. Although this way of playing was fun, we decided that it wasn't very good for newcomers to Talisman. How can you play quickly if you don’t know what to do? Eventually timed quests were scrapped and they all became turn-based, which makes for a more relaxing game and allows the player to think about their strategy more.

Combat was very crude back in October 2011. There was no concept of Fate and combat was over very quickly. There was only one die too, so even though two dice are being rolled in the background, only the highest value is shown for the Warrior.

Build 3Character Building

By April 2012, a lot of work had been done on fleshing out the game. More and more adventure cards were included, spells were being added, board space rules were coming together and more characters were added. The game now showed a character select screen and you could swipe through all of the characters using your finger. You might notice the Thief character in the list. This was before we made the decision to cut four characters – Ghoul, Sorceress, Minstrel and Thief. These characters have strong abilities which are dependent on other characters being in the game, so we made the tough decision to take them out.

We decided to give each of the 10 characters 5 quests to play through and that the first quest for each character would be a gentle introduction to their special abilities. With timed quests having been removed, the turn-based scoring system was introduced.

It was around this time that we decided to launch the game on PC first. The Greenlight system didn't exist when we made this decision.

Build 4Graphic Scenes

In July 2012, our artist, Andy, took the game by the scruff of the neck and gave it a graphical overhaul. The UI was tidied up, with character attributes shown down the left of the screen, and things you can use or interact with on your travels shown on the right. Another big change is the view of the board. The new angle feels more like you’re sat at a table looking at the board and this is very important for keeping the feel of playing a board game. Adventure Cards look a whole lot better now too.

We also added the tutorial around this time. The tutorial was designed to react to a player’s actions, rather than force pre-determined dice rolls and cards. This also allows the player to learn the game at their own pace, and learn by doing rather than being told.

Build 5It's All Coming Together

By August of 2012, the general look and feel of the game was almost done and we were entering the bug testing phase.

The above screenshot shows some new additions, such as the floating ether background, the turn counter (bottom-right), the character alignment symbol and card deck buttons at the top.

The alignment symbol was eventually removed and replaced with the alignment word because it was difficult to explain what those symbols meant. The turn counter turned into a rotating clock-like feature, which showed time moving forwards and backwards in a much better way. The purchase deck was eventually removed because the player never needed to access it. It will return for the multiplayer game.

The combat screen still had some way to go. Combat is very important in Talisman and happens quite often, so it needed to be a rewarding experience. The Warrior was finally rolling two dice on-screen and fate could be used at this point too. We flipped some of the imagery so that opponents were facing each other in combat rather than avoiding eye-contact!

Build 6A Release Date is Lurking in this Area

By the end of November 2012 the game was almost finished. Our great beta testers were pointing out some of the finer rules that we’d implemented incorrectly and the only bugs left were extremely unlikely events, such as specific characters doing specific things on specific board spaces.

The famous Talisman die is now being used and the character information on the left/right has changed to suit the rest of the screen. The Options/Wrench icon has moved to the top-left, because we needed more room in the box on the right to show the maximum number of Spells and Objects the character is allowed.

The character is now finally on the board too. We ended up keeping the minis as the grey versions as they come out of the box. This is for two reasons – authenticity and visibility. It’s easier to see where your character is on the board using the grey version. We did attempt to add painted characters and there are certain places on the board where they can be very hard to see, so we stuck with grey.

Focus/blurring was added to the board to highlight where the character is and where they can move to. An edge was added to the board too, so that it feels more like a real board rather than a floating 2D image. The character on the board when zoomed-in looks great and the face up cards on spaces look nicer in their portrait style.

Combat is finished visually and all of the 10 characters have their own attack effects. Audio for all of the different enemies is added now too.

We hope you enjoyed this look at the development of Talisman Prologue through the ages. It’s interesting to see how the game changed as we progressed. We’re extremely grateful to the fans of the game who’ve helped us thus far, and who gave us some great feedback which shaped the game and made it a better experience. You’ve helped Prologue become a great foundation for our next major project, Talisman Digital Edition.

Talisman © Games Workshop Limited 1983, 1985, 1994, 2007. Talisman: Prologue © Games Workshop Limited 2012. Games Workshop, Talisman, Talisman: Prologue, the foregoing marks' respective logos and all associated marks, logos, characters, products and illustrations from the Talisman game are either ®, TM and/or © Games Workshop Limited 1983--2012, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. This edition published under license to Nomad Games Ltd. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
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