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Journey to Rooted Hold Showcase.

This story started four years ago, in the year 2000.

It was the year of people sheepishly selling off their old 'Year 2000 Survival Kit', the year that Florida got its day in the su- wait, Florida would have got its day in the relatively overcast - wait, the year that Florida got its fifteen minutes of fame, both as the focus of US-Cuba relations, and then as the state that couldn't even work out its ballot paper. It was also the year that we worked out that TAGACAT actually stood for something, and the Internet phenomenon went for its spectacular, flaming crash when people realised (again) that pie-in-the-sky concepts are only cool if they actually work. And it was the year that Erik Hermansen was invited to participate in a fledgling little community based on the puzzle game he had made a few years ago.

Soon, discussion turned to reviving DROD and re-releasing it as a free game. With some other coders, and a solid new base on which to work, Erik could rebuild the original game, and possibly add new things, like a level editor, or even a sequel, with new monsters and things.

Fast forward to today.

Caravel Software is pleased as punch to present DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold.

Once again, Mike has been the driving force behind this project, as he's contributed a lot of the game's code and been project lead and ordered all the peons around (and occasionally clicked on them repeatedly to make them say something funny). They've also done a good swipe of the game's levels. Erik has put together a few of the levels, with Mike, Adam (AlefBet), Eytan (aka eytanz) and Neil (Oneiromancer) putting together most of the brain-bending puzzles. Heck, even ex-webmaster Matthew Cramp threw a level in. Erik has pulled out his incredible creative skills and given us the game's art and a fair bit of the music, and Emmett (who unfortunately had to pull out because of other commitments) still left us with the title tune. A gentleman named Todd Downing is handling voice recording for the game's extensive storyline. Matt Schikore (or our very own Schik) wrote a lot of one of the best new features, which I shall mention later on, and Gerry (trick) has put together an in-game browser for the help files.

(Yes, both Eytan and Oneiromancer have been involved from the start. We signed them up because of their excellent and tricky holds. So build holds, guys! You too could be headhunted!)

In this little article, I'll walk you right through a broad swipe of the changes we've made since we began work on this new version, which eventually became a full-blown sequel. Rest assured, however, that your AE files still work in JtRH (although JtRH files won't work in AE), so you won't lose your progress in KDD, although we figure you might not want to keep going in KDD for a while. This isn't everything that we've done, though - I can't spoil everything (no, I'll leave that to Mike and Matt S., who really deserve it).

The New Hold



Click on the thumbnail to see this screenshot at normal size.

First and foremost, JtRH will have an all-new official dungeon. We'll still have AE available as a free download, but JtRH is going to be considered the official dungeon upon its release. It's around 25 levels full of the most devious puzzles we could devise, and turns out to be a deal harder than KDD. One of the things we've been keeping in mind is how difficult the levels are supposed to be, so we made sure that we kept the difficulty as a progressing staircase and that you don't have insanely difficult levels and then really easy ones after it (a problem, admittedly, KDD suffered from).

As you may have heard, JtRH will have story all through it, with voice! It's all handled in-game using the new Character system. In this game, Beethro, with Halph in tow, return to level 10 of King Dugan's Dungeon through a side passage, and discovers a vast empire underneath the soil. They encourage him to turn back,but Beethro persists... until he meets the Slayer...

Gameplay Changes



Click on the thumbnail to see this screenshot at normal size.

New to JtRH are secret rooms - rooms that aren't required to complete the game and won't show up on the level map on the forum. They show up in a different colour on the game map, and when you find one a little message will come up ("Secret Room!"). You'll be told how many secrets you've found in each level and in the hold when you finish them, and once you've finished the hold you'll be told how many secrets you need to find in each level.

Last birthday, Beethro got a little pocket watch, which he uses underground as a spawn clock. Now you can see when roaches, long monsters and tar will spawn or turn or appear or whatever.

Clicking on things in-game will reveal some information about them: orbs will reveal what they do, evil eyes will reveal where they're looking, and clicking on the map will bring up the entire level.

Spiders have been significantly reworked. They're no longer blue, but will blend in on any floor type. They'll be visible when they move, and when they're close to Beethro, but completely invisible when they're standing still. Now that we've got a new graphics engine, we could make spiders be less of a cheap shot and more of a puzzle.

New Allies, Monsters and Enemies



Beethro has a helper with him - Halph will sometimes wander in after Beethro enters a room. You can get Halph to follow you, and you can send him to open a door by tapping it. Halph won't disturb trapdoors, and monsters won't attack him. In fact, Halph manages to get over closed doors, down pits, and ahead of Beethro. He's a strange, strange kid.

The biggest new enemy is the Slayer. This malevolent citizen of the Rooted Empire is as skilled as Beethro is, and carries a hook which is just as deadly as Beethro's sword is. He uses a wisp to seek you out, and then he'll retrace your footsteps to catch and kill Beethro. You can't kill him - your only option is to run.

The wubbas are a concerning new threat - they won't slide along walls like roaches do, sticking in place unless they get the opportunity to move where they want to. They don't seem to hurt Beethro, either, but surely underneath their cute, bouncy exterior lies a heart of pure evil...

Stone golems are as thick as two short planks, and as strong as two short planks wielded by someone really beefy. When Beethro kills them, they turn back into rocks, which Beethro can't climb over or move around.

The rattlesnake is a new type of long monster - it can go over force arrows, and it stops when you trap it. You'll need to hit its rattle until it shortens down to nothing.

The seep is an odd, worm-like creature that lives in the walls. If Beethro gets too close to a wall, the seep will get him, unless Beethro gets it first.

New Elements



Hide your secret rooms with a new secret wall, that blends into the interior of walls and can only be seen on the edges. Crumbly walls are now a lot more obvious to compensate, as now they won't be used for secrets.

The orthogonal squares stop anything from moving diagonally in or out of their square. A nightmare when you're dealing with snakes.

The black gate is a new type of gate that opens when you've cleared all the tar (whether Living Tar or another type) out of the room.

Bombs are one of the most fun new elements. Striking a bomb with your sword will blow it up, taking Beethro with it. You can detonate them a safe distance away by stepping on the end of a fuse. Bombs that detonate will also light fuses and blow up other bombs, as well as killing anything in the blast radius.

The decoy potion can be used to attract monsters away from Beethro, and is placed much like a mimic potion.

The Graphics Engine



The graphics have had the most visible makeover - all of the game sprites have been redone by Erik, and they look really good. All of the monsters now have direction as well. (Spiders and tar babies don't have a direction in AE.) We've completely overhauled the old tile-based method of drawing the game screen - I won't get into too much detail here, but basically walls and pits are now one big picture, as well as the various floors.

Walls now have an inside and an edge, as you can see here - secret walls won't show up on the inside, but crumbly walls do. Walls cast proper shadows now, where before walls would only cast shadows on normal checkerboard.

We've also got six new types of floor - road, stone, grass, dirt, mosaic and image - to make your hold look spiffy. The image floor deserves a special mention: it will let you put any picture you like on the floor of your hold, and it'll be exported as part of the hold file! I'm expecting several DROD players to go nuts designing holds to push the image floor to the limit.

Pit edges also do this nifty thing where they'll use either a big or small picture depending on how long the pit edge is.

There's a whole host of other nifty effects I won't go into, because we can't spoil the whole game for you, now can we?

The Character System

The most exciting change to DROD is the new Character system. This is nothing less than a full-blown scripting system.

You can make any sort of creature in the game, from Halph to the Neather to a roach to a citizen (with the exception of long monsters and, of course, Beethro) into a Character. You can even make a disembodied voice. You can move them, make them deliver lines (with or without audio), have them hit orbs, and even make decisions based on where Beethro is and isn't, where enemies are and aren't, if a particular door is open or not, if the room's clear, if all the brains are dead, and a host of other conditions. All those people who have been calling for a Neather script - here's your wish.

You can even jump around in your script (which leaves us open to spaghetti code, where it's impossible to work out where you're supposed to be because it's all in bits like spaghetti) or turn a character back into a monster (useful if your character is, say, a mimic. Yes, kids, you can use the Character system to have pre-placed mimics).

We've used the Character system to build the story sequences in JtRH, and we can't wait to see what everyone else does with them.

CaravelNet

The second-most exciting change is CaravelNet. If you upload a hold to the Caravel Games Forum, it becomes available in the Holds menu for everyone who has CaravelNet access, as well as its ratings for difficulty and fun. If you need help, come to forum.caravelgames.com, and the forum will know which rooms you've visited, so you can find which room you're stuck on easily. We'll even broadcast Caravel news which will turn up on the main menu as a new news ticker marquee.

But that's not the best bit: DROD can upload your victory demos to CaravelNet, and work out where it sits on the high scores for that room (that is, least amount of moves to conquer the room). We'll be running high scores for all of the holds on CaravelNet, and there'll be a high score table on CaravelNet. People will even be able to watch, in-game, the high score demos for any hold uploaded to CaravelNet.

The Bad News

* You will need a computer that is capable of handling 1024x768 resolution and transparency effects, with at least 64 meg of RAM. This isn't too bad, as most computers these days are capable of handling these requirements.
* The 9 styles from D.R.O.D. won't be returning. We'll map each style onto an appropriate new style when you play, so the general theme of your dungeon is preserved. You may, however, want to release a new version that takes advantage of some of JtRH's new features.
*CaravelNet will be a separate product from DROD. Still, thanks to some clever marketing schemes, we're making sure that you get your money's worth from it. Check out the CaravelNet FAQ for more information.
* The flow, zombies, mirrors, adders, beam eyes, turning arrows, and arrow plates won't be in JtRH. Some of these were red herrings, some of them were cut after it became apparent they needed a good deal of tweaking to work as desired.
* I think someone got their wires crossed at some point - pressure plates aren't in JtRH either. Maybe the next one.

The Financial Bit

The DROD 2.0 program, like D.R.O.D. before it, will always be free. We've made commitments, both legal and on faith, that DROD will always be freely available. Caravel Games will offer the DROD 2.0 program as a free download, which will have only one style, the Foundation style. Holds that use other styles will be converted to Foundation when played on the free download. The ability to build and play user-made holds will also continue to be free, including the new monsters and the Character system.

So, for only $19.95 (24.95 for the download and the CD), here is what you will get:

* The full version of JtRH, all 25 levels of it, filled with devious puzzles and a neat storyline.
* Three new styles, two of which are exclusive to the full version: Deep spaces and Iceworks
* 22 brand-new songs, 16 of which are exclusive to the full version

Visit the Caravel Games website to order.