Jul 17 2015


All the classes in CQ2 are getting new perks in 1.16—and most are having a few rough edges filed off. I’ve got a good number of those perks and tweaks in now and they’re starting to feel good!

The Fighter’s changes are aimed at the concept of the Fighter as a sturdy veteran. I don’t want to overcomplicate the Fighter class, so these changes are fairly straightforward! The Fighter’s new perk, “Clinical”, gives +2 defense and the starting skill Vital Strike instead of Berserk. I’m hoping this will be viable everywhere and enable a tankier style of Fighter.

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Jul 07 2015


I’ve been a bit quiet lately, and here’s why: In preparation for launching the game to Steam, I’ve been teaching CQ2 to talk to Steam and getting it to run properly across Windows, Linux and Mac.

My desk got busy!

Technical stuff: I’ve got to hand it to HaXe, OpenFL and Steamwrap here. Getting the game running on Mac and Linux only took a few days each and it’s working consistently everywhere, save for some glitches on an elderly Mac Mini. I’ve even got Steam cloud saves working across all three platforms, which feels a bit like magic.

Linux is still something of a mystery to me though. How do you even test stuff when there are so many distros? I’ve got the game running on clean installs of Ubuntu 14, which 27% of Steam’s Linux users are running. I’m banking on that as a good start…

Anyway! I’m going to take a short break from the Steam launch now to put together patch 1.16. I’d like to go over and improve some of the weaker perks, talents and classes: things like the Fighter’s “Intimidate” skill, the Pugilist’s gear besides Fightin’ Shoes and the Thief in general. I’m also planning to finally add the new perk for each class I’ve been talking about for a while! Yell at me now if you think something needs fixing in this patch—it might make the list 🙂

Jul 02 2015


A lot of the systems design stuff I do in building and balancing Cardinal Quest 2 is rooted in a certain way of looking at games. It’s based in making the game as a series of interesting decisions; something where you repeatedly get a few options to choose from, each with their merits and downsides, and you have to pick one definite path from the handful of possibilities.

The Civilization series exemplifies this approach. The entire way the game presents itself is to give you a list of options, you pick one, then the game shows you another list. Those countless decisions and the stories players weave around them support hundreds of hours of play. There are no doubt players who’ve made over a million of these choices in Civilization V and are still playing.

If you’re going to sustain a game through this many decisions and keep things interesting, you’ll need to show players entire systems full of different things they want—then tell them they can’t have everything. Reaching for certain things will seal other things away, possibly forever. You need to create these impossible, intractable tensions between all the things players want. When they click, these networks of tensions have the scent of solid design. Efficiently designed systems can ask you to navigate these tensions in countless ways, over and over.

These tensions are also fragile. Give players everything at once, even for a moment, and that part of the system collapses.

One game I’ve played recently that often veers towards doing exactly this is 2008’s Valkyria Chronicles.

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Jun 24 2015


With 1.15, the iOS and Android versions are getting several patches at once… so there’s a whole load of new stuff to find!

The biggest change by far is the rise in skill tree limits in The Tower. In short: Every time you clear a block of 20 floors in The Tower, you’ll get a free skill point and many of your skill tree’s limits will rise—allowing you to spend more points on them. Cool!

Besides that there are now five new Legendary items to find, better equipment scattered throughout the Tower, and a whole bunch of other tweaks and fixes! Here are the full patch notes for 1.15:

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Jun 05 2015


Every time I fix the Alchemist Destrid’s Ax/Tinkerer combo, someone finds a way round the fix. That means I have to fix it again (but better).

The problem is, I don’t like doing patches that just nerf stuff. So to Zelnaught, Fat__Tony and others, as a reward for breaking the game and making me patch it, here’s a handful of new Legendaries and some adjustments to where they show up!


  • Adjusted effect of “Tinkerer” and other +1 buffs on percentage-type item stats.
  • Expanded the range of items Scavengers can drop on death.
  • Legendaries are now less rare on Normal and Hard.


  • Scavengers may now forgive transgressions (eventually).
  • Adjusted drop rates of different Legendaries in the Tower.


  • Added five new Legendary items!


  • Fixed a bug where very high Willpower could make enemy magic resist go very high.
May 29 2015


The Tower has been a lot of fun to make! I always wanted it to take the game a bit further, take things over the top. With the patches of the last few weeks adding rising skill tree limits and bonus enchanted gear on higher floors, I feel that’s starting to happen.

My goal has always been to make Floor 60 really difficult to reach and Floor 100 next to impossible, but it turns out a few things I overlooked have had the potential to take players much further—often making the game a bit dull in the process. The Alchemist’s “Tinkerer” talent is the main such problem, easily scaling your gear and turning certain items into permanent invincibility.

I don’t like changing cool powerful things, I much prefer adding new toys and making weak things stronger, but it’s become clear that Tinkerer will keep breaking the game without a fundamental change. So here we go: a little medicinal balance patch to fix things.

Now it’s back to work on new stuff. 🙂


  • Tweaked Alchemist’s skill tree.
  • Alchemist’s “Tinkerer” will now only enchant to a maximum of +1 per skill point invested.


  • Adjusted bonus from Whetstone on high damage weapons.


  • Fixed spellcasting on Magic Mirrors.
  • Altered some things that could be easily exploited by “save-scumming” (reloading a save for a better result).
May 26 2015


The last patch was a shot at balancing The Tower, addressing the few truly broken builds and making many more builds viable. Some things worked; some didn’t. The skill tree limits rising went a long way, but builds dependent on found equipment and melee combat were still struggling while spell-casting builds dominated.

Here’s another package of changes to fix that and make The Tower more interesting! I’ve made enemies a little more dangerous, especially to spellcasters, but hugely improved the gear you’ll find as you climb and revamped weapon damage in general. I hope you’ll enjoy the results. 🙂

As ever, the patch is up on Kongregate right now (with a new Highest Tower Floor scoreboard) and will be making its way to iOS and Android shortly.


  • Chests are now more common in higher floors of The Tower.
  • Equipment will now appear with extra enchantment levels (+1, +2, +3…) from Floor 21.
  • Enemies are now slightly tougher, more aggressive and more magic resistant in higher floors of The Tower.


  • Alchemist “Pistol” skill now has recoil. Damage adjusted.
  • Alchemist “Gunslinger” perk now replaces “Craft” with an extra Pistol, allowing you to acquire two Pistols from level 4.
  • Alchemist “Tinkerer” will now affect weapons as well as other gear.


  • Upgraded Restless Blade and Weeping Katana (slightly).
  • Whetstone now has a larger effect on high damage weapons.


  • Improved spell targeting.
  • Fixed buff on bushes in The Tower.
  • Scavenger will now drop correct Tome for Pugilists.
May 15 2015


Steam development continues. In the meantime, I’ve been working through feedback on The Tower and I’ve got some fixes ready!


There were a few exploitable things that needed fixing, like a bug in “Polymorph”. There were also some major balance issues. The Alchemist’s “Tinkerer” talent and Paladin’s “Consecrate” stood out as particularly strong builds for long Tower runs, with other classes barely able to keep up. I’m introducing a new feature to fix this:

Every time you clear a block of 20 floors in The Tower, you’ll get a free skill point and many of your skill tree’s limits will rise—allowing you to spend more points on them.

So, for example, you’ll be able to spend a second point—and eventually a third, and fourth, and so on—in the Thief’s “Shadow Master” talent, reducing the cool-down of Shadow Mastery. The raising of other limits will also allow your Thief to spend even more skill points in Speed or Stealth. If you play a Wizard you’ll be able to raise Inspiration to even higher percentages, allowing you to repeatedly cast spells more often, or put extra points into Leech to drain more and more health.

My hope is that these rising limits will give every class a chance at the higher floors of the Tower and enable some really cool game-breaking Tower builds. Give it a spin and let me know what works. There’s a lot I can do to tweak these expanding skill trees, so I hope I’ll be able to enable lots of viable builds soon!

Anyway, that’s the big stuff. I’ve also fixed several bugs, adjusted some game-breaking stuff and tweaked a few skills. I’ve put the patch up on Kongregate and will be deploying it to iOS and Android within the next few weeks.

Here are the full patch notes:

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Apr 16 2015


I’m pretty much done with the raw, messy business of simply getting CQ2 to run as nicely on Windows, Mac and Linux as it does on phones or over on Kongregate. That means moving on to the next big thing!

The next big thing right now is that CQ2 on Steam won’t be free-to-play. That means no Morale system, which means it’ll need a different unlock scheme. Currently I’m linking each Perk/Gear to a corresponding achievement you’ll have to clear to unlock it. I’m finding there are some cool things I can do here, like requiring you to unlock one perk (eg. Paladin’s “Noncombatant”) and do something hard with it (clear an Act using Noncombatant!) to unlock the next. It should be fun!

I’m not completely happy with the perk system right now, honestly. There are several perks to choose from, but once you’ve found and unlocked your favourite, there’s little reason to explore further. I’m playing around with ideas for how to fix that, like tracking which loadouts you’ve cleared an Act with—and maybe giving each class a permanent bonus perk that activates when you’ve unlocked all its other stuff. (Would that be weird?)

Given those fixes, the game could totally use a few extra perks! I may well add another thing or two for each class in the next patch. I’m hesitant to discuss what the new perks might be, since that’d be spoiling the fun of everyone finding out for themselves… but one I really want to try out is a perk that gives the Wizard a mana bar. This’d mean spells cost mana instead of having a cooldown, but you’ll only be able to refill your mana by changing level or picking up Mana Orbs from fallen enemies.

I’m also wondering how I can balance a starting loadout for the Thief that’d involve Shadow Walk and Teleport, so you could be everywhere at once. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Work remaining until Steam release: new unlock system, desktop graphics fixes, Steam integration, new trailer and stuff for Steam store, add more Legendary items & perks & Tower bosses in a cool update (all platforms)

Mar 08 2015


I’ve started getting the game ready for Steam. There’s a fair bit of work involved in this. I need to add support for Steam achievements and leaderboards, I’m going to strip out Morale and add a new progression system… but the biggest job by far is updating the Flash UI to look nice at higher resolutions. It may be silly to want a game using 16×16 pixel art to look really nice and clean on a big screen, but I’m going to try anyway! Who knows—maybe I’ll find a little time to work in some subtle OpenGL shader effects too. 🙂

iOS and Android builds are in the queue, waiting for a good release window. For now, I’ve uploaded a stealth patch to Kongregate to tweak the Tower balance slightly based on feedback and fix a few bugs. Here are the details:

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