drew stillwell

Game main capsule image showing logo

Journey to Monolith

Available on Steam!

Journey to Monolith is a strategic, turn-based roguelite game. Choose a general to lead your team, recruit fighters from six unique regions, and customize your fighters' stats and abilities with powerful spells.

screenshot from game's combat

Development Story

Inspiration and Prototype

Journey to Monolith has had several iterations and evolved a lot over the multiple years I have been working on it part-time as the solo developer. My primary inspiration came from Pokemon Showdown's random battle system, a somewhat-competitive format on the unofficial battle simulator that gives you a semi-random team of fighters so you can duke it out with other trainers with their own semi-random team.

screenshot of prototpe

The single-player prototype I threw together with my own randomly generated fighters was fun, but there was little sense of progression when your entire team was generated at the start of the game. Taking further inspiration from card-based roguelike games such as Slay the Spire and the draft format of TCG's like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone, I trimmed the initial fighter numbers to just one or two - allowing the player to slowly recruit more fighters to their team as they play and win battles.

Moving to a Game Engine

The more I kept adding sprites and new attacks and units to the Javascript-based prototype, the more I felt the need to move to a platform more dedicated to game development. I wanted it to be easy to add unit animations, switch between different scenes, and make the combat a little more immersive.

After a little research, I decided on Godot Engine to continue building the game. I also took advantage of the transition to change the theme as well, from fantasy (elves, orcs, magic) to sci-fi (guns, aliens, spaceships). I took this version pretty far, creating animated sprites for each unit in the game and backgrounds for each alien race. This was a lot of fun and gave the game my own sense of style, but it took a LOT of time and overall felt like I was hitting a wall from the asset-creation side.

screenshot from version 2 sci-fi theme

Pivoting

When I learned that Counterplay Games had released their original assets from Duelyst open-source, I knew there was a huge opportunity to leverage not only the art and audio assets provided, but also take advantage of the sprawling lore and world-building that existed in their game. The General system from Duelyst also fit right in with my gameplay loop of starting with a single character! This allowed me to give each general their own unique identity and ability that the player could build around as they progress through each run, and the multiple factions let me explore different mechanics within each and give the player tons of options to express themselves with as they build their team.

gif showing combat animations screenshot of unit select screen gif showing the spellshop area screenshot of team summary screen