Tag Archives: Game

Role-Playing Games and Leveling Up – Day 2

It’s almost midnight.

Gotta get this post done before tomorrow.
So I can write one for tomorrow too.

 

Let’s pick up where we left off! Yesterday, I finished off by detailing some decisions the player could make regarding his character. He’s only five and hasn’t used a bow before. He knows how they work, of course, but it’s going to take some practice to get going. So, the player heads out to the back yard and starts looking from something to shoot. Maybe there’s a scare crow to serve as a target for them. We can make the young character’s learning experience a bit more novel, show him struggling to get the basics of using the bow the first few times.
Maybe he isn’t strong enough and can’t get the string drawn enough to propel the arrow to the target, or he’s unsteady and can’t aim well. Whatever the case, we can start the player’s understanding of their character here to give a broader contrast to how he will be after he has developed more. Use of a very heavy shift between two extremes in the game can give a sharp contrast and help to make the player feel more accomplished, like they actually did something.

So, the young boy is almost a mighty warrior, right? He’s getting there, for sure. Yesterday, I mentioned using events that are less-than-desirable to create a more memorable experience for the player. I demonstrated the smaller end of that spectrum, but I think we can touch on the very opposite of it today.

Let’s fast forward a bit. The player is a few hours into the game and his character has aged a few years, to represent the amount of learning and work the player has put in. One day, game-father asks the player’s character if he’d like to learn how to hunt. Heading out into the woods, game-dad starts talking about animal tracks and spoor, showing the player how to spot these things on the ground. To support this, animals would leave tracks and other markings behind. Supporting this character’s instruction with actual mechanics will go a long ways to tying the whole experience together.

While he’s showing you about the tracks, you hear a scream from the farm house! Game-dad takes off for the house, leaving the player alone. For the sake of my sleepiness, I’ll cover only the circumstance of following game-pa. He’s got a head-start, but as you come to the edge of the woods by the house, the player is given glimpses of the soldiers and has been able to see smoke overhead. As you get closer, you can hear the fire crackling and the soldiers talking. If the player breaks out into the yard, he’ll probably be killed. If the player doesn’t think so and tries it, they’ll find out quickly that the game isn’t going to hold back because of poor decision making.

So, they have a few options. They can evade the troops, try to sneak into the house. When they go inside, they find their game-dad and game-mom laying on the deck. Game-mother is already dead and game-daddy is bleeding out from a nasty looking stab wound. There’s a soldier at the opposite end of the room, watching out the window. The player can choose to kill him or to just lay low, with experience granted the respective skill sets, without notifying the player, just like before.

If they approach game-dad, he tries to talk, but only coughs up blood, rather loudly. The guard in the room, if not dead, turns around and sees the player, but hesitates. We can always tie him into later game events by giving him an identifying feature: a scar, an eye patch, something to that effect. But for now, we’ll just assume that he doesn’t really want to kill a little kid. He motions for you to run away. Game-dad’s larger-than-your bow is on the table and his knife. The player isn’t told to grab them, but they can if they think to.

The player isn’t explicitly told to run away, they can still draw their bow at him, which would force him to attack you. So, let’s assume the player runs out and heads for the little shelter the family horse is under, dozing off. Assuming the player had learned how to ride the horse in those couple of in-game years we so conveniently skipped over at the beginning of this post, they can take the horse and ride in the direction of town.

I’ll probably come back to this tomorrow and remember why I don’t write when I’m tired, but oh well.
Take it or leave it.
You’ll get something better after I sleep.

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Point Blank Flank and Prototyping

I’m a step closer to branching into <._FLANK/>, with external data loading almost ready.
While I’m pretty beat from horseback riding yesterday, I do have enough energy to put some recent ideas down and continue brainstorming. So, this post is going to be about prototyping and the role <._FLANK/> is going to play in the larger development of Marpeg as a game and Colivien as an engine.
A Word On Protoyping
Prototyping in game development is a bit different than in engineering terms. When we talk about prototyping in games, it’s more of a trial-and-error method of seeing what works well and what doesn’t. Alpha and Beta development is more analogous to engineering prototypes. Onward!
Brainstorming
I’ve come up with a couple small ideas during downtime that I’d like to play with. I know a lot of young, budding developers will keep their ideas to themselves because they’re worried someone will steal them. There’s an article on this that I encourage everyone to read, but for now suffice to say that I don’t care to share because these ideas can only improve text-based games anyways. If someone ‘steals’ the idea or feature, then so be it. Spreading it around can only make the genre better-equipped to tell stories in an interesting way.

Non-Hero Player
The first is to put the player in a non-hero role or to take that hero role somewhere it doesn’t usually tread. Companions and followers in most games are often watered down, underwhelming and boring to interact with. Instances of even half-decent buddy AI are few and far between, but there are examples to draw from.

One half of the buddy AI issue is the sole reason that <._FLANK/> has four characters, but only three of them are playable. The fourth character is the main character. He’s the best overall of the team and is calling the shots. If the player tries to push against his orders too much, he’ll question their loyalty and will become hesitant to assign them more important tasks. This may be an unorthodox arrangement for the player, but I feel like it could lead to some very cool experiences. For <._FLANK/>, this isn’t an optional set up. However, Marpeg will not often force the player to be stuck where they don’t want to be. For roleplayers, this could be a fun exciting feature though.

The other half of this dichotomy is to put the player into a lead position, but to do a better job than is standard. Similar to Last of Us, the player may come into the position of having to watch over a weaker or less capable character as well. There are plenty of instances in which this has gone horribly wrong.

One scene in Sniper Elite V2 comes to mind in which the player is presented with a character he must save from execution, which alone was a new challenge in the game. Once freed, the character even remembers to grab a gun before taking cover. As the character moves through the buildings and down the street to safety, the player is presented with a line of fire that the ally rarely, if at all, obstructs accidentally. At one point, while I was reloading, a couple of enemy troops rushed into a room the buddy AI was moving through. I thought the AI would crap out on me, but he actually killed them both pretty effectively and without it looking stilted in the way a scripted kill would have.

I also played with a mod for Skyrim that added a lot of interest to the followers. Of course, having 5 buddies along meant I’d crank the difficulty up to Master to keep it challenging, but it was one of the coolest things to have a few projectiles whiz by and kill an enemy as I was rushing ahead or to be volleying at larger enemies. The mod even rewarded the player for having effective allies by dealing out ‘Synergy Points’ when an ally fought, allowing my character to progress even when his buddies were snagging a lot of the kills.

Real Time Decision Making
One of my biggest pet peeves in text-based games is how everything comes to a stand still when you aren’t doing anything. Now, not everyone types at sixty words per minute zero errors, so I’d have to make a way for the game to calibrate to each player’s typing skill. Regardless, the method is to have characters act upon environment stimuli in real time. If the player moves into a room and then stops doing anything, an enemy in the room might get the drop on them.

Because the game messages are already very concise and relay only the necessary details to the player up front, that shouldn’t cause issues. However, typing is another thing. The commands may be short, but I still planned tweaks in case a bit more time was needed, such as halving the speed at which the other actors make decisions while the player is typing, along with considerations for any exploits in that system.

Ambiance
To enhance the feel of the game worlds and experiences made with Colivien, I wanted to experiment with subtle, background ambiance as well. Just because a game lacks visual interface doesn’t mean it shouldn’t include some ambient sound or subtle background music. Use of sound like this with no visuals can have a more powerful impact alone, given the correct sounds are used with good judgement on the situation.

Better Tracking of Character Relationships
In order to fulfill the goal of having deep, rich character interaction, I’ll need a method of tracking each character in the game and how they feel about every other character they meet. My initial instinct was to organize it similarly to how a physics simulation is modeled.

I’ll use the image below to extrapolate. Each dot is a single character, containing data on personality, strengths, weaknesses and such. Each line is a stored relationship. It contains more detailed information on how each character feels about another. Each character stores a different map of lines than the other. So, one Farmer Erin might be rather unhappy with Farmer Fran right now, but Fran might not even know that something is amiss between the two.

The filled polygon represents of group of characters who are associated with one-another.
The brighter lines in the center show the leader of each groups’ relationships with each other, giving a baseline representation of each groups’ feelings.

This can become as detailed and complex as I want to go with it, depending on how in-depth it needs to be to deliver the desired experience. I’m not going to map every characters’ secret crush if it won’t effect gameplay, but I’d rather go too far now than not far enough.

Relationship Model

For example, I could keep track of each and every character’s relationship with each and every other character, but that feels almost too much for now. I could drop characters into an ‘Ungrouped’ pool that does do just that and then move them into the smaller groups as needed, to keep things tidy.

That’s all for now. What do you think? Should I experiment with these unorthodox features in a text-based game or just stick with what’s already proven?

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I’m a Wonderbolt, Bitches – Build #01

Here it is, the first build of I’m a Wonderbolt, Bitches

Early build. Being made as the first sub project of LurkTech. That’s what I’m calling the engine for Lurk, by the way.
LurkTech.
Deal with it.

I’m making this one because ponies are awesome and I need to do some work on the collisions and basic motion physics. I’d also like to play with some cool animation ideas I have, but we’ll see about that. Might have to wait til a later project

These sub projects are going to be my way of making Lurk without spending a year or two on just one game. I’ll make this 2D engine for Lurk by making small games for each component. So, if I want particles, I’ll make a small game centered around particles. That way, I end up with an awesome engine, more skill and experience and the motivation to make Lurk itself.

Well, that’s that. I’ll be working on this project a bit longer and then once it feels done or at least feels like I could no longer benefit from working on it, I’ll move on to another.

I’d love to hear what you think about the game so far. I don’t want sugar coated “Oh, that’s cool”s. I want to hear what feels bad, want isn’t responsive, what doesn’t seem intuitive. I know there’s not much too it yet, but any feedback helps a lot, even if it’s negative, so long as it’s constructive.

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Bootcamp Delayed, Back to Work

Well, I went to ship out on Monday. Was real excited, me and my buddies all set to go. Turns out that between my Marine recruiter’s office scale being broken and my having got complacent, I was a pound overweight. I pass the Initial Strength Test (IST) great, but weight matters too.
So, I’m stuck here for a month while I try to lose 20-25 pounds. I want to try for squad leader in bootcamp, so I plan on going for broke here this next month. This means some cool stuff:

1)     I get to work some more! Woohoo! I’m going to spend a good chunk of my free time this month working on Lurk, but not as directly as before. Here’s the low down, kiddies.
Now, I have a great mind for design and ideas and such. Problem is, I haven’t been programming long enough to be able to execute the games I want to. So, I end up with cool ideas and unfinished projects. I had the idea to fix this by making a number of small games that are finished, rather than one big one that takes years to finish, with nothing else for people to play.
However, this doesn’t mean I won’t be making progress on Lurk. I’ll be using the 2D engine I’ve got started to make these wee little games. Every time I need a new feature, like particles, maybe physics or lighting etc etc, I’ll just make a very small game out of said feature. This allows me to produce more games for people to gawk at for 3 seconds, get more experience and confidence in my coding and still make progress towards Lurk.
How’s that sound to everyone? Seem more enjoyable than seeing me get fed up with one big, slow project?

1.5)     More art and music and other stuff too! When I program a bunch and get burned out or stuck on something, I need to get my mind away from the code to recharge. I usually do this by writing music or fiction, making some art or sometimes just playing a game. The art and music and writing is usually about ponies so all you brony haters out there better buckle down. The gameplay is also good. It gives me a chance to continue finding what does and doesn’t work well in some games, or finding things that are awesome or that should be avoided.

2)     I might get to go to EverfreeNW. This is the first annual MLP convention here in the great Pacific Northwest and a few pals and I might get a chance to camp out there and attend! My favorite voice actress from the show, Tabitha St. Germain, will be there and it’d be awesome to meet her. Hopefully, a few of the game devs in the brony community might be there too. It’d be pretty freakin’ sweet to meet them and chat about nerdy stuff, despite my noobtasticness in game dev. If I get to go, you’ll all be hearing earfulls about it when I get back.

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Playable Lurk Build

Alright, here’s the first two days worth of work on Lurk. Not much just yet, but it’s something.

Unity WebPlayer Build

Windows Download

Mac Download  [Not sure if it will work. I’ll need a Mac user to verify this one]

Use WASD to move around and move the mouse to look around. The WASD in the launcher can’t be reconfigured properly. I need to change it, so that it can. This is very much a WIP, so don’t get too excited about this build.

Known Bugs:
The mouse looking is choppy.
The head bugs out when you look behind him, at certain angles.
If you hold A and then swap to D, vice versa, or the same with W and S, movement will stop.

Enjoy and have fun everyone!

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XML, Lojban, and Alpha News

Well, Christmas break ended and I lost the use f my computer for a while. I couldn’t get a whole lot done with just my 3 hour class during the week, but everything is back in order.

I began by kicking off with some really cool and exciting stuff, for me at least. I have been planning on making Dominance at least slightly moddable and I’ve taken a large step toward that this last week. I started looking into parsing XML files for data and parameters which I intend to use to load up levels, characters, weapons and such. I would also be able to use it to create a load/save feature for gameplay and it would be instrumental in allowing players to construct their own items, levels, characters etc. While I have started, it’s something I’ve never done before, so it may be a little while before Dominance will be able to load up XML files for even just levels, but it’s a reassuring and refreshing  step for me, even if it is a rather frustrating process to get new things like this working.

I’m going to try and get a alpha up for download very soon so that other folk can test out Dominance on their systems. While this doesn’t have many implications now, it will be more important for testing out moddability later. I’m also wanting to do some update videos once in a while to show some of the features that are hard to see from still shots. I’d also like to get it cross-platform someday, but I have no idea how I would go about that yet. That’s something for later, though.

I’ve also decided that I will definitely use Lojban for the in-game language. I made two weapon concepts over this last weekend and labelled a lot of the bits and parts of the weapons in Lojban. I’m not sure if my labeling was correct as I have only been learning Lojban for about a month, I’d guess, so my knowledge of it is rather shoddy. I’ll be improving my Lojban skills very rapidly and am excited to begin using it for Dominance and other things as well.

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