Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Since my about the author page is a bit lacking at the moment I’m considering adding a bit from this post to it when I get the chance.

In the Myers-Briggs personality classification thing, I am an INTJ. Now people may not put a lot of faith in these sorts of tests, and yes I am a little skeptical myself, but the description they give for INTJ is pretty accurate. Depending on where you go on the web you might get slightly different descriptions of the types, but most of places I’ve read describe INTJ as “system builders” or are in some way interested in systems. Usually examples are given that INTJs are interested in things like computer science, engineering, language, law etc. because those all deal with systems. All those things are quite interesting to me to varying degrees but there is type of system that is the most interesting.

I am of course talking about video game. My favorite games are tend to be A) incredibly complex systems with many different variables to consider,  B) turn based to give me a lot of time to consider what to do and C) the characters you play as grow more powerful and you have some choice in what areas the improve in and what skills they learn and D) a minimal amount of randomness, a little bit is okay but it shouldn’t have any affect in the long run, and victory and defeat shouldn’t ride on random chance.

Now I do like to play games that don’t have these elements but those are the ones that I like the best. It usually leads to a situation where you can “break” the game. This is a situation where a some powerful weapon or armor, or some ability of the player, or some combination of these elements renders the player so powerful that none of the enemies stand a chance. The game is effectively “broken” because you can’t really lose unless you try.

Now some people think a well balanced game shouldn’t ever be “broken” no matter what weapons or abilities you get you should still face a challenge. I disagree, I think breaking the game is the reward for understanding the system. Balancing the game is just a matter of how easy is it to break, not making it impossible to break. If there’s doomsday weapons lying around at the beginning of the game and the game is broken with no effort than it is poorly balanced. But if breaking the game requires using several different abilities together in such a way that only someone who deeply understands the system would think of, that is a better game in my opinion. A game that rewards people for understanding the system, and the better you understand it the more broken it is. While really powerful weapons and armor are nice to put in a game as a reward for some quest, that alone should not be enough to break the game, it should only augment the game breaking strategies that the player comes up with.

Now as I mentioned INTJs are well known for building systems and I have made a few attempts at making games and am continuing to do so, and the games started out simple but are now growing to somewhat interesting level of complexity. As I am making the game I try to go by my own beliefs about what makes a good game, a complex system that rewards people for understanding it. If people come up with some combination of abilities that breaks the game and makes it easy, I wouldn’t be terribly upset, in fact that’s what I want. Although I don’t want it to be too easy to break the game. No single ability should be too powerful, but if people find interesting ways to combine abilities, that’s great.

I would say designing interesting game systems is probably some of the most fun I’ve had, aside from playing in those systems of course. Although I’m not a huge fan of making graphics for the game, or even programming the user interface for that matter. I wish I could just design the rules for the game and nothing else, but the other parts of the game have to be built or no one an play it.

 

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Last summer I screwed around a bit with game maker, and made a pretty crappy game, but I did learn a bit about how to use game maker so it wasn’t a complete waste. This summer I shall try to top my previous efforts. I am attempting, so far with a bit of success to make a jrpg. However it has a bit of a twist to it. I got the idea from reading this blog post about crafting a forum RPG ruleset.

The basic twist on this that I got from his post was to have the battle take place along a one-dimensional line, so in addition to normal commands like attack, magic and item, this game will also give you the ability to move left or right. Now how will this affect combat? Well depending on what weapon you have equipped this will determine how many spaces left and right you can attack, magic spells will also have a range.

So far this doesn’t seem too complicated, just put ranged people behind melee people and gradually fight your way across the battlefield. This is where various movement abilities come in. Teleportation spells will allow you to teleport behind the enemy and sneak up on their weaklings in the back, and they can do the same to you; certain abilities will allow you to knock back enemies or pull them closer; flanking will require you to fight enemies from both directions at once; some people will have abilities that are effective at different ranges forcing a choice on whether to put them in front or back. Even if movement is only along one dimension, there are many possibilities for interesting movement abilities which in addition to the normal complexities of a jrpg, will lead to a very interesting experience.

So how far am I? Not very. The first thing I did was to make a turn scheduler, because this is a turn based game after all. Basically everyone has a variable called readiness, which starts at zero. Every time the game steps through its main loop, it goes up by another variable called agility. When readiness reaches 100 they get a turn. Once their turn is over their readiness goes down, and the loop starts again until the next person gets  turn. Characters with higher agility get turns more ofter. Simple enough.

Next I made some rows, and gave the player and enemies the ability to move left and right along these. The rules are pretty simple, players and enemies can’t occupy the same row. And only a maximum of 3 characters can occupy the same row at the same time. After making the move command I quickly decided to make a wait command, so that if the enemies got boxed in and had no where to move it wouldn’t crash the game!!! The turn will only end if they do something, so wait is the fallback if no other actin can be taken, then it will do nothing and still end the turn.

After that I gave everybody an HP variable and gave everyone the ability to attack which will take down the HP, and when it reaches 0, the player or enemy will die. I even gave all the characters a range variable which will determine how far they can attack. And that’s basically it, attack, move and wait are the only 3 commands implemented so far. I am working on magic, but its not done yet.

So after I get a variety of magic, as well as implement an item command, that’s pretty much the core of the combat mechanics. I mean I might need tweaks here or there, as well as expanding the list of magic and items, but that’s the pretty much the main aspects of the combat right there. After I get that done I guess I can work on making a few more types of enemies and build the first dungeon of the game, then decide what to do next after all that is done.

I guess in the long term I will need some sort of leveling system for characters to grow more powerful, and shops to buy items and equipment, also I guess I’ll need to implement equipment. I’ll worry about those things a little later.

Edit: Now that I think about it that paragraph on attack doesn’t really do it justice. Suffice it say there are variables such as strength and defense which will determine how much damage an attack will do. You don’t really need the specific details.

The title might make you think this is about educational games, but its not. This is about a far more important question, can game developers force boys and girls to play together nicely? Everything I remember from elementary school says this is an impossible task, but maybe Nival can solve this problem, with their new game Prime World.

Details about this game are scarce, but after visiting several different sites I managed to piece together a fairly decent picture, I like to think. Basically they give males a discount for playing male characters and females a discount for playing female characters, and it connects to facebook to verify the gender. So they “strongly encourage” shall we say, people to play as their own gender, and the characters of different genders will have different abilities, which will encourage people to form teams with characters of both genders.

Now there are a lot of different reasons for people to be against this idea. People play characters of different genders for all sorts of reasons, and having what basically amounts to a penalty for playing as a character of the opposite gender, has upset a lot of people. Since offering player choice should be highest concern of any video game developer I could never support a game that deliberately discourages player choice in this way.

Other than being bad game design its doomed to fail. The first signs of trouble for this plan was that within a couple days of this news being posted on gaming sites, I’ve already seen dozens of comments of people stating their intention to make fake Facebook accounts so they can still get discounts while playing as the opposite gender. If people really don’t want to play with people of different gender they will come up with creative ways to get out of it. I’ve seen children figure out creative ways to avoid the opposite gender and I’m sure teenagers and adults can figure it out as well.

Of there might be some unintended side effects of this policy. Normally when you play online games you don’t really know anyone’s gender for sure, but in this game you know a character’s gender is probably the same as the person’s gender. Expect all sorts of disturbing creeps to flock to this game, and harass girls. I mean, more so than in other online games. I understand creeps harass girls in other online games, but now that the developers have gone out of their way to make everyone’s real gender known to the public, its only going to exacerbate that problem.

Although I will never support this game, and I’m sure they are completely wrong with what they are doing here, I am interested because there is a small chance they might just have some success with their goals of getting boys and girls to play nice together. If this does work, teachers might learn from these game developers. Maybe all assignments that are done in groups, every group that has mixed gender can get an extra 50% on their final mark.

So if there’s any other issues, other than the 0bvious, that creeps and perverts will now harass women because they can’t hide their identities, by pretending to be men, like they sometimes do in other online games. Feel free to leave a comment detailing any other issues you have with this.

Well its been awhile but I finally added in the final boss for the prototype. After you beat him you can talk to everyone in the game, to read the new stuff they have to say, and then you can leave the city finally. Those of you new to the prototypes can use WASD or arrow keys to move the character to the sign marked help, for detailed instructions on how to play.

here it is

And now what to do next. Based on feedback I can try to balance the difficulty better, as well as fix bugs, and maybe add sound someday, but aside from minor changes, this is pretty much the final form of the game. I’ve been thinking about making a turn based strategy game, since I like the slower pace of turn based games. I’m thinking of some rules for the game, and I’ll have to see if I can implement them in game maker. Should have an update on that in a few days.

Game Prototype 10

Posted: June 20, 2011 in Games

Took a few days to get this one done, and only a few new rooms. Spent most of the time trying to fix the problems that were mentioned, and managed to fix some of those but not all.

When the boss outside the castle is triggered, if you are standing in the doorway, it will physically move you, so you don’t get stuck in the temporary barrier that goes up. I also got complaints that that boss was too difficult so I tried slowing him down a bit, to see if it’s easier for him to be hit/avoided, but if that’s still a problem I’ll try changing it some more.

The most notable change this time is a new boss, which I think is far too easy, but I know exactly what to do. I tried doing it the wrong way, and the situation becomes unmanageable pretty quickly. You’ll have to let me know how tough this new boss is, as well as any other difficulty problems. There’s only a few new rooms that weren’t in the last version, so its not a big change.

Almost for got to put in the link. Would’ve been real hard to test it without a link to it.

If you’re new to my game prototypes just use WASD or arrow keys to move to the sign that says help for instructions on how to play. People who have played before may want to check out the instructions as well, cause a few new things have been added. Most notable change is that the I button toggles invincible mode which makes it easier to skip stuff you’ve played in one of my previous prototypes. Honor system, only use it to skip something you’ve already beaten.

Here it is.

Make sure to mention any bugs, or difficulties in the game, so I can address them.

And you might be wondering why it skips from prototype 7 to prototype 9. Wormholes have something to do with it.

Well I do link to other blogs pretty often, but the post I want to link is kind of old so I don’t feel like searching for the post. Anyway, if you play a game especially an RPG, but other genres can use them as well, usually to a lesser degree, eventually you will come to a place where you can’t go any further, there is an obstacle of some sort, and you have to go on some mini quest just to get something that will get you past this obstacle. The most common is to have a locked door that you need to find a key to.

Running around looking for keys seems like a pretty lame game, so developers usually try to jazz things up with story related reasons why a door can’t be opened. Like there is a magic spell holding a door shut and you have to travel the world collecting magic stones to break the spell. Entire games can be devoted to just collecting keys, even if they aren’t actual keys in the game they serve the same purpose, to open a single plot door.

Bard’s Tale, from 2004 not the much older game by the same name, actually parodied this common RPG cliche of sending  players on random quests just open a single door. Every time he thought he was getting to the end of his quest he was disappointed to find that he had even more work to do before he could save the princess. When he finally got to the end he expected even more stuff to do.

Unless you want to give the player free reign over the entire game world right at the start, some plot doors are necessary. You might try using really tough monsters to block peoples progress, but that tends to piss people off just as much. As I said before developers are coming up with more creative ways than simply looking for keys to open a door. If the obstacle and solution makes logical sense in the game world, and especially if the obstacle is an important part of the story, than plot doors usually don’t bother people too much.

So why am I worrying about plot doors? If you’ve been following the blog recently I’ve started developing a game recently. So far its got, semi decent combat, a few simple puzzles, a flimsy story, and some plot doors. I said before that plot doors are good if they make logical sense and/or are important to the story. Well the since the story is so bad, there’s really no way to come up with decent justification for running around collecting items. You can play for yourself and see what you make of my justification, but its pretty weak so far.

If you’ve never played one of my prototypes, just use WASD or arrow keys to move the guy to the help sign to get instructions on how to play. You can find the game here.