Posts Tagged ‘Game’

As much as I love JRPGs, there is one problem that can somewhat drag the experience down, which is random encounters. Some people can tolerate more random encounters than me, most can tolerate less. I`m generally pretty forgiving when it comes to random encounters, but in really long dungeon with only a few different battles, even I will get tired of fighting the same battles over and over again. I will talk about some ideas I came up with for reducing random encounter fatigue for a game I am developing.

There is an alternative to random encounters that is sometimes explored but I`m not really sure if it has an official name. The earliest I can remember it being used is in the SNES game Earthbound, and more recently it was in Final Fantasy 13. The idea is that there are a bunch of enemies running around the dungeon and if you bump into one you will enter into a battle. Now this is a good system if, and this is a big if, you want to avoid battles. If you want to fight battles, or more likely if you find the boss too difficult you need to grind a level or two to beat him this is a bad system. Every single game I’ve seen that implements this system makes grinding very inefficient, because after bumping into all the enemies you have to leave and reload the area to get more enemies to fight.

Now you might say if the game is well balanced you won’t need to grin levels and a few battles will give you enough experience to beat any boss. Well the response to that some people are better than others at playing the game and no matter what somebody will need to grind levels to beat the boss. And this is okay. That’s the whole purpose of leveling up is to make it easier. You make the game exactly as hard or as easy as you need it to be. Fortunately I came up with a solution. I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder if this is not an original idea but I cannot think of a single game that uses this, so I will cautiously claim credit for this idea unless someone else can show an earlier instance of its use.

The idea is to allow the player of adjust the rate of random encounters or even turn them off. I wouldn’t recommend turning it off unless you are really hardcore, because most people will probably need at least a little bit of experience and gold to beat the bosses. But for people who want a challenge at low levels you can turn off the battles to give yourself that challenge. If you are having a lot of trouble with a boss you can briefly crank up the random encounter rate to grind a level. If you really love the combat you can leave the random encounter rate cranked up all the time. If you are deep in a dungeon and you are almost out of Health and healing items you can turn off the random encounters and safely make your way out.

Now up till now the idea is for this to be a Final Fantasy-esque  jrpg, with a small twist that you have several rows and you and the enemies can advance left and right across the battlefield. Of course giving people the ability to reduce or even turn off random encounters changes things a bit. A key part of Final Fantasy is preparation, buying the right equipment and stocking up on items, and then being slowly worn down by random encounters as you fight through the dungeon. Now that you can reduce and even turn off the random encounters the dungeons lose their edge. Now random encounters are not there to wear you down, they are optional battles to prepare you for the bosses. Really this game stands or falls on how interesting the boss battles are because that’s the only part that isn’t optional. I do have some ideas for making that interesting which you will see over the next couple of months.

Another problem is that with random encounters greatly reduced the game is going to be pretty short. Even with random encounters padding it out, I’d be lucky to for the game to be half as long as a Final Fantasy. One idea I thought of is to add a few puzzles to the game, which isn’t really that uncommon for a jrpg to have puzzles in its dungeons, which will add maybe a couple more hours to the game.

Also this adjustable rate of random encounters is only part of my plan to reduce random encounter fatigue, the other is to add more variety to the battles. As I mentioned in a previous post each row can have values which give bonuses to defense and magic defense for the units standing there. One thing which was really easy to do is to randomize which rows gets bonuses and to set certain limits on what the bonuses would be. Another is to randomize the type, number and location of enemies for each battle. Its not completely random there are certain rules so that long range enemies tend toward the back and melee guys end up near the front, but even within certain rules there is room for variation. I need to adjust that algorithm a bit but so far randomizing the random encounters to produce a wide variety of battles is showing great promise.

I believe the two things I mentioned in this post should go a long way toward alleviating random encounter fatigue, and possibly eliminating it entirely. Only time will tell if I am correct. I was planning on releasing a rough demo to demonstrate the core battle mechanics some time this week, but then I realized, even though its technically got some playable functionality, its still in a really rough shape. I really don’t have anything to gain by releasing a demo this early. Maybe in a couple of weeks. Maybe if I’m feeling brave I’ll post some screenshots or videos showing off the graphics I made for this game.

 

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As I mentioned in the last post I have been working on a game in game maker. The combat is similar to any turn based jrpg, with the main difference being that in this game you the characters can advance left and right across the battlefield and every character has a range they can attack. In general you have your tough melee characters go in front to take the brunt of the enemy attack, and the characters with magic or ranged weapons take potshots form the safety of the back rows.

Now the first problem I thought of with this battle system is that each side will advance toward each other and once they are within attacking range the battles will basically be the same as any other jrpg. Nobody will bother moving once they are able to attack the enemy. To deal with this problem I have come up with some ideas to encourage movement as much as possible.

First off, one of the player controlled characters has the ability to place mines. When a enemy enters that row at a later time, they will take massive damage. This is an ability that encourages the player to retreat rather than advance.

Another character has two related abilities, knockback and pull. Knockback, in addition to doing a little bit of damage, will move enemy unit back one row, if there is space for it to move there. If you are taking massive amounts of damage fighting several tough melee enemies at once, knocking one of them out of range while still doing some damage can make the situation more manageable. Pull does the opposite it takes an enemy from 2 rows away and pulls them closer, if the row is not full. This can be useful if there is some wizard dealing massive damage from out of range, and you can pull him close and deal with him on your terms.

Another thing I added to make battles more interesting is that certain rows will offer defense bonuses. This will work well with another ability one of the characters has, which is teleport. Using that the character can teleport to any row in the battle that is not full or occupied by an enemy. Since players and enemies cannot occupy the same row, if it looks like enemies will reach a row with a defense bonus before you, you can have the character teleport there and hold the row until everyone else arrives. Now this could be risky, because the character who can teleport is a spellcaster which mean he can’t take as many hits as some of the stronger characters. The magnitude of the defense bonus and the enemies being faced in this situation will determine whether this is a good strategy to use or not.

In addition to those there are the usual jrpg battle options, several types of healing spells, and attack magic. The more costly magic spells not only do more damage but will have greater range. There are also items to do things like restore HP and MP. And if none of those options are needed at the time, a character can always wait.

The combat system is basically done. I may need to add more abilities, or adjust the the ones I already have to cost a different amount or do different amount of damage, but most of the abilities I wanted are in the game and seem to be functional. I will need to do some serious testing to make sure all this works properly but so far the battle system works exactly as it is supposed to. A more serious problem is getting the user interface to not be absolutely horrible. And of course I’ll need all sorts of stuff that exists in the game outside of the battle, like shops and equipment and stuff like that. Basically I’ve worked on nothing in this game except for the battle system.

This is about the game Bulletstorm obviously, and its really hard to do justice to this game in writing. Its really something you have to experience for yourself.

So first of all the game begins with a bunch of quicktime events. I know many people complain about these, and they are common throughout the game, but just bear with it, because when you get to the real gameplay its incredibly amazing. At first it might seem a lot like other cover based shooters, in style of Gears of War. You shoot guys and when you get hurt your screen flashes red and you hide behind cover. My experience playing on normal difficulty compared to Gears of War on normal, is that you don’t spend as much time behind cover. If you step out of cover in Gears of war you die pretty quickly, and it basically suicidal to d anything but to shoot from behind cover. In Bulletstorm, I might have to run for cover when injured to regenerate health, but I spend most of my time moving around outside of cover.

Now the ting that really sets it apart from other shooters, melee, the leash, and tons of environmental hazards. The leash is an important tool, that lets you pull (most)enemies toward you. This can serve an number of useful purposes, the most obvious being that instead of running up to an enemy, and putting your life at great danger, to perform melee, you can just use the leash to pull them toward. Running out of ammo is  a pretty rare occurrence but if it happens it not really a big deal cause a leash and melee combination is usually sufficient to deal with most enemies. However another useful way to use the leash is if there are hazards between you and the enemy, some sharp bits of metal, or hanging electrified wires, and pull them into it. All these hazards can be put to use by your melee attack as well, cause when you kick them they go flying, into an explosive ball, or maybe a cactus. There are numerous ways to kill people without even firing a shot. I really can’t overstate how important the leash and melee are to give Bulletstorm unique gameplay.

Another interesting thing is the varied levels. The game starts on a high tech ship, with a brief flashback to a futuristic city, but the first real level is a brown wasteland, not to different from something you might see in Gears of War or Borderlands. Now a lot of people complain about the dominance of the color brown in modern shooters, but it would be hasty to judge Bulletstorm on the beggining of the game. After leaving the brown area which, despite the bland color was actually pretty cool looking, you go through a number of different areas with different color palettes. Some areas have lots of water, some have lots of vegetation, some have lots of ruined buildings, but by the end of the game, you’ve traveled through several environments that are all visually distinct.

Some things that people have criticized the game for, are the story and the crude dialogue. First of all the story isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but its not really all that bad either. Without giving away too many spoilers, a team of guys finds out the guy the work for is having them kill innocents, so they decide to kill him. And they spend the game trying to get redemption, for the innocents they unwittingly killed. As far as video game stories go its pretty solid, and I haven’t seen any major plot holes. Crude dialogue is a different matter, and its really a matter of taste. If you like crude humor this game is for you. If you can’t stand it this game is not for you. If you don’t particularly like crude humor, but think you can get past it for some awesome gameplay, than you should consider playing this game.

There’s also some skill shots which I didn’t really mention but basically killing people in different ways will earn you more points which you can use to buy upgrades and ammo. I didn’t really care too much and just kill people how I want and manage to get enough points for all the ammo I need. Overall an excellent game.

You can find plenty of FPS, RTS, action-RPG, racing, and platforming games, but trying to find a good turn based strategy, or turn based RPG is like finding a needle in a hay stack. Most developers will not touch turn based combat with a ten foot pole. Many people have suggested that turn based combat is obsolete, and only ever existed because of hardware limitations. I don’t buy that excuse, but if its true, I should be very grateful to hardware limitations, for making some of my favorite games possible.

Turn based games and real time games both have a number of pros and cons, but there’s no reason to dismiss turn based games as obsolete when they offer something that real time games do very poorly, planning ahead. Putting aside RTS for a moment, its pretty clear to see that games like FPSs and fighting games for instance, may have some tactical considerations, but there’s no room for any long term strategy. If you tried to plan out a long term strategy in those games, you’d probably get killed, for not acting quick enough.

No RTSs have a bit more strategy to them, as the name would suggest, but where exactly does this come from. There’s a related genre of games called real time tactics, and what separates real time strategy from real time tactics. From wikipedia “Typical real-time strategy titles encourage the player to focus on logistics and production as much as or more than combat, whereas real-time tactics games commonly do not feature resource-gathering, production, base-building or economic management”

That’s it! What separates RTS from RTT? Gathering resources, constructing a base, building units. Gathering resources takes time, building a base takes time, building units takes time. Any thing that slows down the game, and delays a confrontation makes the game more strategic, gives you more time to plan. Its what separates RTS from RTT. Without those delaying mechanics, people playing RTT games don’t have the luxury of taking their time to plan out a long term strategy, and will mostly think in the short term.

Turn based games, are by their very nature the slowest games possible, and give you all the time you need to plan your next move, adding depth to the planning and strategy. RTS games, through various delaying mechanics give you a bit of strategy, but fall short of turn based games. There is another group of games that comes to mind, that uses delaying mechanics, to try and add a bit of strategy, and still have the urgency of real time games.

If you know me you can expect me to bring up Final Fantasy. Several games in the series used an Active Time Battle system, where you must wait for a gauge to fill up before you can attack, and the enemies also have these, and if you wait too long to attack, your enemies will keep attacking you. I can see the appeal of trying to capture the urgency of real time games, but putting in delaying mechanics to give you a chance to come up with a strategy, sounds good in theory, but in practice it failed. It was just too urgent to really think about your moves, and might of well have been real time.

So whats the point I’m trying to make. Games that mix strategy and urgency can be really fun, but no matter how many delaying mechanics you put in a game, it will never have the same long term strategy and planning as a real time game. That’s why turn based games will never be obsolete.

Not a whole lot different than the last prototype I uploaded, but I thought I’d upload it anyway in case anyone is interested. I’ll just briefly explain what’s old and what’s new.

What’s old: If you haven’t played the last prototype, than the first thing you want to do after starting the game is to move your guy to the sign marked help using WASD or arrow keys. After you get help go on over to the new game sign. Trying to load a game when no save file exists could lead to trouble. The game Autosaves every time you enter a new room.

If you’ve played the last prototype, you will notice that in addition to a shopkeeper who sells rate of fire upgrades, which was there last time, there is also a healer, who will completely restore your health and shield for a small fee. At this point you have no money for upgrades, so go to the gap in the wall on the bottom of the screen.

You will find yourself in a room with a bunch of spiders that can be killed for money. If you played the last prototype I uploaded there’s nothing new here.

What’s new: From the room with with the shops, go to the gap in the left wall to see the brand new room I made for this prototype. In that room you will see I finally made a second enemy which is quite a bit tougher than the spiders. I wonder if its too difficult, and I haven’t really gotten around to balancing the difficulty, but for myself it only took a couple tries to beat the robots.

Once your life is no longer being threatened, you will see green or red circles that you can switch by running into them. See if you can unlock any of the three locked doors in the room. The doors don’t go anywhere yet, that’s on the to do list, but still try and solve how to unlock the doors. I think its a simple enough puzzle to put at the beginning of the game, but its hard to judge since I already know the answer.

Here it is.

Any feedback or bug reports are appreciated.

It seems like the vast majority of games involve killing a bunch of enemies. Whether its enemy soldiers, aliens, or zombies, violence is the the main form of entertainment. The show Extra Credits, on the Escapist, has talked about some examples of non combat games, and a few other places on the web have also put forth some ideas. I thought I’d add my voice with what I think would be an interesting non combat game.

I prefer not to use historical events, cause it gives me more freedom with the scenario and how the game unfolds, but if I wanted to give people a general idea of what the game was about, I would say, “think of Gandhi and the Indian independence movement.” The game revolves around organizing peaceful protests,  organizing strikes, and traveling the country to recruit people to your cause.

I suppose the people in the game could belong to many different groups, but for now lets just talk about 2 groups, the small, yet powerful ruling group, and the large, but incredibly oppressed group. Very few people in the oppressed group will be interested in peaceful protests at the beginning of the game, most will just passively accept the injustice, so you must travel around giving speeches to convince them to join you.

There will be another, more militant faction, of the oppressed group. They will start small, but will grow in power throughout the game. As the militant group grows in strength and boldness violence against the oppressors will increase, and in response the oppressors will escalate violence in retaliation.

This escalating violence will be tracked by a violence meter. Not incredibly realistic but serves its purpose for the game. When the violence meter is completely full the country becomes embroiled in a full scale civil war, which is a fail condition for the game. So, in addition to trying to take down the current oppressive government, you must also compete with a more violent faction for support of the people, because letting them get too powerful will cause a civil war.

So what is the ultimate goal of the game? To take down the oppressive government. Unlike a violent revolution, this will be a long and slow process. Protests and strikes will put pressure on the government to make small concessions. Giving people more rights and protections from the government, some elected officials to get partial sway in the government, with the eventual goal of making a completely democratic government, at which point the oppressors will be removed from power, and the game will be won.

What about the involvement of foreign nations? Well that would be very complicated indeed. The ruling group may be getting weapons and other support from other countries. If your non-violent movement gets the attention of international news, they might lose support giving you a better position to negotiate from. There are so many complicated ways other nations could be involved in this game.

You’re free to think of your own ideas and post some comments here. If you happen to know a game like this that already exists, let me know.

So, I don’t really have a lot to say about video games today, or yesterday for that matter. I’ve recently downloaded GameMaker 8.1, a very powerful game development kit. I’ve done a bit of programming, being in college for software engineering, but programming a game from scratch is a pretty daunting task. Maybe if I wanted to make pong or asteroids, it probably wouldn’t be such a difficult task, but this makes game development a lot easier.

Programming a game entirely from scratch, in C++ or Java or whatever, gives you more freedom and control, but using GameMaker makes many things a lot easier, such as drawing sprites on the screen, and collision detection. At the same time many things I’ve come to expect from a programming language are in GameMaker. You can make variables to store data, you can change the variables if a specific thing happens, you can test variables if the are less than/equal to/greater than a number and if so do some specific actions. You can run loops to repeat actions until a condition is reached.

One major downside is graphics and sound. I decided to make the sprites myself. Big, big mistake. All I can say is this game is going to be incredibly ugly. And I still have no idea where to get sounds from, but I guess there will be some on the internet that are free for anyone to use. Don’t expect this game to look or sound good.

Gameplay so far involves walking around and shooting a projectile. Using WASD and arrow keys to move around. There is a slight difference between the two, using WASD will change the direction the player is facing, so they can shoot in different directions, the arrow keys keep the direction the same when you move so its easy to dodge and shoot at an enemy in a specific direction.

There is no run key, running is emergent. What I mean to say is that if you press two keys that make you move the same direction, for example  W and up arrow, you will move twice as fast. Not really something I intended, and may remove that “feature”, but its not a huge priority right now.

Next up is to get some enemies and some level design, and many more horrible sprites. Maybe somebody will be  interested in testing this out when I get a bit more of the game made?