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Member Since 03 Oct 2001
Offline Last Active Sep 22 2014 06:23 PM

Topics I've Started

Gameplay similar to SSI's early 90s Gold Box turn-based combat

14 September 2014 - 03:24 AM

As a kid I used to play The Dark Queen of Krynn for hours, weeks, months on end, and from my lifetime of gaming it's right up there with my all time favourites. I don't know if it was the story (although I enjoyed that) as much as the style of turn based combat that really grabbed me.


It's kind of been something I often thought about over the years, wondering what other games might scratch that particular itch, and finally now in my 30s I thought I might finally make a post about it.


For thread context; I'm inspired by this kind of gameplay for my own potential game design, but I really have no idea which developers over the years carried and refined this kind of combat in the best ways and I'd love to get anyone's thoughts on that subject. I SHOULD know.. I just didn't keep up. I got into different games, and especially around the time I got into gamedev, I was doing totally different things.


I'd like to think that good game design is always informed by mistakes and successes from the past, and with such an explosion of indie dev in recent years I feel like there must be dozens of amazing titles I don't know about that have this kind of approach to combat. I feel like before I'd even consider working on my little title in the vein of Gold Box TBS I should ideally be really familiar with what's already happening right now in this space, and what kind of audience exists for it.


I'm really talking purely about the combat - not necessarily the audience that exists for Dragonlance type AD&D narrative, nor the audience for retro pixel art, nor the specifics of the D&D ruleset they used (although I did like it a lot, I prefer NWN / 3.0, and even then I'd just do my own thing anyway).


What I loved, in terms of gameplay, was the role separation between party members and need to balance a good squad for all occasions. In a tough battle, every turn of every party member was important - it mattered where everyone was, who you had protected, who's at the front line, who's supporting, who's guarded, etc. I think I really loved the party size of six as well, as you really need to keep everybody alive and protected as a crucial aspect of combat.


I could probably name a few similar games I played over the years but none that quite scratched the itch the same way:

- FF Tactic and Disgaea 3 - extreme addiction occurred in both of these titles, I think they're both actually a good example of something nore recent I enjoyed in more or less the same way.

- Boulder's Gate 2 - absolutely loved every minute of this game, and loved the combat also but in a different way / for different reasons.

- Arcanum - also absolutely loved this game as well, but I never got as engrossed in the combat.

- Battle for Wesnoth (played on iOS) - I really enjoy this game, but I wish it had deeper character customisation and the fact that it's army vs army gives it a totally different appeal to me (not in a bad way, just scratching a different itch)

- Reign of Swords (played on iOS) - actually loved the hell out of this game but for unknown reasons, they killed it on the app store and it never returned.


So I guess what I'm interested in is some of the best modern examples of people doing great things in this space - both because I want to play those games, but also as creative reference. I don't want to make something exactly like anything pre-existing, and I also don't want to reinvent any wheels.


There's actually just about 0 games I can find on iOS/mobile that scratches this itch and I'd love it if there was. FF Tactics is there but compared to PSP the control scheme is not really to my liking. I do also own BG on iPad but I think I'd rather play that on PC, but I've also already played both of those titles and would rather get into something new.


Any insight on this would be really great.



Thoughts on implementing four damage types in an action-strategy game

07 October 2013 - 06:56 PM

I'm prototyping an action/strategy game with four damage types, and before going further I thought I'd look for some input on how people would react to such a design. By contrast, many similar games have simply a singular measure of "damage", or some cases dual damage types (e.g. physical/magical).


Four types, in my mind, represents some nice opportunities to create interesting strategic situations, which I can hopefully explain here.


The gameplay:

Mixes Tower Defense & RTS - you have a squad of three moveable "hero" units on the battlefield (before a mission they can be equipped with custom guns and armour), that form the most vital aspect of passing each level.


Rather than just having plain damage, and some amount of armour leading to "plain damage resistance", I've opted to have:

  • physical DMG (bullets / ballistic)
  • energy DMG (sci-fi type weapons - pulse cannon, phaser rifle etc)
  • fire DMG (grenades, missiles, rockets, napalm)
  • chemical DMG (special weapons, acid, toxic, etc)

The above listed types are not augmenters or additional effects - these are THE damage applied - one of the above depending on the weapon (also considering weapons with more than one type).


Additionally, each hero and enemy has one or more resistances to the above DMG types ranging from 0 (not resistant) to 100 (immunity), depending on equipped armour and innate class traits. Heroes and enemies can have any combination of multiple resistances.


Some reasons for this design:

With a lot diversity in what various enemy units can be resistant to (and what they inflict), the constantly changing strategic importance of different weapons and hero classes can maintain a kind of depth that keeps the player adapting, and (hopefully) engaged.


One reason for four types specifically, is that with a squad of three, levels can (theoretically) be designed that no amount of over-levelling or extreme supergear can simply breeze through. In an extreme example, a level could be created with at least one enemy per dmg type that's invulnerable to all but one type of weapon, meaning the player might annihilate 75% of the level easily but still need to resourceful and use good tactics against the remaining element.


My concerns:

FIrst and foremost, four damage types is a difficult thing to depict in the game's UI/menus in a way that won't confuse some people. I feel at risk of creating a system that others won't understand, and depth is only depth if it's actually understood.


Second, and this is something I'd love to hear feedback on; is this design too far outside genre norms? I'm not looking to break any genre rules just for the hell of it. I'm designing a system that I think I'd love to play myself, but there's no sense alienating others. One example of a game with this type of dmg system is Ni No Kuni (iirc, familiars have varying dmg types and inflict that type only). On the flip-side, I think of Borderlands - which has "damage", in a basic sense, and then ADDITIONAL dmg, e.g. fire, as an augmenter.




I think that about sums up where I'm at. I'd love to hear thoughts from others on this. And if there are any other reference examples (particularly in games that were successful and well known), they would make a really useful case study for me.


Hope all of that made sense.

loot / ammo / currency persistance across game-overs in level based game

19 October 2012 - 09:23 PM

I've been pondering this for a while and I can't decide what to do.

I'm building a game with multiple levels that are either passed or failed - a pass being the way to unlock and progress further. Nothing new there, but the thing I'm adding to this game that I haven't in the past, is a virtual currency for upgrading weapons, buying ammo, etc.

The thing I can't decide here is what to do when a level is failed.

During the course of any level - crystals will be collected, and ammo might be spent. When the level is passed, the player gains those crystals to add to their persistant tally (used in the shop), and they have whatever ammo left they have left for any of the finite weapons.

On gameover though.. I guess the base options are:
1. fully reset every value (crystals, ammo) to the state it was at before the level commenced, so that it can be re-tried under precisely the same conditions.
2. make permanent any change to crystals collected and ammo spent. So if you used all your guided rockets weakening the big boss from around the corner, but failed the level anyway, too bad. Rockets gone. Farm crystals and restock.

Then, of course, any permutations of those principals is also possible.

I think back to Mario - any of the versions that let you keep shrooms and flowers in the bank - that's an example of what you spend, you've spent. If you burn all your stuff trying to pass a level and still can't, well, tough. What I can't remember in those games is whether you also get a persistant coin tally counting towards anything "purchasable" (other than 1ups). I don't think they do. There are obviously many other example games too, each a little different, but I'm having trouble trying to decide which system best fits.

In case this needs to be clarified - this will not be a freemium game funded by impatient people circumventing the grind. I don't really want any unnecessary grinding at all for that matter. I'd rather drive replayability through completionist/star-ranking mechanics. So in terms of weapon/ammo prices, my goal will be provide enough "currency" through normal progression to keep a healthy ammo stock and good rate of upgrades.

So I guess my question is - in your valued opinions, what is the most fun and least frustrating option for the player?

OpenGL ES batch rendering advice

14 January 2012 - 03:35 AM

This is going to seem like a large, subjective, and general request, but any help and insight at all would be welcome and really appreciated.

I'm looking for good-practice tips for a simple and light weight renderer that I can build upon over time, as I'm in the process of learning OpenGL ES2 and simultaneously, I'm looking to completely overhaul my extremely flawed ES1 Render Manager at every level of its logic.

For background:
My ES1 engine is a 2D sprite system, whereby each game-object owns its own vertex and UV set (two triangles), and is then syphoned each frame into batching sets to minimize GPU state changes per frame. No VBO/VAOs. complete 100% vertex/UV upload per frame - which doesn't feel totally wasted since nearly everything moves independently and constantly anyway (in my last game). The Render Manager takes a set of objects that were grouped based on compatible render attributes, and then makes the state changes, builds the vertex/uv array, and fires the call. Definitely a lot of superflous stuff happening, but it wasn't broken so I left it alone and finished my game.

I never actually benchmarked for comparison whether the batched method was even actually faster or not than rendering each sprite's triangles on their own and making hundreds of render instructions instead of 10 or so. Everything was in spritesheets so the number of calls was always very low.

It worked ok, I got enough performance (on iPhone).. but I've seen way, way better, and am not at all surprised :)

So I'd really love to get some general architecture advice from people that have tackled all this stuff before me.

There's some key things I'm wondering like:
  • In a 2D game, say side on - sprite based, if I have a lot of objects coming in and out of existence, and in and out of view, constantly moving/rotating/scaling, what's the best way to manage all the data that eventually has to make its way to OpenGL? Unlike rendering large meshes, it just makes me question whether batching is actually the correct approach.
  • Is dynamically building a complete vertex stack each frame (and submitting it to OpenGL) throwing a lot fo performance away? If so, what are some better techniques?
  • Is there a known rule of thumb for some number of vertices at which point batching becomes essential? Was it a waste of time to even worry about when my vertex count would have theoretically always probably maxed at about 3000? (1000 triangles / 500 draw calls)? Keeping in mind that my target platform is mobile where performance is significantly more important than desktop.

There's so much good information on how to do individual specific tasks in OpenGL, but very little content that I've ever been able to find regarding good architecture practices.

I'm not creating middleware, so I don't need something all-purpose where every base is covered, I really just want to create a simple renderer that adheres to techniques that are known to be generally sound.

One idea I had - and this would be keeping similar with my existing ES1 setup:
Make a RenderLayer class, where one "layer" essentially corresponds to one shader, or a subset of settings. Each frame, as the engine iterates the game objects, it submits their vertices/uvs to that layer's stack. At the end of the update cycle, the render layers are supplied to the Render Manager to fire off the (hopefully batched) calls. Without a depth buffer (which to me seems wasted in 2D), this imposes layering restrictions that can cause difficulties at a visual design level though.

Also without knowing the needed stack size of any given layer in advance, I guess I would set a max object count and pre-allocate a chunk of memory.

I would love to have some better ideas though. I am fully prepared for the likelihood that everything I've just said sounds ludicrous :)
I'm sure it must be evident that I'm very much still learning a great deal in OpenGL.

If you've read this far, then I say thank you already!

Making Twitter good for something...

02 August 2011 - 05:30 PM

I recently started using twitter, not because I think people might be interested to know my mood every twenty minutes, or what position my cat is sleeping in right now, but because there is some genuinely interesting content hidden away in there.

In particular, it's become one of my preferred methods to skim tech and industry news.

I also recently followed Carmack and found that almost every post was kind of an interesting (if brief and impersonal) window into the daily workings/ponderings of another person building games. It immediately made me wonder who else out there I could follow that also post mainly this kind of dev stuff. For me, it's the perfect way to kill five minutes after work waiting for a train.

So does anyone have any recommendations?

If you don't use twitter or know first hand who has quality posts, maybe you could suggest some other well known people in the industry doing good stuff at the moment? the Twitter accounts of studios themselves are more news-based - pretty much geared for franchise fans, and that's fair enough too. I'm looking more for individual people posting their idle thoughts and learnings about all things game-tech related.