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Bluefirehawk's: "Path to World Domination"

You only gain experience shortly after you needed it

Posted by , in Info, Game Design 22 February 2013 - - - - - - · 1,142 views

Hellooo again

As the title says, you gain experience shortly after you needed it, or in this case, knowledge I gained after abandoning my project that would have been useful at the start.
Basically, those are all the questions and tasks I should have tackled before I began. This post is partly for me and partly for anybody who also wants to start his own projects like me: HEAD ON!! . I guess many people are like me, when you have an idea you want to get started ASAP! But you tend to profit from stepping back and ask yourself some important questions, you have to be sure it is the right project at the right time.
This is in no way the best or only way, or the only questions to answer, this is only what I will be doing in the future.

Why do you even want to make a game, what is your personal goal?
This question isn't asked often enough. Why do you do it? It's maybe the most important question you need to ask yourself, everything else, the goal of your project, depends on it. This isn't a philosophical question, your answers can be very trivial like "I want to make a living", "I want to learn about X". Maybe you don't have only one goal but serveral, in that case you should settle on one main goal. The answers alone seem a bit useless, but they get important together with the next question, so bare with me.

What is the goal of the project?
Again, the answers can be very simplistic like in the first question ("I want to sell it"). Now if your main personal goal and the goal of the project deviate, you inevitably run into problems. For example, if you want to learn but the main goal of the project is to be profitable, then you probably are working on the wrong project. If you want to learn, it is important to be able to fail, sometimes you learn more by failing instead of accidentally getting it right.

What technology do I use?
Unless your goal is to learn a specific platform, toolset, language etc. this is the wrong question to ask yourself at this point. Don't settle on your technology to early, maybe there are better tools for the job.

Alright, I got everything. I have this great game idea, let's do it!
I was there too, you have written your game idea to paper, and are keen on working on your game, but wait, you missed something!
Do you know which mechanics are more important? Do they even fit the game you have in mind? Do the mechanics even tell the same story as the story?
Before I ramble on, I want to say something about how you get your ideas.
Very often, you come up with an idea by mixing existing games or genres together, because in your head, it plays like the next cool game (my earlier post about that). But that's not the only way to get new ideas, for example: the fine people at Valve came up with "Left4Dead" while AI Programmers were testing new bots for Counter Strike. They were fighting as a small group of human players against a large number of bots who only used knives and they had incredible fun while doing so.

Dissecting the game
Let's go back to Left4Dead, I think it is an easy game to dissect when you have listened to the developer commentaries, some things become strangely clear. I am no professional, everything I write here is purely based on my understanding of game design.
I'd say, every game has a core principle, the core gameplay, how you would describe the gameplay in one sentence, many unarmed enemies against few armed players. That is, at least in my opinion, what the developers at valve experienced and liked while playing against unarmed bots, they played the earliest prototype of Left4Dead.
We then have to set the core aestetics for the game (watch the video at the end, it explains this better than I ever could). For Left4Dead, it is undoubtedly Co-Op, but it didn't have to be. I am sure you could imagine a game where compete against each other player. Both can be explained with the same phrase, but nobody would say that these games are related.
Now why should this matter? Again, let's turn to our poster child. I challenge anyone to find anything in Left4Dead that doesn't enforce co op. From the items, over the levels to the story, everything serves only this purpose. Yes, it also has a competitive aspect when you put 4 vs 4 in the mix, but I argue it isn't a core aestetics, in the end you compare the team effort. Compare this to Call of Duty multiplayer death match, where a good player can essentially win the round while he drags along not so super players. In Left4Dead on the other hand, it doesn't matter if you have an uber player in your team, he can't win alone.
So, why is Left4Dead a zombie shooter? Because it fits perfectly with the core gameplay and the core aestetics. Valve didn't do it the other way around. That's why everything feels right in Left4Dead, there is nothing that seems out of place at least in my opinion.
I think this is by far the hardest step, this is where you see the difference between novice and senior game developers. If you do this right as early as possible, you have a good understanding what it is that you are producing and how valuable feature X is to the game. It gives you a scale to judge your features on.

And now...
...you should have a solid basis for your game project, mind you anything of the above should never change. But the reality is, they often do. If something does change, don't take it lightly, be sure what impact your change has on the game, the project and on you.
I think now

I wanted to write about my own game idea and how I tried to dissect it. Alright then, that will be the topic of the next entry.

  • Aestetics:
  • Starting your narrative

About Core Aestetics and how you DO NOT start a game project

Posted by , in Game Design 18 January 2013 - - - - - - · 1,286 views

sooo... this week's entry is about the completely same topic as the last one, but a bit from a different side. In a nutshell I want to show what I did wrong in my first game draft and what I further change. At the same time this should be a bit of a example how fast your game idea can change.

in this post, I rely heavily on the principles explained in this video:
So, everybody watched it? Yes? Everybody understood it? NO?! GREAT, let's move on!

The Original "Project: Phoenix" Game
In retrospect, the game I had in mind when I wrote the first entry, has something like these three core aestetics:
  • Co-Op
  • Exploration
  • "Strategy"
Looking back at it, this seems a bit overblown. I fear it would have been too much, a too mixed experience to be any good. It is like combining drama, documentary and action in one movie. Even if you pull it off, it is too mixed for the viewer, not focused enough.
Especially the Co-OP and Strategy aspect would have been in conflict with each other. The original game would have been more like two completely different games in one.
I am sure there exists a way to make a beautiful game with very similar core aestetics, but maybe not for this type of game.

It may be important to note here why this happened, I am sure many new game developers do the same mistake I did:
You want to make your game you always wanted, your awesome revolutionary idea, so very different etc. Even if you KNOW this to be wrong, it still felt that way when I first wrote about my game. I see a lot of similar dream posts when I have a look at the forums. When you first write about it, you tend to explain it with different games (Oh, it's gonna be like StarCraft, but with your friend being able to play as a champion like in League of legends... etc.) and that's basically what you did, what I did. Mashing games together. That's why this won't work, you end up trying to provide many different core aestetics without analysing if they actually fit the game. How could you, you just started really experimentnig with game design. The best you could achieve is getting two different games packed together in one, or the worst and more likely solution, you get a game that is neither of those you originally mashed. Like having a bollywood romantic plot in a shocker movie like Repo Men.

Obviously, Project: Phoenix has to change. One aestetic has to step down from the core. It can still be in the game but only to enforce the other two aspects. This means that there would be a planning phase but far less powerful,more as a platform for players to communicate what they want to do.
But by having these two core aestetics in focus, Co-Op and Exploration, makes for a different play, a different experience. It is, a different game.
Welcome to "Project: Phoenix 1.1".
I think this could make an awesome game, putting in many of the ideas I touched upon in previous entries. The soundtrack fits perfectly.
Even the theme I have in mind only enforces the two core aspects of the game. I'd like to explore the very human feelings you get when you are sent out in a world where everything is here to kill you, where your life is essentially in the hands of the guy next to you. I would need to scrap the previous lore and story drafts but I wasn't too happy with it anyways.
Maybe you haven't noticed but I am very fond of this crude draft of the game, so why am I using words like "would"?
I won't be working on that game. Not in the near future. It has a more serious theme and requires serious artwork, it's a beast of a game that needs more content, it requires more resources than I have.Furthermore it is my fist game, this isn't a good platform to experiment with. I would be too attached and too fearsome to release any version of it to playtest.
I would trap myself in a circle of doom and never progress further.

What to do now? Well, I can play with the aestetics, setting and theme of the game and have a look what comes out. Maybe I can reuse some ideas from the original game. Maybe something comes out that takes less time and may be interesting to experiment with from a game design perspective.

Variation 1:
The biggest resource eater is the Exploration aspect. So let's get rid of it. It's still a post apocalyptic isometric shooter, but not the same game anymore. The basic storyline would be something like "Old bunker should be breached and cleared for a new base in this area. Make it happen." This leads to a more Level-like area, with limited space and limited possibilities. This would also get rid almost rid of any strategy aspect. This game would have the player to think about the tactics but that's not as in depth and complex than anything you'd expect from a strategy game.
This is the closest I get to the original game idea, not bad.

Variation 2:
Let's scrap the Exploration part and the game theme and instead, play with the gamer's "Trust". Let me explain:
Normally in a multiplayer game you can very much trust your partners. They have the same goal as you, if you lose, they lose too. Unless you have a troll, they probably don't want to stab you in tha back.
But what if your partner has a different goal?
The idea is taken from a social game I think the english world knows as "witch hunt" or "mafia".
Reimplementing a social game is a bit futile, then the gamers could just play it via skype. But I can take out the basic idea of the game, there is an informed minority in a group that try to work against each other.
I haven't figured out much, but I know that it makes sense to change the setting too.

You see, now I have a completely different game that shares almost nothing with the original draft.

Variation 3:
Scrap Co-Op, exploration and the theme. Instead focus on action and storytelling, making it a single player experience. There probably won't be a leveling system in this variaton. In the Project: Phoenix 1.1, the leveling system is used to enforce "Co-Op", each member is trying to get more valuable for the team, being the guy the team needs him to be. But in this variation may a leveling system even be wrong.
In such a world, a more scary theme could be a good way to go but that also requires a different protagonist that isn't a soldier.

So what is it going to be?
I don't know, I seriously don't. But of one thing I am sure, the game I'll be making probably deserves a new journal.

Evouluushun, why scrapping a game is good

Posted by , in Game Design 11 January 2013 - - - - - - · 888 views

sooo... this week may be a bit of a weird post. More weird than usual? Maybe, probably...

I am sort of scrapping everything of Project:Phoenix and start again, except for the code, there isn't much around yet, but more to that later.
I didn't write about it, but a lot changed since the last time I updated this journal, the game today and the game I wrote about in my first post back in August are more different than they could be. It seems very similar to species evolving, diversifying and eventually becoming so different that they are considered different species.
The same thing happened with the game idea, I added, changed and removed ideas and ways I thought about, now it is a different game.They still are related, I am proud that so many ideas persisted for so long and how many will persist that I haven't even written about. I am sure that this could become a great game one day. But I'd have to work on it till the end of times to be in a fit and finish I have in mind, until I can move on.

So what changed then?
Something I found out I defined without really knowing what I did. I first imagined that people will play it at LAN-Parties, just having a good time.
Without knowing, I defined a theme, a feeling for the game, something the player should experience while he plays. But I also had a second theme in mind, I wanted to be more realistic in how a military team works. Look at the Battlefields and Call of Duties out there, Everybody does what he wants and shoots around. In reality, an attack is planned beforehand, the bigger the attack, the more vigorous the planning.
I didn't put both in, because they fit well together, they don't. I put them in because I liked the idea, because in my simple imagination it worked. In reality however, they are more conflicting than not.

And that's what I changed and what I haven't yet decided, the theme. One idea for the theme is Trust. You are sent in a dangerous world with your fellow gamers, you live because the guy next to you doesn't let you die. But he is encouraged to. In the end you are set to face a dilemma, only one of your team can survive and join at the side of the commanders. So you either have to kill your team or you all die.
I like the theme, you can have plot twists which are not in the plot, but in the action of each friend you are gaming with.

Sadly, empowers the game as much as it hinders it. This game does not make sense in single player model. Let's be honest, I never released a game, practically nobody knows about it, there is nothing I can show. I am lucky enough when somebody takes a look at it, when it is required to play with a friend or two, who probably aren't around at the moment.
In short, scrap it. Valve could pull something like that off, but I don't. So I don't

What am I doing?
I don't know, I am still dreaming about different things, scenes, and in general, what you should actually let the player do, how do you tell a story, how do you let the gamer experience something about himself. But I can tell you this much, it will be a single player game, some mechanics will prevail, but it will be vastly different from the game I have in mind.
When I have the theme laid out, I will rewrite my basic game idea, trying to draw a more acurate picture than I did before and, try to show you just how much it deviates and where it is very much the same game.

The lesson to learn here: if you want to make a game and you have a game idea, try thinking about the theme, what feeling the player conciously or subconciously is exploring while playing your game. What question he's left with when he finished. It defines EVERYTHING!

What the hell, usability? What are you doing in a game?

Posted by , in Game Design 20 December 2012 - - - - - - · 800 views

Sooo... this week I write about the overworld. "Why?", well, I missed writing about it in previous posts and it is important enough to get it's own entry. Without further delay, here it is:

The Overworld
If you remember, I have an overworld. This feels weird writing it like that, as if it's an illness. But back to the topic. The first thing that I missed thinking about, when do I switch from overworld to "fight view", and vice versa? And since everything else kind of depends on that, I should think about that first, right? Maybe, but I won't. I try it the other way around.
The Overworld is rasterized, I call one square a "sector" in game. Of course it doesn't make sense mathematically, but it sounds cool and very military like.
While trying to solidify the idea of the overworld, I came up very Usability-Like requirements... I am baffled, what has dry technical stuff to do with fun games? This makes sense, in Jagged Alliance, you could have let the player run through every sector of the world, but that wouldn't be fun. So my overworld only exists so the gamer can cope with the vast levels. Pure usability. Well done, I tried to do a project to get away from the dry stuff, at least it has more colors and features guns.

But anyways, the overworld view should provide time saving mechanisms and should serve as an information hub, giving an overview of all relevant informations (well duh, it's called OVERworld, of course it should give an OVERview). I know this is a bit like being captain obvious, still it is an important requirement to meet.

time saving
This too seems to be a no-brainer at first, FAST FORWARD! It gets a bit complicated when looked at carefully. When is the gamer able to fast forward? Does it have some kind of dark side? How can he simply command tasks that are to be fast forwarded?
For example, is he able to let his soldier do reconaissance on it's own and fast forward it? Well then it is a useless mechanic and I only waste the player's time, even if it isn't much. Or do I let him chose to do it himself and award him with something? Or do I get rid of it and tell in the lore that satelites provide all necessary info? It is amazing how you can easily include or remove a whole gameplay mechanic. This decision is more important than any "what language to use" decision for the actual game.
Back to the most obvious fast forwarded task, travelling. This too hides some problems. In Jagged Alliance for example, you could fast forward when you travel from sector to sector, there wasn't anything "between" the sectors, even when you manually walked through a sector, you still had some travel time to go to the next. Project Phoenix on the other hand, should have a seamless transition from one sector to an other. In a game like that, where you could get ambushed at any time, it is important for you what route you choose inside of each sector. So I need a powerful tool to let the user chose his path of desire at the right level of abstraction. Furthermore I have to define when the gamer is allowed to fast forward, how far away enemies have to be, and so on... and an other very important question, if I allow the gamer to fast forward, do I allow him to stop time? ...oh boy.

information hub
Still, very easy at the first glance, but what information should I put in the overview? What is relevant to the gamer?
What information do I actually have?
I don't know, or I don't know everything not one thing definitively, this shows that my game is "work in progress". At least I now know what I don't know, this is progress, progress is good.
A view thinks are self descriptive:
  • Your camps, and as a pop-up your equipment and supplies.
  • Yout home base and save zones.
  • Your target city/stronghold
  • Enemy movement you know of (somehow)
Now it already gets messy, what enemy movement. For example a fast moving group of hunter demons that hunt YOU is very important to display, but a group of demons that are going to fortify a position, is that important? If not, how do I intuitively hide the info so the user can see it if he thinks it is necessary?
Here, Jagged Alliance has a nice solution idea, there you can toggle displayed information on and off. For example, you can toggle to display enemy troops on and off.

Now that's not too bad of a start, I wanted to write anything about the overworld here, but I start to think I wrote about everything I currently can vote. Like I've written before, I now know what I don't know, I have to write more about the demons and furthermore I have to think about something I call macro strategy. What strategy the gamer can pursue to defeat the demons.

The Power of Music

Posted by , in Lore/Story, Game Design 23 November 2012 - - - - - - · 761 views

Sooo.. this weeks entry is about what the title says.

Why? Because of everything.

I recently came to the conclusion that designing a game doesn't only mean designing mechanics, designing the gameplay. Good games design the feelings the player has while playing the game. And those are the games we remember, we know and love.
On the other hand, the very bad games have much in common with bad horror movies. Instead of feeling scared, you laugh your pants off in the worst case. Not because it has such good humour, but you see the director trying, and terribly failing at giving you an emotion.
Making a good game, starts by you knowing what atmosphere your game should have.

I try doing this by going out there and finding music that reflects the atmosphere I want to have in the game. I know this is starting to look a bit esotherical, but trust me, I am an engineer.
No seriously, think about the greatest moments you had in video games, movies, etc. When you find the soundtrack of exactly that moment, you feel the same way you did during that scene. I think music is a very good way to make atmosphere tangible and if I was working in a design team, this may be even more important. Without it, there is a bigger chance that the designers have different images of the game in their head, therefore the game can become inconsistent.
In my opinion, inconsitencies in the game are the most accidentally hilarous thinks that can happen.

Finding music for the World itself was the most important task. It should help defining the settings and the overall mood. Also, how the people react to earth's transformation from a habitable to a very hostile planet. It also gives a bit of a "I am fighting for earth" mood.


Planning should be important in this game, so it deserves a soundtrack.
I am not completely happy with the soundtrack, it is a tap too much A-Team like, it has a different style that doesn't completely fit with what I have in mind, but it gets in the right direction. It gives a kind of urgency that I very like.

In Project-Phoenix, you have three basic tactics, therefore they have to have a completely different appeal, they deserve a different soundtrack. That's the reason, why playing splinter cell as a Rambo just feels wrong.

I stumbled upon this by watching people play Halo 4. I enjoy this soundtrack very much and it happened to fit in my vision of gameplay for an attack. It isn't too fancy, you don't feel like being part of one big army, it starts and ends bitter, almost sad. I want the player to feel that he is fighting, because the only other choice he has is death for him or his comrades. So they fight not for glory, not for freedom. not to be remembered, because there is nothing left to do. Because it is there last hope for a better world.

To me, this soundtrack fits perfectly to what I envisioned, if I could, I would put it in the game. I love the way the soundtrack builds up urgency.
I want the gamer to sneak around, finding his way to his target and either take out an demon before he sees him or sneak around him. Or if the player was spotted, kill the alerted before it is too late and he has to flee.
The sudden rises in the soundtrack fits that perfectly. If I want to make the gameplay awesome, I should incorporate that uprising in the game.I dynamically change fade in and fade out a soundtrack if he was spotted or is attacking.

I currently don't have a soundtrack for that. I first wondered why, if i don't know enough different songs. Well, here comes the practical application for finding soundtracks to your game design. My vision of ambushing an enemy is just boring. Find a place to attack, find a spot for each player, BOOM, flee, rinse and repeat. It is too short compared to an assassination or attack, and frankly, too repetitive. I also wanted to have the ambush fail, let the demons take an other route and miss the ambush spot. Then I frankly just wasted the players time.
I didn't find anything because there wouldn't be a soundtrack not good enough, my vision isn't good enough.

I still don't have soundtracks for the other way around,when you have to Hide, Run, Retreat, or when you die. It's possible that I don't include a "Victory" theme, as you have in Call of Duty every time you've won a round. I'd like to give the player a feeling of accomplishment, but having victory trumpets is just wrong an a dark, bitter world like this. Ideally, the player would have the feeling that he accomplished SOMETHING, but he is not sure if it is for long, or if he got closer to his end goal, liberating earth.

In the last two weeks, I accidentally published a couple of entries that weren't supposed to go up. I normally use the function to schedule a specific entry for publishing. I then normally wrote the entry one to three weeks before it was actually visible. Now with all the exams, I stumbled out of schedule and you saw this and the next entry already in a very unfinished state. I apologise for that.

The Enemies you fight and Hellooo Plotdevice

Posted by , in Lore/Story, Game Design 16 November 2012 - - - - - - · 792 views

Sooo... this is a bit of a mix post in terms of categories, since thinking about the antagonists sort of touches upon most Categories in a computer game.

Talking about enemies is one of the most obvious crossover between game mechanics, story and art. All of them are equally important to form a good antagonist, that is fun. To me, it also means the disciples are influencing each other as well.

Minerals of Plot
I've read the guide to bad plots(http://www.ansible.c...le/plotdev.html), I tried to not use plotdevices, but I almost have to have at least one in a game like this, I just can't get anywhere without one. BEHOLD: The Minerals of PLOT!
I cleverly call it Diabolite. The name is not the greatest of all, I know. I am likely to change it when I find a better one. For now, it will serve it's purpose.
And since I am already writing about names that are subject to change, I let the humans call the enemies "the Horrors". The name doesn't satisfy me either, it is a better way to refer to the antagonists than "the enemies" or "monsters" I presume.

But back to the Diabolite:
the minerals come from far down under the earth: Natural Diabolite grows in a crystal shape. Even in it's unrefinded state, it is a valuable resource for both the Horrors and the Rising Sun. The Diabolite crystal is remarkably sturdy against most steel alloys. It tends to enclose precious metals like Titanium, Gold, Cobalt, Palladium and sometimes even Platinum that can be retrieved by refining the mineral.
But it's main application is to serve as a source of power for the humans as well as the horrors. Since the invasion, the humans have almost no other powersource left.
For the Horrors, it is more accurately described as a nutrition, the more primitive Horrors seem to feed on the raw Diabolite, while refined Mineral is eaten by the more intelligent creatures. Either way it is the only thing left after defeating one of the Horrors.

More on the mechanics side:
Diabolite is the main mineral of the game, the player needs it at LEAST to buy ammunition. Maybe I will do more with it once I give more thought into the Items/Skill system.
The weapons of the later game mainly use high performance ammunition. While effective, using them is also expensive, using it against a weak target is essentially wasting resource.

The Horrors
From a design standpoint, I always knew I wanted two groups of enemies. One group attacking with melee and one attacking on long range. A team of players has to use a completely different strategy for each group. While dealing with long range attacks, each player should dash from cover to cover and trying to provide cover fire. But fighting against fast, melee enemies it is generally saver to stay in a open field and take them out when they run towards the players.
I also played a bit with Ghouls, Zombies essentially, in my head. They never seemed to really fit. By fleshing out the resource idea, they suddenly make sense: Ghouls are the resource eaters, plus they potentially alert the more dangerous enemies. They themselfes are not a real threat, but a group of ghouls at the right time at the right place can change the situation.
The long range enemies are represented by the "demons", generally humanoid creatures that are also fairly intelligent and are able to form teams, flank and ambush the player.
Close range and let's call them 'special purpose' enemies are called 'Nightmares'. From an evolutionary standpoint, they don't make sense at all. Most of them are fast and vicious opponents, although most of them are not very intelligent. But there are some Nightmares, the humans call them Overlords. Alone, they are no threat whatsoever, but they seem to be able to control the simple minded Nightmares and let them attack in packs, wait for the player around the corner, flank them from behind etc.

The Horrors are now in a very raw state. I will carve them out in a later entry. I need a crude idea of what the Horrors are and what they can do, so I can think more about the overworld strategy.

Why it is called Game Design...

Posted by , in Lore/Story, Info, Game Design 12 October 2012 - - - - - - · 981 views

Soooo... this weeks post originally was more on the gameplay, but first to something completely different:

As I started to think more about the engine design, I couldn't get my head around how I should switch correctly between the "overworld view" and "fight view". As it turned out, the actual problem was lying somewhere else, I don't really know what I want to achieve with the "overworld view". Before I write an addendum to the "Why is my game fun" series, I should think about what you do with what you do. And to know this, I need to be more clear about the story and the first 10 minutes of the mission...

I start to see, game design combines everything: Programming, gameplay design, story, level design, sound/music, you even care about what the gamer should feel at a specific point in the game.
The term "Game Design" makes sense, it is hard to fathom the extend of your design work you have to do. I Also learned that you shouldn't lose the overview of the whole game, and that you cannot finish programming when you don't really know what kind of gameplay you want to have... everything depends on each other.

There are two fields I didn't think much about, that also influence the overworld view: Story/Lore, which should help define the overall mood and style the game has, the music, because nothing is more teeth grinding than music that does not fit the game, and the enemies you fight. In the end, the overworld revolves around the monster activities.

What I ought to do is make a bit of a mix of what I didn't do so far, concentrate on everything else than coding and design. I think i schould look for a "game soundtrack". Nothing official and I probably won't put it in the game because of copyright. But nothing helps setting the mood like the music.

What makes my game fun? PT 3.

Posted by , in Game Design 21 September 2012 - - - - - - · 856 views

Sooo in this weeks entry I write about the final aspect of my game:

"Real time fight" aspect
The last one of the aspects and maybe the most important one, This is what the player does all the time and this is what he should want to do even more. To me it seems like the Real time fight is connected to the other two other ones. I mean because I have an RPG part in my game and because I have a strategy part, the fighting part can be a bit more than just "point, klick, kill".
More than the other aspects, when playing a real time game, you have your moments that are especially cool.

Together with the Strategy
The "Oh SHIT!" moment:
This comes from the strategy aspect. Sometimes your plan was wrong, and the monsters aren't where they are supposed to be or aren't the monsters you thought they were. I want to incorporat the "Oh SHIT" moment in this game, followed by one of the other two moments.
I have to watch out for some things:
  • The Oh SHIT moment musn't be overused, or it becomes "not again..." moment.
  • If it happens, it has to be extra rewarding or the player just feels screwed.
  • It has to have the right amount of difficulty. The change is either a real challenge, or so hard that it is almost impossible and fleeing is the better option. But even when he choses to flee, he shouldn't leave completely empty handed, or it feels like the game just screwed him over and he just lost time.
The "HELL YEAH" moment:.
When all went milhouse. The player should feel accomplished

The "that did end poorly" moment.
When you died. These moments have to exist as well, or it isn't so special beating the "Oh SHIT" event. I HOPE also that it isn't so frustrating for the player, because he knew what he did was risky.

Together with the RPG
"earlier I was good, but now I am a BEAST" moment

The "real" in real time fight
What the title says, the gameplay should be real.

This was it for the design aspects/principles/dudles whatever you wanna call it. Now this is all cool, but implementing it is a different story. "So, this was a waste of time then" you might think, and you are partially correct.
It still holds some value though, while I was writing these entries, I really had to think about what I want to accomplish with this game. I mean of course you KNOW it, but when you write it down you force yourself to think about it and you run over holes you wouldn't have found otherwise.
And the main reason to this: You have a way to judge your mechanics. Using business talk, these are the requirements of the game.
Now that this is done for the moment, I have to take on an other topic of the game, even I haven't decided what it will be yet. I hope I can show you some first engine drafts, and finally some pictures. I am also writing this in advance, maybe in two weeks I have something to show you or maybe not. Only time will tell.

What makes my game fun? PT 2.

Posted by , in Game Design 07 September 2012 - - - - - - · 772 views

Soooo this weeks post is business as usual, here is the second part about the core aspects of the game.
I am currently on holiday, so there won't be a new entry next week. To compensate a bit, this one will be a bit longer, see you in two weeks!

"Strategy" aspect (planning with your friends)
That's it, basically. But since you are still reading, here is it a bit more detailed.
While deciding what to do, I always thought of the old round based Jagged Alliance series. They were incredible fun and had some cool game mechanics. The main flaw of the game to me was always the missing LAN support.
In the idea stage of the game I first wanted to go for a round based fight system. But I wanted to go some steps closer to realism than JA did and round based system allows for some weird tactics, like running out of cover, shooting and running back.
On the other hand, realtime fight today encourages the player to just walk in, hopes for the best and when shit hits the fans, screams at the checkpoint system.
Since attacks in the real world military require good planning, it suddenly struck me that I can combine the two gameplays a bit.

Unlike the RPG aspect, I don't know any game that has a similar gameplay, so I can't reflect over their choices and then make my own.

To punish and enslave
Like I wrote in the Gameplay Overview entry, I don't want to force the player to plan his attacks. I want to 'encourage' it. I want the fight to punish player mistakes. The player risks his life, having him restart at the basecamp or even worse, compromising the basecamp and losing his stashed equipment. The fight planner should help him reduce the numbers of mistakes significantly.

Being helpful
This seems brainkillingly trivial, but all this fails when the Planner doesn't help the players.
To be helpful, the Planner needs the right level of abstraction, meaning it will not make sense for him to plan every move and every bullet he fires. What matters is if his escape route is free of enemies, or how many enemies he attracts by firing, what his hit-chances are etc.
The other part is it has to be user friendly. Fuck-a-do-de-ly tastic. I love the user-friendly requirement, it is always somewhere in a software requirement specification and it says close to nothing. The only thing it says is that I should do user testing.

Being fun
Well duh, of course it has to be fun, nevertheless important to think about. This is a mechanic that gives the game a special touch and this being a game, it must be fun. 'Encouraging' the player to use a mechanic he doesn't like... do I have to spell it out?
The main factor I can control is the ratio between fight/plan.
Since the planning should help the fighting, and also give the fighting a special touch, the player/s should not have to spend too much time planning. My target is about 3 minutes planning time for an attack. Ideally during the plan, you notice that your chosen strategy doesn't work and you have to start over. This makes the planning interesting, if it doesn't take more than 2-4 tries to get a working strategy.

Divide and conquer
This is kinda belongs to "Being fun" and "Being helpful" but i redeemed it important enough to give it a separate heading. Like in most militaries, the task is divided up into subtasks, as it goes down the chain of command. I want to incorporate something similar, so all players in a team have something to do/plan.

I wasn't sure if it belongs here, but what the heck: Important part of planning is haing a good recon of the area. I first thought of making an "automated recon", sending your character to observe a certain area for a certain amount of time. The longer you observe the more accurate your recon is.
This is a bit boring, what should the player do while waiting, play robot unicorn assault? A workaround would be to increase time speed, but then waiting has no real penalty, you set the observe time to 2 weeks, go get a drink while your character is evolving in a plant. In short: a useless mechanic for me.
It is dawning me that a part to make planning interesting, is to make recon interesting and rewarding. Rewarding is easier, I can randomly generate lost supply stashes and so on.
Making it interesting is a hard one.
I should post an entry about the recon on a later date.

Doing all this recon, planning and setting up, It can break the fight mechanic, you know where the enemies are, how to sneak by them... So no matter how good the recon was or how detailed the planning has been, I want to put random deviations from the situation.
The downside, it potentially breaks the strategy mechanic. When it is random, why would you plan anyways?
So my solution is: make small changes often (suddenly, there are 5 enemies instead of 4) and make big changes rare but important. The big changes essentially breaks the planning, forcing the player to either retreat or improvise. As long as these changes have the right rarity, the player never really feels too save, the small changes remind him there might be a big fat surprise around the next corner.

What makes my game fun? PT 1.

Posted by , in Game Design 24 August 2012 - - - - - - · 906 views

I first wanted to post about all three core aspects, but then I realized it might be too much to post in one entry. Instead I decided to only post one aspect and try digging a bit deeper.

So here it is:

Part 1, The "RPG" aspect
If you were kind enough to read my ramblings about the lore, you may have noticed that you will probably start as a novice soldier and get new equipment/Skills/Level ups through the course of the game.
I get into more detail on this in a later post (very, very much later), currently they are just scribbles on a piece of paper that magically make sense to me... anyways.
These points I am focussing on came from comparing Diablo 2 to Diablo 3, and why exactly I stopped playing the sequel.

It seems trivial: "Well I did 15.8 dps before, now I do 21.1. If that isn't progress I don't know what is."
Yes, this is essentially it, but the player should not notice it while looking at the damage he does. Diablo 2 does a very good job by letting your character "evolve". For example: You start out our Amazone, who can throw a spear. After 10 levels, you can throw a poisonous spear, after 10 levels more a lightning spear, after 30 levels more a lightning spear that breaks into more lightnings.
The fun skills were the ones that "evolve" as well. The Amazone had a great example,
lvl 1 skill: can throw a lightning spear that breaks up into one other lightning.
Lvl 20 skill: can throw lightning spear that breaks up into QUAZZILLION F*CKING LIGHTNING STORM ULTIMATE KILLAARRR.
In the end yes, you only did more damage. But you also hit more enemies AND you looked badass while doing so.

"This will be SWEET" times
In my opinion, this is the most important aspect in the early game, I want the player to be excited about a future skill/future crafted weapon the player can have. The player's character cannot start of with the coolest abilities, but he needs a reason to keep playing. If the user doesn't at least say it in his mind, it did something wrong.

to explore possibilities/to punish and enslave
you get the best illustration these two oposites by comparing the skill system of diablo 2 and diablo 3.
Diablo 3 let's you freely choose and rechoose your skill. The good side of this is that you can explore possibilities, what works best etc. You cannot do anything wrong.
The bad thing is, you cannot do anything wrong. Why would you play up a second barbarian, the only difference between the first and the second one is the gear, which can also be interchanged.
Diablo 2 took the other side of the extreme, it punished you for bad skilling/bad attribute distribution, your character was weak in comparison. And because the skill system was very complex, you would make many, many mistakes before you would even come near a good skillset. This will easily throw off new players.
Now, what will I do?
Definitely not the Diablo 3 way (how can you even justify selecting a few skills from a big pool? Is your character too stupid to remember more than 6 at once?).
I haven't decided yet, I will analyze the reason why the system was so complex, and maybe give the novice player a little boost. But I definately want to punish the player for making skill mistakes. It is frustrating, but the player will continue playing as long as he feels it was "his" mistake and not the one of the game. Finding his optimum skillset will be far more rewarding.

So, this was it for the first part, stick around for the second part soon. What do you guys think about Diablo 2 and 3, what was good/bad?

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