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GDC is over, and I've been back at work for a few days. The commute to & from San Fran was brutal, over 3.25 hours total one day. I thought about taking the train, but there aren't enough nearby stations to make it worth it that leave at a reasonable hour.

Unless you want to go to drive & park in downtown San Jose, you have to leave SF at ~5:30 pm. What working stiff can pull that off M-F?

Anyway, I had a good time, learned some things, met up with some new & old folks, but mainly took the time to think about our game and where it is and where it needs to go.

The basic story is done, the level designs are half-done, the RPG system is over-done, in the sense that we have a lot of design that won't make it in the game itself.

One of the things I've been doing is cleaning up bunch of quality issues with the basic shooting gameplay.

I've made the shield more transparent, making it easier to see out of.
I've made weapon laser sights different colors, and a per-weapon add-on.
Made bullets make little animated blasts, in addition to the bullet holes.
Made bullets out of 4 billboarded quads and a colored line instead of an ugly pyramid.

Here's a shot of the new bullet blasts. The white text is a debug-mode feature to visualize entity names for tuning & debugging.

At GDC, I attended a good lecture on dymamic difficulty levels, which the speakers were a fan of, but they warned it could take a long time to get right. I had planned on doing this all along, and probably still will do so, although hopefully using very direct tuning knobs to simplify the process.

Right now I'm thinking about the weapon skill vs weapon items, and how that will play into the skill progression.

We had planned on making accuracy the primary skill-influenced weapon statistic, but as I played the game more it became clear that accuracy alone won't cut it. Basically, up close, any accuracy rating is equally good, low accuracy only limits the effective range of your weapon, not the damage/second it can deliver.

My new thought is to use damage/second directly, either scaling down the damage, or scaling up the milliseconds between bullets and/or bursts with player skill. So if a weapon does 10 dmg/second, but you only have 33% of its skill level, you do 3 dmg/second, until you have 100% or more skill wrt the weapon, whereas you continue to do 10 dmg/second - time to find a new gun!

Accuracy might be another skill, but will be mainly tied to the weapon itself. There are three weapon classes, and our goal is to allow player differentiation via per-weapon class skills, without making it so that you literally can't fire a weapon not of your class. A really good laser will always be a pretty good weapon, but if you specialize in ballistics, your normal machine pistol may be more effective for you due to your skill level. We will display your damage/second with each weapon, to minimize guess work in that area...
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