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[4E6] Ponies Among Us

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It started off as one of those simple little things. A trip across the country to get the pony that my sister insisted she must have. I mean, why couldn't she get the ones from the farm next door? Or in Salavin? No, she had to get one of those special ponies in the middle of nowhere.
It is just a simple story of a boy (and maybe a girl, depending on what I can write) going out to get their sister a cute adorable pony. Things go wrong when the meteorites hit the pony herd, exploding in a shower of magical crystals. The ones that hit the ponies in the herd grant them both elemental powers (I'm currently working with fire, air, water, wood, stone, and something else, call it "evil") and supernatural intelligence. Mostly anti-social intelligence. After that, you have your typical murder of the family accountant and the character being blamed for everything. Being sent to prison is just the kicker to end a perfectly annoying trip.
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It was that first night in prison that I realized it wasn't over. I can handle being only in my mid-teens and being in prison, blamed for murders that I know that pony did. But, why am I being haunted by the damn accountant!?
In the game, the family accountant is a ghost that cannot achieve peace without revenge being taken on the pony that killed him. Until then, he acts as the character's statistics screens, inventory management, makes snide comments, and acts as someone to talk to. He also also be doing the negotiation in stores for you, as the accountant upgrades, you get better deals. You also have a pony companion in the game, the stone pony, which you get when you get outside after prison. Your pony will also gain various powers depending on the events of the game. In the outside scenes, you'll be able to mount the pony to move faster overland and also for some combat maneuvers. The character's first weapons are firecrackers (limited number) and a small weapon. Naturally, you'll be able to buy more weapons. I want to write it as a platforming fighter with combos, so you can use the firecrackers to juggle opponents and finish with a stab for higher damage. In addition, weapons can be upgraded with various crystals found in the world, giving it elemental powers or other effects. The crystals are one-time though, so you can keep dumping them into your first weapon and make it really magical, or keep buying new ones (which give you different combos and do different base damages) and get less magical powers in one weapon. So, that is my basic idea for the game. The goal is to defeat the evil ponies who scatter to their elemental affinities (of course). Graphic style: I'm planning on using a slightly abstract style from the Flash games Thing Thing which is also used in my webcomic. Even though it is 2D, I'm looking into seeing if I can get the character's appearance to change throughout the game kind of like Fable but based on the powers/magic/what-have-yous that you get during the game. Same with the weapons, armors, and ponies. Ideally, I'd like to figure out how to make most of the game procedural so it will have a different look each time you play it. I'm planning on doing an abstract noise for the voices (Katamari and Okami for example) with dialog boxes. If I can figure out procedural music, it will be computer generated, otherwise use background music that is CC-licensed. Platform: C#, Mono and .NET, I am going for the cross-platform thing. Tao.Sdl, Tao.OpenGl and BooGame: Might as well since I package them for Debian and I've been doing a bit of work with BooGame for my CuteGod project. Probably a little bit of physics and rag doll for the combat stuff. Mechanics: It will be impossible to get everything in the game. In fact, depending on how I can do it, you won't be able to get more than 50% of the powers available with a single run of the game. Skills will be unlocked when certain conditions are met. So, if you keep on jumping, sooner or later, you'll get a chance to upgrade your jumping height. However, I feel that most people improve through failure. Given that, failing tasks is what unlocks your skills, not succeeding. I will reward people who do succeed without failure, but a good number of the unlocks are going to come from failing to win a fight (obviously you need help then), failing to pick a lock, etc. Purchasing skills is based on "plot points." When you finish a quest or plot, you'll get a point of improvement which you can drop into one of the unlocked skills. The other part is that I want to make the game possible to be finished without combat. This will probably tie into the failure idea since you'll get tougher by getting your ass kicked and surviving. :)
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Stop jumping around and kill that damn pony! You've made 13,432 jumps since I got stuck with you.
I'm planning on this being somewhat humorous.

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Good idea.
However, to that improvement-through-failure thing: Don't you think the player will be trying to lose because he knows it unlocks him some abilities?

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Quote:
Original post by Lesan
Good idea.
However, to that improvement-through-failure thing: Don't you think the player will be trying to lose because he knows it unlocks him some abilities?


Why not? I say let them, they just have to decide if they want powers or they want to win. Kind of like BioShock's Little Sister problem.

Part of this comes from the view of "must only win" mentality that I notice among gamers. Achievements are for complete success, the drive to be the absolute best. You should be able to win in different ways. It seems like the only way to play a game is to succeed at every single thing you do.

To counter that for story purposes, we have games where you are forced to lose a fight (Radiata Story comes to mind immediately, twice) to advance the plot. It doesn't matter if you are smashing the opponent without trying, he pulls a super attack out of his ass at the last moment to guarantee you lose. Or, you win the fight and it shows you struggling (I rarely am) and they still get away. In most of those games, there is no indication that you have to lose a fight to do it. You just find out when there is a cut scene at the end. I think that is a cheesy mechanic, but the losing part is useful for stories. It adds a nice level of drama to a story.

I think it would make the game interesting that there are still options when you lose. Most of the time, I noticed players just hit the reload button as soon as you lose, or you are so powered up that you don't even notice the fight. In games that do allow you to die (Dragon Quest 8, for example), they have a counter of the number times you died but no indication if you get (or lose) something from not losing or from dying. As it stands, it is just a "number of times you failed" counter.

As for the player who must have everything in the game. When you give rewards of "flawless victory" and "got all available powers" and make them mutually exclusive, which one do you pick? You have to chose and that changes how you play the game. I will probably do an "achievement" system and make it outside of the game, so you can eventually do it, but not in a single run.

Plus, it seems like a good way of creating resource (award/achievement) management in the game. I don't want to force the player to ever lose a fight, but I want there to be that option just as I want an option to never fight, even if it means you lose.

For example: after the pony killings, you are accused of being the murderer (evil pony is good at framing, plus who would honestly blame the carnivorous intelligent pony of being a murderer?), someone will try to arrest you. In most games, it would probably be a cut scene and you go to prison. Why not make it a fight? If you win, then you are on the lam and have to figure out how to do it while being a wanted criminal. If you lose, then you go through the prison sub plot. If you don't resist, your prison sentence is shorter. If you kill too many guards, you'd be in prison too long so you have to break out, while not resisting would give you a chance to actually wait it out.

At least, that seems like a neat idea of a game to me.

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So, I finally got started. Heh. I know I said I wasn't going to drop 4E6 for a novel writing, but then I was expecting it to start in May-ish. Oh well, but at least I got through NaNoWriMo (55k words in 16 days flat), CuteGod getting to Alpha 0.3, and have the next 113 days to work on this.

The game is using the same style as my webcomic, so I have the basic artistic style already "set" for the game. I'm first working on a character builder and the stuff needed for a physics engine. These are the screenshots from the first little application, mainly to test the model code which will be used in the game.



The images below are basically the display for the joint limits code to limit how much movement a character may do. Since I have such an abstract body shape, I'm going with an invisible "bone" to rig the parts, with two rotations (including limits and a natural location) and range of distance (isn't trig fun?)





I'm hoping by end of the week or so, I should have the basic poser functionality done and by the end of next week have the color changing (the character's skin, eye, and hair color will change based on elemental affinities) and piece arrangement (I love seeing characters in their equipment).

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Last night, I got humans rigged out about 50% and really cleaned up the avatar code. Hopefully that will mesh into the physics layer, but I'm working in distinct steps right now just to build on top of each other.

And, I also figured out how ponies are (currently) going to look!

An abstract pony

I think the powers I have in mind for the ponies should be fairly distinct from your own. I'm going with a charging approach right now. During the game, the crystals you get have an elemental affinity. So, you pick up a fire crystal, you get "Fire +1" basically. You can assign a charge key (Fire Charge) to a keyboard and when you hold it down, it charges up the power (more power = more energy), then the next action determines what happens.

So, if you charge up fire and attack, you get a flaming attack. If you charge up and jump, you get an explosive jump that does damage around you and you get more height.

With a pony, they also get a (different) elemental affinity. So, if you charge up your pony and jump, instead of an explosive jump, you teleport to the next appropriate elemental area (the power determines range). So, if you have a high fire affinity for your pony, a teleport would take you to the next lava or desert area.

I'm also planning on doing that for the jump, you hold down the button to power the jump and let go when you want to jump. The longer you hold down, the higher you jump. Obviously, there will be cases where you can over jump things and until you get some powers, you can't change direction (probably an air power) in mid-jump.

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