Submitted by Abalieno on October 28, 2011 - 03:47.
As the header says I'm now using loopingworld.com as the main site.
This means that the site here won't be updated and I'll eventually copy all of book-related posts over there. The rest of the stuff will stay here for as long the site stays up (not planning of pulling it down for the foreseeable future).
UPDATE: There's a possibility I'll reopen the blog, but it will be for writing about roguelike development, tracking my own (lack of) progress.
Submitted by Abalieno on May 22, 2013 - 23:30.
Wildstar is an upcoming MMORPG by NCSoft. From the look of it, it seems they sank in it quite a pile of money.
It ultimately represents what's truly wrong with the game industry, especially in the MMORPG branch: piles of money burnt on stupid game design (and stupid management as consequence).
Look at this video, showing a feature apparently well received: http://kotaku.com/wildstars-path-system-might-be-the-coolest-mmorpg-feat-509265563
This must be some comical failure of game design. It appears as a very nice thing but if you think about it for more than two minutes it's revealed as totally stupid (and apparently the game designers only thought about it for 1 minute 59 seconds).
At the time we called this type of stuff "gated content/permeable barriers". In the case of this game they decided to make something like the Bartle test into a CLASS SYSTEM. So that if you are an "explorer": you're given tasks to run between places or find hidden areas, or if you are a "scientist" you can examine stuff to learn about the lore.
So if you actually want to enjoy the diversity of the game you have to REROLL different characters.
I mean, the goal should be the EXACT OPPOSITE: letting the player enjoy directly all the game offers, and especially let one CHOOSE on which particular aspect to focus instead of forcing the experience into a linear and obligatory path (hint: Guild Wars 2 tries to reward different playstyles without shoehorning them into classes).
And at the end their idea is so ridiculous that in order to balance it, all these "custom" activities will be limited to silly trivialities, and in the end the system is pushed back to being irrelevant. That's its potential: oscillating between irrelevancy on one side (because you need players to enjoy the best of the game fully, and so keeping the "gated content" as minor extra) and frustration on the other side (because every time you bump into something interesting BUT not "for your class" it's like the game force you to log out and relog with a different character).
I mean, really, what's wrong with letting players pick their favorite activities instead of shoehorning them into tightly defined boxes?
Since I have 5 minutes here's a lesson on GOOD game design:
Game design is about being able to provide the HOWs and WHYs. That's all. Good game design's goal is maximize the good aspects, and minimize the suck.
Every idea usually has some of both, so let's examine what we have here:
- The good: the game offers interesting/varied side activities that don't simply focus on boring and repetitive combat, and so possibly appealing different players enjoying different playstyles.
- The bad: for some absurd reason they decided to shoehorn the playstyle into a forced choice at character creation, so putting a limit to the freedom of choice of the player. All the while without acquiring any other positive thing. It's just masochistic (or clueless) design. Hence the "bad" is entirely removable.
The bottom line/design principle: players come in different types. MANY types. Different players enjoy different stuff. Your best interest is to accommodate the majority of them, and so give everyone something they enjoy. This also means that a variety of players require a variety of gameplay.
Now I can unfuck the system without even require a major retooling of the assets they have:
- You remove the class "path" choice at character creation, enable all this content for all characters.
- Within the game you add to the "character sheet" a "Path" tab. Under this tab you show all the paths available to the player.
- Let the player check checkboxes corresponding to each path, which simply "hides" in the game content that isn't selected (so that you can select all of them, or none, or whatever mix you enjoy).
- Create a global "Paths" currency system, so that experience you gain in one path still goes into the same pool. Which means that you gain experience regardless what you decide to do.
- Optional: add "perks" (special skills, gifts, or other bonuses) for players who especially gain their path experience in one path area.
That's all. Applause.
Game Design | Ravings
Submitted by Abalieno on February 19, 2013 - 03:00.
I've taken a break from programming activities while also contemplating a possible split. The roguelike game on one side, and a reworked program that I could use simply to draw maps (even to use with old-school games that need mapping). Both of these need a programming component I still have zero knowledge about: how to read/write stuff to a file, so that I can save/reload (including the possibility to draw a dungeon instead of simply generating it randomly). I'll get to it, eventually.
In the meantime I made a scheme of popular/classic JRPGs. Leaving aside the most recent entries on consoles. All the stuff in the chart can be emulated well on PC, so this is a list done for long-term preservation of these games, even if their respective hardware goes obsolete. The first number is the vote the game has on Gamefaqs (the site with enough votes to make them relevant), the next two numbers represent "hours of gameplay", giving an idea about how long on average each game requires to complete (goes from main story to main story + some extras), and the last number is the number of votes, useful to consider how popular the game is.
Then I considered the mad plan of playing all Dragon Quest games in their order. I like setting up similar Epic tasks. They can range across all media. Like burning through the Battlestar series (I did this in December) or all five seasons + movies of Babylon 5, reading the whole Solar Cycle by Gene Wolfe, or all the ten Thomas Covenant by Donaldson, or the Dune cycle by Herbert (or Malazan, obviously), play the whole Shin Megami Tensei series across the various titles, read the HUGE, continuous storyline that unified all Marvel comics from 2004 to 2010 (starts with Avengers Disassembled), read the DC-side of Epic task, all the Crisis starting from the first, including all tie-ins (like 52), or reading the Morrison epic long cycle on Batman, play the Amberstar/Ambermoon epic duology of games on the Amiga (or the insane "Fate: Gates of Dawn"), or play World of Xeen, or Wizardry VII on PC, read Infinite Jest or Gravity's Rainbow, watch all movies by Charlie Kaufman, study the Kabbalah (without spending one dollar), read the Chinese Epics like Three Kingdoms, or the five-volumes set of Dream of the Red Chamber (or the Japanese The Tale of Genji, or the Chinese erotic Jin Ping Mei, also in five volumes), or the historical 14 book cycle by Dorothy Dunnett, watch the critically acclaimed samurai trilogy of movies by Yoji Yamada (The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade, Love and Honor, for a total of 6 hours and 20 minutes), watch or read all Once Piece, read Berserk, Eden, watch all Gundam and Macross series, or all Evangelion, watch all Haruhi Suzumiya in chronological order, learn to play the most hardcore wargames, watch all Kamen Rider series, watch in order the whole mytharc of X-files, or rewatch all Twin Peaks, or watch all Buffy, or Frasier, play/read the Nasuverse (includes Kara No Kyoukai series of seven animated movies), or the Muv-Luv series, or all of Umineko (80+ hours of "reading" on average), or better, first Higurashi and then Umineko, read all Sandman, play the Arkania trilogy of RPGs. And do not think this is even close to a complete list, I just got tired of adding stuff as I remember it.
Or study a programming language from zero and write a roguelike that consolidates 20 years of gaming in one game... All this just to say I enjoy setting up gargantuan, long-term tasks, and that's way it's absolutely required that I'm granted more than one life in order to do all I've planned. Just a reminder.
So last added to the list is playing these Dragon Quest games in sequence. The first three can be played on a SNES emulator and available in English thanks to some fan translations. The following three (4-5-6) make their own trilogy and re-released on the Nintendo DS, the 7th (probably the longest JRPG in existence) is on Playstation 1, the 8th on the PS2, and the 9th back on DS.
Putting some hours into Dragon Quest 1 has been quite interesting, and rather useful in the perspective of my roguelike. Playing old western RPGs is usually more annoying due to technical problems, glitches and general lack of ease of play, whereas the old JRPGs are technically "flawless" and essentially impossible to improve. The only difference with the modern ones is that their design is "scaled down". And this makes them extremely interesting because it's like seeing the building blocks directly. All following generations of JRPGs are simply about dressing up and adding parts.
Dragon Quest 1 plays flawlessly and is at the same time elegant and simplistic. There's no party, just a single character to manage, you are given a bland mission, exit the first castle made of an handful of rooms, and are already on your own. The basic formula of the game is built as an economic system. Most of the game is played right on the world map, divided into zones, where you fight random encounters while you gravitate around towns. The most important "currency" the economic system is based on is the Hit Points. The more random encounters you go through, the more HPs go down, obviously. If you have Magic Points and an Heal spell then you can restore the HPs, but they are just two layers of the same thing, since sooner or later you'll be out of MPs as well. The only way to restore both is to sleep at an Inn, and so go back to a village. During the fights on the world map you gain Gold, and with Gold you buy better equipment, pay the Inn, buy health potions. The difficulty and gameplay rises from the tension that is created by the need to be able to backtrack to a village (where you can restock), and the need to explore the world, so reach the next village, or go through a dungeon.
It's actually extremely easy to find oneself in a bad situation because those random encounters are extremely frequent and in order to reach the places you are meant to reach you have to travel far away from the safety of a town. This means you could frequently realize you're deep in a dungeon, lost (because dungeons are hard to navigate and the visibility extremely limited) and not likely to be able to backtrack quickly enough to a village. This economic system based on dwindling resources and the need to push further to reach a goal or find a new town instead of going all the way back comprises all gameplay the game offers. In villages you find a number of NPCs you can talk to, but they mostly offer a couple of lines of "flavor text", or some bland lore, or tips. But you don't have choices or quests being offered. The story doesn't go beyond the classic "save the princess, kill the bad guy". So what remains is going through the virtual tiers, leveling up to increase the HPs and MPs, gain enough gold to improve the equipment, which means being able to travel further away, so entering more dangerous areas that obviously scale along the player's own progress. Eventually you'll find a village where you can get special keys that open special doors in some dungeons. This is Dragon Quest 1.
What's interesting for me is that I could implement all of this, almost an exact copy, with my current programming skills in my roguelike. I could make an exact copy of this game because the mechanics are straightforward and easy to grasp. This is already a skeleton of a game. When it works you have a structure and the rest of the work is about adding detail and depth. Seeing it work as a simple economic system reveals what truly makes the totality of the game. What you play with. The rest is flavor and dressing up.
When you plan and write a roguelike you have millions of ideas and complex things you want to do. But planning this from the top down makes it look utterly IMPOSSIBLE to achieve, and discouraging. Instead if you look at it from the bottom up, then it will be revealed as simple and linear. You need to know where things are coming from, dig in the archaeology of games to understand how things worked, and then you can quickly ascend to reach those places that are in your goals.
I'm only a few hours into Dragon Quest but it was a revelatory and constructive experience. At some point I couldn't believe what I was seeing on screen:
I mean, finding a girl at a public bath that offers a "puff puff" for 20 gold? I had to search online to confirm my suspicion... And yeah, it's more or less how it looks. This thankfully preserved by the fan patch, since the original Dragon Warrior games in the west had that dialogue cut. You don't want kids asking their parents what's a "puff puff". I would have missed one famous and recurring gag of the Dragon Quest games ;)
By the way, I choose "Yes". I got a puff puff, and wasted my 20 gold. Then I did it again.
Submitted by Abalieno on December 2, 2012 - 21:30.
I've been silent here because the "coding diary" is over here.
Submitted by Abalieno on October 16, 2012 - 13:59.
I'll briefly explain here why the roguelikes are the occasion for the renaissance of old-school pen&paper ruleset. Why I believe this match is perfect.
The fact is that with the latest generation of games we moved toward the "analog". The evolution of the Elder Scrolls games makes this fairly obvious to notice. The biggest failure of Morrowind's combat (as well as Daggerfall) was that there were to-hit rolls. You swung your weapon and the game would roll to figure out if you hit your target or not.
This way of resolving combat is an heritage of classic pen&paper RPG rules, but the problem is that they do not make sense in a game like Morrowind. Those rules were made to simulate the entirety of combat. AD&D rules, for example, were abstracted to simulate an entire minute of combat with just one die roll:
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
A round is approximately one minute long. Ten combat rounds equal a turn (or, put another way, a turn equals 10 minutes of game time).
But these are just approximations--precise time measurements are impossible to make in combat. An action that might be ridiculously easy under normal circumstances could become an undertaking of truly heroic scale when attempted in the middle of a furious, chaotic battle.
When making an attack, a character is likely to close with his opponent, circle for an opening, feint here, jab there, block a thrust, leap back, and perhaps finally make a telling blow. A spellcaster may fumble for his components, dodge an attacker, mentally review the steps of the spell, intone the spell, and then move to safety when it is all done. It has already been shown what drinking a potion might entail. All of these things might happen in a bit less than a minute or a bit more, but the standard is one minute and one action to the round.
So during one minute a lot could happen, many attacks, feints and moves. But you can't simulate all that, so you abstract it and concentrate it in one to-hit roll, leaving aside the details.
But in a game where you control your character in first person and decide how to move, circle the enemy and swing your weapon, then all those details ARE PART OF gameplay. It's not anymore an abstraction of combat as if you controlled your character from a overhead perspective and moved in combat turns. The in-combat time is analog. Finely grained. And so it's not a good idea, design-wise, to mix abstract combat rules with analog combat gameplay.
That's why in Oblivion and Skyrim the to-hit roll was discarded. If you are in range and swing you weapon, your weapon always hits. And then think that if technology was advanced enough that it could simulate a full body, with internal organs and everything, then it would render the abstraction of "hit points" also unnecessary.
A roguelike is a different type of game, almost entirely "digital" and abstracted. The game-world is made of discrete cells, space and time are stricter. Your character is just a single letter printed on screen. All this makes abstraction required. You can't manually swing your weapon, dodge and parry with precise timing as in Skyrim or Dark Souls, so you need game rules that simulate all of this internally. You need statistics that define your character and what it can do, options as decision at a higher level.
That means that a roguelike is much closer to the nature of old-school RPGs than how modern, "analog" games can be. It's not an issue of "new VS old". The old-school way is not surpassed. It's just that we deal with two different genres, kinds of games. Cultural trends simply made one more popular because abstraction is always a barrier to accessibility (and that's why first person shooters are popular too: as little abstraction as possible, no layers between you and the simulated world).
And that's why I believe that rediscovering those old-school rule systems is the interesting thing to do, for roguelikes, instead of writing roguelikes that also hide mechanics behind layers of complex math.
If you STILL think this only applies to old games, then I point you to Project Eternity. At this moment they are right about to hit $3,500k. That's a lot of money and people involved. One of the ideas sitting at the foundation of this project is to go back at party-based, top-down fixed camera of Baldur's Gate. The consequence of that choice is making all I wrote here relevant for that game too. We'll see if their game design is savvy enough to properly deal with it.
Even the just released XCOM has overhead perspective and to-hit rolls.
(since you can't post comments on this blog, use this just in case)
Submitted by Abalieno on October 12, 2012 - 23:55.
I've been silent here because I actually spent time doing stuff. I'll eventually recuperate the "diary" but for now it already exists in a form: here.
That became a long thread.
In the meantime I wrote down some first high level design consideration that will direct toward the "system" I'll use for the ruleset governing the game.
Following are a number of RPG classic systems that I consider interesting and whole mechanics I'm planning to integrate into my roguelike. So before moving on, I wanted to compile a simplified list of a standard type of attack in each of these systems. Just one attack, so not a whole combat turn.
(surprise roll d100)
- Initiative 1D10, subtract related speed component, add speed of action
- TO HIT: skill %. Succeeds if less than skill level. If lower than 10% of the skill -> critical. (plus modifiers due to cover/movement)
- (target can parry by spending one attack)
- Check for location. Roll another %. If under 40% multipliers to damage apply.
- Roll damage dice dependent on weapon. If critical, it does max damage the weapon can do, without rolling.
- Armor value is subtracted from damage (armor is locational and has values for different types of attack: cut, blunt, pierce, fire, chemical, stunning, electrical).
Note: if total damage exceeds a certain Wound Level (75% of total hit points), the target is dazed.
Considerations: two weak points. The first is I don't like parry using attacks, since if you fight to win you'd rather try to kill the enemy as fast as possible instead of wasting attacks to parry. The other weak point is that location is random and can push damage quite a bit, so a bit too driven by chance.
(surprise, DM decides)
- Initiative 1D10 + agility bonus. Initiative is rolled only once for whole combat, same order for every round.
- Can set a "stance", like all out attack, or defensive stance, that affect hit rolls.
- TO HIT: skill %. Succeeds if less than skill level. (some environmental variables may apply)
- (target has one "reaction" slot to use to parry or dodge)
- Check for location. This uses the same to hit roll, but with reversed order. so a 15 to hit, becomes 51 for location. Location is just location, doesn't affect damage.
- Roll damage dice. If roll a 10, roll to-hit again, if successful, roll a 10 to add to damage. If you keep rolling 10s, they all add up to damage.
- Armor value is subtracted from damage.
Note: if damage surpassed a certain level, it's a critical with consequences.
Considerations: it's more streamlined and has a free slot to use to parry or dodge, instead of wasting attacks. Has the nice trick to use only one dice for both to-hit and location, though it won't matter in a computer implementation.
(surprise happens after initiative, may need perception rolls)
- Initiative 1D20? + dex bonus. Initiative is rolled only once for whole combat, same order for every round.
- TO HIT: 1D20. Succeeds if above armor class of target. Base 10 + armor + other bonuses.
- Roll damage dice. Armor only counts for to-hit and doesn't absorb damage.
Note: a to-hit of 20 is critical if another to-hit roll is successful. Weapon type says how many times to reroll damage, usually 2x.
Considerations: it's fairly simple. It has the usual realism issues of D&D. There's no "skill" since you only get bonuses through stats and new levels. Armor doesn't absorb damage, which means that if you fight a guy in full platemail with a knife and hit, you do as much damage as if the guy was naked. If you fight the same guy with a knife or a long sword, there's also no difference in being able to hit him. There are a few combat maneuvers, but parry doesn't seem to exist.
- Initiative is fixed. No dices being rolled. It depends on various bonuses and conditions.
- TO HIT: % dice + attacker Offensive Bonus - defender Defensive Bonus. You check the value you get on a table with the defender armor value. Rolls are open-ended, so you keep rerolling and adding, as long you go above 95.
Considerations: that's it basically. It all depends on HUGE weapon-specific tables that tell you if the attack fumbled, was critical, and how much damage it dealt. The good aspect is that attacks consider the defensive bonus of who is attacked, and before a turn you decide how to redistribute your Offensive Bonus to the Defensive. So there's a granular type of defense where you decide how much to focus on defense and how much on offense. So "parrying" is just about relocating your bonus from offensive to defensive, and is not an active "action".
(surprise, the DM decides)
- Initiative is a skill value. No dice rolls required.
- Attacker declares: target, weapon, (optionally) aiming (high, mid, low, -10 penalty), weapon aspect (if you want to exploit an armor weakness).
- Defender declares: Block, Counterstrike, Dodge, Nothing.
- TO HIT: BOTH parties have to roll % dice, and result is mapped on a simple chart. Simultaneous strikes are possible.
- Roll % dice for specific location (this can be slightly rigged by declaring a general aim above).
- For damage you usually roll 1D6 (regardless of weapon), add result to the fixed weapon damage, subtract armor absorption, and, if result is still positive, see on the Injury Table what kind of injury you get matching the value for the location.
- Injuries directly and immediately apply penalties to stats and skill checks.
- Death essentially comes from the target getting disabled or fainting.
- Healing, after successful treatment, is dealt for every single wound. Every wound has a chance of going down one level every five days.
Considerations: This is an odd beast. Armor not only just absorbs damage, but also makes one easier to hit. There are no hit points, and only wounds treated separately. Weapons can be used for different types of attacks, blunt/edge/point, and armor has different protection values against each. Which also opens the possibility to "Compound Layers", meaning that you wear armor in overlapping layers and they all add up to the protection of that specific location. You could even attempt wearing a DOUBLE PLATE, this has some diminish returns, but would also give pretty huge penalties to attacks and defense. Classes are not restricted to certain weapon types. No levels. So it does a lot of things I like as a system.
After all that I'll probably go with an hybrid system. I actually like Dangerous Journey general system as it seems well organized. For example every skill falls under some attribute. The attribute not only provides some basic value for the skill, or eventual bonuses to skill checks, but it also sets a maximum of expertise in that skill. So for example if you have Strength of 60 and use an attack based on strength, your skill won't exceed 60. You can't get better than that, if Strength is not improved first.
The hybrid I could make would be the character system of Dangerous Journey plus the combat system of Harnmaster. Since they both use % skill they integrate smoothly. I'd then have to simplify a lot the wound/healing system, since I can't make a player wait idly for days for every small wound.
I was also considering a party system. Initially the idea was to have it abstracted. So you'd still only see one "@" on screen representing the whole party. Instead I thought that a real party isn't much harder to do. The idea is: you still control one "@" normally, but as a monster is sighted you enter a combat phase. As the combat phase starts you get to "deploy" all your party characters in a small area around your main character. And during the whole combat you move the party members individually. Optionally, you can initiate combat even if no monster is around, and so you could split your party and move party members individually. So it's a rather flexible system. I'm aiming to have up to four party members in total, including the main character.
I also started to deal with how progress happens. No levels. The characters earns XP points for successful actions like dispatching monsters, finding loot, completing quests, the usual. But there's no level and XP points are used as "currency" (this is just one of the many mechanics I'll borrow from Dark Souls). By spending these XP points you get chances to improve various aspects of your character (stats, skills). If the dice roll used to improve a stat is unsuccessful, you get no improvement but XP is still used up. If the dice roll is successful you get the improvement BUT the XP requirements across the board for further improvement go up. Still undecided about how to handle death, no permdeath, but there will be probably a way to lose XP, Dark Souls-like.
Only stats and skills that the character actively used can be improved, but you only need to use a skill once to be able to improve it (so you get enough flexibility to improve whatever you want, without having to "grind" skills).
In order to prevent save cheat mechanics, to avoid that one could reload the game if an improvement roll is unsuccessful, the game already rolls these improvements when an action is first made. And when the player decides to use the XP the game only "reveals" the dice roll it made long before. That way, reloading a game would only produce the same result. :)
(and there would be some time limits so that you need to wait at least a day before spending XP again to improve the same skill. Which means that the fasted path is to play the game normally instead of saving/reload scumming)
On iterative design development it is very likely, essentially guaranteed, that "wasting" XP on unsuccessful improvements is a frustrating rule that would be erased and the process streamlined. But we'll see.
(since you can't post comments on this blog, use this just in case)
Submitted by Abalieno on September 8, 2012 - 09:26.
If you don't know what's a roguelike you can start here, or even go straight to play one of the most sleek and recent games in the genre: Brogue.
The definition usually covers a wide range of games but usually a roguelike is associated with the idea of an ASCII RPG where you generate a character and then go exploring randomly generated dungeons. Why should you care, tho? What is that is good and unique in these prehistoric-looking games? Is it just nostalgia?
My interest in this is because I don't believe that it's just about nostalgia. This interest was sparked a few months ago, when I spent several weeks going through old and magnificent Amiga games, and then more weeks on roguelikes. It was almost a frantic search. I do believe that something of value is lost and that those games had aplenty, and a roguelike is an opportunity to mess with that stuff directly. Mixing old sensibilities with the new. But nowadays roguelikes are a lot more than that. The lack of graphic let these games focus on very deep and complex mechanics that you simply cannot find in other genres. So roguelikes aren't just old looking games with unintuitive interfaces, but also offer a kind of gameplay and complex interaction that is extinct in other games. These games are pioneers, not rearguard.
The other side of the medal is that you can mess with this stuff. Some 14 or so years ago I started in C and under ancient MSDOS an attempt to write a RPG from scratch, using the Allegro library (that is still around) and DJGPP (the Gnu compiler for dos). I wanted to build a simple foundation like the first Final Fantasy games, and then roll into that kind of engine a more deep interaction with NPCs and environments. Without the internet to look stuff up it was an incredibly hard task, even setting up the environment with the IDE, compiler and all the rest. After messing with this for a while and creating a rudimentary skeleton of a game that showed a sprite moving on a tile map (and then getting completely stuck when I tried to convert it to interrupt-based timing so that it wouldn't run at different speeds on different hardware), I figured it would take me more than a year JUST to write the engine, and then I could have started, maybe, actually making the game, design and content, the stuff that I actually considered interesting. I realized that you either dedicate yourself fully to such a project, in a totalizing way, or it's just impossible to make something even barely worthwhile. That's where I stopped. I just couldn't afford to plan things so long term and sink into that all my time. It just couldn't be realistically done, even if I only wanted to make my own project without any intention of selling it or whatever.
If I'm back attempting a similar project is because I see in roguelikes (and in the different context, because of the internet offering so much material you can look up) the possibility to quickly get to the "meat" of the game. All the standard roguelikes build the whole game by reusing a few output functions, so the "engine" is almost directly covered. It's like the possibility to quickly write prototypes the way you want, without the baggage of graphic. So a possibility to remove as much as possible the overhead and busywork of engine programming, and do instead game programming, design, content.
Programming is actually one of the most addicting experiences you can have. More than playing a good game, once you are in the groove. But it is also immensely frustrating if you hit a roadblock and have no way to get over it. That's when projects usually fail. This time I've got the illusion that the path is viable. Because there are good libraries that cover most of the stuff I need, specifically for what I need, because the internet overflows with documentation that you can use, because I can purchase good books on programming, and game programming, and because there are plenty of roguelikes out there that are open source, so you can go into them and see how they work. Pilfer hundreds of games of their good ideas, and put them in your game. The accretion of these parts, and the original, odd mix I want to make is what I'm looking for. I will go back playing those Amiga games and classic RPGs, parse their game design, as well as taking stuff from modern, perfectly designed games like Dark Souls, and then cross-breeding all that with pen&paper RPG rule systems and classic modules. I have already a feature list planned that will take me several centuries to implement, but that's what makes it fun ;)
I can't say how far I'll go, or if I'll be even able to start. I'm essentially learning programming from zero, starting from the very bottom. My mathematical skills are also abysmal, so the perspectives are bleak. But whatever. The intention is to keep some sort of diary to document my (lack of) progress. An anti-tutorial on top of a tutorial. Whatever I make, in the short or long term, will be open source. Though it will likely take me years before my source is of any interest to someone beside me. But again, I'll write even the diary for myself, so I can see what I'm doing and all the stuff I get wrong. The thing I hate the most is when I bump into a problem I already solved before, but can't remember how I did it.
Obviously it all depends on how much time I can allocate to this, and with how much continuity. That's not entirely in my control, but given the chance I'm extremely stubborn and so I'll keep going at it.
(since you can't post comments on this blog, use this just in case)
Submitted by Abalieno on September 4, 2012 - 22:28.
This is a leftover. I already ranted well before Guild Wars 2's release anticipating the problems about overflow servers, long queues in PvP and difficulty for social play in general. My point: this was not only obvious to see ahead (which mmorpg doesn't have launch issues?), but also avoidable for the most part, if they rearranged the game spaces.
The post where I wrote about this at that time is here.
What drew my attention is this:
During this initial surge of high concurrency, and especially while most characters are low-level and thus playing in the same starting areas, it's common for players to be directed to overflow servers. To play with a friend on a different overflow server, form a party together, then right-click on the friend's portrait in the party list and click "join". We expect the use of overflow servers to naturally subside as players spread out more through the world.
The interesting part to me is how bad game design has a naturally tendency to surface on its own. Guild Wars 2 was designed (deliberately AS OPPOSED to Guild Wars 1) as non-instanced PvE.
The game launches and the norm is: instanced PvE. Because overflow servers are the norm, and overflow servers are an instancing mechanic.
When in practice you get (instanced PvE) the opposite of your ideal (non-instanced PvE), then it means your design is quite broken. I say it surfaces on its own because it just won't take the form you wanted. It misbehaves. Why? Because the patterns you designed are wrong.
Now the line I underlined is also a wrong assumption. Players' activity will never balance on its own. It doesn't happen with linear progression games. At the game's start all players swarm the starting zones and the rest's empty. Six months down the line there's no better balance: the end zones are crowded and the rest of the game's empty. It's the exact same situation but upside down.
So their assumption (that the use of overflow servers subsides BECAUSE players spread out) is WRONG. What actually happens is that the use of overflow servers subsides, but simply because it's the high concurrency that also subsides.
This is not nitpicking, because the problem is that you're designing a PvE that relies on large public events, that will be essentially broken when six months down the line those zones will be almost completely empty (the right answer here is "who cares" since these days mmorpgs are designed to make money fast and become irrelevant in less than a year, as disposable as single-player games. And in GW2's case players' retention is actually a THREAT since they don't have a monthly fee).
The analysis and consequence about GW2 PvE is this:
- RIGHT NOW: lots of problems for people trying to play together. Public events are popular but PvE is instanced.
- SIX MONTHS LATER: PvE is finally non-instanced but there are not enough players to enjoy the public events.
This is what I call "ass-backwards design". It's when PvE is finally non-instanced that you want it instanced. Why? Because instancing can be used so that if there are a few players they are put together. And when there are too many, they are split so that gameplay is always optimal.
Guild Wars 2 realized only the first part: that instancing is essential to avoid overcrowding (overflow servers), but they haven't realized that instancing is also essential later on, to avoid the depopulation of players outside the endgame.
When you realize also that point, you arrive to a simple conclusion: if instanced PvE is a good thing both early (to avoid overcrowding) AND later (to avoid depopulation), then instanced PvE = good.
It's that simple.
But Guild Wars 2 designers think game design ass-backwards. They try to design PvE non-instanced. And they try to design PvP instanced. Result: queues EVEN on PvP because their PvE server structure doesn't actually allow to load-balance PvP. They have the WORST in both worlds.
See the post I linked above for a scheme that solves both problems (by putting players into non-instanced PvP server first, and load-balance PvE through instances).
This is the stuff that was being discussed in 2005 and before, try to search the blog for "mudflation" if you want more. Or see Raph Koster, Brad McQuaid and Scott Jennings go at it. Not to say that things at that time were gloriously good, but the fact is that these problems were being at least discussed and today mmorpg game design has seen an enormous decline that is only offset by the technological progress.
Hence, we have lived and fought in vain.
I wanted to add some of the reasons why I won't buy/play Guild Wars 2. Beside all the above:
- I prefer a consistent personal style (like Dark Souls) to the rainbow colored and theme park oddball settings of GW2 or WoW.
- Zone design looks once again as elaborate cardboard cutout scenery instead of focusing on content that you use and usability in general.
- The combat I've seen in videos is overblown with effects of all kinds, from particle effects that obscure your screen to heavy highlights. Whereas I prefer a combat system with tactical transparency (where you can see what happens and can strategize appropriately, even when it gets crowded) and UIs designed to be subtle and unobtrusive.
- PvP in Guild Wars 2 sounds more like enhanced Alterac Valley than enhanced DAoC. No thanks. Too late, not enough.
Mentioning Dark Souls, that's a game with almost perfect game design on shameless display. Western game design has gone the way of ding, bling, DLCs and trivialities, and looks, honestly, pathetic and unrecoverable.
Game Design | The Cesspit
Submitted by Abalieno on October 11, 2011 - 12:50.
This post has no answers and only doubts, but reading it you'd see what is that Kabbalah is (or wants to be). This is an "answer" to the 12th self-study lesson (a introductory study) and it contains my doubts about it. To see the self-study you'd have to register here, for free. There are 14 lessons in that self-study.
I've also included the 12th lesson (about 25 minutes) if one doesn't want to go through that registration, but I actually encourage you to register and watch the rest as it's all quite interesting and at least enriching.
I was rewatching lesson 12 of the self-study and got some doubts. I know that Kabbalah can't be understood simply logically, but as long I'm not "there" I still have to relate to it with my own logic and the ideas I get from the lessons.
It seems to me that the difference between Kabbalah and other religions is not the one described in that video. The difference I understand is that Kabbalah is entirely about spirituality, so it isn't interested about the physical world. This marks a true difference with all other religions as all religions (as far as I know) do have systems of rules that apply to corporeality. From what you can or can't eat to when and how you should pray. Even anthropologically all religions were "meant" to regulate the corporeal world and build a certain society.
But instead I can't stop my doubts about what is explained in the video. I only know well Christianity since it's where I'm born but, while the people could certainly believe that it's about "bribing God", that's not a good representation of that religion, and the real one isn't very different from how the Kabbalistic model is described.
The part that gives me the doubts is that one could say that the Kabbalistic process is equally "delusional". As long the upper light is invariable and the events also invariable (so what changes is solely the self), then it means that the pain itself can't be stopped or diverted. The pain is instead "understood", as one, through bestowal, would perceive the "long range", so the wider purpose beside the egoistical self.
Which essentially would lead one to "endure" the pains of life in the name of a greater purpose that says: there's indeed a purpose, and it is good willed. One could see his sons killed in front of him, or go through great pains, but always knowing that there's a "meaning", and that life is eternal.
So it is true that the suffering is always relative to a perspective, and if one shifts the perspective a momentary suffering becomes bearable. Through life eternal all suffering is bearable as it is momentary. But both these ideas are essentially "consolatory" and Kabbalah would be defined itself as consolatory, as it is all based on two principles that regulate the rest:
1- That life is eternal (and so suffering momentary)
2- That God is good willed, and everything happens for a purpose
If one had the CERTAINTY of those two points, then it is true that pain would be bearable. But isn't this perspective consolatory and delusional? As you can't change what happens to you (invariable upper light and events) you have to "endure" it, hoping there's a good willed purpose even when everything looks very bleak.
The other difference between the Kabbalah and religion is that in religion the salvation or the enlightenment, more often than not, happen after death. So they are "promises" of salvation or enlightenment, and one lives with the "hope" that they are true, clinging desperately to these ideas as they can only justify the pain of life, and give life a sense.
Kabbalah is different as the promise of attaining the "upper world" is here and right now. You say it's a "science" as it has to be experienced and attained personally, first hand. It's not a theory or an abstract idea. But the skepticism here is about "when". One listens to the video courses, reads the books and slowly understands what is Kabbalah, but what's that ideal point that brings back up to that "tangible certainty"? The distinguishable certainty that Kabbalah is a science and not a consolatory delusion?
I'm explaining the subjective point of view: one comes to Kabbalah trying to learn, but learning leads me to define these ideas of life eternal and purpose as "consolatory". This can only be solved through a certainty. In other religion you achieve that certainty through "faith", but in Kabbalah faith is not required, as having doubts and asking questions is encouraged (as in science). I am right there.
Submitted by Abalieno on October 8, 2011 - 15:15.
Some quotes from a randomly found article.
What does cultural materialism do? It seeks “to allow the literary text to ‘recover its histories’ which previous kinds of study have often ignored” although the “relevant history is not just that of four hundred years ago, but that of the times (including our own)
The cultural materialist is likewise “optimistic about the possibility of change and is willing at times to see literature as a course of oppositional values”—oppositional, that is, to the “structures of feeling” that are the “dominant ideologies within a society” (Barry 183-4). This creates a need to consider “ALL forms of culture” (183), or in other words to climb deeper the way Oedipa does.
Oedipa’s paranoia could well be called optimism, faith that she is not crazy, but that a structure exists in which she CAN find answers. In fact, she can hardly afford NOT to believe it, with so many showcases of that structure materializing around her.
This cultural materialist optimism about “the possibility of change” would suggest, in both cases, that the disinheritance serves the characters for the better, directing them toward a more enlightening epiphany of their place in the world.
In fact, this theme persists in many examples that find room in those branches of that tree. This theme is better defined as a fairy tale escapism, the classic stepping into another world in hopes of a higher understanding. Could it be that, for example, THE MATRIX of the Wachowski brothers has more in common with LOT 49 than just postmodernism?
Like Neo of THE MATRIX, she seeks an escape from isolation and ignorance into a Wonderland where if nothing else she might feel free.
Everything from a rabbit hole and a looking glass to a wardrobe and a vision becomes a doorway into an underworld, or simply ANOTHER world in which the characters at least hope to find clarity.
Wonderland, the Matrix, Never Land, Narnia…these are only advantageous to their guests so far as they can provide a better way for them to see themselves.
This is an escape and indoctrination into a world to the extent that the visitors become “aliens” to their own original setting, no longer contributing to its dominant morality. Alice cannot forget Wonderland, Neo chooses to remain separate from the Matrix, and Oedipa, apparently, cannot continue unless as “unfurrowed, assumed full circle.”
The cultural materialist would best identify with the question Oedipa asks herself: “Shall I project a world?”
In this case, the theory and the texts do not simply validate each other, but instead confirm the structure to which they belong. This structure, in its very essence, seeks to “project” in a variety of ways new worlds by which to interpret reality.