Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 12, 2013
This week’s quote of the week comes from Lee Parry, formerly a lead designer at Epic (and now an indie):
“If there’s one single thing I would drive into any developer’s head if I could, it would be the importance of great player feedback. When I talk about feedback, I mean the classic loop between hitting a button and the game responding in a way that simply feels great…
“Simply pressing a button has to be an experience people want to repeat. It’s what makes a game addictive, intoxicating… it’s the recipe for a game that “feels” right.
“The best game in the world, regardless of high concept or awesome mechanics, can feel absolutely neutered when these principles are disregarded or neglected. Conversely, there’s many simple games that nail player feedback and become extremely successful while people scratch their head wondering how they pulled it off so well.”
Read the whole thing. It’s gold. Stuff I need to be reminded of constantly.
Like everything else, this can get taken to ridiculous extremes. I’m reminded of the Bioware mock-worthy “Button-Awesome” meme that came up during the Dragon Age 2 promotion. It should be a means, a tool in a designer’s bag of tricks, not an end-goal. It is the sizzle, not the steak.
One of the very first (commercial) games I ever worked on should have driven this point home to me. The control dynamics of the player’s ship in Warhawk for the Playstation 1 were praised pretty universally by reviews and playtesters. Things like an Immelman turn (where you do a partial loop and then roll out) or a barrel roll were automatically handled by the ship logic when the player tried simple commands. When the player entered a “loop,” for example, simply attempting to exit the loop would automatically roll the ship out level. Double-tapping the turn would automatically launch a barrel roll. We did this in a lot of places, and it made flying the ship pretty intuitive and easy. I can’t say we invented it all whole-cloth… there were other examples of games that we drew inspiration from. But for a game that looked at first blush (and for the era) to be more of a hardcore “simulator style” game (it really wasn’t), it was a lot more comfortable for average gamers to play.
The other thing that should have been a no-brainer in retrospect was the “swarm missiles.” I coded the logic and special effects on these, and I tried to emulate what I’d seen in countless sci-fi anime shows. The idea was to launch lots of little tiny missiles that flew a little erratically and independently towards their target, like a swarm of angry bees. They weren’t especially effective, from a game mechanics standpoint. But players loved ‘em. You pressed the button, and yeah, something awesome happened. By 1995 standards, at least.
You can see a little of both the flight dynamics and the swarm missiles in this video:
We had some help and feedback from the producers at Sony on this one, so while a lot of it was stuff we kinda stumbled into, not REALLY knowing what we were doing other than going by “gut feel,” we did get some direction. The lesson I learned – and I have to be reminded of from time to time – is exactly what Perry states in his article. Given whatever you’ve got for video, audio, or any other kind of feedback, make it responsive. This can be applied to anything from interactive fiction to the latest AAA shooter.
Filed Under: Design - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 11, 2013
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Doom‘s release.
I guess, in a very round-about way, it is because of that day in 1993 that I became a professional game developer. Doom took the industry by storm, and I think it was a not-insignificant factor in convincing a bunch of engineers from the simulation industry to try their hand at gaming, and in convincing a major publisher to fund them. Doom was what convinced the industry that 3D was the future.
It was kinda dumb for the rest of us, because we’d been enjoying both 2D and 3D just find, thankyouverymuch, for years. We could boggle at the suits in the industry (which, not long before that, hadn’t had many suits), both because they were jumping on an old bandwagon, and that they were suddenly abandoning 2D as if it were the plague.
But regardless, the company was founded and funded on a wave of “going 3D,” and I was one of the first employees. Number sixteen. I got to be paid to make games. Really cool 3D games with cars shooting bullets and flamethrowers at each other, giant tentacled flying skulls that shoot missiles, and flying shark-ships. That was just in my first year. So, thank you, Doom.
As a fan of Wolfenstein 3D, the Wing Commander series, Ultima Underworld, and several flight simulators, Doom was probably more evolutionary than revolutionary for me. I was in the middle of finals on the day it was released, and downloading the thing was an exercise in frustration until it had gotten mirrored at enough sites to deal with the demand. So it was a few days later (the 15th?) when I finally copied it from a friend who had managed to download the shareware episode – actual physical shareware! I was finally able to play, albeit in a reduced-sized window on my underpowered 386/40.
But… wow, what an evolutionary step! Even at somewhat less than 320 x 200, it was amazing. That’s what most people remember – how incredible the graphics were at the time. Of course I was blown away. Everybody was. I’d expected something significantly better than Wolfenstein 3D, but Doom was even better than I’d expected. I was happy for weeks in single-player.
One of the cool things that I think we lost for a while (but regained with indies) was that very free-form, crazy, do-what-sounds-fun design of the game. I mean, the whole thing with John Romero’s head being the “boss” in Doom 2. The secret levels. Commander Keens being hanged. The swastika on the floor (later changed). Telefrags. The “BFG 9000.” The bunny head on a spear. The game was over-the-top, and reveled in it, and the enthusiasm of the tiny team of developers shone through in a big way. In some ways, it feels like the modern counterparts are often too safe and too serious. Doom was rough, wild, and ready to party.
If there was a revolution (or, again, revelation), it was the first time I played cooperatively. Deathmatch was very fun, but playing coop gave me a real vision of how awesome multiplayer could be. Sure, I’d caught glimpses of that playing the coin-op arcade game Gauntlet cooperatively, or playing some multi-user dungeons (MUDs) over the years, and tried (semi-successfully) to play a cooperative mission in Falcon 3.0 with a friend. But Doom was a more free-form arena with (at the time) the most realistic graphics, and it was just amazing. Even for a jaded gamer like me.
But the real trick – as it had been for Wolfenstein 3D and Commander Keen for the id guys – was how a tiny little team of upstarts without a “real” publisher, without going through the “proper” channels for making and distributing games in an industry that was rapidly being dominated by a few big publishers – could pretty much upstage the entire industry like that. Their story became fuel for a later age when the industry was truly in need of an indie revolution. They were there first.
I still love Doom. While being able to actually look and shoot up and down – and to have a true 3D environment – has been a significant improvement, and there have been all kinds of minor innovations and enhancements, the core gameplay for most modern First-Person Shooters has not strayed very far in 20 years.
I have a tough time believing that it’s been that long. But it’s a milestone worth noting. And playing.
UPDATE: A well-done birthday wish…
Filed Under: Retro - Comments: 6 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 10, 2013
Maybe it was the link to the Richard Garriott quote last week, or the Matt Chat interviews with Guido Henkel, or… more likely… my current coding and rebalancing of Frayed Knights combat, but I’ve been thinking about combat in RPGs a bit more lately, and how it has changed between the old classics and modern games.
And then something snapped.
I really need to go back and re-play Ultima 7 to completion. Many people – including me – cite it as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. I’m not sure how much the rose-tinted glasses figure into this. But part of me wants to answer this question:
Is Ultima 7 such an awesome RPG in spite of the fact that the combat system sucks, or because the combat sucks?
Maybe some people might argue the combat system doesn’t suck, but I’ve never heard anyone really defend it. I remember getting to the point where it was somewhat manageable, but for the most part it was a hideous real-time brawl with little control over what was going on. I have faint recollections of a couple of fights, but none of them were memorable. The best that could be said is that due to the real-time nature, they were over with pretty quickly.
That’s actually pretty core to the question. Because combat sucked and over so quickly, it wasn’t central to the game. It wasn’t part of the “main gameplay loop” as it is in most games. It didn’t dominate the gameplay. It was more often an obstacle (and sometimes one to be avoided) – one of many. In effect, the game played much more like an adventure game with stats. It was more about exploration and problem-solving than fighting.
So of course, Origin gave us this gigantic world full of stuff to explore and solve. It was an interesting counterpart to its contemporary competitor Wizardry 7, which also seemed to have a pretty huge world – and lots of fighting.
The modern trend in RPGs – especially mainstream – seems to be on focusing on combat as the primary gameplay activity. Hey, I’m just as guilty with my own designs. The assumption is that if the combat sucks, nothing else matters. Yet we have a pretty compelling counter-argument in Ultima 7 that this isn’t necessarily true.
I have played a lot of RPGs lately where it feels like all the other things that can be done in an RPG are merely brief interludes between fights. At the extreme, you have the Diablo-style games which are about very little more than killing and looting.
I’ve been playing a few little indie RPGs lately off-and-on – revisiting The Real Texas, Driftmoon, and some others – and maybe that’s where some of this stuff has entered my thought process. I could argue that both games do combat far better than Ultima 7 did. Both use real-time systems. But both seem to have a far greater emphasis on exploration and problem-solving that most modern RPGs. The Real Texas maybe takes this to an extreme – for me, there’s a lot of wandering around interacting with stuff trying to figure out what I should do next.
I definitely love a good, deep, challenging combat system. If I played an RPG where every combat was as interesting an encounter as a battle in XCom (either the new or the old, I’m not fussed), I’d be really happy. But that would also require, in my mind, that fights should be fewer and further between, with lots of really interesting, fun things to do in-between those epic encounters.
Has combat been over-emphasized in RPGs? If so, it’s hardly a new problem. But perhaps what’s needed to push the boundaries even further is not an emphasis on making the fights more interesting and tactical with lots of ever-more spectacular weapons and armor to turn the tide of battle in your favor, but rather breaking outside of the comfort zone on everything else. After all, the success and reverence given Ultima 7 is based almost entirely upon everything else.
Filed Under: Design - Comments: 11 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 9, 2013
Looks like the Groupees Dan “Indie” Long bundle deal has been extended an extra couple of days… if you wanted to get in on the deals there, you have a few hours. Very few, as of the time of this posting.
Also not-exactly-expired this weekend: Guido Henkel’s Deathfire: Ruins of Evermore. The Kickstarter campaign failed to fund, getting just over half their funding goal. This was sad but not unexpected as the campaign progressed over the last couple of weeks. Now that it is over, they’ve gotten creative about the funding of the game. As we’d expect (and as I certainly hoped), the game is still on, assuming “Plan B” works.
Plan B involves going for a lower level of funding, bypassing Kickstarter entirely. Assuming they hit the minimum goal, they are going to be producing the game in episodic format. This has serious repercussions on the design and development, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But to kick things off, they are looking for about 1/8th of what they needed for the complete game. Now that sounds like a pretty extreme reduction, but by eliminating the physical rewards entirely (for now) and bypassing Kickstarter (and their cut), they can stretch each funding dollar by 20%+.
My concern would be that the bulk of the work still has to be done up-front, getting the game system and everything up and running. But I assume they’ve priced everything out and know what they are doing. It’s not exactly Henkel’s first rodeo.
Anyway, if you are interested in participating, click the links three paragraphs up.
And as a final little bit of enjoyment of lost opportunities… Noah “Spoony” Antwiler and Richard “Lord British” Garriott de Cayeux had some fun during his interview (a stretch goal for Garriott’s Kickstarter) and re-enacted a scene that was probably in everybody’s imagination during certain frustrated moments playing the early-to-mid Ultima games.
Filed Under: General - Comments: Read the First Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 6, 2013
Now, bear in mind that this was said less than a third of the way into his career (so far) – around the time of Ultima 6′s development. But here’s an old quote from Richard “Lord British” Garriott on his RPG design philosophy during Ultima’s heyday:
“My philosophy is that once you get people compelled enough to sit down and play the game, the whole way you make the game successful is by giving them enough unique ways to do things. First, let them deal with pulling levers and things like that for a while. Then after they’ve mastered that, you give them something else to do, like getting through doorways by blasting them down with a cannon… Next, you give them a monster-finding quest, followed by logic problems to figure out. You pace it that way. Assorted activities and the diversity of activities are what makes a game rich in my mind.”
– Richard Garriott, as quoted by Shay Addams in The Official Book of Ultima, 1990
So there you go.
Actually, that’s not too wildly different from most games today. The standard formula is to provide an activity, let the player master it, then keep adding new skills / activities and then test them in combination. So maybe you start out by learning to move, then learning to jump, then being able to move and jump in combination, then learn to double-jump, then require all three skills to be used in a level, etc.
Filed Under: Design - Comments: 4 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 5, 2013
I don’t know who made this, but it feels painfully accurate. Click on it to embiggen…
I was particularly amused by the 2005 expansion offering… more of the same.
It’s one thing when you have “freemium” games that make up for free or really cheap installation & gameplay in exchange for several layers of optional(ish) premium DLC. It’s when a full price or near full-price game feels incomplete without the DLC that I have a problem. I’ve managed to stay away from most games like that – it still feels like those have been the exception rather than the rule.
But here’s what it has really done to me, marketing gurus of the video game industry: It has really, REALLY encouraged me to not be an early adopter of games. When I know (or strongly suspect) that the cost of the DLC will add up to be far more than the original game, it encourages me to wait for a lower-cost, “gold” or “platinum” or whatever release, where I can buy what feels like a “complete” package at a discount. I rarely buy a (mainstream) game new anymore. I feel like the game won’t really be complete and fully released for a couple of years, once all or most of the DLC has come out.
AND ON A TOTALLY DIFFERENT SUBJECT:
The Dan “Indie” Long Indie Game Bundle: There’s only two and a half days left, as of this writing. If you are looking to get some great, often off-beat indie games (including Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon) for a bundle price, this is your chance, but it’s only for a couple of more days. Enjoy!
Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 4 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 4, 2013
I’m an indie cheerleader. Or “evangelist” as I sometimes call myself. I’ve embraced the term, as ambiguous as it is. It’s a useful term. Part of the reason I embraced it is because I was in the mainstream industry back in the 1990s, and I saw the best and worst of what it had become. For me, “indie” got back to the roots of gaming, bypassing the giant machine that through the 90s was an overwhelmingly powerful gatekeeper.
As “Shareware” (the usual method of bypassing the gatekeeper) was no longer an applicable term, some folks adopted the “indie” label. It wasn’t much of a label describing who they were as who they were not. Literally, it was “everybody else.” The numbers were never that small, but they were mostly unknown.
The whole point of “indie” was to draw attention to “everybody else,” in an environment where attention is a scarce commodity and often required hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to obtain. That’s really what the indie revolution was to me – a capturing of a portion of that spotlight. Of course, it had serious (but not bad) repercussions — like an explosion of new indie developers. But it’s not like indie is anything all that new. In my mind, it’s a continuation of how games were made back at the dawn of the hobby.
So really, my opinion isn’t that much different from Robert Fearon’s in his recent article, The Indie Revolution at Gamasutra. Aside from my fondness for the term, “indie,” I think we really see eye-to-eye on the whole phenomenon. The article is awesome, anyway. Well worth the read.
Having worked in both fields, I am acutely aware of both the differences and similarities between working on an “indie” game (or should I say, “small / low budget”) and a larger, more mainstream game with a traditional publisher. I prefer the former in most ways, but it’s nice having the steady income and layers of support of the latter.
But ultimately, the core similarity is that you are making games. I won’t lie: there’s no end to the awesome of that. Yeah, it can be stressful, long hours, lots of pain in the butt, but if you love video games like most game developers do (at least the guys down in the trenches), it’s still something incredibly cool.
The whole “revolution” and term “indie” was really about a back-door way to set ourselves apart from the guys spending millions of dollars on TV ads, so that gamers *might* take look off the beaten path once in a while and see what we were doing. To the people (especially the press) who weren’t really paying attention, sure – it’s a revolution. Or maybe just a revelation. They turn the corner from their thoroughfare and say, “Holy crap, when did all THIS stuff get built?” and don’t realize it’s all been there forever.
Better late than never. I celebrate the revolution, such as it is. It means indies have a chance – maybe not a very good chance, but much better than they used to have – of getting noticed and being successful doing their own thing, without having to beg favor of the Big Publishing Overlords as they did in the 90s and early aughts.
I’ll take it.
Filed Under: General - Comments: Read the First Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 3, 2013
I posted a couple of links last week to the previous parts of the interview, but I found this part to be even more… I dunno… informative? inspirational? Probably both.
This is the “last ditch” effort to get his new RPG off the ground via the Deathfire Kickstarter Campaign. It’s not quite half way there with just a few days to go, so it needs a tremendous surge. I’ve seen that happen before, but at this point I’m doubtful.
Matt Barton has even taken the opportunity to suggest that instead of supporting his page this week, viewers chip in to the Deathfire campaign. Now there’s a class act. And a guy who really, really loves his RPGs.
This makes me sad, because I really want to see Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore made. It sounds like it is custom-made for me. Hopefully Henkel & company will find some way to get it funded and produced even if this campaign doesn’t pan out. ‘Cuz hey, if you are truly an indie, that is what you’ll do. You will get your game made, one way or another.
Filed Under: Retro - Comments: Read the First Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 2, 2013
This week only -
Dan “Indie” Long has hand-picked some favorite games (including the Cognition series, which he worked on) for inclusion in a pretty fun game bundle. Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon is one of the second tier features, available for those who pay more than $5 for the bundle. A portion of the proceeds go to charity – in this case, the Southern Oregon Humane Society.
A fellow Utah Indie is also featured in the bundle – “Asteria” by Brian Livingston (and friends…). It’s a 2D platform sandbox game with tons of crafting, and a mix of hand-crafted and procedurally generated content. It’s a very cool game.
The bundle also includes the first two episodes of Cognition, 99 Levels to Hell, 99 Spirits, Sky Nations (sort of a Minecraft meets Steampunk multiplayer game), QuestRun, Pyroclysm (a bonus game now unlocked),
I believe this is about the second time I’ve purchased my own game in a bundle…
Cool games, and the bundle is well on the way to the third bonus already. Check it out! I know, bundle deals are pretty common these days, but hey – you can send the games as a gift for the season, and also support charity!
Filed Under: Deals - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 29, 2013
I changed the title from last week’s “Game Design Quote of the Week” to “Game Development Quote of the Week” Because as important as design is, it’s only part of the equation.
“It was kind of intense. We spent one or two months on each game. During my time at King.com I made around 20 to 30 games. I was the programmer and I had a games designer and an artist. That was basically it. The thing I learned there was how to actually finish projects, which was very, very valuable.”
Lots of little nuggets of wisdom can be pulled from this:
#1 -Learn to finish projects. This is probably the single most important skill you can have as an indie developer. Sadly, a lot of indies fail because they don’t know how to do this… and I fear a lot of the Kickstarter projects out there right now are run by people lacking that skill, who believe that a little bit of money is a good substitute.
#2 – Tiny games with tight turn-around can be invaluable training as a game developer.
#3 – And once again, we see how years of butt-busting usually precede becoming an “overnight success.” There are never any guarantees as an indie developer, but “You aren’t going to knock it out of the park on your first try” comes pretty close. Even with tiny little projects, an indie team should focus on the long haul.
Filed Under: Game Development - Comments: Read the First Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 28, 2013
In the U.S., it’s Thanksgiving Day.
I have a lot to be thankful for. Life is pretty good.
May you have an awesome day.
Filed Under: General - Comments: 3 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 27, 2013
Sometimes I feel like I could just spend half my blog posts simply announcing Kickstarter RPG projects. There are a lot. Long ago, after seeing the surprising failure rate for indie game projects, I made the decision not to discuss indie games in development unless they were likely to actually be released, which meant they either had to be pretty far along in development, or under development by a seasoned team with a history of completing projects.
Most Kickstarter proposals are neither.
Guido Henkel’s Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore is solidly in the latter category. With only a little more than a week to go, and not yet at the halfway mark for the campaign, I’m a little bit concerned. I want to see this game get made.
At least this means that Matt Barton has had a chance to interview Mr. Henkel in his weekly Matt Chat, so we can hear a bit more about not only this project, but his past games as well – including many classic role-playing games. Here you go!
There are several more parts of this interview planned – which I look forward to. As always, you can support Matt Chat here. And the link up in that third paragraph will take you to the Kickstarter.
Filed Under: General - Comments: Be the First to Comment
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 26, 2013
As a teenager one summer, I went whitewater rafting down the lower New River in West Virginia. Several class 4+ rapids, and tons of lower ranking rapids in about a 14 mile stretch. It remains one of the the coolest memories ever.
It was exhilarating and exhausting. There were times where the water felt like stone, and I couldn’t get my paddle to “bite” more than a couple of inches. There were times where we were we had to navigate three sets of rapids in a row – where very precise turns were absolutely necessary, yet our muscles were giving out. And there was the famous “swimmer’s hole” which I took the “hard way” – right down the middle, not realizing that the “dip” was actually a whirlpool that sucked me down several feet – life preserver and all (or “flushed” as the tour guides call it – with the obvious metaphor). There was absolutely nothing I could do to escape until it decided to let me go. It was only a few seconds – too quick for me to even get frightened – but it taught me a lesson about the power of nature.
My cousin was our tour guide. The following year, they had an accident, and one of the people on his tour died. Even with experienced guides, these rapids were not “safe.” You would do everything you could to be safe, but the danger was always there.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I highly recommend the experience. I’d just say – listen and obey the tour guide, and make sure you are in halfway decent shape, physically.
That same summer, we went to Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. It’s a big amusement park. By most measurable standards, it should have been far, far more extreme and exciting than the rafting trip. They certainly looked more exciting. But as much as I enjoyed the rides, in the back of my teenaged mind, I was comparing it to the rafting trip, and it came up wanting. I enjoyed myself, sure, but it wasn’t nearly as fun.
Why? It wasn’t just because it was “safe.” Failing to listen to the tour guide would have been like failing to obey the “do not stand up on the roller coaster” rule – stupid and possibly deadly.
Part of it came down to interactive vs. passive participation, and to unscripted vs. scripted experiences. At the amusement park, everything was designed to force me through a very safe, pre-defined, scripted experience. You are an audience, not a participant. The rafting, on the other hand… well, that river had been there for a long time before people ever thought of sticking inflatable rafts in it and going down it for a fun day-trip. The rafting was a real adventure. The rapids changed based on the water level. The tour guides did their best to keep us on a designated path, but every trip was a little different. Our success – and possibly even our survival – was dependent upon the combined effort of the few people in my raft. Sure, there were times you could sit back and just enjoy the scenery. But when you hit the class 3 or class 4 rapids, there was no such thing as “keeping your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.” There was no room for passive observers. You were fighting the water.
The amusement park was a fun little experience. But white water rafting was a legitimate adventure.
I think a lot of modern game designs look more to an amusement park (or, of course, movies) for inspiration that actual adventures like white water rafting. They are slick, polished, and graphically just ooze everything that an adventure should be. But in the end, they feel like very scripted experiences. Your path is linear. While you do need to participate to keep going, and there is often some leeway in how you do things (in what order you kill the attacking hordes, for example), things are still going to be very similar from player to player. They just need to follow along and aim correctly.
Because the player is not allowed to deviate more than a few feet from the correct path, the world is actually really small regardless of how large it may appear. This allows the artists to really pile on the lush details. Because of the limited interactivity, there isn’t a lot of room for bugs to hide. Everything can be polished to a fine sheen. It’s the ultimate amusement park.
But I find myself feeling the same way. There’s a huge difference in feeling and gameplay from something like ARMA 2 (which is still nothing like a “sandbox game”) to a Modern Warfare, even though both are dealing with… uh, modern warfare. It’s like the difference between white water rafting and an amusement park. Likewise, this is traditionally the difference between JRPGs and Western RPGs – although the lines have been blurred and crossed now on both sides to the point that I don’t see much difference anymore.
But again, that doesn’t mean a game has to go all-out “sandbox.” Just – not so linear and scripted. Not so tightly constrained. Yeah, that means that the player might be tying their shoe when the T-Rex appears in all his glory, but while that might make for a crappier “Let’s Play” video, it makes for a more involving game. Just make the player a more active participant, with real choices besides the order in which he takes out ambushers. While it’s fine to still act like a virtual tour guide giving the player assistance and direction where necessary, that’s not the same as holding the player’s hand and forcing them along a linear track.
If that’s the kind of game you want to play, then as a player or reviewer, you are going to need to be more tolerant of the compromises that must take place to make the world more open, and for the player to have more choice in his adventures. If the developers have to design an entire city block instead of the five rooms in two buildings that you are intended to go through, they are going to have to skimp on some details. It’s just how things work sometimes.
While I can play both styles of games (and the various shades in between), in general, I’d rather have the adventure.
Filed Under: Design - Comments: 6 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 25, 2013
What does it take to make an indie game? How do you begin? How do you know your idea holds water and is on schedule?
Here’s a suggestion from Cedric Guillemet:
Now, obviously, there is no “one, true way” to making a game. But this is a good “average” case and warns of most major, common pitfalls in development, and of what one can expect as an indie developer.
Even for the exceptions to the rule (I’d be one), their experiences are probably not extremely far off from this. Some folks have gotten the process down to the point that they can crank out a game in six months. Some milk clones. Some are working in complex genres (like RPGs or strategy games) where a good part of the fun comes from all the systems interacting together. But even so… this feels pretty familiar.
Filed Under: Production - Comments: 2 Comments to Read
Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 22, 2013
Wow. I’ve been doing these little Dungeon Creation notes for a long time! Now, we are finally at the end of my little list of dungeon creation rules and guidelines for Frayed Knights. These began life as part of a design document (design principles), both to keep myself oriented as I’m developing content, and for those who may be assisting me. I copy (most) of them here so that you can know more about where Frayed Knights is going, and also because these ideas might be useful to any others who are crazy enough to try and make a full-fledged RPG of their own.
And, as always, you can just read the entire category of Frayed Knights posts here.
These are my last three “rules” for making dungeons in Frayed Knights. These differ from my “principles” in that these are actually checklist items for making sure the dungeon designs are complete and offer the most enjoyable, Frayed Knights-flavored entertainment for the player. I may have more by the time we finish this sequel. By comparison to some of the others, these are pretty straightforward. You may notice that #12 is actually a direct effort to solve a problem found in the first game, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon. Part of the problem was the load times in the first game, but I also don’t want to have needless backtracking. The point is to make resource management across multiple encounters a challenge, but not a chore.
#11 Drama Stars
Flag possible drama star awards in your dungeon. Anytime something significant happens, or any time there is a random component in a result (for something non-trivial), these are good candidates for a drama star award.
The general rule-of-thumb is 1 point for a minor decision, 2 points for a major event, and 3 points for a quest reward.
#12 Sleeping Areas
A large dungeon should contain at least one area where the party can sleep for full fatigue removal. This does not need to be unlimited – it may be an area that can only be used two or three times until it is discovered or otherwise no longer safe. This saves the player a boring trip back to town just for the sake of a full recovery, but it should be out of the way enough (past patrols and random encounter areas, etc.) that getting there and back again is a non-trivial chore and not something the player can do without thinking about it.
#13 – Role-Playing Encounters
Any dungeon of medium size or larger should have at least one encounter that involves dialog and some kind of choice on the part of the player. One choice option may end in combat (actually, all choices could end in combat). The dialog may not have to be with an NPC – it could simply be the party vocalizing the decision and options. The thing here is that it should not be a right / wrong decision, or a “lawful stupid vs. chaotic psychopath” type of choice. It should be a choice between legitimate options, an approach to solve a problem that is more of a case of the player deciding on a course of action. All options should be justified (or at least amusing). Even though it is a comedy (or maybe especially because it is a comedy), moral or ethical quandaries work well here, allowing the player to decide what is the greater of two goods, or the lesser of two evils. Or it can simply be a case of letting the player decide how subtle or direct they want the Frayed Knights to be.
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Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 21, 2013
“Creating dungeons or levels is quite hard. In particular, it’s hard to know where to begin. What I do to get started is I try to hold to a certain constraint which is that map areas (including dungeons or levels) should exist geographically first. It should have an ostensible purpose outside the confines of the game.
“The design of an overworld or dungeon should tell a story about itself, indirectly, and not just be a
connected series of islands filled with challenges.
“This constraint can be at odds with building puzzles or other challenges, but I think it helps avoid areas that feel too contrived. If every room and every hallway only exists for a well-defined, game-mechanical purpose, then there is nothing there to fuel the imagination or cause a sense of mystery.”
— Calvin French (“The Real Texas“)
This one’s from Calvin French, taken from “Five Years In Happy: A Designer’s Notebook for The Real Texas.” I’m not sure where you find the design notebook other than at GOG.COM, but since it’s one of the four or so copies I own through various deals and bundles, I grabbed it and spent several minutes enjoying his recollection of his design and development of this action RPG.
I don’t know if I’ll manage to get a game design quote up every week, but I thought it would be a fun – from both a developer’s perspective, and a gamer’s perspective.
Filed Under: Design - Comments: 2 Comments to Read
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