Castle as Malcom Reynolds
This week's episode of Castle didn't just offer a nod to fans of Firefly & Serenity - it treated us to a full 35-second inside joke (and then another couple minutes of Nathon Fillion walking around in a Captain "Mal" Malcom Reynolds-esque costume).
Has it really been five years?
I'm often wary of that heavy of an inside joke placed inside a show. I can just see someone unfamiliar with either Firefly or Serenity scratching their head. But hey, I guess I'm a fanboy. I loved it.
Labels: Geek Life
Happy Birthday, Internet!
Apparently, October 29th was arguably the 40th birthday of the Internet.
Happy Birthday, Intertubes. Life would not be the same without you.
Labels: Geek Life
GarageGames Exits, Unity Enters?
Jeff Tunnell, one of the founders of GarageGames, writes a few words about the passing of the "GarageGames" name into history, and some of the magic of the company's first years.
Jeff Tunnell: GarageGames Name Joins Torque Game Engine In Retirement
"We got paid back in so many ways though. Like our first booth at GDC, a wooden concoction I had a friend make for us. Our little 10 X 10 booth was the busiest per square foot of any booth at the conference, with people lined up 10 deep just to get in to talk to us. Or like seeing employees at big companies like EA walk by and thrust their clenched fist in the air and shout, 'GarageGames!' with us knowing that they were using Torque in their off hours trying to escape the Man."
He does note that while he can't see the name of the company retired without feeling "tugs on (his) heart strings," he completely understands their move and can't disagree with the "Torque Technologies" crew in their decision to rebrand the company.
In my opinion, the company-formerly-known-as-GarageGames is now adapting to a world Jeff Tunnell and the other founders helped build. The line between "indie" and "mainstream" is becoming increasingly blurred, and the barrier to entry for game developers has been almost entirely obliterated. Now, instead of "haves" (supported by mainstream publishers) and "have nots", we have an entire spectrum of game development studios. This now includes a professional, commercial "indie" tier that was only in its infancy ten years ago.
But now that Torque is focusing on this growing niche and in some many ways leaving the "entry level" game developers behind, another company is jumping in... with a vengeance. The Unity game engine has grown in popularity among indies, particularly due to its iPhone support, browser-based-app support, low price tag, and popular titles from Flashbang Studios like Off-Road Velociraptor Safari*.
But now they've announced that the "indie" license option has a new price:
In an interview at GamaSutra, Unity CEO David Helgason explained, "The thinking was that Unity Indie isn't generating a significant portion of our revenue, and we've always had this vision of democratizing our tools. We have over 13,000 customers using our product, so we figured, let's take Indie and just give it to everyone. Whether that becomes a cash flow positive or a cash flow negative -- and some people will upgrade -- is not really important. What's important is to get this in the hands of as many people as possible."
Now, I don't know that part of the business. It seems to be the similar strategy GarageGames used to pursue with the dirt-cheap $100 Torque Game Engine (and one currently employed on a wider level with Microsoft and their "express" edition of their compilers). A strategy they have now abandoned to focus principally on the "pro-sumer" audience. Is Unity jumping into a fallow niche with a great deal of potential, or has GarageGames (soon to be Torque Technologies) learned hard lessons that the Unity team is about to discover?
From a business perspective, I don't know what to expect. They know their business way better than I do. But while there are some license restrictions that may give indies pause (and no source code), the free indie option for Unity can't be anything but good news for indie and hobbyist game developers. It may not be the be-all, end-all - and no game engine is or will be - but there's a lot that can be done with it.
So get to work... and have fun!
Unity 3D Game Engine
* If you haven't played it, DO SO! It's a blast. Their other games are pretty cool too, but that one remains my favorite.
Heh - I could see this guy as a player-character in an RPG all too easily...
Labels: Geek Life
The Story of the Millennium - Er, I Mean, Millennium's Story
A couple of days ago, I offered my first impressions of the new indie RPG, Millennium - A New Hope. I was (and still am) pretty excited about this new series from now-veteran studio Aldorlea Games. It shows a greater level of polish than previous titles, and (from what I can tell) is much more story-driven.
And that latter part is both a blessing and a curse. You won't find me criticizing the story of Depths of Peril or Knights of the Chalice much, because --- well, there isn't much there. 90% of it exists only in my mind. But in these more story-heavy games, the writing plays a much bigger role, and even small flaws are more noticeable.
As I indicated - and maintain even after playing it a bit further - the core conflict just wasn't washing with me. The story designer (I assume we're talking Indinera Falls here) seemed to be assuming some kind of intuitive step of logic that just didn't exist for me. My naive assumption was that this was simply in need of a quick fix easily applied with the next update.
Indinera and a fan of the game took up my invitation for a discussion, however, and shared some of their thoughts on the story. And while I don't feel my misgivings on the story are significantly lessened, I think the discussion did me good and demonstrated to me that it wasn't a quick-fix kind of situation. I think I held some flawed assumptions.
No, what I think may be going on here is somebody took up the call to mix things up and do something experimental with the plot. It's not just that city of Mystrock was a poorly presented foe. Indinera suggests that it's really not intended to be the "foe" at all - in spite of all the mustache-twirling on the part of Lord Dragon and his adviser.
Wow - that's kinda like finding President Shinra savagely impaled, after expecting him to be the Big Boss of the game in FF7! Okay, maybe not, but it does shine an interesting light on things. Indinera is not going for a traditional plot-line here. And that is to be applauded, even if the first few minutes of play left me with the feeling that the writing could have used an extra editor. The envelope does need to be pushed, and I'm pleased to see indie authors trying to do something different with their stories.
And so, at this point I'll defer to people who have played the game through further towards it completion to comment on plot development. And I'll direct you to the discussion taking place in the forums:
Forum Discussion on Millennium - A New Hope
And encourage you to check it out yourself and let me know if I'm on drugs:
Download Millennium: A New Hope
Labels: Roleplaying Games
You Must Use The Force...
A Capella group Moosebutter (who I have seen live performing at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival) has a medley of John Williams movie scores - sung by quotes from Star Wars.
The twist? Not a single piece of music from Star Wars...
And the best part - the "Joss Whedon is my master now" comment at the end... ;)
GarageGames, the company that in many ways pioneered the indie game movement (is it a movement?), has changed a lot since they started. Arguably, with the sunsetting of their flagship product - the original Torque Game Engine - and its immediate successor in a few days, and the departure of the founding members, and their change in focus, there's really not much of the ol' company left.
That's neither good nor bad. It's just the way of things.
But now it looks like the name, "GarageGames," is being retired. They are focusing on the Torque brand name, and the website will be "Torquepowered.com."
Feels kinda like the end of an era, doesn't it?
Still, while I miss the old GarageGames, I can't really fault the vision of the new crew. While they no longer emphasize making game development "dirt cheap" for anybody, they are shooting for the low-budget professionals' pipeline - getting games from concept to market as quickly and easily as possible. A noble goal.
But it seems GarageGames is soon to become just a historical note.
Millennium - A New Hope
I played through the first few minutes of Aldorlea Games' latest RPG offering, "Millennium: A New Hope." I am actually in the process of adding it to the Rampant Games site, but due to illness I was unable to finish this weekend (UPDATE: It's up here now). I still want to play a bit more of it and get a better feel for how it plays.
Visually, the game is beautiful. There is some very striking pixel-art at work here, and some pushing of visual effects that push it beyond the typical RPG Maker fare. The character art is an improvement over past offerings from the indie studio. Even the user interface has been customized a bit more to make it "pop" and stand out from the RPG Maker crowd.
The story and dialog - well, that's the part I'm having trouble with. While all of Aldorlea Games' titles show some artifacts of being written by a non-native English speaker, the more story-heavy nature of this title makes the weakness a bit more apparent.
And the premise of the story, so far, has fallen pretty flat for me - at least in the first twenty minutes. It's a story about Marine, a young girl from a very poor village. In theory, her village is struggling against the oppression of a rich town. Aside from some pretty despicable behavior by the town guards against her father, however, so far the only crime the town seems to be committing is the sin of ... uh, having money. And leaving their neighbors alone. But her father grudgingly begins passing the torch of revolution over to his daughter.
Of course, this could be a bit of chilling set-up for young Marine becoming sort of a cute teen-aged Maximilien Robespierre later on in the series as her little revolution goes out of control. Maybe that's the way the story is heading, which would actually be pretty edgy. I don't really see it happening, but it would be cool, wouldn't it?
The fairy encounter early in the game has also seemed pretty forced, and the dialog clumsy. It tries to hard to be cute. And granted, it is explaining a weird situation. I realize I may be throwing bricks from within my own glass house here, but it feels like the story and writing could have used a little more time and editing.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward for jRPG-style games. Like many of Aldorlea's games, skills and items are sometimes used to expand upon non-combat actions. And the boss combats against the animal kings (guardians of the existing ruling class) are reportedly quite challenging. Unlike many games of the style, Millennium: A New Hope has opted to have unintelligent monsters yield semi-realistic items or body parts when slain - which can then be sold for gold - rather than dropping gold coins when defeated. It's an extra step for players, but a nod to some level of verisimilitude. I don't find it to be an unwelcome change.
I'll probably have more to say on this one later, but as always, I invite you to check these out on your own during the free trial. It's a fairly meaty download. I'll have a page up on my site later, but for now you can grab it directly at this link:
Download Millennium - A New Hope
Let us know what you think!
Labels: Roleplaying Games
This Is Pretty Much My Eternal Backlog and Me
This too eerily reflects my own gaming habits...
One day I may actually get back to playing games on Day 1 of release. But it's iffy.
(A) The big hit games tend to come out around Christmas, and my wife has threatened to kill me if I pick up something she intended to get me for a gift. So I have to wait until December 26th to buy any games.
(B) I'm not as plugged into the mainstream hype as I used to be. That, or I'm too jaded and cynical to believe that the upcoming New Game That Will Revolutionize Gaming is going to be any more earth-shattering than the last 10,000 attempts.
(C) Back in the day - when game reviews tended to appear in magazines a month or two after release - a popular game could still be current and worthy of talking about six months or more after release. Nowadays, a game is relegated to historical insignificance in under six WEEKS. So if you don't pick up a game the week it is released, you may as well be playing a five-year-old game as far as anybody else cares.
(D) Thems that wait six months or more get to play with the worst bugs patched from the get-go.
(E) Them's that wait long enough years get the "Platinum Pack" with all the expansions fully integrated in and patched to the latest level for a big discount.
Labels: Geek Life
Frayed Knights: Why Is This Game Taking So Long?
And here are a few words of update on the making of Frayed Knights, the comedic indie RPG in development by Rampant Games.
If there's a single common thread linking several of these updates together, it is, "Things are taking longer than I expected." I've yet to hear of a game getting done significantly faster than expected. Making games is hard. You'd think that after fifteen years of doing it, I'd know this by now.
You know, when I was working on the pilot episode of Frayed Knights, I had a couple of ideas. Really silly ideas, in retrospect. I should have known better. While I've never made a full-fledged RPG before, I've made plenty of games. So I don't have an excuse. Maybe it's some kind of suppression of bad memories taking place that made me believe these things.
But here were my beliefs: That when I finished the pilot, I'd have "most" (75%+) of the code for the game finished, and that my job from there on out would just be cranking out content, which would be easier and faster than code.
Wrong on BOTH counts. But I'm just gonna talk about the code part today.
My existing code, in many cases hastily thrown together just to get the pilot out the door, was woefully inadequate for the true rigors that would be demanded of it. Or the demands of players. In some cases (like the inventory UI), I've completely replaced the earlier code. In other cases, I've had to augment the code to something like quadruple its original size.
And then all the little "bits and pieces" that were ignored / shoved under the rug? That was a lot more than 25%.
Then we have something that programmers jokingly call "bit-rot." It's how we describe our code seemingly "wearing out" and developing bugs as it gets older and remains unmaintained. Naturally, code doesn't rot or change at all with age. But it doesn't exist in a vacuum. As its environment and dependencies change, it may fail. Or we may expose bugs that were always there but never visible. Or we call functionality that was never 100% done in the first place. Or... something.
So what happens is that code that was "working perfectly" (hah!) before suddenly, inexplicably, begins failing. New bugs crop up in old code that hasn't been touched in MONTHS. In several places. And as you fix the code in one place, something else breaks elsewhere.
So I've been spending a lot of time stitching things back together again. And integrating "proof of concept" code into actual working code that functions as it should in a real game.
Of course, there are other explanations, like my playing the Three Musketeers RPG or Knights of the Chalice instead of coding. I guess that's how those guys take care of their competition.
But hey, enough grousing. Here's what's new:
I've taken the visible "wandering monster" thing and made them actually part of the game instead of a tech-demo. So now you can dodge enemy patrols that you can actually see. But their respawn rates are dependent upon how well you've cleared the local area. There are still a bunch of issues to be ironed out there, but it's functioning.
I keep enhancing my dialog scripts to provide greater functionality within conversations. Now talking with people can give you XP or drama stars, give or take away items, set or modify game flags, or call an internal game function.
The area surrounding the Caverns of Anarchy is --- well, not done, but the principle geography is laid out. With a stagnant lake and everything. It's kind of a dismal place. But then goblins and lizard-men were never known for being brilliant landscapers. We've got two of the caverns "done," but they don't look much like caverns. That's kind of an issue when using the kind of CSG geometry we're using for interiors - organic-looking spaces are VERY VERY HARD to do. It's much better at representing regular, man-made locations.
Our explanation is that these caverns began as smaller, natural locations, and were later further excavated and built upon by their residents - who ended up living there for generations.
In spite of bug-fixes, all quests involving the Tower of Almost Certain Death should be completed this weekend (they should have been completed LAST weekend, but I kept getting distracted by other tasks), and I'll be working on some of the other quests and locations in the eastern wilderness and the "follow-up" scripting back in Ardin. The party gets (temporary) access to a major artifact and clues to a major mystery in the tower, and thus sets off the main storyline (although it was hinted at in the earlier parts of the game). This opens up the Caverns of Anarchy area, and Fishy Stuff Starts Happening.
Indie RPG News Round-Up, 22 Oct 2009
Indie computer RPGs are those games created by small, independent game-studios which have not been funded by major publishers. As the holiday season draws nigh, their counterparts in the mainstream have been releasing a flood of press releases, interviews, and previews. While the indies don't typically cash in on the holiday season, there's been a lot of activity on that front as well. Here's a really quick, short run-down of things going on over the last couple of weeks:
Knights of the Chalice
Knights of the Chalice has become a recent addiction of mine. Both the demo and full game have been upgraded Version 1.21. The big addition in this version: Turn Undead. My clerics always felt a little naked without it. Also, I posted some tips to playing Knights of the Chalice earlier this week that might prove useful for new players who feel overwhelmed by the depth of the game.
Steven Peeler's taken the show on the road. We've got an interview here, another interview here, the first preview of Din's Curse here, and a blog article about cave-ins in the game.
Depths of Peril
In spite of working on Din's Curse, Mr. Peeler has also gone back and made some changes to his award-winning freshman RPG, Depths of Peril. The changes are mainly bug-fixes, though there are some improvements in adventuring with members of other covenants, and a decrease in the difficulty of kidnapping quests. You can download the patch here.
The version 1.04 Patch and new demo is now available here. This update adds new setup utilities to support wide screen resolutions, mouse speed adjustment as well as increasing the game’s stability.
The Three Musketeers: The Game
This RPG, based an the Alexandre Dumas novel, has now been released. I wrote my quick-take on The Three Musketeers yesterday. And you can snag your copy of The Three Musketeers: The Game here.
Scars of War
Gareth is posting a short story about the world entitled, "Magic's Price." Part 1 and Part 2 are already up. Part 3 is due out soon.
This is a very unique 3D Adventure / RPG Dungeon-Crawler from Czech developer Sudokop Games. I'm actually putting this one up for sale at the Rampant Games store soon (tonight?). But it's different. The demo doesn't provide any of the dungeon crawling, for which I'm not too thrilled. And the text dialog seems very - uh, translated - and strange. You are an apprentice bartender in a town that going through rough times. There is no magic, and no elves. The demo has you serving beer and cleaning up vomit with a rug which starts soaking through before you are done. It's got a weird name that still doesn't make sense to me after the playing through the demo (UPDATE: Gee, a little actual research, and I discover that Legie is Czech for LEGION. Now that makes much more sense). And the movement system is... different.
And yet, something about it is intriguing and compelling enough for me to shell out the clams for the full version to see what it offers. If you want to check it out yourself, you can check it out here: Legie, by Sudokop Games
Cyclopean is a Lovecraft-inspired horror RPG. They've posted an "annual" update here. At least now they have a game engine and honest-to-goodness programmer. And a LOT of writing.
The Broken Hourglass
They aren't dead yet! Jason Compton reported to me in an email that he's spending WAY more money than he'd like on this Baldur's Gate 2 - inspired RPG by hiring a full-time implementer (huh, harkening back to the old Infocom "imps?"), and frantically working towards making the "critical path" of the game complete and playable. Once that's done, they'll be re-evaluating what needs to be done with all the side-quests and additional content.
Doublebear's Zombie RPG
Doublebear has been posting a weekly series of Design Updates for your enjoyment and edification. The latest is on skill perks, but I'm just gonna link to the entire forum.
Aldorlea games has announced the title (and precious little else) of their next RPG, Legend. Man, Indinera Falls & cohorts sure crank 'em out, don't they? Legend will be a one-off game with futuristic elements, and not part of a series (at least, not planned at this point). And it's supposed to be funny. I think it is safe to assume it will be a jRPG-style game using the RPG Maker engine. The closest thing to be had for official information can be found here.
Eschalon: Book 2
The box art for the physical edition can be viewed at the official site. Okay, it's just freakin' box art, but MAN does it bring back the feel of late 80's / early 90's computer RPGs. Which is, of course, the whole idea.
Got more news to share? Let us know in the comments or in the forums! Or PM me in the forums. Or email me. I've got, like, contact information on the "about" page and everything. Which nobody ever visits. *Sniff*.
Hey folks! Have fun! That's what it's all about, right?
Labels: Indie RPG News
New At Rampant Games: The Three Musketeers
Hey! Look! A new indie RPG that is not in the 16-bit jRPG style! Huzzah! (And I have another one coming up in a couple of days). And - get this - it's for the Mac as well as PC! See, it does happen once in a while...
Dingo Games has released The Three Musketeers: The Game, now available in the Rampant Games Store. That's right, a game inspired by the famous candy bar! Now you too can enjoy chocolaty goodness in a role-playing game...
Er, oops. No, sorry, that's not right.
No, this is a game based on the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas, which has gone on to spawn countless movies, stage performances, TV shows, and other incarnations. It is the original master prototype of all swashbuckling tales of adventure. I'm fairly partial to buckling a few swashes myself, and became an immediate fan of the book when I read it in the sixth grade. While not the first game based on the novel, it IS the first computer RPG.
You play young d'Artagnon, off to seek his fortune and join the Musketeers. The game has you covering quite a bit of territory in 17th century France, though fortunately travel by horseback is fairly speedy. The game consists (as far as I've played) of a linear arrangement of quests. A path of yellow footprints are provided by default (I think you can turn off this option) to help you find the next quest So you won't get lost. While that feels a little like being led by the nose (and it is), the game also encourages you to go off the path and explore. By doing this, I found one subquest (which I didn't yet qualify to undertake), and I found some thieves, ruffians, and men being very impolite to women who needed to have their ways adjusted by the tip of my blade and / or a gunshot.
Man, it's like being Batman, but with a fancy plumed hat.
The game does have unavoidable "cut scenes" in the form of comic pages. One thing I liked about these scenes is that you can mouse-over the speakers to find out their names, just to make sure you keep the characters all straight. If they haven't been identified yet, they may only be referred to as the "Man from Meung" or something like that.
While I'd rather see these scenes play out in-game, there's just a lot of cases where it just isn't feasible. Especially on an indie budget. They work. That's the important part.
One of the more interesting points of the game that I want to explore more is the concept of honor. You have four major stats (besides health) - your attack skills with firearms and sword, your defense ability, and "honor." Honor comes by leveling, and also by your equipment. While a new, fancy collar might only give you a minor defensive benefit over a cheap, dirty one, it may grant you a significant bonus to your honor. I'm not sure all what honor is used for, but I do know that you need a minimum level of honor to qualify for undertaking a subquest. People in Paris do not just let ANYBODY run their fed-ex quests... no, they need someone who looks professional and has a good reputation.
And really, there is some sense to that. It's just kinda nifty to me that your clothing and gear is important beyond combat. This was also the case in Cute Knight, where I found I had to maintain two separate outfits - one for social occasions, and one for exploring the dungeons. Hey, at least this time I get to play a guy when I do that...
And when I play Tennis. Yeah, there's a tennis mini-game in this thing. The game of French nobility.
Combat is ... well, I hesitate to call it an "action RPG," because it's not the traditional click-fest. But it does happen in real-time, and you have to time your usage of healing ointments or timing a click on an opponent during the brief moments in which he is most vulnerable. But otherwise you click to start the combat and watch them go at it, trying to time other actions when necessary. It won't tax your tactical skills or anything, but it does take some active participation and skill.
Guns take time to reload, dependent upon the type of firearm you own. They reload even slower if you are busy doing something else. So normally you open a combat with a pistol or musket shot, and then go at it with swords.
I've had fun playing it so far, and I encourage you to check it out if it looks anything like your cup of tea. Actually, I encourage you to buy it from Rampant Games to help me support my indie game habit. But only if you like it.
How do you know if you'll like it? Why, by playing the free demo, of course! It gives you enough time to get into a lot of trouble, fight a bunch of duels, and become buds with Athos, Porthos, Aramis (after your duel to the death with them is so rudely interrupted by the Cardinal's guards...)
Download The Three Musketeers: The Game at Rampant Games
Available for Windows and Mac.
Have you tried it? What did you think? Did I miss anything cool or clumsy? Let me know here, or in the forums!
Labels: Game Announcements
Knights of the Chalice Tips & Strategies
Knights of the Chalice is officially responsible for about 15 hours of lost development time so far. I found a profound sense of victory upon defeating the slave lords. It is not an easy game, but I'm having a blast playing it. From what I have heard, it sounds like I am not quite halfway through the game yet.
I thought I'd share a few tips I've picked up along the way for people just starting out:
#1 - Character creation is critical. If it's your first time playing, I'd recommend not settling for an average character. Wait for a character with at least 10 in every characteristic, at least one score of at least 17, and a reasonable spread of abilities otherwise. THEN you get one re-roll and one swap. Take advantage of them. And then tweak the character further through race. Half-Elves tend to make good wizards, and a Mul (half-dwarf) is a good choice for a Knight.
#2 - Your party should consist of a Knight, a Wizard, and a Cleric. The fourth character class is up to you. I have a second cleric in the party. They can hold their own in a fight, but more importantly if one goes down, the second cleric can heal or raise them back up again.
#3 - Superior Concentration is a very valuable feat at lower levels. Also click on the option in the spell screen to always cast defensively when threatened in melee. This avoids attacks of opportunity (and the way melee characters like to swarm your wizards, this is an important thing!), and Superior Concentration reduces the chance of spell failure when doing this. Don't worry - at higher level, spell failure becomes less and less frequent when casting defensively.
#4 - The game has an option in the settings to get maximum hit points when you level. For first-time players, I recommend this setting. Otherwise there are some battles where getting surprised or losing the initiative will likely kill off half your party before you get your first turn.
#5 - Do NOT neglect item crafting feats for non-Knights (Knights don't seem to get any crafting skills, even though Forge Weapon or Armor doesn't seem to be magic-related). Particularly at lower levels, your casters will need scrolls or wands to supplement their limited spell slots, and those things are NOT available in plentiful supply via loot or merchants. Make sure that you have all of the crafting feats covered somehow between all party members by 8th level or so.
#6 - Note that there is a difference between "Forge Weapon or Armor" and "Craft Magic Weapon or Armor." The former lets you create non-magical equipment, and the latter lets you enchant said equipment with magical powers. You can instead enchant items that you loot (as long as they are of masterwork quality), but it's far easier to make exactly what you need when you need it.
#7 - The AI enemies really, really like to attack your wizard(s). Hey, when I'm fighting groups of bad guys, I go after their wizards first, too. You can either grouse about it, or take advantage of it. I try to position my wizard defensively so that enemies have to approach and go around my other characters (thus drawing attacks from readied actions and attacks of opportunity). It helps to load up the wizard with good defensive gear as early as possible. Bracers of armor, rings of protection, cloaks of blur, and rings of fire (or ice) to defend against those pesky enemy wizard spells and dragon breath weapons.
#8 - Enlarge Person is the single best arcane spell a low-level wizard can have. Forget the piddly damage a Magic Missile can do at levels 1-4. And Burning Hands will usually just hit friendlies, since you'll be hiding behind them so much. No - Enlarge Person makes your fighter bigger, stronger, more likely to hit, do more damage, harder to grapple (the enemies LOVE to grapple in this game!), and most importantly - a bigger obstacle for your low-hit-point self to hide behind!
#9 - Likewise, while spells like Fireball and Cone of Cold are really important for higher-level wizards to "clear the room," against single, powerful "boss" encounters, your wizard is best off letting the knights dish out the damage. Instead, the wizard should focus on debilitating the major foes. Ray of Enfeeblement, Ray of Exhaustion, Enervating Ray, and so forth can be FAR more powerful and battle-winning than direct-damage wizard spells. Plus, there are few things as satisfying as dropping a fearsome, mighty opponent down to only hitting half the time for 5 points of damage or less.
#10 - Silence and Insect Plague are awesome cleric spells, but require some management. They don't exactly neuter enemy spellcasters - they force them to move. Combine it with good tactical positioning to force them around corners or whatnot, and you can reduce their ability to fry you with long and medium-range area-effect spells.
#11 - Speaking of good low-level spells - the Summon Elemental spells are 1st level divine spells that scale with the caster. These have been key to winning many combats for me, and they are just as useful at first level as at 13th (and I assume at 20th and above, but I'm not there yet). I'd say Cure Light Wounds and one kind of summoning spell should be your very first spell selections. You'll eventually want at least two elementals eventually (or you'll be hating life when your fire elemental HEALS an Iron Golem).
#12 - Blind-Fighting is a lot more useful than it sounds. My knight has only occasionally been blinded (or stuck in darkness) in combat, but is frequently attacking blurred or displaced or invisible opponents, and it's nice to hit them a lot in spite of their defenses.
#13 - When in doubt, stick close to a wall. When combat starts, you'll have at least one side protected. In at least one combat, sticking close to the wall AND near obstacles changed the combat from being practically unwinnable to straightforward when battling giant intelligent spiders.
#14 - The universal advice - save often, using multiple slots.
#15 - If you find yourself needing a little extra XP or cash, simply wandering about the world map will help you pick up some a trickle of both. This is helpful if you are right on the cusp of leveling, or if you need to build a few more magic items.
#16 - Do NOT agree to go to the slaver's stockade until you have an ample supply of wands / scrolls to sustain you. I'd recommend not going until 5th level, too, as you may be stuck there for a while without access to a place to rest and heal / replenish spells. Having a wand of fireballs and a wand of cure serious wounds will really, really help see you through to a campfire.
Hopefully these words of advice will help you through the first several levels of the game. Veterans of the game, feel free to chime in with your own tips and suggestions!
Labels: Roleplaying Games
More Scary Movies For October
Long-time readers might remember that October was the reason I joined Netflix a few years ago. I like *scary* movies, but not necessarily gory movies. I like the really creepy-scary-spooky films. The ones that creep you out instead of gross you out. While I have a place in my heart for Freddy Krueger (and yes, I will probably watch the remake, but probably not until it comes out on DVD), the 80's slasher flicks don't do much for me.
I've posted my list of creepiest Halloween movies in the past. Plus scary addenda. And a few one-offs. But I've missed a few, and wanted to share some suggestions (or warnings) for this October if you are looking for something scary over the next two weeks.
This is a made-for-television remake of the original schlocky classic. The very, very end kinda sucks, but up until that point it's pretty dang good. Hmmm.... I felt the same way about The Mist, too...
In case you have never heard of the original movie or novel - it was Stephen King's first novel (well, the first published novel anyway). It's about a girl who is an absolute misfit, horribly picked on in high school, who... uh... also has powerful telekinetic powers. And then, one night, she snaps.
(Really awful trailer here)
Ju-On (The Grudge)
This is the original movie - not the American remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. We started watching it with English dubbing, but it was awful and drove us crazy three minutes in. So we switched it to Japanese with English subtitles.
This movie was awesome but a little confusing trying to track of who is who and the timeline. See, this movie is effectively a collection of short-stories. Each story is loosely connected with each other by intersecting relationships, but they all have to do with a house. A really horribly haunted house. With a curse. The curse is basically a viral infection --- it spreads. As more people die, the curse gains more power.
The only reservation I have is that the format does make it a little hard to follow. Maybe if I spoke Japanese it would have been easier. But with that (significant) caveat in place, I think this is one of my favorite scary movies of all time.
Note: My wife has seen the American remake, but I only half-watched it. She felt the original was MUCH better than the remake. Though both of us preferred the American remake of "The Ring" over the original Japanese film, "Ringu." Go figger.
Supernatural (TV Series)
My wife is obsessed with this TV series. I'm caught up to it through season 4, and I have to agree it's excellent. I'm just not as obsessed as she is. Plotwise - it's about two brothers who are "hunters" - hunting ghosts and demons - around the country. It's a road-trip show with supernatural horrors. The show has evolved with a literally apocalyptic story arc, including demons and scary Old Testament-style angels.
We actually saw this one some time ago. It was supposedly very shocking when it came out. Compared to werewolves, vampires, and especially zombies, witches don't get very many movies. But this is one of 'em. A lot of critics rate this one really highly, but I can't. But it had some pretty interesting ideas in it. (Lame 1970's trailer here)
What Lies Beneath
By comparison, this movie - featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford - got pretty weak reviews by critics, but I really enjoyed it. (Trailer here)
Omega Man / I Am Legend
The Omega Man is a 1970's movie starring Charleton Heston. I Am Legend came out just a couple years ago starring Will Smith. Both are based on the same story. I enjoyed I Am Legend more - it was definitely scarier. But if you want a movie about what happens AFTER the end of the world, both are enjoyable.
Archon Classic Preview
At the Utah Indie Game Night, I got the chance to play the upcoming title from React Games, Archon Classic. It is still unfinished, but quite playable.
I'm old enough to remember playing the original. *Sigh*. I was excited about the chance to play this new version. We ended up having a four-player team game which lasted a half-hour or so. And after having played it, I can only say that I'm even MORE excited about this game now. I had that much fun.
And it's that faithful to the original. So faithful you'll want to play this one with a gamepad. So faithfulthat you can choose to play with old-school graphics from the original 8-bit game and capture some nostalgia if you are old enough to have it about the original game.
If you do not remember the original, it was one of the original action-strategy games. The game is played on a gridded board. At first blush, it looks a little like chess. Some squares are light, some dark, some neutral, and some change color between light and dark over time. Each piece has a different range of movement and some other movement restrictions. Two of the figures on the board can cast spells to do things like reverse the color cycling of tiles, resurrect defeated pieces, and so forth.
The goal of the game is to possess all five special squares on the game board, or to be the last man standing. (As one of the developers told me, it's amazing how often it comes down to the latter in the new game)
The big difference between Archon and chess is what happens when a piece lands on an square occupied by an opponent. In Archon, it's not an automatic victory. It means a action-based battle must take place. One side may get an advantage if the square color favors their army (the dark army gets bonuses on darker squares, etc), or they have bonuses obtained from possessing goal squares.
The health lost by the piece in battle remains lost, however (except for the shapeshifter) - which means it is possible to "wear down" a tough piece with weaker pieces over the course of a couple of fights.
This old-school gameplay is faithfully re-created by the new game. It's everything the old game was, but better. These guys were clearly fans of the original, and have taken great care to keep the original game intact.
But then they've added upon it with additional options and gameplay modes. There are quite a few variations, of which I think the original designers would approve. The boards have some different layouts. You can have power-ups that appear randomly on the battlefield that may give your piece health, spread-shot fire, and so forth. Another mode allows your pieces to level-up by defeating enemies - which counters the weaker health they normally. You can choose from several different game boards.
You can have up to four players in either a team mode (each player controls half an army) or in a free-for all. In team mode, you can "double up" pieces on a square. Battles don't begin until everybody has moved for the turn, so you can end up with a 2-on-2 battle over a particular square. I did not play free-for-all, but with each player taking a "corner" and a half-sized army, it should be interesting.
I personally feel the introduction of pick-ups in the game mode we played did wonders for the action sequences, which I always felt was somewhat lacking in depth in the original game. I did not play it against the AI, so I cannot vouch for the AI's ability in either strategy or action mode.
We ran into a few little bugs, but the game is still a couple of weeks from going beta.
As it is a hybrid game, it may not appeal to action gamers who hate strategy / tactics, or strategy gamers who hate real-time action. But if you don't mind a mix of gameplay styles, it's a pretty dang fun game. A good strategy can cover for less-than-stellar gaming reflexes or vice versa. Hey, I'd pretty much lost the game last night, but still managed to take on all comers with my remaining unicorn until the final battle against the sole remaining dark piece, so I feel good about how I did!
It looks like React Games has done a very nice job with the classic license. Go indie! I really look forward to playing the final version.
Utah Indie Game Night - Fall 2009
Best indie night ever? Maybe.
If it wasn't our best-attended night, it was pretty dang close. It was a huge group, and I had an awesome time. And came home energized, feeling like being an indie game developer was quite simply the coolest gig possible. It was a night full of FUN. And that's what games are about. Oh, they can be about a lot more, but they are primarily there for fun. And it seems like the indies are getting more empowered to create fun than ever.
So it started low key. I had an impromptu before-the-indie-night meeting with the Frayed Knights team. Or the ones who were willing to come. The meeting didn't go quite as planned - we meet face-to-face so infrequently (unfortunately), so there was a lot to cover. But since some of our team had never met each other before in person, it was good. But we mostly just looked over maps. We need to do this again somehow, sooner.
Succeeding in a Game-In-A-Day Project
Then we had a presentation by Steve Taylor of Wahoo / Ninjabee on making a Game In a Day. He spoke very quickly about a lot of things. I thought it was brilliant. And not just because he referenced my Game-In-A-Week project, Hackenslash. :) Steve is a convert to the Game-In-A-Day on a level well beyond me.
How much of a convert is he? These days, he actually has the entire studio make a game in a day as an exercise. Seriously. It's a team-building exercise on business hours. They put their "real," paying projects on hold and for the entire day, the job of the studio is to make a game in a day.
Why? Steve listed a pretty long list of benefits. Among them were the chance to experiment with new technologies or new production techniques. It's a chance to test some game design ideas quickly, developing a rapid prototype. He believes it really helps the team improve their skills - programmers, artists, designers, and even the managers. They go through the entire development lifecycle of a project in nine hours instead of twelve months. While the pressure is high and the time frame is extremely limited, the exact same issues come up in a one-day project as a one-year project.
And the ultimate fringe benefit, Steve pointed out, was discovering enough of a seed of awesomeness in your game-in-a-day that you feel you can turn it into a real commercial project. This is what they did with one Game-In-A-Day project, "Rome," (get it? It was built in a day...) which became their hit XBLA game A Kingdom for Keflings.
He went over the rules variations on various Game-in-a-Day competitions (such as they are), and why they were important, especially in shaking things up and getting people outside their comfort zone. He discussed strategies for having a successful GID project, and the types of things you can learn from both success and "failure." One thing he mentioned was the importance of having milestones *AND* fallback positions. Yes, even in a one-day project (or especially in a one-day project), having a milestone schedule is critical to keep progress going.
I think more game studios would do well to follow Wahoo's example here.
The Return of Archon!
After that, we broke for GAMES! Well, games and Chinese food from Panda Express (mmm.... orange chicken!) sponsored by indie developers React Games. Who I'd like to talk about a bit. They have the license to the classic game Archon. They just released two Archon games for the iPhone - Archon and Archon Conquest - and are currently working on a PC game entitled Archon Classic.
I'm gonna have more on this game in a later post. I normally just kinda browse the games at Indie Night, but I had a chance to play this one in a bit more depth. It was definitely one of the evening's highlights. They turned it into a tournament, with prizes. Great idea, and a great game.
I also saw a bunch of cool, rapidly-developed titles from various indies (and I apologize if I'm not associating titles with names properly). Greg Squire should have more of the details at some point today, but I ended up not taking notes and promptly forgetting the names of the indie studios after being shown their game. I suck.
I played a tic-tac-toe game on the Android phone using black and white (well, dark gray and light gray) stones. I saw side-scrolling zombie game with an amusing hand-drawn style which had only been in development for about two weeks. It was showing a lot of promise, with some very cute-gross animations. There was also a tentatively untitled tower defense game in Flash that was looking very sharp, and a couple more games on display that I only barely got to glance at with everything going on.
I met with representatives from Daz 3D and Mogware who are partnered together for something special called Daz Links which looks extremely promising. When coupled with a more agreeable license from Daz 3D, Daz Links can create a very simple-to-use pipeline to create usable reduced-poly-count, reduced-bone-count, single-texture models suitable for use in real-time 3D. They demonstrated by taking a female ranger character who clocked in at something like 125,000 polygons with her clothing, and generated a 2,000 poly count version with a very simple interface. With models and clothing packs ranging from as little as $12 on their site, this could be a significant source of cheap content for indies. With multiple levels of detail! All rigged for animation.
The results were still a little rough - but the tools aren't in beta yet, and are still very much under construction. The final result was probably not QUITE ready to drop into a game and play (except as stand-in art). As a developer, I might still have to go in and tweak a few polygons. And add hair - they warned that hair can be really resistant to decimation, and it's quite plausible that half the poly count could be eaten up by the hair.
So - were I to use the system - I'd probably want to make my characters bald, make multiple LODS, export them into Collada, import them into Blender, add hair and tweak the polygons, add mount points, and then export. Oh, and pray that I could preserve the animation data working with Blender. One day I will figure that last bit out.
So no - it's not a complete be-all, end-all, no-work-required solution for indie game content. But what is? I think it holds promise.
Conversations and Rumors
As usual, for me, the highlight was talking with other indies. It's fun to hear what they are doing, what approaches they are taking, what they've been working on, and their past experiences. Some tidbits that were shared or became apparent after comparing notes:
Josh Jones is working to bring the Global Game Jam local. This could be pretty excited. He also pinned me down to committing to at least be there if possible, if not to be a fer-real participant.
The iPhone is getting less exciting as a commercial game platform by itself. However, many indie game developers continue to see it as being a solid component of a multi-platform release plan. Many are breaking their games into multiple parts, and selling each part separately (to get around the iPhone fans' apparent allergic reaction to anything being priced at over a dollar. Why they are so willing to pay top-dollar for a phone but nothing for apps is confusing to me, but I'm not an iPhone owner).
Greg Squire and I had a nice conversation about the return of the adventure game to a level of prominence. Not that it was ever dead, or that it will ever occupy the same tier of popularity it enjoyed in the 80's and early 90's. But thanks to indies like Telltale Games and Wadget Eye Games, the genre does look like it has gotten a shot in the arm.
Flash remains a popular tool for indies. For obvious reasons. A lot of game developers - especially artists with limited coding skills - can really do some amazing things with Flash very quickly. I was impressed with how many games were getting rapidly prototyped and developed in Flash.
A lot of indies these days are also former game mainstream developers (many are refugees from a former employer of mine). The recession has really taken a bite out of the games biz, and some are responding by going indie - taking their skills on the road as indies. The era of the "big studio" may never come to an end, but it seems like an increasing number of game developers are realizing that there are a lot of opportunities out there beyond the traditional big-studio model.
Overall, it was an impressive night. I left feeling energized and thrilled to be a part of this community - even more so than usual. I dunno if indies are gonna change the world or anything like that - but I think, in our own tiny ways, we're making it a more fun place to live in.
UPDATE: Greg has a write-up with a lot of details that I missed. Check it out here!
Labels: Indie Game Night
Ogre 3D Going "Even More" Open Source
Ogre 3D is a popular 3D graphics engine - and definitely the most popular Open Source 3D graphics engine. It has been used for numerous indie projects, and has started to gain traction on more "mainstream" game projects such as the upcoming RPGs Venetica and Torchlight.
It's gained popularity in part because its licensing - the "LGPL" - was a lot more friendly to commercial developers. The LGPL requires any changes or statically linked additions to be made available to the public in source code form. In practice, this has meant that so long as you dynamically linked the code to your game (for non-programmers: It was a separate file installed with the game), you only had to publish the changes / addition to the engine itself.
Ogre 3D announced a few weeks ago that it was changing the licensing on the next version (1.7) of the engine. The new licensing will be the MIT license - which lacks even the limited "viral" component of LGPL, which Ogre has used up until now. (Ogre also had a "commercial" proprietary license - the OUL - for those companies that wanted to use it without the source code commitment).
The new license does away with the requirement to release source code, and the OUL will be phased out for version 1.7 and beyond. Will this hurt Ogre 3D's growth as an open source project? The project leaders think not:
"While not requiring modified source to be released might initially seem like giving up an important motivator to contribute code back to the community, we’ve noticed something in recent years: 99% of useful code contributions come from people who are motivated to participate in the project regardless of what the license tells them they have to do. It’s our experience that a certain percentage of the user community will always participate and contribute back, and therefore encouraging adoption via simpler licensing is likely to result in more contributions overall than coersion via complex and restrictive licensing does. In addition, people who are internally motivated to participate tend to provide much higher quality and more usable contributions than those who only do it because they are forced to."An interesting observation on their part, and it makes sense. And as Ogre 3D is a fairly popular (and most technically hard-core) open source projects that has been kicking around for a while now, they'd probably know. Anybody who's had to work with code written by someone who either didn't know what they were doing, or didn't care who would have to maintain it after them, can probably understand where they are coming from. Grudgingly-provided source code is not much better than no source code at all.
So if that percentage of quality providers can remain constant, it makes sense that the best way to grow it is to increase the size of the user base. The less restrictive license may do that, especially for larger, commercial studios (who have an automatic allergic reaction to GPL and LGPL, and not entirely without reason).
The biggest concern here might be that some company might then make some minor, proprietary changes to the engine and then sell it as a competitor to Ogre 3D. But to be able to sell it, they'd need to make some pretty substantial changes to be worth the price difference, and the Ogre 3D's team hopes that this approach will make bigger advances in the quality of their own team's output.
Anyway, here's hoping this new approach will help catapult Ogre 3D to new heights as a free, fully-featured 3D engine!
Put In Other Details...
Hmmm.... my artists / modelers probably think my name is actually "Denis" from Australia, based on the quality of the specifications I give 'em....
"Put In Other Details"
Game Announcement: Dark Souls 2
The only thing that really annoys me about RPG Maker is how it makes me look bad. Folks can use this advanced system come out with a game AND its sequel while I'm still working on the same title. What's up with that?
Sigh. I think I need a Frayed Knights Development Kit. Somebody get on that, will you?
Anyway, Warfare Studios recently released Dark Souls 2. The sequel to their freshman effort, Dark Souls, which was released earlier this year.
The strength of the original game was in the characters and story, and from what I've seen so far, the sequel follows in the same tradition. Dark Souls 2 follows the story of Galahar and Kara, a couple who have been searching for their kidnapped daughter for the last ten years. They've become accomplished adventurers in that time, but the game opens on a somber note, as Galahar seems to have just about given up hope. The trails have all gone cold. He believes she is still alive, but has no idea where to search anymore.
So he and Kara return back to their home town, after ten years of fruitless searching.
And that's when things get interesting.
I understand Galahar ends up becoming a swordmaster, helping people defeat the monsters called "Anomalies" that are threatening civilization, and it all ends up tying into his search for his missing daughter. But I haven't gotten that far yet.
But I keep asking for something "different." The main character here is not an angsty teenager who is somehow the world's biggest badass or anything like that. The game doesn't begin with him getting out of bed because his mother is calling him to make preparations for the town festival. It's not Shakespeare, but it's different and interesting.
Dark Souls 2 is available for Windows systems. You can play the first hour of the game for free to decide whether or not you want to spring for the full version.
Download Dark Souls 2 here!
Labels: Game Announcements
Bank Customer Goes Superhero
Okay, this is too cool...
(Old video, now private, was here)
The sad thing is that no good deed goes unpunished in this country, so I'm afraid the guy here is likely to be sued for saving the bank and the customers from an armed robber. But that's just pessimistic speculation on my part.
But man, I especially like the part where his wife comes over and kicks the guy in the head. "STAY DOWN!"
UPDATE: More info - the hero in this video is Matt Knetzger of Wisconsin, and it's the Guardian Credit Union. Matt is 54 years old (so a little younger than he appears in the blurry video, but nowhere near as young as Senister Smith, 21, the attempted robber he takes down).
New Indie Space Combat Game: Naumachia
Three Italian indies have come up with what - at first blush - looks to be a pretty cool space combat game. With "realistic physics" even.
More Info At the Website
(Tip o' the Brain Bucket to RPS for the heads-up)
Labels: Game Announcements
Steven Peeler Interviewed at GameBoomers
GameBoomers has an interview with Steven Peeler of Soldak Entertainment (maker of Depths of Peril and Kivi's Underworld, as well as the upcoming Din's Curse).
GameBoomers Interviews Steven Peeler
An excerpt on why he left a cushy mainstream game job and went indie:
"I started Soldak for many reasons, but it really boils down to I wanted to do my own thing. For example, I really wanted to create an RPG. I was never going to be able to do that at Ritual and even if Ritual had made an RPG, I would probably not have been the lead designer. Starting Soldak allowed me to work on games I want to play. I also will no longer hear excuses like your company doesn't know how to make that type of game, there are already too many RPGs, we should make a clone of last years best seller, no one has done that before, no one likes Sci-Fi, and many other terrible reasons not to make a game."Amen and preach on, brother Peeler!
There was also the tantalizing tidbit that he hopes one day to make a turn-based game. Not that his action-RPGs have been anything but fun!
He also notes that he's shooting for a December release, though that is admittedly not the best time of year to release an indie game.
How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the jRPG
My first game console was the Sony Playstation. The first one. After I'd graduated from college.
Unless you include a Coleco Telstar that we had as kids. We got to play tennis, hockey, OR handball (all Pong variants) before the thing died about nine months later. After that, my friends had consoles. The Ataris and Intellivisions. Later, the Nintendos. Meanwhile, I had computers. From my beloved Commodore 64, to my first DOS-based PC (386sx 16 mhz with 4 meg of RAM and a 40 meg hard drive!). So most of my gaming was enjoyed on computers.
And of course, as a Dungeons & Dragons fan, I was really into computer RPGs that tried to simulate the tabletop experience.
Because my access to consoles was limited, I never played any of the console RPGs (unless you count successive generations of The Legend of Zelda games, which I always thought of as action games with some minimal RPG elements rolled in). For me, it was all about the computer RPGs - the series like Ultima, Magic Candle, Might & Magic, Wizardry, Apshai, Eye of the Beholder, Realms of Arkania, the "Gold Box" D&D series, and so forth. No, I didn't play them all, but that was my universe, and if I didn't explore them personally I enjoyed them vicariously through friends and the pages of magazines. I was distantly aware of the Sega vs. Nintendo war, but I was more concerned about seeing a port of Dungeon Master from the Amiga to DOS. Yeah, it was ported to the SNES as well, but I was oblivious of this until years later.
My first "real" job out of college was - surprise! - making console video games. Suddenly I found myself having to spend some time getting a remedial education in console games. Since we were doing action games, discovering console RPGs was not part of my mandate. But some coworkers told me how much they enjoyed several RPGs from Japan (dubbed "jRPGs") - games like Chrono Trigger, The Secret of Mana, the Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan), games, and Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI in Japan, as only half of 'em made it to our shore).
Since my games were coming out on the Playstation, we bought ours on launch day, 9-9-95. Wow, that was a long time ago... Originally, everybody thought the Playstation was going to fail against the combined might of Sega and Nintendo. Just like the 3DO. But then the buzz shook the industry that Sony scored a coupe - they got the exclusive with Squaresoft's next Final Fantasy game. The Nintendo-exclusive series was coming the the Playstation, and that was a game changer.
What's the big deal, I wondered. So I figured it was time to figure out what these console RPGs were all about. So when the first RPGs for the Playstation started to trickle in, I decided to give them a try. Of course, they wouldn't be able to stack up against my western RPG favorites...
... or could they?
On the suggestion of a friend, I borrowed Suikoden, a newly-released RPG for the Playstation. It was supposed to be "different" in that you'd build an army (and a castle) to fight in tactical battles. Ah, cool, I liked strategy games...
Well, the tactical battles were little more than scripted games of Rock, Paper, Scissors. So that wasn't all that exciting. But overall, the game was delightful. We had a great time playing. I can't really remember much of the story today, but I remember I enjoyed it. So did my wife. Suikoden became our entertainment in the evening. I think my wife cross-stitched a bit too - but she was caught up in the story.
I was right in that the console jRPGs really couldn't be compared very well to Western computer RPGs. Maybe they weren't apples and oranges, but they were maybe apples and pears. They were very different in a lot of ways. But I developed a taste for 'em. After Suikoden, it was Wild Arms, and then Final Fantasy VII. And so forth and so on...
But I discovered that I could enjoy both the Japanese-style RPGs, and the traditional western RPGs I'd grown up with. I found I had no problem talking about Final Fantasy VII on one hand, and Baldur's Gate on the other. Peaceful coexistence was not only possible, but a heck of a lot of fun.
And that's how I came to appreciate games of the so-called "jRPG" style of games.
Over the last decade, I feel the two styles of cRPGs - once so distinct - have blended together more and more, borrowing concepts from each other and losing the distinction that was once so noticeable. Eastern RPGs are once again borrowing ideas from the west (they originally borrowed heavily from the very-western early Wizardry and Ultima games). And we have western developers emulating the character-and-story-heavy styles of jRPGs. And we have indie RPGs made by North American and European developers that are deliberately similar to the classic jRPGs of the 16-bit era.
Will we get to the point where there is no real distinction between "jRPGs" and "Western RPGs?" I don't foresee it, but I do see it becoming more of a broad, densely-populated spectrum rather than two distinct categories.
And as a fan of both styles, that sits very well with me.
Post-Mortem on Persona 4
It's terse, so you'll have to read between the lines a bit:
In-Depth: Behind the Scenes of Atlus' Persona 4.
The whole thing about how the character design stuff was done before the story changes hits REALLY home to me. It's one of the toughest parts of game development (or any kind of programming) - adjusting for change when so much has to be done up-front.
Labels: Game Design
Dungeon Randomization in Din's Curse
Steven Peeler (creator Kivi's Underworld and one of my all-time favorite RPGs, Depths of Peril) has an article up about random dungeon generation for his upcoming dungeon-crawler, Din's Curse.
He references the use of "secrets" and special rooms (commonly used by roguelikes) in a more consistent and hopefully interesting way, so that the dungeons have a bit more rhyme or reason to them than your average random dungeon generator. He also discusses how the different types of dungeons are being generated.
Anyway - it's some fun insight into the nuts & bolts of this upcoming indie RPG. If you are curious, check it out!
Din's Curse Random Dungeons
Labels: Roleplaying Games
The Little Things Every RPG Should Have
An article on Destructoid about the conveniences that "every" RPG should have:
The Little Things Every RPG Should Have
I agree with some parts of the list. Visible indicators that a monster is low on health, summaries of the "story so far" (very useful when you have to take a several-day hiatus from a game and get back into it), and merchant screens that let you actually see what you are buying and fiddle with your inventory while there ... definitely good stuff.
The status effect spell thing is an especially big deal with me. I mean, they give you these awesome spells that totally kick butt in a battle.... but then they only work against foes that are so trivial you can kill them in one or two hits, anyway. And even then it only has a 1 in 3 chance of sticking. What's up with that? All that is is a waste of your mage's turn.
The in-game bestiary idea is a nice one. But that's one that requires care. Part of the thrill of RPGs is the mystery of some of the monsters. At what point do you open up the kimono and let the player see the details on what it is he is facing, and even reveal it's stats?
Some of the other suggestions are a little bit more iffy to me. It sounds like the author has been playing too many of one kind of game.
The party separating in town? Yeah - that would work great in Eschalon: Book 1. This is obviously a very traditional jRPG thing where you have a story-heavy game with specific, pre-defined characters. And yeah, it's neat. But I'd stop very, very short from including it in a list of things that "every" RPG should have.
HP & MP restoration on level-up: This is really a matter of taste. Sure, the thrill of a free, unrealistic recovery in the middle of waves of combat can give a nice gambler's rush. But I really don't see this even resembling a "must have." Conceivably, it could hurt some games, though I have a tough time making a strong case for it.
Visible weapons and armor on opponents? Ideally, sure. But as a developer, I know exactly how crazy that can get on content requirements. Nice to have, but that's a pretty tall order. What's important to me, is a player, is that you do defeat enemies with clearly cool weapons or armor that are denied to you when time comes to loot for no good reason. I remember Wizardry 7 bugged me that way, with those cool shock-rods and Umpani firearms that somehow self-destructed when you defeated their wielders.
Even if I don't agree with all of it, I do like the direction he's going with this article. I do not believe that every game in a genre should use a laundry list of best features of every other game in the genre as the core design document. But it's nice to have them.
(Thanks to RPGWatch for the link!)
Labels: Roleplaying Games
Arx Fatalis $1 off until Sunday
Most GOG.COM customers already know this, but Arx Fatalis is the "Hidden Gem of the Week," receiving a $1 discount from it's already-trivial $5.99 price tag, until Sunday the 11th at 11:59 PM eastern time.
Inspired by the legendary Ultima Underworld series, Arx Fatalis is a first-person perspective action-RPG that was lamentably overlooked in a year that saw the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. But it's got that survival-RPG, all-underground-all-the-time vibe going for it, and the spellcasting interface was novel.
The overall interface takes a bit of getting used to. And it is in no way an easy game. I'm nowhere close to completing it. But - it's pretty cool. If you have been considering it, this weekend might be a good chance to snag it.
Labels: Roleplaying Games
Game Design: Plot and Genre - Mixin' it up!
It's pretty safe to say that Lois McMaster Bujold is now my favorite science fiction writer. I read two more books in her Vorkosigan series this week. Now, I might be a little a biased as part of the reading experience was enjoyed while lying on a beach in the sun, and I'm nowhere near the best-read of my peer groups. So don't take me as an authority or anything. But the fact that she's tied for the greatest number of Hugo awards with Robert Heinlein probably says something.
I've been told that her fantasy is just as good. I'm planning on checking it out once I've finished all of the Vorkosigan books.
The Vorkosigan series take place in the same universe, featuring generally the same characters. Most involve Miles Vorkosigan, whom my wife describes as a, "hyperactive super-genius" who over-compensates for his physical deformity by constantly pushing the envelope of what any human should be able to do. In The Warrior's Apprentice, the first book chronicling his exploits (chronologically earlier novels involve his parents), he tends to solve immediate problems by escalating them into even BIGGER problems that he then has to solve later in much the same way. He starts by sticking his nose where it doesn't belong to help out a down-on-his-luck, desperate freighter pilot, and ends up turning the tide of an interstellar conflict, with a mercenary army sworn to his service. Things just keep escalating. As his handler / bodyguard Sergeant Bothari complains as things spiral out of control so very quickly, "Two hours! We've only been in this bloody place two bloody hours!"
The neat thing about the series is that in spite of consistent quality, setting, and characters, they are extremely varied in style and plot. Some read more like a murder mystery. Others like a rollicking adventure / space opera. Others are twisted tales of political intrigue. Some are hilarious, and others are heart-rending. In one short story Miles must battle generations-old social injustice in the backwoods of his father's lands. In another, he starts a revolution in a POW camp while stark naked.
As much as I love the high melodrama and hysterical antics of The Warrior's Apprentice, I'm pleased that this formula didn't dictate the form of the rest of the series. Many of the plots and characters would be at home in a modern-era detective yarn or set in Tzarist Russia. Sure, plotlines involving clones would have to be modified to be lost siblings (maybe a twin), but it would be possible. But the point is that the setting - the genre - doesn't force the plot. Romantic comedy among the stars? Sure, why not?
So... let's talk video games. Specifically, RPGs. Even more specifically, indie RPGs.
Let me preface my comments by saying that I love 'em. Yeah, anybody who's been reading this blog for more than a couple of weeks knows that I wax evangelical about indie RPGs. Once upon a time, they were scarce (and most were made by Spiderweb Software). Nowadays - they are almost too plentiful. I'm playing several as I can find the time, but I can't keep up. Here are a slew of indie RPGs that may be worth your time. Check 'em out as you can.
While I like 'em as much as I like a good ol' space opera, most suffer from having too-similar plots. Those styled after the 16-bit console jRPGs seem to be the worst (most created with RPG Maker). It's like the creators got so excited about making a game in the style of the SNES-era Final Fantasy games that they borrowed the plot as well. Oh, the details are where things get cool and interesting (I still enjoy a well-written Lord of the Rings clone, too). But you can only go so far before a trope becomes trite and trite becomes a joke.
Genre doesn't have to dictate plot. You can have a world of dark prophecies, dragons, wizards, demons, mighty-thewed barbarians, and all that without the the big save-the-world plot with the prophecied hero and evil lord Foozle.
Borrowing a page from Ms. Bujold, how about transposing a non-fantasy plot into a fantasy RPG? If it's not enough to build an entire RPG around, it can be combined with some other plots and unified into an overall arc. I recently watched the classic Hitchcock movie Vertigo, and thought to myself, "Wow - in a fantasy setting where things like demonic or ghostly possession is easily accepted as an explanation, and where wizards can cast illusions to make even more powerful disguises, this plotline would totally still work."
It could also be a real puzzler for players, too, unless they've read this blog. Nine out of ten players would never figure out why their quest failed. So there'd have to be a lot more clues and hints thrown their way. And the whole thing could be expanded upon from there. But a fantasy game where the real plot is far more mundane than the overt quest? And a simple murder mystery instead of an Ancient Evil coming to Take Over The World?
I guarantee you it could be every bit as compelling and fun.
Labels: Game Design
Guest Post: RPG Character Creation - What's Your Pleasure?
Over 2 hours just to create a character? You call that fun?
Greg Tedder does. He's gone above and beyond the call of --- well, something --- and provided me with not just one but two guest posts for this week. So here is his second, for your reading and arguing pleasure. This one is about creating and developing your characters in CRPGs. Enjoy:
This post may read a bit like a review, but the games here are not in review, their rules engines are. I have trouble playing an RPG and not wondering how exactly each stat effects each one of my actions. It adds an intriguing element, makes me want to try things, tweak, and try again. I have been playing Realms of Arcania lately and loving it again. I spent around 2 to 2 1/2 hours just creating my party. Just to further put myself in perspective, I very rarely get an opportunity to play PnP but when I am waiting on my wife at the book store I enjoy thumbing through the rule books to see how each one works. Interesting stuff. So I want to go through several RPG’s and point out the points that made the rule system fun for me.
jRPG’s use an otherworldly system that is usually based on a wide variety of high and low numbers. Very few of these systems did I ever get into the details because the stats were mostly uninteresting to me. The interest usually lied in cool weapons and interesting ways to add skills and abilities to the characters. Weapons are a big part of this, scattered throughout the world you incrementally find more powerful weapons and items to equip. That next sword of detrimental damage is what fuels your dungeon crawl.
Wizardry and the Realms of Arcania series style games can be very intimidating at first. You get two games in one, first the party creation game, then the adventuring game. The stats are detailed, daunting, and crucial. A whimsically created party is going to meet the "quit-n-load" beast early on and often. These games have sent many gamers running back to Doom for years, even giving RPG’s a black eye. But those who dug into the manual and tinkered with the numbers found that stats were the strategy that would reward them. I wouldn’t want every RPG like these, but these are the games I feel most rewarded when I am successful.
CRPG’s based on the AD&D rules have their own characteristics. When you see AD&D on the box you know a challenge awaits. It took me a while to get used to the fact that the stats were almost set in stone after creation with a few exceptions at certain levels. I had gotten used to Wizardry 7 giving me some options at each level, and Realms of Arcania giving me a pile of paperwork to fill out at each level. But there is a certain amount o allure to these games. On the surface the stats are simple to roll and edit, but the consequences of your choices are very advanced when weighed against the other choices made concerning the character. For this system I would have to say that the character classes are my favorite part. Each one is so detailed and interesting, and while some are disappointing when battle tested, their presence and lore is still very inviting.
Fallout shares some characteristics of AD&D, but feels very different. The skills were fun, and the set in stone stats were a challenge to tweak out right. The stats were made even more enjoyable because they were so directly tied in with the strategy combat present in the game. It didn’t take much adventuring to realize your character can’t keep up with your game play style. In fact, it probably took many of use a few characters before we really had a “good” character to play. To top it all off, the perks were just cool from the name to the effect. For instance, “Bloody Mess” sounds pretty cool, and quite honestly it was. :)
To end with we may as well hit on the action RPGs a bit. These games usually come with a simplified rule system that allow for high levels and big numbers. For the most part, stats at level up in these games are simply for survival purposes. It is usually in the armaments and skills section that these games offer some fun element. In Diablo 2 I am a gambling addict I want a better weapon, no weapon is good enough, as soon as I get a better weapon I want a better weapon. What drug did Blizzard put in this game?
There is no "perfect" or "evolved" approach to character creation or development. There are a lot of games that "did it right," and "right" may be more subjective than you might think.
Labels: Roleplaying Games
The word "aloha" is used in Hawaii to mean both hello and goodbye. I'm typing this on the morning of our last day of vacation in Hawaii, though it's scheduled to publish at some point while we're in the air on our way home.
It's been fun. Besides the aforementioned Ghost Tour, we spent some time on Waikiki beach, went snorkling at Hanauma Bay, and spent a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Great place if you like to see a lot of dancing:
This is also where you can watch men put out fires with their nether regions. Or more exactly, the leaves around their nether regions:
Nope. I ain't man enough to try.
This is also a great place to see rampant capitalism in action. As a rampant capitalist myself, I didn't mind seeing folks hustling to make a living. But I can also see it being an Ayn Randian nightmare after too long. Sorta reminiscent of the scene in Minority Report where John Anderton first uses his purchased eyes. But we've been saving up for years for this trip, so it was kinda nice to pretend to be rich for a week and not worry about money. After today, we got to go back to being all tight-fisted and budgeted again.
My laptop saw very little use this week, which I'm gonna count as a good thing. While I haven't been completely unplugged, my time has been occupied by A Lot of Fun this week. I harbored some illusions of playing some classic RPGs, but I've instead gotten some reading done (often on the beach... yum!)
I've got one more guest post set up for tomorrow - also by Greg Tedder. His previous article was on alternative save-game systems, which definitely generated some discussion. :) I'm gonna be back from vacation now, but if you feel a desire to do a guest post, the door's still open (and will be in perpetuity, as far as I can plan ahead). Hopefully you've enjoyed hearing a few other voices in this spot over the last week!
Guest Post: Simple Multiplayer in RPGs
While I'm out (hopefully) enjoying the sun in Hawaii on vacation, I have some other people filling in on the blog front. Today's post comes from Curtis Mirci of Califer Games, currently developing the indie RPG Darkened Dreams 2. Be sure and visit the Darkened Dreams blog for more info.
And so, here's Curtis:
RPGs are my favorite genre of games, and I'm the kind of player that loves acquiring everything. Getting all the characters to the highest level, obtaining all the items, maxing out all the skills, and finishing all the side-quests. When I finish getting all of it done (hooray for reading books while I mindlessly grind!) I find that I'm more than a little disappointed. There's nothing left to do, I've hit a dead end! I could just play the game all over again, but by that time I've lost interest.
One thing that could extend the fun past the “dead end” is to add multiplayer gameplay to the RPG. Not multiplayer like Secret of Mana (although if you made a game like that you'd probably do well), nor like World of Warcraft (too much effort!), but on a simpler scale. Letting players pit their team against their friend's team can help keep them interested in the game as well as make them want their friend to get the game as well. Making the characters customizable is important: having two groups of the exact same characters fighting each other would get boring quickly, but if their move sets are limited or their stats are changed by equipment or special training then it takes a lot more strategy and can be more fun.
Another thing to fix the problem of dead-end gameplay is to allow transferring of items or even characters to another save file. This can make it more interesting to get that hard to get, super rare item. This could lead to problems if not well thought out. For example, suppose a player traded in their best team to a new game to just rush through it and get all the items? Would that even a problem? If they beat the game once, who really cares? But then again, what if they are playing it for the first time? You could limit trading until the player hits a certain part of the story line, or you could just have the higher level characters refuse to battle if they're from a different save file. "I don't work with noobs like you".
The thing is, there is already a series of games like this. It's called Pokémon. Some of you may have heard of it. The problem is that it IS Pokémon and thus older gamers are wary of playing a game that on the surface looks like a kids game. Final Fantasy IV for the DS took a step in that direction, allowing you to train a summon creature and letting it fight against a friend's summon creature. It seems pretty basic, and I never tested it out so I can't say if it was good or not.
The point that I'm trying to make here is that RPGs can be expanded to be more fun in many ways, not just trying to make everything an Action RPG. Borrowing ideas from games like Pokémon can help keep things fresh and fun.
Spookiness in Hawaii
Besides some of the more traditional things we've been doing on our vacation in Hawaii, we've gone on a local Ghost Tour.
We've been on a similar tour in Salt Lake City. My wife is a professional storyteller, and her specialization is on ghost stories / scary stories. She has a whole selection from silly or cute "jump stories" for younger kids to stories designed to creep out adult / teen audiences only. So this tour was a bit of "professional development" for her, as she's started collecting stories from other cultures.
The stories were fun, and got a little on the creepy side. Stories of faceless women and goddesses hitchiking --- stuff like that. Fun. Actually they had two variants on the story. It's very tricky picking up a supernatural hitchhiker in Hawaii, because some kinds are very bad and dangerous to pick up, and others are dangerous or bad luck not to pick up. And they had their own variation on the "toenails" urban legend, and some pretty horrific stories from Oahu's past.
There were a couple of big differences between the "ghost tour" we've taken in Utah and this one. The one in Utah focused more exclusively on spirits of the departed, and what history they could come up with on who the suspected haunt might have been. The Oahu tour freely spoke of fireballs, and entities that could only be described as "monsters" (or gods) in addition to traditional ghosts.
Also, the Oahu tour focused on trying to freak the tour groups out. They used little psychological tricks to suggest to the audience that there might be something going on and that they might be perceiving something emotionally that was supernaturally charged. They invited those who felt they were psychically sensitive to express what they might be sensing.
While I enjoyed both kinds of tours, I think I prefer the Utah ghost tours approach better.
But I sure enjoyed the spooky. I snapped this shot at the Pali Lookout at night - the place where King Kamehameha drove his enemies to their deaths over the cliffs. The moon was full and the wind was blowing the clouds swiftly. At one point on this lookout, there's a vortex of wind caused by the cliffs which becomes a stiff, powerful gale that threatened to rip cell phones and cameras out of people's hands, and we had to raise our voices to talk to people right next to us. A few yards along the path or back past the lookout, and the wind was still. It was pretty neat.
But hey - in the interest of adding my own spooky - I don't know what that second light was below the moon. I was pointing my camera up, and there wasn't anybody in front of me with a camera or light that I can recall (they'd also have had to be about fifteen feet tall to appear in this shot, as I was holding it above my head and angling it up by about sixty degrees - it is a tall cliff). Still, it's likely to have simply been some kind of lens flare artifact on a crappy cell-phone camera. But hey - jussincase.
Unfortunately, our better camera lost power on this trip. Nothing supernatural there - the batteries were already running low and we forgot to replace them before we left. Our bad.
Fun stuff! I definitely enjoy the creepy.
Guest Post: Facebook Game Addiction
This is a guest post from Jena, who has contributed to Tales of the Rampant Coyote before. She's been a professional game reviewer (hey, she was young and needed the money!), but lately her gaming tastes have taken her in a different - but hardly unusual - direction:
My name is Jena, among others, and I’m a Facebook Game Addict.
The whole thing started so innocently. I never imagined what it could grow into. I guess you never do when you start. I had a rational reason for joining Facebook. It seemed like an easy way to keep track of friends and family. Not to mention I had to do some job stuff out there. Besides, I claim to be an internet savvy kind of gal and there’s a lot of opportunity for promotion and blog links and all kinds of things. Reach that casual reader, casual gamer…and tell Grandma about your successes all at once. Yeah, it means you have to post Grandma friendly content, but I felt safe.
Thinking on it now it may have been that very safety which lead to my downfall. The first one was simple, the way all these things are. I had an invitation from a friend. This was someone I knew. Someone who I thought loved me. “Click here to join my Mafia Family”. It was so innocent sitting there next to their smiling picture. What could it hurt? Just one little click.
The first one is the easiest.
The first one is always free.
Okay, it’s Facebook, they’re all free…ish…
Quickly it becomes an obsession. Use up all your energy. Complete jobs. Whack the mobster who is after you. Wait impatiently for your stats to refill. Cuss the @(*#&$ who robbed all your casinos and put you on the hitlist! Grow your mafia…spread the disease.
But it doesn’t stay contained once the obsession starts. There’s another message from another smiling face. “Here’s a tree for your Farm.” I don’t have a farm…
Oh yes you will…
A farm, a mob, a vampire, a dragon, a castle, a restaurant, a fish aquarium…
The hours flutter away.
The pretty graphics.
The big numbers
Some quit it cold turkey…some get sucked in even further and start exchanging credit card numbers for just one more favor point, a little more farm cash.
Me…I’m stuck in the middle. I’ve walked away from some of the games, but others hold me in their iron grip. If only you could bottle this stuff.
Then again Facebook is making money they say. Big profits on little games.
Something to be learned here?
First I have to feed my virtual fish.
Labels: casual games
Guest Post: To Save I Quit
Note: The following guest post comes from the mind of indie gamer AND game developer Greg Tedder, who volunteered to help fill in while I'm off on vacation. Enjoy!
I neither claim to be perfect, nor deny my strongly worded views against this subject, but as I have posted before, I think I have seen some light. But before I begin: don’t misjudge the Coyote by this article. This is not he - he will be back, and the quality will go back up. And to delay further, may I introduce myself in a typical AA fashion? My name is Greg Tedder, I am 30 years old, and I read this blog. Now on to the subject matter!
Diablo 2 was no doubt a hit, arguably better than its hit predecessor, and every turn-based RPG player watched in disgust as this “Action RPG” series ripped their world apart. It cemented the basic needs to make real time RPGs fun and simple enough for anyone to get started playing. It also brought a few new concepts to the board, one of which became infamous in debates, "save and quit."
(Meaning: You can only save the game by quitting --- Rampant Coyote)
Looking at the why: save-and-quit tore at some lingering habits and deep wounds in old school cRPG play. CRPG’s had a nasty habit of simply killing the player party at its leisure. The gamer expected to die at any moment and probably saved the game on average of every 1 to 3 minutes and spent untold hours using the tried and true technique of "quit-'n-load."
(Or rather, "quit-n-reload." You quit the game, and reload the most recent saved game file. --- Rampant Coyote)
There were issuess of weight restrictions, long journeys, lack of provisions, and insanely low survival rates. These issues added quit-n-load frustration in many ways. If the party was too wounded after a fight, quit-n-load. If the clumsy thief broke one of this two lock picks that weight a pound each, quit-n-load. If your dwarf couldn’t handle the cheese at the inn and is suffering from constipation+2 and your priest doesn’t have enough spell points to cast Hung Chows magic enema and then cast dispel undead in the anticipated fight, quit-n-load.
Quit-n-load is okay sometimes, and necessary for a brutal game, but for many gamers they would rather play the game than spend their short gaming hours doing file management and getting killed for some random reason.
Quit-n-load also detracts from certain aspects of a good RPG experience. When you come up to that treasure chest, but your rogue is dead - and you have no idea what will happen if you sling the lid off you should be facing a hard choice. With the quit-n-load technique you simply save and start experimenting with no worries - and this often leads to a few good laughs.
With the save-and-quit technique you really have a decision to make, and walking away from that chest is a real option and often a wise decision. And to me, having to make decisions that there is no going back on is role playing.
A well-balanced game should be able to offer players a fair shot with save-and-quit. There are some dos and don’ts attached with it that I might add have been very well addressed by Depths of Peril. For one, the gamer shouldn’t have to buy a UPC to ensure his 4 hours of fun doesn’t end in a merciless loss of electricity on a Saturday afternoon in 2003 while procrastinating mowing the lawn (but I’m not bitter).
These games should be held to a higher standard of balance, and offer plenty of warning should the player decide to venture out their league. It should be very careful what it takes from the player on death, a small amount of currency should suffice as a death tax. All experience, item gains, and other player progress should be saved for the sake of the gamer's sanity.
Seriously, grinding is bad enough for some. Why do it twice for the same increase?
Labels: Game Design
What Is a Roguelike?
Inspired by this thread in the Rampant Games forums, I thought I'd ask a question, give it a lame answer of my own, and let the discussion begin.
What is a "roguelike?" And where can the roguelike genre be taken from here?
I'm not talking about the Wikipedia definition, though it's a good start. I've got a fairly broad definition, myself - a roguelike is an RPG (see my scientifically and syntactically and legally robust definition of an RPG here) with randomly generated geography and other content. But even that definition is awfully squishy.
One of the reasons for the continued popularity of roguelikes is that - escaping from the needs of an appealing GUI and sophisticated graphics, a lot of complexity can be added to the abstract world representation. Adding a new feature does not require the revision of 90 characters' animations. So roguelikes can go after a breadth of gameplay actions not seen in most other genres.
For some people, suggesting that a real-time game like Diablo (or the earlier Dungeon Hack, named after the roguelike Hack from which Nethack was derived and built with the real-time Eye of the Beholder engine) is a stoning offense. But if the shoe fits (or the foo ... does something)....
Some folks demand the ascii.
And some folks will deny that a roguelike is actually an RPG. This strikes me as a little silly, as Rogue was exactly an effort to emulate the pen-and-paper RPG experience on computer. But that's another story. But hey, that's why we're opening up the discussion here.
Ultimately, we're talking games inspired / derived from the original Rogue. There should be some kind of family resemblance in there somewhere. What does that mean to you?
There's the obvious children of Rogue - Nethack being the crown prince of the lot, with siblings Angbad and Adom also mining the same vein.
But then you have the incredibly complex monstrosity (and I mean that in a good way) that is Dwarf Fortress. It's about as roguelike in its presentation as one could ask... yet it shares little in common with the dungeon-delving RPG gameplay of its predecessors. That would kinda violate my loose definition of a roguelike above, yet I don't have the guts to call it out and declare it as not being a roguelike. I'd feel silly, and we can't have that.
And then you have something like Persona 3 - with a ginormous towering (literally) dungeon of randomly generated content. It's an RPG, certainly. It's got a mighty mega random-dungeon going on. Is it a roguelike?
Uh... there I go, feeling silly again. I don't wanna go there.
Rogue and its immediate descendants had you controlling only one adventurer (plus, sometimes, a pet). Does a game lose its roguishness if you instead control a party? What about a tribe of dwarves?
Must a game be turn-based to be a roguelike? (Oh, hey, the Persona games were turn-based...)
Must a game be single-player to be a roguelike?
Can we have 3D roguelikes? Or a non-tiled world?
We already have some non-fantasy based roguelikes. What other genres are ripe for roguelike exploration?
Is permadeath a necessary aspect of roguelikes?
Where are some other areas you could see the roguelikes pushing into? More strategy games? Sims? Sports games?
Labels: Game Design