Tales of the Rampant Coyote
Ye Olde Archives. Visit the new blog at http://www.rampantgames.com/blog/ - and use the following feed: http://rampantgames.com/blog/wp-rss2.php
Ye Olde Archives. Visit the new blog at http://www.rampantgames.com/blog/ - and use the following feed: http://rampantgames.com/blog/wp-rss2.php
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Update Your RSS Feeds!
We've now successfully transitioned over to the new blogging software. Please update your RSS Feeds!
Update: The feedburner feed seems to be working better than the previous link, so use this one:
If you are seeing this message, it means you are still on the old feed. That's old & busted. Use the new hotness one!
I hope you like the new digs!
Friday, March 05, 2010
We're about to transition to the new blog. Like, this weekend. If nothing explodifies.
The existing archives will remain - they aren't going anywhere. So all the old links and so forth should work. And we'll have a nice link back to all this (six-freakin'-years-worth of) bloggy goodness.
As for everything else... well, hang on to your butts! It's gonna be a wild ride!
PLEASE UPDATE YOUR RSS FEEDS!
Here's the new RSS Feed LINK!
Thanks - and I hope you like the new look!
Curing the Plague - One NPC at a time.
Wow. I'm not sure what's worse, the cold or the medication.
Inflicted with such disease as I am, I am reminded of an old RPG that I doubt very many people remember... Twilight: 2000. I played both the pen & paper version and the CRPG (by Paragon Software, later assimilated into Microprose, which was later assimilated into... yeah, you get the idea)
One of the randomly-generated missions you could encounter in Twilight: 2000 (the cRPG) was one where you had to heal everybody in the town who had contracted some kind of disease. It meant using up some of your supply of antibiotics. You had to hunt down everyone still infected with the disease, and use the medication on them (I can't remember if there was some kind of skill check against your medical skill or not).
Finding the last couple of diseased villagers was always a chore. They would appear as a different colored dot on your mini-map, but it was still hard to locate that last randomly-wandering-around NPC who was preventing mission completion.
There was a similar mission (or "quest," if you prefer) where you had to interrogate everyone in town to find a spy. Similar gameplay, but the interrogation skill was used.
At the time, I thought those were the most boring, lame quests ever in an RPG.
Then I came across the "Kill the giant rats and bring me ten giant rat-tails" type quests in MMOs. And sadly, in some single-player RPGs. And then I realized, to my dismay, the Twilight: 2000 quests were brilliant in comparison. After all, in those quests, you could at least locate the one or two targets you needed to tackle to guarantee success.
Okay, time for me to lie down again.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Robot Unicorn Attack
Just... play it. If you haven't already.
Persistence is futile!
Labels: Free Games
Frayed Knights: Resting, Sleeping, Fatigue, and Exhaustion
It's time for another of those updates on Frayed Knights, the upcoming indie role-playing game that refuses to take itself too seriously. This week we're gonna talk nuts & bolts of the game some more. If the topic sounds tiring, it's because that's what it's about --- getting tired.
Adventurers lead strenuous lives. When they are slinging spells and swinging swords in life-or-death conflicts, or traversing treacherous trap-filled, uh, territories.... they are traveling great distances, hunting quest threads, and performing conversational acrobatics. All while lugging around more equipment and loot than any human could really be expected to carry. It's an exhausting career choice!
So unlike certain other, newer RPGs, the heroes of Frayed Knights are not going to be able to go all day without taking a breather or getting some well-deserved shut-eye. Well, probably not. Unless you blow all your silver on Liquid Nap potions. But that's another story.
So here we have a screenshot of a situation you'll find yourself in frequently in Frayed Knights - turning in for the evening. In this instance, it's at an inn, and you'll have to pay to rent the bed for the night. Or day. Or ... well, generic sleep-period. Whatever.
Those who have played the pilot episode (man, is that thing still around?) will note that there's a little campfire icon in both the standard and combat control amulet in the lower right. That's to "Rest" ("R") - which is something pretty different. Ah, now I should probably explain the difference. I'll have Chloe demonstrate.
Here's Chloe. Above her icon, she's got two colored bars. The top, red bar is her health. Running out of health is bad. It doesn't kill the character in Frayed Knights (or we'd run into all kinds of problems with characters having conversations with dead people). But it does incapacitate them. Which means they can still talk, but are not really good for anything else until they are restored. That takes a good night's sleep. So there's one reason for spending your hard-earned silver in the local inn.
But wait, that's not all!
The blue bar below that is the character's endurance bar. Endurance is what allows the character to act. There's no "mana" or other spell-casting limits in Frayed Knights... it's all endurance. It's used to swing swords, cast spells, whatever. When the endurance drops to zero, a lot of things happen, depending upon whether or not the party is in combat. But the basic problem is that the character immediately gets a penalty to pretty much anything he is doing that caused endurance to drop to nothing. On top of that, any roll the character is forced to make - like defending against an attack - is going to be made at a fairly steep penalty. While not exactly a sitting duck, a fatigued character just lacks the energy to dodge well. Finally, if the party is in combat, the fatigued character automatically takes a "rest" action as their next move, to get the endurance bar back into positive territory. This means a character running on low endurance is going to be a lot slower on all of their actions - because they will have to waste precious combat cycles resting.
What exactly does resting do? In combat, rest restores a certain number of points of endurance - reducing temporary fatigue. And it takes up time - time where the monsters may use to do horrible things to your health bar. But it should really be thought of as "taking a breather" or pausing to catch one's breath. The player may voluntarily choose to have the character rest at any time as the character's action - mainly to avoid having endurance drop to zero and taking those penalties.
Outside of combat, resting is always voluntary and effects the entire party at once. The entire party rests however long it takes for everyone's temporary fatigue to be eliminated. Probably. It's almost instantaneous for the player, but time passes in the game exactly as if it were combat - a number of turns pass for everyone to rest up to maximum endurance. This means spell effects can expire, and there are multiple chances for monsters to show up and ruin everyone's break-time.
So that's how resting works.
While catching quick breathers and short rests may be enough to take you over the next hump, there's only so far it can sustain you. A marathon runner is going to need more than a five minute break after one race to be ready to run competitively in another. Sooner or later, characters will become exhausted and a quick breather won't carry them very far anymore.
You'll note that Chloe has a little gold marker - a ring - around her endurance bar. This represents long-term exhaustion. As the character builds up temporary fatigue, they also build up long-term exhaustion (at a much slower rate). Exhaustion acts to limit the character's maximum stamina. The little gold ring starts all the way to the right - the character can tap their entire reservoir of endurance - and then very slowly slides over to the left.
It eventually stops, so the maximum endurance will never be completely reduced to nothing. But at max exhaustion, characters only have about a third of their maximum stamina to work with. That means that "zero stamina" danger level comes much, much faster.
Exhaustion can only be cured by sleeping. That means finding a place to sleep. Or, alternately, pumping down a potion of Liquid Nap, which isn't quite as good (and won't restore an incapacitated character), but works better than Red Bull.
So the overall gameplay effect is that there is some level of long-term resource management that you will need to pay attention to in Frayed Knights, but you never have to worry about completely "running out" of spells or whatnot.
A side-effect of the way I did this - with endurance being the limiting factor to spell-casting - is that I must be very careful about providing any spells that restore endurance. If that's even possible (and I'm still uncommitted either way), I have to make certain that the laws of thermodynamics apply to magic. Specifically, entropy must rule - casting a spell to restore endurance must always cost more than restores.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
This might make a killer RPG, too....
Labels: Geek Life
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Game Design: Emulating the Table?
The appearance of Dungeons & Dragons coincided with the appearance of commercial videogames. And no, I don't remember the actual appearance of either. I wasn't even in school yet! I was apparently playing cowboys and indians or something at the time, tying up my cousin to a tree (true story, according to her mother, though neither of us remember it!).
Since the early videogames of that era were not exactly stellar fantasy simulations, D&D was really where it was at for us geeky young fantasy & SF fans. Except for joining the SCA or something, D&D was as close as one could get to being able to participate in a medieval fantasy like Tolkien's books. That was still the case when I started playing, in 1981. A friend of mine, Boris, once exclaimed his professions of faith prior to a session, "It's the best game there is, and the best game that ever was!"
Arguable, definitely. But I wasn't about to.
And our games were filled with arguments over the rules, silly behavior, party infighting, out-of-character tangents, downright asinine antics, and probably some revelations about the darker side of our souls and fantasies than we'd ever want anybody to analyze. But we kept coming back, because we were having a blast. I'm still playing (albeit with a different rule system) every weekends, nearly thirty years later. That says something. I'm not sure I want anybody to analyze what that it actually says, but hey... there ya go.
So it's no surprise that the early computer RPGs (back then neither D&D or the games referred to themselves as "role-playing games" - the games came first, the inadequate name came a couple of years later) sought to emulate the tabletop experience. Minus the rules arguments, I guess, though often keeping some of the other elements. Even the party infighting, in some games. The rules were remarkably similar. A player familiar with D&D would have no problem "rolling up a character" and playing the computer games without looking at the manual. Maybe "Constitution" was renamed "Health" and "Wisdom" was renamed "Willpower," but the players already knew the basics of games before they opened the box. All they needed to know was the keyboard commands.
So here we are, thirty-ish years later. The tabletop experience has changed a bit - we're on a 4th major revision of the D&D rules (well, 5th to 7th if you include the ol' "Basic D&D" editions 'n stuff), and there is a plethora of games that explore different aspects of the social RPG experience. I played one indie dice-and-paper game called "Inspectres" a couple of years ago that used a reality TV-style "confessional" to influence the direction of the storytelling. Weird, but cool. On the flip side, you have D&D 4th edition, which more closely resembles a board-game or MMO than it's immediate predecessor (though in some ways it's probably moved a little closer to its original incarnation in function, if not form). Some other games, even back in the day, embraced a deeper simulationist approach, with detailed charts and dense rules for everything. For some folks, that was the improvement. For others, it was exactly that kind of thing their games "evolved" away from.
And the computer games! Computer games have leapfrogged their tabletop cousins in potential for living out fantasy. I mean, with a Wii controller you can literally swing an air-sword in the air to slay stunningly rendered 3D monsters now... who needs to be rolling dice? There's no need to call out, "I waste him with my crossbow!" and then determine what happened - you just aim and pull the trigger - or press the button. And your average gamer has quite possibly never rolled a twenty-sided die in an honest-to-goodness table-top game of D&D in their life.
So is it finally time for computer RPGs to bid their ancestral home goodbye, to quit trying to be a copy-of-a-poor-copy, let the niche hobby tabletop RPGs do what they do best, and evolve into something greater and different and more *cough*mainstream*cough*? A lot of noted game designers believe so. I probably shouldn't blame them if they do.
Clark Peterson, co-founder of Necromancer Games, once shared a story from GenCon when he and a bunch of friends from the industry were playing D&D. Some obvious fans of the World of Darkness series (by White Wolf) walked by his table, and began making loud, disparaging comments about the kinds of unenlightened, unsophisticated gamers would actually derive entertainment from such a poor, hack-and-slash game like D&D.
Little did these folks realize that the people at Clark's table were some of the very designers of the game system they held as superior. They just chuckled to themselves, kept right on playing, and had a blast.
I think that story may be analogous to how computer RPGs may be "evolving" away from their tabletop roots. Sure, hiding the stats, focusing on the immersiveness (back in the 90's it was referred to by the overly-grandiose term "virtual reality") and action may be a great way to go for many games, and may take good advantage of the strengths of the platform, as well as the experience and preferences of the development team. But is there really nothing left of the tabletop experience worthy of emulating in a computer RPG? Is there nothing else the dice-and-paper RPGs and cRPGs have to teach each other?
I don't think so.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Game Jamming on a Bigger Game?
So after working with a few Game-In-A-Day / 48 Hour Game / Weekend Game Jams - and visiting the one in January - I had a thought. These come seldom to me, so I relish the ones I do get.
One of my excuses for non-participation (or limited participation) is that I've constantly got one main game project or another that I have very limited time to work on as it is. My family is very tolerant of my taking many hours a week to work on it, but I feel guilty taking so much time on something else.
But the results of these little exercises are impressive. They are awesome experiences, and it's staggering to see how much can be accomplished in a 24-hour or 48-hour time frame when you really, really focus on it. Just eating the miles. It's also a fantastic exercise for game developers to go through every step of the process at high-speed. I think any indie game developer (myself included) can benefit greatly from the experience. A 48-hour game jam is probably the equivalent of a semester-long college course in game production.
And Stuff Gets Done. Never to the level of completion to satisfy the participants, but a lot happens very quickly.
So here's an idea:
Suppose you were working on a full-on commercial indie game - much larger than what could normally be done in a weekend Game Jam. if you, as an indie, were to go balls-to-the-wall crazy on, say, getting a single area or chapter or set of levels 100% playable in a day or weekend, sloppy though it might be, would that be a good thing for the game? Give it the full-on Game Jam treatment. Would that be real progress, or would you end up with a lot of work that had to be re-done for beta?
Has anybody else tried this? Any experienced Ludlum Dare / Game Jam / Game-In-A-Day veterans feel like weighing in?
I guess there's only one way to find out fer sher. I'll have to schedule some time...
The Spirit Engine 2 Review
Craig Stern (of Telepath RPG fame) reviews The Spirit Engine 2 at his new blog:
The Spirit Engine 2 review
Monday, March 01, 2010
Indie Game Development: Fantasy Versus Reality
Okay - this would have been funny enough NOT knowing that every single one of these are based on true (ish) stories:
Lively Ivy - Indie Game Development: Fantasy Versus Reality
"Four years at university, and here I am drawing a dancing robot..."
Labels: Indie Evangelism