Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year

I'm putting this blog on pause just until after New Year's.  I won't be around for a New Year's post, so I'll discuss New Year's resolutions on January 4th.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Article: A Completely Roundabout Way of Discussing the Future of Game Development

My first article for this blog was about making sound important.  In it, I discussed several ways to integrate sound into gameplay so it wasn't just there for ambience and immersion that could be muted, but made necessary to complete the game.

Now I would like to take a step back and think about the likelihood of sound ever becoming that important.

I swear I'll get to the future of games eventually.  Get some popcorn.
When I think of watching a movie, there are a few types of movie-watching experiences.  One is when I take the movie seriously, pay close attention, turn off the lights, sit in the glory of surround sound, and forget about the rest of the world.  Another way to watch a movie is to riff on it as you watch it, and this is usually reserved for bad movies or B-movies.  The lights don't need to be off, and for all it matters, the sound could be mono.  Of course, sound is still necessary, but it takes a back seat to the voices of the viewers who want to joke about it.

These two movie-watching experiences have analogs in games.  Getting soaked into the world and eliminating distractions is often the case for hardcore gamers.  The sound is up so you can catch every piece of dialogue, so you can hear your enemies sneaking up on you, so you can hear to your teammates talk to you.  When you are interrupted by the rest of life butting in, you get frustrated.

Sound doesn't matter so much--or at all--in casual and mobile games.  You might be listening to your own music, or you might be multitasking, and sound becomes a distraction.  You might need to pay attention to the person in the room with you, or maybe you're listening to the news on TV.  An interruption from something else doesn't matter, because you aren't 100% focused on the game anyway.

In these instances, sound becomes detached from the game completely.  Even when I play hardcore games, like MMOs, I will often have the sound muted, and I will be playing in a window that only takes up half the screen, so I can watch YouTube videos at the same time.

We live in a world of multitasking, and it's difficult to push everything else away to do one thing, like watch a movie or play a game with undivided attention.  We still can do that, but with the increase in mobile game platforms slowly becoming the norm (and will soon take over hardcore gaming in revenue), dedicated playtime will be tougher to manage.  If you want to experience games in the serious, undivided way, you may have to have a room dedicated to games, or perhaps one that doubles as a home theater for movies.

In order for sound to matter in games in the way I suggested in my first article, this kind of dedication is important.  And if consoles continue to have as big a presence as they do today, that will probably happen.

But the slow uprising in mobile and casual means that more game developers will dip their toes in those markets--even developers who traditionally make hardcore games.  If they find there is truly more money to be made in casual, they will swing that way, and leave hardcore gamers in the dust.

Angry Birds
Meet your new avian overlords.
On the other hand, indie gaming is becoming bigger and bigger.  Now, currently indie studios make the low-tech games, because they are low-cost as well.  Indie is big on 2D, old-style platformers, for instance, which bring back the nostalgia of older gaming eras, and remind us that just because the industry has moved on, that doesn't mean there isn't any innovation to be found in older game genres.

But with the lowering cost of technology and game development software, indie companies will soon (5 years to put a random number on it) be able to make games of today's industry standards of quality with fewer people, more cheaply.  There may then be a shift of hardcore gamers from playing big studio releases to playing games by indie studios, while the giants of game development shift focus to the wider swath of casual and mobile gamers.  As usual, companies follow the money, indies do what they love.

But if the big companies shift from hardcore to casual, that includes the hardware manufacturers.  Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo may stop making consoles--or, at least, they will stop marketing them that way.  An Xbox 360 currently does roughly ten bajillion more things than just play games.  The next Xbox (or Durango, as it is codenamed) will do more, and probably won't even be marketed as a gaming device so it can get wider appeal.  While it will play games, that will be a side-feature to how it interacts with your TV, smartphone, PC, and other devices in your home.  It will probably still offer a XBLA-style service for indies to show off their stuff, and major game developers will continue to make hardcore games for it (though probably downloadable and discless), but the generation of consoles after that?

Something like that.
Consoles like the Ouya will pick up the slack.  Now we're seeing the rise of the indie console, and the next generation indie console after the Ouya will probably have top-shelf capabilities, and it will be the place where indie companies can make hardcore games, to make up for the loss of Big Developer's switch to casual and mobile.

It'll make an interesting sea-change, but I think indies will rise in prominence and the age of big developers will wind down.

Well, at least until we get holodecks, I'm sure.  Then sound will probably be important again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Development Log: January Engine - Week 7

Been a while with this project because I've been spending a lot of time with paper-and-pencil, which doesn't upload well.  However, I have the .swf in its latest state uploaded, which you can play HERE.

Changes from last time include: making the hexes you can't click on invisible, smoothing out scrolling (which can be done with the arrow keys or WASD), and cards at the bottom, representing your hand.  Refresh a few times to get either two Yellow Cards or two Green Cards.  If you do get them, you can pass your cursor over green/yellow hexes to see a popup which indicates that you can place green/yellow squares on the hexes.  (Well, you can't place stuff yet, but I'm showing that I have the code in place to understand combinations of cards).

Now, that's not particularly too much work done, code-wise, but I've done a lot of design work:

The game I am designing is a combo of Magic: The Gathering and am RTS.  Basically, you use simple resources which are in your hand (as shown in the demo), to combine and create units, buildings, and spells, and place them on the hex grid.  The units/buildings on the grid are represented by icons, but they can be expanded to view the stats of it in card format.

As for the goal of any given level, I have many possibilities, but I'm not sure which I like best.

This card shows you all of the possible stats you may have on a unit or building card.

On the bottom, the seashell-shaped swirls are health.  Any unit or building can have between one and five health.

The tricky things are on the left.  The large hex is the primary color of the card, and is the color hex you can place the unit/building on (if it's a unit that can move, all that matters is that it's initially placed on that color).  It is also the first color resource card you must use to place this unit/building on the grid.

The next six hexes below it are other resources needed, and they can be the same or different color as the primary resource.  Black indicates any color resource.  The majority of cards will take less than seven resources, and the hexes will simply be missing to avoid confusion.

The next three hexes, A, R, and M, with numbers inside, represent Attack, Repair, and Movement stats.  Attack is how many resources you must pay to attack another unit/building with this one.  Repair is the number of resources it takes to repair one health point on this unit/building.  Movement is how many resources it takes to move this unit/building (usually a unit) one hex space.  These stats are always black, so you can use any color resource to do it.

The bullseye and the human eye below represent range and sight, respectively.  If the unit/building can only attack in melee range, the range is one.  Sight is used to remove fog of war.

As you can see just by this one card, this is shaping up to be a radically different game than I began this project as, and I like it a lot more.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Article: When the Power Goes Out

I spent all last night up watching YouTube videos about the coming singularity, the day when man and machine become one, when we will be able to download our consciousness into a computer.  Fascinating stuff.

Also discussed was how the internet will evolve in the coming decades, how technology will follow Moore's Law through quantum computing, and how we'll soon have microchips in our brains.  Older videos mentioned fashionable augmented reality glasses, which is of course Google Glass right now.

Google Glass!
I would still prefer it shoved right into my prescription glasses.
Then, today, the power went out.  Nothing dashes my hopes for a perfect futurist techno-utopia faster than the power going out.  As I type this, the power is back on, but my cable is still down, so I don't have internet access.  (Hence, this is posted a day late.)

I'm already at the point where I can't live without the internet.  I use it when I should be asleep!  What happens when I have microchip in my brain that connects me to everyone in the world, and the cable goes out then?  (Of course, even calling it cable at that point is just quaint.)

But let's bring this terrifying picture of an unstable matrix back to games; after all, that's what this blog is here for.  And we'll even step back from the future and come closer to the present.

Right now some of my favorite games are online.  I can't play them at this moment.  I recently saw a tweet that read (paraphrased) "Don't like streaming games?  Tough.  That's the way games are going."

My internet connection has always been unstable.  I am constantly booted off my MMOs because of connection failures.  Fortunately, for now, I can still play older games that are installed on my machine, no connection necessary.  

I think what the twit meant in the tweet above is that game developers are spending considerably more resources creating MMOs and online multiplayer games (that aren't massive), like Scrabble with Friends.  (Ahem.)  I doubt that "all" videogames will go that way, but it seems to even be a trend now in single-player games that you must have a live connection to the internet to play (often for no other reason than anti-piracy BS).

Of course there is absolutely zero reason to require a connection for a solitary game (and speaking of, I half expect Solitaire to require an internet connection soon), but it certainly seems reasonable for MMOs to require it.

But there is actually an interesting solution to this MMO connectivity issue.

Suppose I'm playing DC Universe Online.  There are distinct solo instances, and wide open worlds for both PVE and PVP combat.  Now, not much can be done in PVP if your internet connection sucks, but I submit that all other aspects of the game do not require a connection.

If my internet connection dies while playing DCUO, I am dumped out of the game with a picture of Brainiac (as if it's his fault, I imagine) saying I was disconnected.  Sometimes my disconnections only last a few minutes while I go reset my modem.

When a disconnection occurs, I do not immediately get booted.  First, the music dies.  Next, I notice the world is devoid of both other players and enemies.  Nothing is loading but the world geometry itself.  After a half minute of being lost in purgatory, I finally get kicked out.

But is it truly necessary for this to be this way?

What if instead, the world and enemies were installed on my computer (something is certainly installed on my computer already, taking gigs of space, so I wonder what that is if not the world).  That way if I am disconnected, I still get to play a single-player instanced version of the world I'm in.

My own computer would then save any data it's accumulated, such as completed missions, increased experience, and the like, and when I get my connection back, that data is sent to the servers.  It should be a seamless process I don't even notice unless I'm trying to chat with a fellow player who disappears on me.  (And since disappearing players is a common occurrence when logging off or switching servers or channels, I still might not suspect anything).

I'm sure it's a bit of a technical challenge from a networking and engineering standpoint, but I don't see why it should be the end of the world to make it work.

But anyway, until that works, if the power goes out again, there's always board games.

I just hope that when we have computer chips in our brains, a power surge doesn't make our heads explode.

That part in Scanners where that dude's head blows up.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Usual Monthly Update

Sorry about the lack of posting; got a lovely cold, but it's all over but the coughing.

I'm going to go back to a normal two-day-a-week posting schedule for December, just because it's the holidays, so expect posts on Tuesdays and Fridays for this month.

As for The Glitchers Webcomicbook: being that I only wrote two more pages before I hit a block, there's not much else to post.  I think I'll wait until at least I finish the second episode before posting it.

Instead, for this month, expect a random assortment of reviews, articles, and other usual posts.  No real plan this month.  Probably in January I will have another Monthathon or some other kind of themed month.  Until then: stuff!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tis the season

To catch a cold.  Sorry, will update when I've had more than two hours of sleep in a night.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Feature: Web Comic

Yeah, so while I was working on the HeroQuest mod last month, I also began a "webcomicbook".  I figure what I can do this month is post the first ten pages (which is what I have so far).

So my schedule this month will change to three days a week - Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

If the webcomic is successful, I'll try to continue it at that pace.  Right now I've kind of hit a block and I'm looking for feedback on it, so I can get back in the groove of working on it.  Getting sick recently set me behind; I was hoping to have more pages done, but it got dropped to recover.  Hopefully I can get back in the groove of it and have more than ten pages.

Oh, right, what's it about?  Well, of course it's videogame-related, to be on this blog, but it's setting is neither the "real world" nor is it specific to any one videogame.  I basically created a videogame universe, and the characters are my own creation.  There are references to other games, and lots of hidden jokes.

So it's about a robot named Retro who is from the early 80's and gets zapped into the present time by some cosmic glitch, and he meets his successors, Captain Nu and the Hexmen.  They go on adventures defeating the evil Klocks and searching for another cosmic glitch to get Retro back home.  I am currently thinking of calling it "The Glitchers," since it is very much the sort of thing I had planned for the story series I wanted to do.  It's the spirit of the stories, but funny.

Of course, I am no artist, so I decided to use my bad art skills to my advantage and make jokes using the art itself, as well as the format of a comic (half the jokes are meta, which I am surprised myself that I did that).

See page one starting Friday!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Been Sick

...and therefore no updates.  I'll post my monthly update early next week when I am feeling up to it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #9 - Final PDF

So the new rules and levels have been compiled into a PDF which you can download here.

I've ordered things into a logical fashion.  The level pages are meant to be easy to read and fit all on one page so you don't have to keep flipping pages during a game.

Since the month of October is almost over, that brings and end to the Monthathon.  However, I think the story in the mod has barely started, so in the future I may expand on it and make a few more levels to the mod, and perhaps add more Spell Scrolls, change more rules, modify the current levels, etc.  But for now, it works.

Now go play!

Back of the HeroQuest box with kids playing
I wonder how much these kids got paid to pose for this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #8 - Level 5

Level 5 builds upon the previous levels' story, introduces a little more furniture, and some Chaos Spells.  It caps off the story of the mod, and has ending text common to Quest Books.

By the way, I've been using Rinkwork's Fantasy Name Generator for most of the names in this mod.

Click to Enlarge.
Quest Book text:

Quest 5 - Roon, the Orc Den

Wandering Monster in this Quest: Orc

"The Emperor is glad the Gargoyle has been slain, though it seems to have been a red herring.  Fortunately, the truth is revealed: Zargon is teaching greenskins magic!  We cannot have this.  Reports are that magical lights are coming from the Orc Dens of Roon.  Enter, and clear out the Orcs.  We must prevent them from spreading their knowledge!  Defeat any spellcasting Orcs that you find, as well as their commander, Sneezefoot."

A: Place an Orc here.  The orc knows the Chaos Spell "Summon Undead."

B: Place an Orc here.  The orc knows the Chaos Spell "Summon Orcs."  The first hero who searches for treasure in this room will find the Artifact "Orc's Bane."

C: Place an Orc here.  The Orc knows the Chaos Spell "Ball of Flame."

D: Place an Orc here.  The Orc knows the Chaos Spell "Tempest."

E: Place an Orc here.  The Orc knows the Chaos Spell "Sleep."

F: Place an Orc here.  The Orc knows the Chaos Spell "Lightning Bolt."

G: Place an Orc with a large blade here.  This is Sneezefoot.  He has the following stats:

Movement: 9
Attack: 4
Defend: 3
Body: 3
Mind: 4

In addition, Sneezefoot knows the following Chaos Spells:  Sleep, Tempest, and Ball of Flame.

The first Hero to search for treasure in this room will find 200 Gold Coins and a Treasure Revealed Spell Scroll.

After the Heroes complete this Quest, read the following text:

"You have done exceedingly well, and the Emperor is pleased.  For a job well done, he grants each Hero a bounty of 250 Gold Coins.  You have struck down Zargon's orc spellcasters before they could learn too much.  Hopefully Zargon has learned a powerful lesson here: that you are more powerful than even his Greenskin mages.  The Emperor gives his thanks, and will have need of you again in the near future, but as of now this chapter is closed."

Next log will cap off this Monthathon with a PDF containing all that has been made for this Month for easy download.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #7 - Level 4

I decided to go with a little bit of misdirection on this level, both in the level's labyrinthine layout and in the quest text itself.  The players are initially intended to find a Gargoyle, but it's the Orc Gobfob that is their ultimate (hidden) goal.

Click to Enlarge.
Quest Book text:

Quest 4 - The Maze of Rak'roth

"The clues you have found point to one thing: Zargon has enlisted the help of greenskins, and he is training them.  Scouts have reported greenskins coming and going in the maze of Rak'roth.  Rak'roth the Gargoyle is a dangerous beast, and if greenskins are using the maze as a base, Zargon must have tamed him.  Enter the maze and defeat Rak'roth before he can be unleashed."

Wandering Monster in this Quest: Orc

A. Place an Orc with a large sword here.  This is Gobfob.  Gobfob has the following stats:

Movement: 8
Attack: 4
Defend: 3
Body: 2
Mind: 3

In addition, Gobfob knows the following Chaos Spells: Summon Undead, Tempest

B. Place the Gargoyle here.  The Gargoyle cannot move, attack, defend, or die.  It is a stone statue.  When this room is entered, read the following text: "So!  It seems the Gargoyle has not been touched!  The Emperor will be glad to hear it."  If the Heroes have not yet found and defeated Gobfob (A), also read the following text: "But what are orcs doing here?  Perhaps you should investigate further."  If a Hero searches for treasure, the Gargoyle will awake!  It will IMMEDIATELY attack any hero within range.  It is now a normal Gargoyle.  After the Gargoyle is defeated, Heroes may search for treasure in the room again.  If a Hero does, they will find 300 Gold Coins in the treasure chest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #6 - Level 3

Here, the undead have disappeared in favor of greenskins.  With the introduction of Goblins last time, players follow the lead and discover Orcs.  Also introduced are some new furniture pieces, as well as the last two types of traps.  I have also decided that, rather than a few small stories between the levels, this mod with have one through-line.

This also follows a slightly different format than a generic level, which I think keeps both heroes and DM interested and engaged.  I often found that, while playing the original, many levels blended together, unless there was something unique about it.

Click to Enlarge.
Quest Book text:

Quest 3 - The Caves of Inatur

"Goblins are not normally a threat, but as evidenced by the kidnap of Atryn, Goblins have become brazen.  Something is awry.  Go to the caves of Inatur, where a Goblin tribe makes its home, and see what clues you can find.  Beware, for Goblins are crafty and protective of their homes."

Wandering Monster in this Quest: Goblin

Note: in this quest, all regular doors are revealed as open.  Use line of sight to determine what Heroes can see.  Also, the Heroes may leave the level at any time, by using the stairwell as usual, but will be rewarded 60 Gold Coins (to be split between the heroes) for each of the five clues they find (for a possible total of 300 Gold Coins).

ORCS: Clue #1 - When the heroes discover their first Orc(s), read the following text: "So!  The Goblins are in league with the Orcs!  This will be valuable information for the Emperor!"

A: Clue #2 - When a hero searches for treasure in this room, read the following text: "The Goblins have stolen gold!  They have no use for such things.  What must they want it for?"  There are 100 Gold Coins in the chest.

B: Clue #3 - When a hero searches for treasure in this room, read the following text: "The Goblins have stolen magic scrolls!  What could they want such things for?"  There is an Extra Oomph Spell Scroll in the cupboard, but nothing else understandable to the heroes.

C: Clue #4 - When a hero steps into this room, read the following text: "The Goblins are hoarding weapons!  What could they be preparing for?"  (However, there are no weapons useful to the heroes; a search for treasure will reveal a treasure card.)

D: Clue #5 - When a hero enters this room, read the following text: "Goblins are not ordinarily ones for torture.  What devious scheme is afoot?"  (However, a search for treasure reveals only a treasure card).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #5 - Level 2

Level 2 is also similar to the second level of the original game, in that it's a rescue mission, and that there are now traps and secret doors in the level.

Here, I'm also slowly introducing new enemies.  Unlike the shambling undead, Goblins are quick, smart, and come in larger groups.  Goblins are the weakest enemy, but their numbers make them powerful.

I have also started making multiple paths, which could split the heroes up with traps (see the Falling Block Trap near the upper right corner of the map).  Splitting up the party makes things far more dangerous, so players have to think carefully before choosing to do so.

Click to Enlarge.
Quest Book text:

Quest 2 - The Catacombs of Beliss

"With your last quest successful, the Emperor thinks you have proven yourself a worthy band of Heroes, and is in need of a small rescue mission.  Atryn, one of the Emperor's old but most distinguished councilmen, has been kidnapped in the night by a band of Goblins, and taken down to the Catacombs of Beliss.  Enter, rescue, and be rewarded with 200 Gold Coins each."

Wandering Monster in this Quest: Goblin

A: Atryn is on the square marked "A".  Use the Chaos Warlock to represent him.  Atryn cannot attack, but defends with one Combat Die.  He moves 9 squares per turn.  Let the player who discovers Atryn control him, after his Hero's turn.  Atryn has four Body Points.  If Atryn dies, the Heroes will not be rewarded.

B: The Mummy in this room is Beliss.  If the Heroes search for Treasure in this room, they will find a Double Down Spell Scroll.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #4 - Level 1

Much like the first quest in the original game, this one is a test before the real fun begins, takes place in a tomb, and has no traps or secret doors for the Heroes to worry about.

However, I decided to change a few things.  First, I decided to give the first level an Undead theme, rather than showing off every enemy there is.  I also only have seven pieces of furniture. 

I always felt the first level spoiled the surprises of the game by putting every monster and every piece of furniture in the game in the first level.  Here, I have only five unique pieces, and three monsters.  I have also significantly reduced the difficulty of the first level, since, in the original, the first level is the most difficult, which of course should not be the case.

Click to enlarge.
Quest Book text:

Quest 1 - The Test

"Before you are deemed worthy of facing Zargon, you must first past a test.  You are to enter the Crypt of Omgar, and steal the ring from his tomb.  It is of immense value to the Emperor, for Clerical study of the ring will reveal the secrets of Zargon's Necromancy.  Bring back the ring, and you will be accepted as true heroes."

Wandering Monster in this Quest: Skeleton

A. The Mummy in this room is Omgar.  If a Hero searches for treasure in this room, he will find the Ring of Omgar.  There is no other treasure in this room.

B. This is a library of spells.  If a Hero searches for treasure in this room, he will find an Extra Oomph Spell Scroll.

C. This is a room of Omgar's personal heirlooms.  Within the chests are coins and collectors' items totaling 200 Gold Coins.  If a hero searches for treasure in this room, he will find them.

D. This room contains Omgar's internal organs and other mummification apparatuses.  The antique jars they are kept in can fetch a price of 100 Gold Coins.  The first hero who searches for treasure will find them.  However, if the door to Omgar's tomb has not yet been opened, and a hero searches for treasure, he gets the treasure, but then the door will immediately open.  Tell the heroes that they have awoken Omgar, and his is angry.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #3 - Spells

Because the Elf and Wizard can now purchase spells, a few new categories of spells need to be created.

So to go along with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire elemental packs, I thought I should add a few more, which should fit right in with the nature/elemental theme.

Animal Spells

Lion's Roar:  All Enemies in line of sight a frightened and will move away from the caster to the full extent of their movement on their next turn, unless backed into a corner.

Phantom Beast:  Target Enemy within line of sight is immediately attacked by an ephemeral animal.  The Phantom Beast attacks with the number of combat dice equal to the caster's mind points.

Phantom Bird:  Target Hero within line of sight is lifted off the ground by an ephemeral avian.  The Hero cannot be hit except by ranged attacks/spells for the enemy's next turn.  However, on the Hero's next turn, he may not do anything except use ranged attacks/spells.

Night Spells:

Cover of Darkness: All Enemies in line of sight attack and defend with one fewer combat dice, to a minimum of one, up to and through the spellcaster's next turn.

Fear of the Dark:  Target Enemy cannot attack, and is reduced in defense to one combat die.  The Enemy may roll combat dice equal to its mind points on each of its turns until the spell is broken.  If a Black Shield is rolled, the spell is broken.  Not effective against creatures with zero Mind Points.

Light of the Moon:  All Secret Doors in the level are immediately placed on the board.  Also, all unsprung traps are immediately placed on the board, however, place a skull token on each unsprung trap square to indicate where the unsprung trap is; do not place the trap itself.

Plant Spells

Healing Herbs: Target Hero is immediately healed 3 body points.  If the Hero was dead, the Hero is revived, but is only healed 2 Body points.

Poison Thorns: Target Enemy is attacked by poisonous thorns, and receives three points of damage.  The Enemy rolls one combat die for each of its Mind Points.  For every Black Shield rolled, damage is reduced by one point.

Root:  Target Hero within line of sight gains 3 additional Defend Dice on their next turn.  However, the Hero cannot move, search for treasure, search for traps, or disarm a trap during that turn.

Sun Spells:

Healing Rays:  Target Hero is healed the number of Body Points equal to his Mind Points (up to his maximum number of Body Points).

Light of the Sun:  Spellcaster may immediately disarm any trap the Heroes are aware of, revealed or sprung.  If a sprung trap is chosen, the trap is removed from the board.

Sun Blisters:  Targets one Enemy.  If Enemy is... Green: loses 1 Body Point.  White: loses 2 Body Points.  Gray: rolls Defense Dice.  If a Black Shield is rolled, it is unaffected. Otherwise, loses 1 Body Point.  Gargoyle: immediately turns to stone.  Its figure stays on the board, but it cannot move, attack, defend, or be killed.  It is effectively dead, but takes up space.

Spell Scrolls:

These are Scrolls which can be cast by anyone, not just the Elf and Wizard.  They have different prices than normal spells, but can only be used once per scroll.  There are an unlimited quantity of Scrolls, so unlike Elemental Spells, any number of heroes can have any number of these spells.  They are not limited to only one per game which gets recharged between levels.

Spells Scrolls may also be found as a specified treasure during a quest.

Double Down: If Spellcaster searches for treasure, and must draw from the treasure deck, he may immediately use this spell.  Whatever is revealed is doubled.  CAUTION!  This includes Wandering Monsters and Hazards!
Price: 100 Gold Coins

Extra Oomph:  May be used to increase combat dice by one in any instance on any Hero.  Spellcaster may call to use the spell any time combat dice are to be rolled by a Hero.  However, the Spellcaster must decide to use it BEFORE the Hero rolls.
Price: 200 Gold Coins

Treasure Revealed:  If Spellcaster searches for treasure, and must draw from the treasure deck, he may immediately use this spell.  He flips cards until a Treasure is revealed, skipping over Wandering Monsters and Hazards unaffected.
Price: 100 Gold Coins

Also not always worth it, considering the possible payback.
I will come up with more later, and perhaps adjust the prices as I go, but for now I think these are decent additions.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #2 - Items

Between levels in HeroQuest, players may take a trip to the Armory to buy new weapons and armor.  In expansions, players may also stop at an Alchemist's Shop to purchase potions. But because these items are so cheap, players become war machines too quickly.  Here is a fix for the weapons and armor (with the addition of a shortbow):

Dagger (Wizard starts with this)
Attack Dice: 1
Can be thrown at an enemy, picked up when out of combat; Wizard can use
Price: 50 Gold Coins

Shortsword (Dwarf and Elf start with this)
Attack Dice: 2
Price: 250 Gold Coins

Broadsword (Barbarian starts with this)
Attack Dice: 3
Price: 500 Gold Coins

Long Sword
Attack Dice: 3
Two-handed; can attack diagonally
Price: 1000 Gold Coins

Battle Axe
Attack Dice: 4
Price: 1000 Gold Coins

Attack Dice: 1
Two-handed; Wizard can use; can attack diagonally
Price: 250 Gold Coins

Attack Dice: 2
Two-handed; ranged
Price: 250 Gold Coins
Ammo Price: 25 Gold Coins Each

Attack Dice: 3
Two-handed; ranged
Price: 500 Gold Coins
Ammo Price: 50 Gold Coins Each

Defend Dice: +1
Price: 500 Gold Coins

Defend Dice: +1
Cannot be used with two-handed weapons
Price: 250 Gold Coins

Chain Mail
Defend Dice: +1
May not be combined with Plate Mail
Price: 1000 Gold Coins

Plate Mail
Defend Dice: +2
May not be combined with Chain Mail
Price: 2000 Gold Coins

I also have eliminated some odd restraints from the original game, such as not being able to combine Chain Mail or Plate Mail with a Helmet or Shield.  I understand they did it mechanically to keep things from getting too crazy, but physically it seems silly.

But I have added restraints to balance things out, such as by having more weapons be two-handed, so they cannot be used with the Shield.  I have also made the Shield a lower price than the helmet for this reason.  Oddly enough, the game comes unbalanced by making the Shield empirically less useful than the Helmet, but it costs more.

As for the Tool Kit:  in the original game, the Dwarf's special power is that he can disarm a trap without a Tool Kit, at a chance of greater than 80%.  A Hero with a Tool Kit has 50% chance of success.  So it is completely unnecessary to ever purchase a Tool Kit unless the Dwarf is out of commission.  A Tool Kit is ordinarily 250 Gold Coins, and that seems a fair price then, considering it's a backup plan, and considering I've sufficiently raised the price of every other item.

As far as other items go: I think that the Alchemist's Shop in expansions are not particularly useful, since the potions found when searching for treasure are common enough.

I think his "Heroic Brew" has a 100 proof.
But that doesn't mean there are no additional items besides weapons.  To give the Wizard ways to become more powerful as time goes on, he can purchase spells.  Because the Wizard starts with three categories of Spells, and there are categories left over, he can train a Spell at the cost of 1000 coins a Spell, or 2500 for the whole category.  The Elf can similarly purchase spells, since he has one category to begin with.

But because there is only one card for each spell, the Wizard and Elf cannot purchase the same spell.

I'll create new spell categories for next time, but for now some more spells in game need to be altered for consistency.

Most spells that use dice rely on "red dice", which are standard 6-sided dice with Domino pips.  However, there are "combat dice", also 6-sided, which have three skulls, two white shields, and one black shield.  These should be used for spells, so to correct the text of each (not to copy down all the text, this is just what must be altered, so you need to follow along at home):

Water/Chaos Spell "Sleep":

"...The spell can be broken at once or on a future turn by a monster/Hero rolling one Combat Die for each of its Mind Points.  If a Black Shield is rolled, the spell is broken...."

Fire/Chaos Spell "Ball of Flame":

"...The monster/Hero then rolls two Combat Dice.  For each White Shield rolled, the damage is reduced by 1 point."

Fire Spell "Fire of Wrath":

"...unless the monster can immediately roll a White Shield using one Combat Die."

Chaos Spell "Summon Undead":

"...Roll one Combat Die:
Roll a Skull: 4 Skeletons
Roll a White Shield: 3 Skeletons, 2 Zombies
Roll a Black Shield: 2 Zombies, 2 Mummies"

Colors not included.
Chaos Spell "Summon Orcs":

"...Roll one Combat Die:
Roll a Skull: 4 Orcs
Roll a White Shield: 5 Orcs
Roll a Black Shield: 6 Orcs"

Chaos Spells "Fear" & "Command":

"...The spell can be broken by the Hero on a future turn by rolling one Combat Die for each of his Mind Points.  If a Black Shield is rolled, the spell is broken...."

Chaos Spell "Firestorm":

"...All victims immediately roll two Combat Dice.  For each White Shield rolled, the damage is reduced by 1 point...."

Chaos Spell "Cloud of Chaos":

"...The spell can be broken at once or on a future turn by each victim rolling one Combat Die for each of his Mind Points.  By rolling a Black Shield, the Hero frees himself."

Now that all the major corrections are out of the way, next log will be some inventions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Development Log: HeroQuest Monthathon #1 - Rules Changes

HeroQuest seems to have been a game that was primarily designed as a baby step between traditional family board games like Clue and Sorry!, and fantasy tabletop RPGs like D&D.  Because of this, the rules are much simpler than you might expect.  The problem is that dungeon crawlers are complex by necessity, because there will often be questions that come up that need minor rules to figure out.

For instance, the rules do not specify whether a player can hold more than one weapon at a time.  This can lead to a player having both the most powerful ranged and melee weapons, and becoming nearly unstoppable.

So for the sake of fixing a few broken rules in the game, here are some changes I would make to the game:

1. A single character can only hold one weapon per quest, however if they have purchased more than one, they can switch weapons between quests freely.

1A. If a player picks up a weapon in the middle of a quest, they may immediately switch to that weapon, at the cost of leaving the other behind.

See?  Already making exceptions!

2. A player without a weapon in hand is reduced to one attack die.  If a player has a ranged weapon, such as a crossbow, but no ammo, the player is reduced to one combat die, and can only attack melee, just as if they had no weapon.

2A. There is now ammo for ranged weapons, which can be purchased at the armory.

I'm adding this rule because I always thought it was a little silly that ranged weapons in HeroQuest had no ammo.  Of course, the ammoless crossbow was intended for the purpose of simplifying battle, but I don't think ammo adds too much complexity.  It does, however, make ranged weapons much more costly, with having to buy ammo between every level, and chancing running out of ammo mid-level.

The reason I am making ranged weapons such a high cost is because, through experience, I have discovered that ranged weapons can make players practically invincible.  This will make players seriously consider whether it's worth it to use ranged weapons.

Also, I will have to alter the armory later to incorporate ammo and potentially other ranged weapons.

3. Treasure:  Each hero can only search for treasure once per room.  Once one treasure is found, no more heroes may search for treasure in that room.

Originally, the rules were that all four heroes could search once per room, regardless of outcome.  However, this has led to an overabundance of money and potions, leading, once again, to near invincibility quickly.  With this rule in place, treasure becomes more limited.

4. Monster Cards are not used.

"For collectors only."
There is a set of cards that hero players may look at which give the stats of all of the basic monsters in the game.  Part of the fun of D&D is discovering how tough monsters are through battle, so the cards are a detriment to the experience, rather than being helpful as one might assume.

Now, beyond basic rule changes that can be summed up in a sentence, I will make a major change to Mind Points.  Typically, Mind Points are designed to be used to break spell holds.  However, in the actual game, there is only one hero spell that effects monsters' mind points (out of twelve total spells), rendering the stat on monsters mostly useless.  There are only four out of twelve Chaos Spells (enemy spells) that effect hero mind points.

I'll accept one third of spells using mind points as a decent percentage, so I'll fix three hero spells to compensate:

The Earth Spell "Pass Through Rock" will have altered text (in bold):

"This spell can be cast on any one Hero, including yourself.  That Hero may then move through walls on his next move.  He may move through as many walls as his dice roll allows.  If a Hero ends his turn in solid rock, he must roll one combat die for each of his mind points.  For each White Shield rolled, the Hero may move an extra square in an attempt to exit the solid rock.  Caution!  If a Hero ends his turn in solid rock, he is trapped forever!"

The Air Spell "Tempest" will have altered text:

"This spell creates a small whirlwind that envelopes one monster of your choice.  That monster may roll combat dice immediately and on future turns equal to its mind points.  If a Black Shield is rolled, the spell is broken.  If the spell is not broken, the monster can do nothing else on its turn.  If used against a monster with Zero mind points, the monster only misses one turn."

The Fire Spell "Courage" will have altered text:

"This spell may be cast on any one Hero, including yourself.  The next time that Hero attacks, he may roll combat dice equal to its Mind Points, instead of Attack Dice."

With these fixes, each of the four Elemental Spell Categories have one spell that uses Mind Points, whether it is the players' or the monsters'.  I think I will also be adding another category or two of spells, which completely utilize Mind Points with every spell.

This brings up a new rule that alters play:

5. Only the Elf and Wizard may use Spells.  At the beginning of the game, the Wizard may pick one category of Spells to use for the duration of the game (not just the quest, but the entire game).  The Elf may then pick one category to use.  The Wizard may then pick two more categories to use.  The other categories will not be used during the game.

This is similar to what the rules already state, except that it specifies to ignore the other categories of spells.  Also, the instructions are unclear as to whether the spell selection is only for the duration of a quest, and between quests the Elf and Wizard may reselect spells, or if the spells are permanent.  I have decided to make them permanent.  However, throughout the campaign I may decide to offer opportunities for replacing spells, or adding new spells (this will probably help for the Wizard, as he rarely gets upgrades to armor or weapons).

Next log will be some new specific items, such as armory items or spells.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monthly Update: Monthathon #2

For the month of October, I want to give myself a project with a definite deadline; something to accomplish and complete.  So October will become my second Monthathon.  This time, however, won't be a DOOM level.

Despite it being a great theme for October.
Instead, I'm going to create a mod for the board game HeroQuest.  Why HeroQuest, you ask?  Well, besides being a game for which I have infinite affection and nostalgia for, it could also do with a little modding, since there are a few broken systems in it.

For instance, by the time players reach level 2, they are basically invincible.
So I'll be altering a few rules to correct the glaring errors, perhaps adding some new spells, weapons, treasures, monsters, and the like, and I'll finish with a small, five-level Quest Pack.

Every Tuesday and Thursday will be a post on how it's coming along, and the final Quest Pack will be downloadable in a PDF form at the end.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Article: Augmented Reality Games, and Their Genres

With Google and competitors now developing Augmented Reality glasses, I fully expect in the next ten years we'll be playing Augmented Reality videogames, and in twenty years such glasses will be as common as smart phones.

But what will these kinds of games look like?  If the Kinect is any indication, traditional genres won't cut it.  Many reviewers of Kinect games that require the player to run in place claim that either it's hit uncanny valley, or trying to retrofit old genres with new control schemes doesn't work well.

Heck, when the NES powerglove came out, about the only thing it was useful for was racing games; everything else was much better off with a normal controller.

But the Kinect works just fine with some games, like Kinect Adventures, because the mimicry of player to onscreen-character is almost exact; no need to run in place here.

So with AR glasses, don't expect old genres to work the same.

Old Genres That Will Still Work

Puzzle Games - Tetris will always be there.  Waiting at the dentist's office?  Pop open a game of Angry Birds.

This, but with a waiting room for a background.
Odds are puzzle games will still work the same, just as they do on a touchscreen device; the only difference is you will make gestures in the air.  Many puzzle games will be nothing more than a window on your glasses, and won't really be ARGs.

Other puzzle games and retro arcade games may interact with the outside world.  Imagine being a passenger on a long ride, so you play a game out the window, where you fly a craft around the real obstacles outside, like fences, mountains, signs, trees, buildings, or other cars.

Like these kinds of games today, puzzle games and quick-fix arcade games will be "timewasters" just as much in the future.

Adventure Games - I see a huge comeback for this near-extinct genre.  These will become an extension of Alternate Reality Games, but here they will be tailored to the area you live in.  Perhaps you give a starting location and a radius, and the game generates characters, objects, and puzzles that only you see, but can be spread anywhere within your defined space.  They will start off simple, such as creating a game of Hide-and-Seek with an object (find the treasure chest hidden somewhere on your property), and will grow in scope, allowing multiple players in the same game, and offering more intricate puzzles and deep storylines.

Sports Games - Non-contact sports, anyway.  If you and three friends want to get together in a park and play a game of Virtual Bocce, or go Bowling in an empty parking lot, you'll be able to.  For that matter, you'll be able to play Chess on an empty table, and anyone hooked into your game can watch through their own glasses, even if they aren't participating.

Old Genres That Won't Work

First-Person Shooters - I know, I know; this is the thing we all wish we could have.  Since I first heard of the concept of ARGs, I've wanted to play a first-person shooter or survival/horror game.  Unfortunately, even if the guns are virtual, the fast-paced nature of the genre means you'd be running around a city, paying attention to the game and not traffic.

Contact Sports - Sure, you'll love to be able to play basketball even if there's no hoop available, but glasses and contact sports don't mix.  You'd need to bring goggles to go over your glasses, and even then I wouldn't want to chance it.  Delicate technology and a hard fall mean there won't be a big market for it.  Street Hockey nets will remain just as popular as always, and AR glasses won't change that.

New Genres

LAMMARGs - Live Action Role-Playing isn't a videogame exactly, but it will be.  LARPing and MMOs will mix into Live Action Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality Games (we'll work on the acronym).  Players won't need to dress up, and fighting will be much rarer, but they will take fantasy worlds we've only seen on screens and in our heads and merge them with reality.  This will be the logical extension of Adventure Games mentioned above, and will likely evolve from them, rather than being created with the idea of an MMO in mind.

Board Game Hybrids - Similar to Virtual Chess explained above, new board games and miniatures games will utilize the environment to play a live game of Monster In My Pocket, or Virtual Warhammer 40K.  You would no longer need a flat surface to lay out a board, but instead your uneven surface could be overlayed with a 3D board.  Many Augmented Reality games are already close, such as ARhrrrr, or the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots app.

But imagine you're at a bar with some friends, and the table is littered with empty glasses and bottles.  The table could be transformed in your vision to a grassy field, and the empties become trees and bushes.  Then you and your friends march armies of orcs to the middle and attack, using gestures and non-interfering hand movements (to minimize the chance of knocking over drinks).

I am sure there will be many more new genres as the technology becomes more popular, beginning with these simple hybrids.  What genres can you think of that might be exclusive to AR glasses?  What old genres might still work, and what genres will need to be revised or canned?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flash Game Mini Review: Mamono Sweeper

Like Minesweeper?  Like RPGs?  Well here's a combination!

...Sort of.

Mamono Sweeper is an interesting little game that I find myself coming back to again and again.  It takes the basic concept of Minesweeper and mixes things up just enough to make it feel new and different.

For one thing, it's the mines that are colorful, rather than the numbers.
The major difference between Minesweeper and Mamono Sweeper is that the "mines" in the latter are creatures of various strengths.  Rather than marking mines to avoid, you are looking to attack the creatures at your level and defeat them.  If you find a creature that is level 1, and you are level 1, you can safely click on the creature to defeat it.

If you attack a creature that is a higher level than you, you might still defeat it, but you lose some health.  Lose too much health and you die and lose the game.

Numbers on the board, instead of telling you how many mines are nearby, tell you the total value of all the creatures nearby.  So if there are two creatures nearby, but they are both level three, then the number will read 6, instead of simply 2.

As you defeat monsters, you gain experience, and once you have gained enough, you level up with a quick flash, and you can move on to attacking higher level creatures.

Once you have defeated every creature on the board, you win.

While the game could have been created with abstract mines, the different kinds of monsters makes the game feel more rewarding.  You start only being able to easily defeat blue slime monsters, and work your way up to green dragons.  Like an RPG, it makes you feel good each time you level up and can defeat new monsters.

Ultimately, Mamono Sweeper might not be an actual RPG, but it is entertaining enough to replace Minesweeper as a quick anytime game.  If you like Minesweeper, but think it gets old, this game will provide a new challenge.

Mamono Sweeper can be found here.  If you check the description, you can change the difficulty level and size of the board for a new challenge.

Or, if you can read Japanese, the creator's site is here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Development Log: Facebook Timeline Adventure #3

I just thought I'd give a quick status update on the Facebook Timeline Adventure:

For one thing, it's become a different genre.
It appears that if you are not a friend, the "public" only sees about a month or less back into the timeline, even if you make every post public (which I do).  This makes it virtually impossible for someone to play the game unless they become my friend on Facebook first.

Since Facebook is known for changing its privacy levels without warning, it is entirely possible that this will change, but if it doesn't, I don't want my work on it to go to waste.

So I'm writing the project in such a fashion that, even if it can't go onto the Facebook Timeline, it could still just as easily be put together in book form, PDF form, or others.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Superman 64

Just made this video as a quick joke, to work on my video-making skills.  Also, I've had this idea in my head for a while of a character like this, a guy who loves the most atrocious games and movies and has no idea what makes a game or movie great, so I wanted to see if it was really funny, or only in my head.  I still can't tell, since I made the thing.  Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #29 - Last of the Frenzies

Here are the last of the Frenzies, and by that, that brings an end to all cards in the Vortex, so far.  You can print them all out (they should fit perfectly eight to a page the way I have most cards laid out) on some good cardstock, and you can play the game yourself.  (Just remember to print twice as many Frenzies, Rogations, and Locations, but cross out the duplicate Location card rules).

Unlike the previous cards, the Frenzies above are both more complex and can be more devastating.  Players who are faced with a Zealot with an unknown Frenzy might only have a card that changes stats mildly, like those below, majorly, like those above, or somewhere in between, like the previous batch.

Narratively, Frenzies are various ways of getting your troops pumped up.  The difference between a Devotee and a Zealot, in essence, is that a Devotee is in his right mind, and a Zealot is not his normal self.

Since I'm out of cards to post now, the next development log on The Vortex will probably be either card fixes or rule changes.  Possibly the Location Cards I never posted, which I'll post when I add placeholder art to them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #28 - Frenzies

Now we're getting into the final category of cards: Frenzies.

Frenzies are designed to add an element of chance to the game.  If you think of Chess, you can see everything on the board at once, including your opponent's pieces.  But in Poker, the opponents' cards are hidden, so you have limited information to work with, and have to take a chance about whether you have a better hand than your opponents.

Frenzies are meant to add that element to this game.  You can see a Zealots' basic stats, but there are extra Frenzies placed face-down that prevent you from seeing what has been altered.

Many Frenzies are very simple, like the eight above.  They simply change a card's stats in a direct way, but improving one or two stats at the cost of the others.

Sometimes, however, Frenzies can be slightly more complex.  Mania, for example, lowers all card stats against against Devotees, but makes killing troublesome Zealots much easier.

I am considering changing the wording on some, because in Mania, for instance, is the ultimate effect against zealots a +3 to Attack, or a +2, because of the -1 Attack initially?  I think I'll fix the wording in those cards if I get too much confusion by players on the rules.

Finally, there is a one-of-a-kind Frenzy, Through the Mud, which does something much different than just alter stats.

In the next log, we'll see the last of the Frenzies, which aren't as quite vanilla as these.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #27 - Last of The Noise

Here are the last eight Red Devotees:

Some of the cards are very weak in their stats, so they make up for it by having very powerful special rules.

The idea behind Pollen is that when you have allergies, getting all riled up isn't going to help, and panicking can make problems worse, so you need to be calm (not a Zealot) to be able to take it on.  Of course I do't mean literally pollen, but an alien species that acts similarly, as with most cards.

Of course, with Lifters, I wasn't thinking weights, but something more akin to morale, which is why it effects all other cards in play.

Kamikaze is perhaps both the weakest and most powerful card, since its stats are minimal, but its special rule is devastating.  The only way to get rid of it without detonation is by True Conversion.

Lost Souls is a bit odd, in that it is a fairly powerful card, yet has a limitation on its powers of conversion.  This is meant to reflect (in a very abstract way) the way a ghost might scare you, but can do no real damage.

Spineless is the one "opposite card" of this set, where its attack stat is poor and its reasoning is good.

Since that's the last of the Devotee cards for all colors, next we'll move on to the final batch of cards, the Frenzies.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #26 - More of The Noise

Here are eight more Devotees of the Noise:

Although I've previously referenced "nomadic" cards like Walkers, the actual card Nomads here changes the scope of the term slightly.  These Nomads can walk between life and the afterlife freely, and I tried to show that in their special rules.  It's a little bit of a stretch, so I may change their name in the future.

Sewerlife is a Red-Text card, like many other cards, so players must keep it in mind during Crusades, even if it is not directly engaged.

The Noisemaker is meant to be a ship that is so loud (take it to mean the way Hawaiian shirts are loud) that it cannot hide anything.

Addicts suggests not drugs (although I suppose the placeholder art does), but rather an addiction to Crusading.

I think for the most part the other cards are self-explanatory, or you can easily suss out my intentions with them.

Next log will be the last eight Red cards in the set.