Friday, December 12, 2014

Laura Bow Mysteries: The Colonel's Bequest & The Dagger of Amon Ra

In the eighties and early nineties, Sierra and LucasArts fought each other for the Adventure Game market.  Sierra's strategy was to push out long-running series, like King's Quest and Space Quest and keep longtime fans through name recognition.  Because of this, Sierra would often try new series and cut them if they weren't as immediately popular as their older series.  One of the series they cut, which I mentioned before, was the Manhunter series.

A little later, Sierra tried their hand at another horror series, the Laura Bow mysteries.  Like the Manhunter series, the Laura Bow adventures only got two games deep before Sierra retired the series, but it's unfortunate, because they are fantastic.  Not only were they complex thrillers, but they were some of the first games that truly scared me as a kid.

Laura Bow shrieking, found at

The first game was The Colonel's Bequest, where you play a journalism student in 1925 named Laura Bow and solve a series of cryptic murders.  At the beginning of the game, you are introduced to both Laura and her friend Lillian at college.  Lillian has to go to a family gathering at her relative's estate, an old sugar plantation, and she invites you along.  Once you are settled in (and locked in), people start dying.  You have to try to figure out who the murderer is, of course, and do your best to stop them.  The estate is full of secret passageways that allow you to spy on conversations, and of course there is plenty of classic adventure game puzzle-solving to push through.

The game is great for replaying, since there is so much going on, you aren't likely to catch everything on the first playthrough.  While much of the mystery must get solved in the final act to reach the end of the game, you can be left with a lot of questions about the details, which warrants multiple playthroughs to discover.

The butler saying "Come and get it!" by a doghouse.
Like 'come and get' what? A human head, perhaps?!
The biggest flaw of the game is a few of the cheap deaths.  You can die by checking a closet, or taking a shower, or sometimes just wandering to close to a wall.  Follow Rules for Adventuring #1: Save Often; Save Well.

The Colonel's Bequest uses a text parser for commands, in the style of King's Quest IV, so when you begin typing, a text box pops up and the game pauses while you type, so you can take as long as you need to.

The second game of the series, The Dagger of Amon Ra, bumped up the style of the game to be closer to King's Quest V, and the text parser was replaced by a pointer and a series of icons.  You right-click to change from looking, to touching, to talking, etc., and then left-click to have Laura follow the command.

In The Dagger of Amon Ra, Laura is now a reporter on her first assignment.  Your task is to attend a gala at a museum for its grand opening of its new Egyptian exhibit.  The first act has you rolling around New York City, but once you're in the museum in the second act, you're once again locked in, and the bodies start piling up.
Including, but not limited to, animals in creepy green vats.
In the first game, you were a stranger to a family affair, and the obvious motive appeared to be that the murderer was eliminating people named in the Colonel's will, so you were fairly safe from being a target (apart from the cheap deaths).  In the second game, you have no idea what the motive could possibly be, so the stakes are raised, since you might become a victim yourself.  At the climax you find yourself being chased and you have to do some very quick puzzle-solving to get away.  It's hectic and frightening--but then we get to the one fatal flaw of the game.

In the first game, the biggest flaws was cheap deaths, but that wasn't too big of a deal if you learned to avoid them and saved often.  In the second game, the biggest flaw (and a deplorable one) is that you can be a dead (wo)man walking.  In adventure games, the Dead Man Walking is when you are not in any immediate danger, but you cannot possibly complete the game without reverting to an earlier save (if you have one), or completely restarting.

Laura getting yelled at by her boss.
"Maybe I should restart my career."
In The Dagger of Amon Ra, there are at least two ways this can happen, and unfortunately they're right at the climax.  Being that there's an Egyptian theme, the Rosetta Stone is housed in the museum, which you have to find to allow you to read and write hieroglyphics (as if the Rosetta stone simply says Owl = A).  The Rosetta Stone is broken in half, and you have to find both pieces.  If you don't, you're hosed.  One half is hard to notice, and you don't have much chance to get it.  If you miss it, you're out of luck.  Similarly, there's a special item you need to grab before you get to the chase, and just like the Rosetta Stone, you don't have much of a chance to get it, and it's a bit pixilated.  Without a walkthrough (or some sharp eyes and good luck), you might never complete the game.

It's a shame, because beyond that, The Dagger of Amon Ra is just as good as The Colonel's Bequest.

But, knowing this ahead of time, be sure to save in multiple slots.  Even with this problem (which, in fact, a lot of Sierra adventures were prone to), the game is thrilling and ups the stakes from the first.

A guy in a military uniform saying "Please rejoin ze party now, or I vill be forced to injure you."
For instance, there is this guy.
Sadly, after the second game, Sierra put Laura Bow to bed and continued on their other popular franchises, despite some positive critical praise.

Both The Colonel's Bequest and The Dagger of Amon Ra can be found on most abandonware sites.  Take a look and give the games a shot, if you like horror, adventure, mysteries, or just old games.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Latchkey #62 - Ghosts

Fixed a quick bug where when you moved to another room, the directional box didn't refresh.

After that I took a break from recoding the same old stuff and went to work on a new feature: ghosts!

Except the moment I began working on it, I realized that it can do a lot of what the player can do: move through rooms, open doors, etc.  I need to move some things around again.

Now I see the appeal of object-oriented programming.  Finally I have a need!  So now I've restructured so there is a Character class that both the Player and NPCs inherit from.

Well, I was hoping to be able to shrink the Player class a bit, and I did... but just a teensy bit, nothing major, just some shared variables.  Unfortunate the Move command, for instance, is far more complex for the Player than it needs to be for the ghosties.  Better than nothing, to get those couple of basic functions together, at least.

Man, when I get tired of trudging through the mud of recoding what I've already done, and I move on to a new feature, it just makes me rethink other major structures I've got in place.

Next, though, comes working on the realtime textbox.  Ghosts don't matter much if you don't get to see their effects.  What kind of event listener do you need for autonomous stuff running in the background?  Is that even the proper way to do that?  My initial thought is to check on each frame... something.  I want to make a generic listener that can take a ping from a ghost, or other realtime events.  Perhaps it requires a custom event, or perhaps there's something I just don't know about that already exists that can take some kind of internal signal.

Or perhaps there's a completely different way to do it that doesn't require a listener at all.  Perhaps ghosts and any other realtime object can have a pointer to the Interface class so they can manipulate the realtime textbox directly.  I think I'll try that and see if it works.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Flash Game Mini-Review: Run 3

Run 3 is, as the title suggests, the third in a series of games called Run.  Run and Run 2 were decent little time-wasters, though Run 2 was a bit of a disappointment to me after enjoying the first.  So I didn't have my expectations particularly high when I tried out Run 3.

Fortunately, Run 3 is great.

Screenshot of Run 3
Use the lizard. Always use the lizard.
It takes what was great about the first Run and makes it better, while taking away the stuff that wasn't too good from Run 2 (or, at least, introducing those things more slowly, so they're easier to adjust to). Add to that a colossal amount of new (and awesome) features, along with continual updates, and you've got a game that lasts and lasts.

The Run series has you take control of a little alien guy running along a track in space.  All you have to do is avoid the potholes and make it to the end of the course.  You have your choice of two basic characters: the jumper, who goes a moderate speed but can clear some good-sized gaps, and the skater, who is faster but can't jump as high (so he's a bit more of the "expert mode").  In Run 3, you can unlock lots more characters with different abilities, including a child which lets you run over crumbling tiles without crumbling them, and a pastafarian who can cross empty spaces for a limited time.

Explore Mode has you moving through carefully designed levels, with the goal of trying to make it to the proper end of a branching maze of tracks.  New tracks get added slowly, so even after you've completed all there is to complete, you can come back in a month and see what's new.  Just recently a level pack called "Low Power Tunnels" came out, which has tiles that fade to black against a starry background, making them hard to see and harder to land on.

Infinite Mode is more about getting a high score--that is, getting as far as possible.  As you go, the pattern of the levels changes to become more challenging, so just when you think you're a master at it, you get something new.

On top of that, users can create and share levels, so there's always more and more to do.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Flash Game Mini-Review: no-one has to die.

"no-one has to die." is a short puzzle game where you have to save four characters from a building that's on fire.  You direct their actions and have control over fire doors to keep them from getting killed.

Well, okay, it seems someone sure has to die...
However, the plot is where things get tricky.  It's a bit convoluted, but quite interesting.  It's difficult to mention anything about this game without spoilers.  The spoiler-free version is this: the corporation that owns the building is up to some very shady business, and nothing is as it seems.  You, a delivery man, find yourself in a guard room with two dead guards, and you can communicate with the characters through instant messaging.  The questions are numerous:  Who lit the fire? Who killed the security guards?  What does the corporation do?  Why so many cockatiels?!

But most importantly: who are you going to save?

In each level, you are forced to sacrifice one character so the others can move on.  Who you choose to let die not only changes the plot, but also changes how the next level is played, because the characters that survived will be in different positions.  In this way, any given level after the first, while technically having the same layout, can be made into different puzzles.

The puzzles are pretty easy, so don't worry about too much brain-bending; the game is much more about solving the mystery.  The story is anything but linear, and I think the game did a great job mixing the gameplay and the plot, in both a literal and an abstract-design sense.

It definitely gives a new meaning to "replayability"...

Friday, November 7, 2014

DOOM: The Mine #2

More detail in The Mine:

This is the previous space from the first post, with more detail.  Now it has been shrunk a little bit, there's more obstacles/decoration, and the bump in the floor gives it a feeling of a new room even though there's no door.

This is the center so far.  The player comes in from the green marble area at the top, and the screenshots I've shown are of the very center.  Those smaller rooms on the sides house demons or barons, depending on the difficulty.

This is one of those side rooms.  Again, to keep it from being too much red brick, I cut the wall to have the stripe around the center.  It's still a bit pink, but pink is okay I think, as long as it's a little bit of variety from the red brick.  The pink intestines-looking bit right under the gun is similar to the bump in the way to the center area, just pink instead of beige.  I decided to make them different so when you're circling the middle, the beige one catches your eye, so you head that way to escape, while these pink recesses are more to be unnoticed and you freak out when you hear the monster shriek.

For instance:

The part on the left is the exit (the first screenshot above), while the part on the right is a niche with a baron in it.  I'm thinking of making this level more of a run-away-type than a real shooter; ammo will probably be scarce the deeper you go, so you might not be prepared for a baron (or three), and you'll want to get to the exit quickly.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Latchkey #61 - Recoding the Take Command, Parser

Figured out the crash with commands that are nothing but verbs.  At an early point in parsing, I splice out the verb, which means the rest of the input might be null, but I don't check for that.  I just removed the splices for now.  Thought it would be more efficient, I guess, but not really a big deal for now.

So in other news, it appears that the move and look commands work in a vaguely alpha way, if not a grammatically correct way.  So that's good.

Taking items works again now, too.  Some weird little bugs, but I've fixed the crashes that came up.  But now, although you can take the item, the item still stays in the room too, and I can't remove the duplicate. Eek.  It's basically because during the initial parsing, I don't differentiate between items in the player's hand and items in the room.

So now I'm in the middle of fixing that mess.  Which also means I'm rewriting the code for figuring out which item the player is talking about when they use adjectives.  I'm perhaps halfway through that, but it gets tricky.  The old code for it was quite sloppy, and wasn't perfect by any means, so I've got to get it a bit better before going further.

Tasks within tasks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

DOOM: The Mine #1

To get back into the swing of things with DOOM (and hopefully getting back into Sacrifice), I'm making a quick one-off level to warm me up.

The purpose of this level isn't so much to be great design, or intricate, or anything, but mostly to work on my decorating skills.  I often find that my levels tend to look bland, either by being big open spaces or tight little corridors, with the same texture often repeated.  So for this level, I'll be trying to split things up into sections, and adding as much fine detail as I can.  We'll see if I go overboard.

But level design-wise, the idea for "The Mine" is to work in concentric circles.  The inner most circle will be the end, but since measuring things all out perfectly beforehand is impossible, and I probably wouldn't give myself enough room in the middle if I started from the outside, I'm instead starting at the end, and working my way out to the beginning.

Visually, the start of the level will be outdoors, with a cylindrical building in the middle.  The building will start with a sci-fi (or at least building-ish) theme, then go into a more natural rock formation, since the building was created over a mine.  Going deep enough into the mine, in turns itself into the green marble motif, and finally into a red hellish motif, ending with one final hole to jump into. The whole level will drop in elevation as you go.

This is the first try at some detail.  It's very, very red.  Probably far too red, which is why I tried to provide some variety with the candelabras.  But more importantly, I'm trying some things with the ceiling, which is something I often forget about.  I'll be trying a lot of funky things with the ceiling as I go.

I wanted the level to be a lot darker, at least this portion of it, but things seem to go gray over distance when the lights are low.  Perhaps I'll lower the brightness later, but for now, it's at the default.  There is a smidge of brightness-changing here, with the center hole being brighter than the rest to draw you in, but it may be too subtle, so lowering the ambient light will help.

Perhaps I'll also figure out how to break up the floor, so it doesn't seem so bland.

But that's what this level is all about, so I'll continue with lots of little tweaks and details as I go.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Latchkey #60 - Recoding Examine and Move Commands

The good thing about pausing on programming and coming back to it is that problems are easier than you feared.  The bad thing is that you forget how much you already coded and write lots of extra code before seeing that you've already written it once.

I fixed up the Examine command a bunch so it's a bit cleaner and appropriately displays barriers when you ask.  Though, at the moment, it basically reiterates what you already know in the directional box, because adjectives haven't been properly implemented.

Next I started to work on movement, to get that fixed.  Since the common way to move would be to say "move [direction]", I had to go back into the parsing function to peel out directions separately from anything else (I thought I'd have to, but forgot about it).  This gave the added bonus with the examine code, so now the player, when examining a barrier, they don't have to say "look at door", but can just say "look north" and get a description of the barrier in that direction.  Oddly, you can't say "look up" or "look down", but must say "look above" or "look below" instead.  Right now if you say "look up" it lists all the items in the room, which is more or less the error message saying "I know you're looking at something, I just don't know what."  I'll add that to my bug list.  Too annoying just now to fix.

Bigger bug that needs fixing: just typing the work "look" without anything you want to look at causes a crash.  Oops.

In any case, movement now works again (except for the same error with the examine command: you must say "above" and "below" instead of "up" and "down")... and the crash.  Seems to be if you just type a verb and nothing else, you get a crash.  Don't know why yet.  So that'll be fun.

The code is getting big and ugly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What's New, Pussycat?

This week has been tiring.  Mostly I think it's flu season coming on, so I expect this is the beginning of something worse next week.  If I can't post something real next week, I'll at least post a little status update like this.  But I've put a little work into Latchkey, just not enough to post about this week.  So perhaps next week there will be something there.

What I've really been itching to do recently is make a some Doom levels.  I've been considering picking "Sacrifice" back up and reworking the first level, or finishing the second, but to get back into gear for it I may want to make an unrelated one-shot level.  Though I'd take my time on it, rather than push full-steam ahead like I did with the Monthathon.

While I'm working on Latchkey and Doom, FissureVerse will be put on the backburner, so I can catch up on getting permission for the art, or finding new art altogether.  Some artists I've contacted have given me permission, and I've put links to their pages on the side menu.  Though if that gets too unwieldy, I'll move it into the main FissureVerse page.  Other artists have requested I remove their work, others haven't yet responded, and still others I haven't yet found their contact info.  So it's a bit of a clustermug right now.  Once all that's cleared up, things should go smoother.

Friday, October 3, 2014

FissureVerse #39.1: Note on Placeholder Art

I got into contact with Jose Arias about his artwork, and unfortunately I have to remove it, because the work is all previous commissions and such.  So I'll be back-correcting the last few FissureVerse posts within the next couple of days.  I'll post new artwork from new artists on those cards in later posts.

Even though I can't use his work, he still does great art, so I recommend taking a look at his stuff.

(Note to self: always ask first.  Saves a ton of work!)

So what I'll be doing after that is trying to contact each artist I've borrowed from.  But unlike Frenzies and Crusaders, all the Rogations and Locations are by a huge collection of artists.  So if I can find where I got the art from, and the artist's contact info, I'll contact them and see if they'll let me use them, and replace as necessary.  If I can't find the artist again, I'll probably re-look for new placeholder art.  It will certainly add a lot of time, but I'd rather be safe than sorry before posting another .pdf of printable cards.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dominion: Industry #14 - New Oil

Special thanks to Glen, who commented how he'd like to see something more unique for Oil cards.

I've never been satisfied having Oil just be a clone of Spoils, but previous attempts to make Oil something interesting didn't work, especially early on when I was stuck thinking of Oil as being like Potions.  Now that I've moved away from Industry for a bit, I've come back to it with a fresh(er) mind.

New and improved.  Must be high-test.
My first thought was on making Oil have a variable in it, so you might not always get the same amount of money.  So it might be a Treasure card, for instance, where you draw cards.  Since this is happening on your Buy phase, Actions are useless, so you're only hoping for money at this point.

But thinking on that line, I realized that's much more the sort of thing that would go in Will of Ra than Industry, so if I expand Will of Ra into a moderately-sized expansion at some point, I may want to revisit that idea.

My next thought was of City from Dominion: Prosperity, which gives you bonuses based on how many supply piles are gone.  I always liked that concept, but that was the only official card that was ever used on.  I think, like the Clean-Up phase, cards which get more powerful late-game could be an expansion all on its own.  I've teased that concept around in my head, and perhaps that will come of something, too.

But for now, I'll stick with just a demo of that with the revamped Oil Card.  My first thought was that perhaps you start with +$2, but you get an additional +$1 for each empty supply pile.  While it works thematically, it wasn't varied enough from City.  The bonus the player should get from Oil should be something more that one of the standard pluses.

So, of course, what's important to get late game?  Victory Points, of course.  So with that, playing an Oil Card with at least one supply pile gone also gives you an Estate.  It's a good thing, then, that Oil is a one-time-use card.

Play, test, comment, enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dev Log: FissureVerse #39 - Backs, and Tokens

Hold up! I gotta rethink this.

With the previous version of FissureVerse (when it was called Vortex), my sister and brother-in-law playtested the game.  The playtest devolved into a game of War very quickly: they would reinforce with a Devotee or two, and then on their next turn immediately Crusade and snatch up the other player's Devotee.  They had picked non-opposite factions (like Blue & Green, I think), so the two attributes they kept comparing were always close and worked out simply.  They never Frenzied or played Rogations.  It was just a quick swap back-and-forth.  By the end of the game, it was the luck of the draw that determined the winner.

Clearly, that was not a particularly good thing to be happening.

That was one of the reasons I reworked the Action phase a little, in hopes that such a thing would not occur, and that players would use the other card types.  Or, at least, give players who wanted to use other strategies a fighting chance.  If using nothing but Crusaders is a dominant strategy, the other cards don't need to exist.

However, I had a dream last night, wherein two friends played FissureVerse in an almost identical fashion to the way my sister and brother-in-law had, even accounting for the reworked Action phase.  The new way to play doesn't give Players who want to Frenzy a chance to do so.  Not really.  You have to get lucky with the Turn Order on each Location Card to pull it off.  And even then, you might as well just Reinforce again, to cap out your Field of Play.

I don't want to rework the game further to completely eliminate that strategy for players who want to use it, but I don't want it to be the only way to play.

This back-and-forth is mitigated somewhat with three players, and even moreso with four, but that's not quite good enough.  Two players need to be able to play the game without such an issue.

Currently, I'm trying to come up with some rules that don't force me to redesign the cards to add anything.  I've considered ways to basically Tap Crusaders (like in Magic: The Gathering), either upon being put into play, or after a Crusade, but I think that only delays the inevitable, and gets confusing because of the way Rounds work.  I could do something like "You can only Crusade if you have no cards in your hand", which would now most certainly force players to do more, but that does not seem like a pleasant solution.  I think players who want to Crusade often would just discard their hand whenever possible, just to be able to Crusade, and nothing is achieved.

Another possibility is to say you can only Crusade when you are not first in Turn Order, so you are in a Location which you do not have control over.  That way it makes sense that you would Crusade where your Opponent holds domain, and wouldn't Crusade in your own home.  But due to the random nature of the Locations, you may have a few rounds of Catan Dice Syndrome before you can Crusade.  You'd have your Crusaders all set down, a few Frenzies even in place, and you don't get the chance to Crusade before your whole army is wiped out because of an unlucky streak of Locations.  Ouch.

I could also add Crusade tokens, which perhaps require you to spend them to Crusade with a Devotee, though Crusading with a Zealot perhaps doesn't use them, and then the tokens get refreshed... somehow.  I'll have to think about that possibility.  So far it seems to have the likeliest chance of going somewhere.  I've considered adding tokens to the game in terms of placing them on Crusaders and having them change the way the Crusader is played, but I wanted to wait on those for a while and keep the game purely card-based until the kinks were worked out.  But, if it's what works...

...Yes, indeed.  New rule: at the end of every Round, if you have Reinforced, Frenzied, or played a Rogation during that round, you gain one Crusade Token (one for each, so if you played a Rogation and Frenzied, for instance, you get two Tokens).  When you wish to Crusade, you spend a number of Crusade Tokens equal to the value of the Attribute you're using as Offense.  So if you're Crusading with Reason, for instance, and the Reason attribute on your Crusader is 4, you have to spend 4 Crusade Tokens to do so.  But this also takes into account Frenzies, so if you have a Frenzy on that previous Crusader which gives a -1 on the Reason attribute, you now only have to spend 3 Crusade Tokens to Crusade the way you want.

I like it.  It may need a little balance or figuring out the exact proper way to distribute Crusade Tokens (perhaps Refilling should give you a Token, perhaps Reinforcing should not, etc.), but I think that may solve the problem.

This also helps to give a bigger advantage to Blue, who has always been on the short side of Offensive Attributes, by making Crusading a typically cheaper affair for Blue than for others.  Though that may make Blue too powerful.  The trials of game design...

Anyway, here are the new card backs, courtesy of Spellbound.

I'm getting better at asking about using art before applying it.  They say it's easier to ask forgiveness that to ask permission.  Not true.

I'll also start adding the credits and links directly on the blog in a single spot, not just the name on each card and a credit in the instructions.  That way it's easier for people who like the art to see the originals.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dev Log: FissureVerse #38 - Crusaders 2

First, a couple of notes:

I've decided to move the Frenzy Distortion out of this initial set of cards.  Firstly, having an even 24 cards for all card types/colors (and 48 locations) makes things simple to print out (since there can be 8 cards per page).  Secondly, Distortion was the biggest Frenzy I was kind of iffy on the artwork, so when I do the next set of Frenzies I'll be looking for other artists and maybe a better match will be found.  Lastly, the big one, is that this is a card that might really mess with things, and I want the other more "standard" cards to be thoroughly playtested before adding in a card like Distortion.

Also, I got into contact with Lane Brown, whose artwork I've "borrowed" for a few cards so far.  He's happy to let me use his personal artwork, but commissions might be a sticky issue, so I have to change any art I've used of his that have been commissioned.  Thankfully, only Steadfast Clan needed artwork replaced, so I'll replace it in a later post. Also, since I know his last name now, it'll be added that to the credit on the side of each card.

Last quick one: I've changed the name of Android 8 to Android 4, just because there's a character named Android 18 from Dragon Ball, and that's a little too close.  Might have been in the back of my mind or something when I created the card.

In the last set of 24 cards, there were quite a lot of Blue cards.  For these next 24 cards, the number of each is a bit more even, though there's a few extra Greens than anything else.

[Edit 10/7: Some artists asked me not to use their work, so they have been deleted from this post.  Any missing cards will be added in a later post.]
Dichotomous, Dead on Arrival, The Architect
Click to enlarge.

Dichotomous was a tough one; being that it's a an adjective, and I was using it to describe basically how the big two attributes are Reason and Fire.  So the suggestion of the name is that it's torn between two very different ideals.  Hopefully at least a smidge of that comes across in the artwork.  But, having found that artwork, I found a quote from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which naturally flows with the initial idea of Dichotomous, and ties with the new artwork.

Servants of Emptiness is Blue's basic card.  Although it suggests Green a little bit with the robot, the robot and the person are watching the sunset in peaceful silence, so I thought the picture would be better for a Blue card.  No text because it's just nice to enjoy a beautiful moment in silence.

Fireflies is adorable.  When I saw that artwork, I didn't think it would fit with the style I was shooting for, and I wouldn't be able to place it, but a looser interpretation of the word "fireflies" makes it work.  Here, the original attributes were 1's straight across the board, but I boosted the Reason attribute because the special rules didn't justify such an abnormally weak card.  We'll see if this balances out a little better.

Dead on Arrival is one of those cards where I had a particularly gruesome idea for the artwork, and there was no way in seven hells I'd be able to find what I was looking for, so the next best thing would be to re-imagine it and see what come up.  The artwork for this is kind of like a tree-skeleton hybrid, and looks better when it's not cut off by the condensed space of the card, but hopefully it captures enough here that you can get the gist.  I decided to go with no flavor text on this one because I felt that most unattributed text would seem like it's coming out of the mouth of the character in the card, and I couldn't find a voice that quite worked for it.  Perhaps its stunned (or perhaps creepy) silence works better.

Shameful is a tricky one; I added 1 to its Water attribute to make it even like a Servants card.  This partially works in the favor of the idea of Shameful: it's a card which could be anywhere, but it's not proud of that fact.  The trick with the special text here is that Fearful and True Conversions have their own advantages and disadvantages.  If you Convert by Fear/Fire, you get to keep the card completely, and there's no chance of losing it, but you also don't get to play with it.  If you Convert by Reason, you get to use it as if it were your own card, but that means there is a chance you could lose it.  So to me, at least for now, those two ideas balance out, so the special text here should not significantly affect the balance of the card.  For the art, I guess I can see how someone might see the red and consider that a Joker's grin, but the eyes make him look sad, and his lack of real mouth sadder still, so I think it looks appropriate for a card called "Shameful".

José Arias likes to use chained creatures in his art, and the artwork for Caged is just one of many.  It works in lots of circumstances, but none more so than Caged.  I could have picked practically any of his chained creatures for it, but for a Blue card I settled on one that looks more human and less vicious.

Kamikaze, like Fireflies, began as 1's straight through, but this one was even tougher to balance because it just seems so unbelievably devastating.  However, I changed the text so it only pulls off it's big kaboom if it's Killed, when it used to be "Killed or Fearfully Converted", so to begin with that mitigates it a little.  Also, I bumped the Sword to 3, which, despite making the card more powerful, makes the special text less effective, because it becomes harder to straight up Kill Kamikaze now, and it's harder for Kamikaze to intentionally Kill itself (by charging into battle knowing it won't win).  The player would need to Frenzy the Sword down, or the Opponent would have to make a big mistake.

The Architect was probably inspired by the God of War character, who always intrigued me, so it makes some sense to me to keep the artwork Grecian.  I didn't really have an idea of what I wanted for artwork, since it could be any sort of person, but I think this woman gives an expression of that shrewd, critical glare that works well for the card.  It would have been nice to add some flavor text, but alas, no room.

Mystics was very tough to pick for, since any number of pieces of art could have worked, but I want to differentiate it from the more "general" feel I kept getting.  So I went with a pun.

Just like each color has a Servants card, and a card that is opposite to its ideals, each color also has a card that stacks all of its power in the defining attribute of that color, and embodies that color.  For Yellow, it's Cavernous.  Cavernous was originally in reference to an empty chest cavity, as in "heartless", because it is the most vicious creature there is.  I decided to go with something hopefully disturbing for the flavor text.  Maybe it comes out cheesy.  To me it's something Pennywise might say. [Edit 10/3: Cavernous removed, see above].

I had many options for Lidless, too, and like Mystics, I didn't want it to be too generic.  The suggestion is basically that Lidless can see through a person to find their true weakness, since Frenzies can really change a card's attributes.  I should probably add some errata for how it deals with The Hidden, now that I think about it.  The Hidden shouldn't be forced to show its Frenzy if it's not using it. [Edit 10/3: Lidless removed, see above].

The Derelict is probably from Grime, if I were to place a Crusader with a Location.  They are Yellow precisely because Yellow is all they know.  Grime is like Yellow's breeding ground for crazies to use for their purposes.  But the special rules text indicates that, if The Derelict is in another Player's Field of Play, it must have been Truly Converted (there are probably lots of special circumstances, but as a general rule), so being that it's convinced of its new religion, it is even more hot-tempered.

Systematic could have been quite the generic card, as well.  It seems a lot of them are that have no special rules text, which makes sense.  For systematic, the name and attributes suggest that it prefers to win over by Reason first (hence it's Green), and failing that, Fire, and failing that, just Killing its Opponent.  The picture is a tad cyborg-y so that works.

Vermin needed some kind of animal for its art, and using actual rats would be too on-the-nose, so this hellish alien dog-bee-thing works well.

Returned is meant to mean "returned from the dead", and it is now equipped with knowledge of the afterlife (hence it is Green).  The quote may be a little cryptic, but it's a bit of a joke: now that Returned has seen that afterlife, it never wants to go there again.  The artwork is very zombie-like for an alien, so I went with it.

Servants of Solidity is Yellow's "Servants" card, and naturally looks like Master Blaster, and of course the flavor text is a pun.  Cuz that's the way I do things.

The original placeholder for Creatures was a unicorn, which worked well.  I wanted to juxtapose the term "creature" which suggests a less-than-human intelligence with attributes that suggest otherwise, like a dolphin.  Here, this big pack animal works well for it.  The special rules basically makes Creatures to be a very tame animal that startles easily.

Pollen was tough to find art for, as well, without just a picture of pollen.  But this works well, if you imagine the blue mist as being the Pollen, and the xenomorph-type creature as being the victim.

Echoes is pretty awesome.  Far better than the original placeholder, which was the Greek legend of Echo.  A mite different, I'd say.

The Expired was tough, partly because I'd forgotten what my initial intent was, and also because the name suggests something zombie-like, but I knew it wasn't meant to be just the Returned or Dead on Arrival.  So this interpretation is vaguely demon-like, as if these creatures live in a hellscape, and cannot be killed.  Because of that, you can't Kill them in a Crusade, so Killing them instead acts like Conversion through Fire.

Lost Souls, The Awoken, Sorrow Symphony

I bumped up the Fire attribute on Lost Souls by 1, because I think the difficulty of the special text makes it worth it.  In fact, it might be so frustrating I might want to bump it up to be even more powerful, if the balance just isn't there.  We'll have to see.  For the art, it's got angel wings, but is clearly emaciated, and it's a very, very Red card.  I think I like where that story is going.

I spent too much time trying to figure out both what artwork to use for The Awoken, and what flavor text to use.  I went with this artwork because she looks a tad tired, but beyond that I didn't have much of an excuse.  I suppose I'm partly keeping it because it's a Blue card, and Blue needs more pacific-looking artwork, and this works for that purpose.  I think I settled on no flavor text because I couldn't capture the voice.  But heck, just because there's room for flavor text, doesn't mean there always needs to be some.

Take, for example, Sorrow Symphony.  No flavor text because I wanted the art to speak for itself.  I had many options for where to put this piece of artwork (Lost Souls and The Winged among them), but I think in the end, this art goes with this card best.  It is similar to Lost Souls in feel, though it's Yellow, and hopefully a bit more sorrowful.  I really like how you can see the second one in the background.

Slaughterhouse is Red's super-Red card; the card that typifies it completely.  Slaughterhouse was always meant to be a beast of some kind, and this one certainly looks the part to have those attributes.  As far as the flavor text goes, I considered having none, but this Poe quote is awesome, too, if you read it as from the little guy in the bottom left corner.

Next set of cards will have new artists; this set have been pretty much used up!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dominion: Will of Ra #6

Here are the rules and printable cards for Dominion: Will of Ra.

I made one particular extra rule on Vizier in the errata, that the Attacking player who gains a Curse only gets ONE Curse no matter how many Viziers are revealed.  Otherwise, having Vizier in a game would just be too brutal and no one would ever play Attacks, which is not good, of course.  The Attacker should have to decide whether it's worth the chance to get a Curse for whatever else the Attack Card does, not fear playing it altogether.

But beyond that, things play the same, I believe.

Play, test, leave a comment, suggest sets, suggest clarifications!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dev Log: FissureVerse #37 - Crusaders 1

The first round of redesigned Crusaders is here.  Most of them are Blue, likely just because of the particular Deviant Artists I've been using.  So all of these cards have new placeholder art that's a little closer to what I'm going for, as well as flavor text, and clarified rules text, and (hopefully) more balanced attributes.

The big two artists in this set are Lane and Jose Arias, as well as a few from Smithhy and cat-meff.  A smattering of others come here and there, and I'm sure to give credit on the side of each card.  Of course, this is still just placeholder art, nothing official, but far, far closer to the feel and themes I wanted.

[Edit 10/7: Various artists have asked me to remove their artwork, so any that I describe here (and in the next post) that have been removed will be added with new artwork in a later post.  That's what I get for not asking first! I'm in the process of retro-actively asking artists, so cards will continue to disappear.  I'll be doing that more as I go on, and back-tracking as well to try to ask every one else that I've used.]

The Collector, Android 4, Tames, Teh Unimaginable
Click to enlarge, of course.  Also, see a later post about why Android 8 is now Android 4.
Steadfast Clan remains the same; I wanted to give them a Native American feel (in fact that should be one of Blue's big themes), with the simple declaration of their resolve.  The Steadfast Clan, being Blue, is big on Resolve/Defense/Water/WhateverYouCallIt, but is also willing to fight for their home.

[Edit 9/21:  I got in touch with Lane Brown, whose art I've used for much of this set, and he has given me permission to use most of his art.  The only exception is what I've used for Steadfast Clan, since it was a commission by someone else for a book cover, so I'll change that for the next post.]

I bumped up The Collector's Water attribute, because of the rules modifications, The Collector's special text is no longer as powerful as it once was.  The balance must be weighed between the regular way of playing (all or none) and the house rule for scoring.  As for the art, my original thought was for The Collector to be a collector of souls, but this worked really well, too.

The Dustchildren artwork is just cool; I can't claim I imagined anything like it.

The original picture for Android 8 was Data from Star Trek, which was pretty much what I wanted (except I hoped to find a less copyrighted, less photographed take).  What it is now is even better.  I didn't just make the quote reminiscent of Pinocchio, the image is Pinocchio, just a sci-fi-ish version.

For Twister and Tames, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get across an alien race that represents wind and earth, respectively, without just showing a tornado and an animal, like I had for my first round of placeholder art.  But these most definitely work, and I like how they're both massive, but have opposite dispositions.

Twister has been boosted a little in its Water attribute, to make it average.  I think that a player aiming to convert Twister might have a strategy involving discarding a card, so it might not be as bad a result for the other player every time.

Scatterbrains seems like an obvious choice, given the subject.  I had in my head a double-headed alien, but anything with lots of brain cases works, doesn't it?  Scatterbrains also got an extra Reason attribute point, again to make it average.  Splitting its Crusade between two opponents is cool, but not really worth it if the card can't handle the split.

The Unimaginable was always a Lovecraftian horror from the get-go.  The placeholder was just Cthulhu itself, but now Lovecraft has been moved to the flavor text, and The Unimaginable is a more original monster.  Each Color gets one card that is seemingly the opposite of what it stands for, and for Blue, The Unimaginable is it.  The Unimaginable got a boost to its Sword attribute, to balance for the change in rules, just like I did with The Collector.

Guardians, Thunderheads, Meek, Flesh
Guardians was tough; I almost didn't use that artwork because it was tough to crop it just right.  But I'm glad I got both the guard and the child, and if you can't quite see it I turn the flavor text into a conversation instead of just a single quote.

Thunderheads was always meant to be a fire-and-brimstone preacher (well, plural... a lot are plural but the best image was singular), and the dark smoky shadow works perfect here.  I decreased Thunderheads' Sword attribute, in an attempt to balance for the broad red text.  Red text is tricky at times, because there's a variable in how many Crusaders the player might have out in the Field of Play.  Too few, and the card is overpowered, too many, and the effect is too costly.

Meek is based off the Bible quote Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth".  Here, Meek is a creature that starts off weak (or meek), but can become extremely powerful.

Flesh is Green's "opposite" card, light on Reason and big on murder.  I like the joke that a card called "Flesh" has a picture of skeletons on it.

I had many, many options for The Winged; since practically half the fantasy creatures ever conceived have wings.  The first placeholder was an angel, and although that was cool, I felt such a token symbol of good wasn't "Red" enough.  Now here is a more common image for fantasy.  However, the lore is that dragons are extremely intelligent, but since it's Red, Reason is a bad attribute.  So instead I made it more of a taunting kind of card.  "Infinite", of course, is the name of the Green faction, Red's big enemy.

Naomi was tough to pick for; of course I had to pick a woman as artwork, considering the name, but it was tough picking between this, the Steadfast Clan girl (above), and others.  I think I went with this because of the sun-ray-type background.  Her image is also not too sad, not too tough, but calm, like she has a trick up her sleeve.  Like Thunderheads, Naomi had to be rebalanced for the red text effect, so here I decreased her Fire attribute, which of course ought to work fine, considering she's Blue.

Each color also gets a "Servants" card: your basic card that's adequate in all four categories.  Servants of the Noise is Red's.  I think it captures the spirit of Red well enough: a brutal sense of humor.

The original art for Learning to Walk was a baby deer.  Of course that's not quite what Yellow is about, but I wanted to keep that same sort of idea, something weak in the knees (mostly because whatever my original idea about what Learning to Walk should be has been forgotten).  When I decided on this one, I thought it worked, though I contemplated a Frankenstein quote to go with it (nothing worked well).  This works; perhaps it's best to have as few non-original quotes as possible, unless they're perfect.

For Starving, Cacophonous, and The Hidden, I felt silence was best.  Starving has silent gratitude, and The Hidden is silent because, well, it's trying to maintain cover (even if it's out in the open, seemingly).  For Cacophonous, I struggled with something to write there, before deciding that the picture says it all.  Writing "Raaaaaawr" or something equally lame would just detract from the image, which is awesome by itself.  It's one of those pictures you can hear just by looking at it.

As for The Optomites, well, you'd be surprised how tough it is to find a sci-fi alien that's smiling!

Witch Doctor, Abductors, Servants of the Infinite

I think Witch Doctor and Abductors speak for themselves, and aren't a far cry from their original art.

Servants of the Infinite was a tough choice for that artwork.  I think it's amazing, so I wasn't sure if I wanted it for this or for For Hire (which I'll get artwork for later).  For Hire, however, is more along the lines of hiring a lawyer or debater or philosopher than hiring a mechanic.  This works better here, I think.

Last (of course), but not least, Slowpokes is a turtle.  Of course it's a turtle.  I had that in mind from the beginning, I think, and I'm glad I found such a badass turtle warrior for it.  At least I didn't use the pokemon!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dev Log: Latchkey #59

I hope whoever invented trace statements got a prize.

I got the error messages to appear in the proper place, so if the game messes up, the message goes in the bottom left box, and if everything is fine, it goes in the top-middle box. 

I've also got the examine command to work (I think).  It should work as normal, though I haven't done every possible test case, since it's becoming harder and harder to figure out what every possible test case is.  The way I do it is to put a trace statement between every line of code, and as I come across them when I test, then I delete them because I know the program got that far without an issue.

AS3 doesn't like to concatenate things, so I thought I was being a good little programmer by using .concat(), but it wouldn't work and messages would only appear fully if I just used += instead.  The online documentation claims both ways produce the same results, but not for me.  Perhaps because I'm trying to concat within a string vector or something.

Anyway, examine/look works again.  However, now I have a lot of duplicate code, but the duplicate code has become necessary because I forgot to add into the initial parsing just where each item or barrier was found.  So basically if you try to look at "the door", and there are two doors, the barrier vector points to them both, but it forgets that the doors are to the north and east, so I can't say "There is a door to the east" without completely rechecking for it.  Same thing if the player is looking at an item in the room or in hand.

So, back to the drawing board, to add locational data on the initial runthrough.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dominion: Industry #13 - Canal & Clockwork Fixes

After playing a game involving plentiful use of both Canal and Clockwork, I have decided to switch the prices.  Canal is now worth $4, because it is far more useful than I thought it would be; even players who typically don't like to trash cards are fond of it.  Clockwork is much slower than I anticipated, and only tends to be useful towards the end of the game, so I lowered the price to $3.  It's still fun to play, just not used quite as often.  Perhaps in other games the Clockwork Tokens will rise quicker and it'll be necessary to raise the price again.  But that's what playtesting is all about!

I also clarified the rules for Canal, so if you have no cards in your hand during your Cleanup Phase, you don't trash anything, and you don't gain any cards.

The price change does mess with the balance of some of the suggested sets, so I may make corrections to them.  But who knows, they might still be fine.  Only one way to find out!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dominion: Will of Ra #5 - Suggested Sets

So here are the suggested sets for Dominion: Will of Ra.  If I make this expansion bigger later, I'll remake the suggested sets to incorporate new cards.  Each of these sets should be well-balanced, price-wise.

With vanilla Dominion:

Heavy Lifting: Adventurer, Mine, Remodel, Woodcutter, Workshop / Canopic Chest, False Door, Nome, Palace, Scribe

This one is designed for big money and a fast-moving game.

Leaders and Villains: Cellar, Library, Market, Thief, Witch / Chariot, Nomarch, Pyramid, Sphinx, Vizier

This one is meant for Attacks and Curses to come into play.

With Intrigue:

New Ventures: Bridge, Great Hall, Nobles, Scout, Shanty Town / Canopic Chest, False Door, Nomarch, Nome, Pyramid

This one is big on Victory Points.  There are lots of Victory cards and quick ways to get them.

Old Money: Harem, Minion, Saboteur, Tribute, Wishing Well / Chariot, Palace, Scribe, Sphinx, Vizier

This one should hopefully be both attack-heavy while also being a quick, high-money game.

You know the routine: play, test, have fun, suggest your own!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Posting schedule

I have to push my posting schedule around a bit to figure out what works for me.  I'm waking at four in the morning on weekdays for work, so I'm finding I'm unable to concentrate on much creative work, whether it's design or programming.

A guy smacking an alarm clock

What I think I'm going to do is move to a more variable posting schedule.  I'm definitely going to continue to post at least once a week, and sometimes twice a week, when I have the energy for it.  The days of the week that I post may change around for a while until I find what I'm most comfortable with.  Once I get a good groove going, I'll solidify the schedule again.

Now... time for a nap.