Friday, February 28, 2014

Dominion: Industry #6

For the final four cards, we've got.. well, basically the last four cards I've come up with.  It took a while to round out the set because I felt like I got stuck at 20.  But here we go:

Last four cards! Click to enlarge.
Dumping Grounds was my way of making the Cleanup mechanic have a potential downside.  I was tired of making ways to draw cards, so this came to mind.  This is actually the last card I thought of.  Note here that it's a card in play you must trash, so you must have used it at least once, so it's not a completely terrible card you can get rid of like a Curse.  But this is useful for late game, or perhaps when you want to get rid of your Coppers early.

Nomadic Traders mixes Cleanup with Oil again, but does it in a slightly different way, giving you a chance that you might not get that Oil Card.  I also only gave a little standard bonus so it becomes a cheap card.

Slumlord was my way of making a Cleanup Attack.  It's only useful in that regard on occasion, but combine that consolation prize for not buying anything, along with the other bonuses, and it becomes a pretty good card.  Maybe only worth $4, but I'll play with it to find out.  Since I had overdone the attacks with Dominion: After Dark, I wanted to not have too many here.  I was Attacked out, but this one is relatively simple.

Travelling Market came to me in a flash of inspiration, but it took me forever to come up with a title and picture.  I kept trying to image search "auction painting" and "flea market painting" but all I could find was paintings sold at auctions, not paintings of auctions.  Ah, well, this works.  It's an upgrade-type card, though it's also useful to other players.  Perhaps it really goes in my Goodwill set (though in that regard, I'm considering redoing it to give it a better theme).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dev Log: Horror Text Adventure #40

I've now started the process of making the static locations where players can meet.  I'm starting with the school that I drew up in Part 6.  I've added some basic room types for offices, dining halls, kitchens, gyms, libraries, classrooms, bathrooms, and closets.  Then I added a counter barrier type, which is basically a window (though eventually the window will have an open/close ability, as well as possibly lock and break, while the counter will have none of those).

Map of School
To reiterate.  Although code and drawings are two dastardly different things.
After that I began the long process of adding each individual room and barrier.  I'm sure they're also a much shorter way to get it done, but I did manage to cut it down substantially twice by adding a couple of simple functions (and I found a redundant one to get rid of).  If I hadn't done so, those sections would have been six times as long.  I think I should be able to make a way to connect rooms and their barriers at once, but for now that task is out of the way so I may worry about it on the next common area.

I think this is part of the kick I needed to feel like I'm making progress again.  I was kind of struggling on specifics about what kinds of items to make and how a player can interact with them meaningfully, and I think by working on a very solid non-random area, I can see how things fit together.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dev Log: Horror Text Adventure #39

If you type "look" or "examine" without an object stated (or with an object stated that is neither in the room or in your hand), then you get a nice list of things you can look at.  This in a way also serves as a way to describe the room.  Currently it's just in dry list format, but I'll probably also add flavor text description later and whatnot.

I am now considering just how complicated I may want items to be.  Since so many objects in real life can be taken apart, should each individual part be a separate item?  For instance, a bed has pillows and sheets as potentially takeable items on top.  At first I was thinking that a bed is a bed, and it will have a random description like "the bed is made" or "the bed is unmade".  But what if the player wants to make the bed?  What if the player wants to take the sheets?  What if the player wants to look between the mattress and the boxspring? (Supposing the bed even has them.)

I could either decide to keep items simple, it which case I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I decide later to allow the player to do more stuff, or I could make items complex, in which case if nothing ever comes of it then I'm just doing way too much extra work for no reason.

Ultimately, I DO think I want to make the game fairly complex, so it would do well now to fix things up so items are (or can become) their parts, rather than the sum.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dev Log: Horror Text Adventure #38

Shrank a little code, but needed to give barriers a new variable to make it work.  Now it's getting a little better, so the code doesn't care as much about the exact type of barrier as it does some specific properties, when giving descriptions.  So before I basically had duplicated code about checking whether a barrier was a door or window, which so far act the same in all ways, but now instead I just check to see if the barrier is "openable".  Things might get a little messy if I don't develop a better system, but for now this one is at least better than what I had before. 15 lines is 15 lines.

Also I added a "locked" variable to doors only.  Nothing for implementation yet in terms of keys and unlocking (apart from starting an "unlocking" function in the class, which currently does not much), but baby steps.

I haven't done much over the past week, and I notice that it really feels bad when I don't do work.  It always seems like it's tough to get into the groove, but if I do, by the time I'm done for the day, I'm energized and happier.  I need to kick my butt into gear and get crankin' on this.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Addiction... and the Reverse

The other day I decided to start a new character in DC Universe Online.  This comes after a recent major game update.  Normally game updates don't change too much in PvE below level 30, which is where I spend most of my time.  This time something different occurred, however.  It was a very minor change, made with very good intentions, but somehow it made me completely lose interest in the game.

The change went like this:

Normally, there are main story missions, and there are side missions.  Side missions can be found throughout the world, by spotting a character with an exclamation point over his head.  This is par for the course for MMORPGs.

The game developers decided to make these side missions replayable.  Not a bad thing in itself; this was to address an issue that some players had dealing with leveling up and finding other ways to boost their experience (races, investigations, collections, and briefings offer loads of experience, but I guess a lot of those are tough to find sometimes).

Again, it's fine that you could replay side missions.  The problem comes in where I can't find an option to turn off the marker for a completed side mission.  Normally, there is an exclamation point on the minimap where the NPC is, as well as an icon above their head, as well as a big white beam of light surrounding them shooting to the heavens so you can see where the NPC is from a distance.  That's all well and good, and is quite helpful, but after I've completed the mission once, that stuff doesn't go away.  It used to, because there was no more reason to have those effects.  But now since all missions are replayable, I don't know what NPCs I've gotten missions from and what ones I haven't without flying up to them and checking every time I spot one.  I don't want to play the side mission over again.  What's the point if I have no trouble leveling up?  It's essentially their answer to grinding, which was a common RPG problem they managed to get around.

Guy grinding an ax
Seriously: not even fun back in the day.
It seems a bit like that's an awfully small thing to get annoyed about.  Maybe it is.  But it's often the small things that can make or break a game.

I have heard an incredible amount of terrible things about the game Flappy Bird, and apparently it is so despised that the creator couldn't deal with the verbal abuse of both critics and other game devs and decided to take the game off the smartphone stores.  It was apparently extremely addictive and no fun at all.  (Disclaimer: I have not played it, this is just what I've read and seen.)

Yet it has also been compared to Helicopter, a classic old-as-the-Internet game that is incredibly fun, yet not terribly addicting, just a good time-waster.

What's the difference between the two that caused Flappy Bird to get so much ire?  Maybe it's the frustration factor: the game is very hard right off the bat.  Maybe it's the control: you have to tap the screen instead of hold down a mouse button.  Maybe it's the obstacles:  Flappy bird basically works with gates, while Helicopter is more like a shifting tunnel.  Minor variations all.  Yet somehow, one of them is addicting and frustrating, while another is the opposite.

The Helicopter Game
Also, way is way more neon than the other.
Sometimes all those little details sound like nitpicks, but on the other hand, having just one hair in your soup is also a "little detail", but people tend to be completely turned off by it.

I've heard before from designers that it's the vision that matters, not the details.  Seems like both those games had the same vision, but one of them lost their way on the details.

Of course vision is important, sure.  Some big ideas are just never going to work.  But when you've got something tried and true, it's the little things that get you.  How many terrible platformers were made for the NES?  They all had an excellent model to go by.  Yet many of them failed because the little details destroyed the game: the jumping controls were just a tad off, the level design was just a bit too frustrating, the lives or hit counter was a bit too stingy...

Back to the Future II on NES
...they forgot to watch the movie it was based off...
It's great to experiment, too.  The bad platformers need to exist so we know what not to do.

And Flappy Bird should have stayed available, I think.  Even though it was mostly derided by critics (and other game devs themselves), it become number one in the smartphone stores.  Why was that?  Some decision was made in the design that made it utterly addicting.

DC Universe online was pretty addicting for me, too.  A lot of MMORPGs are.  It feel like half the mechanics in those games are designed to be addicting.  Yet one little change--seemingly for the better--somehow made things so much worse for me as a player that I don't even feel like playing it ever again.

As far as design goes, I'd never want to compile a giant list of dos and don'ts and try to make a "perfect" game.  That would be pretty absurd.  Games are an art form, and it's pretty hard (certainly at present) to get it down to a science.  But there may be some pretty decent rules to follow, like "don't drop a hair in the soup."

The problem is we still haven't identified what a hair is yet in games.  After so many years, you'd think we'd notice by now.  But I think we're not noticing the hairs, because there's far too much nicotine that covers everything.

A bowl of cigarettes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Flash games for a few fun minutes

Dynetzzle - A numbers puzzle game about matching the sides of interlocked dice.

Strand - Like Hashi or Bridges, but without the grid and straight lines.

Shape Fold 2 - I don't know how to describe it.  Fold shapes.  A second time.

NoNoSparks: Genesis - Like a Picross version of Doodle God.

NoNoSparks: The Ark - More Picross goodness.

Sorry, slow week.  Enjoy these!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dominion: Industry #5

Now there are a couple of cards that do things "At the start of cleanup" rather than "during cleanup."  "At the start of cleanup" really means "before you discard your hand and played cards."

When it comes to these, you need to be careful that you play things in the right order.  It doesn't matter if, during your action phase, you play one "During cleanup" card and then one "At the start of cleanup" car, you'd play the "At the start of cleanup" card's effect first during the cleanup phase.

If you play two "At the start of cleanup" cards, then they just take effect in the order you played them.

Uh oh, an attack!  Click to enlarge.
Canal requires you to trash a card from you hand, so you have to have a card in hand that you haven't played during your action or buy phases.  Otherwise, it works a bit like Trader from Dominion: Hinterlands.

Luddites seems like a Knight from Dominion: Dark Ages or a similar card, so it at first seems odd that it would cost so much.  But with Knights, you flip over cards from your deck to trash a card.  That means that on your next turn, you are still drawing five cards.  With Luddites, it's not only forcing you to trash a card, but shrinking your current hand like Militia from vanilla Dominion.  That can take its toll.  In fact, since I have no limit on how many times this can effect a player, I ought to either impose a limit (players with four or more cards, for instance), or raise the price all the way up to seven.

Park is just cute.  But, like Canal, you have to have an extra card in your hand that you never got to use during your Action or Buy phases.  This works well in a low-Action game, or if you have a silver or some other treasure that you didn't spend.

Pawn Broker combines the "Cleanup" mechanic with the initial Oil card I introduced in the beginning.  But notice that you only get the Oil card if you reveal it from your hand, meaning that you never played Pawn Broker during your Action phase, so you never got the normal bonuses.