Well this is certainly a weird time to be posting. Anyway work is going… pretty much like work. I’m attempting to get my Left 4 Dead fix in at 1:30 in the morning which hasn’t been going too well. I do know some people who are completely out of my time zone which has made getting a game somewhat easier.
Anyway I got a problem for all the board game players out there. Looking over my design document for my game, most of my rules and mechanics can easily be translated from playable on the pc, to playable on a board. Except for one, knowing where the monster is for the Victor player. Obviously both players are viewing the board at the same time and telling the Victor player to look away while the monster is moving works. However what happens when the monster is done moving, the player can’t leave the piece on the board as Victor will know where he is and ruin the use of the security check feature.
Now I have a few ideas on the backburner for this problem but I would really like to hear from players of the genre who have dealt with this problem before or have any solutions of their own to contribute. I just don’t want my big epiphany idea to be something that someone came up with 10 years ago as a solution. Well, the massive caffeine boost I took to stay up is starting to fade so I’m going to log off here and get some shut eye.
As you might have guess by now, I have a love of action games. So after reading this article on Gamasutra analyzing the combat and enemy systems of popular action titles, you knew I had to comment on it. You can find the article here , there are a few points I would like to talk about and what I would like to see change or improved in future action titles.
Action groups: This I find very interesting, as this dictates the amount of combat the player will have to deal with at one point. I do think though that this was a necessity of the technology. The reason is that if every enemy on screen could attack at one time they would get caught into each other or be able to attack the player through each other making it very unfair. However I think technology has advanced to the point that enemies can take up physical space in the game world allowing them to attack more efficiently and realistically as a result.
Timing: As someone who has a game document detailing an action title, I’m surprised at myself that I never thought of this as a factor. I definitely think that instead of having a set value for this, randomizing it based on the difficulty and enemies attacking would make the combat more satisfying.
Tells: Now this is very important for action titles as without it the player would be unable to use the defense systems in place. The main issues are with the camera and the actual tells, if it’s too far away then the player won’t be able to pick up on them, too close and the player won’t be able to see enough of the game space to fight in. A camera system similar to God of War but zoomed in slightly should work, along with bigger character models on screen (not muscular but just generally taking up more space on screen).
With the tells themselves all enemies should have some kind of attack tell, it’s just not fair to the player to have 5 enemies attack without warning chipping away at your health. Of course major enemies need to have tells as if I don’t see that 3/4 health bar loss attack coming I’m going to be pissed.
Enemy Defense: Now we’re talking, just being able to punch through 100 guys in a row will get boring fast. In my action title the enemies have access to the same defensive options as the player forcing the player to counter their counter attacks and mix up their combos. The harder the difficulty level the more this will take affect, with some enemies completely immune to hand, feet, or grapple attacks.
Interupts: Another important decision in action games, being able to stop someone’s attack with your own is an important decision. I feel that basic attacks from both the player and enemies shouldn’t interrupt which will allow the defense system to play a larger role. Stronger attacks by both parties should knock whoever they hit out of whatever attack they’re using.
Gating: This is one design decision I think needs to go and is a good indicator of a bad combat system in my opinion. If the player wants to avoid fighting in an action game, then the designer has failed in their job of providing an engaging combat system. Then there are games where every 10 feet walls will pop up as enemies magically appear out of no where which is usually very annoying.
Hits to kill: Lastly how much damage should enemies take before they go down. Personally instead of having a fix health amount for every enemy type, I would rather see a random slight increase or decrease in the max health of enemies just to spice things up.
I enjoyed the article as it has been a while since I’ve read a piece analyzing the genre. The action genre has seen some growing up in no small part thanks to games like Ninja Gaiden and God of War but I think we’ve yet to see a true “next-gen” action title and Ninja Gaiden 2 does not count.
When it comes to video games, I’m both up to date with the newest releases and stuck in the past with classic old school titles. However music is another story for me, as my love is stuck firmly in the 60s 70s and 80s. It’s like when the date hit 1990 new music became horrible for me to listen to. Now sure there are a few hits of recent years that I do like to hear, however give me The Rolling Stones or The Who any day of the week. I’ve tried recently to get into today’s music and I’ve come to a conclusion about why this it doesn’t click for me (don’t worry I will link this to game design soon).
So in the past few months it seems I can’t turn on a radio station without hearing something by the Jonas Brothers or Hannah Montana or whatever the hell the “tweens” are listening to. (FYI the word tween makes me sick, which perhaps someday I’ll explain why). I’ve tried to listen to popular music and most of it has the same generic sounding crap to me. I listen to the singer’s vocals and I just don’t hear “it” in their voice. By “it” I mean that passion in the voice, which the person loves every minute of it and is into the song. When I hear bands like Three Dog Night, Guess Who, The Who, among many others sing I can hear it. Today it sounds like there is no energy in the singers, that it’s all corporate funded singing. Also female singers who have to scream 75% of the song annoy the hell out of me. After that long and winding road it’s time for the point of this entry.
While we may never hear the lead designer sing in a video game (for my voice that is a blessing) but you can tell in a game when a designer has really poured their heart and soul into the project. Whether it is something unique for the time like X-Com or a game where every inch of the game feels like it was carefully put together. These are the games that last forever among the hardcore, games that rarely get sequels or are big sellers. Comparing this to my musical example, a lot of the casual games out today are like the lifeless songs of today. There are examples of amazing casual games but the majority like to copy everyone else’s design. I believe this quote taken from 1up by the designer behind Shadow of the Colossus, Fumito Ueda sums up my thoughts best:
“As a company employee, it is necessary to create something that sells. However, if I were to choose between something that sells for a moment and is forgotten, and something that doesn’t sell much but is remembered, I would choose the latter. But I personally think that a game has potential to sell a certain number of units no matter how quickly it sells. That is why I think that the one that leaves good memories is better, since it will make a sequel more appealing.”
We don’t have to worry about games losing their soul anytime soon with developers like Suda 51 and Atlus around, but I think this is something to think about the next time you see the umpteenth version of diner dash in stores.
P.S The most current song I actually liked would have to be Crazy by Gnarlis Barkley, which I think means something mentally but I don’t think it’s that important right now 🙂
So my board game idea has hit a little snag. I’ve decided that it is not a 1:1 increase between stats and die rolls for the monster and now I’m trying to create a formula to use for this. The problem is trying to nail down one that not only can be calculated either by hand or by computer, but is also fair to the players. As I’ve mentioned I want the average play time to be around one hour for two rounds. If I make Die increases too hard then the player will have to spend more time improving them increasing the play time. On the other hand if it is too easy to get them then the monster can spend a few turns and have super high stats completely disregarding the importance of the starting stats. Right now I’ve narrowed it down to three different ones and I’m hoping that I can get some insight from the readers of my blog.
A few terms first: Die increase stat (DIS) = The stat value that will give the monster an extra die.
Die increase value (DIV) = The new amount of die the monster can roll for a check using that stat.
Last die increase stat (LDIS) = The last stat value that was needed to get the current amount of die for that stat.
With that said here are the formulas that I’ve come up with using these variables.
1. DIS= LDIS * DIV
2. DIS= DIV plus all numbers before it (IE DIV=5 then 5+4+3+2+1, if someone could please tell me the name of this I would be very grateful)
3. DIS= LDIS + DIV
For a base line, one point in the respective stat = 1 die for a roll using it and then the formulas kick in from there. As I think about it #3 would give the monster a nice advantage early on and could easily make up for the Victor player not picking good parts. Then again I could run into a balancing issue of the part choices not mattering. #1 would give the monster a small advantage starting out but would quickly become tough around the third die. There is one avenue I’ve been thinking about, having long and short versions of the game using #1 and #3 respectively. I am opening up the flood gates for any suggestions or criticisms so if anyone has any thoughts on this I would be happy to hear them.