Archive for month: October, 2014
Gosh, but Alien:Isolation is pretty.
Especially on my new gaming machine. Everything on ultra, runs smooth as butter. Delicious. Screenshots can’t really do it justice.
I stood in front of this window, staring in wonder at the scene in front of me, for about 5 minutes. And trying to find the right angle to take screenshots. At least, until an android came up behind me and strangled me. Bloody androids.
The only good android is a phone.
Funny thing, right. Game development is so intensive, so time consuming (especially with a day job), that I can go long periods without stopping and playing new games. At least, nothing more involving than lunch-break games. Things I can fit into half an hour. Which is not a good thing, I think. You can lose sight of why you’re doing it. Why you’re working so hard. What was it all for again?
It’s good to regularly reconnect with that sense of wonder. To remind yourself that this is why you push yourself to the edge of exhaustion. The body needs food, but so does the soul, the creative spirit. Don’t forget to eat. 😉
“What is best in life, Conan?”
“To turn the tables on your foes, to devastate their careful battle plans, to hear the lamentations of their women as you snatch victory from them!”
Or something like that. 😉
One of the tricks to designing strategy game mechanics, it seems to me, is to create an interesting mix of predictability and the capacity for surprising turn arounds.
Predictability is important, even though it may sound dull and unappealing, because a player needs to be able to plan ahead, predict possible enemy moves and adjust their strategy accordingly. Complete unpredictability is not really that fun, except for a bit of a laugh now and then. If you’re actually interested in strategy, you need to be able to analyze the field of play and have some reasonable ability to predict future game states from that.
This, for me, is the solid foundation upon which more interesting mechanics are built on. It’s constructed by the careful tuning of power curves and special ability balance and suchlike. You know that in System Crash, for example, a 5 Credit card is usually going to be more powerful than a 3 Credit card. You know that if it’s turn 2, neither player is likely to be have a 5 Cred card on the board. You balance unit strengths with weaknesses or counters, etc.
But this is where the ability to surprise comes in. The game needs to offer players some way to subvert and upset expectations. To turn the game state suddenly. It needs to have wild cards that can radically alter the game state in ways that you can’t readily predict, except to the extent that you can predict that your enemy is going to try something unpredictable. 😉
It’s the sudden turns that you remember the most, those moments where you flipped the game on its head and reversed your fortunes. Luck and skill play a large part, of course, but design needs to provide the player with the tools for enacting such turns, without letting them dominate the design to the point that all ability to strategize is lost..
Designing for that balance of gentle, predictable power curves and sudden turn wild cards is far from easy. In fact, it’s incredibly complicated. Add in the challenge of building an AI that can play these tricks itself and…well, it’s a lot to juggle. I don’t know if I’ve got it right. I certainly hope so!
I take comfort in knowing that System Crash is a living game, one which I plan to expand and deepen long after that first release. And I’m excited to see where it goes!
Been a long, tiring week at the day job, and burning hard during the week means I need down time on the weekend to recuperate. It’s always a bit frustrating when another week passes and I feel like I didn’t get what I’d hoped to done. But that’s life.
Anyway, so after spending some time relaxing with Michelle this morning, I’m back at it. I don’t know if I’ll make my end of October deadline for SC completion, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
What’s on the task list?
– Finishing testing and mission balance (the big one).
– Creating a few UI icons that are currently using placeholders.
– Adding in objective prompts for all the missions.
– Adding in a few missing pieces of art. They’re complete but not added to the project yet, because I haven’t got round to it yet.
– Finishing the artwork on the ‘Lewis’ card. It’s not quite polished enough.
– Create a “GNN news reporter Special Report” background illustration. For when the player’s actions make the 9 ‘o clock news. 😉
– Getting the final 5 pieces of background art from Klaus and putting them in-game. I’ve got one so far and it’s exceptional. I can’t wait to show you guys.
– Fixing the fact that the victory music in story missions can overlap.
– Replacing the placeholder “buy now!” screen with something a bit more polished and juicy.
– Updating the game credits screen with the final list of contributors.
– Collision detection on the dialogue choice options doesn’t scale properly if the text is more than 2 lines high.
– Add a special music track to play during the campaign victory sequence, for a greater sense of accomplishment.
It’s tantalizingly close to finished, but that’s still a lot of work for 3 weeks after work hours. o_o
I don’t know if I can do it, honestly. But at this point, I don’t want to give myself permission to slip another month on release. So I’m just going to push hard for that finish line see what happens.
So here’s a screenshot for screenshot saturday, of a one of the dialogues I’m adding more player responses to. Even if the outcome is the same, giving the player more responses, instead of just a “next, next, next”, makes it feel more engaging.
I really need to create some visual editor UIs for this kind of content for my next game. Painful editing raw XML. 😛
I should probably not be adding any more features to System Crash at this point. 😛
My only defense is that, well, my gut says I should. There’s a sense you have, of something being done or half-baked that is, at least in part, instinctual. I’m certainly aware of the dangers of scope creep, absolutely, but at the same time, if something deep inside says “this really needs to be better”, well, I can’t ignore that voice.
So I added random rewards and loot tables to the game. Only took a few days.
Previously, missions had set rewards. You knew, going in, what you were going to get for a win. Now, the game presents you with a mix of set and randomly selected rewards. After winning, you’ll see something like this screen.
Clicking the rewards will reveal what you’ve won, which may include bonus credits, rares, or multiple copies of a card.
The game is just that bit more satisfying now, what with the post-game anticipation of opening your loot. 🙂
the campaign will also be a little bit more varied now on replay, since the cards each player will have unlocked at any stage of the game will vary. I’ll make sure that players have unlocked at least one copy of each distinct card in the core set by game’s end, but beyond that, it’s down to luck. 😉
Hopefully that works out. We’ll see!