Archive for category: System Crash

Chippin’ away

15 Dec
December 15, 2012

I’ll have a full update on what’s been happening lately for you next week (mainly UI work), but for now here’s a screenshot of the Work-In-Progress Deck Editor screen. Some stuff is still placeholder or formatted incorrectly, and I’m still feeling like the green may be a bit overpowering, but we’re getting there, inch by inch.

DeckEditor

It’s deep crunch time, here at Rogue Moon HQ. I was coding ’til past midnight last. Not long till playable alpha now folks, not long at all. 2, maybe 3 weeks. o_o

Eye of the tiger, Gareth. Eye of the Tiger.

System Crash Update – Missioning

07 Dec
December 7, 2012

What are you working on right now, Gareth, I hear you ask.

Well, glad you asked. I’ve been creating the story campaign missions, a process that involves plotting the overall story arc, building up missions that lead the player through that arc (and side missions), writing up narrative and building the XML data entries.

Which look something like this.

In the process of writing the plot, I decided that I needed something more than just the little narrative blurbs before and after a card battle to make it interesting. It’s rather hard to create interesting characters in that format. So I added an in-game email system. You can’t actually reply to emails, but you receive them, and it’s implied that you act on them when you are going on ‘runs’. The email allows me to convey NPC personalities to some degree, though it’s not a full-fledged dialogue system, by any stretch.

(Note, writing is first draft and the contact portraits aren’t correct)

The email system also allows me to indulge myself by asking questions like “in the gritty cyberpunk future, what will penis-enlargement spam look like?”

Once this is done, it’s onto lots of playtesting and deck balancing. Oh, and adding sounds. Then I put on my wolverine-proof underpants and open it up to the public. Heaven have mercy.

Ludonarrative dissonance…

20 Nov
November 20, 2012

…is a rather fun phrase to say, don’t you think? Say it with me : Luuuudonarrrrative dissssonance. Marvelous.

Not only is it fun to say, it’s also the primary reason why I switched themes for my game, from Urban Fantasy to Cyberpunk.

So what exactly is it?

Basically, ludonarrative dissonance is when there is a conflict between the explicit narrative being told by a game and the “story” that is told by the actual gameplay, ie the player’s interactions with the game’s mechanics and reward structures.

For example, say non-player characters (NPCs) keep lots of valuable loot in their houses but those same NPCs aren’t programmed to notice the player stealing their wares. This can (and frequently does) result in the player stealing the silverware in front of an NPC, only to have that NPC greet the player warmly in conversation later, as a “hero” and “a welcome guest”. This sets up a conflict between the observed reality of the gameplay and the explicit story being told by characters and cutscenes.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of examples of ludonarrative dissonance in games, many of which have entered the fabled halls of memedom.

The infamous Skyrim NPCs, who you can shoot full of arrows and still hear them conclude that it “must have been nothing” once you’ve been out of sight range for a while. The games that urge you to make all haste as your quest is of utmost urgency, only to have every actor in the game wait patiently in place while you finish up your side-quests and chase all the achievements. The games where you’re the only hope for the survival of everyone on the planet, but weapon sellers still demand that you pay for each upgrade. And perhaps worst of all, the ones where you’re soundly thumping the end-of-game boss, only for it to fade to a cutscene once his health gets low, where you’re informed that the boss is “just too powerful to defeat” and you need some special ritual or item to actually defeat him.

This collision between the experience of the gameplay and the narrative is rather jarring, and it is one of the ways in which writing a good narrative for a game can be difficult. You have to make sure the mechanics are not sabotaging the narrative, and vice versa.

This is essentially the problem I was was running into, with the Street Sorcery theme. The setting was inspired by World of Darkness and Constantine and the Dresden Files, supernatural intrigue and treachery. But the story told by the mechanics is much simpler, and more akin to an RTS. The player has only one real way to interact with the story, fighting. Straight-up skirmishes between two small groups of opponents. If I had more mechanics in the game, more support for branching dialogue and choices and exploration, if it had been an RPG or adventure game essentially, it would have been fine.

But that isn’t the case. And the card battle mechanics are not abstract enough to represent a generic “conflict” that could be adapted to represent social interactions too. This is a game about dudes fighting other dudes in groups. I needed a narrative where it felt like a more natural fit.

If you look at other CCGs, you generally see that the theme is designed to provide a context for regular strategy battles. Magic is a world where mages can create just about anything out of thin air, armies included, but the source of that magic, mana, is drawn from territories they control. A perfect setup for frequent conflict with disposable armies. The world of Pokemon is one where it is normal for children to wander around, collecting monsters and training them by fighting other Trainers in non-lethal Pokemon gyms. Again, the narrative fits the mechanics.

I got tired of feeling like the story I was writing wasn’t fitting the mechanics. So I decided to put that setting aside until I could do it the justice I feel it deserves, and pick a more appropriate context.

After trying a few things, I finally settled on Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk fit my needs well, “Runners” are essentially mercenaries, so it makes sense if most plot points are built around a clash with opposing forces in a “run” on some target. Also, since they’re mercs working for money, it’s ok thematically if both you and your enemies have access to the same pool of Agent cards. Helpful, when you’re working on a budget and need to minimize your card count. And finally, I really like Cyberpunk, as a setting. I like the “low life meets high tech” themes and conflicts. And it feels like an under served niche, though with games like DX:HR and CDProjeckt’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, that’s starting to change.

So now you know the reason. Ideally, I shouldn’t have changed direction, should have had the theme fixed from the start. But some things you learn only by doing, and now I know what to consider for the next game. And I’m sure I’ll continue to learn these kinds of lessons, as I make more games and more mistakes. 😉

System Crash

01 Nov
November 1, 2012

Well, my lungs are starting to work properly again so I guess I’ll show you that media I promised 😉

I wanted to make more of a “splash” with the announcement, somehow, with a website launch or something, but fuck it. I’m a tiny, unknown indie, that’s the wrong strategy.

So here goes. Announcing “System Crash”, a cyberpunk themed CCG. Cyberpunk, yay! Coolness…wait, you didn’t know I switched the theme to cyberpunk months ago, did you? Well, that’s because I got mocked for changing direction so many times that I felt I’d just shut up about it until I had something to show, to show that I wasn’t just gonna change my mind further down the line again. I’m not going to, the decision was made months ago. Besides, 45 of the 76 illustrations I needed are finished and paid for, I can’t afford to change my mind. 😉

I’ll go into the reason for the change of theme in the next blog post. No, it wasn’t just that I am an scatterbrained idiot that can’t make up his mind. I’ve got reasons, though those reasons are the justifications of a scatterbrained idiot who can’t make up his mind is for you to decide, I guess.

For now, pretty pictures. Note, I’m still working on the UI and I’m still getting in final art. Some of what you see is placeholder. Not sure whether I’m going to go with the lurid green colour scheme for the UI or something more like the desaturated turquoise blue in the XCOM UI. I chose green because it felt “old school DOS”, like the Matrix movies. But maybe blue fits better with some of the art I’ve got, and I’m not sure that the green doesn’t overwhelm the art, visually. Anyway. Click for bigger images, as always.