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freakytapir

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freakytapir last won the day on November 23 2017

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About freakytapir

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  1. Gold

    I'm not contuing my encounter balance article from last week, because I don't feel ready and have more questions than answers on the topic. Now economy, that's fascinating! *Crickets in the background* Ok, Ok, ... I kid. It might not be fascinating, but it is important. Because like in real life, gold, or Gil, or Yen, ... makes the game go round. It is a reward , a reason to gind, and most of all the ultimate fungible currency and thus a wrench into the fine gears of balance. Because somewhere there is a way to convert gold into anything the player needs, it is a way for the designer to give the player a small pat on the head ands say: good kid, here's some spending cash, spend it however you like. But there are problems that lurks in most jRPG economies. I'm generalising, off course. 1. There is an infinite amount of money 2. The prices are weird 3. It is easily translatable into any type of power. 1. There is an infinite amount of money but no inflation. The player is for al intents and purposes generating gold out of thin air. Even if you go the sellable loot route, that just adds an extra step. Even if we substract upkeep costs, like sleeping in an inn, potions, and damage to equipment ( if you do that in your game), every combat leaves the player richer then the one before it. This usually escalates into the player having quite a sizable cash supply. Ahah! you think , I'll just let the player buy some gear in the next town, so he'll be back to being broke. Now even if you calculated exactly how much encounters the player will have had, and the amount of gold he will have earned, most of the time it doesn't really work. If the player has earned more than enough to buy all the upgrades, the problem isn't solved. The player still has too much gold. When he has just enough to buy everything, why have the gold ? The player had no choice in anything. It becomes a chore : new village, new visit to the shops, incrementing the gear by one. And a curious thing happens when he does not get enough gold. You would think : ooh , he'll have to choose what to prioritize, creating fun gameplay, but nope, he'll just go for a jog or 2 around the village and grind untill everybody has the new gear. Too many old games required and reinforced this behaviour, instilling in the player the feeling that if they did not have the best gear available in every slot, they might just as well not bother. So eventually they still wind up with all of the gear, but by now they are overlevelled for the content, unless you accounted for this, but then it becomes a forced grind, antoher one of the crutches of the old jRPG's. Personally I solve this by not having the gear grind, remember: my game has no straight upgrades in terms of weapons and armor, and just let gold be for consumables :potions, grenades, ... Choosing between some healing potions or encounter ending grenades, maybe some repel powder feels like a choice, and players are less likely to grind for them, since they feel like extra's and optionals, in ways that the gear upgrades do not. 2. The prices are weird. Because they do no result from any internal process, all prices in the game are arbitrary. There is no supply and demand, just the price that you'll pay. No link between prices. Why does the potion cost 50 GP and the antidote 25 ? Who knows. Why does the potion that heals one character for a 100 HP cost as much as a visit to the inn ? Once you realise that all your prices are arbitrary anyway, you can start to see the big picture : Gold cost is a balancing mechanism anyway, so why not embrace it. If gold can buy both permanent upgrades and temporary items, everybody will be buying the permanent upgrades, because that is what games have thaught us up to this point. Even if the sword+1 is 1000 gp and the potion is 10, we will still save for the sword +1. 3. Gold is power. Gold earned is a second axis on the balance scale. A player that can somehow gain extraordinary amounts of gold without gaining levels means that you cannot just balance for what level the player will be. The amount of gold he had to spend is a factor in his powerlevel. Except it is way more eratical. 1000 GP on grenades is not the same amount of power 1000 gp on remedies represents. It is a weird axis of balance, unless you as a designer have a perfect idea of what the amount of gold in to power out is. But even that does not solve the stockpile problem. You can't stockpile xp to spend it in one burst, but gold can be used in such a fashion. The answer to this, in my mind, is to assign a basic unit of power to 1 gold piece ( or gil, or ...) and equate it to an equal MP cost, and prize all items according to that. This combined with a separate permanent/temporary upgrade currency split, should kind of solve this, I hope. Another solution is incomparables. Is healing 50% HP the same as raising everybodies defence for 2 turns? Who knows, but it is a player choice. Realy long story short, buying long and short term upgrades from the same pool will lead to weird results.
  2. Random Encounters, My take on them.

    That's why I really like FF X. It had a 100 % succesfull flee skill (on Tidus). Because sometimes you have to accept, this encounter is just not for me.
  3. Random Encounters, My take on them.

    But are those encounters annoying because they are random, or because confuse ray is a BS move in a 1v1 combat system? Maybe the zubat is the problem, not the zubat delivery system.
  4. Encounter Balance part 1

    I actually considered wrtiting a script in some programming langauage to simulate combats, before I reralised how daft that sounded. Some part of my mind really wants everything to make sense, but as an engineer, I learned that sometimes you just accept the test results, no matter how much they contradict any underlying math or theory. As the saying goes : in theory practice should equal theory, in practice it doesn't.
  5. Encounter Balance part 1

    The impossibility of perfect encounter balance. Or maybe just my failure at it. Now that I've finished bare bones mapping for most of my act 1 dungeons, I was thinking to myself : Why don't you make some nice encounters so you actually can get some playstesting done? I open up the database, create some basic enemy types (Skirmisher, Artillery, Soldier, Brute,...), give my characters some basic skills (fire, ice, darkness), and try them out. Now, I have been pretty anal about getting my stats right ( see my previous blogs), with HP's and so forth being determined by the amount of hits I want the enemies to take before dying, and the amount of hits a player will take before dying. It all seemed so perfectly balanced on the spreadsheet, until I started playtesting my encounters. Which shows again , numbers are no substitute for raw playtest data. All went well until I tried basically anything beyond a basic damage spell or attack. Then the balance shifted into weird directions. After giving it some thought, I think I have found the 4 biggest disruptors for encounter balance, in rising order of complexity : Multi-Target/Hit skills Status effects Randomness Interactions Today, I'll be tackling the first 2, the other 2 are for another time. Maybe next week. Because for these first 2 , I have found a simple tool to balance these out. 1. Multitarget spells For a starter, Multi Target/Hit skills, abilities that hit 2 or more targets, cause problems because they are damage multipliers. Unless the damage is nearly neglectible, or the cost is excessive, any multitarget spell is just an order of magnitude better than any single target spell. Any small boost or debuff is felt way harder than with single target skills. An example : At level 20 the player is supposed to do 400 Damage per attack. Now, as I am working on a one enemy per player character system, there should be about 4 targets. So easy, you say, just let the multi-target spell deal 25 % damage, so 100 per target. That's nice, but that means it is now useless in any stituation with less than 4 targets. Now, most enemies will have 4 players fighting them, so this solution works nicely for enemies. Obviously that does not work for Players, so in comes my good old friend : limited resources. Any multitarget attack should just cost a certain amount of MP/TP, even if the single target version does not. How much MP/TP ? The easiest solution I could find was to just give each MP point an amount of damage it could deal. After long debate, I came to 50 % damage (or healing) per MP point spent. So assuming I use a multitarget spell when I have 3 or 4 , so 3.5, opponents, I deal 350%-100%= 250% more damage, so a multitarget spell costs 5 MP. What about high levels, you say ? Seeing as I don't believe in straight upgrades ( no Fire 1,2,3), I have an additional solution: Monster HP escalates way faster than player damage, so by the time he can spam fireball, enemies dont take 2 hits, but 4 hits to take down, and he will need all the fireballs he can get. It allows the player to grow without needing to replace his basic skills, as I combine it with a small MP pool, topping out at 110 MP for mages at lvl 100, and rising MP generation, topping out at 10 MP per turn at lvl 100. Instead of casting fire (0MP) and saving his MP for the fireball (5MP), he can alternate between the 2 the moment he regenerates enough MP, maybe even casting regular fire a couple of turns, to save up for the big guns (25 MP/shot). Now, in the case of TP using skills, how do we balance this ? That is something for another chapter. 2. Status effects, buffs and Debuffs. The core of combat: Action economy. In combat, in the rawest sence, players and enemies trade actions for damage. Given the way I balanced my game, equally levelled players and enemies recieve an equal amount of damage per spent action , it is just the HP's that differ. So in the strictest sence, the opponent has to spend a certain number of actions to win , and the player has to spend a different amount of actions to win. In a basic combat, the 2 cavemen beating eachother with clubs until one falls down kind, aka the attack spam battle, the players will allways win or the enemy will always win, with, outside of criticals, no variance inbetween. But that is not how real combats work. In a combat with multiple characters on both sides, both sides generate actions each turn , and spend them to kill the other side. Once one side has spent enough actions , that side wins. An Example: A 4 heroes against 3 rats scenario at level 5. The rats deal about 20 % of the players hp in damage each action they takeand can take 2 hits. So the rats generate 3 actions per turn, and need to spend 20 actions to win, the players generate 4 actions a turn and need to spend 6 actions to win. So however you slice it, the rats always lose in 1.5 turns, having dealth at most 4.5 actions worth of damage, but if the player focus fire having dealt only 1-2 actions worth of damage. The worst case scenario is that all the rats hit the same guy, and he dies. This is a nice and safe encounter even if the player just divvies up his attacks evenly instead of focus-firing (which is pretty dumb for the player). Now, let's replace the rats by snakes. Suppose they have a poison attack, that deals no initial damage, but poisons with 20 % HP per turn damage , and a regular attack. How much more dangerous is this than the rats ? Assuming the same encounter, 3 snakes vs 4 players, equal level. The players still generate 4 actions per turn , and need to spend 6 actions to win. The snakes also need to spend 20 actions and generate 3 actions per turn. Supposing the snakes have basic AI and do not attack already poisoned players, is this encounter more dangerous than the rats one? Looking at it hrough an actions generated/spent lens might give us an answer. Nothing has changed on the player side, so were ignoring that for now, but the way the snakes behave is totally different than te rat behaviour. After poisoning the players, suddenly the snakes are generating damage on the opponents turns, in effect generating actions. A little turn by turn : Snakes spend 3 actions , to poison 3 players. The players take 3 actions worth of damage because of the poison. The players spend 4 actions and kill 2 snakes. The final snake attacks one player, the party then mobs him, but still takes poison damage twice. So grand total : The players take about 6 actions worth of damage before winning, therefore this encounter is about 2-3 times as difficult as the rats one, but still nowhere near a danger for the player. Now interesting things happen when the number of snakes or rats changes. Suppose we have 3/6 rats, and the player focus fires to kill rats as fast as possible, and tries to kill a rat before it takes a turn, and the rats attack randomly: Round 1: Players spend 4 actions and kill 2 rats, rats get 4/1 actions. Round 2: Players mow down 2 rats, rats get 2/0 actions Round 3 : All rats die. Suddenly the 6 rats get off 6 actions, in opposition to the 1-2 actions if there where 3 of them. So the encounter with twice as many rats is not twice as hard, but up to 4 times as hard. Notice also how the 3 rat encounter is actually 3x easier if the players focus fire. From this we can conclude that encounters do not scale in a linear fashion, and even adding one enemy does nasty things to an encounter. As a bonus the same situation with 6 snakes : Players focus fire on the 6 snakes, and the snakes spread poison as fast as possible, to a player that still has to take its turn. Round 1 : 2 Snakes killed, 4 players poisoned. 4 actions worth of damage. Round 2: 2 Snakes attack, 2 snakes killed. Snakes deal 6 actions worth of damage. Round 3: 0-1 snakes attack, 2 snakes killed. Snakes deal 2-3 actions worth of damage. So the snakes deal 12-13 actions worth of damage. So the 6 snake encounter is still twice as dangerous as the 6 rat one, and might actually heavily damage a party, seeing that 20 actions by the enemy kills the player. If the player spread his damage instead of focus firing, he would take : Round 1: 4 Players poisoned, 2 regular attacks, no snakes killed: 6 actions for the snakes. Round 2 : 4 regular attacks, 4 poison damage actions. 8 actions by the snakes. Round 3 : Kill 4 snakes.1 attack by the snakes. 4 actions worth of poison damage, and 1 regular action. For a grand total of 19 actions worth of damage by the snakes. The players might actually lose this encounter if they are really dumb and just attack spam to random targets. Now why this whole explanation about rats and snakes ? Because they demonstrate that nearly all things can be calculated in an actions worth of damage, and to show that he who generates the most actions wins. This is an important factor in encounter balance. It shows that the more enemies you add, the more turns each enemy gets, so you have a near quadratic effect on encounter difficulty. It also show the importance of debuffs and buffs and status effects, once you start to see it as trading your turn for theirs, and why status efects are annoying if used by the enemy and useless if used by the player. "Wait what ?" You might say, but it is true. As we see in the 6 rats scenario, the players have to spend 12 actions to win, but the rats have to spend 20. So each action for the players is 1.66 times more valuable than one from the enemies. Even if the player had a 100 % accurate stun it is only worth it if the rat would have lived 2 additional turns. And this is the best case scenario. And forget the classical blindness spell with a 70 % succes chance and a 70 % accuracy reduction. That would only generate on average 0.7*0.7=0.49 actions per turn. Meaning, in our rat case, the rat would have to live 3-4 more turns before it becomes worth it. I easily solve this by having the player cast blindness spell also deal damage, but cost 1 MP. As I established earlier, 1 MP gets you 50 % of an actions worth of damage/effect/healing. So with the same reasoning, the ice spell that deals regular damage and freezes for 2 turns with a 50 % chance costs 1 MP, as it negates a full enemy action (that's about 1/1.6= 62 % of a player action). Now when used by the enemies, it suddenly does become worth it. If an enemy action costs a player an action , he has traded up, seeing as the player actions are worth 1.6 times as much as the rat ones. It also poses a floor for healing spells. If a healing spell does not heal at least, in our example, 1.6 x as much as the enemy would deal, that healing spell would have better been an attack to end the encounter faster except when that character would otherwise die, then you're trading an action for an action. Buff spells suffer the same fate. A single target buff spell that raises another characters attack by 50 % is only worth it if the combat lasts 2 more turns to break even, and 3 turns to be better than a standard attack. Meaning that I find that a single target buff should cost 0-1 MP (probably 0 to encourage buff use), but a partywide buff should cost 1 MP if it lasts 1 turn ,because you spent an action to generate 1.5 actions (3*50% more damage), gaining you half an action. Any turn after that should cost 4 MP, so a 3 turn party wide buff should cost 9 MP. Now, to encourage buff use, because 90 % off players will still always go for the straight damage spells, I might just reduce this to 6-7 MP. Now comes the difficult part : The exchange rate between player and enemy actions shifts at higer levels. This is because at higher levels, the balance is different. At level 5, enemies deal 20 % of the players HP in damage and take 2 hits to kill, while at level 100 they deal 60 % of the players HP and take 7 hits to kill. So the players need to spend 28 actions to kill the enemy, and the enemy needs to spend 8 actions to kill the player. Suddenly the enemies turn is worth at least 3.5 times as much as a player one. This means that a player is spending at least 5 MP a turn (+250% Damage) to make his actions on par with the enemies actions, and should probable be spending about 10 MP per turn if he wants to win(By coincidence, that is what he regenerates in MP each turn). It also means that status effects become really important for the players to use, as each stunned/silenced/frozen enemy is worth 2-3 player turns. And I am ok with that. It just means that abilities that unlock later should be balanced for use at that level, and that some low level abilities become better as the levels advance, thereby keeping them relevant. So what I'm saying is to not stare yourself blind at the numbers in this article but maybe to try and see combat in terms of an action economy, with both players and enemies generating and spending actions, with a certain exchange rate between these 2 actions, and an MP cost to generate what amounts to extra actions. It simplifies the numbers to simple actions spent, and allows you to quickly mentally simulate important battles, and balance skills. This is most valuable in boss encounters, where you can actually start to see it on a timeline, and thus balance the boss way easier.
  6. Catty Lands Dungeon Maps

    Especially the shadows. It is the lack of those that does it really.
  7. Catty Lands Dungeon Maps

    Not trying to annoy, but your fifth screenshot, those treasure chests. They look like they are at roof height. They pop up in a bad way.
  8. Puzzles and Failing 

    At that point , how does the reset puzzle switch differ from a reload ? Same end, different paths. If an autsave/reload cycle can do the job , that is, for now, good enough. While I do realise your way is the theoretically right way, for now, my way is faster as a developer, therefore helping me build stuff faster. Once again , something sacrificed on the altar of progress. I am but one man, and priorities have to be made.
  9. Puzzles and Failing 

    exiting and re-entering does reset positions of events, but not self switches and so on. The dwarven example was from a tabletop game, not my Rpg maker game.
  10. Puzzles and Failing 

    Puzzles and Failing Something has been on my mind in the last couple of weeks, as I am laying down the basics for each of my dungeons. It was puzzles, and how they are implemented in RPG maker style engines. Short aside, this is the definition I am going to be using as a puzzle: an obstacle in a game that cannot be overcome through brute combat or manual dexterity. My biggest problem was with how much work they take if you want them to be Flexible, Resettable and Solvable Now for a little story time. I come from a heavy Tabletop RPG background, and have 18 years of experience as a Dungeon Master in D&D. My second favorite part ( apart from the actual face-to-face role playing) is handing my players a difficult puzzle and seeing them trying to solve it in a creative way. Now, could this be frustrating as all hell if your players are having one of their Duuuuuuuuh moments? Yes, but I solve this by having 2 things : 1. THE solution of the puzzle doesn't exist. Or more specifically, the puzzle doesn't have a definite solution. Now, this is exceedingly easy to do in a Tabletop game, where you are, as a DM, can actually hear them working it out, and when they actually start doing things that should work, I can say :"Sure, That works". I call it the room full of tools approach. Give them the obstacle and a lot of ways to interact with it. The player feels clever, their creativity feels rewarded, and I didn't have to sit there waiting untill they found my "one true answer." Now, while this is easy as pie in a tabletop RPG, this is by far the hardest to do in a digital RPG, as each possible solution has to be specifically put in the by the developer/deigner. But there is a middle of the road approach: While you can't have puzzles with no solutions, you can still implement the room full of tools approach (or the all ways lead to rome approach, whatever), and have multiple answers to your puzzle. My favourite puzzle to do this with is the push a block puzzle, or the scate along the ice into rocks puzzle, or the teleporter puzzle. Spatial puzzles, not dialogue puzzles is what I'm talking about here. I sprinkle the adequate blocks/teleporters around, and keep trying to solve it myself until I get A solution, and then start trimming the ones I did not use. If there are more possible solutions, great, but I am sure there is at least one. Cross the broad river is another one that works kind of well with this. Or as you might call it, the find 3 out of 5 keys approach. There are more interactables then are needed, with the spares either unlocking a bonus treasure, or some of them are locked behind additional obstacles. The key to make this the least bit workable is to have a lot of common events that do the things you want. I have a stockpile room, with a pile of interactable objects that just need 1 or 2 variables changed, and a boatload of common events. Now for the next Piece: 2. Allow the players to "Fail Forwards". This was especially relevant in tabletop, but our cRPG's can benefit from it too I believe. Imagine : the players are investigating a murder in a dwarven city, and they find Gunpowder on the crimescene. Instead of thinking "Gunfactory" and them going to the Industrial district, they interpret it as cannons, and go and look in the Harbour district. Do I let them waste their time and present them with a roadblock ? Off course not, you give them a hard encounter with no treasure, have them find a note specifically indicating the Gun Factory, and maybe a tighter timeline for the rest of their mission. The heroes are trying to climb a wall, and they fail their skill check, do I let them plummet to their death ? Off course not, have some damage, and you attract a simple encounter. Don't let failure be a roadblock, but just another obstacle. Now this is again easy to do face-to-face, and harder to do in a computer RPG, but there are lessons that can be drawn from this. a. withold extra reward Once again the example of a block pushing puzzle. Maybe the solution is really easy to just pass the puzzle, but off to the side is a treasure chest, and getting that one will be way more difficult. Maybe if he usus only 3 out of 4 keys, he might still have one for the bonus room The player can advance anyway, even if he fails, but that treasure chest is there; shiny, shimmering, splendid. b. give hints if stuck Another aspect of this is getting the player back on the right track if he is wrong or stuck. I'm not saying solve the puzzle for him, but maybe have an interactable object start blinking after the player is just standing there with his finger up his nose for 2 minutes. Maybe give a hint, or give him the first step of the puzzle , maybe have the hint be delivered by a partymember who would see such things. c.penalties, not roadblocks. A final aspect of failing forwards is to have failing the puzzle to just apply a penalty to a later event. Concrete example: Somewhere a third through my game I have a 7 Sins Themed Demonic Dungeon, with each sin being represented by a different permanent status effect. There are seven Bosses, each removing one sin from the party, until only one is left, then there is a final boss battle. Depending how you do it, the final boss, or any boss in between really, can be a breeze, or an absolute (but still winnable) nightmare. So even if the player just does the bosses in a random order, he could still possibly defeat the dungeon, it would just be insanely hard. Now, on to a totally different topic: Resetability and Robustness. Sometimes a player fails a puzzle. He pushes a block into an inescapable corner, he drinks the poisons in the wrong order, ... Basically he screwed up and cannot continue. Now, how much do we need to plan for this ? While there are certainly ways to foolproof a puzzle, and we should do this to as many puzzles as we can, doing this to each and every one would, in my opinion, be enormously laborious. I have found a simple way around this, but most of you are not going to like it : The player is going to have to sometimes reload. When a player has to do this, I feel not the player, but the designer has failed, but limitations on the engine are what they are. Now to soften the low : Use autosave. Have the game save at the beginning and end of small local puzzles. Having to redo just the puzzle stings a lot less. It almost mimics the table top puzzle solving in that you can try and interact with the object to find the right solution, instead of being stuck if you fail. Ah! You say, what about your promised big puzzles ? Your 5 skills required dungeons ? Those are actually also solved by very careful use of when to autosave. Here the autosaves are at the beginning of the dungeon and at each convergence point; the choke point in the dungeon each of the possible paths has to take, where you put your minibosses, Story Cutscenes,... Because you know that if they made it that far, they are not halfway a broken puzzle. Of course I still allow manual saves, but the autosave is there to say : you're allowed to experiment and fuck up, we've got your back. Is this an enormous Hack ? Yes, Yes it is, but so are most things in RPG Maker Because resetting a "shove the block into the right hole" puzzle might be easy, a "push te rock into the river, so you can cross, then freeze the river under the block, so it floats off, and blocks the river further downstream slowing it down so you can make a bridge out of ice so that you can melt the block free and push it into some other river" might be slightly more difficult. One final thought : there is no reason to have random encounters during a precision puzzle, unless the puzzle deals damage on failure and thus the encounters are part of the puzzle design. So, what are your favourite kind of puzzles ? Push a block Teleporter/Sliding around Riddle/coded message Sequence of levers. Entire minigames (Mastermind, ...)
  11. Brainstorming about blogpost, taking suggestions

    1. Show previous comments  14 more
    2. PhoenixSoul

      PhoenixSoul

      lolz

      Unlike Flubber, this stuff did not have a rebound at all. If one were to try to use it on the bottoms of one's shoe, as an example, it would squish, and dissipate (I smashed some of the mix with my palm and it only made a big mess).

       

      It only seemed to bounce if it touched another surface on its' own...but it lost a considerable amount of its' own mass in the process (likely due to the temperature of the lab itself).

       

      A slimegirl?

      That would require more than just alchemy...though I could probably make the slime itself (but NOT with the ingredients used to make the bouncy substance-that would just be chaos)...

       

      I remember using shellac, and hilo extract as the two main components of the substance, and a copious amount of gelatin for a base, but the gelatin did not maintain very well...

      I'd probably be better off using eluma oil in place of hilo extract, but getting that stuff would incur a rather high expense (since it is an import from the Yullen region far to the east of Asuria)...

    3. freakytapir

      freakytapir

      A slime covered girl, or a girl made of slime ? And what's your budget, would you say a 100 -500 million $.

       

      That and an ethics commitee that can be bribed for the human experiments ?

       

      The actual process is pretty straightforward : find an animal that produces Mucin , isolate what gene is responsible for this, use reverse transcription PCR to change your mRNA into cDNA, plant that into a vector, add a tag that says this is meant for excretion, preface it with an inducable promotor, transfer it into a retrovirus, infect 10000 human embryos, use DNA screening in the following stage to select for the transformed babies. 

      In the transformed babies induce your promotor, and select for mucin production.

       

      Or, just make a mold of a girl and fill it with Jello

    4. PhoenixSoul

      PhoenixSoul

      An animal that produces mucin?

      The cockatrice would be a great source...

       

      The rest of the procedure involves technology I would not have access to (because it isn't there - we don't even have controlled electricity).

  12. Weaknesses and the False Player-Enemy Equivalence.

    The 500 % bonus damage would for a bomb like enemy. Yes fire does 500 % more damage, but if it doesn't kill him, he explodes and kills you. Or even better, a monster with a shifting weakness, altering each turn.
  13. Weaknesses and the False Player-Enemy Equivalence. Back for another round of my opinions in game making. I'll start with some theory before getting to the point , so please bear with me. The word for today is equality. More specifically in player character and monster design, and how they need not be designed the same. Somewhere there is an underlying feeling that the game we are playing should be fair, and that they should be playing by the same rules as us. But should they ? While nothing is as infuriating as a cheating AI, the player and the AI serve wildly different purposes. While certainly some of the AI cheating is there due to limits in technology, because an AI will almost never be as good at adapting as a human player except in some discrete systems. That doesn't really matter, because the player is there to win, but the AI is there to lose entertainingly. So to answer the question "Why does the AI/Enemies sometimes get to follow different rules than the player ?", the answer should be because it leads to better gameplay, or because of technological limits,and not for any other reason , because no-one likes a cheating AI, and yet, sometimes letting the AI cheat just a little leads to way better gameplay. The same can be said for how each sides game pieces are built or function. Every case of enemy-player inequality should have a solid reason. Why can the boss spam the high MP spells almost turn after turn , while I can't? (Because then that's the only thing you would do, heavily reducing your variety in gameplay.) Why are bosses immune to instant-kills ? (Preventing Anti-Climax and reducing RNG as a factor) Why does the boss get 2-3 turns ? (There are 4 of you and only 1 of him, so he still only gets 2-3 actions vs your 4) Why doesn't the enemy have to worry about building up TP ? (Because the game engine doesn't track enemy TP) Now all of this was a small snippet of my thoughts to explain my reasoning in the next bit. Let me make a bold and broad statement (that will probably be misinterpreted) : I do not believe in player character weaknesses. With weakness I mean a glaring defensive weakness , not an offensive one. I'm fine with the mage not doing physical damage, what I am not ok with is the same mage folding over like a wet paper towel to an attack that barely scratches the armoured fighter, or the fire mage dying to even a light ice spell. "But ..." I hear you think "why didn't you put the mage on the back row then ?" Because the back row is a hack, a cheap patch designed to hide an obvious design problem. In theory it sounds nice, put your mage on the back row, trading physical attack for defence. My problem with this, is the no-brainer deciscion this is. There is never any doubt the character should be in the last or front row, so why don't we just up the mages defence and get rid of this hack. (Warning, some numbers up ahead are exageration for effect, used to prove a point, please do not take them as absolute law) I'm fine with the mage taking 20 % more damage, given equal health pools, but usually the mage takes up to 40 % more damage, and has only 70 % of the fighters health pool, quickly making any hit that endangers the fighter an insta-kill for the mage. On the other hand, no player character should have complete (passive) immunity to a certain element (I am ok with skill usage granting temporary immunity), because then each encounter with that element is just a roulette to see who gets hit , or in the case of Good or cheating AI totally useless as the character will never be attacked with that element. Now, to be nicely controversial, I believe enemies should have glaring weaknesses and blanket immunities. Why? Because from the beginning the enemy and player are not on equal footing and are not playing the same game anyway. The enemy is there to provide 2-3 rounds of resistance and then fall over. It's loss rate should be 95-99 % (excepting boss battles). The other reason is choice and gameplay. Having your fire mage just die to Ice spells rarely creates interesting deciscions, outside of the binary "do I bring him or not?". Giving him an amulet of ice protection isn't a choice, but a must at that point. But deciding wether to use your fire mage to finish off one enemy, or do a big chunck of damage but not killing a second fire - weak enemy, that is a deciscion point. To use persona 3/4/5 as an example : Hitting the enemy in his weakness and chaining them up to eliminate a though encounter feels great, but getting surprise attacked and wiped before you even get a turn feels horrible and is one of the most controller smashing moments in an otherwise very good series of games. This also nicely touches on another problem with for example mass insta-kill spells. Say there is a spell that has a chance of killing an enemy 50 % of the time, and it targets all enemies. Is this spell fair in the hands of the player ? I believe yes ( at an appropriately high MP cost). Is it fair in the hands of an enemy ? Unless it is heavily telegraphed and able to be countered, no, I do not think so. Suppose you cast it against 4 monsters, there is a 1/8 chance of ending the encounter right here. If it works, fun , but nothing special. Now the same spell cast by an enemy you encounter regularly. Giving the party a 1/8 chance to just game over without counter-play is just nasty. To add on top of this, if a surprise attack by your encounter can defeat a fully healed party without ever giving them one turn, even if rarely , then maybe tone down the encounter slightly (or eliminate surprise attacks). In summary, what I am saing is : enemy weaknesses lead (or should do so anyway) to gameplay and choice, player weaknesses leads to random blowouts or nothing. Because players get way more affected by randomness than monsters. A monster is there for the one battle, the player is there for at least a 100, so the 1 % chance to be randomly buttfucked will eventually happen. Now how I'm doing it in my game: Players: Small weaknesses ( up to 20 % more damage) Medium Resistances (up to 50 % less damage) Many resistance granting spells and abilities, but no passive immunities. Enemies: Glaring weaknesses (up to 500 % more damage) Above and beyond immunity (Reflect , absorb, immune , ...) Reacting to certain elements with counterattacks, so the right choice isn't always the right choice. For example : Fire does 100% more damage, but gets you counterattacked. Having a weakness not necessarily be more damage, but inflict a debuff, having lightning inflict stun on turrets, fire inflicting enrage on beasts,... And on a final note : balance your (random) encounters not for the average , but the edge cases. What if the encounter turns into a total shitstorm (all enemies randomly select their strongest move and/or all enemies crit in a row), do the players have any chance? Even if it is only 5 % likely, because that 5 % will eventually come up.
  14. HM Mules

    Small aside on that extra credits video, it was part of a multipart series about choice, where they indeed do investigate what makes a choice meaningful and so on... Maybe I just chose a wrong video to show you. There are consequences down the line for choosing one character over another : you played with that character for an hour, you got exp for that character that might otherwise have gone to the other character, some combats will be easier, some harder. When does a choice stop being meaningfull ? That is a question for smarter people than me to answer. Anyway, thanks for all the input on this aspect of my game, this has been the most commented on article/blogpost I've written. And as a last thing I'll say about this: I know my system doesn't look all that promising to you right now, but I believe it will perform way better in actual play than on paper. Which is why I'm trying to get my game to a playtestable state. Paper is cheap, results is what you want.
  15. HM Mules

    Just to further explain , when I say "this character or skill is required", I will usually mean : find a way to deal with X obstacle. Maybe a fully explained example will show what I am going for : The dungeon info says the dungeon (Arctic Research station) has : Ice boulders, robotic guards, electronic doors, camera's, ice environmental damage and an underwater entrance tunnel. Meaning that you could take : 1. A fire Mage (melt ice and protect from environmental ice), a lightning mage (fry circuits of doors and camera's, bonus damage to robots) and the pilot (for a stolen sub), 2. But a team of Hacker (disable doors and robotic guards), Ice Mage (move Ice boulders, freeze camera's and protect from environmental damage), and Air Mage (Air Bubble for entrance tunnel) also works. 3. Mix it up, Fire, Air and Lightning is also a viable combination 4. Pilot(Entrance), Cyborg(Brute Force doors, push Ice Boulder), Healer (Environmental Damage) and Shadow mage(Camera's) also works. 5. Maybe after you've unlocked air power for the hacker, you can just leave the main air mage, or after the Air mage unlocks lightning, you can leave the hacker. 6. If you really looked for enemy intel in the last dungeon, you might have found the bonus one, that said there is an earth mover on site, so the pilot could deal with the boulders, meaning that if you can just heal through the environmental damage, a team of pilot and lightning mage might be enough. Certainly later on in the game, when many of the characters will start to have overlapping abilities, these requirements will feel a lot less like requirements. As I said, player perception is everything. It is indeed not fun to have a character shoved into your face, but if that character is the solution the player came to himself, does it really matter that he did not have a real choice ? Player choice
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