Monday, May 30, 2011

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger was one of the few RPGs I played upon its release (instead of several years later). I was fresh off of playing Final Fantasy III (more on that later), and I was already used to the Active Time Battle System. Chrono Trigger instead evolved combat for me. Though others probably experienced this with other games, (Final Fantasy Tactics, StarCraft, D&D, Advanced Wars) Chrono Trigger was the first game to really bring such things as proximity, area of effect and other tactical considerations.

So why is it, that with so many choices, I would focus on Chrono Trigger? Aside from it being my first tactical experience, Chrono Trigger was a genuinely good game. The story was good, the combat was cool and finally, the gear was interesting.

Chrono Trigger, unlike my previous experiences, really wanted you to dress for success. Most tactical experiences have a very linear gear progression. You get better armor, and you simply have that armor until something better comes along. In CT it was very difficult to get rid of some items, because you simply didn’t know when you would need it.

The story line in Chrono Trigger was very good. It follows the Monomyth, and the Departure has a decent call to adventure in going to rescue a new friend, a refusal (by simply trying to go back home instead of continuing exploration), supernatural aide in the form of the Gate Keys, and they even cross the first threshold when they go to 2300 AD and see what the future holds if they don’t do something about it. When they find out Lavos is to blame, they have reached the Belly of the Whale.

The tactical aspect of Chrono Trigger is rather simple compared to most other tactical games, but there were several considerations during battle. Some enemies were strong against physical or other types of damage. Meaning you would have to fight around those handicaps. Character position would affect some attacks. Other attacks would affect damage only in a line. Because of this, some attacks through stronger, would be a worse choice. One popular tactic was to “knock out” the defense of an enemy. Casting a water spell on a sand monster would make him easier to damage.

Chrono Trigger is simply a very good game, that opened my eyes up to different combat possibilities. Though the biggest thing that Chrono Trigger brought to RPGs at the time was combining special moves, I personally feel that it was only an expansion of the tactical combat that I mentioned earlier. Chrono Trigger is not only one of my favorite games, but a game that influences design decisions that I make.

10 Games that have influenced me

I suppose that sometimes these things chain out into the world, snagging blogger after blogger. With that in mind, there are some games that as a game designer I feel has influenced what kind of games I want to make. So here are 10 games that have influenced me:

10: Chrono Trigger
9: Mega Man (classic and X)
8: Kirby Super Star
7: Legend of Zelda (8-bit and Snes versions)
6: Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan)
5: Killer Instinct
4: Rygar (and bionic Commando)
3: Bloons Tower Defense 4
2: Warcraft II
1: Legend of Mana

Now, this list has no particular order, and I simply started with the ones that jumped out at me and made my way down through 10. Notice that World of Warcraft is not in there (though if I made a top 20 list it would be included).

The above games are deeply within my psyche. I see the world through a lens that contains these games. I always think about them, and what they did that was wonderful, when I think of making games. I'll go through these one at a time in other posts so that I can properly break down why each game influences me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tribunal in Action

The following is from an e-mail I received today:

Greetings PangoriaFallstar!
We are pleased to inform you that the rest of the Tribunal has affirmed your judgment on 5 cases today! As compensation for your service to the League, your account has been credited 25 Influence Points.
The League of Legends thanks you for your service on the Tribunal, Summoner! Remember that you will be eligible to judge 10 tomorrow! May justice be swift!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Tribunal so far...

I have not seen any results from the Tribunal in League of Legends yet. I have been going on it every day, or every other day, and so far, I have yet to see a situation where I was on the fence about someone.

Let me elaborate, when you look at a single game, you have a tendency to be more forgiving, but usually, by the time they are at the Tribunal, they have 8-12 games worth of complaints from several people each game, you start getting a good picture of what is happening with this player.

Still, since they force you to wait before passing judgement, it forces you to at least take a peek at what is happening. I do look at the games, to see if their behavior is consistent within each. In the end, I do it because I want the game's experience to be improved.

If you've had any experience with the Tribunal, let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

League of Legends - Tribunal

League of Legends recently debuted their Tribunal. Essentially a player run court system, where abuse cases are presented. Short of a replay of the game, all the information is provided. In game chat, the reported character’s stats for the game, all other games where they have been reported (for this case, imagine all offenses being stacked). If the majority of judges say punish, then the player will be punished, otherwise, they will be pardoned for that set of offenses.

Now each day, you can do 3 cases: you get more if you seem to choose the proper responses for each case, or less if you seem to contradict what the majority agree to. We’ll see if this has any effect on player behavior, but it is impressive none the less.

Although, hard to imagine someone being reported for verbal abuse by someone who is verbally abusive (pictured). Amazing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ability Resources and their Economy

A good story is about interesting people, making interesting decisions in interesting situations. Likewise, good gameplay is about you making interesting choices in interesting situations. Now, what each person finds interesting is different, and so therefore, some games are more fun than others to different people. With all that aside, the idea of mana is to allow the player to make interesting choices in an interesting situation. Frankly that means that mana only serves a purpose in battle. If you are in no danger, then mana should not be an issue. In theory, we could replace mana with anything, including cooldowns and make the game interesting. So why mana?

At first, magic users could only cast spells a certain amount of times per day. This meant that they had to focus on not wasting spells. The problem with this situation is that players would oftentimes not ever cast a spell, in fear of not having it when needed.

When mana was introduced, it essentially allowed for the same functionalities as before, but now, the player could replenish the resource, and continue to cast spells. At this point though, mana does not replenish on its own, and instead the player must use items (that are often expensive) to replenish the mana.

Mana replenishment soon becomes standard in games, and we now see times where players would stand still in a safe area for years (hyperbole) before they had enough mana to move on exploring the game. With mana replenishment now common, mana potions became cheaper.

Now, the idea of players sitting around for a few lifetimes was seen as boring, so what came next was mana regeneration boosters. This was either having the character eat or drink something, or sit in a certain way. This allowed the downtime to be reduced, but still allowed for mana to be scarce during combat.

The next step from mana was energy. Though energy was interesting that it works side by side with mana (certain units use energy and others use mana). Energy usually has a hard cap, and abilities work in conjunction with cooldowns to limit use. Energy recovers extremely quickly, and often proper use of energy is about timing ability use, rather than spamming. This is an important distinction, since at this point mana allows for spell spamming.

Moving further away from mana and energy are cooldown only abilities. These require only the time resource. This leads back to the original issue, of certain abilities (with longer cooldowns) not being used in fear of not being able to use it when needed.

The next step was already taken in WoW, when they created Death Knights. DKs opened up the doors to really combining resources to make decisions more interesting. Since then Paladins and Warlocks have had similar alterations made.

So looking at resources, we have Charges (which are replenished over time, or have a replenishment mechanic), Mana (which replenishes over time at varying degrees and can grow to insurmountable amounts), Energy (which tends to be static, and therefore the same throughout gameplay), Cooldowns (these require no other resource and so are often treated as “free”), and Building Power (for example Runic Power, Rage, Holy Power). Most anything else currently available works similarly to one of these 5 ways.

Now, aside from simply combining these different functions to make gameplay more interesting, the mana has to be fixed or else it will still cause problems, even in spite the the other functions.

So why use mana at all, if other combinations of resources could result in more fun gameplay? Well for one, it has become how we view a magic user. Mana defines the magic they use. But what if we simply broke away from Mana? What if we reduced ability resources to 4 in combination until we found a way to fix mana? Is mana fixable at all? If so, how do we easily define a magic user from a Rogue or Fighter?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Questing revisited

Now, I’ve covered this idea a bit before, but we need to take a look at Public Quests as well as the idea of completely revamping the quest system. Tobold recently pointed out that either we improve the quest system or we replace it.

So aside from separating quests into different categories so that we can reclaim the true concept of a quest, what else can we add to the game? I suggest player generated Item requests (with rewards generated by the system), and a rework to public quests.

Some ideas are already in existence in different MMOs, and most exist already, but are all labeled quests or missions instead of being properly identified.

So lets break down the player’s Agenda: Errands, Item Buy Mission, Shared Missions, Public Missions, Missions, and Quests.

Errands: Quick one off events, mostly used to guide the player from one location to another. These would be the usual skip the text events. Rewards would be based on distance from origin, and would include unlocking Missions, small monetary reward and a small experience gain.

Item Buy Mission: This is a player generated request for materials. They pay an amount of money to place the quest. Anyone who accepts will have their chance to get the item increased by 40% until they finish the mission (canceling the mission causes them to lose the items). This is also a just check the map and go hack type event. The player will get a choice of items equal to the difficulty of the items requested based on number of items needed and the level of the enemies needed to get the items.

Shared Missions: This is much like crossover missions in Champions Online. The idea here is that if a friend can’t yet get a mission or has already completed a mission you can share the mission you are working on with them, so that you can work together. Doesn’t work with Errands, Item Buy Missions, Public Missions or Quests. Only standard Missions can be shared.

Public Missions: Unfortunately, in this area I feel a bit ignorant. I never played Warhammer Online, and Champions’ PQ doesn’t work very well due to scale (you need a minimum of X people to successfully accomplish the PQ and it just goes on a cycle instead of being triggered). Finally, I haven’t had a chance to try Rifts (I missed the free weekend). So, ultimately I’m unsure of what to change other than improve scaling and timing (if no one is present it should have an idle situation that can lead to a trigger instead). So we are talking about two states, an active state, and an idle state. There is no reason to cycle through if no one is there to experience it. As another step, it is important for Public Quests to have several pass/fail states, so that successful progression continues to change the area that the PQ is in, and failures set it back.

Missions: All missions (except Item Buy Missions) would have actively progressing objectives, some objectives would be open-ended or could present different options depending on how the player RPs his character (paladins/priests might choose to not kill a bunch of kobolds who were attacking only due to demonic possesion).

Quests: This is where things get interesting. The idea of a quest log holding hints that you choose to memorize. As you piece clues together you realize what your goal could be. You go to explore the area that is hinted at. You find something for you. You discover details, more hints. You go talk to someone. You get history. You get clues. I’m thinking along the lines of the girl who lost her dolly in Darrowshire for people who are newer, and how quests work in older single player RPGs.

Though this is only one aspect of the leveling gameplay, this level of improvement could really improve how people view quests.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gone for a Lifetime (membership)

I think the most disappointing thing for me is that even playing F2P games, I can't seem to get my friends to play. They would rather be doing something else, in a game they have to pay for. Oh well. So I keep trying to play some of these games, but my motivation goes away every time I try.

Champions Online specifically is more fun, and nicer on the eyes. The menus are especially improved. I'm not sure if I'll ever explore a different MMO unless I know I'll have friends playing. I refuse to invest time if I can't have my friends there.

League of Legends is a great deal of fun, but I'm getting to the point where I need to have someone to team up with. I dipped my toe into rated solo matches, only to realize that bad players are there too.

I tried some solo games for my schooling: namely Sid Meier's Pirates!, Tropico 3, and Age of Empires II. I really am not interested in these kind of sim games. I can see where learning them can benefit how I do things in other games though.

Going through my stats, I found that my number 1 post is for Blood Elf Porn, followed by my WoW in decline post and finally my A Small Voice post where I stated that I was done with Blizzard (I got Warcraft 3 for Christmas last year, so I have been playing that, but to be fair I'm not bothering with forums, and it doesn't seem to be part of the new

I must say that Full Sail University is fun. I'm trying to connect with my classmates, which is hard in an online only environment. I kind of wish I was attending the campus classes. I have a great deal of ideas about games floating in my head, and I'm working hard to find a way to put it on paper in such a way that I could communicate it with others. A great deal of what I'm learning, I already knew, from self study (and reading blogs like Tobold's, Greedy Goblin, and PvD), and others are hitting me hard in the head (leaving me wishing I had a live teacher).

So that's what I've been up to. If you've been waiting for me to come back, then say hello, otherwise, I'll catch you guys later!