This appeal ended up in my inbox:

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO, because this is urgent. If this email affects you, we are very sorry, please ignore this email. Thanks)

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in China.

We received an application from Huayi Ltd on January 16, 2017. They want to register " hfb " as their Internet Keyword and " hfb .cn ", " hfb .com.cn ", hfb .net.cn ", " hfb .org.cn ", " hfb .asia " domain names, they are in China and Asia domain names. But after checking it, we find " hfb " conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?

Here is a link to my "company" that distributes HFB. In fact, you can look at all of the HFB that I am distributing.

In most RPGs, health does not replenish between battles. You have to go to an Inn.

Getting ground down over a large number of battles, with enemies taking a small amount of HP at a time, is boring. A solution to the boredom problem is to have a smaller number of battles where the enemies do more damage. This now poses another gameplay problem: normal enemies will tear you apart unless you have healing items, so it is possible for part of the game to be impossible if you are one health potion short. The solution to that problem is to make it easy to reheal to full health between battles by making healing spells cheap and putting healing areas in dungeons. Some game developers threw up their hands and let your party automatically restore to full health between battles. We also have a conceptual change in that HP no longer represents fatigue. If you restore to full health all of the time, you are no longer getting ground down.

Let's split the middle.

First, we will make the combat attributes - HP, MP, Mental State, etc - the final result of a multi-stage process where one stage draws energy from the previous stage over game-time.

Core -> Reserve -> Immediate

  • Your Core energy is a huge stockpile that represents all of your energy for the day.
  • Your Reserve energy is refilled from your Core energy at a relatively low rate. That is basically its purpose, to prevent Core from being drained in a single encounter.
  • Your Immediate energy is what you use in battle. You cast magic using MP. You swing a sledgehammer using physical energy. Your Immediate energy is refilled from your Reservoir at a relatively high rate. You can get tired by fighting too many things at once, but if you get away and rest a while, you can recover.

The result is a system where your HP will normally refill between battles, but will not be refilled all the way if you immediately run into a second battle on the next square.

Now let's extend the idea. You can fiddle with the transfer functions. Maybe they work slower as Core goes down. Maybe they work slower as the target reservoir fills up. Maybe there is an external variable that pushes down your maximum refill over time. The result now is a system where you might restore back to full health after twenty steps, but five battles later, going twenty steps may refill you back to 80% health. Ten battles latter, twenty steps may refill you back to 60% health. Your dungeon divers are now getting ground down over time, and there is a logical and gameable system behind it.

If you need energy RIGHT NOW, you could cast a spell to refill the Reserve by burning a significant chunk of Core. You might be healthy again but your health will not restore as quickly as the other party members. Suddenly there is a downside to casting those cheap healing spells.

Your spoony bard and spoiled princess may run low on Core energy and start falling over before the hardier blacksmith, ranger, and solider. The energetic attacker whose skills go all-out may run out of steam before the others. You might be encouraged to swap out the active members of your party to let the members with low Reserve recharge.

This system could work well in action RPGs or any RPG with a day/night cycle that tries to represent the passage of time.

The conventional handling of technology upgrades in a video game is fairly simple:

  • Item stats go up
  • Cost of next upgrade goes up

The better games will open up new branches of gameplay possiblities, but let's leave that out of the discussion.

I've been playing a game where the tech upgrades often produce surprisingly large leaps in power. The game makes the player choose between replacing items with the newer technology (which costs a limited supply of money) or waiting for the next upgrade (which may be either a minor upgrade or a huge upgrade). These upgrades appear to be hardcoded. What if they were randomized?

It is common for modern roguelike games to have categories of upgrades. Upgrades only start with the classical D&D +1, +2, +3 system. Then there is a category of upgrades that upgrade one stat, a "rare" category that upgrades two stats, and a "legendary" category that upgrades three or more stats. The upgrade categories are usually color-coded for your convenience.

Let us consider a game where the player pours resources into research, and imagine possiblities of different outcomes.

  • Complete failure. The scientists shamefully report that the plan didn't work and they have to go back to the drawing board. However, there is an increased chance of succeeding in the next research attempt. This was used in the DOS game Stellar Conquest 2469 (stelcon).
  • Two steps forward, one step back. Two (or more) stats are upgraded, while one (or more) other stats are downgraded. This reflects the TANSTAAFL principle.
  • Technology branch. A new branch of research is opened for this type of item. This may involve a downgrade of the item stats. However, because this is a new and unexplored branch of research, the cost of advancement is reduced. This can be considered a subcategory of "two steps forward, one step back".

In a game where different item choices require different gameplay styles, the optimal choice of items may become different for each time the game is played. Imagine a space combat game where missiles got cheap and powerful in one playthrough while their range and reloading speed improved in another playthrough. Imagine an RTS where in one playthrough your ranged units get increased range while in another playthough they get increased hit points. Imagine an RPG where in one playthrough your healer gets reduced cost and casting time of your healing spell while in another playthrough only the healing power improved significantly. The behavior of the game components may change just enough to make the player choose a different strategy, increasing replay value.

This is starting to sound like removing the upgrade tree from player control. My intended vision was for randomized upgrade paths resembling organic evolution, where each upgrade is the starting point for the next upgrade. Imagine that a crafter develops a new technique which requires more time and resources but produces a more resilient product; you can continue using the old technique or refine the new technique.

Counter-thought: the Dragon Warrior series randomized the values of upgraded stats when a player gained a level. It barely affected the game because the characters were different enough in their skillsets that the trivial differences in stats did not matter; the stat upgrades were guided by weights for each character class; and the randomness approached a mean average over enough levels. If the upgrades are expected to be different enough to affect gameplay when the game is replayed, these normalizing factors need to be overcome.

One of my game ideas that I'll never get around to developing is a multi-generational RPG where the initial party of heroes fights some battle against the stereotypical evil force, then their kids fight the next part of the battle, and then their kids finally defeat the evil, where this is driven by a game engine and not a written script. How would this work?

1. The player must be enticed to retire the party.

Possible mechanisms:

  • The party defeats the local evil that they see and misses the big picture. With no remaining quests, the party automatically retires.
  • In-game full party wipe. Survivors flee.
  • Randomly throw romantic encounters at the player until the player accepts the option to marry and settle down, or a limit is reached where the character automatically chooses this option.
  • Randomly cause events that cause fighters to leave the party until the player is left with so few fighters that the party is guaranteed to get wiped out if they keep attacking, leaving the player to decide that retiring is the better choice.

2. The next party should have the potential of being stronger than the last.

This follows naturally from the retirement of fighters being a game. Children should have traits similar to those of their parents, plus a little bonus for having been raised by heroes.

3. The evil force regrows strength between generations.

There must be low-level targets for your kids to beat their swords against before they go into the final dungeon. The game engine will randomly generate a series of local villains, missions, and travel mechanisms between continents that open up when previous missions are completed.

4. The game environment changes between generations. Towns grow. Buildings fall into disrepair and are replaced. NPCs have children, get old, and die.

Drawbacks

While the idea is intriguing, there are drawbacks.

Randomly generated content is not as interesting as well-written scripts. If the characters are randomly generated and the mission engine pulls random events out of a bag of tricks, the dialogue cannot be written toward specific characters. The game cannot have all of the little things that make a good RPG stand out from rpgmaker amateur hour.

If the player gets a different randomly generated set of kids on each playthrough, there is no emotional attachment. There will be an emotional backlash on additional playthroughs when the player's kids are different from the ones on their first playthrough, as someone who remembers the adventures of their daughter Sara may be a bit grumpy when they get a son named Fred.

Characters cannot be used as points of reference from which to talk to other players about the game. "You know that character...." they don't know that character. At best, the game can keep a log of events and players can share logs.

Abstraction

There is a freeware flash game called Idle Monster Slayers that is basically Cow Clicker with an implementation of generational improvement. The game's rules are:

  1. Gold is produced over time.
  2. Click the button to trade gold for an increase in the rate of gold production.
  3. Soul Orbs are produced over time at high levels, and increase the rate of gold production when the game is reset.
  4. Click the reset button to collect Soul Orbs and zero out the rest of the game.

During any single playthrough:

  1. Player strength rises linearly over playing time.
  2. Difficulty rises geometrically or exponentially over the length of game content that the player completes.

There eventually reaches a point where it takes more and more playing time to gain the slightest advantage, and the marginal gain of additional leveling up approaches worthlessness. The player may choose to give up at this point, and the game provides a mechanism where giving up will produce a bonus on the next playthrough.

Player strength is modified by a bonus that increases in each generation, allowing the player to reach a further point in the game before gains are stymied.

Here are some freeware games that have had Tang's attention lately.


Vilesteel by Firevictory is a top-down RPG where you click on the bad guys and hold down the mouse button until they're dead. In later missions you will also have to push a button to quaff potions when your health gets low. The plot is generic and the gameplay is repetitive but it is built around a solid RPG character engine, the ambient music is pretty good, and the placement of enemies sets an entertaining pace of advancing through small victories. Multiple upgrade paths allow you choose your character's powers and provide the opportunity to replay the game with a different play style.

Hint: If you choose an archer character as I did, the "composite shot" power lets you launch multiple attacks at the same speed as regular attacks. The 400% upgrade to your attack power is like turning on easy mode.

Tang's rating: 2/4 good effort, bad execution.


Sky Quest by Berzerk Studio is a side-scrolling shooter where you use the mouse to move your psychotic angel antihero around the screen to dodge bullets and blow up monsters while you are backed up by an airship providing heavy artillery support. The airship also has an HP bar, so you have to protect it too. The game's features include multiple upgrade paths, equippable items to improve your stats, and optional challenge levels including some extra-difficult levels near the end of the game that provide a final challenge after you finish the story line. With each level being around five minutes long, Sky Quest is an excellent choice for casual gaming.

Hint: The store sells better items than you can get from drops even with item drop quality maxed out, but selling the weaker drops helps you afford the rare items from the store.

Tang's rating: 4/4 well polished and addictive as hell.


Last Scenario by SCF is an RPG that came out in 2007, but I ran across it recently and it has been taking much of my time. According to the seer's prophesy, the last descendant of the ancient hero of legend is destined to become the hero of today who will fight off the demons that are about to awaken. That's all well and good and it's exactly what that guy wanted to hear, but what does it mean to be a hero? Last Scenario raises that question with an intelligent script that puts the would-be hero in such complicated situations that he begins to question the very nature of heroism.

Being an RPG Maker game, the music and battle system are fairly routine, although much of the artwork is original. The most notable deviation from the norm is that magic spells are not learned but are equippable Spell Card items usable by any character, and each character can only equip two of them until you unlock additional slots. The battle rewards and item costs are balanced well enough that you will have trouble equipping everyone with the best gear available while also keeping a full stock of healing items. There is an optional strategy sub-game that I do not play because I am terrible at it.

Hint: You cannot easily replace most MP-replenishing items, so buy Tents and use them at save points.

Tang's rating: 3.75/4 losing a quarter point for a few quibbles with the battle system.


Phoenotopia by Quell is a platform adventure with an interesting storyline, many sidequests, numerous well-hidden secrets, bustling communities full of interesting characters, and game mechanics that prove that there are still new things that can be done with the genre. The pastel pixel artwork, soft music, and predictable action patterns produce a calming ambience that make this a rare action game that can be described as relaxing. The charming atmosphere and strong design combine to make this one of the best freeware games of the year.

Hint: Bring one or two Honey-based speed items into the tech center under the pit on the other side of the great wall. You may need them after defeating the mechanical boss.

Tang's rating: 4/4 the best Metroidvania game since Cave Story.


The Awakening by RockLou is an RPG with a simple interactive battle system where you press A to attack or D to dodge, and you ignore the other battle options because they are not as useful and you are not going to need them. It gives you about two hours of gameplay before it abruptly ends with a message from the programmer that he ran out of energy and decided to release what he had, so consider it as a demo. For a demo, it's pretty good.

Hint: The game does not yet include any point where you need to use Caleb in battle, so you do not need to waste time grinding his stats.

Tang's rating: 1/4 a pretty good demo but a flawed and incomplete game.


Farmyard Chronicle by Flapbat is an action puzzle game. The puzzle is in finding ways to collect the lost farm animals that an apprentice wizard accidentally teleported all around the castle. The action is in chasing the damn things down as they wander around the room while you avoid the ones that will knock you across the room if you're not careful. This is much more entertaining than it sounds. The game benefits from making good use of stock RPG Maker music and graphics resources, giving you magic powers that progressively open up new areas. and having several secrets to find if you want a perfect ending.

Hint: One of the more important powers is found across a gap on the left side of a room. You will need help getting there.

Tang's rating: 3.5/4 a fun diversion.


Flash's Bounty by ZyBy is a remake of the 1990 game King's Bounty, and it feels like a tactics game from 1990: inspired, fun, and flawed. In the exploration half of the game you collect gold, raise armies, and encounter or avoid enemies. In the combat half of the game you position your units on the field and watch the battle play out. There are two flaws that stand out enough to be mentioned. There is little variety in unit attack patterns and abilities, making the game repetitive after a while. A more serious problem is that your gold sources do not replenish. If you lose all of your units, you will not be able to afford to rebuild your army so you may as well restart the game. You are allowed to retry lost battles, but not to retreat without losing everything, so it's all over if you walk into a lost cause. Even with these flaws, it's a good game and worth playing.

Hint: Ghosts are powerful and increase in strength for every unit they defeat, but they will leave your party after a number of turns. There is an easily discovered bug that can be exploited to keep them in your party, which makes the Ghost unit a total game breaker that removes all challenge from the game. Be aware that this might not be what you want.

Tang's rating: 2/4 flawed but entertaining.


Tiny Dangerous Dungeons by Adventure Islands is a delightful little platformer with retro-themed graphics and sound. The game is one level long and can be beaten in under an hour, which is right about when a player may start to get annoyed by the retro-themed graphics and sound. What little the game does, it does well.

Tang's rating: 2/4 just a demo, but a good one.


Chaos Dawn is a flash RPG from 2010 that seems like a flash game from 10 years earlier. The artwork is bad. The voice acting is bad. The battle system is generic. The story is even more generic. The hero-is-an-idiot comic relief had been done before and done better. Somehow this game managed to draw me into it. Perhaps the amateurness of this game reminded me of the early days of flash gaming when Absalom was the bleeding edge of the state of the art, providing a comforting nostalgia. Who knows? For whatever reason, I liked it enough to give it a mention in this list.

Tang's rating: 1/4 why can't I stop playing it?


[Edit Jan. 4: one more game]

Homework Salesman is an easygoing RPG where there are multiple itemcrafting skills you can build up in addition to your combat level. The worldbuilding and aesthetics are excellent, but the game is hampered by a difficulty cliff between dungeon levels that requires a great deal of grinding to overcome. It also crashes from time to time, so save often.

Tang's rating: 3/4 too much grinding and too crashy, but everything else is great.

Followup #1: The Internet shitstorm mentioned earlier is still going on and got a boost today from Breitbart reporting on the existence of a secret mailing list (allegedly) used by gaming journalists to set agendas and decide what stories to cover and what not to.

Followup #2: In a report by the Heritage Foundation, one of the State Department officials disciplined over Benghazi accuses Hillary Clinton's aides of withholding documents from Congress.

Both reports follow a couple of patterns. In both cases we see the hard-right, ideologically biased media breaking the news about a major scandal in a widely known situation where the majority of the media have told us that there is no scandal. By inference, we see that the traditional media failed in its job to get to the story first. Also, both are about situations where the cover-up may be worse than whatever original scandal there may have been.

Whatever was in this post, the submitter was banned from Reddit for saying it. As-yet-uncensored conversation suggests that it was about "Admins being corrupt including interview with moderator whistleblower". The interview is an hour long and I haven't heard anything outrageous in a few minutes of listening. [Edit] Somewhere near the end the interviewee says that Reddit admins use "vote manipulation" as an excuse to ban people they don't like. Also, one of the moderators suspected of banning people for no good reason is Reddit's PR person.

Also: everyone posting a story "IGF and Indiecade accused of racketeering" is being banned from Reddit.

There is a category 4 shitstorm over the Internet today as Reddit administrators have been shadowbanning users for discussing the Zoe Quinn controversy (more) (more) (more+nsfw), for discussing the censorship of the discussion, and for notifying other users that they have been shadowbanned. Rumours suggest that several other prominent websites have been deleting non-intrusive, non-offensive commentary on the subject. Encyclopedia Dramatica has a long list of websites allegedly censoring discussion of the issue, but no evidence.

In one of the more notable examples, IndieGogo's administrators shut down a fundraiser that had raised $25,000 for a feminist gamer group and embedded the video "You Are An Idiot" on the fundraising page because this group landed in the anti-Quinn camp when Quinn accused them of being anti-transsexual on the grounds of requiring that applicants be "a self identified woman". There may also be a monetary angle involved.

Both pro-Quinn and anti-Quinn factions also claim the other side has hackers breaking into their websites and stealing their identities. Cover your popcorn because this might get messier than a Gallagher show.

[Edit] Fixed the KYM link. Added another summary timeline.


  • Antagonist - An actor who plays the Dark Lord in a video game is forced to team up with an actual hero who wants to kill him. The game takes longer to download than it does to play, but it's worth it just for the humor.
  • Robots Initate Work Sequence - A time management game similar to the base-building side of RTS games. The concept looked boring at first glance, but I couldn't stop playing.
  • Solarmax 2 - A space strategy game like like Intergalactics or Konquest with very good ambiance.
  • Sunken Spire - The core of the game is a routine series of themed levels, but if you step outside of the dungeon for a moment you'll see a richly developed game world and a pair of sidequests that are more interesting than the main story.
  • Touhou: Wandering Souls - A fan-made action RPG with enough variety in monsters and their attacks that it does not get old, and the music is pleasant to listen to. For an action game, it is surprisingly relaxing.

Many good video games have a feature that I call "novelty progression". As the player advances through the game, they are continuously introduced to new experiences that are outside of the core game experience. One form of novelty progression is "feature progression" in which the novelties will change the core game experience.

As an example of a game with novelty and feature progression, consider Starcraft's single-player campaigns. You begin the campaign with a small number of units available to you and new units with new abilities are unlocked as as you progress through the game. You continuously encounter new environments and new enemies, and you are given an unfolding story with new characters and new twists. Furthermore, every stage has something different from the core game in terms of gameplay. There are scripted events, a timer, hero units with spoken dialogue, allied units to rescue. Several missions only give you a small tactical squad and no base with which to produce additional units. None of these changes to the gameplay are overdone to the point of being considered a normal part of the game. Once you beat all of the missions and become used to one of the races, you start over with a second and then a third race whose strategies are different.

What makes novelty progression work? First, there must be a solid game core that is fun to play without the novelties. The novelties must be new and not something previously seen with a different skin. Also, with so many games having been produced, novelties must not be the same thing that the player has seen before in many different games unless it is done well in a new way. A desert level or an ice level might have been awesome in its own right in the 1980s, but today you will have to add something special.

What makes feature progression work? The new features must be useful, so that you can use them in more than one place. They must be more than keycards. Also, new features must not break the game unless they are added near the end.

The Metroidvania category of games are based on feature progression. Get the item that makes you jump higher and you can reach the next cave. Get the item that lets you swing around and you can reach the next cave. Get the item that lets you blow up barriers and you can reach the next cave. As already mentioned, feature progression works best when you can use these features in normal gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda is worth mentioning in terms of feature progression. Of the many items you get, you can use many of them in normal gameplay but generally half of them are not very useful outside of the one place where you need them. However, very few of the items are totally useless in normal gameplay. In the original LoZ, the fire, arrow, and bomb were usable in normal gameplay but had enough drawbacks to not be worth using. The programmers got around this drawback by providing enough places to use these limited-use items to make them seem more useful to the player.

There have been some experimental Flash games that are based on feature progression (or progressive feature removal). One that comes to mind is Tower of Heaven.

RPGs are based on novelty progression with their storylines, environments, NPCs, and enemies. They also have some feature progression in that as the game progresses you get new abilities with new effects that may change your decisions in battle. This feature progression has tended not to work well even in big-name games because the new features either are game breakers or are degraded to the point of uselessness to prevent them from becoming game breakers. Game developers also have a tendency to introduce all of the classes, elements, and status effects early in the game or by the midpoint rather than progressively introducing them a bit at a time throughout the game. This may be justified by certain features of RPGs being subtle enough, with calculations based on many factors, that the player might not notice some of these features unless an early tutorial introduces them.

What happens when a game has a good core but does not have novelty progression? You get the RPG trope "You must collect ten blue ratsasses" where you keep getting assigned the same task with a trivial difference. You get the Arkandian game series in which there's a very nice RPG engine but every event is the same and you've played out the game in fifteen minutes, after which you're only raising numbers for the next ten hours until you reach the end of the scripted content. You get bored, and that is the ultimate condemnation of a video game.

Fun stuff

May. 11th, 2013 06:42 pm
I wrote this a couple years ago and don't remember posting it online. The timestamp says January 2007. Read more... )

Some notes on keypress handling in Python's PyGame library, from about seven years ago: Read more... )

  • Stealth Hunter 2 is a Metal Gear Solid knockoff with late 1990s-style rendered graphics, good animations, and decently designed levels. For freeware, it's a very good example of the genre.
  • Poacher is a Metroid-like platformer about a stereotypical Yorkshireman getting involved in a war between good and evil spirits trapped underground. Each area of the map presents new challenges, and gaining new abilities will modify the basic gameplay and open up new areas of the map. The game does a very good job of driving you in one direction while giving you the illusion of freedom. Be warned that it's a 90MB download.
MemoHuntress takes the familiar "click on the hidden object" concept and translates it to a platformer with numerous parallax layers that can hide the objects you're looking for as you run around the screen. Each multilayered level is a beautiful work of art expressing a lively world inspired by classical Japanese art. The game is really an interactive art piece with a game mechanic to prod you into looking at the whole thing. If it wasn't cool enough already, the developers added Vinnie Veritas artwork to the backgrounds.

The game takes an hour or two to play.
Four people stand in a shattered, post-apocalyptic landscape. They are:


  • Bill from Left 4 Dead
  • Iji from Iji, with her gigantic Tasen General gun
  • Robert Neville (aka Legend) from I Am Legend, with his dog Sam
  • the Vault-Dweller from Fallout, wearing his Vault 13 uniform

Read more... )

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