Category Archives: Game Design

Weekly Wyrm: Trion Livestream, Devilian Etc.

Devilian Screenshot

This week I finished part one of Life is Strange, got halfway through Act 2 of Diablo 3, went from level 35 to 55 in Guild Wars 2, and played some Devilian Beta.

I’m not motivated to advance past level 30 in Devilian. The beta characters will be wiped before launch, which is expected by the end of the year. So I focused on watching the Friday official livestream.

Drewcifer (producer for Devilian NA/EU) mentioned not wanting to launch against Star Wars, and also implied a reluctance to go against all the current big releases this month in November.

Since Star Wars ep. 7 is December 18, and Battlefront is this coming week on the heels of Fallout 4 and Black Ops, this kitty guesses Devilian in 3-4 weeks after Thanksgiving.

Drewcifer said a new super-momentous producer letter will be released in the coming days, to be discussed next Friday on the next livestream. So I’d guess we get a release date.

Trion also mentioned some new team members on Devilian. I’ve started working on a newbie guide, but I’m just trying to learn the game myself at this point. So we’ll see.

Anyone can supposedly join the beta this weekend by buying the $20 starter pack.

Victoria Voss said if you’re interested in streaming Devilian, please contact them via the forums, and they will help you get set up.

Drewcifer said there was nothing they can do about the gender-locked classes, which is the most criticized feature at this point. The devs said there is no chance of doing opposite genders for each class, but they mentioned a possibility of adding variations of classes with the opposite gender.

More classes are coming to Devilian in the coming months, which is more than Elder Scrolls Online can say 18 months after launch. One new class was previewed recently, and it’s a great addition to the female selection.

The two current female options are cute and cuter, so the bad girl theme is a really good idea, as is melee. For the sake of the game, a wizard or ranger type for the guys seems even better.


Rift


In the Rift livestream, the devs mentioned they are bringing the Sparkle Quest back, along with Rift patch 3.5, which will include Fae Yule. Last year’s Sparkle Quest was a weekly where you did all sorts of Rift content, and you could get a random piece of tier gear.

This time will not be a weekly that turns all players magically into insane hamsters. You can only do it once for a tier 3 piece. You’ll be able to choose if you want DPS/heal or tank gear. It’s still random between those two types. No weapons this time. Only armor and accessories.

Patch 3.5 will also bring upgrades to PvP gears, PvP convenience improvements, and a button on the crafting panel that lets you jump directly to the correct component to buy in the store. Now that’s some seasonal joy!

Also, all mounts can now be made amphibious, but they still need to be unlocked. The devs went to great efforts to do this, and they need fat paychecks for their NorCal rent. Trion is also hiring, but they apparently need lots of senior and director people.


Personal



This week I was also reading and uploading new versions of my books to stamp out typos. It’s depressing that I made so many mistakes in my final attempt to be perfect. The editor has been flogged.

At least two succubus-focused reviewers may be looking at my books soon, so I’m also marketing more towards the succubus theme at this point. I’m advertising for that on a super-secret bad girl blog.

It’s secret, but I have 750 followers on that blog. How does that happen? Believe it or not, video games are not the most popular online topic.

Today I tried to make sushi. I made the rolls ok, but the rice tasted horrible. I’m still burping up that fake crab leg crud. The sweet potato roll was more promising. I’ll try to do better next time, senpai.

Happy Friday, and happy gaming.


Kobold’s Corner: Luck As An RPG Stat – Good Or Bad

meadowToday I painted a cursed wizard school, where every time you miss a quiz question, your life force is drained a bit more until you pass out and awake in the infirmary.

Why does the headmaster allow this awful thing to happen? Well, there’s a vampire curse, you see, and maybe some Snape-ish professors actually like the curse.

It weeds out the weak.

I was also looking today at more Tunnels and Trolls stuff (for my browser-based game project). I downloaded and played Crusaders of Khazan, a T&T CRPG from 1990, on a PC emulator from Emuparadise.

They’re calling this “abandonware”, so it was free. The kitty likes free, but I couldn’t handle navigating that little low-resolution tile world for long. My eyes glazed over. Bleep. Bloop. Bloop. Bleep.

Saving rolls are an interesting part of T&T for me. I want to do lots of rolls, but I’m skeptical about Luck as a stat. Like someone commented in a game forum, Luck is already a real part of the game.

You as a player want to be lucky – with dice rolls.

Ken St. Andre pared D&D down to the barest essentials to make T&T back in the 1970s. When Ken explains why he took out Wisdom and added Luck, I agree with his reasoning. You need Luck to survive a dungeon. If you were wise, you wouldn’t set foot in that infested hole in the first place. Thinking it over though, I wonder if he added an almost-as-worthless stat.

I perused one of St. Andre’s dungeons today in the new deluxe T&T rulebook (“Chambers of the Mad Dwarf“). He is recommending IQ or Luck saving rolls to spot hidden doors and secrets in a few places. So you can be Sherlock Holmes to spot something, or just thrust your sword accidentally into the exact tree knot to open the door.

Which admittedly is fun – the best counter-argument for using Luck. On the other hand, novelist sages say fiction has to be even more real than reality to be believable. If a character wins the big lottery out of the blue in a book of fiction and then lives happily ever after, the reader will feel cheated. That’s no story.

Using the same logic as Luck, I also wonder about Intelligence. Intelligence is how you as the player win the game, whether solving the puzzle or orchestrating combat cleverly. Perception seems like a better stat to put on characters, since you as a player can’t perceive what the GM didn’t tell you?

Perception can also be used as a attribute for dialog option checks, while Luck can’t. (Perceiving whether someone is lying to you, or wants something a lot more than they are letting on.) So my thought is to get rid of INT and LK. I could use Perception instead of LK, and Talents/Subject Knowledge instead of INT.

So to quote a scientific formula, build and use a cannon, or tap philosophical principles, maybe you’d need Science, Military, and Philosophy subject knowledge (talents) instead of INT. While it’s much more work for less resource usage than using a catch-all INT stat, it’s more characterizing.

I’m not doing Charisma either. Here is my current list:

Willpower :: spell power, intimidate
Agility :: defense, avoid danger
Toughness :: health, resistances

Perception :: find hidden, diplomacy
Cunning :: diplomacy, persuasion
Allure :: persuasion, intimidate

It seems like I’m missing something, but I don’t have a Strength stat because the setting is the Dream World, the amorphous, illusory connective tissue between the emotional world (Hell), the mental world (Heaven), and Earth, where vampires, succubi, witches, shifters, and shamans roam.

I also looked at some review articles from Chester at CRPG Addict on T&T’s vintage Crusaders of Khazan. His idea of a perfect RPG happens to be the same as mine, and basically the low-budget game I’m trying to make:

I guess my idea of a perfect RPG has always been something along the lines of a CYOA book with all the other RPG mechanics surrounding it.

Chester suggests Crusaders approaches this ideal relatively well for an old game, offering a lot of dialogue-based encounters. There are also the usual sudden forced scenarios though. In another article, Chester consequently creates a hierarchy of encounter types.

Level 0: Completely random, a surprise forced encounter.
Level 1: Encounter with context. There is some sort of lead-in or build up, with a chance to make a plan and decide whether to engage or retreat. I.e. you know there is an ambush just ahead.
Level 2: Encounter with conversation and/or choice. There are some sort of options or choices allowing roleplay, but you’re still ending up with a pre-determined continuation of some kind(?).
Level 3: Consummate encounter. Roleplay dictates an entire gamut of violent or non-violent outcomes, blending context, conversation, and choice.

Chester notes that in his experience, many players in discussion forums would rather stick to puzzles, gear, gold, and gushing arteries however, and challenges his readers to think of their own best “encounter” experiences. So.

Some Of My Favorite/Most Memorable Encounters:

  • The Vampire Bodhi in Baldur’s Gate – deciding whether to join or kill the vampires. I played through both ways.
  • The werewolf lair in Dragon Age: Origins – deciding whether to join or kill the Lady of the Forest. Played through both ways. The decisions at the ending of the game were good too, but somehow I cared less about those people.
  • Philosophy with Dak’kon – A lot of players go gaga over Fall-From-Grace, but I really enjoyed talking with this Gith in Planescape Torment. It was just really exotic, religious, and left my head spinning.
  • Children of the Cathedral in Fallout. Again, this was sort of a situation where I had to wipe out a church.
  • Mages and demons, the mage tower tryst, and continuing story of Jowan in Dragon Age: Origins.
  • Skyrim: the dragon cult. I wanted to join the cult to worship the dragons, not fight against them. So I literally quit the game two or three times, and never got far, because I didn’t want to become the anointed dragonslayer, and the main story had no choice.
  • Tribunal vs. Imperial. The religious conflict in Morrowind was fascinating. I’m using a Tribunal-like situation of three founding demigods in my dark wizard school, which is similar.

There are so many characters and situations, and I still haven’t completed DA2 or Pillars, or played DA3 or Divinity:Original Sin. Strangely all of the favorites coming to mind are in single player RPGs and not MMOs. That suggests the importance of affecting meaningful change to the people and factions in the story.

I need to go to sleep, but the favorite recurring themes are starting to be clear: major moral choices involving good vs. evil and attitude towards entire factions, and exotic philosophical people and factions. If you read this far, what are your favorite/most memorable encounters in RPGs?


Kitty In Real Life: Lust And Corruption

This is not an angelic post, so if you’re an angel, go away. This post contains topics for succubi and mischievous kitties only, i.e. 18 or older.

Syncaine is recruiting again for his(??) CoC clan. I don’t know Syncaine’s gender.

I’m using the male pronoun as a default and not from an assumption that anyone passionate, aggressive, and foul-mouthed about games, and who labels a game as an “abortion”, simply must be male.

My second most hated nemesis in Rift PvP is confirmed female. She created a macro for her interrupt skill that adds a trollish taunt. She spams it. A lot. So I turned her into a shambler in the auction hall.

Ha. That will teach her not to interrupt Leonore’s death spells.

So any time Syncaine mentions CoC and his “Supreme Cream!” clan, I instantly think of the classic ribald, juice-oozing, erotica RPG Corruption of Champions, and not Clash of Clans.

Corruption of Champions was in my brain first, indelibly. That’s how corruption works. And whenever a game enters “Closed Beta Testing”, I always think of “Cook and Ball Torture”. Male devs apparently like CBT, and so does some random freak in Chicago who I chatted with twenty years ago.

Since I’m a corrupted kitty on every day except Sunday, I was flirting with taking my game project in an erotic direction. This would be almost as counterproductive to life success as spending thirty years playing video games, and I’m sure I’d regret it.

I don’t regret writing erotica for cash, but I’m running out of time.

I noticed someone is getting paid $3200/month to make a low-budget erotic game via Patreon. The $4000/month stretch goal: they work full time. So $3200/month is just a part time job at this point. The artwork on display looks nice enough, but “Uncensored image for $10+ patreons“?

Seriously? I smell bait and exploitation. I can’t decide if this project is dripping with cheese, or if I’m just jealous.

Maybe I need some elf relaxation hypnosis. There is a hypnotist who has made game-enhancing hypnosis files. He’s made one where you really feel some effects when you get hit in a shooter, when you die in a game, and one that makes you be a submissive, humble support role when you play LoL, and also rewards you with pleasure for being such a good boy or girl.

Vive’s files can also make you into a much better kitty too… or a dog… or a pig… but these hypnosis files are no joke. They are for responsible adults only, and can screw up your life. Vive’s evil wizard efforts are also supported via Patreon.

And I think that’s all the kitty had to say. Time to stretch, take a nap, and maybe watch Hafu play Hearthstone on Twitch.


Sympathy For The Devil: A Look At Devilian

Devilian characterToday I signed up for the Devilian beta (I think), navigating a number of broken buttons and website errors.

Trion’s ship looks creaky, with lots of hate in recent Devilian commentary. Devilian is Trion’s new effort to bring another Asian MMO to the west.

A lot of gamers will never play another Trion game after the bitter free-to-play experience in Archeage. I’ve always thought the best of Trion, but they’ve fallen.

Like angels.

I spent some hours watching videos and reading articles on Devilian. This Korean action RPG seemed random at first, maybe a gap-filler in Trion’s game stable. This is far from reality. Scott Hartsman has a plan.

(And so does Celestrata aka Sara Brennan from Turbine, who apparently now is a Trion employee. Congrats!)

As Trion’s spokesperson said in the Gamespot interview with Trion, the “hook” for the game is the social content. The dungeons, raids, guilds are very robust, along with world bosses, guild alliances. There is an aggressive gift-giving system. It pays to be popular.

MMORPG mentioned an Abyssal Tower Tournament. This massive tower has 100 floors, and each level of it gets progressively harder. The farther you go within, the more loot and rewards you get. It’s competitive PVE, with the people who get the farthest and the fastest getting the most rewards on the leaderboards.

I love public dungeons like this. There are also Rift-type events that spawn landscape monsters.

MassivelyOP reported that Scott Hartsman was deeply impressed with Devilian’s social features. So it seems Devilian plans to succeed with the same formula that helped Rift succeed: a heavy emphasis on grouping up both planned and unplanned.

Scientific studies show that grouping up releases pleasure chemicals in the brain, which is devilish in itself, Manugo-esque. It’s no accident that the Trion team identified these strengths of Devilian and chose to publish the game. I hope it’s successful. (And I hope I can get a beta invitation so maybe I can write a new guide.)

Here are some more features of Devilian, gleaned from the above linked sources as well as an excellent post by DMKano in the MMORPG forums.

  • Similar to Diablo 3, but is first and foremost an MMO.
  • Quest driven game with a story-line.
  • You can spec many ways to customize your character.
  • End game has alternate advancement.
  • Your equipment can also level up later on.
  • You can break down loot and use it to craft.
  • You’re a devilian–a half-human, half-devil shifter.
  • Guilds can level up and bestow perks on their members.
  • Guilds can form alliances to fight world bosses or defend against enemy guilds.
  • Yes, there are guild wars, completely consensual.
  • Rift-style instant adventures called eternal hunting grounds.
  • You are surrounded by 100s of players everywhere.
  • Mounts and pets.
  • Socketed gear is similar to Diablo.
  • Collectible card deck system that gives passive bonuses.
  • Can be played casually (i.e. 15 minute popcorn) to hardcore.
  • 4 classes – Berserker, Elementalist, Assassin and Gunner
  • Each one has three specialization trees.
  • PvP 20v20 and 3v3 matches.

This game might appeal to me. I liked Aion for quite a while. It doesn’t take much to ruin a game for me though. I quit playing Guild Wars 2 when I found out my main (Guardian) was destined to become a ‘Dragonslayer’ (the new advanced class.)

Imagine if every western game featured giant pandas because EVERYONE loves pandas. Pandas sell games. Everyone wants to fight huge evil pandas, right?! That’s how I feel about dragons.

Devilian has only four gender locked classes, and apparently it puts a hundred players on the screen at once, to underscore how generic you are.

This is concerning, but maybe it’s par for the course for today’s action RPG players. I wouldn’t know. The release of Devilian is planned before end of 2015. We’ll have to wait and see.

I’m still cheering for Hartsman and Trion, in any case.


More Reading


Devilian Official Website
MMORPG Player Write-Up On The Korean Beta (Recommended)
MMORPG Article


Weekly Wyrm: Achievement Complete

game screen

This week I’m working on my fantasy RPG, because last week I finished the final edit of my fourth novel, wrapping up eight months of working almost every minute of every day. My novels are epic length (130k+ words). I’ll start publishing this fall.

So I think I’ve written the same amount as Tolkien at this point. I have five books–a trilogy and two one-offs that expand on the most important characters and settings (Earth, Tartarus, Elysium, and Heaven). These add to my published short stories.

My novels aren’t pure genius, but they aren’t crap either. They’re *so* much better from having been written all at once.

All five novels have had 10-30 full re-writes or revisions over fifteen years. I took two years off work. I tortured, maimed, murdered, and enslaved a respectable number of characters who had perfectly nice lives before I came along.

I invented my own language–Demonic.

Instead of using a profound Tolkien knowledge of linguistics to create Demonic, I channeled the syllables from an Atlantean spirit guide named Neemoo. So don’t make fun of my Demonic language, because Neemoo is just a boy, and you might hurt his feelings.

Do I even read novels anymore? No. I’ve read a thousand works of fiction, but almost none in two decades. I was busy writing for like 10,000 hours.


*Must* You Use The Product To Be Good At Making It?


I was thinking today that I don’t agree with Linda “Brasse” Carlson‘s hiring strategy, as discussed in a previous post here about Trion’s livestream, where Linda and company were talking about getting hired at Trion.

Linda wants to hire people who are passionate about video games, but that seems like only hiring carpenters and plumbers who are passionate about “houses”–i.e. passionate about living in houses, decorating houses, a nice patio for barbecuing, a foyer to die for, raising a family in a house, and enjoying the fruits of houses.

Was Howard Roark (Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead) passionate about office buildings? No. He was passionate about designing and building buildings. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the stuffed shirts who lived and worked in those buildings. He just wanted to cut the crap and reach for his vision.

Gamers often lambaste devs with the suspicion that they don’t even play their own games. That’s probably true most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t raise the roofbeams like nobody’s business.

There are too many metaphors to even start supporting my point, and Linda Carlson’s point is probably more complicated in terms of human resources. Walter White (Heisenberg) also says no, and video games seem a lot like methamphetamine.


RPG Writing Ruminations


So this week I’m back on my video game project. I’m posting a screenshot here of my interface so far (open in a new tab to see a larger size). The game is playable except for combat, which needs a lot of (boring) thought about strength and intelligence and spells, and worse of all, animation.

Animation is a pain, precious.

I’ve made some important and interesting changes based on my observations of what worked and didn’t work in recent games I’ve played, mainly Pillars of Eternity. I wanted to write down my thoughts in a mini-developer diary.

The first companion characters in Pillars (Calisca and Heodan) are my favorites, and yet Pillars throws them away. This is a mistake. So why are these characters my faves? What qualities do they have, which the later characters don’t show, at least not right away?

Love-at-first-sight Bonding. I’m starting to wonder if the first people you meet in a game world form a special bond in your brain. It’s like being born into a new world, and your mind grasps onto the first friendly face you see. That’s why the first characters are so important.

Of course, the most important character in the story is you, the player.

Calisca and Heodan have strong goals. In the Pillars opening sequences, this means survival against an immediate threat. My Jedi master of writing, Jack Bickham, stresses the importance of the immediacy and realness of the threat. Pillars nails this.

Goals are imperative for NPCs. We can do better than “sure I’ll come along, why not, safety in numbers, I wouldn’t mind–”

Calisca and Heodan have inter-character conflict. Right away Calisca and Heodan are at odds over which path to take. You decide, and there are consequences. The only way this amazing starting survival scenario in the cave could be stronger is if your decision develops your own character a little more.

Conflict is super-important not only to create tension and move the plot forward, but also to develop characters with emotion. So I need to hit these important points with the NPCs. Conflict, goals, and the first characters you meet are highly important. I re-wrote the beginning of my game (again) because of these observations.