Thursday, February 28, 2013

DriftWurld Traders: Lot's of escape, no surrendering to 'Players always win fights'

I'm working on this game with the premise that the monsters are really tough and there's just no way you can afford the weaponry that can get through their toughness.

So it's a matter of when encountering them, running away to an escape point!

On top of this you can build up your armour over time. It's an armour that takes damage, but you can also repair it over time as well. So you're trying to have this bulk of armour.

And I'm surprised but I'm REALLY jiving on it!

In retrospect, with the traditional model you HAD to provide the players the capacity to BEAT the enemy. JUST to continue playing!

I mean, it's basically forced - the monsters often can run faster than you and there are no real rules for escape hatches, let alone them existing in dungeons, let alone the capacity to craft them.

Never mind that a supposedly random system of rolling a D20 multiple times essentially isn't random - it comes down to a hard average after awhile. Either your average is high enough to beat monsters, and obviously so (so you can predict the fights conclusions in advance) or it isn't and you'll never get to the end.

And when the odds are stacked with you, how is that really a fight rather than just plain old butchery?

Alot of times I tried to dress that butchery up to try and make it more than that by making it HARD - making complex challenge mechanics for players.

But even then - I'm sick of constant killing just to advance a game!

Of course, I was really just hooked around the notion of 'no escape, fight to the death!'

While in this game, I started coding it all around escape (not deliberately, sadly!). And it works so much better! You can get better at escaping (ie, gain more armour so as to be able survive longer whilst getting to an escape point). You don't have to be able to kill every enemy, just to keep playing. And I really like it! It's just so much less a stretch of suspension of disbelief! So much less a stretch of morality (ie, the idea you're a, but you pick on things you stack the odds against). So much less a contradiction of scaryness (oh, monsters are scary - yet you HAVE to have the ability to beat them, and once you beat them it shows you shouldn't have been scared. Therefore monsters aren't scary and none of this is terribly compelling)

I actually feel excited about this concept, rather than the sort of picking my way through the tropes of combat trying to find something exciting to get at. Here I'm already at something exciting to work with, and am looking forward to more exciting ways to implement it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I can't find older posts (I bad at tags!) where I've noted the lack of D&D having any lose condition except for character death or total party kill.

So I'm surprised today to find a couple of people pointing it out on the wizards 5E playtest forum! Okay, massive post, but I'll quote the relavant bit.

Now he also have another point, that without some things a TPK is the only way to lose in recent editions.
 Exactly - the person refered to wants characters who go neg HP to stay down instead of popping back up from heals. Thus its a kind of 'losing' that doesn't involve the character actually dying.

It's one method of trying to put in losing without PC death - not the only method. It's interesting to see the 'you can't lose without a TPK/PC death' being stated by others as well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Borderlands 2: Not sure what the slot machines are for...

Really kinda wish the slot machines in Borderlands 2 had a ten spin option. Standing there pressing the button over and over on each - that's not really gameplay. If you had an option to spin ten times and take the best results (along with any bombs), it'd be more akin to gameplay instead of - well, whatever using slot machines is classed as.

Otherwise I've finished the game and it was quite engaging even in single player, right up to the end. Not sure how they did that/what math they used that's different from last time. But it seems even guys who are lower level than you, if you run in they will chew your shields apart. Maybe apart from bullet spread over distance, they do more damage closer up? Not sure.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Roleplay games, goal based sessions and working structure

Okay, you have to go get the Mc Guffin!!! It's done alot in RPG games, so let's look at it. Also, there's a short version down the bottom of this post!

The thing is, as a player you have absolutely no idea how to. You're trying stuff, but it seems to arrive at dead ends. Or maybe what you're trying to do takes a really long time to do in RL playing time - kind of a dead end by the slowing down of how long the act takes to execute in the fiction in RL time.

This is an issue with most traditional RPG's - there is no fail condition. No explicit point jumps out and says 'well, you can't try anymore, it's too late, you've lost'. So you keep trying this or that and they don't work, but neither does the game. Thou art in limbo!

A primary issue is that yeah, the fiction tends to give no fail condition. If you're standing in front of some puzzle door, unless the ceiling was coming down slowly, there's nothing that says that once you've tried something and it didn't work, you are that much closer to failing or have failed.

Which results in a sort of RPG blue screen. A limbo.

Some traditional RPG advice is to have the players be able to move onto something else. Indeed in classic AD&D, if you can't find the hidden treasure in dungeon room...well, the players can just shrug and say they go to the next room. Which works out great.

But you/the players have to go get the Mc Guffin!

About the only solution is to explicitly make clear that it is valid for the players to just give up.

Let's not treat "Well, we've gotten to near the end of the night soooooo....we'll just have what the players just did in the last thirty minutes solve the issue, even though if they had done that at the start of the session it wouldn't have worked!" as if it's a perfect solution. If the play session is four hours, that means pretty much any solution works, as long as you sit out the four hours and just suggest anything in the last thirty minutes. Well, I guess I can only argue from my own preferences, but as much, that's not something I desire anyway.

Of course the problem with players giving up is what if some do just want to admit defeat, but others just gotta try more things, and more things, and more!

I really am not sure. Perhaps players who have given up can head out early, or they can sit in at the game table but they don't have to try and wrack their brains anymore, they can just watch the other players. Basically you don't want someone to feel they are stuck unable to know what to do next, but also unable to simply give up and move on.

The other problem is, potentially, session time. You might have four hours to play, yet what if the players give up two hours in?

At that point the whole 'well, their actions can't make them fail' probably starts to look attractive, as if the RPG blue screen actually is how you play, since it will indeed fill in the time. It's just a question of what it fills it in with.

I would suggest a secondary optional goal, that you don't introduce at the start of play but merely hint at the possibility of ("There may be an extra mission to perform latter on - they'll send a message if there is"). If the primary goal has been completed, failed, or the players have given in and admitted defeat on it, then you can bring in the secondary optional goal to pad out the session time.

Lets be explicit though - this is an optional goal. If the players don't want to take it up, then they don't. If they have to play it, it doesn't escape the RPG blue screen problem really, as the players are now stuck with another problem because they couldn't solve the prior one.

Short version
1. Tell players they can simply admit defeat on their pursuit of the Mc Guffin. Those who do can retire from the table or sit and watch the others, but they no longer have to run their PCs (whether they can offer suggestions to any players who continue is up to you - I think there's benefit in that. On the other hand, they did give up already and that aught to be acknowledged)

2. Have a secondary optional goal they can move onto. They don't have to take it up, but it benefits them somehow (even if just in a sense of increased PC prestige!). This goes by rule #1 as well, as they can just let it go. If really concerned you could make a third optional goal, probably the second is enough to fill out the extra session time (if filling out that time is a concern).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Green, Blue, Purple - but how does it matter? Borderlands 2 fuzzyness

I'm not sure how green, blue or purple actually matter in borderlands 2?

Is every weapon level a kind of tier? So a blue level 9 is quite rare and powerful for level 9, but it explains why if you find a level 10 green weapon that outranks it considerably, that's why? Because it's only blue for level 9? It's not like a blue from level 9 is actually more powerful than level 10 stuff?

I don't quite get it and...that just kinda takes the shine off colours. Oh, so it's coloured blue and...I'll keep using my green rocket rifle because it's just better?

May as well all be white, in a way.

Borderlands 2, The Respawn Ecology of Bandits

No, new bandits don't just rock up five minutes latter to the ruins you cleared out. Why would they do that? "Hey, let's go live where everyone else was just killed!"

No, what happens is that the bandits have their own respawn system! Albiet not as neat and efficient as a Hyperion respawn unit!

Bandit Masks
This is why bandits wear masks - so as to (attempt to) protect their brains. Because they have cybernetic oxygen cells and a flash hybernation system implanted in them to keep their brain alive in case of their body shutting down.

Regrowth Units, Midgets and You!
This is why you get so many midgets! Because they are regrowing their body, obviously you get alot of bandits in the early, formative stages of growing a new body!

Psycho Melee Guys
And this is also why you get psycho's who just use melee weapons - all the chemicals and hormones from growing a new body are swirling around in them, driving them fairly insane! Like a teenager...just multiplied by ten! They just can't get it together enough to obtain and look after a gun. Sadly this can be a vicious cycle, where since an individual can't complete their growing cycle, they are time and again 'killed', repeating the psychotic hormone cycle. Eventually these long bouts of madness engrave their way into the bandits synapses, creating

Psycho Grenade Guy
Utterly mad and full of growth drugs, these guys can be conned by other bandits into simply weilding a grenade and running at you. Bandits both fear falling into this tragic situation, yet also glibbly exploit those who do. It's said it's possible to return from being a grenade guy, but most examples seem to be from word of mouth.

Crazy Bandit Attitude
Overall the bandits are affected by the hormones, even once they have completed the growth of an adult body. This, in conjunction with a sense that they can't die, makes their methods somewhat eratic and insane. Some may even suffer from dementia, as even though one might assume one is fighting bandits who are in their early twenties, some of them are actually seventy or eighty years old!

Growth Systems aren't just for People!
This is why you find so many guns in bandit toilets - the components are actually being grown by special bacteria! They gather and fuse molecules of metals in various ground up scrap fed to them. The toilet actually makes an ideal growing spot, being moist and...fed a continual supply of nutrients! Oh, sorry, if you were grateful to hear that the toilets aren't actually used in their traditional sense anymore, sorry! Indeed, quite the opposite!

As to why Hyperion, as run by Handsome Jack, the Handsome Jack who wants to kill you - as to why THAT Hyperion will keep respawning you????

I got nuffin'.

Imagination only runs so far...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Borderlands 2, Mini Review (and Rhymes Too...)

I think borderlands 2 is an improvement. For a start the single player mode actually offers some challenge in game play. Even though the split screen option is there on the PS3, it's a relief to know I can enjoy playing this solo.

There's a touch of darksouls there in that you start to learn the various positions of enemies in certain areas (but after awhile you'll be moving around following the story quests so much that that begins to reduce). Though this fades out latter as you don't cover the same ground as before. It seems a missed opportunity to have a puzzle like landscape you can learn, instead of zipping through new areas and just fumbling your way through instead of finding elegantly profitable paths through them. That'd be another thing that'd be interesting to pick up from dark souls - if you die, have it possible to pick up the money lost somehow. Have it sitting at some further point. Granted when you die the bad guys don't come back in borderlands 2 like they do in dark souls, so the mechanic can't be perfectly replicated without an even larger change being made.

Aesthetics wise, the returning of bandits bugs me - this sort of thing bugs me like clipping graphics bug alot of people. Why do the bandits just keep coming back? I'm gunna write a post about the respawning ecology of borderlands, simply to make my self less tooth grindy, in the next post.