Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hex Crawl Flow Chart

When you play a dungeon crawl, you know what to do: go to each unexplored room, kill monsters, search for traps and secret doors, and collect loot. Keep going until you've visited every room in the dungeon. Do more if you feel inspired, but this modus operandi will never fail.

I'm trying to achieve the same clarity for my hexcrawling game. I wrote about this earlier, but sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words.

Basically, if you can't figure out a problem yourself, you'll have to find an expert who can give you information. If you can't persuade him or her to help you, you may have the perform a side quest. 

Meanwhile, factions are making moves "off camera." This diagram helps me estimate how often a faction move should occur. If the PC's can make a successful knowledge roll, they should should be rewarded by outpacing an enemy faction. If the PC's can't persuade an expert to help and have to perform a side quest, they should be outpaced themselves.

Skills are written in blue. As you can see, exploration and gather information are critically important, whereas influence and search are used less often. Yesterday's playtesting revealed that search needs a more interesting fail state than "you don't find the clue," but otherwise the structure is working as intended. Soon I'll add faction moves and it will get very interesting.

As an aside, rolling a 1 (on a d6) when you gather information may draw unwanted faction attention. Players were far more careful about what questions they asked and where they asked them than I anticipated. It was fun.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Map Tiles Update - Lighter Colors & New Water

The next tile proof has arrived. Santiago mellowed out the water and lighted the jungle, forest, and organ swamp tiles. The glass desert is now purplish, so it stands out from the water. I ordered the new tiles without UV coating so they wouldn't glare.

This first photo shows the new land tiles with the old water tiles, producing a larger map.

This next photo shows the contrast between the old water and the new water. There is some reduction of detail in this photo as a result of merging them into one image.

As it turns out the tiles produce glare even with the UV coating, but are now vulnerable to water spillage and fingerprints. They also have residual soot marks from the laser cutting process. The mellowed out water photographs better, but appears grayish and dreary to the naked eye. I may ask Santiago to produce a more lively ocean color - so it feels more joyful. The boundary between land and sea is certainly more clear with the mellower water, so there's a tradeoff to consider.

Here's one more with the new water so you can see it with more detail. Again, props to Santiago for the great work.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Japanese dev philosophy

Map Tiles - First Proofs

The map tile proofs have arrived. Now we see how the illustrations, which looked great on a computer screen, translate to physical printing.
One mistake: I selected "glossy finish" for the production process. Too much light and the tiles give off a glare. Too little and the details are hard to see.
Too much light:
Too little:
Santiago and I concluded the glossy finish needs to be removed and some of the darker colors in the darker tiles need to be lightened up a bit. We're also going to make the "glass desert" (top left in the above photograph) design red tinted so it stands out from the blue ocean tiles. We'll see how the next proof goes.
In the meantime, the mountains look 3D. It's uncanny.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The latest debacle

Derek Smart provides a post-CitizenCon update on Star Citizen:
The past few weeks following the CitizenCon event have been very difficult and dare I say disastrous for the Star Citizen project. From the post-show videos they did in an attempt to explain away why (read my Shattered Dreams blog for more on that) Squadron 42 wasn’t shown, to the controversy over lies about procgen planets, to the status of the patches (the much delayed 2.6 patch, as well as the 3.0 patch touted at GamesCom in Aug as coming end of the year), the flippant mention of SQ42 coming to consoles – and right down to last week’s uproar over the silence on the status of both aforementioned patches.

Well in the past 24hrs, things took a turn for the worse.

For some time now I have maintained that not only has Chris Roberts blown through $130 million (a huge amount, even though we have reason to believe that the funding tracker isn’t accurate) dollars of backer (plus whatever investor and bank loans source say they have) money, but has also run out of money to fund this pipe-dream to completion. Heck, at GamesCom he flat out said that 4.0 of Star Citizen – which won’t even be 50% of what was promised – won’t be out until end of 2017 – which, going by trends means “sometime in 2018”. The longer a project takes, the more money it needs to continue. And with over 400 employees and contractors worldwide, it’s easy to see how money will eventually become an issue. As of this month, the project which was promised to be released in Nov 2014, is now officially two years late.

Yet, there are those who, rather than holding them accountable for promises made, keep rejoicing in point digit milestones such as the recently reached $130m one. It’s hilarious, and now goes way beyond Sunk Cost Fallacy and Cognitive Dissonance. When the inevitable crash comes, psychologists are going to be digging deep to figure out how so many people fell so far, and so hard for what many believe to now be the biggest scam in video game history.

So anyway, given what they did with the pre-CitizenCon Polaris sale, the stunt they just pulled should come as no surprise to backers. See, ahead of the anniversary stream which is coming in two weeks, they decided to do another ship sale. This, while par for the course won’t have been all that surprising – except for the fact that i) they discounted it ii) made it cheaper if you paid cash and didn’t use store credits (obtained via melting existing ships). What that means is, not only do they need the cash (from new buyers), but they are also willing to devalue the existing backer inventory in favor of “new money”. And so the community was set ablaze (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Again.
Read the whole thing. It's just... not... good. Not for anyone in the dev world.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Map Art - Update

Santiago has completed the map tile art and I'm waiting for the proofs to come from the print-on-demand service. If they print well, we're good to go! In the meantime, I've uploaded the tileset into Hexographer and created a map. Santiago's art is too detailed for Hexographer, which of course is fine because that's not what they were designed for. When the proofs arrive (2-3 weeks) I'll take some photographs so everyone can see the Santiago's art in blazing glory.

In the meantime I think we're starting to see a world that beckons exploration.

Edit: Just for fun, here's another map:

Here's a map that's a little wider:

And what's an endeavor like this without an island map?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Why Games?

I was talking with Student in Blue in the comments section to "Music for Non-Musicians" and promised an article dealing with "Why Video Game Music?" We basically know why you may want music for a game. It glues scenes together. It provides emotional context. It ties the game to cultural signifiers. And so on - so I'm coming at it from the other angle. Why would you want a game for your music?

I hope that sharing this perspective will provide insight to someone who is working with a composer. I don't want this post to be too long - just enough to be a conversation starter.

  1. Music is broadly split into commercial and academic branches. Video games allow a composer to get away from some of the worst aspects of academic careerism.                                                         
  2. Video games are a little bit like folk art for our generation. Not many Millennials will be familiar with their own ethnic music, but video games from their childhoods do constitute a kind of a shared culture.                                                                                                                              
  3. Game music can be a bit weird and still be appropriate. Games, like film, make audiences more receptive to that weirdness.                                                                                                                          
  4. The games audience is honest enough to let you know if your music is too weird.                                                                                                              
  5. The video game industry is more spread out. There's no one city you have to move to - like Los Angeles for film - to do games.                                                                                                                 
  6. Video games are rather democratic. There's opportunities to start small and work yourself up gradually. You're not always waiting for your one big break. It can be a gradual process, which gives you time to grow.                                                                                                                              
  7. If a game has an interactive score, its basically a new art form and that's very exciting.
Now that I've written this out, I can't say a composer's motivations are that different than anyone else's. But maybe its helps someone see the other side of the fence.