MTaur

MTaur
MTaur

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Balance Isn't Boring" demos on YouTube

Hey, figured I should showcase my mods a little on YouTube for people who want to see what they're about without bothering to test them for themselves.  Just two videos adding up to an hour or so at the moment.  I'll probably do at least one for each class eventually, when I feel like it.  Melee Engineer and lightning Embermage (+ frost utility skills) for now:






Balance Isn't Boring rant

Anti-one-shotting mod
Potions overhaul mod - diluted and extended
Cooldown and mana mod - burst vs DPS distinctions clearly differentiated

Friday, July 11, 2014

Balance Still Isn't Boring - What's Not To Roguelike?

Way back in the beginning of this blog, I made a post titled Balance Isn't Boring.  The idea that balance can actually mean things like tension, risk, reward, challenge, and ultimately gameplay has returned to the front of my mind in recent months, as I've gotten hooked on a couple of roguelike titles - Desktop Dungeons and Sword of the Stars: The Pit.  (While I have played and enjoyed FTL: Faster Than Light, Dungeons of Dredmor, and Don't Starve, I'm going to just leave them in the "different strokes/folks" bucket after their brief mention here.)

In a roguelike game, resources are ultimately finite and non-renewable.  The player explores some randomly-generated dungeon labyrinth which spawns both enemies and resources.  Death is a one-way ticket back to the title screen.  Small mistakes accumulate, and large mistakes can end a run instantly.  Luck can play a big role in individual runs, but flawless play will result in an impressive win rate.  Classic games most strictly following the formula are Rogue itself and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

Casinos and Casuals

The main idea of roguelikes is that games are supposed to pose a challenge.  There are two genres I can think of that shun this principle.

The first is the electronic casino game, in which the player is not allowed to make meaningful decisions.  Because real money is being exchanged, losing is the point.  I mostly avoid casinos if I can help it, because they are weirdly absorbing in a way that isn't actually fun, and they burn money as quickly and surely as an open flame.

In some sense the opposite of the play-to-lose game, the casual farming game - or lose-to-win game - is the mindless trip to the casino played backward with virtual money.  The Learn To Fly series more or less captures the feel of it.  Every time you play, you lose, gaining money you can use to buy stuff for your dude, repeating as needed until you win.  Lose-to-win games usually include some degree of interactivity that is actually skill-based to some extent, reducing the number of times the player must lose to win if they're playing well.  (If gains are kept in check by diminishing returns or hard caps, then the same mechanics might not lead to a lose-to-win game.  Rogue Legacy has farm-and-die mechanics, but it's impossible to make any progress off of bad runs.)

Either play-to-lose, or lose-to-win - the final outcome is predestined.  These games are possessed with an inertia which plays out inevitably.  They are the tree which falls in the forest so long as someone is there to hear it - these games are the opposite of balance.

Desktop Dungeons - Hard Casual

Not all casual games are lose-to-win.  In some sense, any game which can be played on a workday to a satisfying conclusion without staying up late can can reasonably be called "casual."  This includes Chess, for example, as well as Tetris and Minesweeper.


Desktop Dungeons starts out looking like a dungeon crawling role-playing adventure.  You start by choosing a race and a class for a hero, and then you fight your way through a somewhat small dungeon - possibly stopping to worship a local deity along the way.  The game does not explicitly seem like a puzzle until you play more and learn to appreciate the huge role played by all kinds of "gimmicks" such as level-up heals and "piety storing" to front-load some forgiveness from your draconian deity - which you will need if you anticipate the need to do something Dracul won't approve of, such as drink a health potion or slay a zombie.

As the finish line is never far away, you can always incrementally build your plan as you go along.  "Converting" items from your inventory destroys them and triggers race-specific bonuses.  In more long-term games, the tendency to play the packrat because "you never know" can lead to huge end-game surpluses of consumables.  Not so in Desktop Dungeons, where even your most useful permanent items will be considered for conversion going into the boss fight.  It's a bit of a rush the first time you cannibalize your entire inventory incrementally at just the right times and barely finish the boss with nothing to spare.

This game offers a ton of replayability in the form of race-class-religion combinations.  For the harder levels, you may find that one size does NOT fit all, and that hammering away at your favorite setup won't work all the time.  (The downside is that preparing for a run adequately requires spending accumulated gold from the town's coffer, and it often takes experimentation to learn what will and won't work with a given level's minions and bosses.  A dry run with no preparation is typically in order if you are trying to save gold.)

The game has grown and improved a lot since the free-to-play alpha, both in graphics and in game balance and presentation, but the overall game flow is similar enough that the alpha serves as an informative sample of the finished product without spoiling the whole thing.  It's the ideal "demo" from both a player's and a studio's perspective.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit





Unlike Desktop Dungeons, Sword of the Stars: The Pit is a straight-up science fiction dungeon crawl, with the emphasis on crawl - while the original Pit was originally stocked with 30 floors, the first expansion increased this to a total of 40.  Considering that it often takes half an hour or more to complete a floor carefully, the audience is absolutely assumed to be deeply invested in the outcome of a run.  So The Pit takes the opposite approach - instead of Desktop Dungeon's quick runs with a tight puzzle feel designed to draw in a broad audience, The Pit aims to be a cult classic.  (I strongly suggest starting with Gold Edition.  It is the second of three DLCs, but it is also sold in the bundle consisting of The Pit + Mindgames + Gold.  Mindgames is where the core gameplay reaches maturity with the introduction of psionic powers, but it's just as easy to get Gold from the beginning.  The third DLC, The Pilgrim, is a nice expansion if you own and like Gold, in which case you will naturally want more.)

Easily a week or more's gaming time can be devoted to a single run, and each minute is full of tough assessments of risk, reward, and resources.  Food, ammo, health, armor, durability, and psionic energy reserves are constantly in a state of flux as the player continuously spends one or two in hopes of either conserving the others or finding more of it.  Am I so hungry that I'll waste a few rounds of ammo to get this over quickly?  Or is my health high enough that I want to get in melee range?  Can I just run away, or will I probably just get surrounded later?

Aside from depth of gameplay, there is an odd and paradoxical depth to The Pit as a work of fiction.   The overall plot of The Pit is hokey to the point where Kerberos Productions goes so far to break the third wall.  In a random dungeon run, you may decode a random message from The Scout's sister which reads (paraphrasing), "Hey Toshiko, remember the game we used to play with the secret laboratory and the mad scientists and the monsters?  I think the monsters are real this time..."  Incidentally, the overall plot is that you're diving into 40 floors of corrupted science unleashed because a cure to the Xombie virus is at the bottom, no more and no less.

The depth emerges incrementally with each run and with each new playable character you spend time with, whether it's The Engineer who jubilantly declares that "it can't be worse than calculus!" or the brooding and intense Liir, perhaps best described for outsiders as a "psionic space dolphin".  You'll also meet a fraternal Marine, a psionic soldier who was apparently trained on a strict regimen of watching 90s films on VHS, and the avaricious Morrigi - a sort of six-limbed red-and-teal dragon-bird.


Just getting to know your enemies is a bit of a journey.  For example, you will enter mortal combat against members of the Zuul race at various life stages.  In the early floors, you will find a quiet and seemingly deserted ruins of a research facility where you'll run across a few bats, some rats, and some hairy grub-like fanged Zuul infants, but as you go further, you will find giant rat-like Zuul pups before you eventually encounter the adult female, looking like an apish clawed wolf, and the adult Zuul male, a sort of psionic mastermind and all-around bad guy.

The reason that The Pit bursts with so much fertile imagination is that it is a spin-off of the expand-and-conquer-in-space RTS game Sword of the Stars, belonging to Arinn Dembo's expanding sci fi universe set in the 2400s, including one complete novel to date.  If you ever wondered what games would be like if real writer(-anthropologist)s wrote for them, then this is one of the best places you could look.

The Pit is a challenging mad plummet into the depths of a deranged Sword of the Stars buffet of death.  Have one of everything, but they're not responsible if it doesn't agree with you.  It's a pretty good mix for a hardcore game meant to be played repeatedly - don't bog the player down with too much plot, but do present a rich world and quirky characters with well-controlled voice acting that somehow manages not to be annoying months later.

I do have some quibbles with the game, especially with the inadequacy of the tutorial to unveil the arcane game mechanics one must master to go far in the game.  I also feel like the level-up heal breaks the fourth wall in a way that works for Desktop Dungeons but not for The Pit, and some minor control/interface issues get in the way.  But there's nothing that can't be overcome by Let's Play videos, the wiki, the forums, and old-fashioned dying from different things until you learn how to play better.  I'd like to make suggestions for improvement at length in a separate post sometime, but for I'd just like to recommend The Pit as a modern cult classic hardcore rogue-like that is very slow-paced and takes a weekend or two to warm up to.

(As I mentioned in earlier posts, I started a fan comic about the characters and plot of The Pit, but with a multiplayer twist speculating on how they'd interact with each other.

Also, I finally beat the game on Normal.  I was playing as The Scout and I had really good early luck.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DimOnion: Modern Times - calling all guinea pigs

I'm in the process of uploading print pages for DimOnion: Modern Times right now.  I'll update this post with info when that's done.  There has also been a request for text versions of all the card descriptions, and I plan to put that there here as well.

The print pages are designed to be printed "fit to page" in Portrait on 8.5'' x 11''.  They should come out slightly small, but that's better than the opposite.  They need backing and a card sleeve or something like that.  There is a set of Modern Times shelters (like the Dark Ages shelters).  Thematically, Modern Times and any canonical Dominion cards won't get along at all, but playing-wise, there's no real reason they couldn't mix.

Anyway, more info, printing rules, etc. to come.

Printing pages.  There's enough here to start testing with cards with art, if you also read the DeviantArt pages:

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6

If you wanted a big complete list of card descriptions... that'll probably take hours.  Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.  I'm debating.

EDIT:  Here you go.

Amazon
======
Action
Cost: $3

+1 card
+2 actions
+1 buy
Put the cards on your Amazon mat into your discard pile when you play this card (or at the end of the game).
Cards you gain while this card is in play go onto your Amazon mat.

Apartment
=========
Action
Cost: $3

+1 card
+1 action
Gain a Debt, putting it into your hand
--------------
2 VP

Batteries
=========
Action
Cost: $1

+1 card
+1 action
Put a Charge token on your Battery mat or spend any number of Charge tokens and play an Action card from your hand whose cost is equal to the number of tokens spent.  If you spent 4 or more tokens, +1 card.


Blackout
========
Action-Duration
Cost: $5

You may discard this card from play.
If you do: +1 card, +1 action.
If you do not discard this card from play: Each player may reveal any number of Action cards from their hand and place them on top of their deck in any order.  At the start of your next turn, +1 action and trash this card.
While this card is in play, players may not spend Actions

Bomb Shelter
============
Victory-Reaction
Cost: $3

When another player plays and Attack card, you may reveal this card from your hand.  If you do, you are unaffected by the attack.
-------------
2 VP

Casino 1
========
Treasure
Cost: $4

+1 Buy
Reveal the top three cards of your deck.
+$1 for each Treasure revealed.
If you revealed three of the same treasure, you may trash this card and play the treasures in any order.
If you revealed three differently-named treasures, you may trash this card and play one of them.
Discard any revealed treasures which were not played and put the remaining cards on top of your deck in any order.  Gain a Debt whenever you discard this from play.

Casion 2
========
Treasure
Cost: $4

Reveal the top 3 cards of your deck.  If you do not reveal any treasures, discard the revealed cards, trash this card, and gain a Debt.
If you revealed any treasures:  Choose one and discard the other revealed cards.  Play the chosen treasure.  When you discard this card from play during your cleanup phase, put it on top of your deck.

Consolidator
============
Action
Cost: $4

+3 cards
Gain a Debt.  You may return up to 3 cards from your hand to the supply.

Credit Card
===========
Treasure
Cost: $0

When you play this, gain up to two Debt cards from the supply.  +$2 for each Debt gained.
When you gain this card, you may reveal a treasure from your hand costing at least $3 and place it on top of your deck.  Otherwise, return this card to the supply.

Debt (Basic Modern Times supply pile. Size= 20*[# of players - 1] )
====
Action-Debt
Cost: $0

+1 card, +1 action
You may discard a Treasure.  If you do, place a Payment token on your Debt mat; otherwise, place this card and a card from your hand on top of your deck in either order.
During this Buy phase, you may remove 3 Payment tokens from your Debt mat.  If you do, return this card to the supply.
If this card is trashed, its owner may remove a Payment token from their Debt mat.  If they do not, they gain a Curse.
--------------------
-1 VP


Facebook (5 cards, mixed with Twitter supply pile)
========
Action
Cost: $1

Each player reveals their hand. Starting with you and going in turn order, each other player may Like any number of players' hands. The player(s) whose hand(s) got the most Likes get(s) +1 VP, and each other player discards their hand and draws an equal number of cards.

Twitter (5 cards, mixed with Facebook supply pile)


Football
========
Action
Cost: $3

Each other player reveals the top 3 cards of their deck.  For each player who reveals a Foolball, you may trash one of them.  Discard the other revealed cards.  You may trash up to two cards from your hand.
+1 VP for each Football you trashed.
You cannot gain a Library while this card is in play.  When this card is trashed, its owner may trash a card from their hand.

Gas Station
===========
Action
Cost: $5

+1 card
+1 action
You may trash a Treasure from your hand.  If you do, +2 cards.

Gerrymander
===========
Action
Cost: $4

You may pay up to three Actions.  For each Action paid, you may reveal and discard a Victory card from your hand. +1 VP for each Victory card discarded.

Google
======
Action
Cost: $4

Reveal a card from your hand.  Name a card in the supply costing less than the revealed card.  Reveal cards from the top of your deck until you find the named card.  Put the revealed copy of the named card into your hand and discard the other cards revealed from your deck.

Health Insurance
================
Action
Cost: $3*+

+1 card
+1 action
You may trash a card from your hand costing at most $2.
-----------------------
This card costs and additional $1 for each three Curses not in the supply.
Gain 2 Debts whenever you gain this card.  You may overpay for this card.  For each $1 that you overpaid, return one of the gained Debts to the supply.

House 1
=======
Victory
Cost: $5

When you gain this card, gain a Debt
----------------------
6 VP
-1 VP for each two Debt cards in your deck

House 2
=======
Victory
Cost: $5

When you gain this card, gain two Debt cards.
----------------------
6 VP
-1 VP for each five Debt cards in your deck.

House 3
=======
Victory
Cost: $5

When you gain this card, gain two Debt cards.
----------------------
6 VP
-1 VP for each three Debt cards in your deck.


Insider 1
=========
Action-Attack
Cost: $5

You may trash a card from your hand.  If you do, you may gain a Victory card from the supply costing at most $2 more than the trashed card.  Each other player gains a Debt.

Insider 2
=========
Action-Attack
Cost: $6

You may trash a card from your hand.  If you do, you may gain a Victory card from the supply costing at most $2 more than the trashed card.  Each other player gains a Debt.

Internet
========
Action
Cost: $2

Look at the top three cards of your deck, put one of them into your hand, and discard the others.
You cannot spend actions while this card is in play.
When you gain this card, gain an Amazon, a Google, and a Twitter or a Facebook.
Setup:  Add the Amazon, Google, and Facebook/Twitter supply piles to the game if not already present.

iPhone
======
Action-Shelter
Cost: $1

Action-Duration-Shelter
+1 card
+1 action
You may return a Debt from your hand to the supply. If you do, trash this card.
While this card is in play, you cannot use Reaction abilities.  At the end of your cleanup phase, place one card from your hand on top of your deck.  Return this card to your hand from play at the start of your turn.


Job Creator
===========
Action-Attack
Cost: $6

+$2
Each other player with 4 or more cards in hand reveals a Treasure or a hand with no Treasures.  If any Treasures costing $4 or less are revealed, trash them. Gain one of the trashed treasures from the trash, putting it into your hand.
You cannot gain Health Insurance while theis card is in play.

Kids These Days
===============
Action
Cost: $2

+1 card
+1 action
Each player may reveal a card not costing $0 from their hand.  Each player who does so trashes the revealed card and gains a card costing less than it, putting the gained card in their hand.

Lavatory 1
==========
Action
Cost: $6

+2 cards
+1 action
Trash a card from your hand.

Lavatory 2
==========
Action
Cost: $7

+2 cards
+1 action
Trash a card from your hand.

Mall
====
Action
Cost: $7
+1 Card
+1 Action
+$2
+2 Buys

Any number of times during your Buy phase, you may give up a Buy and gain a Debt.  Each time that you do, +$1.
At the end of your Buy phase, reveal your hand.  Gain one Curse for each unused Buy, $, or Treasure card.

Master's Degree
===============
Action
Cost: $2

+1 card
You may play an Action card from your hand. If you do, +$1.
When you gain this card, gain a Debt.

Oil Field
=========
Treasure-Victory
Cost: $6*

+$1 for each Oil Field not in the supply.
-------------------------------
1 VP for each Oil Field not in the supply.
This card costs an additional $2 for each Oil Field not in the supply.
Setup: The game ends if this pile is empty.

Outsource
=========
Action
Cost: $5

You may play an Action card from your hand twice.  If you do, trash it.  If you do:
 +1 Buy
 During your Buy phase this turn, cards cost $1 less (but not less than $0).


Payday Loan
===========
Action-Shelter
Cost: $1

Reveal cards from the top of your deck until you find a Copper.  Put it in your hand and discard the other revealed cards.  Trash this card and gain a Debt.

Predatory Loan
==============
Treasure
Cost: $0

+$5
Trash this card when you play it.  When you gain this card, you may reveal a Treasure costing $3 or more from your hand and place it on top of your deck.  If you do, gain three Debts.  If you do not, return this card to the supply.

Property Insurance
==================
Action-Reaction-Shelter
Cost: $2

+1 card
+1 action
You may discard a Treasure from your hand.  If you do not, trash this card and place two cards from your hand on top of your deck.
-------------------------
When one of your cards costing $6 or less is trashed, you may reveal this card, whether it is in your hand or in play.  If you do, discard this card and gain the trashed card and a Debt.

Tweet (Similar to Ruins - add this pile to the supply if there is a Spammer-type card in the Kingdom. 10*(# of players - 1) Tweets in the pile.)
=====
Reaction
Cost: $0

When you trash this card, +1 Action.

Twitter
=======
Action-Attack-Spammer
Cost: $2
Each other player gains a Tweet from the Tweet pile.

United Nations
==============
Action-Duration
Cost: $2

Now and at the start of your next turn, +1 action.
While this card is in play, Attack cards have no effect unless they are played by a player who has a United Nations card in play.

Val-U-Sav Card
==============
Action-Duration-Spammer
Cost: $0

While this card is in play, Action cards in the supply other than Val-U-Sav Cards cost an additional $1 during the turn of any player who does not have a Val-U-Sav Card in play.
At the start of your next turn, gain a Tweet from the Tweet pile.

Sword of the Stars: the Pit - first win on Normal

Well, I won with Scout, unexpectedly.  Just thought I'd try a run, and I had unusually good drops on floors 1-12, and I just rode it out from there.  Humans can wear all the best gear, more or less, and on Normal, it's not that dangerous if you don't run out of top-tier armor and melee weapons, as long as you have enough ammo and big guns for special occasions.  After you get claws, chitin plate, and a few lasers, you're in good shape, though a shotgun and various backup weapons can help a lot too.  It really makes me wonder what a late-game Striker is even supposed to do... RG Special and Psi Armor, and pray for two Star Lances?

I think I like having Mecha Empathy on Scout, and a pool of 200 Psi is worth aiming for.  She can afford the skill points, she can afford to rest often, and you can basically one-shot everything in a mech room in the turns after casting Sabotage.

That is all for now.  I might make videos whenever I get around to my next run, because I have a few newly-made characters starting at Floor 5 with some locker goods, and I thought a locker room video for comparison could be interesting.  An extra sandwich or five for the Angry Bird could help out.

More on DimOnion: Camelot


Ok, I was derping around with some pen and paper the other day while thinking about this card.  Essentially, this turns out to be a hot potato card.  I'll skip the computations, but here's how it works out:

The way the size of Victory piles scales with the number of players more or less makes the general rule for this card the same regardless of the number of players:  You want to end the game with two of them in your deck, and you want the rest of them in the trash.  If for some weird reason one or more of the other players don't have any of them and the pile is going to run out, then do some quick arithmetic, because you may want a 3rd copy in extreme cases with 3 or 4 players, but that's it (except maybe if you play 5-6 player Dominion, which you shouldn't).

If the other players realize what will happen if they let you hold on to 3 and trash 9 (that's 18 VP, or three Camelots which are each worth the same as a Province), then that won't happen, hence why everyone should be aiming to hold on to two.  Sure, it's usually hard to gain 12 copies of a card and trash 9 of them, but this card does all of that for you, though you may have to cope with some interactive shenanigans to get there.  If you can't stop the other players for getting two Camelots, then there really isn't much of a hurry to run out the pile.  If the other players try to do something more immediately productive than put horses in the Camelot race, though, then it *might* be possible to run out the pile before they manage to gain a second Camelot, but that could be an iffy proposition.

Anyway, this card could potentially be more fun with a bigger stack.  The number of Camelots you would want to shoot for would increase, and the copies would leave the pile at a faster rate.  Maybe an extra 4-8 would be enough to make this card more interesting again.

In your haste to run out the pile, though, don't get stuck holding more in your deck than there are in the trash when the game ends!  Count how many you have, and trash down to the magic number before the end - at the moment, that number is two.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sword of the Stars: the Pit - one of many ill-fated Striker runs

Oh yeah, one other thing I did in the month and a half-ish before today's blog posts:




I don't have the microphone under control yet.  Maybe someday if I try more, but I'd most likely need to get serious about it and maybe even get better hardware, which is a money thing, and LP videos aren't exactly a long-term ambition/priority for me at the moment.

DimOnion - Star Trek

I never watched the show much, so it was hard to come up with much.  Still, these have been sitting around on my hard drive, and I like a couple of them.



Ok, so this card used to be a Pawn with the reaction.  This was on purpose, and part of the joke.  But then people on the forums complained that a card isn't allowed to do exactly what another card does and then have more, not even in the world of fan cards, because people are insane on the internet.  But I changed it anyway, and maybe for the better - when you don't trash it, it's super-derpy, but then it has not one, but *two* ways that you can trash it for a benefit, making it a card you might actually play even without Attack cards on the board.  Weakening the connection to Pawn a little while strengthening the "this card is for dying" theme was better than a fair trade, and I like this card a lot more than Moat.  The only time I'd get Moat over this is if multiple attacks in a single turn are inevitable, but even then, I'm not happy about having to get a Moat.



A "blind Forge".  I went through a lot of variants before settling on this one.  It was tough.  In the end, the "up to two" clause sort of makes it bearable.  If you're scared, you can just LaForge two cards and gain them right back again if necessary (assuming those piles aren't empty...).  If you're feeling lucky, though, you can just play it as a blind Forge that costs $1 less to gain.



A Wharf pun.  This card makes reference to the Attack card type in a way that makes it a pretty useless card in the absence of Attack cards, unlike any other Dominion card.  This dangerously approached the territory of the Magic: the Gathering universe where every other card only affects White Kobolds, but oh well.  Hey, Rats is allowed to exist, and that card's beyond horrible without a strong trash-for-benefit card on the board, so I think this is fair.



He's really trendy these days on the internets.  A play on Steward, Stewart is all of those things at the same time.  Anyway, this is a strong mid-game card, sort of like a terminal double Junk Dealer.  But you might need to trash it later.  You often could be better off with an early Chapel or Steward, but if you're getting hit with junk attacks, this card is probably a great way to hang in to the end.

Anyway, other than that, I have cards for The Bridge, Borg, Scotty, and Number One, but they're not the best, and don't have images yet.