Challenge accepted

the new Fatigue system I introduced on Planet Stronghold 2 beta

When making my RPGs, I always found myself asking the question: do people play only for the romances, or also for the RPG gameplay part ?

Initially, I thought the most requested feature was romances, and I still think it’s one of the most important things people look for in my RPGs. After all, there are plenty of other RPGs with much better gameplay, but not many with also a good amount of romances (or like in Planet Stronghold 2, SIX love interest for each playable gender!).

However, as time passed by, I also noticed that there’s a good amount of people who play also for the roleplay element. I’m not saying they only play for that, but beside a good story and romances they’re also looking for a challenge. This was especially obvious during Seasons Of The Wolf development, with people who replayed the game like… 10 times!

The Fatigue System

And this brings me to the post title and to the new feature I recently added to my game Planet Stronghold 2 (still in beta/development): the ‘fatigue system’.

In short: while testing the game last year, I had a “deteriorating armor system”, which meant the armor wasn’t regenerating after each fight. Since armor is very important in this game, it would force the player to go back to the colony after several fights.

I was then forced to remove that system since was messing up with the items (I should have each single armor have a defense value that could go down… sort of “condition” of items, but that was a bit too much). The result was that during the beta, I had some player clear the first three quests of chapter 1 in a single day.

This clearly wasn’t working anymore as it should: if you design a game so that there’s a deadline and you must run against time to finish it (if you don’t finish the quests, it’s not a game over), and then people can complete all quests in a single day, then they have 7-10 days to fill in which they do nothing but clicking “End Day”.

A similar problem happened to Cursed Lands, but that was more due to how the plot structure was made. In this case, the gameplay mechanic was broken. So I sort of re-introduced a similar feature to the deteriorating armor called “Fatigue system”. In practice each party member has a Fatigue counter that increases as they fight, and the counter reduces the HP/PP of the character in percentage. It cannot go above 30%, but already 30% less makes a lot of difference especially when playing in Hard difficulty.

It’s a medium-impact change, because it doesn’t make the battles themselves harder, indeed if you go back to the colony you can rest and recover fully. So if there’s a difficult battle you can simply rest and try later. But it makes the whole experience more challenging and at the same time more immersive: it was really jarring to read the story in which clearly the player’s colony was short on resources, there was a war going on, desperate situation, etc and then… the protagonist could kill everyone and solve all quests in a single day ! lol

Conclusions

In conclusion, I think this addition was a good idea, since people who are interested only in the story, can play the game in the Visual Novel Mode or even the full RPG experience but in Easy mode, which makes most battles really trivial! I tested it and I could win 90% of the fights just upgrading equipment and using auto-combat without any use of the party skills or items!

Those instead who want a challenge, with Hard/Nightmare difficulty and this new addition will find it.

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Mid-Year Update

“many enemies much honor” or as Philipp would say “many enemies much target practice”

We’re about halfway through 2019! Of my initial “new year goals”, I’m happy to have relased Corona Borealis and being already in beta testing with Planet Stronghold 2! As I wrote in the beginning of the year, I noticed that if I can both write and code at same time I can make progress very quickly on the RPGs, and indeed I’m about halfway with PS2 content (of course I have worked on it more beside what’s already in the beta version).

As for Volleyball Heaven, there isn’t much left to do, but honestly I also took a break from it to focus on the RPG. As you can imagine, there are many things going on behind the scenes, so for example sometimes I have real-life things happening that prevent me from working while other times I know I’ll have stuff happening on month X, so that I want to focus on coding/writing a RPG when I know I’ll have the time and necessary peace of mind. This is basically what happened.

The good news is that the same writer is also working on finally finishing Summer In Trigue as well, so this means that I’ll relase two yuri-exclusive games between this year and the next. Finally, I’d say! 🙂

Other games and various ramblings

I have already talked about this in the past, basically I love doing my kind of games (visual novels, dating sims and VN/RPGs). However as player I also like other kind of games, and besides it’s not easy to always write new stories. So basically I’m here again thinking about which other kind of games I could do, because as artist/creative person I want to explore new ideas/territories as I already did in the past.

A very early work in progress of Undead Lily the card game

One of those “different games” (different compared to my usual ones) for sure will be the card game of Undead Lily, which will have the name changed but for now I refer to that game like this. I already hinted about this in forums but what I’m going to do is have a separate story-mode vs campaign. How this will work?

In practice the regular campaign will be mainly gameplay-focused. There will be a story yes, but it will be short. Like cut-scenes between battles and such: everything is still a work in progress of course so I haven’t made my mind on the details but for sure on the kind of writing involved. So a full experience BUT with less story and more gameplay.

The story mode instead will be mainly focused on the story (obviously lol) and relationships/romances, with the possibility to play the game as “pure visual novel” (a choice you won’t have in the campaign mode).

I think this way it will work much better, because people who want to see the story can play the “story mode”, while the others can just dive straight into the gameplay with some short story around it.

I made this decision based on feedback I got from PSCD (usual card games players aren’t necessarily fan of long stories) and also for another reason: this way I will be able to release the beta testing of the campaign sooner and independently from the main story, since like with PS2 I will be coding/writing it at same time and in general there will be much less writing needed!

Conclusions

Assuming everything goes super smoothly (which has never happened before!) ideally I’d be finishing PS2 this year, and maybe Volleyball Heaven. Then next year Summer In Trigue and the “card game version” of Undead Lily, and finally begin the work on Loren 2 to finish it probably in 2021 or something. One day I’ll talk about why was such a bad move to do that sequel with so many characters…!

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Planet Stronghold 2 “feature creep”

an user suggested an in-game messaging system and… definitely was a good idea 😛

First of all, let me thank everyone who already bought Planet Stronghold 2, and of course those sending in bug reports or giving me feedback. As I said many times in the past, I won’t be implementing everything I get asked (depending also how hard it’s to implement) but if I think an idea has potential, I’ll be happy to add it.

I have already added A LOT OF THINGS to this game, as much as that it’s definitely the most complex game I ever made (see previous post for the crazy amount of new features) so this one is for sure the last feature I’ll add, but it was worth it.

You’ve got mail

One of those suggestion was alongside “I wish there was a sort of in-game messaging system” and while it’s not a full featured email system (you cannot reply to messages) I think the final result is… interesting!

In practice, beside the normal scenes, you’ll get from time to time messages delivered to your private room. In the example above, clearly a stupid message from Milo (but what did you expect from him!?) but there will also be serious message or romantic ones.

Since in the game you can start with many pre-existing romances, I did my best to add romantic scenes, but certain romance route feature a “difficult relationship”. Cliff & Joshua for example have hard time seeing each other because they’re always busy (but this will change in chapter 3) or Rumi/Joshua will also be a complex relationship, because officially they’re not engaged anymore, but in reality they still have feelings for each other, at least until you don’t decide to “break up for real” in chapter 3.

As you can imagine I need to write those romances in a very different way from the others, so this message system will also be useful for that. A well written romantic email (even if it’s short) can do wonders, as it does in real life (a single ‘I love you’ message is more powerful tha anything, right?).

Overall, I’m pleased by how things are going with Planet Stronghold 2. As I posted in forums I don’t plan to have a demo for it, it’s not a final decision since I could probably do one at the end of development (right now would be too distracting), but I want to try and see how it goes. Considering over 90% of sales comes from Steam and there’s no demo there…

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Planet Stronghold 2 beta begins!

a video I made a few weeks ago to show PS2 combat gameplay

First of all, if you’re interested in testing the beta you can head straight here: https://winter-wolves.itch.io/planet-stronghold-2

There’s a demo, and the beta covers the first two chapters of the story for now. Only the demo should last at least 5h if you play both sides: depending if you are loyal or rebel the first chapter will be VERY different (completely different missions!). Since you can also start with many different existing romances, it’s basically impossible to see everything in a single playthrough!

The current plan is to have the third and last chapter finished at once, probably during the Summer and a final game release in Autumn (not sure yet when, depends on many factors).

What has changed?

I got some fun comments in the past saying how little things change between each of my RPGs. I laughed loudly because I love to make new experiments and there are many improvements that aren’t immediately noticeable (but should be once you play the game for 5 minutes).

Anyway in this case I made a list of some (not all, because I probably forgot something!) new features vs my other RPGs:

  • a new party morale system, so that your party members will react unpredictably if their morale gets too low
  • automatic combat (AI controlling the party won’t use any offensive skill though)
  • improved isometric map, quest directly linked to specific places, fog of war, automatic movement clicking with the mouse on the map
  • global map resources values, you’ll get quests to increase them, and the only way to do it is explore the map and do sidequests to increase these values
  • crafting, salvaging and upgrading items (weapons, armors and helmets)
  • skills and usable items like grenades that inflict damage proportional to their level (differently from fixed damage they had before)
  • over 100 unique enemies with several new skills
  • many new unique party skills like Psionic Charm that forces enemy to fight for you for certain amount of turns
  • new Resilience value that determine how the target Defense goes down, each hit lowers it, and then once reaches zero it resets and target loses the 10% of its Defense value
  • each weapon feels different: SMG and machineguns can fire multiple times and they will bring down the resilience value fast but do little damage, Sniper Rifles have high critical value so you can get lucky and do great damage, Heavy Weapons do splash damage with normal fire, hitting enemies on the side (but have long reload times)
  • loyal/rival relationship system: you can get a romantic ending with all characters but the scenes/writing will change based on this value
  • friendly/forceful overall value for the playing character that has a minor impact in battles and changes parts of the story
  • better inventory management, an overall item “power” is displayed as a big number so it’s easier to determine what item is better, removed the paging system and used a big scrollable window
  • skills now have five different power levels each, without needing a skilltree, you simply assign skill points to improve each skill available for each character
  • a more “open world” system, you can even fail a good amount of the quests without a game over, but party will react to this and you’ll lose your reputation as hero if you fail too much!
  • a new statistic screens unlockable in chapter 3 that shows how many enemies of which kind you killed, how much damage/healing each party member has done, etc

As you can see, clearly very little has changed! haha! basically I reskinned the game engine as always lol

The beta version

As said above, the beta features the first two chapters of the game. This game has been really hard to write, more than ANYTHING I’ve ever done in the past, because there are so many variables that can impact the story.

I am requesting players’ help: beside the usual gameplay bugs report/feedback, which of course for a RPG is always welcome, I would really appreciate if people paid attention to potential plot holes. Writing the story both from loyal/rebel was much more complex than the first game, and let’s not talk about all the romances.

An example of a plot hole could be: if you play as rebel, the King is imprisoned but you made it seem that he was killed. Then in one dialogue I could refer to the king as he was still ruling, or not imprisoned, or dead for real. All three could be wrong depending on the context. Yes it’s not easy, but if you spot anything that even just looks “suspicious” feel free to let me know!

Now excuse me but I still have half game to write, design and code!

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Corona Borealis is out!

Corona Borealis official trailer

The game official webpage is: https://www.winterwolves.com/coronaborealis.htm

I’m happy to announce that Corona Borealis is out. I can take off an item from my “2019 goals list” then! I said it would have been out first quarter and there was only a little delay.

As usual, for now the game is available on my site (through itch.io) only, but will appear also on Steam and mobile stores. I’m already working on those versions, though not sure how long will take yet.

I already wrote my feelings about the game when I annouced the beta, here I want only to add that it was really a nostalgic game for me, since it reminded me of my very early steps into visual novels / dating sims, both because of the art-style of the always wonderful Deji but also the kind of setting and story.

By the way if you’re stuck with the game, Jill (the writer) made a very useful walkthrough in my forums: https://winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=4181

Planet Stronghold 2 beta

note to self: never make Shiler angry!

The beta will surely take place before end of May, as usual I’ll announce it on the social networks first. I have spent the last week adding more “camp talk scenes”. I’m going to follow the same system of Loren, that is many scenes but not necessarily all very long. Sometimes there’ll be a choice, other times not.

I am overall around 150,000 words considering all the main plot story and camp talk that you can unlock until the end of chapter 2. The game will have four chapters, though probably the last one will be shorter than the others (have still to plan it so I’m not sure really).

Compared to my latest/previous RPG, this one is much more RPG, meaning it has more complex gameplay. Just the fact that it combines crafting + isometric map exploration makes already the most complex game I made, but even the battles are, and the thing I was most pleased with was that you can win the same battle in different ways, using different “builds” or strategies.

Of course I’m curious to see what players will think too, that’s why I am eager to have it officially on beta, since you always find a lot of bugs but also solutions and/or different ways to solve problems only after the game is out and many people are actually playing it 🙂

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