Monthly Archives: January 2011

Friday catblogging – Finishing a RPG, starting a new one

In the picture above, Grillo & Leon when they were two small kittens in my old home. They used to sleep together to stay warmer 🙂

As I’m writing this post, I’m doing the final touches to my Planet Stronghold RPG. I hoped to have the final build by now, since I set my own deadline to the end of January, but we’re almost there. In the next few days I’ll release the beta version 0.9, which will be the final build except for:

  • some unproofreaded texts
  • might have some plot holes or small bugs (despite the testing, there might be some small mistakes here and there)
  • some missing voices

That’s it, as you can see nothing really big is missing. The final release is estimated for mid-February, though you can already buy the game now for $19.99 and save $5 on the final game price (once it’s officially out the price will be $24.99).

As the blog post title says, I’m finishing a RPG (Planet Stronghold) and starting a new one. This new RPG will be called “DIM: The Insurrection” and you can see a preview art below, with some characters that will be present in the game:

for now I don’t want to say too much, also because we’re just in the early stages, all I can anticipate for now is:

  • the main character is the cute girl in the middle, named “Kareta”
  • as you might notice the game features many hybrid human-feline races 🙂
  • it will be completely written from scratch by native English speaker, so no more “good game, a pity about the writing” complaints 😉
  • will obviously feature battles and a spell system based on four elements + life and death
  • will be written in Renpy and be available for Pc, Mac & Linux
  • will probably feature some map system. Not sure yet if a tilemap or something different, we’re experimenting right now!
  • will have cutscenes and less texts than Planet Stronghold. Will be a more mainstream game, not related to the visual novel world
  • the battles will be more cinematic, featuring many custom scenes
  • depending on the final texts size might even be completely voiced (though perhaps the voice pack might get released at a later date)

That’s all for now! Stay tuned because next friday I might even announce the official release of Love & Order. Or at least the pre-orders 🙂

Friday catblogging – Love & Order preview

In the picture above, my cat Batman taking some time off! 😀

But I have no time to rest since this week lots happened! As you already know if you follow my twitter or read my forums, the Beta version 0.85 of my sci-fi RPG Planet Stronghold was released. So far seems people only found typos/grammar error which is good. The game has some problems running on some netbooks (I think those that have the Intel integrated videcard), so be sure to play the full demo before buying it. If you can play the game until the end of demo, you can be sure everything will work on your system.

I’ve also made a video below that highlight the new important changes of the new “aggro” system during battles:

But this week I also started testing heavily the otome/dating sim game Love & Order made in partnership with Christine Love (you might remember playing a famous game from her, Digital: A Love Story). The game puts you in the role of Dana Larose, a young secretary working for the Crown Attorney. The office setting means she’ll have several project to complete for each of the characters, that will build up the relationship with them. When things starts to go well, you might end up dating one of them and unlock one of the various endings. There’s also a mystery (a unsolved case that is not what it seems…) that the player can also personally pursue (though it’s optional).

Obviously being an alpha version it is still rough, many bugs are already squashed and this weekend I’m testing it even more. The game script is finished, and we should get new map art and the special CG scenes very soon (hopefully before end of the month), so I can say that in the end this game might even be released BEFORE Planet Stronghold! 🙂

As often happens, because something goes always wrong during game development (artists delaying, complex bug to solve, real-life problems) is almost impossible to set a fixed deadline for a game, so the solution I found is to start several games, so at least one of them gets finished! In the video below, I’m showing a short example of the kind of gameplay that you can expect in Love & Order:

That’s it for this friday. Have a nice weekend everyone: I know I will since I’ll be playing / testing this game! 8)

Friday catblogging – Planet Stronghold alpha 0.85 featuring “aggro”

In the picture above, Othello and Grillo showing a good example of what is “aggro” 😀

If you look in Wikipedia the term “aggro”, you find the following definition:

Hate, aggro, or threat is a mechanism used in many MMORPGs as well as some RPGs by which non-playing characters (NPCs; such as mobs) prioritize which players to attack. Players who generate the most hate (gain the most aggro) on an NPC will be preferentially attacked by that NPC.

This is what I added to Planet Stronghold 0.85 BETA (yes I can finally start to call it Beta!) and it completely changed the game battles (in a good way). Already introducing different attack types made quite a difference in the past, but this change has a really MAJOR impact on gameplay. Before, enemies would just pick a random opponent, making battles a bit of a mess, since no real defensive plan could be made.

It was a simple gamedesign mistake, really. Even a seasoned game designer like me (well, 20+ games released… I think I can call me like that? hehe) sometimes make them. To be honest, is also because I was coding this damn battle engine since december 2009 and was eager to get the game out, so I didn’t pay too much attention to such “details” (which are etremely important though, the famed “polish”).

To make a game fun, you need to have a clear goal and have cause-effect game mechanics. The aggro does exactly that. Now, you can still use Harm psionic at maximum concentration and do even 90hp of damage the first turn of battle, but then your poor psionic aggro value will skyrocket and you bet that when it’s enemies turn, they’ll massacre him/her 😀

So, now you have to do like in many MMORPG (Everquest, WoW, etc), that is have a hero that is a “tank”. A tank is a party character that usually has very high HP and / or armor/resistances to damage. Use the Burst attack option, which now has the real purpose of catching enemy’s attention (sort of Taunt in normal fantasy RPGs), to raise your tank aggro, then use psionics to buff / heal him, and use scouts to silently “take out the enemies from distance”.

I think the battles now are very fun, especially when you fight with the full party, because even if what you have to do is clear, is NOT that easy. Sometimes your tank might be running out of HP, so another class with good HP like Guardian could try to get the aggro temporarily, while your psionic healers restore the tank full health, and so on. The possibilities are really many, but now knowing that the enemies will MOSTLY (not 100%, since some enemies have class-specific special attacks) attack a specific hero with the highest aggro value adds a completely new dimension to the gameplay.

Beside the aggro system I’ve been working on the romance subplots only, so no new main plot advancement in this version. Though I’ve added many hidden things, like Bellamy that can produce grenades (one-use items that hit all enemies!) and Rumi produces lifegivers (resurrects KO heroes). Medikit now will “scale” based on your character level (higher than 6 you’ll ged medikit and ultimate medikits that restore bigger amount of HP). More weapons including some energy based sniper rifles, and many bugfixes. Another big addition is the training screen:

You’ll access it by visiting Rebecca, and lets you train by 1 four skills of any character, but each training attempt consumes Colony Energy that refills only when you complete quests, to guarantee players won’t abuse it 😉 Also the attempts are shared by the party, so you can train max 5 times at time, not 5 times each hero. I think is particularly useful to train in non-combat skills that can be useful in many quests.

So you might ask, where are the download links?? Well, I was hoping to have the version ready by today, but have still a few romance subplot to finish, and I want to have them all done (not proofreaded though!) so people can already see the beautiful special CGs when you finish some of the endings (and perhaps report plot bugs!).

It should be out this weekend though, so keep following my twitter or game forums to know when the version 0.85 will be out! 8)

Friday catblogging – Romance in RPGs

In the picture above, my cat Orpheus in front of my old home window.

This week I’ve been writing all the various romance/friendship subplots for my upcoming RPG game Planet Stronghold. I have finished 4 out of 10 possible subplots. The romanceable character are 6 in total, but the other 4 can still provide informations on their background and reward you with some powerful item/bonuses. Almost every subplot also triggers a quest, that will reward you with their permanent friendship and/or romance (if is the right gender/character combination).

I was dubious if to list the possible combinations, but since people will find out sooner or later and post them in forums anyway, here it is:

Playing as Lisa: Tom, Damien & Michelle (homo)
Playing as Joshua: Rebecca, Rumi & Prince Cliff (homo)

Yesterday wrote the Joshua/Cliff one and was fun, first time ever I write a yaoi romance subplot 😀

My plan is to finish writing all the subplots by next week (I currently do 1 a day also because there is an associated quest to do). So by the 15th I should have version 0.85 out, which would have all the romance subplot (unproofreaded though). By end of January I should have version 0.9 which would be the complete, finished game, with unproofreaded texts and some possible minor bugs. Then the final step would be a version 1.0 somewhere in February once I fix all the remaining bugs and get finished texts and missing voices.

I’m going to write a postmortem about the game once is finished, since took me so long! Is my biggest Ren’Py project to date 🙂 And now for something new, look the image below:

That charming girl is a part of a new project that will start this year, alongside many others. She is Joanne, 30 years old, very powerful magician and renowned thief! The game will feature three sisters that during the day work in a shop run by their father Sambo, but during the night they become thieves and steal stuff from the noblemen ! (reminds me of someone). Note that her left arm weird pose is because she can hold several different staves 😀

That’s all I can say for now. The game will be a mix of a RPG, strategy, simulation and otome game! Stay tuned for more info, even if the estimate release date is Christmas 2011 😉

Why making RPGs is so hard?

Good RPGs are few. Probably are the kind of genre where there are less games available. Note that I’m not talking about hack’n’slash RPGs, or “simple” RPGs. But story-based RPGs with lots of gameplay rules and many dialog choices and ethical / moral decisions.
It’s hard to write interesting dialogues that aren’t banal (and for a non-english speaker like me, is even more difficult!). In the screenshot above, Rumi Kai poses a good question to the player: she struggles between her interest in medicine and healing, and her innate destructive powers. She asks herself what is more honorable: to harm, or to heal?

That is an example from the various romance subplot I’m currently writing right now for my sci-fi RPG game “Planet Stronghold” which should be out at end of this month (with another beta 0.9 release around mid-January).

Dialogues and story apart, another aspect why RPGs are so hard to come by is gameplay balancing. I tested this game more than any other game I’ve ever made. Partly because it’s fun (so that’s a good sign!) and partly because every update, I regularly unbalanced the game 🙁

How this can happen? Easily, I’ll make you an example. The Psionic Power “Harm” at high level can do a lot of damage. Like even 100hp of damage. This would mean that some monsters could be killed with one attempt! That was bad for gameplay balancing of course, so I raised the Psionic Points cost (think of it like if is Mana in fantasy RPGs). Problem is that a few weeks later, I realized that even with higher mana cost, if you had two Psionics you could still do 200hp of damage even to boss enemies! A boss that can be defeated so easily with just two hits would make the game a bit ridiculous 😀

So, my idea was to introduce enemy evasion bonus. Some enemy have a very high evasion value, that doesn’t apply only to avoiding weapon shots but also Psionic Powers. So before the Harm would always hit the target. Instead now you could miss the enemy, and since every attempt costs high amount of PP, that would balance the game well. The problem was that I forgot to lower the PP cost, making the game insanely difficult to play!

This is just an example of how two small changes would affect the whole game! So, if you make a RPG, everytime you introduce a game/ruleset change, think about all possible secondary effects otherwise you’ll start hear (rightful) complains from people in your forums 😉