Friday, October 24, 2014

DOOM: The Mine #1

To get back into the swing of things with DOOM (and hopefully getting back into Sacrifice), I'm making a quick one-off level to warm me up.

The purpose of this level isn't so much to be great design, or intricate, or anything, but mostly to work on my decorating skills.  I often find that my levels tend to look bland, either by being big open spaces or tight little corridors, with the same texture often repeated.  So for this level, I'll be trying to split things up into sections, and adding as much fine detail as I can.  We'll see if I go overboard.

But level design-wise, the idea for "The Mine" is to work in concentric circles.  The inner most circle will be the end, but since measuring things all out perfectly beforehand is impossible, and I probably wouldn't give myself enough room in the middle if I started from the outside, I'm instead starting at the end, and working my way out to the beginning.

Visually, the start of the level will be outdoors, with a cylindrical building in the middle.  The building will start with a sci-fi (or at least building-ish) theme, then go into a more natural rock formation, since the building was created over a mine.  Going deep enough into the mine, in turns itself into the green marble motif, and finally into a red hellish motif, ending with one final hole to jump into. The whole level will drop in elevation as you go.


This is the first try at some detail.  It's very, very red.  Probably far too red, which is why I tried to provide some variety with the candelabras.  But more importantly, I'm trying some things with the ceiling, which is something I often forget about.  I'll be trying a lot of funky things with the ceiling as I go.

I wanted the level to be a lot darker, at least this portion of it, but things seem to go gray over distance when the lights are low.  Perhaps I'll lower the brightness later, but for now, it's at the default.  There is a smidge of brightness-changing here, with the center hole being brighter than the rest to draw you in, but it may be too subtle, so lowering the ambient light will help.

Perhaps I'll also figure out how to break up the floor, so it doesn't seem so bland.

But that's what this level is all about, so I'll continue with lots of little tweaks and details as I go.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Latchkey #60 - Recoding Examine and Move Commands

The good thing about pausing on programming and coming back to it is that problems are easier than you feared.  The bad thing is that you forget how much you already coded and write lots of extra code before seeing that you've already written it once.

I fixed up the Examine command a bunch so it's a bit cleaner and appropriately displays barriers when you ask.  Though, at the moment, it basically reiterates what you already know in the directional box, because adjectives haven't been properly implemented.

Next I started to work on movement, to get that fixed.  Since the common way to move would be to say "move [direction]", I had to go back into the parsing function to peel out directions separately from anything else (I thought I'd have to, but forgot about it).  This gave the added bonus with the examine code, so now the player, when examining a barrier, they don't have to say "look at door", but can just say "look north" and get a description of the barrier in that direction.  Oddly, you can't say "look up" or "look down", but must say "look above" or "look below" instead.  Right now if you say "look up" it lists all the items in the room, which is more or less the error message saying "I know you're looking at something, I just don't know what."  I'll add that to my bug list.  Too annoying just now to fix.

Bigger bug that needs fixing: just typing the work "look" without anything you want to look at causes a crash.  Oops.

In any case, movement now works again (except for the same error with the examine command: you must say "above" and "below" instead of "up" and "down")... and the crash.  Seems to be if you just type a verb and nothing else, you get a crash.  Don't know why yet.  So that'll be fun.

The code is getting big and ugly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What's New, Pussycat?

This week has been tiring.  Mostly I think it's flu season coming on, so I expect this is the beginning of something worse next week.  If I can't post something real next week, I'll at least post a little status update like this.  But I've put a little work into Latchkey, just not enough to post about this week.  So perhaps next week there will be something there.

What I've really been itching to do recently is make a some Doom levels.  I've been considering picking "Sacrifice" back up and reworking the first level, or finishing the second, but to get back into gear for it I may want to make an unrelated one-shot level.  Though I'd take my time on it, rather than push full-steam ahead like I did with the Monthathon.

While I'm working on Latchkey and Doom, FissureVerse will be put on the backburner, so I can catch up on getting permission for the art, or finding new art altogether.  Some artists I've contacted have given me permission, and I've put links to their pages on the side menu.  Though if that gets too unwieldy, I'll move it into the main FissureVerse page.  Other artists have requested I remove their work, others haven't yet responded, and still others I haven't yet found their contact info.  So it's a bit of a clustermug right now.  Once all that's cleared up, things should go smoother.

Friday, October 3, 2014

FissureVerse #39.1: Note on Placeholder Art

I got into contact with Jose Arias about his artwork, and unfortunately I have to remove it, because the work is all previous commissions and such.  So I'll be back-correcting the last few FissureVerse posts within the next couple of days.  I'll post new artwork from new artists on those cards in later posts.

Even though I can't use his work, he still does great art, so I recommend taking a look at his stuff.

(Note to self: always ask first.  Saves a ton of work!)

So what I'll be doing after that is trying to contact each artist I've borrowed from.  But unlike Frenzies and Crusaders, all the Rogations and Locations are by a huge collection artists.  So if I can find where I got the art from, and the artist's contact info, I'll contact them and see if they'll let me use them, and replace as necessary.  If I can't find the artist again, I'll probably re-look for new placeholder art.  It will certainly add a lot of time, but I'd rather be safe than sorry before posting another .pdf of printable cards.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dominion: Industry #14 - New Oil

Special thanks to Glen, who commented how he'd like to see something more unique for Oil cards.

I've never been satisfied having Oil just be a clone of Spoils, but previous attempts to make Oil something interesting didn't work, especially early on when I was stuck thinking of Oil as being like Potions.  Now that I've moved away from Industry for a bit, I've come back to it with a fresh(er) mind.

New and improved.  Must be high-test.
My first thought was on making Oil have a variable in it, so you might not always get the same amount of money.  So it might be a Treasure card, for instance, where you draw cards.  Since this is happening on your Buy phase, Actions are useless, so you're only hoping for money at this point.

But thinking on that line, I realized that's much more the sort of thing that would go in Will of Ra than Industry, so if I expand Will of Ra into a moderately-sized expansion at some point, I may want to revisit that idea.

My next thought was of City from Dominion: Prosperity, which gives you bonuses based on how many supply piles are gone.  I always liked that concept, but that was the only official card that was ever used on.  I think, like the Clean-Up phase, cards which get more powerful late-game could be an expansion all on its own.  I've teased that concept around in my head, and perhaps that will come of something, too.

But for now, I'll stick with just a demo of that with the revamped Oil Card.  My first thought was that perhaps you start with +$2, but you get an additional +$1 for each empty supply pile.  While it works thematically, it wasn't varied enough from City.  The bonus the player should get from Oil should be something more that one of the standard pluses.

So, of course, what's important to get late game?  Victory Points, of course.  So with that, playing an Oil Card with at least one supply pile gone also gives you an Estate.  It's a good thing, then, that Oil is a one-time-use card.


Play, test, comment, enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dev Log: FissureVerse #39 - Backs, and Tokens

Hold up! I gotta rethink this.

With the previous version of FissureVerse (when it was called Vortex), my sister and brother-in-law playtested the game.  The playtest devolved into a game of War very quickly: they would reinforce with a Devotee or two, and then on their next turn immediately Crusade and snatch up the other player's Devotee.  They had picked non-opposite factions (like Blue & Green, I think), so the two attributes they kept comparing were always close and worked out simply.  They never Frenzied or played Rogations.  It was just a quick swap back-and-forth.  By the end of the game, it was the luck of the draw that determined the winner.

Clearly, that was not a particularly good thing to be happening.

That was one of the reasons I reworked the Action phase a little, in hopes that such a thing would not occur, and that players would use the other card types.  Or, at least, give players who wanted to use other strategies a fighting chance.  If using nothing but Crusaders is a dominant strategy, the other cards don't need to exist.

However, I had a dream last night, wherein two friends played FissureVerse in an almost identical fashion to the way my sister and brother-in-law had, even accounting for the reworked Action phase.  The new way to play doesn't give Players who want to Frenzy a chance to do so.  Not really.  You have to get lucky with the Turn Order on each Location Card to pull it off.  And even then, you might as well just Reinforce again, to cap out your Field of Play.

I don't want to rework the game further to completely eliminate that strategy for players who want to use it, but I don't want it to be the only way to play.

This back-and-forth is mitigated somewhat with three players, and even moreso with four, but that's not quite good enough.  Two players need to be able to play the game without such an issue.

Currently, I'm trying to come up with some rules that don't force me to redesign the cards to add anything.  I've considered ways to basically Tap Crusaders (like in Magic: The Gathering), either upon being put into play, or after a Crusade, but I think that only delays the inevitable, and gets confusing because of the way Rounds work.  I could do something like "You can only Crusade if you have no cards in your hand", which would now most certainly force players to do more, but that does not seem like a pleasant solution.  I think players who want to Crusade often would just discard their hand whenever possible, just to be able to Crusade, and nothing is achieved.

Another possibility is to say you can only Crusade when you are not first in Turn Order, so you are in a Location which you do not have control over.  That way it makes sense that you would Crusade where your Opponent holds domain, and wouldn't Crusade in your own home.  But due to the random nature of the Locations, you may have a few rounds of Catan Dice Syndrome before you can Crusade.  You'd have your Crusaders all set down, a few Frenzies even in place, and you don't get the chance to Crusade before your whole army is wiped out because of an unlucky streak of Locations.  Ouch.

I could also add Crusade tokens, which perhaps require you to spend them to Crusade with a Devotee, though Crusading with a Zealot perhaps doesn't use them, and then the tokens get refreshed... somehow.  I'll have to think about that possibility.  So far it seems to have the likeliest chance of going somewhere.  I've considered adding tokens to the game in terms of placing them on Crusaders and having them change the way the Crusader is played, but I wanted to wait on those for a while and keep the game purely card-based until the kinks were worked out.  But, if it's what works...

...Yes, indeed.  New rule: at the end of every Round, if you have Reinforced, Frenzied, or played a Rogation during that round, you gain one Crusade Token (one for each, so if you played a Rogation and Frenzied, for instance, you get two Tokens).  When you wish to Crusade, you spend a number of Crusade Tokens equal to the value of the Attribute you're using as Offense.  So if you're Crusading with Reason, for instance, and the Reason attribute on your Crusader is 4, you have to spend 4 Crusade Tokens to do so.  But this also takes into account Frenzies, so if you have a Frenzy on that previous Crusader which gives a -1 on the Reason attribute, you now only have to spend 3 Crusade Tokens to Crusade the way you want.

I like it.  It may need a little balance or figuring out the exact proper way to distribute Crusade Tokens (perhaps Refilling should give you a Token, perhaps Reinforcing should not, etc.), but I think that may solve the problem.

This also helps to give a bigger advantage to Blue, who has always been on the short side of Offensive Attributes, by making Crusading a typically cheaper affair for Blue than for others.  Though that may make Blue too powerful.  The trials of game design...

Anyway, here are the new card backs, courtesy of Spellbound.

Pretty!
I'm getting better at asking about using art before applying it.  They say it's easier to ask forgiveness that to ask permission.  Not true.

I'll also start adding the credits and links directly on the blog in a single spot, not just the name on each card and a credit in the instructions.  That way it's easier for people who like the art to see the originals.

Next Log: Note on Placeholder Art

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dev Log: FissureVerse #38 - Crusaders 2

First, a couple of notes:

I've decided to move the Frenzy Distortion out of this initial set of cards.  Firstly, having an even 24 cards for all card types/colors (and 48 locations) makes things simple to print out (since there can be 8 cards per page).  Secondly, Distortion was the biggest Frenzy I was kind of iffy on the artwork, so when I do the next set of Frenzies I'll be looking for other artists and maybe a better match will be found.  Lastly, the big one, is that this is a card that might really mess with things, and I want the other more "standard" cards to be thoroughly playtested before adding in a card like Distortion.

Also, I got into contact with Lane Brown, whose artwork I've "borrowed" for a few cards so far.  He's happy to let me use his personal artwork, but commissions might be a sticky issue, so I have to change any art I've used of his that have been commissioned.  Thankfully, only Steadfast Clan needed artwork replaced, so I'll replace it in a later post. Also, since I know his last name now, it'll be added that to the credit on the side of each card.

Last quick one: I've changed the name of Android 8 to Android 4, just because there's a character named Android 18 from Dragon Ball, and that's a little too close.  Might have been in the back of my mind or something when I created the card.

In the last set of 24 cards, there were quite a lot of Blue cards.  For these next 24 cards, the number of each is a bit more even, though there's a few extra Greens than anything else.

[Edit 10/7: Some artists asked me not to use their work, so they have been deleted from this post.  Any missing cards will be added in a later post.]
Dichotomous, Dead on Arrival, The Architect
Click to enlarge.

Dichotomous was a tough one; being that it's a an adjective, and I was using it to describe basically how the big two attributes are Reason and Fire.  So the suggestion of the name is that it's torn between two very different ideals.  Hopefully at least a smidge of that comes across in the artwork.  But, having found that artwork, I found a quote from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which naturally flows with the initial idea of Dichotomous, and ties with the new artwork.

Servants of Emptiness is Blue's basic card.  Although it suggests Green a little bit with the robot, the robot and the person are watching the sunset in peaceful silence, so I thought the picture would be better for a Blue card.  No text because it's just nice to enjoy a beautiful moment in silence.

Fireflies is adorable.  When I saw that artwork, I didn't think it would fit with the style I was shooting for, and I wouldn't be able to place it, but a looser interpretation of the word "fireflies" makes it work.  Here, the original attributes were 1's straight across the board, but I boosted the Reason attribute because the special rules didn't justify such an abnormally weak card.  We'll see if this balances out a little better.

Dead on Arrival is one of those cards where I had a particularly gruesome idea for the artwork, and there was no way in seven hells I'd be able to find what I was looking for, so the next best thing would be to re-imagine it and see what come up.  The artwork for this is kind of like a tree-skeleton hybrid, and looks better when it's not cut off by the condensed space of the card, but hopefully it captures enough here that you can get the gist.  I decided to go with no flavor text on this one because I felt that most unattributed text would seem like it's coming out of the mouth of the character in the card, and I couldn't find a voice that quite worked for it.  Perhaps its stunned (or perhaps creepy) silence works better.

Shameful is a tricky one; I added 1 to its Water attribute to make it even like a Servants card.  This partially works in the favor of the idea of Shameful: it's a card which could be anywhere, but it's not proud of that fact.  The trick with the special text here is that Fearful and True Conversions have their own advantages and disadvantages.  If you Convert by Fear/Fire, you get to keep the card completely, and there's no chance of losing it, but you also don't get to play with it.  If you Convert by Reason, you get to use it as if it were your own card, but that means there is a chance you could lose it.  So to me, at least for now, those two ideas balance out, so the special text here should not significantly affect the balance of the card.  For the art, I guess I can see how someone might see the red and consider that a Joker's grin, but the eyes make him look sad, and his lack of real mouth sadder still, so I think it looks appropriate for a card called "Shameful".

José Arias likes to use chained creatures in his art, and the artwork for Caged is just one of many.  It works in lots of circumstances, but none more so than Caged.  I could have picked practically any of his chained creatures for it, but for a Blue card I settled on one that looks more human and less vicious.

Kamikaze, like Fireflies, began as 1's straight through, but this one was even tougher to balance because it just seems so unbelievably devastating.  However, I changed the text so it only pulls off it's big kaboom if it's Killed, when it used to be "Killed or Fearfully Converted", so to begin with that mitigates it a little.  Also, I bumped the Sword to 3, which, despite making the card more powerful, makes the special text less effective, because it becomes harder to straight up Kill Kamikaze now, and it's harder for Kamikaze to intentionally Kill itself (by charging into battle knowing it won't win).  The player would need to Frenzy the Sword down, or the Opponent would have to make a big mistake.

The Architect was probably inspired by the God of War character, who always intrigued me, so it makes some sense to me to keep the artwork Grecian.  I didn't really have an idea of what I wanted for artwork, since it could be any sort of person, but I think this woman gives an expression of that shrewd, critical glare that works well for the card.  It would have been nice to add some flavor text, but alas, no room.


Mystics was very tough to pick for, since any number of pieces of art could have worked, but I want to differentiate it from the more "general" feel I kept getting.  So I went with a pun.

Just like each color has a Servants card, and a card that is opposite to its ideals, each color also has a card that stacks all of its power in the defining attribute of that color, and embodies that color.  For Yellow, it's Cavernous.  Cavernous was originally in reference to an empty chest cavity, as in "heartless", because it is the most vicious creature there is.  I decided to go with something hopefully disturbing for the flavor text.  Maybe it comes out cheesy.  To me it's something Pennywise might say. [Edit 10/3: Cavernous removed, see above].

I had many options for Lidless, too, and like Mystics, I didn't want it to be too generic.  The suggestion is basically that Lidless can see through a person to find their true weakness, since Frenzies can really change a card's attributes.  I should probably add some errata for how it deals with The Hidden, now that I think about it.  The Hidden shouldn't be forced to show its Frenzy if it's not using it. [Edit 10/3: Lidless removed, see above].

The Derelict is probably from Grime, if I were to place a Crusader with a Location.  They are Yellow precisely because Yellow is all they know.  Grime is like Yellow's breeding ground for crazies to use for their purposes.  But the special rules text indicates that, if The Derelict is in another Player's Field of Play, it must have been Truly Converted (there are probably lots of special circumstances, but as a general rule), so being that it's convinced of its new religion, it is even more hot-tempered.

Systematic could have been quite the generic card, as well.  It seems a lot of them are that have no special rules text, which makes sense.  For systematic, the name and attributes suggest that it prefers to win over by Reason first (hence it's Green), and failing that, Fire, and failing that, just Killing its Opponent.  The picture is a tad cyborg-y so that works.

Vermin needed some kind of animal for its art, and using actual rats would be too on-the-nose, so this hellish alien dog-bee-thing works well.

Returned is meant to mean "returned from the dead", and it is now equipped with knowledge of the afterlife (hence it is Green).  The quote may be a little cryptic, but it's a bit of a joke: now that Returned has seen that afterlife, it never wants to go there again.  The artwork is very zombie-like for an alien, so I went with it.

Servants of Solidity is Yellow's "Servants" card, and naturally looks like Master Blaster, and of course the flavor text is a pun.  Cuz that's the way I do things.

The original placeholder for Creatures was a unicorn, which worked well.  I wanted to juxtapose the term "creature" which suggests a less-than-human intelligence with attributes that suggest otherwise, like a dolphin.  Here, this big pack animal works well for it.  The special rules basically makes Creatures to be a very tame animal that startles easily.

Pollen was tough to find art for, as well, without just a picture of pollen.  But this works well, if you imagine the blue mist as being the Pollen, and the xenomorph-type creature as being the victim.

Echoes is pretty awesome.  Far better than the original placeholder, which was the Greek legend of Echo.  A mite different, I'd say.

The Expired was tough, partly because I'd forgotten what my initial intent was, and also because the name suggests something zombie-like, but I knew it wasn't meant to be just the Returned or Dead on Arrival.  So this interpretation is vaguely demon-like, as if these creatures live in a hellscape, and cannot be killed.  Because of that, you can't Kill them in a Crusade, so Killing them instead acts like Conversion through Fire.

Lost Souls, The Awoken, Sorrow Symphony

I bumped up the Fire attribute on Lost Souls by 1, because I think the difficulty of the special text makes it worth it.  In fact, it might be so frustrating I might want to bump it up to be even more powerful, if the balance just isn't there.  We'll have to see.  For the art, it's got angel wings, but is clearly emaciated, and it's a very, very Red card.  I think I like where that story is going.

I spent too much time trying to figure out both what artwork to use for The Awoken, and what flavor text to use.  I went with this artwork because she looks a tad tired, but beyond that I didn't have much of an excuse.  I suppose I'm partly keeping it because it's a Blue card, and Blue needs more pacific-looking artwork, and this works for that purpose.  I think I settled on no flavor text because I couldn't capture the voice.  But heck, just because there's room for flavor text, doesn't mean there always needs to be some.

Take, for example, Sorrow Symphony.  No flavor text because I wanted the art to speak for itself.  I had many options for where to put this piece of artwork (Lost Souls and The Winged among them), but I think in the end, this art goes with this card best.  It is similar to Lost Souls in feel, though it's Yellow, and hopefully a bit more sorrowful.  I really like how you can see the second one in the background.

Slaughterhouse is Red's super-Red card; the card that typifies it completely.  Slaughterhouse was always meant to be a beast of some kind, and this one certainly looks the part to have those attributes.  As far as the flavor text goes, I considered having none, but this Poe quote is awesome, too, if you read it as from the little guy in the bottom left corner.

Next set of cards will have new artists; this set have been pretty much used up!

Next Log: Card Backs & Crusade Tokens...