Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Posts posted by Merus

  1. So I'm making a game, for real this time. This will be a Twine game about a supervillain who's received advanced warning that a team of superheroes are on their way to her island fortress, and she has to split her time between managing the crisis preparations and her crew of villains, and working on super-powered monologues to convince the heroes they're not as super good as their image suggests. Lots of snarking about superhero tropes and a couple of rugpulls where the player's understanding of the world changes.


    The game loop is cribbed from Persona: you have a cycling series of actions, only one of which you can do each turn. If you don't spend enough time on certain actions, there are consequences ranging from losing opportunities to an eventual game over. Like Persona, certain actions will have synergies, some actions will be more effective if done at certain times, and some efforts may be wasted once you find out more information. My goal is to make it so that success, if you play with intention, is likely, but there's only one specific set of actions that will lead to the best ending. Working out how to balance this is my first challenge!


    What I'm doing is building a prototype and test harness in Ruby. Each action in the game, including the showdowns with the superheroes, becomes a small routine that acts on a game state object. I've also got a routine that takes the current game state and works out what the valid actions are, given how many turns have taken place and what players have done. Then, I'll be able to have the script run through every possible game state, and give me statistics. I can also use the same prototype to playtest before I start implementing.


    Once I'm happy with it, or, more likely, I've run out of time, I can take the existing Ruby code and translate it to Javascript. Then, I just have to write as much as I can. The more time I have, the more implementation detail I can squeeze in. If I do have time, a stretch goal is to make the game have a randomised setup rather than being on a set schedule, but I'm going to assume that'll be a post-jam addition.

  2. Actually you know what, SAM is onto something there. I too feel like 4 was the best one and that now the series is built around Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg, they're competent but kind of generic. That Indy plot in Ghost Protocol was extremely good and I'm genuinely annoyed they didn't stick with that. Of course the plans fall apart at the last minute! That's what makes the Missions so Impossible! Aaargh

  3. The internet will often overhype things to counteract people's natural disinterest for the unfamiliar. If you describe Celeste - a tough-as-nails platformer where you climb a mountain, that conjures up a host of assumptions, not all of which are true. It's not mean-spirited like a masocore platformer, it doesn't have difficulty walls that can't be overcome thanks to its Assist Mode, and its story and aesthetic is thoughtful and intentional. But it still is a tough-as-nails platformer where you climb a mountain, and some of the stage gimmicks will frustrate certain players more than intended. (A friend of mine stopped at the temple, seeing the crystal as an escort quest.)


    It feels like there's too many games for their audience, so we have to be far more dismissive than we ever have been. It doesn't help that games discourse is America-centric, and many Americans don't have the time or energy to give games a chance to grow on you, given that their country is collapsing underneath them.

  4. I have no idea where any trackers are


    I did end up looking up a guide for where chests are, which ended up unblocking me because the Magic Mirror had been popped into the small room next to Misery Mire that I'd thought was part of the dungeon and ignored.


    The big thing I need to learn for Keysanity is how many keys you need to finish a dungeon. A lot of my dips into dungeons were stymied by not having enough keys to finish it even though I expected to, including a real painful Ice Palace run. Because you do sometimes need to go into dungeons you can't finish, it's not an automatic thing, but it's a piece of information I need to keep in mind.

  5. I also played a randomiser run! I played the Keysanity run, which not only shuffles treasures, it also shuffles all the dungeon-specific items, so you need to also find the big key for the dungeon somewhere in the world and enough keys that you're able to progress. I managed to get a required key stuck on the Master Sword pedestal, and had some very painful chokepoints!


    As someone who's played ALttP, and really enjoys the idea of having to go into a dungeon with a goal in mind and maybe having to come back with a different goal later, this was refreshing. There's things about the randomiser logic I don't much care for: because there's so many chests that only require dark world access (that is, if you can reach the dark world, you can open the chest), it tends to be something you turn up very early on, while silver arrows tend to turn up before the bow, because the bow's not strictly required for much of the game and the silver arrows are only required for the very end of the game.

  6. On 11/28/2018 at 12:09 AM, SecretAsianMan said:

    As an aside to this, I started getting into these races because I was watching stuff from GDQx which happened a couple weeks ago.  I completely forgot to mention it at all but one of the better runs was a Link to the Past/Super Metroid randomizer.  If you're not familiar with that, it's a combination of both games where all the items are mixed between the two so that it's possible (and indeed extremely likely) to get SM items in LTTP and vice versa.  Certain doors act as transitions between the two games allowing for some creative routing.


    Yeah, LttP/Super Metroid randomisers are fascinating to watch speedruns of. Because the players don't know what they need, it works really well for races. Runners will make big, visible bets that something useful will be in an area of the game they otherwise can't do much in, compared to most speedruns where the only real chance comes down to execution or glitching. You get to see parts of the game that runners almost always avoid. Density of items ends up becoming a real factor - there are parts of both games that become way more important in a randomiser run because there's three or four items in the same room. It's a speedrun format where teams actually work: some of the most interesting runs I've seen have been 2v2 runs where the two runners work together to try and lock down the location of each important item so both can finish quickly. And the two games have very different structures, so there's a moment where runners get all the powerups they need to finish one side of the game and the other team can't.

  7. My all-time favourite is still Chris dramatically reading the counterfeit description for Batman Begins. The punchline where it namedrops the wrong superhero is so beautifully delivered. I think my second favourite bit is when they (Chris) got self-conscious about how often they say something was "interesting" and proposed to use "magical" instead for the rest of the episode.


    I loved the idea of Idle Thumbs as a podcast with musical comedy and I'm sad that Chris couldn't keep it up, but also accepting that Chris couldn't keep it up. I do dearly miss the formula of peak Idle Thumbs, where they'd talk about games, they'd start to really do a deep dive down into the game design or how it could be improved, and then they'd descend into silliness until they crack each other up and move on. I've never found anything that quite managed to capture that balance between brilliant insight and playful comedy - something about Waypoint Radio doesn't quite work for me, and I haven't heard of anything else that gets close.

  8. It is, and they've made some changes that surprise me. I don't know how they would have bought it across, actually - the dual-screen combat from the original was the single greatest hurdle for people to enjoy the original, and the game didn't sell well enough, so it absolutely needed to be junked. I don't know how I feel about its replacement - instead of passing a puck back and forth and having to swap screens with the puck, you use your partner attacks to set up combos (and despite what Gita implies, those combos are actually more important in this version than in the original - certain enemies only take damage from combo attacks, where previously they only took damage if that character had the puck). I think it's a little underbaked, but the only obvious place to take it would involve changing the underlying mechanics enormously. Some of the attacks she says don't work in the remake, like the draw a circle ones, never worked for me in the DS version either. Some of the boss fights that were built for two screens are clunky in the remake - there's an early boss where you have to make Shiki do a combo finisher to go into a minigame, to get an effect that was previously something you managed on the top screen during the fight.


    They've also stripped out mingle PP entirely, which makes the evolution system simpler, which shocked me at first but I think overall, probably for the best. Mingle PP was a neat feature when the game came out, and would have been really cool as a 3DS feature with the built-in mingle functionality, but on the Switch it simply wouldn't be fun. Evolution could sometimes be painful because you'd sometimes need to get a bit of mingle PP on a pin simply to stop it evolving.


    But then the Switch port keeps the stuff that always worked - the level/drop/pins system is all pretty much intact - and brings nice up-rezzed graphics (it's nice to be able to make out details on some of the pins) and a soundtrack that's not nearly as limited by cartridge size as the original. And unlike the mobile port, the co-op game seems to be an effort at bringing across the original partner gameplay, so if you want that OG style you can turn on co-op and play on your own I guess? There's a reason why the original game was so rough.


    I have noticed it's easier, but I think that's more because I'm familiar with the mechanics and some of the additions give you mid-to-late game pins far earlier than they're normally available.


    I thought it was a bit expensive, as well, but this port exists because the developers are trying to get a greenlight for a sequel so I figure I'd vote with my wallet there. It might see a price drop at some point, although it seems to have made a bit of a splash on sales charts so who knows.

  9. I'm not really surprised the forum has died down; there's a lot of problems with fora as a communication model and things like Slack and Discord plug that gap a little more ably. I think the dream of substantial in-depth discussion on a forum was largely illusory - most of the good came from just giving people with diverse backgrounds somewhere to congregate together, and a lot of the bad came from the way that forums encouraged you to hold to your point even after it was clear to everyone else that it was bad. Quiet forums get quieter; noisy forums become unmanageable; and the quality of conversations and the community can be really brittle.


    Of course, chat rooms have their own problems (which Slack and Discord address to a lesser or greater extent) and they don't even try to solve the same problems as forums do. Honestly, I'm not really sure where you'd start in 2018 if you want to try and contribute a logical argument to the world, and I'm conscious how much of my output over the past, god, 15 years has been to forums where my contributions will be forever forgotten. But I'm happy to let forums go the way of usenet mailing lists and make room for whatever's next.

  10. The World Ends With You is out. This is, I think, my third? playthrough of it.


    I'm still angry at how good some of the game systems are. The drop system, for instance: every enemy drops one pin per difficulty, which can be a new ability, a special item pin, or vendor trash. If you play on a higher difficulty, you get access to new, more powerful pins, but you can still get the lower-difficulty drops. But because the drop rate for each pin is different, sometimes you want to play on easy because normal has a high chance of dropping a vendor trash pin instead. And, you can add a multiplier to the drop rate by playing at a lower effective character level, volunteering to fight multiple enemies in a chain (which gives them a difficulty boost) and, new to this version, using your partner attack, which also boosts your drop rate.


    It's incredibly simple - there's no drop table, no rarity levels. You can guarantee the drop you want if you boost the drop rate enough, the game helpfully keeps track of every drop, and it ties into all the game's systems in a way that makes the other game systems more interesting.


    It's pretty close to perfect, honestly - every thing I can think of to 'improve' it would just make it more complex for no gain.

  11. Maybe I was tired, but I basically didn't see any of the double bluffs coming and was pleasantly surprised every time, but thinking back on it I can't spot any moments where it's unreasonable that the protagonists and antagonists were prepared for a situation they shouldn't possibly have been able to predict. Atomic Blonde couldn't manage that trick, in part, I think, because this film kept its twistiness to single scenes, so you don't have moments where characters act on information that should have dictated their actions earlier and they can't have learned it between then and now.

  12. The tricky thing about programming, and it's going to be tricky no matter how you learn it, is that it requires you to develop a unique mindset that doesn't really have much of an analogue in other fields. The code on the screen is a representation of an entire universe underneath it that doesn't necessarily behave how you expect. It takes practice!


    One thing that seems to be really valuable is having a course where you can see immediately what your code is doing, which helps you develop that sense of understanding. The Codecademy courses, for instance, have a split code/output view where the output updates in real time to what you put in. Python has a console mode where every line of Python you type in tells you what it evaluated to, which is also really helpful when trying to learn the language.


    Don't be afraid to try a different course if the one you're using isn't doing it for you. We have not yet learned how best to teach coding and some courses are simply rough going.

  13. Honestly I liked the fact that 4 was structured like an Indiana Jones movie, so that the mission was actually credibly impossible.


    I have no time for Tom Cruise unless he's playing a douchebag or doing something reckless and probably deadly, and his cult-addled brain does at least still understand how to give the crowd what they want (Jack Reacher movies excepted).

  14. Spoiler

    There are several good reasons why Poe was not told the plan: he had been demoted due to his reckless disregard for the resources of the rebels, his sponsor was hospitalised and the new general only knows him as a troublemaker who can't be trusted, and he gives his superiors no reason to believe he needs to know about the plan before he stages a mutiny. In fact it would have been weird if he had been told the plan.


  15. The key to Hollow Knight is that, unlike a lot of games of this type, there's no real golden path. The game steers you towards the City of Tears, but after that the progression gets much looser, and you can probably make every trip be worth something. That's what makes it so magical: unlike most metroidvanias, where exploration is necessary but there's rarely more than one right answer, Hollow Knight is brutal enough and open enough that striking out in a direction can uncover anything from a unique enemy to a useful item to a whole area.

  16. My test for a bad film is whether, while I'm watching it, I'm distracted by thoughts inspired by things the movie gestures as but lead to greener pastures than the movie itself. I've seen Avatar twice, once in cinemas and once at a movie marathon that was about extremely pretty but idiotic movies, and both times my attention wandered. My attention wandered during Incredibles 2 to 'what if Screensaver but actually had a point'.

  17. It's one of the things that separates a good Metroidvania from a mediocre one, honestly: you want traversing and navigating your open world to be important, because otherwise you've just made a series of levels that have pointless little transition rooms. You want your map to be open enough that players do have to think about the space, but not so fractured that players have to dick around in the same five boring rooms to find the one that has something new to do in it. You also want it to be relatively easy to get from one end of the map to the other because it's the navigation that's interesting, not the actual hike. Hollow Knight takes a cue from Dark Souls and makes the hike more nerve-wracking thanks to difficulty; Yoku's Island Express makes clearing the path a real challenge and then lets you open up a track that lets you skip it in future.


    And that's not even taking into account that your player character will traverse the room with often quite significant differences in movement and the same level design has to work for the whole range while still feeling intentionally designed for all of them.


    They are deceptively hard to polish, which is why there's so many mediocre Metroidvania platformers around.