Phaedrus' Street Crew
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    Francis Lork Morgan
  1. Axon Devlog

    Despite saying all that, after sleeping on it I decided to try making a themed tutorial alongside the abstract one I've been making. After brainstorming ideas for scenarios (for example, requiring the player to destroy some number of targets in under 10 seconds to prove that they know how to reload their gun quickly by overcharging, or re contextualizing them as switches that need to be shot to open a door) and building some of them, I ended up determining that I don't like the way either of these tutorial syles are turning out. Both of them are awkward fits for the game, and this style of level design falls flatly outside of my skillset, which just makes it worse. So I'm scrapping the whole idea. Instead, I'm going to try making the existing tutorial a little smarter. The whole problem was that progress in the tutorial was disconnected from progress in the game, so what if I just... addressed that directly? In the normal game flow, levels are subdivided up into "Sectors" that players must conquer one after the other, so if a player is falling behind all I have to do is prevent them from leaving the current Sector until they've reached the desired point in the tutorial. No enemies will spawn after a Sector's objective has been completed, so this will also naturally give some "quiet time" to players who need it. Finally, if a player is taking too long to complete a tutorial step (none of the individual steps in the controls tutorial should take more than 10 seconds to complete if you're focusing on them), the prompt will reassert itself. In this way players who are attentive to the messages shouldn't even notice the difference while those who are struggling will get the help they need. Much better, and almost as importantly, so much easier to implement. Boy do I wish I had thought of this last week.
  2. Axon Devlog

    I understand what you're saying but even after thinking about it some more I still disagree that something like that would be a good fit for this game. First, I'd say a big part (probably the biggest part) of the reason why the tutorial in Dark Souls is entertaining is that FROM had the benefit of millions of dollars with which to make an immersive fantasy world, which I can't match. The other thing is that the structure of a Dark Souls area (that of a mostly linear action adventure game) is already optimized for delivering "naturalistic" tutorials, so when they scale it down and fill it with instructional messages it still fits right in. The existing (failed) tutorial I have on my hands is also a scaled down version of normal gameplay, but it just so happens that "normal gameplay" for Axon (pure freeform combat with next to no elements of exploration or puzzle solving) is not naturally conducive to teaching in the way that linear actions games have been since Mario. There's also the matter of where Dark Souls' tutorial fails. "Someone who likes playing around with controls can figure out the buttons without reading every message" will convince themselves that they've learned everything, but the reality is that what they actually learned was the absolute bare minimum required to reasonably beat the Asylum Demon (How to equip a weapon, do basic attacks, dodge, and use an estus flask) plus some but not all of the basic actions that lend themselves to being intuitively demonstrated by pressing their associated button (eg. sprinting, equipping and using a shield, holding a weapon with 1 or 2 hands), and none of the advanced/contextual ones that don't (eg. plunging attack, critical attack/backstab, riposte, kick). By allowing players to proceed without proving that they know these things, the tutorial is letting players down to a certain extent. Now you could argue that while it's a shame for a player to go through the entirety of Dark Souls without knowing that the plunging attack exists (a very common occurrence in my anecdotal experience), it's not the end of the world, and you'd be right. Not all mechanics are as benign when ignored, however. The experience of sitting around waiting for your weapon to recharge, thinking "Oh my god this is SO SLOW! How could the developer think it was OK for it to take this long!? If only there was a way to make it go faster." is not only frustrating for the player, but it reflects poorly on the game during that crucial first impression period. I could try to make a linear level full of themed set pieces that just so happen to require players to demonstrate knowledge of the things I need them to learn, just like you'd find in your average modern game, but if anything it would be even more contrived and out of place than the "just learn these few things okdonebye" tutorial that I'm working on now, because nothing else in the game would be like it. I think it might actually be to my benefit to play up the artifice in this case. The entire crux of the game is the concept of improving yourself (with a relatively simple rpg lite skill system, but mostly your own skill as a player) to meet an ever increasing level of challenge, so it might not be a bad idea to use the tutorial area to establish a theme of self improvement for its own sake - you're there to learn, and you start with the absolute basics, but perhaps you could go beyond that. To that end I'm planning on making it a place that you might want to come back to - target dummies with DPS readouts and so on to test your loadouts out on. I'm also toying with the idea of taking the training partner character I was going to use to teach the basics of swordfighting and allowing you to duel him in an adjoining arena. I'd calibrate him such that he'd wipe the floor with a starting player, ejecting them from the tutorial level and inviting them to come back when they're ready. After the player does come back and defeat them, this character could then improve their own skills as the player progresses through the game and periodically challenge them to a rematch - all in service of reinforcing the theme of continual self improvement.
  3. Axon Devlog

    I sent the game off to the Idle Thumbs playtester mailing list last week, and if there was one single thing to take away from the responses I got back, it's that the tutorial as it exists right now is not good enough. Here's how it works as of this post: When a new player starts the game, they're thrown immediately into the standard game flow. I did this both because I wanted to get players into the action and potentially having fun as quickly as possible, but also because not having a purpose built tutorial area is less work than having one is. As they play, tutorial prompts like this will appear, pausing the game for a couple seconds in the hopes of ensuring that everybody will read them (lol fat chance): After that, gameplay is resumed with the message displayed at the top of the screen along with the progress towards a goal related to doing what the tutorial message explains: After the goal has been reached, the next tutorial prompt is shown and we repeat until done (the "Basic Controls" tutorial shown here has 4 steps). Easy, right? Well if you're reading this you can probably guess that it's not that simple. The problem with this system is that it has no way to make sure that players read the messages. Sure, the messages will stay onscreen until the player has proven that they understand them (or at least that they don't need them), but there's nothing stopping a player from simply ignoring them and attempting to forge ahead regardless, either getting themselves killed or actually completing the first level in the process. I did put in a roadblock preventing players from advancing to the second level if they hadn't completed the basic controls tutorial, but only as a failsafe/last resort, never seriously expecting anyone to encounter it under normal circumstances. Of course I was wrong. I've repeatedly heard game designers say that as a rule, players don't read text even in turn based strategy games. I've watched streamers, I regularly consume Giant Bomb quick looks. I should've known better. I think the problem is that I'm not the type to ignore text at all - when presented with a tutorial message I will drop everything and pour over it until I'm satisfied that I understand it, even going as far as trying to re-load a game if a message goes away before I've read it. It turns out that's not the way all or even most players consume games, but it can be very hard to see outside of that headspace sometimes. Some players, let's call them the Nick Breckons of the world, have an antagonistic relationship with tutorials, almost seeming to deliberately ignore them so they can see how far they can get without the help. Others get so focused on the action that they don't even notice that there's text on the screen. Still others might see the messages and want to heed them, but end up skimming through them and missing crucial details because they feel pressured by the enemies closing in on them in the meantime. I'm forced to confront that horrible truth: The only way to actually ensure that players read and understand the messages is to stop them in their tracks until they've proven that they've done it. You know, like those hand holding tutorials that everyone says they hate... I got some pushback when suggesting that I might want to do something like this, with more than one person citing Dark Souls as an ideal to follow, but I think people tend to romanticize that game, seemingly forgetting that it begins with a sectioned off tutorial segment that explains the controls step by step and requires you to pass a "final exam" to prove that you learned them before letting you out into the wider world. And so that's the next big item on my TODO list: An introduction level to arm players with the absolute minimum knowledge they need to survive in the main game. Because it'll be a purpose built level, there are a lot of things I can do to teach more effectively, and most importantly it'll be a safe/stress free environment to learn in. There's really not that much I need to force feed to the player this way (the existing basic controls tutorial is only 4 steps after all!); a player focusing purely on the task should be able to get through the whole thing in a couple minutes at most if I do it right, so the "pain" will hopefully be minimal. So that's what I'll be doing for the next week or so. If you have Strong Opinions (tm) on tutorials in games and think I'm wrong to do this then by all means, share them! I'm a glutton for criticism, especially right now.
  4. Axon Devlog

    I might as well try my hand at one of these devlog things, so here goes: I'm working on an "Acrobatic Shooter", which is the best name I've found for the informal subgenre of Third Person Shooters that includes games like Vanquish and Resident Evil 4/5/6. Games like this are primarily about the skillful avoidance of attacks, but with a focus on the complexity and physicality of animation driven movement as opposed to the simplistic/abstract movement of classic First Person Shooters - it's all about the interesting limitations and possibilities afforded by controlling a character with a physical body, albeit an unrealistically agile one in most cases. My particular take focuses on the character action game influence that this genre has always had, giving players a sword and making the process of swapping between it and your guns as effortless as possible to encourage the judicious use of both. You have to keep moving with purpose to stay alive, but every attack limits your movement in a different way, so the game is all about deciding which move to use, and when. Here's my best attempt to encapsulate the concept in gif form: I'm going to try to do at least one update per week... We'll see how that pans out.
  5. Free Music Resource

    I picked out "Evil Automation" to go with a map/destination choosing screen in the game I'm working on (thread maybe coming soon). The track (and its less sinister cousin) kind of remind me of X-Com, which perhaps accounts for why it's the one that jumped out at me for the purposes of "Plotting your next strategic move in a hostile world". Thanks!
  6. Recently completed video games

    To continue the Hollow Knight conversation, here's what I had to say about it on the Idle Thumbs Slack: Merus' comment above doesn't make sense to me - the game is blatantly unfair compared to something like Dark Souls. It's just that the punishment for taking an unfair hit is almost nonexistent most of the time. This lenience prevents the combat from being a problem in the vast majority of circumstances, but it does mean that fighting things is never really satisfying for its own sake the way it is in say, Dark Souls or Castlevania. That's OK though, because the joy of exploration more than makes up for it. The experience of picking a direction and setting off to explore, constantly being surprised and delighted by what you find is just sublime, and no other game does it as well, or keeps it doing it for as long as this one does. I'd easily call this my GOTY.cx if it weren't for BOTW. Holy hell what a ridiculously stacked year this has been.
  7. Destiny

    Every single quest I have now is pointing me towards multiplayer content: strikes, raids, the Prison of the Elders arenas, and the patrol zone arenas (Court of Orxy and Archon's Forge). Of these, only strikes and some (not all) of the PotE arenas have matchmaking. Even then, matchmaking for strikes is hit and miss - mostly miss if you want to do a specific one instead of a random one from a playlist. The number of strikes I've completed alone could almost be considered impressive, but it's mostly just sad.
  8. Destiny

    Destiny 2 isn't out yet on PC, but even if it was, Destiny 1 and 2 are different video games and I want to play Destiny 1. Destiny is not an abstract puzzle or board game where the only thing that changes between sequels is a set of rules, which is the only situation in which the idea of a game becoming "obsolete" makes any sense whatsoever. It's a first person shooter with its own unique set of level designs, enemies, weapons, progression systems, narrative arcs and so on, and I want to experience them. I've been binge playing this game and enjoying it a lot. So far the only truly frustrating thing about it has been my inability to find anyone to play it with (my usual coop crew is abstaining from this game for various reasons) and the utterly baffling lack of matchmaking features to get around that.
  9. Destiny

    Is there anyone else here still playing this game or thinking about playing it? Everyone on Slack is D2 crazy, but I'm still stubbornly playing this for the first time, and I'm hoping there's somebody else out there doing the same thing, because the lack of matchmaking or even something like the ability to put up a public lobby outside of a few very specific activities is a bit of a bummer.
  10. Thanks to Important If True, I now understand that this Mr. Burns joke is intrinsically linked to him being an old man:
  11. While listening to Nick's endorsement, I couldn't help but be reminded of him coming up with some cockamamie scheme to "cheat the system" in Dark Souls that ends up taking him 10 times longer than it would have otherwise, then convincing himself that it was the most efficient way to play. I wasn't sure beforehand, but after hearing that endorsement I can definitely say that PB&J is bad for you. PB&J: The cheatin' hitman of nutrition. Edit: Like Gormongous, I also use the PB&J as a "default" meal for whenever I didn't have the forethought to make something better. The moral of the story is that there's a little bit of the 'hitman in all of us.
  12. The Huge Armored Core Playthrough

    Mine's Clorfhanger. Are you on the Idle Thumbs Discord or Slack? @ me on there when / if you need me and hopefully I'll be around. If you want to play through everything with your friend first that's fine, but we could still replay missions to help each other get those pesky S ranks and sub-missions.
  13. The Huge Armored Core Playthrough

    I take it from your reference to trophies that you're playing on PS3, which means we should join up for coop! I'm actually very slowly making my way through Verdict Day now. I've been putting off my write up of AC4 because work has been extra shitty lately and I'm planning on continuing this series once that finally dies down.
  14. Steve is Q. Source: I thought of it before Chris did. Clearly there must be some Qness about him for the two of us to independently come to the same conclusion like that.
  15. You, like the people who created this scenario, seem to have a blind spot for the period after the AI tells you what its prediction is. In order for the prediction to be accurate, the AI would have had to have known that you will be there and factor that into its calculations. If I'm the kind of person who would be swayed by your argument, the AI would've sniffed that out beforehand and upon taking both boxes I'd learn that I've been hoisted. On the other hand if we accept that a third party can come in and muck things up unbeknownst to the AI then it really has no idea what I'm going to pick and all bets are off. The "paradox" relies on the AI being able to make an accurate prediction with incomplete information, which is a huge cop out.