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Game Design

Darigaaz, game balance!

So, this is an RPG, and it has fights. Nothing new in this idea, but how do we decide how difficult something is, or should be? The solution that was decided on with everything I've made since Matsumori Days, (Though there could have been a possible exception with Weird Dreams!), was to generate a character in the database whose statistics are an average of all the other available characters. Then, when it comes time to make a monster, I decide on what level the thing is, and make some calculations based on the "Average Joe" character's stats.

Just saying that might not make too much sense, so let's say, for the sake of example, that we're looking to make a level 1 critter, and the "Average" character has these stats:
HP: 700
MP: 140
STR: 18
DEF: 18
INT: 18
WILL: 18
SPD: 35
LUCK: 35

I take the DEF, WILL, SPD, and LUCK values here and put them into the critter sheet as-is. STR and INT are based on how much damage the critter wants to do, while HP and MP are based on how much damage would be incoming. Since INT can be a determining factor with incoming damage (Stupid spells!), we must define STR and INT before we can define HP and MP. So, how have I done this?

As I mentioned before, STR and INT are determined by how much damage a critter wants to do. I've been figuring that a normal critter wants to chop off about 10% of a character's HP, whereas bosses take off about 25%. In our above case, this would mean 70 damage for a normal enemy or 175 damage if we're looking at a boss. So, we need to decide how this creature deals this damage. Well, it can attack normally, use a technique, or use a spell.

The damage for a normal attack, is, of course, determined by the attacker's attack and the defender's defense. More specifically, it is:
(4 * A_STR) - (2 * D_DEF) = DAM
However, we already know some of this:
(4 * A_STR) - (2* 18) = 70
simplified to...
(4 * A_STR) - 36 = 70
adding 36 to both sides...
4 * A_STR = 106
dividing both sides by 4...
A_STR = 53 / 2 or 26.5

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Darigaaz, what is this? Algebra, where you search for 'x'?" Actually, yes, that's exactly what I'm doing! Anyway, we can't enter 26.5 into the RPG Maker database, but 27 is close enough.

But wait, what about techniques? It's similar, but a bit different:
BASE + (4 * A_STR * STR_P / 100) - (2 * D_DEF * STR_P / 100) = DAM
simplified to...
BASE + (A_STR * STR_P / 25) - (D_DEF * STR_P / 50) = DAM
replacing known variables...
BASE + (A_STR * STR_P / 25) - (18 * STR_P / 50) = 70
This is more or less where we get stuck, until we define what technique we're using. For the sake of example, let's put the numbers for Ruri's "Puncture" technique. This leads us to...
50 + (A_STR * 70 / 25) - (18 * 70 / 50) = 70
simplified to...
50 + (A_STR * 14 / 5) - (126 / 5) = 70
50 - (126 / 5) = 124 / 5, so subtract that from both sides will get us..
A_STR * 14 / 5 = 124 / 5
multiplying both sides by 5 / 14...
A_STR = 124 /14 or ~8.857. Rounded up to 9 for the purposes of RPG Maker.

And that's just STR. Figuring INT, in the case that the critter uses spells, is more or less the same process, so I will spare you the details on that. When the critter does not use spells, though, I simply use Average Joe's value as-is.

So, let's concentrate on HP. For normal critters, I generally use the calculations for a normal attack dealt by a character. For boss critters, I check to see what abilities are available for characters of the appropriate level. But, you know, regardless of how I calculate how much damage is incoming, in the end, that calculates how much damage one attack from one character would deal. What I've been known to do is, in cases where I figure the party size is a certain amount, is multiply my results by the number of party members I predict the player should have at that point in the game. The fight with the ruffians? I didn't multiply anything, as I knew that the player would only have Ruri. The prologue fights? Yes, I did multiply by two, as I knew that there would be two party members, but there was something else going on.

Wait, what else is there to figure? I'm going to tell you: relative difficulty. This is probably where I go wrong the most. What I do is give each critter a relative difficulty value (I internally call them "tiers"), and that gets multiplied in as well. So, the prologue critters? They were tier 3 critters. Which means that their HP values were actually multiplied by 6 (2 for party members * 3 for tier = 6 total). Bosses? They have a tier as well, but their multiplications are higher than normal. As an example, a tier 1 boss one would actually have a "5" for it's tier multiplier. The prologue boss? Tier 3. Which translates to a "7" for tier multiplier. I dunno. Call it dumb, or whatever you want, but it makes sense to me!

How does one balance MP, anyway? This is something I don't really know, to be honest. There's always the "Well, this doesn't use skills at all, so let's put a 0 here" factor, but that doesn't always work. What I've been doing is taking note the critter's HP in relation to Average Joe's HP, and applying whatever ratio that I find there as the critter's MP value. Maybe not the best idea in the business, but it seems fairer than anything else I know of.

And that's my rant about game balance. Hopefully, this will spawn some kind of Marrend bashing discussion. Or, more probably, it will just sit here because the bash game of the year is clearly Future Helper and the Seven Towers.

Progress Report

So much for wanting a break

It hasn't been all that long since I flagged Arbiters From Another World as "Complete". However, there's this game, and it could use some work. Like, a lot of work.

As far as story is concerned, the clump of introductions that is way too fast-paced for the game's own good is going to be tossed. I'm kinda thinking of just introducing just Mayu at the offset. The rescuing Shoko sequence might segue into an introduction of her, but Shoko's still should come off as the silent type. Not sure how, exactly, that's going to happen. The others? Hell, I don't even know how that's going to happen. I know I want all the main characters introduced before the first boss, though. So, there is that!

As far as mapping is concerned, I'm probably going to re-do the school from scratch. I'm usually about smaller maps, but I might go with a large square with classrooms (virtual or actual) in the middle, and on the outside. Which is, I think, how Aetherion did it and, strangely enough, how my own high school did it. The actual classroom maps? Probably going to take a page from this conceptualization than what I had before.

What else? Well, I'm not aiming to have something out for NaGaDeMo. It would be nice if I did have something playable in the two-and-a-half weeks that are left for that, but I've learned that putting myself under a time constraint means doing rush jobs that have very little quality control. Not that I have much quality control to begin with, but that's beside the point!


Extraneous ideas

I've been on the fence with this idea for a while, but I've been thinking about allowing health and mana to be recovered with the Gaurd command. With the options Ace presents there's, like, five different ways to go about this, and that's without touching scripts. I was really close-minded in my desire to have exactly one way to recharge mana in-battle. It might be time to re-examine that decision, but I do want to hear outside opinions. I'll be damned if I set this to "Request" though. Nobody reads request blogs!

I might very well end up re-writing the dialog from scratch. Which is fine. Not that I necessarily have a direction for the dialog (Or, to be honest, anything else.) right this moment, but I should definitely stop writing dialog for a scene, and putting said scene into the game for testing purposes.

Anyway, to sum things up, the next time I update this, there might actually have less content, as I re-discover what it is I want to do with it.


Stuff to think about

I've finished listing to the podcast series on the Nugget Crash Course. As such, I want to note what the judges said about my game, and make notes of what I can do, if anything.

Ruri was not particularly liked. I'm not sure what to make of that. See, I get into a certain mind-set when writing for Ruri. She practically writes herself! Her antics are supposed to be for comedy relief more than anything else, but the judges were annoyed by her. That would mean that other people would be annoyed by her too. To be honest, I just don't know what to do.

The sequence where the characters introduce themselves. Er, yeah, I should probably break that up somehow. Maybe instead of everybody introducing themselves all at once, maybe just talking to each class member normally on the "first day" would be sufficient? I'm really not sure what my other options are.

The school looking more like a dungeon. I suppose I could replace the more broken-down tiles with normal ones. I guess it just didn't seem right to have all the same tile for the floor even though a mono-tile floor is what I did in Matsumori Days.

The "forest park". I might have been rushing myself on these maps. I figure I can replace the trees with a different kind of tree, and the blank tiles with grass tiles to make things feel more open. Any other suggestions for improvement are welcome!

I couldn't hear/understand her very well, but I think Nessiah had a complaint about Shoko? Maybe not? She was definetly saying something about Shoko. I should probably re-listen to to podcast, and generally make an attempt to figure out what she's even saying.

The hospital that Deckiller mentions wasn't even in the Nugget Course version of the game. Which is why the others were like "There was a hospital?" It's on my list of things to look at, though. Then again, I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do with it. Shows how much I know about mapping, huh?

Game balance and TP. Game balance, in general, has been my bane since Legacy Reborn. For this game, I had a theory, but I guess it didn't work as well as I thought. Oh well. Stuff happens. As for more abilities that use TP, I'm open for suggestions.


Stream of Consciousness: More gameplay?

I dunno. Maybe it's just me, but this game could use a little something-something. The game has, hopefully, a decent story with equally decent characters. However, the only gameplay I really had planned was... combat, I guess? I think I want to include more types of gameplay, but I suppose, I should first nail down what kind of gameplay I want, though, huh?

One possibility is to do something like the Kojiro Duel with Mayu and Ruri. I would have to alter things a bit, but it would be doable.

Ruri's a super-fan of the singer Sei-chan, and has a "set of sweet teeth". Neither of these things have come into the story as of yet. I'm not seeing much opportunities for gameplay with the "set of sweet teeth" concept, but I might be able to finagle something with that super-fandom?

Maybe I'm thinking too much on the Indigo Prophecy and/or Heavy Rain end of things, but perhaps there could be a mini-game involving Shoko fighting against her introverted tendencies? I'd definitely have to research how VX Ace handles the capturing of button presses for this idea, though.

It might be some time before I return to this game, so feel free to post other suggestions, and/or comments.


Uploading new version!

As I type this blog, I'm uploading a new download for this game, totally unrelated to the VX Ace Nugget Crash Course. Granted, the download still has to be approved, but I'm reasonably confident that it won't be denied. Reasonably.

Outside of the changes noted in this blog, I couldn't help but to notice that, if the first boss lasted one more turn, Liberty would have gotten a GAME OVER in her Let's Play. This has been rectified! Now, regardless of how that fight resolves (It's still essentially impossible to win), players will not get a GAME OVER.

Anyway, I'm going to take a hiatus from this game (Watch for the flag!), and go back to my other project, Arbiters From Another World.

Progress Report

Of Nuggets and Not-Nuggets

I've been quietly working on this since the Nugget Crash Course submission period ended with the intention of getting out another demo of the game. I'm not going to replace the download that I've submitted to the event, but here's a quick changelog of things I have done, or in the process of doing:

1) Character models have changed significantly. For the next demo, I'm using a combination of models generated from the famitsu site, and models generated with the built-in VX Ace character maker. This was done to make the school uniforms brown like they are supposed to be. Nit-picky, aren't I? With the more generic NPCs, the VX Ace character maker was exclusively used.

2) Music. I wasn't too sure if my usual route of using music from commercial sources was "legit" for the context of the Nugget Crash Course. However, since the next demo release doesn't care about event constraints, expect to hear some familiar tunes. If you played the games where they came from, anyway.

3) More content. The current demo has events leading up to the first boss. I plan to have the next demo go as far as boss #2.

4) Other random fixes. I need to CALM DOWN, STOP BEING NERVOUS, and watch Liberty's LP to see what feedback that entails. Other constructive criticism is welcome.


Wish me luck!

Well, I've officially submitted this game into the VX Ace Nugget Crash Curse Course! Mostly because I have no idea if I'm going to be able to work on this between now and the cut-off date. There's some possible critiques/observances I can think of right off the bat:

1) I've got a funny feeling that the encounters, especially in the beginning of the game, might be randomly harder than they should be.

2) As a partial corollary to #1, it seems the enemies really like to attack the character in slot 1, even though the "target rate" for all characters is the same (100%). I'm guessing that the "target rate" stat represents the rate at which the character can be targeted. This guess could be wrong, or it could work differently than how I think it should work.

3) The boss in the introductory section may be able to last a bit longer so that the player will think the same thing the characters do ("This is getting nowhere."). I guess it really depends on the amount of patience, or recognition of what's going on, I expect players to have.


This RTP is huge

So I was figuring I could release a demo for this game, and went the usual route of letting VX Ace make a self-extracting executable that does not rely on the end-user having the VX Ace RTP. The game lasted about ten minutes for me, so I figured the file would have a similar size to Weird Dreams, if not smaller. The resulting file was about 188 MB. Mine is not the fastest DSL connection in the universe, but if I were a player, I would be severely angered/disheartened to download a game that large, only to have ten minutes of content. Out of sheer curiosity, I made another self-extracting executable that does require the RTP. The result was a file just shy of 2 MB in size. What a difference!

As far as the VX Ace Nugget Crash Course is concerned, I might be able to get away with not including the RTP. However, since I have plans to expand this game beyond the context of that event, I wonder what I can do to make the self-extracting executable "see" only the files from the RTP that I actually use rather than everything. Any ideas, out there?


Nugget Crash Curse!

So, I entered myself into the VX Ace Nugget Crash Course event with a week and a half on the clock. Now, I could attempt to make something from scratch. The end result of such an attempt would be pretty bad even by my standards. That's assuming I even release anything. Or, since I would have been working on it within the time frame, I could make a release of this game.

With this blog, and a comment on the event page, I guess I'll see what the judges say about this plan.
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