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Realigning the Sights

  • Red_Nova
  • 08/03/2019 02:52 PM
  • 1535 views
Sometimes you don't know how badly you needed something until you got it. That one week break I took at the beginning of last month has been one of the most relaxing weeks in my life since starting PotF. So relaxing, in fact, that it ended up expanding into a whole month!

Well, kinda. While I didn't do major work on the game itself, I DID take a long and hard look at the project as a whole, where I am in my life, and started figuring out what I could do to prevent being overwhelmed again. Eventually, I came to a difficult conclusion: I no longer have the time to work on this game as it was originally scoped. If I continue at the pace I'm going with the project as it is currently scoped and designed, the anxiety attacks are going to keep happening.

It was time to make some hard choices. Today, I'm going to talk about the results of those choices.

1. Slash and Burn

As I mentioned before, I don't have the time or energy to work on PotF like I did when I was a student in college. I've since graduated and have been in the workforce for over a year, and each day takes a lot of energy out of me. This game was originally supposed to be completed before I graduated but, well, you all know how that turned out. Therefore, if I wanted to get this game done within this millennium, I had to reduce the complexity of the systems already in place:



If you've been following the game for a while, you'll notice a few changes to this screen. The most prominent one being that the armor slots have been gutted. That's right: armor is the first victim of the overhaul. Light, medium, heavy armor? All gone. You won't be able to build damage tanks that can deflect all physical attacks anymore.

The Gear slots that you see here now are what was formerly known as Relics. While I still haven't finalize how they work, how many Gear slots a character will have, etc., the general idea is that the effects they have on stats have been reduced in favor of adjusting special parameters like evasion, target rate, and SP cost.

The equipment that primarily affects your stats during battle will be your Weapon and Personal gear. Since Personal gear is unique to each character, that will allow me to get more creative with what stats each piece can change.


Speaking of stats, you may have noticed that there are two new stats shown on the right column. Strength and Technique have been merged into a single stat called Power. Power is the measurement of the overall damage a character can do, regardless of whether it's physical, technical, magical, or attack item damage. You'll still have to keep a healthy arsenal of all attack types, since enemies have varying Armor and Psyche stats that can negate one or more damage types.

Skill, however, is a brand new stat that affect the external forces surrounding each attack. When attacking, the attacker's Skill stat is measured against the target's Skill stat. The the attacker's Skill is higher, then the attacker is more likely to inflict a critical hit or apply a state to the target. If the target's Skill is higher, then state application takes a penalty, and the attack is more likely to Graze the target instead of making a clean hit. Grazed attacks can be thought of as an reverse critical, meaning that your damage is significantly reduced, and you will not apply any state to the target. The greater the difference in Skill stats, the higher the likelihood of the bonuses/penalties applying to the attack.

All of this was done, again, in the name of streamlining the character customization process. At the time of this writing, I've also cut roughly 25 battle states that make use of the cut mechanics, 20 abilities that relied on Technique stat for damage, and I know more cuts are likely to come. Effects from these cut states, abilities, and equipment will be absorbed as much as possible into existing ones, so it's not like they're going to go away for good. In the long run, I think this is an overall improvement not just for my own sanity, but because each state, ability, and equipment piece now has far more impact on a potential strategy.


I think it'll be easier to gauge an enemy's behavior by looking at its Power and Skill rather than Strength and Technique.




2. Refocus

This blog is called "Realigning the Sights" though, so what else is going to happen than just the cutting of mechanics? I won't detail ALL changes here, but let me tell you the intention:

Use all possible components of the gameplay to help tell the story of determination in the face of hopelessness.

Are you all ready for some super awesome hardcore gamedev glamour shots? Get ready to have your mind blown by such radiance:


MICROSOFT EXCEL, BITCHES!!


I spent time reorganizing stats for both characters and enemies based on some new internal rules I came up with for myself. Now, all battlers in the game (allies, enemies, and even bosses) have the same exact starting stats, but they are differentiated based on their Bulk levels. The difference in power between allies and enemies now comes in the form of their level differences.

I have a second spreadsheet that adds battle stat buffs/debuffs and automatically calculates possible damage of all stats that scales up with levels


So, to design enemy stats, all I need to do now is enter their archetype's stat base in this spreadsheet, enter their level, and bam. Enemy stats have been designed. Not only does this cut back on number crunching, but it allows me to work with a few established rules within the game's lore when designing stats. For example, one of the internal rules is that all Miasma Monsters are so strong that they can overpower anyone who isn't fully prepared to face them. To reinforce that, all enemies have a MUCH higher bulk total than allies.

Which means that, even at the same level, all enemies will be objectively stronger than you. Doesn't that just make you all warm and fuzzy inside?


This is but one of many changes I've made with this goal. I'm still hammering down the details of the rest of the changes, and I feel like I'm going to be doing that until the final phase of testing is finished and the game is about to be released.

However, please understand this: Prayer of the Faithless was originally conceived to be a tense survival RPG, not a fun, relaxing experience. Characters will grow weaker as the story progresses and their mental state deteriorates, enemies will be objectively stronger than they are, and the only "ultimate bad guy" is the inevitable decay of a world that they can't save. But this is a story about determination in the face of hopelessness, so they will continue on no matter how many times they get knocked down.

And any component of Prayer of the Faithless, regardless of whether or not it's objectively "fun" for the player, that doesn't adhere to this goal will get the axe.

Posts

Pages: 1
unity
You're magical to me.
12188
I'm so glad you got a good month of rest! :DDDD Really helps put everything in perspective! ^_^

That said, I'm a little concerned with the fact that you're once again messing with the fundamentals of how the game plays. If these make balancing the game easier, then more power to you. But I thought the game was very near to completion, which is a weird time to reinvent the wheel.

I can't help but wonder how much time you lost by not pinning this stuff down early on in development. And I get that sometimes things don't scale well, so fundamentals sometimes need to be reworked mid-game. But seeing revision after revision to the basics always worries me a little, because games that do that seem to never ever get finished.

On the other hand, I respect that you're trying to do something that other RPGs don't, and introduce a tense survival feeling that's very hard to capture. Doing things no one has really done before is super hard, and I have nothing but respect for how awesome you've been doing. I just want you to be able to complete this game sometime in this life XD

Best of luck and I'm so happy you're still working on this gem of a game!
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
author=unity
That said, I'm a little concerned with the fact that you're once again messing with the fundamentals of how the game plays. If these make balancing the game easier, then more power to you. But I thought the game was very near to completion, which is a weird time to reinvent the wheel.

I can't help but wonder how much time you lost by not pinning this stuff down early on in development. And I get that sometimes things don't scale well, so fundamentals sometimes need to be reworked mid-game. But seeing revision after revision to the basics always worries me a little, because games that do that seem to never ever get finished.

You are right. Everything you just said here is absolutely right. What really stings is that I have absolutely no rebuttal for defend myself with. I've made a lot of mistakes when developing this game, plain and simple. If I could go back and do all this over again with the knowledge that I have now, the development process would have been MUCH different, and I would likely have been done in half the time.

However, I want to reiterate that the reason for the changes this time was due more to new life circumstances and less due to lack of foresight. Early in development, this game was designed with the idea that I would have a certain amount of free time to work on it. While I tried to work on it despite that free time no longer being available, I have since learned the hard way that it just wasn't going to happen.

Neither hindsight nor "perfect world" fantasies were going to help me with the problems I'm facing in the here and now. To finish within a reasonable timeframe, I had two options in front of me: 1) Simplify the system. 2) Pull an Evangelion with the last half of the game.

Obviously neither of these options were great, but I have to do the best I can with what I've got. So I made my choice and am ready to suffer the consequences, whatever they may be. At this point, all I can do is point to my track record of games as evidence that I'm the type to stick with projects until the end and hope that'll be enough to keep some trust people may still have in me.
unity
You're magical to me.
12188
Sorry if that came off harsh. I didn't mean to bring you down. You're absolutely doing the right thing: making modifications that make the game work for your life and time situation.

And I know you're the type to get things done and follow-through on projects. I just wanted to make sure you don't get caught in an infinite loop of revision ^_^

I'm behind you 100% on this game and can't wait to see how it turns out!
All design is iterative. It is not a personal failing to have not gotten things perfect on the first pass. Every pass is always going to teach you something different, and new games are always going to build on the lessons of previous ones.

I've rewritten my dumb goblin game a bunch of times because of design missteps that didn't even occur to me until I hit testing and, yeah, it would be nice to have gotten things perfect on the first go-round, but often you won't know which structural elements are fine and which ones need shoring up until you've hit testing.

Overall, I think Prayer is great even without a simplification pass. Combat was cool and nuanced. The setting and enemies are neat. Basically all of my quibbles stemmed from "this would be even better if 20 more hours were spent on it", which is sort of unfair as a critique of an indie game.

I'm curious what the game will look and feel like post-simplification, but are you sure doing a simplification pass won't add a ton more hours to development?

Every simplification pass I've done on my goblin game has somehow added to the game's length. Past a certain point, my goal became just to get it shelf-stable and put it to bed.
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10992
Well, crap, if it means anything, the very fact that you've achieved this much as a game developer is more than I could ever hope for. Congratulations for being a game developer that produces stuff at a rate that's more than 0%, my current rate. I'm looking forward to whatever this iteration provides. Who knows? The simplified combat could even benefit the game. I'm all for sleek, minimal systems when they work well and are functional.

All this to say I'm really happy that you're taking steps to honour yourself. Be a peacekeeper of your own time, don't let people's expectations of you get you down too much, because you are a creative powerhouse and an innovator and anything that you put out is bound to be better than the majority of what's out there. Not trying to be flattering - just saying to relax and let the prodigious results flow. Bless ya, Red_Nova.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
author=unity
Sorry if that came off harsh. I didn't mean to bring you down. You're absolutely doing the right thing: making modifications that make the game work for your life and time situation.

And I know you're the type to get things done and follow-through on projects. I just wanted to make sure you don't get caught in an infinite loop of revision ^_^

I'm behind you 100% on this game and can't wait to see how it turns out!

No no, you weren't harsh! If anything, I'm glad that you voiced your concern and would ask that you continue to do so. Yes, getting caught in an infinite revision loop is a scary prospect. Seriously, thank you for the concern!


author=kumada
I'm curious what the game will look and feel like post-simplification, but are you sure doing a simplification pass won't add a ton more hours to development?

Every simplification pass I've done on my goblin game has somehow added to the game's length. Past a certain point, my goal became just to get it shelf-stable and put it to bed.

This is a good question. While there are a few things I would have liked to change given the time, I made sure only to change components that would reduce development time. It helps that I've done far more cutting than I have reworking, so there are fewer variables in a character's setup that I would need to keep track of.

author=CashmereCat
Well, crap, if it means anything, the very fact that you've achieved this much as a game developer is more than I could ever hope for. Congratulations for being a game developer that produces stuff at a rate that's more than 0%, my current rate. I'm looking forward to whatever this iteration provides. Who knows? The simplified combat could even benefit the game. I'm all for sleek, minimal systems when they work well and are functional.

All this to say I'm really happy that you're taking steps to honour yourself. Be a peacekeeper of your own time, don't let people's expectations of you get you down too much, because you are a creative powerhouse and an innovator and anything that you put out is bound to be better than the majority of what's out there. Not trying to be flattering - just saying to relax and let the prodigious results flow. Bless ya, Red_Nova.

Thanks for the kind words, Cash, but please don't put yourself down for my sake. You've done a lot of great work already, so there's no need to belittle any of it.
The only way to really avoid the re-iteration trap is by making the same game you made before (with different areas/story) or essentially a clone of another game where you know the structure is going to work out. It's really easy for a game to fall apart when the most innovative thing you came up with... actually undermines a lot of things or isn't working out. One solution I guess is to make sure your gimmick or value proposition isn't fundamental to the design (hey the time travel mechanic sucks but at least we can cut it and get a decent mario clone out of it right?). In any case, if you really cannnnnnnnnn it's best to cut the losses and finish the game anyway.

I'll cite the un-sourced anecdote pottery example as a closing:

An old pottery school asked students to create vases, and the teacher split the group up in two groups. One group was allowed to work on thinking up and creating one perfect vase for each semester, and the other group could only work on a vase for a week at most before destroying it. At the end of the year, they compared the vases created by both groups and found the vases made by the group that made a vase a week much more refined, stable and aesthetically pleasing.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
19694
I don't want to think about the kinds of pressures come up when trying to make a commercial game. Perhaps such is among the reasons you had to take a break? Like, do have backers (or like individuals) that are hounding you about the game's progress? How happy are they about these changes? Are they threatening to withdraw funds? This kind of stuff is where my thoughts are going.



I suppose my worries are ultimately about the commercial aspect of this game. What money has gone into the game so far, where it came from, and if the game can still make a profit.
I'm not surprised seeing armor go. In my experience, it offered more opportunities to break the game than to customize the characters in a non broken way. Well, long gone are the days of equipping every character with three Guerilla Vests.

Does Amalie follow her own rules or did I misread the system? All of her stats except for SP seem off.

Anyway, cutting things down will definitely make things easier, but I wonder if the stat change from Strength/Technique to Power/Skill will. Either way, good luck!
Oh God, I wasn't ready for the
MICROSOFT EXCEL


*ahem*
Jokes aside, I'm glad to hear you're still going. Not sure what to say about all that math tho. Math's weird. Makes me confused.
Either way, I'll be looking forward to the day of the release!
so I can start making more (and better) memes
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
author=Darken
The only way to really avoid the re-iteration trap is by making the same game you made before (with different areas/story) or essentially a clone of another game where you know the structure is going to work out. It's really easy for a game to fall apart when the most innovative thing you came up with... actually undermines a lot of things or isn't working out. One solution I guess is to make sure your gimmick or value proposition isn't fundamental to the design (hey the time travel mechanic sucks but at least we can cut it and get a decent mario clone out of it right?). In any case, if you really cannnnnnnnnn it's best to cut the losses and finish the game anyway.

Lessons noted and I'll keep them in mind for the future.

author=Marrend
I don't want to think about the kinds of pressures come up when trying to make a commercial game. Perhaps such is among the reasons you had to take a break? Like, do have backers (or like individuals) that are hounding you about the game's progress? How happy are they about these changes? Are they threatening to withdraw funds? This kind of stuff is where my thoughts are going.



I suppose my worries are ultimately about the commercial aspect of this game. What money has gone into the game so far, where it came from, and if the game can still make a profit.

At this point, the commercial aspect of the game is the least of my worries. I'm lucky enough to not have any financial investment in the game aside from my own, so mine is the only wallet that will burn """if""" this game falls apart. Everyone that I've talked to regarding this game (both offline and online) have been remarkably understanding of my situation.

It's my own stupid, stupid brain that caused the anxiety attack.

author=Crystalgate
I'm not surprised seeing armor go. In my experience, it offered more opportunities to break the game than to customize the characters in a non broken way. Well, long gone are the days of equipping every character with three Guerilla Vests.

Does Amalie follow her own rules or did I misread the system? All of her stats except for SP seem off.

Anyway, cutting things down will definitely make things easier, but I wonder if the stat change from Strength/Technique to Power/Skill will. Either way, good luck!

To be honest, I was testing the game without armor as a sort of "bare minimum" passable configuration. Since the game was also meant to be beaten without armor, it should be possible for me to do it. Then I started min/maxing and saw that it didn't take much to break the game from there.

I double checked the stats, and yeah, looks like I forgot to update stats on some characters before posting the spreadsheet. The bulk levels are correct, and that's what I used to scale stats. The character stats were just for my own reference.

author=SilviuTM
Oh God, I wasn't ready for the
MICROSOFT EXCEL


*ahem*
Jokes aside, I'm glad to hear you're still going. Not sure what to say about all that math tho. Math's weird. Makes me confused.
Either way, I'll be looking forward to the day of the release!
so I can start making more (and better) memes

Thanks!
If there was ever a game developer who laid out a comprehensive plan for their game and knew exactly what they were doing from start to finish without any major hiccup happening later in development, well I'd like to meet them and shake their hand because I don't think there's ever been such a person.

That being said, I don't think it's all that uncommon for something like this to happen with multi-year projects from solo devs, and you'll continuously learn more and more as you go; so much so that there WILL come a point where you look back on your earliest content in utter horror and feel the urge to go back and refine it. You are definitely not the first.

The biggest challenge is to balance and control that urge and not work yourself into an endless cycle of continuously going back to fix everything. Leave as much of that as you can until near the very end when the game is essentially content-complete and you have the flexibility to apply what knowledge you have when the content is FINISHED rather than what you knew when it was halfway or most of the way done. Or you might find yourself doing it multiple times, and then the game is never completed.

I know you can do it though! You've put forth too much effort into this to not see it pay off. Make a game plan and go for it.
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