Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 9: Warrior Abilities

I had been having a roadblock with designing the abilities for each class because the idea of designing 10 abilities for each spec as well as the 5 options for each spec was daunting. It would have made be design a grand total of 60 distinct abilities for the warrior and for the rogue, which is damn near impossible. I since realized that I should do 5 basic abilities and 5 choices, which works out to something new every other level.

Since making that decisions, it became much easier to do. So what follows is a list of the basic abilities that I have for the warrior (not including the magic abilities that they get to choose). Abilities are usable a certain number of times per combat/day/other time period.

  1. Shield - Main spec ability - Counter Attack: After a failed attack, the warrior gets a free attack on the attacker (usable a certain number of times per encounter)
    1. Cautious Attack: A more conservative attack that gives the player greater defense for the next round
    2. Toughen Up: The warrior gets some temporary HP that will absorb some of the damage taken for X turns.
    3. Shield Bash: An attack that knocks back the the attacked a short distance and gives them an initiative delay.
    4. Protect: The warrior can sometimes take a hit instead of an adjacent friendly target
    5. Undecided
  2. 2-Handed - Main spec ability - Overpower: A more powerful, more likely to succeed attack that debilitates the target the next round, subtracting from their die rolls.
    1. Leg Sweep: An attack that knocks the target down on the ground, reducing their defenses until they use a move action to stand up.
    2. Cleave: Sometimes when the warrior downs an opponent, he gains an extra attack against another opponent.
    3. Bleed: An attack that is focused on the major arteries intended to cause the opponent to bleed out more quickly, taking damage over time.
    4. Cripple: The warrior attacks a part of the body, intending to disable it. Either an attack or movement penalty is applied to the opponent.
    5. Undecided
  3. Dual Wield - Main spec ability - Flurry: The warrior sometimes gets to take extra attacks this turn.
    1. Bloodlust: after taking or dealing damage, the warrior can take a defense penalty for an attack bonus for a certain amount of time.
    2. Frightening Presence: The warrior scares all the opponents nearby, giving them die roll penalties.
    3. Crashing Leap: The warrior leaps and upon landing deals damage to all nearby enemies.
    4. Whirlwind:  The warrior spins and attacks all opponents adjacent to the warrior.
    5. Undecided

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Countries To Move To

Sarah and I have been discussing moving to a Europe some day. Not in the next few years, but eventually. We even think of raising our (eventual) children there. So we've done much talking about which countries we would/would not want to move to. Here are our thoughts on several of them.

The United Kingdom:
The land that brought us Dr. Who, Harry Potter and...other things. Sarah would be fine moving here but I'm not very keen on it. I want to move somewhere that is very different. Learning a new language is actually a major part of why I want to move. I just don't feel that the UK is different enough for me.

It seems like France would be many people's first choice for where they would move if they left the United States of America. It definitely has the new language factor that I desire but I'm still not drawn in. It's somewhat of a hipstery reason, but I don't want to move here because I feel like that would be most people's first choice of where to move.

This was a very strong contender. New language, not an obvious first choice, DreamHack, with a bonus side of strong a English language presence. This one is still a good choice.

Another good choice. I like the language and already have some experience with it. Sarah doesn't though. It also not many people's (at least in America) first choice. I like it, and a definite possibility.

The Netherlands:
New language, definitely different, legalized marijuana, live sex shows. Sounds perfect, right? It's pretty good, but I just don't feel a particular compulsion towards it.

Out of the left field and a very strong choice. It's a very small country, which is somewhat appealing. It's situated very close to both France and Germany, which is neat. The thing that I find most appealing, however is their educational system. They have a trilingual educational system. Instruction begins in Luxembourgish, changes to German, and then finishes out in French. Proficiency in all three is required for graduation from secondary school. In addition to this, English is also taught in the compulsory schooling. This one is currently my favorite and Sarah seems to like the idea as well.

I don't know where we'll end up, but I'm sure we'll be happy when we get there. I can't wait.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Disturbing Trend or How I Started Watching Dr. Who.

There's a pattern that has emerged in my life. It goes like this:

  1. Henry's friends, loved one, or the internet expresses an interest in or love of something.
  2. Henry dismisses this thing as stupid and definitely not cool or awesome.
  3. Somehow, after a great period of time, Henry is convinced to try it.
  4. Henry loves this thing.
It's mostly a pattern relating to television shows, but other things have certainly followed in this pattern. The list includes Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show which cannot be named (it is far too shameful), Harry Potter, books (in general), Gilmore Girls, cats, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, World of Warcraft and, most recently, Dr. Who. 

I've been resistant to Dr. Who for quite some time. I'd even watched some episodes one Christmas while at Sarah's parent's house and felt no attraction. We had tried some on Netflix before and felt no pull. Then, Sarah tried the Matt Smith series. She found it to be much better and more interesting than any that we had watched before. It consumed her, drawing in her free time. 

She asked me to try it.

I didn't want to, but she really wanted me to. She swore it was much better than what we had seen before.

And damnit...

It was.

I/We have currently watched five episodes of season 5 (as it is labeled on Netflix) and are looking forward to catching up to the current stuff and the archive of seasons gone by. Why does this keep happening to me? What will be next? I fear for myself.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My First Week Flying Solo

My first week of work without my trainer there is over. It went much better than I thought it would go, honestly. Despite being unsure initially how to do several things, I worked through it all and got all my work done. There were some hiccups, and there is one project that is yet to be done, but I'm not sure if I currently have access to the requisite databases for it.

This week has been a crash course in SQL. It's a wonderfully simple language. I found myself confused and frustrated with it at several points, but I overcame them all. At one point, I couldn't get the data sorted in quite the way I wanted, but I was able to find a work-around. I created a new data field, made it use that field to sort, and then dropped the field and it worked. It's amazing what you can accomplish algorithmically by using data creation/manipulation.

I spent approximately nine to ten of my hours this week typing in the last day of each month of the year time upon time again in order to extract particular data for a request. I had never really memorized them before. It wouldn't suffice to say that now I do. They have now become ingrained in my head, not just the numbers, but the shape, the feeling of it all. I can't unknow them.

Moving efforts can begin on Thursday. We should really start packing in earnest.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Beat Train Lolicon

Wednesday's Penny Arcade posited that the perfectly designed video game could save the XBox 360 for Japan. The game they came up with was Beat Train Lolicon. I believe that I may have come up with an incredible idea for how that game would work.

It's clearly a dating sim crossed with a train sim crossed with a music game. Specifically, I imagine it as a Catherine weird dating sim starring a some young guy who's a train conductor by day and a clubber at night. He always wears headphones around his neck, and only brings them up to his ears when he conducts the train. Character design by Tetsuya Nomura.

During the train driving portion of the game, the visuals transform. The train sections have amazing variety and design just like El Shaddai. The gameplay is a rhythm game as the main character uses the music to get into his train driving. Accurate play makes you arrive at your destination more accurately, because the trains in Japan must be on time. To enhance the El Shaddai-esque visuals, the music changes the visuals in a very Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Rez sort of way.

When performing well in a particular train driving section, the character will spout off catch phrases like "In the groove!" and "On the right track!"


In short, Tetsuyas Mizuguchi and Nomura bring you a dating sim/train sim/music game with inspiring, trippy, bright visuals that react to the music.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gaming Update: Done with Outland and Other Things

I beat Outland. It was a really good and exceptionally pretty game. The gameplay was really great. The platforming was varied, challenging, but not impossible. The combat, with its special abilities that are based on a common resource are a great way to make things a billion times easier if you're having trouble with a particular section. The last boss fight was really good, and really forced you to be aware of your color at any moment, but I just felt it was so different from the rest of the game that it was a little unfun. Furthermore, the ending was underwhelming.

The destination may not have been good but the journey was great.

I started playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. I am consistently amazed at how well Kojima Productions improves their gameplay from game to game. They really aren't afraid to change control schemes and create/abandon gameplay mechanics in order to make their games better. Peace Walker is a major step up in control and design from Portable Ops (although it should be noted that they are meant to play very differently).

I would like to talk about the cutscenes. Peace Walker continues using the comic-book cutscenes drawn by Ashley Wood (warning: sound). This started with the Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel, evolved into Portable Ops with a 3D rendered comic style truck, and has transitioned into Peace Walker with interactive segments in the cutscenes somewhat like quick time events except really awesome.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Henry Phillips and the 77 GB file

So today at work SAS wasn't functioning. It was giving an error that it was out of memory. After some investigation by some people, we found that the problem was a 77 gigabyte file that belonged to me. You may be wondering, "Henry, how the hell did you make a 77 GB file?"

Well.....I screwed up some SQL code that I was writing which gave back a very large amount of data. So large, in fact, that the process was taking far longer than it should have. So I told it to stop. When it wouldn't stop, I tried to cancel the process on the server. When that didn't work, I just canceled the SAS process on my own computer.

Normally, when you shut down SAS, any temporary data that hasn't been exported gets deleted. It won't get deleted, however, if you don't properly shut down SAS. By canceling my local SAS process, the server never got the signal to delete the temporary data, and thus it remained on the server, leaving a 77 gigabyte file that prevented people from doing their work.

Other than that, my first day operating solo went very well. I completed two data requests and got some more training in. Whoopee!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gaming Update: These don't really count as a backlog

Gears of War:
We just recently got an XBox and with it I really wanted to play the Gears of War games. I'm partway through it and it's just as awesome as it was. However, there are noticeable texture load issues, but that's ok. I think I'm either halfway through or getting close to it.

God of War:
G___ of War time it is. This is another game that I didn't play when it originally came out. I recently bought the HD remakes for PS3 and am looking forward to playing through them. I'm about 2 hours into the first game. I remember being skeptical of this game when it first came out, but I think I was only like that out of loyalty towards Devil May Cry 3 (which is an amazing game that I love). I'm looking forward to working my way through this one as well so that I can get on to the sequel and hopefully the third game.

If you're looking to this game as Ikaruga but with platforming you'll likely be disappointed. If you look to this game as an action platformer with Ikaruga in it then you'll probably be very happy. My perspective going into it was as a platform game lover, so I've been quite pleased. I was initially concerned about how interesting/difficult the color change mechanic was going to be but it's turned out really well. Some of the sections are very fun and the game is absolutely beautiful. I'm three bosses in and just want to keep going.

Once I finish with these diversions I'm going to reroute my attention back to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Super Paper Mario, Lunar Knights, and Deathspank.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Autobiographical update: Work and Life

Work has been going pretty well. Last week was somewhat stressful dealing with a couple issues and getting ready for the guy who trained me leaving. It appears that the majority of the job is going to entail SQL (which I'm only just learning now, but it's easy) and Microsoft Access usage and debugging. The main challenge will be figuring out where things are, which files to look in, and if they've been done before in a way that I can adapt to what I'm asked to do. I think everything will be fine though.

The director of my division wants me to bring in anyone I know that could help, and I'd love to and certainly plan to. What's holding me back is that I don't feel like I could/should train someone right now. Maybe in 6 months or around the end of the school year I'll see if I can bring some people in. I'll probably contact my statistics professor at UALR to see if any of the graduating students are interested.

In other news, Sarah and I have signed a lease for a new place (Google Maps). It's 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and is super cute on the inside. It has plenty of room for everything we need/want. It's in North Little Rock in the Park Hill neighborhood, which will be so much nicer to live in than where we are now and we won't have kids walking through our lawn all the time. It has a nice screened in porch on the front and fireplace in the living room. The walls are actually colors, they aren't all off-white, it's awesome.

I'll be much closer to my work, but Sarah will be much further away from hers. However, she's applied for a full-time position at the main branch in downtown Little Rock which if she got would make her commute so much nicer.

Lastly, since I finally have a full-time job. Wedding planning can begin in earnest. We're currently looking at Spring of 2012.

Overall, we're both very happy right now.

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 8: The Magician's Mountain, Hohenheim

The Sorcerer's Summit, The Arcane Ascension, The Magician's Mountain, Prestidigitator's Pinnacle, The Flying Peak. These are all names by which the floating top of what used to be the largest mountain in Loria goes. Bergheim used to tower above all the Yrdgar Range.

Shamanistic magic has always been with the Lorians. No tribe has ever been complete without at least one shaman, not only to protect them, but to guide them. Shamanistic magic has always been about the world. It's been about rock and wind, fire and water, or plants and nature. Hundreds of years ago some of the shaman, in their magical experimentation, discovered magic that belonged to none of these categories and they called it The Arcane.

Study of the Arcane was expressly forbidden by the shaman elders. As with all things forbidden, many of the shaman practiced it in secret. Four times a year, these shaman would meet in secret high up in Bergheim, the highest peak of the Yrdgar Range, to share their discoveries and perfect their craft. As they became more stable and the magic more well defined, they abandoned their tribes so they could devote themselves to the study of the Arcane.

Bergheim is harsh and not easily settled, but not especially steep. Still, it's incredibly difficult to get to without magic to aid you. With their magics they were able to protect themselves from the harsh wind and cold. They carved out terraces in the mountain's face and established agriculture. They built shelters, libraries, and rooms where they could develop and strengthen their skills.

Eventually their Arcane magic became so strong they eschewed their old, shamanistic magic because they felt it was weak. One day, these Arcane magicians awoke to find three dwarves who had found their way to them. Impressed, they offered to teach the dwarves, hoping that their unique point of view and way of thinking would lead to new magical developments. The dwarves declined and announced that they had only come to warn the mages that the mountain was volcanic and that the dwarves sensed that it was becoming restless and would soon erupt.

The magicians didn't want to abandon the home that they had made for themselves. In their hubris they devised a plan that they would all channel their strength into casting a barrier that would prevent the eruption from affecting the peak, effectively walling off the lava and the and holding back the pressure of its accumulation. While this was good for the magicians, it would prove to be terrible for Bergheim.

Normally, a volcano erupts from the top, but with the easiest point of egress blocked off the pressure built more and more. The eruption was going to happen, there was nothing they could do to stop that. The sides of the mountain burst off, shooting lava far out over the land surrounding it. Many people died down below even though they thought they were far enough for safety. What hadn't blown off was so unstable that it collapsed in on itself, falling in the magma pit below. There, floating above and watching it all happen, were the magicians. Their wall held admirably and held them up. Since their home was now detached from the world, they set it in motion to fly over the central area of Loria to show the world that they were better than it, a demonstration of their power. They renamed their flying mountaintop Hohenheim. Bergheim had been reduced to an average height, incredibly wide mountain, with a boiling pit of magma at its center.

Hohenheim is now the central location of Arcane magic in Loria. Aspiring magicians must either be identified and brought to the peak by current members, or find some way to reach the peak without invitation. Usually only a powerful shaman would be able to perform such a feat. Once there, however, they must forget their shamanistic learnings in order to start over as a magician.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 7: Great Fjord

A concept sketch of Great Fjord, subject to change
So my setting is largely concerned with viking-esque people, so I have to have a fjord, right? And if you're going to have a fjord, why not make it awesome? That was exactly my thinking and it led me to Great Fjord.

Extending miles inward from the cliffs along the western end of Loria, Great Fjord may not actually be a fjord. Geological science isn't very strong and people don't actually know how this vast crevasse was formed. Many years ago, a group of Lorians dug their homes into the walls of this canyon as a way to hide themselves. As time went on, more and more people began to settle there and the largest settlement in all of Loria, and its capital, was formed.

The significant majority of Great Fjord's residents have dug their homes into the walls, carving out the rocks as blocks they can sell to the city to build the walls that protect the city from above. The primary industries are shipbuilding, fishing, and agriculture. Farmland isn't cultivated on the plains above the city and the shipbuilders set up shop at the bottom level.

Generally, wealthier citizens live towards the entrance of the fjord as well as in more elevated positions with the poorest citizens living far back in the fjord near the waterline. The absolute wealthiest of people have claimed space on the front wall facing the sea. Sometimes when a family becomes wealthier, they will simply buy their neighbor's home and dig connections between the two.

Now, cities aren't normally laid out vertically, because gravity is one hell of a thing to deal with. This creates tremendous horizontal and vertical distance than sometimes have to be traveled in order to get to your destination. Adopted from their ship building industry, the city has built in zip lines and sophisticated compound pulley elevators to assist people in reaching their destination. In general, every citizen has a set of handles that they carry to use with the zip lines and elevators. Lateral movement is also done with walkways attached to the faces of the cliffs as well as bridges that the chasm periodically.

The structure of the city, its bridges and walkways is supported by shaman who walk up and down the various structures casting spells to bolster the strength of the rock. The smoke from the cooking fires in the homes is channeled man different complex chimneys which gather together and pour out from the earth above. These chimneys are made especially tight and their openings are high enough off the ground that the smoke stays away from the plants and people above.

The entrance to the fjord has no gate, but the front wall has plenty of cannon positions with which to repel any sea based attack. A great wall runs down the length of the fjord up above to  protect the city and its closest farmland. This wall is made from the rock that was carved out when people made their homes. As of yet, homes do not run the full length of the fjord, so neither does the wall.

Next time, I'll talk about Soaring Peak, the magical academy that lies to the east.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 6: Setting

A quick sketch I did of Great Fjord on whiteboard. More will be told of this place later.

I know I haven't blogged or said anything about this game in a while. That's partly because I hit something of a wall. Up until know, I haven't talked about setting or story. Mostly, that's because I've had no idea of what to do for the story or setting. The only thing that I really knew that I wanted to do was magic+vikings. It wasn't until this past week that I had an idea of what I could do.

Reading The Magician King I was struck by something. It takes place in a magical land called Fillory. To the north of Fillory is Loria, which is often the aggressor against Fillory. Not much is ever said about Loria, it's merely mentioned. There was one tidbit that caught my attention. Loria is very briefly described as 'proto-Viking.' I've decided that I want my game to be set there.

After that, it's become a matter of what Loria would be like. The world of Fillory has magic, magical landscapes, mysterious places, animal people, talking animals, dwarves, and of course humans. Fillory (which is also used to refer to the entire world) doesn't have geographical relationships with temperature, so despite Loria being to the north, it isn't necessarily colder.

Since there isn't much to draw on, this gives me great flexibility in how I pattern and create the world. I want a variety of climates so that I can explore what the proto-viking Lorians would adapt their culture to their setting. Clearly, they would need to have a large amount of seafaring. There are two things that I really want. First, a massively tall fjord, with vertical sides and incredible length. The other is a volcanic mountain whose peak floats in the air above it.

I'll be figuring out and unveiling more about Great Fjord in time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Magician King thoughts.

I just finished reading Lev Grossman's The Magician King, and it was absolutely wonderful. I can't praise how good this book was. Magic, quests, pop-culture humor, mythology, paganism, snarky humor, and two grand tales.

The book is divided into two complementary parts. One of which is the main conflict and story, the other provides the amazing backstory to one of the characters, Julia, and all the struggles she went through that brought her to how we found her at the end of The Magicians. The stories switch off, chapter by chapter, reaching their conclusions as simultaneously as possible.

What I found most interesting about this structure is that that both stories play out differently to a reader. The mains story plays out like your typical story. It has it's beginning and leads to some unknown end. Julia's story, however, has a foreknown ending. We already know the consequences of what happened to Julia, we just don't know what actually happened to her.

Just as having Julia's story enhances what happens in the main quest, having the main quest enhances Julia's story. I always found myself trying to read between the lines, taking what I knew from one story and applying it to the other. I used what I knew from the main quest to guess at what would happen with Julia, and using what happens to Julia to enhance my understanding of the main quest. The two stories are inseparable, and each would be weaker without the other.

As always, I heartily encourage anyone who is my friend or enjoys fantasy to read these books.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The 360 and Work

As I've already mentioned on my social networks, we bought an XBox 360. We got the 250 gigabyte one with Kinect. We also got Dance Central. Dance Central is really fun, but when we put it back in there today, it made a horrible noise. We tried out other discs and nothing else made that noise, so we're going to have to take back Dance Central and get another one.

To compensate we played Kinect Adventures, which is a collection of some very stupid games that actually turned out to be quite fun. Now I just need to find out and get the great 360 exclusives that I've missed out on, particularly downloadable titles.

Work is getting better, I'm really settling in and figuring out what I need to do. All that's left is for me to be able to do it. I still don't have the permissions set up for me to do work independently. Heck, it was only just today that we got me able to do my time card. All things in due time though. When I'm not being trained I've been reading manuals for the various software and things that I'm not familiar with.

Hopefully I'll be able to do work by the end of the week.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 5: What I haven't figured out.

There are many things that I still haven't figured out how I want them to work. I certainly haven't figured out what I want the specific abilities to be. There are major systems that I still need to nail down first.

I know that I want attacking to be on a d10 system, that much is sure. What I don't know is how many attacks players might get, if they get multiple attacks at all. I don't know how I want to do damage, or even health. If I have health scale with level, then I feel like I should do a multiple attack system like in D&D, but I don't really like the multiple attack system.

Stat/Skill Increases
I want the character's stats and skills to increase as they level, but again, I don't know how I want to do this. There's the White Wolf system where you get points that can be invested in things, where things with a higher value require more points to raise. On the other hand, there's the D&D system where stat and skill increases come automatically as you gain levels.

Should I have health scale with your level or should I have health scale directly with your constitution and nothing else? Which system I use then has drastic ramifications for how healing and damage will work.

At this stage, I don't really know what I want the setting to be like. The original vikings versus dragons idea could stick around, but it's going to need to be much, much more to compelling. I think I'll start by designing a campaign and then working things around that.

Since I've started my full-time job, I've had drastically less time to think about this game, as you might imagine. I've also had drastically less time to blog. So updates will probably be less frequent.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Weird Dreams Volume 1

Often times, my dreams aren't long enough to warrant their own post so I'll start compiling them and releasing them in batches.

Man about town
I was recently hired as the mayor/hotel manager/doctor/police of a very small town. I only remember a few things. First was the fire that destroyed several homes. I had to evacuate people during that. Second was that I was having difficulty figuring out how to order porn for one of the guests at the hotel. The last thing was that I had apparently hurt my butt and when I went to the hospital for work the next day I passed out when another doctor (the mean female doctor from the final seasons of Scrubs) rubbed some stuff down my buttcrack because it was too tingly. So that was weird.

New Job
I was starting my first day working as a teacher. I had some trouble making my way to the school where I was supposed to be working and I had no idea which room was mine and didn't know anything about the layout of the school or the other teachers. I wandered around the school for a long time looking for a door with my name on it but never found one. I finally made my way to the administrator's office and learned that I would be teaching math in night school (a great disgrace).

Prison Escape
In this dream, I was a goblin who was imprisoned in some sort of prison for extraordinary criminals, and my name was Gheed (which, upon looking it up now, is a character in Diablo). Somehow I had gotten my hands on some gold that multiplied when you touched it, like in Bellatrix Lestrange's vault in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. After rounding up a large portion of the gold and putting it in a sack, I made my move to escape. The security was actually quite laughable. The building was horribly constructed and I was able to make my way down a stairwell near my cell. Once I reached the bottom I went through the door and was in the laundry area. The window was broken and I was able to remove the glass and shoot the guard outside, because I apparently had a gun with me. I ran out towards the gate and the rest of the gang that I belonged to was there to greet me and save me. I ran to them and handed the gold over to the leader, who was quite like Jabba the Hutt, and joined my friends and escaped.

Hopefully my stress from feeling lost at work will give me some awesome dreams.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Day on the Job

I was 3/4 of the way to work and I realized that I forgot my badge. So I turned around and started driving home, calling Sarah on my phone to try and get her to find my badge and get it to me. At first my thought was, "Ok, if she picks up she can just bring it to me in the parking lot since I left super early for work and she'd be able to get there in time." Then it became, "Ok, she can meet me at the gas station just off the interstate." Then it was, "Ok, she can have it for me at the door." Twenty times I called her and she never picked it up because it was in another room, the ringtone is quiet and she was asleep.

I got home and was freaking out. I got my badge and started driving back to work. I called work to let my boss know that I'd be 10-15 minutes late. She explained that it was ok and that on her first day she got in a wreck. After that call, I called Sarah and apologized for freaking out in her direction. I got to work, was shown around (there's a ping pong table!) and settled in to begin orientation/training.

None of my passwords or permissions were set up yet. So I began training with the senior statistician. There's SO much to learn. There are so many acronyms to learn that I made a vocabulary list. My group went to lunch at Larry's Pizza. Even by the end of the day my stuff wasn't set up, so I did some reading on paper that I could do. Then at five o'clock I went home. I changed clothes and went to go tutor.

It was a pretty long day.

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 4: Customization Systems

In my last post, I mentioned that the specializations give you a fixed list of abilities as well as some customization options. The decision to give the different classes different customization systems just arose naturally out of my desires for how I wanted them to operate.

For the Warrior and Rogue: Learned Magic
In the setting, there is this idea that every person knows some magic, it's just part of society. So to that end, at certain points while leveling (roughly every 4 levels, for a total of 5 choices planned before level 20) the character must pick between a mage-like ability or a priest-like ability. For example, a dagger rogue may have to choose between a short-range teleport (from the mage) or a short-range knockback (inspired by the Earth/Wind power of the priest). Another part of this idea is that you can't have both abilities, you have to choose.

This system is adopted from Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. In the game, as you progress, you have to choose between certain augmentations for your buildings/units. In Starcraft II, there are separate progression trees for Zerg and Protoss inspired upgrades. In my game, each specialization has it's own progression trees. So each warrior will pick abilities out of the progression trees for each spec. The difference is that you'll get a total of 5 choices from your primary spec, 3 from your secondary and 1 from your tertiary spec.

For the Mage and Priest: Spell Augmentations
It wouldn't really make much sense for mages and priests to have the same customization system as the warriors and rogues do. So I wanted something different. One of my problems with other RPGs is that for the casters there is a great breadth of abilities, but they often become outdated as you level. So I want my abilities to scale nicely as you level, which means that I don't need for there to be a wide selection of spells. In order to keep the spells feeling fresh, there will be a point based upgrade buying system for the spell that will allow you to change the way they function.

My go-to example is for Magic Missile. The standard Magic Missile spell fires several unerring projectiles at the target. The first customization option may be to allow Magic Missile to be cast as a free action and therefore in the same turn as another spell. Another option would be to allow the missiles to each have different targets, giving it the option for AOE (area of effect) damage. The last option would be to add some forcefulness to the missiles, giving them each a slight knockback effect.

I would like for the upgrades to be evenly priced, but for them get more expensive depending on how many augmentations you already had for the spell. So maybe the first augmentation would cost 1 point, the second would be 2 points and the last augmentation 3 points. The real trick to this system is figuring out how many points the character will receive. Too many points and they can get everything they really want. Too few points and they feel restricted. There's a delicate balancing point somewhere in there.