Visiting the Village: Episode 97

August 18th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 97

On this week’s show Ian and Paul discuss the No Man’s Sky backlash, CSGO gambling going legit, ‘cloud’ acceleration and more.

We also have This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 10 and your listener questions.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 96

July 8th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 96

On this week’s show Ian and Paul talk about Diablo rumours, the recent CS:GO betting controversy, the legality of hacking, Papal Undertale and more.

We also have a discussion about The Witness, This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 10 and your listener questions.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 95

July 1st, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 95

This week on the show Ian and Paul discuss heel turns, the history of WASD, crowdfunding vs publishing, offensive usernames and more.

We also have This Week’s Old Releases & the UK Steam Top 10.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 94

June 23rd, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 94

This week on the show Ian and Paul talk about the different kinds of Sky, weird DLC, more key reselling controversy and much more.

We also have This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 10 and your listener questions.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 93

June 16th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 93

This week Ian and Paul discuss alternatives to Steam Early Access, dealing with criticism as a dev, game preservation, employee profiling and more.

Also there’s This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 10 and plenty of your listener questions.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 92

June 9th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 92

On this week’s show we have a couple of F2P stories, an update on the Steam Controller’s success, Fundbetter, post mortems and more.

Also there’s This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 10 and some of your listener questions.

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Meta missions

June 8th, 2016 by Ian

Meta missions

In the FS2 city there are lots of different types of “node” (or building).  Let’s take one type – a suburban residence.

I want the suburban residence to look nice and have some designed elements in it.  But I have no idea what shape or size it will be.  I have developed a system called “meta missions” to allow Bin to make half-designed half generated levels.

Here is what a suburban residential node might look like (bear with me):

 

mm0

 

Here is what a “meta mission” for a suburban residence might look like:

mm1

By making an area called “fitgen_floating”, you are asking the generator to find somewhere in the node where this area can fit nicely, and then paste everything within the area there.  You can add special arguments (like this edge should abut the road), but this is a simple one.

By creating an area with the prefix “mm” and the string “loc=room1” in it, you are asking the generator to transform the contents of that area to a room that has been generated as part of the basic generation of the node.

After running the generator script, this is what emerges:

mm2

 

See how we can create designed plans in designed or abstract spaces, then have the system connect them.

There is still a lot to do.  Those outside boxes especially aren’t great right now.

These are fun tools, but only a very well-regulated usage of them will create levels which are good.  I like to make a crazy toolset and let Bin and Paul work out which bits are good enough for regular usage; which bits are good for the occasional gadget level; and which bits just don’t work at all.

I don’t want you to know how our open world works

June 7th, 2016 by Ian

I don't want you to know how our open world works

On one hand, I want FS2 to be as clear and obvious as possible.  I want you to pick it up and know how to play it.  I want you to know what each button does.  I want you to know how to do what you want to do.

On a different hand, I want FS2 to be overwhelming and confusing.  I want you to be surprised when things happen.  I want to disrupt your expectation of how this kind of game does things.  I want you to NOT know what each button does.  I want you to not know what you can do.

My esteemed colleague and I argue about this all of the time.  When does complexity add depth, and when does it frustrate?

I think it’s crucial to make things more accessible without undermining the feeling that you are interacting with a real system which doesn’t care about you.  The interface to that system should be the most polished thing you can make it.  But the system itself should be weird and wild and authentic to itself.

Units and stats and perks

June 7th, 2016 by Ian

Units and stats and perks

I’m not happy with how Frozen Cortex’s unit stats system ended up.

cortexStats

It’s too many things at once.  Too hard to work out what kind of player this is.

It’s like this because Cortex is a “sports game” and having really granular stats enables a load of stuff.  But it didn’t work here.  And it went against my best instincts that unit information in a game should be very clear and differentiated.

Frozen Synapse nails it – extremely differentiated units which make obvious sense.  You do not have to think hard to know what the units on the field do.

FS2 introduces several new units.  For example the smoke grenade launcher which we’ve announced, which creates temporary areas that units can’t see or aim through.  In single player I want to have more differentiation than just the weapon types, because I want there to be “special” mercenaries that sign up with you if you do interesting things in the city.  I knew right from the start of development that we weren’t going to be using explicit stats for this.

So special mercenaries are a weapon type and a “perk”.  Examples of perks:

  • A mine layer whose mines only explode when an enemy goes near them
  • A 360 degree viewcone
  • Faster reload on the rocket launcher

It’s hard to add this kind of feature to FS and have it work.  Each perk has to make sense; be obviously different; and not undermine how you play the game.  If you have a machine gunner who is faster while move-aiming then that’s just too complicated.  The perks have to be extremely clear.

If I ever have time, I’ll go back to Cortex and replace the stats system with a “class + perk” system.  Classes would be stuff like “lineman” and “reciever” – a piece of English to help humans understand the unit very quickly.  Perks would be more granular than I’d allow in an FS game – you’d allow a “fast” blocker and a “very fast” blocker.  Text is so much easier to parse than a block of numbers.

As a final aside – I get to be more maximalist (relatively; my games will never be actually maximalist) in single player, because a lot of kinds of mechanics and abilities are fun against an AI (who may not use them in a super optimised way or at all) and not fun against a human.

Neutralising the “distraction play”

June 6th, 2016 by Ian

Neutralising the "distraction play"

On Friday I implemented a nerf for the “distraction play” in Frozen Synapse 2.

 

What is the Distraction Play

Here is a scenario: Green 1 has good position – he’s stationary and aiming towards where Reds 1 and 2 may emerge.

distA

 

Red 1 emerges from behind the wall and Green 1 engages him.

 

distB

Red 2 emerges from behind the wall and starts targetting Green 1.  Green 1 is still engaging Red 1.

 

distD

Red 1 safely goes back behind the wall.  Green 1 shifts to engaging Red 2…

 

distC

But it’s too late – he’s lost valuable milliseconds and dies to Red 2’s fire.

 

Is the distraction play a problem conceptually?

Frozen Synapse aims to create a compelling game by giving players the tools to plan out Counter Strike-style engagements in a turn-based setting.  Is the distraction play something that emerges organically from the core systems of the game?  Yes.  Is it also something that might happen in Counter Strike itself?  Yes.

I do not believe the distraction play is a problem conceptually.

 

Is the distraction play a problem in practice?

In terms of creating a good multiplayer game, the distraction play has two major problems:

1. Distraction undermines good tactical positioning and promotes “boring play”

I don’t have time to fully explain this, but giving two units the ability to kill one unit who is in better position without suffering losses undermines the play of the game

2. Distraction is annoying to do, and it is annoying to try to defend against

Distraction requires the kind of extremely finely-timed coordination which is fiddly with the FS UI.

 

The nerf

In FS2, if unit G1 is engaging unit R1 and R2 suddenly becomes visible, then G1 will switch to engaging R2 if the following statements are all true:

  1. R2 will kill G1 before G1 will kill R1
  2. G1 can kill R2 before R2 can kill G1, if he switches.

Some minutia:

  1. When performing the switch, G1 will ignore any “new target add” kill time he is still experiencing from his engagement with R1.
  2. If engaging R1 moves G1’s viewcone such that R2 is not visible when he engages G1, then that is fine, and the distraction play will still work.  This does not, for me, undermine the game and is in fact a nice tactic.

 

Ethics

I believe that one of the reasons FS is very attractive to people is the authenticity of the simulation with which they are interacting.  Creating nerfs for specific tactics threatens to undermine that.  It is my determination that this nerf is both very necessary, and also could be just about explained as being authentic to what a unit might do under these circumstances.  Ie it is not too contrived.

 

Any responses welcome.