Today I rewatched the Game Maker's Toolkit video on Celeste: Why Does Celeste Feel So Good to Play? I recommend watching the entire video (and all of GMT's other content), but there's this...
Today I rewatched the Game Maker's Toolkit video on Celeste:
I recommend watching the entire video (and all of GMT's other content), but there's this fascinating point in the video, around the eleven-minute mark, when one of the developers of Celeste says "It's like working on the player's intent rather than making it a precise simulation".
What the developer is talking about in this quote are a few hidden features of Celeste that make the game more forgiving. For instance:
- The player can jump even a few frames after they have left a platform
- Dashing into a corner will gently curve the player around the corner rather than bringing them to a hard stop
- If the player tries to jump just a few frames before hitting the ground, the game will recognize their intent and perform the jump automatically once the player hits the ground
That last point is the most blatant example of what I am talking about. The game "realizes" what the player is trying to do, and allows them to do it, rather than punishing them for being off by a few frames/milliseconds. In this way, Celeste works on the player's intent, rather than sticking to the hard rules of its simulation.
I think that's a really fascinating and powerful idea, but I would also be very surprised if it were actually something new and unique.
So I wanted to ask, are there any other games that work on the player's intent? How exactly do they do it? Do they make the experience more forgiving like Celeste does, or are there any games that recognize the player's intent, but somehow make the game more difficult as a result?
Finally, just because I am curious, in what ways, both in and out of gameplay (such as interface design) could "working on the player's intent" be used to improve game and software experiences?18 votes
Hey, all. I'm back four weeks to the day after you guys gave me a lot of great advice about potentially making a 2D RPG out of my tabletop RPG. I decided to try both Godot and Unity given what...
Hey, all. I'm back four weeks to the day after you guys gave me a lot of great advice about potentially making a 2D RPG out of my tabletop RPG. I decided to try both Godot and Unity given what people told me and I completed two tutorials for each over the last few weeks. After completing these two tutorials, I have some questions that I hope maybe some of you can answer to help me choose between the two.
TL;DR at the bottom. This is a long post.
For context, here's the tutorials I did:
Godot - https://www.davidepesce.com/godot-tutorials/
Unity - https://learn.unity.com/project/ruby-s-2d-rpg
To be frank, the Unity tutorial wasn't really an RPG. There were no stats, no quests, XP. It was much more of an adventure game. That's fine, it still gave me a lot of time inside the engine to learn a lot of basics.
So, working with each one had it's own up and downs.
Unity's use of an external scripting program seemed to hurt me quite a bit, from simple things such as forgetting to save before going back to Unity (I did this way too much) to having to declare public variables in the script and then filling them in the Unity GUI rather than just doing it all by script. The editor itself also seems to be kind of heavy, I was get the spiral beach ball for a second or two every time I went between the script editor and Unity and I have a machine that can edit 8K video without proxies. These general load times and stuff like that seemed to come up regularly. Tilemapping in the tutorial didn't include autotiling, I assume Unity has this somewhere built in? Or do you need to purchase an asset to get this functionality?
On the plus side, Unity overall seemed easier to use for a non-programmer. A lot of things are done through the GUI. Animations seem easier to handle for sure. The Unity tutorial was also more written for someone that hasn't coded much as it explained what specifically the code was doing (so I assume more resources for Unity will be helpful in that way that perhaps Godot will not).
For Godot, GScript was easier to use than C#, but I do feel like it was easier to get my head around prefabs in Unity than the Node system in Godot. The Godot tutorial took almost twice as long as the Unity one, but I don't know if that's because Godot is more difficult or the combination of the Godot tutorial being more thorough (I feel like I mad an actual, if very uncomplicated game, plus I did Godot first, which probably helped me just learn more about scripting and thinking like a programmer that I took into Unity). The node/scene system seemed more difficult to get my head around than game objects and prefabs. That said, my Godot program felt very tight. There weren't things happening that I was having a tough time explaining or figuring out why they weren't working quite right, at least at the graphical level (this might have more to do with the Godot tutorial using 8-bit graphics and Unity using a more modern sprite look). Having the scripts in the editor meant I never ran into a case like in Unity where I couldn't attach code to a game object because it was failing to compile, but it was failing to compile because it wasn't attached to a game object (that headache took at least a half an hour to sort out).
Overall, I was able to finish both tutorials mostly understanding what the code I was given was doing and was able to edit it to get some different affects and kind of just play around. So, on that level, I'd say they're about equal.
One big thing I want for sure out of the engine we use is to be able to handle a lot of conversations and variables there from. We're hoping to make a "choices matter" (TM) game, and very story/dialog heavy. Ink seems like a good plug-in to do this in Unity, but implementation doesn't seem easy (though I did find a pretty good looking tutorial that may help de-mystify). Godot seems to have some assets available for handling dialog trees, but i haven't had a chance to really dig in to them yet. So, that could definitely be a decider for me: which engine has assets that make a dialog/choice heavy game easier to make.
While I had originally thought about making a tactics RPG for this project, looking around at both the Godot and Unity scenes, it seems like few people are making these types of projects that are giving out free advice on how to make them work in those engines. After talking with my team (I have a team!, see my post from a while back), it seemed like a good idea both to keep the game within the scope of a novice, but still tell the story we wanted, to do a skill role system instead. Since this came from a tabletop session anyway, seemed to make the most sense to do skill rolls rather than develop a whole combat system.
TL;DR - Looking for advice on which engine, between Godot and Unity, would be handle a 2D RPG that relies on a lot of dialog and choices along with skill rolls for the gameplay. Thanks in advance!12 votes
So, I am a filmmaker by trade. I understand scripting, pacing, etc. I also have been doing a lot of tabletop design, running a campaign for years with continuity, recurring characters that I...
So, I am a filmmaker by trade. I understand scripting, pacing, etc. I also have been doing a lot of tabletop design, running a campaign for years with continuity, recurring characters that I design from the ground-up (excluding the rule system, so just all the dungeons, NPCs, plot devices, etc).
With covid, film production has really slowed down and I have some time on my hands, so I thought about trying my hand at video game making, something I have honestly toyed with for decades, but never did too much of. I did have a brief window in the 00s when I had RPG Maker and I made some demos that my friends enjoyed, but that's about it.
So, given that my programing knowledge is super limited (I took a few Java classes over a decade ago and used to do HTML in the 90s), my graphics making abilities are near non-existent (I'm good at motion graphics, but not pixel design or 3D graphics), but I have what I think is a good plot, characters and game design, what should be my first steps in trying to make this a reality? What engine should I use? I have no problem buying, for a couple bucks here and there, other people's art and what not. Ideally, probably make a 16-bit esque RPG, like FFIV, Earthbound, etc. but perhaps with more of a BioWare, "choices matter" type dialog/questing system.
I don't expect to set the world on fire, but I do want to make what would be considered a decent looking first effort from a one man novice that, if nothing else, would be a fun experience for me to make and something fun to give my players as a gift (as we are reaching the end of the story of our campaign). And maybe, why not, something I could release for the broader public if the core is good and it's worth me hiring a few more people to help me polish it. Maybe it won't. As a filmmaker, I know how bad first films are, and a lot of times they are just learning experiences that you keep on a hard drive locked away somewhere. So, trying to be realistic while excited.
Appreciate advice.14 votes
'sup. As promised, here's a text discussing the minutae of Tetris the Grandmaster, its sequels, and the game mechanics of Tetris in general. If you want more, there's some market analysis, drama...
As promised, here's a text discussing the minutae of Tetris the Grandmaster, its sequels, and the game mechanics of Tetris in general. If you want more, there's some market analysis, drama and politics in the comment.
Tetris the Grand Master is probably the most beautifully designed game I know. I hope you will share my passion for this when your are finished with this post.
Since Tetris is a "pure" videogame where pretty graphics and/or enticing plot is irrelevant to the game†, this will focus a lot on the game mechanics.
Also: this is based on a draft script for a video I wanted to make for a while now. Presumably this thing would flow better with some illustrations at the same time. I tried to include some, but of course it's not the same as someone narrative over image.
Also: weird language ? Missing words ? Misplaced punctuation ? This probably comes from me, writing in English as a second language. Picture this article with a vaguely French accent if it helps (although I'm not actually French).
†I am aware of Tetris Effect. I am happy if people find TE a transformative transcendental synesthetic experience, but for this matter I much prefer Rez and particularly its Area X.
So: make yourself comfortable, get a hot beverage of your choice, perhaps enable the reader mode in your browser and prepare for a 4k-ish words long read.
Tetris, the arcade game
Tetris. The little game from the Soviet Union, the killer app of the Gameboy, and until Minecraft happened the most sold computer game of all time.
Despite its tremendous success, the general perception is that this title has not evolved since its initial release in 1984. We would effectively be playing the same game plus-or-minus some gimmicks and/or yearly graphical updates.
This is of course false. The evolution of Tetris game mechanics is a story for another time, but the skinny version is that there's two main branch to the Tetris tree: Nintendo, and Sega. What I want to talk about now is a representative of the Sega branch.
Did you know ? Sega means "Service Game". The company we know today as a publisher with a blue mascot originally sold arcade games. And even today, Sega has a strong presence in the arcade world.
Tetris the Grandmaster is an arcade game, made by Arika, a company made by ex-Capcom employee whose more notable works at the time include Street Fighter Ex.
Arcade game design is a delicate juggling act between two parties:
- the game operator: wants money, and for single player game that could mean a short and/or difficult game.
- the player: wants fun. If the game is too difficult and/or unfair and/or incomprehensible, he or she will move to the next game
With this definition, vanilla Tetris is a pretty good arcade game:
As you play the game, the game ramps up in speed and consequently its difficulty. But it never feels unfair: you may complain having bad luck and getting a crappy piece distribution (more on that later), you are still responsible for that terrible stack you just made.
However, there's a finite limit to the speed of the game. Past a certain point, you end up in a kill-screen where it is impossible to play. The piece just falls and lock immediately, with you being powerless, unable to do anything.
How lock delay extend the base game
Video: Godlike high gravity NES Tetris game from JdMfX_, Godlike high TGM game from 777
What is remarkable with Tetris the Grandmaster is not only it has found a way to extend the base game past this seemingly hardcoded limit, but it also focus nearly all of its design toward this idea of speed. Speed is the focus of the game, and if you don't believe this, there's a giant chronometer at the bottom of the screen acting as a constant reminder.
So, how do you survive to the kill screen?
You could try to make the piece move faster (which they did) but this is not enough. At some point, the piece will still spawn on the ground and immediately lock.
Enter the Lock Delay.
Illustration: lock delay
Lock delay is the mechanic in which if a piece falls into the ground or the stack, it will not immediately lock but can react to play inputs and "slide" for a few frames before locking into the stack.
This has deep, deep consequences.
Obviously, you can make the game faster than anything we've seen before. All the while still have a viable game†. At maximum speed, or "20G" as it is known in the jargon, the piece directly spawns on the stack without floating at any point in the air.
†for the pedant: historically, Sega Tetris was the one of the first game to feature lock delay; and the mechanics was already there in some other falling blocks game such as Puyo Puyo.
At high speed, and especially at 20G speed, the piece movement becomes severely limited. Having the game viable at 20G completely re-contextualize the game, its moment-to-moment tactics and its general strategy. Not only you have to think about a given piece placement, but more than ever you have to take the next piece into account. Some sub-optimal piece placement or "bridges" have to be made in order to make the whole game continue.
Illustrations: possible piece placement at 2G, at 20G, at 20G with a bridge
And thus: while the core gameplay stays the same, the game becomes more demanding both physically and mentally. You have to react faster and input your command quickly and confidently; and at the same time you have to constantly think about your stack, the area where work is needed and how you can accommodate unwanted pieces. You can even manually control the pace of the game by cancelling the lock delay (done very naturally by pressing down.)
Lock delay is probably the most important game element added to Tetris, but it's not the only thing in which TGM also innovates. Several other additional mechanics exists, and they have this common idea of a "speed enabler". Let's review them:
"Speed enablers" game mechanics
I mentioned earlier that the way you move the pieces was faster. This seems like a straightforward thing to do at first sight but there's some subtleties hidden in it.
So: when you hold left or right, the piece moves automatically (in the jargon it's called DAS - Delayed Auto-Shift). It's a nice and natural movement akin to letting a key down in your keyboard, but there's actually two parameters to take into account.
First, how fast the auto movement is triggered, and second, then how fast the repeat itself is. In TGM, both happens at a brisk space (16 frames before auto-movement, and a movement of 1 case per frame). This is essential for 20G play. And, in the context of 20G, the DAS enable a family of movement techniques called autosynchro†that bring additional depth to the game.
†manual synchro also exists, but requires significantly more skill, as it requires a 1-frame combination. Yup, just like in fighting games and their 1-frame links!
There is another mechanic that involve automatic movement, called wallkick. A wallkick happen when you try to rotate a piece near a blocked cell, such as the stack or a wall. Normally, if the rotation mask overlap a blocked cell, the rotation will fail. However with wallkicks, the piece can automatically move so that the rotation can still happen. In modern standard Tetris, the rule of how the piece move is quite complicated (to my eyes) but enable advanced placement such as the infamous T-Spin Triple. In TGM however, it's dead simple: try to move one case toe the right or one case to the left in that order, and if the piece fits, it gets moved.
So yes: at first sight those wallkicks are concessions given to player that make the game easier. However, some advanced movement techniques takes advantage of wallkicks. The goal of course is to move a piece faster, leading to tiny but compounding time saves.^†
† in the jargon, optimal piece movement is called finesse
Continuing on the theme of rotation, let's now talk about the Initial Rotation System or IRS. So in most game, when a piece is locked, the next one immediately enters the playfield.
This is not the case with TGM: there's a tiny interval in which nothing happens (except perhaps a line clear animation). †.
† of course there's a jargon term for this: it's called ARE††
†† it's not an acronym, it literally means "that thing" in Japanese (あれ)
This interval have a dual purpose (Mark Brown would be happy): first, it serves as a buffer to charge the DAS. But it is not limited to rotation: you can also charge a rotation.
And that is what IRS exactly is: press a rotation button during this time and then the piece will spawn already rotated .
IRS usefulness is not only limited to make the game smoother to play: it solves a problem inherent to Sega Tetris. All game in that lineage have most piece spawning with a pointy end toward the ground†. This can be problematic in high gravity, and especially in 20G. If you IRS such pieces, you can then confidently slide them to the side without worry of them being stuck somewhere.
Illustration: trapped without IRS, saved with IRS
†why not having them spawn flat-side down ? I think this is partly for historical reason (establish a clear lineage with Sega Tetris), but also because this this extra-difficulty is coherent with an arcade game design.
And yes, of course, IRS is also a time saving measure, helping to shave some milliseconds here and there.
TGM history-based randomizer
Let's talk luck. Earlier on, I half-jokingly said that "luck" as a hallmark of a good game of Tetris. Well it is a bit more profound than that.
Any competitive Smash player can tell you this: consistency is king in a competitive game. That's why random event affecting the core gameplay are frown upon, and that's why tripping in Smash Brawl was so negatively received.
You can probably see where I'm getting at: there's one giant thing in Tetris that's by definition random: the way the piece sequence is generated. And yes, TGM has a optimized random generator, and in fact most Tetris game have one.
An analysis of the history of the different random generator is a story for another time, but here's the gist of it:
In a purely random sequence of pieces, a sufficiently long series of S and Z tetraminos is bound to appear. Such sequences is mathematically proven to lead in a game over. Of course, this doesn't happen in practice. Especially in TGM, there's a finite number of piece given and thus the change of that happening is infinitesimally small.
However this does gives us insight about the piece distribution: flood (too much of a piece) and drought (not enough of a piece) is not fun. In other word, waiting for that g!%d!3mn long bar piece sucks.
So how does TGM counteracts this ? It implements a history system that prevent recently given piece to be distributed again†. This is a flood prevention measure and make the game much more consistent while still having an element of unpredictability. And being unpredictable is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in an arcade context where you still want the player to finish the game eventually. Fun trivia: modern standard Tetris nowadays implement an extremely predictable randomizer, which is mathematically proven to be infinitely playable at low gravity††.
†historically TGM is not the first game to implement a history system, there was already a rudimentary one in NES Tetris
†† this is less of a problem in recent years due to the focus on multiplayer, enabling stuff like openers, but this is a story for another time
Consistency in randomness is not directly tied to the notion of speed, but being confident in that you will not screwed by the piece distribution definitely helps in the elaboration of reliable strategies.
The graphics helps too
Illustration: An actual screenshot of TGM
So far I've describe how the game is mechanically inclined toward speed, but aesthetically there's also some elements that are helps during high speed games.
First, look at what the stack and notice how the active piece contrasts with the rest of the stack. There's a clarity of graphics that comes not only by the fact that the locked pieces have a darker hue, but also because of the of this white border that surrounds the stack. The goal is to have an instantly readable playfield.
Continuing on this trend, each piece type is color coded so you can instantly read what you're getting by using your peripheral vision, leaving the focus clear on the stack. You can then more easily confirm the placement of your current piece, which is further helped by a very noticeable flash.
The next-piece window is also aligned so that the piece previewed is placed directly above where it will spawn. This unconsciously helps the tactical decision of where to put your piece. Speaking of unconscious effect, the whole series have this auditory gimmick in which each pieces have its own jingle. From what I know, nobody use this consciously, even the one that can tackle the invisible challenge (more on the invisible challenge later).
Scoring, grading, and speedrunning
So we've seen the mechanics and the aesthetics of speed within TGM.
But what would would be an arcade game without a good I piece measuring contest ?
TGM has three metrics exposed to the player: Score-grades, level and time.
Time is a straightforward metric, and is the main point of comparison for players having reached the Gm grade. Finishing the game under 13 minutes is ok, under 12 min is pretty good, under 10min is exceptionally good, and approaching 9min is godlike.
Score, as in most videogame is a measure of how "good" you are at the game, but takes here a subtly different meaning. The exact detail of the scoring system is not super interesting to see†, but its implication is. Let me explain:
† here : Score = (roundUp((Level + Lines)/4) + Soft) × Lines × Combo × Bravo ; Combo = Previous Combo value + (2×Lines) -2
The optimal strategy with this scoring system is to clear as much line as the same time as possible. In order words, Tetris, triples and even doubles†makes a lot of points, whereas Singles proportionally don't score as much points.
†Tetris: four line cleared at the same time; triple: three lines cleared at the same time; double: two lines cleared at the same ; single: one line cleared
This has an interesting side effect, as it incentivize to have a clean stack. A clean stack is a stack without holes. If there's holes in your stack, and particularly in they are all over the place, you tend clean them by performing singles. Sidenote: in TGM1, grade is directly correlated with score, except for the titular last grade, which is gatekeeped by some time requirements.
So in TGM, the score still describe how "well" you play, but you may have noticed that there's no notion of time at all†. I would argue that scoring here doesn't reflect how "well" you play but rather how "clean" you play. Keep that in mind for later.
†To be perfectly pedant there's the level factor in the equation that would incentivise you to play fast to reach high-yielding level as fast as possible. But please don't ruin my narrative.
I mentioned just before that the last grade had some time requirements. Now, this is a perfectly reasonable requirement for a game that is focused on speed but, and I guess you are used to me saying that, there's some subtleties to it.
Let's say the only requirement to get the last grade would be to reach X amount of point in Y amount of time, and reaching the last level. A viable strategy would be then to play as clean as possible so that you reach the point threshold, and then you just have to survive. This would mean that in that last part can play as sloppy as you want, you will still reach the Gm grade. That's, of course, not ideal as it doesn't push the player to play at its maximum (you can cheese the last part).
What TGM did is neat and two-fold: First, it takes the "level" metric, which was until then a measure of how fast the game is, and turned it into a progression gauge. So you know that at level 100 you are at the beginning of the game, 500 is midgame and 900 is the last push. The gravity is still tied to the level, so at level 0 it's quite slow and at 300 it's significantly faster. But the thing doesn't have to be linear or monotonic, in fact there's a speedbump at level 200 (people told me it's for dramatic effect), and maximum speed is reached at level 500 (to let the new 20G gameplay shine.)
Now here's the catch: you can progress faster in the game by clearing lines. Indeed, the way you gain level is that you increase the counter by one each time you land a piece, but more interestingly you get a bonus level for each line cleared.
This ties everything together: if you want to play fast you have to play well, and if you play well the game will get faster.
This positive feedback loop is in fact a system with dynamic difficulty curve: as good players will be presented with a more appropriate challenge faster, as more novice player will get challenged at their pace.
So there you have it: even the scoring system is meant to go fast. Isn't that beautiful ?
There were two sequels to TGM.
The first one, known as TAP within the community because of the subtitle of the final version of the game ("The Absolute Plus"), builds on the building block of the first. There's now a dedicated 20G mode with a brutal speedcurve to it (it is, after all, named "Death" mode). For the main game (now called "Master" mode), there's a much appreciated addition of an instant drop. This significantly speeds up the pre-20G game. The point system is now decoupled from the grade, and a secondary but hidden point system is used to calculate the player grade. The detail of which is complex, but the take-away effect is that consistency of play is now taken into account.
Video: a a TAP Gm game recorded during a livestream
The second sequel is known in the community as Ti (again with the subtitle: Terror instinct). It had implements some gameplay elements mandated by the Tetris Company: three pieces preview, a "hold" function, and floorkicks (i.e. piece can always rotate on the ground even if it collides with it). As a happy accident, this enabled TGM to go the even higher, borderline absurd, speed. I want you to look at the sheer insanity of the Death Mode's replacement: Shirase. And then look toward the end of the run where pieces turns into brackets (a nod to the real original Electronica60 version), nullifying the convenience of both color-coded pieces as well at the white-border. It's glorious.
Video: Cleared Shirase game by KevinDDR, the best Western TGM player.
Now, on the Master mode side, there's two major changes: there's a revamp of the progression/level system, where now the speedcurve itself becomes dynamic, and a further focus on consistency. You not only have to be consistent within a game, but also across games. Indeed, there's now an account system that is tied to an examination system. It inspects your performance and randomly challenges you with an special exam game in order to reach the grade it thinks you deserve.
The last grade is of course locked behind an exam, and is only reachable through that mean.
Sprinkled around the main game are some additional challenges that are a bit adjacent to the main game.
Illustration: A secret grade pattern build by ohshisaure
There's a ">" pattern you can built within the game. Doing so will award you a "secret grade" depending on how complete your chevron is. This is a nod to TGM predecessor (Sega Tetris), where bored players in the arcades invented this challenge and became popular. This is totally optional to the game, but really challenge your creativity, a bit like the golden and silver block in The New Tetris.
Video: KevinDDR and crew performance at AGDQ2015
And then there's the infamous "invisible" challenge first appearing in TAP. It is in fact a mandatory requirement to get the Gm grade. If, and only if, you played well enough in the main game, you are then presented with the invisible challenge during the credit roll, in which you have to survive during 60 grueling seconds.
I don't know the whys of this challenge, but I assume this is an extrapolation coming from the following observation: when playing the game, most players are in fact not directly looking at the stack (to convince you, look at this eye-tracked demonstration).
Looking at the stack only serves as some sort a placement confirmation, and so there's somewhere a mental model of the playfield. The invisible challenge thus forces the player to exclusively rely on this pre-existing mental model.
Fun trivia: the credit order is randomized so that you can rely on the name to estimate how much time is left.
So that's it for this gameplay analysis.
Hopefully you'll understand now why some people play one or several of those games 15, 20 or 22 years after their releases. All games are still played and there's no "superior version" as each version has slightly different priorities on the theme of "speedy Tetris": Ti has raw speed, TGM is careful and methodical, and TAP is a happy medium between the two.
As a game designer, what general lessons can we learn from TGM ? I'm just a random dude on the internet, but let me suggest one:
"Brevity". I keep thinking back to a textual Let's Play I've read about the second addons of Neverwinter Nights 2 (Mask of the Betrayer) . During a story recap just before the game climax, Lt. Danger offers an analysis of the expansion and writes (highlight from me):
Instead let's focus in on what makes Mask good - and I think the answer ultimately boils down to 'brevity.'
Obsidian knew what they wanted to do with Mask and wrote it accordingly. Too often in games I find some puzzle, some encounter, that could have come from anywhere; the most egregious example is Bioware's reliance on the Towers of Hanoi puzzle (which thankfully has come to an end). There's too much that has barely anything to do with the premise or purpose of the story (if they bothered to have one at all). In Mask, though, I struggle to find wasted space. I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: there are no irrelevant sidequests. Every quest and every NPC ties back to the core themes in some way.
If, looking back at your game, you can say "it's a game about X, hence Y", you may be on to something.
That's why remakes and sequels that "go back to their roots" are generally perceived as positive. It's an change to remove cruft and focus on the core of the game. Take Zelda Breath of the Wild for instance. Zelda 1 was a game about adventure, exploration and mystery. Hence: very few handholding, an open world, and no limits to exploration.
Of course, super-concise game shouldn't be the ultimate guiding principle of any given game. Case in point: I recently finished Yakuza 0. This is an excellent, excellent game, yet in terms of gameplay and pacing, it is all over the place: one moment you are in a crime drama, and five minutes later you're managing a cabaret club, and 10 minutes later you're in a karaoke booth singing
baka mitaiJudgement with a biker costume at the end.
But brevity sure can sure made your game more elegant and enjoyable.20 votes
On this page, I see posts, but no comments. It's a see of death. The same is true of all game design subreddits. Despite this being a thing a lot of people find interesting, there doesn't seem to...
On this page, I see posts, but no comments. It's a see of death. The same is true of all game design subreddits. Despite this being a thing a lot of people find interesting, there doesn't seem to be any really successful community oriented way to talk about this type of thing.
What types of posts do you think we could make to bring this space to life?
Personally, I think in-depth reviews of games you've played a lot are the way to go. Say you're a grandmaster at chess. Give it a review. Have you played Monopoly into the ground? Critique it. I'd like to start discussing here to, what other ways are there to liven this up?
I also may start posting speculative designs. So, game rulesets I've come up with, asking for comments from others on what they think I should look out for.9 votes
https://twitter.com/TychoBolt/status/1182541355337289728?s=20 Found this on twitter, user TychoBolt compiled this list. There's a lot of information on many topics, as well as a ton of links to...
Found this on twitter, user TychoBolt compiled this list. There's a lot of information on many topics, as well as a ton of links to tools that aid in level design, narrative and more.
He also compiled this 122-paged guide on level design; full of tips and tricks for designing levels. I've looked through it for a bit and found quite a lot of interesting information, so I'd reckon this is a valuable asset to anyone developing/designing games.
PDF available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fAlf2MwEFTwePwzbP3try1H0aYa9kpVBHPBkyIq-caY/preview?pru=AAABcufoPRw*FOD948Ah7NzrIiGTixO_PQ7 votes
Open world Level Design: The Full Vision (part 1/5) Open world Level Design: The Full Vision (part 2/5) Open world Level Design: The Full Vision (part 3/5) Open world Level Design: The Full Vision...7 votes
Combat appears to be an important facet of most RPG systems out there, including ones embedded into the games themselves. Seems fair to say that most RPGs have combat as a major, dedicated part of...
Combat appears to be an important facet of most RPG systems out there, including ones embedded into the games themselves. Seems fair to say that most RPGs have combat as a major, dedicated part of their gameplay: stats like weapon damage and armor resistance are tracked and augmented by enhancements and skills; there are special game states and (for videogame RPGs) controls that separate combat from non-combat; combat serves as one of the major sources of XP for character growth.
There's probably a good few examples out there of games that tried something different that I haven't even heard about. Disco Elysium does "combat" through skill checks in the few instances that it does tackle physical encounters. Griftlands uses card-based actions for both combat and social encounters, each having their own separate decks and "health" values.
What I've been looking for was the kind of a system that doesn't take combat for a special game state. A system where the simulation extends to assimilate combat as just... a thing that happens because you're in danger – or looking to be the danger.
To understand where I'm going with the next bit, you should know a couple of things about Frontiers.
Frontiers is an episodic story about a group of friends playing a homebrew from-first-principles tabletop RPG system. The system, so far titled Frontiers RPG 'cause I'm very original, deals away with or reimagines much of the classic RPG trope library.
One thing that differentiates Frontiers RPG is having 20-some traits for characters, where each trait is an abstracted statistic representative of a character's distinct natural-performance categories. For example:
- Instrumentation determines how well the character naturally operates simple and complex technology
- Visual Space determines one's eyesight and, consequently, the ability to model the geometry of an environment or an object in the head (because apparently these things are linked in the human brain)
- Biomechanics determines how well does one's muscles perform under stress
- Presence determines the strength of the vibe the character gives off naturally; the vibe itself could be intimidating, commanding, or inspiring, depending on said character
Traits are tracked on a low scale:
- −10 is the lowest possible for any living creature with any amount of agency.
- −5 is the lowest any human could possibly get without outside intervention, and means the person is unable to perform in this area completely.
- 0 is average human performance.
- +5 is the best a human being could naturally achieve at their peak.
- +10 is the epitome of human potential when amplified with hyperadvanced technology or supernatural effects.
This means that when someone with Presence +1 enters the room, people can't but notice, even if they don't concern themselves too much with the person. When it's someone with Presence +3, however, most will stop what they're doing for a few seconds and pay attention to what the person is doing. Presence +5? The party stops when the person enters the room: they inspire this much awe and respect (or fear, depending on the person). Characters with high Presence naturally make for excellent leaders, teachers, negotiators, and point-makers.
There are no dice rolls. Each challenge has a difficulty rating on the same scale as traits, which is how the outcomes get determined: either by checking the trait itself or the average of a set of traits (which are sometimes conceptualized into skills and sometimes only exist as checks). For example, if your character's Conditioning (representing physical endurance) is +1 and the challenge is a short jog (difficulty 1), they succeed without a problem.
What makes this system not entirely deterministic is stat depletion. Each trait value above 0 grants the character 1 point of the trait. These points may be used to assist oneself or another character in a challenge if the challenge is of higher difficulty than their trait would normally allow to automatically succeed in. Points are regained at rest, up to the maximum of trait value points: e.g. Instrumentation 2 grants you maximum of 2 points you can have on your character at any given time.
What I've been working with for a few months was HP-like stats derived from specific traits:
- wounds for physical damage, derived from Conditioning
- willpower for mental stress, derived from Volition
- stamina for physical performance, derived from Stress Response
(Having willpower as a stat works because for normal humans, D&D-like adventures would inevitably take their toll. Seeing people suffering may damage the will of a high-Empathy character, but then, everyone would suffer from seeing their loved ones in danger. Seeing a giant fucking monster would certainly make you consider your life choices. Persevering through emotional and mental challenges where your willpower is mechanically limited – a person can only take so much within a limit of time – is an underexplored, underdeveloped field of roleplay, and it fits into the story thematically.)
This naturally geared itself to combat-as-special-state. Abstracting "health points" only makes sense when the only thing that matters is whether you're able to fight further. To this end, I figured that at a certain level of wounds, all traits would take penalty (to simulate being beaten up and stressed from combat) until such a time when the character receive proper care and rest.
Lately, however, I came upon a way to streamline the system and make it "wider" (i.e. not just combat/non-combat simulation): use the trait points directly. This approach enables the player by allowing them to use their whole potential in all manners of situations, and have said potential used against them if they're facing a challenge their ability does not allow them to surpass.
- rather than exchange punches in a bar fight, you can use your Executive Function – your thinking-on-your-feet – to distract your opponent and sucker-punch them while they're looking away
- in a fistfight, character may use their Coordination to deflect a blow – or two points to direct it in a specific way: for example, to harm their proximous ally
- before approaching the bench in order to testify, characters may use their Empathy in order to read the room and understand what sort of an appeal would work best
- seeing an atrocity committed would take a point away from the character's Volition; if they have none left, they may faint, become disstressed (receiving a malus to all checks of a particular nature), or even become catatonic (unable to act coherently until snapped out of it or well-rested)
- being shot by a scared youth may take a point or two of the character's Conditioning, but because they're still standing, they could use Volition to "not fucking flinch", which gives them a temporary bonus to Presence that they can use to interrogate with greater success or otherwise use the youth's capacities
This works, at least on the surface, because it reflects the potential traits grant almost exactly. Someone with Conditioning 0 may be able to take a punch, but it would leave them seriously disoriented or may even inflict lasting damage (broken rib, dislocated jaw etc.); meanwhile, another character with Conditioning 4 may be able to get shot with a pistol and still function to a degree. Someone with Inner World +3 should find it little trouble to jot down a short story to tell their children before bed, while someone with Inner World 0 would find it impossible to come up with a logo for their new product even with intense consideration.
What I haven't yet figured out is:
- how to handle such "shooting above one's head" attempts for trait values lower than 0 (which is encouraged for challenge and roleplay reasons)
- how to handle situations where all points are depleted and the player still wants to try a difficult thing that's just above their character's level
- whether players should receive more than one point per level of trait, or even see points granted scale with value (Engineering 3 → 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 points total)
The system is not perfect, but it's hella interesting, and I'd like to pursue it. If it leads nowhere, at least I explored. What I'm looking for from this topic is review of the concept of stat depletion and its potential implications. Assume that the rest of the system is perfectly viable and feasible unless its parts directly contradict or hamper the system as a whole. What problems can you see with this section? What benefits can one derive from it?5 votes