January 20, 2013

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

First things first, Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning (KoAR) is a good game and is comparable to Skyrim in many aspects. However, Skyrim is a significantly better game overall for a number of reasons but I'm not really here to compare games. If you have looked at my Minecraft posts you will notice a trend where I am wanting to add RPG elements to the game. However, I won't do it by simply adding new items and locations, but actually turning the core game into more of an RPG.

Ideas and concepts are the most exciting part of developing a game, but rarely what you think actually turns out to be as awesome as you originally thought. I like to look at how other games did certain mechanics and evaluate mechanics on a number of factors. Most importantly, when you look at a game mechanic you need to think about the purpose of the feature and how much depth it really offers the game. I don't always follow it like a rule, but its a great guideline for any serious project.

In KoAR, the skill system irritates me. The whole purpose of the system is to allow you to build up your character's non-combat capabilities in unique ways. A great concept, but its poorly implemented. Lets look at the skills and some strengths and weaknesses with them:

Pro: Allows me to make better potions as I progress in the game.
Con: Without spending points in this, getting materials is a nightmare. It ruins the experience of gathering herbs at the beginning of the game and makes it very painful without heavily investing into the skill.

Pro: Allows you to craft really good gear and break down components from other gear.
Con: It is single handedly the best way to get good gear and makes repair kits the unquestionable best way to repair damaged gear for dirt cheap.

Detect Hidden
Pro: Improves the exploration of the game and makes the mini-map really powerful.
Con: Doesn't offer much for benefits and can easily be skipped by simply having a keen eye.

I just hate the mechanic in general, seems like a waste of time instead of actually adding 'depth' to the game. Whats the point if I can quickly fail it and in the worst case have to cure some curse for dirt cheap?

Again, the mechanic isn't fun and seems like a waste of time. I could easily apply this to every game where they put in some sort of lock picking 'minigame'.

Horrible mechanic, completely inverts the scaling of difficulty. The better at this skill the easier the game becomes, and at the start of the game everything is retardedly expensive and earning money is difficult. Later in the game I am flowing with money and everything is dirt cheap. Economy and skills do not mix.

Pro: Interesting mechanic, as it changes the flow of things, but like mercantile you make the game much easier by investing into this skill (and using it).
Con: Can easily be abused by save/reload.

Pro: Well done mechanic, works great and isn't flawed in its approach.
Con: Potentially devalues gems in the later part of the game, but isn't a huge deal.

A combat skill, not sure why it should go with the above ones since it actually has a big impact with combat mechanics and the finesse builds.

If you played Skyrim, some of these comments also apply to that game as well. However, KoAR has a worse system overall with how skills work.

One of the things that KoAR does well is the combat system flows smoothly, and the targeting isn't intuitive until you understand how the attack/camera works. Combinations and such are very interesting, but certain combinations are significantly better than others which leads to gameplay becoming mundane and repetitive. Additionally, the gameplay is pretty easy even on harder difficulties. It is rare for me to feel even threatened in most situations, and I'm not even using very good gear.

The ability trees in the game do not offer much when looking at depth. Pure characters are significantly more powerful than hybrids, many points are used simply as filler and the active ability system is very clunky. I understand the console version is different in using spells, but for PC. I should press 1 key = 1 spell, none of the 'equipping' crap that only exists because of the console.

The alchemy system is numerically split up evenly, but I feel potions in general are too short of duration for me to want to use them and the benefits are fairly potent but when the game is easy overall, making myself even stronger isn't really useful. Tuning the difficulty, decreasing the benefits of potions and increasing the duration would have made the alchemy system much better. It feels like they added it in because its an 'RPG-element' but didn't give it a whole lot of purpose.

Blacksmithing is well done, the random factor isn't very good but that is something you can't help. I feel selling gear with high mercantile is much better than salvaging for the first half of the game. Itemization and stats aren't very interesting and certain ones are significantly better than others which makes the choice super easy for different classes (not very deep or interesting) Itemization shouldn't be cryptic, but it should be more than just 'the number is bigger and my class uses it'

The equipment interface in KoAR is horrible, and I mean horrible. It works because of consoles, but the fact its just a treelist makes it very painful to check gear/equips and compare items. The whole inventory system is a nightmare in general, but the list method seems to be a favorite for consoles. Side note: Minecraft figured it out so why big budget games can't is beyond my comprehension.

The destiny system is good, but it becomes very clear that hybrids suck compared to the three main builds. You will notice huge increases in damage and capabilities early on and never need to waste points on 'filler' you won't ever use as the hybrid. Also, please never add 'abilities' which improve a characters proficiency with weapons. This was a huge issue with Warriors from WoW for years and Blizzard finally figured it out in the more recent expansion packs. Honestly, do not create 'skills/talents/abilities' which determine what weapon your character becomes good at. It just means when you get a new shiny weapon that is different you will need to rebuild your character for a new weapon, its just plain annoying and a waste of time.

Twists of Fate system isn't good for the game. It basically means, if you do side-quests, then the game becomes easier. In reality, it makes balancing the difficulty of the game harder and KoAR didn't do a very good job on difficulty.

The chat system I have mixed feelings about, as it targets a varied audience. For those interested in lore it is great, but to anyone else it simply gets in the way of a smooth flowing story and the exciting part of fighting things. Lorestones are an interesting concept of portraying lore in a non-invasive way, but half the time they are abstract and unclear without thinking about what is being said. This just ended up meaning they felt pointless except for the little experience bonus they offer.

One final comment and this isn't just for KoAR, but many RPG games in general. Fast travel sucks, it is nice and makes the game flow better, but it simply sucks. Why? If you need a system to get around fast, you haven't made the game interesting enough to explore or admire. If traveling instantly from location to location is a core mechanic, then what is the point of building a vast world if the only reasonable way to explore it is by going to a menu between missions/combat/events. Fast travel, and to a lesser extent portals, is a flawed fix to a flawed problem in the game. I should instead be given the ability to travel around quickly, not instantly, and I should 'want' to explore the world instead of just get to the destinations. Just like life, it isn't about the destination, but how you got there.

January 13, 2013

Minecraft - Plugin Concept (Mob Levels)

I have to say, many of the RPG mods I have looked at have been disappointing over the years. Some simply add more content with little consideration for difficulty, others focus on adding cool new things, or even more dimensions and bosses. While these methods can be exciting, they get pretty lame only after a short while and rarely sustain a player's interest.

I want to keep my mods with a Minecraft theme, but add true RPG elements to the game. I have a few games in mind on how I want to draw these elements from, but that isn't really important right now. First things first, Minecraft has 'infinite' size worlds (at least for PC and by infinite I really just mean ridiculously large. So what draws the player to explore these massive worlds? Usually its the hunt for resources such as diamond, redstone, and maybe iron. I don't see how any other resource really ensures the player explores.

It is flawed. This is because these reasons to explore are basically near bedrock, why would the player ever want to go far away on the surface? To get away from other people, to build new things, to start something new but keep the old world. None of these are really about exploring, the intent of these reasons are just to build more stuff. Now before anyone starts telling me about how Minecraft is a sandbox game, I just want to say that I know. I'm really looking at just making things more interesting since a sandbox is great, but once you are in my position where you have played this game for over 2 years, you really just want something else to do.

Enchanting and levels are very tightly bound. They need to be separated so that 'rpg-levels' can become something meaningful. I would simply call the old level system 'enchanting power' or something along those lines. Instead, there will be something called "Power Levels" (PL) which have nothing to do with enchanting and literally do what you would expect, making your character more powerful. Obviously, you probably have heard this term from other places, which is fine because it is typically associated with the concept of the higher the power level the more powerful the entity is.

I'm going to be vague on details because I am simply putting out my concept and not really wanting to get into details on how it would work or what specific values are supposed to mean except for a few minor ones. For instance, all characters would start in a world at PL 1. Instead of getting experience from kills, you gain essence from what you kill. Earn enough essence and you gain a PL. When you gain a PL the overall abilities/attributes of your character increase very slightly and you gain Skill Points (SP) that you can spend towards different aspects of your character. These aspects would consist of combat related abilities such as faster attacks, more damage, more health, gain natural armor, better blocking, and potentially new things I would add through other RPG elements. Additionally, they could be spent on other things such as faster block breaking rate (some for different types), faster base run speed, faster sprint speed, longer sprint distance, jump height, larger hunger bar, and many others.

So how would you gain experience? Obviously, I want to ensure exploring and if you could simply stay in the same place and grind experience that would take away from the game. Well, when you start a world you spawn in the overworld at roughly an x,z location of 0,0. So lets assume at that location and the relative area nearby ever mob would spawn at level 1. As you move away from the start location, the strength of mobs would increase relative to the distance from 0,0.

There is a catch, as you move away from the center you would be moving linearly, but the area would be a quadratic. This means mobs cannot grow in strength linearly, or the area for new challenges would get massive. However, if I make mob strength increase by squaring the distance, then once you start getting to distant locations, mobs will become exceptionally powerful very quickly. Instead I'll compromise with something in-between the two called log-linear. An example formula would be: y = (x * log(x)) * 0.05 + 1, where y is the level of the mob, and x is the distance (in chunks) from 0,0. Additionally, the amount of essence you get from killing a mob would be proportional to the difference between your level and the mob's level. So killing lower level mobs would yield very little essence, and killing higher level mobs would yield lots of essence.

But how does this promote the player to explore? Well, obviously there needs to be an incentive for the player to explore other than just gaining some arbitrary power levels. More on that another time.

January 8, 2013

Minecraft - Plugin Concept (Equipment)

Continuing my exploration of plugin concepts I felt like there was a need to write down a few more ideas I've had. I will keep posting more ideas and trying to flesh them out in more details as time goes on. I might even create a site or something simple to store it in a simple and easy to navigate way. Anywho, this topic is about equipment.

What is equipment? Well first thing for those familiar with Minecraft is the helmets, chest pieces, leggings and boots. The part that has always bugged me is that it simply stops there and it isn't like adding more would be challenging in any way. However, equipment is also pickaxes, shovels, axes, hoes, swords, bows, fishing rods, flint and steel, I would even say compass, clock and map.

My first idea is pretty simple, closely related to a hearthstone from World of Warcraft, I always wondered why the game never came with a simple item for teleporting back to your spawn point. It would make the most sense to craft a single-use item which can be consumed to teleport you to your spawn point following the same rules as when you die, except without killing you.

Many servers have simple commands like /home which offer the feature, but to give a player a cost-less way to teleport is extremely powerful and can easily be abused. Instead, it should be a crafted item, I suggest to craft the Homestone you would need 4 obsidian blocks in a diamond shape with an ender pearl in the middle. This makes it fairly difficult to craft, but something which could be farmed very easily to create relatively large supplies. The item type would be stackable up to 16, as a 64 stack wouldn't make it feel very important. Additionally, in order to use it the item there would be a 2 second delay or so. The same concept as eating food, this is so it cannot be easily abused to get you out of any bad situation but could be used to help if you need an escape.

Now that I've covered this one particular item of interest, lets get into equipment.

Equipment Interface
Obviously, if we want to expand the equipment we will need a larger interface. However, I would much rather create a new one instead of stretching out the inventory tab. Keep the inventory tab simple and remove the player component from it, assuming in the near future that will be easy to do. Instead a new hotkey will allow you to open up an interface similar to what we currently have, minus the crafting section.

Additional Equippable Armor

We will add additional armor slots to the current layout to have the following equip-able armor slots (This will require a rework of how armor works):
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Chest*
  • Bracers
  • Belt
  • Gloves
  • Ring
  • Legs
  • Feet
Italics - Indicate what is new
* - This model will need to be changed to not include the shoulder pieces.

The motivation behind this is to add significantly more depth into the game in regards to armor and making equipment choices. This is very important to any 'rpg' like systems as only 4 armor slots is quite workable, once you get used to it the choices you have to make become very simplistic.

In addition to having to change how armor works, enchants will also have to change as well as a few other minor changes to Minecraft in general.

Equippable Tools

Additionally, I would like to have slots for 'tools' This removes some of them from the inventory, but more importantly gets them off the placement bar. Instead of 'selecting' a tool, you would instead equip it onto your character and use it. There would be an easy way to equip tools, as you simply hover over the item in your inventory and then press a hotkey to equip it. Then whenever you are wandering around in the world, you simply press the hotkey and the tool switches into your active hand. Press the hotkey again, use the mousewheel, or press a number key and it will disappear. This would work great for Pickaxes, Shovels, Axes, Hoes, Swords and Bows.

For each tool, there would be two slots for each of these items, a primary and a secondary. To differentiate them you would press SHIFT + hotkey to select the secondary, and have a hotkey for swapping the currently active tool with the secondary version. Why only two? Well, I never really seen the need for more than two tools items with different enchants/types.

Auto-Equip Tools

When the primary slot on each tool type is empty, or when an active item is broken. The inventory will be searched for a replacement tool and it will automatically equip it into the slot. This avoids the unnecessary need to keep opening the inventory interface or equipment interface when acquiring a new item or replacing a broken one. It will also naturally select the worst one, first based on item quality, then item enchants, and then durability. I usually find I want to get rid of bad tools first before using good ones.

This feature would need to be able to be disabled easily.

Other Equippable Tools and Effects

Other items also make sense to be able to equip them, but they have slightly special effects. They also would only have a single slot for them.

Compass/Map Slot - This slot is shared between map and compass, it will not be auto-equippable because it wouldn't make sense without some complex logic. When a compass is equipped it will be displayed on the HUD as a 3D arrow pointing towards Y-127 and north. When a map is equipped it will be displayed as a mini-map on the HUD which either rotates with your direction being constant or has the player rotate on a constant map.

Clock Slot - This slot is interesting because it really will only have a single item ever. The whole point would be to add a time element to the HUD. I was tempted to make this occupy the same slot as the compass or map... however it would be very rare to find a situation where a clock would be better than a compass or map and if you did use it then it would be very temporary.

Fishing Rod/Carrot on Stick Slot - This slot is shared between the fishing rod and the carrot on a stick items. As with the map it will not auto-equip, but doesn't offer any real extras beyond what it currently does.

Non-equippable tools

Flint and Steel - This is mostly a rarely used item, not really needing its own slot. Usually you only have one unless you have some very pyro needs.

Buckets - These items are mostly used as 'blocks' so equipping a bucket makes little sense. You could argue a bucket with milk is a valid item, but that fits more into the consumable one with potions.

This outlines some of the basic concepts I have, I will certainly have to revisit armor types in more detail but for now this is plenty.

January 5, 2013

Minecraft - Plugin Concept (Armor Types)

After some monkeying around in Minecraft, I've been toeing around with a few ideas. Waiting for an official plugin API could be very slow. Heck they are barely into the inception stage of things, hopefully things will get sped up.

Going back over my list, I've decided a 'Stronghold' like plugin which could be absolutely sweet... its a very big scope and for this time is way beyond anything I would even want to tackle myself. Additionally, I'm not sure how Minecraft would work with it as I certainly would need to limit what could be built and not, which really takes away creativity from the game. While I could potentially work on some of this stuff right now by modding the client, which I have strongly considered for prototyping. I would rather spend some time doing game design instead of hacking in ideas.

Instead, I would rather focus on core game-play aspects of the current game and enhancing the depth of it. Mojang said the API will initially be for adding features to the game and not removing. This means my initial plugins need to add to the current game and not focus on changing it or overhauling it.

Here is what I have come up with so far, and yes I realize the possibility of people 'stealing' my ideas and I could even be doing things which have already been done. But in either case, life goes on.

Armor Types - I like how we currently have leather, iron, gold, diamond and chain. They each have 3 properties: Durability, Armor, Enchantability. So going off of that, what can I do to add something without changing what currently exists? Easy.

Gold-plated Armor - This would be a new type of armor, it would look like iron armor but the edges would be gold. This armor would have the same durability and armor value as iron. However it offers an Enchantability slightly higher than diamond (11), since chain is special with a value of 12 I wouldn't want to equal that.

This armor is crafted by taking an iron piece and placing it in the middle of a crafting table, then putting gold bars around it as such:

Chest - 4
Legs - 3
Helm - 2
Boots - 2

Hardened Iron Armor - This would be another new type of armor, it would look like a darkened version of iron armor. This armor would have the same durability as diamond armor. The armor value would be 19, instead of 15 from regular iron or 20 from diamond armor. (+1 to each piece above iron). However, it would have a low Enchantability of 7. Which is essentially the lowest in the game, this would make sense since it is hardened and thus not easily enchanted.

This armor is crafted in a similar way to Gold-plated Armor except using iron bars instead and with different values:

Chest - 8
Legs - 7
Helm - 5
Boots - 4

These changes provide a number of benefits with minimal costs:
- The gap between iron and diamond is smaller, with two options for intermediate armor before diamond.
- These items would be more available but there power also requires an increased cost.
- They keep diamond armor as the best in the game, which is critical given the current state of things.
- They keep the special bonus of using chain armor by having it more enchantable than Gold-plated.

Additionally, it provides an addition to the game without changing the current features or removing features.

Now since you would be crafting a new item using a previous item with the potential of lost durability, what should happen to the durability? Well, it would be bad to fully repair the item, but I feel there isn't much depth by leaving the amount of durability the same. Instead I suggest, taking the amount of durability which has been lost, and adding back half of it to the new Hardened or Gold-plated item.