The Value of an Action

Welcome back, Conash here to give another big talk about whatever game design thing has been on my mind lately! This one may seem a bit out of the blue to many of you, but I’m sure that both testers and time travels will probably have an idea about why this is on my mind recently. For the rest of you all I have to say is you might have something to look forward to in the 0.44 release in a couple of months!

So, I hope that most of you here are familiar enough with turn based RPGs like Pokemon, Final Fantasy, or this really obscure game called ‘Collect Harems’ or something to be able to understand the idea of having a certain number of things you can do in the time that enemies get their own limit of things they can do. Now I may only have personal experience to go off of, but I wanted to talk about the value of ‘actions’ as a whole, and what you have to be careful about when you ‘give’ an action and when you ‘take away’ an action as well as why not all actions are equal.

To start with, I think it’s important to mention that to me there seems to be 3 types of actions which a player can take while in ‘combat’ of some form, actions which influence ‘Damage Output’ like doing damage or buffing themselves to do more damage, ‘Damage Mitigation’ either by reducing total damage taken or making sure the damage/status effects are inflicted in a way that’s less detrimental to you, or ‘Recovery’ which is putting in effort to actively undo either damage or some other detrimental effect on you. While I can certainly see arguments that these might seem rather arbitrary, this distinction typically gets at the heart of the philosophy behind things as while choosing to have Therese use Martydom then guard is different than having Meline try to daze all your enemies both of these actions are done because you expect the damage that they’ll prevent to outweigh the damage you could have done instead if you brought Kyrie or Yamamaya instead, as you value the chance of wasting time and resources that have the fight be longer that is unneeded to prevent having to put in the resource investment that ‘Recovering’ from what might have happened would have been. Understanding this decision making process and what goes into it is fundamental when trying to give players options as if you make an easy to use ‘Recovery’ option that’s more potent than a ‘Mitigation’ option, then people will never use the ‘Mitigation’ option as it’s unsure if it’ll be useful but you do know that you can output more damage which is progress and if the bad thing happens anyways you can recovery for a similar price.

On a related note, I do believe that this decision making process applies to all games, as say a racing game would exchange the ‘Damage Output’ with instead getting farther in the race, maybe when you stay in last place until the end to have the computers rubber-band in your favor before you overtake them to ‘Mitigate’ the damage they’d do if you were in 1st the whole way through. Granted some game types don’t always have an in-built way to ‘recover’ but every game calls for the players to make decisions and take actions and the player will have to constantly assess their situation and come to a decision one way or another, regardless as to if the game waits for them or not. Though it is important to remember human limitations, even if players are entirely familiar with the situation the speed at which they have to understand their situation, remember their options, and come to a conclusion plays a big role in how much you can ‘expect’ from them, but turn-based games give players a lot of room to make decisions should they choose to make use of it, but enough of this little tangent!

Right, back to the original topic, the value of an action. The value of a single action is going to be relative to any given situation, for example if both the player and enemy has 2 actions per turn and you take away 1 of them you’ve removed 50% of the damage/healing/mitigation that either side can do, but when there’s 4 actions per turn and you take one away you remove 25% of what they can accomplish per turn. That bit is pretty simple (and deals a lot with why I’m not the biggest fan of how we have several accessories that give extra actions as those are numerically the strongest accessories in the game, giving 25-50% more damage/healing/mitigation), but it’s also important to remember that two actions even if similar aren’t always the same as I briefly touched on earlier. See if you have two identical characters except one has a 10% higher chance of getting a critical hit (which in Harem Collector means x3 damage), then that person’s attacks are on average 20% more valuable than the other character (because 10% of the time you will do 300% damage instead of 100%, meaning +200% damage every 1/10 attacks), anyone who’s overcome the third bonus boss should be familiar with this sort of concept as I went out of my way to make sure that you could not win if all your actions only had an ‘average’ output. Honestly a lot of this stuff just really gets down to math at the end of the day.

See, you may not realize it but just about everyone is crunching a lot of internal math when they play HC. I for example may go on a whole lot about how bringing Meline to inflict daze (a -60% hit chance on physical attacks that lasts for 3 turns, an average of -60% physical damage for up to 3 turns per use) helps a lot more than using Magic Missile at least early game (a 30% chance to deny the enemy 1 turn, an average of -30% damage every turn it’s used), and I came to realize this not just through theoretical number crunching but from experience when I noticed how often I didn’t get hit by an enemy that was dazed. That said, players who aren’t as interested in these numbers are usually more focused on how they only have 4 party members so bringing Meline would limit their options for the party as a whole. The players who spam attack to win? They’ve determined the time and effort to think of more complex tactics doesn’t have enough of a reward to it. This might not seem like quite as relevant, but it is actually very important when evaluating the worth of any given action, the perceived value a player’s options are.

Let’s have a little thought experiment here. Let’s say that you had a character with 2 spells that cost the same amount of MP, the first spell does twice as much damage as the second one in all cases except one fight near the end, where the second is 4x as effective. If you don’t go out of your way to hit your players over the head with this knowledge, they will expect that one fight to follow the unspoken ‘rule’ you had for the rest of the game where the first spell is stronger, and so most of them will have a harder time with the fight. See, players learn to associate a value with all their various options as they see how effective guarding is when they’re hit by a powerful attack, vs how effective it is when the attack targets someone else, or how much consistently enemies get deafened when you use sonic magic and so they decide how often to use it. You’ve gotta keep this in mind when you introduce new options to players because if you give them a new option that seems weaker, or the same but more expensive, if it doesn’t give them the same rewarding feeling as their existing set of skills then they won’t choose it even when it’s 10% better than their existing options because it’s not worth the brain power to access that memory, to make that connection, you’re exhausted from your jackass boss chewing you out for their mistake so who cares if you are only reaching 91% of your potential in this video game, you’re still stopping the evil overlord! Make sure to keep that in mind as you try to give players more ‘options’ so that they can make each action more distinct, if you give them too many choices or they aren’t as good as others they’ll probably forget them.

That’s about it… Sorry if things weren’t very clear, I’ve been having a hard time trying to string all the ideas in my head in a way that flows together for these more introspective blog posts. Hopefully there was enough meat to each of these ideas here that even if some of the connections about them are more vague or missing you can still make sense of this week’s bunch of nonsense!

A Difficult Discussion

So Conash and I had a little discussion about this “difficulty menu” idea he had, and we’ve started to give it some serious discussion.

My original vision for Harem Collector was to have the dungeon exploration to relatively streamlined, but for combat itself to be reasonably challenging. I don’t really enjoy the sorts of RPGs where you have to grind for hours to proceed, or get certain items or skills. I much prefer games where enemies are limited in supply, or there is some other constraint meaning you have to balance grinding with something else. If I were to pick some of my favourite RPGs, I would select the latter SMT: Persona games, where grinding comes at the expense of time in the game’s very limited calendar, or the early-mid Bioware games where enmy encounters don’t respawn. This is also why I prefer to play Pokemon games Nuzlocke-style– grinding becomes a pretty dangerous prospect when an unlucky crit can kill one of your “party members” forever.

Not everyone is like that, however. Some people prefer to grind, they find the process to be relaxing or even soothing in a way. Others prefer the simple knowledge that if they encounter a challenge that they can’t overcome, they can just keep at it and eventually grow powerful enough to steamroll whatever is in their way. Still others might not care to grind, but they’re just playing Harem Collector for the sweet, sweet pornography, which I totally understand. Others don’t mind the combat, but don’t care for the economy side of the game. My policy for a long time has been to stick to the original vision, but I’ve come to see the wisdom of having various, multi-faceted difficulty levels.

If you’ve been paying attention you may have been able to suss out that I’m a huge horror fan and one of the greatest horror game franchises of all time, Silent Hill, is well known for having separate combat and puzzle difficulty levels. I am totally cool with this idea, and honestly a little disappointed with myself that I didn’t think of it sooner.

The idea, for now, is to divide difficulty between economy and combat, with independent easy-medium-hard levels for each. As Conash mentioned last week, we’re cooking up a “hard” difficulty for combat right now, and we intend to re-examine “easy” mode to make it something more than just “permanent stat growth potions are everywhere and you start with a huge amount of cash”. For economy, I think we’re mainly looking at playing with the return on investment of the various investment opportunities, and dialing down the amount of money that selling items (including vendor trash) gets you. We’re also looking at a third option, to replace the existence of the Timeturner, for whether or not you want to advance a day whenever you like.

Well, there’s a lot to do before the backer release next week, so I’d better get going. See you all later!

Updates with Conash!

Hey everyone! Next week is going to be the start of Tester’s Week for the upcoming PRINCESS update, and since I’m more or less entering the home stretch with what I’m doing I thought that I’d get you all up to date on the various things that I’ve either been working on or keeping my eye on.

First and most importantly, I’ll have to tip my hat to RomeoPapa, lostone, and everyone else who’s been helping out with the new wiki (found here)! It was really disheartening when we were given the two week notice of being shut down, but thanks to their efforts the new wiki had finished a complete transfer with about a week to spare! Which we promptly decided to get it taken down early it seems.

See, turns out that even if you move somewhere new you’re not allowed to turn any pages (especially the main one) into just redirect links to the new wiki over at Fandom, so they weren’t too happy to wake up one day and find out that the entire wiki was replaced with redirect pages. I have no regrets, as there were still a few people visiting the old wiki and making changes or leaving comments even after there was nothing but redirect links left, so I think that even though it hastened the deletion of the old wiki, it was important to try to get as many people over to the new wiki that we could.

By the way, feel free to let us know what you think of it over there or in the discord, and if you’ve got some new things you’d like see added we might be able to accommodate since we now have full control over it!

Now in terms of game development stuff, let’s have a little talk about a new feature I’m excited to add- dual-elements! You see, there’s been several issues in Harem Collector that have irked the mini-perfectionist in me ranging from how the mages with various ‘Anti-‘ elements on their weapons had no effective use for that element to being able to being able to equip a demon slaying charge and all of a sudden even though you’re attacking an enemy with a shield, their piercing resistance isn’t reducing the damage on your arrows! Not to mention with how useless using magic with the Newts is due to how they only have good damage thanks to their unique ‘Newt’ element….

So, that’s why I thought to basically take our current ‘one element’ system, and turn it into a ‘dual-element’ system, where not only attacks but even magic can have both a ‘physical’ element and a ‘racial’ element. It’d work basically how the current system works, but if you say give Felix the Necronomicon and Manhunter Poison, his attacks will do both necrotic and anti-human damage, multiplying the effectiveness of both (so still be careful of immunities). I’m even going through and making a lot of attacks like Therese’s Smite with a hardset ‘physical’ element still able to take into account whatever her current ‘anti-‘ element would be!

As for the magic end of this system, it will only consider the element of your weapon, so even if you throw Manhunter Poison or the Beastslayer Ring on someone their magic will not gain the ‘Anti-human’ or ‘Anti-beast’ properties, and I think this is fair because if your mages didn’t use their weapons to help channel their magic in some way, then they wouldn’t have a reason to hold a weapon in their hand instead of a buckler or something and mechanically speaking this helps create a bit more uniqueness as now you can use, say, Chimei’s Anti-Demon element to it’s full effect! Newts during the ‘Send Newts’ quest will have their unique Newt element moved over to their weapons so that spell-casting newts can benefit from this too.

Oh, this will only apply to magic that targets enemies though, so you won’t be able to use Yeon’s Anti-Mage element to boost her healing!

Next, let’s see… Well we’re working on getting the 4th solo tournament into this release! The enemies are coming along quite nicely, and I’d like to take a moment to thank our testers for putting up with my nonsense with all the test releases I’ve been putting out this past month, hope you all have been enjoying it!

Oh, players should also expect hard mode in this release, the only real update that’s been made to it is that now when you are in the save menu, your save files will now put a bronze star on any saves in Easy Mode, silver for Normal Mode, and gold for Hard Mode, to help keep track of what mode each save file is in. Oh! Easy Mode! I’ve also added in a new item so that if you’re in Easy Mode you can change your party anywhere while you’re outside of battle! Don’t worry about starting a new game to get it, when you load your save file the game will automatically detect if you’re on Easy Mode and don’t have the item, and if that’s the case one will just show up in your item list!

Hmm… The only other thing that I really have to talk about would be the Yamamaya revamp, and while everything is looking good so far, I’d rather wait a few weeks and then give that it’s own blog post, no matter how much I like to talk I do like to keep secrets sometimes! So I’ll wrap things up here, see you all later!

Wiki Wiki Wow Wiki Wow Wiki Wiki Wiki

If you pay attention to the Patreon feed, Discord announcements, or my Twitter, you probably already know all this, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a record archived here on the ol’ bloggo, and also to let anyone who for whatever reason follows only the blog in on what’s going on.

Got a nasty surprise on Monday. In case you haven’t heard, Wikia, the free public service where was back in the day someone created the original Harem Collector Wiki, has decided that hosting wikis for erotic games is no good, even if all adult content is left off of those wikis. Thankfully, they at least gave us two weeks’ notice to remove all information contained on said wiki so we can implement another solution.

That other solution ended up being hosting our own wiki on our own website. You can find it here and it’s also linked on the website’s main navigation bar. As of this writing, it’s very rough- almost all the pages are up, but transferring images and other important files is going to take some time, and it’s probably going to be a long ass time before we get around to making it pretty- but most of the information had been rescued and is newly available.

I would like to extend a massive thank you to the volunteers who have stepped up and generously donated their time and effort to rescuing the Harem Collector Wiki- RomeroPapa, lostone, TheSevenSins, and S05Z. If you see these guys on Discord and you appreciate their hard work, please give them a heartfelt “thanks”.

Anyway, that’s it for this week. Happy fapping, and I’ll talk to you again next Wednesday!

Let’s talk Hard Mode

Conash again! This time I’m here to talk about a new feature I plan to introduce in the 0.43 release that I’ve been talking about for awhile, hard mode! So for anyone who’s interested in hearing about it, and why it’s coming up so suddenly, this is the post for you!

So to start this off with I would like to give a bit of a brief (hopefully) background to why Harem Collector will be getting a hard mode. The short of it is, that the difficulty of Harem Collector has been very important to me. See, while I’ve got nothing against the people who don’t care to sit down and potentially spend hours focusing on how to make a perfect route or setup your equipment or whatever, with how my brain is I regularly get this kind of ‘build up’ of mental energy that if I don’t get regular outlets for actually brings me pain, and well the best that doctors and therapists have been able to figure out thus far is that it’s the result of my ADHD.

Normally I can deal with this sort of constant mental energy with like puzzles, or listening to podcasts while I play games, but when it starts to get really bad I feel that I need huge problems to solve that require me to consider variables from all directions that play into one another, and well, Harem Collector was one of the few games that could accomplish this to make it so that I wouldn’t end up in pain from not having something to thing about. Just planning routes to find the optimal route for collecting the girls while getting all love quests (not really the biggest concern with how many days there are), managing all the grinding spots in order to maximize my money and experience keeping in mind that if I killed a bear too early that many of the girls would miss out on some experience (though now they respawn every day), figuring out good ways to handle some of the higher level quests early on with weaker teams that way I could get Gargan, Yeon, and Kyrie earlier to begin working on them sooner, along with figuring out the optimal way to invest my money and save some sil here or there with the items you could get.

It was great, though I don’t need that anymore since I can also deal with the issue now by just working on more complex scripting projects or enemy designs for HC, but given the dozens of times that HC served effectively as medication for me I can’t help but look back on those challenges I had to overcome fondly, several of which have become non-issues as the game has progressed. That’s why ever since NoMoshing added in Easy Mode, I’ve wanted to make my own Hard Mode, to capture all of those challenges for anyone who wished to experience them without putting a burden on players who don’t want to put in that much time and effort.

Now, I’ve been talking about Hard Mode for awhile, but I kept putting it onto the back burner until I could implement the entire thing… Except it’s been a few years and so far it’s all concepts. It’s been eating at me to tell some of the people who’ve been looking forward to Hard Mode that it’s coming soon(tm), so a couple weeks ago I said fuck it, let’s put in what I can and expand it as we go. Worst case scenario? Some people might avoid playing it until it’s more fleshed out.

So what does this Hard Mode skeleton entail? Mostly combat stuff, like for starters all those dungeons that you can clear out every day for more experience and loot? First priority was to go back to the original system where if you kill them once they’re dead forever as that was a part of balancing experience that has since been lost even in the challenge runs that some people who share in my insanity engage in. If you’re worried about having no options if you don’t have enough experience, I did make sure to leave the daily dungeons and vacations untouched by this, as I felt that the unique equipment from the daily dungeons was too important to cut out, and you should be allowed to trade money for experience in the form of vacations.

Next on the plate? Well that’d be the main problem with challenge modes, the fact that with how much experience HC gives you that once you complete one challenge, you’re usually too high level find anything of similar ‘difficulty’ challenging so you’d have to start a new playthrough to be challenged by everything, so to fix that I cut down all experience gained in Hard Mode by 30% (so enemies give 70% of their normal experience). You can potentially still end up a bit on the higher end of levels with this, but thanks to extensive testing from RomeoPapa I can safely say that unless you get a lot of vacations you won’t be getting much higher than the level recommendation for quests in general.

Finally, a common thing that I’ve found based on the information from the players who do seek out combat difficulty from Harem Collector is that you can just about do any quest safely at 5 levels below the recommended level, and the ‘challenge’ comes from pushing things lower, so in order to try to turn this into the ‘standard’ difficulty without further reducing experience (and thus risking players not having the skills needed to win some quests), I opted to give all enemies a passive +20% to all their stats, we have also made sure that the most challenging tests did not reach a point where this felt unreasonable. So yeah, players looking for a combat based challenge look forward to all of that!

That said, I don’t intend to stop there but it may be awhile before I come back and touch up on Hard Mode again. See, one of my biggest priorities when I revisit and touch it up some more is that I plan to add some more skills for bosses or changes to the fight or something so that when you’re in hard mode every fight feels a bit more unique (to an extent the boss fight at the end of “Princess Bride” has gotten this, but it’s more that the boss was taking too long which slipped past our testing due to a bug, as such the length of the fight will be shorter in normal mode, and even shorter in easy mode, while Hard Mode will retain the original length), because while giving the enemies a statistical advantage will require that you think on your feet if that’s the only difference then each quest is going to eventually end up feeling the same. Adding in some new moves, new mechanics, changing up the existing mechanics to better reflect ‘hard mode’ for the bosses will help shake things up and add in a more nuanced difficulty that I know I at least appreciate.

Another thing that I want to add into hard mode down the line is changing up the day end process, see one of the important things about the old HC meta is that you had to plan out your days very meticulously in order to make sure that you got all the character’s love quests at the right time, but with all the content Harem Collector has now, planning such things out is a bit silly, so once I’ve got a firm grasp on how many days will be possible along with all pitfalls that a player may run into, I’m going to want to change things up so that instead of the day passing as often as it does currently that you’ll need to finish anywhere from 3-5 quests to get a proper day end in it, thus helping bring back yet another element that was critical to the former meta but has long since been made irrelevant.

The final thing that will be important for me to consider ties a bit into the last one, see a big reason that I’m not yet comfortable lowering how often a day ‘ends’ in Hard Mode is because if you only got your daily income at 20-33% of the time as before it’d harshly impact the economy as you go through items and get new ways to spend your money without getting the same amount of money as before, but as things stand I don’t have a comfortable grasp over the HC economy, and with every quest we add into the game my grasp gets looser. Currently we do have plans to revamp the HC economy down the line, and well I’d like to go through the numbers for that and get some play-testing on how it works out before I make any big changes to the economy in Hard-Mode, though I do have a few ideas for what I might do like either stopping the loan or changing it along with making a few of the special vendors not buy your vendor trash.

That said, I may also try finding a way to have more customizable difficulty, such as if I can think of a menu or something for determining difficulty, I might allow players to be able to create experiences where the combat is the same as normal mode, but they get the economy of Easy Mode (like those gold and silver bars), and the time passage of Hard Mode, or something like that so that players who enjoy combat challenges don’t feel like they must decide if they want the stress of a more challenging economy or give up on their dreams of taking on Slenderman at his strongest… Hmm… You know a menu system does sound a bit fun…

Anyways, that’s more or less all that I’ve got to say on hard mode. Squires, look forward to the mini-release next week, we’ve got several things in the words other than just the bare bones Hard Mode that I put together! For those of you who are looking forward to it though, please send a Thanks to RomeoPapa for all his hard work going through the entire game in a week and giving me the feedback I needed to fine-tune the experience! If you’ve got any comments, questions, or concerns feel free to contact me, I’m most active over on the BKG discord found here: https://discord.gg/3eEnXpT

A Dungeon King Update

So, it’s been awhile for one of these, huh? We’ve been focusing heavily on Harem Collector most of this year, finishing up multiple plot arcs and getting lots done (though, as usual, less than I’d like). But I’ve also been nibbling away at the design documents for Dungeon King, and have been making some progress.

We have a full list of twenty-six adventurer classes we’re going with for the enemies in the game. Some of these might change, particularly classes which are based on buffing a familiar/construct/animal companion. I’d like to include classes like “Beast Tamer”, “Dragon Tamer” and “Doll Mage”, primarily inspired by the same classes from the Ogre Battle series, who come with companion enemies who are functionally separate enemies but lack the normal enemy priorities and just follow their “master” around. If getting this mechanic to work proves problematic, since the behaviour of the adventurers is so important to the gameplay, I’d rather just cut the classes.

Still filling out the list of monster girls. The main trio of starting harem members- the succubus Mephy, the slime girl Kalene, and the ratling Nezi- are fairly fleshed out, and I’m looking forward to sharing profiles for them later on when they have some concept art to do with it. A minor antagonist from the early game which you will get to recruit later on is going to be a magma elemental loosely based on the Vulcan enemies from Odin Sphere. As backers may remember from a few months ago, I also intend on including some kind of female werewolf or beast-girl, who desperately wants to consider herself a knight despite being a monster girl, playing with the idea that I originally wanted a wolf-girl knight as a corrupted adventurer until backers voted otherwise. I have firm plans for about seven monster girls for the harem at this point, meaning there are still about eighteen monster girls still to include.

I don’t expect to have a full roster of harem characters by the time we begin development in earnest, by the way. I feel that making things more or less on the fly is an important part of my methods, and I want to keep that freedom when we’re actually working our way through the game.

Conash hopes to have an early alpha with stand-in art assets done by early 2020. This would be mostly a tech demo, so we can work on the core systems like the enemy behaviour and other basics while finishing up Harem Collector. This will be distributed to backers for them to enjoy and offer feedback on, although it will be some time before story or hentai get added to the game.

Hope this short update proves interesting. Until next time!