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!

Harem Collector v0.42.5- The ROYAL Update!

Get it here!

Changes in this version include:

-Two new quests! Finally, you have the opportunity to take back Eastfort, and get your cute princess reward! Quest chain starts by speaking to the Dark Wanderer in your Eastfort home.
-A new investment opportunity not far from Lumberhill! Now you can become a casino owner so you too can take advantage of the gambler’s fallacy for profit.
-Area of Effect attacks now scale in both damage and secondary effect chance based on the number of targets.
-Gargan’s skills have been revamped.
-The price of vacations has been adjusted.
-New sprites exist for Queen Melfi Regal and Princess Quinta Regal.
-Sex scene with Queen Melfi fully implemented
-Several bugs solved
-We’ve converted all the .pngs to .jpgs now please could those of you with slow internet please remove the needles from those NoMoshing-shaped dolls you have? Thank you…

Character Revamps

Conash here to once again ramble on about mechanical design stuff as I understand it. For those of you who haven’t been keeping a close eye in the BKG discord, the 0.42 release includes a revamp to a lot of Gargan’s skills, and I’m hoping to give Yamamaya a revamp for 0.43, so I thought that I’d take the time to try to dissect the mindset that’s gone into all of this, maybe it’ll be useful for some of you!

So let’s start with Gargan, the intention behind Gargan’s moveset is to mimic that of the Arkham games, aim for trying to manage and switching between enemies but getting in big damage in-between. If you examine Gargan’s original move set you can really see this in play, cape-stun to setup an enemy for a lot of damage, the ability to counter incoming physical attacks, and an ability that has a chance to stun two enemies at once. The problem with these skills however comes down to cost vs pay-off, consider for a moment using cape-stun followed by Stun-break which should be Gargan’s bread and butter at lower levels, originally you had to spend 5 momentum to use cape-stun and then 10 momentum to use stun-break which removes the stun status and does about twice as much damage as a regular attack. This means that you first have to build up 15 momentum with 3 attacks first, then you spend 2 turns to do the same damage as two attacks? From a damage point of view it’s not worth it, now stunning the enemy could be worth it on it’s own but then you have to consider that stun-break ends it at least one turn, if not two, earlier than it would otherwise be so if you just want to stun the enemy you’re better off just using cape-stun. Later on though Gargan gets ‘Throw’ which has a smaller chance of stun but hits two enemies and does 2 attacks worth of damage in one action, even if you don’t get the stuns you it’s worth it to use two attacks instead of one, the 20 momentum cost makes it not that great but as long as you don’t use momentum for 4 cape-stuns you’ll get there. Coup De Grace on the other hand cost 30 momentum, did about as much damage as 2 attacks if the target was knocked over, oh and it also removed stun, when you compare these skills side by side and consider how players can typically rely on 5 momentum per turn and you win battles by doing damage, it’s no wonder that Throw was Gargan’s only offensive move that got used consistently. Cape-stun was nice for stuns but when players could bring Raina to use her knockdowns instead while still doing good damage even if a lower chance of knockdown it’s easy to see why Gargan wasn’t considered as stun king/queen in parties. Counter wasn’t a ton better, as it cost 15 momentum (so 3 turns work to build up to it) and only lasted until Gargan’s next action, which meant that if you didn’t have a good way to guarantee an attack by Gargan’s next action you could easily feel you wasted that momentum, and in many cases you may only get 1 free counter attack from Gargan meaning you spent 15 momentum to negate damage from 1 attack. Back to Back, the unity force skill, was very useful with it’s 5 momentum cost and 3 turn duration on top of hitting both Gargan and Hero, but it required Unity Force so it’s not something players could rely on in battle. You may have noticed that I was trying to compare things to using a regular attack, and that’s important because that’s your bread and butter, if the skills aren’t more valuable than a regular attack or aren’t worth the time it takes to get enough momentum to use them, then there’s no reason for players to think about the skill rather than use an attack, whether players actively think about it or not they notice how these numbers turn out and it impacts their decision making.

So then the question becomes how do you fix these issues if most of Gargan’s skills aren’t worth the time it takes to attack? Well, since it’s important to make sure that you stay creatively in line with what’s intended you want to take your time and examine how to approach things. For Cape Stun, the problem is largely that it’s the first move in one of Gargan’s two combos but it makes the total combo more expensive while not doing damage, not to mention it runs the traditional risks of hit rage, evasion chance, or even enemy counters. To combat the problem of it making combos more expensive I took some inspiration from Raina, players who use her a lot never have a problem with using Phalanx because even though it doesn’t do damage and only lasts one turn, it gives Raina momentum just like if she used guard allowing players to feel comfortable using it as a bread and butter instead of regular attacks, as the utility it brings (not to mention increases damage on some of her skills) outweighs the marginal damage you’d get from a regular attack, so if Cape-stun was set to generate more momentum than it required it would help further set players up for a combo by making it easier to continue the combo afterwards instead of having to work have the entire combo ready up front. On top of that, I remembered that common enemies were basically unable to do anything about your cape stun in the Arkham games, so in addition I gave it some utility that would allow it to be competitive with ‘Throw’ by making it so that enemy evasion, taunts, counters, or reduced player accuracy wouldn’t impact it by turning it instead into a certain hit instead of a physical hit, allowing it to always have a place in the player’s arsenal even if they are able to inflict stun through other means. Stun-break got some changes to the damage formula to make it more rewarding, but the biggest problem it had was that it removed stun, making it so that a lot of times players would rather not use it to keep the enemy stunned, this however was fixed by giving it a base 100% knockdown chance if the enemy you hit was stunned, now you’re just trading Stun for Knockdown while doing better than 2 attacks worth of damage, it still has the 10 momentum cost to it but when combined with Cape Stun giving you more momentum this combo is very easy to pull off, making it worth the net loss of momentum (which prevents you from using other skills). For Coup De Grace I could have done the same thing as Stun Break, but I instead thought to handle one thing that felt kinda funny with Gargan, see Gargan is based largely on inflicting stuns then doing big damage off of stunned enemy, but every other character with similar abilities use knockdown, and well it just feels odd that Gargan can benefit from stunned enemies but not enemies on the ground, this left Gargan feeling like Gargan’s core loop existed on another planet and couldn’t synergize with other party members, so for this I took more inspiration from DnD and Pathfinder, instead making Coup De Grace be based off of ‘helpless’ enemies in the sense that they had the ‘knockdown’ status and gave it a 60% crit chance on top of Gargan’s base crit chance, along with some tweaking of the numbers here and there and now Gargan has a fantastic 1-2-3 combo, it’s hard to maintain the full combo but if you wanted to jump around from enemy to enemy with a 1-2 combo or just cape-stun everyone, well, that bit is very easy. Counter was also retouched to last 2 actions instead of 1, so it’s still not as good as ‘Back to Back’ but many players are reporting that it still lasts long enough to more than justify it especially as it allows Gargan to do some pseudo-tanking.

Well, I probably got a bit ahead of myself there going into the specifics, but general point is that when you want to give players abilities you should try to keep in mind first what is their bread and butter, what does it give them, how does it contribute to the ‘win’ condition, and then any special ability needs to be able to have a reason to use it instead of that bread and butter. If an enemy is knocked down and Gargan has 60 momentum, sure you could use a regular attack, but Coup De Grace will probably do 6-10x the damage so unless you’re saving up momentum to use throw 4 times in a row when some more enemies show up, there’s no reason not to. Sure players could just leave an enemy stunned and go for a regular attack that gives them 5 more momentum, but Stun-break will probably do 2-4x as much damage and set them up for Coup De Grace, that 5 momentum won’t help me win the battle unless I use it to do more damage but that’s exactly what Stun-break is for. Players may not be aware of the the details or heck they may even come to wrong conclusions, but when they’re looking at 400 damage for a regular attack and 800 damage for stun-break, they know which one will win the fight faster.

Yamamaya’s issues however are a bit different, see many players already know how to get damage out of Yamamaya to keep her competitive, and while some of her skills also need to be made worth the cost (like Shockwave) I strongly believe that her biggest problem is that her skills are competing with each other to be the ‘best’ skill instead of working together to give her a good ‘arsenal’. Now, not everyone should be based around setting up a 1-2-3 combo or anything, but with Yamamaya you’re looking at using Strong Attack, Mountain Lion Rage, or Polar Bear rage, not all three. The nature of the rages are going to make them be competing with one another as she won’t ever be able to use more than one at a time just like Diadira with her songs, but well, we’ve got some plans to help her Techniques stand out as a lot more valuable than they currently are so that they don’t need to be better than Yamamaya’s best rage. We’ve also talked with fans some and liked some of the ideas that we got, so do expect to see Yamamaya’s rages changing up once her revamp is done. I can’t promise that Mountain Lion rage is going to be as good as it currently is, but my main intention is to try to make her other rages feel a lot more useful and like there is the right place and time for them, even if it doesn’t come up too often. It may get a bit tricky at times since ‘Mountain Lion Rage’ makes Yama do a lot more damage which contributes directly to winning a fight so other rages like ‘Polar Bear Rage’ may struggle to find as much usage, but we’ve got idea and I trust in the tester’s we have to give me effective feedback on how well we hit things like this! So you have that to look forward to!

I hope that my talk this time was useful to some of you! My intention here was to try to explain the process of how you figure out what to do, identify problems and try to solve them, though looking back I think that’s going to be a bit hard for me since my process is largely finding new ideas and connecting them together, but you never know when talking about your own problems and solutions may end up giving someone else the idea they needed to solve their own! Feel free to ask any questions or share your comments wherever you find me!

Next: v0.43, the PRINCESS(?) Update

So, in the past few months we’ve wrapped up two of the major questlines in Harem Collector, and as always, after a major update goes out, the question becomes, what’s next?

The answer, for the next two months, is pretty simple- the delivery of the prize from Iron Waifu 2019, of course!

The PRINCESS update (working title) is, overall, a celebration of the ever-so-sweet Princess Quinta that has excited people’s imaginations (among other things…) for quite some time now. Now that’s she’s finally recruitable in v0.42, our next goal is make sure she has access to everything she needs to fully flourish as a harem girl. That means her Love Quest, Sex a la Carte scenes, chats (I hope), and most importantly, her Sunnyshore vacation interactions.

I have a pretty solid footing for her Love Quest. Playing to Quinta’s sheltered and innocent nature, it’s going to be fairytale themed, and involve a relatively simple task that becomes… unexpectedly complicated. You’ll have to work hard to earn Quinta’s love, and unravel the nonsense storybook rules of a place that isn’t exactly like anywhere else in the Middle Kingdom.

I also want to put some more effort into the Sunnyshore experience with Quinta. She’s one of the few characters that mentions wanting to go to the island specifically, so I think shoring up some of that content would be a good use of my time. There are several other scenes that I want to address as well, notably involving Gargan and Yeon, and I think it’s well past time to do so. Of course, Quinta’s swimsuit and vacation sex scene can’t be ignored in all of this.

As for the other “quest” worth of content, I’m not sure. I’ve been thinking lately of doing a couple more Love Quests before resuming with normal plot-related content, particularly for certain low-demand characters that I’ve known what I wanted to do with them for awhile. But I don’t know if that would be appropriate now, given that I don’t want to steal any thunder from Quinta. She is, after all, the Iron Waifu.

Anyway, hope you appreciate this small update of what to expect in the near future. Until then, I’ve got a lot of work to do before the intermediate update on Friday. Happy fapping!

Influencing players with mechanics and you!

Hey everyone, it’s Conash again giving you another blog post so that NoMoshing doesn’t have as much on his shoulders today, and oh boy has this development cycle not been kind to us. To start off with, we had a malware issue come up on our forums today so if you have have visited the forums in the past 48 hours it’s recommended you run a scan on your computer, then afterwards change your forum password just in case. Next, I am sorry to say but the new backer release will be delayed until Friday. We will continue working on it and bring a complete backer’s release to you all ASAP, but as of right now there are significant portions of the new content unfinished- too much for us to be comfortable making a release right now.

Now onto the actual topic for today, how game designers can manipulate players by using the dreaded magic known as math! Now, you may not have noticed it, but a lot of games are designed in a way to deliver various emotional experiences and can even sorta ‘convince’ you how you should behave. Sometimes this is more obvious than other times, for example when you’re playing HC and you get your first dual-element spell you’ll basically never use anything except it, because it does twice as much damage as anything that mage has, not only that it does both status effects, so of course you’re going to use Revelation instead of Crystal Rays! Now theoretically the MP cost may be a reason to avoid using it, but by the time you get access to it getting 2 actions at once is just so much more valuable than the additional MP you lose if they’re weak to radiant but only neutral to fire, this however is pretty obvious to anyone who plays HC.

Games however can get similar results in more subtle manners. Let’s take Sengoku Rance, since the official release came out recently. I have almost never used the option to increase my battlefield preparedness before a battle, on top of that I’ve read many guides, talked with many players, and at the end of the day I’ve never seen anyone recommend you do this over the course of a normal game, and when you break it down you can generally see why. First of all, in the game you are very limited in the number of actions you can make per turn, at the start you can only do 2 per turn, but you eventually get to 3-4 actions per turn, meanwhile you have to invest roughly 3-4 actions to capture any given territory assuming every attack you make is successful and the enemy never successfully defends. Meanwhile, you have a lot of other events going on, ranging from ranking up your troops, exploring dungeons, getting new sex scenes, recruiting new units, you name it, which you also have to balance with your war path and so taking the time to get an extra +10% battlefield preparedness for [b]one[/b] fight just doesn’t feel that good, you’re looking at spending 1 action to turn your next attack to be worth 1.1 attacks. I can, conversely, choose to scout before the fight, which usually has a lower check, and get +6% battlefield preparedness without using a separate action for it, and comparatively the return on investment just isn’t worth it. This creates a situation where if I could choose one of my units to get +1 more to their scouting or the max level of construction (9), I would choose the +1 to scouting every time, and despite encountering numerous play styles that I’ve seen and talked with people about I don’t know of a lot of people who wouldn’t value scouting at least twice as much as construction, because whether we realize it or not the game is designed in a way that additional points in scouting (which is needed for a couple of story events, on top of being a barrier that a lot of the best items in the game are hidden behind) will feel rewarding to players, while smart gameplay can render the construction stat useless.

So now that I’ve talked a lot about various examples as to how game mechanics can influence gameplay, and maybe you’re not quite sure about things, so let me work to get to my point of all of this. When it comes to designing a game you should keep this idea in mind as it is what some people would refer to as the ‘tactile feel’ or the ‘game feel’, because (while it can be hard to describe) they’re basically referring to how you feel good when you make a smart play (such as choosing the spell that does two spells at the same time) and how you feel bad when you realize you made an inefficient or detrimental play (ie, the battlefield preparation action). A lot of this stuff comes down to investments and pay-offs, if you invest time into something you want the game to say “You did good!” with progress towards something, when you invest thought into your armor choices you want to see you getting hurt less or not having to worry about status effects the ruined your run. Conversely though, you can discourage players from doing those actions by going in the reverse, which is a big way of how games that let you buy a premium currency work to get you to spend money. They use various methods to increase the time to earn the free money so that even if you do earn that one item you need to proceed, you’ll look back at all that time and energy investment and come to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it deep down. It’s not something that I like, and I do my best to try to play around with this idea a lot in HC, I try to use enemy weaknesses and strengths to encourage players to use more effective strategies, or I’ll try to adjust the difficulty to feel if the testers come back and tell me that they have to invest so much time and effort into fighting the common enemies that the quest as a whole just causes too much stress. Granted, my enemies are still known to cause stress even after this, but based on the feedback I typically get it seems that players generally never feel that it’s unfair, which is a very important part of things.

You can even do this in more creative ways. An example would be in one of the new quests we’re adding in this release, because of what’s going on with the story I decided that I wanted to add in a boss that feels like you’re leading a siege, and if I didn’t get it into this quest then that’s one possible boss idea that I don’t think I’d be able to fit anywhere else into HC, so I sat down and tried to think what does a siege feel like. To me, I’d imagine that a siege is slow as they can take days, it’s also huge as the between the armies, the weaponry, and the target you’re looking at big attacks or lots of small attacks. Throwing in stuff like ladders to get up the wall, arrows, boiling oil, and battering rams would help add a lot in really setting the scene and help bring the scene to life! I spent a lot of time thinking how to work in elements like this, and eventually game to the conclusion that to do it perfectly I’d have to basically invent a second combat system (something akin to the various giant battles they eventually added in the Mario and Luigi saga) just for a single fight.

Now, we might get a bit bloated in scope and features, but even I have my limits on how off the rails I’ll get with development, so I decided to scale back and create a boss where it’d feel like you’re sorta breaking down the walls of a castle while it defends itself, so that means a very slow fight where the boss occasionally attacks but can do a lot of damage. Then after realizing that didn’t feel quite like a ‘boss’ in design, I managed to work in a few other things to be able to help make sure that the quest wouldn’t finish off with one giant slog of a fight that doesn’t feel rewarding at the end, including a way to get some support, like getting a battering ram that does good damage! I’m pretty happy with the results as I do think that boss will feel very unique, but conversely I’ve also given players the tools so that if they don’t want to deal with something that’s basically antithetical to engagement like that then they’ve got some options to undercut it while still feeling thematically appropriate. It’s kinda hard to really quantify how any given aspect of things ‘feel’, a lot of it just sorta comes down to figuring out how would things feel relative to you. One example from ‘Hell to Pay’, “So I want to make a boss that players actively want to avoid hurting what would I do? Well firstly they should be immune to traditional death, otherwise players with ‘enough’ damage will just kill them off. Next players need to be punished, so I’ll have they inflict increase as they take damage, and I’ll hide high-powered skills behind high momentum costs so if you hurt them a lot they’ll be able to hurt you a lot for a limited time period. Players aren’t psychic however, so we’ll need to make sure that they get the idea to use alternative methods on this boss somewhere… and well, I imagine most of you who have completed that quest can see a lot of what all went into that enemy. Now a lot of this stuff typically requires a firm understanding of how the combat works, what is effective and what’s not, so my time as a fan who used to min-max HC has helped me a lot in understanding how various systems fit together, but it’s been quite awhile since I’ve done that so I’m very reliant on both tester and player feedback in general to refine things. So yeah…

Haha, I guess that was a pretty big ramble. Hope that was at least semi-coherent to some of you, and useful in exploring the idea of what ‘game feel’ is, and how it influences player behavior. I’m probably not the best person to be able to explain it, but I know that when I see big numbers I’m happy, and even more so when I win. I know that when put a lot of time thinking up a complicated strategy, getting to pull it off and having it be successful makes me feel smart, and if when I go to face a boss that I’m left feeling like the game thought I was having too much fun and makes all enemies immune to my strategy two bosses later. Balance can be a hard thing to maintain, but sometimes it’s not about making something ‘balanced’ and more about making it feeling ‘rewarding’.

A Royal Pain

Not very happy where progress on the game is right now.

As you might have been able to tell by the fact that blog posts the last three weeks have been two posts from Conash and one week of… Conash and I forgetting there had to be a blog post. Also, the schedule on the website never got updated. But, if we were to spend this blog post detailing my many small failures, we’d be here for awhile, so I’ll move on.

We’re behind, is the important thing. Conash seems confident that we’ll get the core stuff done, but the “Royal” update will, unfortunately, be going to go out without a lot of content for the “Royal” it was initially intended to celebrate.

Maybe I’m just being pessimistic. The real Iron Waifu reward is probably best celebrated with Quinta’s love quest, which will be part of v0.43, coming out in November. We’ll not have to rush our way through any preceding quests, just focus on the love quest, new art, dialogue, sex scenes, etc, and putting out a really great, um, “Princess” update or something.

I still think that the quest capping off the Kellos Invasion, where you finally get to recruit Quinta, will still be a nifty piece of content- similar in size to “Hell to Pay” but with a very different feel and direction. It has more of a “heist” vibe than the drama of finally hunting down Xaven, though, which has proven a challenge to express. Conash and I feel we sort of hit the apogee of what RPG Maker is capable of in terms of stealth mechanics in Shipping Disaster, and besides, sneaking around is not what the Hero is made for, anyway.

In some good news, we also made some progress on stuff for ILTSDK. Namely, a semi-finalized list of enemies. Er, heroes. Adventurers. The people invading your dungeon. Because the nature of ILTSDK is more strategic, it’s very important to our design that you, as a player, be able to figure out an attacker’s behaviours just by looking at them, and that means having a limited number of enemies.

Right now, ILTSDK is in a state where we’re laying plans still and feeling out the limits of what we’re going to need, including what we’ll require for art assets. I intend to fight hard against feature creep for our next project, So knowing in advance the extent of our plans , and what we can choose to expand on is very important.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’ll get in touch next week with an update on how things have been getting the backer release ready!

How I became a Unicorn

Hello there! Conash here, and today I thought I’d talk about my experience with Monster Hunter games, and why it is that I enjoy them and keep referencing it in various discussions, and I promise you that my click-bait title will be explained beyond me finding it amusing.

So, my history with Monster Hunter began with Tri, I had heard good things about the series so when hunting for a new game I decided to pick it up. My older brother loved it, he made some long-time friends playing it and really got into the series, I on the other hand appreciated it for being a well made game but just hated the controls. It felt sluggish, and the only weapon that I was comfortable with took a long time to kill the monsters, and I just could never really understand it. Now, I did have some experience with action RPG games before like Kingdom Hearts, Tales of games, and a few of the Final Fantasy spin-offs, but Monster Hunter Tri while I enjoyed sitting down and figuring out what armor or weapons to get in order to prepare for the monsters, actually fighting them felt a bit like a chore to me so I wrote off the series as not for me at that point.

Then Monster Hunter 4U came out, and one of my closest friends was going on about it and was looking forward to it, my older brother was also talking about how he was planning on getting it and how I would enjoy it. I was a bit doubtful at first, but when I looked into it I saw that they were bringing back some weapons that were cut from Tri, so I thought that I’d pick it up and give ‘Dual Blades’ a go because I was convinced it’d fix my issues, and it definitely did. See, in Monster Hunter every weapon is very different, they’ve got unique strengths and weaknesses and feels to them, a ‘Sword and Shield’ feels very different from ‘Dual Blades’, and well without having a good weapon that really clicked with me trying to get familiar with Monster Hunter’s unique systems just wasn’t fun, but that little slide when you’re in demon mode? Perfection. It was quick, effective, responsive, and allowed me to work on learning the monsters, as if I messed up and went in for an attack at the wrong time I had a way to quickly escape. Eventually though, I started to get bored with them as the core loop became pretty repetitive, so I tried out Hunting Horn and it opened up a whole new world to me. My movement options did become more limited without the slide, but I still had good base movement and the ability to constantly have a ‘puzzle’ in figuring out what songs to queue up, paying attention to their duration, preparing horns with different setups to cover different situations? It brought a whole new depth to the game that I still enjoy, to the point that I don’t ever want to play another weapon. I’ll still pull out DBs against some monsters that HH is a really bad matchup against, but well, being basically one of the 5ish people playing Hunting Horn I’ve come to embrace my inner unicorn (you can find run into people who use it in the right circles, but good luck running into them randomly online).

Now, that’s my experience with Monster Hunter more or less, but probably the more important question here is why do I enjoy it? Well, I do enjoy these sorts of Action RPG games like TWEWY, Crystal Chronicles, Tales of, or Kingdom Hearts, so Monster Hunter does fit right nicely alongside those games, but you don’t see me trying to push NM to dress up an HC character in say a Sheena costume or something, so I should probably explain what it is that Monster Hunter offers over many of those other games. One of the big things I did sorta get into while talking about my history with Monster Hunter is the vast variety of options, see in Kingdom Hearts you may be able to change your keyblade and skills to get some different combos, but you will always have the same basic options available to you, you will typically have similar timing to your attacks and defense, and you’re always ultimately playing the same character. In Monster Hunter however each of the weapons are so unique that their play styles greatly differ from one another, the philosophy behind the weapon changes entirely, the difference between a ‘charge blade’ (a giant sword and shield that lets you put the shield onto the sword to become an even bigger axe) and ‘sword and shield’ isn’t as simple as one is bigger and stronger while the other is faster and can use items all the time, when it comes to sword and shield you are paying attention to when to get in mounting damage, KO damage, what element sword you want to use, when to throw a flash pod, when your teammates need a life powder, what have you, while with a Charge Blade you’re paying attention to charging up your vials, you’re paying attention to how long your shield buff is active, you need to be aware of when to guard vs when to dodge, not to mention when to throw out your ultimate attacks or assess if you will have a big enough opening for your next attack, it’s a fundamentally different mindset and while the enemies and a lot of the core systems are still the same it’s feels more like comparing a rogue to a magus rather than a warrior with a sword to a warrior with a bigger sword, and because of this variety you’ll almost always be able to find a weapon that matches your play-style, and all of them are good weapons, even the ‘worst’ weapon generally will really only see any significant difference if you’re competing for world records (and even then the biggest difference comes not from the weapon but how people who compete for that stuff will gravitate to the weapon with ~5% higher DPS in optimal circumstances). Giving players a nice variety of choices that all feel so vastly different while still being competitive makes a huge difference in just keeping the game accessible in general to people like me who get tired of say just following the same pattern, to me the Hunting Horn offers a constant barrage of mini-puzzles where I have to pay attention to the team’s buffs, the duration on the buffs, what we need for this enemy and what we don’t, and what would be the best way to work in those songs given the enemy we have to fight and I just love having to constantly juggle all of these ever changing variables in my head, while other weapons are far more straight forward. Each weapon is incredibly distinct from one another and there aren’t any ‘bad’ weapons, just ‘bad for you’ weapons.

That said, variety alone isn’t the only thing that sets Monster Hunter apart, after all I use Hunting Horn as much as I can, so that doesn’t explain why I will gravitate towards pulling out Monster Hunter for some fun fights instead of Kingdom Hearts or some other game that I’m comfortable with, and to that end I’d honestly say that probably the biggest difference is the interactions between the players and the monsters. See, in the Tales of series one of the key things that you need to pay attention to (on the harder difficulties) is knowing when you can safely attack and when you can’t, knowing not only how but when to stagger an enemy to stop their attacks, and in some rare cases knowing the attacks in question to respond in kind, but a big problem is that with how fast the attacks are rarely ample to respond to specific attacks and have to just drill into yourself reflexes on how to respond when ‘this’ enemy guards, when ‘that’ enemy is staggered, and it just makes the challenge of the fights generally boil down to muscle memory rather than any real thoughtful exchange between you an the enemies. Kingdom Hearts goes a bit above this by having a lot of the enemies telegraph their actions more, or visually display when they’re immune to attacks from the front or when they’re weak to the fire element, but even then it absolutely pales in comparison to the level of detail that you find in the interactions in Monster Hunter. See, Capcom has just put so much detail into the monsters AI, their movements, their movesets, all of it, that in some cases when you see them shifting their weight to their back legs you know they’re going in for a pounce, so if you’re a Lance user you might need to guard to avoid taking the hit, or maybe you need to dodge out of the way. Did Teostra just suddenly jump into the air and you hear that sound effect for him gathering in power? Well then you need to decide right then and there if you’re going to run, block, or throw a flash pod to not only interupt his super-nova but also knock him out of the sky so that everyone can get some free hits on him. See, Monster Hunter telegraphs the enemies movements well in advance that you can respond with the options that you have, but you need to pay attention to how they shift their weight, the sound effects around you, the attacks they did recently, the distance between you and them, and then it comes down to your ability to respond quickly. In Tales of Symphonia, it’s incredibly frustrating when I made a guess to back-step from an enemy to dodge their attack but they were quicker than me so I should have guarded instead because I had no way of knowing which attack the enemy would use in advance, in Monster Hunter when I get hit it is always my fault, maybe I got overeager and I dodged too soon, maybe I got greedy and was attacking the monster when it wasn’t safe, maybe I thought that I was out of reach of it’s attack but I was in reach (though Lunastra’s tail swipe should get it’s hitbox checked). Heck, I’m looking forward to the Iceborne expansion coming up where they’re going to bring back a monster who was infamous for having an attack that hit roughly 80% of the screen you were on for massive damage, because even if that one attack could easily fail you the mission if 3 of your teammates didn’t know how to survive it, learning how to deal with that massive attack (which had a big wind-up to it) was a lot of fun in of itself, and when you managed to learn how to dodge it? It felt amazing to walk up to this monster and know you would be walking out with some new boots that boost your handicraft (assuming RNG provided), because winning is never about RNG, it’s never about ‘guessing’ if you’re safe or not, you know when you are safe once you learn to read the monster. Sometimes hitboxes are a little wonky, sometimes damage is bullshit, but the game always tells you what to expect, and whether your response is to have the Insect Glaive user get onto the monster or your SnS player to drop a pitfall trap in the middle of battle, there are always tools at your disposal to respond, and that level of telegraphing goes a huge way in making sure the game always feels fair. This plays a big part into why I try to make sure that players are always given information to respond with, why I try to make sure if a huge attack is incoming that the enemy is ‘focused’ first, or why when I got the go-ahead to put in a Monster Hunter based enemy I went out of my way to make sure they only ever got 1 attack but the end of the turn you’d get a message telling you what they did so that you could respond to it in kind (granted I need to add in more ways for players to respond to these telegraphed attacks), because that’s the biggest advantage Monster Hunter has over it’s competition if you ask me.

Well I also really enjoy sitting down and planning out new armor sets, figuring out how to get really good skills that take advantage of what I want, that sort of puzzle solving is a really big draw of Monster Hunter to me, but the core gameplay loop focuses on ‘Hunting’ the monster more than anything else! Hope all of you were able to get something out of this ramble, whether it was maybe getting an idea if you want to try out Monster Hunter sometime (I’d suggest getting Iceborne if you’re interested, World is a lot friendlier to new players but the lack of monsters can really hurt it after awhile) or if you might be able to take a few of the things that I talked about and bring them to projects you may work on!