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!

How to encourage 5-minute adventures.

Man, I really never know how to start off these blog posts… Well, first let me start by saying that the v0.42 mini-release is on it’s way, and should be out to Patreon supporters in a matter of minutes! Anyways, today I wanted to talk about a little viewpoint that I think is very important to remember when it comes to designing enemies and encounters in any sort of game, the sort of idea about how the enemy you face never ‘dies’ but rather ‘transforms’ and how it encourages players to play ‘optimally’ whether they realize it or not.

So to start out with, let me explain for anyone unaware what the ‘5 minute adventuring day’ refers to, see in DnD and several tabletop games characters will typically have various resources or abilities that have limited uses per day, but are otherwise infinite and depending on the encounters they face, how they play, how their characters are setup, and the luck of the dice players may decide they want to end the day a lot sooner then perhaps they should, in the worst cases wanting to end each ‘day’ after every single encounter. This is obviously frowned on for the most part as if your characters setup camp, have dinner, put up a watch, and sleep, after every set of goblins then it’s going to stretch immersion a lot as well as make it hard to balance against as the players are effectively treating every encounter like it’s a ‘boss’ by being willing to throw all their resources at it, but since the rules typically don’t really have any rules directly stopping you from doing this it’s hard to argue against how effective it is.

This little habit that players might form can be curtailed to an extent by putting them on a time-limit, letting the enemies replenish their forces so it doesn’t really reduce their abilities, making those 8+ hours of sleep be more dangerous than the 2~ish hours of being awake clearing out this dungeon would take, whatever, but one thing that I’ve seen sometimes go unnoticed is that whether you realize it or not, there is always an enemy ‘party’ on any given adventuring day that’s competing with resources. If you would, let’s say that your party of a thief, warrior, wizard, and cleric go up against some bandits that mirror your party but are one level below you on all fronts, and you will have 3 more similar encounters before you get to the boss fight who’s equal to your level, in this situation it might look like you’re up against 20 different enemies, but as long as you can only encounter each group separately you actually only have 4 enemies and this enemy party will be fought on 5 separate occasions, the main difference is that the enemy party has exactly X amount of resources that they must either use or lose in any given encounter, sure the lower level enemy wizards might only have 1 fireball to your 2, but there’s a total of 4 wizards before the boss so that means that there’s 4 fireballs on the enemies team to your 2, the difference is that the enemy ‘knows’ that they only have to worry about this encounter while you’ve got to worry about the next encounter. This puts players in a bad position, as they are less familiar with the terrain than the enemies, they don’t know what’s coming next much less what resources they can safely spend on this fight, but their bad luck is persistent while their good luck is instanced (if you crit an enemy at 1 HP, you do 1 damage, the next iteration of that enemy doesn’t take the excess damage, meanwhile if the enemy crits against you, you DO take that damage into the next encounter).

Good strategy and luck can overcome this, but the only real advantage the players have is that as long as they can win this encounter, if they go and sleep they can regain resources they spent, meanwhile the enemy can’t because the iteration of the enemy you fought in the first encounter is gone permanently, while the second instance hasn’t lost any resources. Taking on 2 enemies with 75% of your health one after another is no different than taking on 1 enemy with 150% of your health unless you can use the time between enemy 1 and 2 to recover resources (like health or abilities) that you otherwise couldn’t. That said, designing encounters in a way that encourages mass-resting is very often advised against, where you’re supposed to design things in a way that the drain from several encounters eventually match up to what you want to drain from the player, which is good as that’s how you help make sure that players never feel like they need to rest unless they made mistakes in managing their resources or are really unlucky (in the former case a single rest will usually solve it as they learn to better manage their resources which isn’t a huge problem usually, while with the latter it’s more understandable and a GM is probably more likely to take pity on you if the dice want the campaign to be done with while no one at a table does).

This little ‘instance vs persistent’ issue can also run in the other direction, and you can also begin to understand where having a 100% even playing field begins to fall apart. One time I saw someone propose a magical item that could give players the regenerative abilities of a troll, but would have some drawbacks if it kept you from dying, which was said to be designed with the idea of ‘if the enemy has it then it’s fine for the player’ in mind, but the problem with that line of thinking is that typically you won’t be fighting a troll in every battle, so having one instance of the warrior from my hypothetical example serve to have regeneration isn’t anywhere near as potent as giving the player warrior this regeneration, because now instead of having 5 regeneration for let’s say 3 rounds of combat (potentially up to +15 HP), it’s now 5 regeneration for 12 rounds of combat and the boss battle (potentially up to +60 HP not including the boss fight or time between fights). This isn’t to say that such an item can’t be given, after all that kind of a safety net to help prevent player deaths could be very useful in helping to adjust the difficulty by adding in several states of failure rather than just living/dead, but it’s important to keep in mind that how potent an effect is on an enemy can vastly differ from how potent it is on a player due to how the two live inherently different lives. Enemies can spend expensive resources far more readily than players can, but persistent effects on them effectively end once players finish off this ‘instance’ of the enemy while persistent effects on players can go on indefinitely.

All that said, I’m not always the best at tailoring the enemies of HC in a way to be balanced around this idea, as I don’t always have a firm understanding on the number of encounters in a dungeon or their placement when I’m designing the enemies, which means that I have to rely largely on tester input on how my enemies turned out effectively, but I do at least try to remember this principle when I get their feedback, no matter how unique I might think this idea is for an enemy, no matter how much I may want that boss to stand out from others, at the end of the day if my design is asking for the players to invest a lot of resources then the quest as a whole will suffer if I leave it be.

Other Stuff I Does

Uh… so I totally forgot to do the blog this week. It’s been kind of an exciting week, so I guess it just got lost in the shuffle.

The new update is coming along. As requested, I’ve been using the new casino-themed assets to make a casino that you can invest it, after completing a bit of an associated quest. The main focus of this month’s development, the quest to take back Eastfort, is progressing pretty steadily as well, hoping to be able to wrap it up in time for the mini-release next week.

Anyway, figured I’d use the late blog post for an excuse to promote some of the other things I do:
Isekai Life In D&D is an erotic story I’m writing about a misanthropic power gamer who is rewarded with his own private “heaven” upon his death, and because his request is misinterpreted winds up in a world strictly based on the rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
I also have a Twitch channel where I’m attempting all 529 games in my collection, starting with Shining Force for the Sega Genesis. I don’t have a fixed schedule yet, but I’m aiming to stream Monday and Wednesday evening EDT, and occasionally on weekends.
Meanwhile, Conash has his own Twitch channel where he’s playing an absurdly difficult self-imposed challenge of Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube.

Hope you check out some of our stuff, and are looking forward to next week’s minirelease!

Harem Collector v0.41.3- the SHOWDOWN Update!

After a long wait, the final battle between the Hero’s harem and the demon cult plaguing the Middle Kingdom are finally here! Can you overcome the legions of hell and defeat Xaven once and for all?

Download it here!


Changes in this version:
-Two brand-new quests where you finally get to deal with two of Harem Collector’s biggest antagonists, once and for all!
-A new harem girl can be captured and sent to your dungeon, representing the first true monstergirl to appear in the harem in HC, with a brand new sex scene to boot!
-Kobolds spotted on the streets and fields of the Middle Kingdom, terrorizing residents! Check out your random daily quest for more information!
-There are now two additional ways to acquire the Philosopher’s Stone if you’ve managed to miss it before or can’t afford it.
-The trophy traders can now process multiple trophies at a time to ease your gift-giving plan!
-A new merchant has opened up in the Westcastle to sell you statues to help you express your devotion in your home decor, be it to the Angels, Demons, or whatever else!
-A whole bunch of new art for Larelle’s dungeon scenes, Therese’s vacation scene, plus a whole new scene with Therese!
-New text-only scenes for Bronwyn and Raina!
-New music and sprite art from Clara and Kumiho!
-And like always, bug fixes and bug fixes and bug fixes!

Tits or GTFO

Some of you who received the Backer’s Release last week might have noticed that there was something fairly significant missing from the end of Hell to Pay. I was hoping that Hilent would only be a couple days behind the release with Bell’s first sex scene artwork, but unfortunately due to some moving-related snafus he has been significantly slowed down, although the maid piece is already finished and all that’s left are some colouring on the variations.

Otherwise, things are going well, well enough that I decided to take “release date interlude week” as a sort of staycation. I’m attending to work here and there, but mostly chilling out, catching up on housework, painting minis, and catching up on some personal projects I’m behind on.

I’m also taking some time to contemplate exactly what a post-demon-cult-and-kellos -invasion Harem Collector might look like. With the final quest of the Demon Cult questline wrapped up and the last two quests for Kellos Invasion getting tied up in v0.42, that leaves us with only a couple more Harem Drama loose ends, then Ancient Mysteries and Save the Elves to do, then the endgame.

We’re getting close, ladies and gentlemen. I can feel it.

So expect new character designs for Hanelore and Meiriona very soon, as well as the final shopgirl who will be able to set up in the Elf Village. And there, on the horizon, the mysterious 15th party member….

Thank you again for all the support you’ve given to get us to thing this point!

Importance of Feedback

Hey everyone, Conash here! First on the table, backers, the new release is available now, and we managed to get on top of a lot of things this release, way more than we thought we’d accomplish, which is nice! With that said, I’d like to discuss a bit about feedback.

So, I’ve been a bit open about how I’ve changed my mind on the AoE change that I mentioned in my last blog post, so it won’t be coming in anytime soon, but I’d like to mention it and what went into that whole process here for a bit. So, for a long time we’ve had a few of our long-time fans complain about any enemies who have the spell ‘Force Barrage’ as they point out that it’s broken. This has been a complaint that I’ve tried to handle in various ways over the years that I’ve been here, ranging from reducing how often it was used, to making it a lot harder for both players and enemies to utilize permanent stunlock strategies (old fans may remember how the mimics in ‘Research Materials used to be very frustrating back when sleep would target your entire team). These changes seemed to have at least reduced the complaints but anytime that I specifically ask about those enemies it’s made clear that they’re still a very big issue, but I was at a point that I didn’t really know how to better deal with it so I put it on hold until the grand re-balancing we have planned. Then more recently when working on ‘Crystal Clarity as I was designing the boss I had come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t fit the situation unless I made it so that they would use an AoE force attack a lot, ‘Force Barrage’ made more sense as throwing out the control version would only serve to exaggerate the issue, so I couldn’t put it on hold much longer, and that is when I realized that I could potentially kill two birds with one stone by focusing on giving players a good counter.

Another complaint that I had gotten for awhile is that AoE moves basically rendered tanks useless, this was very easy to see as AoE completely ignored the mechanic that we used for tanks, but I’ve gone into that quite a bit in another blog post. The plan then came to be that putting in the blocking mechanic alongside ‘Crystal Clarity’ would help give players a way to properly deal with ‘Force Barrage’, and heck since if you guard you become immune to the knockdown status, for that turn, it’d further help the guard option be a lot more effective (I find guarding in a lot of games to usually be a waste of an action, as you spend an action that could reduce the time of the battle to take 50% damage, meanwhile now your enemy will live 1 turn longer meaning that overall you took 50% more damage, so unless you know for a fact that a super attack is coming it’s usually not worth it), so I put forward the blocking mechanic, worked with testers some to get some feedback and thought that everything was good.

Once the release came out though, the feedback I got ran contrary to my expectations. While I knew that tanks could get overwhelmed by the amount of incoming damage and end up getting killed if players weren’t careful, the feedback I was getting had left me of the belief that it was basically impossible to keep tanks alive if you went in with roughly the same power as enemies, but the blocking mechanic itself I still found to be important as AoEs are going to be becoming a bit more frequent, just as players use better skills when they level up so too should enemies as it continues the sort of balance. This is were I made a bit of a mistake, as the blocking mechanic was less than a month old so I should have given it some more time than put in effort to collect more direct feedback to make sure this wasn’t just some ‘growing pains’ if you would, instead I did my usual thing of viewing this immediate feedback as indicative of a problem and ultimately resigned myself to the simple fact that AoEs just flat out break the action economy, which is true as they’re effectively a 400% damage multiplier on top of their ability to stack secondary effect rates. This lead to me coming to the conclusion that a nerf to AoEs as a whole needed to be rolled out ASAP in order to fix this entire broken situation rather than hold onto it. I had worked out a lot of details with NM and well, it ultimately lead to me briefly mentioning it in my last blog post since I didn’t want it to be completely out of nowhere even though it was still largely in conceptual stages. The feedback I had gotten from that blog post was generally mild discontent, no one particularly seemed happy about my proposed changes but I’ve certainly gotten much bigger blow back for some of my ideas before, which lead to me thinking that maybe players understood where I was coming from.

Now, I had been spending a lot of time refining the math in my head, working out all the details of this stuff, but there was always this nagging voice in the back of my head that it wasn’t right. I’m sure several of you may have noticed that some of the quests in the game can start to become a large time investment between the quantity and quality of enemies lately, and while we have gotten complaints about it, it’s usually pretty minor and I like to try to resolve these issues by giving players savepoints during the quest so that they can tackle the dungeons in increments rather than all at once, but savepoints can only do so much. The prospect of reducing your AoEs by half their effectiveness would cause these dungeons to become all the worse as you have to spend probably double or more time in each of them just didn’t sit right with me, so when this nagging feeling got to it’s worst I decided that I should talk with backers about the issue, they’ve been putting their money and time into this game so if I’m going to make a change like this they should get a voice in it. So I went to the backers and talked about my concerns, the issues with keeping tanks alive, the issues with AoEs being too powerful, and the feedback I got surprised me. As it turned out, we had several players who were able to effectively use the blocking mechanic to help deal with the boss of ‘Crystal Clarity’, to the point they were using single target buff items to make their tanks able to tank which definitely stood out to me as that kind of a shift in the meta is something that I hadn’t anticipated and is something that I do want to encourage typically. Honestly my biggest take-away was that I needed to put in more items and equipment to allow tanks to tank, not to reduce damage across the board (though we did get a few backers who expressed they were looking forward to the AoE nerf, so between that and the raw math of how much more effective they are then alternative options one will be added in eventually, but it’s been slated for a general ‘in the future’ time-frame). Guess that’s what I get for trying to rush to fix a problem based on the people who spoke up rather than actively seeking out comprehensive feedback.

Man this turned out to be a lot more of a rambling mess than I had expected, but well the ultimate takeaway is that feedback is important but you need to make sure that you’re getting a full perspective of the feedback, when you put in something new make sure to give people time to try it out, and make sure that the people who enjoy it aren’t left out of the discussion just because they don’t think the ship is sinking. I’ve got a bad habit of looking for problems to solve where there are none myself, so feel free to let me know your thoughts about anything that sticks out to you whether it’s big or minor, whether it’s a problem or you like it, because who knows maybe you’ll be the voice that stops me from jumping the gun in the future!

A Different Kind of Key

When I was in high school, and started playing AD&D, I had a bit of a struggle with a section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide where it described the idea of “keyed” encounters- encounters that only appear in a given area of a dungeon once certain conditions are met. This was the kind of concept that was simultaneously too simple and too complex to grasp- of course I understood basic causality and was confused as to why the DMG would mention something so obvious and simple, but I struggled with the realization that, fundamentally, any interactive quest/dungeon/cyoa story/whatever could be realized in the form of a flow chart.

Or, if you prefer, as a sort of program.

While I struggled with it at the time (described a quest or a dungeon in those terms seemed to rob D&D of some of it’s magic, I suppose), it helped me realize something which you might have found I like having a little fun with in Harem Collector: A key can be anything you want it to be. Sure it could be as simple as flipping a switch, or actually having a physical key, but it doesn’t have to be. In Resident Evil, a key could be a mechanically unlikely art installation. In metroidvanias, skills like double-jumping or the ability to roll can act as keys. In RPGs, having spoken to a specific person frequently acts as a key, or having a certain party member if that particular game has field abilities.

So I try and have fun with it. The Golden Tomb “Knight of” enemies are just a mechanically interesting (I hope) way of presenting a “guess which key goes with which lock” kind of puzzle, and I really like moments like the Expanding Foam/Foam Key and the Wyld Seeds, but my personal favourite is the bench from “Hall Monitor From Hell”. Especially that meaty thunk of having the Hero slam it down. I don’t know why, but it feels very satisfying to me.

Now, I’m not just mentioning this randomly- you can look forward to a couple interesting “keys” to show up in the v0.41 update to Harem Collector, one of which I went out of my way to grab some special assets for. So, get hyped- it’s only a week away for backers!- and get ready because I think you’re really going to like this update!