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!

Conash uses “Wall of Text”

Hey people, now you might be thinking this blog post is late but we were actually totally planning on delaying it an extra day because… Uh… Freedom I guess? Listen, things just happen sometimes… So now that we’ve got me making yet another blog post, let’s talk about something dealing with mechanics and design!

Let’s see… Well for one thing I’m hoping to be able to fit a nice quality of life improvement into the trophy trader. People were asking to be able to trade in multiple trophies at a time and I think that’s a good idea so why not! It’s a bit of a slow process though, because while I could turn the whole trophy trader process into some script stuff to make it dynamically generate the proper text, choices, and all of that at this point that’d honestly be more work than just hard-coding it, but hey why don’t we take this opportunity to talk about what I mean by that, as a little insight into my thought process for other aspiring game designers!

So, let’s take any one trophy trader to start with and break down what goes into the interactions with them in their current incarnation, I’ll even open up RPG Maker to get this completely accurate. First up is a small introduction to the shop, and then a tutorial about what the trophy traders are if you haven’t seen it, and then the trader asking if you want to trade, this is going to have to be hard-coded either way so it probably wouldn’t be until after this point that I’d begin a script if I was designing one.

First there’s a little bit where they say hello, and if it’s your first time visiting a trophy trader they explain what they are, pretty straight forward with no real variability to it so that’d be left to the event editor no matter what.

Here’s the start of a trophy trader event so that you can follow along!

Next comes the Yes/No option, those pretty easy to add in RPG maker even in script format all you need is to create an array that has the name of the options, tell the program to throw them at the player, then the player selects something and it’s returned to you, from there you use a case/select conditional (basically you input a variable and it compares it to various predetermined results that you specified) to determine what you do. If the player chooses ‘No’ you show them a dialogue box (these are more complicated as you have to specify the image the face you’re using is found, which of the 8 faces on that image you’re using, then specify the text where you’ve got to be considerate of formatting and won’t have feedback on when it clips outside of the box, then combine it with a few other pieces of code to make sure that it’s a new separate dialogue box instead of just changing an existing one, not hard per say but there’s a lot of details that you have to double check outside of the programming area to make sure it all works) and then let the event end, simple enough. If they choose ‘Yes’ and you’re using the RPG Maker editor you drop a label so that you can immediately jump back here later so that players can keep trading trophies. So if I were to make this into a script, I’d just move the entire process from here on out into another function so that I can easily make the process loop around to this point, either way you then need to make sure the player has at least 25 silver otherwise you drop another dialogue box about them not having money and end things, conditionals like these are very easy.

Script version of a dialogue box. It’s about 5 times easier to make a dialogue box in some map players can’t access then use the map ID, event ID, and ID of where the dialogue begins to access it in other events than it is to build a dialogue box in the script editor from scratch.

If they do have the money another dialogue box about what they want to exchange, a list of Shiny Bits, Monster Fang, and Pocket Tome then come up (with an extra option if the player chooses to exit out), the player chooses one and from here on out we’ve got to keep track as to what you’ve done, so what I’d probably do is drop a variable that contains the item ID of which one you selected and go from there. We also have to make sure that you’ve actually got at least one of those items, otherwise we need to send you back to the trading screen so that you can change your selection (after a dialogue box of course), then we ask you what you want to receive and here’s where switching to a script format would start to benefit us.

Basically imagine that last portion added in 6 times, for each combination of trophy traded in and trophy received, and that’s a single event page for one city. While it’s not the hardest work in the world, NoMoshing has put in a lot of busy work into Harem Collector!

See, with our current manual system we obviously have to manually keep track as to which area we’re in (by this point there’s already so much in the event that it can be easy to forget if you’re in the ‘Pocket Tome’ or the ‘Monster Fang’ sections), while in a script as I’m generating the array of choices for the player I can basically just say, “Add Monster Fang unless variable == X” making it easy for the game to auto-generate the options needed, so if we ever added in a fourth trophy we’d definitely want to switch to scripts so that we wouldn’t have to redo 16 different choice selections (probably more due to a few story events but irrelevant to my point). This is kinda what I refer to when I talk about generating stuff dynamically, I’d code stuff in a way that I as the game designer don’t need to know if you’re in Westcastle trading in a Monster Fang as I teach the game how to do it, so if we add in a fourth trophy I spend 5 minutes adding in a few extra options where it matters and let my code handle the rest, but as I said that’s not what we’re looking at so even if the hard-coded stuff takes longer to search for bugs, typos, and all that it just makes more sense to spend my time adding in new stuff than changing existing stuff that works just fine.

Sample of a dynamic choices dialogue from the fast-travel horse. While it may seem like a lot, keep in mind that I reference this exact same code for all 5 horses and the code figures out based on where you are and what houses you’ve unlocked everything else, which would take us 8-16 different combination of conditionals per horse in the event editor. About twice as much work compares to 1 conditional option, but prevents us from doing 48 different conditionals.

So then we’ve got a dialogue box, reducing the player’s gold, decreasing the trophy they’re trading in and giving them the one they want, then yet another dialogue box but this one specifies the name of what you chose, so from a scripting perspective I’d need to have stored the trophy you want to receive in another variable then dynamically generate the text that’d go inside this dialogue box by checking that variable and adding in the name of the relevant item. After that we throw them back to the beginning of that ‘Yes/No’ option so that they can do more trading if they want to and that’s what we’ve got. It’d be annoying to turn that into scripts and we’d need to keep track of which city the player is at to make sure that we show the right faces and dialogue from the trader, but it’s just busy work there… But that’s what we’ve already got, let’s look at what I want to add in.

So what I want to add in is simple, after the player has made decided on what they want to trade in and what they want to receive we’d need to ask them how many they want to trade, so give them a number input box, store that into a variable. Since the code in the number input box is rather limited, the best thing to do here is to show the player their money while they do this and store the inputted number into a variable, after that if the player entered 0 then we just treat that as ‘cancelling’ and let them leave, if they enter 1 then we go through with the old code, if they enter 2 or more we now need to verify they’ve got enough of the chosen item and enough money for this transaction, if so we go through with it and specify how many of the new trophy they’ve received. There’s nothing too complex there, but if you recall the trader says a line as you receive the new trophies, plus since the existing code is already hard-coded this means that even if I made a script to handle just this portion I’d still need to customize the script call to specify what the player is giving, receiving, and where they are, then program into it several dialogue responses depending on the location, or what I do is I basically create all of that with events, copy and paste it, but change the conditionals and comparisons along the way… Hmm… You know when I say it like that, doing this new part all in scripts actually wouldn’t be that bad since I’d only need to store in 4 dialogue boxes that are location based, and then I have a 5th box that has it’s text dynamically generated. It’s still going to take some time to get it in either way but hey, look forward to it!

Event version of me adding this in. Only got one of these added in, and it’s in a test version so hasn’t been implemented into the main game yet

Now, since I’ve finished that rather dry talk there, what else is there…? Oh, not sure if it was mentioned in the release notes but the achievement system should have gotten an update to include a tracker as to your progress towards any achievements you’ve unlocked hints for! Now if only I could remember if that was added into the 0.40 release or the 0.41 mini-release….

Ah! So I appreciate all the feedback that I got on ‘tanking’, after some discussion with NoMoshing we decided that the core of the issue dealt with how AoEs were just too potent (effectively doing 400% damage and status effects compared to their single target versions) I had shared some of the math breakdown of say Force Barrage (Damage type AoE force spell that gets a lot of complaints) and how statistically speaking getting 1 or 2 knockdowns when it’s used against you is more likely than 0, though I had gotten some of that math wrong the point is that AoE abilities just really break the action economy, so instead of trying to make tanking better so that you can take AoE hits a lot easier we thought it’d be better to instead roll out a balance to AoEs themselves by having them scale in effectiveness based on the number of targets you’re looking at. What this would mean is that while you will always do more total damage and have a higher potential of inflicting several status effects the more targets an AoE has, the damage and chance of infliction will be decreased on any given target as there are more of them (so if there’s one boss it’ll take damage/statuses as normal, but if there’s say 4 bosses each of them will be taking 50% damage and have 50% chance of status infliction, but it’ll total up to 200% damage and a higher chance of inflicting statuses in general).

I’m still not entirely sure what numbers I want to use, and I made sure to wait until after the mini-release to add this in so that the first people who have to deal with it are testers to get their help in fine-tuning things. I understand this probably isn’t going to be the most well received choice as it’s going to make your mages in general pack less of a punch, but it should serve to greatly curtail a lot of the issues seen in say force barrage (and to clarify, if you set it up so that you have your tank take the hits in everyone’s place, each individual hit will still be reduced to 50% effectiveness on damage and status as it still had 4 targets). Evocations will not be impacted by this since their unpredictability already serves to debuff them against many targets, they have a static number of hits, and the momentum requirements of them already makes them a generally undesirable type of magic to many players. Feel free to share your questions, comments, or concerns here, on the forums, or on the discord and I’ll do my best to respond to them!

Victory Barks and Tanking update

So now that my niece and nephew have quieted down after a day of babysitting that has carried on far longer than anyone anticipated, I have the time to sit down and ask for some feedback at definitely not the last minute! While any feedback is appreciated, be warned that I’m pretty exhausted right now so I may be a bit scattered and hard to understand until I get some rest and can go through this all again tomorrow.

There are a few changes in the recent 0.40 release that I’m sure people have already noticed, the first of which being the one dialogue box at the end of every battle. That little feature has certainly come with a few more bugs than it probably should have, but it’s in a relatively stable state, which now brings up a few issues that I’d much appreciate some feedback on. See, originally I had intended to work in something into the options menu so that you could have it display a message after every battle, as it currently does, after no battles, or go through a sort of algorithm where it checks how often you’ve ‘seen’ a quote from x character then randomly checks whether or not to skip that character, effectively making characters who you’ve seen multiple quotes from have a lesser chance of coming up, to help you experience quotes that you haven’t seen before. This ended up not making it into the 0.40 release for a few reasons, largely to help save on time with the intention of, well, getting people’s thoughts about which of these options they prefer now that they’ve had a chance to see the the victory barks feature at it’s theoretically most obnoxious.If the general consensus is that the system is fine, or just needs to be turned off when it gets annoying, it’d probably be best if I took the development time that I’d put into that third option and instead invest it into working on bugs or something else.

There is something else that I’d appreciate some feedback on with the victory barks. All canon party members (aside from Alina) have a level-up quote associated with them that will take priority over the standard barks if at least one person levels up. The original intention is that the one quote you see would come from your active party, though due to a bug, instead the quote is selected from anyone who levels up, which does stretch immersion some. I’ve elected to leave the bug as-is for now, as we’ve gotten some people requesting that the game plays all level up barks one after another when they happen. To me, that seems like it’d get rather tedious after awhile since each character only has one, after 30-40 level ups there’s going to be several that you’re tired of. To this end, any feedback that can be given on how important it is that level-up barks apply only to your active party or that you can only get one at a time would be much appreciated.

Finally, one last thing that I’d appreciate some feedback on! It’s come to my attention that the addition to tanking that I had mentioned awhile back has been causing some problems, in that it’s making player tanks take too many hits, to the point that keeping them alive has gotten very difficult. Some discussion with a few players has helped me figure out that what I plan to at some point in the game development process is make it so that anytime that any character ‘blocks’ an attack they get a damage reduction bonus, both on the player and enemy side, to help radically reduce the amount of damage that tanks accumulate by blocking AoEs for your side as well as helping to encourage more strategical play on the players end of things by having ‘cover’ and other similar skills reduce your damage if you don’t properly respond, but the problem with adding this in now is that it might result in making enemy tanks harder to kill and just drag out the game a lot more as the existing fights haven’t been balanced with this in mind but would be impacted by it, so it might be better to roll out with re-balancing as a whole. My other options to deal with this core issue is either turn off the AoE blocking that’s currently in the game or at least adjust the formulas so that it’ll be noticeably less likely to activate, this might make it harder to keep characters like Yeon alive as more AoEs would hit them, but trading deaths on squishy characters with deaths on your tank typically isn’t the best philosophy.

So yeah… Any thoughts would be appreciated!

The Life of a Tank

It’s been awhile! Hope you all are enjoying Iron Waifu, I know I’ve had a few surprises myself, and several not so surprises, but it seems to be turning out very well. The voting numbers tell a bit of an interesting story compared to last year but perhaps it’d be better to get into that after all is said and done, needless to say we’re very happy to see the how things have been turning out this year!

Now, it’s been awhile since I’ve made a post so it’d be a good idea for me to talk about what I’ve been working on and while I probably could go into the new victory barks feature that we’ve got I’d rather talk about that after the upcoming release as there’s still a lot of odds and ends I’m ironing out there, instead let’s talk about tanks in RPGs in general.

See, I’m sure that we can easily identify a character that’s got a lot of HP, that has high defensive stats, maybe it’s a character who gets a lot of super armor, that’s not hard to find, but something that I’ve noticed in a lot of games that I’ve played throughout the years is that while you can find MANY tanks, there’s a lot fewer successful tanks, at least in the games that I play. What do I mean by that? Simple, a successful tank isn’t just about being able to take punishment but it needs to take punishment instead of the rest of the party, after all being basically unkillable rarely is the key to success (though there’s been a few fights when I found it easier to solo a boss with my unmovable rock character than waste items keeping party members alive), instead if you have a character who skipped out on other things to pursue (damage, speed, healing, buffing, debuffing, etc.) to focus on it’s own defensive abilities it needs to be able to supplement the other important roles by making sure the rest of the team can do those with very little issue, and it’s very important to keep this in mind because if a tank cannot prevent damage going to other allies in one way or another then you’re not apart of the team you exist next to the team. I’ve seen a number of people who try to play say tabletop games thinking that simply having high HP or defense is enough to make them a tank, when in actuality the party only lives thanks to the DM being generous and intentionally attacking the hard to kill character even when there is little or no penalty for attacking another character and a much bigger reward (like taking out the cleric or wizard), so keep that in mind if you plan to play the ‘tank’, if you don’t have a way to ensure that damage doesn’t go to your teammates then you might want to figure out a way to do that.

“But Conash,” you begin, “what does any of this have to do with what you’ve been working on?” Well to get to the point, I have not been happy with how tanks behave in HC for quite awhile now, on either end but for two different problems. Let’s start with the player side since you the player obviously will be playing from that end, in HC NoMoshing did a great job setting up equipment, skills, and classes to take advantage of the innate ‘Threat’ system in RPG Maker VX Ace, if you ever decide to join me and RomeoPapa in our pursuit of more difficult challenges in HC you’ll learn very quickly just how important threat management is to taking on quests above your weight class, I really like the threat system in HC, and have even made use of it for some hidden little details (Try checking out Yamamaya or Bronwyn’s status page during ‘Elf Half Empty’ sometime), but the threat system has a very big flaw in it that’s become more and more of an issue as the game progresses. See, threat impacts who an enemy targets when they choose someone on your team, but when they throw out an AoE attack, one which hits ‘everyone’? Well that ignores threat entirely, leaving characters like Yeon completely at the mercy of how often enemies spam this, as your tanks have no way to keep her safe. This issue has been a growing complaint for quite awhile, so with the help of ShadowCluster, I managed to put together a brand new feature into the game, player blocking! I’m sure that you’re all familiar with times that enemies will block your attacks no matter what (and I’ll get to all the problems there in a second) but never saw it happen on your end (because it was happening a step before where they flat out didn’t target the low threat characters to begin with), well in this upcoming update you’ll finally be able to see that! The game will now include a system where a character with a ‘Taunt’ status (like Martyrdom, Font of Life, Phalanx, Attract, or similar skills) will have a chance to ‘block’ the hit a character would receive from AoE attacks, the formula to determine this is based off of threat chance but the basics are that if the tank has high threat and the targeted character has low threat you’ll have a better chance of blocking the hit. This little effect requires a taunt skill since some characters can get threat ratings so low (Elaiya) that they’d never take an AoE hit otherwise, and while it’s important that a tank can do their job it’s also important that if they’re dieing that you don’t have to worry about them taking all 4 hits from an AoE every round while you try to heal them up. Though if you plan to bring multiple tanks keep in mind that it rolls the ‘block’ chance based for whoever is in the first party slot, followed by the second, third, etc. until someone successfully blocks, so if you plan to use Yamamaya to block the occasional attack and Therese to pick up the rest put Yamamaya in first otherwise she probably won’t even get a chance unless Therese misses (also if a character does have a taunt skill up, no one else can ‘block’ for them, this one’s hard-coded). The formula may need some tweaking if it turns out to be too eager to activate, but I am still very happy with the general outline of the system as it puts a high amount of the control of the mechanic in the player’s hands, allowing you all to adjust it to your liking! Also little pro-tip: If you’re having trouble with say Force Barrage, if you can try to get someone to activate a taunt skill then guard like crazy, since you can’t be knocked down while you’re guarding so this would help let you protect your lower threat party members from the occasional status effect.

Now, this all probably sounds great right? I certainly think so, but some of you might be wondering why I had to create my own formula (or ask ShadowCluster to make one more precisely), rules, and basically create a new mechanic like this when enemies are already able to do this sorta thing, that brings us to my issues with enemy tanks. See, threat doesn’t work on enemies because surprisingly having a 100% invisible parameter on the enemies that has no actual gameplay impact isn’t very effective at convincing players to not kill that very deadly mage instead of going after the tank in front of them who isn’t a big threat on their own, and because of this we have to rely on the substitute mechanic in RPG Maker for enemy tanks. I absolutely loathe the substitute mechanic, and while I’m usually very quick to blame Enterbrain for any and all issues I have with RPG Maker, this mechanic I’ve found as common practice even in Final Fantasy games so it’d be unfair to single out Enterbrain. See, substitute works in that a character who gets marked with the substitute flag will 100% of the time block any hits targeting characters with low enough HP (usually below 25% or 10% max HP), unless the person with the flag has some kind of status effect or something else that stops them. The problem with this is that it’s inherently useless for roughly 75%-90% of the battle, and then after that? Nothing gets through, making it so that players who have no hard-counters can’t do anything except work their way through the tank. On top of that because these flags are rarely, if ever, permanent you need to spend one of your very limited actions hoping that one of your characters will be at a low enough threshold for you to defend them, without dying before you go, and that your defense of them will matter (if they don’t get targeted it was a wasted action). No matter how you run the math, 9 times out of 10 you’re just better off healing the person instead of bothering to deal with this terrible mechanic to keep people from dying. This isn’t even getting into the issues of the 100% chance issue can easily put the tank in a position where they’re taking way too much damage to keep up as more and more characters fall into the threshold or how it offers players no customization of prioritizing certain characters over others… That said, as highly critical as I am of this mechanic (and I hope that you can see why I prefer my innate blocking chance system for players over this) we use it for enemy tanks in HC largely out of necessity, we have no other tools we can use to have enemies influence who you attack. I plan to down the road mess with the formula so that it scales, in a way so that as the enemy loses more HP the chance to substitute grows making substitution an all-present annoyance but never a hard road-block (if you have no counters), while still preserving the general intention behind it. Until then though, I think that I’ll experiment with a few other tank improvisations, for example since one of the two new bosses in this upcoming update fills a tank role, I figured that I’d take a page out of the ‘Warder’ book from Path of War, and give them the ability to give you a rather noticeable miss chance on all your abilities that don’t target them (for a limited time). I’ll probably have to tweak a lot of the numbers here but I think figuring out alternate tanking strategies is going to become integral for supplementing the substitution mechanic in creating tanks as a whole.

I’ve probably rambled on quite a lot about the importance for a tank to be able to control aggro, so instead of going into a big long rant about how to properly control aggro in the Tales of games, I’ll call it here. Please feel free to share any questions, comments, or concerns as you see fit!

A word from Conash

Hey everyone, hope everyone’s been doing well! It’s been awhile since my last blog post so I’ll just talk a bit about a few things on my mind.

First of all, why don’t we talk about enemy balance a bit. I’ve noticed a few times that players have talked about how the later levels of HC are difficult, though usually I wasn’t too sure how to take that since I have seen a comparable, though fewer, comments about some of the earlier levels in the game as well, leaving me without a strong understanding on how the enemies that I had been putting together the stats and AI compared to say the ones that NM put together when you consider that the player is supposed to be having an increase in stats and resources in general as the game progresses, but during the recent testing release it became very apparent as both me and NoMoshing picked out the original stats for the enemies for the two quests that we’ll be adding, both quests share the same recommended level, and when we got initial feedback from testers, it seemed that we had both missed that recommended level mark but in opposite directions. I cut down the stats on my enemies far more than I boosted NoMoshing’s, but it did help highlight that I do need to work on rethinking my approach for calculating how to determine the stats for enemies going forward, hopefully I’ll be able to work on having enemies better keep place with a player who’s at level going forward, and I will welcome feedback in regards to the difficulty on quests since I definitely lean a lot more on the ‘difficulty’ side of things (Though when it comes to Super-bosses, once tester’s have given me the okay that it’s possible I am going to be very stubborn, Super-bosses are the one place that I can ramp up the difficulty as much as I want without worrying about breaking the game. One tip for those struggling with the newest super-boss, Wiki-tan is probably the worst match-up against him and runs a risk of making him downright impossible if she’s in your active team, she can be useful for him, but just be warned that depending on what you’ve done with her she can make the fight impossible for you).

Now let’s talk about code some shall we? NoMoshing has talked to me about adding in a new little script that would run at the end of battles, it’ll take a bit of finagling but I’m hoping to have it ready for the 0.39 release and it should help add a bit more fun to some of the general ‘crawl’ that tends to take place in dungeons, so look forward to it! I promise to do my best to not break the game… This time… Speaking of breaking the game, for those of you who’ve run into various furniture or other events teleporting around in either your Eastfort condo or your Westcastle manor, I have fixed the problems and you won’t need to mess with save files or anything. It’s an issue with the events of the game, so testers and the rest of you with access that event stuff (you know who you are) please keep in mind that completely deleting events can result in this little visual bug. Now, the final script thing that I want to talk about is in regards to AoE attacks from enemies, as I’m sure many of you know enemy tanks can take hits from your AoEs but you can’t have your tanks do the same from enemy AoEs, which can often lead to AoEs making tanks a lot less useful as the most important attacks to block you have no effective means of dealing with. Well I’ve got a few ideas (and even some formulas that I’m happy with) that I think will go a long way to help give players tools to help deal with enemy AoEs without going too far. I’ve still got a lot of stuff to test and look into in regards to this so I don’t want to be making promises that I can’t keep, but I will say that I’ve heard the complaints about how AoEs don’t have an effective counter-strategy if you would, and I am looking into ways to help expand the battle system to add in some options there.

Finally, there’s one more thing I want to talk about though it’s a bit more personal. I don’t know if any of you have noticed but I haven’t exactly been as active with the blog posts, scripting, or a few other things over the past year, and I just feel that I owe a bit of an explanation for that. Lately in my life there’s been a few more things vying for my time and energy, but more importantly a lot of that’s been piling up some anxiety issues with me. I’ve worked out various ways to help keep it a lot more manageable but I’d be lying if I said it was fully under control. It gets a bit personal and goes against a lot of what I believe in to really delve too into it, so I’ll just leave it at emotions are irrational and sorry that I wasn’t really able to bring my A game for 2018, which I am hoping to change. I do intend to stick with HC though and plan to pay back the support that NoMoshing has given me so feel free to take that as you will. If you excuse me, I’ve got more code to write.

Back to development

So development has been going pretty well this month, while we’ve hit a few snags we’re looking forward to seeing how the mini-release will turn out! With that in mind I thought that I’d talk about what’s currently on my table of things.

First off, I’m working on the enemies for Larelle’s love quest, and I’m having fun with giving the boss a bit of extra thought into it. While the most recent bonus boss took quite a bit of fine-tuning until I was happy with it, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a lot of fun developing a sort of AI for a quest boss, so I’m hoping you all have fun with it too!

On a more code side of things, my first priority is to add something special for Larelle’s accessory from her love quest. This accessory is going to be designed to get at the heart of a lot of the difficulties people seem to run into with her, and I’m hoping that it’ll be well received but we’ll see, after all I do want there to be a bit of a surprise to it still. Beyond that I’m hoping to change up the rain system again. I’m sure there are people out there that might remember that the rain used to appear more smoothly when you entered/left a screen, and you also might not understand why we moved to a system that is a bit choppier. The reason for this is that the original system stood a greater chance of slowing down computers and all so we moved to the current system to try to reduce that, however as a result the change in rain had to help ‘before’ or ‘after’ a screen transition because of how RPG maker works, but I’ve thought up a way to change the system that should allow us to have it happen while the screen is black like it used to and even reduce how the computer usage even further. I know that RPG maker games typically aren’t exactly computer killers, but I don’t want people using especially old computers to run into the issues where the screen basically freezes everytime it rains, so the original rain system is not satisfactory to me, but this new one should hopefully be a further improvement in all directions.

Next up, we’ve taken a second look at the relationship achievements, getting in the ones we were missing, renaming a few, and might even be changing how they’re earned, so this might also be a good time to add in that progress tracker and the ‘Taste the Rainbow’ achievements that have been on my docket for awhile now. In regards to bug fixes, I’ve gotten a few reports from people who understand the madness behind my scripts in regards to the furniture system, some about some of the rooms other about some of the pieces of furniture specifically. This won’t undo anything you’ve done in your current game and you’ll be just fine continuing with that, there will come a time in the future that you might want to remove your furniture and put it back down in order to get more of an effect out of it. I’ll keep you all posted on the progress of that!

That’s about all for now, while I’m hoping to have time for some other sizable project next month, I also want to leave some room so that if I need to the rain system can be pushed back some.

Backer crunch

(Hey, this is like from a week ago, I wanted to promoted the daily streams but Conash works hard so I held onto it, and now you get to read it because I forgot to do a blog yesterday. Yay!)

Hey everyone, it’s the last Wednesday of the month so we’ve just got to finish a few things with the backer release and we’ll get it out to you guys when we can! The past few days have been pretty hectic for NoMoshing and I as more things keep popping up just as soon as we think we can see the end, but we’re both pretty happy with what we’ve got done. I’d also like to take a moment to thank our volunteers for all the testing that they did, it really helped us out a lot to be able to get such in-depth feedback so quickly to help make the game work so smoothly so thanks both of you for all your hard work! Now, since NoMoshing’s been getting in a massive amount of dailogue (including several sex scenes) in these past few days, I thought that I’d take a moment to talk about the various things I’ve been up to since my last post from a week ago.

First off, I managed to get in a couple of the stuff that I talked about awhile back. The Furniture system will now have the green/red squares show numbers on them so that you know what ‘room’ you’re looking at, while it’s certainly not perfect I’d rather give you guys tools that help you a bit with it than not at all. On top of that I’ve managed to extensively fix it so that furniture like the Holy Diver will no longer cause bugs, you can view them in the menu and remove them safely now, but keep in mind that if it was bugged before the person who was bugged with it won’t be displayed in the menu as loving/liking/hating the furniture as appropriate even though they do, the display refused to cooperate on that front but if you remove it and put it back it will work as intended! I’ve also managed to add it so that putting carpets into your various houses will now give a small happiness bonus to everyone in that house (party members always choose the house with the highest ‘house’ bonus) so between that and another house bonus that we’ve added to the game I hope that the happiness system will be a bit easier to approach for the characters who only have a few pieces of furniture they like. I also managed to fix the bug that came about in the 0.35 release that stopped the autosave feature from working, I’m hoping this fix sticks but I thought the last one was going to as well so we’ll see…

Next up is something that has been on the docket, but long since forgotten about, since before I was on the staff. See with the addition of the Southport house we realized that we needed to put in horses for Southport and into other places to get to Southport, which would have been a lot of busy work… So now we’ve managed to get it so that there is a singular horse per house that will be able to handle all the fast travel needs as it was honestly less busy work than the alternative thanks to the magic of me not being limited to RPG Maker’s eventing system. We might be making a few changes to the horse stuff down the line, but with this change it’ll be far easier to accomplish universally so look forward to us taking advantage of having a more streamlined fast travel process! On a similar note, I’m sure that a few of you have probably noticed that several quests still teleport players to the old Northmarket manor, well a big reason that those teleports haven’t been fixed is because that running the proper checks for teleports, finding the right block of teleports to copy, and all of that just takes awhile so I decided to also make a more streamline (on our end at least) version of the entire thing for teleporting to the houses that handles all of that busy work, so while for now it’ll probably just be for the Southport quests since they need to be changed anyways, look forward to having a lot of those wrong teleports get dealt with in future releases!

That’s about all that I’ve actually gotten done so far so I think I’ll leave it at that. I’ve still got several things to finish up before I can handle over the game to NoMoshing to add in his final touches but yeah, hope you’re all looking forward to the new quests and functionality!

Getting stuff done

Hello everyone! Right now we’re working on finishing up the tester’s release, so I thought that since I’ve been rather productive the past few days I’d share some information on what I’ve been working on these past few days while NoMoshing is working on finishing up the various events that he’s got to work on.

So first up, let’s talk about Orange Kid’s love quest, or more specifically the reward from it. The original idea was to have the main thing be Hero becoming immune to any effects that had a chance of causing death like from headshot, however the problem with that is that while those moves can pose a problem they’re pretty infrequent and making them common or having high chances just leads to annoying gameplay for people who don’t have that effect on at least half your party (at least if you don’t have some sort of auto-revive ability in the game). We’re still going to keep in that effect though because it’s not bad, but we’re going to expand it some, just yesterday I finished testing out and getting ready a new little feature that will allow Hero to once per battle survive an otherwise lethal attack with 1 HP. This will still trigger even if Hero is already at 1 HP, as while I understand why other games with similar systems don’t trigger it then, since this ability is limited to only once per battle I felt that in the unlikely situation that players naturally fell to 1 HP they should still get to trigger this. Now, this won’t always save you as if the story calls for an instant loss (meaning the enemy isn’t trying to kill Hero) or if they have some other way to remove him from the fight besides death (like in the Yamamaya fight) this ability will not trigger against those attacks/effects directly.

Next I also put together a little splash screen set to display the new logo that we’ve got everytime you start up the game, there’s a few little odds and ends about it that may need some tweeking but the core part of it is working. Beyond that, I got the enemies for OK’s love quest done pretty quickly and even got a brand new superboss put together very quickly. It’s still missing a bit of window dressing, but I’m very happy with how it plays out, especially the part where several of it’s stats will change to match some of your stats meaning that even if you come in at level 99 you’ll have to understand the trick if you want to win… Hey it’s a superboss, I’m allowed to pull out that sort of stuff.

And yeah, that’s really it. I do also have plans to fix a lot of the bugs that have been hanging out for awhile, setting up the Southport manor for furniture and rugs, and maybe hopefully getting in that update to the furniture system I talked about in my last post, but most of the stuff mentioned above took priority. Still, I’ve been getting a lot of things done easier since finishing up a project I had been working on for awhile, and now it just feels great to not be busy being busy.

Future plans and feedback

It’s Wednesday so it’s time for another blog post! The past couple of posts that I’ve made were more general design stuff so I thought it’d be good to talk a bit more specific coding stuff for a bit. For the most part I haven’t been up to anything big with coding for HC lately, fixing some bugs here and there but my time has typically been being drawn to some other parts of my life or to other parts of the game. So all that I’ve really got are plans that have been on the back-burner for awhile that I’d be interested in getting feedback on.

The first change that I’m planning on making when I can is going to be a slight change to the furniture system. People have talked about how it’s difficult to tell where the various ‘rooms’ are when putting down furniture. That said, the visual interface gives me limitations in this regard, I can’t draw a grid over the map and have a face of every character who cares about a room (and to what extent) on top of each grid, nor can I exactly easily place them in a ‘room’ only during the course of the furniture system without creating a ton of confusion and bugs. The solution that I came up with was to change it so that the red/green squares that show up will either be what you already see in the game or have a number 1-5 on them depending on if they’re in area 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 of that map (so far no one map has more than five ‘areas’ to it). While this won’t exactly give you all a full sense of ‘who’ cares about this room, it would help more clearly define ‘what’ room you’re looking at at any given time and in turn you could maybe figure out who cares about a room through some thinking or just by putting down furniture and see who cares. It’s not quite what people were asking for, but given the tools at my disposal I think that it’ll give at least a major aspect of what people are asking for.

Something that’s a bit more farther off will be expanding the encyclopedia. Currently it’s only set to show you the stats of equipment, including hidden stats, because a big complaint people had was that they needed to use the wiki or ask someone who was digging through the code what any given piece of equipment did before they could use it and I managed to figure out a way to format it all to fit on one screen (though if we did put in items that had too many ‘extra’ effects it wouldn’t fit on the page running into the same issue again, so this process has a side-effect of limiting what we can do with the equipment). However, the encyclopedia has always been meant to do more than just that. A big thing that we want to add is putting in monster data, the idea that I have is program it into the game so that once you encounter any given monster it’ll add it to the encyclopedia (which will mean that if you’re having trouble with a boss, after a gameover or reload, you can open up your encyclopedia since the Misc_Data file is separate from your save file) though I’m still not fully sure how we’re going to get all the formatting for the things that we want… After talking it out with NoMoshing we also don’t want to just show players the full stats of the enemies so there’s also some busy work that needs to be done in order to give the players an ‘idea’ as to what the monster is strong against or weak against without just handing the Hero a walkthrough to his own world. There were a few other things that we had talked about potentially adding to the encyclopedia, but at this stage I’m not as confident promising that they’re going to stay on the docket so I’ll just leave it at that since we DO want to give players feedback on enemies for sure (largely it’s an issue of how to display it as I’ve already gotten around the issue of showing the enemy battler in the encyclopedia).

Finally, the only thing that crosses my mind right now that’s planned for sure are more achievements. While a lot of achievements are held back either because of limited time for writing or just ideas not coming to us, one achievement that NoMoshing’s wanted me to implement more or less since I redid the achievement system is the ‘Taste the Rainbow’ achieve which you will get if you use each element in one battle (scrolls will count). It’s not incredibly complex on the face of it, but in order to get it working I’ll have to setup 10 switches for each element that gets set to ‘off’ at the start of every battle, then every time you go to use a ‘skill’ (attacks and guarding are skills even if the game displays them differently) the game evaluates if it has one of those elements and if so it turns on the relevant switch, then after battle it looks to see if all 10 are on and if so it awards you the achievement. While setting up 10 switches isn’t that hard for me as I can create my own and am not limited by what NoMoshing has to work with, the idea of interfering with the skill process for those elements and all raises a few concerns, namely in the potential bug department (as well as a few questions about if say Bronwyn’s acid bulb counts for the achievement, or if you have Felix attack with a necronomicon does it count as a necrotic skill/spell). More universally though, I would like to sit down at some point and add in a ‘tracker’ for achievements. Like when you haven’t unlocked an achievement but have a hint for one available it’ll show you your progress towards unlocking it, though that one is going to be a bit more involved since the achievement system doesn’t actually record the ‘goal’ of any given achievement, but rather just has a check for if this variable or switch or whatever meets this condition and if it does give an achievement.

That’s really all that I’ve got planned for now though. A lot of the major coding projects that either NoMoshing or myself wanted have already been added into the game… Granted it seems that the autosave feature has stopped working so that’s going to be getting my full attention at some point before the public 0.36 release, but yeah. If any of you have any questions, comments, or feedback of other nature feel free to share!

Balancing balance

Backers, keep your eye out for the backer release later today, a few aspects are running a bit behind but we’re working on getting it out as soon as we can! That said, I think I’d like to share something that’s crossed my mind a few times that has given me some trouble at times, balancing HC.

Balancing different features can be very difficult, and having quite a bit of experience min-maxing myself I can have a bit of an easy time seeing how much or how little something will shift things in the grand scheme, but that doesn’t necessarily give me a good idea as to how to properly handle things. Sometimes this can be a problem with enemies as it comes to trying to get their numbers to be ‘just’ right, fit their skills in a way that work, avoid easy weaknesses for bosses without leaving players that brought say a stun-based party feeling useless. That said, while I do struggle in certain situations, I feel that for most quests at least I’ve managed to get the balance for most things pretty well, even if not perfect (though a few oversights have gotten by at times). That said who knows how things will look when we re-balance the game, as I plan to be taking a meat cleaver to both the rate that the player levels up as well as the stats the enemy has to help make lower level quests more interesting and higher level quests more approachable.

That said, enemies aren’t the only area of balancing that have given me some pause. Items in particular have been a bit of a sore thumb for me, and not just because of the typical item-hoarding that I’m sure many people are familiar with. See, while there are some very useful items in HC (Essential salts have made some fights go from flat out impossible to just incredibly challenging), some of the items strain the min-maxer in me to see them as anything other than something to collection for completions sake or items to sell for a minimal increase to my sil. The reason for this is because all aspects of an item need to be taken into consideration and contrasted to the players alternatives. For example, 1 item will always cost 1 action to be used (out of a typical pool of 4 actions per turn) and have a ‘cost’ associated (either in sil or not being able to use it at a later time), with that in mind you have to look at what any given item brings to the table. A lo-potion for example gives 33% healing and you’re given quite a few of them (or mid/hi-potions) which isn’t too bad, but it’s big advantage is that you can use some of your characters who may not have anything better to do (like Hero in many cases) and have them ease the healing burden from other characters, as a result it takes an important job and can serve to reduce the action cost by regulating it to Hero allowing say Felix to pull off another chain lightning or avoid someone being killed. Reinvigoration Potions however tend to rarely be worth it in battle, they use up one party member’s action (when you typically have 3 or fewer actions) to bring someone back with 10% HP, this will typically mean that they then proceed to die before you can heal them or they get an action meaning that you just used an item that you could have sold and one of your limited actions to accomplish nothing. The buffing potions tend to also leave a sour taste in my mouth too, as the magic based alternatives offer at least 2-3x the effectiveness if not more and only cost a small amount of MP (which 1 ether can give you several casts worth). Balancing Florine’s store can also be an issue as you’re asking players to invest several forms of resources, one of which is highly limited and can’t be renewed, to get the items… There’s just a lot of stuff to take into consideration. That said, if proper balance isn’t taken into consideration enough, you can end up in situations like how the current HC meta typically values mages over non-mages. While non-mages will still appear in various parties, it’s pretty rare to find players who don’t make at least half their parties mages, with a 3-mage party typically being the most common that I’ve heard about, and this boils down to how easily mages can use their abilities to get a lot of damage with a low action and MP cost to them, which means that when rebalancing things we’ll have to find a way to make it so that magic doesn’t feel quite an easy ‘I-win’ button to help encourage more diverse party make-ups (without making a 3-mage a bad choice except in specific quests).

There are other aspects of the game that can also give me some trouble when it comes to balancing, like trying to make it so that the furniture system doesn’t boil down to a simple easy perfect solution (which at least one player has found and posted about on the wiki I’ll say), trying to ensure that investments can feel useful in the grand-scheme of things, and other areas. I’ve seen some people talk about being able to measure the value of things by boiling it all down into one common point of comparison, but to me that approach to balancing can just as easily backfire as if you want players to be in a position where they have to choose, it means that they can use that same formula, even if they’re just going by some personal experiences, to always figure out what the ‘best’ option is or realize that it doesn’t matter. When it comes to balancing, to me the best balance is being able to look at two things and figure out if you prefer apples or oranges, and then find a way to find a way to get the most out of your apples to the point that it feels incredibly powerful, as I’m sure that a few people who noticed a bug in the ‘Feedback’ magic might have felt (though I’m sorry to say it’s been patched out).

Perhaps I got a bit off-topic here, I’ve got a tendency to do that when I ramble, but the point is that it can be difficult to balance things, especially when you’re continuing to develop the game (and as such creep can easily off-set any sort of balance that you had), which is a big reason why we’re waiting until HC is content-complete before we work to make sure that everything has the exact balance that we want. With that in mind, how about you guys? Any thoughts in particular about what you wish the balance would be like to make it more enjoyable for you?