Updates with Conash!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk Hard Mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character Revamps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

We Live!

Hey, sorry for not updating for a couple weeks. I’ll try to get back on track this Wednesday.

There isn’t any dire reason why I haven’t updated the blog in a while. It’s just fuckass hot in my region right now, and while I have central air, it’s kind of jury-rigged into my 90 year old house, so the second floor has one intake, one outflow, and neither of which are actually in my office.

Because of the heat, I have been focusing on game development, and cutting hours I would otherwise spend on communication, marketing, and administration. So, I promise it only *looks* like I’m doing very little.

The quests for v0.41 are in their final stages, I only have a little bit of final dialogue, and some enemy placement and treasure drops to do. I’d like to tie off some new sex scenes and chat dialogue, that sort of thing, as well, but we’ll play it by ear on that one.

I just wanted to make this effort to reach out real quick, so I’ll leave it at that. Thank you for your support, as always, and I’ll see you in a week and a half for the backer release!