Classism, Part 2

Okay, first of all, I just want to say that Guided Fate Paradox looks like an awesome game. I haven’t played it myself, but Nekochan has been glued to it and it’s actually fun to watch and looks really good. Unfortunately for me, I’m embroiled in a speedrun of Kingdoms of Amalur on hard at the moment, which is taking forever- god damn that game is big. But once that is done, I’m totally hooking up with some cosplay angels.
So, in continuation of last week’s rant: What I want the characters to do, with some special previews this time!
Buffers and Healers
I fold these two roles together, because just healing is kind of boring and uninteresting, and doesn’t give that character anything to when people are full up.
Hero
As I’ve said elsewhere before, the Hero is supposed to kind of suck. His primary job is to make everyone else in the party better, without being very good on his own- synergy with the other characters is what I’m shooting for here. That being said, he’s also not going to big weaknesses either.
Strengths: The Hero has four upgradable abilities that you can grow at your pace. Also, he gets to have sex with a bunch of women.
Weaknesses: Not having any particular strengths.
Future Plans: The hero is going to an additional mode- if you remember the test character Viel it’s, going to work in a similar way- that will allow him to double as a tank with some damage capability, letting the player switch up his role for more variety.
Felix/Healbot
Felix is an early game crutch healer who will eventually start giving diminishing returns.I’ve talked about Felix at length before…. Fun Fact: Nekochan hates Felix and thinks anyone who uses him is a pussy. I don’t agree with her, but he wasn’t originally intended to be in the game….
Strengths: He heals you. No, really, that’s it.
Weaknesses: His stats are supposed to be the lowest over time out of everyone in the game, but right now that’s a little academic because the game only supports up to level 15 or so.
 Future Plans: When I actually go and start plugging in stat lines rather than relying on RPG Maker’s automatic settings, I’m going to have Felix’s stats begin to plateau around level 20.
 Diadira (Didi)
Didi is a cosplaying pop star that the Hero sees in concert and decides he absolutely has to at least fuck. She’ll be implemented by next spring, if not earlier. She’ll be roughly a “bard” type, but hopefully suck a whole lot less that most bards.
Strengths: She is all about buffing the team. If she does any healing, it’ll be an incidental kind of thing. For example, by dropping a buff that gives the team regeneration. Her buffs are going to be tremendously powerful, affecting multiple parameters, but…
Weaknesses: …She has to sing to grant them. Singing takes up all her actions, and basically having her on the team means that when you fire up a song buff, you’re fighting with a super-powered three-man team and one meat shield that doesn’t grab aggro. The songs will be temporary, and Didi will get freed up when the song is over. To give her something of a secondary role, she’ll probably have a high Magic stat so she can make decent use out of scrolls and bombs.
Controllers
Meline
One of the more controversial-yet-popular characters, your little specializes in dealing with magical threats and spellcasters.
Strengths: Meline has a huge supply of Mana, which lets her keep casting and resist effects that sap Mana. Her biggest skill right now is Heretical Censure, which prevents enemy spellcasting and opens the enemy party up to elemental damage. She also casts fire-elemental prayers, which slows enemy healing, and radiance-elemental prayers that apply a huge to-hit penalty to enemies.
Weaknesses: She has low initiative and even lower attack.
Future Plans: I’m actually not 100% certain about this one. Her next few skills will have to focus on her ability to screw with regular enemies and not just spellcasters to help round things out, or more skills like Censure that primarily affect spellcasters but aren’t completely useless against normal bad guys.
Larelle
You know, I’ve always been a little disappointed at Larelle’s lukewarm reception. I really like her as a character and I think she plays really well. Plus, she can resurrect dead party members as zombies, and I think that’s awesome. 
Strengths: For a spellcaster, she’s pretty robust and has decent attack power. Plus, her necrotic-elemental magic kills enemy attack power, and she cast Terrible Curse to inflict an HP-drain effect that mirrors Censure’s elemental damage bonus. Also, she can raise your fellow party members as zombies!
Weaknesses: As a spellcaster, she’s supposed to pale in comparison to other primary spellcasters like Meline and Kyrie, with lower Mana and Magic power.
Future Plans: Already in the pipeline is a buff to the Zombie status that increases their threat, making them halfway decent temporary tanks. Other than that, I’m thinking of giving her a second spell element like the other casters. Kyrie would be acid and cold, Meline would be radiant and fire, Chimei would be thunder and lightning (very very frightening!), Larelle would be necrotic and psychic maybe, and force would be provided by tomes.
Chimei
Chimei is a sort of druidy nature mage type who casts very powerful evocations that use lightning and thunder. For various reasons, she’s probably the most  OP spellcaster right now, and evocations in general as well as the lightning element are going to have to be nerfed. Also, she speaks exclusively in Japanese, which is a gag I never get tired of.
Strengths: Chimei actually has really high Luck and Resist ratings, helping her resist status effects and magic damage. She also has Defense debuffs, and lightning-element magic is overpowered as hell.
Weaknesses: Because evocations require Mana and Momentum, Chimei has to make use of basic attacks and her Transfer Essence skill to generate Momentum to use her evocations. This locks her into a two-turn rhythm, where she stores energy and then casts a spell.
Future Plans: First of all, Chimei isn’t learning English anytime soon. However, be assured that nothing she says is of consequence to the plot- the Hero just ignores her most of the time. Easily 90% of her dialogue comes from TVTropes’ list of Stock Japanese Phrases anyway, and if you can’t tell from the French dwarves and the elf-latin I really like hiding little gags and bonuses behind language barriers. As for actual gameplay changes, evocation spells currently target two or four random enemies- which can be rough if you’re fighting big groups of dudes, but against a single foe they basically just multiply your damage as each strike hits the same poor guy. I wanted evocations to feel very different from spells and prayers, and that just isn’t going to work. Also, the way the lightning element works is going to have to change as well.
(Elf Ranger)
This character, who is thus far unnamed, is an elf who acts as a physical controller. Armed with a bow, by using techniques that take the form of special archery techniques and stealing some of the better ideas off of Hawkeye and Green Arrow. If I realigned the spellcasters’ elements as mentioned above, I might add evocations to this character to give her a secondary role with poison spells, but I guess that could just as easily be done with poison-tipped arrows.
I don’t really have a strengths/weaknesses workup for this character, but she’s the least developed, although she should be in the game by this summer. I’ll talk about her story and personality instead.
Basically, when you start on the elf village questline, you find out very early on that the elven princess has a huge fetish for humans and their rounded ears, but she is (at first) forbidden from having sex with the Hero. However, nothing stops her from ordering her bodyguard and handmaiden to have sex with the Hero while she watches. Said handmaiden, the ranger, is forced by her mistress to join the Hero’s harem and help him save the elven people so the princess can have sex with him, since he needs to become the saviour of the elf people before the king will allow the princess to lay him.
The ranger herself isn’t all that interested in the Hero, and only fucks him begrudgingly to please her princess, who the ranger kinda has a thing for. She has a low opinion of humans in general, but is forced to work with one and eventually even comes to accept him and then fall in love with him.
Anyway, I hope all that was interesting for you. Reply with your game balance insight/opinions. Oh, and in case you missed it, last week I enable anonymous comments so feel free to comment with your privacy intact/give me the verbal lambasting you feel I deserve/link all the rickrolls and goatse pics your desire.

Classism Part 1

So I spent most of Monday working on Fairy Side for MagicWhiteLady. Because we haven’t been able to get together to collab on dialogue and such, MWL is doing all of the game text as I type. But I was able to refine some of MWL’s ideas and made sure that, if nothing else, it’s a thing you can play through. The structure is there, and MWL is bringing the fun.

Also: I changed up my avatar. Wooser likes meat, girls, and money, and so do I. But don’t worry, I still fight for the greater good, Tau-chan has just been moved to my wallpaper. Exciting stuff.

Maybe I should actually talk about my game?

Okay, so I’ve been putting more thought into game balance lately and I’m personally wondering what characters people use, who gets teamed up with whom, stuff like that. I want to have the gameplay be pretty deep… or at least as deep as RPG Maker can get. Even if I can’t hit “deep”, “challenging but rewarding” would be a great secondary. So your feedback is important in this regard. Also, it might go into skills that appear on these characters in the future.

I also want to avoid nerfing the characters if I can. I’d rather maker under-used characters better than take away something that is already good.

So, here is sort of how I envisioned how each character would work.

Damagers

Elaiya 
Pretty basic, glass cannon physical damage.
Strengths: She shoots for high damage, lets off the occasional burst fire. As for her other skills, Stealth keeps the heat off for awhile, Kneecapping will (next update) deal some damage with an evasion penalty for high-evasion enemies, Assassin’s Strike lets you gamble on an insta-death move.
Weaknesses: Enemy tanks with cover and lots of HP kind of ruin her day, since they can soak up multiple Barrage shots. Enemy damagers with multi-target abilities as well.
Future Plans: Right now my rough plan is for her Love Quest to result in an upgraded three-hit Barrage. The individual damage of her pistols will probably come down as I start running numbers and figure out what works for weak damage, and her crit rate will probably get nerfed. Maybe in favour of an “Aiming” self-buff that cancels Stealth but gives more crits.

Yamamaya
Yamamaya is a bit more complicated. She should bring to the table less (but still good) damage compared to Elaiya, but in a more robust package. Add in some racial immunities, and she can Rage if the player decides they’ve figured out the enemy boss and she can safely bash away without input.
Strengths: Racial immunities to most “mind”-type effects, highest Health on a damager. Her Techniques gives her some more options- Shockwave causes Thunder element damage and can deafen, while Strong Attack gives her a good go-to attack power when you don’t want her to Rage.
Weaknesses: She also hates enemy tanks, but slightly less than Elaiya because multi-targeting is less important to Yamamaya’s style. Turning on Rage can quickly bite you in the ass if the battle turns south on the player.
Future Plans: Strong Attack will probably get some kind of -Hit, +Damage change in the future and become a “Wild Swing” type ability just to be more flavourful and interesting. In general, I want her to be the “safe” damager with less risk, but less reward.

Kyrie
Kyrie is an uncomplicated nuker mage. She also adds a bit more enemy control- her acid spells cause -Defense and her ice spells will cause -Evasion and -Hit in time. But her power is limited because I want restoring Mana to be pretty expensive in this game.
Strengths: Lots of damage, multi-target spells, some debuffs. Also, Ice Armor stacks with other defense buffs. She can also take some damage to self-buff her Magic.
Weaknesses: Reliance on Mana, almost as weak as Elaiya, and nothing really spammable for mid-dungeon fights.
Future Plans: Getting her in the harem, for one. Despite being one of the first characters designed for the game, she remains elusive. Also, she will get some kind of “acid snow” multi-target ultima-type spell for obscene damage + obscene Mana cost.

Gargan
For the more discerning, cerebral player, Gargan provides good damage and can also do secondary tanking.
Strengths: Fairly sturdy. Uses Cape Stun and eventually Throw to inflict the Stun effect, and on the following turn can Stun Break* for extra damage and to ignore defense. Coup de Grace allows late-game Gargan to set up an insta-kill on a stunned enemy… if he has enough Momentum. Finally, Counter lets him/her secondary tank while still inflicting damage.
Weaknesses:You actually have to plan and be careful to use Gargan most efficiently. Even still, an enemy immune to Stun (mechanicals, catgirls, etc) will shut him/her right down into a less-efficient tank.
Future Plans: Get him/her in the party after a quest to cure his/her curse with mixed results. Also, decide on a pronoun for him/her and a way to make him/her cool with being a her that doesn’t cause my social justice-oriented friends to riot.

Overall: The Damagers are the least problematic characters in the game- Yamamaya and Elaiya  are frequently stated to be top picks and Kyrie and Gargan bring new play styles to the table without being too difficult to understand. They just need tweaks and fixes to get them *just right*.

Tanks

Therese
Being the first additional party member, the tutorial sections pretty much explain how Therese works- Primary tank with secondary healing.
Strengths: Rough and tumble fighter who also heals. Highest Resist of all the tanks, and will be able to self-buff to stretch it even further. Can also use +Defense Prayers, and Stagger gives her a slightly boosted attack with an Agility debuff.
Weaknesses: Martyrdom lacks any of the bell and whistles of the other tank abilities- it just draws threat without benefiting Therese.
Future Plans: Her Lay on Hands is meant to be early game healing, she will eventually get the basic one-target healing Prayer at the same time primary healers get multi-target healing.

Doll
Doll is actually an old idea I had back in elementary school for a Final Fantasy class- low damage, but covers and auto-regens.
Strengths: Has innate Health regeneration. Defender of Life buffs her Health Regen while she draws threat. Vine Armour lets her self-buff Defense (and stacks with other Defense buffs), Regeneration lets her offer some low-grade heals, and somebody Shake It Off might do something useful.
Weaknesses: Lowest Attack of all the tanks. Regeneration is less useful in the face of high-damage enemies and is better for low-risk battles you can drag out to benefit from the most healing.
Future Plans: Nothing concrete at the moment, except adding something to Vine Armour to spice it up a little (like Ice Armour also granting Cold Resistance).

Raina
Raina is a pretty basic spear-and-board fighter, but has enough interesting twists. Mirrors her brother a little- Gargan is a primary damager, secondary tank who applies a debuffs and then takes it away for bonus damage, while Raina is a primary tank, secondary damager who applies a self-buff then takes it away for bonus damage. If you’re interested in how she works, go check out Fairy Side later today- Conall is functionally identical, except for a slightly different stat priorities.
Strengths: Highest Defense in the game. Has two options for threat-generating self-buffs- Phalanx, which generates threat and buffs Defense, and Deflect, which generates threat and buffs Resist. She can then Shield Bash to attack with her Defense stat before leaving her Phalanx/Deflect state.  Shield Rush is functionally similar, except costs more Momentum and has a chance of Knockdown. She can also use Pommel Strike for a boosted attack with chance of Knockdown that doesn’t cause her to leave Phalanx/Deflect.
Weaknesses: Lowest Resist of all the tanks and lacks any healing ability.
Future Plans: Get her in the party and eventually the harem. Raina is slightly more complicated in this regard- she’s going to hang around the manor and join in all the fun adventuring, but won’t join the harem until you can make her love the Hero enough to accept his philandering.

Originally this post was going to cover all the classes, but after seeing how long it is, this is going two-parter. See you next week!

*I just noticed while writing this post that Stun Break does not work as intended, using Gargan’s Magic stat instead of Attack. Will be fixed in next version.

Game Design Rant: Stat Balance

I’ve repeatedly run into a problem with the RPG Maker engine that is causing me to rethink part of Harem Collector’s design and balance. It might result in me changing the way that buffs work entirely.

RPG Maker uses eight basic parameters that you’re probably all familiar with from HC’s status and equip screens. They are:

Max HP (I’ve renamed to “Health” or “<3”)
Max MP (I’ve renamed to “Mana” or “8)”)
Attack
Defense
Magic Attack (I’ve renamed just “Magic”)
Magic Defense (I’ve renamed to “Resist”)
Agility
Luck

Most of these seem pretty self-explanatory, but in reality they are severely limited in how they function inside the engine. Attack, Defense, Magic and Resist only do anything because I edit the individual damage formulas of the various skills and attacks- they have no function outside those damage calculations. Which is fine, I have total control over what they do and can easily balance them with respect to one another. Max HP and MP are similar- they only count down how long it takes for a character to die or be unable to cast any spells so I have full control over how they’re used.

The odd ones out are Luck and Agility, and it’s these two stats that cause me no end of balance related grief. Agility determines initiative within combat rounds, the likelihood of escape in combat (which I don’t use) and the likelihood of being surprised/having a preemptive attack (which are only calculated in random battles, which I also don’t use). Not exactly the kind of thing battles are won on. Luck is even weaker, only being used to resist debuffs and added states. A high Luck can even be undesirable in this regard- it adds a resistance chance to all states, including Martyrdom, Stealth, the various Rages, Resistance Bonuses, and positive states from items such as Sugar Rush and the elemental weapon bonuses from things like Contact Poison and Alchemist’s Fire.

This leaves me with something of a conundrum. For example, why would you ever cast a Cold spell if you had any other option, elemental weakness notwithstanding, if all the added Agility debuff does is make a given enemy act last in a round?

I’ve tried to address the weakness of Luck by adding a damage bonus equal to the attacker’s luck to all attack damage formulas, but that doesn’t seem quite enough. What I’d like to do is tie some of the game’s ex- and sp- parameters into your Luck and Agility, specifically granting extra critical chance and critical evasion to Luck and extra hit rate and evasion rate to Agility, but I have no idea how to begin doing that. Help in this regard would be appreciated.

Anyway, just wanted to rant about a problem I have with the engine- and something you should be aware of if you’re going to use RPG Maker yourself.

Game Design Rant: Player Psychographics

Quick update on the game: I haven’t actually been able to do all that much work on it. Between crunch time at school, a full time job, Bioshock Infinite, and a wicked head cold, I’ve lost about a week of work. I still want to do a release in time for 4/17.

One of the things that has bogged me down- name changes. I changed Amelia’s name to Meline, simply because a lot of people were confusing her and Alina. The names were just too similar. The other name change was in the names of the towns- I was not happy with the weird names and the gag of “Hey, all the towns sound like h-game companies!” wasn’t worth keeping around.

So, this week’s topic: Player Psychographics! I wanted to elaborate on something I posted to the HentaiHighSchool forums.

What is a psychographic? Well, in as simple a way as possible, it’s a way of dividing players by what they like to experience in a game, boiled down to the very basics. It’s not enough to say “immersive visuals” or “engaging gameplay”, because you really want to get into a player’s head- what visual elements help this player become immersed in the game or what gameplay elements does this player find engaging are what you want to find out with a psychographic analysis.

Final boss blues has an article on the same topic, which takes the “Timmy, Johnny, Spike” psychographics from Magic: the Gathering and applies it to the game world. But, there are another set of psychographics that are specifically applied to video games, using the four suits of cards.

“Heart” players are tuned into the emotional side of games. These are the players who get into games for the story, the connection to the game’s characters, and the feel of the game’s setting. Traditionally, Heart-types were almost always RPG players, but as technology improves and the games increase their ability to add emotional depth without relying solely on dialogue, the Heart-type has expanded into other genres. If you’re a Heart-type player, you probably enjoy games like Mass Effect 2, Silent Hill 2, and Spec Ops: The Line.

I court the Heart-type player by trying to make the various characters interesting, that you want to find out more about them and want to advance down their relationship tracks. There is more to every harem girl than meets the eye, and your reward for patience and diligence in romancing them is a “day in the spotlight” style quest which goes deeper into their story.

“Club” players want a challenge. These guys are stereotypically the FPSers, twitch gamers who like bullet hell shooters or ridiculous classic-style platformers. But, of course there are different kinds of challenge, and in RPGs this comes down to the dungeon exploration followed by boss fight structure. If you’re a Club-type player, chances are you’d enjoy things like Super Meat Boy, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, or Castle Shikigami 2.

This is why I try really hard to make the boss fights in HC challenging. It’s hard to hit that sweet spot where things are “challenging” without being “frustrating”, but I try to take something the
Extra Credits crew¬†said once to heart. RPG boss battles are, fundamentally, puzzles, where the solution is usually “figure out how to do x damage to the bad guy before the bad guy does y damage to you”. I try to work that into every boss fight, which is why the Gang Leader’s max hp was dropped in the last release- by the time his two buddies are dead, you’ve basically got the fight figured out and just need to whittle him down, but he had so much hp that it took quite some time to finally get the fight over with even once he’s effectively finished.

“Spade” players want to explore the game mechanics and figure things out. They enjoy not only puzzle games, but any game where strategy is an element. Bioshock is probably the best example of a strategy-oriented Spade game I can think of- you have a number of different powers and weapons, and while some are straightforward (antipersonnel ammo is for splicers, armor piercing ammo for Big Daddies and turrets) some aren’t. It’s up for the player to evaluate the situation, and decide what to employ- maybe there’s an oil slick you can ignite with Incinerate! or a pool of water to amplify your Electroshock. There are other ways of encouraging Spades too, like Sengoku Rance which can open new tactics and scenes to you depending on who you have on side and what order you capture enemy countries in.

Spade-types also appreciate the puzzle-solving aspects of boss battles, but that’s not all I do to appeal to Spades. Some of you who were feeling experimental, might have noticed that tripping on shrooms also lets you regenerate Mana, or that being drunk gives your basic attacks a chance to stun. There are situations where losing control of your character might be worth these benefits. That’s the reason why there’s a multitude of items in the game, to let Spade-types explore and see if they can find a use for their stack of fifteen Slime Fluids or to find out exactly what the limits of the Contained Singularity are.

“Diamond”-type players like to collect stuff. And if there is an in-game purpose to collecting all that stuff, well, then that’s icing. Obviously, games like Pokemon appeal to Diamonds, but any game that features regions to explore and collectibles to earn- games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas– hold appeal for Diamonds.

Of course, in a game that’s about collecting women for a harem it’s pretty easy to implement Diamond-oriented stuff. But that’s not the only thing I’m doing. There are businesses to invest in, quests to find, and crafting materials to upgrade your weapons with. Finding all 151 harem girls will require you to do a fair bit of exploring. Finding every scene, dungeon, quest, item and place will require you to look behind every rock and talk to every person and… well, that would be telling.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated as always. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this little lecture.

Porn!

That’s right friends- the big news or next update is that there will be actual porn in the game. I’ve found a solution that I’m satisfied with, and there may be new h content as early as the April release. I’m going to be using a third party 3-d engine to do poses and models. Of course, that depends on a few things- among them my ability to alter existing models while keeping attractive faces, and another being my ability to match clothes and other characteristics to the sprites used in game. We’ll see how it goes, and details will be forthcoming as they are available.

However, this does mean I’ll probably have to abandon Mediafire as a hosting service. If anyone can provide suggestions as to a hosting service that doesn’t mind adult material, please do so.

However the bad news is that might be the only significant change for the April update. Fixing the aesthetics of play is hard, going through each and every event to check sound effects, change sprite movement speeds for cutscenes,¬† deal with message positions…. Because of this and various other things, the next update might just be a general “polishing up” of the game, with the new h scenes, but we’ll see.

As always, stay tuned for more information.