Saturday, October 30, 2010

And the crowd goes wild!

I don't get nearly as many chances to stretch my game-writing muscles as I'd like. One exception was last May, during a conversation with a fellow designer who was working on a warcraft 3 arena map. The setting was described as a sort of fantasy roman empire, and each of the 15 characters had some interesting backstory (which I've included below for context. Among his intended features was a neat crowd element:

The crowd gets in on the action! The dynamic crowd will cheer, boo, chant, or roar its support based on player actions, providing a variety of special effects. For example, there are killstreak rewards (somewhat like, say, Call of Duty uses, but don't expect to see helicopters ;))

(3:43:19 PM) Dagda: It's interesting, I like the allusions to the culture/background society
(3:43:28 PM) OneWinged4ngel: Go on?
(3:43:50 PM) OneWinged4ngel: Don't just tell me "it's good." Everyone tells me that about everything I make. It's not terribly helpful feedback :(
(3:44:41 PM) Dagda: Just that all their descriptions imply that their stories tie into a larger context- with the player's imagination being free to fill in the blanks.
(3:45:39 PM) Dagda: This isn't just random archetypes, all of them have ties to a larger world
(3:46:59 PM) Dagda: It'd be interesting to have the crowd shout character-specific things via text, though I'm not sure where you'd have it appear.
(3:50:02 PM) Dagda: The Abomination, for example. Cheer: "Great ___, it's hideous!" Boo: "Inhuman creature! Someone put it down!" Roar: "What a terror!" Chant: "Eat their brains!"
(3:51:03 PM) Dagda: Gives you a sense of how your character looks in the eyes of Rulaan's masses.
(3:51:46 PM) OneWinged4ngel: That's a good idea. I shall implement it.
(3:52:01 PM) OneWinged4ngel: Come up with more lines for them to say for other characters though.
(3:52:03 PM) OneWinged4ngel: >_>
AND SO I DID. Just to reiterate, the descriptions below aren't my ideas- I just came up with the crowd reactions.

The Missionary: An evangelistic priest and explorer from a faraway, previously unknown land who had set out on a mission to spread the gospel of his monotheistic sun god to the world. Upon arriving in Rulaan, the Missionary's compelling faith formed the seeds of a revolution against the established belief system, and he was imprisoned as an enemy of the state. Now, he is forced to fight against his will in the arena. In battle, in addition to sword and shield, he wields the wrath of God itself, calling down fire from the heavens.
Cheer: "It's that foreigner!" Boo: "Give up on your false god!" Roar: "Unbelievable!" Chant: "Prea-cher!"

The Heretic: A corrupt former high priest of the Order revealed and imprisoned for committing atrocities against his fellow Rulaani, the Heretic is a master of the dark arts who bargains with the masters of the underworld for power over death. He knows the secrets of blood magic, offering of his own flesh and soul to gain dominion over the damned. Ironically, he finds that in bonds he has been freed to go about his work; few comprehend his methods, and where once he had to operate in secret, the arena presents him with a plethora of living sacrifices.
Cheer: "Foul traitor!" Boo: "A quick death's too good for him!" Roar: "Such power!" Chant: "Wipe them out!"

The Witch: A pagan practitioner of the Old Ways, the Witch is in tune with the mind of nature and the sacred feminine, and is a master of herbalism, wards, charms, and hexes. The old ways are no longer observed in Rulaan, however, and since the rise of a new organized religion, the Order, the last practitioners of witchcraft are hunted down and imprisoned. Like all prisoners, however, they too are given the opportunity to participate in the blood sport.
Cheer: "Country girl! You don't stand a chance!" Boo: "There's no place for your kind, not anymore!" Roar : "Damn, she's a tricky one!" Chant: "Witch!"

The Abomination: Amongst the exotic monsters captured from the far corners of the earth to be put on display in the arena, the Abomination is the most unique and frightening. Captured from the deepest depths of the underdark, this nightmarish psychic Abomination employs staggering psychic powers to subdue his victims, break their minds, and finally consume their brains.
Cheer: "Great ___, it's hideous!" Boo: "Inhuman creature! Someone put it down!" Roar: "What a terror!" Chant: "Eat their brains!"

The Warlock: A centurion among Rulaan's warrior mages with a penchant for cruelty, the Warlock is a master of vicious evocation magics, able to call fire from the earth, lightning from the sky, frost from the air, or even tear paths through the fabric of reality. Already wealthy and powerful, she fights in the arena for simple sport and bloodlust.
"Centurion! Show them what we're made of!" Boo: "Fraud! This can't be our lady!" Roar: "Truly the finest of our warrior-mages!" Chant: "Rulaan!"

The Knight: A lovestruck former Rulaani nobleman whose forbidden passions have cost him his title, disgraced his lineage, ostracized him from his family, and landed the Knight in prison with only one hope of freedom to reunite himself with his love: becoming the champion of the arena.
Cheer: "There he is, a lord no longer!" Boo: "An utter disgrace!" Roar: "Truly, he fights for her!" Chant: "Fight on!"

The Hero: Once a celebrated war hero of the northern dwarves, the keepers of the ancient secrets of the Way Gates, the Hero was defeated and captured in a heroic last stand, which some saw as the moment that ended a long war with expansionist Rulaan. Now, he is a prisoner of war, forced to fight in the arena for the amusement of his captors in order to stay alive from day to day, wielding the power of his mystical heritage and secrets of dwarven craft.
Cheer: "Pathetic dwarf!" Boo: "This is the best his people could offer?" Roar: "Astounding!" Chant: "Hold the line!"

The Gladiator: A thrillseeking Rulaani freeman who fights in the arena for his own personal glory, fame, and profit, the Gladiator is a returning champion of the arena who hasn't let age dull his skills. The Gladiator is a master fighter with his axe and gladiator's net, and knows how to play to the crowd.
Cheer: "He returns once more!" Boo: "Old man should just retire!" Roar: "What skill!" Chant: "Champion!"

The Savage: A proud warrior of one of the many relatively primitive tribes of ogres scatterred around the western edge of the expanding Rulaani empire made victims of genocide, the Savage was captured and hauled off to be goggled at by audiences in the arena. Channeling his fearsome sorrow and rage on those he is forced to fight, the Savage wields a towering stone axe like a wrecking ball with sharp edges, trampling foes with his sheer size and strength.
Cheer: "What a beast!" Boo: "Who gave that animal an axe?" Roar: "He's unstoppable!" Chant: "O-gre!"

The Amazon: The overextended expansionist Rulaan is plagued by barbarian raids from far corners of the empire, and perhaps the most infamous of these raiders are the Amazon women from the southern reaches. A savage warrior woman captured in such a barbarian raid on Rulaan and put on display in the arena, the Amazon is a swift huntress with a vicious killer instinct.
Cheer: "It's a wild woman!" Boo: "Come on, fight like a man!" Roar: "She's amazing!" Chant: "Amazon!"

The Madman: A relentlessly clever inventor and a homicidal maniac to boot, the Madman defines the line of genius meeting insanity. After using his technological expertise to disintegrate one of the wonders of the world, the authorities stepped up their efforts and finally managed to capture the rampaging goblin. Now imprisoned, the Madman gleefully turns over his pioneering doomsday machines to the Rulaani army in return for an endless supply of live test subjects in the arena.
Cheer: "The goblin! Who knows what he'll do!" " Boo: "Deranged lunatic!" Roar: "He's a madman, but he's OUR madman!" Cheer: "Genius!"

The Outlaw: A daring brigand and expert marksman who terrorized the roads of Rulaan, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Even now that the law has finally caught up with her, the Outlaw does not intend to give up her mission of redistribution of wealth and is planning a daring escape with the help of her allies who still walk free. Until then, however, she must survive the carnage of the arena.
Cheer: "And they said she couldn't be caught!" Boo: "Time for her tale to end!" Roar: "A true legend after all!" Chant: "Freedom!"

The Assassin: A hired killer who once stalked the upper echelons of the Rulaani courts, being wrapped up in so many intrigues came back to bite the Assassin when one of her employers betrayed her, and she was caught in the act. Now, her mastery of the deadly arts serve her well in fighting for her freedom in the fighting pits of the arena.
Cheer: "Nowhere to hide now!" (And yes, they're badly mistaken) Boo: "This is no battle!" Roar: "A deadly foe!" Chant: "Kill!"

The Wanderer: The Wanderer is a traveler from far, exotic lands on a journey to become the world's strongest warrior, testing his skills against those of the greatest fighters from across the world and learning from every encounter with a new style. Now that he has arrived in Rulaan, he seeks to once more bathe his blades and challenge his skills in the Colosseum.
Cheer: "He'll see what the Arena has in store!" Boo: "Get out of the ring!" Roar: "Never seen anything like it!" Chant: "Warrior!"

The Gambler: A devious Rulaani lord with a compulsion for betting on arena matches who, after finding himself mired in debts, finally decided that the best way to rig the game was to enter himself! The Gambler is a master of Chaos Magic, wielding unstable arcane powers focused through cards inscribed with runes and sutras. And yes, he charges up the cards with explosive energy and throws them at people like Gambit from X-Men.
Cheer: "His luck's run out!" Boo: "Nothing but cheap tricks!" Roar: "Fortune's favorite, indeed!" Chant: "Against the odds!"

Read all

Friday, October 29, 2010

Court de Capitate: New Playtest Cards

So here's my bright idea for making this game available to all of you: Business cards!

All you need is eight sheets of business cards, size 2x3.5 inches; in my experience you can find decent ones for less than $5 at any office supply store or big retail outlet. Print this document onto those pages, and you'll have all 80 cards needed to play a the game! I do suggest scrounging up a d10 for each player, but a pencil and scratch paper can fill the same role just fine.

I'd wanted to share this ages ago, but my perfectionism and urge to tinker have been getting the better of me in the rare moments where I had time & energy to spare for this game. On the plus side, I can say with confidence that this delay has resulted in a better and more playable game (though there's still plenty more I can do to improve it!). Now I just need to finish an update to the manual. To bad I'm terrible at writing those. Maybe I'll just record myself the next time I explain the rules to someone in person?

Read all

Friday, October 22, 2010

Influence Map: Complete Version

Finished! Got to say, this was a fun bit of navel-gazing.

Really, the hardest thing was separating "stuff I like" from "stuff that I find myself drawing on." For example, I really dig Metroid Prime, but it hardly informs my own work- I don't make first person adventure games, at least not so far.

Edit: I've been asked a couple questions about this, so I thought I'd elaborate some here. The material on the left side of the image is what I draw on (so far as I can tell) when coming up with fictional ideas and concepts- a random character, the background for a world, the fluff premise for a game. The material on the right side is the stuff that's influenced & advanced how I think about game mechanics of all sorts. Pretty much everything on here comes highly recommended, feel free to ask if you want more details on something.

Read all

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Influence Map: Part 2

Here's the rough for the second half. If anyone can guess one of the unrevealed items, I'll give them a game-as in, I'll design one for you.

Read all

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Influence Map: Part 1

I've been taking a stab at doing this in the spare moments between calls at my job. This image is the first half, give or take.

Read all

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brainstorming: One Hell of a love story

(10:27:25 PM) Dagda: You know that massive image collection I've got?
(10:28:29 PM) Dagda: 7k character portraits, and just as much other stuff?
(10:28:53 PM) Dr Nurse: Yes?
(10:29:43 PM) Dagda: Basically, I have it all on the ipod, with the slideshow set to shuffle. So I open up the "Portraits" gallery, and declare that the next pic that comes up will be the protagonist.
(10:39:08 PM) Dr Nurse: Holy shit, no dude, I could play that game forever
(10:39:18 PM) Dagda: Same
(10:40:14 PM) Dagda: Here, let's do it now! You declare the character's role, I'll grab the result & give you the web gallery link.
(10:40:25 PM) Dr Nurse: :-D YES!
(10:41:02 PM) Dagda: (Or you can declare something like "this is his weapon of choice" and I'll go raid the Equipment gallery instead, for example.)
(10:41:15 PM) Dr Nurse: Right!
(10:41:19 PM) Dr Nurse: Okay, then... setting.
(10:41:39 PM) Dagda:
(10:42:35 PM) Dagda: HELL ITSELF
(10:42:43 PM) Dr Nurse: Damn, I was hoping for more scenery but YES. THE WAR IN HELL.
(10:42:46 PM) Dagda: We appear to be off to an excellent start
(10:42:51 PM) Dr Nurse: WONDERFUL.
(10:42:52 PM) Dr Nurse: Hero?
(10:43:11 PM) Dagda:
(10:43:14 PM) Dagda: Huh!
(10:43:36 PM) Dagda: Some kinda elric/samurai guy? This one gives us alot of flexibilty.
(10:43:56 PM) Dr Nurse: ...Wow we are off to a great start. A lost soul in the middle of a war in hell itself.
(10:44:14 PM) Dagda: How about love interest?
(10:44:24 PM) Dr Nurse: Oh! Yes! This could be interesting.
(10:44:27 PM) Dagda: Take advantage of the androgynous protagonist
(10:44:35 PM) Dr Nurse: Totally!
(10:44:44 PM) Dagda:
(10:44:51 PM) Dagda: Hmm
(10:45:11 PM) Dagda: Well, she's got the right attitude for a war in hell
(10:45:36 PM) Dagda: (right attitude being yelling angrily while hitting something)
(10:45:54 PM) Dr Nurse: Well, this is easy. Apparently this war in hell is asian themed or some shit. Maybe it's a Dante's Inferno (the shitty game i mean) situation. He went into the depths of hell itself to fetch a lost love...
(10:45:59 PM) Dr Nurse: and she's a little busy kicking ass in a war.
(10:46:34 PM) Dagda: Less "I have come for you my darling" and more "Honey maybe it's time you took a break, dinner's almost ready"
(10:46:58 PM) Dagda: Hmm
(10:47:50 PM) Dagda: Maybe you've got the Doom-esque "gate to hell opens" scenario, and an order of monks sends people in to desperately try & find a way to close it.
(10:49:14 PM) Dagda: And this lost soul- who happens to be a badass swordsman, hence him not being devoured decades ago- is immediately drawn to her (which is a good thing, since she really needs help. Not many visitor aids in hell)
(10:52:10 PM) Dagda: I find myself envisioning a blend of action-movie and "my love interest is damned" dark romance.
(10:52:31 PM) Dr Nurse: I LIKE IT.
(10:52:37 PM) Dr Nurse: So hey, Villain time. Make it happen.
(10:52:47 PM) Dagda: Hmm
(10:53:26 PM) Dagda: Do I go to Portraits (i.e. people) or creatures (i.e. inhumanoid monsters)?
(10:53:44 PM) Dr Nurse: Hey, do both and see what we can come up with
(10:53:49 PM) Dr Nurse: this IS hell after all
(10:54:03 PM) Dagda:
(10:54:31 PM) Dagda: First reaction is :/
(10:54:51 PM) Dagda: Second reaction: SHIT YES INFERNAL WARGOLEM ON WHEELS
(10:55:05 PM) Dr Nurse: IT'S A MECH. IN HELL. AWESOME.
(10:55:06 PM) Dagda: A little generous interpetation voila!
(10:55:41 PM) Dagda: . . .Oooh!
(10:55:49 PM) Dagda: Person result:
(10:56:18 PM) Dagda: Whaddaya say we have our reason for the hellgate opening in the first place?
(10:56:49 PM) Dr Nurse: I think so. A vengeful warrior dude trying to claw his way out of hell and, barring that, bringing everyone else into hell with him?
(10:58:37 PM) Dagda: Oooh! Oooh!
(11:00:07 PM) Dagda: So I'm thinking, maybe mortals- those badass enough to actually hold onto their souls while in hell- can actually use the metaphysical advantage their soul gives them to start bringing demons under their will?
(11:00:21 PM) Dagda: A sort of charisma that comes from them having free will?
(11:00:34 PM) Dr Nurse: OH YES! So we get the MegaTen element of monster recruitment?
(11:01:45 PM) Dagda: I was thinking this as an explanation for the warrior guy being a villain- but then I realized this could mean our love interest has to learn to do the same over the course of the story!
(11:02:36 PM) Dagda: i.e. stare down the mob of fiends and say "No, YOU get on your knees and beg for mercy"
(11:02:56 PM) Dagda: And then crack heads until they get the idea
(11:03:09 PM) Dr Nurse: YES! This mortal girl has to learn how to be a lord of hell to fight a lord of hell.
(11:04:27 PM) Dagda: And her love interest guy has to rebuild his sense of self, through her, enough to give her the crash course.
(11:04:48 PM) Dagda: OH! Just thought of a viable ending!
(11:05:18 PM) Dr Nurse: Oh?
(11:06:18 PM) Dagda: The whole "dark" part of the romance setup comes from the giant This Will Not End Well factor, right?
(11:06:42 PM) Dr Nurse: Right!
(11:08:36 PM) Dagda: She's on a suicide mission, even if she beats this guy there's very little chance of her being able to escape afterwards. And he's a lost soul, fighting alongside her guarantees that he's attracting too much attention to measure his lifespan in more than hours.
(11:10:37 PM) Dagda: And even if they weren't up against such staggering odds amounts of ass, the best could hope for would be to win her a way out and wave a sad goodbye. Heck, maybe he repeatedly tries to persuade her to cut & run with that very goal in mind.
(11:12:43 PM) Dagda: Then comes the climactic battle against this villain (and his wargolem!). Let's say that there's this big soul-devouring sacrificial altar thingy, maybe with big barbed spikes to impale your victims on.
(11:13:08 PM) Dagda: Or some similar device.
(11:13:12 PM) Dr Nurse: Right!
(11:14:43 PM) Dagda: And say that our final battle ends with this lost soul attempting a Taking You With Me sacrifice, expending his essence enough to physically tackle the villain into the devour-your-soul-o-matic.
(11:16:11 PM) Dagda: Villain soul is devoured! Bloodied, lifeless body crashes to the floor, whites of his eyes showing.
(11:18:06 PM) Dagda: Same soul-devouring forces rip at our lost soul. . .only for it to become clear that they're pawing ineffectively at him. WIth this last act, he's officially become to pure for hell to have any power over him.
(11:19:37 PM) Dr Nurse: OHHHHH
(11:20:09 PM) Dagda: but he's still spent to much of himself, his spiritual form's integrity is comrpomised. He's drifting away, presumably to heaven. She's watching him with this tearful smile, in such rough shape that she can't even stand, demons and/or a still-functional wargolem battering down a nearby door & seconds a way from crushing her to a pulp.
(11:20:36 PM) Dr Nurse: So we still get a badend?!
(11:22:10 PM) Dagda: He's completely not okay with this ending, she's completely okay with it. This way one of them gets out of hell, and it's the one who never had any hope in the first place.
(11:23:30 PM) Dagda: We hear screaming no & struggling to force himself to stay in more and more heartfelt fashions, but after one final, determined, fading cry he's gone.
(11:24:26 PM) Dr Nurse: D:
(11:24:37 PM) Dagda: She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, turns to watch the berserk war golem break free of the door/whatever they trapped it in mid-fight and barrel down towards her.
(11:27:07 PM) Dagda: An intact mortal body, with a freshly empty place where its soul used to be.
(11:27:27 PM) Dagda: TWIST GOOD END
(11:27:39 PM) Dr Nurse: THE BEST END.
(11:27:46 PM) Dr Nurse: I LOVE TWIST GOOD ENDS.
(11:27:55 PM) Dr Nurse: "OH SHIT THINGS LOOK BLEAK"
(11:29:56 PM) Dagda: So.
(11:30:12 PM) Dagda: We need to do this on a regular basis, methinks.
(11:30:19 PM) Dr Nurse: This is the best game.

Read all