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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Imperial Destiny - Page 25

     Prallan woke with a start from a horrid nightmare.  Fleets of the insect ships had just appeared around the Jinar and had ripped the smaller ship apart in moments.  It took him a few minutes before he realized what had awakened him.  An alarm was sounding on the console next to him.  Not the alarm he had set to wake him, which should be in four hours, but a summons to the bridge.  He rose out of the empty bed quickly, pulling on his uniform.

---------

      Prallan stepped onto the bridge, where Rickler and Itran were already waiting.  Through the forward viewport, another ship sat in space facing the Hermus.  It was much larger than the exploration vessel, and looked like a double helix of metal, joined at the front by a metal cone.

     "XO" Rickler said.  "I have a mission for you."  He nodded to the front viewport.  "We've made peaceful contact with these beings.  They call themselves the Ixillin, and have claims on several nearby systems.  We need their permission to continue in this direction, and their maps and trade are invaluable."

     "Yes, sir."  Prallan said.  "What is the mission?"

      "I'm sending you over to their ship to negotiate."

      "Yes, sir.  How am I going over there?  We don't have shuttles."

      "The Ixillin have provided a shuttlecraft.  It is docked at airlock two."

      "Aye, sir."  Prallan said, heading to the door.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Party Raid - Rogue and Rogue Cards

     The Rogue is the party's solution to nasty traps and other surprises.  He also does a decent amount of burst damage, but is reliant on other party members to get him into position.  He is not as much of a glass cannon as the Wizard, but also doesn't do as much consistent damage.


     Health: 12
     Attack: 2
     Defense: 2
     Ability 1: Evasion: Can attempt to evade one attack per round.  Evading has a success chance of 5% per stealth point.  Uses all stealth points, regardless of success or failure.
     Ability 2: Sneak Attack: Gains 2 damage per player attacking the same target.  Can attempt a sneak attack that increases this damage to 4 per player with a 5% success chance per stealth point.  Uses all stealth points, regardless of success or failure.  (for the purposes of this ability, a minion or creature attacking a target counts as that minion or creature’s owner attacking the target).


     Some example cards:

      Ring of Invisibility (treasure):
      Equip: 3
      Effect: Gain 1 stealth point per turn.  At the end of your turn, if you have not dealt damage this turn, gain an additional 2 stealth points.


      Denarian Triblade:  
      Costs: 2  
      Equip: 1   Effect: deal 4 damage to an enemy.  Flip a coin, if heads the triblade is unequipped.  If tails, the triblade is destroyed.

      Throwing Dagger: 
      Cost 1 
      Equip: 1 
      Effect:  May unequip to deal 2 damage.  Generates 1 stealth point each time it is equipped.

     Disarm
     Cost: 2
     Effect:  Removes one Minor trap (up to 3 converted cost).

    Disable
    Cost: 4
    Effect: removes one Major Trap (up to 6 converted cost).

    Assassinate (Instant)
    Cost: 4
    Effect: Instantly strike one opponent.  Flip a coin.  If heads, deal 4 + your normal damage.  If tails, you deal your normal damage.

    Dodge
    Cost: 3
    Persist: 2
    Effect: Whenever you are subject to an attack, flip a coin.  If heads, the attack misses, if tails, it is resolved normally.  Can be used in conjunction with Evasion.

    Dirty Fighting (Instant)
    Cost: 2
    Effect: Can only be played when an ally attacks.  Grants the ally the ability to use the Rogue's Sneak Attack ability as if he had 5 stealth points (including the +2 to damage if another ally had attacked the enemy this turn).  Does not exhaust the Rogue's stealth points.


     Looking at these cards, and the play example, its clear that the rogue tries to stay alive in any way possible, and helps the party both through removal of traps, early looting of treasure (without lockpicking, the treasure wouldn't be available until after the encounter) and burst damage.  The rogue suffers against opponents with high defenses, and can definitely use buffs and assistance whenever possible.  If an ally doesn't attack, and the rogue is unbuffed, even with boosts to his attack, he may not get through tougher opponents.  He will really start to shine later in the game, when he has some equipment and treasure to make up for these minor downfalls.

-VG

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 24

     The alien's body was like something out of a horror movie.  It had four arms, each ending in a claw, as well as four spined legs.  It was definitely an insectoid being, with large compound eyes and drooping antenna.  Fortunately it was only about four feet total in length, so that diminished some of its ferocity.  That, and the fact that it had been dead for several days.

      "Initial indications are that they are actually physically weaker than us individually.  An average specimen, judging by the four we have, has approximately two-thirds the lifting capacity and one half the endurance of an average Pyranid."  Doctor Vicalso said, removing part of the creature's abdominal plate.  "They metabolise nitrogen, needing at a minimum 30% gaseous concentration to survive.  From the remnants of this one's digestive tract it looks like they are omnivores, though their stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve some metals and minerals."

     "How intelligent are they, Doctor?"  Prallan asked, looking at the creature's head.

     "Definitely intelligent enough for interstellar travel and building starships.  Individually they are what you might consider below average, relatively speaking.  However, they have a mild hive mind, which can make them very intelligent in a group, moreso than a similar group of Pyranids.  However, as their numbers thin, that shared intelligence weakens."

     "Interesting."  Prallan said.  "I want a details report on their physiology.  Anything we know can help when we have to fight them again."

      "Of course, sir."  Vicalso said, removing a pair of purple blobs from the creature.  "I haven't been able to dissect an intelligent creature since medical school, this is very fascinating."

      Prallan left the medical bay very swiftly.  He was certain the Doctor was a good physician, but he also gave him the creeps.

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Party Raid - Fighter and the Fighter Cards

    The fighter is the meat shield of the group.  He's supposed to take damage and deal out melee justice, however the first role is the most important one (note: I'm debating between calling this class fighter or warrior as both represent very similar ideals, so sorry if I've interchanged the names in previous post, we're going to call it fighter for now).

    Health: 20
    Attack: 4
    Defense: 2
    Trait 1: Pay 1, intercept one attack directed at another player (spell, ability, or regular attack) and make the target of the ability this fighter.  All effects and damage are calculated as if the fighter was the original target of the attack.  Can be used once per round as a free action.
    Trait 2:  Reduce damage taken by this fighter by 1 for every defense point sacrificed.  This can be used at will.


    With this setup, it is clear that the warrior is all about buffing his defenses and intercepting attacks.  He is the meat shield and the tank of the group, soaking up damage, and letting the priest heal him and the rogue and wizard deal damage.  It wouldn't be unusual for him to make a melee attack just to give the rogue his flanking bonus.  The fighter works best when there is one or two targets, as he only gets one trait intercept per round, but has other cards that can work similarly.


    Take the Hit
    Cost: 3
    Instant - Can be played at any time.
    Effect - Counter one attack (spell, ability or regular attack) that would strike an ally.  Resolve the attack against yourself instead.

    Parry
    Cost 2
    Effect: Counter one regular attack made against you this round.  Make a free basic attack against that enemy.

    Shield Wall
    Cost 4
    Persist 2
    Effect: At the start of your turn gain 2 block.  Your attack is reduced by 2 and your defense is increased by 2 while this card is in play.

     The Art of War
     Cost: 0
     Effect: Discard this card.  Put one Tactic into play, tapped.

     Defensive Stance
     Cost: 1
     Effect: You gain 5 block.

     Broadsword
     Equipment
     Cost: 2
     Equip: 2
     Effect: Increases your attack by 2 while this card is equipped.

     The downside to fighter is that while he has a lot of good defensive abilities, most of them prevent him from becoming a powerful offensive weapon unless he has help.  As seen in the play test, after getting buffed by both the wizard and the priest, he was able to dish out a lot of hurt and stay safe himself.  He is very reliant on team support, but once he has it he is nearly unstoppable.

    The fighter's greatest weakness is the lack of any spell resistance.  Spells will rip right through his health quickly, and while he can use block to reduce the damage, it will eat through this secondary resource very swiftly.  This means he has to be selective about the damage he takes and the abilities he intercepts.  It might hurt the wizard more to take a sword to the face, but a lightning bolt is another matter.  The fighter's player must be aware of the entire situation, and play accordingly.

-VG

Monday, June 23, 2014

Casual vs Elite Gaming

     When I started playing MMOs and other online games, I was very much an elite gamer.   I sacrificed hundreds of hours of sleep and study to pursue my goals of being great at playing the games I loved.  I beat certain games over and over again until I could conquer them in my sleep.  I saw failing at something as a challenge, not a reason to give up.  It was a very different time in gaming, and the stark contrast to modern days is interesting.

    Casual today is a buzzword.  It means playing Candy Crush instead of Halo.  It doesn't have anything to do with the time commitment (my wife has put way more hours into a casual game than I have to any of my "normal" games) but skill level.  These games are easy, reward you for doing simple things and playing constantly.  They offer easy ways out, to buy your solutions.  I don't even really see how it can be fun to just buy your way out of your problems in a game....after all you are investing time to enjoy it so why pay to skip parts?

    Then I think about MMOs that exist today.  WoW has gotten progressively easier as time has gone on.  Sure, there are still challenges, but more and more of the game is user friendly, the learning curve is less steep and a child could (and regularly do) play the game.  I've seen raiders who were very young excel at the game (like my cousin's 5 year old....scary thought).  The flip side of this is that it takes longer to get the best stuff.  In order to keep you playing, WoW now (and for some time has had) long faction grinds (nothing like the original ones, though) that are more or less mandatory for raiding.  Everythign is keyed to your gear score, but you can go in the kiddy pool (LFR raids) if you want a lot earlier.

    I don't like this trend towards easy gameplay, but large time investments.  I like deep and immersive games where you have to puzzle and figure things out over time.  The EVE online learning curve is the game I want, where things are easy to start but super difficult to master.  I like games that keep you guessing, that require you to use your brain and not just show up.  However, I firmly realize that i am now in the minority of gamers.  Too many want flashy colors with no content.  Its like a cupcake, it is the sort of thing that is nice, but if you eat only cupcakes, you get no real nutritional value and your muscles and mind waste away while your waistline grows.

-VG

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Party Raid - Wizard and the Wizard Cards

     Probably the most interesting class from a mechanical standpoint is the wizard.  The wizard card has the following stats:

    Health: 8
    Attack: 1
    Defense: 0
    Trait 1: The wizard may pay a spell's cost in spellbook pages to return the spell to his hand once cast instead of exiling or discarding it.
    Trait 2: A wizard may sacrifice four spellbook pages to draw a card.


     Now, this doesn't really mean a lot unless you look at the wizard's spells.  Most of the damaging spells, except the weakest ones, have the text that they are exiled once cast.  For example, fireball:

    Fireball
    Cost: 5
    Effect: Deals 6 damage to all enemies currently on the field.  Exile after casting.

    This means that if we had 5 spellbook pages on hand, we could return this card to our hand instead of exiling it.  This means, not only can we cast it again, but we could also discard it for mana (keeping it in the graveyard so its available after a reshuffle) or even cast it again normally, exiling it then.

    The grand scheme of this mechanic is to make wizards powerful, but only if they plan their moves correctly.  Using a fireball early might win an encounter, but you may miss that fireball later, when it was exiled and you need it again.  As the encounters wear on, and the wizard casts more and more spells, eventually he will run low on good spells unless he is taking careful account and spending spellbook pages wisely.  Most of the wizard's best cards revolve around this mechanic, like time stop.  Time Stop allows the wizard to cast extra spells, so if he had a lot of mana and a hefty investment in spellbook pages, he could cast the same spell over and over again in one turn.

     Wizards have some support items too.  Scroll, for example, is like a free copy of one of your spells.  When you equip a scroll, you select a spell in your hand.  You can discard scroll and cast that spell for its cost in spellbook pages.  This would be very useful for any spell that would be exiled, as you not only get to keep it in your hand, but you pay its cost in spellbook pages rather than mana.

     Another useful spell is Master's Arcanum.  This is a 4 cost effect with a 1 persist cost.  You gain one spellbook page per turn, and can pay 2 mana to gain 2 spellbook pages once per turn.

    Finally, there is a treasure called the Ring of Wizardry.  This treasure costs 3 to equip, but once equipped you can place a counter on this ring for every turn that passes.  Once three counters are on the ring, you can remove all counters and unequip the ring to restore one exiled spell that has been played this game to your hand.

-VG

Friday, June 20, 2014

Party Raid - Card Costs

     In playing through the sample game I noticed something troubling about some of the current card setups.  The Persist costs are far too low.  Many cards, like Immortal Blessing, which adds a 5 DR to the target, is relatively cheap to maintain at a persist cost of 1.  This should probably have a persist cost of 2 or more.  Persist is an interesting ability I'd like to have on more cards simply because it allows more to be done with a smaller sized decks.

    This got me thinking in general about card costs and what I'm going to have to do to balance them.  Its going to be a complicated mess trying to get everything at that sweet spot, where the card is worth the cost, but not underpriced.  Then on top of that I have to consider the special abilities of each class in these costs.

    This is really where it gets interesting and we have to start differentiating the cards.  Each class has a gimic.  The Rogue is all about avoiding attacks, generating stealth points and dealing burst damage once everything is set up.  The Warrior is all about defenses, batlefield control (with taunt) and staying alive.  The Priest is all about healing, damage reduction, and minor buffing.  Finally, the wizard is about consistent damage, buffing, and some summoning.

    Each class also has its drawbacks.  Rogue, for example, is dependent on others to attack the target in order to deal a lot of damage.  Priest is largely without direct damage, but is great in a support role.  Warrior is great at keeping others alive and dealing melee damage, but lacks little direct damage that is not subject to defense, and will often take a beating.  Wizard is unique in that unless it prevents the effect, most of his powerful abilities are exiled after cast, meaning as the game continues, they will have less and less available (as exile persists throughout the game, and discards are eventually reshuffled).

    There are a wide variety of abilities and effects that each class has access to, which makes balancing difficult.  For example, a warrior card that deals direct damage or overcomes defense is probably more valuable than the equivalent damage in a wizard card.  This causes direct balancing problems.  There are some general guidelines.  Each class has a 1 cost card that adds 5 of their resource (faith points, spellbook pages, stealth or block), as well as a zero cost card that adds an extra tapped "mana" to their pool (though this should probably be a 2 cost card as it bypasses the normal one per turn addition of "mana" I need to figure out if I like the increased speed the card adds).

-VG

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ghash.io Was Capable of a 51% Attack on Bitcoin's Network

     I've written in the past about Bitcoin's vulnerabilities, and among those is a 51% attack.  This is, to put it in laymen's terms, a situation where one group of miners has over 51% of the hashing power of the entire Bitcoin network, and can more or less decide what is and isn't a legitimate transaction.  This is, of course, an exceedingly dangerous vulnerability as anyone who has that power could quickly cash in on it or cause general disruptions (for example, they could simply spend money then delete the transaction, so that the bitcoins effectively never left their wallet, but most likely they would have the goods/services they bartered them for, and leave the merchant in the cold).

     I'm bringing this up because Ghash.io recently hit the 51% mark.  There's a lot of rumor mills and speculation going around about what they did in the brief window they had at 51%, but the reaction was very clear.  Their sites are now under DDoS attacks, and their hashing rate is down to about 30% of the network total.  Because of the way coins are mined (in that the first one to solve the puzzle wins the whole block, and the more hashing power you have the more likely you are to do so), there is great incentive towards group mining, which leads to large power blocks of miners.  This will not be going away anytime soon, either.

    What is interesting is the effect that the DDoS attacks had on the hashing power of Ghash.io.  It dropped it by about 40% of their original value, from 51% to 30ish%.  Naturally, this means all the other networks increased their share by about 40% of their original value.  This could lead to mining pool "wars" where the number 2 or 3 mining pool launches DDoS attacks against one another to secure a 51% stake and initiate an attack.  Now, it would take a lot of prep work, but even if it fails, its not like you are out anything.  If anything, you still are mining more blocks because of the relative increased power of your hash rate.  There's no reason not to DDoS your competitors, except for the resources expended and the potential good will loss and retaliation.

     If you are in Bitcoin, it might be time to evaluate your investment.  The next month or so will be telling as to the future and stability of the currency.
-VG

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Party Raid Sample Turn 2

Continued from Party Raid Sample Turn - 1

    The fighter, having four tactics previously, discards a card to get another tactic for a total of five.  He plays Total Defense, by tapping two of them, which increases his defense by 2 with a persist cost of 1.  He is out of cards, so he makes a basic attack, dealing 2 damage due to the wizard deciding not to persist the Bear's Strength spell.  The ghoul is still alive, however.

    The rogue doesn't discard this turn, instead he plays Cloak of Darkness, which gives him one extra tapped energy.  He uses his three energy to play Deadly Poison, which allows his equipped throwing dagger to deal 4 damage instead of 2.  He unequips it (free) to throw the dagger at the ghoul.  With the poison, it would deal 4 damage, which would be negated by the ghoul's overall defense of 4.  However, the rogue has a special ability that allows him to deal 2 extra damage whenever another player or minion not controlled by the rogue has dealt damage to the creature.  He could also sacrifice his stealth points for a chance to deal even more damage, but he choses not to.

   The wizard discards a card to gain an untapped mana for a total of five.  He casts Mana Vent to increase his total mana to six.  Then he plays Summon Monster for 3 mana to create a 4 health 3 attack minion with the ability "Once per turn change the target of an attack or spell to this creature".  This spell normally would be exiled after cost (removed from play) but the wizard decides to use his special ability and pay 3 spellbook pages (cost of spell) to keep the spell in his hand instead after casting.

     The priest dismisses his Immortal Blessing.  He casts Divine Intervention with 4 of his 5 divinity.  This spell allows a target to ignore the first 6 damage dealt this turn, and gives the priest one faith point per damage prevented in this way.  He also used 1 divinity to persist Well of Divinity.  He has two faith points: one for the start of this turn and one for playing Divine Intervention from Well of Divinity's effect.

   Its the ghoul's turn.  He attacks the wizard, but the wizard's minion intervenes.  He would deal 4 damage, but the priest's Divine Intervention reduces the damage to 0, generating 4 faith points for the priest.  Diniloth casts a powerful spell called Necrotic Burst which deals 2 damage to all living enemies and heals the damage dealt to his minions (split however he likes).  Two damage is dealt to each player, and none to the minion because it was prevented (generating another 2 faith points for the priest for a total of eight faith points).  This fully heals the ghoul.

    The fighter persists his Total Defense, leaving him with four tactics.  He choses not to play any cards, and makes a direct attack against the ghoul, dealing 2 damage.

    The rogue, also low on cards, pays 1 to equip his throwing dagger.  He makes a basic attack against the ghoul, and uses his stealth points to make a sneak attack (5% per each of his 6 points for a 30% chance), but fails.  The attack deals normal damage, but 2 normal damage + 2 damage from his special ability is not enough to overcome is defense.

     The wizard persists his minion, and then casts Ray of Frost for 3 mana.  He uses three spellbook pages to keep the spell from being exiled.  It deals 4 damage to one target, and he's selected the ghoul.  Diniloth pays 2 to activate his ghoul's mirrored shield's special ability.  He flips a coin and wins, which means he can redirect the target of the spell.  He chooses to reflect the spell back to the wizard.  The wizard's minion intercepts the attack, which kills it.

    The priest persists Well of Divinity by paying 1.  He pays 4 divinity and 1 faith point (from the effect of his Well of Divinity) to cast Champion of the Light on the fighter.  This powerful spell allows him to infuse one player or minion with +10 health, +3 attack, and gives him 1 regeneration.  With 9 faith points left, he uses his special ability to heal people at a cost of 1 faith point per health healed.  He heals himself and the wizard for 2 damage each, costing a total of 4 faith points, leaving him with 5.  He needs 5 faith points at the start of next turn to persist Champion of Light.

   The ghoul attacks the wizard, but the fighter pays to intercept it.  He takes no damage, thanks to his Total Defense.

    The fighter starts his turn, persisting his Total Defense.  He plays Sundering Blow for 2 tactics, which allows him to destroy a target item whose cost is less than his total attack power + 4.  He destroys the ghoul's Mirrorred Shield.  However, it also uses his attack for the turn.  Unfortunately this move also has destroyed the item, preventing them from getting the treasure.

    The rogue gets a bad draw, and doesn't have anything to play.  He grumbles a bit, and ends his turn.

    The wizard casts fireball, a 4 mana spell that deals 6 damage to all enemy targets (in this case only the ghoul).

    The priest spends five faith points to persist the Champion of Light, and one divinity to persist Well of Divinity.  He gains one faith point at the start of the turn.  He casts Purgatory, using four Divinity and one faith point.  This causes divine fire to strike the ghoul, dealing 4 damage (2 + 2 if the target is evil, demonic or undead), and killing it.  He uses the faith point generated by the casting of Purgatory (from Well of Divinity) to heal the fighter of 1 of his 2 damage.

   The party survives the encounter, but has several more to go before finally facing down Diniloth.

   

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Party Raid Sample Turn 1

     Here's a sample of the first turn of play of a Party Raid game.

    We have four players (fighter, rogue, priest and wizard) and one raid boss (Diniloth, the Necromancer).  This is the start of the game, so Diniloth builds an encounter by placing some monsters and equipment on the field.  He plays a treasure chest with some cards beneath it, a table, and a hoarding ghoul with a card underneath it.  These cards could be treasures, traps, or spells, but he had to build the encounter using only ten power, so anything is possible.

   The players draw their cards and the fighter starts.  He discards a card to give him one untapped tactic.  He taps this to play Defensive Stance, which gives him 5 defense point (the fighter's chosen resource), and then plays The Art of War, a zero cost spell that gives him a tapped tactic, so at the end of the first round, he has two tapped tactics and five defense points.  He chooses to play cautiously and not attack the ghoul or the treasure chest.

   The rogue plays next, discarding a card to give him an untapped energy.  He plays shadow bomb, a 1 energy card that gives him 5 stealth, and ends his turn without attacking.

    The wizard plays next, discarding a card to give him one untapped mana.  He uses it to play Library Research, a card that gives him five spellbook pages.  He then uses one of his wizard's abilities to sacrifice four of those pages to draw a card.

     The priest is up next, sacrificing a card to gain one untapped divinity.  He has a good first hand, and plays two Divine Favors, which similar to the fighter's Art of War, gives him a tapped divinity each.  He ends his turn with two tapped and one untapped divinity.

     The monster goes next.  The hoarding ghoul reveals that he has an uncommon treasure: Mirorred Shield.  Treasures allow the raid boss to play more powerful encounters, reducing monster costs by their cost (3 in the cast of the mirrored shield).  The hoarding ghoul has a special ability where it can equip any treasure assigned to it for free, and it increases its health by each point of the treasure's cost (3 in this case).  The ghoul attacks, hitting the priest for 2 damage (4 damaged reduced by 2 because of the priest's 2 defense), bringing him down to 14 health left (having started with 16).  Diniloth also plays a spell, Desecration, which gives the ghoul (and any other undead type monsters) +1 damage reduction.

   Turn 2 starts.  The fighter discards again, and uses two of his three tactics to play Parry. This card gives him the ability to make a basic attack against an enemy that strikes him.  He also makes a basic attack against the ghoul, dealing 4 damage, but since the ghoul has been placed behind a table, the damage is dealt to the table first, destroying it.

   The rogue discards to give him two total untapped energy.  Seeing the treasure chest, he decides that whatever treasure is in it could be useful, but there's a chance it is empty and the card beneath it is a trap.  He uses his two energy to play disarm, which can destroy all basic traps.  The spell fails, and Diniloth reveals the treasure chest is actually a mimic, which gets a free attack against the rogue when it is revealed.  The rogue takes 4 damage, but decides to use his special ability.  He discards all his stealth counters and has a 5% chance per counter to evade the attack.  He rolls and succeeds, leaving him at 12 total health (his initial total).

   The wizard discards to gain a second mana token.  He uses both to cast Bear's Strength on the fighter, giving him +4 attack.  This is a powerful spell, but has a persist cost of 1, requiring 1 mana each turn to keep it in effect after it is played.  Luckily this cost won't be paid until next turn.  The wizard also has drawn a Mana Vent card, which he plays.  Similar to The Art of War, it is a zero cost card that gives him one tapped mana.

    The priest goes last.  He discards a card to bring his divinity total up to four.  Then he casts Immortal Blessing on the fighter.  This spell costs 4, and costs 1 divinity per turn to keep in effect, but the target can ignore up to 5 damage per round.  Because by default he only deals 3 damage, and the ghoul has 3 defense thanks to the mirrored shield, he doesn't attack.

    The ghoul and mimick both get ready to attack.  The ghoul attacks the priest again, dealing another 2 damage (health 12/16), and the mimic goes after the wizard.  The fighter uses his last untapped tactic to use his special ability: intercept, which allows him to redirect a melee attack to target him instead.  The mimic deals no damage, thanks to Immortal Blessing, but the fighter gets a free attack thanks to Parry.  His base attack is 4, +4 from Bear's Strength gives him 8 attack.  The mimic has 4 defense, meaning it takes 4 damage (with 10 total health, it is down to 6).  The raid boss plays no spells this turn.

   The fighter starts his turn, discarding to give him a total of four tactics.  He plays a broadsword for 2 tactics, and equips it with another, this raises his base attack to 6.  The wizard has decided to persist his Bear's Strength, and the fighter decides to attack the mimic again, dealing 6 damage, and destroying it.

    The rogue discards to give him three total energy.  He uses one energy to play a throwing dagger, and another one to equip it (it generates one stealth when equipped and can be thrown for 2 damage, which unequips it).  He also plays another smoke bomb, giving him a total of six stealth.

     The wizard discards to gain his fourth mana token.  He has tapped one to persist Bear's Strength,   He taps another to play library research, gaining five spellbook pages for a total of six.  Finally, he plays Time Stop, a spell which costs 2 but remains in play.  It allows him to play additional spells, but each spell beyond his limit adds a counter to Time Stop.  Time Stop's persist cost is equal to the number of counters on it.

    The priest goes last, discarding to gain a fifth divinity. He pays one to persist Divine Intervention, and uses the remaining four to cast Well of Divinity, a powerful spell that generates one faith point per turn, and allows the priest to use faith points to directly pay for a spell's cost.

    The ghoul goes again, attacking the priest once more.  The fighter uses his ability, paying his last untapped tactic, to intercept, and is dealt no damage thanks to Divine Intervention.  Since Parry only lasted for one turn, he doesn't get a free attack.

More on this later.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Party Raid a Trading Card Game

    So, party raid is definitely a title in progress (and a bad one).  However, the concept is also a work in progress, so it fits.  I've taken inspiration from a lot of games, and I hope to make one that is very fun to play.  I'm wanting there to be two modes, but I'm not sure how to balance them, so I've focusing on the "PVE" or raid format first, because I think this is the primary play format.

    The game consists of two sides: 1-4 players and the raid boss.  The raid boss sets up a series of encounters, until finally the players beat all of them at fight the boss itself.  This is similar to a D&D dungeon, where the players fight through the dungeon until they reach the BBEG and must face him.

    Each player is represented by a class card.  The first set will be a wizard, rogue, fighter, and priest.  Each class card has a health value, representing how much damage they can take, a basic attack value which represents the damage they do without using a spell, and giving them two unique abilities, such as the rogue dealing extra damage against any target that has been damaged this turn by another player or minion.  Each player can cast two spells during their turn, and one instant at any time during the round.  The raid boss can cast a small selection of spells, as well as summoning powerful minions to fight the party.

   Each player has spells that are powered by an energy source.  The wizard uses mana, the fighter uses tactics, the rogue uses energy, and the priest uses divinity.  Each class can use other spells, but they must have a way of generating that energy, and the spells are designed to work with their class, but can benefit others as well.  To get energy, you must sacrifice a spell of that energy type.  It gives the player a token for that energy that they can tap to pay for spells.  These tokens untap every turn, so over time the players can cast more and more powerful spells.

    Each class also has an associated resource.  For fighters it is defense, priests use faith points, wizards use spellbook pages, and rogues use stealth.  At least one special abilities of each class is keyed to their resource, making use of it.  Some spells may use these resources too, making them useful to other classes, but the class that will get the most use out of it will be the class that it is keyed to.

   In addition to these class based spells, there is a common group of equipment and treasure cards.  Equipment cards may benefit some classes more than others, but they can be easily added to any deck.  Additionally, during the course of the encounters, players will receive treasure cards.  These cards offer new and special abilities that are not available for players from the start of the game.  The raid boss uses treasures to reduce the cost of playing monsters in encounters, so while he is giving players more powerful abilities if they defeat the encounter, he is also making the encounter tougher.

I'll explain each of these decks in detail in future posts.  The initial set I am planning consists of 25 cards for each class, 25 cards for minions and the raid boss's spells, and 25 common and treasure cards that fill in the gaps for a total of 150 cards.

Imperial Destiny Page 23

     Four days had passed since they had lifted off of the planetoid with repaired engines.  They had jumped into a system that they had designated Madore.  It was a relatively boring system, with only one star and four planets, but they had detected three other potential jump points.  Few explored systems had this many, making it a crossroads of sorts.

     "Sir, we are picking up signals from the second planet.  Initial scans indicate a class three civilization, several artificial satellites but no indication of ships in system."

     "Compare it to the database, see if anything matches."  Prallan said.  This was an opportunity, potentially a first contact situation.

     "Scan complete, sir....languages do not match anything on record."

     "Take us in closer."  The Hermus glided closer to the planet.  Scanners quickly picked up a debris field around the planet.  "Those artificial satellites....are they active?"

     "No, sir.  Looks like they are junk."  The crewman pulled more data onto her screen.  "I'm not reading anything that detects as intelligent life on the surface.  There are buildings and other constructions, but no intelligent life."

     "Pull as much data in as possible.  Don't get too close to the planet, I don't want to risk any of that debris field.  I wonder what happened here."

--------

     "It looks like most of this debris was from an orbital station.  There are markings consistent with plasma weapons like those the aliens had at Lo-Lorane."  Crewman Tipin, an energy matter specialist reported, pointing out the distinctive scorch marks on an image of the debris.  "The rate of orbital decay and halflife of the radiation indicates that a battle happened here about seven days ago.  Initial scans of the surface indicate some orbital bombardment with similar weapons, and smaller ground fire."

     "Enough to wipe out the entire population of this planet?"  Rickler asked.

     "Inconclusive, sir, but unlikely.  The population was densely populated in city centers, numbering only a billion or so.  A few cities were badly damaged, but there's not nearly enough devastation to indicate the whole population was killed.  Rough simulations put it between twenty and forty percent casualties among the population, maybe ten to twenty percent fatalities, mostly in response teams and armed forces.  We were able to identify a central computer node that we may be able to access if we go down onto the surface."

    "No."  Rickler said curtly.  "Without shuttles we would have to land the ship.  We just got the engines working again, I don't want to scoop part of a space station into the exhaust vents and blow one or both of them out.  I also don't want these things to figure out we are investigating a world they destroyed.  They likely think of this as their territory, and I don't want to piss them off."

    "Sir, its an opportunity to collect very useful data."  Itran said.  "We could uncover something useful about the enemy's tactics."

    "Not worth it if the ship can't take off again.  We are going to finish our survey and proceed to the next jump.  You have ten hours to collect any data you can by scans.  Bring some wreckage into the hold if you want, but we are not setting down on the planet."

     "Aye, sir."  Itran said, nodding to the crewman to be dismissed.  Once he had left, Rickler spoke up again.

     "I also want us plotting a course away from systems we believe the enemy to have come from.  Itran, get with navigation and figure out our best course.  Lieutenant Tigrole, you are to assist the survey crew in collecting data.  You have experience with these beings, so you will have a good idea as to what is useful."


    "Aye, sir."  Prallan said, before leaving with Itran.  Once they were away from the briefing room, Itran whispered to Prallan.

     "I think we could safely land.  There's nothing in that debris field that would damage our engines."

     "The Captain is playing it safe.  I agree with him.  The data might be useful but if we can't get it back to the Empire, then it is worthless.  Better to make the enemy think we were never here."

     "Aye, sir."  Itran said, and headed through the door to one of the other conference rooms where he would be reviewing sensor data.  Prallan continued on to his quarters to begin looking over navigation information.  Itran was correct that this was a good opportunity, but there was a lot to lose.

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How horrible can I be at Hearthstone?

I'm an avid card player.  In my life I've played Magic the Gathering (many, many, many times, and I've given away all my cards way too many times as well), pokemon (most recently a month ago with my brother in law using only the original 150 pokemon), YuGiOh (mostly electronic, but the same brother in law was a tournament player at one point), Scrolls, and probably dozens of little card games nobody has heard of (electronic and print).  In addition to this, I am also working up a card game of my own, which I hope to have on kickstarter this year (and many, many development blogs on it in the interim).

So....about three weeks ago I started playing Hearthstone.  It has a lot of interesting elements, and my decks suck a lot right now (I play to do dailies more or less so I can get expert packs and improve my deck), and I'm ranked a measly 21, with far too many losses to count.  I would be surprised if I get above 15 this season....heck I will be shocked if I get to 20.  My next goal is to simply get all the basic cards unlocked (which I've done for about 4-5 of the classes).  Most of my expert cards are commons, but I do have Doomhammer, which is my rarest card (and inevitably when I play it it gets slimed).

I've decided that the way for me to have the most fun with Hearthstone (and to learn the most from my mistakes) is to fraps it and put it on youtube.  I'm dubbing this project "VG Philosopher Plays Hearthstone....Badly" and it will be available on my new youtube channel, which will be linked for the first video.  Don't expect good play because I am terrible at Hearthstone and have horrible cards.

Until then.

-VG

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BioHazard (A Genetics Game)

In one of my many weird ideas, I decided to start GMing a game of my own design on both the giantitp.com and erfworld.com forums called BioHazard.  The basic idea of the game is that the players are trapped on a planet, with a rocket that can carry 2 people, guarded by significant defenses.  They have to gather creatures called batopods, research methods of breeding and mutating them to make them more powerful, gather resources to build their base and batopod capacity, and eventually try to destroy the defenses around the rocket and escape.

I'm still playing around with many of the concepts and looking for a good balance.  I am currently using a 32 character genetic code for each batopod.  There are combinations of nucleotides that create certain genes, expressed by the batopod.  For example, a certain gene sequence results in improved melee attack.  A creature with this gene sequence can hit more readily and do more melee damage.  Similarly, a batopod with two such genes would be better than one with only one gene.  The main driving force of the game will be breeding. cloning, and mutating batopods to get the untilmate creatures.  I've seen traits as high as 4 in randomly generated batopods, and theoretically, a 2 nucleotide trait could be replicated 16 times, while a 3 could be replicated 10 times (more if some nucleotides can overlap).

If you are interested in player or seeing this in action, look at my two games:

Erfworld Game
Giantitp Game

Send me a PM in either forum if you would like to play.

-VG

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 22

       The Hermus slowly lifted itself off the planetoid.  Prallan could feel the difference as the artificial gravity of the ship took hold of him instead of the planetoid.

     "Twenty seconds until we've escaped the gravity well, sir."  Wurstol said.  "Status?"

     "Engine One is stable, ma'am." Lily said, running her scanner along the engine.

     "Engine Two is stable as well, Chief."  Jenkol said.  "Power transfer rates are all in the green."

     "How is our fuel consumption?"  Prallan asked.

     "Twenty percent less than projected.  Fifteen percent less than specs indicate for our engine profile."

     The engines changed pitch again as they broke from the gravity well.  "We have left orbit, sir.  Everything appears green."

    "Very good, Chief.  As you were."  Prallan left engineering to head to the bridge.

-----------

   Prallan walked onto the bridge, finding Lieutenant Itran in command.  "Sir, the Captain is wanting to see you in the conference room."

    "Thank you, Lieutenant.  Everything good up here?"

    "Golden, sir.  The new engine seems to be working well."

     Prallan headed to the briefing room, where Rickler was sitting in the darkness, meditating like he had been when Prallan had first come aboard.  "Sit, Lieutenant."

     "Yes, sir." Prallan sat at the large conference table.  "You wanted to see me, sir?"

     "A first officer has a unique position in this Navy that I think you have begun to appreciate."  He snuffed the candles and turned the lights up in the room.  "You are an insulator between the crew and the Captain.  You handle issues that do not warrant the Captain's attention, and allow the Captain to make decisions that someone who knows the crew on a more personal level could not.  It is the Captains duty to remain aloof and mysterious to his crew, so they fear and respect him, and follow his orders without question.  It is the First Officer's duty to maintain morale and the chain of command."

     "Yes, sir."  Prallan said.  He had suspected much of what the Captain was saying, having discovered many of these unwritten duties during his brief tenure in the role.

      "I don't want you to tell me the details about what went on over the last few days.  I know something happened between you and your wife, which I have removed the records of.  I have elected to award the six engineering crew members who worked on the Inducers the Silver Technicians Badge, including your wife.  Be wary, Prallan, she is more decorated than you."

     "Sir, I think...."

      "Follow orders, XO.  That is all."


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 21

     Prallan watched from the corner of Engineering as Lily and the other Engineers finished assembling the new engine.  In a few minutes, the Hermus would power up its engines and struggle to free itself from the planetoid.

     "Everything is about ready, sir." Chief Wurstol said, handing him an InfoTab.  "Tests are good, much better than I expected.  Crewman Tigrole was able to configure the inducer coil with the old engine, and everything seems to work fine.  We will know about the new engine shortly."

    "Very good, Chief."  Prallan said, handing the InfoTab back.  "Give me one good reason I should keep you as Chief after this."

    "Well, sir, if we get off this planetoid, that will be reason enough.  If not, then the Captain will take it out of your hands anyway."  She headed to help the other engineers with the coil.

--------

    "Bring engine one up to 50% power." Wurstol said.  The lights in engineering brightened from their emergency levels to a normal level.  Both engines hummed softly.  "Readings?"

     "Everything good here, Chief."  Lily said, running a scanner over the engine.  "Inducer is working at 70% efficiency."

     "Bring engine two up to full baseline power."  The engine noise increased in pitch, but the lack of sparks and fire was a good sign.

      "Engine two's inducer is at 90% efficiency.  Recommend we can push this engine by another 25% without risking burnout."  Jenkol said, scanning the other engine.

     "Let's not push our luck, Chief.  Bring engine one up to par with engine two."  Prallan said.  Both engines now hummed loudly.

     "Engine one's inducer is at 87% efficiency and stable."  Lily said.

     "Engineering to the bridge."  Prallan said into the comm panel.  "Sir, we are at baseline power levels, and stable."

     "Copy that, XO, all hands, brace for takeoff."

     Prallan placed a hand on the brace railing by the console.  If anything went wrong he wanted to be on site in Engineering.  His fate, as well as that of the Engineering crew, relied on the engines working.  The Hermus shook as it lifted off its landing skids.  As power was transferred away from the engines and into the thrusters and other systems, their noise changed pitch.  "Report?"

     "That's normal, sir."  Jenkol said.  "Transferring power away reduces the engine feedback loop.  Inducer two at 75% efficiency and falling slightly."

     Prallan gritted his teeth.  The inducers had to hold.


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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 20

     When Prallan returned to his quarters, the lights were all out and Lily was in bed.  He apparently was not quiet enough entering the room, because she spoke without moving from the bed.  "I'm so angry at you."

     "This situation has put me in a bad position.  If I do nothing, then discipline breaks down.  This is an alternative."

     She turned on the light and glared at him. "You could have ignored it.  You could have let this slide."  Her face was red and puffy, showing that she had been crying.  "You chose to treat your wife like this instead of considering the alternatives."  She shut the light off.  "Maybe you should sleep somewhere else.  I wouldn't want you to associate with an insubordinate crewman like me."

     "Lily...."  Prallan said.  "I can't go back on it now.  I had no idea what to do.  I'm so unprepared to handle this situation."  He sat on the bed.  "We can work through this.  We can figure out how this needs to be handled."  He touched her thigh, and she shifted away from him.

     "Go away."  She said.

-----------

     Prallan sat in the officer's mess, staring out the viewport at the barren planetoid.  "Trouble sleeping?"  A voice said from behind him.  He turned, and saw Itran standing in the doorway.

     "This is a bad situation.  I will be able to sleep in about ten hours, when we are clear of this rock."

     Itran sat down in a chair across from him.  "Assuming the inducers work, yes."

     "Why wouldn't they?  Its sound engineering."

     "Sir, we both know what is going on here.  I'm not certain the Captain knows, but I do.  The fact you confined your wife to quarters and are here instead of there means you know it too."

     "Lieutenant, I'm not certain what you mean."

     "Your wife's father is a lead scientist in a field of study that interests me.  It so happens that the theoretical work that is the building block of the experimental piece of equipment being hooked up and tested right now is a frontier of propulsion.  In the standard testing and production cycle, even assuming a full out war was in effect, it would be five years before the first prototypes would be put together.  Ten years before something workable was in production.  Triple that timeframe for a peaceful era."

    "I'm going to tell the Captain exactly what has happened once we are safely off this planetoid.  Until then, there's no point."

     "You should release your wife from her confinement.  Release her to her duties at least, Engineering could use her expertise to ensure we do get off this planetoid."

     "I'm going to recommend Engineering for the Silver Technician's Badge.  Everyone who worked on the inducer idea except Lily.  I cannot recommend her, because it is a conflict of interest."

     "I will recommend her, then.  I have no such conflict."

     "She doesn't report to you, except through the default chain of command.  I can do it, and her department head can, but nobody else except the Captain.  I doubt he will be pleased with me, or willing to reward anyone on the team that deceived him like this."

     Itran smiled.  "Things will work out, sir."  He stood.  "I should get to the bridge."

     "Unless there's a subordinate around, just call me Prallan.  You only have to call me sir by a freak accident of timing.  In another universe, I'd be calling you sir for the rest of my career."

     "Si....Prallan, I don't think for a minute you wouldn't have surpassed me at some point.  I'd rather it be by a freak accident than by clear differences in skill.  Nothing is worse for a superior than to have a junior officer surpass them, especially through a test of combat."  He walked to the door.  "It's Jules Itran, sir, in case you did not recall from my file."


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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 19

     Even limping on one engine, the Hermus set herself down almost gracefully onto the planetoid.  As she made contact with the ground, she shook to a halt.  Three crewmen in exosuits walked out onto the surface, carrying heavy drilling equipment.  It took three hours for the crewmen to return with a load of refined Litanium, the alloy was to toxic to refine onboard the ship.  Prallan knew it would take two days to manufacture the components and install them.  The only upside was that only a handful of engineering crewmen were needed for the process, and maintenance was minimized with the ship sitting on the planetoid.   It meant Lily was no longer pulling double or triple shifts, and he might actually see his wife occasionally over the next few days.

     Prallan quietly opened the door to his quarters.  Lily was not there, but her shift was not over for a couple hours.  He was exhausted, but the crisis had meant many hours of reports not being filed, and other piles of paperwork to sort through.  Somewhere between a supply inventory report and an injury list from the engine failure, Prallan felt that something wasn't right.  Digging through the reports, he found the one that bothered him.  It was Chief Wurstol's scans of the prototype engine.  Not being an engineer, it took him some time to make sense of it, and find what bothered him about the scans.  He pulled up an inventory of the components present when the engine was dismantled.

    Lily opened the door and smiled upon seeing him awake.  "I'm glad to see you waited up for me," she said, tossing her work satchel onto the other desk.  "No engineering equipment in bed, right?"

    "Do you trust the Chief?"

    Her smile faded.  "You want to talk about work after we haven't really been around each other in days?"

    "Not particularly, but  can't get these reports out of my head.  The component the Chief is building....the inducer coil....there doesn't seem to have been one on Engine One.  There definitely isn't one listed in the scrap."  Lily bit her lip.  "You know something about this, don't you?"

     "Do you know who my father is?"  She asked him, sitting on the edge of the bed.

     "No." He admitted.  "We haven't really had time to meet the family."  His own father was an instructor at the Academy, and his mother had died a number of years ago in a shuttle crash.

     "My father is Erdnal Brishan."

     "The famous particle theorist?  The guy whose papers make everyone else in the field look like children?"

     "Yes, that's my dad.  The point being that inducer coil is something he theorized to improve propulsion on photon-based engines.  He has written four different papers on it."

     "The point being?"

     "The inducer coils being built are prototypes.  Five of us came up with the design, based on those papers.  Simulations and initial testing indicated that there was a good chance it would work."

     "If it doesn't, then we are stranded on a planetoid on the edge of Imperial space.  At least before we could have jumped back for repairs."

    "Engine two isn't powerful enough to get us through the jump by itself.  If it was the engine we are supposed to have, then it could, but not the one we have.  The inducer should fix all of that."

    "You should have told me about this idea before we set down on the planet."  He stood from the desk, and walked over to her.  "I could have presented it to the Captain, and he could have decided what to do.  Instead, you and the others have intentionally lied to superior officers and put this ship further in danger."

     "Rickler would never have approved this, and you know that.  He would have tried the jump, the engine would have failed under the strain, and we would have all died."   She was crying now, and Prallan realized he had been yelling.

     "As Captain, that is his right.  He could order us to run into an asteroid, and he would within his rights."

     "Stop yelling at me, I am your wife."  She said, crying openly.  "We did what was best for the ship."

     "In this, you are a crewman and I am the first officer of this ship."  He headed for the door.  "You are confined to quarters until further notice.  I need to speak to your department head, and see who else I need to discipline."

----------------------------------

     The walk to engineering felt much longer than usual.  He had just dressed down his wife and confined her to quarters.  This was precisely what he had worried about.  He stepped through the doors to Engineering, and saw Chief Wurstol and several other engineers milling about the engine they were building.  "Chief, can I have a word?"

    "Of course, sir."  She handed the tool in her hand to one of the other engineers, and walked over.  "This engine should be finished in about ten hours, and inducers installed on both engines about twenty after that.  Then a few hours of testing and tuning and we will be on our way."

     Making sure they were out of earshot, Prallan said in a low voice.  "Assuming the unproven prototype your team invented actually works."

    The Chief's face went white.  "Sir, its the only way we can...."

     "We are stuck on a planetoid unless it works, so it had better.  I have not yet made up my mind as to when I will bring this to the Captain's attention, but it will be brought to his attention."

     "So, you are going to let us continue?"

     "I don't have a choice.  I've read your reports, these engines need the theoretical boost of the inducer to get us safely off this planetoid and through a jump point.  If you succeed, then you have field tested a theoretical component successfully and validated years of theory and research.  If it fails, we are no worse off than we are now."

     "Thank you, sir, I...."

     "Crewman Tigrole has been confined to quarters for the time being.  Don't make my wife lie to me in the future."  Prallan turned and left engineering, dreading with every step the conversation he would have when he reached his quarters.


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Saturday, February 1, 2014

WoW's success might also be its downfall

I was playing a free pandaria trial of World of Warcraft this week.  In about three days I got my 85 death knight to 90, and tinkered around with a few of the other aspects of the game.  While some of the improvements are very solid (multi-loot, for example), I can't help but feel two things: 1. The server population is much lower than I remember and 2. The same missions and mission types are being used over and over again.

It seems to me that everyone is "done" with pandaria.  Serious players maxed out end-game reputations already, and have beaten the major raids.  With Warlords comings sometime this year, it makes zero sense to gear up when item levels will just receive a major boost again at the next expansion.  As a comparison, I user my Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps, until level 86, and it only lasted that long because I didn't want to death gate out and put a new rune on the axe I got as a quest reward.  Now, it was just the LFR version of the sword (item level 390), but even the heroic one would have only lasted until 88, when I got several item level 414+ weapons (from quests accessible much earlier than 88).  In all honesty, it took about 4 or 5 LFR runs to get that sword, but when I think about all the other purple gear I had, and all the time and effort put into those (all gone by the time I hit 87), it makes me not want to do it again, ahead of the next expansion.  WoW PVP has not interested me since the original twink era, and with all the redone classes it turns into an even bigger gear game.

This is such a sharp contrast to the vanilla WoW I remember.  There, everyone was doing whatever they could to gear up for raids, and get as much gear as they could.  Blizzard was releasing new content almost as fast as people could conquer it.  Not to mention that getting to 60 was so much of a longer journey.  Raiding actually required farming materials, using professions, getting geared before stepping foot into a raid.  Reputation factions were a major grind, where there weren't as many dailies (if any at all) to ease your way.  The three PVP factions were actually good sources of gear in general, for PVP or PVE.  Above all the game was fun, even for all the challenges.

The quest type problems are a consistent theme in WoW.  I think that the "quest node" idea has been taken a little too far with MoP.  Every zone has about eight to ten areas where quests are given out.  You usually have three to four "rounds" of quests for these areas, culminating in a harder quest (longer or more difficult) and that one usually rewards a piece of blue gear.  Rinse and repeat about fifty times.  Most of these are kill x creatures, kill boss creature, gather x drops, or gather x items from clickables.  There are some rare exceptions, but I don't recall any of these being fun.  They were a chore list.  It is not helped at all by the fact that you cannot fly in pandaria until 90.  This, to me, makes zero sense.  It resulted in me racing to 90, and getting flying, only to look around the area and discover all the areas that were previously inaccessible held lvl 90 mobs and were typically sites for dailies.  So, they basically repeated what they did in TBC with that.

The net result is that the game is no fun.  The lore is still interesting, but I can read wowpedia for that.  There is nothing in this game for me anymore.  Warlords might change that with Garrisons, but I feel like I am just going to be disappointed with the way Blizzard will do those.  I will be even more disappointed when they announce another new expansion shortly after Warlords goes live.

WoW was released in November, 2004.  TBC was released January, 2007 (26 months later).  WotLK was released  November, 2008 (22 months later).  Cataclysm was released December, 2010 (25 months later).  Pandaria was released September 2012 (22 months later).  Warlords will be released sometime this year, if we assume December that is 27 months (though 25 months seems more likely, which would be October, meaning beta should be April).  This 2ish year release cycle makes the game predictable.  6 months of solid playtime, levelling characters, completing original raids, doing server events.  Then 6 more months of raiding the newer content that is patched in or gates are lifted to make it available.  Finally, the next expansion is released, and there is 6-10 months of languish while everyone leaves to do more fun things.  Then the beta hits, people get interested, and start setting up their accounts and characters to be ready for it.  Then the cycle repeats.

I will certainly try to be a beta tester for Warlords, and I will be watching, but something needs to change about WoW, or it will stop making enough money for Blizzard to keep developing it.  The cosmetic upgrades will certainly help, but it will be too little too late if they don't change the game's structure.

-VG

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 18

    Four days of dim lighting and stale air, and they were no nearer a solution than they had been at the beginning of the crisis.  The Hermus was in a stable orbit, but the crew were crammed into the common areas, life support was being diverted from unoccupied areas to other critical systems and to charge the reserves.  If the second engine went offline, those reserves would be the only power source until they repaired either of the engines.  Prallan walked into Engineering, nearly stepping on several people.  In the corner, he saw Lily bundled into a sleeping bag.  He walked over to her and gently shook her should.

    "Give me five more minutes or I will hit you with a flow calibrator."  She muttered in her sleep.

     "Remind me to not let you bring any engineering equipment to bed with you."

     Lily opened her eyes.  "Is it something important?  I just pulled a double and this bulkhead isn't comfortable."

     "I just hadn't seen you at all in the last two days, and wanted to check on you."

     "I am tired and cross.  Let me sleep."  She closed her eyes and quickly fell back asleep.  Prallan smiled at his wife, and walked over to what appeared to be a large pile of scrap.

     "Lieutenant," Captain Rickler said, nodding to him.  He was standing in the middle of the pile, talking to Chief Wurstol.  "The Chief was just telling me that this collection of crap is Engine One."

     "I will take her word on it, sir, the last time I saw it it was still in the nacelle."

     "We took it apart to diagnose the problem."  Wurstol said, picking up a badly scorched piece of metal.  "This was a photon flow regulator.  The engines we are supposed to have don't have them, the same concept is built into the design.  They put things like this on experimental engines so they can tune and tweak them until they find a good flow rate, then they build that into the design itself."

     "So your hunch was correct, we had an experimental engine?" Prallan asked.

     "Yes, sir.  It was only a matter of time until this part failed.  It probably stopped working properly after our jump into Spica, and burnt out completely four days ago, which caused the engine to overload."

     "If you replace the regulator, can you get the engine working again?"  The captain asked.

     "Its not that easy, sir.  The regulator I could build out of spare components and materials, but the engine's core was damaged, along with a dozen other parts.  Rebuilding it in a spaceyard with the right materials would take a few days.  Here with whatever I can scrounge would take weeks.  Even then, the new regulator could fail at any point, leaving us in the same situation."

     Rickler set his jaw firmly, thinking hard.  "I don't want this to happen in the middle of a battle.  Other options?"

     "We have one good engine.  I want to build an enhanced version of it...two actually, a new one and enhancements to the other one.  I can salvage what remains of this engine's core as the base of the new engine, and build the rest out of materials we have on hand, all except the inducer coil."

     "What do you need that we don't have?"  Prallan asked.

     "Litanium.  The inducer coil has to be made of it.  This one is shot." She kicked a part with her foot.  "The molecular composition is too broken down to refine into a working coil.  I need fresh Litanium.  Luckily, the planetoid we are orbiting has a deposit of it."

     "How are we going to get it?  We don't have any shuttles.   We have two drop pods, but we wouldn't be able to get them back once launched."  Prallan said.

     "We will need to land the ship."  Rickler said.  "On one engine, running on backup power."

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 17

     The Hermus was lazily orbiting Vega IV, a small planetoid located on the fringe of the binary star system.  Wurstol had sent him ten different reports on the interesting aspects of the interacting photospheres of the two stars, and theories as to why from settled Imperial space, they appeared to be one, slightly fluctuating, star.  The radiation of these two stars was unusual, and it interfered with their detailed scans of the system.  Two days of recalibrating had brought their equipment back to acceptable levels of quality needed for the mission.  They had detected one other jump point, besides the one to Spica, so where they were heading after the surveys were complete was easily decided.

     The bridge door opened, and Lieutenant Itran walked in.  Prallan checked the time display on the command chair.  The younger officer was early by about ten minutes.  He had shown himself to be a good officer, despite having no Academy training.  "Quiet day so far.  Scanning this rock for another four hours, then moving on to the last one."

     "Very good, sir." Itran said.  "I am ready to relieve you at your leisure."  The only thing Prallan could think of that irked him about the second officer, and that was that he hated standing around with his superiors.  He preferred to be in charge, and seemed very unsure of what he should do with himself otherwise.  His comment was a gentle way of saying 'Please leave the bridge.'

     "If you want to be a command officer, you are going to have to get used to being around other officers, especially those above your rank."  Prallan said it softly enough that none of the bridge crew would hear him.  "I think you can survive ten minutes more with me."

     "Sir, I can take care of the bridge for an extra ten minutes.  What harm would come of you leaving a few minutes early?"

     Prallan was about to respond when the lights on the bridge flickered, before going out completely.  Red emergency lights lit up, and all of the consoles were rebooting.  Prallan tapped the intercom button.  "Engineering, we are experiencing a power failure on the bridge."

     "Copy that, sir," Wurstol's voice came over the intercom.  "We've had it here to.  Looks like engine one has shut off.  We are working on getting power restored using engine two, but  we will have to kill all non-vital power usage.  Give me ten minutes."

     "As quick as you can, Chief."  Prallan turned off the intercom.  "Status, please."

     "Weapons and long-range sensors offline, sir.  I have short-range sensors only."

     "I have partial thrust from engine two, no thrust from engine one.  Maneuvering thrusters are intermittently online.  Sir, I'm not sure I can maintain our orbit."

     "How long until our orbit decays?"

     "Ten hours, give or take.  If I can get more power to the maneuvering thrusters or thrust from engine two I can put us into a stable orbit."

     "Internal sensors are down across the ship.  Life support is fully operational.  Lifts are not operational, we have one that is stuck between decks, but I cannot tell if anyone is on it."

     "Shields are not operational.  Internal forcefield generators are also not operational.  Sir, we are very vulnerable to micrometeorites and other debris."

     "Triage your systems.  Shut off anything we don't need.  Priorities are life support, thrusters and engines until we establish a stable orbit, and then shields and internal forcefields.  Get a team to the lift to verify if anyone is in it.  I will be in engineering."  Prallan walked to the door, which remained shut as he approached.  "Someone wake up the Captain."  He pulled the release latch, and pushed the door open, heading out into the corridor.

-------------------------------------

     Engineering was a wreck.  Wiring and components were pulled out of their housing, and a dozen crewmen were scanning everything in site.  Chief Wurstol was having a heated argument with one of the male crewmen, until she noticed Prallan walking up.  "Sorry for the mess, sir."

     "If tearing apart all of engineering gets my power back, have at it."  Prallan said.  "What is our status?"

     "Not good, sir."  She nodded to the crewman.  "Jenkol here thinks that they gave us a bad engine."

     "A bad engine?  How bad?"

     "Well, sir," Jenkol said, shifting nervously.  "Its like this, sir.  Engine one, she doesn't look anything like Engine two.  I never noticed it before, because usually we only service one at a time, and we've only done a couple bits of maintenance on the whole engine.  She don't look anything like her schematic either, sir."

     "Neither engine looks like the schematic.  Engine two is a DLR-53, smaller than the TJ-40 that we are supposed to have, but a nice engine.  Engine One is nothing I've ever seen.  The design is similar to a TJ-42, but has a bunch of additional components strapped on.  My hunch is the yard, in their rush to get this ship fitted, threw on whatever they had, leaving us with an experimental engine and a small one."

     "How soon can you get Engine one fixed?"

     "All of my experience is with fusion force drives.  I understand the theory of the photon thrust drives, but I've never worked on one.."

     "Don't we have an engine specialist?  Surely they have worked on one before."

     "That would be me, sir."  Jenkol.  "I'm a fusion force specialist, sir.  I had a brief training on photon thrust systems, but nothing useful here, sir."

     "Then I recommend you start taking that experimental engine apart and see if you can get it working again.  First, though, get the conn whatever power you can to thrusters.  We need to establish a stable orbit."

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Nemesis

I saw a recent video for Shadows of Mordor, and something about it has me very excited.  That this is the Nemesis system it is going to have.  More or less, certain NPC enemies will dynamically become recurring enemies, bearing the scars of previous conflicts with them when you face them again.  This seems absolutely awesome, and it has some immersion that many modern games lack.

I think that games are moving more and more to dynamic, player-driven stories.  Procedurally generated maps and enemies are already a common thing, so making NPCs that way too isn't that much more difficult (depending on the complexity of the system).  I think we could be approaching a time where a game is little more than a loose setting, and the rest is generated on the fly as the player interacts with the world.

This is much the way I DM my Dungeons and Dragons sessions.  I have a general idea of where the campaign is going and I know the names and archetypes of the major players involved, but I certainly don't have all the details created.  I give those out as they are needed, creating them and making notes as I go along.  For example, if your party comes along some bandits robbing a caravan, and you never talk to the people in it, I don't have the wasted work of naming them and fleshing them out.  However, I do know its a minor merchant from the nearby town, I just haven't given him a name.  If I need an NPC that owes the party something in the future, nameless McMerchant is available, but I don't have to figure out his motivations until then.  Similarly, if the party has no interest in the leaders of the local church, then they don't need to exist on paper.  Later on, when they become central to some plot, then they can become fleshed out.

I also like reusing hooks I've dropped later on in the story.  For example, if there are some odd markings on a tree somewhere in Adventure 1, then Adventure 5 might have them show up again, revealing that some monster has been in the area all along and they almost became its lunch many levels ago.  I have had very positive feedback from players because of this, and they feel very immersed.

So how do we get this into a game?  Well, I think we need a storage of things flagged as interesting or reusable.  Then, when the game needs an NPC, for example, it looks at this list, and picks from it.  It then fleshes the character out in more detail and introduces it into the story.  Same thing for interesting details.  Maybe flag something to randomly reappear later, and have an associated questline if it gets investigated.  Something like the aforementioned marking.  If the player investigates it, he might eventually come across some fel beast.

In this way, you can have enemies that you don't quite completely kill off come back to ruin your life, and maybe those that you let live will see the error of their ways instead, and become a force of good.  I can see a lot of potential, but the system would have to be carefully created.

-VG

Friday, January 17, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 16

     "I expect everyone at their stations in thirty minutes.  We will be jumping ten minutes after that."  Prallan said to the gathered department heads.  "We will then traverse the Spica system, reaching jump point TL-114.  We are uncertain where it leads, but our best estimate is in the Phoenix constellation, most likely Vega or Mercon.  Questions?"

    Ensign Orfil raised a hand.  "Sir, I'm concerned about pilot rotation.  As I'm sure you know, we only have two pilots, myself and Crewman Barlin.  I would like to cross-train two additional crewmen to take four hour bridge shifts.  This will give us four pilots, but not take anyone from all of their duties.  Petty Officer Erfold has offered both of the other two security personnel as potential pilots.  Their training profiles indicate they would be decent pilots."

     "Very well.  Any other business?"  Nobody else said anything.  "Very well, dismissed."  The department heads stood and left the conference room, all except Chief Wurstol, who remained seated.  "Is there something you needed to speak to me about, Chief?"

    "I was wondering if you had given any thought to a permanent Chief of Engineering?"

    "I have.  You have the most seniority, is there any reason you think you would not be appropriate for the position?  According to the logs you have done an excellent job in your time as interim Chief.  I see no reason not to make it permanent."

     "The only concern I have sir, is of your wife.  I am not certain of your command style, but I am not the sort of person to be intimidated or coerced just because one of my subordinates is involved with a superior officer."

     "I don't expect any special treatment for my wife.  She is a competent engineer, and can stand on her own merits.  She would kill me if I ever asked for special treatment for her.  If that is your only concern?"

     "Yes, sir.  I will report to engineering.  I have a handful of new crewmen, including your wife, to get settled in."

---------------------------------------

     The Hermus moved gracefully away from the remaining elements of the defense fleet.  It picked up speed much faster than the Jinar ever could, reaching the jump point swiftly.  The bridge was a bustle of activity.  The Hermus had only made one jump previously, with its navigation computer tied into the fleet's.  Now Orfil was feeding calculations into the computer, his hands moving quickly over the station's terminal.  Captain Rickler stood in front of the command chair, with Itran beside him.  Prallan stood near the Sensor and Weapon station, watching Rutgol manage the lockdown of the launchers and guns before the jump.

     Out the front viewport was empty space.  The jump point was an anomaly that could only be differentiated from normal space by advanced sensors.  The screen in front of Rutgol showed it as a swirling blue vortex.  The Hermus approached the jump point, aligning with the center of that vortex.

     "All hands, brace for jump." The mechanical voice of the computer calmly said throughout the ship.  Prallan grabbed a nearby brace bar.  Every ship jumped a little differently.  The Jinar had jarred its crew through every jump.  A ship as small as the Hermus should have been subject to many of the eddies of the jump point that larger vessels could ignore, but she smoothly soared through the jump.  In an instant, the stars shifted, and a binary pair of suns replaced the single one.  The Hermus changed course, heading towards the opposite edge of the system.

     "Traversing to Tl-114.  No other ships in system."

     The crew was operating efficiently, and the Hermus was performing as well as she could.  Prallan was well pleased with both, and hoped that the rest of the year continued in the same way.


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On Garrisons

I was looking at the upcoming expansion, Warlord of Draenor, for World of Warcraft and noticed something very interesting.  The Garrison system is something that very well could get me back into the game.  Just looking at the basics of it, it seems to be a combination of the Duty Officer system of STO and player housing from msot other MMOs, with the added benefit that your followers gain levels.  This is very exciting for me, and while I am soured on most of WoW, I really think I could return solely for this piece of gameplay.

I've been tinkering around with some time on how to have a system like the Garrison system work in a game.  The main problem I see is making it balanced relative the rest of the world.  It has a huge opportunity for interactions in the rest of the game, but you can't let the gameplay in the Garrison replace other gameplay.  I should still need other players to make truly epic weapons, but my blacksmith should be useful to me.  Maybe make some synergy where if you have a high level blacksmith follower, and you also are a blacksmith, you can make something that someone without that combination cannot.  In this way, the absolute best items are still limited and require player interaction.

I love the fact that the followers will grow in level and power based on what they do, rather than the player gaining levels.  This makes them much more "real" in my opinion.  The major downfall to the Doff system in STO is that your Duty Officers remain the way they are.  Sure, they can get injured and killed, but they don't become better at what they do, which is depressing.  Poor Ensign Weatherby will always be an ensign, no matter how many times he goes on a dangerous mission worthy of a chestful of medals.

I will be watching this, and really hope it doesn't get cut or reduced to a novelty by the time the expansion is released.

-VG