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Shadow
08-18-2011, 12:58 PM
This is the third part of my blog on the cool, dynamic setting in our upcoming space action RPG. In this blog I'm going to talk a little about the "monsters" in the game. Specifically I'm going to talk about how they impact the dynamic nature of the game.

First of all I don't really mean monsters like orcs in a fantasy game. What I mean when I say "monsters" are ships that are pretty much hostile to all of the known races in the game. So while they aren't directly monsters they pretty much behave in the same way.

In most RPGs monsters for the most part sit around and do nothing until the player comes along and kills them. For those that have played our two other dynamic games, Depths of Peril and Din's Curse, you know I like our monsters to actually impact the world. The don't stand around waiting for the player and babble completely empty threats. They stir up more trouble, call for reinforcements, attack towns, etc.

Well in our upcoming space game the monsters will behave in similar manners as the did in DoP and DC. They will still cause uprisings, start wars, launch raids, build dangerous devices, and generally cause havoc for everyone else. When they plant a Super Nova Device next to the star in the home system of your favorite race, I would suggest you do something about it.

There is an interesting difference from our previous games though. When a monster launches an asteroid at one of your enemy's home world, what do you do? Do you save their planet and possible start changing them into an ally or do you let the asteroid hit, cause massive amounts of destruction, and weaken their overall empire? I suspect a lot of people are going to let the monsters cause a lot of damage as long as it is directed towards races they don't like.

Thoughts?

Roswitha
08-18-2011, 06:05 PM
Couple of questions.

Are the monsters all on the same team? (i.e. will they sometimes attack each other?)
Will they create groups if left alone?
Is it possible to ally with a monster, possibly for a mutual goal?
Will they move from zone to zone?

gornova
08-19-2011, 06:15 AM
First rule in this situation, from a player point of view, is let me know something about races before have to do any choices. Let asteroid hit Vulcanian (random race) homeworld without any mission do for or against Vulcanian doesn't seems a right choice. Before any choices, we need as player much information as possible.
In previous post you mentioned member crew: one of my ship's crew it's a good candidate to warn me against this meneace of his homeworld, so the choice is mutiple:

1) save Vulcanian homeworld because I like them or hate them (without any other consideration),
2) destroy asteroid because I want them as ally against other race (but I need to know how they can help me against other races),
2) destroy asteroid because I want all of my crew happy and don't want my Vulcanian one of the last of them :D


Another tip: sometimes in Din's Curse message told me of a meneace that is out of my scope: for example in "dungeon XX at level 6 Sauron is building a ring-machine".. but I'm in town, level 1.. how do you prevent players from frustating experience like this one?

Roswitha
08-19-2011, 11:08 AM
Gornova brings up an interesting situation.

What if your crew members are of different races? Their first loyalty is to the ship, but what if their attitude (in general and toward other crew members) depends on their race and how it is doing at the moment. You could apply the Happiness meter from DC to the crew. If two of the crew members didn't get along, you might need to replace one, or give a pay raise or something. Maybe you would need to earn the loyalty to the ship by successfully completing quests. There could be a scale for each crew member, with Loyalty to the ship on one end and Loyalty to the homeworld on the other, so you could see where they stand on things.

Make this adjustable in the setup screen or possibly make it an Advanced Option.

Defeating monsters would be a very good way to improve the crew's morale, since nobody likes monsters.
(Taking a stab at getting the thread back on topic :) )

Shadow
08-19-2011, 11:30 AM
Couple of questions.

Are the monsters all on the same team? (i.e. will they sometimes attack each other?)
Will they create groups if left alone?
Is it possible to ally with a monster, possibly for a mutual goal?
Will they move from zone to zone?

Currently there are a lot of separate monster groups. They will probably fight each other less than in DC but they will still occasionally fight each other.

The can form fleets in different ways (similar to DC).

I have a few ideas of where you can "ally" with a monsters, but whether or not it makes it into the game I don't know.

The monsters can move into different systems kind of like they do in DC. An uprising in one system can lead to an attack on neighboring systems.

First rule in this situation, from a player point of view, is let me know something about races before have to do any choices. Let asteroid hit Vulcanian (random race) homeworld without any mission do for or against Vulcanian doesn't seems a right choice.

Another tip: sometimes in Din's Curse message told me of a meneace that is out of my scope: for example in "dungeon XX at level 6 Sauron is building a ring-machine".. but I'm in town, level 1.. how do you prevent players from frustating experience like this one?

For most events you get a quest before it happens or it is something that is on going and you have a chance to fix it before you get bad side effects.

For example, you will be told about the incoming asteroid and you will have a chance to destroy it before it hits. Another example, there is a fire storm on some planet. If you help put it out soon it would cause any other problems.

There will be quests that are outside of your scope. Unlike DC though it won't necessarily hurt you if you don't go solve it.

jureidinim
08-25-2011, 11:04 AM
Sounds cool. :-)

"Out of scope" missions are fine as long as they all (some may..) don't hurt the players game too badly. The galaxy is huge so it is very possible that something is happening on the other side of it which you just cant reach.

A possible way around it would be that the player is only told of events happening in a certain range from his location. That way there can be many events happening, but the player isnt flooded with messages of events happening very very far away. There could be a ship communications upgrade (or your comm officer skill) which can increase your range of receiving event messages.
So you take off on a bounty hunter mission, chasing a baddie across a few systems. You go so far out that you dont catch the event messages of things in your starting system (example a disease outbreak mission to get medicinal supplies). When you come back you see results of that event which happened while you were away. This could trigger new missions for that system (like cargo hauling food and medical supplies to help a planet recover from the disease outbreak).

Back on topic - I like the direction you are going with "monsters" and hope there will be a good variety of them and motives for them to follow.

Bak
11-11-2011, 06:14 PM
I haven't checked these forums for a while, but the Drox project sounds exciting. It probably helps that I've been watching Star Trek:DS9 (again) on Netflix, so if your code can simulate some of the the things happening on that show, this would be incredible. :D

Part of the fun of that show is the constantly shifting relationships. The Cardassian Obsidian Order (covert ops) and the Romulan Tal Shiar teamed up to fight the Dominion (despite their mutual hatred), and got wiped out. But Cardassia decided to ally with the Dominion, after the Klingons tried to acquire star systems.

Anything you can code that would make the monster *seem* to have feelings or goals, will help give them personality, and will help shape their actions.

(I guess the line between "monster" and NPC can be a thin one.)

gornova
11-14-2011, 07:04 AM
Any big-boss monsters? Like planet sizes creatures or something even more big?
Monsters can be gods for some races?
Nothing better a race hates player because killed their god :D

Shadow
11-16-2011, 09:49 AM
Any big-boss monsters? Like planet sizes creatures or something even more big?
Monsters can be gods for some races?
Nothing better a race hates player because killed their god :D

We do have bosses and some of them will be pretty big, I don't know about planet size though.

We don't have any monsters that serve as gods for any of the races but that could be interesting.

gornova
11-16-2011, 03:22 PM
We do have bosses and some of them will be pretty big, I don't know about planet size though.

We don't have any monsters that serve as gods for any of the races but that could be interesting.

You can add "easily" with one quest from a race: kill monster X and then you can discover that X is god for another race and can even hire player too :D Quest from a big monster-god-like thing? cool!
(some other operatives or races could try to kill it and player must defend it!)

Taokan
01-23-2012, 02:04 AM
Love the idea, have you considered a full out NPC faction sort of like AI War, that would grow stronger as the game progressed and force a sort of endgame upon the game?

udm
01-23-2012, 11:24 PM
One thing I didn't like about Din's Curse was that, in spite of the dynamism of the game's world, it was far too random, and problems that arise are too abrupt. While it creates a "panic timer", I never got a real sense of graduation. Ultimately I felt very detached from the game.

As an analogous comparison, enemies from 4X games keep me on my toes, because I know with certainty that there is no randomness involved on their part. Their behaviour and actions have a certain predictability and consistency. You will hear from them quite often, and you will be able to observe their movements. There's no plot device abruptly appearing in the form of some text to propel you to run in the perpendicular direction. You always get a sense that the universe is perpetually in some form of activity.

I suppose it's likelier to get detached from DC too because it's really difficult to see the events in motion when the town-dungeon structure is vertically linear and you don't actually visualize the world's structural mobility. Hopefully it will be easier to fuse the visual with the dynamism in Drox Operative :P

Castruccio
01-23-2012, 11:38 PM
Love the idea, have you considered a full out NPC faction sort of like AI War, that would grow stronger as the game progressed and force a sort of endgame upon the game?

This would be a really awesome option, even if it were an option that the user had to enable himself before he took on a new part of the galaxy (like the options before you create a new town in DC).

Shadow
01-24-2012, 09:47 AM
Love the idea, have you considered a full out NPC faction sort of like AI War, that would grow stronger as the game progressed and force a sort of endgame upon the game?

Do you mean like the game AI war or just like like AI taking over and causing problems like Terminator?

Bluddy
01-24-2012, 11:03 AM
One thing I didn't like about Din's Curse was that, in spite of the dynamism of the game's world, it was far too random, and problems that arise are too abrupt. While it creates a "panic timer", I never got a real sense of graduation. Ultimately I felt very detached from the game.

As an analogous comparison, enemies from 4X games keep me on my toes, because I know with certainty that there is no randomness involved on their part. Their behaviour and actions have a certain predictability and consistency. You will hear from them quite often, and you will be able to observe their movements. There's no plot device abruptly appearing in the form of some text to propel you to run in the perpendicular direction. You always get a sense that the universe is perpetually in some form of activity.

I suppose it's likelier to get detached from DC too because it's really difficult to see the events in motion when the town-dungeon structure is vertically linear and you don't actually visualize the world's structural mobility. Hopefully it will be easier to fuse the visual with the dynamism in Drox Operative :P

You raise good points udm, and I've had similar thoughts about DC though I happen to really like the system.

The first point is that DC is not a strategy game, and is lacking somewhat in that regard. The focus is not on matching wits with the boss of the dungeon, but on experiencing the events the dungeon throws at you semi-randomly. But I see this as both a pro and a con. The con is that your opponent in the dungeon isn't progressing gradually as much as making big, random steps (albeit logical steps). You can't push back against the boss strategically, thereby weakening his grip on the dungeon. Many strategic options are thus eliminated from the game. The pro side is that had DC been a strategy game, it would have suffered from huge exploits and strategic balance issues, which are incredibly hard to solve. All strategy games ultimately suffer from brain-dead AI which is simply the industry standard. Just as the covenants in DC can be manipulated rather easily, DC would have suffered from the maladies that plague strategy games.

Something that's really nice about Drox and I hope will help make the game less exploitable, is that the strategy is orthogonal to your actions. You're not competing against the different races -- the other races are. This should decrease the number of exploits in the game.

The second problem is one of presentation, and I agree that DC didn't really have a good way to present the situation. You couldn't tell which factions were in the dungeon and what their attitudes were. Then again, any dungeon with a number of factions that could be presented in a diagram wouldn't be particularly interesting, unless you redefine monster factions to lump together different species. Hopefully Drox will remedy that -- DoP did a pretty good job of presenting your standing, both current and historical, vis a vis the other covenants.

Castruccio
01-24-2012, 12:42 PM
Do you mean like the game AI war or just like like AI taking over and causing problems like Terminator?

I have in mind some sort of meter (like the AI progress meter in AI War) that shows you how your actions are gradually upsetting the AI races and causing them to target you in a more focused and intense manner.

There would be a finite amount of damage you could do to any given race before that race unleashed all of its fury on you. There would be a numerical meter representing a given race's feelings toward you (say 1-100) and once you crossed the 100 threshold with a given race then that race would send huge waves of enemies after you no matter where you were in the galaxy.

A countdown timer would also start once you crossed the 100 threshold that would let you know how many minutes you had until the AI waves arrived at your location (this would give you time to prepare). Perhaps you could have something like 3 minutes from the time you cross the threshold.

Taokan
01-24-2012, 04:02 PM
Do you mean like the game AI war or just like like AI taking over and causing problems like Terminator?

The former - maybe something like a hybrid between AI War (where it progressively got stronger as you destroyed it's infrastructure) and the Antarans from MOO2 (which provided an alternate win condition to conquering every last star your opponents controlled).

Shadow
01-25-2012, 04:18 PM
The former - maybe something like a hybrid between AI War (where it progressively got stronger as you destroyed it's infrastructure) and the Antarans from MOO2 (which provided an alternate win condition to conquering every last star your opponents controlled).

The normal races do get stronger and stronger over the course of a game and new subraces or rebels can pop up.

udm
01-25-2012, 11:39 PM
You raise good points udm, and I've had similar thoughts about DC though I happen to really like the system.

The first point is that DC is not a strategy game, and is lacking somewhat in that regard. The focus is not on matching wits with the boss of the dungeon, but on experiencing the events the dungeon throws at you semi-randomly. But I see this as both a pro and a con. The con is that your opponent in the dungeon isn't progressing gradually as much as making big, random steps (albeit logical steps). You can't push back against the boss strategically, thereby weakening his grip on the dungeon. Many strategic options are thus eliminated from the game. The pro side is that had DC been a strategy game, it would have suffered from huge exploits and strategic balance issues, which are incredibly hard to solve. All strategy games ultimately suffer from brain-dead AI which is simply the industry standard. Just as the covenants in DC can be manipulated rather easily, DC would have suffered from the maladies that plague strategy games.

Something that's really nice about Drox and I hope will help make the game less exploitable, is that the strategy is orthogonal to your actions. You're not competing against the different races -- the other races are. This should decrease the number of exploits in the game.

The second problem is one of presentation, and I agree that DC didn't really have a good way to present the situation. You couldn't tell which factions were in the dungeon and what their attitudes were. Then again, any dungeon with a number of factions that could be presented in a diagram wouldn't be particularly interesting, unless you redefine monster factions to lump together different species. Hopefully Drox will remedy that -- DoP did a pretty good job of presenting your standing, both current and historical, vis a vis the other covenants.

Yep. There were definitely good ideas in DC, but I didn't really start to see their flaws until I played multiplayer with a friend, and halfway through he asked me whether there was any real point to the dynamic nature of the game. In spite of the fact that there are choices and consequences, they still felt weak and tacked on. Rather than feel like a part of the world you're in, it felt like you were being led on by the nose and given just another excuse to go kill more stuff. The control that you're supposed to have, to be able to stop Event B from happening by putting a cork in Event A, doesn't feel particularly gratifying when you've played up till a certain point. In other words, the motivation is no longer to be involved in the game's settings, but just to go kill more stuff, and cleanse and repeat - and we know that's not supposed to be the game's strongest point.

Taokan
01-26-2012, 02:28 AM
In spite of the fact that there are choices and consequences, they still felt weak and tacked on. Rather than feel like a part of the world you're in, it felt like you were being led on by the nose and given just another excuse to go kill more stuff.

Recent purchaser of Din's Curse myself (found Depths of Peril on Steam, but decided on Din's for the multiplayer), and I have similar sentiments. It hits the right spots from a hack n slash point of view, but it would have been more gratifying and emerging if the town behaved a little more like a simulation and less like a quest hub, such that townfolk contributed to resource collection and further advancement of the town rather than simply providing fodder for invasions and occasional sidequests.

I've longed for a game that's the reverse of Majesty: give me direct control of a hero and indirect influence over an AI managed growing city. To my knowledge there's really nothing quite like that on the market. Drox Operative looks like a very interesting project because it just might hit that sweet spot, albeit in a space setting rather than a fantasy one.

Bluddy
01-26-2012, 09:41 AM
Yep. There were definitely good ideas in DC, but I didn't really start to see their flaws until I played multiplayer with a friend, and halfway through he asked me whether there was any real point to the dynamic nature of the game. In spite of the fact that there are choices and consequences, they still felt weak and tacked on. Rather than feel like a part of the world you're in, it felt like you were being led on by the nose and given just another excuse to go kill more stuff. The control that you're supposed to have, to be able to stop Event B from happening by putting a cork in Event A, doesn't feel particularly gratifying when you've played up till a certain point. In other words, the motivation is no longer to be involved in the game's settings, but just to go kill more stuff, and cleanse and repeat - and we know that's not supposed to be the game's strongest point.

I think there are several things that could improve the game:

- More random things that could happen. I think the length of the game (100 levels) is too long relative to the randomness. Binding of Isaac gets this right with a ton of random stuff, and it's a much shorter game.
- More quest types. This is really hard in an ARPG since you can only interact in so many ways with your surroundings, but things like protecting a mining expedition for a certain amount of time could be fun.
- More awareness of what the NPCs are up to. I hope Shadow will still do this one by putting status effects on the NPCs. Seeing an NPC who was divorced by his wife, then lost his friend, became drunk, but then became happier because of your actions is rewarding in a way that other things can't capture.
- An overall campaign and an end game. The lack of working towards something makes it feel like it's just a random town generator.

It's also worth thinking about what a fully strategic DC would be like. I've often thought about different elements of such a game. Now that Drox has a full strategy engine, it might be possible to make a DC2 with a similar underlying engine.

- Faction strengths are tracked, as well as town strength. The town always starts out very weak.
- Once a boss shows up in the dungeon, his strength is set to some random level, usually very high.
- By sending out scouts, attack forces etc, the boss uses up his strength. These attack forces can easily destroy the town, but stopping these forces saps the boss's strength.
- The boss also carries out actions that increase his strength and control over the dungeon, like forcing some factions to make peace with one another. These actions can be averted by you.
- If another boss shows up in the dungeon, he competes with the first boss.
- You have the option of 1. trying to fight the boss directly, which could be really tough, 2. strengthening the town somewhat so it can weather attacks, which is really really slow (since the town starts out very weak) or 3. trying to build up opposition to the boss by either seeding chaos in the dungeon or by trying to get an enemy faction to be stronger. This option is dangerous because it could wipe out the town or create another, stronger boss.

Many of the points above are present in some form in the game, but only in the sense that they're random events. Making them strategic options will lend depth to the game, at the risk that players will find ways to exploit the AI's weakness.

Anyway, I still happen to love DC. I do agree there are things to improve though.