April 2013 blog archive

This page contains all the blog posts from april 2013. To read the most recent blog posts, click here.

28/04 - HD SQ's upgrade system

Slow week - i'm not having much luck with my hardware lately. My tablet is still in for repairs and for most of the week, my PC has been acting up. But there has been some progress on the HD SQ prototype, even though it's not as much as i had wanted.

HD SQ now has a basic card browser, which allows me to select cards to upgrade them. The card browser also plays a role in the upgrade system itself, so this is an important element in the game.
Originally i had planned to put an upgrade system in HD:Xyth that allowed players to customize their ships, basically players would be able to choose what stat or ability of a ship (or other card) gets upgraded. The problem is mainly the lack of resolution of these stats. Take for instance the Vector ship : it has 3 attack, 12 defense and costs 1 energy. One could upgrade attack or defense by increasing it, but adding +1 attack is a big boost for a ship like this. Upgrading the cost basically means lowering it by 1, which makes the ship free. These kind of upgrades aren't really desirable for a Hidden Dimensions game.

The ships in the current (i.e. no guarantee that this is final) HD SQ prototype have 200x the attack and 100x the defense of the ships in HD Xyth. At this point i'll make clear that the combat system will differ a lot from HD Xyth, even though the details haven't all been worked out. It's clear that there's a big difference between trying to predict the outcome of a turn-based fight between a 7/22 ship and a 5/30 ship with 2 resist and between a 1415/2238 and a 1075/3055 with 205 resist. So combat is not something i'm worrying about at this point.

With values like these, there's more precision and more room for player choices. By default, upgrading a ship gives it a 1% boost in defense and attack. Players can then do various things during the upgrade process to influence these numbers. Additional items can be used to boost attack or defense, for instance. Ships can also be upgraded many times (right now up to 80 times and this is just a 'soft-cap').
It gets more interesting when you look at the abilities of ships instead. Each ship can have 8 abilities - each race has it's own primary ability that will be present on all ships of that race (some ships might start up with multiple abilities).
Seeing as an upgrade requires the player to sacrifice another ship, it's a matter of linking the race of the sacrificed ship to which ability gets boosted. But that's just a basic upgrade - you'll be able to select up to 8 ships at once. The ship being upgraded will only receive 1 level regardless of the number of ships used to upgrade it, but it's various stats will grow faster, depending on the races, rarity, upgrade level and amount of ships used to upgrade it.

That's the gist of it. Right now, i'm working on the code that calculates the boost a ship gets during an upgrade, based on the selected ships used to make that upgrade happen. I'm hoping to have the entire upgrade system completed and tested by the end of next week. Then, i'll have to set up some kind of planning to see how much work is needed before this can be turned into a game and compare that to how much work would be needed to finish Technospire II. That should allow me to decide which game i'll attempt to complete first.

21/04 - Building gameworlds

I got a little side-tracked while working on the HD SQ prototype. The plan was to build the upgrade system i had in mind, but while setting up the rough framework of the program, i wondered what a gameworld would look like for a game like this and decided to work out some ideas and implement them.

The top level of the gameworld is the Xyth Galaxy, which has several regions exposed that can be explored. Each of those regions has 2 or 3 constellations, each of those having 12 sectors and each sector has 10 missions. End result : 8400 missions. This relatively high amount makes sense since the upgrade system allows ships to be upgraded many times, resulting in ships that eventually become more than twice as strong as non-upgraded versions. With this many gradations in ship strength, there has to be content that provides a proper challenge for all these gradations. These 8400 missions are thus spread over a wide range of difficulties.
Now, this is a lot of content, too much to create by hand - so i've set up a pseudo random number generator that accepts a certain seed value and then generates a specific set of numbers. This number generator is tied to the data that controls the look of a sector, and basically i've hooked it up to a slightly modified version of the environment renderer that's used to render the space backgrounds in the campaigns of HD Xyth. Since the number generator always returns the same set of numbers for a given seed, i only need a single number to have the game render the space environment and the locations and types of objectives for a single sector. Not only does this save me a ton of work, it also means the game doesn't have to carry around a potentially large amount of data for all these sectors.

In the coming week, i'll focus on the preparations for the upgrade system. This means i'll be making some sketches for the upgrade screen and directly related screens (such as a card browser f.i.), then i have to turn the upgrade system into a set of simple rules which can be turned into code. Next, i'll need a bunch of cards to test the upgrades on. When all that is done, upgraded cards need to be balance tested, so a working combat system is needed to, which in turn needs a few other game mechanics (like deck building) to work properly. I guess that by the time all of that is done, i'll actually will be close to having all the core mechanics of the game.

I might actually spend a bit more time on this prototype before going back to Technospire II. My Android tablet already had to be sent back for repairs after only having it for two months (it doesn't want to boot up anymore). It doesn't look like i'll have it back anytime soon (and it remains to be see whether or not i'll get my own tablet back or a replacement, which means lost data, etc).

14/04 - Hidden Dimensions

Around this time, 3 years ago i was working on the first Hidden Dimensions (HD) prototype. The first version was made in XNA, but during the first half of april i switched to Flash and ported the game over. Two years ago, also around this time, HD Spectrum (HDS) was in its early stages. Coming from HD, it added direct pvp and challenges as new major mechanics. And one year ago around this time, an early version of HD Xyth (HDX) already existed. HDX greatly expanded the challenges system, added indirect pvp through the Wars, a campaigns system and offered players an editor to create and share challenges and campaigns.

I consider these 3 to be 'traditional' HD games. I don't have any plans to create a traditional HD game this year. Most of my remaining ideas for traditional HD games have been put in HDX, except for a few things :

  • XvX system : which allows up to 4 players (AI, human or a mix of both) to play a single fight - free for all, in teams, etc.
  • persistent indirect pvp system : similar to wars, but the result of a war would have a lasting effect on the gameworld.
  • customization : either directly on the card level, or on the player/base level - the end result is that the player has a bit more control over the stats of cards than what the current upgrade system in HDX offers.

I do have other plans for the Hidden Dimensions series, but most of these will result in games that are quite different from the traditional HD games. The same cards will most likely be present, but the actual combat mechanics will differ quite a bit.
Right now i'm working on a prototype for such a game (currently called 'HD SQ'), which will have a very detailed upgrade system that gives the player a lot of control over individual ship cards.
The problem with card customization when using the cards from HDX, is that it's too easy to create overpowered cards, even when increasing a single stat by just 1 unit. Seeing how balancing has always been a delicate thing, this would only make balancing much more complex. Limiting the amount of upgrade options per card is not a realistic solution since HDX has about 500 cards and 400 abilities - too many combinations exist to go through all of them and see which ones are overpowered.
This prototype will allow me to test the upgrade system i have in mind and if it works out (and i didn't have to spend too much time on the prototype itself), chances are good that this will be turned into a game to be released later this year. If it takes more than another week or two worth of work, or i don't like the upgrade system, i'll go back to Technospire and complete that game first.

07/04 - Rivii Hell

Rivii Hell has been released - it's currently available to visitors of the NULLL Games website.
Click here to play or here to read more about the game.

Rivii Hell plays a bit like the classic 'Battleships' game : you get to set up a small fleet of spaceships and the enemy ships will be hiding on a grid. But the main difference with battleships is that enemy ships give away hints about their location everytime they fire at your fleet (and the same goes for your ships, when they attack or use abilities). The idea behind this is that, while ships might be undetectable to sensors due to interference from dustclouds, weapons generally use a fair bit of energy. It's this energy discharge that gets picked up by sensors and gives an approximate location of the ship that attacked. The more times this ship attacks, the more info you have about its possible location.

The game will remain exclusive to NULLL Games visitors for about the week. From next weekend onwards, i'll start uploading it to various flash game portals.

I'll use the coming week to work out an idea for a scifi CCG, which is a bit of a spin-off from Hidden Dimensions. The usual ships from HD will again be present, but there will be a very detailed upgrade system which allows to customize ships in various ways. This game idea is still in the early stages, so it's not likely i'll release this before TechnoSpire II. Depending on how quickly the preparation for this idea is completed, i might start on a prototype and then depending on how long that takes i can come up with an estimate on how long it would take to complete the game. TechnoSpire II has recently completed it's prototype stage, so if the new game idea also reaches that stage, i'll decide which one to complete first.