Showing posts from August, 2010

The Parser, No. 1

If you can read German and somehow missed it, check out the new online IF journal The Parser , which is something of a German-language SPAG . (I recommend the PDF-version, because it has stellar production values for a free internet magazine.) This first issue is mostly focused on GerX, the German translation of Inform 7. It's good to see that the German IF scene is coming back to life!

Special conditions, elemental damage, and resistance I

In this post, I continue thinking about combat systems. As you can guess, this is part of the design phase of a larger game using Inform ATTACK. Today those staples of the RPG genre: poison, diseases, curses, fire damage, and so on. This topic really falls into two: on the one hand there are attacks that deal something else than damage; on the other hand, there are attacks that deal special types of damage. We will deal with them in turn, focussing on the first in this first post. Here are some of the special conditions that successful monster attacks can inflict on the player in D&D3: poisoned, diseased, cursed, level drained, ability drained, blinded, deafened, confused, dazed, dazzled, exhausted, frightened, nauseated, paralyzed, petrified, stunned -- and this list is not exhaustive. Apparently, giving monsters such powers was felt to be very important. Why? What's wrong with monsters just doing damage? The answer is: because damage is either too dangerous or not dang

Beta-testers for small combat/conversation game

My post on didn't exactly lead to a huge number of responses, so let's try again here. I'm looking for a few testers for a small game called 'Mid the sagebrush and the cactus that explores the possibilities of combining combat and conversation. (It is also a test game for ATTACK.) If you would be interested in testing, please send an email to [my first name] (Quite a lot of people mailed be about this, so I now have more than enough testers. Thanks!)

Tension, Exploration and IF

I stated in my previous post on NetHack that the game mechanic in Rogue-likes where dying is final, and loses you your character, is a great mechanic to make combat tense. I also stated that part of the fun of the game is to explore the game, learn how everything works, slowly identify all items, and so on. These two things are partly opposed. The greater the tension, the greater the temptation to look up what every monster, item and dungeon feature does before you interact with it. This opposition can be resolved, or at least lessened, in three ways: By making the game less deadly, we make exploration more viable. By randomising that which needs to be explored, we make it impossible to spoil it. We accept that part of the exploration is done through reading the internet rather than through playing the game. NetHack chooses the latter two options. The game is quite deadly, and unless you are willing to spend years with it, out-of-game exploration is necessary. But not everything

Engines and Combat (and D&D)

In an interesting series of columns on rogue-likes (such as NetHack and, in this particular case, Crawl), John Harris talks about "engines": A character with no skill in anything would be quite hard to play. The numbers are stacked against such a character; starting stats and skills tend to be just enough that most players will need to rely on class-specific abilities to get a leg-up on the monsters. These skills make possible the character’s engine, the system by which he kills monsters and earns experience within acceptable levels of risk . Having an engine is not strictly necessary, and for some race/class combinations is as simple as walking up to monsters and hitting them with stuff, but without one the player will have to resort to making use of random items and extreme tactics more often, strategies that bring with them necessary dangers. (Italics mine.) This idea of an engine is an excellent piece of terminology when we think about the design of tactical games. As s

Some thoughts on Nethack

I once again made the mistake of installing NetHack . This is a mistake because the game is incredibly addictive, easily rivalling, perhaps even surpassing, current big budget RPGs. Not bad for a bunch of ASCII-characters, is it? (Let me immediately admit that I play the graphical version.) So, what is the secret of this game? What are the design principles that make it such a success? I suspect they are four (or three, depending on how you count): Tension. In NetHack, your character will often be in a dangerous situation, a situation that could easily lead to his or her demise. These situations can come into existence pretty suddenly. (My character, having gone further than any of my previous ones, met a "quantum mechanic" this evening. Ought to have been no problem... except that this guy had a wand of monster creation, zapped it half a dozen times, and out-of-the-blue I was surrounded by a horde from which I could not escape... another death.) And, even more importantl

Inform ATTACK - initial release

I'm pleased to finally publish my Inform 7 combat extension, "Inform ATTACK". * What is Inform ATTACK? Inform Advanced TActical Combat Kit is a large (10.000+ word) extension for Inform 7 that allows authors to implement tactical combat in their interactive fiction. The system is powerful out-of-the-box, and very easily extendible. But please read the introductory section of the manual for more information. * What is the development status of Inform ATTACK? There are no known bugs and no known missing crucial features. However, ATTACK has only be used by me, and only in two small test games. Thus, there undoubtedly ARE many bugs and missing crucial features. This software should be consider as being beta quality right now, and may be expected to go through non-conservative changes in the near future. * Where can I get Inform ATTACK? Download the zip-file at: * What's in that zip-file? 1. ATTACK-Man