Posted on 10/22/2014 - 16:49
For those following along, Adam's posted the second installment of his NEO Scavenger Diary. The bit where he dwells on plastic bags for a paragraph gave me a good chuckle. Especially with the American Beauty clip playing in the background.
St. James Parkade seems to be working now. As expected, it was a bit trickier than the food truck. The tricky part was making sure the player's stay was limited to 24 hours, and handling clean-up once that expired. The game does not like campsites being removed, so I had to make some new plumbing for that.
Now, however, I can rent one of three different vehicles for the night, each with varying amounts of amenities. In the best case, one gets heat/AC, a dome light, and a sleep bonus. But even the worst case is at least sheltered from rain and strangers.
It occurs to me as I write this that I may need to add the ability to extend one's stay, rather than let the rental lapse. Right now, it has to expire before one can rent again. But maybe I can add the ability to top-up the rental for another 24 hours. I'll note that now, so I remember tomorrow.
Finally, I wanted to see if I could add certain basic recipes to the starting quick recipe list for players. Things like getting rags from clothes, lighting a fire with a lighter, and other simple recipes are common knowledge, and many have asked for this. The good news is that this is pretty easy, and seems to be working.
The bad news is that skill-based recipes are harder. Technically, they're as easy to add as the basic skills. However, since the player can add and remove skills during skill selection, this would allow players to theoretically add all of the recipes to their quick recipe list before starting. It won't break anything, since they still cannot use those recipes without the skill. But it would be cleaner if they didn't clutter the quick recipe list unnecessarily.
I'll look into this more tomorrow, though. For now, dinner!
Posted on 10/21/2014 - 16:48
Some of you may have noticed that Rock Paper Shotgun is running a "Survival Week" special. And guess who's featured? That's right!
Adam Smith has started a series where he journals his experience playing NEO Scavenger, ironman-style. The first piece is called "The Clothes Off His Back," and it's off to a gripping start. Head on over and take a look, and welcome RPS readers!
Today, I managed to finish the "Last Chance" Canteen, and it seems to be running smoothly. It offers 5 different dishes ranging from large snacks to full meals, as well as bottled water. Beware the gastronomical aftershocks, though :)
So far, it's going to be a place one has to stumble across to discover. There won't be any signs to it. However, given its location and the small size of the sprawl, I think most players will find it with ease.
Similarly, I'm going to start work on the St. James Parkade tomorrow. This one will be a little bit out of the way, and it may prompt me to put some sort of rumor or dialogue into the game to direct folks towards it. We'll have to see if that's actually necessary, though.
Finally, I did a bit of bug fixing today, too. There were a couple bugs involving
That's about it for today. I heard from Humble Bundle that they updated their copies of NEO Scavenger to v0.9942b today, so once Desura tells me the same, I'll post news to that effect.
Have a good night, all!
Posted on 10/20/2014 - 17:02
Hey Folks! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. I'm having trouble remembering what I did. That probably means I didn't do much. Or aliens.
I've been working on getting the v0.9942b test build uploaded to all the necessary places, as that's going to be promoted from "test" to "official" status. I've got all the files uploaded to Desura and IndieGameStand, and I've alerted Humble Bundle and ShinyLoot as well. Once everyone approves the new content, I'll switch over the Steam and BBG site builds, and send out news updates so everyone can be on the same page again!
NEO Scavenger on Facebook!
That's the thing I did this weekend. Now I remember. I officially started posting NEO Scavenger stuff on Facebook!
I've been slow to move onto Facebook so far, mainly because I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up with yet another social outlet. However, Richard's fan page was really starting to gain followers, many of whom had questions and comments. So it was finally time to start participating, and Richard helped to get me up to speed. Thanks, Richard!
So if Facebook is your tool of choice, come on over!
Finally, I spent some time this morning working on two services for the DMC Sprawl: the "Last Chance" Canteen, and "St. James" Parkade.
The "Last Chance" Canteen will be a fast food joint in the sprawl with some...questionable food. But it's cheap, and readily available. For those who are desperate.
And "St. James Parkade" will be a sort of flophouse made out of an old parking garage. Players will be able to buy a place to sleep for the night, with varying amounts of shelter to match their budget.
The Canteen should be pretty straightforward, as it can likely use the same flow and logic as the food truck in Concrete Forest. The Parkade, on the other hand, will need some experimenting. I'll have to make sure I can pass game hours safely, avoid AI theft as appropriate, handle insomnia, and paying for rooms. However, these two services are long overdue, and have been requested by many of those unable to enter the DMC.
That's all for today. Have a good night, all!
Posted on 10/17/2014 - 16:34
Work on the skills overhaul continued, including the latest round of feedback, and here's how it's looking:
Simplified UI, and hopefully more intuitive.
I think there were some excellent points made in yesterday's feedback, and I was able to incorporate most of it in this new layout.
First of all, I decided to change "Skills" to "Abilities," and "Traits" to "Flaws," for clarity and accuracy. Strong is not a skill, per se, and "trait" isn't necessarily negative to the average person. "Abilities" and "Flaws" are more accurate for what we're talking about here, so I changed the language. (Code and game data references still use the old names, however, for compatibility reasons.)
Secondly, I took the suggestion to make the page more symmetric. Now both flaws and abilities simply flow to the right, so it should be clearer where things go. I removed the "Default" flaws, and gave the player free points to start instead, as you guys were right that it was confusing.
I also replaced the wordy instructions with simple arrows, which I think say pretty much the same thing in way less time. Stuff on the left goes to the right. And the green/orange "Amount Used/Left" text tells you how much you've used vs. have left. I've removed the Flaw total text, since it was kind of redundant. And I decided to leave the warning for Flaws, as it was important information not communicated elsewhere.
One of the invisible changes here is the first moddable game variable: starting points. As some of you suggested, it'd be nice to mod the number of starting points available. So I created a new data table called "gamevars" which stores name/value pairs for use in the game. Right now, it's just that starting points number. However, I think I can move some other stuff into there when I have time (e.g. starting date, starting hex coords, maybe even combat modifiers for strong, etc.).
A large chunk of the day had to be spent on fixing the various skill/trait functionality elsewhere in the game, now that traits don't use slots anymore. In particular, I had a lot of rewiring to do in Haggerty Health's eye augmentations, and some Yezinka clean-up.
Overall, this feels like a significant improvement in both UI and game balance, and I'm excited to try it out! Before that, however, I think it's time to promote v0.9942b to default build status. It has a few bugs, but seems otherwise stable. So I'll be working on that next week, so we can begin testing this next wave of test builds.
Have a good weekend, all!
Posted on 10/16/2014 - 16:50
Yesterday's skill overhaul proposal garnered some really useful feedback. As you'll see if you read the comments, I was trying too hard to make the skill system fit into the item/container paradigm, and was unnecessarily complicating things. (Not to mention, cutting off some customizability.)
So taking that feedback into account, I revised the new skill system to be point-based instead of size-based:
Balancing numbers instead of fitting shapes.
In this new system, both skills and traits are items that go into spaces, and the player simply has to make sure they balance their skills against traits. Each skill/trait has a cost, indicated by dots in the corner of the sprite. The total cost of chosen skills cannot exceed the total cost of traits chosen, or else the Confirm button will produce warning saying so in the message area.
I also decided to highlight the Skill Total in green when the total is okay, and orange when it's too high, for convenience.
One other change was that I made the "Basic Human" traits into "Default," and each of them are worth 5 points. The player starts with 3, which should produce an average number of skills in the new point-based system.
This new approach should be a bit easier to understand. What's more, it also allows a wider variety of builds than yesterday's size-based system (such as all negative trait builds).
So far, I think it's a good way to go, and agree with yesterday's feedback. Let me know what you think!
Posted on 10/15/2014 - 16:40
With the latest test build up, I'm waiting to see if it has any stability issues before making it the default build. In the meantime, I'm continuing my investigations into skill rebalancing.
Previously, you might remember me talking about relative skill and trait costs. In that system, each skill and trait would have a different value in the game, so I want to see if I can reflect that in the skill select screen. I had a spark of inspiration today, and here's a rough draft:
One way to have variable skill costs.
One thing you'll notice right away is that I flipped the relationship between skills and traits. Instead of traits containing skills, I reversed it. Why? Well, as some of you pointed out, variable trait size might cause situations where there is wasted space. E.g. you might have two extra spaces in your "Feeble" trait, and choose an additional small trait to add 2 more spaces. If traits are containers, this new space cannot be combined with the leftover space in "Feeble," causing you to have two sets of 2 spaces, instead of a big set of 4 spaces.
If we flip the skill/trait relationship, this problem diminishes. You choose the skill first, and "pay" for it by filling it with traits. And if we break up the "basic human" freebies into smaller "filler" traits, we should be able to support any build the player wants. (There is one build I can think of that won't work, and that's if the player chooses all the "small" skills. There aren't enough free skill points to buy that loadout, and the big traits won't fit.)
Also, it's pretty ugly :) I'm not sure what the best way to represent skills, traits, and free points might be. I considered making the traits look like electricity or something, so it was like we were "charging" skills until they were full. But I didn't want that to be too confusing with electronic items.
If you've seen good ways of representing this type of system, let me know. And as always, I'm open to feedback on the idea!
Posted on 10/14/2014 - 16:23
I've just finished uploading new test beta 0.9942b, which adjusts balance and fixes issues still found in v0.9941b.
The build is available to anyone who owns the beta at bluebottlegames.com, or on Desura and Steam. Desura (and therefore, Groupees) users can use Desura Connect to gain access here, or even get their Steam keys and try it on Steam.
To access the test build on the official site, simply visit the beta page, and click any of the download links below the usual Windows, Mac, and Linux buttons.
Steam users can access the test build by opting into the beta for it.
Updates Included in the Test Beta
Test beta 0.9942b includes the following changes:
- Added ability to use mechanic skill in scavenging buildings to reduce accident chances.
- Added cooldown period to melonhead reinforcement ability, to prevent over-use.
- Added reinforcement cooldown as a default condition on newly-spawned melonheads, to prevent cascading numbers.
- Added exit function to GPS.
- Added single dose Blue Rot cures to Saginaw basement loot.
- Changed scavenge loot for households to be more appropriate (e.g. no night vision goggles).
- Changed tooltip pop-up width to be wider, so newspaper text isn't too long to fit on screen.
- Changed hiding button tooltip to mention start/stop toggle.
- Changed run button to disappear when run moves remaining <= 0.
- Fixed a bug in the ParseConditions code that would allow NaN values in aModifiers (causing errors like immunity to wounds).
- Fixed a bug in Grayling that would cause dead-end when returning to outside fence area.
- Fixed a bug that caused weather icon to appear on wrong screens during battle.
- Fixed a bug that caused Clearbone basement to duplicate upon revisit.
- Fixed a bug in Hatter deal that didn't take Blue Rot sample nor pay player.
- Fixed a bug that caused markets to restock multiple times during first hour of each morning.
- Fixed typos in Isotope Mine, Haggerty Health, and other encounters.
- Fixed bug that prevented reverse-crafting compound bow w/strap.
- Fixed weight of copper beads on a string.
- Fixed typo in datafile.
- Fixed bug in DMC interrogation that caused premature ending if player was flagged by DMC guard.
One of the bigger changes here is the addition of the mechanic skill to scavenging, to help reduce accidents in buildings. Now that scavenging tends to have more accident risk per item of loot, it made sense to add some way to mitigate that risk. Plus, it makes mechanic more valuable!
I also toned-down the melonhead reinforcements a bit. Now, they should use it more sparingly, and newly-added melonheads cannot use reinforcement calls right away.
There were also quite a few fixes to encounters for things like dead-ends and typos, as well as some UI tweaks.
The likelihood that this version of NEO Scavenger will work with previous saves is: likely.
As usual, the older the save game version, the less likely it is to work.
As always, let me know what you think of the changes, and if you notice any issues with the new build!
Posted on 10/10/2014 - 16:28
I decided to do some more playtesting this morning, to get a feel for scavenge drop rates. The recent change has caused more than a little concern among players, so I've been watching for signs it's too easy or hard.
After about an hour, I found that my playthrough was achieving a pretty steady trickle of loot and wounds. I was finding just enough to get by, plus some things to sell at the junk market. But on the other hand, I was also getting pretty banged-up from scavenging accidents. In retrospect, this actually makes sense given my judicious use of strong and crowbar when available in scavenging.
Most importantly, I still felt like I was having a steady supply of windfalls and challenges, and had to be clever to solve issues as they came up. I think that balance is still about right, despite the increase in scavenge accidents. (Maybe even better? Now we have more wound treatment as a risk of more scavenging reward.) I'm inclined to leave it at current levels, and tweak smaller elements like types of loot or more item variety.
While I was testing, I ran across the bug with newspaper headlines not fitting in large UI mode, so I fixed that. (Decided to resize the tooltip so it needs less vertical space.)
I also playtested Kaaven's Mini Mighty Mod of Doom, as he was seeing some weird bugs. Apart from having too much fun, I stumbled across the bug he described. It turns out that a condition in his mod had a typo, and the game's data parser didn't handle the error correctly. The result was NaN propagating through the creature wounding system, eventually breaking it down completely.
Since conditions are one of the most often used components of the game (and mods), I added some data validation to help avoid this in the future. Hopefully, the game will fail more gracefully in the future!
Finally, I should point out that this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, so I won't be at work on Monday. I should be back on Tuesday, however. For those celebrating a holiday weekend, enjoy!
Posted on 10/09/2014 - 16:28
Unfortunately, today was a non-dev day. Most of my time was spent on some administrative duties.
I've also added links to relevant third-party services I work with in operating the site. FastSpring handles my shopping cart system, and Mollom does spam prevention. Since both of those services handle your data to some degree, I wanted to make sure they were linked to explicitly somewhere.
Overall though, I try to keep as little data as possible, and I try to use services that are respectful of privacy. If anyone has any concerns (either with me or the listed services), let me know!
Another big task, and related to the above, is a new age-gate on the site. In order to comply with the FTC's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, I have to ensure that no one under the age of 13 gives me their data. (Technically, I could accept users under 13, but I'd have to manage lots of paperwork for each such user.) From now on, new users must be 13 or older to become a member of this site (and therefore to purchase via this site).
If you are currently a member of this site and under 13, please send me a private message or email. I'll have to either get your parent's permission or delete your account.
Yesterday's topic on skill balancing was popular! I've read all of the comments so far, and I think they make good points. I'll be monitoring this discussion as I develop this system.
Scavenge loot balance has also been a recent topic, given the changes I've made. I've seen reports that it is both too easy and too hard now. This could mean that it is too random, or that it requires new skills or strategies. The former is bad, the latter is good. However, I'm also hearing reports that it might be more tedious now, since players have to scavenge more to get the same loot as before. (Often resulting in more injuries.) As with the skill discussion, I'll be keeping an eye on this for chances to improve.
That's all for today. Have a good night, all!
Posted on 10/08/2014 - 16:20
Yesterday's new test build seems to be fairly stable, if forums are any indication. Few bugs have surfaced. As long as that remains the case, we should have a new default build soon!
Taking advantage of this relative quiet, I decided to do another triage of remaining issues. Looking through my old top-100 list, I was able to close about 30 of them as "fixed," "cannot repro after 5 months," or "won't fix." There are still almost 70 remaining, but a lot of the more major ones were solved, which is good.
While going through that list, I also managed to fix a few more bugs. They were mostly easy fixes, so I figured I'd nab them while I was looking into it.
One of these was to make the melonhead reinforcement move have a cooldown. Many players have expressed some frustration (and breaking of immersion) when melonheads just materialize out of thin air endlessly. This new cooldown means they cannot use it turn-after-turn. And what's more, newly-spawned melonheads also have the cooldown, so we shouldn't see as much cascading in the future.
I also fixed a bug which caused strapped compound bows to un-craft into small parts and string, instead of a bow and medium string. There was a typo here and there, and a weight mistake on the copper beads item. I also fixed a dead-end in the DMC interrogation sequence, for some characters. And I fixed an issue that allowed running on the map when using carts.
Finally, I started doing a review of the skill and trait system, to see if I could further balance it. I've long talked about changing their relative values once the game's content was stable, and now's a good time to look into that. Not all skills are equal, so I'm considering making some larger or smaller accordingly. And since some traits are better or worse, they will accommodate corresponding amounts of skills.
So far, this list shows the relative values I had in mind for each skill:
- 6 = Strong
- 4 = Melee
- 4 = Medical
- 4 = Tough
- 4 = Trapping
- 3 = Tracking
- 3 = Athletic
- 3 = Hiding
- 3 = Mechanic
- 3 = Botany
- 2 = Hacking
- 2 = Metabolism
- 2 = Eagle Eye
- 2 = Lockpicking
- 2 = Ranged
- 1 = Electrician
These numbers are based on how many uses each skill has, including scavenging, encounters, combat, active abilities, passive bonuses, and crafting. There are also some fudge factors in there for things which can be obtained via items/implants.
Similarly, I did a list of traits that looks like this:
- 5 = Feeble
- 5 = Metabolism
- 5 = Fragile
- 4 = Enervated
- 1 = Insomniac
- 1 = Myopia
Again, these are relative scores based on number of penalties, plus fudge factors if items/implants can counter them, or if the drawback is partially beneficial (e.g. insomnia).
One thing I could do is to make each skill use as many spaces as the score above, and make each trait have a space equal to its score. That was the original intent, after all. And most of these traits would "buy" a reasonable number of skills.
One major issue with the above is "Strong," which has no corresponding trait that could fit it. However, the above scores don't include the "Basic Human" freebies. What would those freebies offer as space? And how could that help a player "buy" the "Strong" skill?
One such approach would be to make several different "Basic Human" traits, each with a different size:
- 6 = Basic Human
- 4 = Basic Human
- 3 = Basic Human
- 2 = Basic Human
This way, players have enough room to take any skill at first, but remaining space dwindles fast if major skills are taken.
So far, I think this idea might work, and these numbers seem like a good place to start. What do you think?