Amber development

A fantasy crafting/dating sim https://www.winterwolves.com/ambersmagicshop.htm
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Troyen
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Re: Amber development

Post by Troyen » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:30 am

A few comments:
1. That alignment change scale looks really long. I know you might need that many values internally, but would it hurt to only show half as many circles? (Like each circle represents +/- 2 alignment)

2. Based on some earlier texts versus your menu UI, you use "tier1" in some places and "Tier 1" in others. Are you going to fix the buttons? :P

3. The price discount thing is confusing. It's not clear which is the original price and the red arrow makes discounts look bad (where discounts can be good if you're buying!).

The most important information is the current price, followed by whether it's higher or lower than usual. I think maybe you can list it as: Current Price ([arrow] difference from original). So for your examples above, it'd be: 65 (v 8 ), 62 (v 7), 62 (v 7), 49 (v 6). I'm not sure if up and down arrows are better than plus or minus signs. On one hand, the arrows highlight the discount better, on the other hand a red arrow draws negative attention and I don't know if this is actually all that bad.

As a sidenote, I think a quality system on a scale of 100 may be a bit overkill, especially if 46 vs 49 quality is a difference of 3 gold! You probably could've gotten away with a scale of 5 or 10.

4. It's hard to say about this game without playing it. My general comment on many of your other games is there's often too much repetition of the same thing, whether it's SotW, QoT, Loren, etc. It usually feels like you're required to do 2x as many repeat-this mechanic actions as the game really needs and that tends to hinder the pacing (12 guard fights to find Chalassa in the coliseum, 50ish robbery battles between main story QoT missions, etc.). I think the systems you design tend to be interesting at first, but when you're stuck with the same puzzles and challenges for too long, you've seen them repeated several times and become able to predict how they'll unfold before you even try. Whereas I think it's often better if you have more possibilities than you actually need to use/see, so that way your play-throughs might have some minor variation ("oh cool, I didn't see that last time!").

I don't know what you're aiming for in terms of rough # of crafts to beat the game. Some of the WW RPGs tend towards a bit over 400 battles when it seems 200 would've worked better. So maybe if you have a gameplay goal like "expected to do 200 crafts", you can balance the reward pacing around reaching that target.

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:45 am

Troyen wrote:A few comments:
1. That alignment change scale looks really long. I know you might need that many values internally, but would it hurt to only show half as many circles? (Like each circle represents +/- 2 alignment)
No I think I really need to display them all, otherwise I should display a circle half-filled and I think would be more confusing :)
Troyen wrote: 2. Based on some earlier texts versus your menu UI, you use "tier1" in some places and "Tier 1" in others. Are you going to fix the buttons? :P
The buttons text are the internal tag filters :) I can change them though, since probably it's more correct to say Tier 1 than tier1!
Troyen wrote: 3. The price discount thing is confusing. It's not clear which is the original price and the red arrow makes discounts look bad (where discounts can be good if you're buying!).

The most important information is the current price, followed by whether it's higher or lower than usual. I think maybe you can list it as: Current Price ([arrow] difference from original). So for your examples above, it'd be: 65 (v 8 ), 62 (v 7), 62 (v 7), 49 (v 6). I'm not sure if up and down arrows are better than plus or minus signs. On one hand, the arrows highlight the discount better, on the other hand a red arrow draws negative attention and I don't know if this is actually all that bad.

As a sidenote, I think a quality system on a scale of 100 may be a bit overkill, especially if 46 vs 49 quality is a difference of 3 gold! You probably could've gotten away with a scale of 5 or 10.
I know, but it depends indeed if you're buying or selling. If you're selling, lower price is bad :) I just used red/down arrow and green/up arrow as standards (like in Planet Stronghold when comparing items stats).
I like your idea of display the difference only though, probably is better, I'll try that! As for the scale yes I could have used a lower range but too late now :)
Troyen wrote: 4. It's hard to say about this game without playing it. My general comment on many of your other games is there's often too much repetition of the same thing, whether it's SotW, QoT, Loren, etc. It usually feels like you're required to do 2x as many repeat-this mechanic actions as the game really needs and that tends to hinder the pacing (12 guard fights to find Chalassa in the coliseum, 50ish robbery battles between main story QoT missions, etc.). I think the systems you design tend to be interesting at first, but when you're stuck with the same puzzles and challenges for too long, you've seen them repeated several times and become able to predict how they'll unfold before you even try. Whereas I think it's often better if you have more possibilities than you actually need to use/see, so that way your play-throughs might have some minor variation ("oh cool, I didn't see that last time!").
Yes it's as you said. Problem is that if you cut the "repetitiveness" you end up with a super-short game. Which maybe it's not too bad.
Also, of course adding NEW mechanics it's a huge effort, so there's a limit of how much "new things" I can add. My games probably have the most complex gameplay of all Ren'Py games, but still most people seems to not care. I thought PSCD was super fun and varied, and then...
This was an "old game" (as concept) anyway. If was out as I planned back in 2013-2014 it was probably the only crafting game available in western market (outside of consoles). But as always, problem because of lazy collaborators so everything was delayed :(
In future though I've learned my lesson and I'll do much much less gameplay than now. I'll simplify things a lot and only focus on the story, since it's what 99% of my users want.
Troyen wrote: I don't know what you're aiming for in terms of rough # of crafts to beat the game. Some of the WW RPGs tend towards a bit over 400 battles when it seems 200 would've worked better. So maybe if you have a gameplay goal like "expected to do 200 crafts", you can balance the reward pacing around reaching that target.
Well the game works like this:
1) at end of young age, Amber needs to pass an exam. Which you automatically pass if your have XYZ skills. Since I added XP/Level up, I can set it to automatically pass the exam if you're Level 5 for example.
2) you gain XP by crafting, gathering items and completing tasks (this last one gives a big XP reward).
3) to get the romance endings in adult age, you can even IGNORE completely the crafting :) in adult age there's "a big quest", for which the progress will be based on Level like for the exam. So I'll need to set a target level to "solve the big problem" and get a variant of the endings. But as said, unless you want to solve the main plot quest, you can easily ignore crafting completely!
I think I'll get a better idea after the first stages of beta testing to see what players think. I believe I'm really too burned out playing the game (as you can imagine I tested it A LOT, so did a lot of crafting alredy haha).
Probably I also made too many recipes. Instead of 200 I could have made maybe half. But well, at least they can offer variety if people like to try new things.

Troyen
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Re: Amber development

Post by Troyen » Wed Mar 29, 2017 10:16 am

jack1974 wrote:
Troyen wrote: 4. It's hard to say about this game without playing it. My general comment on many of your other games is there's often too much repetition of the same thing, whether it's SotW, QoT, Loren, etc. It usually feels like you're required to do 2x as many repeat-this mechanic actions as the game really needs and that tends to hinder the pacing (12 guard fights to find Chalassa in the coliseum, 50ish robbery battles between main story QoT missions, etc.). I think the systems you design tend to be interesting at first, but when you're stuck with the same puzzles and challenges for too long, you've seen them repeated several times and become able to predict how they'll unfold before you even try. Whereas I think it's often better if you have more possibilities than you actually need to use/see, so that way your play-throughs might have some minor variation ("oh cool, I didn't see that last time!").
Yes it's as you said. Problem is that if you cut the "repetitiveness" you end up with a super-short game. Which maybe it's not too bad.
Also, of course adding NEW mechanics it's a huge effort, so there's a limit of how much "new things" I can add. My games probably have the most complex gameplay of all Ren'Py games, but still most people seems to not care. I thought PSCD was super fun and varied, and then...
Hmm, may be a little misunderstanding here. I'll use QoT and PSCD as my two examples, since I played them most recently. Note I'm not commenting on overall game quality here. I'm specifically commenting on the repetitive encounter part.

In QoT you had a number of possible encounters when robbing houses. This was kinda cool at first, because there were varying enemy compositions or character remarks and whatnot. The problem here was you had something like 50-100 room/battle variations, but the game requires around 300 battles (I'm guessing, I haven't actually finished it yet), so you're going to see every possibility. Multiple times.

It's nice how the elite mages make me change my strategy. Or the boss battles. But the light guard/heavy guard/medium guard/dog combo I've fought half the time pretty much plays out the same every time. And I get it a lot, because it's the generic encounter for this game.

In contrast, I think PSCD was the one game where this problem was the smallest. Your variety here came because you had card restrictions, different enemies (six races I think?), the occasional mission-themed bonus (having your ally NPC card on the field fighting for you was pretty cool, even if they weren't all as powerful as my gold cards), and sometimes different victory conditions.

There was a little repetition here and there, and some repetition is unavoidable, but the main story missions didn't feel too grindy for me. Some of the generic 1-star and 2-star non-story side missions did get repetitive near the end, but they were also totally optional and by the time I got tired of them I didn't even need the rewards anyway.

I don't know how the two games compare in the number of enemies and enemy skills vs the number of enemy cards you had to design, but on rough approximation, it seems like the number of unique enemies in the game is around the same. It's just PSCD had more ways to vary up the combat. That helps because you can fight the same enemy you've already seen in the game, but the battle doesn't play out the same. You have to adjust your strategy because the victory condition is different, for example.

Of course, it's hard to translate all that into a crafting game (though maybe it'll help on your next RPGs). But...
Probably I also made too many recipes. Instead of 200 I could have made maybe half. But well, at least they can offer variety if people like to try new things.
It might depend on how many times you have to craft the same thing over and over, or how tedious/engaging it is. (Hard to say without the demo.)

Based on this number, I'd guess around 100-250 crafts might be a reasonable expectation? (Not recipes, but the number of times you have to make something.) If you had to make Elven Wood 25 separate times that'd be kinda annoying (unless it's one of the few super-common materials, but doing that for everything would get old). If you had to make it a few times it might be okay.

But if the game requires level 25 and it takes 500 crafts to get there, then that might be a bit exhausting. Especially when the time spent on crafting dramatically outstrips the time spent reading the story.

It's hard to math it out in advance though without going through the full interaction, over and over, and seeing some of the other economic systems at play like random events. Shouldn't be too tough to tweak xp rewards based on beta feedback though?

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 10:25 am

For QoT I was the first to admit it. The issue was the robbery randomization, to have bigger variety, it should have had more gameplay element etc. It was an INSANE job. Stuff like 5-6 more months of work. But even then, I think the main issue was also that to craft gameplay well, you should also be the person writing it. I think in my early games like PS1 the gameplay was done better (not the writing :lol:) because I was coding AND writing the story at same time, so I could do the pacing right etc.
Using an external writer is IMPOSSIBLE :oops:
Anyway, for the RPGs there are people who liked grinding. I mean, can you imagine doing the Loren town tasks until you're level 25? and then complain because Fost was too easy? (I balanced it for level 17!!! ROFL).
Or other people doing SOTW 4-5 times from beginning.
So as you can imagine it's really hard for me to know what to do, and what people like :lol:

Back to Amber, the main issue was "passing the days". You could do various activities during each day, gather ingredients, look for job, craft, study. But in the young age without even the shop builder there was less choice.

So what I have done now is to shrink the days needed to advance the story. Since after the young age there's a big jump of several years, I could tweak it without problems (instead of saying "2 years later..." I just wrote "3 years later" and done!).

As for how many times you need to craft, depends how you play it, you gain XP even gathering (not much). I didn't have time to test, but I guess doing a few tasks, and even just crafting random recipes (without a task) should give you enough XP to pass the alchemy exam.

Well, better if I do the beta demo and then we can really talk about it I think! :)

Troyen
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Re: Amber development

Post by Troyen » Wed Mar 29, 2017 10:33 am

jack1974 wrote:Anyway, for the RPGs there are people who liked grinding. I mean, can you imagine doing the Loren town tasks until you're level 25? and then complain because Fost was too easy? (I balanced it for level 17!!! ROFL).
Personally I think it's fine to tune for level 17 as that's about when the game mechanics start getting stale (for me personally, around level 12-14 is consistently when I turn off the slow animations and start trying to get through the non-boss battles as quick as possible). If people like to grind they can do that optional side content until level 25, but as long as it's not required. Alternatively, adjust the exp rewards/scale so that you hit 25 in your new games with about the same effort it took to get to 17 in Loren 1.

Starting to get off-topic for Amber, but I really think you should bring back the varying victory condition from PSCD for Loren 2/PS2. Maybe not every mission, or even most missions, but having some battles that are more than just "kill all the enemies!" would be a nice change of pace. I think SotW had a few like that, but could've used a lot more to keep it fresh. Make me use skills other than the same 3 I can beat most normal battles with.

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:01 am

Troyen wrote: If people like to grind they can do that optional side content until level 25, but as long as it's not required. Alternatively, adjust the exp rewards/scale so that you hit 25 in your new games with about the same effort it took to get to 17 in Loren 1.
Well for that I already implemented the solution: different difficulty levels. So in Easy mode either enemies can be beaten even with a much lower level, or you gain XP more fast.
At least a good thing of Amber is that you can OPTIONALLY craft, but as long as you meet the required level to pass the next main plot check, you can ignore it.
Troyen wrote: I think SotW had a few like that, but could've used a lot more to keep it fresh. Make me use skills other than the same 3 I can beat most normal battles with.
Yes more varied winning conditions is also another good thing :) With PSCD was easier to do, because being a card game, has very prominent rock/paper/scissor mechanics but that could also be done for RPGs.

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:35 pm

OK back to Amber, I greatly tweaked the pacing: before each encounter with the love interest was appearing every 10 days. Now every 5. As consequence you can spend less time doing other activities, you can basically just click Study and then next day if you want :lol:
Biggest problem is that Anima updated the framework with some last changes (including the ingredient auto-search) but somehow messed up with my coding. I need to look what is the problem, since right now the whole crafting thing doesn't work anymore :lol:
All things considered I'm not sure anymore about the beta this Friday...

(I swear I'm going to make 10 plain visual novels after this game!!! GRR :mgreen:)

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 5:47 pm

Anima found the bug ! (the most likely ending to this story :lol:)
Still, I want to make the "browse the item on all shops" feature working. I'll try to do that tomorrow, since I believe that feature will have a BIG impact on gameplay, and I want to have it working on the beta. We'll see how it goes, at least now the crafting works again haha :mrgreen:

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:25 am

Image
A feature Anima coded yesterday: now you see a prediction of the item quality also for auto-crafting (I had to shorten "Automatic" into "Auto" otherwise wouldn't fit the buttons!!).
It's very useful because in the tasks, you'll be asked to craft X items with minimum Y quality. You can do it manually of course, but if you have the ingredients, maybe you can speed things up using autocraft if the minimum or maximum quality are enough. Once again a change done to simplify the gameplay and make it more fun for the player.
Now attempting to code the item search thing :)

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jack1974
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Re: Amber development

Post by jack1974 » Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:42 am

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Well the automatic ingredient search works, but the problem is that even if I can display a list of them, the code backend to actually BUY those items is missing, and it's probably too complex for me to handle :oops:
I'll keep trying in the afternoon but unless I get another divine intervention from Anima I guess this feature might not be ready in time :mrgreen:
At least I could go on with other parts of the game!

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