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Website work, and a new project

September 26, 2012

For the past two weeks I’ve been doing a mix of website work and programming.  My site at peltastdesign.com was quite rough looking, so it was about time that I put more effort into it.  This involved more seriously learning HTML/CSS than just the previous dabbling, which turned out to be extremely straight-forward.  The result is a cleaner and snazzier, if still minimalist, layout.  If you check the site out and have some feedback on it, feel free to shoot me a message.

As is though, the website feels a bit bare under the “Projects” section.  That’s because I’ve spent my time working on only a few very time-consuming projects; Mandate was/is a hugely ambitious project, and I spent more time polishing Why Am I Dead than I did programming it.  And I can see the strategy game that I’d mentioned beforehand becoming just such a huge, time-consuming project, so I’m putting it on the back-burner.  I may still work on it here and there for fun, but it won’t be the focus of my attention.

Instead, I’d like to shift tracks and work on smaller projects which take less time, are inevitably less polished, but still demonstrate a game concept successfully.  Not only will this make it easier to keep momentum, but it will be far better practice for me; while there is something to be said for really polishing and smoothing out a game, it doesn’t teach me as much about the artful design of game mechanics.  When an artist is starting out learning the human anatomy, do they spend their time inking and coloring their studies, or do they just sketch it out and then move on?

So, since last Wednesday I’ve been working on a smaller idea.  It’s a bit of a blend between lots of different things, but could be summed up as a turn-based action game, I guess?

Terrible placeholder graphics, ho!

As you can see, it centers around two people duking (or stabbing) it out by selecting different actions during their turn.  It draws influences from games that in my opinion make turn-based combat work, such as the Persona series, a Flash game called Sands of the Coliseum, and Pokemon.  My brainstorming also involved some very non-intuitive sources, such as Dark Souls, the fighting game genre in general, and Poker.  I find that this format (which is usually seen in RPGs) is satisfying because it’s good at abstracting action and making it purely an exercise of decision-making; but usually it ends up hiding behind number-crunching rather than making actually interesting decisions.  So my goal was to make a game somewhat reminiscent of back/forth RPGs, but with underlying mechanics more akin to fighting games, which can stand on their own.

The core mechanic is something of a rock-paper-scissors; attacking beats dashing, parrying beats attacking, and dashing beats parrying.  Unlike a lot of turn-based games, the results happen simultaneously, so there’s no situations where the first person to move wins.  You also submit two actions per ‘turn’, so you have to guess what your opponent’s two actions will be.  For instance if I feel pretty confident that my opponent is going to attack me the very next turn, I would submit a “Parry” action to counter his attack, and then submit an “Attack” action to take advantage of my parry.  But there’s also the possibility that he waits for his first action and attacks on the second!

You’ll notice the graphics of a body at the top left of my prototype screen; there are five different parts of the body that are separate targets: the head, torso, left arm, right arm, and legs.  When you take damage, rather than simply losing “health”, one of these parts of your body is damaged.  And if one part of your body gets damaged too much, you lose.  Likewise with the opponent.  And depending on which part of your body is damaged, certain actions will be restricted.  For instance, take too much damage to the legs and you can’t move.

You also have to keep track of stamina, which automatically regenerates and is used for physically taxing actions.  You can put down as much stamina as you want on an attack, for instance, and in the case that you and the opponent attack similar targets, the attack with the higher stamina investment wins out.

There are more details about the exact rules of the game, but you get the idea.  I expect some of the mechanics to change as I finish the prototype and see which ideas work and which don’t.

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