Thursday, 20 November 2014

Balance: The Final Blow!

Balancing a game! ... What an issue this can be! After all, one persons tactics may make a game easier to play than somebody else's. Different classes have pros and cons that could affect the game from the very start. Then there is simple chance of course ... one battle may go badly simply because of a run of poor dice rolls ... or be a cakewalk with an opposite run of the dice. The big question is, just how much should we consider scripting a game (for difficulty) where a player is relatively free to move their party wherever they like?

While it is true that in a DM controlled environment ensuring balance is easier to maintain than relying on scripts to control the difficulty levels for PCs, the big question remains just how much tweaking should ever be applied? I guess there are two schools of thought:-

1) FIXED: Do not alter difficulties at all and allow the PCs to get what's coming to them, or ...
2) SCALED: Alter the difficulty to allow for character levels and abilities.

Of course, every builder knows that a good combination of "fixed" versus "scaled" difficulties is the best solution to the problem, but, where do we (or should we) draw the line?

So, guess what I've been up to over the last couple of weeks? Basically, looking at difficulty levels for the PCs according to the different ways they could explore the module. I, of course, know the best path to take that will keep the difficulty levels about right, but I am also acutely aware that there are one or two steps they could make that would place them in a very difficult predicament. My current concern is, I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing? After all, while I am all for a "challenge", I am also aware that being "stuck" can be a quick way to frustrate a player (from personal experience).

So, my questions today, to keep in line with my current module updates is, what do you think?

1) Have you experienced a game (or module) that was simply too hard? (Example?)
2) Should a builder always (or never) scale difficulties?
3) What is your preferred style of play? (Relatively linear/guided path or completely open?)

From my own observations, a game that is more linear tends not to encounter these balancing issues, as the player should (in theory) be developing their character at the same rate as the difficulties increase. The "problem" only really comes to light when designing a more open world when the player ventures into a more dangerous region than another. However, what now takes precedence?

4) Should the game adjust to fit the player or should the player get the hint and back off?
5) However, what happens if the player cannot back off for whatever reason? Is the "game reload" an acceptable solution, or should the builder have considered another option for the player?

Too late to turn back ....

I think I took a wrong turning!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

What's The Latest?

I often find myself going "two steps forward, and then one step backwards", but thankfully the net result is always a definite forward movement. This time it was to do with my own walk waypoint system. A long while ago, I discovered that the official system was not reliable enough: Creatures would often stall or simply jump a step when supposedly following waypoints. So, I decided I needed to write my own, and thankfully, succeeded. However, another recent update to the rest system in my campaign highlighted a fault with one of the calculations for the waypoint system and I had to spend some time fixing that this week. (At least tracking down the fault is what took the time rather than adding the 0.1 float value to the code that needed it.)

Fixing issues was not the only thing I did this week, however. I can add that I also finished a rather difficult conversation and improved my own encounter system by making better use of the ScriptHidden function.

I also played about fifteen minutes on one of the new areas, testing the creature AI and my combat system that can be switched between real-time and an auto-pause system at the push of a button. It was great fun having the game auto-pause on enemy sighted, switch weapons while paused and target a new enemy prior to un-pausing. After six seconds the game auto-paused again (as my option had requested) and allowed me to re-examine the combat situation to see what I would do next. The settings I was using reminded me of a style something akin to Dragon Age and/or Baldur's Gate. Not surprisingly I suppose, as these two games (along with NWN) have influenced my own preferences in style of combat play. Of course, the campaign also caters for those that prefer to stick to an all real-time experience, which is the default play style anyway.

I have also started to place more of the unusual treasures around the module now. I don't mean what I call the "main treasures", but what are more like "unusual/interest items" treasures. They generally aim to improve either character or equipment. Here is an example of a page of a book of one such unusual find that the PCs may be blessed enough to stumble across.

Books will contain information that will help the PCs in some way.
For players who may be interested in playing this campaign, please feel free to give feedback about any of the game systems posted here or on my blog (see signature)... or any other comments you want to raise ... or have any questions about the campaign.