The Floodgates Of Creation

My WO:AR account has expired, citing a declined credit card.   I guess we’re not getting that free week in the states.  I’ve decided to take advantage of this.  You see, Fallout 3 is only a little over a week away, and I’ll probably be playing that game for a week – or more.  I can’t see the point in resubscribing to Warhammer Online since I’ll lose a week – or more – of that subscription time playing Fallout 3.

In the meanwhile, I’m continuing my game development work.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Combat Rebalancing Plugin Project

This is going remarkably quickly – it helps that I’ve done this before.  Just a few hours ago, I was writing the last Blog entry as I poured over the damage formulas.  The fruit of my labor was Version 0.1 of Geldon’s Entertaining Oblivion.  The main changes done in this plugin were to reduce the base health points and change the damage formula to be a lot less deviant in nature.  Now, true entertaining balance is possible.

Preliminary testing is extremely promising.  Combat is much less monotonous now that the average foe is defeated in one or two good swipes.  My own defeat is only a bit of carelessness away, which is quite exciting, but never outside of my control.  Spells, blocking, and power attacks feel as effective as they should be – previously, this was not the case.  There’s been so many positive changes to game aspects from simply adjusting the hitpoints and damage curve that it seems to me that I may have accidentally wandered upon an earlier, better balance of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that may have existed before the end of release rush forced some bad decisions.

My plugin is not complete, however, because it’s missing two vital things.  First, I need to tweak the rate of skill advancement to accommodate the much shorter length of combat.  Second, I need to tweak the entire monster tables to reflect the new damage and health point balance.

It’s that later one that’s the important one.  Many of the stock monsters were automatically updated with the new health and weapon damage balance, and they’re excellent and fun to fight.  Unfortunately, not all of them are automatically scaled, and many of the hitpoints values the developers put in the game are absolutely ridiculous.  It’s little wonder I was frustrated at how long it’s taking to kill a beast when it has twice the hitpoints a player would at its level.

Still, as incredible as “tweak the entire monster tables” sounds, it’s not too hard – I’ve done it before.  So long as I don’t mind neglecting my Spanish homework a bit longer (and I seem to love doing that judging by my slipping grades) I could have these changes done before the weekend is out.

Once the two major things have been added, I might as well push it as version 1.0 and see what happens amongst the Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion community.  Then, assuming there’s not a major clamoring for more – which is unlikely for a 2 1/2 year old game with an active mod community – I think it’s probably time to return to my BYOND work.

“Multiple Levels Of Refinement”

I’m discovering one thing as I continue working on my little BYOND game, and that is that there really is no limit to the amount of improvement I can put into it.

My initial focus was on emergence and flow, and this resulted in an interesting interface that utilized this futuristic matter materialization device that basically empowered the player characters to shape the world around them if only they could figure out which component goes where.

The flow originated from understanding how to use this fancy device and being rewarded with a shiny new effect, while the emergence originated from being able to shape the world around you.  The world itself would also have a number of emergent elements of its own.  The whole thing would naturally develop an organic quality of players versus the forces of the environment.

Now wouldn’t that be an interesting MMORPG to play?  It’s almost enough for you to completely overlook it’s a 2D, tile-based one.

Now, I’m wondering if perhaps I created a fundamental problem in user-friendliness.  It’s tough enough for me to manipulate my virtual futuristic Swiss army knife, and I know the coding behind it.  I don’t expect players to enjoy it much more.   In retrospect, perhaps it would be better to go with a Mercenaries-like interface where the users accrue points/money and spend it on things that can shape the world.  Before you know it, I’ll have arrived at Dune II.

Would that really be a better solution?  What I should probably do is sit back and brainstorm some more – come up with a better compromise between user-friendliness, flow, and emergence.

Brainstorming

In terms of coming up with good idea refinements, I’ve found the best means to do so involves sitting back and focus my thinking on what I want.  Only after my head is so full of good ideas that I worry I’m going to lose them does it become a prudent to start writing things.  (I wonder if I could forget a really good idea – if it’s that good it should make an impression.)

When I was young and in a creativity class, they would recommend writing down ideas without shooting down any, then come back and revisit that list.  Now, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, sort of a crude attempt to shoehorn creativity on grade school kids if anything.  Once I start writing, my brain switches into “print” mode, what I write feels at least partly set in stone (which is somewhat frustrating when I decide against it later) and my creativity is effectively thwarted.  Not stopped – it’s never quite stopped – just “thwarted” in that the floodgates of creation are not passing as much data as they would like.

Your best method may vary.

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