Friday, 28 September 2012

Sense and Sensibility: The card game (Hey at least it's not another board game)

This week, I was once again tasked with making a non-digital game. This time the constraint was that the game had to be somehow based off of a Jane Austen novel. Now, I admit I have never read a Jane Austen novel (nor do I plan to). After staring at the wikipedia pages of several Jane Austen novels, my group and I decided Sense and Sensibility would be the least terrible to make a game out of. Here's what we came up with.

Sense and Sensibility: The Card Game is essentially a dating sim in which players compete to woo a significant other. Players accumulate traits (good and bad) and assets/liabilities to modify their love and money scores respectively. The player's goal is to accumulate enough love or money to woo their suitor. Players can also use action cards to influence the love and money scores of other players and themselves.

Here's a run-down of the rules:

Players: 2 – 5
·         Players shuffle the Greed, Love, Trait, Asset/Liabilities and Action cards into their respective piles.
·         The Action cards are split in half and each half is put into the Greed and Love cards.
·         Each player draws 3 trait and 2 Asset/Liabilities cards. They are then placed face-up in front of them.
·         A die is then rolled to see who goes first.
NOTE: Traits and Asset/Liabilities modify how many points you get from either Greed or Love cards – be it an increase or decrease boost. Read the card to see how your points are affected.

·         Players draw a card from the either the Greed or Love pile and place it face-up in front of them at the beginning of the turn.
·          There are three kinds of possible cards: Love cards, Greed cards and Action cards. Action cards are mixed into both piles.
·         Players collect the points on the card they draw, unless it’s an action card. Action cards are activated immediately on drawing and are played towards another player.
·         Once a player has accumulated enough Love points (15) OR enough Greed points (10), they can go for a chance to woo their suitor.
·         The die is rolled to see if the woo is successful. If a player is going for the Love win, they must roll a 3 or higher.  If the player is going for a Greed win, they need to roll a 5 or higher.
·         If a players woo is unsuccessful, that player loses half the points in the mode they chose to woo with.
·         Play continues until a player successfully woos their suitor and wins their heart.

A few card Examples:

What I would change:

- Obviously, Jane Austen novels are not something I'm interested in or knowledgeable in. If I could base this game around an entirely different premise, I would. However I understand the reason for this constraint on the assignment and that this point may not be the most valid.

- As it is right now, you can win the game with either love or money. If possible I would make a win condition which allows for combinations of both.

- If I could do it again, I would make specific characters as love interests, each with their own preferences and criteria for affection. This would effectively solve the second issue I mentioned (mixed win condition).

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

H.A.C.K.E.R.S: The Movie: The Game (Yet another board game, made in slightly more time.)

This week, I was tasked with making another board game. This time in a group setting, and instead of a race to the end game, the assignment was to make a territorial acquisition game. My group and I came up with H.A.C.K.E.R.S, which stands for: Having All Computer Kernels Every Real-time Second. The goal of the game is to acquire (by hacking) the largest number of computer nodes on the game board, after a set number of turns. The game plays similarly to risk, but with subtle differences in the flow of resources (bits).

Here are the game's rules:


H.A.C.K.E.R.S.: Having All Computer Kernels Every Realtime Second
Players: 2-4 players

H.A.C.K.E.R.S. is all about the war for the Cloud. Control the Cloud, control the internet. Join a Faction and out hack the enemies to control the Cloud and get one step closer to world domination! 

Set-up: Each player chooses a Faction to represent in the war by choosing a colour of bead. Factions then roll to see who goes first or play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Players chose a starting node based on turn order. Each node is assigned 10 bits of power. Players then decide how many turns the game will run for. At the end of the last turn, the player with the most nodes wins.

Play: Each node runs on bits. Players accumulate bits at the beginning of each turn. Players amass bits based at a flat rate of 5 with a boost based on how many nodes they own, according to the following chart:
  • ·         3 nodes = +2
  • ·         6 nodes = +4
  • ·         9 nodes = +5
  • ·         12 nodes = +7
After capturing 12 nodes, you gain +1 for every 2 more captured nodes. The collected bits are then distributed to each node based on the players choosing. Nodes are indicated by placing the small blue beads on the node you control.

There are 3 phases per turn: Transfer, Boost and Hack. During the Transfer phase, players can transfer power to any nodes that they are connected to. When a bit is sent, it is subtracted from the current total as well, (e.g. if node A has 12 bits and sends 4, node A will have 8 bits after). Players may only transfer bits once per turn. Nodes can only hold 30 bits max. 

In the Boost phase, players may sacrifice bits to set up Firewalls. Firewalls make you harder to hack during the Hacking phase and disappear on your next turn. To indicate a Firewall has been placed, select a bead colour for “Firewalls” and place it on your node. Firewalls are powered up based on the following:
  • ·         Firewall Lvl 1 (costs 5 bits): protects you from 2 bits of damage
  • ·         Firewall Lvl 2 (costs 7 bits): protects you from 3 bits of damage
  • ·         Firewall Lvl 3 (costs 9 bits): protects you from 4 bits of damage
  • ·         Firewall Lvl 4 (costs 12 bits): protects you from 5 bits of damage
During the Hacking phase, players may sacrifice bits to attack other players. When sacrificing, players must leave at least 10 bits in the node to sustain their capture of it. Players may only attack once. To attack, players select any node they are connected to. Players may then attack that node with any other nodes they own that are connected to it. The defender then decides how many bits to use to defend. If the defender uses more bits than the attacker, the difference is dealt in damage to the attacker; e.g. if the attacker sends out 10 and the defender defends with 15, the attacker loses 5 bits on their node(s).

Things I liked about how the game turned out:

Overall I am most pleased with how the game's premise ties in with the game-play. The concept of an cyberspace hacking war feels fresh and very appropriate for a territorial acquisition game. I also find the game's system to be very strategically sound and rich in the variety of plays.

Things that I would change:

Firewalls are currently useless as they result in a net loss of bits. In all scenarios, a player is better off keeping their bits and playing them in a standard offensive or defensive play. Also, the game board was printed with a lack of Yellow ink. The real version happens to be even uglier than the one shown above.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Fight to the Finish: A board game made in 1 hour

This week in game design class, I was tasked with making a prototype for a "race to the end" board game with a unique theme. Due to my fixation with fighting games, I made a board game themed around combat. Here's what I ended up with.

Rules: Players must roll a (6 sided) die to advance on the game board. The number a player rolls corresponds to the amount of squares they may move. If a player lands on a red square, they are thrown into the ring where they must wait for an opponent. Once there are two players in the ring, a battle will commence.
Battle Rules: Before the battle can begin, the players must both roll a die to determine who is attacking and who is defending. The player who rolls the highest number is the attacker. Once the battle has started, both players count down (3, 2, 1, Fight!), then reveal their Actions at the same time. Each player has 3 hit points, and the battle ends when either player’s hit points reach 0. 
Attacking Actions:
-          Physical Attack:
o   Beats: Throw Reversal (Scoring a hit)
o   Loses to: Guard (negates attack, no damage taken), Evade (avoids attack, defender becomes attacker)
-          Throw:
o   Beats: Guard (Scoring a hit), Evade (Scoring a hit)
o   Loses to: Throw Reversal (Defender Scores a hit)
Defensive Actions:
-          Throw Reversal
o   Beats: Throw (Scoring a hit)
o   Loses to: Physical Attack (Attacker scores a hit)
-          Guard
o   Beats: Physical Attack (Attack/Defense roles do not change)
o   Loses to: Throw (Attacker scores a hit)
-          Evade
o   Beats: Physical Attack (Attack/Defense roles are switched)
o   Loses to: Throw (Attacker scores a hit)
Once the battle is over, the winner returns to their place on the game board, rolls the die and continues to advance. If the winner scores a perfect (winning without losing any hit points), they are awarded a buff card from the top of the pile. The loser must stay in the ring and fight until they can defeat another player.

Buff Cards:
-          Spiked Knuckle (Physical Attacks do 2 hits of damage), Physical Obstacles can be broken immediately
-          Kung Fu Grip (Throws do 2 hits of damage), Throw Obstacles can be moved immediately
If the player lands on an obstacle, they must wait 3 turns before it is cleared (assuming they have no buff cards). If the player has a buff card, they can choose to use it to bypass the appropriate obstacle. If the player uses the card on an obstacle, the card is forfeit and can no longer be used in battle.

Things that suck and need fixing:

- Evade is always a better choice than Guard, making guard essentially useless. Originally I was going to limit the amount of times a player could use a certain attack or defensive action, however this was problematic as there are two options for attack and 3 for defense. If there were some other sort of limit to how often a move is used, guard could potentially become useful.

- The game can be very random. In one playtest, a friend of mine was able to traverse the whole game board without fighting. This was totally not cool.

- The prototype board is ugly, boring and way too small. That's probably because I made it in a half hour.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A Brief Analysis of animation in Persona 4 Arena


Arc System Works' Persona 4 Arena is a 2D Fighting game based off of the cult classic JRPG, Persona 4. The game has a gorgeous Anime art style and happens to be my latest gaming addiction. Here are some of my observations about the animation techniques used by the developers to make the game such a treat to watch.

- Overview:

The game uses 2D sprites for the characters, which are placed on top of layered, 3D Rendered backgrounds. When the camera pans around the stages, objects in the foreground move more dramatically than those in the back. This gives the visuals a nice sense of parallax. The game also makes use of particle systems for dust clouds on running characters, and hit sparks during combat.

- The Arcsys Sprite Process:

Arc System Works is known for creating fighting games with some of the most detailed, fluid, high resolution 2D sprite work in business. In order to achieve this, the developer uses a unique process to ensure quality and timely completion.

Each character is made up of around 1000 unique frames of animation. In a game with 13 characters, creating this much art is no easy task. For this reason, Arcsys uses Toshimichi Mori's  trademark 3D Rotoscoping method.

Step 1: Characters start as 2D concepts and each pose is drawn by hand.

Step 2: A 3D model of the character is made and posed according to the concept drawings.

Step 3: 2D Line-art is generated based on the 3D model. This is used as a guideline for the final sprite.

Step 4: Colour, light, shadow and additional details are applied to each frame.

Step 5: Each frame is converted into a dot image (the sprite itself).


- Animation Style (With Respect to the 12 Principles of Animation):

Persona 4 Arena's visuals exemplify all aspects of the 12 basic animation principles. The characters all have unique appeal, and their designs are very much rooted in solid drawing thanks to the use of 3D models. Anticipation can be seen in the characters as they prepare to jump, and their bodies stretch as they reach the height of their jump (this helps portray a sense of height). All attacks are very exaggerated and most of them follow very blatant arcs. Every animation contains some sort of subtle secondary action, for example: clothing/hair movement or changes in facial expression. Finally, heavy attacks feel weighty due to their long follow-through.

-The importance and influence of good animation in a fighting game:

In a fighting game, any move performed by a character can be broken up into 3 phases.

- Startup: The time it takes for the move to become active.

- Active Frames: The duration of the attack that is harmful to opponents.

- Recovery: The time it takes the character to return to neutral after the move's active frames end.

When a character is touched by an attack they enter one of two phases:

- Blockstun: If the attack is blocked, the defending character is stuck in a blocking animation for a set number of frames, then returns to neutral

- Hitstun: If the attack connects, the player getting hit is stuck in a recoiling animation for a set number of frames.

Why is this important?

Let's say character A hits character B with a heavy attack and character B blocks. If the blockstun caused by said heavy attack lasts less time than the attack's recovery, character B can punish character A for doing the unsafe attack as long as his attack is fast enough. Conversely, if character A's heavy attack causes blockstun that lasts longer than his attack's recovery, he can follow it up safely with another attack.

Similarly, If character A's attack connects with character B (and is not blocked) and it causes hitstun lasting longer than the attack's recovery, character A can follow up the attack and produce a combo. A combo is a series of attacks which if performed consecutively after the first hit lands, cannot be blocked. This is a cornerstone of almost every modern fighting game and is 100% dependant on numbers of animation frames. In high level fighting game competition, this is referred to as the study of Frame Data.

In competitive play, it is often best to opt for the safest (least punishable) attack unless a hit is guaranteed. A move's frame data is responsible for determining how safe or unsafe it is. In addition to damage, hitbox size, and unique properties, frame data is directly responsible for how strong any given move is and is instrumental in balancing a fighting game.

All un-labeled images were captured by myself. If you'd like to see Persona 4 Arena in motion, check out one of my match videos. Warning: May contain a bit of NSFW language. This tends to happen during heated fighting game sessions.

PS: I'm the guy with the Katana.

Monday, 17 September 2012

30 Minute Play Report #1: Tichu

Above Image taken from:

Game Name: Tichu

Number of Players: 3,4,6, 5-12 (for Grand Seigneur)

Time it took to play: Tichu is a very complex game with many (sometimes convoluted) rules. The process of learning the rules took so long, that it's hard to say I even got to play. In the half hour I spent with Tichu, my friends and I were only able to play about three or four tricks.



- Tichu appears to be a very strategic game with a variety of options for the player. The sheer amount of card combinations that can be played, along with the existence of special cards (dog, dragon, phoenix), and the "bomb" mechanic give each of the player's choices a sense of risk/reward.

- The fact that the game can be played by anywhere from 3 to 12 players is a definite plus and makes it great for parties/social gatherings. Good luck teaching everyone how to play though.

- The exotic nature of the game makes it feel fresh and unique.


- Unfortunately in my opinion, Tichu's greatest asset is also it's biggest downfall. While the game's depth is what makes it unique and keeps it interesting for veterans, the steep learning curve makes it very difficult for newcomers to pick up and play. Of the 30 minutes I spent with the game, I would say 15-20 were spent learning enough just to get things started.

What I would do differently:

- If I were in charge of making Tichu, I would have simplified the game's rules. The main ways in which I would do so, would be to decrease the number of playable card combinations, and not allow bombs to be played out of turn.

Rules: (Some of these rules may only apply to 4 player Tichu, which is the only version I played)

- Tichu is played with a special deck containing 56 cards. There are four suits (Jade, Sword, Pagoda, Star) which account for the 52 standard cards, and there are 4 special cards which do not belong to any particular suit (Mah Jong, Dog, Phoenix, Dragon).

- The cards are divided evenly amongst the 4 players. The player with the Mah Jong card begins the first trick.

- The card combinations that a player may play during a trick are similar to poker hands; Two of a kind, three of a kind, Any number of consecutive pairs (ex: 334455), Straights of at least five cards in length regardless of suit, and full houses. Finally, bombs can be used to beat any hand, and bombs can be beaten by bombs of greater value. A bomb can consist of either four of a kind or a straight flush of at least five cards. Straight flushes beat four of a kind.

- When a player plays a card combination, the next player must beat it with cards of the same combination but greater value. If a player cannot play or does not wish to, he may pass. The trick ends when no one can (or chooses) to play a greater combination than the last hand played. The player of the last hand wins the trick and collects all of the cards played and converts them into points before returning them to the deck to be re-distributed.

- The game is won when a team reaches a total of 1000 points. A player can call "Grand Tichu" or "Tichu" to bet that he will finish his cards first. Grand Tichu must be called before the player's final card is dealt and is a bet of 200 points. Tichu must be called before the player plays their first hand and is a bet of 100 points.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Enter: "Vaporizer" (Current Work in Progress)

This is the first attempt at a game made by "Team Bropacity" and myself. The game is a side-scrolling shooter in the vein of games like Megaman and Metal Slug.

Feel free to try the test build below. Warning: It's probably less than 10% done and riddled with glitches. Proper death animation and game over screen coming soon (along with the rest of the game).