Game length and value
Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A bunch of game developers blogged about game length and value a couple weeks ago. No one asked my opinion but how has that ever stopped me before? :) Here's a link to Wolfire's blog about this topic (which also points to many other blogs).

Here's my take on things in the form of a formula:
value = quality * time / cost - buying pain

Basically, 20 hours of great gameplay is better than 10 hours of great gameplay (assuming the same cost). So yeah I think game length is important. It does very much impact my perceived value of a product. Seriously would anyone really claim that a $50 game that lasted 1 hour was a good value? Only if it was the best 1 hour of their gaming life.

However, 10 hours of great gameplay plus 10 hours of boring filler is worth less than 10 hours of great gameplay. To me boring filler is a negative number in that equation above. I would much rather take a shorter game without the filler getting in the way.

Quality is very subjective though and people are going to value quality vs time and cost differently. Is a good 10 hour game better or worse than a 5 hour game that was great? Is a 100 hour good game better or worse than a 5 hour great game?

One thing that confuses the issue is how long is the story line? Personally I don't think it usually matters because there are 4 typical scenarios. 1) There is no storyline like in Civilization or Tetris. 2) I stop playing before finishing the storyline. 2) I play through the games multiple times because the gameplay is more important than the story and/or the game has lots of replayability. 3) I play through the storyline once and finish there. In this case, the length does matter, but everyone is going to go through the story at a different pace. What it really boils down to is how long do you play the game? That's the only time period that actually matters, not some marketing speak about the storyline length.

And finally that weird buying pain part. Personally I find buying stuff is kind of a pain. Going through a painful buying process to play for an hour is probably not worth it for me no matter how good the game is.

How this all plays out for me is that I like good to great games that I can play for a long time. Cost doesn't matter as much. I'm fine with spending $60 on a game that I'm going to play for 50 hours. $20 would be better of course. However a game that I don't expect to play more than a few hours isn't even worth purchasing for me even if it's only $1. I would rather just go play another game of Civ.

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Tweets 8
Friday, 13 August 2010

Here's some of my latest tweets from twitter / facebook with a bit more explanation.

Added our first new demon into the expansion today. A couple more to go and many different versions.

Added better shadows into the game today (that really wasn't the plan at the start of the day. :) This was one of those, I wonder how hard this would be type of things.

Every time I speed up the engine some it seems it find something else to slow it down. In this case I made some culling optimizations and then added in the new shadows option.

Figured out a way to make some of the line of sight stuff look better today. When something that you have already seen goes back out of sight, it is much less likely to blink all of the way back to black.

Cliff is hilarious sometimes, I'm either not that brave or not that foolish - http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/?p=769. This was Cliff's public spat with Mark Rein at Epic. Note: I have no issues with Mark or Cliff, the whole thing was just amusing.

Non-game related: I've read 7 Patricia Briggs books so far this month. I've never read her stuff before. They are pretty good. This is now actually 14 over the last 2 months. I like her Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega series the most so far.

Still working on Din's Curse 1.003, keep finding little things I need to fix, looks like patch will come out next week. This was a big patch with major new features. Looking back on it I wish I had put much of this in the original version.

Had a minor but frustrating hiccup today with the patch so I'm pretty sure beta 1.003 will come out tomorrow. This was actually a zip vs loose files issue that I caught at the last second. The new shadow stuff was reliant on the loading order of the shaders and having the files in zips changed it. So all of a sudden it just broke.

Non gaming related: went to the Fort Worth zoo yesterday, had a chimp charge me & smack the glass wall in front of me with his hands. This was pretty amusing. It really looked like he was trying to challenge me.

Lots of publisher and reviewer emails today, oh and shareholder/director meetings by myself. All corporations legally have to have shareholder and director meetings each year. So each year I have 2 meetings all by myself. They for some reason go really fast.

Working on lots of new builds today - patches, full builds, and demos, unfortunately it's really boring work. I at least have these processes written down so that they are as quick as possible, still really boring though.

Woke up this morning and decided to sneak in an extra world option into patch 1.005 (very fast pace). I thought I was done, but for some reason decided to sneak in another feature. Some times it's really nice being an indie.

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Weird DC bugs part 2
Friday, 30 July 2010

Here are a few more weird or amusing bugs that I have had to fix in Din's Curse because of the crazy amount of possibilities that exists in the game.

We had another amusing summoned monster issue that I fixed. When you hurt a monster it tells your minions that they should attack that monster also. Well when you cast something like a fireball, it also tends to do damage to objects like lifestones that you usually don't really want to destroy. However, your minions don't know that, they just know that you attacked it and they should too.

We used to have a bug where zombies and skeletons that were buried could roam around underground. In DoP we have a monster that really can do that but zombies and skeletons aren't that good at digging.

Monsters tend to get a little pissy when something damages them. Unfortunately sometimes they aren't very smart about it. At one point in time monsters would try to retaliate against ground traps that can't be destroyed. What's worse is they were very persistent.

DC allows you to get a little creative in how you kill things. For example, if there is a monster standing near some poison barrels, you could destroy the barrels and the monster will likely die from the poison. Unfortunately, you didn't use to get the credit for the kill.

Here's another weird side effect. Sometimes you can get a quest to go kill some Scarabus' that are causing problems. Well actually killing Scarabus are pretty difficult since they are basically suicide bombers. Now days you just have to be the last one to hurt it to get credit if they explode.

Undead pretty much attack anything. I actually have to go in and tell them what they aren't allowed to kill on sight, things like cave-ins and recon totems.

Tornado and ice storm spells at one point in time put fire elementals out just like a normal fire. It was kind of cool but a level 1 tornado would destroy the highest level fire elemental boss in 1 shot.

The thief specialty has a disarm skill and pools of oil, alcohol, and other similar things are considered traps by the engine. You see where I'm going right? A thief would walk over a pool of oil, disarm it, and it would disappear. I guess we should send a thief out to the gulf.

At one point in time cave-ins showed up on the mini-map like monsters as red dots. This wasn't too big of a deal until there was a huge cave in somewhere and you bothered to look at the mini-map and noticed what looked like an invading army.

At one point in time Din himself could get poisoned or petrified. This reminds me of a bug in Ultima Online where someone managed to kill Lord British.

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Weird DC bugs part 1
Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I thought I would write something up about some of the weird or amusing bugs that I have had to fix in Din's Curse because of the crazy amount of possibilities that exists in the game.

NPCs that you need to rescue down in the deep need to be safe before you can rescue them. This usually means killing all of the monsters near them. Well apparently the NPCs are really paranoid because they use to want you to kill the nearby cave-ins and volcanoes also.

As DC players know, important NPCs in the town can be killed. Luckily usually another NPC in town will eventually find a replacement and give you a quest to bring them to the town. Well when your apothecary is killed, the person responsible for the replacement is the steward. This is usually works out fine. However, what happens when your current steward is petrified? Well you just have to gather some reagents for your apothecary and he will fix that right up for you. Oops, a nice little catch 22 there. Now if you hit this situation, you lose the town.

A while back stunned monsters (and others that can't move) could block, dodge, and evade blows. They could move pretty well for being stunned.

At one point in time Dark Elf Wizards could cast Ice Storms right through the walls. And people say AI isn't very smart. I'd cast spells through the walls at my enemies if I could. :)

We had lots of issues during the beta where summoned creatures were extremely aggressive. By aggressive I mean they would attack things like lifestones just because you had them selected. Obviously if you had it selected it must be an enemy to be destroyed. This same idea worked when you had yourself or an NPC selected also. There were a few other related bugs also, but this was the funnier one.

Scavengers eat pretty much anything that is dead. For a while this even included destroyed cave-ins. Yummy rock.

How do you find a ghost that can walk through walls? It's difficult, but when they decide to walk into a completely solid area that's outside of their attack range and decide to stay there it becomes impossible. Yeah, ghosts that are part of quests are a pain. Now they will actually roam around so that they never get stuck out of range of the player.

What happens when you hide from a monster that hides from you? Well neither of you ever sees each other. What happens when that monster is also a solid object that can block your movement? Well they tend to appear as an invisible solid object that is blocking the hallway. :(

There is an advanced option that allows you to create a character that can only used cursed items. It's pretty difficult because cursed items are rare and well cursed. It was a little harder than I realized because there are no cursed keys. Now you can destroy anything that is locked in Din's Curse, but I didn't mean to restrict key usage.

Another bug that was similar to the ghosts is monsters that can hide in the ground. When you have a required quest to go kill something like a zombie that can hide, it is extremely hard to find them (not impossible though).

That's enough of these for now, I have more that I'm going to post later though.

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Tweets 7
Thursday, 08 July 2010

Here's some of my latest tweets from twitter / facebook with a bit more explanation.

Been trying to drum up more Din's Curse reviews for the past couple days, email can be exhausting. No more comment probably needed. :)

Added 5 new types of harder character options today (Ego, Unlucky, Poverty, Honorable Death, and Fragile). These all made it into version 1.002 of Din's Curse.

I finally tracked down a master server crash today. :) This was actually a big pain. I had more and more debug prints running on the master server for a few weeks. Finally tracked it down though and it was a pretty simple fix.

I started putting some real thought into a new class for the Din's Curse expansion today. This is still most likely going to be a Demon Hunter.

For some "unknown" reason I just thought of this skill: Cat Sneeze - enemy runs away in fear of more mucus. This unknown reason of course being the kitten on my desk that had just sneezed on my hand.

Possible Din's Curse expansion skill: Demonic Control. Assuming this makes it into the expansion, the idea is that you can temporarily gain control of an enemy through this spell.

Actually got some code done for the expansion today. :) I believe this was actually just code to have the main game and expansion to play nicely together, but it was progress.

Seeing if I can add a perspective view mode to Din's Curse. This was actually a pain.

Din's Curse is now on Impulse. :)

There was a great battle and I finally conquered the fierce beast commonly known as math. This was more perspective mode stuff. I've actually had a perspective view in the code base for a long time. I needed to build correct frustums for culling, make sure everything in view was actually drawn, be able to click on things correctly, and various other little things. All of that sounds pretty simple except it involves a lot of math. I basically have a minor in math, but it has been a while since I have done some of this stuff. :)

Running around in Din's Curse with a perspective view is just strange, I'm so used to the old view. It's just weird because I've been looking at basically the same view point in this engine for the past 6 years.

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