Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Real quick... I see that I haven't posted in a while. Time to post again.

Besides do cursory work on Fearann Muin, I've also got a little project of my own to dabble in. Right now I'm simply calling it "strong", short for "Stronghold" - the original game that strong is loosely based on).

http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/stronghold/ - the game does have a number of problems. But I like the basic idea, and some of the concepts aren't bad. The major problem with the game is the micromanagement: in building and war. Kind of important parts of the game. In building, you can allocate the proportions of 3 different things - building, training, recruiting, with the default being 50%, 25%, 25% respectively. The annoying part is your rarely building - and when you do building you usually want the allocation to be at 100% for build. If your not building you'll want some combination of the other two. While you can ignore changing it - it annoys me to not even be close to full potential with what I want it to do - so I micromanage.

Combat is even worse. The terrain is layed out in a series of tiles. To get units to attack a tile (where an enemy is) you must attract them. Before I get into that, here is a quick explanation on attraction - I go to a tile and select on of my main players (you get up to 5, each with it's own class/race - elves, thieves, halflings, fighters) I click on a bad and "attract" how every many loose units I want to the tile. I call them "loose" units, although a better term would be "unhomed", for a unit can be one of three things: homed (the unit will not move when attracted), unassigned (the unit will move when attracted), and ready (this means it will be among the first to move when attracted - giving it priority of unassigned units). With these two things in mind (the 5 different players you control, and the goofy idea of attraction) it's incredibly painful to do any military campaigning. You much move each unit in relation to it's player, so in essense you'll have 5 separate armies. On top of that, it's hard to attract (and thus attack) in an orderly fashion. It makes the game much harder than necessary (give the AI is hilariously bad). You spend a painful amount of time simply assembling units where you want them - juggling your elves, fighters, etc. separately. It's a hair pulling experience. One that could have been made stupidly easy by allowing grouping of units and the ability to simple say attack tile x,y.

The terminology "attraction" annoys me in an of itself - as though this is the AD&D version of eHarmony.com.

Fortunately the AI is incredibly stupid. They ignore you for the most part. So you can run across their lands and kill them one or two at a time. Although since move units by "attraction" it's usually easy to just make a bee-line for the enemies stronghold and take it out. The enemies units then, in armageddon style, all march straight for your nearest stronghold. But they don't even group themselves for maximum effect. You'll more than like fight them 1 or 2 at a time if you place a number of guys between them and your nearest stronghold (it doesn't take very long to get good at guessing the route they will take). It's as if Canada took out Washington DC and every American simply dropped what they were doing and marched on over to Ottawa to burn it to the ground (ignoring everything else eccept for what was directly in your path). It's very funny, and very predictable. Too predictable.

Still building is fun, the idea that in AD&D style your player's attributes affect your units is interesting, the seasons affect on crops, and the idea that where you farm affects your farms output (mountains = bad, near rivers = good!).

So change some mechanics (movement), make the AI better (relative to this AI that's no problem), and nullify alot of the micromanagement and you have yourself a simple but enjoyable game.

That is what I intend to do.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I'm restarting my dev blog, now that I'm doing something interesting again. I work on Fearann Muin - a Multiplayer Online Roly-Playing Game (MORPG). You may notice the lack of the word 'Massive' - which is used for many a commercial games that are similar - World of Warcraft, Everquest, et al.

While I've been working on development of this game on and off for 1 year and 3/4ths - it's now finally starting to take shape in a number of areas - such as inventory, combat, dialog with NPC's, and trading. While all of these elements are still in there early stages, they are becoming usable.

You can now talk to NPC's in the style of a discussion tree (think Baldur's Gate or any similar ADnD game, as well as countless others. Inventory works (although it's still pretty simple - you can't do anything besides pickup and drop things). Combat works - but you don't really see anything - no animations, just results of basic attackes dumped to the console. And the trading frontend in the client still needs to be written (the backend in the server is done, more-or-less).

If I can keep the work up, these areas will be working in a stable fashion in a month, even if they aren't very feature rich.

The major issues we have are many. We need to work on Collision Detection (CD) in the server - so players can't cheap by walking through walls. This will also keep our own AI from cheating. We are still working on how to deal with this without making it overly complex.