Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Straw Hat Samurai Analysis

//two days ago i was on a samurai kick and went through some flash games before i stumbled onto this (being the first).  after losing...some time to it, i started toying with thought and then started writing.  yes there will be rambling repetition and horrible grammar, but these are just ideas as they come.  this is going to tagged as game design, though a more apt description would be ramblings towards a design reboot or modification/evolution.  something like that.//

As a flash game, it's pretty tight, survival mode with a simple campaign, move the guy by clicking, any held down trace is a cut that he performs, cancel cuts by clicking before or during the start, bow to draw.  Move guy from place to place.  All in all fairly simple, but that’s what makes flash games so convincing and so enthralling.  Simple mechanics boiled into simple context for quick fun.  Don’t broke fixed etc etc. 
So how to change it.   Assumption of k/l and lets see what I an do to alter and create.
Basic story mode consists of a retainer to a lord going through territory and wiping out legions of guards, upon slaughtering a final encampment.  First thing to do is to make that longer.  Pull back and look at the war OR go even closer, ignore the war, go where your lord directs and do as you’re told.  For something like this I want to go with a traditional idealistic samurai, true to bushido rather than a noble ronin who does as they please.  The latter provides an open ended world, but hey, linear means more emphasis of the story. 
That being the case.  Id like the story to be wider arching or close.  If closer than it can span he (dreaded) follow-ups and sequels.  The first games can have flashbacks which may or may not be expanded into a full game OR have the fable path (really traditional RPG path) of the samurai raised from birth, rained (combat tutorial) teach the lessons and code of the samurai. 
Ooh!  Non standard game over of seppeku!  Player has to actually cut themselves with a strike to proceed.  If that’s not gravity for actions...then its proly an emo wet dream mixed with samurai tones, but whatever, I’m moving on
I like the idea of giving free action to the player (yes they can kill anything they want, do anything they want in a cut scene, as well as action) however that has to be restricted within boundaries to keep it linear.  In such a tight game, those questions aren’t really asked.  You have a 2d side scrolling stage and that’s it.  You never go into a village or anything like that because it’s not necessary.
Story being what it is I’m going to skip the growth of youth and keep it on grown up level.  20s, 30s indiscriminate age.  Serves a lord properly and tries to be the example of a samurai. 
The twist?:  instead of the pc (samurai) fucking shit up and needing to atone, its the lord who fucks shit up (not all that unusual in and of itself) the samurai, ever faithful retainer, serves and tries to do right by the code as the lord deals with the fallout, more often than not relying on the retainer to save him.
Keep the story.  The lord commits to a campaign and rather than offer his life (he’s a not so honourable lord) goes to battle and mobilizes troops over it.  Over time the troops fall short and while they carve a good path, they eventually are brought to a head. 
I like the idea of death being a permanent ish endeavour, so every “death” advances the plot to the next arc of the story, with the outcome being realized without the help of the samurai, in a mostly negative light.  The retainer is very much superfluous and yet has so many dependants on him. 
At every stage there is possibility of death which advances the story to the next arc.  If live then the retainer advances the plot in a more positive light, eventually winning the campaign...ish.  The army falls but the retainer keeps going to the final lord, which should be epic pain to get to.  If the retainer makes it, then the duel between the lords takes place, the retainers standing in.  This should be an unwinnable fight.  Any death of this gives an “honourable” death game over and the cannon ending. 
Bittersweet ending.  The loophole is to cut down the opposing retainer before the duel starts, like the end fight of bushido blade, which gives a dishonourable game over in which you can then kill the opposing lord.  If you try to kill the opposing lord in scene then you’re blocked by himself or more to it his retainer.
Mechanics and ideas:
Apparently there’s a second of these games which I’ll look at shortly, but first ideas and what not.   Being ever in love with RPG mechanics, I like the idea of money/honour system.  Honour should always be high and if it drops, your money to resupply weapons, upgrade weapons) (longer range, differing brush styles) drops as well.  If you die a good chunk of your “lord’s retainer fund” is cut down to pay for your medical fees.  Or and your weapons might be lost, dropped down to weapons you previously owned, but not those you died with.  Pretty much you get looted when you die. 
I’d like more environmental interactions.  Walls and passages, though keeping to the 2d plane does condense this.  More controls would be nice, giving camera pan to the wasd or arrow keys as well the direction scroll. 
Most mechanics should have the options to change them.  If you want to enable directional camera, toggle.  If you want to enable arrow movement, toggle over the click to move.  Slicing draw mechanic takes priority in the stack, with clicking to move or arrow key move still cancelling attack.  I’d like a run toggle key, also enable-able. 
Scratch strategy mode, didn’t really like it and it kind of removes from the flow in my mind. It does provide variety of game play but it wasn’t necessary. 
I like having a variety of enemies and areas.  I like having smaller retainers standing in your way cutting down your troops and then eventually being overwhelmed should you fall.  I like the idea that if you alone plough through all the enemies, you become a legend and a retainer to be trifled with, the difficulty curve rising to meet you.  If you die before the conclusion of every acc then the difficulty ramps up a bit but never past 1/3 or ½ of what it would be if you never die.  In this way there is an implicit difficulty setting.
And on the subject of difficulty settings, there should definitely be them at main arcs. Or within the arcs.  The lord may give the retainer the choice between paths, and their difficulty may vary, as may there objectives.  This story splitting also allows for some variety in game play.  Not always hacking through legions, but killing specifics or besting specifics. 
Oh, weapon variance for Sinai as additional weapon.  No kill but unconscious, if remain on map for too long then.  Weapons should be available, each with their benefits.  Each uses the same slice mechanic, but the brush of the slice can very as can the slice speed after the slice is finished.  A weapon might include a teleport or a distance before the slice can commence. 
In 2 – shunpo, multiple strokes, finishing moves on downed enemies, launching strikes, more linear stage movements, within stage longevity in a more old style kill on move further via cut scene continue to the end of stage, proper boss fights! 
Well right there that’s some stuff better. 
Preset combo moves.  Every city has a dojo or two which can set a key strike move, starting with the samurai in place and ending in the same place, a set kata available at a keystroke as opposed to a slash.  While this would cut down on challenge a lot, it would have downsides, specifically a chiburi that leaves you open to attack, as well as a shorter spline length (maybe) or a thinner edge (maybe) depending on weapon and grade of dojo.  In cities or in temples along mountain paths.  Dojos let you practice your kata (redefine moves for a cost, unless the temple is already under your domain.  Not a conqueror/occupied temple.  Each new dojo offers another kata (assigned key) available to be learned.  Another kata option is by learning the specific strokes, a larger combo is preformed.  All kata, pc made or pre coded end with chiburi, which is the major downside, keeping them as finishing moves or moves with high cost of life. 
My main concerns with the second game are the lack of story once again.  Mechanic upgrades, but in comparison, there’s a fraction of story.  A handful of stages and then it kicks you to the To Be Continued, which I can understand as it’s a solo project, yet at the same time, it makes the game feel unfinished, like the author grew weary, gave it a cut and moved on.  I like the added shunpo and finish move, though I can’t get the hang of the launches, though the air juggling is mandatory for the mountain stage.  The bosses were challenging, though not terribly innovative.  I found myself liking the robot samurai duel far better than any of the larger scale fights.  The downside is while the shunpo is a fun feature, it is an incredible game breaker, especially if you walk into boss fights with a full gauge and knowledge of when to exploit it, but hey, that’s have the fun.  Multi beheading a screen full of standing and flying guards and then turning time back on to see all the heads fly off is something that hasn’t lost its charm.  
Oh, and I'm not fond of the fact that he has a mostly revealed face.  Less is more especially with the title being what it is.  Projection on an unknown warrior is far easier with a hidden face.
A good step in the right direction, but not enough.  The concept could benefit a team.  I’m surprised it isn’t on a short list of easy ports to NDS as the slice mechanic seems perfect for the touch screen.   I believe there’s a clone/port for ipod/phone, though I’ve no clue if there’s a relation beyond the slice mechanic.  

//the first game, the second game.  I'll be posting more game design ramblings.  happy holidays and new year on this, the ultimate day of the year. - a//

Saturday, December 04, 2010

365 days done, nostalgia and updates

It's been ages since I've been to here. one of my friends asked me a question about a store i had at cafe press (the link should still be some where to the right) and i headed off their to answer his question. while wandering through the crap that was the store (it is...i understand how old i was and how lazy i was and still partly am, but it was still just...yeah...), i found myself thinking of the other places that i frequented and installed back in the day five or so years.
Around then i also signed up for Deviant Art/ and while I've used the site many times over the past half decade, didn't upload much. I've started too now, and after this post I'm going to work on uploading EC to a folder their. //
I might get around to making some logos and things for the store, if for no other reason then for giggles. my last epic project is finished so...
Wait a second, that's right! 365 days of writing are done! huzzah! for all the many, many projects that get filed under the "not completed and most likely never will" list, that one gets put under the "DONE! AHAHAHHAHA" list. the second last line:
92,929 words, 92 Black Book entries, 176 pages, 365 days.
i am pleased as punch. and while on the subject of writing, last summer i finished a manuscript for my first book, Volumes of Tea, which I'm passing round for editing and will hopefully see in self -print, as the hunting down an agent and shopping to a house is...unlikely. but hey! things have been done.
A few nights ago i was awake too early and decided to pull the web cam towards me. what followed was three ~30 min long tangent heavy reviews for House of Leaves, Let Me In, and In Defense of Food, all good books that i felt like talking about. i proly would have looked into a place to throw them online, if the audio hadn't been horribly corrupted somehow. I'd never heard a 30 min sound clip compressed into a minute.
I have now. it is unfortunate.
If i can find a way to realigned the audio i might post them somewhere. i like the idea of talking about books. they don't get enough press, at least not in the circles i frequent, which may have More to do with my circles then those at large.
I'll try to make use of this more, now that i don't have a doc on my desktop i feel compelled to write in every day. i definitely want to finish the big 4 stories on my desktop, so maybe i can crowbar myself into doing those.
In the mean time, i have to pack and finish my finals. assuming i pass my exams, i get the lovely christmas gift of graduating. then i have to sit down and ask that wonderful and frightening question.
What's next?