Frayed Knights - All News
Monday - April 14, 2014
Frayed Knights - The Princess is in Another Castle
The Rampant Coyote has another post on his website about his RPG game Frayed Knights, and dungeon design in the games sequel Frayed Knights II.
In development of Frayed Knights 1: The Skull of S’makh-Daon, a lot of the time and effort in the latter stages of the project was devoted to dealing with scaling the game. A lot of the practices which worked okay for one or two dungeons didn’t scale well to making two dozen locations. There was a lot of “butt in chair” work which would have been made much easier with better tools – especially with the ease of making mistakes. A lot of the bugs in the testing process came down to hard-to-find mistakes that came from trying to do things like manually place and configure every door in a dungeon. One cut-and-paste error in the tedious process, and you could end up with a bug that might take hours to find and fix.
In early development of Frayed Knights 2, I spent a lot of time building some editing tools, thinking they would solve this problem. I spent months making an ugly but usable editor, with some really cool ideas (well, in my mind, anyway) to make this process faster, easier and less error-prone. I created an editor that let me draw out the dungeons in 2D, like I’d do on graph paper for dice-and-paper gaming, but with some great 3D layering with slopes, stairs, parts of levels crossing over each other with some decent visualization.
I was, and still am, pretty proud of the results. My intent was to create an “80%” solution – make it so that 80% of the level design could be massively simplified so we could devote the time to the most “interesting” 20%. It was a pretty good idea. I wrote a bunch of really cool code that would transform these designs from a 2D map into full-fledged 3D environments with features like ledges, slopes, waterways, and of course diagonal walls. I learned a lot about procedural object generation in Unity. The results were actually kinda cool looking.
Saturday - March 01, 2014
Frayed Knights - New Price & Steam Greenlight
The Rampant Coyote has new post on his blog about his game Frayed Knights getting a price cut, and being available on Steam Greenlight.
You can also check out our froums were he wants your opinion.
First off, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon has had a permanent price reduction. Although I figure at least the regulars around here (or who bother to check the indie RPG forum) either already have it, or aren't interested. But hey, for what it's worth…
Secondly - I'm trying a little greenlight surge. Based on my progress (and total lack of effort), I'd guess at this point I'm going to get into the top 100 right about the time they kill the program (later this year?), but a big ol' push could really help. So if you have a Steam account, and haven't voted already, I could really use the help.
Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon on Greenlight!
Finally - a new question. An enhancement for the sequel that I've kinda back-burnered for a while has brought itself up to a more reasonable possibility - partially voiced dialogue. Doing full voicing of all dialogue would cost my entire budget times three, so that's out of the question (and it also doesn't play well with the way I write & design, which is more iterative changes late into testing). But —- what about partially voicing dialogues?
Sunday - February 23, 2014
Frayed Knights - Starting In the Middle
Here’s a cool thing about RPGs in general, which has been true since the first “white box” D&D books were released to the public: They are designed with built-in character progression that matches the player’s learning curve. At first level, or the early stages of the game, your character isn’t very powerful, and doesn’t have many options. If you played the “Fighting Man” in original D&D, most of the time your practical options consisted of moving somewhere and / or trying to hit something with your weapon. Later, you’d get some more interesting choices, like whether or not to drink a healing potion or which of your godlike weapons to use against which monster. Still, pretty straightforward stuff, but with the fun of role-playing a character, and the idea that you were still pretty open to try anything to be adjudicated by the Dungeon Master (the person running the game), it was pretty good.
With my decision to released Frayed Knights as a trilogy where you can carry on your progress through all three games, I’ve gone and royally screwed that all up. Players jumping into Frayed Knights 2: The Khan of Wrath without having played the first game will be controlling well-developed characters.
Crap. I’m not the first. Not by a long shot (Hello, Wizardry 2 and 3!). Nor will I be the last. But it’s definitely a design problem. In FK2, I’m kinda working around this by starting with a flashback from earlier in Arianna’s career, which acts as a tutorial. It’s a little cheesy as a game design aid, but hopefully it will help. I fully expect (in fact, I fervently hope) that there will be a lot of players trying our Frayed Knights 2: The Khan of Wrath who have never played Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon, and I want to make the learning process go as smoothly as possible.
Tuesday - February 18, 2014
Frayed Knights - Review @ Greenlighters
The Rampant Coyote shared a link to a new video review for his RPG Frayed Knights.
The one thing that this video tells me, along with a few other sites that have just “discovered” Frayed Knights, is that I suck at marketing. Badly. I definitely need to work on that with the sequel.
Sunday - December 22, 2013
Frayed Knights - Editorial @ Rampant Games
The developer of Frayed Knights Jay Barnson has a new post about the games skill trees, and how he will handle them in the games sequel.
Making Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon was a learning experience for me, of course. It’s funny how you can think you know what you are doing after decades of playing games, and even years of experience making games, but when it comes down to actually implementing a design and making it fun… it throws you. Some things that sound like the best idea ever on paper don’t work out. And then there are some design ideas that you look at much later and wonder what the hell you were thinking of when you did that.
And sometimes you just have something that started out simple that grew way out of control.
In Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon, the “Feat” system was that latter sort of beast. I’m not exactly sure where it all came from, to be honest. By what I can recall, it started out as just a supplement to increasing your main attributes (Might, Brains, Charm, Luck, and Reflexes – which sounded funnier when I first designed the stats). It was perhaps a misguided attempt to make sure the non-spellcasting characters had something to do other than just attack and defend in combat, and ways of adding a little bit of customization to their party. I opted not to do a full-fledged, detailed skill system. While that’s great if you are only controlling a single character, with a whole party of characters it gets to feel micro-manage-y. So I opted for doing a small list of one-off “feats” that could be purchased on leveling up in addition to raising your stats.
Wednesday - December 04, 2013
Frayed Knights - Indie Bundle
The Rampant Coyote announces on his website that his RPG Frayed Knights is part of a new bundle. Here are the details.
Dan “Indie” Long has hand-picked some favorite games (including the Cognition series, which he worked on) for inclusion in a pretty fun game bundle. Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon is one of the second tier features, available for those who pay more than $5 for the bundle. A portion of the proceeds go to charity – in this case, the Southern Oregon Humane Society.
A fellow Utah Indie is also featured in the bundle – “Asteria” by Brian Livingston (and friends…). It’s a 2D platform sandbox game with tons of crafting, and a mix of hand-crafted and procedurally generated content. It’s a very cool game.
The bundle also includes the first two episodes of Cognition, 99 Levels to Hell, 99 Spirits, Sky Nations (sort of a Minecraft meets Steampunk multiplayer game), QuestRun, Pyroclysm (a bonus game now unlocked),
I believe this is about the second time I’ve purchased my own game in a bundle…
Cool games, and the bundle is well on the way to the third bonus already. Check it out! I know, bundle deals are pretty common these days, but hey – you can send the games as a gift for the season, and also support charity!
Sunday - October 20, 2013
Frayed Knights - Dungeon Creation Rules
The Rampant Coyote has a new post about dungeon creation in Frayed Knights.
At one point, I decided to document the things that I thought made up the “secret sauce” (not much of a secret now, is it?) that I thought gave Frayed Knights its flavor. I also wanted to make a checklist for quality and help certain other people I’ve contracted to help make content for the game. Then, because I’m lazy and I really think that some of the suggestions would be of value to other indies, I’ve modified the document somewhat and made them available as blog posts.
The next three or four articles will switch gears into specifics. The principles were – in my fuzzy classification system – things to just bear in mind and ideals to strive for when making a dungeon. Many could be applied to other role-playing games. For the next three or four articles, we’re going to get into nitty-gritty details of actual, testable details… rules (or guidelines) that may be meant to be broken, but are still specifics that I’m trying to require where applicable in every adventuring area in the game.
As a little bit of background -In FK1, I divided dungeons into three “sizes” – mini, medium, and large. “Mini” was a dungeon of approximately 8 rooms or less, large was a dungeon with more than 20 rooms. “Room” is a really fuzzy term. But as examples:
1. The confectioner’s cottage, the rat farm, the tomb in the eastern wilderness, the ogre lair, and the mines in the eastern wilderness were all “mini” dungeons. If you played those areas, you know that while they were small, they could still represent a chunk of time and gameplay.
2. The Pit O’ Doom, Temple of Pokmor Xang, Order of Cryptus tower, etc. were medium-sized dungeons. I guess the minotaur maze was also more “medium-sized,” but the confusing geometry made it feel large.
3. Goblinville, the Hobgoblin Bunker, the main Tower of Almost Certain Death, Lizardman Lair were all “large” dungeons. Goblinville and the tower were pretty much a totally different category on their own, as they were *huge*.
Also – using the jargon of adventurers -you can read up on the different classifications of dungeons in the strategy guide, or right here.
So here we go – a few specific rules for Frayed Knights map creation!
Saturday - September 14, 2013
Frayed Knights - Patch 1.06 Released
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the dungeon again…
Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon has been updated to version 1.06.
Incidentally, there was never a version 1.05. If you have something labeled 1.05, it didn’t come from Rampant Games. I just completely skipped that version to avoid confusion.
So what does 1.06 do? Not a whole lot, to be honest. The demo hasn’t changed.
The biggest change is that the license key requirement has been removed. I think that will have pretty close to zero effect on most customers (since it’s a fire-and-forget thing, without any kind of ‘phoning home’), but it is one less thing you have to worry about. And yes, since most people consider it weak and unobtrusive, they also still consider it DRM, so I can now proudly claim that Frayed Knights is *DRM FREE*. So there.
Tuesday - July 30, 2013
Frayed Knights - Matt Chat Play Through
Matt Barton plays through Frayed Knights in this 40+ minute video.
Saturday - September 15, 2012
Frayed Knights - The Story So Far
Jay Barnson writes about developing the story for Frayed Knights:
Originally, Frayed Knights was intended as a single game, which I expected to clock in at around sixteen hours of gameplay. It grew. It grew a lot. Even after splitting it into three parts, the first chapter – Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon – is about thirty hours of solid gameplay.
The original story had to stretch to fit. It wasn’t too hard to fit things into the first game, with a bit of expansion. The conclusion is largely worked out for the final game, though it, too, requires a bit more fleshing out to fit the larger canvas. The “middle” act – which I now recognize as being a little weak to begin with – was inadequate to the task of supporting a stand-alone game. I’ve had to re-work a lot of it to make it (I hope!) a really enjoyable and compelling story in its own right.
A critical goal for the second games’ story is it must be a stand-alone tale: A player must be able to play this game “cold” without even realizing it had a predecessor, and not feel like they missed anything. At the same time, there should be some rewards for the Frayed Knights veterans where they get some payoffs for some background elements set up in The Skull of S’makh-Daon. It has to reach a satisfying conclusion at the end of the game, wrapping up the primary storyline and only leaving a few threads hanging for the final title to tie up.
Wednesday - July 04, 2012
Frayed Knights - Horrible Testing Flashbacks
Fans of Frayed Knights will enjoy the insight from this look back at the testing phases for the game. The article is based around comments sent in at the time from testers:
“Ok, I just paid for 4 spell stones from the merchant and when I pushed “ok” to pay for them, they magically transformed into 4 hunting knives???? So I double checked his inventory and all of his stones are gone now. HE ROBBED ME, that dirty bum ” – Brian
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do some serious development during testing. In fact, we added two completely new dungeons during early beta as we discovered the game was jumping a little too quickly to high-level content near the end-game. Lots of new treasure, equipment, and even new spells became available during the beta as we discovered “holes” and balance issues in the game. Some feat specializations weren’t getting adequate attention in-game to keep them useful. The game offers so many variations and options to the players that it’s surprising to me that it didn’t go more out of control, and cause more balance issues than it did. But in some cases, we needed to not only ‘nerf’ a particular combo so it wasn’t quite so powerful, but also provide some combat encounters that either directly countered that strategy (encouraging the player to be more than a “one trick pony”), but in some cases that used that same strategy against the player.
Thursday - June 21, 2012
Frayed Knights - Looking Back
I had a lot of experimental ideas I wanted to try, too. For example, the whole game mechanic of picking locks or disarming traps has always sucked IMO. I love the concept of the rogue class, but implementation-wise, it’s often pretty boring, resolved by a single dice-check (if that). What are the consequences of failing a lockpicking check? It’s so pathetic that many games have done away with it entirely, making it a deterministic check. I also wanted to play around with the idea of encouraging players to “play through” tough situations, rather than just reloading from a previously saved game.
The result – for the contest – was “Frayed Knights: The Temple of Pokmor Xang” – a “pilot episode” for what I expected to be the full game completed maybe a year later (HAH!). The idea of a pilot episode was a lot like making the pilot episode of a television show – something to test out on audiences to see if it will fly, and to see what needs tweaking before going into full-on production mode on a series. That was exactly what The Temple of Pokmor Xang was. I was experimenting and getting real, live audiences to try out a free game and provide me with feedback. While I’ve been a game developer for many years, and an RPG fan for even more, making a “real” RPG (Hackenslash doesn’t quite count) was still a challenge for me. I gained a lot of sympathy for the designers I’d often criticized in the past over their design decisions. Once you have to make those same decisions yourself, and truly consider the trade-offs, the alternatives aren’t quite as superior anymore.
Thursday - April 26, 2012
Frayed Knights - Crunch Mode, Research and Development
Jay Barnson writes about the pressures of real life and trying to be an indie developer, saying that progress on Frayed Knights 2 has been slow - but it is there:
So there’s the bad news. The good news is that except for the France trip, things may be lightening up for at least a little bit. And while progress has been slow on the Frayed Knights 2 front, there has been progress. A lot of it has been experimentation, as the new engine does demand a different way of doing things. I’m taking advantage of hindsight to create a bunch of tools from the very beginning that I wished I’d had during the latter stages of Frayed Knights‘ development. What tools I had made proved to be either inadequate for the task or, in some cases, way too over-designed and complicated to do something that turned out to be pretty straightforward – meaning a lot of wasted effort on a tool I hardly ever used.
Thursday - March 22, 2012
Frayed Knights - New Ending!
This was fun to watch on twitter - over to Jay Barnson:
So in the spirit of a dare, and the whole Mass Effect 3 ending / protest fiasco, some indies (of which I only know of two – ourselves and Frozen Synapse creators Mode 7 Games) decided to have a little fun with the whole thing. We, like Bioware, caved to external pressure (mainly each others’ dares) to create new endings for our games.
Yes, I know. I sold out. I caved. I compromised my artistic vision.
Thursday - December 15, 2011
Frayed Knights - Review @ IndieRPGs
There's a review of Frayed Knights at IndieRPGs with a score of 4/5:
It isn’t that the writing is funny (although it frequently is); it’s that the characters are believable and likeable. There is some strong characterization at work here, with relationships consistently revealed (and complicated) through onscreen interaction. Much of the game’s amusement comes from a stable of deliberately silly quests, and your characters’ fourth-wall-breakingly genre savvy commentary on what happens during those quests. Your characters remark on genre tropes, on their own classes and abilities, and sometimes even on the actual player. If your characters all die, they comment on that, too. RPG veterans, in particular, will get a real kick out of the dialog here in a Dead Alewives sort of way.
Frayed Knights works as more than RPG satire, however. It’s a solid, enjoyable first-person dungeon delver in its own right, with loads of quests to undertake as your fledgling adventuring group tries, Rodney Dangerfield-like, to amass some respect.
Wednesday - November 23, 2011
Frayed Knights - Free Strategy Guide
Jay Barnson, developer of the excellent Indie RPG Frayed Knights has released a FREE Strategy Guide for the game, available to anyone. If you haven't yet bought the game, then please do. If you have, then Jay assures us that there is something for everyone in the guide. Here's the Link you need.
Tuesday - November 01, 2011
Frayed Knights - Review @ RPGamer
Frayed Knights has been reviewed at RPGamer, although they really didn't like the combat or those pesky "invisible dice". The score is 2.5/5 and here's a snip:
Battles are time-consuming because, in the grand tradition of games that emulate pen & paper role playing a bit too much, Frayed Knights employs invisible dice to determine the success of every action in combat. This means that attacks can, and do, miss the enemy with alarming frequency. Though enemies are also affected by the invisible dice, the result of this is usually to drag combat on for a long time, with particularly painful moments coming when spells that affect multiple targets and have a chance of hitting in the low nineties miss everything, which does happen. When characters do manage to hit the enemy, the damage they deal is also randomized, and while a certain mindset might find it funny when a priest inflicts considerably more pain than a warrior on some turns, such unpredictability just makes fights take even longer. Weak enemies that are no threat to the party still take at least a couple of turns to eliminate, though equipment and levels do alter the danger zone.
Monday - October 31, 2011
Frayed Knights - Extremely limited 50% Off
If you are extremely quick (and possibly lucky) Rampant Games is offering a 50% off discount code for Frayed Knights -- but there are only 41 of these discounts available. They may even all be gone for all I know, so if you are interested...
Thursday - October 27, 2011
Frayed Knights - Update, Review
Jay has a new blog entry at Tales of the Rampant Coyote with some personal and business stuff but also an update on Frayed Knights:
A new update for Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon should be available in a few days (probably next week). It’s not going to radically change the game or anything, but there will be some nice improvements and a whole slew of bug-fixes. And there’s a major free bonus becoming available soon. I didn’t expect it to be as major as it is, especially since it’s free, but hey. It’s all good.
From the same article comes this link to a review at TruePCGaming:
Combat is turn- based with a strong strategic flavor to it and is no doubt one of the most well-executed sections of the game. You just never feel bored while fighting, each battle is challenging enough to keep it interesting. Even apparently easier fights can have a devastating impact on your party. Luck (in the form of dice rolls) plays a major role, which is both a good and a bad thing; bad because usually you don’t want luck to be a deciding factor, good because it makes each fight unpredictable with some harder fights getting incredibly tense.
Monday - October 10, 2011
Frayed Knights - Review @ Digitally Downloaded
Digitally Downloaded let us know they have reviewed Frayed Knights, with a score of 4/5:
Your party consists of four fixed members. Arianna, dainty warrior half elf with a short temper, Dirk, a clumsy lowbrow thief, Ben, a timid priest only very recently joined after a spell in herbalism, and a ditsy sorceress named Chloe who takes a little too much pleasure in pyromania spells. This is where the writing of this game really shines. It got to a point that even though the gameplay itself was excellent; I kept playing into the wee hours of the morning for the dialogue. So much fun is had here with not only the characters interacting in the most hilarious, fascinating and memorable ways, but with all the fun poked at RPGs I mentioned earlier. It throws a lot of curveballs around RPG convention. When asked to check out the rat problem in Farmer Brown’s basement, Dirk proclaims “not another kill the rats in the basement quest!” I actually laughed out loud. (How many games have actually made you laugh vocally? And that’s perhaps the weakest gag.) The devs took my expectations of the quest and turned it into exactly what I had not suspected, with some really good results.
Friday - October 07, 2011
Frayed Knights - Interview @ TPG
Jay Barnson has been interviewed at TruePCGaming about Frayed Knights and some "indie" issues. Most of our readers will probably be across the answers about the game although TPG places a heavy emphasis on various digital distribution issues:
Tell us about the process of submitting Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
There’s really no unified process. There are a lot of distribution platforms out there – it’s getting a lot like it was in the days of the casual game portals last decade. A lot of them are going to die out, but right now it’s another gold rush as they as new ones pop up almost weekly, with a slightly different approach, different features, and a different niche.
The big ones – and we all know who those are – they are pretty selective with their games, and reject more games than they accept. There’s a common misconception among gamers, who assume these are open platforms and that anybody can just “sell their game on X.” It doesn’t work that way. I can’t just sell my game on X any more than I can just walk into Wal*Mart with a stack of CD-ROMs under my arm and set up shop there.
While I think these distribution channels are great, I do worry about indies trusting their business to a third-party who has no vested interest in them personally. This is exactly what happened to casual games just a few years ago, and while it was a wonderful gold rush at first, a lot of developers found themselves at the mercy of the portals and their businesses collapsing. Indies in general don’t do what they do for dreams of huge fortunes, but they still have to eat like everybody else.
Thursday - October 06, 2011
Frayed Knights - v1.04 Released
Rampant Games has updated Frayed Knights, jumping the version to up to v1.04. The full list of changes is a bit long for a newsbit, so here are the new features and feature changes and follow the link above for the fix list and, of course, to access the files:
- You can use the standard keyboard numbers 1-4 to choose the target friendly character in Spell target selection menu.
- The critical hit bonus of a weapon is now displayed in item data window in the inventory screen.
- Spacebar acts the same as the enter key for advancing dialogs and other windows.
- Venric’s store now has a short bow and a chain mail hauberk. This only affects new games, not existing saved games.
- Character base attack and defense scores (with current equipment, including shields) now displayed on character sheet.
- Slightly improved chance of success on searching.
- Luck provides a small bonus for searching.
- Hidden items now have a slightly larger discovery radius.
- Line-of-sight checks added to certain hidden items to avoid detecting items on another floor.
- Change text in options menu from “Full Screen Video” to “Play Full Screen” to prevent some confusion.
- Removed penalty for search checks for triggered traps. (Meaning – it’s a trap you just stumbled upon without searching it out first)
- Slight increase in all character’s magic defense to compensate for bug-fix on magical attack hit chance.
- Slight position change of some hidden objects to make them less annoying to find or work better with line-of-site checks.
- Added dice roll on results for magical attacks.
Monday - October 03, 2011
Frayed Knights - Update Coming
Jay Barnson writes about Frayed Knights post-release, with the crushing reality that post-release is as busy as pre-release. An update is hopefully due later this week:
But overall, the release has been going quite well. Unfortunately, I do have a big ol’ stack of issues I’m looking into, some of which are causing serious “WTF?” moments as I’m digging through code trying to figure out how something is acting so weird for a handful of customers. I’ve discovered some great ones. My favorite so far is a bug caused by changing Benjamin’s position in the party order prior to going to sleeping at the inn the first time (right after the Temple of Pokmor Xang, where the demo ends). If you do this, you can end up with another party member permanently removed from the party forever. I don’t recommend doing this, as I don’t know what instabilities this introduces later in the game, but it’s an intriguing possibility. Especially with the ghost of the missing party member still being involved in dialogs…
Speaking of bugs and fixes, I should have the update out sometime this week, in preparation for releasing it to affiliate channels.
Sunday - October 02, 2011
Frayed Knights - Review @ Gamebanshee
Gamebanshee has kicked up a five page review of Frayed Knights. The writer had a lot of praise for the game and a few things that annoyed him. Here's the conclusion:
In spite of these flaws, however, Frayed Knights does something that so few RPGs do these days: it provides a real sense of hard-earned progression, enjoyable quests that interweave with one another, tactical and challenging turn-based combat with a huge amount of depth and few obvious exploits or problems, exploration which not only provides good rewards, but revolves around player ingenuity and persistence rather than simply following obvious clues and a quest compass, and, of course, it also doesn't take itself too seriously. When getting deep into the game's mechanics and presentation, it's easy to come across a few weak points, and, were this not an indie game, those problems would be much harder to forgive. For a one-man labor of love, however, I'm willing to give Frayed Knights a pass on a lot of these issues, especially because so many other things about the game are done so well.
The bottom line on Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon is that it provides a great, traditional, and well-designed CRPG experience, the likes of which we rarely see these days. Players who are used to the polish and streamlining more modern RPGs, and who don't take kindly to the game's less serious tone and style may not find themselves drawn into the game, but the underlying mechanics are, provided you enjoy combat and dungeon crawling, some of the best I've seen in years. I think fans of some of the genre's classics, like Might & Magic, Wizardry, and Betrayal at Krondor will really appreciate Jay Barnson's tribute to old-school CRPGs, and, perhaps, it will also convince some newer fans of the genre to get into the classics as well. My hope is that Jay will take a close look at the strong and weak points with his first outing, and do his best to resolve the problems while building on the strengths. For now, while I can't recommend it to absolutely everyone (so play the demo and check it out for yourself!), Frayed Knights is, quite simply, the kind of game a lot of CRPG fans have been waiting for.
Wednesday - September 28, 2011
RPGWatch Feature - Frayed Knights Review
Rampant Games' humorous old-school RPG Frayed Knights is a unique mix of ingredients and two of our staff have been playing all through the beta to bring you this early review. Freshly released, read the whole article for views from Corwin and Skavenhorde. Here's a sample:
This is probably a good place to address the issue of magic in the game. There are four somewhat different types; three of the Priestly persuasion and one arcane. A character may only learn one of the cleric schools, but could if they so choose also learn the arcane line as well. The first thing you notice about all the various types is that they have delightfully different spell names ranging from Hellacious Angry Flowers to Power Word Defenestrate (a personal favourite of mine with an excellent animation). Half the fun is reading the spell descriptions and watching some of the animations. The arcane are predominantly attacking spells while the priestly are more buffing, healing with only limited attack possibilities. I tried only 2 of the cleric lines, but did develop strong feelings about them.
Frayed Knights - Released and Available For Download
Here's what you've all been waiting for, Frayed Knights:The Skull of S'makh-Daon has been officially Released. Here's the Official Press-Release:
Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon
An indie role-playing game draws inspiration from the classics, with a humorous twist.
Salt Lake City, UT - Indie computer game developer Rampant Games has announced the release of its long-anticipated role-playing game, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon.
Embracing the style and mechanics for role-playing games that have been largely abandoned by major publishers, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon features a first-person perspective, turn-based combat, a statistics-heavy game system, a party of four characters, and thousands of lines of unvoiced dialog presented in comic-book style word balloons. The Skull of S’makh-Daon also adds new innovations to the genre, including a “drama star” system that encourages players to accept setbacks in the game rather than reloading and trying again, and a mini-game where players must disarm traps one component at a time using their character skills and available tools.
On top of the serious, ‘hard-core’ engine, The Skull of S’makh-Daon layers a world and story with a decidedly more tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre. Spells and skills have names like “Power Word: Defenestrate” and “Size Doesn’t Matter.” In a world of jaded heroes and veteran adventurers, the player’s party is a team of misfits: Arianna, a dainty warrior with an attitude problem; Dirk, an adrenaline-junky rogue who doesn’t seem to understand the word ‘subtle;’ Benjamin, a nature-priest and newcomer to the adventuring lifestyle, and Chloe, a ditsy sorceress with a love of cute, fuzzy animals and setting her enemies on fire.
Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon is now available as a digital download at http://frayedknights.com. It is unrated, but should be content-appropriate for most teens and adults.
- 30+ hours of gameplay
- Challenging, turn-based combat in a game
- A spell named, "Power Word: Defenestrate."
- Over a hundred base spells, most with several upgraded variants
- Over 80 feats to customize the party as they progress through the game.
- Nearly 200 different items to be used and abused by your characters.
- A "Quarterstaff of Nad-Whacking."
- Sixteen "dungeons" (interior adventuring areas), five outdoor areas, one village, an alternate dimension, and some green dude's one-room hovel.
- A 69-page (PDF) manual
About Rampant Games: Rampant Games is a mainly one-person game development studio in Riverton, Utah. Owner Jay Barnson is a veteran game programmer from the “mainstream” industry, involved in the development of numerous hit and not-such-hit titles for consoles and the PC since 1994.
Frayed Knights - Preview @ GameBanshee
GameBanshee's Brother None had the chance to play Frayed Knights and post some last-minute impressions, with the release imminent:
The player takes control of a party of four: Arianna, Dirk, Chloe and Benjamin, following the staple of warrior, rogue, sorceress and priest. There's no character creation or customization at the start, and the characters are always represented by the same portraits. The character system is fairly complex, with upgrades divided over attributes, enhancements, proficiencies, skills and spell-casting, which provide a variety of passive enhancements, fulfilling item requirements and providing active combat skills and spells. There's a good variety of items, weapon types that interact with weapon skills well, armor with disadvantages for the non-warrior types, supportive items for spellcasters (wands, scrolls, gems). It's a good and seemingly well-balanced system, though obviously I didn't test it to its limits.
Saturday - September 24, 2011
Frayed Knights - RPGCodex Extravagant Preview
Ventilator of Doom from RPGCodex has posted a myriad of information about Frayed Knights. He's written a quick overview of the game, a mini-let's play and a small interview with Jay Barnson.
VOD's preview is more like a first impression of the game due to only having 3 hours under his belt with the game. He still covers a good portion of what is in the game.
His mini-let's play shows off the combat portion to the game. The battle shown is with some goblin shamans from an early dungeon in the game. By this time you haven't had much time to customize your characters. In the middle to later portions of the game you'll have many more combat options available, but it is still a very good look at how the game works.
Here is a snippet from the interview portion of the preview. Those of you who have been waiting with baited breath for news about when it will be released will be very interested in it:
VoD: The game is obviously nearing its release, what are the current plans for the final release date? Will there be a demo?
JB: If we're lucky, we release Wednesday. There will be a demo. Those who remember the old "pilot episode" will find it familiar. Those who remember the pilot extremely well will find a lot that is unfamiliar.
Thursday - September 22, 2011
Frayed Knights - Bug of the Week
Jay Barnson posts about tracking down bugs in Frayed Knights, using a specific problem as an illustration. It's not an essential read but if you're following the game, it's a fun little insight into the process:
Internally, the game saw the new incoming Blessing spell, compared it to the old one, and decided to supersede the old Blessing effect with the new one. Fine. So it removed the old Blessing effect. But in that split-second between deleting the old Blessing and adding the new one, the monster fell to zero health – death! That triggered some death code. But it was then immediately “healed” by the incoming spell, which caused the follow-up code – which checks to see if the monster is dead – not to fire.
So the monster was only mostly dead. Which is still partly alive.
Well, okay, it’s a skeleton, so it’s undead, but you see what I mean.
And you see what I mean about how coding up an RPG can be a bit more challenging than many other genres? I wouldn’t think twice about something like that in a pen-and-paper RPG. But it can get a little trickier when all that exception-based gameplay makes its way into code.
Wednesday - September 21, 2011
Frayed Knights - Official Site Updated
FrayedKnights.com has been updated with the trailer and screens - I think we're pretty up to date here but head over if you haven't been playing close attention to this title, which is due for release very, very soon.
Tuesday - September 20, 2011
Frayed Knights - Interview @ Bits'n'Bytes
Jay Barnson has a new interview mostly focused on Frayed Knights at Bits'n'Bytes Gaming. A sample:
BnB: You’ve previously mentioned implementing adventure game elements into Frayed Knights as well as what sounds like a deep and complex RPG aspect. My question to you would be, “Are you mad, sir?!” Or more specifically, how do you see the adventure game elements as helping your game?
JB: If I was completely sane, I probably wouldn’t have even started this project.
Some of it is the old-school feel. Back in the day, there wasn’t quite the clear delineation between the adventure game and RPG genres. It was all fuzzy, and you had a lot of adventure-game style puzzles mixed into your RPGs. And I have to admit, there are a couple of titles out there that I never completed on account of getting stymied by one of those puzzles and losing interest by the time the internet made those obstacles easy to overcome.
We still have those today, but it seems that more of the time they’ve been supplanted by “quests” — often of the “kill ten rats and bring me their tails” variety. While Frayed Knights has a little of that kind of thing too, and adventure-game style puzzles aren’t a huge part of the game, I really prefer it when the “quests” are really more organic, evolving from a need to overcome an obstacle.
But sometimes I allow you an out, too. There’s one guardian in Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon that kicks off a whole quest line back in town just to get this one item. It’s pretty funny and not particularly difficult, and some players have already solved the quest except for the final stage before they meet the guardian. But because it involved back-tracking back to town, I left in an option to just say “screw it!” and attack the guardian, skipping the whole quest line and moving on. Assuming you survive. An option for the impatient…
Wednesday - September 14, 2011
Frayed Knights - Trailer/Teaser Released
As the release date for Rampant Games eagerly awaited Old School RPG 'Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh Daon' grows ever more imminent, the studio has just released its first trailer/teaser. You can find it Here. There's a strong possibility that the game WILL be released this month, so this should certainly whet your appetite for more.
Monday - September 12, 2011
Frayed Knights - Interview @ IndieRPGs.com
Craig Stern from Sinister Design has a new interview with Jay Barnson about Frayed Knights that covers some different territory to our own recent conversation. Here's a fairly lengthy partial snip about resource management:
What lies behind the choice to gradually reduce each character’s maximum endurance as you move through each dungeon? I ask because the first dungeon in the game (which is where the game actually starts) will not allow you to leave and recover your characters’ maximum endurance to its normal levels. Which means that you have to try to limit the amount of combat you engage in so that you can complete the thing before your party becomes completely useless. (Not that the game tells you that.) In a way, it’s a pretty harsh introduction.
This is really three questions in one: The endurance mechanic, the exhaustion mechanic, and how they work together in the very first dungeon.
In Frayed Knights, most actions – particularly combat actions, active feats, and spellcasting – cost endurance. There’s no special “mana” pool for magic or anything – it all comes from your personal store of energy. Completely depleting your endurance leaves you vulnerable – your character is not only forced to rest for their next turn in combat to recover endurance, but they are more vulnerable to attacks. Endurance management is key to success in the game. It’s a constant risk / reward factor: You don’t want to blow your wad and overkill at the beginning of the fight, and nothing left over for the end. So you can manage that resource by using less tiring option, like less powerful abilities, magical items, and picking times to manually rest a turn in mid-combat.
Then there’s resource-management in-between fights – the “attrition” mechanic. In older games (particularly D&D), player characters had to take a night’s sleep to recover all spell points. In pen-and-paper games, the mechanic worked pretty well, as combats were slow to resolve and thus relatively rare. You had to be careful about spending your resources between combats, as blowing all your high-level spell slots on the cannon-fodder meant you would have to return to base early and let the bad guys build up their defenses for your return trip. Or you could try and find a safe spot to sleep in the dungeon where you’d be vulnerable. It added an extra layer of strategy and resource management to the game. The player was constantly dealing with these kinds of risk / reward decisions below the surface, and it was a lot of fun. But CRPGs are a different beast from pen-and-paper, and combat could be resolved much more quickly and thus tended to be far more plentiful, and that kind of strict “number of times per day” limitation often proved just as frustrating on one level as it was valuable on another.
But removing the mechanic entirely robs the games of a lot of interesting gameplay and flavor. You lose the surge and retreat rhythm. Players ignore expendable magic items, as there’s rarely any need to rely on them. And perhaps most significantly, it results in an endless stream of boringly similarly challenging encounters: Since there’s zero reason to not unleash on a “lesser threat” with everything you’ve got – as you’ll get it all back again thirty seconds after the fight – they are useless encounters, and should be removed.
Thursday - September 08, 2011
RPGWatch Feature: Jay Barnson Interview
Corwin caught up with Jay 'Rampant Coyote' Barnson as the release of Frayed Knights gets close to discuss the game and its development. Here's an excerpt:
RPGWatch: Could you give us some background on what you hoped to achieve when you first began FK?
JB: While I can't even pretend that Frayed Knights is going to make much of a dent in the world of CRPGs, I guess in many ways it's part of my damn-fool idealistic crusade to prove a point. There's a lot of talk about how RPGs have evolved into their current incarnation --- which I feel is more like action gaming with lots of story and the trappings of character progression. I don't believe that's "evolution" so much as an attempt to find a unique selling point in the much larger action game market. I don't really want to turn the clock back to 1993 or anything, but I think the ideas and conventions of the genre from earlier eras are ripe for mining by modern, low-budget indie games. They may not be able to sell a million copies anymore, but they don't need to!
So besides the humor aspect, what I was really trying to capture was the feel and flavor of not only the old-school CRPGs, but also the thrill of playing dice-and-paper RPGs back in the early 80's. I don't know if it's possible to bottle that - or if it is, if I have one iota of the talent necessarily to make it happen - but that's what I've been going for. And I wanted it to be a game that would still be a fun RPG even if the humor didn't work at all. I've also tried to address some of the deficiencies of the genre. For example, I've tried to make picking locks and disarming traps an interesting mini-game of its own, and then I introduced the drama star system to encourage an alternative to save-scumming.
Friday - August 26, 2011
Frayed Knights - A Whole Lotta Maps
Jay Barnson has a Frayed Knights update showing the maps of the six outdoor areas (at a small resolution so you won't make out any real detail) and a few other details:
People keep asking: When is the game going to be released? I don’t mean to tease folks with details from a game that looks complete, but never quite deliver. The experience is 10x more frustrating on this end. There are still a few dozen high-priority issues with the game that need to be addressed one way or another, in addition to some more polishing and fine tuning. And the demo has to be finished (which will resemble the pilot). And I still need to finish the manual, the strategy guide, and a bunch of biz / marketing / website stuff.
So that’s a lotta stuff needs to happen, and I can’t nail down when all of these things are gonna come together. But I suspect we’re talking weeks, not days or months at this point.
Wednesday - August 17, 2011
Frayed Knights - Initiative and Haste
Jay Barnson talks about Initiative and Haste in Frayed Knights, both obviously important issues in a turn-based game:
Every turn, all active characters get to act in an order of initiative determined by their Reflexes, equipment, feats, and a random factor. In general, a character with a high Reflexes score, light weaponry, and light or no armor will get to act earlier in the turn than others. But due to the random factor, there are no guarantees.
The order in which your party members act is displayed by the initiative order marker – a gold circle with a black number inside it. This is updated with each action, so characters who have already taken their action(s) will have no marker. The markers only show the order of the party members, not enemies. You won’t know exactly when the enemies will act.
Nuts and Bolts: The actual formula for determining initiative order is the characters Reflexes + Weapon Speed Modifier + Armor Speed Modifier + a random value between 1 and 6. It is also increased directly by haste modifiers. The “Ready for Action” feat provides a +5 bonus to initiative on the first turn of combat.
In the case of a tie, player characters get priority ahead of enemies, ad characters closer to the front of the party get priority over those behind them.
Thursday - August 04, 2011
Frayed Knights - Mappage
Jay Barnson writes about his approach to maps in Frayed Knights. Here's a snip:
My solution is hand-drawn maps (well, hand-drawn over top of what the tools can spit out for me) that get revealed slowly. Catering to my limited artistic abilities (not to mention limited time), I decided to fall back on what I felt I could do. Making the assumption that it’s probably Dirk making the maps, and that he possesses skills about equal to my own. On top of that, in another nod to the inspiration provided by old-school tabletop gaming, the style of maps are pretty similar to that which we gamers who grew up with the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide and modules written by Gary Gygax are used to.
They aren’t slick and polished, but as they are hand-made they do allow me to add some more helpful indicators on the map that might be missed by an automated process. In addition, some of the dungeons in Frayed Knights are very vertical. For these, I use side-view maps. These won’t help you navigate a single floor of the Tower of Almost Certain Doom very well, but the floors are small, and you can see where the stairs are (at least on one axis).
Friday - July 29, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Manual: Background
The latest Frayed Knights post at Rampant Games has some background lore material from the manual. A sample:
The Wizard War
The Wizard War ended nearly three hundred years ago, but it is far from forgotten. The arch-lich Nepharides – an undead wizard of incredible power – gathered a force so powerful that he nearly conquered the entire world. Those cities he didn’t conquer he destroyed. He laid waste to those castles that followed the traditional design of being well-protected from the ground but nearly defenseless from the air, driving his enemies into deep underground fortresses hastily constructed by magic.
The war spanned over a generation. When it was over, little remained of the previous world’s civilizations and kingdoms but ruins. In the decades that followed, humankind and allied races have partly recovered, but it may be many more generations before they return to their former glory.
And what of Nepharides? Was he truly destroyed, forever? In spite of brave and confident talk that this is so, the secret terror is that one day he will return, an army in tow, and finish the task of destruction.
Friday - July 22, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Manual: Spells, Part 3
This third installment of Spells from the Frayed Knights manual offers "a dozen sample spells from Divine and Dark Magic":
All of the priest spell lines get the core healing spells, though they come at different levels and endurance costs. Divine casters get access to the spells earlier than Nature casters, who in turn get them earlier than Dark Magic casters. Besides earlier direct-healing, Divine Magic gets unique access to anti-undead spells, restoration magic, and some “buffs” that directly affect defense, accuracy, and armor. Dark Magic, by contrast, gets the most spells that do damage-over time and cripple opponents with direct attribute loss. Nature magic emphasizes healing-over time and augmentation of attributes, though it’s a little more general than the other priest magic lines.
Thursday - July 21, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Manual: Spells, Part 2
Part 2 of the Magic and Spells section of the Frayed Knights manual is up at Tales of the Rampant Coyote.
Wednesday - July 20, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Manual: Spells, Part 1
The Rampant Coyote has kicked up the first part of the Spells manual for Frayed Knights:
The latest counts in Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon put the number of base spells in the game at just under 150. Yes, ONE HUNDRED FIFTY base spells. I guess there’s no kill like overkill – I’m a little stunned by the count myself. Plus, many of them can be upgraded with the spellcasting upgrade feats as well — and these upgraded versions can be used by enemies and traps as well. That’s nearly six-hundred variants on top of all this.
I may have gone a little overboard on these. But I think the testers can attest that the variety is a lot of fun. And often, necessary. The right spells – cast directly or through the use of a special item – can turn an overwhelming fight into an easily manageable one.
Thursday - July 14, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Manual: Feats, Part 2
The Rampant Coyote has the second part of the Feats section of the Frayed Knights manual. A sample from the intro:
Anyway, this concludes the section on feats. For those of you counting, this comes out to nearly 90 (or over 90, if you consider the attribute enhancements as individual feats) feats you can purchase to customize your characters.
One final note before I continue the section dump: Frayed Knights is also class-based. There are additional bonuses that characters receive purely by virtue of their class beyond those available in the feats. For example, there’s a different per-level bonus to hit points and endurance based on class; rogues get a natural bonus to disabling traps and picking locks; sorcerers and priests get a natural bonus to their chance of hitting with their respective spell lines, warriors get a natural attack and damage bonus, and so forth. Sounds like I should write up that part of the manual next, huh?
Wednesday - July 13, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Manual: Feats, Part 1
Jay Barnson has posted a section of the manual for Frayed Knights, covering part of the Feats in the upcoming game. Here's part of the intro and head over to read about the actual Feats:
Today I thought I’d post part of the section on Feats. The more boring part, actually – it’s all attribute enhancements and proficiency skills. Boring, but very valuable to have. The more fun and interesting feats will be in part two, which I will post later this week. I wish to stress that while we’re pretty close to the end, none of this is 100% cast in stone. We might even add new feats or change things post-release, as far as I am concerned. But for now – this is how it is.
Friday - July 01, 2011
Frayed Knights - News From the Front
Jay Barnson writes an update on the status of Frayed Knights. He talks about the changes that will be made, quests, balance, my expeirence with it and the reason why he is making it. Here are a few snippets:
Our first beta release has gone pretty well, and did what it was supposed to do. Which is to say, it generated a lot of bug reports which I still haven’t managed to completely address. I could blame crunch mode at the day job for the last two weeks, but… well, okay, yeah, that’s a main culprit. It’s just not really possible for me to put in a 12+ hour day and then another 6+ hour evening working on FK. I’m lucky if I get two.
There have been a several significant changes to the game that have either evolved or been deliberately put in place as a result of feedback. Most will be meaningless to you, but a few I’ve talked about here. Spellstones are gaining importance. You will want to make sure your party has an ample supply spread among the casters. Most group-based spells will require them. At least one of the merchants has an unlimited supply, and they are frequently found as treasure, so they aren’t exactly hard to come by. But putting an entire opposing force to sleep is going to require some cash expenditure.
The answer is that, fundamentally, I want to have Frayed Knights stand on its own as a game (series), even if the humor fell completely flat. I want it to be a great game that happens to be funny. I mean, it’s a low-budget indie title, so it’s not going to win any beauty contests with the latest Unreal 3 Engine – powered extravaganza. But a solid, entertaining game doesn’t need a big budget, and so that’s where I’m focusing my effort. And for me, while a “great RPG” can mean a lot of things, in this case I wanted a game that captured the feel of the old games that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place. I wanted a game that made me feel like I was only seeing a piece of a really deep, “crunchy” world with lots and lots of detail, and that I was only scratching the surface. I wanted that detail to be as much on the system level, to appeal to me intellectually, as it was at the world level to appeal to me emotionally.
Tuesday - June 14, 2011
Frayed Knights - Hits Beta!
Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon has entered beta, according to a new update from Rampant Games:
It’s time for a long-overdue update on Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon:
Yes, that’s a new title screen. The previous one is somewhat more appropriate for game #2, so that’s where it’s going.
Now how about a really good question: What the heck does “Beta” mean?
First of all, it’s a game status thing. It means that at this point, there are no more big changes. There are no known game-crippling bugs. The game is fully playable from start to finish. All the features are working. There are still bugs, balance issues, a couple of places where we’re still using stand-in art, and room to fix things and change things. We’re down to only about 100 issues, and only half of them are serious (the others are “suggestions” or “nice to have if we can slip it in” changes). We’re down to the small things – small but important. And not always easy. Things like combat feats not always being available for unknown reasons. Or whether dual-wielding needs bigger penalties on attacks or damage to be balanced. Or renaming the “Balls!” spell to “Boot to the Head!” to match the visuals better (the boots come in a little high) and beefing it up a little more. Fixing some weapon visuals that don’t have their mount point quite right (as you can see in the pic to the right). Placing a few more hidden caches of goodies, and placing some last remaining magical gear as loot. Improving some of the spell visuals. Adding some missing sound effects. Making sure the story – and game – as a whole holds together.
And playing the game, start-to-finish. A Lot.
Head over for the full post, including news they have submitted the game to Indiecade.
Saturday - May 21, 2011
Frayed Knights - Taking Turns
In the end, I discovered that the game I really wanted to make used actual turns, with everyone taking (usually) one action per turn. This was a substantial overhaul, but overall a Good Thing.
Most actions in the game, if they take any time at all, take a turn. Picking a lock, walking a certain distance (about thirty feet), casting a spell, searching, etc. It’s not an exact science or count of time, nor do I want it to be.
In combat, the order in which actions take place is determined by an initiative check at the beginning of each turn. This check is a random factor modified by equipment (knives are quicker than 2-handed swords), feats, spell effects, and the character’s Reflexes score. In the beginning of the game, Dirk (who has the highest reflexes score of the party) will be the first player character to act most of the time.
Tuesday - April 26, 2011
Frayed Knights - How Buggy Can You Get?
Time for a new update on Frayed Knights, as the game (almost) gets ready to enter Beta:
As I’m about to take a few days off from both the day job and Frayed Knights development, I figured it was time for another update on this tongue-in-cheek indie RPG which I at one point imagined would be a “quick and dirty” project capable of being completed in “only a few months.”
If all goes well, we should be out of alpha and into beta around February 1st. Oh, wait, we missed that one: I meant March 1st. April 1st? May 1st. Er, let’s call it early May, then. I’m building what I hope will be the final alpha build tonight, assuming it actually, you know, works. Always a little iffy. We’ve STILL got some stand-in art that needs to be replaced, and I expect there will still be a few additional details getting added even through early beta. The big question is how long beta will take – which really comes down to how well we nailed the bugs in alpha.
Thursday - April 07, 2011
Frayed Knights - Possesing Endurance
The latest Frayed Knights update discusses Endurance:
Today, I’m going to talk about endurance. Which is another stat. Probably your second most important stat in combat, next to hit points. I’m writing about it now, because it is my bane right now. Balancing the game system is proving to be mainly about balancing endurance. Endurance is life. For a refresher course on what endurance is all about, here’s an article on Resting, Sleeping, Fatigue, and Exhaustion in Frayed Knights.
From a design perspective, the point is to embrace a bit of old-school-style resource management. There’s no concept of standing around waiting to heal up between combats, or waiting for an ability timer to pop like some kind of predictable whack-a-mole game. You have health, endurance, and expendable items… and gold with which you can buy more expendable items (or other things). You need to ration your resources on any particular foray into a dungeon. Failure to do a good job of it means heading back to town prematurely to buy more potions and sleep it off at an inn. When you return, the “fixed” encounters you’ve already defeated will no longer be there, but you may be harassed by respawned patrols and random encounters.
Friday - March 25, 2011
Frayed Knights - Just Add Story!
There's a new Frayed Knights update available, discussing the scope and story aspects after splitting the original material into three smaller games:
When I realized that the size and scope of my “quick and dirty” RPG Frayed Knights was becoming bigger than the longest-winded Final Fantasy title, I decided to break it into three games (apparently a methodology with a long and notable history in both indie and mainstream RPGs, though it took me longer than most to throw in the towel).
The problem – but a good one – is that doing this meant that all three games had to have self-contained stories. It also exposed some significant weaknesses in the story as a whole – I’d been letting things get pretty drawn out. A lot of the work I’ve been doing over the last three weeks has been trying to make changes and give it a little more compelling narrative. It’s not going to be amazing anybody with its literary quality, particularly as I’m fairly insistent on allowing the player to do things out of dramatic order wherever possible, but I hope people will like it.
Friday - March 04, 2011
Frayed Knights - Talking Too Much
Jay Barnson has kicked up a Frayed Knights update that discusses dialogue:
This is kinda delving deeper into a subject I’ve talked about before, but I tend to ramble about what’s on my mind lately, which has been consumed with “filling out” a lot of the world, NPC dialog, and lots of bug-fixing. A type of issue I keep running into in Frayed Knights 1 comes from two design decisions:
#1 – I decided to have conversations be full-fledged scripted conversations between all characters in the party, both among themselves and with NPCs, rather than the traditional approach of letting the NPC do all the talking in big blocks with a few one-line choices that will usually all be selected anyway. I can pull more characterization and humor out that way.
#2 – I have a lot of optional events or events that can occur in a free-form order.
These two design features have a somewhat complicated relationship. To understand this, you should recognize that traditional dialogs with NPCs in moden(ish) RPGs tend to be fairly generic and relatively context-free. The game simply locks out dialog options that no longer make sense, and the NPC spouts off blocks of exposition that only occasionally seem out-of-place given the current game state, and then only by player request. The player’s brain can fill in it’s own context to form the other side of the conversation, and even work itself into knots suspending disbelief when an NPC is talking about a dead villain as if he was still alive.
Thursday - February 10, 2011
Frayed Knights - The Skull of S'makh-Daon
Looks like Jay Barnson has attached a subtitle to the first epsisode of Frayed Knights - introducing Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon:
As beta is only weeks away, it seemed fitting that we’d actually give Frayed Knights 1 an official title and stuff.
Who was S’makh-Daon? According to legend, she was a bit of a boogey-man (boogey-woman?) before Nepharides took the title. Legend has it that her mastery of magic was so complete, so effortless, that they took little more than an idle thought to cast powerful sorceries. Some stories even say that she could kill with a mere wink. Scholars dispute these stories, but affirm that S’makh-Daon was likely a very real person, and a very potent sorceress.
Thursday - February 03, 2011
Frayed Knights - I wanna cast 'Magic Missile'!
Jay Barnson has posted a lengthy update on spellcasting in Frayed Knights, with bonus points for references to the famous Dead Alewives comedy skit (you should know it, but look it up if you don't). This is a must-read for Frayed Knights fans and here's a sample:
A little bit has been said about the number of spells in this game. I must admit, the whole concept is a little bit daunting even to me. I have a little script I run which reports the totals so I don’t have to do much counting, because the counting is getting a little insane. After the last additions, the counts were:
SORCERER SPELLS: 30 unique spells + 109 variants.
DARK PRIEST SPELLS: 25 unique spells + 101 variants.
LIGHT PRIEST SPELLS: 32 unique spells + 139 variants.
NATURE PRIEST SPELLS: 31 unique spells + 133 variants.
If my minimal math skills serve me well, that’s around 118 unique(ish) spells, plus 482 variants of said spells available in the game. So far. That’s like… 600 in total. But it really depends on how you count. When I say unique-ish, I mean that there are a few spells (but actually not many) that are shared between classes that are counted as unique, but may share the same effect — though they may actually be cast at a different level and have different endurance costs. For example, while all three varieties of priests can cast straight-up heals, the divine (light) priests get the spells earlier and cheaper, nature priests (like Benjamin) get it next, and for dark priests tend to get them pretty late and at higher endurance cost.
Spells are divied up, as you can see above, into four categories: Sorcerer, Light Priest, Dark Priest, and Nature Priest. Anybody can take a feat to pick up sorcerer spells (though they will have to pick up a few additional feats to be able to cast the full range of said spells, and will never be QUITE as effective as the sorcerer class at making them “stick”). Anybody can take ONE set of priest spells, too. But only one. The gods are jealous and stuff.
Thursday - January 06, 2011
Frayed Knights - The State of Alpha
An update from Jay Barnson on Frayed Knights' progress. A sample:
Making things worse, I’d developed some of the systems back in the early days of FK development to be WAY too complex and flexible. I’m not using half the capabilities I designed for it, and it has made things harder to develop (complexity = more work). Silly me. As much as I rail against “kitchen sink design” (throwing in everything but the kitchen sink), I have fallen into that trap myself. And now I have to figure out how to balance all that crap. Brilliant work, Jay.
(Have I mentioned that besides having 75 76 77 unique “feats” characters can take in the game, that the spell list is GIGANTIC – probably something like around 500 spells if you include the “upgraded” versions? Yeah. I’m an idiot. Nobody’s gonna use all those. They are gonna stick with a tiny subset…)
Friday - December 31, 2010
Frayed Knights - Smelly Feats Update
Jay Barnson did another update for this game. He talks about the feats in the game and how they work. Here's something about both active and passive feats:
Feats are broken up into two categories: Active and Passive. Passive feats are easy. You just take them, and they give you whatever bonuses or extra capabilities that come with them. Take the Sorcery feat, and you can cast low-level Sorcery spells. Take the Deft Fingers feat, and you automatically get a bonus on any attempt to pick a lock or disarm a trap. Some checks (like searching) are always made by the most skilled member of the party, so doubling up on feats that give bonuses in those situations might not be too useful unless your “best” character is incapacitated or debilitated somehow.
Thursday - November 25, 2010
Frayed Knights - Searching for Trouble
Jay Barnson has another update on Frayed Knights. This time it's about searching for hidden treasure, traps or ambushes:
Searching isn’t free – it takes a turn. This means duration effects go closer to expiration, and that there’s a chance wandering monsters in the area might take note of you. So it’s not something you’ll want to do willy-nilly every few steps. But when the situation warrants it, you can be initiate a search via hotkey, or by clicking the magnifying glass in the command amulet in the lower right of the screen.
Searching gives you a chance of discovering anything hidden nearby. It uses the best skill of everyone in your party. Particularly valuable in the case of traps and ambushes, it allows you to discover them without setting them off. If you discover a trap, you’ll immediately be taken to the trap-disarm screen and given a chance to deal with it. If you discover an ambush, you trigger the combat immediately – but the would-be ambushers do not get a free surprise round to attack you with impunity. For secret doors – well, you are simply alerted that there is one nearby, so you can poke around a little more carefully.
Thursday - November 18, 2010
Frayed Knights - Traps Revised
Jay Barnson has been rethinking the way locks and traps work for Frayed Knights. Here are his ideas on how he could make them more user friendly:
So I'm working on abstracting out some of the details that made it overly complicated and confusing, but trying to keep the essence of the "mini-game" intact. The idea here was to make picking locks and disarming traps a little bit like combat, with lots of interesting choices in a race between the "disarm level" and the "danger level." (You want the former to hit the goal line before the latter does...
#1 - You goal is to to get the trap to 100% completion (fully disarmed) before it hits 100% danger level and goes off.
#2 - You get to 100% completion by fully disarming all of the components in a single category (triggers, mechanisms, or payloads).
#3 - Each component has a type, a difficulty level, a number of disarm stages (usually 1-3, but may be as many as 5), and a Threat Level.
#4 - You disarm a component by selecting it and pressing the Disarm button (or using an appropriate tool on it). If you succeed, you raise it one disarm stage. When you have filled in all the disarm stages, that component is now completely disarmed.
#5 - If you fail, the component's Threat Level (usually in a range of 10% - 50%) gets added to the trap's Danger Level.
#4 - If you abandon the lock prematurely, the lock may reset normally as in #3. Or, it may reset quietly, a turn still passes, but there's no enhanced chance of a wandering monster being attracted.
#6 - If the Danger Level hits 100%, the trap goes off, hitting the disarming character (and sometimes the entire party) with it's remaining (non-disarmed) payloads.
#7 - If you abandon a trap, there's a chance equal to its current Danger Level that it will go off anyway.
And THESE are still very subject to change based on playtesting results.
#8 - When you completely disarm a component, half of its threat value is SUBTRACTED from the danger level (to a minimum of zero).
This might make it worthwhile to tackle an easy component in a different category - just to jam stuff up more so the trap is less likely to go off.
#9 - On a Critical Success when disarming a component, the component will improve TWO disarm stages instead of just one.
#10 - On a Critical Failure when disarming a component, the component will increase the Danger level by 2x its Threat rating.
#11 - Each component has one of three types. The type and category dictate which tools work best with it. The type might not be visible - I haven't decided yet. But you should be able to guess based upon the name and the tool description. Some tools can be re-used, but the better ones will get used up.
#12 - Some tools are special-use items. For example, the 10-foot pole gives you a penalty on any disarm attempt, but gives you a bonus to avoid getting hit by the payload if the trap goes off.
#13 - If the trap goes off, only those non-disabled payloads will hit. So there may be an advantage to disarming the most dangerous payload even if you aren't focusing on the payload category.
#14 - You can swap out characters at any time. The game will default to the character with the highest skill. But if Dirk is low on hit points, you may want to tag him out with Arianna or someone else to try and complete the last couple of stages, just in case something goes wrong.
#1 - Locks are treated the same as traps, except there is no payload. Instead there's a lock category (the lock itself) and the mechanism category (whatever the lock holds in place). So, for example, on a padlock you can either try to pick the lock (disable the lock category), or go after the locking bar & shank in the "mechanism" category.
#2 - Regular tools will usually work on the "mechanism" category, but only special tools are required for the "lock" category (lockpicks and tension wrench). It's always assumed that your characters have SOME kind of lockpicks handy - the special lockpick tools are enhanced versions.
#3 - If the "Danger" level hits 100%, the lock resets noisily, a turn passes, and there's an enhanced chance of a wandering monster noticing your activity and coming by.
#4 - If you abandon the lock prematurely, the lock may reset normally as in #3. Or, it may reset quietly, a turn still passes, but there's no enhanced chance of a wandering monster being attracted.
Wednesday - November 17, 2010
Frayed Knights - Monster Names
If you want to know how Jay Barnson came up with "Juvenile Ceiling Lurkers" in Frayed Knights, head over for his latest update.
Friday - November 12, 2010
Frayed Knights - Bad Luck and Fools Luck
Jay has posted another update for Frayed Knights. This time he's run into a bit of bad luck with the closure of TorquePowered. He's using a heavily modified version of the Torque Game Engine. I'll let Jay explain how that will effect his development of Frayed Knights:
Okay – first order of business: The closure of TorquePowered. Yes, Frayed Knights runs on a highly modified version of the Torque Game Engine. Someone asked on Twitter if that was going to stop Frayed Knights development. Absolutely not. In theory, their closure should have zero effect on the game’s development. First of all, the engine I am using was already sunset and dropped official support while I was already in development many moons ago. If there was a time for me to freak out and change engines, it would have been then.
However, I have been relying upon the still-active community and the enormous wealth of searchable documentation and years of related questions-and-answers on the forums on their website from time to time, and it’s been kind of a safety net for me. If I am forced to operate without a net… well, so be it. It’s a little hairier, but I’m a grown-up programmer with source code and a valid license. I remain dangerous.
He also discusses Drama Stars and how implementing them within the game has provided its own set of challenges:
Okay, for those new to the discussion, here’s what drama stars are about: Whenever you do something interesting (make a decision, fight a monster, etc.), you get one or more drama points. These gradually fill in some stars at the top of the screen. The stars begin by getting filled in with bronze points, then they gradually become silver, and then gold. You can then “spend” these points on an effect that changes the game, even up to restoring the entire party to life (well, non-disabled condition) with almost full health and stamina.
I try to provide interesting choices in Frayed Knights, and allow players to brute-force their way into things if that’s just how they roll. While Frayed Knights does have its share of locked doors constructed out of indestructible plotonium, I try to have at least equal number where I am merely encouraging – not forcing – the user to perform a designer-approved activity to get it open. But I make them very difficult. It’s an old Dungeon Master’s trick. You want all my work I put into having you find the key, and just pick the lock instead. Fine. Get ready to fail a lot and fight some wandering monsters and guards! Hah! That ought to show you!
Okay. The problem with that is that, if it’s left to chance, there’s always a chance the player will succeed on the first or second try, anyway. And if you are in a CRPG, the player may just keep reloading until he gets it right without incident. D’oh!
And then there’s the Fool’s Luck ability. Fool’s Luck gives the player a huge bonus to tasks for a brief time, not quite guaranteeing success, but close enough. It’s the equivalent of reloading the game several times to re-try a task. In practice, it means that those challenging locks I throw into the game to encourage the player to do things my way are easily bypassed with the drama points earned from a mere handful of encounters.
The old Dungeon Master in me balks at this idea. But I try and look at it this way: I’ve now given the player some potential for interesting choices. Locked plotonium doors provide none. Which makes for a better, more satisfying game?
Thursday - October 28, 2010
Frayed Knights - Alpha Is Boring
Jay must have upped his caffeine intake because he has another Frayed Knights post, this time titled Alpha Is Boring, Except For Those Poor Souls Working On It:
And really, that’s not much fun to watch. I’m as excited as anything about Frayed Knights right now, but we’re really at the stage of the development process that it’s not about new stuff anymore. It’s about the old stuff getting refined. Subtle stuff individually, but that collectively makes the game look more like a real game than the amateurish hack-job that it really is (oops, did I say that out loud?).
From the outside, alpha’s kinda boring.
Monday - October 25, 2010
Frayed Knights - Skulking in Real-Time
Jay writes another Frayed Knights update, this time on the addition of wandering patrols in Pokmor Xang:
But there are a couple of things about it that bug me. Frayed Knights is a turn-based game. Quite simply, if the player isn’t actively doing something (like moving), the clock ain’t ticking. If you stand in one place and do nothing, hours of real-world time can pass by without any in-game “turns” passing, spell effects won’t advance their durations, etc. The patrols break this consistency. Patrols are a real-time event. While no new patrols will spawn while you are standing around doing nothing, if you happen to be near the route of an existing patrol, they will encounter you and initiate combat. Which is, naturally, turn-based.
Monday - October 18, 2010
Frayed Knights - Revisiting Pokmor Xang
Jay Barnson has kicked up a new Frayed Knights update which, among some other stuff, discusses the differences between the pilot oh-so-long-ago and what you'd see now. Here's a cool snip:
But lets assume you were to ask me, “Hey, if I were to play the old pilot and then play the new and play through that segment in Frayed Knights 1, what differences would I expect to see?” Then I might offer the following as laundry-list as the main answers (though having forgotten how the pilot actually played, I’d have forgotten a lot of changes):
- Movement is faster, movement and looking around is a LOT easier, and can be customized by the user.
- Combat has changed substantially, though it retains the same basic feel (abstract positioning, ranks of enemy monsters, turn-based). But aside from that – well, there’s just a lot more to it, requiring more tactical play.
- More intelligent AI (especially with spellcasting), and enemies tend to be much more unique in terms of abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Pus golems, in particular, will have a gross new special ability…
- More special effects and better feedback on actions
- The ability to level up (with a new ability you can choose at every level).
- More hidden secrets.
- An optional special area inaccessible until later in the game.
- The town of Ardin is VASTLY expanded, though you still won’t be able to wander around much the first night.
- You can actually buy and sell from the merchant.
- A very different inventory management system.
- Different areas of the dungeon have titles / announcements as you enter and leave them.
- You should be able to see (and avoid) some encounters before combat begins. And yes, some of the monsters are on regular patrols.
- A little more history and stuff to poke at in the dungeon (and a LOT more in the town).
- The journal will actually update as your quest changes and you discover new things (and you can add your own notes, if you feel so inclined)
- Some loot will be randomized. So it won’t be exactly the same every time.
- Some general bug-fixes and miscellaneous improvements to the dungeon and game.
- And the best part – the story continues from there.
Friday - October 15, 2010
Frayed Knights - Reaches Alpha
Head over to the Rampant Coyote for a little in-character announcement. In essence, Frayed Knights is content-complete and now the making-everything-work Alpha stage is under way.
Friday - October 01, 2010
Frayed Knights - Part-Time Indie Blues
Jay Barnson has a new Frayed Knights update about reaching a major milestone...well, almost:
So maybe I was feeling a little overconfident when, in spite of the tons of missing or placeholder content and little missing things like major character abilities, I told Kevin (Xenovore) in chat, “You know, if I were to really push it and go crazy, I could have Frayed Knights playable, start-to-finish, by the end of the week.” Playable is a far cry from “complete,” but we’re still talking about a major milestone here. My schedule seemed clear enough, and I was kinda feeling like I was on a roll.
I probably jinxed myself by saying that.
Friday - September 17, 2010
Frayed Knights - Tool Time
Time for another update on Frayed Knights, the “quick” and “easy” indie RPG that was somehow going to magically take only a few months of my spare time to complete. This update is going to be super-ultra-sexy. Which in this case means, “Totally boring unless you are a programming or design geek.” My apologies.
Abraham Lincoln reportedly said something along the lines of, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.”
Monday - August 23, 2010
Frayed Knights - Goblinville Reborn
Catching up on an item from last week, Jay Barnson has posted Frayed Knights update about fixing up the "last" dungeon:
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on content. Specifically, the LAST dungeon of Frayed Knights 1. Actually, it’s not the last one the player will visit, but with its completion we have all of the world geometry in place. It’s all tweaking / polishing / optimizing now.
This was a replacement for another level that had already been “done.” Done, but it just wasn’t working. The previous was poorly laid out, and had proven impossible to optimize correctly. (Programmers terms – the engine uses portals – old-school tech – to optimize “interior” geometry. These are notoriously finicky in this engine and have very explicit requirements to have a prayed of a chance of working correctly. And without them, your interior level runs poorly and the lighting looks like crap).
Friday - August 06, 2010
Frayed Knights - Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Jay Barnson talks about a major milestone for Frayed Knights, with the game about to reach a stage where it is playable from beginning to end. He's clear to point out there's still a long road to travel but it's inching closer, it seems:
If Frayed Knights was a house, this would be the point where the foundation is long complete, the house is framed, the exterior walls are up, the wiring and plumbing have been done, and we’re almost finished hanging the drywall. Which means if you squint really hard, you can see a whole game – er, house – there. But there would still be a lot of painting, trimming, carpet-laying, tiling, fixture-hanging, cabinet-installation, and all that other fun stuff ahead.
Sunday - July 25, 2010
Frayed Knights - Development Update
In his latest blogupdate about the developement of Frayed Knigts, Jason Barnson discusses artificial intelligence and how it can be difficult to keep the frustration low while keeping the challenge high.
Friday - June 11, 2010
Frayed Knights - It's Not What You Do
Jay Barnson has penned a new blog entry on Frayed Knights, titled It's Not What You Do, But How You Do It. The piece starts with some self reflection after reading one of the recent articles on choices-and-consequences in Alpha Protocol; here's the intro:
One of the dangers I face on this blog, where I occasionally criticize aspects of games that I feel were done poorly, is that I leave myself open to the same criticisms of my own work. And deservedly so. The pure critic has it easy – they can rip on other people’s stuff with relative impunity without ever having to produce anything in return other than the occasionally clever prose. But I not only realize that I have the potential to be savaged by the very standards I apply to others, I also recognize to my chagrin where my own deficiencies are occurring, and I doggedly continue down the same path of weakness and failure.
I’m finding myself making the same mistakes others have made (and I have criticized), and allowing myself to live with certain weaknesses and limitations of the engine and game system that I’m not particularly happy with. But the thing is – if we had to get it perfect, we’d never release a game. By “we” I mean pretty much everybody, indies and mainstream developers. But in the way of the alternative lay madness. And Duke Nukem Forever. The tough part is knowing where to draw the line – what battles to fight, and on which ones to yield the field.
Wednesday - May 26, 2010
Frayed Knights - Faking It
A bit of a general update from Jay Barnson on Frayed Knights, talking about their development approach and how they can be creative within their resource restraints:
Speaking of design documents: when it comes to designing the gameplay – scripting up the environments - I typically approach things kind of “bass-ackwards” from how they are supposed to be done. I’ve found that much of the initial plan changes (yes, even in “mainstream” game studios) between design and production, and many of the best ideas happen when things are into production. And a lot of other ideas that I thought were great turn out to be… well, not so hot. So I tend to put less detail into the initial environment design – really more of an outline of major encounters, theming, and general gameflow – and I do more of the “fleshing out” of the world and encounters later in the process. This works fine as a lone-wolf developer, but can cause problems working with even a small team. We’re still evolving the process. But for me, working with a more fully realized 3D environment really helps make ideas flow.
Monday - May 10, 2010
Frayed Knights - More Frayed Knightses
The latest Frayed Knights update from late last week brings interesting news. Apparently the game has ended up some five or so times bigger than originally planned, so it will be split into three, cheaper, separate games. Here's the intro and head over for the full explanation:
Well, it’s been a learning experience, alright. I’ve learned I suck as a project manager. So here are some things that happened to greatly expand the scope of this “little” indie project:
One: I over-estimated how much time it would take for a player to complete the pilot, and under-estimated the amount of time that could be spent in the rest of the game (at least, so it seems right now).
Two: I panicked a little bit when I found out that I had under-estimated the length of the pilot, based on the feedback I received. This made me concerned that the game was too short. Short is not bad, but too short is not cool. So I deliberately added some more to the game than I’d originally intended.
Three: Feature and content creep happened. As it often does.
Friday - April 16, 2010
Frayed Knights - Casting Hellacious Fireballs
Time for a new Frayed Knights update. This one catches up on some rules changes, like a new combat system:
Oh, and combat. The old combat system (in the demo) didn’t actually have the concept of turns. You took an action, and then had a delay (based on the action) to when you could perform the next action, in “phases”. Slower actions took more phases. That led to a nice, fluid system of actions based on character speed, action timing, and a bunch of other features. It was also pretty confusing, and made balancing kind of a pain. Especially when I had effects that lasted in terms of “turns” (which I’d defined as 10 phases… the average length of time of any action). When it became too confusing and difficult to balance for me, it was time for a change.
Combat is now broken up into distinctive turns, and most actions simply take “a turn.” However, some weapons are slightly faster, and there are spells that speed things up. So there is still something of a phase system underneath the turn-based combat, but it is mainly used to calculate whether a character gets to go twice (or three times) in a turn or not. I’m pleased with the new system. It seems to include the best of both worlds.
Wednesday - April 07, 2010
Frayed Knights - Chapel of Anarchy
This tiny Frayed Knights update is simply one screenshot - but it does look cool.
Sunday - March 21, 2010
Frayed Knights - Wizard War Lore
Rampant Coyote has kicked up some lore for Frayed Knights titled Nepharides and the Wizard War:
The Wizard War “ended” about three hundred years before the beginning of the game. Nobody’s really certain when it really began. Stories tend to begin when the war finally engulfed the original storyteller’s life. What is understood is that it began – and ended – with the arch-lich Nepharides.
Spellcasters of great power can sustain their lives well beyond a normal human’s allotted time. Some wizards are rumored to have been able to sustain their lives almost as long as that of the elves, who have been known to reach the ripe old age of a thousand years. But some spellcasters are powerful enough to take this one step further, and not just extend their lives, but replace them with an undead existence. The process to do this is rumored to require some pretty horrible acts of torture and murder, so it’s not an option for a wizard with an ounce of humanity.
Thursday - March 04, 2010
Frayed Knights - Resting, Sleeping, Fatigue, and Exhaustion
The headline of Resting, Sleeping, Fatigue, and Exhaustion may well apply to developer Jay Barnson but this update is actually about fatigue in the adventuring party:
Adventurers lead strenuous lives. When they are slinging spells and swinging swords in life-or-death conflicts, or traversing treacherous trap-filled, uh, territories.... they are traveling great distances, hunting quest threads, and performing conversational acrobatics. All while lugging around more equipment and loot than any human could really be expected to carry. It's an exhausting career choice!
So unlike certain other, newer RPGs, the heroes of Frayed Knights are not going to be able to go all day without taking a breather or getting some well-deserved shut-eye. Well, probably not. Unless you blow all your silver on Liquid Nap potions. But that's another story.
Sunday - February 21, 2010
Frayed Knights - Talk Ain't Cheap
Time for an update on Frayed Knights. Here's a snip from Talk Ain't Cheap. Apparently.
I knew when I signed up for it that making an RPG would be a pretty significant undertaking. I had expectations of a lot of work. Even though I had elevated my expectations of the amount of work I had to do, there were a couple of areas where I woefully underestimated the amount of labor involved.
And dialog is one of those areas. I mean, it's just text, right? Sounds easy! I'm not even doing voice-overs for this game!
If my quests were just of the "bring me six rat tails" variety, and my dialogs were of the one-or-two-line variety, I wouldn't have so much work to do. Now I know why other games do that. I'd have three things for an NPC to say: "Hi there, get me six rat tails!", "Hi! Do you have my six rat tails yet?", and "I see you brought me six rat tails! Here's your reward!" No other NPC (Non-Player Character... anyone not controlled by the player) in the world would care or be involved in that quest in any way.
Easy. Simple. Straightforward. And of course, not what I chose to do.
Friday - January 08, 2010
Frayed Knights - The Adventurers Guild
The latest Frayed Knights update introduces the Adventurers Guild from the game:
This time, I want to talk about the Adventurer's Guild.
Those of you who played the pilot may recognize the Adventurer's Guild as the reason our non-traditional heroes are seeking the Eyes of Pokmor Xang in this "test" adventure. The Adventurer's Guild plays a role in the storyline of the full game. But what is the Adventurer's Guild?
The Adventurer's Guild was started over ten years ago by Argus Stormhammer, a veteran and highly successful treasure hunter / adventurer. His fame came not only from his successes, but also by his tracts which he created to try and help other adventurers. In these pamphlets, Stormhammer noted that he had seen many a fellow adventurer suffer not only loss of life and limb, but failure and insolvency. His writings not only aided fellow adventurers, but inspired many people to take up the the life of an adventurer.
Wednesday - December 16, 2009
Frayed Knights - 2:30 AM Ambushes
Not so much as development update as a genuine blog entry but Rampant Coyote's 2:30 AM Ambushes is a good read for anyone following Frayed Knights:
As usual, I started losing productivity after about 1:30 AM. And after 2:00 AM, I should have called it quits. But I didn't. Because I was ... almost done. I am just testing now, see?
Yeah, right. So now it's almost 2:30 and I find myself walking into an ambush, not remembering how I got here.
When I open my eyes (after just blinking for a moment... I'm sure), I find myself in the hobgoblin bunker. I realize I was in the middle of testing something, but for the life of me I cannot remember going through the entrance, fighting through two waves of attackers (I have a cheat key installed that auto-kills all enemies... it makes testing a bit faster) to get to the landing where I am now subjected to scripted arrow fire.
Saturday - December 12, 2009
Frayed Knights - Building Dungeons
Jay Barnson has posted a new update for Frayed Knights, describing how he goes about building dungeons. There is also a short FAQ at the end, so worth a read. The intro:
Today, I'm going to talk about how I build a dungeon. I do not pretend that this is the correct - or even a competent - way to do it. It's just how I do it. Members of the development team who are also working on dungeons for the game (Kevin and Brian) may do stuff differently - and much better than me, I should add.
But it's still me who ends up populating and scripting them.
First of all - my design document (when I update it) doesn't have much by way of specific information about each dungeon (or "adventuring area", if it's an outdoor location). Really, I don't have much more than some basic themes and objectives for the location. Maybe some specific events that need to happen here (like, "a prisoner has a hint as to the identity of Moonshadow.") And then some key "signature" locations that serve those encounters.
Monday - November 16, 2009
Frayed Knights - Screenshots
What I did notice is that this was far easier to create than the Tower - partly because it's a much simpler design, but also because I think I'm sucking a little less. Go, me!
Monday - November 09, 2009
Frayed Knights - Development Update
Jay Barnson's latest Frayed Knights post talks about explaining some of those little anomalies...
In the early days of the hobby, very few game masters (or game designers) thought too hard about the rhyme, reason, or ecology of their adventures and worlds. Why are the monsters segregated by difficulty level in this dungeon? What's with the weird, bizarre artifacts in the dungeon that nobody but the players actually try to use? How come these traps aren't set of by the gazillions of giant rats that seem to infest the dungeon? How do the lower levels of the dungeon stay ventilated? What do these monsters eat (besides adventurers and giant rats)? Why are there all these devices that serve no practical purpose to anybody but to vex the occasional treasure-hunting adventurer?
Friday - October 23, 2009
Frayed Knights - Why Is It Taking So Long?
Hey, Rampant Coyote's words - not mine. The latest Frayed Knights development update is titled Why Is This Game Taking So Long?
You know, when I was working on the pilot episode of Frayed Knights, I had a couple of ideas. Really silly ideas, in retrospect. I should have known better. While I've never made a full-fledged RPG before, I've made plenty of games. So I don't have an excuse. Maybe it's some kind of suppression of bad memories taking place that made me believe these things.
But here were my beliefs: That when I finished the pilot, I'd have "most" (75%+) of the code for the game finished, and that my job from there on out would just be cranking out content, which would be easier and faster than code.
Wrong on BOTH counts. But I'm just gonna talk about the code part today.
Sunday - September 20, 2009
Frayed Knights - Skull-Drudgery
Jay is a little frustrated with progress on Frayed Knights, in this update called Skull Drudgery:
Some weeks, it feels like my progress on Frayed Knights is inexcusably slow. This was one of those weeks. Much of this last week has been devoted to a skull.
One. Frickin'. Skull.
See, I've been working on a little bit of "black triangle" stuff again. While I'd hoped to just start populating dungeons with all kinds of stuff, I've found myself having to go back and support a lot of new functionality. This is because I'm not satisfied just throwing a bunch of combat encounters in my dungeons and calling it done. I figure if that's all somebody wanted to do, they'll be playing Diablo III or something like that.
Thursday - August 20, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
Jay Barnson chats about progress with Frayed Knights and needing to understand and re-work a number of aspects from the original design:
I attended the standing-room only session at GDC one year when Michael Abrash spoke about the development of Quake. While some of the technical details of what they had to do don't have too much relevance with today's technology, the talk had a number of anecdotes that still hold up. He said that he and John Carmack tried a number of different rendering methodologies over the course of a year before arriving at one which - surprisingly - brought them full-circle back to the BSP trees Carmack had used for Doom. After going through about eight different flawed rendering engines before getting it right, Carmack remarked to Abrash that if they'd known exactly what they were making before they started, the engine would have taken less than two months to write.
That's how I'm feeling with some aspects of Frayed Knights. Like character progression.
Wednesday - July 22, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
A small update for those following Frayed Knights that illustrates the tedium in any job - even a labour of love:
It can be astonishing to me just how much time gets consumed - even when I'm wide awake - doing something simple like placing doors in doorways. The allure of a tile-based engine becomes pretty clear as I'm tweaking the size, the angle, and the position of the collision volume (which, in this engine and the way I'm handling things, has to be a completely separate entity from the door). I find myself spending something like 8 minutes per door.
On a freakin' DOOR. Yeah, something that in a tile-based system would amount to, "which of the eight door styles do I choose." A 30-second job. And this is just for doors that aren't locked or trapped or blocked off...
Thursday - July 16, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
Jay Barnson has kicked up the latest Frayed Knights development update, introducing the character of Edgar and opining on the difficulties of writing good dialogue:
Here's the concept art for Edgar. Edgar is a magic user in the Heroes of Bastionne, rivals of the Frayed Knights. In keeping with the theme, Edgar is in many ways Chloe's equal and opposite. He's clear-headed, tactical, subtle, conservative, restrained, fabulously well-educated in the art and lore of magic but pretty badly lacking in terms of street smarts and field knowledge. He has an inflated opinion of his own skills, and how cool he looks in that blue robe. If Edgar was a player character in a dice-and-paper RPG, he'd be the guy run by a somewhat uncreative rules lawyer / power gamer.
Friday - June 26, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
Jay Barnson brings us up to date on Frayed Knights, introducing a new character and discussing the town of Ardin:
So I've been shuffling things around, adding / creating new buildings, like my half-finished three-story tudor-style house there in the screenshot. The village also needs a focal point, besides the river. And then there's the various people in the community, and on the outskirts, with rumors, quests, hints, shops, and stuff to do.
The idea is that Ardin is something of a boom-town. Adventurers have come here on rumors of excitement and treasure. And they bring money with them. The villagers - old and new - are cashing in. So they've got a brand new (and I should add, totally rockin') inn, and some other new construction going on (hmmm.... I should probably create one or two half-finished buildings under construction, shouldn't I?). Some of the long-term residents resent the sudden appearance of adventurers, but it's still new enough that many - particularly younger citizens - find it fresh and exciting.
Wednesday - June 10, 2009
Frayed Knights - Development Update
Jay Barnson has kicked up an update on the development of Frayed Knights that includes cold medicine and haunted dreams - it's hard to quote in context, so head over if you are following this one.
Saturday - May 23, 2009
Frayed Knights - Latest Update
Rampant Coyote has an informative update posted on his site dealing with what he calls 'the next 5 minutes'. Here's a short sample:
One thing which I wanted to experiment with was changing the time-of-day. Now, I'm using the Torque Game Engine, which has some pretty nice lighting, but it comes at a cost - it relies heavily upon "static lighting" which it can pre-calculate in a lighting pass in advance. This is time consuming, and it caches the results so that future lighting passes take less time.
I spent a bit of time this week working on a dynamic time-of-day system, which unfortunately has a lot of ugly side-effects. For one thing, it breaks the lighting cache, so that it means we always have to relight all the time to make sure we've got things lit properly for whatever time-of-day you are entering the world. And it is time-consuming. Annoyingly so. Especially as the scenes and towns get more complex (as Ardin is about to...) .
So I'm looking for an alternative. This probably means having duplicate versions of areas -- one for daytime, one for nighttime -- which is going to be quite problematic, especially for setting up triggers and events based on area geography and my existing flag / event record system. There may be other solutions as well that might not look as good. Or I may have to fall back on not having time-of-day - which would suck. Because I'd hate to lose this:
There's lots more so check it out if you're at all interested in this Indie RPG.
Thursday - May 14, 2009
Frayed Knights - Development Update
Jay Barnson has kicked up an update on Frayed Knights, talking about inventory management, accidentally treading on Morrowind's toes and other work in progress:
But I now have a somewhat more functional and user-friendly inventory management screen. Inventory management is already a pretty boring subject in its own right, and layering a bunch of boring UI development over top of it is a recipe for curing insomnia. But now we've got the ability to drag 'n drop, nicely animated scrolling between pages of ... you know, stuff... and... gah. Man. I can't even talk about it anymore. Moving on...
Monday - April 27, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
The latest Frayed Knights update talks about writing a murder mystery:
This chapter is opening up with a murder mystery. Well, a death, under vaguely mysterious causes. "Okay," you might say, "I already know that is a vampire story. We've already read / seen / heard the Dracula story a zillion times in different forms. The vampire caused the mysterious deaths. Is this any different?"
Well, yes and no.
Wednesday - April 22, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
But that's the interface side. On the underlying mechanics side, the high-level game was also getting out of control. Balancing things was getting insane. So I chose the better part of valor and wussed out. Things are a lot more "level-based" in the game now than I originally intended, but frankly I didn't see a clear path out of this without a serious round of simplification. There were basically too many moving parts in the underlying rules system, and as I deduced from literally hundreds of feedback forms, nobody was really clear how things were working under the hood anyway. It didn't make a difference to anybody. So I replaced some of the more "simulation-esque" rules for simpler, more game-y rules.
Friday - April 03, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
Jay Barnson discusses a suggestion he received for Frayed Knights to remove the towns and focus on the missions as well as giving a general update towards the end. Here's the idea:
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Ruber Eaglenest, AKA El Clérigo Urbatain, with a very interesting suggestion. In a nutshell - his suggestion was to get rid of the towns, and any of the other space "between missions." All the narrative could be done with non-interactive cutscenes, and shopping could likewise be handled between missions.
He admitted that the town in the demo was rough, but expressed concern that the town added very little to the gameplay, and instead sucked development resources that could be better put into the dungeon adventuring. He also noted - very rightfully - that the limitations of 3D require a level of sparseness in the town layout, which means a lot of empty, open space. Which is boring. "The town doesn't add anything to the narrative that you could accomplish with traditional approaches. And I, like a player, just want be from mission to mission without so much waste of time in town."
Rather than just email him back with my response, I thought I'd respond here. Because he brings up a very good point. Not that I necessarily agree with him, but I think he's spot on in that the decision to the contrary demands justification.
Monday - February 16, 2009
Frayed Knights - Update
Over at Tales of the Rampant Coyote, Jay Barnson has put up an update for his indie rpg in development, Frayed Knights, focusing on the design side of creating explorable wilderlands:
...For me, it was all about the exploration. The expectation that behind every tree, over every hill was an adventure, beneath every rock there was a treasure or mystery to be explained, and behind every closed door was something wonderful or terrible waiting to be discovered.
I'd love one of these Wilderlands-style encounters or discoveries to be around every corner. I want an open-ended game-world bursting at the seams with details, mysteries, mayhem, adventure, and wonder...
...In an RPG, you don't want the player to have to go moving around too long or too far without stumbling into something to do or a decision to make. Big, empty worlds are boring.
Likewise, the modern design school of blocking off all the "uninteresting" parts is also frustrating to my exploration-seeking mind. As someone who is always wondering what is behind the next door, it's frustrating to find that all but three doors in the town are merely backdrops, untouchable and unenterable, and those back alleys and side-streets are blocked off. As my brain is always seeking what's beyond the horizon, I'm always disappointed to have those horizons taken away from me.
Wednesday - February 04, 2009
Frayed Knights - Critique and Comments
If you've been following Rampant Coyote Jay Barnson's Frayed Knights development, his blog has links to a lengthy (!) 4-part critique of the pilot from one Diego Doumecq and Jay makes a few comments.
Wednesday - October 08, 2008
Frayed Knights - Update
News from the Rampant Coyote that Frayed Knights won a "Game In a Year" competition from Dream Games as well as looking forward to where next from here:
Obviously, the Frayed Knights Pilot was just the first step. It served its purpose, as a scouting mission to see where I was on the right track and where I was completely in a different timezone from the right track. It was a complete game, albeit not a perfect one. We were able to get a lot done in a single year, and I'm very proud of it - particularly as my first released RPG (if you don't count Hackenslash).
Now comes the hard part - to make twelve times the game in less than twelve times the development time. Neither you nor I have the patience to wait twelve more years for its release. So what's it going to take? I don't entirely know the answer to this question. I have ideas, but not answers.
Saturday - September 20, 2008
Frayed Knights - Update
Rampant Coyote has posted a development update on his blog for the indie crpg, Frayed Knights, discussing the latest stage in the project:
And then there's the AFX code. In a nutshell, it includes a whole slew of changes to the decal and particle system - primarily, though there's more to it than that - that allow some pretty awesome spell effects. There's a screenshot to the right of AFX in action in the Torque demo.
With that done, I'm back to working on some core technology. I am considering some massive changes to how AI works, how combat plays, and how inventory management is handled. I also need to finish the journal system and the transition map system now that we'll have more than two areas to go between.
There's also a link to a video of the first five minutes of the pilot, for those who haven't seen it yet.
Friday - May 30, 2008
Frayed Knights - Development Update
Rampant Coyote Jay Barnson has kicked up a lengthy post on the current happenings with Frayed Knights. All sorts of changes and plans are discussed, such as this:
For everyone who wanted the "Z" key to be a toggle for freelook, you've got it. It locks the cursor to the center of the screen when you do it, which means you'll be forced to hotkey everything rather than click on buttons... and you'll have to look directly at objects in the environment to click on them - but it works. Movement speed has also been significantly increased. It feels too fast for me, personally, so it may need to be adjusted further, but I also think there's a lot of speed-demon players out there for which this is not a problem.
Friday - May 02, 2008
Frayed Knights - Pilot Aftermath
Rampant Coyote Jay Barnson has kicked up some comments on the feedback from the pilot trial of Frayed Knights, which has apparently been a huge success. While it looks like Jay has a lot of work in front of him, he isn't shying away from criticisms:
* Movement Speed - this is a sensitive issue. People expect first-person-shooter speeds in first-person games. The "walking speed" in Frayed Knights is far faster than realistic - it's more like a real-world run speed. But people like to zip. Especially in the village or another safe place. I'd deliberately tried to slow things down to closer to Ultima Underworld speeds for Frayed Knights - a more deliberate "dungeon crawl" / exploration pace (at a good run speed, but still...) But it frustrates people. So I'm gonna have to come up with a happy medium.
* Randomness - there's too much randomness in the game, between the random encounters and the wildly varying difficulty of combat. People might mow down four groups of two cultists four times in a row, but then get clobbered by the fifth while at full health and endurance. And the random encounters - while usually paced reasonably, approached ridiculous "Final Fantasy" levels in some cases.
* Combat - not exciting enough. And not clear enough. The melee characters don't have enough options, and the effect of some of the spells is too subtle (due to randomness and lack of clear feedback) to really tell what makes a difference. And some of the balance is off, like endurance / resting. Some things we need to focus on include better / clearer options for the characters, easier target selection, feedback on the upcoming combat order (who is going to go next), and easier spellcasting.
Frayed Knights - Screens @ Strategy Informer
Thursday - May 01, 2008
Frayed Knights - Pilot Released for FREE Download
Jay Barnson, the Rampant Coyote has just released the Demo Pilot for his Indie RPG Frayed Knights. All the details are on his Blog page including links to two download sites. Grab this one quickly and give Jay some feedback. He has some novel ideas and a game with humour as part of its design has got to be worth trying.
Wednesday - March 26, 2008
RPGWatch Feature: Frayed Knights Interview
If you read our news regularly you've probably come across something linked from Tales of the Rampant Coyote - you may have even come across said Coyote on our forums. In addition to his blog, Jay Barnson has an off-beat indie RPG in development and it's time to catch up on it:
RPGWatch: So, your current indie project is Frayed Knights – what is it and what is it all about?
Jay Barnson: Frayed Knights is Rampant Games’ upcoming comedy-based fantasy RPG. It’s a blend of old-school style (first-person, turn-based, party-based adventures like Wizardry, The Bard’s Tale, Dungeon Master, and Might & Magic) with “real” 3D graphics, a healthy dose of character-based humor, and some quirky gameplay innovations. It’s part parody, part homage to both CRPGs and pen-and-paper RPGs.
It’s primarily a story about four misfit adventurers in a world that tries to justify all the weird things that happens in RPGs. The world of Frayed Knights is one with a subset of the population that were “adventurers” and acted like Player Characters tend to act. Which is to say, often amoral, ruthless, and greedy. Most of the time.
However, the adventurers are starting to die off. That in itself is not too surprising – the life of an adventurer is often short but exciting. But something is changing, and the rate of “morts” (deaths) is becoming alarmingly high. Plus, there are rumors of an “Ancient Evil™” rising out in the boonies. Things are going bad for the “adventurer community.”
But the Frayed Knights – themselves pretty much the laughingstock of adventurers everywhere – may be the only ones who can save them.