Scars of War - All News
Sunday - April 24, 2011
Scars of War - Put On Hold
This is a hard post to write. May as well just get right to the gist of it.
Scars of War development is going to be halted for an indefinite time period, at least one year, probably longer. In the next few months, once my business plan and the game spec has been finalized, I shall quit my job to work full time (or nearly full time, depending on whether a contracting gig comes through) on a smaller, 6-month project. Not an RPG, a battling-card game in the same genre as Magic : The Gathering and Spectromancer. The aim is to finish it within 6 months, but with allowances for up to 1 year dev time. Toward the end of that period I will evaluate whether I can keep going full time or need to search for other work (contractual or full time), as I will be near to exhausting my savings. Should the game be finished and making money, I will begin working on expansions (more cards/opponents/mechanics/scenarios) as well as porting to new platforms (made easier by the fact that the game will be dev’d on the Unity3D game engine) to expand my income stream. Should I have failed to finish but be near completion, or not making much money, I will look for contract work to help tide me over during that last stretch. Should I have completely failed…well, I will have given it my best shot. At least I can look back and know that I tried.
Head to the blog for the lengthy full explanation.
Thursday - December 09, 2010
Scars of War - Them Indie Developer Blues
In a new post at the Scars of War blog, Gareth writes about realising the scope is too large and bringing the project back under control. A good thing, in my opinion:
It really has become clear to me that I’ve been too ambitious with art content. The game sprawls across too many environments, too many locations, it’s simply too much of a strain on my resources. If I had to start again I’d set everything in a single city location.
For that reason, I’ve been doing something lately that is a bit painful, but necessary. I’ve taken the pruning sheers to SoW. What that entails is attempting to cut planned locations/environment types and shifting quests/plot to other locations (places where I already have much of the environment artwork needed). For example, the starting city location was supposed to be Korrinport, from there you’d be able to travel to Tyver, the capital city of Athar, or visit the town of Sarenbosch, home of Torvaire University. Now, those three locations have been folded into each other, the combination city being named Korrinport and housing Torvaire University within it. That location is where you start the game, it’s also the primary game hub, and you will return to it many times throughout the game.
This change means reworking the main storyline, which was supposed to span locations in a number of nations (with different environment styles), to use the art I have. In certain cases this means dramatic changes to the plot and backstory to make that work. Some locations you were supposed to visit you may just hear about now, others have had to be nuked from the plot completely. Some of the information I’ve already shown you will be changing, I’m sorry about that. And I’m dropping multiple race selections, you can now only play as an Atharan, a fairly standard human type, in order to reduce the player avatar art burden.
Tuesday - October 26, 2010
Scars of War - Gettin' Thiefy
The Scars of War blog has a handful of thief-related item models created for them by Age of Decadence lead artist, Oscar.
Thursday - October 21, 2010
Scars of War - New Renders
There are some new renders at the Scars of War blog of keys. Yes, they're just keys but they're pretty cool.
Friday - October 01, 2010
Scars of War - Reinforcements Arrive
Another Scars of War update...this is almost getting to be a habit. Gareth writes that a second artist has joined the team. Here's a partial snip and head over for some new renders:
(Make sure to read the title while doing the ‘Command and Conquer’ voice in your head.)
Thought it worth mentioning that the Scars of War team is now up to two (2) artists! Woot. This ‘not doing everything myself’ concept is getting more and more appealing, the older and less stupid I get, I’m telling you. You laugh, but one of the downsides to having a positive, ‘I can do anything I put my mind to’ attitudes is a belief that you can just ‘step in’ to any roles you’re missing in a game dev team.
I’ve come to realize that, regardless of whether I could actually learn any/all of the various disciplines’ skills, the time required to do so and do it well is just…unfeasible (Yes, ok, that’s probably pretty obvious to most of you, shutit). Doing art, I’m not coding. Coding, I’m not writing/designing adventures. Writing, I’m not interacting with the community (posting on forums/blogging).
Apparently they are looking for more contributors, by the way.
Wednesday - September 15, 2010
Scars of War - I don't want to be the girl
This is the first update to the Scars of War blog for a while, or I've missed them. This one is an explanation of (the lack of) gender differences for characters in the game:
Which brings us back to SoW. You’ve probably figured out where I’m going with this. There aren’t any real differences between the genders in SoW, beyond the cosmetic. Not in the character system. This is not to say that sexism doesn’t exist in the world of Scars of War, that it’s some homogenized, politically-correct fantasy world. There is sexism and rape and a whole host of suitably nasty things. But there won’t be anything like ‘Males get +2 Strength, Females get +2 to Charisma’ or whatever in the character system. There will be nothing that says to a woman who plays SoW ‘hmmm, you want to be a warrior eh? Well, better play a man then…’. If she wants to be Shannon the Barbarian, so be it.
Tuesday - March 23, 2010
Scars of War - Weekly Update #10
The latest Scars of War weekly update is online, showing a ship model in progress.
Tuesday - March 16, 2010
Scars of War - Weekly Update #9
The latest Scars of War update is available, with Gareth covering some programming, modelling and The Art of Spellcasting article co-written with Vince from Iron Tower.
Monday - March 08, 2010
Scars of War - Weekly Update #8
Time for a new update on Scars of War. This week, Gareth takes advice from the Rampant Coyote but promptly ignores it:
I read this last week on Coyote’s blog and thought ‘Hmmm, that sounds like a great idea! I’ve had a host of small, annoying issues bogging me down on the code front, what if I put all that aside and just jam at max speed all weekend, I wonder how much progress I could make?’ It seemed like a great idea and I was all fired up to do it. The goal was to throw together my existing code with some hacked-in workarounds to the issues I’m currently dealing with, build some city zones using the art I’ve already got + some quick and dirty prototype art and get some playable if ugly zones out of it over the weekend.
Monday - February 22, 2010
Scars of War - Weekly Update #7
Another week, another update for Scars of War. This time, Gareth Fouche works on adding details to the buildings, with fences doors and windows on the agenda.
Tuesday - February 16, 2010
Scars of War - Weekly Update #6
The weekly Scars of War updates are now numbered, with #6 offering a quick look at some building modeling.
Tuesday - February 09, 2010
Scars of War - Strengthening the Core
Gareth Fouche writes a Scars of War update titled Strengthening the Core, where he acknowledges some weaknesses in communicating the game and drawing the player in with the early story design:
So I’m thinking hard about that, looking at ‘The Message’ that I’m presenting to the public, to you. Working to present the Core Concept clearly, strongly, to present that hook for people’s interest and attention. It would be easier if I was working with an existing licence. I envy Scott of ITS a bit, just say the word ‘Cthulhu’ and you invoke a vast library of context from the public consciousness. Tell people you’re working on ‘a Cthulhu RPG’ and they get it immediately. A Zombie Survival RPG? Again, people immediately get it, the Core Concept is strongly evident, obvious.
For me, that means working to present the Core Concept of SoW more clearly, to focus on it, what it means for the gameplay and setting. It means working to create concept art that captures the mood clearly and immediately, writing copy that conveys this theme directly. It’s a tightening of my focus from the rather haphazard manner I’ve gone about things. I am looking at what I’ve shown in public with a critical eye, asking myself ‘If I was completely unaware of this game and stumbled onto the website, would I ‘get’ it?’
Wednesday - February 03, 2010
Scars of War - Use of Minigames in RPG's
Gareth has a very interesting article on the use of minigames in RPG's over at his Blog site. Here's a quick snip to whet your appetite:
Mini-games in RPGs : The Suck, am I right? Mini-games should be kept out of RPGs or at least restricted to a few once-off puzzles, right? Well, except for the combat mini-game. THAT one is fine.
Wait, what? Combat isn’t a mini-game, surely?
Yes, it is. Or rather, it shows that the issue isn’t as clear-cut as all that. What is a grown-up version of a mini-game? The answer is : an integrated subsystem of the gameplay.
Combat isn’t roleplaying. It is easy to ‘roleplay’ without having a set of mechanics designed to model combat scenarios in detail. You could abstract out the whole set of actions into a single combat roll, or a set of combat rolls, informing the player of the outcome after it resolves, in a similar way to handling a lockpicking or persuasion skill check. But few if any roleplaying systems are made without some section of the rules designed to model combat, a legacy of how RPGs evolved from wargames perhaps, or it could simply be that humanity is a violent species and our fantasy games tend to revolve around letting us explore experiences we feel drawn to but can’t or fear to experience in real life, adventure and violence and danger and power, things that combat offers in spades.
Check it out.
Monday - January 25, 2010
Scars of War - Development Update
Gareth Fouche has kicked up a Scars of War update as they continue to "muck about" with that warehouse district.
Monday - January 18, 2010
Scars of War - Development Update
It's been a little while since we posted anything about the Scars of War. This update isn't earth shattering but it's still nice to see some news - head over to see a work-in-progress from a warehouse district.
Tuesday - October 20, 2009
Scars of War - Lore Story
Part two of the Scars of War story Magic's Price:
Cursing as she stumbled again, this time with enough force to splash water from the bucket she carried over her sandals, Shandra decided it was time for a break. Setting the bucket down on the path, she ignored the curse from the student behind her as her sudden stop forced him to change direction, clumsy under the weight of his own burden.
Sighing, Shandra took the opportunity to massage her shoulder muscles, seeking to ease the throbbing ache that had settled into them. Ahead of her, the other students continued up the path behind Master Vrain and Mistress Indra. The group of them had been walking for over an hour, the students walking in pairs, sharing the burden of their alloted water bucket between them. Well, most were in pairs. One of the students had caught some illness or the other, leaving their count uneven. Shandra had been the unlucky one, left to carry her burden up the rock-strewn hill alone.
Wednesday - October 14, 2009
Scars of War - Lore Story
Here's a snip from Part 1 of Magic's Price from the Scars of War site:
As one, the hunters of the Order burst forth from their hiding places behind stacked crates and piles of refuse, their weapons tarred so as not to reflect light and prematurely alert their quarry.
Not that it mattered, Kalus had known they were waiting for him from the time that he’d stepped into the alleyway that had led him here, to the grimy, isolated dead-end where he usually met his agent, the perfect place to stage an ambush. His man was probably dead and would need replacement, curse them.
Friday - September 11, 2009
Scars of War - Lore Story
New lore at the Scars of War site titled The Coral:
“Call or fold Hobbe, before we all die of boredom. Perhaps Lann there could help you count your score, if you’re having trouble?”
The man the others called ‘Grinning’ Hobbe scowled at his cards, ignoring the jibe as his lips moved in silent calculation. He reached one large hand to his cheek, idly stroking the ugly ridges of scar tissue that ran from the remains of his left ear down across his mouth and chin, twisting his lips into the expression that gave him his nickname. His eyes flicked up to his smirking opponent.
“Your mother was a mangy bitch, you know that Mars? Keep that clever tongue of yours silent or I’ll rip it out and feed it to you.”
Saturday - September 05, 2009
Scars of War - Background Lore
Kris writes in to point out a nice piece of lore / background story from Scars of War on the Iron Tower forums (second post). Here's the opening paragraph:
Mirtar was the most directly affected. A bountiful nation of farmers and traders, their land was the centre of the conflict and bore the brunt of it. Fields lie fallow, farmers slaughtered or displaced. The council of Nobles which took control after their King died and Lethan attempted to conquer them sits in the capital and fights over the succession, their ranks divided into two factions. While they squabble their people starve. They respond by using military force and hired mercenaries to keep the peace. But they haven't the forces to control their entire territory, they guard the capital and main cities and the people in outlying areas are left to fend for themselves against bandits and the Sidhari raiders who still linger in Mirtar, intent on looting.
Thursday - July 30, 2009
Scars of War - Lore Update
A new lore update for Scars of War - Part 1 of Koeth:
A famed Ondilese poet, Katt the Younger, once said of Koeth that it was a “cultural fortress” and that the Koethans themselves were “grim-faced defenders, manning walls built of equal parts suspicion and superstition”.
Monday - July 27, 2009
Scars of War - On Adding Mod Support
Gareth Fouche writes about developing mod support for Scars of War - and the hassles of having put it off previously:
One of the problems with being “indie” and working in a small, informal team is that you can quite easily ignore any sort of good discipline practices. For example, say you have some boring bit of coding, and you really should do it first because it affects everything else, but there are many more interesting things to work on, like dialogue systems and AI…and so you put it off and put it off until eventually that thought niggles it’s way into your brain that you should really consider looking at it now…and you do, and you’re confronted with the obvious reality, that putting it off has made it harder to do because now you have to wedge that sucker in there.
Sigh, I really should have known better.
The code I’m talking about is some of the modder support. Specifically, “game module” management code. A “game module” is, conceptually, like a Neverwinter Nights module. The theory being that a player should be able to drop a module into their game directory and then simply be able to play it by selecting it from a menu.
Thursday - July 09, 2009
Scars of War - Interview @ GameBanshee
GameBanshee's Brother None interviews Gareth Fouche about Scars of War. Here's a partial grab on his influences:
GB: What are the major influences of Scars of War, and what kind of design philosophy do they combine into?
Gareth: The largest influence is probably my teenage years spent playing pen and paper RPGs, mostly Dungeons and Dragons. Not so much for the gameplay mechanics of D&D, but the experience of the roleplaying itself. The roleplay options available to you when an adaptable human mind controls the world are so far beyond what computers offer as to be night and day. It's a far more fluid, dynamic experience, the opportunities to explore the limits of the roleplaying much broader. I'm the type of player who'd happily spend an entire evening roleplaying the infiltration of a gala ball, chatting up NPCs in search of information without ever rolling a dice for a combat encounter. No surprise, really, that Scars has plenty of content for the roleplayer like me, who enjoys the non-combat side of things as much as poking people with pointed sticks. I won't be able to match what a human GM can, of course, but that won't be from lack of trying.
Wednesday - July 01, 2009
Scars of War - Lore Update
The Scars of War blog has a lore update on the Ryth:
Of all the cultures in the West, probably the hardest to engage with are the people of Rhythikos. Even disregarding their exotic appearance, outsiders generally find the Rhyth aloof, dismissive and incomprehensibly morbid, a perception the Rhyth themselves seem unconcerned with challenging. And indeed, unless one takes the time to understand the Rhythi world view, this opinion of them seems a rather fitting one.
Thursday - June 04, 2009
Scars of War - Legendary Update
In a post titled Legendary, Gareth discusses some of the silly ramifications that flow from converting "legendary" monsters into codified roleplaying systems - particularly at higher levels. It's not directed at Epic D&D but it certainly could be - here's an illustrative story:
His sword-grip slick with sweat, Perseus crept through the dank cavern. Sibilant whispers echoed softly around him, their source maddeningly unknown. She was here, somewhere, waiting. Despite Hades’ cap hiding him from sight, he could feel her watching him, that tingling anticipation of a blow between his shoulder blades, the incessant urge to whirl round and confront the lurking shadows.
The attack, when it came, was a relief. The cavern wall to his left shifted, cunningly-dyed cloth flung aside to reveal a womanly figure. With a scream of triumph, the Medusa flung back her hood, her terrible, petrifying countenance revealed as she leaped towards Perseus, vipers lashing her shoulders.
Luckily, Perseus made his saving throw versus petrification.
Wednesday - May 27, 2009
Scars of War - From Concept to Game Asset
The Blog of War sees an update that demonstrates the prcoess of taking a piece of concept art - in this case, the Maiden's Smile Inn - and generating a complete model.
Monday - May 18, 2009
Scars of War - Development Update
Scars of War developer Gareth Fouche writes on the blog they have decided to move to the newly released Torque 3D engine. The rest of the post is for the tech-heads, with discussion of tools to produce normal maps.
Saturday - May 02, 2009
Scars of War - Joins with Iron Tower Studios
According to Gareth's latest Blog, Scars of War will be coming under the banner of Iron Tower Studios, the developer of the eagerly awaited RPG Age of Decadence. He argues that this move will help both himself and potentially other Indies in the key area of getting noticed. Here's a small section from the blog:
Vince and his team have a vision. They see ITS as not simply a development house but as a sort of indie RPG label or brand. Not a publisher, in the traditional sense, but a way to offer indie devs some of the things that traditional publishers offer mainstream devs, but structured around the idea of a community effort, a pooling of resources and a meeting of equals rather than the traditional master/servant roles that publisher-developer relationships encourage. Strength in numbers, to put it simply.
Check it out, it's a well reasoned explanation.
Friday - April 24, 2009
Scars of War - Faction Profiles
Soln Kayd and the Blackspear Company factions are discussed at the Scars of War blog:
Named for their leader’s signature weapon, the legendary Black Spear of Anados, the Blackspear Company is an infamous mercenary band which can be found operating throughout the Westlands, wherever there is conflict and coin to be made from it. The Company has profited tremendously from the Mirtaran-Lethani war. Currently, the majority of the Companies forces are contracted by the Mirtaran government to bolster it’s eastern border with Lethan and to provide security services within the capital of Endaurvar while the succession is being decided.
Wednesday - April 01, 2009
Scars of War - The Golden Fields of Mirtar
A lore update over at the Scars of War blog, titled The Golden Fields of Mirtar:
“I have paid for exclusive use of this room and I have eyes watching the passageway. We will not be bothered. Present your report.”
As Gideon stated, the situation in Mirtar is a mess. Reports of growing banditry are coming in from all over the realm, and the estimates for the harvest yield are less than half of what they were three years ago. Yet the nobles still squabble in the capital over the succession. And they insist that a full third of the army fortify the city while they do so, in case the Lethani somehow sneak a force across half of Mirtar to attack Endhaurvar again. It is madness.
Tuesday - March 24, 2009
Scars of War - Clothes Maketh the Man
Gareth discusses the potentially controversial idea of clothing adding social modifiers in Scars of War at the official blog:
Normally in games, clothing other than enchanted gear or armor is pretty much irrelevant. If you acquire a gold ring as part of your loot it is generally only worth what you can get for selling it. There is no inherent worth to keeping or wearing said ring because it has no relevance in the game mechanics besides its gold value and the space/weight it takes up. Similarly for things like silk shirts, fancy pants etc.
You can of course play dress-up if you want to and wander around in different costumes, but this is only amusing for a while, and really only amuses the people who like to see what their characters look like in different get-ups. Wouldn’t it be cooler if there was some game mechanic reason influencing your choice of what clothing to wear, like there is with armor?
Friday - March 13, 2009
Scars of War - Screens @ Official Blog
Gareth has posted some early WIP screens from a location called Wayland's Camp, as he explains:
Did a few models for one of the game areas yesterday, suppose it doesn’t hurt to post them. Early days yet, mind, just some tents and pointy sticks thrown together in a test area.
The area is “Wayland’s Camp”, a military camp set up near the Mirtar-Lethan border, where some of the worst devestation is on the Mirtar side. Commander Wayland is in charge of keeping the peace. The camp serves as the main (only) source of Mirtaran strength nearby, outside the camp’s zone of influence it’s fairly dangerous. Refugees flock to the camp, looking for protection, the Mirtarans are stretched thin trying to keep order internally, protect the camp from external threats and patrol for signs of a repeat of the Lethani invasion. To bolster their strength the Mirtaran government has hired mercenaries of the Black Spear Company. You’ll just have to imagine them in these shots. Like I said, I threw it together yesterday.
Tuesday - March 10, 2009
Scars of War - New Art Director
Scars of War is now a two-man team with developer Gareth Fouche announcing the addition of an Art Director:
Ladies, gents, join me in welcoming the newest (and only other) member of “Team SoW”. Zach, aka Collywobbles. Zach is a skilled artist and talented illustrator, his official title in the team is “El Artiste Numero Uno”, or Art Director.
We both agree that collaboration over the course of development is better than me simply purchasing a few illustrations. So Zach’s role in SoW covers all things artistic, with his help the game will be that much more thematic, artistically consistent and visually rich. From guis and modeling to character concepts and the slideshows I am using instead of cutscenes, Zach will be working closely with me to develop all of these. After some lengthy, cut-throat negotiations, I wrangled Zach into agreeing to work for moldy crusts of bread and all the floggings he desires.
Head over for the rest of the post or take a look at some of Zach's concepts at Collywobbles, which Gareth points out are ideas and not necessarily final art.
Sunday - March 01, 2009
Scars of War - Alternative to DRM
Gareth in his always readable SoW Blog has not so much laid into the use of DRM's, but offered an alternative model to prevent game piracy. Check it out here and offer an opinion. Here's a small section for your reading pleasure:
This other direction that I’m talking about is to treat game development not as selling a product but as providing an entertainment service. You don’t just develop a game and drop it in peoples laps. You continually interact with and serve your customers, growing the value of the thing they have paid for. It’s this concept which makes people willing to keep paying for MMOs, if you ask me. A continuous stream of “new stuff” keeps pulling people back in and paying those fees every month.
Not only does it draw in customers, a service is a lot harder/time consuming for pirates to emulate. They’d have to sit there and doggedly crack/distribute each and every update you put out. While some may keep it up for a while, the nature of these hacker kids works in your favor. Most hacker groups are jostling for prestige. Their focus and attention is mainly on the big name titles, the new and shiny. The group who cracks Mass Effect 2 the week it comes out gets more kudos than the guys who crack the 45th small update to some game that came out a year ago, yes? In all likelihood I think that after a while they’d just not be paying attention anymore. Even if they were, the pirated copies on torrent sites would get outdated. Some might have a few of the updates, others might have a few more, but people looking for the latest version of your game would have a harder time sifting through the old stuff for it. And all the while there is the temptation to just go to your site, pay the price and get all the updates easily. The balance shifts and the draw of convenience now favors the developer instead of the pirates.
Saturday - January 24, 2009
Scars of War - Creating Game Religions
Gareth, over at his SOW Blog has a great article on creating Religions for a game world. He not only discusses out how he perceives most game developers have missed the whole point, but offers clear ideas on what he believes needs to be considered. Here's a clever outline of what he sees as the main approach/failings of most developers:
You see, when most CRPG writers sit down to write up the religious lore for their game they generally do something like the following.
1. First, cycle through the basic elements or principles of existence, creating funny names and assigning Gods to those elements. Gods of Fire, Light, Nature, Being Mean to People, etc etc
2. Assign two dimensional personalities to these Gods based around their particular element. Fire Gods are quick-tempered, Life Gods are compassionate, Being Mean to People Gods tend to enjoy stealing your lunch money and kicking puppies.
3. Assign each God to a race. Because nothing says 3 dimensional lore quite like assigning a single overarching principle to an entire racial group. But hey, Elves are already scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel, why not go all out and assign a nature deity to them, one that is neutral even! Tradition demands it.
3. Make up some sort of creation myth involving these Gods. Something about how they get together in the beginning of time and create the world then each goes off and creates the initial members of their favored race. Later they probably all squabble with the God of Being Mean to People. And then maybe the other Gods triumph over him and lock him away where he can’t possibly escape, unless the Orcs or Necromancers or whoever find his tomb and conduct a ritual requiring 5 pieces of a magic amulet/crystal/staff. Which get scattered across the world, instead of being safely locked away in the divine wall safe.
4. Done! Creativity redefined! Now you only have to assign spell lists to priests, which is easy ‘cause the Gods are already cleanly divided into neat categories.
Check it out.
Tuesday - January 13, 2009
Scars of War - The Experience?
Gareth over at his Scars of War Blog has a fascinating rant on what he sees as a current trend in game design to focus on 'The Experience', rather than the core mechanics of interesting and deep gameplay. Here's a key section:
He talks about letting a player “experience it” without playing. Experience…a game…without playing. It’s another oxymoron. You can’t experience gameplay without actually playing. You can only experience the frills, the environment art and the cut-scenes and storyline. This statement shows a clear and worrying belief that “The Experience” of a game is the superficial bits, the bits that are closest to movies, and not the gameplay itself.
So what’s happened? They are looking into ways that players can experience that superficial icing without eating the cake, without actually playing. Not coming up with some sort of intelligent way of adjusting the gameplay on the fly, of customizing the gameplay experience to the player skill with finer granularity than simple Easy/Normal/Hard difficulties. No, they are inventing ways for the player to skip gameplay.
Like Ben Mattes, this patent misses the point. The gameplay is the experience. If players are skipping the gameplay to watch cutscenes you have failed as a game designer. You shouldn’t be designing clever ways for the player to bypass gameplay. You should be designing clever ways for the game to adjust itself to be appropriate to the player, or alternate routes.
Wednesday - December 10, 2008
Scars of War - Notorious Gangstah
A new post at the Scars of War blog talks about one of the potentially most interesting but difficult parts of a CRPG: reputation. Here's the intro:
Thought I’d make a quick post about the notoriety concept I have for SoW. In a lot of RPGs, if you commit a crime and NPCs/guards see it they will go hostile/on alert and then chase you around. Now, if they lose sight of you, one of two things generally happens. The NPC forgets about you after a while and goes back to wandering around as per normal, even greeting you later, or they forever afterward immediately attack you on sight.
Personally, I find that a bit unsatisfying. But it’s a tricky problem to solve, there a whole number of real world variables to consider in this equation.
Wednesday - November 26, 2008
Scars of War - Theme Supporting Mechanics
The always informative Scars of War Blog has an interesting read on Theme Supporting Mechanics. Here's a little:
In the previous post on Fallout 3 I mentioned how I liked the repair and radiation mechanics, how I found that those mechanics did a lot to convey that Post Apocalyptic, scavenging-in-the-rubble feeling for me.
I’ve been thinking about that aspect recently, about designing game mechanics which serve to directly support the theme you are trying to convey to the player. I think it does a lot to add flavor to your gameplay, to create a memorable experience in the player’s mind. These mechanics tend to stand out in the player’s memory.
I’ve been sifting through my own memory for a list of all the games that had this kind of mechanic in them. Now, a theme-supporting gameplay mechanic is different from a quest, encounter or special ability. A theme-supporting mechanic is something which conveys some fundamental aspect of the setting via a system which the player “plays".
Check it out.
Thursday - November 06, 2008
Scars of War - Race and Nationality
Scars of War developer Gareth Fouche backs up yesterday's blog entry with a post on Race and Nationality:
I talked about how most of the race options available to players in SoW are actually just different types of humans, different cultures and bloodlines. And the question I got was “What kind of war calls together such a diverse array of cultures at one time?”
To answer that, I need to clarify one aspect of my design. In SoW I’m doing something a bit different to most fantasy RPGs. In SoW, race is not equivalent to nationality.
In most fantasy, you have the Kingdom of the Humans, the Kingdom of the Elves, the Orc Lands, etc etc. I find this…very boring.
In real life, humanity is rather fond of playing musical chairs, culturally. While sure, there are places where you can find most people being of a certain race and cultural group, much of the time you will find different cultural groups within countries, even if people all look the same. War, religion, emigration…people move around. Sometimes they integrate into the whole but often there are small, tight-knit communities of said cultural groups in amidst the greater society, groups who maintain that culture’s traditions.
Wednesday - November 05, 2008
Scars of War - Build Points
The latest Scars of War blog update talks about breaking out of a mindset and how that changed the character system:
The fundamental change to character creation was the move to Build Points, a concept I ripped directly from Shadowrun, although I’m sure a number of other systems use the concept as well. The basic idea is that you have a number of points with which to build your character and a pool of character options to choose from. Each option costs points, and you can spend on these features until your points are depleted.
Sounds fairly familiar to normal stat buy systems, right? Not quite. The fundamental difference is that your build point pool is shared across ALL character creation options. In a standard point buy system you might have 10 points to distribute on attributes and 100 points to spend on skills. All characters within that system will have the same number of attribute points to spend, 10.
In a build point system you would have say 120 points, which you choose to distribute across attributes AND skills as you see fit. You can spend more on attributes if you want, but that in turn leaves less points left over to spend on skills. Characters aren’t guaranteed to have the same amount of distributed attribute points.
Tuesday - October 14, 2008
Scars of War - Planar Geography
A new update on the Scars of War blog, with an in-character lore post:
An Introduction to the Fundamental Nature of Existence and Magic (part 1)
by Professor Murandus, head of the Department of Metaplanar Studies, Torvaire University.
At the heart of all things, at the root of matter, energy, life, death and everything in-between, is Quan. The primordial essence, Quan is the foundation of everything that is, was, or will be.
Yet Quan, being the foundation of everything, is also, itself, nothing. Quan is the fundamental potential, the primal becoming, the foundation of being. The entirety of existence is built upon Quan, yet you could not see Quan, nor taste it, nor hear its sublime song, not with any mortal perception. Only those born with the gift can sense Quan, those we call magi, sorcerers, witches and wizards. And for them it is a double-edged sword.
The existence that mortal men know as “reality”, the solidity of stone underfoot, the wisp of breath in one’s lungs, the sweat on one’s brow in the hot midday sun, all these things that men hold as substantial, tangible, reliable in their natures and properties, all these things are merely some form worn by the Quan like a garment, some shape it has been bent into, a single possibility out of the infinite shapes that Quan can take.
Tuesday - September 30, 2008
Scars of War - The Joy of Numbers
Scars of War dev Gareth Fouche spent the weekend playing with the underlying equations and making tweaks, as described in his new blog entry The Joy of Numbers. A small grab:
You might be wondering “why do this now?". Well, the underlying character system has been revamped considerably over the last few months, and I needed to sit down and properly balance all the changes.
Let me discuss the changes a bit :
- Removal of mana. No mana anymore. Actions use stamina, casting spells included. This provides a natural balance since swinging heavy weapons and wearing heavy armor drains stamina, the same resource you use to cast magic. Which explains why mages don’t like heavy armor quite logically.
- Moving away from character “levels” to a large degree. I used to do the Dungeons and Dragons thing, where going up levels gave you more hit points and a bunch of skill points to spend. No more. The game still tracks your level based on how much experience you have earned, as a relative measure, but it has little effect beyond that. There is one thing I’m tying to it, but I’ll discuss that later. Most of the system doesn’t care about level.
Saturday - September 20, 2008
Scars of War - Is Death Necessary?
In his latest Scars of War Blog, Gareth discusses whether or not Death is really necessary in an RPG. Here's a little from his introduction:
Could a game where the challenge of death was removed actually be fun? Seriously? And if so, how would you make it fun and challenging for the player?
To answer the first question, I think that yes, you can make a game without death fun and challenging. Allow me to elaborate.
Firstly, we need to analyze it from a game design point of view. Is it actually death the player is afraid of in RPGs?
It can’t be death. The player can’t permanently die. A quick whack on reload and WHOOSH, back to life and fighting fit. No one would actually play a game with a real threat of death, anymore than anyone would ride a roller coaster that had a good chance of actually hurling you into the ground at high velocity. So what are players afraid of?
You'll have to check it out to discover the answer.
Wednesday - September 17, 2008
Scars of War - Knowledge and Skill
Gareth Fouche writes about aspects of the skill system in Scars of War:
Basically, in SoW, there are two types of skills, Active and Knowledge. Active skills are a measure of how well you can perform some activity, whereas Knowledge skills measure how much you know on a certain topic. An example of an Active skill is Stealth whereas an example of a Knowledge skill is Ancient History(Talurian Empire). Now, in real life everything you do contains elements of knowledge and skill but, for simplicities sake, I divide skills into these two sets. For example, Herbalism is a Knowledge skill, because it is primarily about knowing what herbs are what, even though there might be elements of skill to how you mix the herbs. Likewise, Healing (non-magical doctoring) is a Knowledge skill; I’m sure that practicing your bandaging technique is useful but most of the benefit is gained by knowing the human body and it’s ailments.
Monday - August 04, 2008
Scars of War - Platform Restrictions
Gareth over at Scars of War has posted an excellent opinion piece on the practice of some publishers to restrict which platforms a game can be released on, by making certain high profile games platform exclusive. Here's a taste to whet your appetite:
Well, and perhaps I’m just imagining this, but it just seems to me like it was different in the past. “The Games Industry ” was less of a well oiled, money-making machine and more a sprawling, dysfunctional family, filled with crazy, passionate, eccentric cousins. Like John Romero. Even his fall from grace had personality. The developers were geeks like us, enthusiastic about magic swords and spaceships and all that other nerdy stuff. You could tell they were excited about what they were doing, passionate about sharing that excitement with gamers, passionate about people playing their games.
And I don’t think that passion has gone, really. Many developers are still enthusiastic, when they can be, when they aren’t making Madden clones. They’re just not the driving force in the industry anymore. That enthusiasm has been subsumed by the console wars and publisher bottom lines. The urge to push more hardware units, to be THE big summer release.
Head over and check it out.
Wednesday - July 30, 2008
Scars of War - Lazar, Part2 Lore
The Scars of War blog has kicked up a second piece of lore about the Lazar:
The situation in Adusk is still highly volitile Commander. I have the men stationed throughout the city, watching for any signs of gathering, and the evening curfew is still in place, but we’re simply stretched too thin, if the bastards take it into their minds to try something then things will get ugly. It is my recommendation that more troops be dispatched to Adusk at once and remain stationed here for no less than one month, and that law keeping duties be undertaken by military personnel until a replacement can be found to command the City Watch.
Friday - July 25, 2008
Scars of War - A Different Look at Game Accessibility
In his latest Scars of War Blog, Gareth tackles the ticklish question of game accessibility from a novel perspective, trying to interest his girlfriend in playing computer games. It proved to be not only a challenge, but an interesting learning experience with an important conclusion. Here's a small section:
I decide to choose the next game. Diablo 2, I say. Surely, Diablo 2 will work. I remember it as simple as all hell to play. Click click click. Plus, it’s an entry point into real RPGs. More than that, “Operation : Gamer Girlfriend” has a sub-goal, “Prepare Her For D3 Co-op Next Year".
So I get her into the game, she chooses a character and we load up in the Rogues camp. And I begin to explain the controls and concepts behind the game.
10 minutes later, when I’m still talking and demonstrating, I realise it isn’t quite as simple as I perceived it to be. I had imagined something along the lines of “your health orb is here, your mana orb is there, press i for inventory, and go!“
In fact, the whole thing really drove home just much our (by which I mean the “hardcore” gamers’) experience of games is driven by this framework of understanding that we have all built up over years, decades. It’s not that casual gamers are stupid, far from it. It’s simply that we’ve all been “swimming” for most of our lives and don’t understand why, when you take someone who has barely dipped their toes in before and tell them to swim the English Channel, they don’t enjoy it.
Thursday - July 10, 2008
Scars of War - New 'Special' Screenshots
Gareth has posted some newly created screen shots for his Indie RPG Scars of War over at his Blog site. Check them out for an idea of just how good this game is going to look.
Saturday - June 21, 2008
Scars of War - Cross Training
Over at the Scars of War blog, Gareth has been musing about the way players tend to specialise in one weapon skill and thinking of ways to change this paradigm. I like his thinking - here's the intro:
You know, it’s funny, sometimes little things make you realise that your thinking is trapped “inside the box", as it were. No matter how hard you try your design philosophy is often heavily influenced by what has gone before.
For example. I was looking at combat skills again last night. I’ve never been quite satisfied with how the weapon training works. SoW is a skill based system, right. No classes, you just choose the skills you want your character to have. However, people generally like to build “the best” character they can. Which means, if you offer a range of weapon skills, people tend to choose just one (most often Swords) and max that, neglecting the others. Perhaps they take a ranged weapon as well. In a class system the warrior classes tend to automatically confer at least some skill in a broader range of weaponry. But players in a skill system tend to look at this as a “waste".
Instead what they will tend to do is use any leftover skillpoints or training on skills outside their archetype, like taking healing magic. Because it offers more utility than skills they will never use. Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, especially if it is within your character concept. But it bothers me that training in other weapons is seen as a waste. Cross training should be desirable, an inner voice insists.
Wednesday - June 18, 2008
Scars of War - Feed Me Seymour
Gareth Fouche has picked up the Eschalon II food/water debate over at the Scars of War blog, with quite a detailed post. In essence, Gareth argues that food/water can be a worthwhile element if there are choices and decisions to make, beyond just buying a bunch of food:
Coming back to hunger, food supplies serve as a natural “soft barrier” for traveling to hostile or far off locations. Instead of saying “you aren’t high enough level/haven’t uncovered the plot hook required to travel there yet” you simply say “traveling there will require 1 months supply of food and the means of carrying it (mules)". I can think of 4 ways off the top of my head of solving this. You could buy enough supplies to make the trip. You could learn a forage skill/magic spell that lets you circumvent the need to take your own food. You could find maps of the land which show oases along the route, allowing you to restock along the way. These maps could be the reward for solving quests or helping NPCs, alternate forms of reward to simply giving money and items. Or you could hire a guide, someone who knows the way and can find food for you. This guide may be expensive (money being another form of resource management mechanic the player juggles) or hard to locate.
Wednesday - June 11, 2008
Scars of War - Lore Update
For those following Scars of War, Gareth has kicked up a lore update on the nation of Athar:
Athar is a country of rain, fog and more rain. Like a ragged tooth jutting from the continent, Athar extends out to encircle the warm waters of the Nimar Sea, which separates it from Mirtar to the north and Lethan to the east. To the west of Athar lies the colder Suleun (Soo - leen) Ocean whose tides bring traders from far off Leimos and Zadhaz. The two bodies of water meet south of the tip of Athar and their interaction leads to the fierce storms which wrack the coastline for much of the year. As one moves north from the coast into mainland Athar the land begins to rise, becoming hilly and heavily forested. From the forested foothills of northern Athar rise the craggy peaks of the Lidderhon (Little Horn) mountain range which runs all the way into Koeth. [...]
Wednesday - May 28, 2008
Scars of War - Falling Out
Scars of War developer Gareth Fouche reveals on his blog that - shock, horror - he hadn't previously played Fallout. The entry then goes on to describe one particular experience that illustrates one of Fallout's core strengths (spoilers, I suppose - but you've all played it, right?):
The interesting part for me was how the interrogation played out. Every time I refused to answer he hit me, in the normal game view. Now most games use cut-scenes for this kind of scenario and the funny thing is that robs it of some of the drama. It’s like the designer is winking at you to let you know that this part of the game is “special” so you don’t worry so much about making the wrong choice. When was the last time a cut-scene killed you, the player? Most are there to provide a kind of drama but the fact that you don’t have much control over the event means it is unlikely the designer would kill you in such a manner, which in turn decreases drama, ironically.
Wednesday - May 14, 2008
Scars of War - The Gingerbread Villa
A minor update at the Scars of War blog, with Gareth showing a sun-drenched villa model coming together, starting with some concept art that didn't quite hit the mark.
Tuesday - May 06, 2008
Scars of War - False Choices
Over at the development blog for Scars of War, Gareth follows up on a comment from Scorpia on false choices. It's an excellent subject and a good read - here's the intro, which explains the topic:
That last series of posts about failure in RPGs generated a fair bit of discussion, both in the comments/forum and on other blogs. But one comment by Scorpia really got me thinking. The comment was in relation to failing a skill check :
For one thing, any time a skill check is made, we figure, “this must be important”, or why bother? Who wants to screw up something important? Who knows what the developer has in mind here, and what terrible thing might happen if we don’t succeed?
This comment is really interesting, especially if you think about it not just in the context of a skill check but in the bigger picture of the entire game, the plot and your path through it. Because it illustrates a design flaw which is especially harmful in roleplaying games. False choice.
To illustrate let me present you with a scenario. Before you is 2 doors and a sign. On the sign it says “Left door : Instant Death, Right door : Continue on your way".
Is this a choice? No, it is a false choice. Sure, there are 2 paths, but one has such a disincentive to following it that it may as well not exist.
Saturday - April 26, 2008
Scars of War - Avoiding Chance and Reloading
Over at Naked Ninja's Scars of War Blog is another excellent and thought provoking article on how a game designer might try to encourage players not to continually save and reload when something goes wrong. Here's a taste:
The worst part of this is really how it kills immersion and the game’s sense of tension. I remember in the Trial in Neverwinter Nights 2, instead of it being a series of tense courtroom arguments and counter arguments it became a game of “keep reloading until you get the optimal result". It still resulted in stupid combat in the end, but I didn’t know that at the time. Nevertheless, any attempts to get me immersed in the legal battle underway were undermined by the fact that I was “gaming the system". Now, I’m a roleplayer type, I love playing a role. But the temptation is just too much for me in games. And so I, effectively, cheat.
Check it out and then discuss his ideas in our forums.
Wednesday - April 09, 2008
Scars of War - Character Generation
This week's Scars of War Blog has an interesting piece on ways to be creative with character generation. I found this part caught my attention:
To elaborate : First you get to pick your childhood background. Under what circumstances were you born. Were you a simple peasants son, working in the field? Or perhaps you were a gutter rat, an orphan surviving by his wits on the cruel streets of a big city. Maybe you were the offspring of a famed scholar and explorer, well educated but spending little time with a parent who was always away exploring foreign lands? Anyway, you choose an option, and that represents your childhood. Each option will provide different character customisation effects. A peasant may have grown strong and hardy through long hours of hard work, but lack much in the way of education/knowledge related skills. The Gutter Rat knows how to steal and stay hidden, how to bluff his way out of trouble, but isn’t particularly fit (malnourishment has that effect). I also want to provide roleplaying attached to these. The scholars son might be known amoungst academics, the Peasant might recieve bonuses/different dialogues when talking to other farmers, etc etc
Jump over and check out the entire article.
Wednesday - April 02, 2008
Scars of War - Mage Gameplay
Over at regular forum poster Naked Ninja's Scars of War game blog, is an excellent explanation of how to build Mage gameplay into an RPG, rather than simply playing a Mage character. Here's a slice from the introduction:
There is a difference, between playing as a mage and there being “mage gameplay” in a game. It’s similar and perhaps easier to illustrate with thieves/rogues. Almost every rpg lets you play as a thief. But few actually have any gameplay built around “thiefy” activities. You don’t generally sneak around buildings at night, case out targets or bribe guards. The gameplay is almost always focused around combat. In other words : “fighter gameplay". Playing a thief or a wizard is pretty much playing much like playing a warrior, but with different tools to kill enemies with.
If he is able to produce all he's planning within the game, then this little Indie could set some new and desperately needed higher standards for playing a Mage. You'll find the entire article right here.
Information aboutScars of War
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Publisher: Unknown