Sunday, July 12, 2015

Devblog: New Version Released (Engalia: The Wager)

I've added a new download for this game. Most of the changes made are aimed at balancing the battles so that they're more difficult than they were in the previous version, but there also some other changes thrown in for good measure. Most of the changes that I was hoping to make are discussed in this blog-post, but I'll give a quick run-down of the changes here.

Balance Changes

As explained in the previous blog post:
  • Most enemies have had their HP raised by at least 50%. This means that it takes more than just a couple of attack-all skills to wipe out enemy parties. This isn't true for some enemies that already had a lot of HP; I don't want enemies to have too much health!
  • Most enemies have also had their attack, intellect and defence increased by approximately 20%. I was originally only going to change the main attack stat that enemies had, but I think this was the better change. 
  • In addition to modifying enemy stats, I've also made it so that most enemy skills now do exactly 40 more base-damage than they did before.
  • Poison and Burn are now retained after battle, and so need to be dealt with if you don't want to take damage whilst moving. They also won't wear off naturally (unlike other status effects), so they need to be dealt with in boss battles as well!
  • Enemies that accompany bosses have higher HP in line with the fact that they're technically boss enemies themselves. This should make some of the boss encounters more interesting, such as the Frost Wyrm and the Skeleton King.
  • It also seems that healing skills were too strong, so they've been nerfed twice over. Firstly, they now cost the same as they originally did, which is twice as much as they do in the current release. They also heal by less than they did before (but more than they originally did) so you're going to have to be more careful with MP use on your chosen healer.
  • Oh, and the last boss is much more of a bastard now: That's for sure!
The aim of these changes is to make it so enemies are dangerous enough that attempting to button-bash through several battles will get you killed, but not so dangerous that any single battle (other than boss battles) is capable of completely wrecking your shit. What I'm aiming to do is make the game a battle to survive in the sense that, because there's are a limited number of items you can get whilst in the dungeon, you'll need to be efficient to get all the way through the game without straight-up running out of ways to heal yourself. My testing seems to indicate that I'm close to that level of danger, although it wouldn't shock me if I've gone slightly too far. What I do know is that the game isn't as hard as it originally was, which I'm trying pretty hard to avoid, and that it's possible to complete the game with a variety of party compositions. As long as you're sensible about having a good balance between support/damage-dealing classes, you should be able to make it through.

Skill Loci and Focus Loci

Probably the biggest addition to the game in this version are "Skill Loci" and "Focus Loci", equippable items that either allow your heroes to use new skills or give them a boost to their stats. You will get one of each whenever you open a chest whilst travelling through Nyodymous Cave, and they've been added to the game so that the player has more customisation options than they did in the previous version (you could only find rings and amulets in the previous version!). A word of warning: The stronger the Loci, the more it's a detriment to the things that it doesn't improve!



Skill and Focus Loci give the player more options for customising their heroes!

Other Stuff

I fixed a bunch of things that didn't really make sense in the last release. For example, as I made obvious in the last blog post, I've fixed the bridges so that they're a lot easier to spot. I've fixed Feylin's "Sacrifice" and "Mass Sacrifice" skills so that they can only be used in battle, as originally intended (this wasn't as trivial as it sounds!). I've also made it so that Elene's Tarot skill is properly animated as previous there was a ~1 second waiting time between the animation finishing and damage being dealt that was incredibly jarring. There's a bunch of other stuff that I've also fixed or tweaked, but most of it is minor optimisation of events or the fixing of small bugs (ie. passability errors) so I won't go into them here.

Conclusions

Some stuff was fixed. Some stuff was added. Some stuff was re-balanced. The game should be better now. I hope people enjoy it more than the last release and I look forward to hearing people's comments!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Devblog: Gotta Keep On Improving!

I was pretty disappointed after reading CashmereCat's review for Engalia: The Wager (which you can find here: http://rpgmaker.net/games/6014/reviews/4034/) because it seems like a lot of the changes I made to fix problems people had with the original release had gone too far. In trying to make the game easier, I'd made it too trivial and therefore boring to play through. Obviously this is something that needs to be fixed, and there are also other problems that I'd like to tackle at the same time. I'm going to be taking the current download down whilst I fix these problems.

Things That Need To Be Fixed

The main problem seems to be that battles are too easy to beat without actually thinking about what you're doing, which is obviously a big deal in a game that focuses heavily on battles. So first of all, I've gone back into the database and tweaked enemy damage and stats so that they're between when the original release had and what the current release has. This should make the game somewhat more challenging and force people to be more mindful of their strategies, especially against the mini-boss and boss enemies. As far as balance changes go, the pointers would be that:

  • All enemies have had their HP raised by 150%. This means that it takes more than just a couple of attack-all skills to wipe out enemy parties, and puts more focus on killing enemies that cast heal-all first since you shouldn't be able to win a war of attrition against them as easily as before. 
  • All enemies have also had their main damage-dealing stat increased by 150%. This means that spell-casters have had their intelligence raised by 150% and that other enemies have had their attack raised by 150%. Enemies dealing more damage will make healing less effective than it seems to be in the current release, which I hope makes things a bit more difficult. 
  • Poison and Burn are now retained after battle, and so need to be dealt with if you don't want to take damage whilst moving. Before, it was too easy to ignore these status effects if you were in a random encounter since the encounter didn't normally last so long that they'd become a massive problem. They were more of an annoyance, which isn't the point. They're meant to be a danger. They also won't wear off naturally (unlike other status effects), so they need to be dealt with in boss battles as well! 
  • Enemies that accompany bosses have higher HP in line with the fact that they're technically boss enemies themselves. This should make some of the boss encounters more interesting, such as the Frost Wyrm and the Skeleton King. 
  • It also seems that healing skills were too strong, so they've been nerfed twice over. Firstly, they now cost the same as they originally did, which is twice as much as they do in the current release. They also heal by less than they did before, so you're going to have to be more careful with MP use on your chosen healer (there are only really two...)

Another problem brought up was the level design, specifically that bridges are too hard to spot, which I guess I agree with. I'm personally pretty used to seeing bridges like the ones this game currently has so I didn't notice it was a problem, but obviously I know exactly where the bridges are! Here is what the bridges are going to look like; note that there are gaps between the wooden slats so you can see through to the ground or, in this case, through to the trademark blue-hair of Zack! 

Wooden bridges might not make a great deal of sense deeper in the cave, but I think that concession is better than making it hard on the player to see what the fuck is going on. The alternative would be no vertical bridges, but it's too late to reverse that decision... 

There were also some other problems brought up about the battles that had little to do with balance, such as the game running too slowly etc. so there are some things I'm going to fix in that area as well:

  • I'm going to find a way to make the battles go faster by messing with the agility stats of heroes and enemies. Hopefully this should be possible without using patches, but the fact of the matter is that the ATB in RM2K3 has always run a little slow and I don't know if there is anything I can do about it. I personally think the ATB runs at an okay-ish speed - approximately similar to some of the PSX Final Fantasy games such as Final Fantasy IX - but making it a little bit faster can't do any harm. 
  • I'm going to re-add the ability for people to choose between "Active" and "Wait" so that people can, if they so choose, give themselves more time to think about what they're doing in battle. It can be kinda annoying to have enemies hit you when you're still reading the descriptions of the skills available!

Something I'd Like To Add

Cashmere (and some other people) have brought up that they'd like more character customisation. Currently, the only customisation you get is in the form of amulets and rings that are dropped by Mimic-chests. I don't know if I really want to add additional weapons to the game because that sounds really difficult given that there are so many bloody heroes in this game; heroes also need to have the correct type of weapon equipped else they can't use some of their skills (although this is only really a concern for physical skills; I really should've made all the character's weapons "cursed" so they can't be removed by the player because that kinda fucks things up...) 

What I will probably do is make it so that you can find "Orbs" or "Crystals" or "Materia" or "Espers" (or whatever name I come up with) that equip to the "Shield" and "Armour" slots. The "Shield" set would increase a hero's stats, giving you some strategic choice, with more powerful increases causing a decrease in other stats to balance it out. The "Armour" set could give a hero a skill that they don't already know, which again gives you some strategic options. Does that sound like a good idea? I think that's a good idea to work with!

The Thing I Ain't Changing

There are, of course, some things from the review that I don't agree with. The main one would be that I don't agree the encounter rate is too high. I said in reply to the review that the encounter rate is triggered after 15 steps, but having now looked at the eventing I see that the encounter rate chooses a random number between 25 and 35 steps. I feel that having at least 25 steps, given that the maps are approximately 50x50, is very reasonable. This is something that I won't be changing. 

Conclusions

This game still isn't where I want it to be. I did mention when I released the "final" version that it probably wouldn't be the "final" version if people were forthcoming with criticism. It's clear that there are quick ways to make this game better than it currently is, so I'm going to look to implement them over the course of the next week. Hopefully people give it another chance afterwards, but they probably won't. Barely anyone has played it as is. Oh well, it was only a contest game, but there's no reason not to patch it up where I can.