Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #9: Deliveries and Effects

In case you couldn't tell, the change to combat speed is a really big thing. This is something that is going to bleed over into numerous areas and alter combat significantly. One thing that I want to make clear is that the one successful strike per second applies to Damage, Status, and Mental attacks. But fortunately this isn't the only way we have in place to prevent machine gunning these things.

Damage Attacks

  There are two kinds of damage attacks, packet and boffer. We want to clarify that these two will work the same way with the single exception that packets are thrown, and most boffers are not. This means the both packet and boffer damage attacks can be blocked with weapons and shields. We also wanted to clarify the way calls are made. We've broken the call into three parts which I will discuss in no particular order here. First, we all know the damage <number> part. This states how much damage is being caused by the attack assuming it successfully hits. Second we have the <type> of damage which indicates if the particular attack will be considered aggravated damage to the target.
  Finally we have added a new part called the <meta>. While an attack will have only one number and one type, it can have a number of meta calls. The primary disadvantage of meta calls is that they will take much longer to make the attack. Meta calls already exist in SA but they don't really have a clear designation in the rules. Powers such as Umbra Strike, Breach, and Balefire already use a meta call. Some <meta> calls can be applied onto other types of attack powers such as status and mental. We're specifically breaking this out so that we can have a clear list of what we can expect to fall into this category. Below are a few examples of some <meta> calls:

Disarm - A disarm attack that strikes a targets weapon causes him to drop the weapon if he does not resist the attack.

Tainted - If this attack is not resisted immediately the target will become tainted.

Unresistable - This attack can not be resisted. Targets that are immune will still state “no effect”.

  You may notice Disarm up there as a meta call. This change means that a character using the fatal flaw power would add the "Disarm" meta onto their attack call. If the attack strikes a weapon the defender will be forced to drop the weapon. If it strikes the defender's body they would instead take damage from the attack. So you might see an attack call of "Disarm Silver 1". With avoidance this attack could be resisted even if it only hit a weapon.
  Damage attacks are currently primarily resisted with the avoidance power. This is somewhat of a mainstay power that is really vital to long term survivability of anyone who is seeking to engage in heavy combat. One issue with the current iteration of this power is that it doesn't scale at all with the difficulty of an opponent. Avoidance allows me to resist a damage attack for 2 energy regardless of if the attacker is swinging for one regular point of damage, or eight points of fire damage. The issue with this is that a character with 20 energy can take 15 hits of an opponent swinging 2, or 12 hits of an opponent swinging 8. The totem swinging 8 is not really a bigger threat even though they happen to swing 4 times harder than the ghoul with might.

  It's worth noting here that PC's damage range is typically around 1-3 damage per swing. There are people who can hit for four and five damage per swing, but these are exceptions and they have put notable experience and IG effort into doing so. Most new or moderate characters we expect to swing for 1 or 2 damage, elder vampires and crinos ahroun three, alphas and werewolf elders four or maybe five if the moon is just right.

  We wanted each of those points to be more significant and bring in a more substantial reward for increasing damage. Avoidance is now looking like the following:

Avoidance - (Self)

Cost: Energy equal to the <number> of the damage attack call.

Call: “Resist”

You may resist a single damage attack and any meta calls associated with it.

  So in our above example with the Disarm Silver 1 attack it would only cost a single point of energy to resist the attack. However, when facing a totem level character you might have to pay six or eight energy to resist the attack. Suddenly the 20 energy character can survive 4 hits from the totem who is essentially their god instead of 12. However, for the character swinging 2, things remain the same. It is still 15 hits to take an opponent down. I use the totem example as an extreme case. The difference between the 15 hits for an opponent swinging 2s is now 10 hits for an opponent swinging 3s, 8 hits for an opponent swinging 4s, and let's not forget 30 hits for an opponent swinging 1s. Also each hit can come no faster than once per second, so you gain a lot of survivability by not taking all 15 of those hits in the first three or four seconds of combat.
  There were initial concerns about the math of this system. But we realized that after very little practice we all fell into the same routine of handling it. Mentally we counted our energy on top of our health for one big pool. If I have 10 health and 15 energy then I have a pool of 25 possible damage to take. If I get below 10 I need to start taking the damage, but the math stays the same. If I use a power it deducts one from the pool. This actually made handling the fairly easy. 

Mental Attacks

  Mental attacks are a huge part of the game, huge. For me the fact that I can use a power on a target and the player has to play that they don't know what happened is the largest difference between SA and lesser LARPs. Unfortunately, they are often one of the most commonly misplayed parts of the game when it comes to combat. In spite of several clarifications the exact rules for using mentals in combat remain difficult for people to follow. We wanted this to change mostly so more people understood and could follow the rules. We wanted to avoid the confusion that was currently taking place and we also really wanted to get rid of the OOG touch thing that never made any sense. If we're attempting to play a WSYWIG game, we shouldn't run around touching people and saying it is OOG.
  Our solution was to establish a mental range. The range we decided on was about ten feet. The "about" is a very important piece of this picture. We did NOT want people stopping the game to measure. We also don't have a problem with 10 feet occasionally being 12 or even 15 feet. We hope that it will be pretty obvious when a target is at 20 feet and not a viable target. About 10 feet is conversational range or close combat range, but not hiding behind my battle line distance. We want you to be able to target any person who is within about 10 feet.
  However, if I'm surrounded by four bad guys who are all trying to get swings in at me and I shout "snarl" (which under the current SA rules is not a legal attack in this situation) the four bad guys shouldn't have to go OOG to decide who I was attacking. So as an additional requirement, you need to have the attention of your target and your target (the player) must understand that they are being targeted. This means that a character can't ignore me to avoid mentals, and neither can a player. If they're actively ignoring me then they probably realize that I'm targeting them. Now there happens to be many ways you can indicate a target IG. First off you can still touch them. If I tap you on the shoulder and say Horrid Reality, it is obvious who I am targeting. But this touch is IG. You can also point, with your finger. But this will only work if the player is facing you. You can also call out IG something to grab their attention. "Hey, you in the stupid red hat with a big ostrich feather. <Terror>". In combat if someone runs right up to you, looks right into your eyes, and says "Monsters", you'll know what to do.

  Our testing showed this worked really well in the most chaotic of combats. It also means that if someone is being extensively pummeled by numerous people, your mental probably won't be able to land unless you run up and get right in their face. For casual situations it also worked great because you didn't have to deal with the awkward OOG touch.

  But this wasn't all we wanted clarified. The ability to hand out mentals at longer range had to be tempered and balanced. One thing we also weren't fond of was that your willpower rating seemed to simply be an indication of how many mentals you would need to be hit with before one would effect you. Most people resist mental attacks immediately before even considering the situation. This causes an strange chain mental attack to get through someone's willpower so your mental would actually do something. In a limited energy environment this would be a problem. We also felt  there were mentals that opened up good RP opportunity being resisted because people didn't want it to become a threat later on. We really wanted mentals to be effective to guide people towards things they aren't incredibly opposed to and willpower be used to avoid those things that they feel too greatly violated their characters desires. We felt that requiring the resist up front was actually what was causing the bulk of the problem.
  What we wanted was we wanted willpower to Break mentals, not resist them. This specifically would allow for characters to take the effect and only worry about breaking it if it put them in a really bad of a spot. It made characters with extensive willpower very difficult to control and it gave some opportunity to people that were under the effects of a mental. The less wholesale nature made for much more interesting situations. No longer could you trust that the obedienced opponent was really on your side for good, he might break out of it. The beast minded guy would behave oddly for a bit but when five other guys came in to take him out he'd suddenly snap out of it realizing his life was on the line. Overall we saw that most mentals would stick for at least 20-30 seconds before being broken, rather than being resisted straight away. This rewarded mental attackers by getting some payout for using their power. It also got rid of the ability for mental attackers to just chain cast their mental until a target stopped moving. If you hit me with merciful sleep 5 times, I'll take it, then resist, get up and keep on running. It only takes 1 willpower after the last one sticks for me to get free.
  It was also much more fun to get hit with a mental power. With terror I'd run for a bit, decide I wanted to be back in a fight, burn the willpower and return after around a minute. With obedience I'd start off obeying the command but when it was starting to look like it might get me killed I'd decide that I was done with this particular command and break it. My initial reaction became to roll with the mental until it put me in a really bad spot. So instead of being instantly resisted, it became a great opportunity for RP.

  I know there will be some concern that this change might decrease the power of mentals overall. In a few ways it is definitely true. No longer will you be able to chain mentals at a target. No more 5 snarls to insure that the target takes one. But I think we can all agree, this was cheesy anyway. There's also no more guarantee that a person who runs off after being terrored won't come running back in another minute. But again, otherwise the would have resisted the power immediately and they wouldn't be running off at all anyway, or they would have just broken the power in the first 5 seconds anyway in which there's really no change. This change also clears up the issue with knowing if your target has resisted the attack or not. The normal response will be to take a power for at least a little while except in the most extreme circumstances such as debilitating effects such as merciful sleep and horrid reality. At which point we're really not experiencing any change.
  Also the little things are more likely to stick. Passion will be more useful, as will things like induce sin, because if I end up in a situation I'm not fond of I can break out of it. but otherwise I'll roll with it for a while to see where it goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #8: The whole dying process

I wanted to break down the entire dying process just to give a clear picture of what it will look like under the new system. I included a chart below because that became a thing recently.

  You have health, you have maximum health, you're alive.

  You have 0 health. You have been incapacitated. You are unconscious.
  If you have a regeneration rating it will automatically trigger at 1 minute and you can spend energy to heal. Characters may choose to move to dead at this point (NPCs with no friends).
  If you don't have a regeneration rating or you don't have energy to activate your regeneration, after 10 minutes you are now dead.

  If your maximum health is 0 or you've been incapacitated for 10 minutes you are now dead. Dead is an interesting state. First off your maximum health immediately drops to 0 if it wasn't already. You can be targeted by insight and you can be resurrected (even if you're not human). There's a couple of other powers that can target dead people, but we'll talk about those later. If you're dead, you're in a pretty bad spot, you don't want to be here.
  If you are dead for 10 minutes you become Decaying.
  Decaying is when you can drop your tags and get up. Depending on what you are, you may not have to do so yet. A decaying vampire or wraith goes OOG immediately. A decaying shifter or human may continue to play a body for as long as they want, or until a power destroys their body (spoiler). Once you hit the decaying stage your character is gone and can not be brought back.

Look here. I made a chart:

  I'm also going to take this opportunity to show off some of the new formatting we're looking at for powers. While the majority of powers will continue to cost 1 energy, we wanted to clearly spell out what will not. Touch is a "new" category of powers that require touch to activate and are resisted with willpower. Touch powers are not considered attacks, unlike mental, status, and damage powers which are considered attacks.

Resurrection - (Touch)
Cost: 1 Willpower
Call: “Resurrection”
After the caster spends 1 minute meditating while touching a dead character he may activate this power to bring them back to life. A dead target will have their maximum health returned to 1 and be healed a single point of health. An incapacitated or conscious target will be healed 1 point of health.

Insight – (Touch)
Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Insight <question>”
The caster touches a target that is dead. The target must answer any questions the caster asks truthfully per character knowledge. This power ends when the target becomes decaying or when the caster is no longer touching the target.


Why the changes to the above powers?

The infinite timer on Resurrection had some major concerns from a rules perspective. First off it encouraged people killing a target near the end of an event where the chance for resurrection was low. This artificial timer didn't sit right. Also, we wanted resurrection to be cool and not just a human thing. Shifters are alive and can be resurrected. There was some big war about that or something. We figured that the dead state gives a time period in which someone could be resurrected without becoming a burden. Another fear we had was a character staying IG as their character's body all night in hopes of being resurrected. While I'd admire the hardcore aspect of this, I don't think it's actually something we want in the game. This gives a clear path from which a character moves from living to incapacitated, to dead, to gone in a clear and concise way.

Insight has been heavily used as the best truth telling method of the game. The line I've heard repeatedly is "beat them down and insight them". While the energy restrictions that exist in a limited energy system would limit it's abuse the one question one answer system still isn't great. We wanted to take this power back to where it belonged. In canon the power was really used to extract information out of a dead body, not a live one. If you came across a corpse you could get info out of it (usually only about how it died). We wanted to keep some of the original investigative nature in insight but we wanted to up the ante on it. As it is written in the new system, if you want the truth, you need to get it from their cold dead eye. You also get tons of info for a single energy point.

Monday, February 11, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #7: Energy Economy - Vitae

Before I get this conversation rolling I'd like to note the change in name. In the new version we won't be calling it Blood any more, unless you're an Ananasi. Ananasi have blood, ghouls and vampires use Vitae.

If you haven't read the post on Aggravated Damage, do that before reading this post.


  Considering we had done away with wraith draining we figured we should just do away with vampire draining as well. We've decided to add spots around site that provide blood called blood fountains. Each player can access a fountain once per nig-- I'm kidding.

  Vampires pose a number of specific issues with regards to their source of energy. In one way their source of energy is endless. So long as they have targets to feed from there is no end to the amount of energy they can have. It ends up proving very difficult to totally close the energy loop with vampires. But we can significantly impact it. The problems we ran into with draining were the following:

1) Willing targets
  Currently there is no downside to being fed from other than you might be killed in the process. Therefore, one ghoul can essentially keep the entire court fed through the medicine/draining mechanic. This makes having access to a ghoul much like having access to usurer. (In the old days ghouls had spoiled blood, but we all agree, this is dumb). Being continually fed on needs a cost.

2) Combat drain
  Currently you can run after a target while trying to initiate draining on them. There is a single power that can stop this (hasty escape). This is basically the most effective way for vampires to kill someone, and it doesn't require the use of any energy. While draining needs to be an effective way to take health it shouldn't be the combat end all be all, especially if the target is trying to get away.

3) Non-combat drain
  The current rules make biting not an attack. Meaning that if I get stunned with a power, I'm can basically be dropped to 0 health quickly and efficiently. This isn't a massive problem in and of itself because most mentals can put you in a bad spot anyway, but it plays into the bigger picture.

4) Blood Bond
  The current blood oath rules make it so that feeding on another vampire is silly. You automatically stop at the artificial number 4 to avoid being blood oathed. We felt this needed to change. We've changed this but it is another conversation. Let's just say it's based on drinking a number of times over the course of an event rather than an amount at once.

5) Infinite targets
  From one perspective, each NPC that comes into game is basically another node for vampires to take energy from. This shouldn't change, but it does mean that it needs to remain risky for vampires to feed, otherwise getting energy becomes too easy.

6) Medicine
  The current medicine rules make it free and efficient to fill a human back up on health. I can drain someone to 1 then spend a minute and a half healing them and do it again. It is actually the slowest way to regaining large amounts of energy in the game, but any human or shifter is a viable participant

7) Taint
  One of the big concerns with vampires and taint is that they spread it. Currently this isn't the case. We'll fix this one good.

The Big Picture

  Unlike gnosis and pathos, the rules to which are basically tied to skills in their own faction, the rules for vitae bleed over into Abilities like brewing and medicine. They also bleed into cross faction issues (2 for 1 feeding, killing humans, tapping wraiths). Therefore each of these issues need to be dealt with individually. We broke the draining process into three (sort of four really) simple steps to make this clearer.

  The one hand for a bite is simply too powerful. Instead we want the bite to be a more substantial action and not done while chasing someone down the road. In order to initiate a draining count, all forms of draining require an initiation of a three count with both hands on the target and both feet planted. We found in our testing that getting someone while in combat was virtually impossible without power use, getting someone that was sitting down was possible, but difficult.

Information Exchange
  In canon you can tell what kind of blood you're drinking. So we figured we'd just allow the character to know IG.  After an initiation count is successful there is a quick back and forth before draining occurs. The attacker will first state "tainted" if they are tainted which will cause the target to become tainted. The attacker will ask some questions OOG such as "What is your Faction?" and "Are you tainted?" (not necessary if the attacker is tainted). This places the responsibility on the attacker to request the information required. It is also the attacker's responsibility to know what the effects of certain draining are (2 for 1, etc) rather than the target's responsibility to tell them. Once information exchange has been completed, you may move to draining.

  Draining progresses like normal following all current rules. (We've got some changes for devouring but that is a later conversation). Once draining is complete a few new things happen. First, health draining causes aggravated damage. So immediately following the the draining, the target's maximum health is reduced by one (NOT one per health drained). This damage counts as an attack meaning that it will end all powers that are broken on attack. Secondly, the target enters a confused state and does not recall what happened from from the beginning of the Initiation up to this point. (Unfortunately, Ananasi don't get the second part of this, their draining is supposed to be horrible.)

  This means that the perpetrator can escape relatively easily but isn't able to use biting and draining to nibble someone down to 0 maximum health unless the target is being stupid. This also means that powers like merciful sleep can be used to drain a target down to 0 health, but if they have no health remaining, further bites have no effect because no health was drained.
  This also means that a ghoul who is fed on becomes weakened and won't provide as much health in future feedings.  Sure, they can still be passed around a bit, but eventually you're not going to want to drain your ghoul down from 5 maximum health because you'll only get 5 energy and they're now at 4 maximum health. It provides diminishing returns for feeding on the same target. We figure this will reduce the number of willing targets significantly, though not entirely.

Other Changes

  We wanted there to be some other variety going around with regards to feeding on different types of creatures so we added a little flavor that goes along with drinking on shifters and wraiths. Just little things like Induce Passion: Angry when you feed on a shifter. Gives a little of the flavor that is supposed to go with doing these things.
  We also wanted vampires to actually drain each others vitae. So draining health on a vampire takes energy, not health. You know, like canon.

  The final big change comes to medicine. We realize that we can't remove medicine as a whole even though it presents a massive unrealistic system into the game. LARPs in general simply require methods of healing. No one will enjoy playing the game stuck at 1 heath for the rest of the event. But we wanted to tone down medicine significantly. We did this by placing a cap on the effectiveness of medicine and making it a 1 minute flat skill.

Level 1: Bring a target below 2 health to 2 health.
Level 2: Bring a target below 4 health to 4 health
Level 3: Bring a target below 6 health to 6 health.

  Oddly enough this change makes healing a target at 0 health to 6 health take exactly the same amount of time as it currently does with a level 3 skill. What it changes is it makes medicine not able to heal a person to maximum health (unless they've suffered some significant agg). Meaning that repeated draining will not only cost maximum health, but if a target has a +4 health, it will take supernatural healing (want to buy a potion?) to push them above. This will increase the use of the Regeneration mechanic disclosed last week as well as make friends with Healing Touch even more valuable. It also gives more reward for having more levels of medicine. I think a lot of people are going to want some.

The final piece was hinted at in the Aggravated Damage post. Healing potions will likely be split into two categories. Small healing potions that heal health, and big ones that heal an agg (and maybe probably a bunch of health as well, we're currently rewriting skills to incorporate this). The idea is that healing health isn't very expensive but there is a financial cost associated with it. Meanwhile, healing agg is expensive so it becomes a serious decision point if you want to do it or not.. I'd expect people to start stockpiling healing potions as they are very effective, and when you've been beat up bad, you need to buy them.

Monday, February 4, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #6: Energy Economy - Pathos

  Considering that we already wanted to do away with infinite energy, much of our decisions actually started with the Wraiths. We figured if we could cut down on the shifter need for energy we could then address wraiths the way we wanted to. This means some big changes for wraith, but good changes overall.

What's up with Wraiths?

  One thing that never settled right with the rules team in Shadow Accord is wraith draining. Wraiths in SA are basically ghost vampires. They get energy by taking health from others in a way that fits the canon of Vampire, not wraith. In WoD canon, wraiths get energy back from feeding off of strong emotions that fit their particular Passions. Certain wraiths feed of certain emotions, the angry/fear wraith gets nothing from happy people, the happy/romance wraith gets nothing from angry people. The whole draining people thing just doesn't exist in WoD. It feels like a patched on mechanic because there were already rules for it in the game, rather than something that was uniquely wraithy. We want wraith to feel like wraith, and vampire to feel like vampire.
  Looking at the broad spectrum of what's wrong with Wraith, energy exchange is its own whole big thing. In SA it is a mainstay power that keeps the entire wraith and shifter faction full of energy. In WoD canon, it can't be used to take or make gnosis, blood, essence, or anything like that. Then again, in WoD canon, wraiths and shifters aren't hanging out on the same plane and rarely interact. Either way we simply don't feel that we can leave energy exchange like it has been in the past if we want a limited energy game. We also don't like the idea that a wraith can take an emotion like murderous malice, and turn it into hippie shifter energy.
  Finally, there's the haunt. The Haunt is basically the Caern system applied to wraiths, for not any particularly good reason. Our wraiths seem to eat like vampires and are supposed to live like shifters. None of this really fits Wraith the Oblivion. This is simply more patched from another faction to add wraiths to the game. We really want to make wraith its own thing, not reliant on other faction's rules to exist.
  To some degree the largest factional changes came up for wraith because if feels like the rules for wraith are totally thought through. Wraiths are built more like a patch onto the game rather than a well built and incorporated system. This is not to put down the wonderful job that wraith players have been doing making wraith into something significant, they just don't really have a very effective rules system backing them up. So we were looking at some big changes in order to encourage the Wraith game.

Wraith Changes

  As you may have guessed from above, we removed the draining health mechanic from wraiths. We really felt that if we could give them a better alternative, we had to. Instead we are adding Passion nodes. Passion nodes work much like Gaian nodes except that a wraith may access them once each day resetting at sunset (twice per event). Additionally, there will be a number of types of Passion nodes and wraiths will only be able to draw from those that match their particular Passions. The Passions we've come up with are Anger, Fear, Love, Hate, Pain, Pleasure. Each wraith will pick two passions at creation or conversion. The nodes will be set up in static locations and have an appropriate type and number of Pathos that can be drawn for it.
  This means that wraiths will return to the places of strong emotion each day to get their fill of a particular Passion, once per day, each and every day, forever, and ever, like eternity. It also means that the wraith experience will be somewhat different from the shifter experience. Shifters can burn their energy and go get more as needed, wraiths will need to be slightly more conservative but have the chance to gain energy back in very common locations like the tavern, church, and merchant commons. It is also possible that an old location may fade away and new ones crop up. Again we're looking to balance the total additional energy to be the same for shifters and wraiths to help balance things out. Unlike Gaian nodes which will be outside in nature type places, most Passion nodes will be in centers of social events. There are some obvious candidates if we look at Camp Brinkey: the bath house could be pleasure, the Cooks cabin fireplace could be hate, or pain, even locations like the amphitheater could be ideal locations. It's not impossible to imagine where things might belong. It also means that wraiths may have to wander in to certain locations to "feed" at times they may not be totally welcomed there.

  So what about Energy Exchange. Well Wraiths will still be able to transfer health and pathos as they do today using usury, but there is no reason to maintain their ability to magically switch energy types to other factional energy. How is it that I can drain a human and turn it into gnosis? We're better off without it. Instead we're focusing on making usury into the pathos banking system it is designed to be, rather than the currency exchange system it is now.
  With the Passion nodes, there's no need for a haunt. A wraith circle exists where there's wraiths, they don't need a central gathering point in order to function as a faction. This means that wraiths can focus on their primary task of bugging humans and fighting oblivion rather than using their draining system to kill anything and everything that comes their way. While they won't be the killing anything machines they were in the past, they'll be able to focus on being a wraith.

What this means for Wraiths

  One of the biggest changes this will bring is that the wraith shifter alliance won't be predicated on the energy system. If it remains it will be due to mutually beneficial social interactions and alliances, rather than energy dependance. I feel that this is somewhat liked to seeing what our interactions with Israel may be if we remove our dependance on the middle east for oil imports. We'll still be friends, but it'll be different than it was before.
  Wraiths won't get a haunt. Honestly I don't know how much of a change this will really give. They don't spend time and energy protecting the haunt in the same way that others do.
  Wraiths will have to roam a little bit. A wraith that wants to get their energy back will have to hit a couple of specific locations to be full up. It'll probably take 10-20 minutes of their game.
  Combat overall becomes a bit more of an energy management game where you can't just run to the back line and fill up doing the drain and heal routine.

  Overall I feel these are good changes that are really working to bring Wraith in line with Wraith. They have a unique feel, and once again, the nodes system makes things very manageable from a running the game standpoint. Staff doesn't need to do anything other than put them up.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Watching vs Playing Games

 "There's a huge difference between playing a video game and watching someone else play a video game."

  I saw this quote in an article about educational gaming and I wanted to talk about it for a bit. This topic comes up a lot in LARPing as it is truly not a spectator sport. Frequently we think of games in a method about what is entertaining to watch. The crash of helmets in football, the smack of a baseball against a wooden bat, and the sound of a basketball swishing through the net are all iconic spectator moments. But even here, people understand that watching football is totally different than playing football.
  For many video games, the entire experience is designed for the participant. I'm always somewhat surprised that my wife is frequently interested in watching me play games. Though she's only interested in games with a somewhat interesting story like Skyrim, Dragon Age, or Left 4 Dead. But for the most part the experience is the challenge between the player and the computer. The specific example cited in the example above is SimCity, which is basically like watching paint dry.
  One complaint that comes from parents about computers at school is that all kids do on them is play games. What parents often fail to see is exactly what is going on behind the scenes in a gamer's brain while they're playing a game. Basic statistical calculation generally requires extensive use of algebra, probability, reflection on performance, and overcoming failure. Some have felt that these skills are more important than the skills that are gained in formal education. Check out this video that says that World of Warcraft raiders have skills missing from MBAs.

  We're seeing some changes in this. Just as there are sports that are really designed to play, not watch, there are video games that are focusing on the spectating side of things. League of Legends has a number of series of major competitions. Games last from 20-75 minutes and can range from nail biters to fairly bland kill fests. Much like football vital action can take place in just a couple of seconds. But this has become an international phenomena with teams in Korea gaining notability similar to that of sports stars in America. Some games when done correctly, are just fun to watch. There's a couple of local high school clubs that played each other. To support them, I decided to sports cast their game. This is high school level, but this is something I can support.

  In the end there is still a common feeling that someone is just playing mindless game, regardless of what goes into it. What is interesting is that I haven't ever seen people complain about two students playing chess as a mindless game. It's a thought provoking, detail oriented, logic driven simulation. Sounds to me just like every other game I've ever played. But you don't see that from the outside. I'm beginning to feel about video games much like I felt about Harry Potter -- if you haven't read the book, you have no right to criticize it. If you haven't played a number of complex games through to completion, you have no knowledge of the thinking that is required to do so. I'm not saying that everyone will enjoy every game. But we've come far along that by now, there is a video game is for everybody.

Friday, February 1, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog Post #5: Healing with Energy


  I admit that I had said that I was going to do wraith energy next, and I am. It's even mostly written. But I wanted to add something as an aside that plays into damage, death and dying. I wanted to talk about a small change to healing with energy because of how it plays in to the dying process.

What it is now

  There are a few things weird about healing with energy currently. It takes 1 minute if you're conscious to spend as much energy as you want to heal 1 for 1 with health. If you're unconscious it takes 10 minutes, costs 1 energy, and heals one point. In my experience at game, I've never seen anyone use this method to heal. Either one. Weird huh?

What it will be

  What we wanted to add was a way to clear this up and make it work one way. This is done with what we are calling a Regeneration rate. Shifters have a base rate of 2, wraiths and vampires have a base rate of 1. Humans have a base rate of 0. The idea here is that after 1 minute of inactivity you can spend energy to heal your regeneration rate of health. This means that if you stop fighting for a 60 seconds break you can heal a bit. It also means that once you're at 0 health you have a minute after which you will automatically spend your energy to heal and get back up.
  It's very much like it was with a couple of small changes:
1) Shifters heal faster than anyone else, because, they do.
2) Supernaturals trigger your auto heal at 1 minute instead of 10 minutes. This leaves less time lying on the ground and less time for an opponent to find a way to kill you before you're ready to kill them again.
3) It is a number that can be increased or decreased by powers and fetishes.
4) It replaces the vagueness and metagaming aspect of the current regenerate power with a specific time period at which you get back up.
5) Throwing a supernatural into a fire won't guarantee their death. They may just get up 60 seconds later and be really, really mad.

There are a few other changes which we expect will cause more people to want to use energy to heal instead of using other methods. A shifter's regeneration rate is only twice as expensive as healing touch but can be done on their own.


  The simple answer is that we don't like the 10 minute wait. It's too long to be sitting there in limbo. With this rule you'll know after a minute if you can expect to live or not. Plus, if someone wants to burn you out, they've got to be ready to do it right away. No time to run and get friends.
  This is also really what the regenerate power probably should have been anyway to be a balanced power. The "pick your time" nature ended up being super cheesy and immediately generally isn't very useful. This means that if someone really wants to jump you and kill you, again, they can. But in a sprawling combat, you'll probably make it back into the fray. This also means that any delays in killing someone with additional health can seriously hurt your chances to pull off the kill successfully. Unless you have 5 people burning you out at once. Then, again, you're pretty screwed.