Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Kudos 2 design update

I’m now firmly at the ‘play the game until you detect an imbalance, then make a note and fix it’ stage. This can be a tad dull, because you are playing to test, not to have fun. The truly great news is that despite playing the game for hours at a time

1) It never has any performance problems of any sort ever, even in debug and

2) It never crashes.

I currently have a little list of niggles to fix for tonight and tomorrow like this:

todo : check that people get bored with an event even if you didn’t show up.
if you ignore a phone ring and go to the next day, its visually still flashing.
birthday screen friend description can be blank!
dog status text runs out of room.
I need new button graphics for graph screen
muscles should degrade slower
motorbike should give you some kudos or charisma or confidence
I maybe need some alert sound if dog fights off a burglar
might be funny to slightly stretch and squash avatars with weight.
paint ball gun needs a use button, for all year round.
dogs never eat any food.

I also have just one biggish design issue. Acting jobs last forevere, and as they have no promotions, you can get into condition for the job then ‘let yourself go’. I can’t decide right now whether to make the jobs a finite length (as in kudos 2). or have you sacked if your performance (job suitability in effect) falls below a certain level. Both ideas require horrid custom coding, but I thuink they are important to making the acting career more playable.

Today I also got some more NPC artwork, and switched payment providers abck to BMT. It’s all in a good cause (getting the best deal, and the best customer service for people buying the games).

last two big design changes?

After doing a few longer than usual play-throughs, I have decided to make two fairly big design changes ‘under the hood’ of Kudos 2.

The first one is a change to the way the ‘attributes’ such as tiredness, muscles etc get calculated. Right now, when you add say ‘+5’ to tiredness, it doesn’t just change a value, but its makes a note of the ‘+5’ modifier, and the rate at which that effect degrades. This means that some effects can be long lasting (slow degraed) and some more transient (fast degrade) which is more accurate and realistic. The down side is, this allows you to store up values beyond 0 and 100%. So although your cleanliness may seem to be 100%, it is actually 156%, and just being capped to 100% for display. This is unrealistic, as surley some times, you are as clean (or as dirty) as you can get, and going beyond it makes no sense.

I wanted to keep the vraibale degrade rates though, and also the seperate list for debugging purposes, so what I’ve changed is to ensure you can never stockpile effects beyond 100% or below 0. So if your cleanliness is already 95% , and you dop something that adds 10%, that effect gets altered to be just 5% instead. This will make for a far more understandable system, although obviously it now radically changes game balance (bah!).

That was one change. the other one was game length. 10 years is just TOO LONG. I know some people (5%?) get annoyed when Kudos 1 ends, and want to keep going (and this will be an option), but feedback from friends trying it suggests it goes on for too long. Better a shorter, fun-packed game than a longer, stretched one. So I’ve reduced the days per month from 7 to 5. There are still 7 days in a wek and 12 months in a year, so you don’t really notice the change as much as you might assume.

I now have set aside two weeks for nothing but play balancing. I’m going to try and add no new features, just tweak and adjust and balance the code that exists. There is a LOT to play through, many careers, huge numbers of choices etc, so two weeks, even 10 hours a day is conservative to do this. I have to make sure I put the hours in to do it though.

Asset Effects for Kudos 2

Some of the things you buy in Kudos 2 have ongoing effects that happen every day (like the newspaper its assumed you read, or owning a fast car or a pet). Some have effects that happen only when you use them (like weights or a chess set). And some have one-off purchase-time effects (like a fashionable outfit).

The problem with the ongoing daily effects is the player had no way of knowing what they are, so I’ve spent a big chunk of this morning coding this sort of thing so they can see them:

It’s amazing how long it takes to code something like that and ensure it a) works, b) looks nice and c) is bug free. It also exposes a efw other minor niggles that then needed fixing. Oh well, slow but steady progress!

Magazines for Kudos 2

I’m currently writing the code for magazines for Kudos 2. Magazines are something you can buy, but only read once. The upside is that they come out every week, so that you never get into the situation you had with the original game, where you read all the books and thus had ‘finished’ that part of the game.

The downside is that the magazines are an expensive and slow way to pick up knowledge. I’m trying to balance stuff so it’s an interesting decision to make. You can buy books and magazines at your leisure, effectively putting you in control of when to learn, as opposed to evening classes. This means they must have some disadvantages to counteract this. One option is for the magazines to only cover the basics of each profession, scientific_principles_1 basic_law etc etc. The problem si that it’s exactly the ‘late game’ stuff I need to expand on, not the early stuff.

This has cropped up because I’m trying to decide if magazines need a pre-requisite system or not. I’m guessing not. magazines are by definition mass market things. I reckon I’ll make them beginners guides only, just like books, but more relaxing.

Another option is for magazines to be auto-read. Assuming you read a few pages each day, just like I assume with newspapers. This would be possibly the more interesting choice. This does slightly ‘break’ the ‘one-task per day’ paradigm of the game, but it’s already borked with pets and newspapers anyway, both of which have daily effects without user intervention.

I think that might be better…

Overweight Gaming (The Sisko Dilemma)

I’m having a design quandary about characters who become overweight in Kudos 2. I need to really nail down the game play effects of letting your character become jabba-sized.

There are some effects already, in that a few acting jobs require you to be below a certain weight. I could probably extend that to the police jobs, but beyond that does it really matter? The obvious negative side to being overweight is the health effects, but to be honest most of the activities that increase weight are reducing health, and health is directly used in calculating illness. What I may do, is have a locally used (not shown to the player) calculation for obesity, and use that as an extra accelerator in determining illness. Then you have the age old problem of conveying this data to the player. kudos 1 did lots of clever stuff the player was never told about, and I need to be more aware of that this time around.

The other possible uses in game terms for ‘weight’ are all a bit ‘dodgy’. Should being overweight reduce confdence? Should I reduce your chances of getting a job in general if you are overweight? I might not mind how big people are, but is there a real world prejudice there? and if there is, is it ok to represent it in game? I currently don’t have black avatars (another worrying, but budget-related situation), but if I did, should I give them less chance of a good job to reflect society’s racism? For that matter, should I reduce your chance of romance if you weigh too much? Is that just reflecting society as it is, or is that encouraging prejudice?

I guess I’m half way between Ben Sisko and Kassidy Yates on the whole ‘We shouldn’t pretend the world is better than is’ (Ben) and ‘Lets just enjoy the way it should be’ (Cassidy). I’m glad I’m not programming a holodeck.

What do you think?