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

Patch day

Today I patched Kudos 2 to version 1.04, the fourth patch since release, and it’s my intention to leave it like this (barring major screw-ups) until I get back from holiday.

I tweaked a number of variables, added a few minor polish things like hotkeys, and hopefully fixed some crash bugs. Crash bugs are a nightmare to find. I got excited when I thought I’d found some code where I actually skipped a variable entirely (which normally would mean instant crashing), but it turns out that in their wisdom, Microsoft added some ‘templates’ when they changed sprintf to sprintf_s and it was safe anyway. Ho hum.

For some reason today has felt a bit demotivating. There is a lot of tedious admin crap associated with patching the game, and it’s still only half done really because now I need to prepare updated versions for the online portals who will hopefully start selling the game soon. I’ll get that done tomorrow morning, then I can do some marketing stuff in the afternoon.

Sales are ok, but I haven’t ordered a Porsche yet. In fact I still have a dent in my Peugeot :(

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.

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?

“You think with a financial statement like this you can have the duck? “

I’m working on the code for restaurants yesterday and today, specifically how you get into the hip and trendy or expensive ones. This is code from Kudos 1, but I’ll be improving on it.

Great timing then, that last night ‘L.A Story‘ was on TV, which was the inspiration for the idea of hip restaurants in the first game. The best scene in the film is when Steve Martin is trying to book a table at a hip Hollywood restaurant called L’Idiot (pronounced ‘Lidio’). The evil French waiter (played by patrick stewart) is interrogating him to see whether he is the sort of person he wants in his restaurant. He scoffs at Steve Martins job (TV weatherman) and demands to know his bank records, the value of his house and where he takes his holidays, before eventually conceding he can have a table in eight weeks time as long as he only orders the chicken and not the duck.

Even better, is the scene later in the film where someone with an upper class English accent (Richard E Grant) books a table no problem with a 2 minute call. I love that :D

Kudos always had lots of factors that determine if you get to eat at the best places, but I’m really going to town this time. For maximum results, you will need to be a highly cultured french-speaking food critic with bags of cash, a smart suit and designer sunglasses :D. Hey it’s not normal game-fare, but we have slain enough dragons, we need games where the end-level boss is a pompous waiter now.

Blog crash and mega-playthrough

I’ve had database issues on my server which thankfully should now be sorted, and I won’t have to gnaw off my own leg in frenzied frustration every time I try to make a new blog entry now. It was something to do with SQL processing limits or some such. We never used to have these problems with text editors, grumble grumble.

Today, after doing a small bit of classic ‘work’ I did a very long play-through of the game (Kudos 2). The game was originally design to last 10 years, like the original. (With the option possibly to keep playing..maybe..not sure).

The thing is, having done a four year playthrough this afternoon, I’m thinking that’s possibly long enough. One of the things I’m concerned about is the long-term playability and re-playability of the game. The last thing I want is for the game to feel like a chore towards the end. I’ve already made enough changes and design tweaks to it that this is far less of a concern than it was for Kudos 1, but I’m still seriously considering changing it to be five years instead. The thing is, five years sounds weird.  The other option is to do ten years, and double the rate at which time goes by, basically by skipping every other month. Would that seem weird? Or I could change months every 3 days instead of every seven. Decisions…decisions…

BTW I got The Starship Tycoon data off that old disk. i’m going to attempt to tidy up a bit each weekend then release it one day.