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Old 11-28-2016, 02:59 AM
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Preface: Hacker Alice is a game I'm working on since 2005. It combines everything that I stand for into one game. In this thread, I want to talk about how everything came together. But in short, think of this game as a combination of text-based RPG and JRPG/SaGa. The game's done except for the final dungeon and I'm looking for people interested in trying out the game to give me feedback. So if you think text-based RPG combined with JRPG/SaGa is right up your alley, then please contact me. If a single person manages to reach the current end of the game, I'll finish it. Feel free to comment in this thread as I always love to get feedback and discuss.

Chapter 1 - As child you have the best ideas

At the age of 6, I started designing games. I just drew designs on paper and then played them out in my head, using my imagination. Soon my interest shifted towards the RPG genre, so I drew tables on paper with characters stats per level. Or pages with monster stats. Or I drew maps on grid-paper, then took a clean paper, cut a hole into it and put it on top of the map to simulate field of vision. I used an abacus to track player and monster HP.

That worked either in the horizontal style where two rows represented HP, the second row being HP*10. This allowed for HP of two characters and one monster with first character being row 1-2, second character being row 4-5 and monster being row 8-10 (from bottom to top). So technically two characters and the maximum possible MaxHP to achieve was 110. Monsters were alone but could have higher HP.

Or it worked in the vertical style where you turned the abacus 90° and would have one column for each character. With a gap between PCs and monsters this allowed for either 5 heroes and 4 monsters or 4 heroes and 5 monsters, which each being able to have up to 10 HP as absolute max. Usually in this style characters started with 2-3 HP and later could "promote" to a higher class where their HP was reset but all the damage received was also halved.

I used a calculator to track Exp or Gold or both (I had two later on).

One of the very late games I designed in that style was about an organization in a "near future" scenario that took on missions to sneak into (often military) buildings to do something (stealing, destroying, but usually it was for the good). In that game you had different weapon types: Fist, swords and guns and each had their own "magic points". However, the abacus was already full for tracking HP, so I couldn't track all those different magic points on top. So what I did was to design the game so that all techniques don't use up any magic points, but instead, you need enough magic points to learn the technique. For example to learn "Kick" you might need 2 FP, 0 SP and 0 GP. So if an enemy used "Kick" on you an had the sufficient stats you could counter the attack and learn "Kick" yourself. There were also various hybrid skills that required points from multiple types. Once learnt, you could always use the skills for free, so you basically never used a normal attack but instead selected the skill most suitable for the current enemy.

This game would years later become the foundation of Hacker Alice, when I realized that I had the best game and story ideas as a child and looked through my old notes to find a suitable game idea to make it a reality.
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Old 11-28-2016, 03:36 AM
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Chapter 2 - Why I love and hate text-based RPGs

At the age of 13, when I got into high school, I joined the computer club and learned programming. The moment I learned how to write "Hello World" into the console, use variables and "if" statements, I already got tons of ideas what games I could make with just that knowledge. Suddenly the possibilities seemed endless and I was no longer limited to write ideas on paper or use Klik&Play (which was great but very limited) to make games.

Right away I proceeded with making text-based games in Turbo Pascal, the programming language I learned. At first it was just "What do you want to do? 1. This 2. That" and then depending on the number the player entered some other text showed up, creating huge if / else structures. Eventually I added battle systems to the mix by tracking HP, ATK and other stats. But the games were lacking depth until 1999, when I played SaGaFrontier for the first time. That really changed the way I thought about game design, but that's a different story which you can read up in my Akitoshi Kawazu fan post.

In the end, I had created hundreds of text-based RPG prototypes. Mostly just battle systems and related stuff like shops, but also a bunch of games with unfinished stories. I never really liked writing stories, so my designs often were heavily combat focused. I also created two finished game, Final Tower 2 and SaGaAdventure, which was my final finished Turbo Pascal project and one of the games that I still enjoy today the most.

Text-based combat systems are the one thing that defines my development style the most, but still I realized people wanted graphics so I tried the jump to graphical RPGs when RPG Maker 95 was released. I made one huge RPG with it called Gerania. Unfortunately it was lost due to HDD failure. Ever since then I'm making backups like paranoid (never did any before that).

After losing RPG Maker 95, I switched to the OHRRPGCE. It was an RPG Maker, but it had a twist, it didn't include any graphics. So all the people developing with it, actually drew graphics themselves which gave the games a unique style. I always told myself I can't do graphics, so I just helped others with their games for quite a while. As I had acquired quite some game design skills by then and also was cursed to find every single bug a game had, a few developers actually were quite interested in me helping out, so I was involved in a few larger project (like Ends of the Earth 2 and Fantasy Under A Blue Moon X). Eventually I had the idea of getting an artist and a composer and team up to make a great RPG, unfortunately, these attempts were consistently crushed by the team members suddenly disappearing (if you don't pay them, you can't trust them to stay apparently).

So I was kind of down at that time. I thought nobody is interested in played text-based RPGs but I sucked at drawing and can't compose and team members weren't reliable. But then, when I mentioned my text-RPGs to someone, he told me to check out the MUD genre. And so I did.

And... I was fascinated. MUDs made me realize that text-based RPGs can work. And that they might even be superior to graphical RPGs. At least for someone like me, who has a vivid imagination, the fact that my brain created the visuals from text made the world and scenery a lot more fantastic. But there was one thing about MUDs that I hated. You had to type what you wanted to do in words. That meant you had to guess which words the system understands and then type them in properly to even proceed. Just moving a step north required you to write "move north". It really got on my nerves after a while. I wasn't used to this at all, because my games were always giving you a bunch of choices and you only had to type in the number to say what you wanted to do. Even moving would be just "Where do you want to go? 1. North, 2. East". You never needed to enter more than one digit. But still, despite this, MUDs showed me that text-based RPGs have a lot of charm to them after all and graphical RPGs are not superior by default.

The idea to take the concept of a MUD, but make the controls much easier like how I always did in my old text-based games was the trigger for me to realize that this could work for other people too and made me want to create a new text-based RPG which eventually but not directly lead to Hacker Alice.
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Old 11-28-2016, 04:10 AM
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Chapter 3 - I don't know why I never tracked coordinates before

All the text-based RPGs I developed in Turbo Pascal did not track any coordinates. Dungeons were really just huge if/else statements. That also meant that you could never go back as you were "further down" in the code. And we learned that the "goto" command was a forbidden command as it creates spaghetti code nobody will ever understand again, so I didn't use that either.

This system, even though uncommon, is not bad in itself. When I replayed SaGaAdventure a months ago, I even thought that not being able to go back gave it a very unique charm (just as the lack of any save feature). But if you wanted to go for a big RPG project that is also suitable for a larger audience, it might not be the best system.

On the upper education levels, I finally learned other programming languages like C, C++ and Java and along with it, object oriented programming. Very soon C++ crystalized as the programming language I want to use for game development in the future. One of my teachers recommending C++ as the language for game development assured me of this.

But the only real thing I got from the whole thing was that I could create objects like "hero" "party" and "field" and put the variables that belong to each into them and save these to a file.

The notable thing here was "field" however. Thinking of the map as an object that has a three dimensional array that contained what's on each cell, finally made me break away from if/else structures and replace them with a loop that just checks for the event on the current cell. At the same time the current cell coordinates were remembered in the party object.

Based on this, I made a new text-based RPG called "Sozero Offline" (originally supposed to have online functionality before I realized how super complex coding MMO functionality in pure C++ code was). The name actually comes from an old tri-Ace concept art that was named "sozero.jpg", probably really referring to "Star Ocean Zero". The game basically just consists of moving around big text-based grids and fighting monsters on each step. It had a "Rock/Paper/Scissor" battle system where you could keep attacking until you lost and the ability to distribute stat points on "Rock" (power, vitality), "Paper" (evasion, combo) and "Scissor" (accuracy, critical hits), but in the end those mechanics weren't all that special and got boring fairly fast. The truly notable things in it were that it had free movement over a grid with automatically created three dimensional grid-based dungeon structures and a save anywhere feature. I played through this game once, but whenever I tried to replay it, it was just boring, so I didn't even dare to publish it to anyone (the game Rogue Planets that I made later is a much better alternative).

Anyway, having a grid you can move on and save anywhere should also become features in my next game after Sozero Offline, Hacker Alice. But I also realized it needed more than just this to keep the player interested. I needed to go back to my roots, back to what actually made me a good game designer and not just a programmer that just did something to see if he can.
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Old 11-28-2016, 04:57 AM
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Chapter 4 - Language barrier and why do I have to write a complex story

The text-based games I made in Turbo Pascal that had a story were all in German language, because that's my mother tongue and even though I can speak English fluently, it's still hard to find the right words in a language that's not your mother tongue (and back then I wasn't as good in English as I am now). It gets even worse when you want your PCs to talk in slang or simulate other strange talking habits.

Still, at the time I finished SaGaAdventure I also got access to the internet and consequently more and more friends that could not speak German. I always felt bad that I couldn't show them my games because of the language barrier. And in the end, this is what made me decide to only create games in English from now on, even though it might not sound all that great.

I personally don't even care much about story. In most RPGs I play, reading the dialogues just feels tedious and often I wish the games had a lot less dialogues or none at all. With my own games, it's even worse. I always developed games mostly for myself, not to sell them. And I knew the story already even before making the game. So for me, I just needed the actual gameplay coded for the challenge and then just imagine the story to be there. There was zero need to actually write it down.

But with Hacker Alice, I wanted to show everyone what I can make. How good my game design has become. How a game looks like that combines all my game design philosophies I've been preaching on various forums. So just not including a story was not an option. And it had to be English.

I never aimed for the best writing ever, just enough so that people understand what's going on and were interested in how it continues. They might all say "Your writing sucks", but I wouldn't care about that because I already know that. I still put my all into writing the dialogues. What is in Hacker Alice, is the best I can truly do.

But that's not all what I wanted to put into Hacker Alice. I've played plenty of RPGs by then and there was one thing that bothered me about them. RPGs often seemed to give you a choice during dialogues but no matter what you selected, the result was always the same. At the very most, the game would track your choices in some arbitrary stats like good, evil or affection from team members, but other than maybe the ending, nothing was influenced by it at all.

I wanted to do it differently in Hacker Alice. I wanted to give the player a choice and then actually make the choice clearly matter. And that's what I did. Several of the missions have a few different solutions to them and your choices in the dialogues make you go for one of them. Also, the things you said to others might influence them so they might make different choices later or say something else later. If you told someone about X he will later know about X, but if you didn't, he wouldn't.

While this made the story pretty amazing and increased the replay value, it was also the downfall of my motivation. I already didn't like writing dialogues in the first place but this design choice forced me to write the same dialogues several times based on all the possible variables of choices previously made. I know now why no AAA developer ever does that. Having the story split only 3 times, already makes you end up with 8 possible paths, meaning 8 times the work when writing dialogues. But if you have hundred of variables that could influence a dialogue, it just becomes pure hell.

My hate for writing dialogues is one of the top reasons why the game still isn't finished. In 2006 and 2012 it made me go "I just can't do this anymore" and stop development for several years each. So technically in those 11 years, I only really worked 5 years on it. It's still a huge project. Big enough that I have my doubts anyone would actually play it to the end.

It's a bit funny because I think over that span of 11 years my writing style has actually improved a lot, so you might actually notice that it keeps getting better the further you get into the game. I definitely won't rework those old parts because they represent a certain phase of myself and I want to keep that documented forever in the game. Besides the benefit of reworking them just isn't enough to go through all that pain.

In the end, I just kept going and kept motivating myself to get back to the project twice and the result is over 10000 lines of dialogue. Which for someone like me, who hates writing dialogues, is an amazing accomplishment. And I'm very proud of myself that I didn't give up, kept all the different planned paths and forced my way through so far.

After Hacker Alice, I will definitely never do this again. It already has my all in it. It will be my last word.
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Old 11-28-2016, 05:33 AM
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Just registering my interest. This makes me want to dig out and scan all the video game maps and ideas I drew on sheet after sheet of A4, as a kid.
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Old 11-28-2016, 06:08 AM
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Chapter 5 - Why Akitoshi Kawazu's game design is great

So as mentioned before I'm a fan of Akitoshi Kawazu and he changed the way I think about game design. But why do I think his game design is so great and how has it inspired me when developing Hacker Alice?

There are two things that I particularly like about Akitoshi Kawazu's game design.

The first thing is what I'll summarize as the HP/LP recovery system. All the RPGs I've played beforehand were always about resource management. You had a bunch of healing items and went into a dungeon, fully healed. Now the challenge was not the individual battles that were pretty impossible to die on, but the challenge was to clear the dungeon before running out of MP or healing items and still have enough left to defeat the boss at the end. This kind of long term challenge causes a lot of frustration in me, because on failure you have to replay a large portion of the game. Akitoshi Kawazu changed this around a lot by allowing to save anywhere and making HP fully recover after each battle. Suddenly the whole challenge was shifted to the individual battles. The goal was to win them without dying. And even if one of your characters lost all HP, the failure punishment was buffered by the LP system, where you would lose 1 LP each time the HP dropped to 0 and the character is only truly dead when LP reached 0.

Changing long-term challenges into many short-term challenges really improved the game quality a lot for me and it's very hard for me to go back to the old resource management system. When every single battle is a fight between life and death, it's simply a lot more exciting.

So Hacker Alice definitely has a similar system as well. It has a bunch of twists, however. First of all, there's no unconscious state in Hacker Alice. Even if your HP drop below 0 you will only lose 1 LP, but not fall unconscious, allowing the character to still act. This was important because in the game, you only have 2 PCs in combat at the same time. The second thing is that in Akitoshi Kawazu's design the "magic points" do not fully recover, basically still giving the game a smaller resource management aspect. I completely did away with that and made everything except for LP fully recover at the end of combat. A player shouldn't be punished for wasting resources, instead, wasting resources will make the PC better at wasting resources which brings me to the next aspect I like about Akitoshi Kawazu's game design.

The second thing I like in the game design is the character growth system. Characters don't have fixed level ups and don't allow the player to distribute stat and skill points either. Instead, the characters will grow automatically and become good at that one thing you are using them for. If you use them for things that require strength, their strength increases. If you use them for things that require dexterity, their dexterity increases. It's simple and still brilliant.

What's important with this system is that on one hand, it needs to be so complex and hard to understand that nobody will ever figure it out (otherwise it could be exploited) but at the same time it needs to work just perfect when the player doesn't even think about it and just selects actions by instinct. In some of Akitoshi Kawazu's games it works quite well, in others it's severely flawed. He has yet to perfect the system, but the core idea is brilliant.

I personally really hate it when a game wants to me to distribute stats or skill points. Most of the time, I feel unable to decide and then just quit the game directly. Other times I try it but make a mistake and don't feel like continuing with a flawed character. Even other times, I feel forced to follow a guide so I'm constantly tabbing out of the game and read the guide every level up. All of this completely ruins my enjoyment with games.
Akitoshi Kawazu's growth system just seemed to work perfectly with me. I always felt like "she looks like she's good at that, so I make her do that" and "hmm he would probably now use this skill" and in the end this worked out quite well for me in SaGaFrontier 1 at least. I could finish the game without much trouble even though many people say the game is very hard.

What I also liked in SaGaFrontier 1 more than other Akitoshi Kawazu games was that you really had stats. It wasn't just getting better at a certain weapon type, but actually gaining stats the weapon type depends on, but at the same making the stats also have other effects.

This system is what I wanted to take and improve for Hacker Alice as well. I reduced the number of different stats to five and gave them all two uses and it felt perfect.

There are other things I borrowed from Akitoshi Kawazu's design. For example the system that makes monsters get harder over time but in "waves". I never liked monsters actually leveling with you, because it made grinding feel pointless (or even increase the difficulty). But in Akitoshi Kawazu's games, the same monster always has the same power. Instead, eventually harder monsters appeared. This kept the difficulty up while still making you feel like you're actually getting stronger. Hacker Alice has the same system, though it depends a lot less on equipment, so it's actually hard to get stuck completely. And recently I even added a feature that allows you to run when the difficulty is getting too high for the current game progress.

Summarized, you can say that Hacker Alice is Akitoshi Kawazu inspired, but improved many of his concepts further and mixed them with game aspects that you wouldn't see in an Akitoshi Kawazu game. So it's far from being a fan game.
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Old 11-28-2016, 06:28 AM
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Chapter 6 - Battle gains must be as visible as possible

When it comes to making leveling up in RPGs visible to the player, RPGs have a quite large amount of different solutions. One of these is in my opinion far superior to the rest.

Let's put them into three categories:
A) You only see "Level Up"
B) You see everything you gain on one screen
C) You see stat gains one by one

In my opinion category C is by far superior over the other two. That is because gaining something like that feels like opening a lot of boxes with a surprise in it. Each time you confirm, you are excited if there'll by another stat gain and how high it is.

There are a bunch of RPGs that do it like this already and in every single one of them, leveling up felt really exciting. Two examples would be Shining Force and Lufia. In Shining Force it was particularly exciting because gaining 3 attack instead of 1 attack actually had quite an impact.

Of course the system works best if the gains are seemingly random. For balancing's sake it actually does not really have to be random, it just has to feel that way to the player.

This theory can be applied to all kinds of gains. If there's no leveling up, just show the individual stat gains directly after every battle. You got a graphical RPG? Why not make exp gems, gold and items drop out of the enemy directly as you hit it? The more visible the rewards are, the better the player will feel.

In Hacker Alice, you gains stats at the end of every battle depending on what action you took and how hard the battle was. These stat gains are shown one by one with a 1 second delay between each gain. I enjoy it quite a bit myself.
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Old 11-28-2016, 07:06 AM
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Chapter 7 - There shall be no towns

When it comes to playing RPGs, I've come to hate towns. I already mentioned my aversion towards reading lots of dialogues in Chapter 4. So I have this hell of an adventure, explore an exciting dungeon, having challenging battles and even solving riddles and then I reach the next town and I'm like "Oh no, the next hour it's talking to NPCs again to make sure I don't miss anything and get all the quests". So for me, towns are actually something really bad that shouldn't exist in RPGs.

This is a quite controversial opinion as most players would actually say that towns belong to RPGs or are even more important than dungeons, but for me that was never the case. I tried, but just couldn't like them. So I really had several discussions about this before already.

There are things I like about towns and those are the Inn, the item shop, the weapon shop and the armor shop. Yes, being able to receive healing for cheap, stocking up on healing items and browsing equips and having to decide what to buy from the money you have actually improves the quality of an RPG. But the rest seems like a drag.

Some things don't even make much sense. Why would you break into lots of private houses for example? Why do you take the people's items? But RPGs encourage this behavior by rewarding it with items and quests. Some RPGs don't give any rewards, but you wished they'd show you a pop up notification at the start of the game saying "Attention: In this game talking to NPCs won't give you any benefits, just talk to them if you enjoy the story and lore surrounding them", just so you wouldn't still be doing it because you're afraid you might miss the good ending trigger or something.

In the past I worked out a bunch of solutions myself for this predicament. One being of course to just not have any towns. A second one to make towns just a menu where you can rest, buy and sell. A third one to have only important characters talk with you and generally also only being able to enter buildings you can buy something and not private houses. And the final and fourth one being to design towns a lot more like dungeons. Fewer NPCs but a lot more secret passages and hidden treasure chests.

A game without towns can actually work quite well, even if you don't want to remove the story and lore aspects altogether. If you have a world without towns but with NPCs, you can spread out these NPCs so you will only encounter one every few minutes rather than having them all clustered together in one location.

Even though most people disagreed with me on the idea of getting rid of towns, there are actually quite some games that copied that idea lately. Most notable one probably being FFXIII. Honestly that game seems almost based on my game design as it has quite many aspects copied from it, no towns, challenge on each individual battle, ... it's like Square Enix is stalking me! But anyway, I really liked this about FFXIII, though I wouldn't call it the optimal solution yet.
Another game I recently started playing that seems to be like that is Exist Archive. It has a beautiful, mysterious and exciting world that has no towns at all. Also many action adventures these days don't have towns either.

A good game where towns are just a menu would be Another Star. That works out perfectly well because the game has a lot of exploration outside town. In other games like Fire Emblem, I wish you could actually walk around and explore between battles, so in that case the menu-based towns are actually a drag, especially because you still end up talking a lot.

And I guess a game where towns have less dialogue and more exploration is the remade tech demo of the game Gerania that I once made and that was lost. In the remake, NPCs really only give you valuable hints, but they won't give you quests or items (if you're interested, you can get it here). Another example would be the towns in Shining Force 1, a lot of treasure chests and secret party members to find.

Games where you can only talk to some NPCs have popped up the past decade as well.

Hacker Alice doesn't have any towns and won't have any. For its story, towns just wouldn't fit. You also don't buy or sell anything in the game. The game is completely focused on combat, decision making and exploration. The things I truly value in an RPG.
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Old 11-28-2016, 08:38 AM
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I hate towns too, that's why I live in a city. No, I'm joking. I just dislike cruft. That's why the best game ever is Riviera: The Promised Land. That and the nudity.
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Old 11-29-2016, 01:08 AM
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Chapter 8 - I love music but my games don't have

So except for the games I made with RPG Maker 95 / OHRRPGCE in which I just used ripped music from other games, my games don't have any music.

The most obvious reason for that is of course that I can't compose, or rather, I don't want to compose.

I'm actually quite a musically-skilled person. I can listen to a melody once and I'm instantly able to whistle it out of my head. I can easily keep the rhythm in any music-based games, including dance games. I notice when a sound is too high or too low. And I can even make up new melodies that sound nice and whistle them.

Still, really creating music other than by whistling is not for me. My uncle is actually a musician (Rammstein actually asked him to join before they were popular but he declined, he still regrets that), so once he borrowed me the tools to make digital music. But alone the fact that I had to create multiple "tracks" for each song and select an appropriate instrument from a huge list just felt "too much" for me. I quickly lost interest.

Of course, even if I had music, it would be pretty hard to make it play in a DOS-console text-based RPG as there's no support for that other than making the computer play beep sounds.

Music is really something very important to me. I sometimes even think that music has the highest influence on whether I like a game or not. After all, all the games I like have great music. There really is no game I'd say I liked but still had crap music. Though there are games I didn't like that still had great music. I'm wondering myself how much influence music really has on my taste in games.

While games with bad music are always a turn-off, there is, however, still a charm in games that don't have any music. You see, as I'm quite fond of music, I really listed to music all day and most of my money spent actually goes into music (more than it goes in games). But at the same time, I also always need something to do. I can't just sit in front of the computer and listen to music. I would stand up and jump around the room. Or chew on my finger nails. Or follow other bad habits that annoy the people around me. In short, I need something to do while listening to music. And as I already had made plenty of text-based RPGs as well as gotten a bunch of other games (most of the puzzle type) that are without music, it made me slowly realize that those game are just perfect to play while listening to music I like.

When I'm playing my game Rogue Planets, I might for example listen to the Phantasy Star II OST. When I'm playing Wesmaze, I often listened to Flossie's Frolic (from Space Giraffe OST). Hell, even when I was young and was playing SaGaAdventure, I already had the SaGaFrontier OST running. But it's not even limited to game OST. I might just have bought a new album from a band I like and want to listen to it. And for times like that, games without music you can play in the meantime are just perfect.

Hacker Alice, being a text-based RPG, of course won't have any music either. Whenever I test it, I usually listen to all kinds of Kenji Ito stuff. But I don't want to limit players to anything. I just want them to listen to the music THEY like while playing. Best something that fits the mood. They should not just stay in silence, unless they enjoy that the most. That's why the start screen of Hacker Alice sometimes shows the hint that you should play it with your favorite music running.

PS: I was actually considering asking Kenji Ito to compose a song for me which I could just bundle with the download, but I don't even have any clue how much that would cost. $500, $5000, $50000, a few millions?

Last edited by Rya; 11-29-2016 at 02:03 AM.
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Old 11-29-2016, 02:57 AM
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Chapter 9 - Skills need to deal damage

I never really liked skills that inflicted status changes in games. They always felt completely useless, and back in the old days, they really were. A 50% chance to poison an enemy is completely pointless if the poison will never deal more damage than a single attack. A 20% chance for instant death is completely pointless when all enemies the technique even works on can be killed in 3 hits at most.

For me, skills were always something that should be cool and flashy and deal even more damage than the previous skill. Double the damage at triple the price was all that was needed to not make previous skills completely obsolete.

In modern days, RPGs got a lot more focus on situational skills. A skill for each element. A skill for each status change. A skill that deals 80% damage, but always hits or ignores defense. RPGs had completely lost giving the player continuously more powerful attacks. There's no longer a skill that just deals 3 times the damage than the normal attack. Most games do this to keep combat strategical, forcing the player to find the weak point of every enemy and then feel great when he used the right spell.

But I hate this. I want my games with my flashy skills that deal more and more damage and any other effects like element or status effect should just be a bonus attached to the attack at most.

Still, I can't deny that in combat, choice must matter. There are too many games where you just keep pressing "X" and win every battle by doing this. This won't make you hate the game, but will cause you to get bored of the combat much faster.

What most developers don't realize, however, is that making choice matter is a lot easier than you'd think. They don't need to slap 8+ elements and 8+ status changes and tons of complex rules no normal human could ever remember into a game just to make combat interesting. Even a game where the only option is to do a normal attack can already have strategical combat simply by making it matter who to target with the attack.

And simple is good. Simple allows you to come back to a game after a month break and still be able to play it. Simple allows the player to learn it by doing, he doesn't even need to read a single tutorial. That is not to say a game should be easy. On the contrary. A game should be simple and challenging. And that is very possible to accomplish.

SaGaAdventure already shows this. In that game, battles were always 1vs1, so you didn't even have targeting. Yet, to clear the game, you need to try it hundreds of times (remember, it has no save feature), before you can actually finish it. Why is that? On one hand it's simply because you learn the structure of the world and what regions and enemies are best avoided. But also inside combat, your skill matters. That's because you always have the choice between two different normal attacks and two damage skills combined with the unique self-revive system that guarantees you to be able to take at least two actions per combat. To survive, you will have to know when you need to use a skill and when doing normal attacks is sufficient. If you die, it's usually because you took a risk or simply didn't know how much damage a certain monster can deal.

Hacker Alice does not have any elements or status changes. All skills will only deal damage. Yet the actions you take during combat will often make the difference between losing LP or not losing LP. This works via its unique targetting system combined with the option between using a normal attack or a damage skill. Unlike SaGaAdventure, "magic points" recover after every battle, but there are two reasons why you would not want to just spam your damage skill as long as you can. One being that you want to save your points for the other target and the second being because you want to get better at using your weapon. Hacker Alice also adds a randomness factor to this formula, making combat a risk vs. reward struggle just like SaGaAdventure, except that punishment in Hacker Alice is the loss of LP rather than having to start the game from scratch. Due to the randomness factor, it might not be immediately obvious that choice matters. Only after you start retrying certain sections or battles and notice a much lower LP loss is when it becomes noticable that you've improved. You have to anticipate your odds and act accordingly to maximize your performance and thus Hacker Alice's combat, despite its simple nature, is strategical and challenging.
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Old 12-01-2016, 01:55 AM
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Chapter 10 - Characters have a personality and not a script

Ever played a game or watched a movie and then thought "Why doesn't he say x now?" It happens for me quite frequently where really simple sentences come to my mind that would perfectly fit the current situation but they are just not there. I think this is a flaw that's caused by having a story script and acting that out as planned.

As said, I'm not good with dialogues and don't enjoy writing them either, but one thing I understood when making Hacker Alice was that you create the best dialogues if the only preparation you have to the story is a basic plot outline and having written down all of the character's personality traits and past experiences. That way, whenever there's a new scene, it will all just come to you. Based on the situation and knowing the characters in and out, there is really always only one thing they would say at a certain time. So you can just write it down without following any script.

This causes a few interesting things. I might find myself writing a discussion that wasn't planned at all and isn't even relevant for the main story, just because it's a discussion the characters would have at that point. Often the planned dialogues also just get fleshed out a lot better. The game will also feel more mysterious because there might be several things mentioned that happen in the background but are never resolved within the game.

There is a downside to this, though. Sometimes, you will realize that your basic plot outline can't be followed because it just wouldn't be what your characters would do at that point. So you either have to rewrite and replan parts of the story or enforce it in some way. That means you are either stuck with a lot of unplanned extra work that doesn't fit into your perfect plan or the particular dialogue will feel forced. It's not always easy to decide which path to take then.

That the game stays mysterious and does not explain and resolve everything mentioned may not be for everyone, but in my opinion, games don't really need to explain the player the whole world. If left mysterious, the player uses his imagination more and that's what I want to encourage. I'm making a text-based RPGs out of the very same reason after all. And when I play games that stay mysterious, I also found myself enjoying them much more. I guess that's another thing I like about Akitoshi Kawazu's games.

In Hacker Alice writing the dialogues like this definitely helped me getting some interesting dialogues together. I never really expected it to even get close to 10000 lines of dialogue. Or write anything more complex than "There's x here", "I'll open it" and "Let's go.", even though these phrases are still the most dominant.

But the world behind Hacker Alice is even bigger than you'll ever fetch from the dialogues. Technically all the games I've designed take place in the same world even though they may take place on different planets or thousands of years apart. There are even references to games I've designed but never actually developed in Hacker Alice. In that sense, Hacker Alice is only a small story within that world. Even for Hacker Alice I have already three sequels designed which will probably never be made. But my plan is to write down everything for those interested before I die.

Plan your world, think of a basic plot within the world, plan your characters with their personalities and past experiences and then just let it all act out. That's what I did and what I recommend to everyone who develops games or even just writes stories.
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Old 12-01-2016, 04:36 AM
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Chapter 11 - Difficulty: how to push players gently to their limits

Difficulty is one of the biggest topics for game designers. I've had tons of discussions about this already. With players, with developers and with other game designers. And it's nearly impossible to find an agreement on the topic.

I've played quite many games. And many games I quit out of frustration because they were too hard. Other games I quit because I got bored of playing them. Almost all of those didn't really challenge me in any way. It's interesting to note that I could easily name several games I quit out of frustration, but I can't even remember those I quit out of boredom out of my head. I know they are there and if I went through game lists I'd also instantly identify them as such, but the titles won't come to mind when I just think about "games that were too easy".

Many of the games I quit out of frustration because they were too hard are considered easy by people I talked with. Up to the point where they tell me it's absolutely impossible to get stuck in the game because it's so easy. Whereas I've actually finished games where people are suprised and say "What? You managed to finish that game? It was way too hard for me."

It's interesting how different difficulty can be perceived, but you still shouldn't just put it in the "it's all subjective" box. Why you found a game hard or why others find a game hard usually has very concrete explanations to it, you just need to dig really deep into it. Would you watch the other person playing, you'll probably realize this much faster ("Beyond the Beyond and hard? That game was super easy. Oh, he doesn't know he needs to mash the X button during combat in the rhythm the characters are flickering, no wonder he thinks it's hard!").

Usually this has much less to do with playing skill than it has to do with different playing styles. Is the person an item hoarder, unable to ever use any items he can't buy? Is the person a completionist and does every single side quest available before proceeding? Is the person more a button masher or tries to approach combat strategically? Games are designed to favour certain playing styles, but the favoured playing style is often a different one. For example, many RPGs get easier if you are a completionist, in others, leveling doesn't really make much of a difference and in even other games, leveling is even punished, making the game actually harder.

But playing style isn't the only factor. One other important thing to realize is that there are long term challenges and short term challenges. I referred to this earlier when talking about Akitoshi Kawazu. Players will always be more tolerant towards one of these two.
Take me for example. I love short term challenges, but hate long term challenges. If I die in a game where I couldn't save for 2 hours, I will probably never touch the game again and register it as "I hate this game!" in my head. If I die in a game that has a save anywhere feature however, I will keep retrying several times. Might even consider leaving the dungeon again after reload to get better equips or more healing items. The fact that I keep progressing keeps me going much more than when the game just removes 2 hours of exp and gold earned. Consequently, I will automatically perceive short term challenges as much easier.

My conclusion here is that if players think your game is too hard, it doesn't actually mean that you should reduce the stats of the monsters, but rather that you need accomodate for different playstyles better.

There are games that managed to implement long term challenges so well that they did even work for me. Some games for example add an item or skill that lets you instantly return to a town, allowing you to keep your progress and save any time, even though the challenge to beat the whole dungeon without restoring still remains the same. Of course in those games it's also important to give the player sufficient ways to improve (e.g. not allowing him to buy the best equipment the first time he reaches the town). Other games have this "If you die you lose half gold but keep exp" system, which works well in some games. But e.g. in games where monsters level up with you, such a mechanic completely destroys the game, because your exp to gold ratio is completely messed up, monster get stronger, but you can't afford stronger equip yet, stuck. So there are many synergies you need to keep in mind, as it's easy to mess up.

So let's assume you understood all the synergies and set up your game to properly accomodate for the different playstyles. What's left is putting down the actual difficulty. How hard should a game be? Should there be different difficulty modes?

I have a very concrete opinion on difficulty modes and that is: Either none (one) or two at most! First of all, I don't believe in a "story mode" where it's impossible to die. I do think challenging the player is actually something that's needed for him to perceive the game as good and have fun. Even if the player will deny that and wish for a story mode, you shouldn't give that to him. That's because you as developer have the power to put exactly the right amount of challenge that the player doesn't die, even though he is challenged.

And for me, that's exactly the difficulty you should aim for. Make the game so hard that a mistake will be punished, but make it so that when the player always does his best and uses the information given to him, he will never get to the GAME OVER screen.

You still need to be careful when testing yourself, because you will have more information than the player. You have to consider that. If the player can't know he needs to cast "Fire" on the boss, you probably shouldn't design the battle so that he already dies when he doesn't cast "Fire" from turn 1 on. Being able to play through your own game yourself without cheating is definitely the first check to ensure the game isn't too hard (I swear some games are so horribly balanced that I have honest doubts the developer ever played through his own game without debug mode), but it definitely helps to ask someone who doesn't know anything about your game to test it.

Some players however, want the hardest challenge possible, even if it means they have to die and retry several times. And here is also the only point where I see the need of difficulty modes at all. The two difficult modes I advocate are basically "As challenging as possible so that a player who doesn't know the game still can beat it without getting stuck as long as he always gives his best." and "Maximum possible challenge that still leaves the game possible to beat and fun for the developer to play through".
Call it "Normal" and "Hard" or "Adventurer" and "Veteran" or whatever, but those are the only two difficulties needed.

So why not more? Simple. Many games offer four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, Lunatic and if you have that, then as a player, you really don't know which difficulty to choose. Game developer's don't really have a global agreement on what "Normal" means. In some games it can still be way too easy to be fun, in other games even playing on easy is already super hard (especially those games that want you to buy exp/gold via microtransactions - you might not do a game like that but you need to consider that there are people that would directly select the easiest difficulty because they learnt it means paying less money). It's really something you don't want to force upon the player to decide. He doesn't know on which difficulty your game is fun to play. Also, I'm of the opinion that allowing the player to change difficulty is very bad, because it leads to "I can't beat the boss, so I'll reduce the difficulty" situations and that can really ruin the game as well. So without being able to change the difficulty later on, the player needs to immediately decide what the right difficulty is and he will only know that if there are only two, because that's what players usually know. They know whether they are the type that just wants to play through a game and have fun or they are the type that wants the maximum possible challenge.

Also one more important guideline: Never make the game's content depend on the difficulty. Don't make the "good ending" only achievable on the hardest mode. It will just be a slap in the face for half your player base and you don't gain anything from doing it. If you decide to put a difficult mode AT ALL, only do it to open up the game to a larger possible audience and you wouldn't really open it up, if you then removed content for that audience, basically telling them they are worth less.

In all of this, I neglected "playing skill" completely. This is because I strongly suggest to make games simple, but difficult. I talked about that in chapter 9 already. If you make your game so that strategy and choice matters, but it is not overly complex, it is my convinction that ANY player can do it right. Learning that a boss needs to be defeated by using a certain skill is something everybody who can hold a controller and switch on a console can figure out. There is no real "he isn't as skilled so he can't do it" here. Even slightly more complex tactics like enemies swapping between physical immunity and magical immunity or counter spells are things every single human can get. That's why I think that you can very well neglect playing skill in your games. If certain players have problems beating your game even though you followed all my suggestions in this chapter, it isn't because the game's too hard. It's because the game's too complex.

Hacker Alice doesn't have a difficulty selection. It's hard. It allows saving anywhere (though reloading mid-dungeon comes with the punishment of having to fight more battles), so its challenge is generally short term. The only thing that's a long term challenge is keeping your LP up. But you can slowly regenerate LP, so as long as you play perfectly, you will be able to even get it back up when it's low.

Only certain boss battles are an exception, as they will require most your LP to beat and consequently also fall out of the rule of being beatable on the first try. This was needed because first of all, bosses serve as limiter for being underleveled which makes it easier to balance the difficulty between different playstyles and second, I found that if there is at least occassionally a battle you can't beat on first try, you will feel the threat of death better. As you can save anywhere, you will never lose much of your progress, so I didn't find that an issue. On top, if you die at a boss and reload, many of the encounters will be back up, allowing you to grind to make the battle easier.

There is also a very limited amount of healing items that fully restore your LP in the game. I can almost play through the game without using any of those as long as I really concentrate in every battle, though due to the randomness factor I sometimes find myself using one because I don't want to grind my LP back up or reload until I'm lucky. You find enough so that even on the worst of luck, you won't run out of them, as long as you play the game properly and don't waste them, but if you slack, you might find yourself unable to proceed, so beware. As said, the game is hard.

Last edited by Rya; 12-01-2016 at 05:24 AM.
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Old 12-01-2016, 05:22 AM
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Chapter 12 - When in doubt, make it optional

So back in 2005, when I had finished the first mission of the game, I released a demo in the community I was in at that time and got lots of feedback.

A lot of the feedback I got was quite difficult to deal with as I felt it would destroy the essence of the game. I probably turned down most of the people who gave feedback back then.

Hacker Alice is designed as text-based game where a cell is basically a room with something happening (usually a battle, but also other events every 4-5 cells). I wanted players to slowly proceed from cell to cell and draw a map themselves. But one of the most present feedback I got was "add a minimap". Something that would completely change the feel of exploration in the game. So I said "No".

But it didn't end with that. Over the years I kept thinking about it and eventually convinced myself to add a minimap, but only one that shows the very next cells (as in a MUD you only see in which directions you can go from your current cell, not how far).

Adding that minimap, however, also directly changed the style how the players played the game. Now, using the minimap to move, apart from complaining that it is too small, they suddenly wanted to be able to use the arrow keys or WASD to move rather than entering "n" for north. And the moment I added that, the next feedback was that there are too many battles (because the idea was to have one every cell, so no cell is actually event less). So I tried to somehow redesign that but then really realized that it starts getting too far away from what I wanted to make.

So what I decided in the end was to make these things optional and put the default settings on "How the game was originally intended to be played". I realize most player will change these default options, but I'm already happy they have to actually press something to change it. It's my message to the player, silently saying "Are you sure you want to change this?". And if then they complain about too many battles, I can point out that they changed this option (well, I'll generally just say that the game is heavily combat focused so people know what they are getting themselves into).

After having played through the game several times for testing, even I enable the minimap and direct movement now. But still, the playing style I really want to encourage is the one where a player would draw the map on paper himself and I give him all support he needs for that (like showing the current coordinates, so he knows how much room to leave free).

Being able to switch the minimap on and off is actually one way to indirectly adjust the difficulty slightly even without difficulty setting.

Another thing I made optional that indirectly influences difficulty is that later in the game, there is an additional combat mechanism added. For some reason, I thought it's a cool idea to allow players to show off their playing skill by forcing them to memorize certain information. Later on, I felt that people will probably criticize this as "Why don't you show that information?". Opinions on that may probably vary. For example take Pokemon, is it good that Pokemon doesn't show elemental weaknesses and resistences during combat? Is that part of the challenge or an annoyance? So again, I opted to make it possible to optionally switch that information on (it's not elemental weaknesses in this case, but I don't want to spoil it).

So indirectly I guess you could say I allow players to slightly adjust difficulty after all. But it's definitely nothing that just lowers or increases the monster stats, it something concrete and literally visible to the player.

You may encounter these situations where you are unsure what to do during game development and I opted to go for "making it optional" myself. You just need to make sure the options are easy to understand for the player.
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Old 12-04-2016, 10:05 AM
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Chapter 13 - The one thing allowed to be complex: Dungeon Design

In the previous chapters I often pointed out that keeping things simple is the way to go. This especially applies to combat and everything that influences character stats, as by keeping things simple, it is not only easier for the player to understand and get back into after a break, it's also much easier for you to design a well balanced game.
There is one thing I always strive to make as complex as possible, however, and that is dungeon design.

The first RPG I ever played if I don't count Shining Force was Phantasy Star II. Phantasy Star II is known for its huge and complex dungeons. The game came with a walkthrough that contained all maps and many players claim it's impossible to beat the game without this walkthrough. When playing Phantasy Star II, I really got addicted to its dungeons and the walkthrough. I was always taking the walkthrough with me wherever I went and looked at the maps, trying to find the correct paths.

One day, I was probably around the age of 8, fate wasn't very kind to me and I lost the walkthrough. Most likely forgotten somewhere in the sand I was playing in. Could never find it again. And I didn't play Phantasy Star II again, because I thought it was impossible to clear the dungeons without it.

Years later, however, I played Phantasy Star II again. Without walkthrough, without drawing any maps, just by slowly memorizing the maps in the head. And after a long journey, I managed to beat it. Without any help.

Finding the correct path in Phantasy Star II brought me a lot of enjoyment back then. It felt so rewarding to clear a dungeon. It was great! And this has caused Phantasy Star II to become the game that influenced my game development the second most after SaGaFrontier 1.

Its dungeon design is just brilliant. Nothing that can easily be copied. Designing dungeons with such a design takes weeks to accomplish. Recently I learned that a new employee did the dungeon design in PSII and he was overambitious, so he put his all into making these maps.

One of the most important aspects of the dungeon design in Phantasy Star II is that it makes physically sense. That means even though the dungeons are multi-level and maze-like, if you took a "teleporter up" or a "teleporter down" you'll get to the same coordinates on a different level. Also, each floor had the same outer wall layout or followed a pattern (like each higher floor being a bit smaller).

As said before, the games I programmed as child didn't even have real maps. The games I helped with also didn't really have very complex dungeons. The only complex dungeon design I made as a child were maze-like dungeons I drew on squared paper, but I never made them reality outside of my head. Even Gerania, the game I made with RPG Maker 95, had already some nice dungeon design, but was still far away from Phantasy Star II's level.

When I started developing Hacker Alice, I didn't master doing complex dungeon design yet. I didn't have to. I planned it to be a text RPG without a map, so even the simpler dungeons would feel adventurous to explore. Besides, the story wouldn't really allow for very complex dungeons, it would make more sense if the buildings had some logical and pratical sense to them rather than being mazes. I still added some twists to them, by allowing multiple paths, adding some minor puzzles and placing secrets in them.

As mentioned earlier, there were breaks in my development of Hacker Alice. In the first break, I developed two other games that are worth mentioning in terms of dungeon design. These were made during a time where all the AAA RPGs released had super linear dungeon design with only occassional forks, one path leading to a dead-end with a treasure chest and the other one to the next fork or the goal. So in that time, I really fell back into the mood of restoring dungeon design to its old glory.

The first game I made was the remake demo of Gerania. The main reason I created it was to show the world what I can do if I really want to, especially in terms of pixel art. It is the only game where I drew all the graphics myself, pixel by pixel. But it also serves as a demo to how to do good dungeon design. It includes a village and a dungeon and both are designed in a way I would consider ideal. The village containing lots of secrets to find and the dungeon really being designed like a 3 floor Phantasy Star II dungeon. This was really the point where for the first time I was able to create dungeons as great are the ones in Phantasy Star II.

The second game worth mentioning is Rogue Planets. Yes, being able to create a Phantasy Star II dungeon myself was great, but there was one problem with it: When I design it myself, I already know the path before playing and the enjoyment from that is lost. So my new idea was to write an algorithm that automatically creates complex Phantasy Star II-esque dungeons. A game where the only goal is to find the right way in a multi-layered dungeon that makes physically sense and requires you to sometimes go back up to a previous floor to proceed. And so, Rogue Planets was born. I really developed that game in just a month and it allowed me to explore complex dungeons unlimited.

I also designed some pretty complex dungeons for another game developer during that time. He really loved them so he kept asking me to make more. Though once his game was released he never talked with me ever again.

In 2011, I resumed development on Hacker Alice. My abilities on dungeon design had improved greatly now and it shows in the game. The dungeon design got a lot more complex. There were some maze-like sections added to it (where it made sense story-wise), but what is even more present in the game is puzzle-driven dungeon design that usually fits the story better. The further you get into Hacker Alice, the more complex the dungeon design gets up to a point where there is a puzzle that's incredibly hard and even I can only solve it by taking notes.

So why do I allow dungeon design to be complex? Thinking about that brought me to the conclusion that it works because the basic rule set still remains simple. It makes physically sense. You can walk in one of four directions. There are walkable fields and walls. That's all you need to know and you can start exploring. Everything else like exploring a huge maze or figuring out a complicated puzzle is something the player can do without any prior knowledge, just by using his head. Even if he doesn't play the game for a year, when he comes back, he still will be able to figure it out eventually.

And most important, I allow dungeon design to be complex, because exploring complex dungeons is probably the greatest fun I can have in a game.
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Old 12-19-2016, 02:24 PM
EvilDeeMer EvilDeeMer is offline
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I really like these posts. Hope you get around to finishing it up.
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Old 12-19-2016, 09:49 PM
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What was the name of the game for which you did dungeon design?

I hope further entries in this thread include screenshots of your games to illustrate the concepts you've discussed.
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Old 12-20-2016, 06:31 AM
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Cool someone replied! Guess I really should add the last two chapters I had planned.

@EvilDeeMer - Thanks for the feedback!

@TK Flash - Sweet Lily Dreams (not all of my designs made it to the game).

Here is one of the designs that didn't make it into the game (theme: Hypercube):

Note: There are three lines of 4 coloured dots. They are "red-green-green-red" at the start. If you enter the door at the red dot you get to the other red dot, if you enter the door at the green dot you get to the other green dot on the line. At the "NPC" you can switch "red-green-green-red" to "red-green-red-green" and back. Goal is to find all 4 cubes and bring them to the NPC.
Each brown box represents a room.

I could make screenshots of Hacker Alice, but it's text-based so you won't see all that much.

If you just want a quick look at my dungeon design ingame, I recommend you check out my Gerania remake which you can download here:
http://castleparadox.com/gamelist-di...e62c23c5592389

Last edited by Rya; 12-20-2016 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:29 AM
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Chapter 14 - Always plan small

So this is something I've realized already way before I started making Hacker Alice. I had hundreds of game ideas and most of them never got into programming stage, but even those I started programming never were finished except one: Final Tower 2. Technically SaGaAdventure has 3 finished adventures, but as the original plan contained 7 adventures and I even had planned the story of a 4th already, it suffered the not being finished problem as well. Most other games never made it past me programming the battle system, which I enjoyed the most making.

So I started wonder why that is. Final Tower 2 was finished and that was because the plan was small and simple. The whole game design was written on only two pages, one was the general idea and the list of events that can occur in each room and one contained all the monsters and their stats and abilities. It was a simple principle and during a vacation in which I had no access to the internet, but got a laptop with me, I programmed the whole thing. It was fully finished, exactly as planned. Nothing cut off.
And then I spent the next month just playing it.

So it was clear, in order to finish a game you should plan small. Really small. So small that you think "Dude, that's way too small for a game!"
Because in planning stage everything seems smaller than it really is, especially if you aren't experienced yet.

It's very tempting to plan bigger. If you are new to game development, you tend to be like "FFVI was great, but I could make an even greater, longer and more epic game than that! I already have the perfect idea! I can probably do it in just 2-3 years too!"
But when you actually start to do it, you eventually realize that the 2-3 years you planned are more like 100 years, if you want to reach the quality of an AAA title. Or you get bored of the project after a few months and you already have this other even more epic idea anyway. And then you drop the project.

If you hang around in a RPG development community, this almost has become a running gag. A new guy showing up every few months and saying he will make this great epic RPG. And secretly everyone else chuckles when reading the word "epic". Some may feel sorry for him and actually tell him he shouldn't try to make an epic RPG as his first project.

I started preaching this to others as well: Always plan small. Focus on good, unique and simple ideas rather than trying to make something big. If you think it takes 3 days, it will take 3 months. If you think it will take 3 months, it will take 3 years. If you think it will take 3 years, just give up on it.
This is what you need to realize if you actually want to finish a project.

So when I started to develop the idea for Hacker Alice, I already had this in mind. But at the same time, I wanted Hacker Alice to become my biggest, my main project, not just a small minigame. So what I did was taking a medium sized idea that felt like it could be done in a few months, knowing very well it means it'll really take a few years. And years it took. After 11 years it's still only 80% finished, but to be fair, that is because of my lack of motivation rather than me planning it too big. The project got a bit bigger than expected, because I didn't realize really how much extra effort it was to make choices matter. But the main thing I didn't consider was that longer projects also have a higher risk of you losing motivation. So even if you already consider the right amount of effort required, it doesn't mean you will actually finish it, you still need determination. And you need to be able to estimate how much determination you have. How much effort you can actually take before wanting to do something else.

But I didn't give up. I always came back to the project. Because I want to finish it. At least before I die. Finish it.

At least when a single person manages to finish how much of the game is already there.
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Old 12-29-2016, 01:00 AM
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Guild Guild is offline
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Anyone remember the tower game I made in mirc? No? It was neat.

Can I play your games? I'm possibly more interested in the tower one
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  #21  
Old 12-29-2016, 11:19 AM
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Downloads to my games are on they tyrant game list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...Abk/edit#gid=0

Hacker Alice demo I'll send out to everyone interested when I'm done with the blog and testing it myself.
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Old 01-11-2017, 05:00 AM
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Chapter 15 - Demanding female main characters is silly

Shortly before I started thinking about Hacker Alice, the discussions on that it's "unfair" or "sexist" that most main characters in RPGs are male came up. There were conclusions like "Because most heroes are male there are hardly any female gamers".

I always thought that this is silly. I'm male and I never had any problems with female main characters. Phantasy Star I and partially IV and Crystal Warriors for example had female heroes and are still one of my favorite games ever. It never even occurred to me that this could possibly be something that should bother me or "Make me stay away from RPGs".

Still many main heroes were made male and people reasoned it's because "Most game developers are male" and "RPGs are made mainly for a male audience, that's why the main characters are male". Again, I just couldn't relate to that reasoning at all as I cared zero about the gender of the heroes.

So why did I make the main character female? Well, it's mainly out of protest. I wanted to express "Yes, I'm a male developer and make a game of a genre that to 99% only male people play and still I have no problem making my main character female, take this!"

There were also discussions about how male heroes are always the strong fighters whereas female heroes are spellcasters and healers. Some RPGs at that time already put in one "super muscle woman" type hero to make a difference. But I really found that just as silly.

I wanted my main character to not go into any extremes and instead be a pretty unique personality with both more female and more male traits. Consequently Alice wears a dress, but she's also a hacker. She is intelligent, but at the same time longs for adventure. She is neither completely emotionless nor over-emotional. I do think she makes for a pretty interesting character, only hindered by my bad writing skills.

I actually do have to admit that I have a "super muscle woman" type hero in the game as well. But there's a twist to her too: She's a catgirl! Yeah I totally combined two things I found silly here: Companies adding brawny women just because they don't want to be called sexist and companies adding catgirls to be all cute and fluffy and half-naked and make all the otakus happy. That both just didn't work too well for me, so I combined both to neutralized the bad aspects while keeping the good ones (for me anyway).

Over the last 12 years those "sexist / misogyn" discussions really got more and more annoying, full of wrong facts and assumptions, so I usually just shake my head and stay the hell out of them. I still don't care about the gender of heroes at all, but making a female hero these days would feel like I'd agree to these people, so I'd probably think twice about it. Not to mention that with the rise of indie RPGs, there are now almost as many RPGs with female main characters as there are with male main characters anyway. It's no longer something special. Today my protest would probably look quite different. Like really putting super cliche strong male fighter heroes and weak female healer and magicians to give the message "It should still be okay to make a game like this." or only have male heroes to show "This is perfectly fine, just like having only female heroes is perfectly fine", but I guess FFXV beat me to it on the latter.

I guess Hacker Alice is a silent protest in many ways. Just like how it's text-based to protest against the notion that games need better and better graphics, the main character also was created out of protest.

So that's why the main character in Hacker Alice is female.
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