Mechanical Irony and the Suspension of Disbelief

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This kills me. This is right by the Shrine of Winter in Dark Souls 2 (which I love, by the way. Perhaps an article on that some other day). This tiny bit of rubble — one that would take two big steps to clear — is responsible for half of your epic journey. You spend hours tracking down powerful souls and risking your life, rather than just finding a stool.

I call this mechanical irony. Mechanical irony is when the limitations in control we have over our character become all too real. “If only I could climb over that” or “if only I could jump off this ladder” or “if only I could step over this gap”. or whatever. When the sensible, real life to a video game problem becomes obvious, it becomes difficult to sustain immersion and the suspension of disbelief. To an extent this is unavoidable. We’re making games and not simulations. We don’t want to give the players the ability to do all these things, we want to convince them to think in the verbs we’ve given them. We want the player to trust us and give we get that, they will give us a lot of leeway.

Bionic Commando for the NES is very good at this. The game requires a large conceit (.. can you even use that word like that?when talking about mechanics?) from the player. You can’t jump. You have to move around with your bionic arm. You’d think the game would be litered with moments of “if only I could jump, I wouldn’t have to go through all this hassle”, but it’s surprisingly not. Every situation where you wish you could jump is quickly solvable with the mechanics the game provide. The game doesn’t want to remind you that you can’t jump, it wants you to focus on swinging around. To a degree, new players still get frustrated with the inability to jump, but when you consider what a huge concession that is, the game does an amazing job of making the player think about it’s core mechanics.

The Shrine of Winter in Dark Souls 2 does not do that. It’s downright taunting. It could possibly be ignored as a dead end, except for the item on the other end. While many areas of souls games could be destroyed with climbing skills, you generally don’t think about it (though probably also in Belfry Sol!). Here, it’s preposterous. Here it looks like, without invisible walls, you could possibly even jump over it with the mechanics given to you in the game. It could even get you to think about other things. Like, what is that shrine even for if it would be so easy to walk around in real life? Little stuff exists like this every where (welp, fell down, time to walk all the way back to the stair case instead of pulling my self up from the edge) but usually those are so minor, people don’t notice. Here? It’s HALF THE GAME and totally avoidable. No one looks at the Lordvessel door and goes Well you know, if I had some TNT or a hammer…”. People just go with it. If the Shrine of Winter blocked a bridge, most people wouldn’t think about “simply getting rope”. That’s because they’re not having their face rubbed in it. They’re not being taunted. The players want to be immersed. Not everyone is going to fall down little thought-holes like this, but they’re best to avoid when possible, especially when trying to construct games with structurally sound worlds.

Now, taunting isn’t always bad. Dark Souls taunts all the time (though usually not in ways that damage the integrity of the world). A good example of this is Vini Vidi Vici in VVVVVV, where the character, who can’t “jump” is forced to reverse gravity and fall through several screens of spikes to get around an ankle high block. VVVVVV has little “immersion” to speak of and it serves as an excellent gag for an excellent challenge. You could even argue for this in more serious games. Again, the Belfry Sol is an annoying taunt, but it’s repercussions are mild. Is it a good gag? I personally wouldn’t do it, but I could fancy an argument for it. In most cases though, if you’re making a game with any kind of “world” you want to avoid bringing attention to aspects like this.

Scanlines, CRTs, Faux Retro games and whatever

So I was browsing 4chan, as I often do (because I make bad decisions) and decided to drop into /vr/. Without fail there will be a thread about scanlines and NTSC/CRT/RF shaders. I actually find this interesting, because despite not caring about the aesthetic, I do want to have some sort of filter for Brave Earth that isn’t just “lazy scanline overlay”. So I ran into this and found it hilarious.

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Personally, the appeal there for me, is baffling and I’m no sure it’s going t make people wish indie devs were “more accurate” with retro stuff. My first memories as a child involve me playing on my mom’s Atari 2600 and my uncles NES after that. All on crappy old CRT sets over RF. Hell we had one of those hilarious furniture looking console TVs. Maybe it was building sprites in Mario paint, or the better pixel quality of computer monitors and making games in ZZT and megazeux, but the whole “retro means blurry and with scanlines” thing never quite clicked for me. I see thing as pixels. When I play games on the CRT I still use for console games because I’m cheap more than anything, I don’t “see” blurry phosphors. Since our brains fill in a lot of details for us, in my head I’m seeing pixels. So games emulated on LCDs are a plus to me. I like big clunky sharp pixels. Other friends I have look for stuff like framemeisters or buy line doubles and scanline generators to get something closer to what they see in their heads when they play retro games. That’s all cool. It’s awesome to try and recreate things in the past to preserve it for the future. IT’s why stuff like Higan (a super accurate and CPU intensive multi console emulator) are important, even if I will never bother using it.

Still there is a growing number of purists I see getting mad about this stuff. It won’t be a big deal if it was just crazy people /vr/ or those crazy shmup forms or whatever, but I’ve seen even people I know say shit like “this game couldn’t run on the original hardware” or “this isn’t what retro games look like”! I even had one person I know complain that Jamestown had too many bullets for a Neo-Geo game, which is absurd since Jamestown doesn’t claim to be anything. So here are some thoughts on all this, because it’ll probably only get worse once BEP is out (in 50 years).

But old games were designed to be viewed on CRTs!

This is mostly bologna and the thing you need to ask your self is, for any technique, would the art designer NOT have done that if their art was on a LCD or better quality display? Things like dithering come up a lot. Something like say the contra logo… on a CRT the colors blur together more, making the gradient smoother. But the technique of dithering has been used quite often on LCD screens (Just look at Jim’s portrait in this EWJ gameboy port) or in PC Games forever. Acting like LCDs and CRTs is silly — they obviously have visual differences, but there are really very few techniques you’d use exclusively on a CRT. Besides, this is basically any unfalsifiable anyways since we can’t know what the artists were intending or not intending. I would imagine you’d see both artists glad to see their art viewed crisply, and ones who are disappointed by it.

with modern indie stuff where this stuff is thrown around (like with the picture at the beginning of the post)… well, I’ll have more to say about that later, but for now I just wanna say… Play the games on a CRT. Why is it the game’s responsibility to pretend it’s something else? If you plug an NES into an LCD it doesn’t give you scanlines and blur. Internally, for the purposes of this discussion, “retro” indie games and old video games are sending the same thing — an array of pixels. How the device they’re connected to displays them is the displays business.

Besides, this all doesn’t matter anyways. Many greek statuses were intended to be painted, but we prefer clean white marble. Modern statues and modern pixel art reflects that change. Even if it’s not accurate, it’s what most people enjoy and prefer now.

This game claims to be like a (insert console) game but it does this that and the other thing wrong!

If we wanted to make a perfectly accurate game, we’d probably all do what Battle Kid did or what Retro City Rampage tried to do. Most of us don’t. What we want varies. Some of us are just using lo-fi aesthetics as they’re one of the faster style to make while still being a style people respond to well (and remember, making games is hard, especially by yourself. Try it sometimes, it’s fun!). Some care a little bit more about the whole package. When this discussion comes up with people I know, oftne they’re like “Oh but you’re using colors and stuff in a mostly authentic way, you’re okay”… Like, am I? I modified the NES palettes to give me new colors I didn’t have, I don’t obey rules regarding sensible sprite sizes. I have far to many objects on screen at once and like megaman, these already large sprites would need to use MORE sprites just to get the density of color of some sprites.

In fact, adding those extra colors on Naomi was a big thing to me. When I made a mockup and asked people if I should give her more colors (technically possible, but not in the overall picture of the game), people pretty much universally said “Yes. Do it. Why wouldn’t you do it?”. For most people, they want the style up until the point where it interferes with the game. That’s why BEP has a third button. Oh sure I can say it’s start or whatever, but that’s an excuse.

This is the thing with art and fashion. When someone takes stuff from the 80s and 90s, no one (sane) ever goes “OH YEAH WELL IN THE 80S NO ONE WOULD WEAR THEIR HAIR LIKE THAT” because that’s not how fashion works. We take aspects we like forward. We take things that are familiar and transform them. I personally feel that if everyone who made “retro” games tried to, collectively, be more accurate about this stuff we’d be WORSE off. We’d just be wanking nostalgically to things that have already been done, instead of using the past as a spring board into the future… and that’s someone who loves when people maintain history. Making games for old hardware is some awesome digital SCA type stuff. But it’s historical more than anything.

Brave Earth started relatively more accurate earlier on and has gotten progressively more ridiculous in some of the things I put on the screen. But I don’t regret this — when I started this was supposed to be a small free project that didn’t have to move things forward. Now it’s something far more ambitious and better offfor it. It has an identity beyond being “Castlevania but with a sword”. Retro City Rampage also moved on once the shell of the NES got too hard for it to be contained inside and while some may bemoan that all that’s left is a prototype rom, most people are happier for the change. If all retro graphics mean to you is reliving your childhood and everything that comes with it, well… I don’t think much retro indie games are even meant to appeal to you.

We need to understand, lo-fi and pixel art and all that is a STYLE. Do you think the superbrother games are trying to be like a “retro game” and that they would look better if their games seemed more ‘authentically 8/16 bit’? No, and that’d be completely missing the point. People will point to Ridiculous Fishing as being “retro” when the art in the game is composed almost entirely of triangles. There is a huge gradient hereof how these styles can manifest and anyone is free not to like them…but to act like a certain kind of style is somehow more noble is ridiculous. You can still criticize how a style is executed but we have to realize that most of this is a matter of taste and priorities. We all have different desires and developers have different goals. I get driven crazy when games that MOSTLY get it right do things like transparency and sprite rotations, personally. I’m sure Brave Earth will set off people on different issues. But then people will complain that IWBTG doesn’t maintain a consistent pixel density and uses rotating sprites and stuff and it’s like… seriously? Did you miss the point that hard?

The past is a tool and we should not be slaves to it… and that said, I’m still going to try and get construct to do some amount of CRTish effects as a toggle option because I hate my self.

Definitions, Formalists and Zinesters

There has been a lot of talk about the definition of the word Game. Ralph Koster’s open letter to Leigh Alexander, Tadhg Kelly’s attempt to say that formalists are not the enemy or a lovely piece I stumbled onto on tumblr who points something important out. There isn’t a binary between formalists and indie/zinesters.

I find this interesting as my position is both being an “Capital I” Indie but also somewhat of a formalist. Straight off, let me say that my policy about ‘what is game’ is close to peoples policy toward gender pronouns: I’ll call you what you want me to call you (within reason. Don’t call a potato a game please… unless we’re playing hot potato). By saying your work is a game I will approach it like a game and look at it in that context, even if it doesn’t strike me as particularly “gamey” or gamelike. I’m very sympathetic toward the formalist position, though. I love talking about systems. I love defining new ideas. Politics aside, arguing about what games are can be fun and interesting, even if I don’t think the answer is terribly important.

I 100% believe Raph when he says he’s not trying to be dismissive when he calls something interactive fiction (though some people are certainly being assholes). Something “not being a game” really doesn’t change it’s value… in theory at least. Interactive fiction has a lot of kinship with games anyways and would frequently be relevant. I think the fear of exclusion is almost misdirecting from what I think might be the real problem.

I think the problem is that it ignores cultural identity. The “Zinesters” are making what they think of as games. Saying they’re something else does not exclude them (they still get to go to all the cool parties, and talk with all the cool kids!) but it is profoundly disrespectful. That is how they use the term and formalists wield no authority in that space. Also, why are we so married to the word ‘game’ anyways? It’s a term deeply rooted in culture at this point — why not let it be used to talk about a wide range of experiences? We need a word for that ANYWAYS. Nothing is being wasted or squandered. We can come up with other words for things if we REAAAALLY have to.

Remember, this also isn’t a binary. I love talking about systematic stuff. Frame data, minor tweaks to recovery, little things that produce profound changes. But I also like stuff like world ecology, storytelling and lore and other fluff. I love internal consistency not just in mechanics but in the world. My interests aren’t as personal or even as interesting as the stuff a lot of people are doing in TWINE, but it’s far from game systems. Like what was said on Mammon-Machine’s tumblr — systems are for anyone who want to play with them and the reverse is true.

But how can we talk about games if we don’t understand what they are!”

This is a common line and I think it’s kinda bogus. How I make games and talk about games is NOT affected by whether or not Proteus is a “game”. If we’re concerning ourselves with systematic interactions, we’re going to think along those terms. If we’re thinking about personal expression through symbolism, we will think in those terms. Some people design to find elegance and simplicity. Some people see system as only mechanical interaction and some see the entire game world as a system. There are many valid definitions with different repercussions that can be used to achieve different ends. We can’t be bound to one complete definition. In a sense, this is why genre discussions are so good, as each supplies a different framework with different goals. We need to be flexible and adjustable.

As designers, we need to stop chasing definitions for games. There is a definition for every human that exists. Everything from interactive fiction to tetris has a lot of shared parts that we can talk about. We can talk about how to use those parts to achieve different goals. We can do a lot of things without a formal, consistent definition. Art has been doing it for years. It’s annoying, and not terribly but we can deal with it, because the needs of culture are more important than our minor inconveniences. Because that is all this is for us — a minor inconvenience. It doesn’t matter that much. The things that are on the fringe of your interest should not be interfering with the things you want to talk about. Getting distracted by those things and trying to make them fit into your world view is more “OCD”ish behavior than any sort of design. Let it go. You’ll be a better designer for it AND you’ll piss less smart, talented people off.

Besides, any theories that hinge on a precise definition of game are too frail to survive or trust.

Brave Earth Prologue: Trevor vos Cruz

Bio

Name: Trevor Martinez vos Cruz
Age: 24
Race/Nationality: Aistorian Human
Height: 5’11
Occupation: Slayer for the
Holy Order of Saint Alistair

Stats

Offense: High
Defense: High
Range: Averge
Speed: Slow
Mobility: High

(art by Neolucky)


Trevor vos Cruz is the eldest child of House Cruz. Trevor was considered an exceptionally gifted child, being gifted both physically and in his studies. Trevor quickly gained rank and prestige in his Order and is a renowned Slayer for the church.

Reserved and studious, Trevor spends the majority of his free time reading or training, often to the neglect of other responsibilities. While seen as somewhat cold to most, Trevor has a warm and talkative relationship with his sister Naomi. Seeing her potential, Trevor has personally seen to her training from a young age, while also trying to teach her topics like history and philosophy.

Due to the large targets Trevor tends to fight, he was gifted the greatsword, Verbanner, a giant slab of a sword, milled from a cold iron slab. While naturally a slow weapon, Trevor’s immense strength allows him to wield to wield it with surprising speed, making it an ideal weapon for taking out giant enemies. Trevor needs time to recover from swings, which is represented by his charge gauge, which by default is represented by a value between 0 and 100%. The higher this number is, the faster and more powerful Trevor’s next attack will be. This gauge will naturally fill to 50% and can be sped up and pushed to 100% by holding down the Attack button to charge. While charging, Trevor’s movement is temporarily slowed. By picking up Sword Power-Ups Trevor can charge up to 200% (and up to 150% without charging)!

While Trevor can’t maintain a fast pace while wielding his heavy sword, he has developed a number of techniques which focus on short bursts of rapid movement to compensate.

Dash

Command: (c) + Forward/Back

A rapid dash that can be canceled at any point by an attack or a jump. If done in the air, the dash will ignore gravity and allow Trevor to span long chasms. The dash also gradually increases Trevor’s charge gauge and can push it over it’s maximum limit.


Dodge

Command: (c) + No Directions

A stationary dodge. Trevor dodges to the side and becomes temporarily invulnerable. If an attack passes by him during this time, Trevor gains further invincibility and a large bonus to his charge game. While powerful, Dodge is quite expensive to use.


Combat Roll

Command: (c) + Down

A quick roll. While faster than a dash, it is more expensive and takes time to recover. It can be used to roll under enemies, which, like the Dodge, will power up your Charge meter. The Combat Roll must be spaced properly so you pass through the enemy completely.


Leap

Command: (c) + Up

A high, floaty jump that exceeds Trevor’s normal jump height. It allows for full freedom of movement in the air and can be canceled into an air attack at any time. It can be used to dodge attacks or reach hard to reach places, but grants on bonuses to your charge meter.


Steam Greenlight’s $100 and Fallacious Arguments Surrounding it

I’m going to throw up the PA Report article on this. Surprised me that Ben wrote all that — twitter was arguing with him pretty harshly for initially supporting the fee. His piece covers the basic issue, but still leaves room for a lot of people to make bad arguments and suggestions. Most out of innocent ignorance, but still. Lets go over them!

Why are you complaining? Apple/Google/XBLIG/Whoever already does this!

Okay okay okay.

The $100 Dollar Fee is ONLY an arbitrarily chosen check-valve (no pun intended).

It is not tied to profits, it’s not tied to recouping costs or ANYTHING. I will be referencing this a lot. The validity of the 100 dollar fee is actually DAMAGED by sending the money to charity. While charity is great, it shows that the system could be replaced with anything. This is probably the most important point to make about the fee.

ALSO, these services are generally “Shall issue” services. If you meet a quality criteria (basically “functioning”) and don’t break any rules, you get on. You need to be reviewed and you CAN be rejected arbitrarily, but generally speaking, you’re mostly assured that you will get on. Steam and Greenlight are “May Issue”. You’re paying 100 bucks for a CHANCE of getting on. Maybe a 10%, 5% or 1% chance of getting on, mostly through the mechanism of a popularity contest. These services are not comparable on a 1-to-1 basis, though certain individual aspects may be relevant.

They’re just asking developers to put their money where their mouth is.

Oh god I hate this mentality so much. It’s like asking someone to cut themselves to prove their seriousness or something. A lot of times spending money and putting “your money where your mouth is” is appropriate. Some things involve real investment and doing so is definitely a sign of willingness and seriousness. But there is a difference asking someone to buy something they need and asking them to burn 100 dollars and harm themselves financially for no other purpose but to appear serious. Going to charity is less bad than literally burning the money by a lot, but the idea is still the same: This is an artificial economic barrier rather than a “real” one. The “Put your money where their mouth is” statement also misses the big question of “Is this the most optimal solution?”, which it almost certainly isn’t.

Also a lot of these people are living life styles that are already them putting their money where their mouth is.

Come on, who can’t afford 100 bucks for something like that? Even if you’re poor, you should be able to get 100 dollars together!

Well yes: You should. While I’m sure there are some super small percentage of worthy games by really poor people who can’t afford, even those in extremely harsh situations can usually scrap together money. But there are two parts of this.

1) Risk/Reward. Spending a 100 dollars if you have a good shot at a return is one thing. But what if you have a low chance project that is still well done enough to possibly succeed? If you’re a starving artist, it might not be worth the risk, even though your game is the type of thing the Greenlight system was presumably meant to handle.

2) Why are we punishing Starving Artists again? So assuming they can afford it, the money is NOT going into the system. It is not supporting other works. It’s forced charity from someone who can’t afford it. These people are used to paying for their craft and while in theory this is no difference and those who can do it will do it, this is, again an ARTIFICIAL economic barrier.

Why do you think you’re entitled to be on Steam for Free?

fffffffffffffff

This is mostly from dumb forum scumbags, but I’ve seen it here and there. So the obvious.

A) Having a game listed on Greenlight is “not getting on Steam for Free”

B) You wouldn’t be getting on Steam “for free” anyways. This wouldn’t be generosity on Valve’s part, they take a cut of your profits. Greenlight doesn’t supersede that.

C) The fee doesn’t go to Valve so you’re effectively, to them, getting on Greenlight “for free” anyways, only with a dissuasion mechanism in place.

So this is just dumb as hell and I doubt anyone who reads this will have said it, but some of you might want a quick and easy counter argument.

Valve is sending a strong message that if you’re not willing to spend 100 dollars, you have no business being on Steam

This is dumb for a number of reasons, first of which is how Greenlight was originally sold to us, and how it was at release. Valve clearly wanted to be inclusive. The system was supposed to determine worth, not them or any other arbitrary metric like willingness to spend money. Valve, if anything, was super Naive about the wonderful, open world they wanted to create for amatuer developers. Then the whole thing failed in a day and they reacted violently. If you think this is clearly a “message”, you’re a fool. This is the nuclear option, used in desperation. It might have an attached message, but we can’t be sure. Valve is valuing the user experience and keeping things moving correctly over valuing the developer experience. This will probably even change over time because of how desperate an option it is.

Secondly lets say Valve IS sending a message… so what? Surely this is there system and they can do whatever they want with it, but that does not put them beyond criticism. It does not mean we can’t criticize them for failing to deliver on their promises and ideas. Valve has the right to do anything they want and we have the right to rage about it. In fact, raging about what we disagree with benefits everyone. That’s how a free market works.

Thirdly, just because “a willingness to spend 100 dollars” is something that is probably a good indicator of a serious submitter doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good thing to require or test. Most serious game designers would probably be willing to gash themselves with a knife to get their work on Steam too, but requiring that would CLEARLY be bad. So just because go-getters are willing to do something, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily beneficial or wise to have them prove it like that.

Valve should return the $100 if your game gets Greenlit

Okay first this is silly because it’s a charitable donation: Valve doesn’t HAVE your money. Secondly, if you get on Steam, the $100 doesn’t matter anymore. Finally, this implies that the purpose of the fee is more to punish people who don’t succeed on Greenlight, not block horrible awful entries. The system NEEDS choice and it needs games that will be rejected (just not many of them). If Greenlight was just a list of games that will definitely get on steam, there wouldn’t be much “choice” So there is no reason to inflict disproportionate punishment and make the $100 feel more like a “you failed” tax.

But $100s is the magic number. It can’t be lower…

… Tons of people said with no backing whatsoever. But how many bad entries do you need to cut out to make the service work? Lets say the ratio before the 100 dollar tag was 1 legit game per 50 junk games. Lets say now it’s like, 300 games per 1 joke/ridiculously bad game. Obviously very few people are willing to throw down a hundo on a lark, but what about 50 bucks? 100 bucks? Let’s say the ratio at 50 bucks is 100:1. So we have a small percentage more bad entries (that will never get upvoted). How much does that save the legitimate sector of the industry in donations? $25000. That’s like, a whole kickstarter for a small game. Now that’s not a HUGE amount of money, but I think letting a few bad entries sneak in at 20-50 dollars (or as Ben says, maybe even 5) spares people a bunch of money.

But what about the Discovery Issue?

Valve has really done very little to help that. In fact, limiting the amount of games you see at one time doesn’t help. There are also pretty poor mechanisms for searching for certain kind of games or genres. There’s no tag system or anything either that could also help. It’s a huge, hot mess right now that only helps the current winners win more. It doesn’t matter if there 100 or 1000 under entries under the first 12-50 entries you see on the Greenlight page, because you’re probably not going to go much lower than that anyways and there are no mechanisms for finding awesome, unranked games.

So what would you suggest?

Well I’ll admit, I don’t think my ideas here are perfect, but I’ll try and contribute something that you folks can pull apart and criticize. But I’ll make it simple…

More ways to get on Greenlight

You can keep the fee. That’s fine. Maybe make it lower, maybe keep it the same. But lets say you also had a system that new entries that haven’t coughed up dough to Child’s Play are unlisted. You can see them with a URL link, but you’re not listed. Someone would then — through their website or twitter or whatever — encourage their fans to upvote their game. Once a threshold is reached, the game becomes listed. Bigger studios (ones that have an office, be it a small one!) generally would probably rather just throw down 100 bucks to make their advertising easier, but smaller indies might rely on fan love and discovery through other websites to get noticed on the cheap. This isn’t a PERFECT situation. It doesn’t block fake entries with no actual production that are over promising undelivered things, but given that Valve is making a system for Indies, it really should lean more toward inclusive than exclusive. A few bad entries won’t kill the system like 1000 bad entries will.

The good news in all of this? I doubt this system will stay how it is. Valve seemed to apply it’s 100 dollar tax in desperation and can not possibly think this is the optimal solution. I’ll be expecting big changes in the coming months. Valve is a company that makes tons of bad decisions all the time, but is nimble enough to always address things it does wrong and is rarely satisfied with just leaving broken systems.

(Also to anyone worrying, I got money, this won’t stop me at all. It just BOTHERS me.)

To those still defending the $100 fee

I don’t think Valve’s decision is indefensible, especially when viewed as a short term solution. Some people have put forth somewhat rational defenses. Sadly, the majority of responses are either Pro-Authority (Valve did it, so by default it is the correct decision, so shut up) or reek of that “LIFE IS HARD, DON’T TRY AND CHANGE IT, DEAL WITH IT” attitude a lot of people lapse into when stuff like this comes up. Yes, life is hard, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t lash out at things we think are bad. A lot of people seem to think we should have the fee simply because paying for things is the usual way of the world, with no regard to how the system was proposed, what Valve’s original intentions were or how and why the responded how they did. It just plays into the basic stereotypes of consumerism. It’s like people are functioning on cultural autopilot. So if you’re still defending the current system, check your “Deal with it” attitude at the door and really think about it. It might not change your mind, but it’ll make your position stronger, no matter what it ends up being.

Brave Earth Prologue: Small Changes

It’s been awhile, so lemme give some updates on Naomi and Sinlen!

Naomi


First change is one to Naomi’s attack animation. While original the game had more of a “Castlevania 1” vibe, the tone of the game has been different from that for quite awhile. At the time, a simple attack animation seemed appropriate, but over time it began to feel outdated. As such a much more ‘ribbony’, fluid attack felt more appropriate. I’m rather pleased with the results.


Naomi’s shield has also been changed. Unpowered, her shield can be held out indefinitely for a small energy cost. Damage is then redirected to your energy. It’s not efficient, but it’s almost impossible to screw up. The parry is similar to the old version, but with a larger window and lower cost. It’s hard to use, but exceedingly powerful.

Sinlen

Bomber

Sinlen’s Arsenal always seemed a little too small. With Gunner being the ‘boring default’, and the Forbidden Knife being an weapon many players will avoid, Sinlen was left with 2 ‘normal’ weapons. Sinlen also had a lot more design space to work with, so I figured “Sure, why not?”. Bomber is a slow firing, high powered spell that detonates when the fire button is released. While expensive and slow, Bomber can one shot most enemies in the game and can do massive damage to bosses if aimed right. The projectile can also bowl through multiple enemies in a row!


Magic Break: Barrage

Barrage’s homing projectiles helps balance out bomber’s slow speed. Barrage summons out 3 projectiles that, after a moment, rush toward the nearest enemy. They don’t do a lot of damage, but can clear out hard to enemies with ease.


Gunner and Renka have some updates too. Gunner not only gets a nicer sprite, but a slower projectile speed with higher damage. It makes it a little harder to spam, but all together more useful as it can do real damage now. While Gunner still scales with energy, the effect is much less severe. Renka’s spreading shots have had more projectiles added, but has a slower rate of fire and lower range.

I feel the balance is much better now, with Renka no longer being a clear upgrade from Gunner and Bomber being a fun new addition.

I Wanna Be the Guy: Source Code Release

I haven’t touched IWBTG in years. I don’t have MMF2 installed. I don’t have the capability to fix the game in any way and it’s just sitting there, doing nothing.

So here’s the source code and the rules for using it (which are extremely liberal)

I’m hoping everyone who liked my game will be able to get a community backed, improved version, while also allowing budding designers a chance to look into the guts of an awfully programmed game. Hopefully everyone will win.

Brave Earth Prologue: Sinlen

Bio

Name: Sinlen Rothschild
Age: 19
Race/Nationality: Aistorian Human
Height: 5’6
Occupation: State Sanctioned Sorceress

Stats

Offense: Variable
Defense: Low
Range: Very Long
Speed: Fast
Mobility: High

(art by Neolucky)


Sinlen Rothschild is a rather pompous noble-born Aistorian Sorceress. Coming from a powerful and wealthy lineage of mages, Sinlen had all the talent and resources she needed to thrive in the magical arts. Due to her abilities and social position, Sinlen has developed quite a superiority complex that has made it difficult for her treat others as equals. While she enjoys being the life of a party and the center of attention, her conceited nature has left her with few actual friends.

Fortunately, with to a friendship between their two families, Sinlen and Naomi have been childhood friends. While one of Sinlen’s only ‘real’ friends, both their competitive natures and Sinlen’s arrogance make it often appear as a rivalry. While Sinlen has traditionally had an easy time placing her self as superior to Naomi, she sees Naomi’s growing strength as a threat to their friendship.

Sinlen also harbors animosity toward the Holy Aistorian Church and it’s various organizations due to forcing mages in their region to conform to the standards of church doctrine.

Sinlen is a long ranged, glass cannon. Due to the damage she takes, mobility is very important to her survival. Sinlen has the fastest walk speed and highest jump of all the characters, as well as the ability to change direction in mid-air. She even has the ability to levitate for short periods of time by manifesting a magical disk to sit on beneath her.

Her primary attack depends on which spell she is carrying at the time, though in almost all cases she still has longer range than any other character. While her attacks are also often very damaging, her attack energy drains with each shot. Sinlen’s energy operates slightly differently from Naomi’s. While they they both have a maximum of 20 units of energy, Sinlen’s energy slowly recharges and she does not gain energy from destroying enemies. Certain spells also weaken in power as Sinlen’s energy gets lower, so Sinlen has to be very careful in managing her enemies.

Sinlen’s magic lineage also gives her access to forbidden bloodmagic techniques. She can use these techniques perform a unique “magic crash” attack with each spell by pressing her Special button. These Magic Crashes are more powerful versions of normal spells, but they don’t drain energy. Instead they feed off of Sinlen’s life force and reduce her max energy capacity instead. While this max energy can be recovered by picking up gems, overuse of Spell Crashes can leave SInlen unable to attack fast enough to defend her self. Sinlen’s levitation disk can also cause her to experience energy drain, so be careful with how much you use it!

Gunner


Sinlen’s “Gunner” spell is her default attack. While not as great as her other spells, it has excellent range and reasonable damage and a fast rate of fire. Sinlen creates a spell-circle in front of her and rapidly shoots in a single direction and can easily dispatch a large amount of weak foes with ease. Unfortunately, she cannot walk while attacking (though she can attack during a jump) and the spell tends to drain energy rather quickly. Her shots also reduce and size and power as her energy approaches zero, though her shots also become cheaper.

Magic Break: Gun Slicer


While the Gunner spell is somewhat mediocre, it’s Spell crash, “Gun Slicer” is quite powerful. It produces an initially slow moving, high damage, accelerating projectile that can cut through special enemies in one blast and comes out instantly. Gun Slicer can give Sinlen a great emergency source of damage when her energy is low.


Renka


Sinlen’s “Renka” spell functions similar to Gunner, forcing Sinlen to create a spell-circle and remain stationary. Contrary to gunner, Renka fires a spread of high damage rings a moderate distance in front of her. At point blank range, when all rings can hit, Renka can dish out incredible amounts of damage. Like Gunner, it’s efficiency also decreases as Sinlen’s energy does, with the attack firing less rings in a tighter cone.

Magic Break: Burst


While Renka is generally superior to Gunner in all aspects but range, Renka’s Magic break, “Burst” is somewhat less effectivel. When surrounded by enemies, Sinlen can use Burst to create a sphere of renka’s around her body that shoot out in the 8 cardinal directions, hopefully killing everything around her. While useful in a pinch, it lacks the pure destructive power of Gun Slicer.


Chakrams


Sinlen’s “Charkam” spell produces one of 3 boomeranging pentagonal rings which can slice through enemies and can be shot while moving. Chakrams don’t have high damage, but they can often hit enemies multiple times and can cover a lot of the screen. They also have a high energy consumption and no more than 3 can be on screen at a time. Still, due to the coverage and the ability to shoot on the move, Chakrams are one of Sinlen’s most powerful spells.

Magic Break: Soul Nova


“Soul Nova” is chargable beam Spell Break that Sinlen can use to hit whole lines of enemies and do massive damage. Upon pressing Special, Sinlen creates a spell-circle in front of her that she can charge by holding down the Special key. While down, the circle grows and Sinlen’s energy is slowly drained. When released, a beam, who’s size is determined by the charge time, blasts out and can easily reduce a whole swarm of enemies to ruin.

Sinlen can move while the spell-circle is charging, though the spell circle remains in place. Also if a chakram is on the screen when Sinlen presses special, it will convert into the spell-circle instead.


Forbidden Dagger


Not a spell, per-say, but a powerful Rothschild heirloom and bloodmage artifact. Sinlen can use the “Forbidden Dagger” to rapidly slash in front of her at blinding speed and can even attack while moving. In fact, Sinlen can keep attacking as long as the attack key is held down (or until her energy reaches 0). While massively powerful, the hungry dagger reduces Sinlen’s maximum energy every time it’s drawn and will quickly drain her normal energy until it is re-sheathed. This can be offset by killing enemies, which will recover a portion of her max energy. Generally if she can kill multiple enemies in one draw, offset the cost of drawing the blade.

It’s gruesome nature has had weapons like it and bloodmagic in general branded as witchcraft by the church, though the Rothschild family still practices it in secret.

Magic Break: Forbidden Ritual

The Forbidden Dagger does not have a typical magic break. Instead, Sinlen turns the blade on her self. By stabbing her self, she sacrificing some health to completely refresh her energy gauge. While certainly a gruesome technique, it is sometimes necessary when the Dagger has left Sinlen without enough energy to even attack. While mostly used to return her energy capacity to normal levels, it also can be used merely to gain a quick 20 energy and thus keep up a powerful offensive.

Brave Earth Prologue: Naomi

Bio

Name: Naomi Isabella Victoria vos Cruz
Age: 17
Race/Nationality: Aistorian Human
Height: 5’9
Occupation: Paladin of the Holy Order of Saint Alistair

Stats

Offense: Strong
Defense: Average
Range: Average
Speed: Slow
Mobility: Low


Naomi vos Cruz is a young Aistorian noble-lady and Paladin. While she is generally a friendly, kind and out-outgoing woman, she possesses a fiery, competitive and stubborn side. Her personality and lineage soon brought her to Sacred Order of Saint Alistair. While formerly a militaristic Order, noted for it’s gifted female fighters, the modern role of these Paladins were that of honor guards. Determined to fight, Naomi trained in secret with her older brother and notable Hunter* for the Church, Trevor vos Cruz. Due to both her obvious skill and political pressure from the Cruz family, the Order eventually allowed Naomi to assume combat duties. Brave Earth Prologue chronicles her first experience out in the field.

*”Hunter” refer to anyone specialized in fighting large monsters, demons or various undead creatures.

Naomi’s weapons of choice is her mother’s bastard sword and a large heater shield. Due to her armor, she is rather durable, but is a bit lacking in mobility. Naomi moves at a steady, patient pace and has no directional control when in the air. She must move and attack cautiously.

Fortunately she has rather strong offensive abilities. Her basic attack is a relatively far reach slash that strikes out a distance in front of her. The attack does good damage and has good reach for it’s speed, but lacks any vertical coverage. While she can dish out high damage against a stationary foe, her basic attack leaves a lot to be desired. To compensate, Naomi has a special attack button which can be used to access 4 different attacks. The button it’s self is modeled after Super Smash Brothers. By pressing the (C) button and a direction (Up, down, Left/Right or no direction). Naomi can unleash a variety of special attacks, assuming she has enough energy.

Naomi can have a maximum of 20 units of energy, which she can gain by either killing enemies, or picking up energy gems. She may also find “Ex Orbs”. These orbs, which Naomi may only carry one of at a time, will power up one of her special moves, giving it new properties and allowing her to perform a special air attack. The nature of the orb can be determined by treating the individual symbol as an arrow (figure to the right), making sure you know which move is powered up.

Her attacks, in detail, can be found below.

Forward + (C)


Naomi’s Forward+C attack is a low powered, long range projectile While it does half the damage of her normal attack, it is relatively cheap and has a lot of range.

With the appropriate EX Orb, Naomi’s projectiles get cheaper, can be shot faster and can be charged up for large damage. She also possesses an air fireball that goes down at roughly a 45 degree angle. The attack’s recoil can be used to get Naomi to higher ledges.


Down + (C)


Naomi’s Down+C attack is a ground slide that travels roughly 4 tiles. It is relatively slow, but has a large hitbox that stays out for the entire duration of the move, making it easy to time attacks with. It can also be used to slide under small gaps

With the appropriate EX Orb, Naomi’s Slide goes much farther, much faster and much lower. Her hittable area is greatly reduced and she can slide under many enemy attacks and through multiple enemies at once. Her air attack is a dive kick that does as much damage as her basic attack. When she hits an enemy, depending on the direction held she can either jump off her enemy to the left, right or straight up. If she dives low to the ground, her dive kick becomes a slide without costing additional energy.


Up + (C)


Naomi’s Down+C Is an ‘uppercut’ style attack that hits a huge area above her. It’s slightly slow to come out, but hits an area that she could not normally attack otherwise.

With the appropriate EX Orb, Naomi’s Uppercut comes out near instantly. It also throws out a spinning projectile that flies in a parabolic arc as a secondary effect of the attack. In the air, Naomi somersaults rapidly with her sword out, dealing damage to anything that comes close to her. While an incredible attack, it takes a lot of energy and dampens her forward momentum. Using it during a tight jump could be fatal!


Neutral + (C)


If Naomi presses the C button and no direction, she puts her shield up. While the shield is up, her energy drains rapidly but any hit will put her in a temporarily invulnerable state, protecting her from damage.

With the appropriate Ex Orb, Naomi’s parry mechanically changes, functioning more like a parry. Instead of being able to hold her shield up until her energy runs out, Naomi must specifically time her parry (which activates much quicker, luckily). An unsuccessful parry will have her slowly recover (risking a hit), but a successful parry will not only put her in an invulnerable state, but it lasts longer and her recovery animation is canceled. She also recoups energy, making successful parries extremely cheap! In fact, in some situations Naomi can actually experience a net gain in energy! She can also parry in the air!

The Ex Parry is difficult to use, but should be extremely powerful in the hands of an experienced player.


Naomi is Brave Earth: Prologue’s most balanced character. While she lacks the extreme strength the two other main characters have, she also lacks their extreme weakness and a very robust and flexible movelist.

Brave Earth: Prologue

Things are rolling here. I’m about 30 or 40% through development. The best release date I could guess would be “Early 2012”. But what I can say is -I will release another game soon-. Even in the worst case scenario, what I have done now would be released if all else fails. So I figure it’s time for me to stop hiding and subtly hinting at things. I’m officially announcing Brave Earth: Prologue.

Brave Earth: Prologue is a 2d, faux 8-bit platformer which draws heavy gameplay inspiration from NES era Castlevania and cinematic inspiration from Ninja Gaiden. The game follows a young and inexperienced Naomi vos Cruz in her first (and unplanned) combat mission and serves as an introduction to some of the characters of the Brave Earth setting before the events of Tower in the Sky. Prologue follows Naomi through at least 6 different levels of classic Castlevania style action, down to intentionally stiff jumps and a slow, but powerful main attack. Instead of having subweapons, Naomi has a Super Smash Bros. style ‘Special’ button that gives her access to 4 different special moves. She may also pick up powerups that increase the effectiveness of some of her moves and even allow her to reach new locations! The game also features 2 additional characters who take different paths through the game and between them have access to 4 unique stages and each of these characters possessing very different gameplay styles.

The game will hopefully be released on Steam (and possibly other services like Indievania) for the planned price of 5 dollars. This is subject to change and there should be a free demo with a decent amount of content released at some point.   (Times have changed and this is an old post. Expect 10-15 dollars. Steam Refunds will cover those where either the game runs poorly or who do not enjoy it)