Thursday, April 23, 2009

Discarded Abilities

Here are a few of my favorite ideas that didn't quite make it in to CTF.

Illusions/Hallucination - This could let someone toss a projectile at a group of enemies and cause them to see dozens of random sparkles and images (including flags and flag markers) for about 10 seconds. You would usually use it before moving in for a big attack to confuse the enemy.

I was really excited about this idea but never had the time to implement it. I also couldn't think of a class where it fit. Spy was the obvious choice, but they were already the most fully featured class: they didn't need more toys.

Speed Boost - It became clear in testing that speed was a huge asset. If you could outrun your opponent you could usually survive. That is why the flag decreases speed when carried. All too often once a flag was grabbed it was as good as captured. Slowing down the holder encouraged more fighting. It is also why the paladin saw a speed decrease. He used to be very fast so he could stay with groups and heal, but it became clear right away that speed and troilus was a nearly invincible combination.

Along those lines I wanted to give some class a temporary speed boost in order to catch up to someone at a critical moment (or get away). It never really fit the themes or the balance for the classes. Obviously it fits the theme of the Scout, but considering it is more of an anti-scout ability in terms of use, it makes more sense to give it to a slow class.

It came closest to being given to the Pusher. Allowing them to spend spirit to move faster, push further, and not suffer any "push back" from their push. But it never quite got there.

False flags - I thought it would be fun for spies to be able to set false flags on the ground, or carry a false flag. It would appear on the radar just like it was the enemies flag, causing people to chase you while a teammate snags the real flag. I also considered adding an "information" class that had all these information related abilities, including hallucinations.

Team beacons - I considered letting scouts set down a beacon that would direct all players on their team to that location.

I also thought about letting all players toggle an ability that shows where everyone else on their team is currently located relative to yourself: much like the flag markers work. Bonus for paladins: Color coded indicators to check on health. Overpowered bonus for spies: When disguised, you see the enemy instead of your own team. (That would never happen.)

Obviously if you are a disguised spy (uncloaked) this ability would show you as being on the other team, so it couldn't be used to sniff out spies, except that someone might be suspicious when a marker disappears or suddenly appears!

None of this got in because the markers get in the way of flag tracking, we'd need a more obvious flag marker before we could use these abilities well in ctf. But they work really well for the new game mode. Although they're less needed in such a compact space.

Designing Capture the Flag

Making Capture the Flag was the most fun I've had designing for Clan Lord in a while. It was refreshing after countless hours of NPC/quest writing and testing pushing the Ash Island expansion out.

The design evolved over the past year from idle player vs. player planning. The decision to focus on a April Fool's Boardwalk inspired homage to Team Fortress pushed the majority of the implementation into a few busy and rushed weekends. Before that my designs focused on a more RPG like environment where you gained skills and built up your base over the course of the battle. Area-specific and time specific buffs for completing quests was an integral part of the design. I had hoped to include those elements in the actual game world, too. Imagine getting group stat buffs from defeating certain bosses. Kind of like ethereal items, but shorter lived and affecting the entire group.

The entire game exists because of the Spy class. I really enjoyed the concept and thought it would translate well to Clan Lord. I also wanted to see how possible invisibility and disguises were using the Clan Lord engine. Invisibility worked out well, but disguises were a lot harder. I ended up turning off name tags to make them more convincing. By the way, I intend to include a message telling you who you just killed sometime soon, so you can still taunt your victims.

Of all the classes, Spy and Fengineer probably took a bit over 50% of the total work to implement. Even so I took a lot of shortcuts and hacks to get them working, especially where the Fengineer was involved. Fengineers not being affected by any Fengineer buildings is largely out of coding laziness rather than for design reasons.

I was pleasantly surprised with how fun the Fengineer ended up being to play. Walls were a last minute suggestion from a play tester, and they add a nice spice. While they probably aren't as powerful as fountains or mines, they give a Fengineer something to build once they've built their main structures.

I've been working on a smaller map with the intention of releasing it with a new game mode. The small map will be much better for the typical sizes of games we're likely to get. The current map is suited for 10v10 or larger, but feels pretty barren in smaller games.

The new map and game mode focus on funneling people right into the action. They should never be more than 45 seconds away from a fight after spawning, and usually a lot less. It is probably less advantageous to play lighter more mobility based classes in this format. While there are a lot of alternate routes and special scout shortcuts and back doors, it remains to be seen whether there will actually be a point in using them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


People have been really good about reporting bugs lately. Both potential abuses as well as the normal "I think this should give more experience" types. We get well over 100 bugs an update now, up from around 60-80 last year. And I don't think this is just because we're creating more bugs than we used to. So kudos, keep them coming.

Since a lot of players aren't aware, I thought I'd review our bug system. When you /bug your bug is logged, as well as your exact location and the time you bugged it. The bug is also sent to all online GMs. A /pray also goes to all online GMs, and up until recently they weren't logged. They are now, but we don't generally check it.

After every update the bug log is dumped onto a bug tracking database using keywords, so remember to mark your bugs as best as you can.

Since we log where you are standing try to be standing as close to the source of the bug as possible, and since we log the time, try to bug as soon as possible. Try to include as much information as possible bugs like "This doesn't work" or "This doesn't give enough experience" aren't very useful. Even if you know (or think you know) a GM is watching, it won't make sense when they're reading a bug later without context. So make sure to provide that context.

If you think you've found an abuse it is a *very* good idea to bug before you try to reproduce the bug. And then again afterwards, reporting your results. You want to do this to cover your hide more than anything else. If some GM happens to be watching you abuse a bug, we have no way of knowing if you're just trying to help or if you're actively abusing things. And 90% of the time it is someone abusing, so don't expect the benefit of the doubt.

For bugs you think are time sensitive, or for whatever reason need a very long description, you can private message Eldon or me on the Sentinel with a description. You could also post bugs on the Sentinel if you think we might benefit from more reports. But remember that it is best to avoid posting bugs that can be abused in any way, or bugs which contain spoilers. And that in general the Sentinel isn't a way to get anything constructive done. Ever.