August 18, 2017


Shadowhand Dev Diary #20: buff tooltips, weapon updates and more

from Grey Alien Games

We’ve have a busy few days sorting a bunch of loose ends and also answering some design questions that had piled up. Basically I’m trying to clean off a bunch of quick tasks that are cluttering up my todo list. Here are a few examples:

Buff and Debuff tooltips

The game already had tooltips for separate stun, bleed, poison and haste icons, but there were no tooltips for general buffs or debuffs, just a green or red arrow icon.

So I finally coded proper tooltips that list all the current buffs or debuffs (see image above). There are up to 6 possible debuffs and 9 possible buffs, though it’s highly unlikely you’d get them all at once. However, I did need to code a tooltip that can change size depending on how many lines it needs to display.

Firebomb Blunderbuss

This weapon is based on a real naval weapon that Helen researched. In the game we finally decided to make it 100% unblockable fire damage instead of part normal damage and part fire damage as that was overly complex. It’s a late game item and is pretty cool.

Smoke Bomb

Originally we had a cool idea about using the smoke bomb to cover up some of the enemy’s cards in smoke. However, this was going to take too long to code and because it should only last one turn so that the cards aren’t covered up on the player’s turn, it meant that it wasn’t going to be much of a hindrance.

So we repurposed the item to increase the number of cards the enemy requires to get a combo. This was pretty easy to code as we already have a potion called Clarity which reduces the number of cards required to get a combo. Also I made sure Clarity cancels out the effect of Smoke Bomb and vice versa.

Bits and bobs

I also did a few other things such as:
- Made floating text that says “Resist Alcohol” for when an alcoholic potion takes effect but your character manages to resist due to having the Sailor’s Trousers outfit item.
- Tweaked the enemy AI to use attack buff potions when their weapon is charged or nearly charged and not to waste them when they have uncharged weapons.
- Made soap always disarm the other weapon if the first one is already disarmed.
- Improved inventory management so that when you drop an item on the inventory it doesn’t pointlessly scroll if the item is auto-sorted onto an on-screen slot.

Polish List

I also moved a bunch of tasks to the “Polish” list, which I may do after release. These aren’t bugs, just things that, as a perfectionist, I’d rather see improved.

I do this because I found out years ago that the only way to maintain sanity when coming up with cool little polish ideas during development is to put them on a separate list that is not part of the main To Do list. This way they don’t distract me from actually finishing the main game.

OK that’s it for now, back soon with more!




Episode 475: Sterling Reviews

from Casual Gamer Chick

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This week’s episode is 50% longer as the first 20 minutes or so are devoted to the reaction to Jim Sterling’s explosive review of Hellblade and his subsequent recanting later that day. This week has no Gaming Flashback or Gaming History, but there are six news items to make up for it.

The items include:

  • EA talks about Nintendo Switch support
  • Rainbow Six: Siege “Operation Blood Orchid” update launches August 29
  • Myth-inspired RTS Deadhold charges into Early Access later this month
  • No Man’s Sky “Atlas Rises” update adds story content and “limited” online co-op
  • EA says Star Wars: Battlefront “lacked long-term goals”
  • Moons of Madness is Lovecraftian horror on Mars

Let us know what you think.

This week’s episode is 50% longer as the first 20 minutes or so are devoted to the reaction to Jim Sterling’s explosive review of Hellblade and his subsequent recanting later that day. This week has no Gaming Flashback or Gaming History, but there are six news items to make up for it. The items include: EA talks about Nintendo Switch support Rainbow Six: Siege “Operation Blood Orchid” update launches August 29 Myth-inspired RTS Deadhold charges into Early Access later this month No Man’s Sky “Atlas Rises” update adds story content and “limited” online co-op EA says Star Wars: Battlefront “lacked long-term goals” Moons of Madness is Lovecraftian horror on Mars Let us know what you think.



August 17, 2017


How to Play Lady Jane Solitaire

from A Shareware Life

In this video I explain how to play Lady Jane Solitaire, a 2 deck Klondike type game.

 

 



August 15, 2017


Shadowhand Dev Diary #19: balancing potions and bombs

from Grey Alien Games

Wow I can’t believe it’s been 2 weeks since the last post. Basically I went down a giant rabbit hole of balancing…

It all started because I wanted to give a smuggler early on in the game some Slasher’s Cider, which is a potion that increases the chance to cause bleeding. However, when I ran my automated AI test system the potion didn’t seem to be make much of difference to the outcome of the fight.

So I embarked upon a large scale test of all the bombs and potions in the game to check that none were overpowered or underpowered. This involved setting up special test scenarios for each item and logging the results.

How many tests to be accurate?

Typically I run the automated AI test system 500 times and then again and compare the results. I’ve found that running a fight just 100 times isn’t accurate enough.

In fact I was reading about the margin of error for repeated tests and for 10 tests it’s about 30%, and for 100 tests it’s about 10%. That means I could run a test and get say a result of 40% and then run it again and get a result of 60%, or anywhere between those values (if the true value is 50%). That’s not acceptable for fine tuning the effectiveness of bombs and potions, or anything really!

Running 500 tests reduces the margin of error to 4.5%, which isn’t great but is better. Plus if I run it again and average the two values, it becomes even more accurate.

What did I discover?

Early on the the design of the game I gave the various bombs and potions placeholder values and ordered them in what I thought was a reasonable order of effectiveness. However, my tests soon revealed that quite a lot of them were underpowered (nothing was super-overpowered but there are a couple of powerful items on purpose).

So I embarked upon various tweaks and retesting until I got all the items to influence the outcome of fights in an acceptable manner.

It’s possible players might have used an underpowered item but not really noticed it was underpowered just because it did something visually cool and changed a stat, but I didn’t want to take that chance.

250,000 tests!

In the end I ran about 250 test scenarios and many of those were run twice to collect more data. Each of those scenarios consisted of 500 automated AI tests. So in total that’s about 250,000 tests.

Imagine if I’d tried to do that manually? Or just said “those figures are probably good enough”. The game could be broken.

Some may call me perfectionist (and they may have a point) but I learned a lot about how the potions influence the outcome of fights and if they are best used with fast or slow weapons, one or two weapons, at the start of end of a fight etc. I could probably write a Shadowhand strategy guide now :-)

Anyway, I’m back on track with the main development now, so more blog posts coming soon!




How to Play Triple Peaks Solitaire

from A Shareware Life

This new video shows How to Play Triple Peaks Solitaire in Action Solitaire. Triple Peaks is also known as TriPeaks.

 

 



August 11, 2017


Episode 474: That Splat Ain’t Mayo

from Casual Gamer Chick

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This week’s episode not only has a Gaming Flashback, but a Gaming History as well. The Flashback looks at the hardware intensive PC game Crysis, while the Gaming History looks at one of the bigger crowdfunding fiascos, Starforge. Jonah also reminds viewers that the “mayo” in the Splatfest for Splatoon 2 probably wasn’t actually mayo.

This week’s news items include:

  • Lexington video game company sues after personal information posted online
  • New game combines monster taming and Stardew Valley
  • Respawn: “We’re doing more Titanfall
  • Destiny 2 will not offer customization of imported characters

Question of the Week: “What two games would you like to see combined?”

This week’s episode not only has a Gaming Flashback, but a Gaming History as well. The Flashback looks at the hardware intensive PC game Crysis, while the Gaming History looks at one of the bigger crowdfunding fiascos, Starforge. Jonah also reminds viewers that the “mayo” in the Splatfest for Splatoon 2 probably wasn’t actually mayo. This week’s news items include: Lexington video game company sues after personal information posted online New game combines monster taming and Stardew Valley Respawn: “We’re doing more Titanfall“ Destiny 2 will not offer customization of imported characters Question of the Week: “What two games would you like to see combined?”



August 03, 2017


Episode 473: Jonah Bashes Zelda, Gets Snarked

from Casual Gamer Chick

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This week’s episode features Jonah being seriously critical of the Zelda series and getting the aghast reactions from his co-hosts (and probably the internet at large). The crew also discusses games on laptops and dreaming about the games they’d played. There’s another Gaming Flashback this week, 2007’s Game of the Year, Yaris.

This week’s news includes:

  • Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition to haunt PS4 and PC players in August
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy spotted with Xbox One controls
  • Dragon Quest XI coming West next year
  • Assassin’s Creed Origins director says game won’t be on Nintendo Switch

The Question of the Week: “What game do you play most on your laptop?”

This week’s episode features Jonah being seriously critical of the Zelda series and getting the aghast reactions from his co-hosts (and probably the internet at large). The crew also discusses games on laptops and dreaming about the games they’d played. There’s another Gaming Flashback this week, 2007’s Game of the Year, Yaris. This week’s news includes: Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition to haunt PS4 and PC players in August Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy spotted with Xbox One controls Dragon Quest XI coming West next year Assassin’s Creed Origins director says game won’t be on Nintendo Switch The Question of the Week: “What game do you play most on your laptop?”



August 01, 2017


5 Unusual Solitaire Games for You to Play

from A Shareware Life

There are many hundreds of solitaire games in existence, and many of them have similar structures.  Here are 5 games that are different from the rest.

1) Kings in the Corners

Kingsinthecorners

Kings in the Corners is an interesting game where your objective is the place the court cards (Kings, Queens, Jacks) in special places.  You proceed through the deck one card at a time, placing Queens in the top and bottom places, Jacks to the left and the right, and Kings in the corners.  There are a few places for other cards, and you sometimes have to place other cards in the spaces for Kings, Queens, and Jacks.  But cards can sometimes be removed, and you hope that you can remove non-court cards in order to put the court cards in their places.  The main flaw to the game is it involves a lot of luck to win.

How to Play Kings in the Corners Solitaire

 

2)  Thirteen Packs

Thirteenpacks

Thirteen Packs is a two deck game where the cards are dealt out to 13 piles in an unusual way.    Cards are dealt out the 13 piles and then to the stock in a way where the number of cards dealt to each pile will be variable.  You then go through the stock, opening the 13 piles based on the ranks of the cards in the stock and play cards up to the foundation as possible.  It is a difficult game to win.  Thirteen Packs (with slight differences in the rules) is also known by other names, such as Weaver's, Leoni's Own, or Grandma's Game.

How to Play Thirteen Packs

 

3) Alliance

Alliance

 Alliance is a game I invented.  It is based on the game Matrimony, which is an interesting game but it rarely comes out.  I made changes so that some skill could give the player a fighting chance to win.

A game of Alliance has several stages:  first, cards are dealt out to 16 piles.  Each time you click on the stock, one card is dealt out to each of the 16 piles.  At each step you have the chance to move cards up to the foundations if possible, but there is no moving within the 16 piles.  When the stock is empty, the redeals start.  There are 16 redeals, each redeal involves picking up a pile and distributing it to the top of the other piles.   Again, you can move cards to the foundations if possible at every step.  Finally, when the redeals are complete, you can move cards between the 16 piles to free up buried cards.

Alliance is a fun game and a great change of pace from regular solitaire games.

How to Play Alliance Solitaire

 

4) German Patience

Germanpatience

German Patience is an extremely difficult game.  You have 8 piles and your job is to build sequences of 13 cards up regardless of suit (wrapping King to Ace).  You win if you get all the cards into sequences. The problem is you only have the 8 piles to work with, plus a waste pile.  You can moves groups of cards in sequence around, but that's it.  It is really tough to get all the cards lined up.

How to Play German Patience Solitaire

 

5) Fifteen Puzzle

Fifteenpuzzle

Fifteen Puzzle is actually similar to German Patience, but instead of sequences, you want to put the four cards of each rank together (such as the four Kings).   There are thirteen ranks and you have 15 piles to work with, so you have some extra room.  You play cards of the same rank on each other and try to move them around to get 4 of each rank in a pile.   Fifteen Piles is easier than the other games here and you can get it to come out most of the time.

How to Play Fifteen Puzzle Solitaire



July 31, 2017


Shadowhand Dev Diary #18: weapon modifiers and inventory stacking

from Grey Alien Games

Weapon Modifiers

I’ve had a busy couple of days adding some neat features to the game.

First I added the ability to show a modifier e.g. +2 as part of the weapon card name (see screenshot above). This means that there can be more powerful versions of weapons found earlier in the game. I also added the same ability to Grog Bombs because they deal a fixed amount of fire damage and later in the game the player will need more powerful ones.

This turned out to be quite a big task because I had baked the card names onto the card graphics (I was going to change to dynamically drawing them if we ever localise the game). However, now that I needed to display +X next to the name I basically had to re-export all the weapon and gear cards in both small and large format which was 136 exports!

I also needed to create a special new small font to draw the card name. It’s no good scaling down a larger font as it just looks bad, it’s always better to export a font at the exact size it’s planned to be used in-game for clarity.

Inventory Stacking

I coded gear stacking so that the player’s various bombs and potions can be stacked in the inventory instead of taking up zillions of inventory slots. The quantity the player has “in stock” is shown on the bottom right of the card on both the small and large versions.

Coding the stacking was a bit complex as it had to handle taking one off the top of the stack and allowing it to be equipped in one of the player’s 3 gear slots and vice versa.

Furthermore I decided to auto-sort the inventory as well so that the weapons/outfit/gear/ability tabs are always sorted in a sensible order. However, new items will still appear in the top left of the inventory tab (and be marked with a new icon) so that players can check them out. This is basically what Dark Souls and the latest Zelda does, so it should be OK :-)



July 30, 2017


Shadowhand Dev Diary #17: sound effects

from Grey Alien Games

Shadowhand has got a LOT of sound effects, mostly supplied by Power Up Audio, though a few are ones I have carried accross from older games such as Regency Solitaire.

There are:
- 71 UI/gameplay sounds
- 60 combat sounds
- 73 Voice over samples (for enemies)
- 119 ambient background sounds
Total: 323

And for good measure there are 37 music tracks!

Each one of those sounds (and music tracks) has been specified, created, plugged into the game, tested/edited, and finally mixed. That’s a lot of work for Power Up Audio and me as the guy integrating them into the game.

Attack Sequence

When an enemy attacks the player in the game several sounds are triggered in sequence with carefully timed delays and balanced volumes so that you can hear them all. For example:
- Enemy yell (triggered immediately)
- Weapon attack sound (like a swoosh of a sword which is triggered immediately but peaks at 250ms)
- Weapon impact sound (e.g. a crunch or squish. This occurs after 300ms)
- Player hurt sound (played at same time as weapon impact sound)

Furthermore those attack sounds have to be heard over the battle music which plays at a volume that doesn’t blot out the general cardplay sounds.

Anyway, for the last couple of days I’ve been listening to the final mix in-game and adjusting some volumes here and there. I listen with headphones on, then through my speakers which are quite large, just for a different perspective.



July 28, 2017


Shadowhand Dev Diary #16: the final push

from Grey Alien Games

Right, this is it, the final push to get Shadowhand done! July was a scrappy month as I had a lot of Aikido going on plus we went to the Develop conference in Brighton, but now we have a wonderful clear calendar for August and that feels great.

Shadowhand has been in development since June 2015 and it’s the biggest most complex game we’ve ever made. It was supposed to be finished over a year ago but it turns out that making a turn-based RPG combined with a solitaire-style mechanic is a lot of work. Who’d have guessed it? ;-)

TODO List

Here’s a summary of what’s left to do. There are of course many sub-tasks within these tasks and lots of smaller tasks are not listed. The tasks won’t necessarily be completed in this order but it’ll probably be somewhat close to this.

- Finish balancing the first 5 chapters and send to beta testers.
- Finish loot drop dialog code and test all loot drops.
- Finish Gear code (stacking).
- Duel mode loose ends + Chapter/Story related loose ends.
- Some simple new mechanics/goal items e.g. jail bars, wanted posters (requires art and maybe sound effects).
- Request some loose end art items from the art team.
- Finish Active Ability code (Gavel, Stand and Deliver, and loose ends).
- Finish Smoke bomb, extra gear/ability slots, lantern, spooky doll.
- Maybe another Beta test of first 10 chapters.
- Process remaining enemy art for 2nd half of game and plug into game (about a week).
- Finalise some game design questions.
- Finalise weapon/enemy stats and test.
- Edit and test levels for chapters 6 to 22.
- Balance game economy (shop item prices vs earnings etc)
- Set goals for normal/hard difficulty modes.
- Finish End Game screen.
- Edit all game and story text.
- Beta test
- Tweaks based on beta test results
- Steam achievements/trading cards
- Launch!

There will of course be post-launch fixes/improvements and also localisation if the game performs well enough to justify it.

Crunch or what?

Phew, that sounds like a lot of work, but none of them are giant tasks as the bulk of the game and the systems are done. It’s just finishing things off and making sure it plays well from start to end!

My main todo list (in Excel) has time estimates on it and it claims that the remaining work will take 217 hours. Some of the work may go well and take less time but the reality is some of it will take more time and there will be unexpected new tasks cropping up. Currently I’m aiming to have it done by the end of August, which is about 46 hours a week, so not a crazy crunch, but it’s going to be pretty intense.

Anyway, the plan is to keep regularly posting dev diary updates now (and the occasional video) until the game is done.

Wish us luck in finishing it soon! Thanks.



July 27, 2017


Episode 472: Peggling Peggles

from Casual Gamer Chick

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Last week’s episode was torpedoed by audio issues (who knows, maybe they’ll come back in a outtakes episode), so this week returns with half old news and half new news. The Gaming Flashback returns with a vengeance with the classic Popcap game Peggle — which came out while Gaming Podcast debuted!

This week’s new/old news includes:

  • Atari’s ‘PC technology-based’ Ataribox will echo NES Classic, crowdfunding campaign coming
  • PC release of Classic action-RPG Ys Seven announced
  • Possible Xbox One X wireless module passes through FCC
  • New trademark sparks rumours of ‘Nintendo 64 Classic’ console release

Also, there’s a Question of the Week — listen in and let us know what you think.

Last week’s episode was torpedoed by audio issues (who knows, maybe they’ll come back in a outtakes episode), so this week returns with half old news and half new news. The Gaming Flashback returns with a vengeance with the classic Popcap game Peggle — which came out while Gaming Podcast debuted! This week’s new/old news includes: Atari’s ‘PC technology-based’ Ataribox will echo NES Classic, crowdfunding campaign coming PC release of Classic action-RPG Ys Seven announced Possible Xbox One X wireless module passes through FCC New trademark sparks rumours of ‘Nintendo 64 Classic’ console release Also, there’s a Question of the Week — listen in and let us know what you think.



July 25, 2017


REVIEW: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PC)

from Casual Gamer Chick

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(Review written by Scott Dirk.)

Yonder is an open world exploration game that really delivers on its premise. You begin your journey on a ship your parents have sent you away on in an attempt to keep you safe from danger. After talking to the crew, a storm rolls in and the ship is quickly struck by lightning. A Sprite then intercedes and makes a deal with you to help you if you help the spirit find its children. These Sprites help you to combat the Murk that is littered across the land in which you are now stranded.

The game has a relaxed atmosphere of letting you explore your surroundings with childlike wonder without fear of monsters or traps. The game has a lot to explore, from huge plains, forests, and towns for trading and quests. Once you obtain tools, you’ll be able to collect various resources which you can use for crafting. The main mission is to restore the land from the infection of the Murk, but you do so at your own pace. The game gives you a lot of side quests to do as well as having farms and ranching.

The graphics in the game are very lush, but are not too demanding. The landscape is very enjoyable to look at while traveling between locations, and you can get lost in simply exploring what is around you. The world music is relaxed, but cycles between varied motifs, so it’s not just one tune set repetitively. There is also a day-night cycle which seems to have little effect other than the wild animals sleeping; the NPCs seem to be night owls.

The mechanic I enjoyed most was fishing, where you cast your line and use WASD keys to move the bobber. Once a fish bites, you then pull in the opposite direction of the fish. There is an arrow to help you with the direction, which made me feel like I was pulling in the fish. The fishing mechanic does seem better suited to a controller with thumb sticks but combing WASD keys worked well; you can also customize the key bind commands.

This is one of those expansive games that may take players a while to complete depending on how they pace themselves during gameplay. I think it’s worth the time to explore Yonder in this world.

Yonder is available on PC and PlayStation 4.




20th Anniversary of Pretty Good Solitaire 97

from A Shareware Life

While last week was the 22nd anniversary of the first version of Pretty Good Solitaire, today is the 20th anniversary of Pretty Good Solitaire 97, which was version 3.0.  This version was the first 32 bit Windows 95 version, and the version that turned Pretty Good Solitaire from a hobby to a business.  It contained 160 games, a huge jump from the 100 games in version 2.2 and a huge number at the time.  It was from that version on that Pretty Good Solitaire could be said to be the largest collection of solitaire games.