Ave Imperator – Design Journal – 02 – Mirroring Lenin’s treatsie on steps

The title was just going to be “One step forward, two steps back”. But clearly that wasnt wanky enough for me. This is going to be short because its late and my thoughts, much like the organ they emanate from, are squishy and soft. I’ve abandoned UDK (don’t cry for me Epic) in favour of Unity. I then ran into one of the first problems I had with UDK – lack of cohesive learning material. There are few books for either (and software updates have made the ones that exist somewhat out of date). There are professional video tutorials, but they are a) for slightly older versions and b) despite telling you they will teach you how to use the program they will in fact teach you how to do one thing with the program, generally create a third or first person game. Which isnt really what I want to do.

So I took a step back and re-assessed. In terms of programming for Unity you can use Unityscript/Javascript, Boo or C#. I’m familiar enough with Javascript but am not the biggest fan of it, its a bit too “loose” for my liking as languages go. I havent heard of Boo and while I’m passingly familiar with C++ I haven’t looked at C# at all. But thats what I’m doing now. I’m learning C#. Not sure if thats the best or wisest approach but its the one I’m going with.

I mentioned in the last of these that I had come up with and was borderline obsessed with a new idea I’d had. I spent the time since working on it further and I’ve the outline sorta more or less in place. I spent a lot of time, an awful lot of time really, trying to decide on the core mechanic for the game. As an aside, so far the games I’ve been interested in creating are quite akin to computerised versions of pen and paper rpgs or boardgames. Two areas where I’ve a fair amount of experience. So what seems to happen is that when I come up with a game idea I start thinking about mechanics in terms or rpgs or boardgames. Which may explain why I’ve spent the last week trying to find something interesting to do with 2d10. I spent far too much time dicking with dice probabilities and trying to work out if a 1-5 range was better than a 1-10 range and so on. I’ve a feeling when I get back to The City (my amazingly unique codename for that game) that I might end up changing it. But I’m happy enough with it for the moment, I also think that there are a few fun mechanical nuts and bolts involved at the core system level which are unique enough in terms of CRPG’s.

I also ran into some other issues with planning out The City which could best be summed up as, “My idea for the game requires mechanic X, but mechanic X might be sort of boring”. I dont think the mechanical system in question is intrinsically boring, its just that the other subsystems excite me whereas this one is more or less required for the game as envisioned to work, but doesnt set my pants on fire (oh god the amount of pants I’ve gone through!). So anwyhow, I’ve sort of worked The City out of my system and got back to Ave Imperator. However there has been a tragic knock on effect from all The City stuff. While reading back over my notes on the system for Ave Imperator I decided to change it.

Which sends me on another little tangent. I cant decide which numbers I like. Or more specifically in this case, which number ranges I like. Is it better to have a small number range and a “coarse-grained” system or to go with a “finer-grained” system? Then again, the number range may not necessarily indicate granularity depending on what you’re doing with it. I had decided to use a bonus based 0 centered scale for stuff in Ave Imperator. But now I’m feeling a strong need to move away from that (e.g. originally attributes such as say, Vigor, were 0 centered i.e. the human average was 0 and you bought flat bonuses such as +1 etc in each attribute. Now I’m thinking of using a finer range and having the human average be, say, 10). I was also using a core resolution mechanic which provided a nice bell curve in terms of probability (go go 3d6!). Mainly because it means success comes through the attributes and skills of the character as opposed to raw chance. But now I want to introduce a little more luck and maybe a linear probability result.

Also the basic attributes and skills that gladiators had seem like they could do with a bit of tinkering as well. So the plan for the next few weeks is to get stuck into C# (using Illustrated C# 2012 by Daniel Solis) and settle once and for all what makes a man (in Ave Imperator).

I also have a few other ideas for Ave Imperator once the basic game is done (well once the basic game is done I’ll need to start looking to shell out money for actual art and sound for it as well as testing it and such, but you know what I mean). Two ideas I’m kicking around at the moment are something akin to a “Horde” or “Survival” mode. Set during the 100+ day inagural games for the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre, you start with a limited roster and money and see how far you can get. The other one, which I cant think of a glib faux-latin name for because they lack a solid translation for the word fantasy, will, surprise, surprise, involve adding in fantasy elements. Fighting dragons in the arena, beast-men gladiators etc. based around the idea that the missing 9th Legion actually found a pathway into another world – where they proceeded to spread the Pax Romana before returning in triumph!

Oh, I’ve also decided to expand the “social aspects” of the game, to the point where the lanistae (owner of the gladiator school) is no longer simply a framing mechanism for the player but a proper character in their own right (this idea was already vestigially in the earlier description of the game – just bulking it out and adding “social combat” basically)

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