Tuesday, 30 November 2010

witch hunt = suck

Well, I was kinda warned, but still. Meh. A very brief quest with no forks, a few cryptic statements from your new party members which never go anywhere, and an equally cryptic conversation with Morrigan that didn't address my actual character's goal at all. I have no idea if the conversation is any better if you're a male romancing her, but I doubt it.

Also, the whole quest was largely revolving around elvishness while never seeming to acknowledge the fact that I was an elf. (Not Dalish, admittedly, but.)

Waste of money.

[The version of my character I took along for this adventure is, of course, a +ritual Alistair-romancing one. But she doesn't want the baby and she doesn't want to kill Morrigan. She just wants to know where Morrigan is and what she's up to, in case she needs to kill her/baby in the future.]

Monday, 29 November 2010


Finally managed to reach the ending of Avernum 6. (Didn't solve all quests, but not sure I care enough to back up.) Phew! That took some time. :)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

yes, AGAIN

... back from another small gaming con, where I was mostly mingling (Ian Livingstone was there!) and playing a game of Betrayal At House On The Hill, a Cthulhu boardgame I've been wanting to try out for a while. (It's much better than Arkham Horror. Really. For one, it doesn't take ten hours to play.)

We did have most of the PCs dead by the end but we technically won, as the eight-year-old girl PC assembled the necessary huge heavy armor and shield and stumbled towards the dragon until she could poke it to death.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Magical Diary

Now starting the month of November in-game, which means that Thanksgiving will be approaching, along with the Fall Play.

The Drama Club is only a peripheral mention in this game, as the Horse Hall girls aren't really involved with it, so the play hasn't been mentioned to this point. I'm not sure precisely what they should be staging. Something where magic could be used for special effects and NOT Shakespeare. Alice in Wonderland has potential but I think that's usually done by younger students... Suggestions welcome!

Again, it's only a very minor detail at the moment, but if the series progresses far enough to cover the characters who are in the Drama Club, it will become more important in the future.

Current word count: 45,754

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


(Been gone last week at a gaming convention, thus lack of posts! But there's not much I can post about short LARPs - you reading this can't play them, and if you could, anything I said might be a spoiler anyway...)

so, instead, video for a project that's been in dev for a while... (not mine obviously) a weird little platformer-type thing about a girl in an asylum getting loose...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

the inability to see yourself

It weirds me out sometimes when I realise that I know a whole bunch of wacky artsy people who seem to my eyes to be SO much cooler than me, who dress in frilly floaty clothes and pal around with eighteen cats and a tangle of romantic relationships that make mine look simple and sing songs and write books and.... have to hold day jobs.

And I don't.

Naturally, this cannot mean that I am actually successful... it must just be that I'm incredibly cheap. (No smokes, nearly-no alcohol, no pets, no kids, no car... no health insurance because I'm in the UK and it's not necessary... no beach vacations... buy my clothes used...)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

dungeons dungeons dungeons

Not final (is anything ever final?) but here's how the freeform dungeon section is shaping up:

And from there you can bring up your list of spells and sort them by name, color, or casting cost to find what you want:

Wordcount currently sits at 40,932 as we near the end of October (in the game school year). Halloween is imminent, but witches and wizards don't celebrate it like nonmagical people do...

Saturday, 13 November 2010


With vague disappointment I picked up the game again and finished all the normal levels of Super Scribblenauts, feeling very much that I was playing an educational game for kids rather than anything exciting to explore.

The only time it actually surprised me was when I made a 'fishy' tank that turned blue and scaly and wandered around on its own.

avernum weaknesses

After a while, combat gets dull (Common RPG problem.)

Unfortunate solution - setpiece battles with weird rules. Why unfortunate? Because they feel stupidly unfair, especially when they behave according to rules you can't actually SEE that are unlike the rest of the game.

The one I'm stuck on at the moment and am probably going to just give up on involves a large area with crystals around it. There's a central foe who is invincible. You have to wait through endless rounds of combat for the trap to eventually tick down and the invincibility to wear off. All the while huge fireblasts (one of the most damaging attacks in the game) are going off. One crystal at a time is actually damageable and one crystal is booby-trapped and going to blow up with a really huge probably instakill explosion.

But it's extremely unclear whether damaging the one vulnerable crystal does ANYTHING AT ALL. You can't destroy it (really - it has infinite health, the health goes down to one and stays there), and the crystals cycle occasionally whether the vulnerable crystal has been reduced to 1 or not. Should you even be hitting it? No way to know.

The MOST irritating thing about it, though, is that the central baddie casts Fear. And if he succeeds in hitting the one party member whose turn in the turn order comes between him and the cleric who can remove fear, that party member will run away. And if ANY party member takes more than a few steps away from the trap, it RESETS. (Possibly back to complete health. Not that we can tell, since there's zero feedback about progress in wearing this whole thing down.)

grumble grumble I suppose I can try standing soemwhere else to try and TRAP my party so they can't run...

Edit: FORTY FIVE MINUTES REALTIME. That's how long it took to wear that trap down. WHAT THE HELL.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

I'm still not going to play it, but...

... it's kinda a cute ad.

Actually inviting everyone to play your game and like it instead of trying to build your reputation by mocking certain people as not good enough for your game? Awesome.


So, I have this set of dungeon graphics I bought ages ago that I've been dying to use and have kept trying to come up with crazy schemes just to work them into a game.

The problem is, of course, that they're someone else's dungeon graphics, and therefore tend to include tiles I'll never need, but fail to include tiles I WILL need to do any of my wacky ideas.

... you may be aware there's a dungeon in Magical Diary. Yes, these dungeon tiles are finally (I hope) getting some air. I'm still having to futz around in paint shop trying to bang together important missing pieces of the tileset (what were they thinking?) but I think I've covered the most important missing bits and should be able to build at least basic maps to walk around in.

In the long run we're likely to wish we'd just built the whole dungeon from scratch using individual elements (like Cute Knight) or 3d (which spiky is working on ANYWAY) instead of static 2d backdrops, but darnit, I have these dungeon bits and I'm going to get them into a game somehow!

Can't show screenshots at the moment because since this is finally a freeform walk-around-and-cast-spells dungeon section (the second exam; the first exam is under strict limits) we have all new interfaces to design and they're not done yet. We DO have a very simple test layout up and running that the player can walk around in (turn left, turn right, go forward), a scribbled minimap, and a spell list you can select from, but the spells don't DO anything yet, and it all looks quite messy right now.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

run away! run away!

So, still playing through Avernum 6. Had some interesting experiences lately, both of which involved having to make a run for it, and not just because I'd challenged something stupidly big but because the plot was actually set up to make this a specific need.

In one situation, you're in an area that's going to blow up, but while you're trying to reach the exit, baddies who clearly lack any sense of self-preservation keep getting in your way. So you have to fight them, but you have to fight them fast, and if you want to loot them or any location you pass on the way, you'd better do it on your feet.

I've seen countdowns in "bigger" games, but usually the level stays the same throughout the countdown, other than perhaps some camera jittering, alarm sounds, and flashy lights. With this particular collapse, bits of the cave collapse in sequence, so rooms a little ways behind you are consistently blowing up and you can see that on the map. You know the countdown is real and that you are going to get BOOMed if you don't get out of here, it's not just some scripted event that will wait for you to get out so it can show a pretty cutscene of you leaping away from the explosion.

However, it wasn't actually difficult, at least at the level I had my characters at; there was plenty of time.

A trickier running battle involved a mission deep in enemy territory with no fallback points. When you get to your mission goal, you trigger a huge swarm of enemies to come after you (possibly infinite, I don't know). Also, you've just completed a huge mission so you may well be very low on supplies. There is a way out of this - you have to run a certain distance to a teleporter. But the enemies are coming from all sides, and if you stop to fight you may very well get overwhelmed.

My successful run involved sending my mage to go play "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" over a bridge to distract a large number of enemies so that the rest of the party would only be attacked from one side. This wasn't entirely intentional; a pathfinding quirk sent my mage off in a different direction from the rest of the party, but once she was there it seemed like the thing to do. The others still hit opposition, but since there weren't THAT many of them, were able to punch a hole through so that the fighter could leap for the teleporter, and once one person touches it, the whole party is outta here, even though the mage is now very 'dead' AND very far away from the rest of the group.

I suppose there's some logic to it when you're using a teleporter; since clearly only one person has to activate it to bring the party along, one party member being in a slightly different location shouldn't prevent them from dragging her body back for revival. It makes a bit less sense in cases where you similarly sacrificed one party member in a cave to hold back the approaching hordes while the rest ran for the exit with no teleportation involved; we clearly DIDN'T drag our friend's body back to town to be revived, but s/he'll wake up fine there anyway. (It wouldn't seem entirely unreasonable to me to make you have to pay some kind of retrieval fee in cases where you OBVIOUSLY abandoned somebody, so that it's still a viable strategy but one you can feel a bit bad about, but then, greater simulation doesn't always equal greater fun.)

brand spanking new

I've put up a webpage with information about getting a CD copy of Date Warp. There is a discount if you already own the game, otherwise it's $20 plus shipping (mostly from the US, but I have a couple in the UK so I can give cheap shipping on one or two)

Also, I'm now fooling around with a classic fanfiction scenario... getting spanked in detention. I definitely want to include this because it's a very popular fantasy, but at the same time I don't want to upset anyone for whom spankings by authority figures might bring up bad memories, so the spanking will have to be strictly optional... the mean old professor cannot grab you and force you to be spanked.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Guy of my Dreams

A weird little flash game about trying to find your 'perfect' mate... although you don't find out their real personalities until you've been together with them for a while, so you may end up needing to dump them in search of something better.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Making Mr Right

An amusing review touching on some of the pitfalls of poorly applying theme to gameplay - that is, trying to make a game about romance within the constraints of time-management and match-3.

Yes, I'm applying that tag to a game that's primarily sexist against men this time. (Although really, as in most cases, any sort of sexism is damaging to everyone. Claiming that men are stupid children that women need to 'fix up' like damaged toys doesn't say good things about women either.)

bad writer, no biscuit

I have far too much fun writing events that will only occur to a miniscule fraction of players without a walkthrough.

In order to reach some of the dialog I'm writing at the moment, you need to:

1 - Have figured out how to clear your demerits so you're eligible to run for office
2 - Run for Treasurer
3 - Choose a particular assistant for your campaign
4 - Have managed to spend all your money so that you need a loan
5 - Actually win the campaign
6 - Spend all your money AGAIN so that you can't pay back the loan

But then, most ways to seriously annoy the teachers involve an unlikely series of actions. Wouldn't want players getting themselves unexpectedly expelled... So most of the time, earning demerits requires exploring off the beaten path and then making choices that you probably should have realised were a bad idea.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

hello england

Back at my proper computer. Must now decide whether to try and pick up that Dragon Age tidbit I haven't been able to play for the past few months or keep on trucking through Avernum 6, which I was playing all last month but still haven't finished yet. Haven't even installed 4 or 5 anywhere...

(Well, for that matter, haven't installed any of them on THIS machine, but I *think* I packed my saved games properly...)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Monday, 1 November 2010


Why, in 2010, does a cute-sounding downloadable puzzly game which has ABSOLUTELY no need for a plot WHATSOEVER, decide it needs to rely on the old "Your girlfriend has been kidnapped! Save your girlfriend!"

OH CRAP moments

Having a customer open the case of the game she'd just bought to find - no disc inside!

THank goodness it was a customer who DID open the box and not someone going home with it. (Somehow the case we'd opened to test the discs to be sure they read correctly ended up back in the box of games and therefore got put on our display rack - we didn't opt for shrinkwrap so the problem wasn't obvious. Found the disc in a computer back home afterwards.)

We certainly sold enough to cover con fees. Having two of us makes the costs a LOT higher, but it also makes selling much more fun and much easier. There's the obvious stuff, like having someone to cover the table while you run to the bathroom or to a panel you REALLY want to go see (I had to get Lynn Flewelling to sign my book) but it's also helpful for calling people over to your booth, especially if you're slightly socially phobic. Taking turns to try and get people's attention feels less awkward. Having a boy willing to dress up in wacky costumes that get girls to want to stop and take his picture, also a bonus. Usually he would drag people to the table, then if they looked vaguely interested (that is, stuck around for more than a few seconds instead of hrming and moving on) I could start telling them stuff.

All the business cards I'd brought were gone by the end of the first day so we had to print out little paper strips. Hopefully some people will visit.

I know I've heard that it's important at an Artist's Alley to try and have things in different price ranges, and that wasn't really possible for us here. I'm not sure what would fall into the category between free and $10 really... we could sell demo discs for a buck but that feels awkward, surely demo discs should be free?

Anyway, don't know if/when I'll be doing such a thing again, but it was fun while it lasted. Discs will be made available for sale eventually but far too busy right now.