Monday, February 29, 2016

Mechanic Blueprints: Rethinking Crowd Control


Crowd control, that annoying stuff which happens to you in combat and frustrates you to no end, or lowers your damage per second when Frank wanted to try his confuse spell for once instead of hitting them with the same fireball, then ice blast, then lightning bolt over and over till the monster is defeated.

They were a set of abilities from the old days that used to help the group actually take on large groups of enemies or even kill them faster in some cases. Imagine that next time you throw away perfectly good sleep spells, they used to help kill stuff faster and more efficiently. Nowadays, it’s who has the hardest hitting sword, or fastest spell cast. Crowd control has certainly fell from grace. Even more so with two specific abilities; Fear and Knock-back. I had to come to terms of taking those abilities off my hotbar in some games because how much trouble they cause.

Back in EverQuest, a necromancer could gather a group of enemies, cast dots on them (damage over time) then slow and fear them. This would slowly send them away and sometimes send more enemies back to the necro. This process would then be rinsed and repeated. It's not flashy, but it got the job done. People were jealous of necros because they could do this.

Fast forward to today, and you'd be asked to stop fearing because a lot of abilities are dependent on a mob staying in one spot. You also ran the risk of getting additional enemies. Same could be said of the knock-back abilities. It’s also not worth doing because most crowd control abilities were shortened to be only a few seconds long.

So what happened? It became more apparent that players like using them on others, but hated to be hit with it themselves. So focus was pushed more on damage abilities and shortening the time you could be feared, dotted, blinded, or mezzed (which was basically sleep). I personally like how I can come out of these effects pretty quickly now, but do missed how important they were. So seeing how crowd control has become a shadow of its former self and we can’t go back to the old days, I believe it’s time to rethink it all together.

How can we make these abilities important again, while simultaneously lowering impact to player fun (or enhancing it if possible)? Can we make this a viable choice again and turning the trinity into a quadrinity? My focus would be to keep players in control, real or imaginary, while using or getting hit by crowd control abilities. I also want them to feel safe using them, where they can contain the fight. Here are my suggestions.


Knock-back annoys people when you knock them out of your attack circle. The only place I saw knock-back as something epic was watching Sauron knocking some heads at the start of the Lord of the Ring’s trilogy. So I propose all knock-backs be converted to knock-downs with the exception of a deathblow where the enemy goes flying as they are defeated. Merge most uses of this ability with hard hitting finishers. Although an issue would arise if you knocked an enemy off a ledge. This is an easy fix if you have a reward system that automatically gives the loot to the player, or you will need to leave loot at the position the enemy died, before knock-back, in a chest or sparkly node.

Since this ability also does more harm than good in the hands of new or less seasoned players, any dedicated knock-back abilities should be high in the skill tree, out of the reach of learning players struggling to find an ability not on cool-down.


Fear can be more than just making the enemy run in terror. Have you seen a deer staring into headlights? They don’t more at all. My suggestion is fear should become a multi-effect. Affected enemies should cower in fear, not run from it yet. The stronger the fear, the more effects it provides and they add to the previous tier. I figure this to be a defense disabling skill.

First tier would cause them to shake violently, lowering their defense. Second tier would make them act irrationally, causing them to occasionally attack friendlies. Third tier would cause them to freeze up, unable to do counter or riposte. The final tier would cause them to keep a distance away from who feared them, not run off.


These are some oldie, but goodies I miss from the old days. Since forcing someone to go to sleep in battle would leave them open to a coup de grâce, and wouldn’t be fun sitting around doing nothing. That would give huge negative feedback from players. So we’ll have to go the same rout as fear. Multi-effect abilities that would add more effects the stronger it is, and an opposing ability to fear, this will be an offense disabling skill.

First tier would slower attack speed since they are in a state of euphoria or possibly lowered sense of awareness. Second tier would cause them to become less violent, lowering attack power. Third tier would cause them to lose aggressiveness, causing them to lose crit chances. The final tier would make them lose focus, missing attacks.

I would also suggest changing sleep to drowsy.


Discussing this with my brother lead us to feel we are on to something with multi-effects. A smart system that packs a punch the stronger it is. This also allows them to be themed or customized for different classes. For instance, fear from a warrior would change the final tier to lose some buffs instead of causing them to keep out of melee range.

This system could even be used on other old crowd control abilities, modernizing them. Abilities like root, paralyze, confuse, charm, and daze could all be made to still allow the player to have some control in the fight without forcing them to play the waiting game. Example would be having paralyze causing a percent chance of interrupts when players use skills, or charm keeping you from using direct attacks on certain enemies while any AoE heal would heal them.

I really want crowd control to be viable again, so I hope this can help any aspiring or thriving developers.

EDIT (March 2, 2016): Made an alteration for clarity "causing them to keep out of melee range" and replace the second confuse with daze because I didn't catch that in my original proof reading. :/
Made addition to Knock-back.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Undertale: Tragedy Inheritance

Before I begin, I want to do my due diligence and say There Are SPOILERS Ahead. Undertale is a game where you’d want to experience first before reading about it. Trust me on this. CAREFUL, SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t played the game, or watched a playthrough, then I suggest the former over the ladder, but sometimes the ladder will have to do. So, let’s get this started.


Springboarding off my last post, I still have thoughts about Flowey. Specifically, who is Flowey. These are my theories and interpretation of Undertale.

Reading theories, and other people’s thoughts (yes, I can read people’s thoughts. MWAHAHAHAH. Well, that’s what they get when they write them on blogs and such. Geesh) and I’m seeing a lot of correlation that Flowey is Asriel. Asriel died, however, and turned to dust, so how could Flowey be Asriel? If you read my last post, my use of ‘it’ would mean I think Flowey is not Asriel. Flowey is their own character. But Flowey is not not Asriel either. So let me explain.

When the first fallen child, Chara, died, Asriel absorbed their soul and went to the surface to bring Chara’s body back to Chara’s village. Asriel was attacked and instead of defending himself, took Chara back and died in Underworld. Specifically, died on the patch of flowers he loved most in the king’s garden. Of course this is how the monsters knew of this story and how they tell it on the way to the king in the neutral ending. In the genocide ending, you learn Chara committed suicide with the plan that Asriel would absorb their soul, leave Underworld and take 6 more souls to break the barrier. Upon carrying out this plan, Asriel couldn’t continue on with the plan and returned after being fatally wounded. He was just a child after all. Who could blame him? Point of this story is that Asriel died on the golden flowers of the king’s garden.

The king then declared war on the humans and set out to try and break the barrier. After getting some more human souls, he had his scientist look into unlocking the power. Something tells me he couldn’t bring himself to absorbing the souls so was looking into a different way to use them to break the barrier. The soul research turned up to be a dead end, however Alphys found that she could extract determination. This leads to an interesting topic. That link details the different heart colors and their virtue.


Why I linked that is because each of the souls the king had at the end was a specific color. Each color is linked to a specific virtue. The virtue that Alphys extracted was determination. The problem arises when you see that determination is red in color and none of the souls were red except yours. So where did Alphys get a hold of a soul with determination to extract? I believe from the first fallen child, Chara. Chara died and was absorbed by Asriel, but then Asriel returned and died in the king’s garden, spreading his ashes everywhere. Since human souls are said to persist after the death, Chara’s soul was probably there too for the king to find.

If this is all true, this brings up a series of assumptions like could Chara save and reload and restart the timeline. If so, would that mean they too lived a long repeated life like Groundhog day until they finally gave up and decided to kill themselves and couldn’t restart the timeline?

Also, does this mean that Asgore had all seven souls needed when he had Alphys conduct her research? If so, that means that Asgore decided against breaking the barrier by absorbing the souls. Perhaps to protect his people from being slaughtered by the humans or was too afraid of the power that killed his son? Either way, I think Alphys used up the red soul when extracting the determination, bringing the count back to six.


Getting back on point, Alphys was conducting research on determination which lead to her using it on the first golden flower. The very same golden flowers that had Asriel’s dust on it. We know from her research that determination melts monsters and combine them with other monsters. What about monster dust? How did Alphys give determination to the flower? If I were to do that, I’d probably use a spray bottle and spritz the flower with it. That would inturn get Asriel’s dust as well, merging him with the flower. But without his soul, Asriel couldn’t fully come back. Instead, the flower gained some of Asriel’s memory… along with Chara’s determination.

So, from my interpretation of Undertale, Flowey is just Flowey. Neither Asriel or Chara, but a combination of them both to create Flowey. This allows it to be a mirror to the protagonist. Taking on a reverse view of how the player interacts with the world. Depending on how you played, the game will determine which side of Flowey is released at the end of the game. Being kind and innocent will bring out the innocence of Asriel, but being malevolent will release Chara.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Undertale: Who's the bad guy here?

Before I begin, I want to do my due diligence and say There Are SPOILERS Ahead. Undertale is a game where you’d want to experience first before reading about it. Trust me on this. CAREFUL, SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t played the game, or watched a playthrough, then I suggest the former over the ladder, but sometimes the ladder will have to do. So, let’s get this started.


I’ve been swept up in the Undertale craze and love it to bits. The characters, the story, how you can play the entire game and not need to kill anyone or anything, though some character’s try you on this. It’s the kind of game we need more of. There are a few problems though, mainly with story due to things being cut out, or vaguely explained (which I attribute to Toby letting us interpret the story how we want). Where there are gaps in the story, I tend to try and make connections. One character in particular, I have some questions and thoughts on. These are my theories and interpretation of Undertale.

Is Flowey the bad guy? It’s the antagonist definitely, but was Flowey really trying to hurt or rule Underworld and the surface?

To give a quick recap of who Flowey is, it’s a golden flower, the first to grow in Underworld. It was the king’s favorite flower. When Asriel died, his ashes fell upon this flower. Alphys, the kingdom’s scientist, was conducting experiments on a power called ‘Determination’. She was able to extract this from a human soul the kingdom had and used it on the golden flower. This gave a flower the will to live and become Flowey. This is how I understand it so far.

So what’s Flowey’s motivation? What is its end goal?

During the neutral ending fight, Flowey reveals that it needs a seventh soul to become god, and then show monsters and humans the real meaning of this world; It’s kill or be killed.


Is that Flowey’s end goal though? To me, it looked like it just took advantage of the situation. Before the protagonist showed up, Flowey had full power over saving, reloading and restarting. However, Flowey had trouble with two characters; Asgore and Sans. Sans caused his fair share of resets, and he could never get past the king. Since Sans is the hardest fight, it’s safe to say he never could get past Sans as well. So that pretty much means Flowey could do whatever it wanted minus leaving Underworld.

So, what did Flowey do? I can only assume that it experienced a literal sense of the movie Groundhog Day. Wiki link in case you haven’t seen the movie.

It’s unsure if this power affects the surface. My assumption is that it does. My proof is that after you finish the game under any ending and escape Underworld, you can still reset back to when you first entered. I guess it can be argued that you re-enter Underworld first and then reset, but then how would all the monsters get put back after the pacifist ending?

Spring boarding from that, I’m assuming that Flowey grew tired and gave up trying to leave Underworld. Instead, he just lazed about and talked with Papyrus, causing no trouble. This time, Flowey let the timeline go so long that the protagonist finally showed up, carrying in them more determination than Flowey. This higher concentration of determination overruled Flowey’s ability to save, load and reset.

When the protagonist showed up, Flowey tried to take your soul by tricking you into getting hit by its attack. Why did it do this? Because I believe Flowey’s end game is to just leave Underworld. Flowey had no motivation to destroy, to help, or do anything. Flowey is just an inanimate object given the will to live, and like any living creature, wants to be free. The way Flowey does this is with the only thing it knows; It’s kill or be killed.

So, is Flowey the bad guy in Undertale? My interpretation is no. The antagonist with an unfiltered view on life, sure, but not the bad guy.

Then who is the bad guy in Undertale? You can argue it’s Chara, but then who is Chara but just a manifestation of old RPG tropes about getting higher levels, stronger weapons and more gold. That would imply we’re the bad guy… but we are the hero here, right?

Undertale is a game that puts into question old tropes and tries to break you of the bonds of traditional RPG rules and storytelling. A game can be more than just mindless killing and one dimensional NPC’s that repeat the same line over and over again in a never changing world. The game breaks the fourth wall in order to free you of expectations.


From my look at the game, there are no good guys and bad guys. None of the characters are black and white… well, in battle they can seem that way, but when you talk to them and look at their actions and motivations, they are a shade of gray. Even you. I’m not even sure when monsters attack you that it’s an act of aggression, or just a misunderstanding. When you hug a volcano, it can’t help that the lava burns you. When a dog is jumping for attention, they can’t help that their size can be harmful to a human.

Flowey is an interesting character in Undertale. It’s linked to a tragic character, and one of the darkest periods of Undertale’s history. I’ll continue my thoughts about Flowey in my next post.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Undertale: Quick Review


Undertale hit at the perfect time for me. Many games and RPGs are stuck in a rut and teetering on being nothing more than a murder simulator. That may be a harsh look, but some games just point you to an enemy and tell you to kill them, and we as players don’t even question why. This game has been a refreshing look at the genre and the industry as a whole. There are some games that try and change it up, but Undertale hit it at the right time with the right mix of characters and story.

Suffice to say, I love Undertale. The quirky characters, the story that pulls at your heartstrings, the humor that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a gaming triple threat that quickly rose to top of my favorite games list.

You play as the unknown protagonist, an androgynous character that falls into a cave and find yourself in Underworld. Your goal is pretty simple; get back to the surface. Dangers lurk inside every crevice and I don’t mean dark caves and endless falls. You’ve found yourself in the land of monsters; long, lost and probably forgotten.

As you make your way through, you’ll come across characters with depth like Sans and Papyrus, a couple of skeleton brothers, or Undyne, the captain of the royal guard, or Alphys, the royal scientist. Each character you meet brings depth to the overall story of the game, even trash mobs that you randomly encounter. Or are you randomly encountering trash mobs? Maybe they are actively seeking you out. Who knows, and that's part of what this game does. Question the status quo.


Are your actions good or bad, and in whose eyes are they good or bad in? Do you attack someone, or leave them be?

The biggest question that this game makes you think is, what kind of person are you?

If you come from a long list of RPGs as I have, then I can do nothing but recommend this game to you. I value what this game has taught me and wish for you to experience the same. Even if you come out of it with no change in perspective, the amount of people it has influenced was worth the chance. I even started a Tumblr of a Charr engineer turned pacifist in Guild Wars 2 because of this game. So give it a try if you haven’t already.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Guild Wars 2: I started a new Tumblr micro-blog


To any Guild Wars 2 junkies, I’ve started up a micro-blog on Tumblr. It’s being wrote through the mind of a character created a while ago that finally got picked back up.

His name is Enki Greasedfur, a Charr engineer. I don’t have Heart of Thorns so I’ll be left out of any new content for now, but I’m enjoying the older stuff still.

You may be asking “Why should I give two hoots or a holler to check out another GW2 blog”, which I should retort “It’s cool. I just wanted to share it with anyone interested. Plus, I’m attempting to play the game as a pacifist.”

Playing as a pacifist is a challenge all in it’s own. I’ve dropped my primary weapon and equipped only a shield. I have two kits to help right now; medkit and elixir gun. I do have some offensive abilities, but I am trying to build out an entire defensive, support character with no attack abilities. This is extremely hard since I feel foolish spraying a blue healing jet at the enemy to heal nearby characters. I can just feel people going “Dude, you know that doesn’t do any damage”. That’s another challenge too.

Turning Enki to a pacifist has been inspired by the recent game Undertale. I love it to bits and it has me wanting more. After reading countless comments about games needing more non-combative abilities, and myself getting kind of tired of mindlessly killing red names, I want to try something new. What games can I play that allows me not to fight. World of Warcraft has a player that reached max level by crafting for months doesn’t sound like my kind of fun. GW2 has lots of events and hearts that has non-violent activities, so I decided to see how far I can take that.

My plan is to write one journal entry each time I play, and then however many thought posts during that session. Since I’ve defaulted my travel to walking, I have plenty of time to come up with those posts. I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment with all these rules, but that is half the fun trying to follow them. I’m using Tumblr because it’s easy and convenient for me to post to while playing.

Lastly, I’m also doing this because I’m trying to work on my storytelling. I feel it’s a bit weak and need to practice at it.

So, without further ado, here is a link to Enki Greasedfur’s Tumblr blog.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Outside Thoughts on Splitting H1Z1


After seeing the news on H1Z1 being split into two games, and reading a fellow blogger who actually played the game, I wanted to throw my thoughts out there as well. The title says outside thoughts, because that’s what I have. I haven’t played or purchased the game, but I am interested in it. I’ve watched some of my favorite YouTubers play it. I’m also glad to see it hit so well with people as Daybreak Games (DBG) is a studio I want to succeed, mostly because I’m an EverQuest fan. With these out of the way, let’s get to the thoughts.

Reading the news did make me angry. Splitting the game into pieces in a time where gamers are already complaining that companies are trying to sell us half a game and then generously selling us the rest with day 1 DLC, expansion packs, cash shops, and console / store exclusive prizes. An industry that looks to be ruled by the motto “greed is good.”

Without jumping to conclusions and grabbing my torch and pitchfork to mob DBG, I wanted to wait it out a bit to see the dust settle a little.

Community segregation concerned me the most, however I came to terms the two communities (Lobby PvPers and Survivalist) don’t naturally mix all that much. I’m sure there is some overlap of players wanting to do both, but the two game types aren’t interchangeable.

Lobby PvP is more about throwing you directly into the action and keeping you there. Quick gains and losses. It’s all about the short game and quickly coming out on top.

Survival is more about starting with scratch and scrounging for that next meal. You slowly gain a more balanced existence, but can never truly stabilize it. It’s all about the long game.

It’s comparing sprinters with marathoners. These two game modes really are different games, so it makes sense to separate their development. However, selling them as two different games is a bit of a scummy move.

This leaves me with some thoughts on H1Z1 and Daybreak Games in general.

Are they hurting for money, or trying to capitalize on a possible hit? Is this going to be the new direction for DBG and will that hurt their EverQuest franchise? Could they have used this opportunity to find common ground and let these communities coexist in the same game instead of segregating them further? Was Eli disappointed with his brother winning the superbowl or was he zoned out that instanced?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Space Engineers: The Early Access


After the high that was Fallout 4 finally wearing down, I’ve been kind of in a slump. It tickled my creativity fancy with settlements, but it wasn’t enough to keep me playing. I still needed to itch that scratch though, and looking through my Steam library, I came back across an old friend; Space Engineers. That’s kind of funny to say because it’s still in Early Access. That’s right, the game is still in development, but there is a lot that’s changed since last I played.

When I first picked up Space Engineers, I had a lot of fun building a space station and coming up with my own ship designs. They were basic and laughable compared to all the masterpieces I saw on the Steam workshop, but they were my creations. Since then, there was a planetary update, along with a plethora of new mods available.

I’ve booted up the game and started on a new Earth-like planet building a base and everything again. Playing with the update and enjoying my favorite past-time, looking up mods.

The game itself is a rather cut and dry sandbox space sim that lets you build stations, ships and structures via a much better Kingdom Heart’s-like gummi ship system. The most used phrase back when I first played it was “Minecraft in space”, which I can say is pretty on-par.

What’s the purpose of this post, you may ask… Somewhat to spread the word and keep an eye on this game if you want to wait till full release. But mostly to share my silly little short-story video.