student 20 Productions

Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Archive for the month “October, 2010”

16 Bit Character Sheets

I am the first to admit that I’m no graphic artist. Or any kind of artist, really. Art isn’t what I do. I’m more of a craft person.

So, yeah, this 16 Bit Heroes Alpha Character Sheet leaves a bit to be desired from an aesthetic perspective. They’re not really meant to be pretty (although I think I did okay) – they’re meant to be functional. Of course, until real playtest takes place, we won’t really know if they’re functional or not… but that’s what playtest is for, right?

Oh, and please tell me if the link doesn’t work so I can try to get it fixed… thanks…

16 Bit Heroes Character Sheet ALPHA

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Closer to Playtest than I Thought

So, a friend of mine took a look at what I have of 16 Bit Heroes a few days ago, and pointed something out to me that I had missed. I have been under the assumption that I needed to finish the system book before I could start playtesting. That would mean a few more months of steady work. He told me I was wrong. The system is about two chapters away from complete readiness, and could probably be played with only a small part of each of those chapters complete.

In other words, my friend Pat let me in on a secret that I should’ve guessed at myself: it’s idiotic to wait until you’re completely done designing to start playtesting.

He’s right, of course. For instance, how can I possibly guess at how to properly put monsters together without seeing the characters in action at various levels? How can I find the balance between overpowered and underpowered with magic items unless I try a few out? How can I know where to set values at for the spell creation system until I know how that system will impact the rest of combat?

So, now I have a revised list of things to do before 16 Bit Heroes playtesting begins. If you want to know what it is, read the following list. If you don’t care, skip it – you won’t hurt my feelings. Although, it is a pretty short list

  1. Complete the ALPHA Spell and Technique Creation System. This is needed so that magic and combat techniques can be used during playtest. Part of this will include the creation of a few simple monsters for Summon magic.
  2. Complete a simple outline version of the Combat System
    Dragon Quest (1986), also known as Dragon Warrior.

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    . It doesn’t need a lot of details yet – basically a simple flowchart or numbered list. The details can be forged through playtest.

  3. Complete a basic equipment list – basic weapons and armor, basic adventuring equipment. This is all done in my head and needs only to be written.
  4. Create a couple basic monsters. As mentioned above, this is needed for Summon magic. It’s also needed for combat encounters.

That’s about it. Experience can be hashed out during playtest, as can most everything else that needs doing. By providing only the magic creation framework for the start of playtest, I can leave the creation of an initial spell list to the playtesters (which is cool, since it’s how several spells in the world’s most popular role playing game came into being oh so long ago).

So… instead of looking to start playtesting near the end of the year, I’m thinking a couple weeks, maybe a month. Once I have everything that I think is needed for playtest, by the way, I will find a way to post it here, along with a new license for use for when people  want it.

I’m excited about this. It was an eye-opener to say the least, and I just want to say “thanks” to Pat for pointing it out to me. In any case, I’ve got some writing to do.

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Years of Brand Loyalty Down the Drain

So, I haven’t been here for a while. Not that anyone would notice, of course. Before I get into it, I want to put this out: My computer was returned to me, hard drive intact. All lost data has been recovered and that’s all for the good. The 16 Bit Heroes and Elements documents are backed up, and work will continue on them in the near future, assuming I can ever get a working computer back from the manufacturer (a subject I will get to soon enough).

I’ve bought my lappies from a single company (that shall remain nameless, unless someone who knows me wants to include their name in a comment…) for years now, but I think that’s going to end. This is the second computer in a row to give me serious grief within the warranty period, but that’s not the problem. I mean, the company’s paying to fix it and the turn around time is pretty good, so WTF, right? No, the problems here runs deeper.

Upon receiving my lappy back from this nameless company, I read their little sheet on what had been done to it and discovered that they had taken apart my beloved netbook (which was a gift from the BEST GIRLFRIEND EVER), replaced the mainboard, and replaced the touchpad assembly. All to the good, I suppose, but it basically meant that the only thing that wasn’t new was the monitor and the casing. Upon putting the battery back in, however, I discovered that the computer would no longer detect it. There were no battery problems whatsoever before the repairs; in fact, the battery was working perfectly before. It would run my powerhouse netbook (which has a dual-core proc, rather than the usual Atom processor found in most netbooks) for six hours of moderate use, including writing and listening to music, along with the occasional foray into light-duty gaming (playing things like Half-Life 2 on the battery was impossible anyway).

So – yay! – new problem. I called the customer service line and reported the problem, and immediately ran into three issues: two old ones and a new one. The new issue was that their initial idea was to replace the battery. The same battery that was working at factory spec before my beloved netbook died. Now, I’m no expert, but… seriously? There was nothing wrong with the battery before the breakdown. So, whatever fried the mainboard fried the battery, too? Outside of a power surge, what could have done that? (We’re excluding a power surge as a cause here because a.) It’s not covered by the warranty, so the previous repairs wouldn’t have been covered, and b.) When the problem started, My lappy had been plugged into a surge suppressor that was also protecting my desktop, making a power surge pretty unlikely as a cause). Moreover, inside of 24 hours of having the computer back, it started showing troubling symptoms similar to the utter meltdown that got it sent in the first place; upon telling the customer service rep this, the rep still wanted to try just replacing the battery first. Moron.

The first (chronologically) of the older issues was that the last time I had bought a computer from this company, I ran into an issue with the old lappy that required me sending the thing in three times. Couple that with the new issue I just described, and the only conclusion I can draw is that their repair department is utterly incompetent.

The newer of the old issues actually came up the first time I sent the netbook in, but it took a while to hit me. There’s no way to say this without sounding bad, so I’m just going to throw it out there: the company’s call center has moved from somewhere in Texas to somewhere in the Sub Continent. Now, I’m not one who gets up in arms about companies farming out their tier-1 Tech Support to other countries. But if you’re going to send those jobs overseas, I have three requests for any given company, none of which this company complied with:

  1. Don’t have your overseas folks lie about their names. I’m not sure how common the name “Bob” is in Mumbai, but I’m thinking that the names Nikhil, Anjali, and Talan are much more common. Even if I did, on my first call, get the one guy actually named “Bob” at the call center, I’m probably not going to get another guy named “Bob” when I call a second, and then a third time. Don’t assume I’ll be more comfortable with a more “Anglo” name, or that I’m stupid enough to think that, just because the four people I talked to were all named “Bob”, I’m actually talking to people in-country. It’s insulting.
  2. Please select your operators based on how light their accents are. I don’t care if the call center is in India, New Zealand, or Louisiana: strong accents are very difficult for me to understand when having a phone conversation. If that makes me an “Ugly American”, so be it, but please note that I would be as annoyed by a strong Minnesota or Maine accent. I don’t expect everyone I talk to at a technical support center to sound like they’re from Iowa or Colorado, but it’s hard to understand someone who sounds like a bad Jeff Foxworthy routine over the phone. At least, it is for me. Your mileage may vary.
  3. This is a big one: do not move your call center from the U.S. to anywhere else IN THE MIDDLE OF AN EFFING RECESSION. Like our unemployment statistics aren’t bad enough. That’s just bad public relations. I don’t know exactly when the move happened, but based on when I made the last call to their customer support line and now, odds are it was during the recession.

So there it is. I won’t be buying computers from these folks anymore… although I think that to avoid all three of these issues, I’ll be stuck with Apple computers… Meh. Things could be worse, I suppose. Now if only Google would start making Laptops…

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