In regards to difficulty, I think the challenge ramp is good as long as you stay on top of your gear. I was constantly looking for shops to upgrade, but one thing that frustrated me was that I would buy an upgrade and then finish a quest that rewarded me with an item that was equal or less optimal. I think buffing quest rewards would help, because not everyone is going to optimize their equipment, but it makes a huge difference.
Playing Catch Up
Welcome to this month's edition of what Kev didn't get done! It's been a short month, what with finishing Oasis late, so the list of additions is pretty short. However, it has been an interesting month so let's get going. Of course if you haven't already,
The Oasis Aftermath
The first thing that happened after I finally got the Oasis Update done was that I pretty much collapsed in a heap and slept for a full day. It was a real slog getting it over the line, but it was totally worth it. The feedback I've received has been extraordinary and watching people play through it was absolutely delightful. I think the first player declared they'd done everything after about 2 and half weeks. Not bad really given that these players are on the game for 8+ hours a day when they're really pushing through the content.
However, there was of course the massive slew of bugs that come with every update.... or was there? Well no, actually there were a smattering of bugs but nothing like I'd expected. I'm not sure if its because I'm getting more experience, or the core engine is getting more hardened, or simply dumb luck - but the bug count was very small for such a big update. There were certainly some oversights on my part and of course the traditional 1000 typos and bad grammar, but all in all a very successful release.
Don't Mug Yourself (or Do)
A fantastic thing happened this month - player mugs started arriving. I added a feature to the website (I talked about it before) where a player can enter their player name and the site generates them a mug with their character on. Using a print on demand service postage is calculated for wherever they are in the world and, assuming the player agrees to pay, a mug is printed and sent out. This month the first few started arriving.
This is exciting for a few reasons. First, it's just generally awesome to see someone receive something like this. It's very motivating to know that theres a mug sat in someone's cupboard at some random location because of something you created.
Secondly is good to know that the print quality is repeatably good (Inkthreadable for the win!).
Finally is excellent to exercise the end to end process, it works! People ordered mugs with their player on and they got them!
A Questing We Shall Go
One thing thats bothered me for a while is how easily people get lost in quests. It's not because the quests are tricky or convoluted, they're simple not. Most of the quests take a pretty similar format with a big chunk of creative text around them. So why were people getting lost? Well it seems to me that people don't use notepads any more. Part of playing old RPGs and MMORPGs was always writing down what you'd found out so you could refer to your notes later. It seems no one does that any more so they were simply forgetting what they were asked to find, or how many they were asked to kill etc.
To remedy this I wanted to add a way of seeing what the last step in the quest told you to do. Of course I didn't want to have to code this manually especially as there are already an awful lot of quests already in place. Static analysis again saved the day.
At start up the game client and server both process the quest files they have access to. They determine the relationship between particular script variable states and the page from which they originate. So for any given quest state the game knows how it got there - so it can display the last page of dialogue. It's really made it much easier to follow along with the quests.
Worshipping My Supporters
Since the start of Oasis I've had an outstanding task, Patreon supporters of "Deity" tier have the perk that they can have a shrine dedicated to a fictional god they create, along with a simple quest for the priest of that god. It's been an age since people signed up and it's felt terribly bad to not have delivered their perk. First thing after Oasis, I implemented Shrines...
Patreons get to describe their god (one is a cat for instance) and give some background for the place. I then create a shrine and place it in the world - generally hidden in a corner or random location in the world. Shrine quests award a bonus stat point that ALL players can spend to improve their character. In this way every time a Deity pledges and creates a shrine they benefit the whole player base.
It's kinda neat and I think I'll add some more things of that style soon.
This month I was advised to start drilling into the statistics of the game, that is where people go, how long they play etc - more on this below. However a key one was that while I have a tonne of sign ups, a hell of a lot of them don't play very long. This seems to mean that the newbie experience wasn't working out. I did some digging and found a couple of things
- There were some bugs that made early monsters too hard.
- There wasn't enough newbie content, people were being pushed out into the harsh Yore world too early
- Many players joined, asked "how do I play" and unless one of the friendly people was around to answer them - gave up and left.
Point 1 was easily solved, fix the bug. The bandits not longer get AC +3 due to the costume they're wearing. Doh!
Point 2 was equally pretty quick to solve, adding a new area to the south of Aria Graveyard with an addition dungeon and boss - the Ettin King!
Point 3 however took a bit more, the game needed a tutorial - but not one that drives people away because it takes too long - how do I weave this in to the introduction? Enter Yoric's House...
On starting the game the players are introduced Yoric the Bard (they already were). He now invites them round to his house to show them how to play the game. Having read a book, opened a chest, got an axe, chopped a tree and killed a zombie, the player can continue on into the newbie areas of the world. It's very early days but response looks promising with more newbies appearing to stick around than ever before.
And finally... some not so good news. Looking at the statistics for the game so far it's clear theres a point about 6-8 hours of content in where people get stuck and its "too hard". This might be partially because of the general "I'm bored of this game, I'll find another" syndrome but it also certainly seems to be theres some issues with the difficulty scaling. I need to look at this next but it's a difficult line to walk.
I don't want to build just another casual RPG where everything is given to you and players are basically treading water - I want it to be a challenge, I want the player to care whether they live or die, I want it to feel like an achievement to have got somewhere in the game. The question is do I want that more than I want lots of players?
I think right now, the answer is yes, I want my game to be my game. That doesn't excuse me from taking a hard look at how to make the progress of difficulty smoother, but I thinking staying true to the game I want to build outranks trying to get all players everywhere. My bank balance will probably hate me for it but at least my heart remains in the project.
And thats it this month. If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, let me know in the comments.
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The problem with the difficulty scale is that in order to overcome it you have to grind - and it's horrible. The most efficient way is to spend, literally, days in a mine going back and forth until you can get your stats up. If not, it's somewhere else that's equally back and forth, just not as efficient (fishing, fletching, for example). There's really no fun gameplay way that helps you increase your STR/INT/DEX/CON and gives you a sense of game/story/character-development progression as you do it.
(Boss rare-drop grinding helps a little but lots of people don't care to do it and would rather just buy the item and so they do (using money gained from their mining), whereas those that do try are not adequately rewarded because the EXP increase for minion and boss kills is minimal compared to being in the mine.)
The average casual player has thousands of other games to choose from so why would they want to grind in this way when it's not fun and not fulfilling? Hence the dropoff.
Appreciate the feedback. The point at which the highest drop off is happening is way before quests are completed or mining has even got the sufficient tools to be exp grinding. I also note that most people don't have the tools or the significant amount of exp by the drop off point either. So while I think what you're describing is a problem, I don't think it's related to this particular issue or post.
Without me knowing where that point is then I can't offer any other suggestions. I know there are a few different kinds of confusing moments in the early game, some of which you have addressed. Some specific quests are confusing and that's frustrating. You get lost a lot. There might also be an early grind problem still. I don't know without knowing more. Could also be the expectation of what the game is not matching what it turns out to be.
BTW thanks for the mob EXP increase. Every bit helps.
If it's the very, very beginning of the game (the 20 minute to 45 minute window) then I would say the game has to be absolutely frictionless (which it isn't) in order for the player to develop an emotional attachment to the character and game experience.
So that means enemies that are easy to kill (bar, say, the Beholder) - I have watched people struggle with the zombies, for example - more equipment and visual customisation options (for some reason customisation speaks to people), and quests that are completely clear as to the objective and what to do to achieve the objective.
Lowering the bandits may have helped. I don't know because I can't tell how easy they are now. Add a couple more caves in the Ettin woods with similar bandit leader type enemies and chests with clothing.
Wonderful post! I too was surprised at the lack of bugs from Oasis, just shows the quality of developer you are I think!
As for the 6-8 hours in statistic, I think on paper there is a progressive and linear ramp in difficulty with the mobs in the world, but these mobs are scattered throughout the world. There's snakes and wolves next to Sackle for instance. I don't think that is bad, I think that part of what makes Tales of Yore what it is, but if you were to add more content, I would look at this point in progression and perhaps funnel players into some kind of linear progress if they are stuck. This could be as easy as making a Game Guide for instance, which goes through quests in an order that is most linear.