Develop games, play games, talk games

Interesting Mechanics and Bravely Second

Something that has been bothering me lately in my design of Oricana, is that some of the abilities feel sort of... Simple. Use. Bang. Result. As if everything is a fireball. Flash. Damage. Done.

Okay then. Then, what is something interesting? What is interesting? When does something go from simple, to affording possibility?

I have to keep in mind, when considering this, that interesting must fit my game design. I can get inspiration elsewhere, try to find parallels, but I can't alter the core.

As of right now, Oricana has many mechanics. There is abilities, enemies, research, and crafting.

To me, an interesting mechanic might not be interesting design. And vice versa. Tools in The Legend of Zelda appear to give an array of possibilities, but often fit as keys for specific locks (good design, bad mechanic?). Abilities that play with physics are interesting to play with, but to be honest, they feel like the cheap solution for a designer: "Hey you! I'll let you invent your own solutions". The gravity gun in Half-Life was this, while the Portal-gun was the complete opposite: a tool for neat design, but as a mechanic opening possibilities... Well, there's probably a reason why it wasn't a general weapon in Half-Life.

I often return to Auro. Why do the few abilities there, seem so incredibly well-designed, yet they also enable me to be creative?

Well, at heart, I believe Auro is a board game. Every. Single. Action. Matters.

That is, the totalt state of the game changes whenever you do anything. Do right, and your options increase, and perhaps you get closer to winning. Do wrong, you move towards losing.

I think, this is what interesting is. If what you can do, leads itself to more possibilities, states that change in zig-zaggy ways.

And if this is all that matters to you, it's totally reasonable that most games seem super boring. The sociologist Roger Caillois split games into Agon (contest), Alea (chance), Mimicry (play-pretend), and Ilyx (vertigo).

To me, vertigo is something video games can simulate, and board games absolutely do not. Ilyx, at least for me, doesn't have to be literal dizziness. Anything I enjoy because of the tactility, audio, visuals or spectacle, is Ilyx.

Which means, that the simple, uninteresting abilities, are often good at Ilyx.

"Why not just make all actions filled with delicious feedback?" someone ponders. Well, what is interesting might not be helped by what is simple fun. At least, if all you care about is a wide range of complex, state-changing options, then if something cool delays the outcome, you might not appreciate it.

I want both though. I want some actions to that are simple and gratifying in their feedback, and others that might let the contemplating player read the current state and initiate chain reactions of more possibilities.

To have both, would require that consequences for selecting the, perhaps, less effective action, are not severe. This where I can have issues with well-designed board games. Without Ilyx, the less effective action simply limits me. This is also where I clearly see why I like Japanese RPGs.

Recently I've been consumed by Bravely Second. For so many reasons. In relation to this topic, Second has so many interestingly designed mechanics, but even the simplest provide such great OOMPH! It has both throwaway fights to play around in, bosses where the stakes are raised yet I can still be ineffective, and actual complex fight, that require strategy and system-understanding. The abilities all play around with the state of the battles, without punishing players (outside of special boss fights).

So what did I arrive at?

Interesting is something that opens up for state-changing possibilities. This has to be balanced with... Let's just call it fun. Fun is frivolous, gratifying actions that aren't severely punished.

Some abilities in Oricana are fun. Some are interesting. Second (and other good JRPGs) has shown me, that I can get both.

SDL2 on MacOS with SDL2_image

Above is a video from Craig Forresters Leilani’s Island. I’m pretty sure it’s made in SDL2 + C/C++. Even if it isn’t… look at that shit, it’s amazing.

Twitter: @ishisoft

YouTube Video: Gameplay

Stray Thoughts

After the tutorial part.

The Actual Article

SDL2 is the answer for someone reading a coding tutorial for C or C++ and thinking

“CLI output is cool, but I want to make programs that run inside Windows and have graphics.”

This beautiful tutorial by Sarah Edkins gives most of the info needed. She skips mentioning what “brew” actually is. (Home)brew is a way to install and keep tabs on command-line programs on OSX. If you don’t have it, you’ll need it, and in either case, you’ll want it.

Just follow her tutorial.

Now that that’s done, some other things I had to google and I want to spare you from:

  • You’re gonna need more than bmp files in your program, so you’re gonna need SDL2_image.h. You install that like you installed SDL2: brew, then copy the files into the same folders as before.
   Brew install SDL2_image

  • You’ll have to update the make-file to refer to the .h file. After
   -l SDL2-2.0.0


   -l SDL2_image

Notice that the hyphen-plus-l is added again. This is vital. Also remember that you can use \ to make new lines.

Aforementioned stray thoughts

With what little sparetime I have, it felt kinda good to sit down for a few hours the other night, just to spend time on a project that didn’t look like it would amount to anything but me feeling good about what I’d done.

I’d wanted to give SDL2 with plain C another go. Why? The usual reasons of wanting to feel like I’d made something myself, and gain some knowledge of C. After setting everything up, and doing a few parts of LazyFoos tutorials, it occured to me that if I shared this little evening, I could save some people some trouble.

Some of Us Like JRPGs

This summer I went to a small Greek island for vacation. I sat on my balcony in the afternoon and evening, drinking beer and iced tea, while 7th Dragon III.

The reason I’ve long want to say a few words about this game, is simply, that it’s so unapologetically a Japanese roleplaying game. The first game in the series was a Dragon Quest-like tradition honouring game of hiring a crew of fantasy fighters without personality, but sweet character design, and slaying lots of Dragons. Hundreds of them. The fourth game in the series (yes, the one titled “3”), is a perfection of this idea: Get your team, slay dragons, often big ones.

It’s a game for people who actually like playing JRPGs for the gameplay, not just the story. Like me. Look, I love the QoL stuff in the English release of Bravely Default, and I appreciate what AlphaDream did in the Mario RPG games to make battles more exciting. Oh and certainly the original Tales of Phantasia for the Super Famicom is technological marvel. Fuck, and the Star Ocean game for GameBoy Color. I mean, damn, that’s almost the same machine as NES. We could’ve been playing something like that on the fucking NES?

I digress.

What I mean to say is, I like to play Final Fantasy V simply because it’s fun. The basic interaction of navigating the menus, and seeing the effects of making selections is aesthetically and kinetically pleasing. The job system improves upon this, but at its core, a JRPG like FFV is still a pleasant thing to play for me.

For someone like me, 7th is a treat to play. Navigating menus, making a strategy, grinding a few levels. It’s fun to do. Sure, it has quality-of-life stuff like Bravely Default, and moves that instantly and automatically will kill random encounters, but these are not in there to make us not play a JRPG, it’s to improve the feeling of becoming more powerful with great determination.

And then there is the story. Such a trope-filled, generic thing. I should hate it, but really, the game is just so god damn ANIME. It doesn’t even include an English dub, just to force the correct experience.

I’m going to finish this random deluge of words, with an element of 7th that feels equally as random: Your interactions with the characters moves you towards being able to date every single story related NPC. And have sex with them. No matter the gender, species or age of either of you. While not explicitly stating it, every dating-route ends with a few lines of dialogue leaving pretty much nothing ambiguous, and rewards you with powerful exclusive equipment. I have no idea how this made it into the English language version, when you see what petty stuff gets removed or changed in other games (The potato characters of bravely Default couldn’t wear a skimpy bikini or a toga). Oh well. At least we got this.