Archive for the ‘Project Updates’ Category

Decision Space Analysis

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

The phrase “present interesting and meaningful decisions” has become such a mantra in designer speak that I almost get a little annoyed when I hear myself tossing it around or run across it while reading about other designers. In sports you have a worn out phrase “Deliberate practice and meaningful games.”  I’m always trying to be wary of groupthink.  I have run across it so often in the course of my life that I’m always on the look out for it.  The herd can find water together as well as walk off a cliff together.  In the case of “interesting decisions” or “deliberate practice” I think the group has found a solid nugget of wisdom.  The debates on the meaning of “meaningful” (or that other bogeyman called “balance”) sometimes make me wonder about the cliff.

Back on track though. When I studied electrical engineering back in the early 80’s one of my light bulb moments was learning about the Laplace transform. You get a whole new picture of a signal by doing a Laplace transform and going from the time domain to the frequency domain. This idea that you could do a mathematical transformation on something and see hidden data and meaning was astounding to me at the time. I’ve tried to apply the concept wherever I can. So with a game design I like to transform it into the decision domain or space and see what it looks like.  I don’t use integral calculus of course but I try to draw out a map of all the decisions in the game and how they interact.  Often it starts out like a simple flow chart or even just a list.  But if you get creative you can work the elements around visually to help figure out how the decisions interconnect.  This can also help you figure out whether decisions are interesting or meaningful.

Key Decisions for my board game

Play positive Guild Card to Mission that I want to win OR play negative Guild Card to Mission that I want to deny opponent

Decide Strategy for round based on my resources/Influence Points (IP) versus opponents’ resources/IP

Decide on use of Interrupt Text on any Guild Cards I have versus other useful text on cards i.e Guild Cards have split text options

Choose 2 of 8 options for my turn during round of turns (8 rounds total for 2 or 4 player game)

If need to rebuild resource base then decide on

1) visit  guild healer

2) take guild stipend

3) buy item card

4) buy spell card

5) charge a spell card

6) take secret objective cards

7) play guild card for “Guild Event”

8.  Attempt Mission Contract card to earn Influence Points then decide which mission

Decide on use of Guild cards, Item cards, Skill cards, Spell cards and Fate Tokens to accomplish challenges on sequential stages of mission challenge track

Decide which of the three face up challenge cards to attempt for each stage of the mission contract card.

Decide on how many wounds you can afford to take while attempting mission contract card challenges.

Decide on how far to push luck in mission/Abort Mission. i.e. multiple reward levels

Opponents’ Turn Decisions

Decide on use of Guild Cards with Interrupt Actions

Post Turn Decisions/Influence Bidding Phase

Based on gold stockpile (mostly from stipend and mission rewards) decide on bidding strategy for number of influence card auctions and opponents wealth/need for IP

Bid on Influence Cards based on need of IP, mission type matches to accomplished mission contracts and opponents’ positions

New Year, New Direction

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Happy New Year!

I’ve been selling computer games for over 7 years and it’s been a great ride.  Selling games directly from this website has been an increasingly difficult task. My programming skills are so tied to an aging and abandoned development platform that making even a niche title like my previous games is a dubious proposition at best.  So I’m leaving the digital space and moving over to the card board arena where I hope my design skills can shine.

It’s a natural transition since my games have all been very board game like.  I hope that has been part of their charm. I will naturally continue to support all my customers with tech support and downloads of lost purchases. And I will continue to sell my digital games and support them as well for as long as they keep running.  God Bless windows compatibility mode. 🙂

But my next game will be a board game and I will have come full circle.  About 10 years ago I spent large chunks of my day packing and shipping physical goods.  I hope to discover that a lot of progress has been made in the logistics of processing and shipping physical goods.  I know that my garage can’t store them.

I have a working prototype of a 2-4 player game that involves players trying to accumulate enough “influence” points to win the game.  The theme is a fantasy setting set in a fictitious city of splendor named Vance. I’ll reveal a lot more about the theme and mechanics as things progress. In general it is played in rounds with each player choosing 2 of 7 possible actions.  It involves a card and dice system, screw you cards played face down and an end of round secret bidding phase for important cards from a special deck.  The currency is gold coins as befits the fantasy setting.

I’m really proud of the design and I hope that my old customers from my computer games will give it a try when it’s available.  In a few months I should have enough materials to get an announcement out and an entry up on Board Game Geek and my Cryptic Comet website as well.

I’m also going to try and keep this blog updated with information on the design process for this game as well as an occasional general game design entry.  My new year’s resolution is to do 1 entry a week so hopefully that will work out better than my diet resolution.

Best,

Vic

The Black Company

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I’ve started reading some again just for fun. I will go on binges and then suddenly not pick up any fiction for months. I have to say that I am really enjoying Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company. I’m up to book six (bypassing The Silver Spike) Bleak Seasons. It’s really great stuff and Lady (along with Croaker) is one of my all time favorite characters. I’ve got to figure a way to sneak the name Dorotea Senjak into one of my next games as a homage. If you find that you like Cook’s work then I would also recommend “The Dragon Never Sleeps” which I read last year and which gave me the idea to try out some of his other books. It’s sci-fi and a great read.

I’ll have some development news soon. It’s been a bit of a rough summer but I am making slow but steady progress on multiple projects. The free mini-expansion pack for SI has it’s own code base now and it will be version 1.07. I’m toying with calling it Solium Infernum: Rectification. I’m not sure when I will have it ready. Most likely it will be early next year. I’ve got to get some other work out to generate some more revenue and once that’s on track I’ll be able to advance at a better pace on that front.

Solium Infernum Update 1.06b

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Update Instructions:
This is sort of a micro update. It does have an important fix for players attempting to frame other players for attacking Pandemonium so it’s worth updating for that.

The 1.06b update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: I strongly recommend that hosts update to this version. All other players should as well but many of the key fixes are for the turn resolution performed by the host.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt in the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06b ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06b .Exe

Important: For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Bug Fixes:
Fixed bug introduced in 1.06a that could cause script error if a player tried to frame another player for attacking Pandemonium with a ritual that resulted in excommunication

Fixed bug in AI for Goal Wage Offense Operations In Blood Feud that could result in script error if a specific attack option was selected

Fixed bug in AI for Goal Support Blood Feud Legion Movement that would result in script error if Secret Manipulation ritual was chosen and path could not be determined

Improved AI selection process for attacking enemy legions during Vendetta. Weak legions supporting Places of Power or other legions have an increased probability of being attacked first

Improved AI goal priority architecture so that actions are spread out more logically based on which threats have legions in threatening positions….. i.e. prestige differences are still big factors but that multiplier has been decreased.

Improved AI threat assessment algorithm so that threat reassessment of opponents is now done for the AI’s every turn.

Fixed error in Demonic Trance combat move resolution where infernal damage from neutralized opponent’s moves was not being negated

Solium Infernum Update 1.06

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Update Instructions:

The 1.06 update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: I strongly recommend that hosts update to this version. All other players should as well but many of the key fixes are for the turn resolution performed by the host.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt in the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06 ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.06 .Exe

Important:
For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Bug Fix And Change Notes (Only Partial):

Fixed bug where player perk bonuses where not being added to deceit roll for frame attempt success

The bonus for Pandemonium in determining successful framing for hostile rituals is now 10 instead of 8

If a player has demonic premonitions active and is the target of a ritual (not the player being framed) then they now receive their Prophecy roll number as a bonus when determining whether frame attempts are successful

Fixed bug in AI selection of Rain of Brimstone and Vile Oath

Fixed bug where player could be excommunicated by event and still selected regent

Fixed bug where paying to continue Planar Lock did not actually continue the lock effect

Implemented update message to target of Planar Lock that has been continued to the next turn

Fixed bug where wrong message was sent when player performed rituals against Pandemonium and was excommunicated

Fixed bug where loyalty for legions was not getting demonic premonitions bonus when events that required a loyalty check occurred

Fixed bug in AI goal that directed the destruction of opponent’s legions

Fixed error in display of 3 digit resource stockpiles

Fixed bug in Dire Dissipation ritual so that attributes as well as hit points are permanently reduced (as the manual says they should be)

Increased average reformation times of personal guard legions for lower infernal rank Archfiends

Fixed AI bug where wrong support ritual was being performed during attacks on unclaimed Places of Power

Increased range threat threshold that AI uses for determining threats to own stronghold by excommunicated players

Fixed AI bug where goal processing cycled endlessly between goals for buffing up legion for attack and moving legion to attack because battle success chances did not match

Fixed AI bug where even though a Machine was completed it did not get constructed if the AI prioritized a different goal because the Create Machine goal was removed from the stack and also not in the possible goals pool

Fixed bug where excommunication of player removed all mod objects from player and not just mod objects that were Infernal Conclave Decrees

Solium Infernum Update 1.05c

Monday, March 8th, 2010

The main point of this update is to correct a problem that occurs in games with Blood Vassals and Blood Lords where the Blood Vassal does not get credit for actions during Vendettas. If you are a host for a PBEM game then I would recommend you update. There are some other fixes as well but the main one is the Blood Vassal problem.

The update is compatible with 1.05b and 1.05a. If you have a lower version than 1.05a then I would strongly recommend that you upgrade

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05c ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05c .Exe

Solium Infernum Update 1.05b Release

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Update Instructions:

The 1.05b update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: I strongly recommend that hosts update to this version. All other players should as well but 1.05a and 1.05b are compatible. There are a lot of nice fixes here though so I would encourage all players to update especially if you have lots of excommunication going on in games.

Thanks to everybody who tested out the beta and to all the bug submissions I got over the last few days….some were really nice finds that I am happy to have terminated.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt it the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05b ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05b .Exe

Important:
For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Bug Fix Notes (Only Partial):

Fixed bug where attaching Praetor with level bonus to Place of Power resulted in PoP gaining that level bonus to its level permanently

Fixed bug where player did not get refunded prestige wager from Vendetta when opponent was excommunicated.

Fixed bug where legion returned to Bazaar for lack up upkeep displayed EOF text for artifacts and relics attached.

Fix bug with Dimensional Gate ritual that allowed player to abuse targeting process

Fixed bug where legion that was bought in Bazaar but did not have valid Canton to deploy to had inspect icon on message that caused script error when clicked on.

Fixed bug in level up response message for Praetor who defeated Champion of Pandemonium

Fixed bug where player was excommunicated multiple times with repeat messages and the excommunication list also had multiple entries for player causing problems with Expel the Heretic event and Dissolution of the Conclave

Fixed bug where event to reinstate excommunicated players was not working properly when one player could not be reinstated due to the fact that they were occupying Pandemonium at the time.

Fixed bug where player removed from game was not also removed from excommunication list

Fixed bug in Conclave dissolution process where loss of Pandemonium due to event could result in control being assigned to Conclave which does not exist

Fixed bug where you could dismiss Personal Guard under certain conditions

Fixed bug where Bribing an enemy legion without having a valid deploy hex caused an error

Fixed bug where removal of a player from the game could cause incorrect visibility data for newly created legions in the Bazaar

Fixed bug for Strategic Confusion ritual where selecting invalid target messed up remaining targeting choices

Biting Off More Than….

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

you can chew….You need to be able to admit it and moving on is sometimes the best option as bitter as it tastes to swallow that pill. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last few weeks – on and off trying to prototype a new twist to Solium Infernum that I was going to release as a free mini expansion pack. I have dropped it once, then moved onto a more compact mini-expansion idea and then tried another stab at the “big idea” approach and now finally realized that I need to moderate my ambition….otherwise a mini-expansion pack is going to morph into a full blown expansion pack and that’s just not something I want to approach at this point. But for S & G’s documentation sake here is how the “big idea” really was too big for now.

The “big idea” actually seemed pretty simple: Let one player assume the role of avenging Angelic Hosts that launch incursions into the Infernal Pit to punish the other players. The details proved however to be rather more complicated.

My main design goal was to do a twist on the Cults of the Wastelands mini expansion pack that I offered for Armageddon Empires except this time the role of the “spoiler” would be played by a human opponent. To do this I had to overcome a couple of big hurdles….invent a resource system for the Angelic Hosts player and come up with a win condition as well. The benefits would be great if I could pull this off. Ideally the Angelic Host player would offer yet another cooperate/defect dynamic to the game that would spice things up even more. It would be in all the Archfiends interests to make sure that the Angelic Host did not “win” the game but of course having the “Angelic Host” hammer your opponents would also be in a players interest as well. Balancing that dynamic would ideally add a whole range of new decisions.

The key design issues would then be how the Angelic Host player would interact with the Archfiends. Success for the Angelic Host player would mean loss of prestige for the players and most importantly the loss needed to be distributed unevenly. My initial idea was that the Angelic Host player would first send scouting parties to a Canton and then invest effort into setting up outposts and eventually stronger fortifications. This would result in an Archfiend having a continual drain on prestige the longer the Angelic Host operated with impunity in a players domain. I won’t go into other details other than I fiddled with a bunch of different rules variations…sometimes the outposts were hidden from all the players besides the one owning the Canton etc. Weight was given to locations that would border two or more Archfiends so that both would lose prestige and be able to act….and successfully removing an incursion fortification would gain the Archfiend prestige.

I already had a good idea how I wanted to handle the resource system for the Angelic Host player. I have always loved the design idea of players actions generating “negative action points” which can be used by other players to fuel resistance and roadblocks for the “acting” player. That type of system provides an elegant negative feedback mechanism to restrain would be leaders. One of the best examples of this type of mechanic is the wonderful little card game called dungeoneer So the basic idea would be that as the Archfiends used “souls” in their turn orders, the Angelic Host would be granted points to spend to torment the Archfiends.

The last key hurdle was coming up with a Victory condition for the Angelic Host and this was something that I only partially explored. There are a lot of possibilities ranging from the Angelic Host scoring Victory points to a build up for and conquest of Pandemonium that dissolves the Conclave and wins the game for the Angelic Host. I honestly didn’t get very far into this aspect before I realized that the whole endeavor was not working out well. In the prototyping I did getting the balance right for this idea proved really difficult. Putting a “spoiler” into the mix calls for a very deliberative approach to get it right and more importantly the design is way too ambitious for 4-6 weeks worth of work which is what I had planned for the free mini-expansion pack.

So I am going to back burner this and hopefully maybe come back to it as a more major expansion to the Solium Infernum universe. In the meantime I have gone back to the idea of a less revolutionary mini-expansion pack that smooths out some of the rough edges from the game.

So here is what I have in mind right now(and remember this could all change) and it will be a free addition for players who have already purchased the game:

Curses – Direct ways to affect your opponents’ prestige. The plan is for each Discipline except Diabolism to get a unique one.

Resource Fonts – Level up in a Discipline to level 3 and you can create an “Attachment” for a place of power/stronghold that gives you the chance each turn to receive a tribute card that contains an amount of the resource associated with the Discipline (Martial Skill => Ichor, Deceit => Darkness, Prophecy => Souls, Destruction => Hellfire) If you create one then your max Diabolism Level is capped at 6 minus the number of Fonts that you have created. Also if you create a font then the next font requires one level higher in the discipline you are choosing. i.e. if you created a soul font at level 3 Prophecy then a hellfire font will require level 4 in Destruction.

Assertion of Weakness – A new diplomatic action. Make an assertion of weakness before the Conclave against an opponent who has an unoccupied border hex adjacent to your holdings. The Conclave authorizes you to move into the single canton and remain there for X turns. If your opponent cannot eject you from the Canton (and only the Canton…this is not Vendetta) in X turns then you gain the Canton and he loses prestige (and you gain some as well).

New Praetors, Artifacts and Relics

New Events

A Regular Infernal Census
every 5 tokens where 1 prestige point is generated for each Canton held

I’m going to shoot for a May/June time frame for this and I’m still trying to think up a good name. 🙂

Solium Infernum Beta Update 1.05b

Monday, February 8th, 2010

This is a beta for an improvement on 1.05a that mostly addresses fixes to unusual excommunication scenarios. It also fixes some basic “gross conceptual errors” that I had with excommunicating players and also reinstating them that could cause problems when the Infernal Conclave was dissolved because things had “gotten out of hand” 🙂

Here is a .zip file of the update Solium Infernum Update 1.05b Beta ZIP

It is compatible with all previous save games and since there are no data structure changes it is also compatible with 1.05a for multiplayer games. It is a beta though so although I am pretty sure it won’t cause problems I can’t guarantee it and would like to get some brave players to try it out before I go official with it. If you try it and do run into a problem then please send me a save game and a brief explanation. If you are playing a multiplayer PBEM game then I’m happy to fix anything that might get broken if the host wants to send me the folder contents.

Here are the key bug fixes:

Fixed bug where attaching Praetor with level bonus to Place of Power resulted in PoP gaining that level bonus to its level permanently

Fixed bug where player did not get refunded prestige wager from Vendetta when opponent was excommunicated.

Fixed bug where legion returned to Bazaar for lack up upkeep displayed EOF text for artifacts and relics attached.

Fix bug with Dimensional Gate ritual that allowed player to abuse targeting process

Fixed bug where legion that was bought in Bazaar but did not have valid Canton to deploy to had inspect icon on message that caused script error when clicked on.

Fixed bug in level up response message for Praetor who defeated Champion of Pandemonium

Fixed bug where player was excommunicated multiple times with repeat messages and the excommunication list also had multiple entries for player causing problems with Expel the Heretic event and Dissolution of the Conclave

Fixed bug where event to reinstate excommunicated players was not working properly when one player could not be reinstated due to the fact that they were occupying Pandemonium at the time.

Fixed bug where player removed from game was not also removed from excommunication list

Fixed bug in Conclave dissolution process where loss of Pandemonium due to event could result in control being assigned to Conclave which does not exist

Fixed bug where you could dismiss Personal Guard under certain conditions

Solium Infernum Update 1.05a Final

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Ok, it’s on to 1.05a. I missed a bug that really needs to be fixed. This update is completely compatible with 1.05 and has a minor change to prevent a script error that might occur with combat cards. I strongly recommend however that you uprade to 1.05a from 1.05 if you have applied 1.05 already. If you still have not then just go straight to 1.05a here:

Update Instructions:

The 1.05a update is compatible with all save games from previous versions. It can be applied to any previous update version.

Multiplayer PBEM Note: It is recommended that all players update together. What is crucial is that the player submitted turns match the version that is used by the host to process the .trn files submitted by the players. It’s usually most convenient that the players submit their current turns and then the host processes all the turns and at this point everybody updates.

You apply it by overwriting the three files AIScripts.cxt, MainIFace.cxt and GameEngine.cxt it the Solium Infernum install directory which is usually Program Files\Cryptic Comet\Solium Infernum

You can use a .zip file here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05a ZIP

Or a self extracting .exe here: Solium Infernum Update 1.05a .Exe

Important: For the self extracting .exe, some windows systems will not let you copy directly to Program Files so you might need to first copy them to your desktop or another writable location and then manually copy the three files over.

Change Notes:

Fixed bug that occurred when Dire Dissipation was directed towards a place of power

Fixed bug where defeating the Champion of Pandemonium or defending your title granted your praetor an extra level up

Fixed bug where failed Infernal Negotiations ritual could still provide Prestige Bonus when diplomatic actions by other players resolved

Fixed bug where Pandemonium could be placed on top of a player’s stronghold in rare cases during map generation

Fixed bug where AI tried to put combat card on legion that had 0 in all three combat attributes

Fixed bug where Dangerous Bickering event did not cancel vendettas that were initiated in response to a diplomatic order that was already underway when the event was played.

Fixed bug where changing a human player to an AI player was not possible unless player had submitted turn already or player .trn file was deleted

Fixed bug where player changed to AI player still read as human player even though turn submission indicated that player was no AI and checked off

Fixed bug where legion could be given Black Ring promotion by event twice.

Fixed bug where AI goal to prepare for upcoming Vendetta could be removed from stack if certain conditions occurred resulting in AI losing track of the fact that a Vendetta was ongoing.

Fixed bug where Faust’s contract did not provide +1 to dip rank if located in ritual chamber slot

Fixed bug where transfer of relic to ritual slot was not marked as complete as soon as the phase for the order had ended but rather was waiting until all 6 phases had processed

Fixed bug where player could initiate diplomatic action and then the next turn petition to be a Blood Vassal. Blood Vassal petition requires that you have no ongoing diplomatic actions with any players

Fixed bug where double click of process turn button could create a stale turn process. Implemented one turn process safety lock

Fixed bug in AI Create Combat card permutations algorithm for determining best combos.

Orders to create Combat Cards that result in the attempt to assign them to legions or places of power that are no longer under your control now fail and the resources are returned to your vault.

Balance Changes

Starting legion strength is no longer tied directly to infernal rank. The strength of players starting legions is now dependent on the number of points assigned to Martial Prowess, Cunning, Intellect and Wickedness. There is still a small random element as well but the overall variance has been decreased.

Stronghold strength still is linked to infernal rank but the algorithm for allocating points to the stronghold has been changed to decrease the variability and to improve the lowest positions (Lord, Baron) in comparison to the others (Duke, Prince)

The Dimensional Gate ritual cannot be used to “gate” a legion into a target hex that contains a legion or place of power at the time of targeting. If a valid target legion should occupy the hex before the ritual is executed during the turn processing then a battle will take place.

AI Improvements

Rewrote and improved algorithm Decide Declare Vendetta Against Player to be more aggressive and to also create sub goals to increase chances of a successful Vendetta

Rewrote and improved algorithm for increasing core attributes associated with AI archetype

Improved AI ability to dynamically switch archetypes based on game state and current attributes

Changed AI goal weights so that more attention is given to increasing the power of legions already owned rather than buying new legions.

Improved AI path finding to station legions near opponent’s border when deciding on insults and demands. If legions are already stationed near the border, then improved the speed of the goal processing.