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The Talk Of Runes And Factories Is Largely Academic At This Point

If these early holiday offerings are any indicator of how the rest of the holiday season is going to go, it's going to be an unusually good glut of interesting games.   A couple days ago, I acquired two rather interesting Nintendo 3DS titles I had been waiting for half the year for, if not longer.  Yesterday, I get home from a long day's work and am told that Double Fine games has pre-released a Dwarf Fortress In Space game and, unlike Gaia or Rimworld, I can play it right now if I want.

A short word on Spacebase DF-9: this "early alpha" state game would appear to have a solid foundation, but so far all you can do is turn rocks into increased space station personal capacity (via rooms for life support and beds).  It's reasonably stable, but it will crash on you if you play it long enough.  Obviously, it's far too early in development to judge Spacebase DF-9.  By my assessment, Double Fine's got all the talent they need to make a fantastic dwarf fortress in space.

Since it's too early to talk about Spacebase DF-9, lets talk about Rune Factory 4 instead.  It's the fourth game in a series of games that basically took the classic Harvest Moon series (about raising crops and livestock on a farm) and added fantasy dungeon clearing to that.  The result has consistently been a deeper, more interesting game in that it adds a whole other level of activities on top of the farm simulator.

Currently, I think Rune Factory 4 is fantastic, for a few key reasons:
  • The very first thing you do is meet a dragon god and become good friends with it.  Awesome: who doesn't want to be friends with a dragon god?
  • Also, you're a prince (or princess) now.  It's a bit of a mixup, but it turns out the resident prince is totally okay with that idea, and simply hands you the ability to spend "prince points" to expand your backpack, your farm, the town merchant inventories, declare holidays, and other cool things.  You earn prince points by performing daily tasks, so that's cool: there's now actually a quest system in the game.
  • The overall implementation of Rune Factory is slicker than ever, they really nailed this formula of performing farming and dungeoneering while making friends (or lovers) out of the friendly townspeople.
There is one weak point of Rune Factory 4, and that is that it seems to me that the balance is looser and the game is easier than ever before.

The first Rune Factory was a rather tough game because you would quickly exhaust yourself doing farm work, so there was very little "rune points" (basically a fatigue counter).  You would have to take a bath at the bathhouse, which restores your "rune points" to do dungeoneering.  Also, fighting was rather difficult, you only had a few crude attacks which did very little damage until you upgraded your gear.  Rune Factory Frontier had a similar balance, bit it was a little less rigid.  Rune Factory 3 introduced a barrage of nasty attacks, but managed to keep the balance relatively in tact.  There was always food that restored health and rune points, but it was rather sparse and far between.

Another thing nice about Rune Factory 4 is that the 6 bachelors and
6 bachelorettes now have both pajama and swimsuit outfits.  I think
that level of detail really adds something.
In Rune Factory 4, it seems I have a real glut of "rune points," enough so that I had my entire field tilled, stumps and rocks removed, by day 3 or 4.   Combat was so easy that I was able to beat the tar out of all the monsters, defeating the first boss monster, on day 2 with the paltriest of weapons.  Also, it seems I'm having no difficulty making a lot of food, right away.

Yet, despite finding the challenge initially lacking, I think things may be improving.  I managed to get defeated in combat a little later on, in the first full-sized dungeon, when I was cornered by some spinning turtle-like monsters that are largely invulnerable to physical attacks.  I am finding it possible to exhaust my character's rune points if I chop a lot of wood or break down a lot of stone.  Crafting seems to eat a lot of "rune points," and I've barely got into that yet, having not even acquired the means to smith gear, yet.  While food and funding is not that hard to come across, possessing either actually takes a back seat to acquiring wood, stone, and prince points.  So maybe this game is reasonably difficult, after all.

Interestingly, the romance aspect has been revamped a bit in Rune Factory 4.  It still works as it has since Harvest Moon, by wooing your potential spouses with gifts until they agree to go steady, but now they've introduced a level between high-relationship-point-level-acquaintance and full-on husband/wife: becoming a boyfriend/girlfriend.  Also, you can be dating several people at once, the closest thing to a hedonistic "harem" ending ever seen in Rune Factory or Harvest Moon combined.  However, the developers discourage this, and dating multiple potential spouses carries the penalty of "jealousy dialogues" and driving your chance of successful marriage to rock bottom.  Getting hitched is important because it is a game mechanic in itself, as your wife and son (or daughter) will actually have schedules of their own instead of being stuck in the house all the time (the Rune Factory tradition).

Development Progress: Slightly Greater Than Zero

I've gone from being bored of everything to having far more gaming than I possibly have time for.   Animal Crossing: New Leaf takes a nice 1-2 hour bite out of each day unless I put my foot down on to the minimum activities (a once-around-the-neighborhood tour to recover fruit and anything obviously buried, selling them, and checking the stores for anything worth buying).  Pokemon Y could easily devour 200 hours, if not more.  Rune Factory 4's long term time investment is at least as deep as Pokemon Y's.

Despite having plenty to do, this hasn't stopped me from buying into Spacebase DF-9 nor the Indy Royale Birthday Bundle (made up of the games Duke Nukem: The Manhattan Project, Cities In Motion 2, Xenominer, Impire, and Perfection) but it really probably should have considering I've got no time to play any of them!   Indeed, while I will probably get Spacebase DF-9 a spin every month they release a patch, the games I picked up for $10 off the Indy Royale Birthday Bundle may go completely unplayed for so long that I forget about them completely.

Somehow, I made an hour today to get started on my GameMaker project.  Since I've decided to try a one "room" approach, so as to simulate everything going on in the game at once (because GameMaker only works with the objects in the current room), I drew everything on the same "room" in GameMaker and divided them up with "views".

Today, I put a placeholder background in each view mode and toggled between them with the function keys to see if it worked.  It did; it worked flawlessly, without any difficulty whatsoever.  Now, I just need to add the game logic that drives these rooms... it seems I have three games in one going on, which might be overstretching myself a bit, but I suppose I can understand easily how it will work.

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