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In The Dark, Per Usual

"If this is not windy enough to knock out the power," I said, "I would be surprised."

Sometimes, I hate it when I'm right.  I was in the middle of a game of Cataclysm:Dark Days Ahead that likely would have consumed the rest of my weekend when a power outage ejected me rudely from a virtual simulation of a town without power and into a real one.

In my case, five hours without Internet.
2 hours after lights out, I'm bored, the best thing to entertain me being an Android tablet, and most of its content is sitting uselessly on a cloud.  However, it so happens I do have this nifty blogging app installed on it, and it is as good of time as any to recap my weekend.  [When the power came back the next day, I added some pictures, links, ect.]

Well, despite wanting to mix things up more, the entire 4-day bizarro weekend was consumed by Cataclysm:Dark Days Ahead.

I mostly tried to create characters who had ninjitsu, as this was the most interesting-looking of four martial arts available in the game that are usable with a melee weapon.  The main benefit of this style is it makes no noise when performing a melee attack.  Secondary benefit being a nifty damage multiplier on a "precise" strike.  Aside from that, ninjutsu is pretty useless compared to many unarmed styles of combat in C:DDA, as it does not consistently stun enemies.  A stunned enemy is an enemy prone to free attacks in this game.

Using a melee weapon was key for my characters because my previous survivor was a "tiger style" unarmed combatant who butchered zombies with incredible ease.  He consistently did with his hands what high caliber guns could not.   While it is realistic that being good at a martial art should largely nullify the threat of idiotic human-shaped belligerents, unarmed combat in C:DDA is a tad overpowered for this same reason.  Another reason why my "tiger style" character had such an easy time of things was because I had set the zombies at half their normal speed, with the exceptionally-dangerous "special" infected turned off.

Now, I was putting myself up against full speed (but still mundane) zombies, and over a dozen characters died to me not respecting how much harder the game was now. 

The core of the problem (and a brilliant bit of balancing) is that fighting your garden variety "green" zombie is a war of attrition.
  • Even a one-on-one fight has a chance to hurt, especially in poor conditions.
  • Little hurts add up to big hurts.
  • Big hurts slow you down.
  • Slow down enough, and the horde trailing you (perhaps attracted by the noise of your scuffle) is going to swarm you, bringing about a typical zombie movie bad end.
  • This is to say nothing for the foes that could outrun you even at your best.
Even before this latest run of unfortunate characters, I had played enough of C:DDA to know this, but knowledge alone was not enough.  My characters kept dying, time and time again, mostly for having the audacity to think they can just stroll through a zombie-infested town and outrun the ravenous natives.

In one memorable instance, I had smoothly infiltrated a town under the cover of night and was pulling a shopping cart full of delicious swag away to safety.  Then, with no warning, bear appeared out of the gloom within swatting range.  I do not know what I did to anger it, maybe I simply got too close, but I did not survive that night.

Eventually, a luckier survivor stumbled upon the ultimate solution for the inexperienced melee character: a .45 caliber hand cannon by the name of an,"L2031 Enforcer."
Judging by its overwhelming firepower, this fictional gun is probably intended to resemble something like this Colt 1851 Navy Revolver.
I learned that, even in the hands of green survivors who are literally unable to hit anything with a pointy stick, having a powerful sidearm at their disposal will almost ways blow the heads clean off persistent enemies at point blank range.  For example:
  • A Z-9 (zombified police dog) catches me, its superior speed making running impossible.  BLAM!  
  • A couple of times, a bear came lumbering out of nowhere, thinking I would be an easy meal.  BLAM!
  • I thought I could get some archery practice by shooting some kind of overgrown lobster mutant on the other side of a chain length fence, but they tore right through it and were faster than me.  BLAM! BLAM! (Hey, you armored SOB, where do you think you're going?)  BLAM!  
Getting into these situations is usually a game finisher right there, an appropriate punishment for pushing my luck too far.  Instead, this gun saved my character's incompetent hide several times over.  (No wonder the NRA loves these things!)

Even now that my character has survived long enough to get some decent melee skill and armor, I keep this gun in an ankle holster as the, "Oh, shit!" option.  This is the right way to use them in this game: bullets are rare and the noise will attract unwanted attention if you use them indiscriminately.  Yet, when you are backed into a corner, they often can blast you right out of it.

What I should have been doing:

That said, playing C:DDA this much was craven procrastinating and I knew it.  Every time I stopped, I found it was either that or come to grips with the choice laid out in the last entry: to make my game the easy way or to make it the ideal way.

The easy way would be to shell out $130 for Construct 2 and compromise my game vision by doing away with dynamically generated spaces and instead have static scenes defined which could still have some level of dynamic change.  Hey, it works for ASCII Sector, and that's one of the game ideas that I want my own to play with.  (For that matter, probably 99% of games do not require the functionality of creating new space and swapping it in and out dynamically.)

The ideal way is not to use Construct 2, or any of those other hobbyist game development kits, and instead pick an integrated development environment (IDE) that already has fantastic Intellisense (such as Eclipse or Microsoft Visual Studio or basically any professional-grade IDE).   Contrary to what I was saying in the last entry, it may not be a matter of reinventing the wheel, considering there's quite a few cool looking application programming interfaces that at least give me a rolling start.

Along the lines of the ideal solution, I did a bit of research, and the current main contenders look like this:
  • It is currently looking to me like libGDX might be the best way to go, judging wholly by most projects made it cataloged on indiedb being rather good.  It also has surprisingly good performance, it is perhaps the best overall API now that Microsoft XNA is being retired.
  • Monkey X translates to many native platforms and is so simple to code in that I would say it is a better first programming language than BASIC.  Unfortunately, even as amazing as that is, few examples exist that demonstrate it can do much, yet.
  • If I am willing to go as far as performing that much coding, there is really no reason not to give Unity3D another spin, and that engine positively overflows with proven examples it works and works well.
I still have yet to decide, but I probably would not turn down a Construct 2 sale right now, just as a last ditch effort to see if the easy option will truly wash with me.  At the very least, it should make for an effective prototyping tool.

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