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Get A Life? Got Twelve, Thanks.

With blog hits apparently trailing off to the single-digits, I have reverted back to this layout again.  Google stats indicated this one gets more hits, but I am not sure if that is genuine traffic or if it just attracts more crawlers.  Well, this layout certainly seems more technically advanced, I will give it that.

So why did I change to the other template to begin with?  Well, my main problem with this layout was the additional technical overhead.  If you are using a generation 1 iPad or similarly slow device, it can take quite a lot of time to pull up the page, and it may even crash or become unresponsive.  I am also unable to eliminate that obnoxious right margin that can take up half the page or more at a modern desktop resolution, and not for lack of trying.

Aside from this, what have I been up to this bizarro weekend?  Not a whole lot.

I think I must have pushed myself too hard to game development last weekend.  I was so exhausted that I decided it might be a good idea to just crash and play Fantasy Life all day.  That was my Monday; I mostly just laid around the house and ran my chibi-style avatar through five or six new "Lives" (professions), taking them to "adept" level.  The only lives I have yet to broach are three combat lives: mercenary, hunter, and wizard.
The text is a little hard to read in this chart, but it goes:
Paladin, Magician, Hunter, Mercenary
Woodcutter, Miner, Angler, Carpenter
Tailor, Blacksmith, Cook, Alchemist
In a way, getting my avatar to all twelve lives seems necessary, because a hardcore gamer like me would never be content playing just ONE of the twelve professions the game gives you due to the lack of sophistication involved.  Getting inducted into each Life unlocks some part of the game.  For example, I cannot wield a one-handed sword unless I have become a Paladin.  Once I have started along these paths, I can use these skills while playing as another Life (with the exception of "special moves" that are only available while playing that Life) so learning all twelve is the only way to get the full range of gameplay.

The main disadvantage of this approach is that I have dragged a whole bunch of inventory bloat into scope.  If I were simply playing a single Life, I could be focused on the items that are relevant that that Life while either selling or storing the rest.   Instead, every tree, rock, fish, or piece of monster loot that can be pried off the terrain becomes my responsibility.  Inventory bloat is as drag, and burned me out enough on Fantasy Life that I used the next day to play a different game.

This turned out to be more Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, the gloriously open-ended survival roguelike that also happens to be infested with zombies and inter-dimensional horrors.  After six hours of that, I found myself immediately in the fix with the main problem that bothers me with Catalcysm: it is too hard when you take risks but too easy when you play it safe.

Don't do it, Mr. Cat, it will eat your entire weekend!
I fell off the latter end this time by choosing to start off as an isolated survivor out in the middle of some comparably safe woods   Thanks to the occasional non-zombified bit of wildlife, I had plenty of meat to eat, and my LMOE shelter had unlimited water and means to boil it.

This scenario also puts you in the dead of winter, which makes it difficult to keep warm, but I was fortunate enough to be able to overcome this quickly.  My LMOE shelter had two farms generated nearby, each being a useful source of rags (whether in the form of disassembled beds or cut up curtains).  Using these, it was easy enough to raise my tailoring skill and eventually create multiple layers of reinforced clothing to keep out the cold.  This also made for effective low-level armor which I later supplemented with bone and leather.

This left the primary threat being hostile creatures.  The farmhouses again came through in that one of the farmhouses had a lot of cats trapped inside.  Being agile creatures that never fight unless cornered, I chased the terrified cats around the house, trying to hit them with an awkward-to-use multitool until I had melee level 5.  When holding a considerably-easier-to-hit-with makeshift knife, I was now more than a match for most garden variety wolves, cougars, and zombies.  For the tougher stuff, the farms came through one again, because one of the farmers had left behind a shotgun and a decent amount of ammo.

Survival now more or less assured, I lost interest.  Like my current Fantasy Life game, most of my time in Cataclysm was now spent on inventory management, giving me too little gain of enjoyment in exchange for too much tedium of managing all this garbage!

I feel a bit guilty about not getting any game development done this weekend, but I can actually feel more or less reassured that this was research in the direction of the kind of games I am interesting in seeing more of.
  • They are both open-ended games that focus on world building, and this is the primarily gaming genre that I am interested in anymore.  
  • Neither of them required 3D, they could both be done in 2D easily enough.  
  • Fantasy Life demonstrates that the tile-based world approach is unnecessary for most things.  
These aspects all point to my recent endeavors in development, so perhaps I subconsciously am still on the job.
They also both demonstrate a couple of features I need in order to move the genre forward, and something I probably would have to do myself in order to do things "right," at least by my opinion.
  • The first necessary feature requires addressing inventory bloat. 

    Having a ton of items to handle is just a pain in the ass.  There are a few ways to fix this, but the most popular method involves restricting how many items the players can carry and/or requiring they liquidize overstock.  I think I could probably streamline things even further than that, but whether or not this would be an improvement or not is a matter of experimentation.
  • The second is having more significant ramifications to the actions of the player. 

    In Cataclysm, this is mostly about a certain ambiguity of purpose.  There is a way to "win" the game now, but good luck figuring it out without spoiling yourself, so mostly you'll just hole up until bored or founder around until you die somehow.  Adding good NPC support would at least provide a good bit of mid-game significance, but currently this is a bit of a work in progress.

    In Fantasy Life, I find myself a bit annoyed about how there's no true supply and demand in the system.  I simply harvest what I find laying around, render it into an end product, and sell it to any fool merchant without any particular impact other than more "dosh" in my wallet.  This spoils the illusion that the trade skills are influencing anything greater than the individual who made them.  It would have been better if the only way to sell the items you made was to give them to NPCs that have given you a quest to make that item.

    I am also a little bored by how there's no romance.  Some "fantasy life," I'm just forever a bachelor doing up to twelve different kinds of work!  But the lack of a deeper relationship is a whole other kettle of fish, and one I could address if I would just play Rune Factory instead... granted the personality of the characters in Rune Factory 4 turned out to be really boring, they're basically anime tropes which have been watered down so much that they collapse under their own weight.
Well, making my own game is hard, but I wonder if effort is really that much of a problem for me.  I am not the type to slack off at work, I roll up my sleeves and do whatever needs to be done in the right way.  So there's really no reason to balk here.


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