A lot has happened in 2011 and there is even bigger things coming for 2012. We just finished the new and improved version of YS. The demo version is available for most Android devices. You can search for “YS Maze Shooter Lite” on the Android Market or go here.

Happy New Year!


Skyrim: Where do we go from here?

I think it goes without saying that the game Skyrim is going to have a major effect on the future of RPG gaming. There is an enormous potential here for games to start coming out with some really interesting game mechanics. Or to completely miss the point and start cranking out piss poor first person dungeon crawlers. In reality we will probably end up with some combination of the two, but lets take a few minutes to distill what it was about Skyrim that really pulled us in and how these things could be improved even further.

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Top Whatever

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on the Extra Curricular forums. Chatting it up with other wannabe game devs and sharing ideas. Through it I have found a handful of blogs much like this one. One such blog is called Top Whatever which recently posted a great list of top video game songs to get you pumped up. I’m not a huge fan of all of them so I came up with my own supplemental list:

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Minotaur in a China shop

I can across this game a while back and thought it was hilarious.


The game is pretty short and the title is pretty self explanatory. You are a Minotaur in a China Shop, but the twist is that you are also the owner of the China shop. You have two choices in each round, either try not to break anything and actually run the China shop or smash everthing in sight as quickly as possible before the local law enforcement takes you down with flaming arrows. The story logic doesn’t quite make sense and it is VERY hard not to break anything while various other anthropomorphic farm animals patron your shop, but I found it quite entertaining.


Contextual Conversations in RPGs

I realize this is a bit long winded so if you just want to get the gist skip to the section labeled EXAMPLE. My only request is that you read the whole thing before you comment.

There’s something that has always bothered me about RPGs in general. The concept of single use NPCs. All RPGs I know of are guilty of this and it bugs me to no end because it doesn’t make sense to me that I always have to talk to one NPC who knows information that is often times common knowledge. The issue is when you talk to an NPC they usually have anywhere from 1 to 5 lines of dialog that they spout either at random or in some specified order. Once they are done that NPC becomes worthless. They become filler in the game that just takes up space. The most recent example I can think of is in Skyrim. I started getting a bit bored with the game after about 60 hours of play as a heavy armor, mace wielding Redgaurd with a knack for enchanting and a minor in alchemy. I decided to start a new game as a sneaky Argonian mage. I thought my race might have some effect on how people interacted with me and I was curious to see if any dialog options changed. The answer was no not really. Some people do refer to you as an Argonian and some will even make references to Argonian homelands, but that is it. I wasn’t too bothered by that though. What really bugged me was when I walked into Whiterun and realized I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I had already spoken to everyone and I knew what they were going to say. This is true for 90% of the inhabitants of Whiterun and realizing that made the game feel much smaller to me. Initially I remembered feeling very overwhelmed when I walked into town and saw how many people where out and about. Now I could recognize a lot of the faces and knew that the information they had would not help me in any of my quests.

In real life you can ask anyone anything regardless of whether they know anything about the subject. Yes I realize games have space and time limitations that would not allow them to build complex dialog tress for each character. However, I do think there are some ways you can cheat and get a similar effect.

I am a software engineer and I spend a lot of my time thinking about interesting design constructs to use to display information. The way I perceive most games are designed is that each individual NPC in the game is has a script or dialog tree that they are assigned. Some dialog is activated on triggers while others are accessible at any time. An example of a trigger might be completing a quest or acquiring a certain item. What I am suggesting is a conversation system that is decoupled from the characters. Instead the conversation system would assign dialog to NPCs based on context. For a while I wasn’t sure how you would choose the context, but recently it came to me. The context is the active quest.


Let’s say in this example you need to talk to a specific NPC. In most RPGs you need to wander around randomly talking to whatever NPCs you find until you meet the one your looking for. It’s tedious and you end up collecting a lot of extra information and may even been completely derailed from your current quest. Let’s say for this example you need to find someone who knows information about a mystical sword. Here is a list of some dialog the NPCs in the town would be assigned:

“Sorry, I don’t know about any swords, but I bet someone around here can help you.”
“Magic swords hmmm. I don’t know anything about that, but someone at the Inn might”
“Sounds like you need to talk to an enchanter.”
“I think you probably want to talk to Old Man Withers. I know he used to be an expert enchanter”

Now let’s say you have about 10 characters wandering that town. You could have three that have the first line above, three with the second, three with the third and one with the last. This way everyone you talk to now has something relevant to say about what you are looking for.

Now let’s say the player switches context by choosing a quest to find a character in a different town. The dialog options associated with that quest would be:

“I’ve never heard that name before. They aren’t in this town.”
“That name sounds familiar. I think I heard someone mention it in Elf Town.”
“That name sounds elven. Your best bet is to head north to Elf country”
“The person you seek lives in Elf town”

Again we distribute this information evenly between the towns people. This way you are directed out of the town and in the direction you want to go. The best part is you could reuse this dialog for every town that isn’t Elf Town. The basic message is all you need to keep intact (The guy is in Elf Town).

There is a general stigma about open world games that you can sort of get lost in them and finding direction can sometimes be frustrating. Setting up contextual conversation helps sort out some of that chaos. Just my thoughts on the situation. I would love to hear some feedback.


RIP Lydia

Still playing Skyrim. Twas a sad day today as on the 4th of Hearthfire, 4E201 Lydia, my housecarl assigned to me by the Yarl of Whiterun, was killed in action while fighting a dragon.

Honestly I didn’t know she could die (she’d been knocked down a TON of times before) and I didn’t notice right away. After we took down the dragon I took a second to attribute the new dragon soul which actually caused an autosave. Then I turned around and realized no one was following me. I imagined my character standing over the dead dragon’s corpse staggering around calling her name. Soft at first, thinking she was close but then louder and louder until finally he was screaming it at the top of his lungs. I searched around for signs of her, still expecting her to appear running towards me. I had a flashback of when I was playing Fallout: New Vegas and I lost Veronica because of a random glitch. But no, Lydia was actually dead. I found her body lying just next to the dragon’s bones.

The funny part was I hadn’t liked her that much the whole time she’d been with me. We probably were together for about 20 hours of gameplay but the whole time she seemed irritable. Whenever I needed to trade items with her she always responded with the same moody line. It almost made me avoid ever having to do it. I was considering parting ways with her because of how annoyed with her I was. Now she’s dead. I guess there is some comfort knowing she died doing something pretty awesome. Namely fighting a freaking dragon. Thats got to count for something right?

Either way Rest In Peace Lydia, sorry I made you carry all my shit and sorry for setting you on fire, like, all the time.

Anyways, should have a real post coming soon… or more Skyrim updates.


It’s funny cuz it’s true

No post this weekend since I picked up a copy of Skyrim and that has all I have done for the past 3 days…

Getting some cool ideas for new game concepts though. More news when I have time. Until then this Penny Arcade comic describes my feelings on Skyrim pretty well.



There’s some kids making cool one minute videos about video game lore. Like the one above.

See their channel here.


What indie means

I’ve been spending a LOT of time looking up indie games and finding different website dedicated to making or talking about indie games and this question has popped into my head before. “What does indie mean?” I think its sort of open to interpretation, but I also think this article explains it pretty well. Honestly for a while I was questioning if I even qualified as “indie.” I think based on this article I can safely say I barely do.


Zeboyd Games

Recently I have been starved for a good game I could really sink into. I have also been very tired of the 3D shooter genre so this weekend I spent some time trying to dig deep and find something unique. It was quite tiring and very frustrating, but in the end I think I found something exciting.

I only just found it today so I haven’t really had the time to play it through and give it a proper review, but it’s the first game that has gotten me excited from the little bit that a played. I’m not only excited about the game, but the type of game it is has given me new hope that the gaming industry isn’t marching directly into becoming a FPS only industry.

The game is called Cthulhu Saves the World (CStW) and honestly when I first saw the title I was skeptical. I actually opted to buy a different game called Breath of Death VII (BoD7) which seemed to have a more interesting story and I didn’t feel like it was pandering to the mindless masses by simple tacking on a buzzy marketing word like Cthulhu, zombies, pirates or ninja’s. As it turns out the creators of both games where one and the same and they were offering a deal where you could get both games for the mindbogglingly low price of $2 (seriously go buy this on Steam right now). So of course I bought both. I started with BoD7 and immediately knew I found something I was going to like. The game plays pretty much like the original Final Fantasy with some slight variations in the battle mechanics. What I really liked though was the setting and the characters. The backstory is that a long time ago a doomed civilization set of a weapon that wiped out all life as we know it. Over time the undead came to inherit the Earth, but a new evil has come which will threaten their very existence. So the world still has that Final Fantasy type midevil setting with magic and some advanced technology thrown in, but all the characters are undead ghouls just trying to make a living. It actually makes some of the technology stuff make sense since they describe anything tech as being an ancient artifact from, presumably, our time.

After a particularly infuriating boss fight (I lost when the boss only had like 5 HP) I decided to switch up and try CStW instead. The gameplay is very similar though they’ve added a lot more story and flavor to this one. However, I only played it for a like ten minutes before I got really curious about the developers and decided to check out their website (http://zeboyd.com). There I learned they are actually going to be working on the 3rd installment of the Penny Arcade game series On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness.


… Ahem. Excuse me.

Some of you may know I have been a Penny Arcade fan since around 2002 and have read every single one of their comics more than once. Needless to say I think this matchup looks pretty exciting and I can’t wait to see the result. You can read the official announcement here: