Monthly Archives: January 2015
School Sucks

Spankers and Spankees,

Those of you who have somehow managed to escape the seemingly eternal hell that is school may not realize this, but the Spring Semester has recently begun. Unfortunately, this means that I now have much less free time. So, I won’t be able to post the next Etrian Odyssey story tonight. In fact, I’m going to have to scale those stories back to once a month, rather than twice a month. I don’t want to, but this is literally at the bottom of my priority list, and I don’t want this to interfere with my work on Potion Wars. So I’m going to shoot for posting a new Etrian Odyssey episode on the last weekend of the month. Though I won’t be surprised if I have to miss a few updates as the semester heats up. That being said, I have no intention of stopping. I absolutely love writing these little stories. Great stress relief. And boy do I need it, because graduate school sucks. Don’t ever get into it. If your teacher/TA ever tells you “You know, I think you’d enjoy graduate school” you say “Hell no, I’m getting a real job. Slaving away endlessly to write a bunch of lame papers about super-obscure and borderline impossible to understand ideas while also taking classes and teaching for crap wages is not a good use of my twenties.”

Spanking Mechanics

Spankers and Spankees,

Since this is the third Sunday of January, as promised here are my thoughts on a more fleshed out spanking mechanic than the silly gimmick we currently have. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Most, but not all, enemies will be spankable. Typically, if you’re facing a non-humanoid enemy (i.e. a dinosaur of some kind or another), then you won’t be able to spank them, and they won’t be able to spank you. Furthermore, if I decide that the spanking your opponent
in mid-fight would ruin the atmosphere of fight, I may disable the spanking option. This will be very, very rare, however. I can only think of one fight against a humanoid opponent where I plan on disabling the Spank option, and that’s not going to be a conventional fight anyway. Furthermore, once I implement an Options menu, there will be an option to either disable in-combat spankings, or use a more simplified version of the mechanic. The first for those of you want a little bit less spanking in your spanking porn, and the second for those of you who don’t want to think too hard when you’ve got one hand down your pants  (nothing wrong with that. I enjoy a bit of mindless masturbation as much as the next guy/gal).

Before we get started, please note that these are preliminary thoughts. I can guarantee that things will probably have to change once the ability is implemented and the beta testers and I start balancing it.

Anyway, on to the highlights:

0.  Spankings will rely primarily on the grapple stat. Willpower will play a role in determining how long the “humiliated” status lingers after a spanking. Willpower also affects the chances of a spankee successfully casting a spell while being spanked.

1. A successful spanking lasts at least 1 turn, but may last more and administers the “humiliated” status. Originally, “humiliated” gave opponents a blanket -1 to all primary stats. However, I’ll be making two changes. First, “humiliated” will only affect your enemy’s
highest primary stat. Second, for every turn that the spanker spends spanking the spankee, the spankee receives another -1 to their highest (before the spanking started) primary stat. When the spanking ends, the spanker and spankee are still grappled (unless someone else successfully broke the grapple). Note that the humiliated status does not stack with itself. You won’t be able to repeatedly spank an opponent until their stats are all -100.

2. There will be three classes of positions: over the knee, the spanker is standing, the spankee is on the ground. The spanker is standing will be relatively easy to pull off, but  relatively hard to maintain. Spankee on the ground positions are relatively hard to pull off, but relatively easy to maintain. OTK is balanced.

4. (Maybe) The player will be able to equip certain spanking implements. When spanking an opponent, the player can then choose to use either that implement or their hand. Implements will have a severity rating and a difficulty rating. The severity rating will give
a boost to how the duration of “humiliation,” while the difficulty of the implement effects how easy it is to successfully administer a spanking. Typically, implements will make it harder to administer a spanking (one of your hands is occupied with the
implement) but will make the effects last longer. They will not have a significant impact on the spanking text.

Now for the details. First, we’ll discuss what impact a spanking has on the flow of battle.

A spanking will tie up both the spanker and the spankee for some number of turns. For every turn that the spanker spends successfully spanking the spankee, the spankee receives an additional -1 to their highest (before the spanking started) primary stat. While the spanking is going on, it is easier for others to hit both the spanker and the spankee. However, if someone successfully physically attacks either the spanker or the spankee, or successfully breaks the grapple, then the spanking is broken.  Some spells may also break the spanking, such as the Spectral Spanking family of spells. The spanker may end the spanking at any time. Note that ending the spanking does NOT take up one turn. The spanker’s commands will look something like this:

(Enter) Spank <SPANKEE NAME>  (A)ttack (C)ast (T)hrow …etc

So if you want to continue spanking away, just hit (Enter). If you want to do something else, select that command. The spanker will end the spanking and administer that command. The spankee does still lose that turn.

The spankee meanwhile will have the commands:

(Enter) Struggle (C)ast (E)ndure

Struggle gives the spankee a chance of breaking free, depending on their grapple skill. Cast allows the spankee to try to cast a spell. However, there is a chance (depending on Willpower) that the casting will fail. Second, any spell that has a chance of breaking a  normal grapple (Spectral Push/Shove, Spectral Spanking/Strapping/Caning) will always break a spanking when successfully cast. Furthermore, the spanker suffers a penalty to her willpower when targeted for a spell, because her attention is on spanking her opponent, not resisting enemy spells. If a character Endures, then they won’t try to break themselves free, but they suffer only half the penalty for that round, rounded down (so a -1.5 penalty is the same as a
-1 penalty). Instead, it’s up to her allies to break her free. Typically, a character with a high grapple (relative to her opponent) will want to struggle. A character with high willpower will want to try to either cast a grapple-breaking spell, or a spell that reduces the spanker’s grapple or willpower.

If a spankee evades a spanking, they will automatically attempt to reverse the spanking. If they successfully reverse the spanking, then the spankee becomes the spanker, and the spanker becomes the spankee.

Pulling someone into a spanking will always be the last thing that happens in the round. There are a few reasons for this.

1. Spankings will become much less useful if your high-grapple character pulls their opponent into a spanking at the beginning, then gets stabbed by someone else, breaking the spanking before it could truly begin.

2. Throwing a firebolt, or stabbing someone with a spear takes a lot less time than wrestling someone over your knee, so it makes sense that the spanking attempt would take longer.

The normal rules of initiative apply if two grapplers are trying to spank each other (note that I will probably be changing the normal rules of initiative as well. But that’s a separate matter).

The stats that affect a spanking are as follows:

1. Grapple affects your chance of successfully administering and evading a spanking, your chance of evading and successfully administering a reversal, and how long the spanking lasts.

2. Willpower affects how long the “humiliated” status lasts after the spanking. The higher the spanker’s Willpower is relative to the spankee, the longer the “humiliated” status will last.

The positions (over the knee, spanker standing, spankee on the ground) are not concrete positions, but rather categories. This is to give the writers freedom to use slightly different positions for different enemies when writing the flavor text. For example, for one enemy, the writer may choose to use over one knee for the OTK position, underarm for the standing, and backwards riding for the on the ground. For a different enemy, the writer may use Japanese style OTK for the OTK position (spanker is sitting on her heels, with spankee across her lap), standing (spanker has grabbed spankee around the arm and is swatting spankee’s bottom while both are standing straight) for the spanker standing, and diaper for spankee on the ground.

However, in both cases the gameplay effect are the same: standing positions are easy to start, but easy to break out of, spankee on the ground are hard to start, but hard to break out of, and OTK is neither easy nor hard to start, and neither easy nor hard to break out of.

And there you have it. This system is actually going to be quite a bit richer than I originally envisioned (the spankings-lasting-multiple-turns thing didn’t occur to me until I sat down to write this). Unfortunately, what that also means is that this will be trickier to implement, and balance than what I’d originally intended. The original plan had just been to give grapplers a way of inflicting a status-ailment in one turn, with the factors behind the potency and duration of the humiliation stat largely behind-the-scenes. However, I think this will make it a lot more fun, and a lot more sexy. So my plans on implementing and releasing this mechanic are as follows:

1. Release the pre-dungeon interactions of episode 2.

2. Release the dungeon, with the auto-map, new stat improvement mechanic, and no random encounters implemented. Make no changes to the spanking mechanic.

3. Implement the system I’d originally envisioned: a one-round spanking with some flavor text, with the positions influencing chances of success, reversal, and potency of humiliation. Have beta testers and
players focus on giving feedback on frequency of successes, failures, and reversals.

4. Add the multi-turn mechanic. This mechanic will also be added to the Spectral Spanking class of spells as well, with rolls depending on the grapple skill depending on the magic skill instead. However, the spells will only administer damage at the end of the spanking,  when the spankee gets flung into the ground.

5. Release the post-dungeon act of Episode 2 (this will probably be relatively short, considering all the crap above).

I probably won’t let you use implements until Episode 3. Those may also undergo some changes as well to make them useful, largely because I’m not sure at this point whether duration of humiliation will be all that important. If you have a fight last 8 rounds, and four of them are spent spanking your opponent, the fact that Humiliation will last seven rounds as opposed to three really doesn’t matter. I’m not going to lie, this is going to take a while, and I’ve got a pretty busy semester coming up. We very well may not have the spanking mechanic implemented until next fall, and it may not be balanced well enough to neither be game breaking nor useless until next winter/spring.

However, I’m also really really excited about this. Not only will this be a fun (and frustrating) mechanic to implement and balance, but once it’s been implemented and the worst of the kinks (there’s a pun in there somewhere, I just know it) worked out, it will be a ton of fun to play. Furthermore, since I’ll be eliminating random encounters, I can make the battles last for more turns, so this kind of mechanic would be more viable. Of course, if I implement longer battles, I’ll probably have to include a way of saving during battle (or periodically auto-saving) at some point. That’ll be a butt. But I could probably put that off to an Episode 3 improvement.

Hell, now that I think about it, it might be kind of interesting to have a small number of marathon battles against generic enemies, rather than a large number of short battles. Especially since the lack of random encounters and instant travel from the beginning to the frontier of the maze means that there’s less incentive to preserve mana from battle to battle. However, if the battle is long, there would be some incentive to preserve magic turn to turn. Hmm…

Etrian Odyssey Episode 2

Holy hell I had 815 downloads for the first version of Etrian Odyssey episode 1 (I can’t really use the numbers for this second version, because I don’t know how many of the new downloads are people re-downloading it, and how many are new). That’s…quite a bit more than I expected. Hope people weren’t too disappointed!

Anyway,on with the post. Episode 2 is uploaded. Get it over at the Etrian Odyssey tab. Next, I have a few logistical things to discuss.

Etrian Odyssey has inspired some careful thought about my own game, and I’d like to write about some of them, because writing about things helps me think. Currently, I don’t post anything on the third week of the month. So I’m thinking that on the third week of each month, I’ll muse about game design. These musings might be features I’d like to implement in Potion Wars, or systems that I’ll consider for a future game. Next week, I’ll discuss my fully fleshed spanking system, and my decision to eliminate random encounters from Potion Wars.

Next, Bonemouth the Boxfish has graciously offered to help write some short, enemy-specific spanking scenes for the combat spankings in episode 2.  Note that I won’t necessarily be releasing a new version of the game just yet. In addition to reintroducing the spanking mechanic, I also want to eliminate the random encounters. I also want to replace the stat gaining mechanic with something more deterministic, rather than the sacrifice-your-dog-to-the-RNG-god mechanic we currently have (I’ll discuss this change in February).So you can expect all of these changes to appear with the pre-dungeon content for episode 2.

Now, back to Etrian Odyssey.

I’ve managed to beat the final boss (not counting postgame, which if it’s anything like the 5th Stratum, I have no interest in). Fortunately, I didn’t need as much grinding as I feared I did. Only one or two more levels, and I was able to beat the final boss. In fact, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I expected. Hell, if the first time I faced the final boss, it wasn’t 10:00pm after a 12 hour gaming session( it was supposed to be about 4 hours, but the final stratum just refused to end), I probably would have beaten him on the first try. Or gotten close enough that I wouldn’t have thought I needed grinding.

The rest of this post is my musings about the game.

Overall, I enjoyed the game tremendously. It was definitely a dungeon crawl, and a very enjoyable one. Furthermore, looking back, the boss fights weren’t quite as merciless as my rather frustrated previous post made them out to be. With the exception of the first boss on the third Stratum, I really didn’t have that much trouble with any of the bosses. In fact, the first boss on the third Stratum and the final boss were the only bosses that I failed to beat on the first try (well, it took two tries for the first Stratum boss as well, but that’s because I did something stupid, not because the boss was super difficult).

The game actually was quite well balanced. The random encounters were challenging enough to keep things interesting (usually), but also very quick. Most battles lasted 1-3 turns. However, the enemies hit hard enough that I couldn’t just mash the attack button. I had to actually use people’s skills.

The floors themselves weren’t particularly intricate, but exploring them was generally pretty fun.

The game also had much more focus than most rpgs have. I didn’t feel like I was getting bogged down by inane sidequests that had nothing to do with anything. Don’t get me wrong, most of the sidequests were pretty inane (“gather 5 oxnards, 3 poisonberries, and 2 bull testicles”), but it was very easy to complete those quests I could without going out of my way, and ignore the rest. Second, and most importantly, the sidequests work with the narrative. You are adventurers who explore the Labryinth. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that people would hire you to do things in the Labryinth. This is much better than most RPGS, whose sidequests are just random bullshit that accomplish nothing but dragging out the game. It amazes me how RPG developers have somehow managed to convince people that filler is a good thing! Wait. Stop. I won’t rant about the inanity of sidequests. I won’t rant about the inanity of sidequests. I won’t rant about the inanity of sidequests.

Takes a breath. Waits a minute.

Ok. It’s passed. Anyway, EO is all about trying to explore the Labryinth, and it never loses its focus on the Labryinth.

However, Etrian Odyssey does have some issues. One of them, the tendency to encourage one-trick ponies, I addressed in my previous (admittedly rather ranty) blogpost. So I won’t address it again here.

The biggest problem is all the backtracking. You only had a teleporter every 5 levels. Furthermore, each level was quite large, and had a very high encounter rate. As a result, my experiences with the game went something like this:

  First floor of a stratum: This is awesome!

  Second floor of a stratum: This is awesome!

  Third floor: OK, things are starting to get kind of tedious. Whoever decided to space the teleporters so far apart should be face-punched.

  Fourth floor: Gah! I’m so $*&*) bored! If I have to slog through the first level of this wretched Stratum one more time…

  Fifth floor: Finally! Now just to find that stupid boss…Why is this floor so freaking big? No, don’t run out of TP! Bad Alchemist. Now I have to go back to town, then slog through all the previous 4 floors, and half of this one all over again! Maybe I’ll go work on my thesis instead…Can’t be any more boring than this.

Next Stratum: Fuck yeah! Things are fun again…Wait, excuse me Miss Tavern Lady. Are you seriously telling me that I’ve only just now unlocked a bunch of quests that involve the Stratum I just beat, and enemies I’m sick of fighting and who no longer pose a threat? Fuck that noise. I’m heading for the new stratum. You can tell your clients to find some other chump to do their dirty work.

EO has this annoying habit of unlocking the quests for level X once you reach level X+1 i.e. after you’ve already finished exploring level X. Which means you have to wander aimlessly around level X, fighting monsters that you aren’t too worried about, hoping you’ll stumble upon the (unmarked!) square the triggers the quest. This is stupid. The quests for level X should be unlocked when I reach level X. That way, I can complete the quests as I explore, rather than having to backtrack.

And don’t even get me started on the 5th Stratum. It was massive, boring, and despite being full of loopdy-loops, had one lousy shortcut. One! It took me about twelve hours to reach the end of that Stratum, and most of it was spent backtracking because the designers couldn’t be bothered to throw in a few damned secret passageways!

I hate backtracking. It’s filler of the worst sort. My time is precious dammit, and I hate it when a game wastes it like that.

The early wizardry games got around this in two ways. One, the random encounter rate is actually obscenely low. Most of your fights are scripted. Meaning that every time you enter the dungeon, certain squares will always have a fight. Furthermore, these scripted fights were rarely if ever on the path from one stairwell to the next. You also had a much faster movement rate than in Etrian Odyssey. So assuming you had halfway-decent maps, you could get back to the frontier very very quickly, and with only one or two fights, if that. Second, a high-level mage could learn the Malor spell, which allowed him to teleport to any square in the dungeon. Once you learned that spell, it was easy peasy to jump between the frontier and the castle. And conveniently enough, you’d learn that spell right around the time when you were so far into the dungeon that slogging from the castle to the frontier was getting tedious. Sure, Etrian Odyssey has these secret passageways (most of the time…stupid 5th Stratum) to shorten the trip, but the trip was still too damn long, you still usually had to fight a bunch of fights every level (even if you used abilities that reduce the encounter rate), and the walking speed was so damn slow.

In Potion Wars, I’m doing something similar to Wizardry, except removing the random encounters completely. Also, you won’t have a teleport spell, because instantaneous travel has serious implications for the setting and story that I don’t want. While it could be interesting to have a medieval setting whose world is as tightly knit together as the modern world, it’s not what I’m going for.

However, since I’m eliminating random encounters, you’ll never encounter enemies while backtracking. Since backtracking doesn’t introduce any extra challenge, why make the player do it manually? So, I’ll add a “Go” command, where the the player can input the map coordinates of a square they’ve already visited (i.e. stepped on) and be instantly “teleported” there. Of course, there will still have to be an automap, so that the player knows which location they want to go to. So basically, Potion Wars will have the Malor spell, except it won’t cost any spell points, and you won’t be able to teleport into solid rock.

Anyway, back to issues with EO. I was also disappointed by my Hexer. I’m not sure if it’s because Etrian Odyssey didn’t do a good job with making status effect spells useful (they weren’t as useful as they tend to be in western RPGS, but were a hell of a lot more useful than they tend to be in JRPGS) or if it was because my Hexer joined so damn late, and I hate grinding so damn much, that she spent the entire game 10 levels behind everyone else. The more I think about it, the more I think it was the latter. I mean, she wasn’t completely useless or anything, despite being about a full Stratum behind everyone else. Hell, her binding rate was higher than my Dark Huntress. So we’ll have to see. I might have to have a Hexer again in Etrian Odyssey II, and see if she’s any better when she starts with the party from the beginning.

Musings about (statistical) Character Development in an RPG

Spankers and Spankees,

The following post is just some musing about game design. No updates of either the Let’s Spank or Potion Wars. Just some Etrian Odyssey inspired musings about game design. So feel free to ignore this. It’s mostly here for my self 10 years in the future. Hi 10 years older self! Nice to see you’re still developing spanking games. You need a life.

So I’ve almost beaten Etrian Odyssey (just have the final boss left, who like every JRPG final boss ever, is 2 orders of magnitude harder than the rest of the game. I lasted all of 2 rounds the first time we fought, despite obliterating all the FOES and random enemies on the final stratum. So I’m stuck in a tortuously boring grind fest right now. Stupid JRPGS.). And I have been enjoying it, however there are a few things that really piss me off about the game. One of those is the skill system.

In Etrian Odyssey, every time your character gains a level you gain one skill point. You can then put this skill point to improve one thing. Maybe it’s something generic, like how much damage you do with a Whip, or maybe it’s something specific, like improving one of your character’s special abilities.

This kind of system is usually advertised as “Complete control over how your characters develop! Choose any one of dozens of paths to powerful characters!” and yeah sure that’s theoretically true. However in practice it’s bullshit. Why? For a couple of reasons:

0. All paths are not created equal. Admittedly, Etrian Odyssey may be the exception to this (I haven’t tried every path), but I find it highly unlikely. Every game has useless skills, or skills that should be awesome, but are inflicted with so many downsides that they’re not worth it. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing which skills are which until you find yourself forty hours in and swearing viciously because your Protector maxed out Provoke only for you to discover that it never triggers fast enough, and your enemies almost always ignore it anyway (I didn’t max out Provoke so I don’t know if that’s true. However, one point of Provoke on floor 1 was pretty useless, so I figure it’s a reasonable hypothesis). Meanwhile, she’s still ten levels away from unlocking Smite, so after she’s invoked Defender, she can’t really do much against the boss.

1. It discourages versatility. Ten skills with 1 point in each are useless. One skill with ten points is godly. So the best way to succeed in this kind of situation is to have 5 one-trick ponies. One-trick ponies are boring to play, and they’re boring to develop. I hate it when games force me to do that.

2. It discourages experimentation. You have no way of knowing if a skill is worth using until you’ve already invested a significant number of precious skill points in that ability. As a case in point, consider my Hexer. A Hexer essentially has three paths: A binding path (binding enemies arms, legs and head to keep them from using special abilities), a crowd control path (sleep, paralyze, curse) and a control path (Evil Eye plus the curses that allow the Hexer to “control” any enemies that have been terrified by Evil Eye). Now of these, the Evil Eye path is very brittle. If your enemy is resistant to Evil Eye, you could find your Hexer contributing nothing to battle. Furthermore, considering the fact that the control curses are guaranteed to effect anyone who is inflicted with Evil Eye, I find it hard to believe that any of the bosses would be susceptible to it. Otherwise, boss fights would be a cakewalk, and game designers don’t like it when boss fights are cakewalks. Evil Eye and its control curses are too prohibitively expensive to use in regular fights, so they’d be the heavy artillery. Heavy artillery that probably doesn’t work, because that’s not how RPGS work in most cases (especially JRPGs). Similar, the crowd control spells while ostensibly useful in regular fights, would probably be pretty useless against bosses for the same reason as the control curses. 99.999% of RPGS make bosses absurdly resistant to paralyze/sleep/etc. However, while crowd control can make regular fights easier, they aren’t necessary. The bosses however are pretty challenging. I can’t afford to have a character whose borderline useless during boss fights. Therefore, I sent my Hexer down the binding path. I knew from experience that bindings are actually pretty useful against all enemies, including bosses, and they’re dirt cheap.

However, all that reasoning about Evil Eye and crowd control? Total speculation. For all I know the final boss’ greatest weakness is Evil Eye, and if I’d invested in Evil Eye I could invoke Evil Eye then tie a rubber band around the Gameboy’s A button and take my dog for a walk. Why? Because I didn’t dare risk investing in Evil Eye only to discover that it’s totally useless. Then I’d have to sacrifice 10 levels just to reorganize my skill points. Ten levels is a lot. After gaining five levels, enemies that were dangerous are a cakewalk. My characters gained a little over 10 levels per Stratum, so resetting my skill points would set my Hexer back almost a full Stratum. The fact that I was forced to add her very late in the game for stupid reasons of stupidity just adds salt to the wound.

All this means that if it’s the first time playing, you’re forced to give all your characters one trick (well, maybe two), all while praying fervently that the trick you choose is actually useful. In other words, most of the strategy in this game is wound up in character development, but you have no way of evaluating your strategy until it’s too late. This ties in to a wonderful blogpost by Spiderweb Software game developer Jeff Vogel. Some of his ideas I don’t agree with (guy puts way too much emphasis on boss fights), but this one I agree with completely: Don’t Ask Questions Until the Player can Answer

At the beginning of the game, Etrian Odyssey asks me the question: How would you like to specialize each character?

However, I’d never played this game before. I had no idea what would be involved, so all I could say was “I dunno. Let me explore alright?”

And now, Etrian Odyssey is going “Hahahah! Fuck you! Now you have to grind because you wasted so many of your skill points actually having fun instead of specializing everyone into one-skill-spammers muahahahah! Well except your Dark Huntress. You got her right at least. Muahahahah!”

Of course all this is exasperated by the heavy emphasis on boss fights, which are battering ram fights in Etrian Odyssey. Etrian Odyssey has six mandatory boss fights (1 per stratum except stratum 3, which had 2). For perspective, Wizardry’s 1 and 5 combined only have 6 boss fights, 4 of which are in Wizardry 5. Furthermore, the Wizardry boss fights really aren’t so much more challenging than the regular battles that you need to worry about optimizing for them. If you’re beating the enemies before the boss fight without much trouble, you shouldn’t have many problems with the bosses. Not so in EO. In EO the boss fights are so much harder than the regular battles that you have to cater your character development to whatever is most likely to be useful against the next one time big battle I’ll never have to fight again but I know nothing about right now, rather than which is going to be the most useful against the monsters I already know about, and that I’m going to be fighting over and over again.

Now, this led to much fuming on my part. I prefer most of my strategy to be wound up in the battles not in trying to prepare my characters for battles I haven’t fought and have no way of knowing anything about. When I have control over how my characters develop, I prefer to acquire/improve skills that will make it easier against enemies I am currently facing. That’s my favorite part about a good RPG. Encountering a new enemy, trying different skills and spells, getting some idea of what works and what doesn’t, then improving those abilities that work against those enemies. In other words, I like catering my characters to deal with the current situation. That’s what makes levelling up exciting: “Alright! Now I can finally learn ice ball and obliterate those fire demons that were giving us so much trouble! Suck ice Satan!”

Then I started thinking about how I would implement a skill system. Because a good game with a horrible development system is a double waste if I can’t learn something from it and become a better game developer myself. I came up with the following system:

On the surface, it’s the same as Etrian Odyssey’s. Each level up you gain some number of skill points, which you can apply to improve your skills. However, there are two key differences:

1. You are free to rearrange your skill points at any time with no penalty.

2. You can save skill point configurations.

So for example, you could have a “dungeon exploration” skill set that focuses on crowd control spells, light spells, secret-detecting spells and the like. Then you could have a “boss fight” skill set that focuses on all of your expensive, heavy hitting skills.

You could have a “balanced” skill set that evenly distributes your skill points across all your abilities (this would be used at the beginning of each floor, when you’re not sure what will work and what wouldn’t). You could have a “fire-focused” skillset that emphasizes the fire spells a given character can learn. Similarly with the other elements. Each time you level up, you’d be able to improve one skill in each set.

This I think would be fun, because it can open the door for all sorts of things. You could have an ice-focused level, or a fire-focused level. You could have a boss fight that is a standard tank and spank, and you could have a boss fight that is nigh impenetrable, but is susceptible to status effects, even instant death attacks! At the beginning of each boss fight, you’d be given the choice to select your desired skill configuration (or tweak one, or create a new one). Then if you die you get the option of starting that fight over again with a different skill set. So each boss fight is a search for the best strategy. Hell, there’s no reason why there would have to be only one best strategy for each fight. So the search would be for the best strategy that you like the most. Maybe a spell-focused tank-and-spank. Or a physical attack focus, or a focus on using spells that reduce stats, or improve your stats. Or skills that fiddle with the game engine (i.e. turn order, combo attacks, number of hits per round, etc.). Or a focus on skills that improve the impacts of your spankings 😛

Meanwhile, when you’re exploring each floor/dungeon, you’re focusing on experimenting with different spells and skills, trying to figure out which ones will work best for the obstacles (monsters and otherwise) on that level. So at first, each floor/dungeon is kicking your ass and it’s a struggle just to stay alive. But then as you get a better handle on your enemy’s weaknesses, you start to breeze through them, without having to grind ten levels.

Thoughts? Does that sound like a good idea? Or does it sound stupid?

January 2015 Update

Spankers and Spankees,

Happy New Year! Things are moving forward, I promise. I’ve completed all the paths for the opening sequence of the second episode (i.e. from the start of the episode until the player regains control) when the player lives at the adventurer’s guild. Currently, I’m working on the paths for when the player stays with Maria. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but I’ve also finished the first draft of the translation program, and it can successfully translate simple latex files. Which means it’ll break in horrifying ways once I run a proper episode through it, but whatever. I don’t have to worry about that yet.

Furthermore, once I have the first third of the episode written (i.e. up to entering the maze), then I’ll release it to the public. My original dream had been to release each episode only once it’s complete, however that was before I understood the full scale that each episode will end up being. Plus, the whole throwing out most of what I wrote during the fall thing has seriously slowed me down. Clearly however, I’m going to have to seriously pick up the pace and impose more discipline on my writing in the future. Otherwise, we’re going to be here for a few decades. I’d really like to release at least two episodes a year, but I won’t be surprised if episode 2 doesn’t get released in its entirety until the summer.

Now the bulk of the first third of the episode are the opening sequences. After that, there’s an encounter with Peter if you’re tutoring his daughter Annie, the start of a subplot with Carrie: “The Mystery of the Clothing Shop and Its Mass Production in a Medieval Setting”, and a brief conversation with Elise. So hopefully I’ll be able to actually release new content before the end of February, but don’t hold me to that. I’m notorious for underestimating how much time I need to get stuff done.

I’m also working on the second episode for Etrian Odyssey, and am on track to release that next Sunday. I’ll talk more about that next week, but suffice to say that I’ve made it to the 21st floor in the game itself, and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.

I have posted a new version of the first episode of the Etrian Odyssey Let’s Spank. It contains fixes for a few typos, and proper chapter titles. It also contains a small retcon. The story blurb at the beginning of the instruction manual gave me the false impression that the Labryinth appeared relatively recently. However, characters in the game itself speak like the Labryinth has been around for a while, so I’ve had to change the time at which the Labryinth has mostly recently appeared from 3 or 4 years ago to 30 or 40 years ago.

I’ve also reorganized the LaTeX a little to make it easier to release compilations (though this doesn’t affect the PDF). Basically, each time I complete a stratum, I’ll release one large PDF with every episode that takes place in that stratum. I’m planning on 1 episode per level, with a few exceptions. For example, the first level will have two episodes dedicated to it. So unless the game is lying to me, that’s a little over 25 episodes for the entire story. Which means that if I can keep my schedule, the story will be complete sometime next March or so.