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Game Design Question: Should Game Designers Use The Base Character Creator for the Game’s Default Hero?

If you have played a game such as BioWare’s Mass Effect games, then you know the pain of trying to make a customized character that is as good looking as the default hero.

The issue is that in games like that the game designers used a character customization system that is not available to the player when the game is released. Meaning that any custom character, even when they are extremely close in appearance to the default hero, never looks as nice in cut-scenes or the game as the default hero looks.

Is this okay? Or should game creators restrict their default builds to the same tools that they provide for the player to create custom characters?

Please use the comments to present and discuss your perspective on this.

Next Monday’s Game Design Question: _____________?

Game Design Question: Are Repeated Dungeons Okay?

When Dragon Age II came along there was a lot of complaints about the re-use of dungeons in the game. This should not be confused with the use of modular dungeons, where the same base assets are used to randomly generate a new dungeon. In Dragon Age II the trouble was that many encounters, even when a fair distance apart, used the same dungeon maps.

Having a player revisit a dungeon can be a great way to save on creating unique dungeons, and having all dungeons follow a basic design style and aesthetic can be a good way to save on resources. Skyrim did this to great effect on many of the dungeons where the caverns and things were made up of a lot of the same base pieces with a few added in specialty items to make each dungeon more unique.

But what about purely repeated dungeons such as those used in Dragon Age II? Are those ever acceptable to use in a video game? Can you think of any situation where they would be acceptable to use? What alternatives might you suggest for people seeking to reduce resource requirements in their game?

I can see where it would be okay to reuse the same dungeon map for something such as a training area in a guildhall, where the dangers and traps and things change, but the base floor plan and room positions remains the same.

Or perhaps a dungeon that evolves as the story progresses, new groups moving into the dungeon and changing the decor, but not the base elements of the area.

Please, share your thoughts and ideas on reuse of dungeon environments in video games in the comments. Have you seen it done really well anywhere? Do you want to get some ideas on how you can make it work in a game you are working on?

Next Monday’s Game Design Question: Should Game Designers Use The Base Character Creator for the Game’s Default Hero?

FFXV Road Trip Scrapbook: Necessary Notes

Final Fantasy XV has been described as Road Trip Simulator and I can not argue with that description. So far the game is well worth the price and the month long download that it took for my roommate and me to load the game onto his system.


Due to the nature of trying to compile a play through in this manner, there is a lot of stuff that either got left out or forgotten in this Let’s Play. For the best experience you can shop for Final Fantasy XV, and other games, at Amazon and share your own adventure and experiences in the comments on this website.

This journey begins where all journeys begin… at the beginning.

Or does it?

When the game is first started up there is a brief view of action to come where you play a much older Noctis as he and his friends encounter what appears to be a rather tough foe.

This is just a teaser, however, and like waking from a dream the game hops back to a young Noctis and his retinue about to set forth on their journey.

I warn the reader that my perspective on things is perhaps not entirely accurate, and this is in many ways very intentional. I have certain things I like and do not like in stories, and when left with any room to rethink a situation, I will often go the route of what my rather active imagination decides to fill in.

The first point where my own views asserted themselves was on Noctis Lucis Caelum’s pending wedding to Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret of Tenebrae. I perceived this as less of a marriage of love and more of a political arrangement. The two have known one another since childhood, and it is clear that she has fallen in love with Noct, but… I found it hard to actually see Noct as loving Lunafreya. It is possible that he had or has a crush on her, but I see his perspective more of a close childhood friend that he lost touch with, but still cares deeply for. There is some reference in the game to the wedding having been a part of the peace treaty, and while Noct’s bodyguard, Gladiolus Amicitia, makes several comments pertaining to how much Noct loves Lunafreya and is looking forward to the wedding, Gladiolus also non-too subtly seems to support Noct having some kind of romantic involvement with Gladiolus’ younger sister Iris. In fact, to me, the comments that Gladiolus makes about Noct and Luna seem more like he is trying to help Noct accept that he is going to be married off for the good of the kingdom; rather Noct likes it or not.

In addition to the above perception on Gladiolus Amicitia, I have come to see him as having taken on the role of combat tutor for Noct. Noct knows the basics of combat at the start of the game, but it seems to me that Gladiolus becomes not only Noct’s body guard, but his combat trainer from the moment that Gladiolus realizes that things have gone wrong.

Prompto Argentum needs no special explanation because I do not think I made any mental changes to him. Where Ignis and Gladiolus were assigned to accompany Noctis on his journey, Prompto is along for the sole reason of being Noctis’ best friend.

Ignis Scientia diverges perhaps the most in my mind from the basics that are given in the game. The game defines him as being a retainer tasked with caring for Noctis since they were small children (Noct 4, Ignis 6). He is identified as nothing more than a chef and chauffeur for the group, driving the car and assuring they eat nutritious meals. This… did not sit well with what my imagination kept seeing in the character. For one thing, as a cook, Ignis is as skilled with knives as Eliot Spencer from Leverage:

“Hold a knife this way, dice an onion. Hold a knife this way, slice through eight Yakuza in four seconds.”

Eliot Spencer, Leverage, Season One: The Wedding Job

There is a gap of missing information on just how it is that many of the more specialized moves that Noctis can do as the Chosen King are able to be, to some extent, done by Ignis. It seems as though either Ignis trained alongside of Noctis when Noctis was learning those skills, or Ignis learned them in some way that is not explained and taught them to Noctis in secret, the skills only coming to light for both of them when things get bad on the road and they need to fight.

Personally, I kind of like the second explanation, given how much more skilled Ignis is at the start and how he encourages Noctis in learning the skills. He also guards Noctis a lot, sometimes more than Gladiolus does, so I have come to think of it as Gladiolus is Noct’s body guard, but Ignis is the Royal Protector assigned to blend in and be invisible, but trained to keep the prince safe as a hidden assassin. This also would explain why Ignis prefers to do all the cooking and why he’s always wearing gloves.

So, that is how things diverge in my own experience as I play through Final Fantasy XV, the biggest changes from what is stated in the game being that Noctis is not really excited to get married so secretly is glad for the delay when it happens, and Ignis was secretly trained as an assassin to act as a last line of defense in protecting Noctis.

Game Design Question: Should Games Have Limited Time Events?

I’ve decided that a weekly Game Design Question would be a good thing to add to the site as I get it moving again, so each week I will ask a new question about video games that can be considered and discussed from a design perspective.

This week’s GDQ is about limited time events in video games. These things like the cross-over events, such as Lightning Strikes from Final Fantasy XIV or the Carnival in Final Fantasy XV, where players can participate in the event for a brief period, a few weeks or a few months, and they get some kind of in-game reward for having participated.

These can also be things such as the seasonal events that Final Fantasy XIV runs that awards special items that change each season. Many of the items come along later on as cash purchase items that anyone can buy from the online store for the game, but there was a time period where if someone missed an event in Final Fantasy XIV they were unable to get the item.

I would like to know what others think about these limited time events that you only get to do once for a week or so, then never see again and may never be able to get the items from it if you missed it for some reason.

One concern connected to this is crafted items for timed events in games like Final Fantasy XIV. During one summer event Final Fantasy XIV had a fish and chip platter that was turned in as part of the quest, they added a recipe for it to the cooking craft items. It required a Haddock that could be caught off a ship near Costa Del Sol or bought from the event vendor. After the event was over, however, the Haddock vanished from the game – the recipe did not. This was pointed out by a buddy of mine that wanted to complete all of the items in his cooking crafter book in the game. Thankfully there was a few haddock left kicking around that could be put into the company coffers and allowed him to make that recipe, but it raised the issue of the ingredient for that particular recipe no longer being available to new players that were trying to complete their culinarian crafted items.

So, what do you think? Are timed events a good or bad idea for video games? Is it okay to have them as long as they are repeated on occasion? Is it preferable that they be “missed out, sucks to be you” things? What about the items that can be obtained for playing the event later being sold for real money by the company? And what are your thoughts on situations like the haddock that vanish from the game, leaving a craftable item unable to be crafted?

Please, share your thoughts and opinions in the comments.

Next Monday’s Game Design Question: Are Repeated Dungeons Okay?

Let’s Play Final Fantasy XV Scrapbook

Given the poorness of my internet and computer hampering my ability to do things such as create videos and upload them, I have decided to go old school on my Let’s Play series for Final Fantasy XV.

Back in the early days of video games a few folks began to post information online about the games that they were playing. This phenomenon found a perfect storm in the Something Awful forums, where in 2006 users started to post full play-throughs of the games they were playing. It is uncertain where the actual term “Let’s Play” started, but it is now universally recognized as the presentation for others of one person’s experience in playing a video game.

Back in 2006 the trend was to post screen caps of the game play with commentary, much like a walk-through guide or a review, but instead of discussing game mechanics or reviewing the game, these Let’s Play presentations tended to focus on the experience of the person who played the game and could include a lot of side commentary that was unique to that person and that particular play though of the game.

By 2007 the then new platform of YouTube was being used by Let’s Play gamers to share videos of their play-throughs and a gaming phenomenon was born.

I intend to step back to those early days and create a mix of mostly images with commentary, but the occasional video where nothing else can quite tell the same story as a brief video. I hope to one day get back to the point I can post full on Let’s Play videos, maybe even do live streaming of gameplay, but for now I will be sharing my experience with Final Fantasy XV and other games the way it all began, with a screencap and some hopefully entertaining commentary on my experience road tripping with the boys.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It is 2019 now, and I am starting off the new year with some resolutions.

RESOLUTION 1: Go Outside A Bit More

The first one is one that people that know me will know is a huge step for me, getting out more. I’m not going to promise to start going to town once a week or anything, just… make an effort to step out into the yard for a little while each day.

I suffer from a very extreme level of social anxiety, one that makes even stepping out into my own yard a scary prospect. Any sign of another person in the area will send me back inside, or at least to the nearest point of cover until they have passed. I can hardly even stand to be in the same room as someone else, which at times makes having a roommate a struggle.

So, my number one resolution for the new year is to start working to reverse what has come to be a major problem for me. A problem that prevents me from working or even going shopping for my own groceries.

Baby steps are first, so I worked up the courage to where I put on my coat and stepped out onto the porch and watched the fireworks that all my neighbors were setting off all around me. I missed a few hours worth of the fun, since they started around 9 pm, but by midnight I had finally convinced myself to go out and watch the display. As I write this I can still hear them being set off around me (1:24 am), but I at least got to see a few nice high big bloom aerials set off by one of my neighbors and a handful of smaller aerials that the neighbor on the other side set off.

 RESOLUTION 2: 300 Words a Day

I am also going to resolve to work more on the writing I will be eventually getting paid for. So, in the interest of making sure I get my books finished, I am resolving to prioritize getting 300 words wrote before I do any non-essential things every day. So, after waking up and getting my morning routine out of the way, I will get 300 words wrote on whatever novel I am working on before I let myself do anything that is not extremely important.

RESOLUTION 3: Build My Business

I tried last year to get my business going and a series of catastrophes, combined with never getting decent Internet, caused me to fail to get it done. My final resolution for 2019 is to make this the last year I wish I had my dream job and actually make things come together so that I can earn an income that will support me despite my inability to work up the courage to go be social with other humans.

Back to the QWERTY system

So, I gave the Dvorak method a good shot over the past few months, and while I love the way it is lain out, I kept needing to use QWERTY for various reasons, so I have given up the effort and am admitting that QWERTY is the better option for my typing style and needs. It will take me a while to get back into the swing of things with QWERTY, but I am already typing much faster with it than I was the Dvorak system even after a few months of memorizing the Dvorak layout.

So, resolution 1 for 2019 – learn QWERTY touch typing since I have to relearn the key layout anyway.

Final Fantasy XIV Modern Kitchen Snowmen Counter Lights Hack

Final Fantasy XIV has some awesome housing hacks that ingenious players have come up with, and here is one of the most recent examples to come along, using the snowmen from the current Starlight Celebration seasonal event to create overhead counter lighting in a modern style kitchen.

I wanted to share a little secret for modern lighting…. use snowman butts from the Starlight event! from r/ffxiv

Fishing in Final Fantasy XV, the way it should have been for XIV

My roommate got a copy of Final Fantasy XV around a month back, and it finally finished downloading on our poor internet connection so I took the game for a spin. I really like it so far, especially the fishing. This is how I wish fishing worked in Final Fantasy XIV.

FFXIV Starlight Event Seasonal Items

Starlight Celebration is back in Eorzea and it brings a new indoor tree and treats.

From December 17th through December 31 you can go to Mih Khetto’s Amphitheatre in Old Gridania and start the level 15 quest to attain the Choir Robes, Hat, and Shoes. By doing the Choir event, a mini game where you tap a button as the image of a diamond shrinks to meet an inner diamond on the icon, you can earn event tokens that are redeemable for a limited edition orchestration scroll (5 tokens), a silver Starlight tree with mini plushies adorning it (10 tokens), a glowing snowman housing item (5 tokens), opened twinkle boxes, and a basket of festive donuts (3 tokens each).

The Choir robes are a dyable item, and can look quite nice as a glamor robe for healers.

Note that when you consume all of the donuts you are left with a nice basket with a white cloth in it, which can be a very useful decorating item on it’s own.

I do wish that the tree had been a classic elegant white tree similar to the classic green one from a past event, but I did find a good use for the tree.

I set one up in the corner of the Maelstrom Records office I set up at my small house on Balmung and made a Toys For Orphans donations tree with opened boxes and toys under it and a table in the corner with more opened boxes and a few toys “being wrapped”. (If you want to see it check it out at Mist, ward 7 plot 11 on Balmung. – it’s an open RP spot for anyone to do RP at if they need to visit the Maelstrom’s records office – or if you want to do some random toy donations the tree will be up through the first week of January.)

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