Sunday, January 27, 2008

Noob Peninsula

Now, on the Hippedown Server, starting at level 10, you can take a second class. You don't have to, and you can do so at a later level if you want (unless I can think of a reason why that would cause problems). I'm going to call it 'bonus class' for now, just because 'second class' implies the wrong kind of thing.

To do that, you have to go to Noob Peninsula. City Hall has a list of the classes available to you, and you can pick one and experiment with it for a bit. You can't level up in Noob Peninsula. If you get enough xp to reach level 11 (or so) you get a message saying so, but you can stay there indefinitely. You don't gain extra xp, though - when you level up, you'll be at 0% of the way to level 12.

Thinking about it, there's a bit of a problem. It's not an issue to have character creation take a while (and Noob Island is essentially a character creation/tutorial step). The early levels generally should go by fairly quickly. The problem is that the Noob Peninsula experience should not take much longer than going from level 9 to 10, but it should also take long enough for you to have a clear idea which of the dozen or so choices you'd want, and some of the choices for a bonus class are a lot more subtle than for a first class. If you only get four points to play around with, will you really be able to tell the difference between a fighter/gladiator and a fighter/crusader?

The best ideas I can come up with are:
a) Since there's not much pre-game and you start out playing your class as it's intended, there's no reason why the early levels have to be fast.
b) Delay the bonus class until level 15 or 20.
c) Give the character, say, 40 temporary skill points so they can see how things will develop. I don't like taking things away, though. It doesn't seem like a good idea for a temporary power-up.
d) Give the character 20 permanent skill points upon entering Noob Peninsula (even if you choose not to take a bonus class). Let's say you get 3 points per level for levels 1-10, and 4 points per level thereafter, so it's less overwhelming.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


We've mentioned skill points before. You get a few of them every level. The really good skills are class-exclusive, like a Priest's Heal, or a Bowman's Rapid Fire. A few other skills can be learned by a certain classes. Most of the fighter-type classes can learn Power Attack, and most mages can learn Shield.

Some skills, like Climb and Jump can be learned by everyone. They cost more for some classes than others. Thieves can learn these skills for one point per rank, as can dancers. Crusaders and Fire Mages pay two or three points. If you have two classes, you pay the lower amount. Some characters, when they take another class, get a couple skill points back. If you were a Fire Mage with had four ranks in Jump, and decided to become a Fire Mage/Thief, you'd get 8 skill points back.

Everyone gets the same number of skill points - things get too complicated if we do it any other way. When we want certain classes to progress more slowly, we just have their skills cost more.

We've mentioned movement skills. Is it fair to have areas that certain characters can't go to? I think so. It's balanced by those characters being less powerful. There wouldn't be whole dungeons or cities that are inaccessible, but there might be a few treasure chests or some healing items that you need these skills to get to. Again, it's in everybody's interest to have a balanced party. Or spend the skill points to make up for it.

If you don't have climb, you can still go up walls, but it takes a bit longer and you might fall back down. Jump, however, you can't fake. A character who has passed an obstacle can help others cross, though.

Each rank in a skill costs the same amount. Otherwise, eventually you have to save up for five or ten levels to go up one rank, and it's bad form to have the characters remain stagnant for long periods of time. Going from rank 2 to 3 in Increase Spell Range costs the same as going from rank 5 to 6.

Some skills have caps. If the most difficult cliff in the game requires Climb 5 to go up, then we shouldn't let people put 6 points into it. Power Attack is unlimited, for instance, as is Heal.

Skill points are adjustable. You get four each level. You can adjust those points until you gain a level. Then they're locked there. Let's say you're level 8. You get your four points and use them to buy Jump 2. You find that it doesn't get you anywhere special. You can put those four points back and use them to buy something else, like Defense Dance or Axe use. And if you have those four points invested when you hit level 9, they're stuck there. Perhaps you can readjust one 'stuck' skill point each level.

If you hold on to your points, like Brisbane did, only the most recent four are adjustable - otherwise, the smart thing to do is take all your points out right before you level up, every time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


FBAO is a very party-oriented game. There are a lot of things that you can do much better when you have six people. However, spending your time trying to find five other people who are:
a) of the appropriate level
b) of the appropriate classes
c) not jerks
d) not in another party and
e) not stupid

isn't fun. Isabel and I pretty much only party together, because we're there to play, as opposed to some other people who join a party, then spend the entire time arguing that Naruto could beat up The Hulk, or whatever.

I like the idea of being able to hire a party of NPCs. If you can't find a fighter of appropriate level to join you, you can go to the hirelings guild and rent one. They'd be equal to someone of 90% of your level.

Lets your dancer (or commander or priest) go and do useful stuff without spending half an hour waiting for a fighter to finish what he's doing and come help you.
Lets you experiment and explore without inconveniencing other players. If you want to spend two hours checking every nook and crag in the Space Zone, you can do that. Hirelings are paid by the hour, so they don't mind.

AI won't be very good. It never is. (counter-argument: real people are smarter. That's a feature, not a bug).
It's like admitting that you don't have enough people playing your game. (counter-argument: If you have 61, 601, or 60,001 people online, there's at least one person who's not in a party of six).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stats 2 and Healing

I prefer if healing potions be rare and expensive. If everyone carries a hundred, it changes HP from "how much adventuring you can do in one go" to "how many minutes you can go between pressing the 'heal' button". It also makes clerics and other characters with healing magic much more valuable, which helps the team playing aspect. If you want to play a game alone, there are much better games for that.

Magic potions (which refill magic points, or cause them to refill faster) are fairly common.

Everyone has a natural healing rate. It should be fairly fast. Maple Story gives you 10 hp every 6 seconds, which is great when you have 50 hp, but kinda lame when you have 3000 hp. I don't see why making people idle for more than a few minutes is useful.

Anyhow, as I mentioned previously, "toughness" will not be a stat. It represents how difficult a character is to kill, and I don't see any way to make that a very wide range without affecting game balance. I'd rather not have somebody put 15 points into it, then if they party with a healer, it's mostly useless. If it helps you resist status effects, then there's no real way to balance it - either it doesn't do much anything or a character without points in it spends all his time paralyzed when he fights certain monsters. So no, toughness won't be a stat.

Agility probably will - it doesn't make sense to have archers and fighters use the same stat to hit stuff well, so the stats will be Mental, Agility, Physical, and Social (MAPS for short), which works much better than the Physical, Mental, Social model would be.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Are there stats?
There are always stats. But can you see them or change them?
We need to decide on that soon. On one hand, it'd help create variety among the characters, along with second jobs. On the other hand, in most games there tends to be one optimal build for each class. I don't want that to happen. (and if I did want that to happen, I'd just automatically have each character have the best build for his class).

All stats need to be useful to all characters. Mind you, a fighter would need strength a lot more than a cleric would, but they'd still be able to carry more stuff. If you really wanted to play a mage with a strength of 5 (or whatever the minimum is) you could. But if a slime bunny draggon dropped a 50-pound ruby, you certainly wouldn't be able to carry it back to town to sell.

Conversely, a magic user would need a high mental score, but how would a fighter use it? Perhaps secret passages are more obvious if you have a high perception? I mean, you could follow another character through the passages, but that'd be realistic too. It'd help you identify magic items, as well.

Would there be social stats (eg. Charisma)? Only if there were a way to make them useful. They don't really figure in to the "walk into a field and kill what's there" mechanic. Since the game is group-oriented, higher social skills may give you a slightly higher share of party xp, better quest rewards, new quests, different solutions to quests, and, if you're of the Leader class, bonuses to your party's attack and defense.

Social skills have no effect on players, of course. If you're rescuing a peasant from marauding slime bunnies, it wouldn't make a difference what your stats were, but it'd probably be worthwhile for a party to have a character with high Social stats to do the talking when you're dealing with the local baron. And the prince won't even talk to you unless your social score is above 30. An all-social party won't be balanced with an all-physical party, but a mixed party (say 3 physical, 2 mental, 1 social) would do much better than either.

I figure a social character would get access to high-reward quests long before a non-social (anti-social?) character would and should be able to gain levels at about the same speed. That fetch quest that gives 30,000 xp? A gladiator would get it at level 35. A dancer would get it at level 15, when 30,000 xp means a lot more. (Or they might both get it when their social score reaches 15, which would be approximately the same for most characters). Availability for quests would be based on social, level, or social + level.

So yes. Let's say there are mental, physical, and social stats. Or those three items may be the stats. Should physical be broken up into, say, strength, agility, and toughness? Perhaps. But I'm not sure how that'd balance against mental and social being just one stat.

I don't think accuracy should be a stat; in normal play it wouldn't matter much, and I see no point in allowing players to make characters that cannot hit anything or players that can hit enemies before they can do any real amount of damage to them.

Could you spend stat points on class skills? Interesting. If you got, say, 2 points per level definitely. If you get 1 point every 4 levels, then no - it'd be too fine a line between 'worthwhile' and 'unbalancing' once you put ten points into it. There may be certain special skills that you can (only?) get by spending stat points, but you couldn't do that every time you get points.

You would be able to increase your stats as you went along, and you'd also be able to reassign one point per level if you needed to. The stat system should be moderately forgiving. As you've seen above, you can min/max things, but you become more dependant on your party to help you. The mage in the first example would do a lot better if he had a high-strength character in his party.

What is the stat range? Minimum of 5. Let's say you start out with 8 extra points to distribute as you see fit, and get an extra point every other level (and the ability to move one point around). And you cannot trade them in for skills or abilities.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Noob Island

There are some games that make you play for a few hours before you get to the actual game. Maple Story, for instance. You have to get to level 8 or 10 before you get an actual character class. The optimal build for some classes is the worst possible build for a beginner, so it's an unpleasant slog to start off with. You pick stats, and add points, and, two hours later when you get to the actual game, hope that the stats and points you have are decent.

Other games, like World of Warcraft, let you pick a race and class, and just turn you loose on the world. From there, you hope that you picked something good, and that your skills and bonuses are useful.

FBAO has Noob Island. It's a sandbox, basically; your character can change class (and race, if we have it), adjust stats, exchange equipment, and such. You're thinking "Would I enjoy playing an archer?" You can try being an archer, get a free bow, and go hunting. If that doesn't work for you, you can go back to the town square, talk to the mayor (or monolith or elder seagull or whatever) and become a dancer or priest, or such. It beats the alternative of having to start over again (and again and again).

Basic weapons are free for the taking. This is so if you're an archer, you begin the game as an archer. You don't have everyone start out hitting things with sticks, and then after a few hours some of them go do something else entirely. If you want to play an archer, you should be able to, at level 1, get a bow and arrows and start shooting them at things.

The free equipment is unsellable. It's the worst equipment in the game, so you'd probably upgrade right after you left.

The basic idea is that you should be able to customize your character. I'm divided on whether or not you should be able to create a useless character. I am quite certain that you should have to try hard to do so, and that you should be able to correct mistakes with some ease.

You can't advance past level 2 on Noob Island. If you change classes at level 2, your skill points get reset (so you can't have a mage with three points in swordfighting, for example)*. After you leave Noob Island you can't change stats or class. You can't go back to Noob Island either.

If you want to just skip Noob Island, you can probably get to level 2 in a few minutes on your own.

*: This is, of course, a bug that would get fixed after a year or so. In the comic, there are a few characters who've managed to do this. It just hasn't come up yet (and probably won't because it's complicated to explain).

Friday, January 11, 2008


Now, levels scale differently in different games. In AD&D, level 10 is high-powered and level 20 can beat up dragons without trying too hard. In Maple Story, 10 is "we can finally let you off of noob island".

Here, you can get to level 15 in 4-8 hours if you try. You can get to level 30 the next day if you know what you're doing. Content starts to taper out around level 120 or so. Past level 150, you're pretty much spinning your wheels. There's talk of more content, but not much yet. There's a level cap, currently around 200. Cedric and Falco's high-level characters probably gain a level every week or two. They're in the top 1%. They can grind for hours and not get anywhere much, which is why they have other, lower-level, characters.

A character with great equipment can function about three to five levels higher than a average equipment. Most parties have characters who are within 5-10 of each other.

I really like the idea of a game with no levels and no classes, just a point-buy system. You could spend 10,000 xp to raise your Fire Blast from 5 to 6, or you could spend 200 xp to raise your Climb Walls to 1.

However, there are three problems with it. Firstly, levels are a very useful shorthand for character power. If somebody says that they're a level 50 mage, then you know they've got the same basic powers and abilities of any other level 50 mage. Otherwise, you don't know if you've got a powerful swordsman, a thief with low-level trapfinding abilities, or what. You don't know what kind of challenge would be appropriate for them. But you can tell that a level 50 mage wouldn't last ten seconds in the Jagged Time Lapse, but would be able to fight things at the Exploding Mines.

Secondly, there's equipment. You want there to be a steady climb in equipment quality, so people try to get the next thing and upgrade. If nobody has levels, then what's to stop somebody from giving an Helmet of Awesome +50 to a new character? The alternative, giving characters a separate skill in wearing clothing, is ridiculous. You're a knight. Your body is a finely honed combat machine. You move with honor and deadliness. But wearing shoes? Nope. Not your strong point. If you want to put on Boots of Speed, you need to get a whole bunch of practice. And you can only learn how to wear those boots, by killing things.

Thirdly, levels give a sense of accomplishment. A MMORPG wants to keep people hooked. Watching the numbers go up does that. It gives you an idea that you get something for your time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Glossary and Philosophy

The design tenets for FBAO are:

No grinding - the players should always have something interesting to do. There should be no reason to do the same thing a hundred times in a row. Skills will grow when you put points into them, not by using them. If you decide to climb the same cliff 100 times in a row, you'll still have the same chance of falling next time. If it's not fun, you shouldn't have to do it.

Reversibility - There should be very few immediately permanent decisions. If you're putting in your skill points, and click on the wrong skill, the game shouldn't screw you over (or demand real cash to change it). If you want to put a point into Climb, just to see what you can get to, that shouldn't be to the detriment of everything else your character can do.

(and, more when I come up with them)

Now, let's define some terms. There's a lot of similar games that use different terms for the same things.

Firstly, we call them "characters". "Toons" is not an appropriate term, for obvious reasons, and "avatar" is too highbrow.

A "channel" is a separate copy of the world. There are, say, ten different channels. If the Big Fire Pit is crowded on channel 2, you can just go to the Big Fire Pit on any other channel. It'll have the same stuff (and hopefully be a bit less crowded). Apart from the players on them, they're identical, and you can switch between them any time you're not fighting.

Could different channels have different rules? I can't see a good reason to. If you can switch from PvP channels to non-PvP channels and do hit-and-run attacks.

Each characters has a primary set of skills, such as fighter, priest, or dancer. This is called a "class". (I know some games call them "jobs", and the idea of calling the secondary classes "part-time jobs" appeals to me, but...)

A "guild" is a large group of players (5-100). It's permanent (or at least until you leave or get kicked out). I'm not planning on there being any mechanical benefits for being in a guild.

A "party" is an impromptu group of characters (2-10). Many beneficial spells affect all party members. If one character kills a monster, all party members in the area get a share of the experience points. Party membership might only last for as long as you're logged on, then you have to rejoin (or find another party).

Is there a difference between a party and a brood? Originally, we called them broods because we wanted to be different. Then we stopped. If we decided to be entirely accurate to the way the game was in the comics, a brood would be larger than a party, but smaller than a guild. Or maybe smaller than either (and we'd adjust the minimum size of a party).

I think that's everything. Next:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Begin Here

Final Battle Adventure: Online is a (fictional) game that's played by characters in Namir Deiter and You Say it First. It's mentioned prominently here and here, for a start. I'll make a fancy list of links for it real soon now.

I decided to write up the design documents for Final Battle Adventure: Online. Mainly so that the in-comic depiction is consistant and has a style - I'd rather get this all written out in advance than spend my time trying to work out the mechanics in the middle of the next FBAO arc.

So, to answer some of the questions:

Is it a real game?
No. Creating a 3D MMORPG requires a lot of time, expertise, and money. We don't have any of that. My goal is to design a game that, if it were real, would be believable and pretty cool. My goal is to make a game that people wonder if it's real or not.

Is this a parody of a game?
Sometimes. It's equal parts parody and the-game-I'd-want-to-play-if-it-existed, much like Hackmaster. There probably won't be too many deliberately broken parody bits, though.

Is it based on any one game?
No. It's influenced by a lot of things, though.

Is it the same in You Say it First and Namir Deiter?
No; the Hippedown server (YSIF) and the Sherup server (ND) don't have the exact same content. They have different rules. They're separate. Characters and items are not transferable from one to another. The Hippedown server lets characters have two classes instead of just one, for instance, and healing potions are rare. The out-of-character explanation is that Isabel is the sole writer for ND. I usually write the FBAO arcs in You Say it First, and we don't always have the same ideas about things. Also, we make most of this up as we go along.

Are there other servers?
Did we mention there being a Durri server? Yes, we did. Durri, mind you, is an island near Sherup. Cedric goes to art school there.

Is the FBAO site for the Hippedown or Sherup Server?
Both, officially. The information is more accurate for the Sherup Server, though.

Do the characters' races (fox, rabbit, etc) have any effect on the game? Not defined. Probably. It wouldn't be a proper fantasy RPG if it didn't.

Will FBAO show up in Spare Parts?