Category Archives: Other Games

Holiday Talisman – Now with Pay 2 Win

We have a New Year’s tradition among some local friends of playing the Talisman board game.  This is no casual gathering, but an all-out annual quest for questing…  with nearly every expansion the game becomes a behemoth that barely fits on the dining room table.  The Monopoly-like board of the base set is extended in every direction with dungeons and towns.  Tiny little special encounter and item decks are stacked everywhere…  The main adventure deck, swole with expansion cards, is so massive that we break it into three piles so it won’t topple over.  

There’s a delightful insanity to Talisman’s hodge-podge of fantasy themes, like Tolkien and Gygax thew up in a Milton-Bradley factory.  Werewolves.  Faeries.  Dragons with swords for scales.  It’s also completely unbalanced and random as hell.  Did I say it’s the best game?  It’s also the worst game!  Every roll of a six-sider or draw of a card could result in a game-winning boon or a soul-crushing return to square one.  And the behemoth keeps growing…  people keep buying new expansions, so by now a game takes at least six hours…  Hence the once a year tradition.

Jim, the owner of this pile of cardstock insanity, was looking for ways to make these evenings of hilarity even more memorable.  How could we make Talisman even worse?  The answer was clear:  Pay to Win

Pay to reroll a die!  Pay to stop on a square!  Escape a dungeon!  Cheat death!  We embraced the pain and proceeded on our long evening of questing.

The game was just as random as ever.  People would gather massive arsenals of equipment, just to be turned into a toad and drop it all on the ground.  Talismans (Talismen?) were gained both through mighty deeds and by randomly tripping over one.  The dragon fight at the end to gain the Crown of Command was the usual madness, and as usual an unbeatable card combination helped seize the day.

I gotta admit though, all these little one-dollar kicks to the privates actually made Talisman a bit better.  We could fix our random failings.  Sure, sometimes we put a couple bucks in and got a worse result, but that was part of risk-reward.  Around 2AM we staggered home, some 30 bucks filling the money jar, paying forward into the next game night.   However, I’m not sure how we can top this next year:  Loot boxes?

E3 Greenery

E3 has hit once again and with it we’re seeing a new raft of games punctuated by the return of a favorite series of mine: God of War.  But wait I’m sensing a trend over the past few years in game controls and setting:

So I love free-roaming adventure and I’m a fan of over-the-shoulder third person controls.  I’m also unbelievably thrilled that lush landscapes are possible in modern games and that we are past our “green and brown” stage. Vegetation punctuated by ruined structures can be endlessly fascinating to explore.

However, the first three God of War games were pretty rad in their settings and control scheme.  I’m sure I will play the hell out of the new one.  But I do like it when not every game evokes Sky-Zero-Charted-Cry-Raider when it comes time to make another one.

Ironically, the lush greenery used to be the exception, not the rule…  la différence.  Now I’m totally interested in what never-seen fresh place games will take us next.

Variety is nice!

So Many Datafiles

Yes, Technical Debt is still rearing its ugly head.  One of the things that any procedurally-generated Roguelike has is a ton of different files that hold profiles that define how to generate cities, landscapes and enemy encounters.  And tables, so many randomized tables!

sceneinspectorDuring the 7DRL I found an expedient solution that worked for the challenge and a fair amount of time afterwards.  I baked data right into each Unity scene that I saved out, imagining that I could just make a scene for each type of scenario or terrain profile I wanted.  I could bake in components that had all the predefined information I needed and just load them as needed.  I could even drag-n-drop the appropriate prefabs for everything I wanted to spawn.  How simple.  Sure, it nagged at me that it wasn’t super extensible, but scenes were cheap to make and I was interested in how far it could get me.

Wellll, it turned out it was pretty far, but eventually it started to haunt me.  The more scenes there were, the harder they all were to maintain, even if all the common information was kept in Unity prefabs.  Oh god, the prefabs…  they are great sometimes, but they also can puke all over themselves if I moved files around or a metafile got invalidated somehow.  Also, any time I wanted to choose something randomly, it felt like I was writing new code to deal with it each time.

I also used the serializer for a number of structures, but there was always a desire to have more flexibility when reading data.

Anyway, I knew I needed to up my datafile game.  My friend Jim’s amazing RL Dungeonmans has something like 500+ datafiles holding anything from name generation to encounters to tile definitions, with weighted randomization tables and tables that reference other tables.  How slick!  He spent many years refining his data methods and he encouraged us to reuse his approach in our own games.

So last weekend I finally bit the bullet and built a datafile system around some of the same concepts and in the end my format is virtually the same as Dmans.  This way I can build a sector with a pretty flexible format:

defThing sector_basic
 class adSectorData
 scene Overworld

 biome Desert
 nametable sector_name_chart
 treasuretable sector_treasure_table

 music mus_desperado

 basic_city_table 1d2
 sector_outpost_chart 2d4
 sector_town_chart 2+1d3

And these tables have some handy reference capabilities (recursing through each table referenced) and weighting for randomized results:

defTable "sector_name_chart"
 #t1 "sector_place_types"
 #t2 "place_nouns"
 #t3 "sector_adjectives"

 "The [t1] of [t2]" 10
 "The [t3] [t1]" 10
 "The [t1] of [t3] [t2]" 10

defTable "sector_adjectives"
 "New" 10
 "Old" 10
 "Dry" 10
 "Frosty" 10
 "Winding" 10
 "Hewn" 10
 "Locked" 10
 "Winding" 10
 "Ancient" 10

…and bingo, my world generation becomes 10x more flexible and powerful.  I’m dyin’ to get back to the drive-shoot stuff, but this was so worth it.