Author Topic: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?  (Read 15210 times)

Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #45 on: June 24, 2013, 08:42:50 AM »
You say that, but you've spent all this time perfecting AI War.
I think you could definitely do a great job improving on a formula, you'd just need to hold back a little on your innovation instincts just enough so you don't ruin things. It's like, any kind of game design ideas I do any work on, I always have to hold back on making it complex. I love complex, but unfortunately, people don't often.

What Keith said, but also the situation is different because AI War was something brand new that I invented.  And same with Skyward Collapse being something brand new that was invented here at Arcen.  To me, for a very long time AI War's "decision space" was not remotely fully tapped.  In other words, this whole new treasure chest of potential had been cracked open by a game we created, and then I wanted to keep digging and digging.  The same thing is true with Skyward Collapse.  We've only begun to scratch the surface of what could be possible.

Compare this to, say, the Metroidvania genre.  That genre is really really mature!  It was thought up by other people, perfected by those people and tons of other people, and has had tons of thought put into it.  AI War's concept originally tapped, say, 40% of the potential in its idea.  Skyward Collapse is probably in the same neighborhood.  But something like a straight Metroidvania title?  People are scrabbling for the last 1%, in the main.

That doesn't mean that innovation, even major innovation, is not possible in that genre or any other genre that is mature.  However, you have to have a big flash of insight into something that will be legitimately new and awesome there.  If you just make a straight adherent to the genre, all you can do is compete on polish.  And if your new innovation is judged not to be sufficiently new, you're going to be competing on polish anyhow.
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #46 on: June 24, 2013, 04:31:36 PM »
I'm inclined to disagree just a little bit on 'all you can do is go for that last 1%' actually. As far as competition goes, I know there's always the idea of hey, I want my game to be the best/most popular so it sells well and so it can be a project I'm really proud of, I understand that. However, despite all the perfecting of Metroidvania, I don't often find myself revisiting the old games I have for any more than 6-ish or more playthroughs. I want more new stuff in that genre. Even if it were a game that played the same, and just had different zones (or re-randomized buildings and caves, for instance), I would eat it up. The reason why, is because it's a genre I'm actually really really into. The people that are into that genre are probably going to try to check out all the competitors, if they can. I legitimately love exploring new territory, finding new stuff, and getting a bit better over time as I do it. That's a characteristic of AI War that I really really like, as well, and a big part of why I really play it. Sure, it's always the same basic stuff, but man I love finding that planet with an advanced constructor, ARS, and a couple fabricators or something. Just, that jackpot of stuff being in a different place every time is so cool to me.

I also want to ask about that last 1% actually. Define the last 1%. Again, going back to metroidvania, it's not as if each one is the same game. Look at the most recent DS games in Castlevania, and you'll see Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, and Order of Ecclesia. In basic mechanics, they're pretty similar, but there's always this one huge thing that sets each one apart from the last. Dawn of Sorrow allows you to learn (via drops) one attack from literally any enemy in the game. Portrait of Ruin gives you two characters and the puzzles associated with that. Order of Ecclesia makes every single attack a spell, and allows you to combine every spell with any other spell. Sure, those are little differences in the mechanics of the game, different ways to spice up the game a little... but who says that those can't be fleshed out into some kind of really unique game? Metroidvania/puzzle is something that kind of exists elsewhere. I think the soul system in Dawn of Sorrow could have used a lot of refinement. Portrait of Ruin could try more puzzles, separate the characters, improve the AI, any number of things. Order of Ecclesia could allow you to combine more things, or add a gem or rune to spells to make them more unique in addition to all of the combos. All of a sudden, you have games that are very fundamentally the same, with a very different feel from each.

The real problem there, I guess, is that we're talking making a game unique once the very basic mechanics have already been perfected. To a gamer like me, that would guarantee everybody my money. I'm a bit of a connoisseur of the little differences like those, especially in genres I'm really really into like metroidvania. I definitely don't feel like there's any 'perfect' one, either. I don't feel like they're hunting for innovation, they're trying to make sure the game doesn't get stale, and succeeding.  Is that the 1%? Or, is the 1% strictly limited to the basic game mechanics?

Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #47 on: June 24, 2013, 04:45:49 PM »
To me, if you're adding in some wildly new twist, you're no longer making a straight Metroidvania title.  If you're just adding some mix of existing items that have been in the genre for a long time, plus some obvious additions from popular trends of the day (crafting, RPG elements), then that's only so unique, too.  In those circumstances, it comes down to the polish and execution.

I'm not saying that nothing more can be done, I just think that the best things are big departures.  Or if there are things that can be done without being a big departure, those don't really play into our wheelhouse.

I'll also note that both Keith and I are pretty shell-shocked after the Valley games, to be honest.  There was so much negativity flowing around there, that our willingness to go in that area again is tepid.  So in terms of leaping onto some wildly new thing in this genre, that seems unlikely.  Extending Valley 2 a bit more in some safe ways since there is something of a following for it.. that's a different matter.

We don't have to agree, in the end.  I see your points, and I actually agree with you on almost all of them, in truth.  I think that's a great way to look at it.  I'm not even trying to directly argue with you, although I know that's what I'm doing.  What I mean is, I think that the question is more than 2D.  It's a 3D shape of some kind, and we're each looking at some of the same faces of that shape, but not all of the same faces.  And there are some other faces that neither of us has even brought up.

In other words, it's kind of a complex thing.  But I guess at the core of it, Keith and I feel like we really got beat up by the market in the Metroidvania genre.  Despite all the money that was made, it wasn't enough to recoup costs.  And despite some really stellar reviews, the first game overall got panned by the press overall, and both games were really viciously attached over a long period of time by a lot of haters.  There are... more pleasant ways to spend our time.  And at any rate, lots of other ideas that we have on hand, whereas I don't really have many Metroidvania titles on hand (well, okay, I have one and we might do it in 2014, but it's a pretty big departure from anything like the Valley games).
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #48 on: June 24, 2013, 05:34:31 PM »
Oh no, I wasn't trying to start an argument or anything, more a discussion. I don't know any other professional game developers that I can really discuss things with, so it's interesting to hear your perspective. So... sort of what you're saying about the wild twists strikes me as, taking a genre and adding that wild twist is what you guys do really well. I guess the process isn't quite that, but the result seems to be. Like, AI War is a bit of "Well, strategy games are all about PvP... but what if we just made really really good AI you had to fight?" So, it becomes an AI-focused RTS, unlike a lot of RTS out there. God games, you often are in command of only one faction and want everything else dead... but what if you commanded everybody? Another wild twist to something fairly well known. I actually also go in that direction myself with any sort of design ideas I come up with. Another reason why I like to discuss various topics with you as we have before.

But yeah, I understand, getting really hurt anywhere will drive you away from it. Market-wise, I can't say you wouldn't get beaten up there again. I definitely think you guys could bring a lot to the metroidvania genre, in terms of a big unique departure, but I kinda get how you feel about the subject. Granted, only emotionally-- haven't been so hurt financially or as deeply as I imagine you've been on the subject. I'm curious to check out your 2014 departure.

Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #49 on: June 25, 2013, 08:42:01 AM »
No worries, and quite understood on the desire to discuss design thoughts; I enjoy doing that, too.

And yeah, we start out with at least one big twist before we ever are working on the game, and then on a good game more big twists will occur to us as we are implementing it, and those will also get integrated.  For instance, the big things about AI War was the extreme asymmetry of your situation versus the AI, the unparallelled scale of the battles that allowed for different kinds of AI in the first place (flocking, etc), and then eventually the idea of AI Progress in order to make it so that there was a clear and immediate cost to any territory grabs you made.  Actually all of those happened to come up during the development of the title, but these days we don't go into a title without at least one big twist on that scale, preferably two.

The idea for the 2014 game really only came to me the other day, so it's still super embryonic.  It has one fairly substantial twist, but it's not completely unique in games in general.  I have a second twist that would work if we could hire Zack, who worked part time on Shattered Haven.  And then it would still need at least one more major twist before I'd actually be comfortable even starting a prototype on it.  Maybe two, depending on the end scale of that twist.

But suffice it to say, most of what my current idea stemmed from was "how do we make a Metroidvania title without falling afoul of all the things that went wrong in the Valley games?  Or more specifically, avoiding the extreme expense (including art expense) of those games, while at the same time quelling complaints about the art, the controls, and so on)."  I think I figured that out, which is a good start.  So then it's a matter of building up more ideas around that core discovery.
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Offline Pepisolo

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #50 on: June 25, 2013, 11:51:28 AM »
Seeing as we're talking generally about games design, the Valley 2 engine at its core seems like it might make a good foundation for a Contra/Bullet-Hell style game.

Mechanically, the way in which you control your character and shoot, it just feels a lot like Contra -- which I don't think was really completely intended as I don't recall Contra being cited as a big inspiration. If you were to refine the engine around this already existing feel I think you would be able to come up with a pretty solid Contra-esque game.

Part of the problem with AVWW2 is that the level design is pretty bland and homogenous. The slice system really needed to include a lot more different types of area with different styles of platforming for it to work well. Most of all the slices share an identical design philosophy which makes it seem like it doesn't really matter what randomization occurs as the areas are mostly all going to be the same anyway. One significant exception was the robotic escape areas which had a welcome "running the gauntlet" feel. Ideally each of the different biomes should have had their own thing going on.

Of course, it was always going to be hard to create great levels using such a slice system, so completely hand-crafted stages might really unlock some of the potential that is in the raw mechanics.

I really don't think it's on the cards, largely due to the art asset costs that would be involved, but a refinement of the AVWW2 engine with a view to creating a more traditional Contra style title might be cool. Just add in a bit of Strider wall-climbing, change the spells to guns, the monsters to aliens, and Bob's your uncle (there you have it).

Quote
But suffice it to say, most of what my current idea stemmed from was "how do we make a Metroidvania title without falling afoul of all the things that went wrong in the Valley games?  Or more specifically, avoiding the extreme expense (including art expense) of those games, while at the same time quelling complaints about the art, the controls, and so on)."  I think I figured that out, which is a good start.  So then it's a matter of building up more ideas around that core discovery.

Interesting...I look forward to hearing more about this.


Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #51 on: June 25, 2013, 11:59:55 AM »
I think you'll be pleased with some of the things I have in mind for the other game, based on your comments.

In terms of the blandness based on the slice-style philosophy... it's one of the great challenges of making everything have to be traversable through jumping and walking.  I don't mind saying that a big part of the shift in the Metroidvania-style game that I have in mind for later is shifting it to actually being something where you fly around robotic units.  So it becomes something more of a cave flier, but I think that enough Metroidvania aspects can be kept to make it feel like a mix of the genres.  We'll see.
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #52 on: June 25, 2013, 12:01:25 PM »
Ahh, very cool. So, that's sort of how you do your kind of invention then. It's more like [genre that exists] with a twist. Then a few more. While I have like basically no programming knowledge (I know how println works!), I do have game design knowledge, and I actually like to mess with that from time to time. I know some game developers, and a few of us work together on various titles in way of game design and custom levels, as is going on now. What I've actually done is I've taken turn-based JRPG style games, and came up with a few twists on those. I'm actually fairly excited about that, because of how fleshed out it is so far. It takes something I really really like, which is the idea of effectively infinite combinations of stuff. It also takes JRPGs, and adds a lot more in the way of strategic potential while making the enemy AI a lot smarter. Imagine seeing a suit of armor that "looks icy". As an enemy who's tagged as intelligent, you might try a fire spell on it to see if that's a weakness. You'd recognize that didn't work and cross fire off your list of things to try. Something like that. I don't envy whomever programs this. Of course, it could very well end up being me...

I actually really want to hear more about the metroidvania title, just so that I can imagine playing it. That's how much of a fan of the genre I am. Do you write down the specifics of your ideas? You might find that it actually leads you in directions you wouldn't expect, that's what ends up happening to me sometimes. You could find something else in the genre that can be twisted, that you may not have considered. One game I'm actually looking forward to for sure is Starbound, which is going to have some kind of procedurally generated enemy logic, which in itself somehow doesn't actually result in monsters that look like horrible frankenstein abominations. You had me imagining something like that. Something like dynamically changing enemies. That, or maybe it's a game where you spend the entire time playing as the far zoom icons from AI War. Who knows? I'm just wondering how you're going to quell complaints about the art, given the last complaints were of jerky animations.

not-an-edit: Oh hey. I was right. It's a game where you fly around as a ship or robot of some kind. =D

Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #53 on: June 25, 2013, 12:05:06 PM »
Very cool.

In terms of writing down ideas, yes, we write down all of them that we've had prior to implementing something.  However, we don't try to get a design more than probably 60% fleshed out before we go to prototype.  Once we have a prototype of the basics, then the more advanced stuff becomes clearer much faster.  Skyward Collapse was going to have random tile pools rather like Scrabble, and no resource costs to your actions (just stuff that civilians would do), until we tested that and found it phenomenally un-fun.  It was no big thing because that was one idea among several, and doing the prototype quickly answered some of our questions.  Within another couple of days we had a system that is very close to how the game works now, and then that got further refined over about two weeks beyond that.
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #54 on: June 25, 2013, 12:20:25 PM »
I kind of figured you guys did, but it never hurts to double check right?
Man, random tile pools? That sounds like it could force you in really devastating situations, especially with the various kinds of tokens and such. Were tokens and resource chains a part of the actual design at that point? I could imagine, being randomly dished out buildings that you needed to make so a side could make units would actually result in some really imbalancing situations that a player can't actually avoid in any way.

Offline Pepisolo

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #55 on: June 25, 2013, 12:24:30 PM »
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I think you'll be pleased with some of the things I have in mind for the other game, based on your comments.

Cools!

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I don't mind saying that a big part of the shift in the Metroidvania-style game that I have in mind for later is shifting it to actually being something where you fly around robotic units.

Already imagining a Metroidvanian Bangai-o. Probably way-off, but that would actually be awesome. Oh, I recommend everybody playing everything Treasure have ever developed -- easily my favourite game dev team. 

It's nice to know that you haven't been completely put off developing non-strategy titles.



Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #56 on: June 25, 2013, 12:49:55 PM »
I kind of figured you guys did, but it never hurts to double check right?

If you don't write things down, it's easy to forget; particularly if you aren't implementing something in the very short term.  I have much too many demands on my memory to try to keep long-term details of that sort in my brain past a certain point.

Man, random tile pools? That sounds like it could force you in really devastating situations, especially with the various kinds of tokens and such. Were tokens and resource chains a part of the actual design at that point? I could imagine, being randomly dished out buildings that you needed to make so a side could make units would actually result in some really imbalancing situations that a player can't actually avoid in any way.

It was a lot less of a strategy game at that point.  Much closer to Carcassonne than it wound up being in the end.  The god tokens concept was in our design at that point, but the specific functions had not been designed out at all yet.  Same with all the mythological stuff.  We knew we wanted to add all that, but we also felt like if it wasn't fun with just the humans, then it wouldn't be a fun game at all.  So it was a long while that we focused on just the humans and their buildings, and then once that was reasonably fun we added the rest and it became waaaay more fun.  But I think if we'd just gone for the end prize at the start, rather than focusing on humans for a while first, it would have not come out the same.


Already imagining a Metroidvanian Bangai-o. Probably way-off, but that would actually be awesome. Oh, I recommend everybody playing everything Treasure have ever developed -- easily my favourite game dev team.

Ah cool, I just had to look them up, as I'd never heard of the company.  I've certainly heard of a number of their games, though.  Never played them, but that's a bit more brawler than really my style tends to be from the looks of it.  Last brawler I was really into was TNMT2.

It's nice to know that you haven't been completely put off developing non-strategy titles.

Nope!  But we are more cautious about it in certain ways, and will take a specific philosophy when developing them.  We're also taking a break from them, partly because we've spent half the company's life working almost exclusively on the Valley games, and so we're ready for a change of pace to say the least. ;)
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Offline Pepisolo

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #57 on: June 25, 2013, 01:11:36 PM »
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Ah cool, I just had to look them up, as I'd never heard of the company.  I've certainly heard of a number of their games, though.  Never played them, but that's a bit more brawler than really my style tends to be from the looks of it.  Last brawler I was really into was TNMT2.

These guys are the easily the best devs of all time -- for me! It's pretty rare for them to put out a game that isn't awesome. Pretty small team too, as I recall Ikaruga was developed with a team of 3 or 4. They've made Run N Guns/Shooters/Brawlers even an RPG once upon a time. It might be worth you picking up Bangai-o on Xbox Live Arcade or just checking out a few vids on Youtube... here's a longplay that looks OK:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZllCtGuuRaM

As you can see, flying robots/mechs mixed with a puzzle element. It's pretty cool.



Offline x4000

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #58 on: June 25, 2013, 01:48:15 PM »
Wow that's some craziness.  Quite an attractive game, though definitely a bullet hell sort from the looks of it around 20 minutes in.  Pretty cool. :)
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Offline Pepisolo

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Re: If we did do a Valley 2 expansion, what would you even want to see?
« Reply #59 on: June 25, 2013, 01:57:29 PM »
Wow that's some craziness.  Quite an attractive game, though definitely a bullet hell sort from the looks of it around 20 minutes in.  Pretty cool. :)

Yeah. I love it. I am a proper Treasure fanboy, though!