Lila Dreams

Creatrix Games is making Lila Dreams, a side-scrolling 2D MMO with a flash interface, to be published on Kongregate. No levels, free to play with ads and microtransactions. The setting is inside the mind of an eleven-year-old girl.

The Lila Dreams link is to the development blog. I have not read everything there yet, but I must say this is a different approach to MMOs. Let’s celebrate trying new things and see where it leads later this year.

: Zubon

HT: Terra Nova

Double XP Weekend of the Living Dead

Most of my supergroup is on leave from City of Heroes. Three or four people are still around, but many are visiting WoW and Nostale. Some of those losses could be permanent. I find myself playing more flash games lately, but I am still in Paragon City. This four-month gap between issues is a problem, particularly when the big items in the last patch were Ouroboros (recycling old content) and ultra-rares (encouraging mass farming).

Friday kicks off a double-xp (and influence, infamy, prestige, and maybe drops) weekend. I expect to see many old friends back, and I expect a lot of character progress. My wife is heading out of town, and I will be cooking extra tonight so that I will have leftovers for the weekend.

As usual, if you want a trial code or invitation back (former subscriber gone for 90+ days), I can send them.

: Zubon

Flash Games as Metaphor

Areas reflects a certain perspective on existence. There are tools that are necessary for your survival. There is no explanation of how they work, beyond what you can work out through trial and error. Trial and error may get you killed. The tools and challenge change with no explanation. Nothing guarantees that you will not be crushed to death before finding any of the tools you need to survive. Hostile forces grow inexorably, and you can only hope to hold out for a certain time.

: Zubon

Update: I should note that Areas also has an unfortunate anti-learning curve. What you learn in one level is probably not applicable to the next. As the game gets harder, it requires luck in finding the randomly placed power-up rather than better skills. Stop playing before level 50.

Power/Difficulty Curves

This weekend I played a flash fantasy adventure game. Its content runs through nine levels, but it has a Diablo-style level generator that provides random maps with scaled up enemies, presumably endlessly. Many games have a version of that: levels keep rising with pure procedural content. Infinite levels show an issue common to many games: competing scaling of character power and enemy difficulty.

If power scales more quickly than difficulty, the game becomes trivial. If power scales more slowly than difficulty, the game becomes impossible. If power scales exactly the same, the game becomes very boring as you are doing the exact same thing for potentially infinite levels (“I hit for 25% damage yet again!”)

Any scaling system that runs sufficiently long will be dominated by the subsystem that scales the best. A 1% difference in scaling rate becomes very significant. You may not have noticed it in beta testing: 1.01^30=1.35, so a 35% shift over 30 levels. It is +64% at 50, +170% at 100, +345% at 150 +632% at 200. Wow, those numbers really started jumping, didn’t they? Behold, the power of compound interest. And there are games like Asheron’s Call that scale that far. If melee improves slightly faster than archery, melee will dominate the late game; if one weapon type improves slightly faster, it will be the only one worth taking.

D&D players are very familiar with how this happens in only 20 levels. A level 1 Wizard is a sleep spell in a dress, while a level 1 Fighter can take out quite a few goblins. A level 20 Wizard is a nuke-tossing god who alters reality at a whim, while a level 20 Fighter can take out quite a few larger monsters.

: Zubon

Play This Thing

Have you heard of Play This Thing!? (Yes, there is a ! in the title) It comes to us courtesy of Greg Costikyan, your friend and mine, who says, “It’ll feature a game a day–free games, interactive fiction, mods, and weird stuff like alternative reality and ‘big urban’ games, as well, of course, as independent games.” Check it out.

As Nicodemus mentioned long ago, you can also find a lot of free flash games at Kongregate. It also has built in badges and things so you can feel like you are leveling and getting pretty shinies as you enjoy timewasters.

: Zubon

Not Addicted?

But I do not always feel like playing, or at least playing City of Heroes. I may spend half a night messing around with flash games or going out with my wife. When I am away from internet access, I do not feel the need to log in. It is nice to have a break and see the real world sometimes, although the big room with the blue ceiling is perhaps over-rated. I can go for a walk without worrying that I am falling behind my friends.

I never feel obliged to log in. It is not something I am required to do. I have no raids to keep up with, although we might plan on running a task force on a given night (usually: no planning). It is not a job, not a drudge, not a grind. Okay, it is inherently somewhat grindy, but I never log on with a resigned sigh. I play when I want to play and wander off when it is not exciting me.

The icon is always there, ready to be clicked, but it does not call like a dark siren.

: Zubon

Quick Hits

Peggle is fun. It’s a bright, happy arcade-style game. No, I don’t care if you can’t feel hardcore with bright colors, this is a game your kids could play, too. It’s like the Wii: my mom could play the Wii. The game gets bonus points for really wanting you to win. When you beat a level, it goes into slow motion for the final hit, and then you move into Beethoven’s Ninth and kick off the fireworks. Celebrate! Also, you get to start with a unicorn.

I did not enjoy Maple Story.

Desktop Tower Defense has a new edition out with a new enemy type, a new tower, a new challenge, fun mode, and some rebalancing. It is supposed to be harder with the new spawn enemies and point deductions for juggling, but I got my best score yet under the new rules. There was a tweak a day or two ago that I am looking forward to trying out. I am told that the 100-wave Challenge is currently impossible, but you might be just the guy to… no, those flying enemies are ridiculous.

: Zubon