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Core Dump

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Core Dump - Work In Progress

Episode 59

March 4, 1998 : Status Panels, FF7, stories.

Status Panels

Most people liked the old one better, but they liked the new energy bar. That was the outcome of the voting.

So what did I do? I listened to these people! (Yes, I know, that is quite unlike me, but what the heck.) I took the old status panel and incorporated the new energy bar in it. It kinda works now.

Being in a desctructive mood, I changed the brown of Gen's robot cloak to green... It kinda looks different. I changed his gun arm. I changed a light.

What?? You want to see pictures of this? Uh.. I forgot to bring them with me. So you'll have to wait for that until next week or something. personal note: I HAVE TO BRING THOSE SCREENSHOTS AND PUT THEM ONLINE

Final Fantasy 7

Urgh. What a great game this is. What is so cool about it then? In principle it's a bit like Dragonslayer VI (and therefore, Smumpkin 3, ha ha ha)

  1. I missed that item! Now I have to replay the whole game! Many puzzles do not kill you if they're not solved. Nope. But if you solve them, you get more items! This means you won't get frustrated, and there is more reason to replay the game afterwards!
  2. It's filled with subgames. Anything from reaction games to driving games to strategy games. Very funny, and this way the adventuring bit doesn't become boring.
  3. Cool story. But we've seen that before. What is cool here, is that the characters really become personalities. Very funny dialogues accomplish this. I will aim for that too in Core Dump, so wish me luck.
  4. It's big! No really, this is one huge adventure.
  5. You can toy around with all these materia and stuff - really good invention, this. I can't explain it. But it is really a good thing.
Okay, and what is not so good about it? There must be something wrong, that's what I always say.
  1. I missed that item! Now I have to replay the whole game!
  2. It's a bit like Dragonslayer VI.
  3. The plot is a bit too moralistic for me - "evil government using up the planet's "mako" energy, leaving it drained." yuk. ecologically sound games annoy the hell out of me.
  4. I wish I could create this! (The always present "envy" argument - many demo-programmers and games-reviewers wish they could create something like it, but then they can't, so they complain about other people's games) Conclusion: this is not a good game, too much hype :)
  5. Sometimes the save points are too far apart, in my opinion.
  6. It might be a bit more challenging. I found it hard to die, in the first part of the game.

Anyway. If you've got a playstation, you've got to have this. It is amazing good value for money.

Difficulty levels

Now in Core Dump I've got the difficulty settings routines in play, but it turns out that although this "really is a clever system", it remains hard to fine-tune it. I mean, how difficult must the game be in, say, the first few screens, on easy level? Should you walk through them or should they already pose a challenge? And on hard level? Should you die the second screen?

I think this will remain a problem. But I have one consolidation: with the new system, there will be a steady increase in raised difficulty, so once you start playing on any setting, there will be a gradual process of the game becoming more difficult. And that is a real comfort, because that is one of the major problems of the usual fine-tuning.

We've had this with the original blade lords, where the puzzle in 2-9 was far too hard. And in Black Cyclon, it's pretty difficult to finish level 2 (out of six) for any gameplayer...

Now, there are so many ways in which to make the game more difficult. Let me give you a simple example. Say we've got this enemy which fires at you, and sometimes drops an energy capsule when killed. How can we make these enemies more difficult to fight?

  1. We put more of them on the map
  2. It takes more shots to kill them
  3. They drain more energy when they collide with the player
  4. Their bullets drain more energy when they collide with the player
  5. They drop fewer energy capsules
  6. They move faster
  7. They jump higher, therefore they can follow you around better
It's simply horrible! How should I choose which attributes to change and which not? I can't just adjust all of them. I have to choose. But how? I've found that changing too many attributes is unfair to the player (completely different strategies apply when they are harder), but changing too few attributes makes it too easy...

To make matters even worse, almost all enemies come in packs of varying types. So you get, say, 2 drones and a flying enemy at once. How to change all these attributes? Should there be more drones, or more flying things, or should they just be harder to destroy?

Honestly, it's these kind of choices that you have to make all the time that make it so hard to create a game. Every minute of your work you're making a thousand decisions, and sometimes it just becomes too much.

Coping with the stress

So what do you do? In your head you've got this great big schematic of the game. How it has to function, how the plots will run, what kind of features are needed. Very hard. You've got to concentrate bigtime. Until you've got a headache.

And then I go and perfect something silly. Like that status panel. It's just a way of coping with the stress of having to think so damn hard. Find something unimportant and perfect it. It is a really satisfying business, and it never ends. You can always change five pixels and spend an hour wondering which version is better.

Or you play Final Fantasy 7... but then you'll be busy for some hours. Oh, by the way, it is being converted to Windows '95 by Eidos (of Tomb Raider fame)... but you need a big PC to run it.

Next time: more about plots and SF in general!

Go on...

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