Get the Fuck Up!: How RNG Creates Compelling Human Drama

So I plan to have skillset building in my game, and one of the skills I intend to steal borrow from PAYDAY is Inspire. But not as it is today. No, I want Inspire the way it used to be.

Aced Inspire in its original form allowed for a 75% chance an incapped teammate would immediately get back up if you yelled at them. I forget what update, but it was later changed to its present terms, where you can yell at a teammate and, provided you are not currently in the 20 second cooldown that disables the skill after use, they will always get up.

I hypothesize that part of the reason for this change, aside from 75% being pretty good odds for a skill this powerful, is that Overkill tends to simplify any advice or criticism they get and their use of the Random Number Generator is a subject upon which they receive a lot (and rightly so). So removing the RNG element from an apparently overpowered skill seemed like a good idea.

Here is why it’s not.

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Weapons!: Part 2

Actually, though, now that I think about it, I am missing one weapon behavior prototype: the flamethrower. From what I’ve seen of the TF2 Pyro’s flamethrower mechanics, you attach hitboxes to the particle emitters. This behavior could be used for things like mace or that deadly tear gas that PAYDAY 2 likes to throw in your hostage coral sometimes.

Anyway, the thing about the flamethrower is, I wasn’t originally planning to include one. One thing that I don’t like about weapons in PAYDAY 2 is how outlandish they’ve become. Like, honestly? Who’se going to take a fkn flamethrower to a bank robbery? You might burn all the money. Or half the melee weapons. A microphone as a melee weapon? I mean, that’s funny, sure, but it’s permanent, you know?

And for while, I thought this also extended to the grenade and rocket launcher as well. But I’ve decided that I would rather let you have those weapons than not.

First of all, these weapons are incredibly situational. Which means that investing in them, especially at the very first and over more practical weapons, means that a player would have to live with that decision until they either give up and sell the weapon at a loss and buy something cheaper or until they make enough money to buy something else while keeping their silly-ass choice.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, Logan and I were developing a Left 4 Dead 2 survival map. The premise of this map was that the survivors’ helicopter would crash land on the roof of an honest-to-god discotheque (that was heavily based on the Roman Disco level in The Warriors) where there had been a Masque of the Red Death-type disco party with a Masque of the Red Death conclusion. You were supposed to drop down into the building, but the doors were welded shut to keep out the sick so you would then be unable to get back out. So you’d turn on the disco music, which would be meant to attract other survivors to rescue you but would only attract zombies. Then you’d fight until you died, as survival maps go. We’d use copyrighted disco songs because haha, and the waves would last as long as the songs. We also planned to only spawn Walking Witches, Spitters, and female Boomers during “Ladies Night”. The title of the map would “The Last Dance” like the Donna Summer song. Yeah, it was all very copyright infringe-y but it was for our own personal enjoyment, not public consumption. Anyway, we had this shit planned out, but there were problems making the nav meshes work correctly for the bots. Hammer is a fickle beast.

Logan was in charge of putting this map together, which he did. And he came to me in the process of this and asked me, “Hey, do you want me to put up an invisible wall so the players don’t fall or jump off the roof?”

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Weapons!: Part 1

So let’s talk about weapons. I’m about to start coding up my basic weapon classes, so I thought you might like to know a little about what makes them all different. I mean, that probably seems obvious, but I’d never really thought about it before now so why not.

Here’s how the setup works: I have two “base” weapon blueprints; one for the third person weapons and one for first. Both of these blueprints are simple. They have no meshes (physical bodies), and only a few variables that all weapons will need in order for the inventory system to use them. These blueprints also control the base visibility options, since I need third-person weapons to always be visible to other players, but to disappear for the player when they are in first-person mode. Similarly, I need the first-person weapons to be hidden from everyone else, including the player, unless they are in first-person mode.

From there, I have seven weapons: pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, and knife. All other weapons are going to be a derivative of one of these.

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This Is What I Know About Music

I am not a musician presently.

When I was in middle school, I was given a choice. Students at the school I attended in sixth grade could either devote their entire year’s worth of elective class blocks to band or they could instead take physical education, computer science, and health class. Yeah, it was weird. Anyway, the band teacher was not a nice person and my parents didn’t seem keen on spending $300 on an instrument so I chose to have more variety in my schedule. The next year, this school was shut down for remodelling and I was sent to another middle school with far more choices. So many choices in fact that band didn’t have a shot in hell at making my schedule. High school had even more elective options, few of them requiring the financial investment of band or orchestra, so I chose otherwise.

Basically, I had a very diverse and well-rounded education, but it didn’t include learning to read or compose music.

Music, however, is going to be something I need to know something about, even if I end up hiring someone else to do it.

So I started teaching myself to play the recorder. Recorders are cheap as hell, and if elementary school children can learn to play them then so can I. Fortunately, I also have Simon, who plays trumpet, to help me out with whatever instruction doesn’t make sense from the book alone. I’ve also been playing with a few different digital tools to help bridge the gap in my knowledge. I haven’t done anything yet but get acquainted with these programs, but I’ve been using Stagelight to put together little repeater tracks and ScoreCloud, which records sounds and then outputs notation, so I can hum little ditties into it and then play these little notes on the keyboard in Stagelight.

So I’ve been laying some groundwork for music, even though that part’s still a long way off.

But actually? Music may not be as crucial an element as I originally thought.

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No Money, Mo’ Problems

Don’t worry! This isn’t about funding. It’s actually about fake money.

So way back in the day, I said I wasn’t gonna lock out content behind dick-waving metrics like leveling or how much money you had. There wasn’t even gonna be anything you had to spend money on. Everything would be available to you immediately.

And you know what? I’ve decided that I lied. I promise I have a good reason though.

For one thing, much as I want to emulate Left 4 Dead more than PAYDAY 2 when it comes to elegance and simplicity, it really is strange to have a game about stealing that doesn’t let you use the shit you stole in any tangible way. Like, one of the few failings of PAYDAY: The Heist is that money is a resource of some kind in that game, but its use is so fuckin’ nebulous that most people (including me) have no idea how it works or how to use it. So we don’t.

The thing about the first PAYDAY as compared to the second, the thing that makes the obscurity of how money works in it not that important, is that it lacked the baggage handling mechanic. Since there were only ever four bags, there was really no difference in how much money you could earn (save for picking up gems and bill stacks), and there was therefore no real reason to care about it. That sounds like a negative, but it gave it that L4D simplicity.

But the thing is, I fuckin’ LOVE the baggage handling mechanic.

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The Matter of Scope Scope

So lately, a friend of mine from game classes has been asking me to help him with merit badges and sidejobs in PAYDAY. Thus far, these have mostly been of the “suits only, no skills, these specific weapons that I don’t normally use” variety. So I have been buying a lot of fresh guns and then having to mod them with the quickness.

And a thing I have noticed is that for most mods, there are only two to six options.

Except in the case of scopes.

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Mods and Competitive Play

So my boyfriend asked me if I was going to have tournaments for The Take!. Or rather, what he asked – facetiously, just to tease me – was if I planned to include jetpacks in my game. To which I replied that I did not, but that I also had no intention of preventing others from modding jetpacks in if they so desired. I’m not sure yet to what level end users will be able to modify the game, but I’m hoping the answer ends up being “a lot”. This then led to the question of whether mods of that nature would create issues of fairness when it came to things like comp play and dick-waving metrics.

The competitive play and dick-waving metrics that will largely not exist in my game.

I mean, let’s even disregard the laughable idea of tournaments for a purely co-op game for the moment. I mean, judging skill solely on speed in a custom map with no RNG? Fkn yawn.

No, the thing about a game like PAYDAY, or more aptly Left 4 Dead, is that it’s not about beating other players or being statistically better. It’s about working together. All these hardcore player metrics not only distract from the point, but also complicate the backend maintenance that needs to be done to combat “cheaters”. I have better shit to do with my time than trying to futilely prevent people from spawning as many bags as they want.

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The Carrot on the Stick

For the most part, I don’t want to tell you about things I want to do. I prefer to tell you about things I’ve already done. It’s okay, safe even, to get excited about things that I have proven able to implement. It’s when one starts talking about what they want to do before they’re anywhere near having done it that we get into hype territory.

Nonetheless a recent conversation I had with my friend Logan – who you might recall from this post – brought up some interesting points, not least of all that my changelogs are not the most compelling or decipherable content in the world. I could probably do to talk a little more about what I’m doing.

So I’m going to tell you about what I don’t plan to do.

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Vocal Minority, Indeed

Many years ago, my friend Logan and I were active members on the Hitmanforum, a community for fans of the Hitman game franchise. Around the time Grand Theft Auto IV came out, there was another user on there, Heliophobic, who spent much of his time shitting up the thread about the game with his titbag opinions. It would have been one thing to just be disappointed by the game, but his general attitude of dissatisfaction with what GTA IV was and his entitlement with regard to what he felt it should have been was of particular annoyance to Logan. So much so that Logan actually learned how to program in Flash in order to make a game just for Helio.

Entitled Your Game, it went like this. You click “Play” and it cuts to a white screen where Logan explains in soothing, even tones that this is your game and its complete design is catered exactly to your desires and is limited only by your imagination. He goes on to say that if you don’t like how this game turns out, you have no one to blame but yourself. It then fades to white text on a black background with the credits and a dedication to “Heliofag and all the fickle, whiny cunts like him who inspired me to make this.”

Moral of the story being, you ever get so annoyed with something that you go out of your way to learn a bunch of new skills just to make a point?

That’s what The Take! will be. Well, except with actual gameplay and graphics.

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