Author Topic: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge  (Read 557 times)

Offline hans

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What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« on: March 28, 2017, 08:35:47 PM »
I encourage both authors and players of mods created for the One-Week Challenge (http://ua.reonis.com/index.php?topic=3429.0) to use this thread to express and debate any new insights gained through this exercise.  Thoughts including, but not limited to: new techniques, unexpected pitfalls, evolved solutions, time-consuming hazards, time-saving tricks, involving anything from storytelling, to dungeon constructing, to hacking, etc. 

Just remember that if you get very specific to a story or puzzle point, you might want to give a spoiler alert.   ;)

Offline Mechanaut

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2017, 09:08:33 PM »
My unexpected pitfall was UAshell related. I plan to play them all, but as yet haven't played any ~UAShell only runs once, then chokes.
(DB 0.74 & DB SVN).   I had intended to use UAShell to alter FRUA for my own [highly belated] one-week-challenge entry, but haven't gotten it working reliably.
Are there any UAshell Troubleshooting resources? (I understand the absence of the MODE command, but what is error 7AA8 ?)



Offline hans

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2017, 09:43:11 PM »
I found, in constructing the combats for my mod, that I first naturally balanced them according to my own love of challenge and level of expertise (forgive this one lack of humility).  Particularly so in a two-part battle.  I knew that many players would find that level of brutality far too difficult, yet I had so enjoyed my own experience of playing what I had created, that I was loath to water it down. 

So, I hit upon the idea of giving players a choice whether to play it Hard, Moderate, or Easy.  I would have the choice affect what items were given to the PCs.  The Easy option would receive the more powerful items.  Unfortunately, I made the distinctions too modest, the failing of still relying on estimations based on my own personal experience and ability.   

I learned that if I'm going to offer such choices (which I intend to continue to do), the range of their effect on gameplay should be extensive, rather than piddling.  (I had to UL a revised version of the mod that, itself, was barely extensive enough.)  :P   

Giving players such an option now seems to me such an obvious notion that I wonder why I never used this device before.  We have such a wide range of player preferences on the matter of combats that it really does seem impossible to otherwise please everybody.  Fights are always being critiqued as either "too hard" or "too easy." 

I loved the "Strategic" element of Strategic Simulations, Inc. right from the first GoldBox game I played, Curse of the Azure Bonds.  Figuring out a winning strategy against the really hard fights, like the big Neo-Otyughs battle in the Tilverton sewers, or all the Black Dragons on the top of Dracandros' tower in Essembra I found absolutely thrilling.  Granted, you could avoid those two fights, but did anyone ever play any GoldBox game the first time without having the "monsters rejoice" at least once...?  They all had some very hard parts, which I loved. 

Yet, while the strategic challenge was an enormous part of my love of those games, not so with my late father.  He loved the games, too, but not the hard fights.  I remember teaching him an obvious cheat (one I would never use myself) of updating characters at a Training Hall in a way to duplicate the best items.  He would play a GoldBox game to some difficult event, then remove those more-experienced Characters back to the beginning, so that they'd easily get through the next time. 

So, I have now begun to use a simple trick of allowing players their choice of difficulty, one that I expect I will further experiment with in the future. 

Offline Jadefang

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2017, 10:39:28 PM »
Moving from DC to FRUA, I've learned of the annoyance that is the Event/Text limit within a single dungeon in FRUA.
So FRUA has forced me to learn to be very verbose in text statements. Or use a lot of auxiliary dungeons if I want to get descriptive.

Also, oddly enough, I think I learned other players don't ever seem to go into the editor to look other people's modules in there.

I would have expected, say, if a maze was too frustrating, that someone who wanted to save time would go into the editor and see roughly the correct route was.
Instead, players just straight up quit and never bothered to see to the end, regardless of how engaged they were in the adventure prior.
Or perhaps I expected players to save scum/keep multiple saves, and reload back if they got wiped or whatnot.

So out of this, the conclusion is that people don't have a lot of time to play in general, and things should be designed so they won't feel their time was fruitlessly wasted at any point.

Offline hans

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2017, 11:27:10 PM »
...Also, oddly enough, I think I learned other players don't ever seem to go into the editor to look other people's modules in there.

I would have expected, say, if a maze was too frustrating, that someone who wanted to save time would go into the editor and see roughly the correct route was.
Instead, players just straight up quit and never bothered to see to the end, regardless of how engaged they were in the adventure prior.
Or perhaps I expected players to save scum/keep multiple saves, and reload back if they got wiped or whatnot.

So out of this, the conclusion is that people don't have a lot of time to play in general, and things should be designed so they won't feel their time was fruitlessly wasted at any point.
 

I can understand your frustration as an author. 

Many things that were fairly standard in the GoldBox games may receive quite a bit of criticism in our modern UA community.  Random Combats, for example. 

To your example, I remember having to map out some dungeons in the GoldBox games, if I ever hoped to get through them.  Getting lost and having to Reload a saved game from the beginning of a maze wasn't uncommon for me then. 

It may be interesting to contemplate how our community's tastes and playing styles have changed since the early days when UA first offered us a chance to "make our own GoldBox games"...   

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2017, 08:39:07 AM »
My unexpected pitfall was UAshell related. I plan to play them all, but as yet haven't played any ~UAShell only runs once, then chokes.
(DB 0.74 & DB SVN).   I had intended to use UAShell to alter FRUA for my own [highly belated] one-week-challenge entry, but haven't gotten it working reliably.
Are there any UAshell Troubleshooting resources? (I understand the absence of the MODE command, but what is error 7AA8 ?)

Probably not a proper replacement for UAShell from the point of a designer, but if you just want to to play designs for now, have you tried to use Donnie's recently released UA Design Apply tool for Windows instead (readme)? I haven't checked it out myself yet, but it might offer a temporary solution to your troubles until you've found out how to run UAShell without crashes?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 08:40:43 AM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2017, 09:19:14 AM »
Moving from DC to FRUA, I've learned of the annoyance that is the Event/Text limit within a single dungeon in FRUA.
So FRUA has forced me to learn to be very verbose in text statements. Or use a lot of auxiliary dungeons if I want to get descriptive.

Also, oddly enough, I think I learned other players don't ever seem to go into the editor to look other people's modules in there.

I would have expected, say, if a maze was too frustrating, that someone who wanted to save time would go into the editor and see roughly the correct route was.
Instead, players just straight up quit and never bothered to see to the end, regardless of how engaged they were in the adventure prior.
Or perhaps I expected players to save scum/keep multiple saves, and reload back if they got wiped or whatnot.

So out of this, the conclusion is that people don't have a lot of time to play in general, and things should be designed so they won't feel their time was fruitlessly wasted at any point.

There is some truth in this - I myself waste a lot of life time on videogames, possibly more so than the average player, when I guess I should do more social and productive things instead, but even with that in mind, when I play a FRUA design, I have to subtract time from other favorite pastimes like playing professional indie and AAA games from my 1000+ games collection, or binge watching acclaimed TV series and movies etc. With all that digital entertainment at our disposal nowawadays, my patience for things that I don't really find entertaining and enjoyable has seriously decreased, compared to the 80s and 90s when I was a kid with lots of time and just a few games on my computer. These days there's a huge competition for the audience's attention in all areas, which makes life harder on game creators as well, as you can't expect the audience to compromise much anymore when they could just move on to the next thing.

This is talking in general, not necessarily true for this community, where there's a lot of goodwill towards creators, and in the case of your design, of course it would have been a matter of a few minutes only to load up the editor and cheat around the issue (even though I don't really like to do that, and I feel the feedback wouldn't have been that helpful if I had cheated my way through the design). Keep in mind though that one reason why I (and possibly PetrusOctavianus) didn't play on in that situation is that this was already our second playthrough, out of curiosity how much in it would change, when the main story and general working of the design was already known. I'm usually not much of a fan of replays, so that might have added to the reluctance to invest much energy here. Another reason was probably a personal bias against mazes and random combats, based on bad experiences with countless FRUA designs of lesser quality that I've played in the last 20 years or so, and I was never a fan of the original goldbox games to begin with, so take all criticism with a grain of salt.  :)
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 09:22:44 AM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2017, 09:47:50 AM »
I learned a couple of things putting together my modules:

- Limitations are good, whether imposed by the system or by your own guidelines.

- It's okay to end up with something that doesn't have all the pieces you originally wanted.  Both my modules were scaled down a great deal as I created them due to time.  I'm still proud of them anyway.

- It's okay to not have everything be perfect all the time.  99% of the time, people don't even notice.

- Setting realistic and reachable goals gives me a better chance to complete something.  It's no coincidence that my last three modules have all been "challenge" modules.  Since finishing my last large module in the early 2000s, I haven't had the time to finish anything that large again due to everything else I have going on in life. That's the price of getting older, I guess.  I've tried.  I have dozens of unfinished "epic" modules that are half complete sitting on my hard drive.  Probably better if I do small scale modules, possibly even doing something in "chapters" versus trying to finish a large module that won't see the light of day.  I can live with that.

- Don't make modules while fighting a horrible sickness! (Only applicable if you're fighting a horrible sickness while trying to make a module, but try to avoid learning this lesson if you can, folks).

- You can do anything if you set your mind to it.  This, I think, is the most important thing to learn.  I would really like to hammer it into the heads of the folks who came into the One-Week Challenge thread and gave excuses as to why they wouldn't be able to do it.  Don't let fear hold you back.

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Offline Ray

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2017, 11:20:01 AM »
This is probably going to sound a little too sappy, but I learned that this community still has a LOT of surprises, and so does the FRUA engine.

Both of Ben's adventures include a visual surprise that blew me away.  I know that tall walls were discussed years ago, but I've never seen them in practice before, and they were amazing to behold.  Further, there's a visual trick at the end of his other design that really surprised me.  What really surprised me was that he was able to set up...and then also resolve...the visual trick that he pulled off.  I spent a lot of time thinking, I remember when MidPics were the new thing.  It seems sometimes like FRUA has been pushed to its limits, but it turns out that its limits are really only bounded by our creators' imaginations.

Anyone who has not had a chance to play through the Challenge designs should absolutely give them a shot whenever time allows.  There wasn't a weak link in the mix (unless it was mine!), and they were all unique, exciting, and refreshing takes on the engine's capabilities.

More in line with the spirit of the other threads in this post: I learned that I can still make a design after all these years, that I haven't forgotten all the tricks that make a Realm game a Realm game, and that I can still remember most of the passwords to access a design that hasn't been password cracked! 

Offline ProphetSword

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2017, 12:51:45 PM »
Both of Ben's adventures include a visual surprise that blew me away.  I know that tall walls were discussed years ago, but I've never seen them in practice before, and they were amazing to behold.  Further, there's a visual trick at the end of his other design that really surprised me.  What really surprised me was that he was able to set up...and then also resolve...the visual trick that he pulled off.  I spent a lot of time thinking, I remember when MidPics were the new thing.  It seems sometimes like FRUA has been pushed to its limits, but it turns out that its limits are really only bounded by our creators' imaginations.

To be fair, I didn't invent either of those things, so let me give credit where they are due:

The tower walls were created by Iranon are available in this thread:

http://ua.reonis.com/index.php?topic=1000.0

In truth, I don't recommend that people use them unless someone can figure out a way to make their file size smaller.  Using them almost completely broke the module, and is the leading cause of the bug that is reported when people are playing an older version (unless I failed to fix it with my last update...something I'll have to look into).

As for the visual trick in the EGA mod, that rests solely on the shoulders of Nol Drek, who included a way to swap palettes within the world hack itself (you can even switch to a CGA palette if you want to create a CGA style game).  I'm probably just the first to use it in a design (but I hope others will put his EGA world hack to use).
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Offline Ray

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2017, 01:21:33 PM »

Thanks, Ben--I didn't realize that was part of the WorldHack!  I'll have to take another look at it...admittedly, it's been a while.

Regardless, I maintain that you used both to excellent effect.   :)

Offline hans

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2017, 04:44:38 PM »
The tower walls were created by Iranon are available in this thread:

http://ua.reonis.com/index.php?topic=1000.0

In truth, I don't recommend that people use them unless someone can figure out a way to make their file size smaller.  Using them almost completely broke the module, and is the leading cause of the bug that is reported when people are playing an older version (unless I failed to fix it with my last update...something I'll have to look into).
 

Looking at it, I would say, first, lose the arch (2nd wall in the set).  Just leave nothing but the transparent color (slot 255) in its place.  That would cut some size, and you could use the arch from the default Brick wallset in conjunction with the revised drop-in Stone Tower to still achieve the same effects. 

If that were not enough reduction, also lose the last wall in the set, again replacing it with nothing but empty transparency.  If you still wanted that wall, you could combine two drop-in sets: One Stone Tower missing walls 2 & 5, and another revised set missing walls 3 & 4. 

These solutions might require devoting two wall slots in one dungeon to reproduce that single Stone Tower set, but it should be a workable trade-off for future authors who can grasp this complementary aspect of Drop-In .tlb Walls. 
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 11:39:44 PM by hans »

Offline Nol Drek

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2017, 10:44:02 PM »
I learned some things during the one-week challenge:

- If I make a complicated event chain with multiple options selected through a Question-Button event, then I can only add about one encounter per day.
- I can find one or two hours most days to work on a design in the evening, if I don't do much else after work.
- The plot twist which I wanted to add at the end, but ran out of time to include, was something that many players were half expecting, but they were glad it didn't happen.
- As much as I love languages and would enjoy playing a design that was written entirely in Drow, other folks didn't really care for it and thought it was over used.
- Some people enjoy difficult combat more than I do. I tried to make a module where almost all of the combat can be avoided.
- I decreased the level of the opponents from 7 down to 4, in spite of the fact that you're party is level 6. This made the combats easy, but many people still enjoyed them.
- Short designs can be fun and I can get more players than I do with one of those epic 36 dungeon pen and paper conversions I'm fond of.
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Offline Dorateen

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2017, 10:07:30 AM »
Something I learned, or became more aware of, through ongoing work with FRUA. Classic Gold Box dungeon design is built around corridors and rooms, with doorways being a key visual to grab a player's attention and lure them onward. A lot of NPC interactions happen behind doors, triggered when stepping into a room. I included four one-square boxes at the corners of the bridge in the design I made, which can serve as guard towers, but also help create a transition from the road to the forest area along the river.

I am partial to open world exploration on a 3d map. Unfortunately, this approach is hindered in FRUA by lack of a fog of war that would show where the player has stepped and squares yet to be uncovered. This makes it a challenge to place an NPC or important event in a more open field. Thus the benefit of using rooms, alcoves or other wall art that can provide a beacon for players to move toward.

I sometimes wonder if people use the Area view to navigate a map, rather than just as reference if they get lost. The dungeons I build in FRUA originate as top down design, and I think make more sense from a bird's eye view. I have learned that certain considerations have to be taken when translating to a first person view window.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2017, 10:09:40 AM by Dorateen »
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Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: What I Learned from the One-Week Challenge
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2017, 02:26:03 PM »
I sometimes wonder if people use the Area view to navigate a map, rather than just as reference if they get lost.

I try to avoid using Area View if possible, for two reasons:

1) The lack of fog of war also reveals things that a player is not necessarily meant to see, like likely locations of secret doors, or behind-the-scenes stuff that's not actually part of the dungeon, or teleport locations, different floors etc.

2) Contrary to what you can do with the map in DC, in UA it's just grey in grey and only shows lines, while 3D view is meant to give you an atmospheric impression of your surroundings. In map view you can't tell an arch from an open door or even an invisible passable wall, you don't see if the walls are made of stone or wood or lava, if it is day or night etc. Unless I'm mistaken, I think it's also possible that some events won't be properly displayed if triggered in map view - maybe sprites, the pics that are meant to blend in with the 3D view? I don't quite remember, but I do remember that I was always afraid of missing something and ruining the atmosphere while I moved in Area View.

So I usually just take a quick look at the map if I'm lost or unsure whether I've overlooked something, before I continue moving in 3D view.


The dungeons I build in FRUA originate as top down design, and I think make more sense from a bird's eye view. I have learned that certain considerations have to be taken when translating to a first person view window.

But if you prefer the dungeon being explored from a bird's eye view and you create your design accordingly, just tell the players so, and they can adapt to it. You could also use an overland map with a bird's eye view of the dungeon drawn on it, although you wouldn't have any fog of war in that case either, of course, and the whole dungeon would already be revealed.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2017, 02:48:59 PM by Olivier Leroux »

 

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