Sunday, July 09, 2006

Thrash 2.0: Agility

More Fighting Games
I've gotten over the crazy obsessive playing of fighting games (which is good, since my carpal tunnel syndrome will start creeping up on me otherwise), but still, I've been playing a lot of them. I even borrowed my friend's copy of Tekken 3, despite the fact that I don't really go in for the series (though it does have some of the coolest extras of any fighting game). I also keep forgetting just how many King of Fighters games there are now; the first one was in '94, and the main series alone has had one game for every year since, not to mention a zillion spin-off games like Maximum Impact (3D for PS2), Neowave (for Atomiswave, ported to PS2 and Xbox), EX (GBA), Kyo (quasi-CRPG thing for PSX). Plus the epic storyline that kicked off in KoF '95 has so far been the first of three. I kind of need to get caught up on all of that. I also went and ordered a copy of Cyberbots (does anyone else remember this game?) for Sega Saturn off of eBay, along with the Samurai Shodown CRPG. I've mainly been concentrating on the hand-to-hand stuff, but at some point I'll need to mess around with the more weapon-based fighting games to try and figure out what I need to include for the weapon maneuvers.

As For Thrash 2.0...
When I got back into Thrash 2.0 last month, it felt like I mostly just had a big morass of maneuvers to write. Fortunately, I was wrong about that. The design process is proving to be interesting and creative, which it needs to be both for producing a better game and for keeping me interested.

Thrash is noticably more complex than any other game I'm designing right now, and I don't necessarily think it's playing to my strengths even, but I'm having fun doing it all the same. (And if I wasn't, I have more than enough other things to distract me). An important part of what I've been doing is trying to make sure all the pieces fit together nicely, which means answering questions like, "What happens if you want a Mega-Attack version of a Multi-Kick?" (I haven't got a good answer to that one yet, but I know roughly what I want to do). A good example is the rule for variant maneuvers; if you want to buy multiple versions of a maneuver with different modifiers, you get a discount on the base cost. This is 1 point off for each version after the first, to a minimum of 2. For balance reasons, I wound up having to create a special rule that modified Basic Maneuvers have to go off of a starting cost listed in a table in the Modifiers section.

I think I may have come up with a workable solution to the "Agility as god-stat" problem. In a nutshell, since originally Agility was added to every combat-related roll, mechanically there was no particular reason not to have Agility be as high as the game allows. And yet, in the source material Zangief is about the opposite of what people think of when they hear the word "agility," but he doesn't have much trouble hitting things. My idea is sort of a mashup between BESM and WWE: Know Your Role, where different attributes are averaged to get a set of three new stats, which I'm calling "Combat Proficiencies," to represent the character's accuracy with different kinds of moves. Right now they're called Force (for big moves that overwhelm the opponent), Finesse (for technical moves that are effective because they're skillfully executed), and Aim (for moves that are effective because they're accurately hitting the target, or a part thereof). Each would be an average of two (three?) attributes. Going through the maneuvers and replacing Agility with one of the three for each turned out to be easier than I expected. There are a few where the player gets to choose between Power or Finesse (including the basic Punch and Kick), and Aim is a little underused, but since they're not traits the player has to invest points into directly, I think it'll be okay.

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 16

Have you ever looked in the mirror and found you weren't quite sure who was looking back? That was today in a nutshell. Let me start at the beginning.

I woke up, totally stressed out, and got ready to go see the Riders. Glenn gave me some crap about smoking -- and I suppose he has a point -- and Razmus was hanging out on the roof and probably got up at an ungodly hour to watch the sunrise. Never mind that the smog makes Tokyo the Land of the Rising Brightish Haze. And Suzuka came by to glom onto him. The usual stuff.

When gramps finally showed up, it was after lunch time. He took me up to the spaceship, showed me around some, and took me in to see the Rider Council. It was kind of anticlimactic. I was expecting to have to beat one of them in single combat or something else appropriately cliche. Instead he offered me a chance to walk away from the whole thing. Having a conscience is a bitch, not to mention the whole thing about the oncoming alien hordes. Did they actually think I was going to say no? They probably did; that's how they think. They had me swap transformation braces, and when I tried the new one, I was me, in this new armor. It felt right. It felt perfect. In hindsight, I'd describe the feeling like this: Imagine in one instant suddenly knowing that you had arrived at the true purpose of your existence.

Gramps gave me another toy, which I'm supposed to keep a secret: a new sword, one that talks. I need to take some time to have a chat with it (him/her?) when I get a chance, and come up with a name. And I need a name for this new Rider version of me.

When I got back to the house, it turned out that where nearly three hours had gone by on the ship, about a minute had passed for my teammates. Then... I got a little bit crazy. At first, I was thinking that I was just in a really good mood for some reason -- which, knowing how I've been for the past four years or so is kind of a dumb thing to think -- and the guys were a little worried about me. Still, I went out shopping, and did kind of an image change thing. I got contacts, a new haircut, and a new outfit (grandpa complains that it's too "revealing"). I can't remember the last time I wore a skirt that wasn't part of a uniform. Sam didn't even recognize me at first, even with the molecular biology book I was reading.

It turned out Razmus had gone out trying to find Magical Land, that weird little amusement park, and Sam and I wound up going to join him. So not like me. I even helped distract the security guards while Sam crashed the little pro wrestling show they had going on, but then I got kinda bored and went for the roller coaster nearby. And when I got off, I felt sick. My stomach was a little churned by the ride, but I think it was something more than that. I wanted to lie down, but it was as much to cover my head with a pillow and be alone as it was to make my head stop spinning.

After that I was calmed down a bit, but I was and still am a little weird. Glenn told me he'd checked out the museum, and it'd turned out that dad's bike they had there had been stolen. When Grandpa finally showed up, we had a big pow-wow about where things stood. I was acting kind of dumb there, making stupid jokes that no one except my deranged self found funny. The Riders are testing me, Earth could be the site of the final decisive battle between the Riders and the Beast Race, and our earthling villain guys could well know about the alien invasion themselves (save the world and then take it over kind of thing). Amalgam had been aiming to create some kind of power to manipulate nuclear forces, but it got divided, half and half, between him and Dynamo, and Wash may have gotten the complete version. And gramps had no clue why I've been funny in the head ever since I transformed.

Glenn is appropriately concerned, but Raz just doesn't seem to give a shit. This new Hikaru is more to his liking, so I guess it doesn't matter to him that I could be completely losing my mind, in more ways than one. Different bits of me feel different things right now, but every snap decision gets deferred to this new Hikaru. But another piece of me is scared shitless about this whole thing. I have to tell Ryo the truth, but to do that I have to figure out what the hell is true. This new brace feels different -- a better fit -- but there's still that same feeling of being loathe to take it off. The fact that there was a new one in front of me was the only thing that let me take off the Mega-Brace. I'm acting more like my dad, only much more impulsive, so far.

There. Just now. I started seriously thinking about quitting smoking. I mean, I've been thinking about it for ages, but just now I was thinking that putting up with withdrawl symptoms would be worth it. The old me always said it was too much trouble and not worth the effort, like a lot of things in life. I am exhausted, and as usual everyone's fucking with me. I really wonder if all this isn't part of something one of the Riders did on purpose. I never did figure out what was going on with Void Rider. For a bunch of guys so intent on setting up a boys-only club, they let me off the hook relatively easy.

God damn it, I'm going around in circles again, just faster than before. I am Hikaru Hirose, and so is she. Now what?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thrash 2.0: The Maneuvers

It hadn't occurred to me before, but it's been a while since I played much in the way of fighting games. If my collection of old PlayStation, Saturn, and Dreamcast games is any indication I was really into those back in the day, and I have a good number of both import and domestic releases (Sega Saturn represent and all that). The point of all this is to get into the nitty-gritty of the special moves for Thrash 2.0, since I was getting a nagging feeling that there were some important moves I was missing. There were, though it was primarily the kind of stuff most people would overlook.

I played some of Touki Denshou: Angel Eyes, an obscure all-girl fighting game that Tecmo put out in 1999, with some of my favorite and most blatant fighting game characters (like Mysterious Power, a retro superheroine with bouncy breasts and a ray gun, or Chibiko, a loli P.E.-themed girl in bloomers), and an array of dashing and jumping moves that make for insane, kinetic fights (a homing jump!). I also finally actually played the copy of Asuka 120% Burning Fest. Final that I picked up for cheap during my trip to Japan like 3 years ago. That game is also a schoolgirl fighter, with each character using moves based on what club she belongs to (Asuka, the main character, is in the chemisty club, and has a special move where she tosses out a flask that explodes). The fighting in that isn't as aerial as in Angel Eyes, but it's still pretty insane. And I haven't even gotten into the doujin fighters like Queen of Heart and Eternal Fighter Zero, which let you do off-the-ground attacks that most 2D fighting games studiously avoid. Unfortunately, my Saturn has seen better days (I think I need to try another RAM cartridge), so I didn't get around to playing Vampire Savior or Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter. And I ought to go borrow a few games from my friends too. I got plenty of Street Fighter in too. I still need to play:
  • DarkStalkers
  • King of Fighters
  • Capcom Vs. SNK
  • SVC Chaos
  • Waku Waku 7
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Last Blade
  • What else?
The maneuvers in Thrash are getting a bit broader out of necessity, and certain kinds of moves have become recurring. I'm starting to be able to look at most fighting game characters and define their special moves in Thrash terms, which is a Good Thing. There's a definite need for the maneuvers in Thrash to not correspond to the number of "hits" in a fighting game (not that they ever did in the first place...). This isn't just for stuff like the Tiger Uppercut doing 7+ hits (to say nothing of the triple-digit weirdness in MvC2); in Asuka 120% there's a character whose rising uppercut has a slapdown hit at the end, and it occurs to me that this could easily be treated as a "special effect" rather than making life needlessly complicated with a superfluous modifier or mucking around with combo maneuvers.

Anyway, here's the new maneuvers I've come up with so far:
  • Blast Knuckle: A heavy standing punch that sends the opponent flying backwards.
  • Death From Above: The character leaps high into the air and comes down on the opponent. Popular with ninjas.
  • Forward Leap Kick: The character somehow jumps/flips/whatevers forward to clock the opponent with one or both feet. Not the most widely recognized maneuver, but actually pretty common.
  • Intercept Counter: Not 100% sure what to call it, but basically the special counter maneuvers, Geese Howard's being the most notable.
  • Justice Fist: A powerful standing punch that knocks the opponent down. Named (for better or for worse) for Allen's move from SFEX, but Karin (SFA3) has what amounts to an open-palm version of the same thing.
  • Leaping Power Throw: The fighter jumps at the opponent, and grabs them while airborne to do a throw. Alex (SF3) has this maneuver a couple times over.
  • Stepping Power Kick: A powerful thrusting kick done with a short hop. As seen in Cody's Ruffian Kick, amongst others.
  • Through Strike: The fighter whisks past the opponent, and delivers a lightning-fast attack whose effects are felt a moment later. A very anime-esque move, and Gen (SFA2) has a super version of this.
I've also found myself poking at the Thrash Companion a little bit, which'll be the first sourcebook for the game, and a general collection of neat stuff. Weird Powers wound up divided into the categories of Freaks (cyborgs, robots, mutant animals, aliens, guys like Blanka and Dhalsim, etc.) and "Metapowers" (espers, magic, gadgets, "otherworld power" -- like Dizzy and Jedah -- and so on). Freaks will mostly just be a set of themed character traits (should you want stretchy limbs, or claws, or whatever), and I'm not sure how to handle metapowers just yet. It's also going to be a repository for wackier maneuvers and other character traits. Whatever crazy rules options I come up with will also go in here; I have a vague notion of a universal Thrash variant and an FPS-themed variant. Plus I have this idea for a thing called The Fighter's Soul which would bring in a sort of narrativist "layer" to the game, and replace the game's boring character advancement mechanics in the process.

So yeah, I'm definitely in the thick of things with Thrash, and enjoying it. ^_^

Sunday, July 02, 2006

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 15

It's finally getting to me, all the scheming and paranoia and fear and frustration. We went to Ryo's soccer match as planned, with Suzuka still clinging to Razmus even after their date was allegedly concluded. The ref at the game was Wash. I don't know how it happened, but he was there, calling the game normally, as though he wasn't a supervillain and didn't have fifty cloaked robots on the field. When Raz went down there and tried to hit one with with his baseball bat (I don't know why he bothers using those on non-squishy opponents when they always get bent without doing any damage) the robots started uncloaking. As the people fled, Glenn and I rushed over to Ryo, but he just vanished, another abuse of their cloaking technology.

While Razmus and Sam started tearing through the robots -- which kept self-destructing every time they took any decent amount of damage -- I transformed and went for the eye of the storm, where Wash stood, calm as usual, behind a force field. He was in his usual obnoxious bantering mood, and he gave us coordinates where he wanted us to come get Ryo, and I can't remember the last time I got that angry. Part of me knew that hacking at his force field wouldn't do any good, but I just didn't care. He said that Ryo was involved in this now. I don't know how, but Razmus teleported inside the force field and beheaded Wash. With an SDF jet circling overhead, I was having visions of another Swan incident, but worse, but Wash laughed off the beheading like everything else. He said he was immortal now. If only we could launch him into the sun. Nothing we did could even slow him down; he seemed to be able to change into an energy form, then restore his corporeal body, completely intact. He teleported away. By the time my grandfather came back from taking Suzuka and mom to the van it was all over.

We tried hard to think up a plan for entering the base. Wash and his associates seem to really like making us walk into traps. But absolutely everything we could think of was a dead end. Between the five of us we have a would-be biochemist (that's me), two who specialize in stealth (Razmus and Jack), a veteran superhero (Glenn), and someone who until recently made a living by bluffing (Sam). And yet in the end we had to barge in there, because there was nothing we could do to gain any advantage of any sort. The power lines were buried (a rarity in Japan), there was only one entrance, and very little to explore. I want to fight a supervillain where it actually means something. I can live with getting injured even, so long as there's a sense of accomplishment that goes beyond enduring yet another of Wash's monologues. I want to fight a villain who actually feels pain; I can live with being hated, so long as it's by someone who will see us as something more than ants in a terrarium.

By all accounts it was, as Wash had said, a rural Project Perseus facility. There were four fake buildings, no more than movie props, and the real base was carved directly into the rock. Glenn drove the van straight in, through the glass doors and offices, until we got as far as it would take us. In an office area we found folders with data on various people -- including myself and Glenn. Each one had a detailed profile, some kind of complex formula, and at the end a "Suitability Rating." For both myself and Glenn this was listed as "High." Which makes it a distinct possibility that his inclusion in all this wasn't accidental after all.

After the offices was a stone hallway lined with portraits. There was only one that any of us recognized, and of all people it was of Amalgam, Glenn's nemesis. At the end was a T intersection. In the right-hand branch we found Wash again -- and Wild Rider. At that point all of our frustration seemed to come to a head, because Glenn made it look like he was refusing to take the confrontation seriously. Before long we'd all joined in. He claimed we were boring him, but ironically enough words are apparently the one thing that can get to him. Wild Rider was just as reticent as last time, but I could see his clenched fist shaking with fury. And then they vanished again.

In the other branch of the corridor, we found a set of holding cells. In one, Ryo was sleeping peacefully, while in another there was a middle-aged man, very badly beaten. We took them both back with us. The man had an imprint on his right arm, as though he'd been wearing a brace, and Sam said he was dreaming of being Wild Rider. At grandfather's insistence we brought the man to our house instead of a hospital, and the old man did something to stabilize him and teleported him up to the spaceship.

Once Ryo was in his bed -- he didn't wake up the entire time, and may have been drugged -- I found myself explaining to my grandfather what had happened, and all the while wondering why he wasn't helping. Instead, he had more bad news. The alien shapeshifters are coming to Earth, in about six months' time. For the first time Jack managed to say something really offensive, which in turn got Raz even further into denial about the whole matter. In fact, grandfather recognized Raz' mother from that photo he carries, as a rebel who defied her own race to protect innocent lives. That definitely sounds like someone who could've been one of Razmus' parents.

The other thing is, the Rider Council is waiting to speak to me. According to grandfather, opinions are divided as to whether I represent heresy or evolution. At least I know it's finally come. When I think about what I've seen and read about metahumans, the Riders' boys-only club seems utterly ridiculous. The metahuman heroes of earth are men and women, and they come from every corner of the world, from every social class, every religion, every nation. There are Australian aborigines, wealthy businessmen, common street thugs, and starving, orphaned children who have realized they have power, and used it to make the world a better place.

Tomorrow. I need sleep, if I can manage it. I shouldn't have had that tea. Tomorrow morning is the next hurdle put in front of me. I feel like I'm nearing my breaking point. I think I still want to do this thing, but I need to do it as myself, not as my father's shadow, an agglomeration of childood memories. Everything before this was just going through the motions, trying to stall for time and combat the boredom that came down from the sky, pressing everything flat. I had all these things to say to the council, and right now they sound like childish excuses. I want to be the light in the darkness, but instead we've been trying to cope with the problems brought about by the circumstances of our origins, in spite of having so little to work with. We're in the dark ourselves, with nothing to light the way, just hands to hold.

I'm not going to cry. Ryo is safe. I can deal with this, because I have to. I want someone to tell me what to do, but I don't think I'd believe them.