Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Knights of Pen and Paper Review

Knights of Pen and Paper is an android/iOS/PC game that is a play on the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. You control several players with their pen and paper classes of different kinds, such as a rogue, a mage, a paladin, and a warrior, in a group from 3 to 5 players, doing quests and earning money, loot, and experience to become ever-stronger and save both the real world and pen and paper world.

The gameplay follows a very simple pattern. You do quests or fight monsters, travel to another location, maybe spend money to get equipment, repeat. The combat is quite simple as well, you level up four abilities per character and use them or regular attacks on enemy mobs.

In general this gameplay is fun and simple. You don't really need to expand it too much, but it does become a grind fest. And this is where the good things end.

When I say it becomes a grind fest, I don't mean it as a good thing, like old JRPGs did that allowed you to become better and better progressively and made the game tougher because you couldn't just rush all the bosses and other mobs. What I mean is that the game toggles from a fun and relaxing time waste to a game where you have to spend days to earn enough money to do pretty much anything.

As an example, at level 13 I was earning about 30 gold on average for beating a 5-mob group. This was done after I stacked several items that gave me +5% gold on battle, on all 4 item slots of my 3 characters, for a grand total of at least 60% extra gold per battle. Without this I'd earn about 12 gold per battle.

Now, this might sound like very little gold, but I'm sure you're considering that there're probably a lot of items that aren't worth that much. And you're right, plenty of items don't go over 25 gold. But that's only equippable items that barely do anything and don't change that much other than adding you a bit more minimal stats like +13 health.

Things get bad, really bad, when you want to use the blacksmith so your characters won't walk with basic equipment forever. At level 13 you'd expect to have something more than "no stats". When you arrive at the blacksmith, you see you have a mere 35% chance to suceed at crafting, and you have to pay the incredible amount of 150 gold just to try to have a chance.

You can level up your blacksmith by giving it grindstones. But you need an insane amount of those just to level him up to get to maybe 50%. Each level up increases the crafting chance by 5%, so you'd need 5 level ups to get him to reach 50%.

I spent almost 150 grindstones to get him to that level. Each grindstone costs 25 gold. That means the amount of money to get the blacksmith to a relatively usable state costs about 3750 gold, or 125 30-gold battles. You could gather them if you wish, but you usually only get up to 8 a "game day", and that means you're spending money traveling either way.

Even then, crafting through the blacksmith still fails almost all the time. I spent over 2000 gold just to get some decent level 1 gear for all my 3 characters. That's another 67 battles to get the money.

You might be thinking, I'll probably earn more money over time. Not all mobs are the same, and as I grow in level I'll earn more and more money. The problem, however, is that at level 13 all I could get was up to 30 gold. I couldn't get any more. And I wouldn't want to get weaker over time to get money to maybe get a bit stronger. That's bad game design.

I could have sold my item drops. But those were worth up to 2 gold each, and there weren't that many to begin with. It was not an option.

I could have invested in the game shop, where I can spend gold to get different furnitures to increase my gold gain by 10%. It still wouldn't be enough though.

I have to let you know, however, that I lied a little. I didn't do all those battles. After a while, I got tired of not getting stronger other than by that generic leveling up and struggling just to be able to fight a single elite enemy, so I spent 5 USD to get 10000 gold. That's right, the total amount of about 334 battles can be bought for 5 USD.

I spent all that in-game money to get better. And in the end, I realized: This game, although fun, is so much built for in-app purchases that it loses over half its value to me simply by the fact that I can't comfortably improve my characters and have fun in the game without having to grind an insane amount of battles just to have a chance at getting better. This isn't final fantasy, and I realize that. But it isn't pen and paper RPGs either. It's neither, and to me, honestly, it feels like a cash grab.

I rate this game 3/5 simply because in the end it IS fun, but the in-app nature of it makes it lose a lot of value for me.

Did I forget to mention this is actually a real purchased game, and not a free to play game?

You can find KOPP at:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Weekly Update #6

This week has been quite the busy week, as you are about to see.

At Candy Cane, I've been working on the same C# assignment. I've been porting our code to OSX in order to have it running there so I can start redesigning the UI for both OSX and Windows.  Fortunately I'm almost done porting all the code to at least run on OSX.

In the meantime, we had a Fling! Android Promotion which went rather well, I believe. Our active device count rose to about twice as much during the promo days! We also haven't been getting much crashes other than things beyond our control, such as the usual "can't find class com.mbgames.fling.Main" error.

Soon we're hoping to release an update to both Fling! Free and Fling! that has the new Native Code Support code I have worked on for a few months now. Things are generally ready, we just have to wait for everything related to the Android Promo to end.

At FTG, we did a couple of internal game jams, producing one game prototype in two hours and another game prototype the next day in about four to six hours due to interruptions. It wasn't bad, but I found lots of things to improve upon our tech to significantly reduce development time.

I've been very concerned with my performance in both FTG and CC. Everyone involved in either company tells me to just do my best and not to worry about how long it takes to do things, but I can't help but feel concerned about it. I want to do better, and I want to do things with progress I am content with.

I'm thinking maybe my concern for taking too long with things in the past is affecting me too much nowadays because I'm upset with my own performance. Maybe I think I get too distracted with things, but when I think about how my day went I don't really see anything that has distracted me other than the occasional break time. I think I'm doing my best, but I often doubt myself. I'm sure things will eventually get better and I'll get over this, but I must say this is a quite stressful phase in my life.

Regarding my free time, I've been playing a lot of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It's quite the fun turn based strategy game. I haven't played it too much yet, but I might write a short review on it later on.

Things would also be a lot worse without my friends' support, I have to say. I'm very thankful both to a particular roommate of mine and a certain someone, both of whom have been supporting me quite a lot lately. I hope I don't get them to lose their patience though, it'd be quite heartbreaking to lose their support because I'm too overwhelmed with negativity.

That's it for this week's update, I'll post again next sunday or monday if all goes well!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Weekly Update #5

This week I've mostly been getting accustomed to my new assignment at CandyCane. It started off relatively well (aka plenty of issues), but as of recently I'm doing better on it. However, I dislike the idea that it's been one week and I barely did anything. I'm worried about my performance, so now I'm spending extra time on it so I can show my boss that I'm much better here than on Android work, where I was quite slow. Most of my time has been spent porting some Winforms-Specific code to OSX, although I'm not yet done. I'm hoping to get everything running before the end of next week, and even then it's too much time.

Working on my Macbook isn't exactly fun, I'm much more accustomed to working on a desktop computer. I feel like I'm stuck in a box when I'm trying to type on it, for instance. The screen is also quite small, even for 13". But it's still doable, after all I've done this whenever I visit family but need to work.

Regarding Flaming Torch Games, I'm also not pleased with my progress. I'm taking too long getting progress on our main game, and we even took a break a couple of days ago to do some 3D work, which was pleasantly refreshing. I've always wanted to work on 3D, but unfortunately many factors kept stopping me to the point where I went the 2D route for a couple of years now. I'm hoping to get some decent progress soon, but I wonder why as of lately I'm failing to progress properly on both my job and FTG. Maybe my sleeping issues are related.

I've been having sleeping issues in the form that I either am sleepy the entire day, or feel incredibly tired, and then try to sleep a bit more and instead become lethargic. I never seem to find a balance lately.

I'm hoping to be able to solve both of these issues. They're annoying for sure, but thanks to a certain somebody I can bear with it even if it turns sour.

So as to make this blog post a bit less depressing, here's some funny bug pictures of some 3D stuff I was working on yesterday. Do notice it being a 3D somewhat flat terrain viewed from the front.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Weekly Update #4

As of monday I started on a new assignment at CandyCane. More precisely, Bevin Software, since I technically work for both.

Monday started off well, I downloaded Xamarin Studio, but then I learned that Xamarin.Mac, the required support for working on this C# assignment, wasn't free. I contacted my boss and today got a license. I'd like to say that today went well too, but that is not the case unfortunately.

This is something I keep noticing about OSs and platforms. They always, always lack something important. You want to vertically align text? make your own class. You want to do some really basic thing that apparently the OS doesn't support? make your own class. Today was filled with these issues, as moving from .NET WinForms to Mono.Mac wasn't exactly easy. I'm not yet done, and already am filled with tons of headaches. Is it really too hard to at least let me compile the main code on Windows so I can use my desktop? Tomorrow should go better though. Working with a laptop mouse rather than a real mouse severely hinders my productivity, but I shall fix this tomorrow. One day at a time, eh?

Regarding Flaming Torch Games, I've had a lot of things keeping me from progressing. Be it being tired, code needing severe change, or just bad luck, I have unfortunately barely been able to get anything done. Rather disappointing too, but I hope to fix this in a couple of hours. I want to get a game out ASAP. I can't give up now nor will I let it keep me down. We're still lacking an artist, however, and that's a rather important part in any game.

Regarding life, well, I haven't done much. I overslept (on purpose) after several months of waking up early and going to bed late. I feel quite rejuvenated, even if that means I basically wasted two additional work days (more like mornings, since there were only two days I slept a few more hours). I've been playing WarFrame and CSGO with a couple of friends, and I'm hoping to get back to playing Dota 2 when I swap my desk with my old desk. This current desk is unfortunately too high regarding using your arms and as such my control of the mouse is incredibly weakened. Trust me, it does change things a lot.

I've also been reading some Fate Core rulebooks. It's been taking a while, as I've only read about 70 pages out of about 300. But I do hope to adopt this pen and paper RPG system and make my own adventures. I'm really looking forward to that!

I'm also looking forward to the new Guild Wars 2 Update. I do hope they go back on their idea that SPVP will give you any loot. It sounds too stupid to be true, but then again today IS april fools! I sure hope that is indeed a joke.

That's pretty much it for this week. If you're looking for cheap android/steam games, be sure to check today's humble bundle. It has some pretty good games and right now the average is about ~4 dollars. Well worth it if you ask me!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Weekly Update #3

Again with a late weekly update... Oh well, I can't exactly expect to keep the right schedule for this since I'm busy almost all the time and end up forgetting about it or being too tired... Anyway, on with the show!

So, earlier last week, I got a new phone: The THL W100, a cheap chinese-branded quad-core phone for only 100 GBP.

 So far I'm quite satisfied with this phone. It runs well, the battery doesn't die easily, it even has TWO batteries which you can swap to when you're out of battery! And finally, it's not slow at all unless something is effectively slowing the system out like installing a lot of APKs.

I've also reached a work time of over 4 years now on Candy Cane as of yesterday. I'm very proud for not only being able to hold out so long on my first full-time job ever, but also for having a very understanding leader in CC. I hope I'll be able to work many more years.

I've been juggling several assignments on CC, which has been rather annoying since I'm currently visiting family and due to me being too tired when I was packing my bag I forgot a lot of things, like committing my most recent source code. Fortunately, my roommate at the Braga house is around so I can count on him to do the commits, but it's still annoying to be doing my best to get everything done ASAP but having something stopping me from approaching my next assignment. I hope to get over this soon.

I've also been upgrading the Flaming Torch Framework into a full-fledged game engine. I'm hoping to spend as little time as possible doing this, but I believe this is the way to go. The Framework itself is feature-complete, but too low-level. We are now in need of making games quickly, so I'm doing what I can to improve productivity.

That's all for last week, hopefully I'll be able to make another post this sunday. See you soon!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Weekly Update #2

I know, I'm super late with last week's update... I'll still make another update around sunday.

Me and my roomate had an idea of making a Dota version of Football Manager 2014. Imagine, managing your own MOBA team as you conquer the world! We're codenaming it MOBA Manager Simulator 2015. We might work on it every now and then, but it's not a priority.

Work is going pretty well, finally wrapping up my native overhaul work on Android. Hope to release a game update for Prizma this week! It's much faster nowadays, and very fluid. I must have a solid 50-60 FPS right now!

I'm also getting into Dota 2 again since I'm not sucking as much as before. But I still hate how I tend to screw up when I know what I need to do and fail to perform it either in time or at all. Controls mess my brain!

Regarding FTG, I've also gotten some nice progress towards optimizing our work speeds. I've been working on our GUI system so it's even easier to write GUIs from text without having to do too many "hacks" regarding positioning and tooltips. Work still progresses mostly for Codename Cyber.

I've also been playing Tower of Guns. By god, I think this game is harmful to my health! I'm always on edge and it gets hard to breathe after a while and I just get pissed I died! It's quite fun tho!

That's pretty much it for this/last week. I'll try to do another update around Sunday as promissed.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Weekly Update #1

I know I've been quiet lately, so I figured I'd start posting weekly/bi-weekly updates here.

First of all, I'm obviously still working at CandyCane. In fact, this month I'll reach my four year anniversary working there! I can't wait for March 24th.

I've been working on a cross platform support assignment. By doing so, I'm able to develop on Windows, Linux, or Mac, and have my code run on iOS, Android, Win/Lin/Mac. This is great since I prefer working on Windows with Visual Studio, which has a very good debugger and other great tools like Global Flags (GFlags) which are useful whenever there is any kind of memory corruption happening. Progress on this is going quite well lately, although I wish it would've been finished sooner. Hopefully I'll have everything ready this week.

Regarding Flaming Torch Games, I'm still working on two projects and maybe a soon-to-be third project. My current projects are codenamed Harvest, a 2D tile-based sandbox game, Cyber, a 2D Streets of Rage-styled beat 'em up, and Decisions (also jokingly known as Decision Simulator 2015), a 2D game where you make hard decisions in order to help your kingdom strive.

Work on FTG Framework has been going quite well. I haven't worked on it too often, but I'm still making improvements here and there. It overall works quite well so far and doesn't need any new features so far. I love having over 600 FPS on all our projects.

Life-wise, I'm also still living in Braga, for over a year now. Things are going well, generally speaking, and I'm grateful for that. I've also been playing lots of different games, although my work schedule makes doing anything non-work quite difficult (Read: I work almost 24/7!). Still, I'm pleased with how things are going.

I've also planned to play Magic: The Gathering more often at a local store. We'll see how that goes. I had a very fun time at the Born of the Gods Game Day yesterday!

That's it for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for more updates soon!