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arcnet 8 years ago#1
I maintain Sword of Moonlight, once and future king, full-time no less... so even though I don't make a habit of posting to GameFAQs I reckon it wouldn't be a bad practice to at least post brief annual updates on the KFMT's progress towards a free as it can be professional grade development platform.

In short, a surprisingly large chunk of last year was spent developing a concept of how King's Field games will be played in the 21st century. Mainly the control scheme, but also this includes how the player character moves through the environment and calls upon different abilities to obtain objectives.

The goal is to design an all purpose approach to input so that traditional story telling "video games" can arrive at a standard control scheme, so that you can move as effortlessly between game stories as you can movies and books for instance.

My motivation for working with SOM is foremost I grew up in a time when games marked my generation, probably more than any other. But now I find myself in a time, when no games are being authored that satisfy my own need for something substantial that is at least as worthwhile as a good book or a good movie of which there are so many to choose from and the quality of these media far surpass that of games.

I do not fault the video game industry in this, I just suspect that the 3D video game is a much more wily animal than we think. In fact I believe that the first modern 3D games, King's Field, are the only examples of the right approach that we have to study. And since these games have gone overlooked, the entire business of 3D gaming has wondered far off down a misguided path of no return. Shadow of the Colossus received a lot of praise, and rightly so, as did its predecessor. While these games are not perfect they are one of the few that can hold a candle to King's Field's simple example, and are the only games that remotely resemble King's Field, and vice versa.

I make this point to illustrate that in a sense King's Field is the quintessential 3D adventure game format, and that nothing of any importance has happened since, and that it is still absolutely relevant, and still waiting for the ascendency of Sword of Moonlight in order to be completed.


Now the reason this year veered of course to look at controls, is simply because the creative juices were flowing and could not be ignored. I will only mention the general philosophy around the evolved control scheme, and what has already been implemented, before moving onto other subjects (likely in a separate post)


In King's Field there is an action or event button, which can also be held down to run or dash in latter games. The future control scheme, not just for KF but also prescribed for all games mind you, uses this button and two or three others exclusively, so that the player is able to play with a Sony style controller with three or four shoulder buttons without ever taking their fingers off these buttons, as doing so interrupts game play and breaks immersion, which would be an unacceptable standard to impose on any game.


The action button (R2 is recommended) facilitates event activation, sneaking, jogging, running, sprinting, climbing, jumping, crouching, dodging, rushing, spinning, and thrusting. Naturally everything is configurable if you prefer to assign these functions to other kinds of inputs.

How one button can do all of these things is built into King's Field, this control scheme flows naturally out from the way past games and Sword of Moonlight 2000 works. These three or four buttons all pull double duty by way of a tap/hold mechanism that is also tied into the gauges which in modern game play are really indicators of timing rather than power, although better timing can also result in better outcomes.

Traditionally a tap can open a door for instance. But holding causes you to run/dash...
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arcnet 8 years ago#2
Character limit.

I might add that I got into programming controls for Sword of Moonlight because at the top of the year (2013) I was working on a next generation form of Sword of Moonlight. I'd just added input device functionality, so before I could put that work aside I had a responsibility to fire of SOM and make sure that the functionality matched in every way mathematical conventions wise. In the midst of that phase of development I just got caught up and thought as long as controls are fresh on my mind, maybe it would be a good time to work on control scheme mechanics for Sword of Moonlight.


Now to continue. Tap versus hold. How an input is determined to be a tap or a hold will depend upon the player's timeout preference. The default built into SOM is 750ms. This is a safe default figure. Generally 500ms works best however. As an accessibility feature the player ideally should be able to choose anywhere between 500 and 1000ms via the in game options menu (I intend to add a Speed variable at some point for a tri-stat model, so that every action taken can directly drive a status variable. Speed would allow the player to drop the timeout below 500ms without altering the author's configuration)


Most of the functions attributed to the action button in the previous post are contextual. Meaning they depend on what is happening with the analog sticks or alternative movement inputs relative to what obstacles are where in the environment. There is a tactile response when pushing into obstacles. This changes the input context among many other things. Force Feedback thumbsticks/pads would be very effective here. Imagine being able to navigate in the darkness by touch, or just knowing you've run up against something.


When tapping action you will automatically dodge/rush unless the movement inputs are neutralized. Typically the peak speed, or dashing speed, is recommended to be 3x the basic walking speed. Tapping while turning should be calibrated to yield a 90 degree turn. This can be combined with what is called a quick turn, or corkscrew, that can be executed by moving and turning in the same direction yielding a upper turn rate of 360 degrees per second, which is very fast, and should satisfy even the most die hard mouse users.


Crouching or squatting is a matter of holding action until the power gauge is depleted. The faster the timeout the faster the depletion. Letting go before depletion, or coming to a rest, results in a standing jump.

A running jump is achieved by letting go of the button while running/sprinting. It's very natural as you lift off as you lift off the button.

To crouch the directional movement inputs must be in a neutral position. Once you go down this way you are locked in place. Although you can dramatically leap outward by leaning out and letting go. This technique can also be used to perform a jump from a ledge without worrying about walking over the edge, since you will be safely locked in place. Alternatively you can jump while sneaking at a very slow pace.


Although not yet implemented the same rules apply to the two attack buttons. For instance tap to use magic, hold to hold up your shield. Although future King's Field games that I will be involved with will deploy a new magical field based magic system with higher production values. The magical field system will put the Field in King's Field and make the games seem more refined... to communicate this: imagine if the boys in Ico/Nico shot fireballs out of their hands. It would be weird and make the games seem more trivial. But Ico wields a magic sword much like sword magic in the KF games, so the goal is to move more in the direction that all magic functions more like sword magic, since that seems to improve the "optics".

Holding the main attack button should enter auto-mode...
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arcnet 8 years ago#3
Auto-mode is both a game play and an accessibility feature. In auto-mode you move the character around but everything else is handled automatically allowing for moves that could not be input otherwise. Essentially in this mode the player character behaves like a monster using the same decision subsystem, not unlike VS. mode in Shadow Tower.

In this auto-mode the action and other attack button do different things expanding the available repertoire. Holstering your weapons works the same way as performing a standing jump. So if you release before entering auto-mode you holster that weapon. When holstered you go into scanning mode (Armored Core V actually has such a mode in name) or what I like to call Clint Eastwood mode in which things work quite differently.

There are so many details that cannot be listed here. But I just wanted to more or less explain the future control scheme before moving on.


Oh yes. More noteworthy/planned game play mechanics are adding an adrenaline and stamina system to the gauges that feed into one another. I will not explain those, however they work by drawing color out of the two gauges, so that as adrenaline builds up the magic gauge loses its color, and likewise for the power gauge loses color as stamina is lost. Also the direction you are moving and turning in should affect the kind of attacks that are performed. There will also be kicking and kneeing mechanics that have to do with pressing up against things and tapping the action button.



This year a programming system was added in order to address bugs in Sword of Moonlight's damage formula. But it is an important system in its own right. It is designed so to be accessible to anyone who has taken basic middle school math course with a calculator:

http://en.swordofmoonlight.org/wiki/Sword_of_Moonlight_Extension_Library/list_of_numbers

It can be used to make almost every extension that accepts a number as an input programmable. The most obvious application is provide authors a means to customize formulas such as how much HP is lost when a monster scores a hit on a player.



Unless I am leaving something out, after this I got back to working on what I had planned to begin work on at the top of the year. That involved making it easy to have more than one game/project on a single file system. Adding a categorization system so that things such as swords can be categorized into overlapping sets.

This and much more was incorporated into the SOM file format:

http://en.swordofmoonlight.org/wiki/SOM

Now it is very easy and recommended to simply distribute games as intact projects and not even bother with preparing a standalone game.


Finally the last 3 months of the year were spent working on the core tools really for the first time since I worked on just making them future proof bugs and all. That is before I only addressed bugs that would make the tools not work on most PCs.

The reason I had to busy myself with this, although I think the timing was right regardless, was due to personal falling outs it became absolutely clear that I was no longer in a position to direct would be authors offsite (www.swordofmoonlight.net) to do things like find translations and doctored artwork to address many of Sword of Moonlight's glaring faults.

In a word I have had to move to prepare a one stop shop for everything Sword of Moonlight. That meant at a minimum translating the tools into some form of English. But in order to do that job right, or one time and one time only, much more had to be done...

Now heading into 2014 the tools themselves look better than ever. And at this moment I'm working on doing the same for the data files and setting up graphical front ends for language/theme pack configuration and a project Settings editor to replace SOM_EDIT's 5th button (a useless map import function)
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arcnet 8 years ago#4
Phew,

That last post had 0 characters left. I just forgot to add. What about the other buttons on the Sony PlayStation style controller?

Well if you don't have analog sticks you might need them for movement. However the 4th shoulder button is recommend for accessing the in-game menu. But you might reasonably want to assign that to something like manual jumping, if you are uncomfortable with auto-jumping, and can easily work with all four shoulder buttons.

However, for the most part the remaining buttons (like every button) can be assigned to anything you need. For instance if you prefer a more unwieldy control scheme like most games have right now.

There will also be a Quick Select system accessed by holding down the menu button that affords direct access to any inventory item or ability. It can be used invisibly if you can perform the selection before the hold timeout for example. In addition you can also assign any remaining buttons to one-press direct access to anything Quick Select can access.


I don't personally know of any games that use this kind of a control scheme, but it seems only natural to me. It may or may not be regarded as revolutionary in its time. But the basic premise is simple. Which shoulder buttons and thumbsticks there is no excuse for shifting your fingers around to different buttons. That's the basic philosophy in a nutshell.

If you must lift your finger to hit a face button then it better be to do something completely unrelated to action mechanics, ideally something that would naturally interrupt action.
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