Monday, April 21, 2014

The Cycle Begins Again #4: Functionality!

I know there hasn't been much of an update in a while, but school has been insane and I have been working on this project in very small intervals. Fortunately, I have had some time the last couple of days to really sink my teeth into the project (and a deadline to make!) My plan is to have the Tutorial Level outlined and some of the attack maneuvers done by the first week of May (when the project is due in class). That will show the functionality of the overall project while not stretching myself too thin trying to study for finals. After that, I will add in some baddies for us to start whacking on!
I know this is a short update, but here is what I have done. My next post will have more information on the coding aspect of how I accomplished it : ).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Cycle Begins Again #3: Hero Powers and Concept Art

Because it has been a little bit, I decided to do a quick update while I take a break from designing. Here's what I have been working on the last few weeks, TCBA-wise:

  • Creating a design document (all the details about the game)
  • Acquiring a personal copy of Adobe Flash
  • Sprite creation in Flash (had problems importing previous work, had to start over)
  • Sprite animation in Flash
  • Collaborating with Tyler about art
I've had quite a bit going on, especially between this project, my other classes, and the increased hours and new location at work. To be honest, I should be working on Trigonometry or Java programming right now, buuuut... nope : ).
First, I want to debut some of Tyler's work on the background so far, because it is coming along very well. Tyler and I have a pretty good history together and he has some way of knowing exactly what I want even when I'm constantly shifting ideas around. His work on TCBA is no different than before- he nailed was I was looking for! Because of the size of the picture (I think its width is 6000px?), I am going to upload a small piece on this blog. The full picture can be found here. (NOTE: This is not a finished work, just a concept design we've got. This could change drastically by May.)
So, let's talk momentarily about the art style I am looking for in this game. I want a clear distinction between the foreground and the background, both for the contrast it adds to the game and to help the player know what areas are pathable and what areas are not. The left side of the gap is an older version of the art. The hill is pixelated on the edges and the grid on the grass increases the blocky look. The right side is much more of what I am looking for. The foreground where the player walks is very clear- the green, single-color grass line is the pathable area the player can walk on. The hill in the background has the sharp blades of grass and some blurring on it, which gives it a nice smooth look compared to the simple foreground. To be clear, just about everything in the foreground will be pixelated- enemies, the Player Character, pathable blocks, etc...

To give this post a little more meat, I am going to copy and paste some information from the design document I mentioned earlier that details the hero's combat ability (and again, please note that this information can still change before the completion of the project.) In the near future I should have the player walking and stabbing. By that point, I should have enough knowledge to begin the coding of the game.


Section 2: Combat
Second only to the story, combat will be a major focus of the game. The player will have two different fighting styles: melee and magic, which acts as a ranged attack. Both styles have different strengths over the others.

Section 2.1: Melee Combat

Melee combat will bring the player up close and personal with his enemies. The risk of this style of combat is obvious- being so close to the enemy means that the player is more likely to be hit and take damage. The player is awarded for choosing melee combat as their focus for battle with increased damage per hit. Melee damage will be determined based on the base attack value multiplied by the Strength Level Bonus percentage detailed in the Experience and Leveling section. Melee combat will primarily be focused on heavy damage versus a single opponent, making it ideal for boss battles. The player will be less effective vs mobs of enemies, but will be given multiple options to assist them vs large numbers of enemies. It is important to note that by leveling Strength, and thus the melee capabilities of the player, the player is also increasing his characters' movement speed.
Melee attacks is performed by pressing “H” on the keyboard. This is a basic attack, and is equal to the base attack value multiplied by the Strength Level Bonus. As the player progresses his Strength level (not his overall character level), he will gain additional abilities to aid him in melee combat. The first will be Shield Block, which will make the player invulnerable for a short period of time, allowing him to escape from a mob at the sacrifice of not being able to attack for a short time. Shield Block is activated by pressing “J” on the keyboard. The second ability gained by leveling Strength is Bash, which will knock enemies in front of the player away from the player. Bash is mapped to “K” on the keyboard. The final ability the player will gain will be his mob-clearing ability, Whirlwind. Whirlwind will damage enemies on both sides of the player. Whirlwind is mapped to “L” on the keyboard. The three special melee abilities are designed to potentially worked in tandem. An example of a possible combination would be the player using Shield Block to charge into a mob of enemies, Whirlwind to damage all the enemies around him, and then Bash to push back one side of enemies to allow the player room to maneuver. All melee special abilities will be cooldown based (e.g. 3 seconds) as opposed to mana based.

Section 2.2: Magic Combat

A basic magic attack will allow the player to attack from a short- to medium-range. Because the player will be further away from his opponent, and syllogistically further from danger, a basic magic attack will do less damage than a basic melee attack. Damage for magic attacks will be scaled in the same manner as melee attacks- base attack value multiplied by Magic Level Bonus. The Magic Level Bonus will scale at a smaller amount per Magic level than the Strength Level Bonus will per Strength level. Magic combat is based around the spells the player will gain by adding points to his Magic level. Spells will give the player the player a balance between mob-clearing abilities and single-target damage. In addition to increasing the damage of the basic magic attack and giving the player more powerful spells, adding points to the Magic level will also increase the player's maximum mana pool, allowing them to cast more spells before waiting for the mana regeneration to kick into effect.
A magic attack is performed by pressing “Y” on the keyboard. This is a basic magic attack whose damage is equal to the Magic Base Value multiplied by the Magic Level Bonus. A basic magic attack takes no mana, and can be fired at a medium range. As the player progresses in Magic levels, he will gain spells that will ramp up his abilities, trading off the lower damage of magic attacks vs melee attacks for the ability to do burst damage. The first spell the player will gain is Blink, performed by pressing “U” on the keyboard. Blink will allow the player to teleport away from a situation that may otherwise kill him. Blink is a low mana and short range spell. The second spell the player will gain is a combination of two spells, Firebolt and Fire Blast, performed by pressing “I” on the keyboard. For bolt will be cast is the player is moving left of right when pressing “I”. Fire Blast will be cast if the player is stationary when pressing “I”. Firebolt is a single-target ability, ideal for doing a consistent amount of damage to a single enemy. Firebolt will deal damage equal to the Magic Base Value multiplied by 2.5 times the Magic Level Bonus. Fire Blast is an Area-of-effect ability, dealing damage to all enemies within a short radius around the player equal to the Magic Base Value. The third spell the player will gain is Lightning Bolt, performed by pressing “O” on the keyboard. Lightning Bolt will deal a random amount of damage between the Magic Base Value (the lower range) and Magic Base Value multiplied by the Magic level. This means Lightning bolt can do very little damage, or an extreme amount of damage. The final spell the player will learn is Ice Lance, performed by pressing “P” on the keyboard. Ice Lance adds the “frozen” status to enemies it hits, slowing their movement by 25% for a short time. Ice Lance also does Magic Base Value damage multiplied by the Magic Level Bonus, and pierces through enemies, dealing its damage and effects to at most three enemies.

Section 2.3: Defensive capabilities

The player will have a few different defensive options to increase his survivability against his enemies. By adding points to strength, the player's movement speed is increased a small amount. Speed will be stored as a floating value to allow for miniscule manipulation of the movement speed every level. As detailed above, Shield Block will render the player invulnerable for a short time, and is gained by adding points into the strength category. Blink is obtained by putting points into the Magic ability, and allows the player to teleport short distances around their opponents. Lastly, the player will have the ability to attempt to block their opponents' attacks. To perform a block action, press “S” on the keyboard. Block is not a guaranteed save- it is a percentage chance to block the incoming attack. If the player successfully blocks the attack, only 25% of the damage will be sustained (as opposed to Shield Block, which renders the player invulnerable and blocks 100% of the time.) If the player fails to block the attack, normal damage is taken. While pressing the block button, the player will be unable to attack his opponents. To increase the chance to block an opponent's attack, the player may add points to the Armor ability.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Cycle Begins Again #2: Character Leveling

Despite not making an entry since the beginning of the project, I've made a large amount of progress! To start, I have finished the basic player sprites, and have moved on to the rough draft of the enemy sprites. In other great news, I got in contact with Tyler, who will be doing a good chunk of my graphics for the game (which I am really excited about- he's great with taking concepts and fleshing them out into pictures!) We talked for a couple of hours the other day, got a lot of details ironed out about gameplay, game style, character movement, the artwork... But much of what we talked about will come in another blog entry after he finishes a draft of some of his work, which will allow me to give better information on it.
I didn't mean to move into character leveling so soon, but I was bored in class one day and didn't have access to my laptop.Keep in mind- these ideas are preliminary, and only beginning to flesh out. If you have input, let me know!

Leveling - Experience
I decided to make the leveling system experience-based in addition to stage-based. Experience will be awarded through standard means- you kill baddies, you get the XP. Every level will start the PC at 0 XP. The reason I decided to reset the XP after every level was merely for coding purposes: if I am to code an experience bar, I will have to do fewer calculations to get everything to display properly. The amount of experience needed to level will be a decision I make later, but I will likely set it to a percentage of a base value, a trend you will see a lot in my leveling system as I explain the PC's stats. A code example labeled "Level Up Code Example" at the bottom of this entry will give the programmers here a better idea of where I'm going with this.
In addition to getting experience and levels from defeating enemies, the PC will also gain a level at the end of each stage (four stages in total, which will be detailed in just a little bit.) This level will not affect the XP of the PC- rather, it will just increment all of the stats talked about below and give the player a stat point to spend on one of the four categories. The reason I am giving levels at the end of the stage is so players who do now wish to kill every enemy will still gain some strength before moving on to harder levels.
Leveling - Character Stats
The other part of PC leveling that needs to be discussed are the stats: Strength, Magic, Dexterity, and Vitality. The way these stats (and their sub-stats) work is each will have a "base value" set to 1, because the PC starts out at level 1. When the PC gains a level, or when the PC completes a stage, the base value of every stat will increase by 1. Additionally, when the PC gains a level or completes a stage, the player will gain one skill point he may choose to spend in one of the four categories. As you read through the information below, keep in mind it would be possible to overload one stat and make, for instance, a character that kills everything in one hit. Conversely, that character will likely die very quickly as well.One other note I would like to make is that the stats, how they are affected by leveling, and the sub-stats contained by the four parent stats have been changed numerous times in the last couple days as I consider different ways to balance them. Input, as always, is appreciated.

  • Strength: Strength will affect the melee damage done by the player, as well as the armor rating of the player. 
    • Melee Attacks: Melee attacks will do more damage than basic ranged magic attacks because it is more dangerous being up close and personal. Melee damage will scale by a percentage based on the base attack value. When a point is put into Strength, the base value will increase by 1, and the bonus damage will be increased by a small amount, like 25%. So, if a level 3 player has put all his points in strength, he will have a base value of 6 (3 for being level 3, 1 point that is given as a freebie at the start of the game, and 2 for leveling up), and his damage will be 10 (6*175%, 25% for each point spent in Strength... notice I'm rounding down). If I have time at the end of the project, I would like to add in special abilities, namely an Area of Effect attack like Whirlwind or a knockback attack.
    • Speed: Speed determines how fast the character will move. Unlike melee attacks, speed will not be rounded, because in Action Script 3, the language I am coding in, changing a speed value by even 1 is a very noticeable difference. Like melee attacks, base speed will increase by a small amount every level, and when the player chooses to put a point in Strength, the character's overall speed will be increased by a small amount.
  • Magic: Magic has two forms of use- a basic magic attack that acts as a mid-range attack and a spell-casting component based on mana.
    • Magic Attacks: Magic attacks will allow the player to attack from a distance, at the sacrifice of a higher damage yielded from leveling strength. Like melee attacks, putting a point into magic attacks will increase the base value of its damage by 1 and scale the damage by a small percent. Magic will be rounded down to the nearest whole number.
    • Mana Pool: Putting a point into Magic will increase the maximum mana a player can pool, which is used to cast special spells. This will not be scaled by a percent. 1 point into magic may increase the mana pool by 5 or 10 per level.
    • Spells: By investing in magic, the player is sacrificing direct damage for ranged attacks and special abilities. Magic will allow the player to cast a few different spells that will draw mana from the mana pool. The spells category is probably the least fleshed out concept so far, as this is technically an optional addition to the game. The difficulty of this section is the addition of sprites I would need to create in the already limited amount of time I have. My plan is for every x number of points in the Magic stat, the player can choose a new spell to learn from a small selection.
  • Armor: Armor has two different components that reduce damage when leveled up.
    • Armor Class: Armor class will directly reduce incoming damage when the player is hit. This effect is passive- it always works, and it always on. Armor class is the only sub-stat that starts at a base value of 0 (meaning damage is not reduced when the player is hit), and only gains value when the player invests a skill point in it after leveling up. The way AC works is if the enemy hits the player for 8 damage vs the PC's AC of 3, the PC only takes 5 damage.
    • Chance to Block: The player will have a defensive option to block while in combat. Toggling the block feature activates the ability for a short time, rendering the PC unable to attack for a short time while he "focuses on defending" (probably a 1 - 2 seconds.) While toggled, the player will have a chance to block 100% of the damage from incoming attacks. The block feature is The Cycle Begins Again's escape function, kind of like a teleport. Chance to block will start out around 10%, and will probably increase by 5-10% / level (I may make it 10% at first, and between 50% and 75% make it a 5% increase / level, make a 75% chance to block the cap.) After a little research, it looks like AS3 provides multiple ways to produce random numbers... I'll have to do a little research and see if there are any differences between methods.
  • Vitality: Vitality will make the player live longer, and regenerate mana and HP faster.
    • Hit Points: Hit points, like any game, is the amount of damage the player can take before dying (and, as Tyler pointed out the other day during our planning session, I have no idea what I am doing for lives). I think I am going to keep hit points as a whole number, rather than play around with decimal places, just to keep it nice a clean (again, note that I am rounding the damage done). Hit points will have a base value and will increase by a constant rather than a percentage (this may change). If the player has 10 hit points and levels up, they would gain an additional 10 hit points for leveling, then another 10 for a total of 30 HP if they chose to put their skill point in Vitality.
    • HP Regeneration: HP regeneration will be the rate a player recovers HP after taking damage. I will probably put a timer on it so it takes 5 seconds to start regenerating after taking damage. HP regeneration will be a bit more tricky code-wise, so the compromise I have come up with involves a couple extra variables, and will involve research in timers for AS3. Until I have a little more solid idea of how I am going to do the coding for the HP Regen, I am going to hold off on details
    • Mana Regeneration: Mana regeneration is the rate the player recovers mana after casting a spell. Unlike HP regen, I probably will not link mana regen to a timer, so as soon as a player casts a spell his mana will begin regenerating. Mana regen follows the same coding concept as HP regen, so like I said before, I'm not going to get into it right now.

I've got a bit of a concept for the Char Stats screen as well, but that is pretty far off and a low priority right now. I found out I can rent the Adobe Flash software for $20 / month, so I will probably invest in that for at least a couple of months, which will buy me some extra time to work on the project from home, rather than only in-class time (which would simply not be enough for this project.)

Question from Anon:Interesting behind the scenes! Not sure the magic has a purpose yet. is it worth it or just a detour?
Answer:Let's do some pretend numbers here: If the screen size = 10 units, and melee attack let's you hit an enemy from no further than 1 unit away, a basic magic attack may allow you to attack your opponent from 5 units away, allowing the player to "kite" their opponents (aka shoot, run backwards, shoot, run, etc...)
The other thing the magic category will have is its spell selection, which will give the player some AoE capabilities, as well as stun, or DPS spells to fight bosses. So even though a basic magic attack has a lower dps value vs a melee attack, the idea is for it to make up a bit of the firepower through the use of spells.

Level Up Code Example
Unfinished code segment. This would likely be a method call as well, but this is the concept I'm going for! The language used below is ActionScript 3.0
final var BASEXP:int = 1000; (This is the base XP value, which doesn't change)
var levelUpXP:int = BASEXP; (levelUpXP is the value the player must hit to ding!)
var playerXP:int = 0; (The amount of XP the player currently has)
var levelIncrement:float = 1.00; (The percentage we will scale the levelUpXP by to make levels more difficult to attain)

So, to put some fake numbers in to give a better insight: 1) if our PC's experience exceeds the amount needed to level, then 2) set our PC's XP back to zero, 3) make the level XP cap 50% higher, and 4) set the value of the level XP cap to the proper amount.

1. if (playerXP >= levelUpXP) {
2.  playerXP = 0;
3.  levelIncrement += .5;
4.  levelUpXP = BASEXP * levelIncrement;

If the player was leveling from level 1 to level 2, then his XP would be set back to zero, levelIncrement would be 1.50, and levelUpXP = 1000(BASEXP) * 1.50 = 1500. The PC would need to get 1500 XP to go from level 2 to level 3, and would need an additional 500 XP every level under this code block.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Cycle Begins Again #1: What the hell am I getting myself into?

The original purpose of this blog, I must admit, has long since been abandoned. The idea was to write blogs on the current metagame (read "strategy") of Starcraft 2, to help both myself in understanding and hopefully my less experienced audience understand what what happening in the professional scene. Since then, I have written a few of those blogs, along with a top 5 list of my favorite games and a long-winded true story of my awkward wing-manning friends.
Today, we start something new in this blog.
For anyone who may not know, I am a computer sciences major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). Every CS major must choose a specific focus for them to pursue their junior / senior year, and while I am not to the point of having to choose yet, I decided to dabble in a little bit of video game design. This led me to taking Adobe Flash Development, a class that mainly focuses on using Adobe Flash (and similar products) to create sprites and write the code to make them function. The class is based around studying different games and styles, finding focal points of games, what they do right and wrong, and the class ends with creating a (hopefully) fully functional flash game.
Awesome! So far this class has been great, I'm having a great time and learni--- Wait. What was that last part?
Okay, let's start with the very first thought I know we all had; Yes!, you all thought. I have to make a video game! This is a dream come true! Yup, it sure is! I'll have support to get the project done, a couple assignments to help me focus and get everything done on a timeline and... Oh shit... I have to make a video game...
Let that sink in for a moment. Think of all the work that goes into something as complicated as a simple flash game. You have the sprites for your character, the baddies, the items, the bushes, and that damn tree you keep running in to. Want your character to move at a standard 25 frames per second? Don't worry, you don't need 25 different frames, just 4 or 5. But how many different bad guys do you want? Do you want them to all move as well? You've got to create different scenes for different areas: night vs day, or forest vs cave. Once you create all the sprites (most likely by yourself), you've got to start thinking about the mechanics in the background. How smooth do you want this game to look? When you cast a fireball, should you quickly add and remove 5 different sprites to give the look of the fireball growing from your Player Character's hands, or should it just appear full size and zoom across the screen? Are spells more powerful than melee weapons, or should the PC have some incentive to run up and beat the crap out of some hapless bad guy?
I could keep rambling there, but I'll stop- I think you understand what I'm getting at. I'm not even certain that I understand all the challenges that I am going to face yet. I'm not complaining. On the contrary, I am beyond excited to begin this project, and I will add in the vague pieces I've got whipped up so far below. Before going into that, I just wanted to state that this a a sort of a not-so-serious developers blog. This is a place for me to bounce ideas, and I would love your feedback on them! I encourage anyone reading this to leave comments if you've got an idea, or maybe don't like something that I have come up with- I promise to take everything you guys say into consideration!

Alright, that's all aside now. Let's talk a little bit about the game.
Title: The Cycle Begins Again
Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Focus: To tell the story of events that repeat every five years. The game will be a fast-paced linear experience. The story will be delivered in text segments, which will be kept short (no player likes to read a book of text for every plot advancement.)
Plot: Please keep in mind this is a basic and bare bones, and has yet to really be fleshed out. The lives of every being is predetermined, and the kingdom repeatedly falls under demon control, reverts back after five years to the reign of the monarchy, and again is conquered in the same pattern of events. The opening scene will be short. A bloodied creature in a room with the Player Character. The creature is caught mid-dialogue. "failed again. The Cycle begins again." After a short selection / introduction screen, the player will begin in a field on a quest to gather the three Items of Truth that are rumored to contain the knowledge that will break The Cycle. Over the years, the player searches and collects the items while the kingdom is conquered yet again by the demons.
Leveling / Progression: Not yet fully determined. Progression will be marked by gaining the Items of Truth, each of which will also give the PC a small buff or new ability. The PC will choose at the game start whether to specialize in Speed, Magic, Attack, or Vitality. This will give him a slight bonus in its respective category. Perhaps at the end of each stage of the game there will be a leveling aspect?
Concept Art: It isn't much, but below is the basic idea of what the game will look like, and a little bit of progression I have made since starting the project. I am sticking with a block / pixel theme as is popular in the indie-scene due to its simplicity. Furthermore, I am simplifying it to three different block sizes: 4x4 pixels, 3x3 pixels, and 2x2 pixels. I want to keep the design as simple as possible to ensure I can focus more time into the coding aspect of the game, which I expect to be far more difficult. The way I am working on sprite creation is by zooming in 800% and creating sprites by the pixel blocks listed above, then zooming out and changing. Originally there was more in-between steps between the basic concept and draft 1, but I corrupted the file and had to start over at the basic concept.
I will probably update again in 2-3 days after finishing some more sprites and getting more information on the project itself. In the mean time, please comment below with some ideas and general thoughts, and please share this with your friends! I would love to use all the input I can from everyone : )

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This is a narrative about a man who wanted to show his prowess as a wingman...

...even if it was against my will. No this has nothing really to do with Starcraft, but I had so many people asking for this story, I said "screw it" and typed it up. Enjoy the painful awkwardness that is to ensue.

Cue that soft, sweet, romantic music that is actually just screaming “f*** you” subtly in the background. This is one of those stories that you hear about happening to your friend’s friends and always think, “Dang, that guy is so lucky.” Well, being in that situation myself now, I don’t necessarily feel all that lucky. I mean, it’s not really bad, persay, but it has definitely caught me off guard at an interesting time.
Now before I actually tell you this story, I want to establish something. I would almost bet money that you saw this document and thought, “Really? An entire word document? I think that is a bit much Ben…” I did try texting this story to someone earlier, and after about 16 pages of text, I gave up and called them to tell the rest of the story. If you really want to enjoy this, just go through it. Not sold? Okay, here’s the TL;DR. You’re call whether to keep going.
·        Me: Did that all seriously happen?
·        Keegan: Yes
·        Me: This all just seriously just happened?
·        Keegan: Yes you have a date Friday with the girl you deemed hot. Wouldn’t lie to ya.
·        Keegan: You’re welcome Felix J
Let’s be honest, the fact that I have a date is strange enough. (Yes, take a moment to laugh, screw you too.) But life is all about the story. So, enough stalling, time for me to really start typing.
I have been going to Pie Wednesday in such a devout manner that I have not missed a single Wednesday that I have been in town for for four years. I freaking love me some pie. That aside, I naturally know the waiting staff pretty well by face, if not by name. So when Keegan leaned over to me and asked, “is she new?” I knew the answer.
“The girl is the bright green shirt? Ya she is.” It was pretty hard to miss her. She was pretty tall for a girl, wearing a neon green shirt, and standing right at the front next to the counter.
“Do you think she’s cute?”
“Ya, she is pretty cute.” And folks, if you know Keegan… well, that was all he needed to hear.
The next hour consisted of what I am fairly certain is treading the legal line of torture. Everyone at the table would take part in talking loudly about the cute waitress Ben liked as waiters passed by our table, including a couple of times said cute waitress passed by the table. Martina, our weekly Pie waitress, was waaay too amused by all this, and Keegan made sure to that she knew exactly what was going on. The most awkward point of this part of the story was when my ex-girlfriend started joining in on all of this. I’m not a blusher, but I would be lying if I tried to tell you that most of my evening wasn’t spent with my beat red face in my hands. I was laughing, but still embarrassed.
This story wouldn’t be a good story if it ended right there. In fact, it would have probably been for the best if it had. That, of course, is not the case. I had an evening commitment to make, not to mention my face was about to set alight, so I figured it was a decent time to leave. But first things first! I had drank a lot of coffee.
And a quick segue*. That was an amazing piss. For those of you who don’t know me all that well, coffee is my cigarettes and alcohol. It’s my anti-depressant, it’s my relaxation pill, my pain medication. Life has been weird as it is, but when you stack a night like I was having on top, I was needing a lot of my meds. Coffee in, coffee out. And out. And out. And like a responsible citizen, I washed my hands afterward, having to wait in line behind a father and his four young boys. Now you may be wondering, why this is so important, why must I continue to ramble on about my glorious piss? Because it bought the Pie table time. To be more specific, it gave Keegan the time he needed to take care of business.
While I was merrily relieving myself, Keegan was chatting up a storm with the hostess, Taylor.
Wait, did I say chatting? I meant plotting. Definitely meant plotting.
I come out of the bathroom feeling better and a little bit cleaner, and do a quick scan of the are—OH CRAP WHERE’S KEEGAN AND ADAM!? Taylor is shooting me these really funny encouraging looks, and nodding her head towards the cute waitress. I have to wrap around near the front counter to get my bill from the table, and as I pass by, Taylor says, “You should totally do it.”
And I felt my face flush. “What the fuck happened?” I asked Adam when I got back to the table.
“I’ll tell you in the car.” He responds.
“No seriously, what the fuck is going on.” I look over at Keegan and the kid is practically bouncing. The smile he was wearing probably ripped some sort of muscle in his face.
“Just talk to her,” he says. “Ask her out, there’s nothing wrong with that!”
At this point I am thinking that dine and dash is a pretty viable option, seeing as cute waitress is standing, you guessed it! Right at the front. Right next to where Keegan was talking to Taylor, right next to Taylor when she was encouraging me to “totally do it.” But I know Village Inn pretty well- again, 4 years. And there is only one viable exit that won’t get me kicked out of the restaurant. That exit, of course, is right out the front door, past Taylor, escorted by Keegan, right past cute waitress girl.
I walk up to the front counter head down with that desperate, “don’t look don’t look don’t look” attitude, but like we all know at this point, this doesn’t work, because Keegan is on a mission, and he now has support from another employee. As I am paying I get multiple more encouragements from Taylor, who is speaking loudly enough for cute waitress girl to hear, who is now a little curious as to what is going on.
I am now really close to leaving. I am soooo close. I was trying to get out so much that I accidentally tipped Martina twice, but if it got me out faster, I really didn’t care. I turn away from the counter, I take my first step towards the door…
“Just ask her!” Apparently Keegan decided enough was enough with the subtleties.
Another couple steps towards the door.
“Seriously, you should do it!” Taylor this time. Cute waitress girl is about 3 feet behind and to my left. At this point, there is no denying what exactly is going on, and it was only going to be a few seconds before cute waitress pieced it all together, because she was the only one who seemed to not know what was going on, and there was a super embarrassed, exceedingly handsome, dashing young man walking towards the door (I lol’ed writing that part. Needed some stress relief here, this story isn’t done yet.)
I turn around to face everyone all at once- Taylor, Keegan, Adam right behind him, and of course, cute waitress. Ashley. Her name tag says Ashley.
“I think we’ll give you two some alone time.” Keegan and Adam walk out. This will be the first time in the night that my jaw drops and that befuddled, “ahh… uhh…” sound comes out of my mouth. Ashley, the cute waitress, now has the perfect “wtf?” face on and timidly asks, “Whaaat’s going on…?”
Well, all bets are off now. I just walk out, I look like an ass. I stay for more than 10 seconds, I’ll sound like an ass. Your call, Ben…
“Apparently our friends are trying to hook us up.” A simple, blanket statement. Smart, right?
“Ya…” Several awkward seconds pass. Taylor now has the same muscle ripping smile Keegan had.
Oh crap, my brain is starting to engage. GTFO!!! “You have a nice day. Maybe I’ll see you around,” I said with a small smile, and with a nod of my head I’m off.
This should be the end of the story. Ashley won’t work any more Wednesdays, I don’t have time to go to Village Inn on any other normal day of the week, and by the time that random happenstance kicked in, Ashley would have forgotten me.
But by now you know that, had that been the end of this story, it wouldn’t have made a very good tale except for that, “Ya, I almost asked a waitress out one time, but I blew it” story that you tell a couple years from now over a couple of drinks with the guys.
               That is not the end of this story though. Because after I left, more plans were hatched, for Keegan hadn’t left yet. I am driving down the interstate and I get a call from Keegan.
“Hey, what program are you in at UNO right now?”
“Well, I am technically in the vocal performance program right now.” Then the brain kicks in. CRAP! “Why do you—“
“So he’s in the voc-“*click. Phone hangs up.
I turn to Adam. “What the fuck just happened.” He just starts laughing. The phone is plugged in to the car, so he hears everything. “Seriously, what the fuck is going on??”
Another minute of this ensues before I get another call from Keegan.
“What are you doing Friday night?”
“I… I work until 8…”
“Perfect, you’ve got a dinner at 8:30 at Cheddars! Can you make that?”
My jaw drops. I try to vocalize, but everything comes out in sputters and derps.
Cue Wingman #2 of the night: Adam. “Yes! Yes he can!”
“Are you sure?”
“Yup!” Adam replies. I try to say something, but am overlapped by, “Hush Ben, I’m speaking for you.” (For those of you who may know the reference, think Team4Star.)
“Alright, don’t stand her up! Have fun!” *click*
Speechless. Absolutely, utterly speechless.
Again, the story could have ended here, and now it would have been a fairly worthy story. But no, there is a little more yet. The reason I was driving was because I was going to UNO for something. Adam was with me. So syllogistically speaking (think the transitive property in math): I am driving, Adam is with me, Adam is not driving, Adam doesn’t have his car with him. Adam’s car is at Village Inn still, and I have to take him back to get it.
Well, let’s think nothing of it, eh? It’s no problem. Adam is coming to the apartment afterward to play some good ol’ classic Halo, and we’re pretty stoked. So we get to Village Inn and we both hop out of the car because we’re in the middle of a conversation. Walking towards his car, he looks over and says, “Hey, isn’t that Ashley?”
Okay, that’s just too perfect. I call BS on him. “No, really,” he continues. “She’s washing the doors. Look it’s opening now!” Village Inn is lined with windows, and it’s entrance is two sets of glass doors. I look over and…
“OH SHIT!” I dive back over to my car and hop in. I can already hear Adam laughing as he grabs a piece of paper, writes down my name and number, and gives it to her.
And that, for the most part, is all the story I have for you. We’ve been texting back and forth for a bit now. She added me on Facebook, which gave me a chance to find out as much as possible before a potential date. And I have, for all intents and purposes, a blind date with my waitress. Normally that implies you don’t know who you’re going with, but I think this situation is close enough.
Let’s say that again. I, Benedict “Coffeebreak” Rasmussen, the introverted nerd, who spends his free time programming and, not playing video games, but talking in-depth about them, have a blind date.
Considering I literally choke when talking to girls I already know… well, this should be interesting.
Of course, more details to follow if the date goes through.

*I now realize the irony of taking a line to inform the audience of a segue. Segue: Move without interruption from one… scene to another.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Problems of Viewership: A call to arms!

If any of you were to actually meet me sometime, I would hope I would not come across as a conceited prick. I strive not to be just that, actually! This does however create a slight problem with getting my name out there, though.
As any of my regulars know, I took a very extended break from the Coffeecast due to a lack of time, between college, moving into an apartment, and working to pay said apartment bills. Now that I am getting back into this whole casting scene, I am seeing more than ever the difficulty of getting people to recognize my show as a legitimate source of entertainment. (*Pause to refill my coffee) So I have been spending a lot of time thinking (generally that time comes in the wee hours of night when I should be sleeping but am just not tired). So I have come up with a few categories to help myself out a bit. Things you guys can help with, too!

  • Advertising
    • In this category, I am thinking of things such as posts when my show goes live, links over to my youtube channel, special events. As of now, I only advertise on Reddit because, to be honest, I have no idea what other sites to use or how to use them. I suppose I should jump on TeamLiquid, and I think somebody mentioned WellPlayed?
    • In the area of special events, I want to do another tournament style of play. The problem with a 1's tourney, though is that you get a lot of no shows that kill your bracket system, and Spawn will just win in the end because he's stupid good. Here's where you guys come in!
      • I want to do a customs tournament where we'll play a few different custom games. I'll have a unique scoring system for each game, and whoever comes out on top gets the prize. I want the names of some good custom games out there!
    • If you have any ideas as to sites I could advertise on, I would appreciate that as well!
  • Community
    • One thing I have tried to emphasize for the Coffeecast is the importance of the community. I have tried to keep my cast well-mannered (punishing those who get too out of hand... Pure, Sleeper, you guys know which time I am talking about ; ). I have also wanted to keep the content revolving around you guys in a couple of ways.
      • Amateur Attack: A friendly, non-competitive way to get some games cast. Different from some of the bigger casts, like Playhem's BSG and Zeek's dailies, in the fact that I cast every game played in a non-tournament setting, which takes a lot of pressure off of the players.
      • User interactive games: Remember when I played Riven and Myst on stream? One big reason I chose those is the fact that while I played through, I could ask the stream viewers for input or help when I really got stuck. And you know what? It was a stream viewer that helped me beat Riven after 7 years of torture.
    • So keeping these ideas in mind, I want to encourage even more viewer participation, as well as a closer connection between the casters, being myself and Sleepercells, and the viewers / players. I want to make it so that when somebody comes to the Coffeecast, they keep returning to the Coffeecast.
      • The Turnover Rate: As stated above, the only place that I really go to advertise is Reddit. People coming in from Reddit tend to come for one, maybe two shows, and then never be heard from again. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule- Freakboy, who has been an incredible moderator for me, came from Reddit. None-the-less, I want to find a way to take this turnover rate and turn it to a more positive number than 1:10.
      • Greater Viewer input: I want to have the viewers have even more power over what they see and do at the Coffeecast. One thing I would like to do is have a small group of 5 or 6 people act as "community managers" in a sense. With this group I would have a meeting once every two weeks or so to talk about... well, whatever is at hand. An upcoming tournament, ideas for new or improved content, things that just aren't working out.
  • Casts
    • This somewhat links to the interactivity of the viewers stated above. Like I have said, I have been doing my best to center my content around viewers (such as when I entertained the hell out of my viewers by playing Amnesia...)
      • Amateur Attack: Just like above. Take the viewers in from the audience and give them a chance to be casted like the pro players (though with a bit worse of commentary than the pro players get ; )
      • Guest Casting: I'll be honest, this is something that I have begun to steer away from, for a few reasons. 1) Casting is not easy, and any new caster just has to grind and grind away at some games until they get past that awkward stage of not knowing what to say. Guest casting does not give new casters the amount of practice they need to ever overcome that feeling. So, when new people come to the cast and hear, "uh.... well... a, uh... a Pylon was made on 9 supply... or 10, ya, 10", it leaves a pretty bad impression.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Coffeebreak's Top 5 Games

**DISCLAIMER**: Before you read this (aka, breeze over the bolded game titles and disagree), keep in mind that these are my top 5 games, not the top 5 ever created. These are games that I loved, that I found extremely entertaining, and I will always remember. Please leave comments with your favorites though too!
So I finally have my little desk area set up back at home (just in time to settle in before I move out again!) and am ready to jump back into gaming after being out of it for a little bit. I came across a nice little package called The Humble Indie Bundle ( ) is a great way to give a bit to charity and get a little back. Quick details on that:
  • Pay what you want
  • Receive downloadable copies of up to 5 games and their corresponding sound tracks
  • Copies can be used via steam or just download them from the site
  • You choose how the money you spend is distributed between charity, the game developers, and tipping the people that make this happen
One of the games on that list is Amnesia: The Dark Descent. For those of you who watched me play this game, you got some awesome laughs as I tried not to cry, and you know that I have great admiration for this game. Now I decided to, for some reason, download the soundtrack to Amnesia and just kind of... you know... torture myself by listening to it. And this is what spurred my brain into writing a list of my top games I've played. More on that later down the list. Let's get started!

A portion of the main island in Myst: Exile
5. Myst series (developed by Cyan) 
Not too long ago, I embarked on a great journey through the lands of Riven, where the D'ni's world was decaying, and a bunch of other places, which I shall not name, for I don't know where my notebook with all my notes about the game went.
The Myst series (I played the first three, the latter two of which, Riven and Myst: Exile on stream) is an adventure game that places puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty in front of you to solve, with the ultimate goal of "simply" figuring them all out. Please note the quotations around "simply", because while this is the overall goal, there is seriously nothing easy about it. If you don't like to think hard, and you don't have the patience of a freaking stone, Myst is not the game for you.
For those of us that love a good challenge, though, and like a little thinking where you just sit back and wonder, what the fu?, Myst is an absolutely stellar game. It places a small emphasis on the storyline itself, and leaves the player to read books of 30+ pages to really learn what's going on. Okay, that part sounds kind of boring, right? Well, the bastards at Cyan put necessary fucking clues in these books. That's right, you have to not only think, but spend hours of your gameplay reading to really figure the game out.
Myst: Masterpiece Edition (released in the earlier 1990's)
The most important aspect of this game is to take lots and lots of notes. By the end of my two play through's I had accumulated ~12 pages of notes, diagrams, and thoughts along the way. Without the notes, there is literally no way for you to beat this game.
The last point I want to mention is the beautiful environment of the game. This isn't a WASD movement thing. You point. You click. You're given a new frame.
That's right folks! Myst 1 and Riven are 100% still frame shots, which is how they achieved the graphics levels they did in the 90's and earlier 2000's. Myst: Exile was there first game to feature a full 360 degree environment (they later went back and recreated Myst 1 with a 360 degree environment).
Still interested at all? Probably not. But hey, for $6, you can't really go wrong! Just give it a shot, I promise you'll love it! You can buy all three games on Steam.
Killing Diablo in Hell

4. Diablo II (developed by Blizzard)
The Diablo trilogy has had pretty interesting developments, considering that they are all related games. Diablo I is almost completely different that Diablo II, and Diablo II is pretty different from Diablo III. Let's just think of the basics for a moment here. The essence of an RPG, whether it is Dragon Age, Skyrim, or Diablo, is its leveling system. Blizzard overhauled the leveling system in each game, and this is the main reason why I singled Diablo II out from its predecessor and its... uh... foredecessor.
Diablo II, as many of you know, is a birds-eye- view RPG based on you, the hero of varying classes, killing demons from the Bible as many ways as possible.
And for those of you about to say something, yes, the main bosses are from the bible- Andarial, Duriel, Mephisto, Diablo (aka Satan), Baal, Belial, and Azmodan.
Looking through the inventory screen
As you progress through the game, you encounter hundreds of different demons, pick up magical items of varying types and power, and level up your character. Each class has three different skill trees, and around 10 different skills / tree that you can put up to 20 points in to (you get a single point per level). You also have your 4 main attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Vitality (Constitution), and Engery (for mana).
The overall goal is simple. Get super powerful, kill the three Prime Evils, play the game on a harder difficulty. Rinse and repeat.
Diablo II and III are available for purchase and download via Blizzard's site
Mass Effect 2: This time, it's not Mass Effect 1

3. Mass Effect Trilogy (developed by Bioware)
I have a good mind to completely eliminate this game from my list for two reasons: how bad the ending was, and because you are forced to use EA's Steam knockoff Origin to download and play the full series. However, it is a testament to the game's gameplay and story line that it remains here (seriously, the ending was that bad that Mass Effect was almost excluded from the list).
Mass Effect takes place a few hundred years in the future. Humans have discovered Faster Than Light (FTL) travel, and now are rapidly expanding around the Milky Way, much to the dismay of the rest of the inhabitants of the galaxy (most of which are somewhat-ish friendly). When an unknown threat begins to attack human colonies, it's up to Commander Shepard to kill absolutely everything that moves.
Pulling up the power and weapons screen temporarily pauses the Mass Effect game, allowing you to strategize 

This is another game whose leveling system changes throughout each game, but this time I feel it was for the better. The weapon system changes, too, as well as some basic gameplay mechanics, but every change they made improved the game.
WOAH! Stop there, Coffee. What the hell? Game developers don't keep the good and toss the bad.
No! Seriously! Hang the phone up, no need to call the local psych ward. Bioware... listens to their consumers... that just feels weird coming off the tongue when talking about a game developer. This is proved by their reaction to the end of ME3, but no spoilers here. I'mma shutup now.
The games are all available for electronic purchase and download via the Origin client, found here:
What. The fuck. Is that.

2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (developed by Frictional Games)
Amnesia and I have this weird love-hate relationship. Let's talk about Amnesia itself a little bit, then we can talk about all the girly emotional feels this game gives me.
Amnesia is a survival-horror game. And by that, I mean you are surviving by not dying of a heart attack caused by pure horror. In Amnesia, you get no weapons- if something wants you dead, you run and hide somewhere. The game has both elements of causation and unpredictability- that is to say that some things are scripted to happen, some things are not, which adds a good chunk of replay-ability to the game.
Upon the first start-up of the game, you get some notes from the developers saying some of the above, as well as advising you to allow yourself to be taken in by the game. So don't pick this game up and say, "ya right, let's see how scary this really is." You are supposed to be absorbed and let the game take you, and the gods at Frictional Games made sure to give you the resources to be absorbed.
Frictional games went where no developer had gone before. The lead developer said that it frustrated him that there were no good survival-horror games, so he created one. To do this, he needed to find something no on had done to date. Some games, perfect their weapon systems, so games look at the leveling, some games the graphics... Amnesia took the atmosphere.
In Amnesia, there is constant background noises there solely to freak you the hell out. AND IT WORKS! Ya, it sounds like it would get tedious after a bit, but it never fades to the back of your mind- it is always freaking there. Just earlier today I was listening to soundtrack to Amnesia (got it when I bought the Humble Indie Bundle) and I started having a minor panic attack thinking about the game.
That was the moment I realized that this was one of the best games created. It was very close to being the number 1 slot. That's right, ignore my disclaimer this one time and read the next sentence. Amnesia is one of the all-time best games created. Bam, I said it. Let the game do the talking.
Amnesia is available through Steam at
Here are the highlights of my live-stream play-through. And if I may say... it's pretty freaking funny. 
This game... it's only a little bit different from Amnesia.

1. Starcraft 1 & 2 (developed by Blizzard)
Well, I bet none of you saw this one coming! Blizzard has a perfect track record in my mind- they haven't made a single bad game, and that is pretty freaking impressive (I can't think of a bad Bioware game either, come to think of it.) Starcraft 2 is a birds-eye-view Real-Time Strategy (RTS) that forces you to think quickly. A lot of the time it is described as a fast paced chess game. 
I have very little to say here.
To win a game (in multiplayer, which is what the game is designed around), you must gather resources, create an army, and destroy your opponent. This is actual about as simple as playing Myst, though, as the game features an extremely in-depth knowledge curve, consisting of what order you build units and buildings, the counters to every unit in the game, knowledge of common times for you enemy to attack, and more. Of the 5 games on this list, Starcraft is the only game played professionally for large sums of cash. I'm actually not going to go too far into Starcraft, as most of you probably know exactly what it is.
You can purchase Starcraft and Starcraft II at
And, for the hell of it, a link to a recent cast of mine.

That was long, but hey, it was fun to write out! I plan to have a follow up post of honorable mentions (much shorter than this!), as well as a video in the future showing a little gameplay of each game said above. Please leave a comment with your favorite games and a little justification- I'm really curious!