Dec 232011

Unfortunately my grand plans for THE BEST HOLIDAY EVENT EVAR™ didn’t quite pan out this week. As I’ve talked about (and proven!) many times in the past, one of the pitfalls of a 2 man development team is that when unexpected interruptions pop up for me, everything grinds to a halt. I apologize for not being able to make this event happen in time for Christmas, but rest assured that none of this past week’s interruptions will slow our overall momentum on the much larger and more important Monster Companion/Content Expansion updates.

FYI: A very tiny update (v1.57) with a few fixes/tweaks just went live on all of the servers. It’s nothing to write home (or a blog post) about, but there it is.

I’ll be back after New Years with lots of cool new stuff to show, but until then I hope that all of you enjoy your holidays. Merry Christmas!

Dec 142011

NEStalgia received a mention in the latest issue of PC Gamer!

As most of you know, this past February when we publicly announced the release of NEStalgia we were not expecting to get even a fraction of the media coverage or hordes of players that we ended up receiving. Up until that moment both Spiff and I had always regarded NEStalgia as a fun hobby, but not a serious attempt at making a commercial independent game.

Needless to say, my idea of what NEStalgia was and what it could be changed significantly during the craziness of last Spring. The major changes that you’ve seen in the game since that time have all been part of our efforts to transition NEStalgia from being a hobbyist project into a full-fledged indie game. Although it took much longer than I expected, I’m really happy with where we’re sitting right now and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

AI Controlled Monster Companions

Gameplay-wise, NEStalgia’s last major issue is that partying with other players is sometimes necessary in order to progress through the game (not to mention the fact that solo grinding can be a bit of a drag). This was originally an intentional design decision, but as the game grows with future content expansions it will only exasperate the challenges for lonely solo players. We’ve already announced that the remedy to this issue will be a new AI controlled companion system, but up until now the details have been somewhat sparse.

So, here is an outline of how the companions will work:

  • Any monster that isn’t a boss can be recruited to become your companion.
    • Every monster is at least slightly different. Ex: Red Slimes will have different stats and abilities than Blue Slimes.
  • You can have up to two companions with you at a time when soloing, with some conditions:
    • Only one companion will join you for regular battles.
    • Both companions will join in for boss fights.
  • You can set the general tactics that your companions use, but cannot control them directly.
  • Monster companions will level up and feature their own limited skill trees. They do not have an inventory or equip gear.
  • When partying with other players, your companions will not be active participants in the battle but will instead bestow a variety of passive stat boosts and abilities to increase your power.
    • The passive boosts vary by monster, allowing you to customize your load out.
    • You will always be more powerful when grouping with other players than you are when soloing with your monster companions.
  • Your monster companions are shared between all of your characters, and can be accessed by any of your characters at any time.
    • You will not be able to use a monster that is a higher level than your character. No max level monsters for your fresh level 1 characters 😉

Those are the basics, and I’ll be revealing more details and screenshots in the coming weeks. Remember that the multiplayer aspect of NEStalgia will remain the core of the experience. The primary goal here is to make the game more fun and more accessible for all players without over-complicating things or diminishing the multiplayer focus. Being able to solo through an area when you can’t find human party members is going to make a huge difference for everyone, not to mention the Pokemon-esque fun to be had in recruiting and leveling different monsters.

Becoming a Standalone Game

BYOND is truly an incredible toolset, but it was originally designed around the concept of having all games created with BYOND live within that ecosystem. Although it was a great way for us to get started, in order for NEStalgia to continue growing it needs to shed the BYOND trappings and become a completely standalone game. Luckily for us, the developers of BYOND agree and will be helping us to make that transition in the coming months.

What does that mean? Nothing from a gameplay perspective: the BYOND foundation will still power NEStalgia and the game itself won’t see any drastic changes. What it will likely entail is a standalone installer for the game which drops things like the BYOND pager, and the potential for us to distribute NEStalgia on services such as Steam.

We’re still working out the details, but I can at least assuage fears about one sticking point: NEStalgia won’t be split into a BYOND version and a separate standalone version – all of our existing users will be making this transition with us.

The Flash Client

The Flash Client is still being developed, and so far it works really well. The idea with the flash client is to make the game super easy to access without having to install anything; the client acts as a browser-based portal to existing NEStalgia servers. When it’s ready early next year we’re hoping that it will expose the game to tons of new players, including our neglected but not forgotten Mac OS X brethren!

Content Expansions

Last but certainly not least, we will begin rolling out new content and level cap expansions on a regular basis following the monster companion update. I know that many NEStalgia oldbies are dying for content updates, and I’m hoping that you’ll bear with us just a little bit longer. I’m confident that the results will be worth the wait.

I don’t want to give release projections for any of this stuff yet, but all of you will be the first to know here on the blog when release dates are set. I’ll probably be a bit less visible until January rolls around, but we do have a really cool holiday event in the works that should go live next week.

Although I’m still having a hard time thinking of myself as a game developer or wrapping my head around the fact that NEStalgia has become a real project, I’m incredibly humbled to have such an enthusiastic player base supporting us. As great as 2011 was for NEStalgia, I have a good feeling that 2012 is going to be even better.

Dec 102011

Although I may have been MIA from the blog this week (no podcast again, sorry!), both Spiff and I have been really hard at work behind the scenes. I waded through balance tweaks while Spiff cranked out a ton of bug fixes which went live earlier in the week for a v1.55c update, and he also fixed even more bugs for today’s patch.

So what’s in today’s update? See the giant list of v1.56 changes on the wiki for full documentation, but here are the highlights:

Tons of Skill Tree tweaks

The branch length of many skills have been reduced for all classes, and in most cases this reduction has been coupled with an increase in power per skill point. This change gives players more skill points to play with, and a bit more bang for their buck for each point spent. Due to these tweaks all classes have had their skill points refunded (which is something I hope to not have to do again until the next content update/level cap increase).

Ninja revamp

As promised, Ninjas received the most attention with this patch. Their skill trees have been reworked to put less emphasis on the “+power when outnumbered” skills and more emphasis on being bad ass fighters that dodge attacks and relentlessly pummel their opponents. The most notable examples of this are a new pair of skill branches:

Double Punch (6): +2% chance to hit with a second half-damage blow when attacking

Retaliate(4): +25% chance to counter with a half-damage blow after dodging an attack

New Weapons/Armor throughout the world

We added more than 15 base types of weapons and armor throughout the world to fill in holes where certain classes didn’t have any decent slot upgrades for many levels. Many of these pieces are rare drops, meaning that there are lots of permutations of them available with different stats. As part of this change, several existing quests were also modified to give class-sensitive rewards.

Stat Seed power & availability

In v1.52 all stat seeds had their power reduced from +2 to +1. That change has been reversed, and new “Small” +1 seeds have been scattered around the world (from Ennar forward) as quest rewards and chest drops.

And more…

Did I mention that the v1.56 patch notes are monstrous?

Although I’m sure that there will be some additional minor balance or bug fix patches in the coming weeks, v1.56 is likely going to be the last round of major changes before the new AI Monster Companions and content expansion are released. We’ve also got a pretty sweet holiday event in the works for Christmas time that should sate your appetites for new content over the holidays. More details on all of those updates are forthcoming.

I’ve got a bit of free time this weekend, so I’ll be personally hosting an Official PvP Tournament on Algol tomorrow at 1:00 PM PST. Assemble your level 28-32 teams and sign up here.

Dec 032011

The NEStalgia v1.55 update is now live on all servers. You can view a complete rundown of the documented changes in the patch notes, or check out last week’s preview of the major new features. Those features include Gamepad Mode, battle battlegrounds, and a new player interaction interface.

As we’ve previously discussed, this update also changes the way player names are handled. All character names are now uniquely owned by the player who uses that name first on a given server. Please see this forum topic for detailed information on this transition and how it affects existing characters.

Enjoy your weekend, and if you’re in the mood for a PvP tournament then stop by Zenithia tomorrow at 1 PM PST.