Jan 202015

To start off, here are a couple new screenshots!

Here’s a pic of Alyssa’s quarters at the Agency of Peace & Intelligence!

And here’s one of our heroes crossing a bridge! A bridge!

We’re busy working on inserting content into the game at the moment. By our latest estimates, the main game should take between 10-14 hours to complete, plus an additional 3-6 hours for major side-quests. Unlike our previous games, side-quests won’t just be “Go into non-descript small dungeon & fight a few monsters for loot” and in fact, all of the playable characters except Alyssa has a side-quest that’s connected to them. We’re having a lot of fun with these (including some homages to some of our favorite games) and hope you will too.

On the music front, Hyperduck is on a roll and has about 30 songs in finished or almost finished state. In some instances, they’re doing multiple versions of the same song – for example, a faster, more intense remix for an area after it turns hostile. This soundtrack is going to be amazing when it’s done!

We try to make our games so that as long as you take advantage of your characters’ strengths & use strong strategies, you don’t need to do extra grinding to progress. However, we know some people like to grind so they can steamroll the game while others like to know that the option of grinding is there for them in case they get stuck on a particularly hard boss. In order to fit those playstyles as well, we’re thinking that we’re going to add a VR battle option into the game. While in dungeons, you’ll be able to select the VR Battle command from your main menu to enter VR mode where you’ll fight random battles with enemies in that area for XP & credits. And in your base, there will be a special VR battle unit that you can use to fight extra hard bosses – these won’t give XP or money but they will give you special rewards like powerful equipment the first time you beat each one.

Now let’s talk about difficulty.

Difficulty is a tricky thing to get right in RPGs. Make a game too easy & people get bored. Make a game too hard & people get annoyed & may stop playing all together. Unfortunately, it feels like everyone’s opinion on what’s too easy or too hard is different.

In the past, we’ve given our games 4 difficulty options – Easy, Normal, Hard, and Insane – and allow players to adjust their difficulty mid-game. On the plus side, this allows players to tailor the game’s difficulty to their own needs. On the down side, some people feel like they’re not playing the game correctly if they don’t play it on the default difficulty, even if they feel like the default difficulty is too easy or too hard for them.

As far as Cosmic Star Heroine’s difficulty goes, there’s a number of different routes we could take.

1) Multiple difficulties that the player can adjust mid-game like our previous games.
2) One main difficulty, but make sure that enough of the optional content is harder for people who want a challenge.
3) Gameplay modifiers like in Bastion/Transistor. You activate modifiers (like enemies become more dangerous when under 25% Max HP) that make the game harder, while also giving you rewards.

Any thoughts?

Oh and regardless of what we do, we’ll probably have some sort of New Game+ mode for people who want to replay the game with all their previous stats/abilities/equipment intact.

In other subjects, we know trophies/achievements are serious business for a lot of people. None of our previous games have had a trophy system in them so we’re quite new in this field. What are your trophy do’s and don’ts?¬†What kinds of trophies would you like to see in Cosmic Star Heroine?

Finally, we’re going to be doing a Reddit AMA on Friday, January 30th. We’ll be sure to post a link when it starts.

Thank you everyone for supporting us! Cosmic Star Heroine is going to be great!

 Posted by at 1:43 pm

  13 Responses to “Cosmic Star Heroine Update! New Screenshots, VR Battle, Difficulty, and Trophies/Achievements!”

  1. I hope my comment is not too late, the only type of trophies that pisses me off are the kind there is no skill involved and happens naturally on the story. for example, telltale games on steam, after each chapter you win a trophy,and that is not fun at all, trophies must be earned not given for reaching a story milestone!

  2. I can’t believe I missed this post! gah! I hope my vote for difficulty isn’t too late.

    I think a combination of 1 and 3 is best.

    I really enjoyed playing BoDVIII on normal, then when I started playing CSTW, I started on Hard. Then I went back to BODVII and tried Insane. It was a lot of fun, and it made me feel like I was getting better. I would like for your games to continue to offer the various difficulty levels.

    Bastion/Transistor difficulty adjusters are also a ton of fun, and wouldn’t mind seeing them in your games. I imagine they’ll be more difficult to implement with multiple difficulty levels, but I feel it’s the better route.

    When an RPG has “hard zones” it rarely feels satisfying, because then I’m WAY too powerful for the main game, and then I just feel like I only had to grind to beat the special hard zone.

    Your difficulty levels left me feeling like I was not just grinding my way stronger, I had to play smarter, use better tactics and strategies (focus fire on enemy first, or when to use AOE spells).

  3. I think you’re statement that everyone’s opinion on what’s too difficult or not is correct. Everyone likes to experience games a different way, and allowing players to control that parameter is smart.

    I think the way that difficulty was handled in PA 3 & 4 was extremely well done. I would vote to have you guys do the same thing again – it wasn’t broke. It doesn’t need to be fixed.

    I liked that choosing the difficulty in a way gave you a different version of the game. Not the game with extra modifiers, not the game with extra rewards: I’m playing the same game, just way harder. I went through PA 3 & 4 on Insane the whole way through and loved every minute of it. I loved losing 10 times until I figured out the right way to use a combination. Then having to throw that out and come up with a new strategy when it didn’t work on a certain boss or type of enemy. I don’t know, I like puzzles. And certain fights absolutely became puzzles.

    I think the VR idea is pretty good too. Some people do feel they’re playing the game wrong if they’re not on a certain difficulty setting… even if they aren’t good on it. Grind options allow one to alleviate that. Delineating XP vs. rewards is also a nice perspective to give as well. “This one is for grinding. This one is for challenge.”

    Also, game needs more bridges. Looking forward to it!

  4. My hates with trophies/achievments is when 50%+ of them are just naturally unobtainable for me…. for example multi player ones. I dont think it will be a problem here though… most achievements should come at least naturally or at least be obtainable in 1 playthrough… not like defeatec 1st boss or reached level 10.. there should still be skill involved. Think things lke never escaped or defeated last boss without dying once, even ones like didnt use healing item till part x or used first weapon till point x. All achievable in one playthrough, but a certain amount of skill required.

  5. I like trophies that make a replay fresh, encouraging deeper exploration of strategies available in the game. Can you time a bomb so that the force of the explosion pushes an enemy off land into crocodile infested water? I didn’t even know that could be done until I saw that challenge. There was the idea in Stacking where you could solve the same puzzle in different ways. If you liked the puzzle you could keep at it, try to find all the solutions, or you could just move on.

    Then there’s making a challenge a replay, but making it harder. Like the only-use-the-pistol in this boss battle. I have liked those, if I liked the experience of trying to fight that way.

    And I like goofy ones like get this character to swear; run through the giant boss’s legs during the battle. I like a mix of ones that are pretty easy to get, and some that require some effort.

    But more than anything I want the trophies to be something fun. If I feel like getting the trophies is interesting, I’ll spend more time in the game and do them. If they’re just doing something mindless over and over, or getting through some challenge that requires hours of single minded dedication, I skip ’em.

  6. I think challenge modes, like Bastions adjustment system work better than straight up difficulty selectors. They also work well with trophy systems because you can award players for beating X boss with Y thematically appropriate modifier.

    In general, trophies should only be awarded for reaching level X, or beating boss X in games where doing so is a legitimate achievement. In a game where the average player is expected to Finish the game, specific levels or bosses might be worthy of an award if they unlock something significant or they lend themselves to a particularly clever achievement name. Otherwise, the player should be awarded for things like optional bosses, or unlocking hidden characters, or similar actions that may or may not happen on any given run through.

    And please, PLEASE, don’t have an achievement for getting all the other achievements. If the trophies actually meant something, it would be a way of giving something extra to the players dedicated enough to get it, but since they are only bragging rights the difference between “I have 100% completion!” and “I have the 100% completion trophy!” is meaningless. And for those not dedicated enough to get 100%? Having that trophy does nothing but lower their actual completion percentage. There is one Batman Arkham Asylum trophy I will never get, which means that there are actually two that I won’t, and this bugs my inner OCD.

  7. I have to advocate for the multiple difficulty option, like how you did your previous games. Penny Arcade 3 is one of my favorite video games, and a lot of it has to do with how well I think you handled the various difficulties and how I as a player had different experiences at each level. For instance, when I played through it on Normal/Hard I greatly enjoyed the humor, pace, and seeing the interactions among the class medals. When I revisited it on Hardcore it was a whole different story, and I think I was able to fully appreciate the amount of work you put into the game and its combat system. Every fight was very difficult, and because of the instant restart mechanic more like a solveable puzzle than a traditional random battle. I had to pick my classes carefully, learn the best combos, and adapt to different enemies. I was also able to see how some parts of the game were likely designed to help the Hardcore player that I didn’t really like my first time around. Like Hark Mansion, where I went from “why am I doing the same battles twice?” to “Oh, I just got so many new pins to try they are letting me experiment with winning combinations before the bank level MURDERS me.”

    I am all for trying new things, and Zeboyd has earned my endorsement in whatever they think will be fun, but I just wanted to share how impactful something like multiple difficulties can be when done right (I’ve almost never cared for it in any other RPG). People may inherently dislike that option or find it more drab than interactive modifiers, but when you craft it like you did in PA3, it’s a different ballgame.

  8. Generally speaking, there are a few wide categories of massive don’ts with achievements/trophies.

    1- Do not include any multiplayer ones, local or not (CSH probably won’t have this as a possibility)
    2- Avoid anything related to collectables.
    3- Avoid any that are not likely to be achieved naturally or with a moderate amount of extra effort. Examples- playtime over 50 hours (for your 15-20 hour game), killing 10000 enemies (if you expect an average playthrough to see 3000 maybe), or using skills some absurd number of times. In general, I’d prefer to have a good shot at getting all of them in one run, even if it takes a little planning.

    Otherwise, I generally dislike anything aimed at multiple playthroughs (difficulty level achievements), but in a shorter game WITH NG+, it might be more acceptable. I’d also avoid anything with speedruns, or low/high level replays, etc.

    Some ideas might be to look into killing bosses quickly or with certain abilities. Completeing side quests, etc. Personally though, I prefer RPGs that just use story related achievements so that I don’t have to worry about excessive grinding or going out of my way for anything. As a general rule of thumb, I would say that as an achievement hunter myself, while I’m willing to spend more time than a normal playthrough to get all the achievements, I’d rather not spend more than an additional 50% of the expected game time to finish all the achievements. So for your 15-20 hour game, if it takes more than say 30 hours, you might want to tone some of it back.

  9. I like the different difficulty levels, but balancing different difficulty levels can be really tricky and time-consuming. As for people who feel they should play ‘default’, that can be handled by increasing the rewards in some way on higher difficulties, whether that be extra exp/cash or abilities/equipment that can only be gotten by points earned from Hard Mode/Normal Mode. This gives an incentive to play a harder difficulty but leaves the lower difficulty option there.

    Another way to accomplish difficulty is to add in optional objectives to battles. “Win without taking damage”, or “Inflict this status on the enemies before killing them” or “Win with only physical attacks” or “Win without healing” and so on and so forth. This adds a layer of complexity and planning without necessarily making things more frustrating for someone who is either only interested in the story right then or not at all interested in numbercrunching optimum strategy in general. It could be frustrating for completionists who don’t want to put effort into the strategy though… that seems like a pretty small cross-section honestly.

  10. For a DEFINITE don’t, any insane grindy ones like take a billion steps or whatever (Not the best example, but there is stuff like that in games). No insane handicaps either, like not using the attack command the whole game or something. Half-life episode one had an achievement for only firing one of each ammo type and another for only one bullet in the whole game, something which the wrong press of a button can screw up.

    I guess all I can say is nothing completely insane. Please.

    Maybe a few funny ones for accomplishing some unique tasks.

  11. I think for trophies you should have the normal gameplay progression ones, the side mission ones, and some related to easter eggs or just random tasks. For a don’t I guess try to make sure you won’t gain like 3 or 4 trophies at the same time and don’t have a long tree of trophies such as “Reach level 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 99”. Maybe pick 3 of these if you notice this theme. And for New Game+ maybe have additional side things, or challenges only available in it or after gaining access to it.

  12. Thanks for the update!

    Regarding the difficulty: I think Bastion’s/Transistor’s difficulty adjustment system is great. You activate modifiers to increase the difficulty and you get more experience points (or another gameplay relevant currency). I don’t have the feeling that I am playing the game in a way it is not supposed to be because I’m trading easier combat with upgrade possibilities, or the other way around.
    As a plus this mechanic can be wrapped inside a narrative layer; e.g. in Bastion you are paying tribute to a certain idol as part of the lore. Changing a menu item in the options menu is hard to knit into a story.

    All the best

  13. Trophy do’s and don’ts? My biggest don’t is don’t make trophies for normal gameplay or progressions. “You beat the first boss!” or “You gained level ten!” do nothing for me.

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