Woodbound demo 2 of 3

tl;dr: new demo here

Like a professional trophy cleaner I have held a cloth in one hand, cleany sprayey stuff in the other hand, and delivered unto my prey a polishing the likes of which man has never known, and will never know again. But today I polish not trophies but videogames. By which I mean only one videogame.

There is now a sandwichtable of sound effects and additional particle effects in the game. As well as an upgraded version of the tutorial book, the Botanomicon, and a souped up options menu. It should be even more enjoyable to play than the previous demo.

On a semi-related note, is "demo" a good word for these? They're early builds of the videogame from before most of the content is added in the future. I'd call them "prototypes" but it seems further along than that. Anyone got a good word, hit me up on twitter at yokcos700 or wherever else you can get a hold of me. Next demonstration, the final woodbound demo, will feature more plants, more items, more stuff, filling out the first area of the game nicely

Simplifying things for the sake of time

So originally I had intended the handful of areas in the game to work like this:

Where within each series, if you harvest one plant you get the seed for the next; and to move from one series to the next you usually have to do some puzzle like luring a bear into a venus bear trap. This graph doesn't represent physical routes through the world, rather different methods of getting out of the area and into the next; the location in which you harvest these plants is irrelevant. Although some of them may only be plantable in certain places... Anyway this strikes me as something that is interesting, but which can be simplified for the sake of time:

With this more linear, simple, and frankly worse model, I can finish up areas of the game in a timely fashion and actually release the damn game before the heat death of the universe. Plus, if I end up with more time on my hands than expected, I can expand it out to have multiple routes as originally planned.

I also added a boss, the Deadly Nightshade: This bad boy caps off the Woodbound of the Lilac, the first area of the game, and its defeat will open up the next area. As such it will stand at the end of all three of the incoming Woodbound demo


The Woodbound of the Lilac

No Pain No Grain isn't about standing in one place or some little field and farming till the cows come home. Nah, you're a busy protagonist, you've got places to go, things to see. Maybe tyrants to hydrate, who knows. So therefore to keep things from becoming staler than an ancient egyptian biscuit I shall divide the game up into an integer number of areas, each going on the same basic template. The development plan goes as follows: Make the first area, and make it well, so that I know what an area in this game consists of, what the template is, how long it is, etc. Answer these questions. Then once this first area, the Woodbound of the Lilac, is in a state resembling completion, make all other areas in one fell swoop. Not because it seems like it'd be faster but because I like skipping to the end of these things. Makes it clear not only where the game will start, but when it will end. For instance with the Woodbound I've made it something that's playable to completion before making it something all that enjoyable. Here, look:

I've thus far done the first two steps of this advanced three stage process, and am yet to intersperse the interpuzzle farming with anything noteworthy - or indeed anything that takes more than fifty seconds to do. Now, the eagle eyed of you may have noticed that this is a bullet hell farming game and yet I am speaking of puzzles being dotted around the game. Fear takes hold as you realise that you will be forced to hang up the hoe and trowel every four and a half minutes to stare nonplussed at some incomprehensible engravings on the wall of an ancient city, trying and failing to figure out in which order one must step on the stone floorbuttons in order to open the great doors. But nay, I say, this is not what I mean by a puzzle. A puzzle in this context is merely some interesting application of the available plants other than "water plant, get resource". For instance, something like using an electric plant's attacks to electrify some water, killing the deadly squid within and allowing you safe passage. The "puzzles" are often nought but a natural extension of partaking in the normal combat of the game in a particular place.

"But Yokcos, when can we play this masterpiece to define a generation?", you may ask. The answer, like a photon, is two different things at the same time. The answer is simultaneously "Dunno" and "Right hecking now". The most recent output version of the game is constantly available over here, and so one can familiarise oneself with the setup of the game without fee and without wait. But when will it be done? Dunno. One thing about making the start and end of a game then proceeding to fill the middle with details is that you can do it infinitely, there's no final certain endpoint. But that said I'd like it to at least be done by the end of the year.

Please refer me back to this post when the game releases in 2025 after numerous completely predictable delays.

Oh, oh also I made two games in February: Rotating Squares of Quantisation, a mechanically uninventive aesthetically novel Frogger clone, and Relative Fray, a spacegame without arbitrary spacefriction slowing you down all the time. Check them if you want.


Creating a challenge

A key problem in the design of No Pain No Grain is that the player can make the game very boring and easy for themselves. This is not too much of a problem in the early game as things are supposed to be easy. We just want to not drag it out too long; let people get to the interesting stuff rapidly. However I'm not fully sure of what shape this interesting stuff will take.

So how it works right now is that you chuck seeds into the ground, as many as you want and whatever type you want, and you can usually circlestrafe their attacks and remain completely save. In the case of moneystalks they all literally shoot in the same direction. This is a problem because if someone plants any number of moneystalks they will encounter zero challenge, at least until the radius of the blob of plants becomes so huge that they can't walk out of the way of the unfathomable wall of bullets in time. Okay, you might say, just make them shoot in different directions, or in different ways that circlestrafing would not render trivial. This is one possible solution; a few plants already employ it like asparaguns and red hot pokers. Plants that lead their shots, shoot in many directions, spread out their shots or move... there are a lot of potential patterns that could solve the problem of triviality and banality. But this leaves behind a lesser problem: You'll just have a bunch of plants of the same type doing the exact same thing at any given time. Ten nukumbers or twenty gunflowers or fifty moneystalks. Perhaps it is wise to come up with some incentive to plant multiple different types of plants. This I hint at in the intro video - plants that auto-water nearby plants but also attack themselves could spice things up. Plants that make others drop more loot but also beef up their projectiles. There are a thousand slight carrots I can offer in exchange for the mild inconvenience of planting multiple species at the same time and I think I'll enjoy trying some of them out.


The Basics

This took way longer than I was hoping.

Here be a video on the quick basics of No Pain No Grain: It describes the basic gameplay you can expect to permeate the entirety of the game from beginneth to finale. It also postulates on some directions in which the game can be taken; augmentations that can be made to the simplistic loop that forms the bedrock of the design here.

Also I now have a Patreon page for NPNG and a Discord server!


Something Useless

Feast your eyeballholes, it is the new and shiny logo for No Pain No Grain!

Also, check it out here's some totally unrepresentative silent footage of No Pain No Grain - just the thing that everyone's been waiting for!


So I played Fortnite Battle Royale

And it made me realise how much I've wanted a building-focused PvP game since playing Minecraft. A game in which a viable strategy is to erect an intricate and imposing castle and laugh as the opposition throws themselves at it until perhaps one of them successfully breaches it and ends your reign of terror. That would be nice but of course there are some problems with this.

The two problems

One such problem is that if building intricate bases is a viable strategy then it's likely that multiple people are going to build bases and sit in them. And if you have two or more people sitting in their bases far apart from each other then there's no conflict, it's boring, nobody wants to see everyone sitting and waiting for the other guy to make a move.
The other problem is that the role of the attacker is inherently more advantageous so unless countermeasures are taken in the design the attacker will win every time. The reasons for this are all about resource allocation. If you have a certain amount of resources, you can either invest them into making a stationary stronghold or portable weapons and equipment. Once you have a stronghold, that's about it. But if you make weapons, armour, potions, you can use these to then explore the dangerous parts of the world, acquire more resources for better weapons, use those to go to even more dangerous places, get more and more and more resources. Whereas the lad in his base is still armed with nought but stick of wood, the explorer will have the blade of the gods, and the encounter will be less of a battle and more of a punchline.

So you have these problems; folks not battling each other and attacker's advantage. Each must be solved for a viable game to be created. I'll describe some greater details of these problems:

Solution categories

See, those people who build a mighty tower and wait for foolish adventurers to intrude that they may be slain, these people don't tend to want to leave their bases. But it would seem that in fact someone has to leave otherwise adversaries will never meet. But just like the speed of light limit this problem can be sidestepped; bases could be moved instead of just the players within. What about gradually destroying the land between them and bringing all the bases closer together over the course of a match? Or allowing bases to be mobile? Perhaps it takes a lot of skill to make an airborne base as you'd have to manage weight vs buoyancy or lift or something. These are only some potential solutions, I'm sure there are many others.
Let's explore this problem further: One facet of the "people won't leave their homes to fight each other" problem is that outside the walls of their fortress they don't feel nearly as safe as within, and they're right. What if the protections and power of their base somehow allowed them advantage in combat in the open? Some examples of this would be for instance building giant artillery cannons on the base and bring able to remotely fire them from kilometres away to annihilate foes. Such measures need not only be offensive; perhaps building a huge nuclear reactor at home to power a personal shield? You can imagine the kind of firepower that would be necessary to go through a shield of this calibre.
A third angle to approach this problem is to consider the idea of bases being able to influence the world at long range. Imagine if advanced bases kilometres apart could attack each other, either through artillery or missiles, armies of robots, anything really. All the better if they can harvest resources from the wild too, to empower the base itself and its creator. Something I think is valuable in all of these scenarios is to leave open the option to play the nomad and break into other people's fortresses to assassinate them and steal their stuff. Because dealing with an intruder in your base to me sounds very appealing as does breaking into an intricately designed stronghold.

On the other hand you have the problem of nomads having more resources due to their higher mobility. One way to approach this is to make bases mobile, which I've already mentioned. That this idea solves both problems makes it all the better. In fact all three of the solution categories mentioned above solve this problem in one way or another. Allowing the bases to aid you in combat from range; this could help a player acquire loot from dangerous places; Allowing bases to influence the world and gather resources kilometres away solves the problem in an incredibly obvious way. Indeed, these solutions all do the same basic thing: They allow the base-dweller's area of effect to extend over far more then merely the plot of land on which they decided to construct their fortress. And that it seems is the core of the issue: In games like Fortnite and Minecraft, if you build something, it will rarely have any impact over anywhere other than the land it stands on and the immediate surroundings. The thing to do is to allow these bases to have some kind of impact anywhere in the world, whether the whole base has to up and move there or just the owner has to go there, or if the base has to be advanced enough to exert its influence so far away.

Some idle thoughts I couldn't neatly put into a category:

How about teleporters of some kind? You could leave the base to go gather resources but when trouble shows itself you could deploy a teleporter linked back home and get a huge advantage in the battle from it somehow. Your enemy would have a more interesting time too; they would have the primary objective of killing you but the secondary objective of killing the tele. If the game has respawning you could get back to where you were after dying, provided the tele still lives. You could even make multiple bases this way, linked through a teleporter network.
I haven't talked about this from the perspective of the invader, only the invadee. It is important for traps and such to not be too obvious but still be visible to an observant interloper. Fortnite seems to make their traps a little too obvious but also at the end of the day it isn't really a game about traps. Minecraft does this really well I think. The default traps people make, they're very obvious, conspicuous pressure plates usually. But it's possible albeit difficult to make nigh invisible traps. The quality of traps depends on the knowledge of the person making them. Ideally as a skilled and experienced interloper you would be savvy enough to identify most traps without falling for them. It's a hard balance to strike.
This entire article of course is several paragraphs of evidence that I need to play From The Depths.


The problem with base building pvp is that cool bases don't have any influence on the world far beyond their borders. To make a game where building a large base is viable, advanced bases need to be able to have some impact far away from where they were built.


You are not prepared. I also am not prepared.

Improper Battle Preparation Simulator 2018 is nominally a game about being unprepared for a battle that I the developer did not prepare, and so there's nought but a faulty grappling hook and some platforming challenges. That is to say, it is a platforming game in which you have something which can very very loosely be called a "grappling hook". You can play it here.

No there's no DLC that's a joke.

More on NPNG soonish.


Artillerichoke and scope

It's rather hard to tell how big No Pain No Grain should be. On the one hand it takes less time to make a small game. On the other, the bigger the better. Until recently I was intending to make NPNG a rather large game indeed, with various aspects that I have since decided (maybe temporarily) to simply not make. Such things include the greatest conversation system known to man, a sprawling metroidvania-esque overworld, fine granular morality and a plentitude of endings. While these things would be nice and I may end up de-retiring one or two of them, they are costly indeed.

The conversation system would do something that I'm sure is commonplace but I personally haven't seen any examples because I never do research: A system whereby dialogue options influence various aspects of the listener's mind; one option may make them angrier, another may cause them to view another character in a positive light. Dialogue would then change based on these variables, as opposed to a path down a massive tree of dialogue. This strikes me as easier to make than huge dialogue trees, but still a boatload of work. I may end up implementing a simple form of this with only a few variables to affect. The complex overworld, the more I think about the more it seems like it would be No Big Deal. Of course the problem is that if there's all these areas then there has to be something to fill them with. Can's just have a bunch of differently themed corridors with nothing in them, that's boring. Morality would work a consequence of aforementioned conversation system. Any morality would merely be people's opinion of you. Kill enough in front of someone or speak evilly enough and they may view you as evil. Kill their enemies and they may regard you as a hero. Earning the favour of certain key people would make certain paths through the game tolerable and thereby allow access to various endings.

These are ideas of questionable validity, and ones I would love to see executed well. But whether or not it is a good idea to implement them into No Pain No Grain, this I do not know. It is not necessarily a good idea to add everything into a game short of the kitchen sink.

As for what I have made and what I will make, there are new plants - Artillerichoke has a self-explanatory name, and Jewelweed which explodes when extremely wet. I intend to keep adding plants until there's more vegetation than one can reasonably count. This may be another case of wanting to add everything but the kitchen sink though. Maybe best to limit the plantcount to fifty thousand or so.

You may notice that the ground looks different now. The ground tiles have been changed to look more simple and not attract as much attention as important stuff - the plants and people. Soon after that I added outlines to the plants to differentiate them from the ground further. I think that's enough to make them stand out. There was briefly a bug where instead of merely being outlined in black, the whole plant would be black. I was pleased to realise then that each plant has a unique silhouette. This wasn't something I'd thought about thus far - you often hear about unique silhouettes only in terms of character design and I don't think of these plants as characters. But it's important to identify these plants at a quick glance so for them all to be completely different shaped, it is an asset.


Conversations and Containers

You can now converse with your allies and adversaries through the medium of bullets, as is allowed in any self-respecting videogame.

The obvious usage of this is to make some options harder and/or easier than others but I'm sure there will be a lot of potential to use these linguistic ballistics to add flavour to a conversation.

There is also now an alternative way to water crops as opposed to using the boring hose: Splashbang grenades.

Although at the moment considering they're consumables, they're a bit shit at watering crops. Definitely need to be buffed severely.

There will also not be this angry box. Angry boxes are not on the list of approved features for this videogame.


A Reasonable Stronghold

Look at this, it's a website that is arguably not some kind of abhorrent disgrace, although I will allow you to be the judge of that statement and form your own opinion accordingly. Rearranging the furniture and hanging of paintings around here will likely continue in the short term future as I consider the combinations of carpet and curtain colours and other such decorative minutia. Posts from here on out will mostly be on the topic of No Pain No Grain as opposed to being a website comparing itself relentlessly to a physical household. The ??? link comes right back here, I'm aware of that, probably will continue to do that for... a while. Few months, maybe a year.