I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas this year! I know that "2016" has become a bit of a meme for death, ice ages, and impending Armageddon, but the Holidays are here and we should set aside our fears and trepidation to be with our families and friends. And stuff our faces with good food. And play lots of games. And then reel from the weight scale as you realize you've gained 2 lbs. and start writing down your new years' resolution to diet and exercise... which you will inevitably shirk come May 2017 (speaking to myself here).
As for myself, I've had a very pleasant couple of days off, chillin' with the fam and playing a crap-ton of Hyper Light Drifter with my nephew! For those of you that aren't familiar, this was a Kickstarter (KS) videogame created by a small team of super passionate indie designers. I watched this Vice doc several months ago that goes over the lead dev's struggle with a heart condition while working on this game. In fact, he incorporated his own dread of feeling that he may die at any moment into the lore of this game. If you haven't played HLD, I highly reccomend that you remedy this. Currently, it's on sale via Steam for only $12 and features a super fun co-op mode.
Apart from HLD and sluggishly moving around my house in a Turkey-induced coma, I managed to finish up the commission I mentioned in the comments on Friday. I did this for a fellow backer who helped Rudy and I enormously during our first campaign and was also there to share and support in PK NCR's run on KS. He approached me a few days after PAX South in Feb. asking if I'd do this for him by Christmas. He offered to pay me but screw that! He'd already helped me so much that I just had to this one pro-boner! Unfortunately, however, I had completely forgotten about our arrangement until Thursday of last week! Given that he needed prints made, it left me with just two days to render this image!
So what is this commission? Apparently, a Pokemon T-RPG exists out there (not sure if it's legit or fan-made) and he wanted me to create character designs of every PC in his campaign. Here is the high-res fruit of my labor:
Gotta Catch 'Em All! Pokemen!
I especially like Zubatman (second from the left) an ex-Team Rocket member who became a vigilante for justice.
Feel free to download the latest PnP so you can follow along with some of the changes I will be discussing.
Firstly, I have finished plugging Gem slots and Finishers for every Fighter, minus two Champions. If you missed the last update, you can view most of their sprites in this mock "Character Select Screen" image I made last week. If my math isn't off - or I haven't overlooked a Champion or two - PK NCR should feature a robust roster of 48-50 Fighters! This is ludicrous, especially when you consider the ten or so Fighters/Champions that didn't make cameos in this spiritual successor to NCR. We're already at Smash Bros. heights just in our second game and we have you awesome Champion backers and Mayor Jensen to thank for this!
Check out the awesome Add-On Fighters from BattleCON and Starr Mazer universes:
Second, after playtesting the mess out of PK NCR, I have decided, upon some sagely advice from backer Aaron Rabold to make the gems needed in order to activate Boost FX on Brawl neutral. What this means is that you are no longer required to pay specific Gems (e.g. 2 Red, 1 Blue, etc.) in order to activate the special effects shown on Brawl cards (a.k.a. Boost FX). You now can remove any gem type of the amount listed on the Boost FX to activate the effect. This lets players use these effects more frequently, spicing up the fight while letting players make more risks for rewards. Plus, this mechanism is easier to grasp for players, and that's what a pocket game should be all about!
Note that the gem and text box are now gray-colored to denote neutrality.
Third item on our list: The Pit-Stop is back... sort of. Those of you familiar with the original N30N City RUMBLE know all about this mechanism and how much strategy and fun-factor it added to gameplay. In the original version of the Pit-Stop, players could store certain cards into their "banks" to the side of their play area, which could then be discarded to purchase other cards from the next Pit-Stop. In PK NCR, the Pit-Stop is a phase that takes place in between every combat round wherein players have 3 actions and 1 free action they can take. Before I explain, let me show you what the updated play area that features the Pit-Stop will look like:
The last player to be attacked during the previous turn gets to take the first series of actions during the Pit-Stop phase (play continues with the player to the left of the starting player). This player draws 3 random Gems and 3 random Brawl cards and places them within view and reaching distance of all players. *If playing with Items included in the Rumbler PAK, draw 3 random Item cards and place them face-down in the Pit-Stop. That out of the way, the starting player may now:
- As a Free Action, draw 1 Brawl card from the main deck -OR- draw 1 random Gem from the Gem Bag.
- For 1 Action, draw 1 random Brawl card from the Main Deck.
- For 1 Action, draw 1 random Gem from the Gem Bag.
- For 1 Action, draw 1 face-up Brawl card from the Pit-Stop. Afterwards, replace the empty space with a new Brawl card from the top of the main deck.
- For 1 Action, draw 1 revealed Gem from the Pit-Stop. Afterwards, replace the empty space with a random Gem from the Gem Bag.
- If playing with Items, the player can discard the number and type of Brawl listed on the back of the Item card to add it to his/her hand. Afterwards, the empty space is replaced with a new Item.
Keep in mind that the maximum hand limit in PK NCR is five cards. This rule is ignored during the combat round, where by use of Boost FX, Finishers, and Items, you will be able to draw more cards than the max. hand limit. However, you cannot ever enter or leave with the Pit-Stop phase with more than 5 cards. Any leftover cards from a combat round or Pit-Stop phase - that exceed the hand limit - must be discarded.
So, why add the Pit-Stop?
Letting players customize their hands increases strategy while keeping randomness right where it needs to be: in the combat round. Before now, much of your strategy depended on the cards drawn at the beginning of the game. What's the point of choosing a team of Fighters with a strategy in mind if your chances of drawing the cards needed in order to activate finishers and utilize their Brawl Masteries hinged entirely on luck?
I came to this realization during my solo-playtests, and it stung like a scorpion when I played with others. There were too many times where a player would have 4 Sweeps in hand and no gems to crush on opponent Gem Gauges. This usually ended in a snow ball effect, thanks largely to the specific ingredients for Boost FX and Combos. There were several occasions where myself AND the opponent were at a stop-loss - we simply couldn't do anything. It's crazy because this issue wasn't prevelant in the first dozen or so games I played by myself. But once it manifested itself, it had become a curse that spread throughout subsequent playtest matches.
In the end, the Pit-Stop seemed like the best panacea to this curse. And, dudes, it is so much fun! Sure, you can grab that face-up Counter card in the Pit-Stop but now every opponent knows you have it in your hand. It's very Yomi, except you always have the option of drawing random cards, so while engaging opponents in the combat round, you have limited information on what your opponent(s) might do. The only randomness is what will they play and when. In my latest matches implementing the Pit-Stop, we've witnessed a lot of bait-and-switch at work. For instance, my friend knew I drew a Counter, so he started to create a combo to bait me into using this card. It worked. However, what he was actually trying to pull off was a Finisher! This Finisher K.O.'d one of my Fighters and crippled the rest! He totally played me... And it was AWESOME!!!
In a lot of ways, I find PK NCR to be superior to it's predecessor. It's fast, dynamic, and full of "Aha!" or "Gotcha!" moments. There are several times I have blasted out of my seat pointing down at my opponent, laughing maniacally, as I pulled off a combo, had it evaded, evaded the evade, then attacked more, boosted a card, and ended with a deadly Finisher. There were other times I screamed "HOLY SH%T!" as my opponent Countered my counter and activated the Boost FX that K.O.'d my attacking Fighter. It truly feels like a fighting game. It'd be cool to see this game get some tournament play at conventions. I'd be interested to see how intense they are!
But NCR is not without it's merits. I consider it the old kung-fu master, while PK NCR is the ambitious acolyte. NCR offers more customization and deeper, BattleCON-level, gameplay, while PK NCR is the Flash Duel/Pixel Tactics of the two. I'm very proud of both titles, mind you. I just lean towards PK NCR due to my own personal tastes. I know that Rudy actually loves the original just a bit more - but this is also coming from a guy whose favorite game is God Hand.
There's a few more tidbits I could go over, but for sake of brevity, I'll leave that for another update after I finish the playbook.
Speaking of the rules sheet, after consulting with our manufacturer I've decided to make this a playbook instead of a poster. I feel that this will make reading the rules easier for you guys (instead of having to fold a huge poster into chunks so you can fit it on your table). It doesn't add to our costs whatsoever, but doing this means that we will not be including the sprite poster inside the core set box. This was made after the Kickstarter on a whim, because I hate the idea of any part of a component being wasted. Since I have the sprite poster nearly finished, I'll be adding this item to our Threads store for you to purchase later on. I will only charge you the printing cost (no revenue) for misleading you on this. Though I hope you understand my reasoning for deciding to abandon the poster format in favor of a booklet: I just want this game to be as accessible as possible.
ITEMS. All of my favorite Beat-'Em-Ups have these, and I don't feel a Neon City game is complete without them. Since we added the Boost FX to Brawl cards, Rudy and I have had a hard time justifying adding yet another set of Brawl cards to the main deck. They would basically be Boost FX with special graphics. While that's cool, we felt that one-use instant Finishers would be even cooler!
That's where Items come into the picture. If you choose to play this variant, 3 Item cards are added to every Pit-Stop. You can't simply use an action to take one, either. You have to use an action and discard a certain amount of cards to use the gashapon machine to draw a mystery Item:
What will you get?!
I'll tell you. You'll receive one of the following Items:
I believe Rudy wants to do some touching up to the text box area, so the design is likely to change a little bit once we go to print. Still, these are super rad, right?!
Lastly, Rudy and I have been laying down the framework for the Strategy Guide that comes with the Deluxe pledge and above. This, coupled with Final Boss Mode, has been eating up the most time in production. Check out the illustration Rudy recently finished for the cover image. He showed this to me over Facebook so there's some pixelation due to compression. Please just consider it a preview. I'll show you guys the high-res version in another update.
I NEED THIS ON MY WALL!!!
I feel like we're nearing the finish line, but in reality I still have a lot of balancing I'd like to do for the Fighters, even after we finish all of the assets for the game. This is about the time I have to give you the news that Rudy and I will be late on delivery. It's funny, because I was dreading this a few months ago when it dawned on me that we'd be late, but after seeing just how much work we've done it doesn't hurt so bad. What was it Miyamoto said? Oh yeah:
Needless to say, I rushed NCR at the end because I was in panic mode. I felt that every day I was late, the further my dreams of making games for a living would ebb away from me. I honestly though you backers would hate me, which is crazy, because I'm a backer myself. I'd say out of the 74 projects I've backed here on Kickstarter, only 15% of them delivered on time, and only 5% of them failed to deliver at all. I think we're all getting used to seeing projects being delayed. Even with AAA-list studios were witnessing games get pushed back a month or two or a year or seven years ("TRIIIICCCCOOOOO!").
I'm not trying to suggest that it doesn't bother me in the slightest that we're gonna be late. I'm merely saying that I'd rather a game be delayed in favor of balancing and delivering the best product possible than getting a mess of a game that was rushed out to meet it's deadline. Especially when our deadlines are conjured up months before we even really sink our teeth into production.
For Booyah Games, there really is no 1000% method of determining how long a project of ours will take. Rudy works full-time for Old Skull Games while doing commissions for Namco and Konami. Meanwhile, I work two jobs to try and keep bread on the table. While it's fun to think of ourselves as company men, this really is a jobby (hobby + job) for us. However, it's pretty much our Holy Grail. Rudy and I LIVE for this stuff. We hope to one day generate enough income to literally live and breathe Booyah Games projects, but for now we have to take it one step at a time.
As you can see by these last two updates, we really have been working our butts off on the game. There is no such concept as "free time" for Rudy and I. There's only work, family, and Booyah. So rest assured that your investment was not wasted. We will deliver the goods, as we did once before. This time, however, we want to make sure that the game we deliver is playtested and balanced to the nines. Also, we're having way too much fun in the strategy guide to drop it just yet! Haha! Seriously, it's the most fun we've had all year! SO LET HAVE THIS MOMENT TO LIVE IN NEON CITY AND OVER-INDULGE WITH ICING ON THE CAKE FOR YOU TO EAT!
I don't want to tell you just yet when you can expect delivery. Then I'd have to let you down a second time, or a third when if I panic again under pressure. Just rest easy knowing that the game you pledged money and time into is being handled with the utmost care. We love PK NCR. We can't let it go quite yet.
I will continue to update and keep you informed every step of the way to printing, dudes. You have my word on that, just as I did for the last project. Rudy and I really appreciate your support and patience on this. Without you, literally none of this is possible. You have given us the opportunity to do something we only dreamed of a few years ago. *bows
Well, I hope you enjoyed this colossal update, guys! Next one drops at the end of January. So, I guess that means I need to say...
HAPPY NEW YEARS, EVERYONE!!! *blows kazoo
A plus tard! (that's "See you later" in French)