News Archive

Rescaling critical hits and bug fixes

By ZaneDubya on Sept 15, 2020

Hail friends! I'd like to share a change to the critical hit mechanics, a name change to the Paralyze debuff, and some other bug fixes that have been added to the game in the past week. Let's get into it!

First off, a big change: the critical hit damage mechanic for physical attacks has been rescaled. In the original game, critical hit damage could do up to 800 percent of your base dexterity damage. I had previously reduced this to 500 percent in the release of Yserbius on MedievaLands, and now I am reducing it further. The issue posed by critical hits is that they are incredibly spikey: even at 500 percent, damage done by players and monsters could easily exceed the total hit points of a stack of monsters or a player.

The new critical hit rescale has reduced critical hits to 150% of the maximum base damage. The goal of this change is to make combat depend more on your use of spells and skills, and less on a chance of landing a critical hit in before your enemies do. I've heard of encouraging comments from players who have already been testing the new critical hit function, and I look forward to hearing from you as well!

Second, based on reports from the community, it seemed like some players have "lost" attribute points and therefore not been able to max out their stats. I conducted some in-depth analytics of all the player characters in the game, and I found that fourteen characters had lost attribute points (and some had gained unusable extra attribute points)! These characters have all been corrected, and except in one case where I had to remove one extra point of initiative, no character has lost any points.

Third, I have renamed the "Paralyze" status effect to "Incapacitate". I did this in response to some justifiable confusion from players: the "Petrify" and "Paralyze" status effects had the same name, same effect, and very similar dictionary meaning in English. The new "incapacitate" status effect has the same game effect as Paralyze, but the new name will help differentiate it from Petrify (which has not been changed).

Those are the big changes! Here are some smaller bug fixes I have also recently included:

That's everything from this end. I am actively watching and responding to posts in the in-game forums. Let me know what you're thinking - and if you have any suggestions for new features!

Take care, and keep in touch.

Zane

The New Treasure System and Twinion Release

By ZaneDubya on Aug 26, 2020

Hail friends! This month I have added a brand new Treasure System for Yserbius and Twinion, and I am also preparing to officially launch my remake of Twinion on Monday, August 31. I hope you will join us for the launch!

The Treasure System is a revamp of the items in Yserbius and Twinion. The original games each had a total of 252 items. The new Treasure System adds seven million new items while keeping almost all of the items from the original games. Most of the new items are weapons, pieces of armor, rings, and amulets which have never been seen before in MedievaLands. These items are slightly to somewhat more powerful than the old Yserbius items. And you will still find all the old quest items and the very best drops from the original game exactly where you would expect to find them: the Flex Sword, Barbarian Axe, Infinite Armor, and other favorites mentioned in FAQ from the early '90s can still be found in their old locations.

As you venture deeper into the dungeon, you will find items with new modifiers that will allow you to create a unique play style. For example, if you intend to take on King Cleowyn's palace, where spirits, skeletons, and ghosts linger, you will want to equip items that do more damage specifically to the undead. Wizards will enjoy items that make spells more damaging. Clerics may want to search for items that improve healing power. Rangers and rogues will want items that make monsters less likely to attack them. This is only scratching the surface: there are over twenty 20 new modifier types and a total of 80 new modifiers in all.

I want to recognize Reginald in this update, as he was a force of design behind the new Treasure System. Readers of the MedievaLands forums will recognize Reginald's name from his posts in the RolePlay and Game Mechanics boards. Those posts include the base items that underpin the new Treasure System. Reginald also worked with me to balance power levels of the new item modifiers, and also wrote descriptions for the quest items in Yserbius. I am proud to have worked with him on this upgrade to the original games.

The new Treasure System is automatically enabled for all players. You will see a few new items for sale in the Keep (you will also see a new Bank in the keep, which will expand your character's inventory by 50 percent). But you will find even better loot in the dungeon. As you fight monsters, they will drop more items you have never seen before. you will start to see Magic quality items, and the truly lucky among us will find some of the 64 super-powerful Unique quality items. Players who have helped test the new Treasure have enjoyed the variety. I want to extend my thanks in particular to Bobi and Jeff, who have worked to put the system through its paces in the past weeks.

Aside from the new Treasure System, I have been hard at work finishing up Twinion and polishing the game experience. From July 20 to August 26, I closed 61 issues (each issue is a fixed bug, new feature, or added polish) and changed or added 7,209 lines of code. My tempo was about 190 lines of code and 1.6 issues per day. That is a very respectable pace. Some of the biggest features I have added include:

Soon I will sit down and write out how the new Treasure System works, what principles guided me as I designed it, and what I hoped to achieve by adding it to the game. In the meantime, please give it a go and let me know what you think.

I look forward to hearing from you. Take care and keep in touch!

Fixed bugs and added forums to the website!

By ZaneDubya on Jul 19, 2020

Hail friends! A few more changes to report.

You can now view the in-game forums on the website at MedievaLands.com. Posting to the forums is only available when you are logged into the in-game client.

I now show your character's individual achievement score on its portrait, instead of the total score for your account. Your account still has its separate total score, even though this is not visible. I will come up with a way to display this as well.

You can now see monster buffs and debuffs in combat. Thanks for requesting this, Azameth - it's been a long time coming!

Fixed a bug where Twinion achievements would not ever show up. All characters have been retroactively awarded any Twinion achievements they would have previously been granted. Thanks for reporting this bug, Teiken!

Fixed a bug where if the party leader disconnected, the remaining party members would "fly" back to where they entered the map. Thanks for reporting this bug, Bobi!

Finally, I fixed a regression in the Mac patcher which caused the patching program to always download the latest patched client regardless of whether the client was actually out of date.

I am still working on the item revamp. Perhaps I'll have something to report on this front soon. Hope springs eternal.

Take care down there!

July 6 2020 Patch Notes

By ZaneDubya on Jul 6, 2020

Hail Friends! Hope you have all been well. My work on the item system revamp continues behind the scenes. In the meantime, I have pushed a few bug fixes out in the past week, which I'm noting here:

Patch notes for June 22, 2020

By ZaneDubya on Jun 22, 2020

Hail Friends! Hope you have all been well. After a month of rest I am back working on MedievaLands.

Today's patch is small, in that it does not add any new features.

But it is also large, in that it involves thousands of changed lines of code and a huge update to the framework used by the game to show graphics, play sounds, and run on your computer.

This is necessary preparation to keep the game compatible with future versions of Windows and macOS.

If the game crashes on you, please let me know by e-mail to hello(at)medievalands.com.

I hope I will have more new features to share with you soon. Until then, take care!

Patch notes for April 8, 2020

By ZaneDubya on Apr 8, 2020

Hail Friends! Here is a list of what I've been working on in the past week: bugs fixed, other changes to the game engine, and a small change to allow the new elemental items to be sold in the keep. Much of my work this week was in preparation for new features which I'll hopefully be adding to the game soon: new items, achievements in Twinion, and a new higher definition dungeon exploration screen.

Changes in game functionality:

Changes to the game engine:

Bug fixes:

Patch notes for April 1, 2020

By ZaneDubya on Apr 1, 2020

Hail Friends! We are sixteen days away from the Grand Release of Twinion. I have almost completed the outstanding features I wanted in place for the release, and I am hopeful that my work schedule is easing up to the point that I can start working on some stretch goals.

I haven't posted patch notes for some time, so this is a bit of a catch up edition. Read on for a list of features added and bugs fixed over the past three weeks, and as always, let me know if you come across any bugs!

Changes in game functionality:

Polish:

Bug fixes:

Friday Fix: Delay, features, and thoughts about SysOps

By ZaneDubya on Mar 27, 2020

Hail all!

Today have news about a delay in the grand release of Twinion, patch notes from the features and bugs I've been working on in the past few hurried weeks, and a call for discussion about MedievaLands SysOps.

Before I continue, I would like to relate how thankful I am for everyone who is logging in to play this game. I so much enjoy seeing people in the Tavern, talking with you, and responding to bug reports, feature requests, and the occasional bout of roleplay. I am continually motivated to continue working on this game when I see people playing.

I know that many of us are working overtime in response to the pandemic, and many of us need a diversion from the same, and many of us are not quite sure what is going to happen in the coming weeks and are looking for an escape. I feel all of those things every day; I'm right there with you. And I'm happy MedievaLands can help fit that need.

Thanks for taking the time to read this little ramble of mine. Let's get on to some updates!

Grand Release Delayed to April

I don't like to miss dates that I've set, but I also know this is for the best. I had originally planned a 'grand release' of Twinion for today, March 27. I am temporarily delaying that release. This delay will not change the fact that every player of MedievaLands already has access to Twinion; it merely delays the wide publication of the availability of this game.

I make this decision because work has stolen me away for the past three weeks, and the slowdown in development has kept me from completing features and bug fixes that I want to have in place before we enter a period of publicity. Also, I feel like when this game does go public, I'll need to be highly available to answer questions and greet new players, and I admit that I don't have the energy to do that right now.

I have no doubt that this period is temporary, and as soon as things begin to calm down I will let you know when to expect the general release. My hope is that I'll be able to do the grand release in three weeks, on April 17. Keep an eye on this space, and you'll be the first to know when we're getting ready for the Twinion debut.

What I've been working on

Although I haven't been present in the Tavern of late, I have continued to focus the time I have on fixing bugs and adding features requested by players. Thank you so much for your detailed thoughts - even where I haven't responded, I've read everything you've said, posted, and sent via email.

Some of you have expressed surprise that new bugs keep popping up, and I think that's an entirely fair concern. Behind the scenes, I've been rewriting many of the game systems that underpin Yserbius and Twinion. Most recently, I've rewritten the treasure table system, allowing custom item drops in the dungeon (which is where those elemental stones which Azameth has written about come from!), moved the map hosting to the server, and have recently started a new item framework that will allow the addition of even more new items.

By the time MedievaLands is ready for the grand release of Twinion, I hope to have added the original Twinion music, a simple form of player pets, more options for items to find throughout the dungeon, debuffs on enemies in combat, and continued polish throughout the game's user interface. Look out for more good stuff, coming soon!

What are your thoughts about SysOps

I'm going to be starting a conversation about inviting people to be SysOps on MedievaLands. Please look for that in the General Discussion forum. I really appreciate your time and thoughts on this topic, as I think it will help free up my time to focus on development. Looking forward to hearing from you!

As always, my absolute best to you all.

Zane

Welcome to the MedievaLands Twinion Beta

By ZaneDubya on Mar 6, 2020

Hail friend,

I want to let you know that I have added Twinion to the MedievaLands game, and I am inviting you to beta test this new game. You will find that your account already has access: you can download the game at https://medievalands.com. If you need help with your password, please e-mail me at hello(at)medievalands.com and I will help you directly.

I am so excited to share this with you and other testers before I reach out to anyone else. I hope you will join me in testing this recreation of Twinion. As you test the game, when you discover bugs, you can let me know about them by:

This is not simply a recreation of Twinion. On MedievaLands, Twinion and Yserbius run side by side on the same server. Although the two games have different dungeons, they share the same Tavern, Guilds, and Bulletin Boards. You can even switch the game you are playing without logging out.

You are receiving this email because you signed up for beta testing in the 'Account' screen of MedievaLands. If you are busy at the moment and can't join, I completely understand. This is the only email I will be sending about Twinion testing, so please don't worry that I will be regularly spamming you.

If you have also signed up to receive emails about new features, you can expect an email on March 27 regarding the public release of Twinion. On that day - which is the one-year anniversary of the release of the original MedievaLands server, I will be inviting every player to check out the game. My hope is through your help in bug testing, we will have ironed out any issues in the game before then.

Take care, friend. All my absolute best,

Zane

Friday Fix: Can we make Yserbius more engaging?

By ZaneDubya on Feb 28, 2020

Hail friends, and happy Leap Year Eve! We are one week out the Twinion public test, and four weeks from the Twinion grand release. I have watched as the first testers in Twinion have slowly been solving that dungeon. It's been exciting to follow your progress, and I have appreciated the opportunity to fix the game stopping bugs that arose in your path.

On my end I have whittled away various bug reports and feature requests. These are all tracked on the Github repository. I added a link to the Github to the MedievaLands website, which you will see in the top menu bar, and under the hamburger menu on mobile devices.

As I add these small features and squash those bugs, I can't help but wonder if I'm missing the forest for the trees. I have been hard at work polishing up the original experience, and many of you have told me that MedievaLands is much more fun to play than the original game. And that's good to hear! But is there something fundamentally unsatisfying about playing Yserbius that my work on MedievaLands hasn't begun to address?

Looking Back

It's instructive to look back at the contemporaneous reviews of Yserbius. I added a handful of these to the MedievaLands website under the 'Press' page. While all reviews of Yserbius are generally positive, focusing on how much fun it is to play with friends, there are negative notes as well.

Bernie Yee's 1994 review of the Yserbius boxed set, published in Computer Gaming World, discusses issues with the game's mechanics. In that review, Yee notes that Yserbius's "minimalistic game design" was essentially the same as 1985's The Bard's Tale. He touches on NPC interactions (none) and character progression (very little nuance compared to other contemporary RPGs). Yee points out that Combat is "simple" with no tactical nuance. "Combat becomes tedious after a while," he write, "between the random encounters and set piece 'monster squares' that refill with enemies to fight over and over."

Yee has the right of it. Yserbius is a great game - it obviously made an impact on me and if you're playing MedievaLands, it made an impact on you too. But it's also clear that Yserbius feels less than fully engaging.

I felt this as I was working on the original MedievaLands release. At that time I was focused on recreating the exact original Yserbius experience. It turned out great, but my focus on the original game meant that MedievaLands kept everything from the original game's design, both good and bad. Now, as I work on adding Twinion, this second full pass through the game's mechanics has given me the experience to consider what is keeping Yserbius from being a more engaging game.

The Core Loop and a Lack of Engagement

The problem with engagement in Yserbius arises from the game's Core Loop. By "Core Loop", I mean the mode of the game that takes up the most of both the game's design and the player's moment-to-moment focus. This is different from the overarching goal of Yserbius, which I would describe as "explore a dungeon with friends, solve puzzles, and grow in strength by defeating monsters so you can defeat a final tough boss."

The Core Loop - the thing that demands the player's attention and which the game's design focuses upon - is the combat. And not a combat from beginning to end, but rather a single round of combat: the player chooses an action, the game runs the combat simulation and supplies feedback to the player, and the player adjusts their mental model of the game based on that feedback.

I don't think the choices the player has, nor the feedback the game provides, are really that engaging.

Player Choice and the Lack of Balance

I discussed the issue with the player choice previously in news posts (see 'Is Yserbius a class based game') and we have carried on that conversation by talking about why the various classes, in their current implementations, aren't much fun to play. Yserbius suffers from a lack of balance, in that by the mid game, the player does not have many meaningful choices to make. There is objectively one best character type to play, one best set of equipment, and one best action to take in combat: physical attacks most of the time, after an opening round of shields, buffs, and occasionally debuffs. Because there is a best action to take at every single step, the possibility space for player actions within the game is not very broad. And if there's no possibility space to explore, the game is not very engaging for a player - they are just there to repeat the same action over and over.

So how could we fix this? I think a fix would arise from balancing the current set of player choices, and by adding new choices where the current game is most restrictive. To balance the current set of player choices, we will have to make more of these choices viable. For example, we could make the Wizards and Rangers more valuable by making their ability to contribute to combat more equal to that of Knights and Barbarians. We could do the same thing to the game's itemization by adding more options for player equipment, each with different advantages and disadvantages. I've recently rewritten the game's item framework that can handle much of this, and hope to introduce some of these new items soon. As for adding new choices - this would be more difficult, but I would like to see classes that really do have to focus on physical attacks - like Barbarians - have more options to play with each round. Perhaps there should be multiple kinds of physical attacks. Reginald had some ideas on this subject recently - perhaps we could have attacks that damage multiple enemies, or attacks that focus on one enemy, or attacks that apply debuffs to enemies. Yserbius has many skills - can we make more of these viable options in combat.

Feedback and Juice

The second issue with the core game loop is the poor way which the game gives players feedback. To be more clear: almost all the results of combat scroll past you in a very small text window. In large combats, it is hard to see what has happened. This is frustrating. I hamfistedly tacked some feedback on to the existing engine last year, with the player health bars and damage/healing numbers appearing over the player tiles. Honestly, this is not enough. It's still far too difficult to see who is attacking you and what your character is doing.

There's a game design term for improving game feedback - it's called "Juice". Check out the talk "Juice it or lose it" on Youtube for an overview and demonstration of the subject. In short, Juice is a set of graphical effects that give the player the impression that their actions are making a meaningful impact on the game's state. Yserbius was designed in an era before programmers and artists started to focus on juicy feedback, and when there was not really enough computational power to show the juice a designer might want to include.

I think there is are many ways we could improve the feedback in the combat mode. We could make the user interface less static, allowing the user interface controls that represent the combatants to move around and actually hit each other (this would not change the current combat tactical options - players and monsters would still strike at each other from two rows of six tiles each). We could add more particle effects, beyond just the damage numbers. We could increase the size of the text box, similar to how I've increased the amount of text visible in the Tavern. And we could move more of the combat action out of the tiny text box and into the visible game world.

Looking Ahead

I honestly don't know how much of this I'll be able to add. I don't know which of these ideas will turn out to be easy to design and which will be easy to implement. But I want you to know that I am thinking about how to fundamentally improve Yserbius, and make it not just a fun remake of a game we played thirty years ago, but a game that is fun and relevant for today's players as well.

Until next time, friends. Take care down there!


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