Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rex Does Kongai: A Second Stab With the Psychos

I was a bit brief last time when discussing the Psychos and, really, I found it helped immensely, so I'm probably going to be a bit brief this time as well. I've gone over the Psycho bars and made a few changes here and there. I'm still not happy with some and at least one has undergone a sweeping change. But this line has given me Shadow and I'm ever so happy with her.

Before I head into the revised bars, though, I'll mention what I didn't last night and say that, like with the other groups there's something of a template for the Psychos as well. It's not something I've done before embarking on this project but it does seem to help. And I'm certain that rather than creating them based on a group design that you could whip them up for specific roles as well. Once you had a generic design for a Tank and a Trapper and a Far-Ranger and a Close-Ranger and on and on, you could really start to crank them out. Something to keep in mind. Here, the Psycho template is only loosely adhered to and, indeed, split into two distinct subcategories, depending on how it's filled out.

That because the Psychos are focused on disruption, to varying degrees. Some are powerful interrupters while others are Mimics, able to reflect and devastate their foes by subverting their attacks. If you'll look over the list you'll see it's split roughly in half and it's the different between those two where the difference in the template rests.

  1. Single-range Staple attack
  2. Single-range Nuke attack OR Reflect/Interrupt
  3. Opposite-range attack
  4. Buff/debuff OR Roulette skill

I think most of those are self-explanatory if you've been following the progress so far. What I'll add to the glossary is the definition of a Roulette skill. That's what I call a skill where you're taking a big gamble just to use it. Popo's Slingshot is a good example as is Psychopath #2's Roulette Strike. You just don't know what you're going to get out of them. Could be something good, could be something not quite so much, but what you do know is that there's going to be a large amount of luck involved and a high degree of variance.

That, right there, is the difference between the Mim-Psykes and the Psyke-Ints. The MP make use of Roulette skills. Are, in fact, defined by them. While the IP do not. The difference is that the Mimicing Psychos are, well, Mimics. And, because of that, they have to be a bit random and open to chance. It's inherent in the mechanism since they rely on what their opponent does but it's also a balancing element since not being able to completely rely on their ability to copy means that they'll never be quite as good as what they can ape (And that's important because, if they were, then there's no reason to ever play anything else. In one card you'd get a multitude and a reason to forget about deck construction. With this set, I want to get at anything but.). So, they have the variance that the Interrupting Psychos lack. Those characters have, like most cards, an element of random chance but they're more reliable and consistent. Because, that too, is inherent in their basic design. They're supposed to shut down their opponents and that requires a certain degree of confidence that they're going to work rather than fail spectacularly. They can't always because that, too, would be unfair and the Psychopaths, as a group, are much more luck-based than, perhaps, the better players would prefer but, on that all-important average, they're going to get the job done. And that job is stopping an opponent and then stomping on them.

I think that's introductory explanation enough. Let's get to the cards.

Idea: A Psychic mimic, someone who reads his opponent's minds, who walks in their dreams, who learns their secrets, and who knows their moves before they do.
Name: Maury Pheros, the Dream Killer
Innate: When this character attacks, his damage is applied to his foe's lowest resistance.
HP: Average
RES: Ave/Ave/Ave
Bar (v2):
  1. Skill 1. Ego Assault. Deals 7x5(35) damage to your foe. Has a 50% chance to disable your target's innate for the next 3 turns. Moderate cost (40), moderate speed (6). Close. Dark. 95h/50p.
  2. Skill 2. Night Terrors. Deals 8x3(24) damage to your foe. 75% chance to interrupt if this attack strikes first. Moderate cost (30), high speed (8). Close. Dark. 95h/75p.
  3. Skill 3. Mind Taker / Mind Bender. One of your foe's skills is locked at random for the next 4 turns. This skill is replaced by the locked skill while it remains disabled. High cost (60), low speed (3). Both. Dark. 100h/90p.
  4. Skill 4. You have a 75% chance to perform the same move as your opponent this turn. No cost (0), high speed (10). Far. Dark. 100h/75p.
This card had an earlier life as part of the last, as yet unseen, group of cards that I call the 4W. Named because the groups it contained were the Wraiths, the Weapons, the Wrestlers, and the Warlocks. As I set about making it, I tried to include what I thought of, then, as a meta card in each group. One that would bend the game's normal rules ever so much and slightly more than the average card to create some interesting gameplay. Card that were weird, even for me, and played around with the underlying systems rather than the details. When it came to the Warlocks that was a bit of a problem since they were conceived as a group of meta cards, pushing the boundaries of certain mechanics in unusual ways. So, to create a card that was weird even for them I needed to get pretty far afield and that's where the idea of a Mimic starter. The Warlocks weren't quite the fantasy-setting idea of scrawny people in robe with ink-stained fingertips and blood-stained knives they were, instead, a group of rebels and iconoclasts exploring the magical forces with modern technology. Technarchists, if you will, who combined engineering and sorcery. A character who was a psychic seemed like a natural fit, bridging the divide between tested science (psychology) and unproven mysticism (telepathy) in one readily identifiable package. And how would you make a psychic in a fighting game? Well, you'd have a character who could predict and react as if they knew their opponent's moves.

And that's the card we have here. The original character was more of a sideshow performer. A mentalist, who used hypnosis and other magic tricks to baffle his foes. But, now, for the Psychos the inspiration is less carnival barker and more of creepy mind-reader. I'd like to pattern this card after not Kreskin but Kruger. The movie monster from the Nightmare on Elm Street series whose shtick was to enter his victim's dreams. That, I think, could work perfectly here and meld into the original concept of a psychic rather well. The imagery will have to be a bit different since Freddy is such a distinctive look. So, rather than a guy with a burnt face and razor tipped gloves in a stripped shirt I'm thinking of a eerie, otherworldly almost gothic character. Someone who just stepped out of Sandman, in other words. Pale skin and swirling tattoos, flesh etched with sigils and symbols and swirls. A wan, ghostly figure that steps in and out of the dreamworld with ease.

In gameplay terms, the idea here is that this character can mimic his opponent's moves. This starts with Skill #3 which allows him to, basically, steal a move off of his opponent's bar. It works like a suped-up version of Amaya's innate, locking out a skill at random. But instead of just disabling, it also grabs that skill and replaces Skill #3 with it on Psycho #1's bar. It slots right in there, replacing everything from cost to priority. But not type because the innate here means that any attack P1 makes will be applied to an opponent's weakest point, striking against their weakest resistance type. Since this could cause some problems with Popo or Yoshi and other characters who have a low resistance but another form of defense, I'm going to consider that to mean that the Dream Thief here deals damage of a certain type and chooses the lowest resistance available to lower it (If there's a tie then he'd select the left-most option. So, if there was a character like R6 with a 0/4/0 matrix, then Pheros here would hit for physical damage.). But the skills themselves are their actual listed type. That means that although Popo would take full damage from a Bleeding Slice, say, he wouldn't be able to dodge it. And that leaves an opponent with only 3 skills and P1 able to pound them with an improved version of their own skill.

The ability to use an opponent's skills against them continues with Skill #4, a big roulette that allows P1 to copy his opponent's move. If they attack, he attacks with that same skill. If they rest, he rests. If they switch out, he heads to his deck, too. He has a great chance to fail and sit there doing nothing while he gets smacked in the face but it also costs him nothing to use so it's far from a bad bet.

Along with that he has a pair of attacks, both multi-hits that allow him to take good advantage of his innate. One is an interrupt that deals decent enough damage but, even better, has a high priority even for an interrupt. The other is a skill that has the unusual effect of disabling an opponent's innate ability. Against some cards that's not going to matter while against others (Like the ones I tend to make) it's going to be crushing.

Idea: A masked madman, stalking his victims. Secretly one of the other characters from the game, driven mad because of an unfortunate blow to the head.
Name: Jared Molereed, the Axe Murderer / A Masked Madman, Axe Murderer
Innate: This card can equip any item OR This card has the resistance, health, and innate of another random card.
HP: Above average (80) OR varies
RES: Mod/Low/Ave OR varies
Bar (v2):
  1. Skill 1. Terrifying Strike / Slash. Deals 24 damage to your foe. There is a 30% chance to reflect their attack back in their direction if this strikes first. High cost (50), high speed (7). Close. Phys.
  2. Skill 2. Cruel Mockery. You use the same skill as your opponent did last turn. Low cost (20), high speed (10). Both. Dark.
  3. Skill 3. Unending Twist. You have an 80% chance to repeat the same move that you used last turn. No cost (0), high speed (10). Both. Phys.
  4. Skill 4. Unmask. Performs a random move from a character sharing the same group as your item (Psychos, if General). OR Performs a random move from the card whose identity you are using. (Must a move valid at current range. // How does this deal with range changing moves?). Both. Dark.
The conceit here is that card is actually another card in disguise. It could be anyone else in the game (Although it might be a little hard to disguise some of the distinct characters floating around. Again, you just have to stop thinking so hard about these things.). If I could, I'd like to have made a card that literally was another card. A perfect blank that a player could morph into a different character so that, as the game's roster expands, newer players wouldn't be so left out. But that leads to problems since more card-wealthy players who could effectively slot two versions of the same character in one deck and other potential abuses that I haven't even mentioned yet. So, instead, I came up with this card where the idea is it's another character wearing a mask (He started out in the Close-happy Wrestlers where it was an easy jump to make if you've ever seen any luchadores or the like.). Able to act like another character, any character, but only for the duration of a fight and, maybe even less. A different character every time, you'd never know what you'd get until you, as it were, unwrapped the package.

To give a player a little control over that process, though, I'd like to have an innate where this card could accept any item. It's a little out there, I know, since it means an innate that works outside the battlefield and, instead, messes with way the game works in the planning phase. But, if that was possible, then you could snap an item from the Gangsters or the Vampires or any other group in just as well as you could add a Psycho Item, giving you a pick from a wide array of choices. And what this character would do is to take its cue from the border of that item and consider itself to be one of the characters from that group, more or less at random.

If that's not feasible then I have a back-up plan and this character would, instead, just gain the attributes of a random card – health, resistance, the whole works - but you won't know which until you actually bring this card out on the field.

Either way, Skill #4 allows this card to use a move from that character at random. And, then, Skill #3 allows this card to continuing using that card on the cheap. That can be a good thing when you've got, say, Signature Slice, but not so much when you've got Poison Dart. You'll also have to get slightly lucky with your procs. Skill #3 is pretty dangerous when you get right down to it because it allows P2 to step around normal skill cost and that could be a bad thing. But the general idea is that you can capture a skill at random and then reuse it as often as you want without having to spin the wheel to find it again.

Skill #2 allows him to capture one of his opponent's skills. It's a bit more dangerous than P1's skill grabber and also a bit less effective since it doesn't lock that skill out. It also requires that skill to be used first which means that the Stalker here likely has to get hit with it in order to, as it were, learn what to use.

But he can get around that difficulty with Skill #1 which is like an improved version of Open Palm. Rather than being a decent hit having a slight chance to interrupt it, instead, reflects. That can create an amazing health swing as you smack your foe and, literally, ask them why they're hitting themselves.

Idea: This card IS your opponent's card. A dark, twisted mirrored image of their foe, created by some horrible force and motivated only by their destruction. A pod person, a doppleganger, an evil twin.
Name: Fakor, Your Worst Nightmare / Dark [Foe's Name], Your Evil Twin
Innate: Has the innate ability and resistance of its foe.
HP: Average (75?)
RES: Mod/No/High
Bar (v2):
  1. Skill 1. Blood Pact. Steals 24 damage from your foe and gain half that amount as health (50Drain). If you have a Sympathetic Link with them, this healing is doubled (100Drain). Moderate cost (35), low speed (2). Close. Phys. 95h/100p.
  2. Skill 2. Sympathetic Link. For the next 6 turns, half of any damage you take is also suffered by your target as well. Moderate cost (40), low speed (3). Both. Dark. 100h/90p. // Can't stack.
  3. Skill 3. Sense Memory. If you are attacked this turn, this skill is replaced by that attack for the next 3 turns. Low cost (20), high speed (10). Both. Dark. 100h/100p.
  4. Skill 4. Shared Birthright. Your opponent loses a buff and you gain it. If they lose a buff in this way, they take 12 dark damage. Low cost (10), low speed (2). Both. Dark. 100h/100p.
The final Mimic. If P1 wants to copy skills and P2 wants to be a random card then this guy wants to be his opponent. It's Single White Kongai. He gains his opponent's abilities. Their resistance and innate but not their bar and, certainly, not their health – he has his own, just like he has his own energy.

The idea of an evil twin or a doppleganger, a flawed copy trying to replace the original is a fairly common horror theme so I think we're on solid ground thematically. Where I'm not certain is whether this character is a good idea or not. In order to differentiate it from the other two Mimics I've made him into a very defensive character. Defensive characters, as I've said, are pretty dangerous since they can be problems if they're too good. Yet, I really think it's the way to go here and this will be a card that can mimic an opponent and mitigate their damage while delivering just enough punishment of its own to finish them off.

The mimic move here is Skill #3. Like P2's move it requires an opponent to act first, so if you can guess which move they're going to pull and you manage to survive then you can be reasonably certain about what you'll get. But it's probably not a good idea to try and capture something like Chi Blast.

Skill #4 lets him take from his opponent as well. It transfers a buff to Psycho #3 and gives them a kick in the pants for their trouble. It's not exactly a huge move but with so many buffs around, it's not to be overlooked.

Those skills are, I think, more or less fine. The problem is the next pair which, if done wrong, might combine to make the Doppleganger an invulnerable foe. With Skill #1, he can steal health from his opponent. It's really just Life Drain under a different skin and that might not be so bad. But the next skill, the debuff in slot #2, that's might be just too good. The idea is that the Evil Twin sets up a bond between him and his opponent which connects their life force. When P3 is hurt so is his target. That punishes them for attacking him and helps his admittedly weak damage kill them off. I've toned both of them down since the original version and I'm not sure, at the moment if I've gone far enough.

Idea: A straight-up maniac, a damage dealing dervish that hits the field and his opponent running.
Name: Normie Mansfield, the Psycho-killer
Innate: When this card is switched in, his foe takes 12 damage (U).
HP: Average (70)
RES: Mod/Low/Ave
Bar (v2):
  1. Skill 1. Hamstring. Deal 14 damage to your foe. For the next 4 turns, their skills are 2 slower and changing ranges cost 10 more energy. Low cost (20), Moderate speed (8). Close. Phys. 90h/100p.
  2. Skill 2. Disembowel. Deal 32 damage to your foe. This attack has a high chance to critically hit (25crit). Moderate cost (35), low speed (4). 90h.
  3. Skill 3. Crazed Slashes. Deals 7x6(42) to your foe. This attack has a 80% chance to interrupt if it hits first. Moderate cost (40), high speed (7). Close. Phys. 95h/80p.
  4. Skill 4. Raving Madness. For the next 2 turns, your attacks are Dark, cost 10 less energy, and have an extra 22% chance to criically hit. Moderate cost (30), low speed (3). Both. Dark. 100h/90p.
The concept with the Slasher is the knife-wielding maniac. An insane asylum escapee leaving a trail of debris and bodies in his wake. Unlike the previous Psychos, he's not about delay and debilitation, he's all about the damage. He packs powerful punches right from the start with an innate that causes damage to his foe before they even start to fight and, more than that, with Skill #3 he packs a powerful interrupt. One that not only deals significant damage (But on a multi-hit so it's not as lethal as it could be.) but also has a decent chance to cause a slower attack to fizzle – it's a 95hit and an 80proc, at the moment, which works out to a pretty good 75% chance to spoil an attack.

That skill's the cornerpiece of this bar, it's everything else that's giving me trouble. The original idea behind Skill #2 was Eviscerate. That's a skill from my beloved Guild Wars that not only deals a lot of damage it procs a condition called a Deep Wound that lowers a target's health with the result that it delivers not just a lot of damage but a huge amount of damage. That's the feeling I want to get across here although, at the moment, it's stuck being the Slash to #3's Strike.

Skill #1 could be interesting but I don't think it's working well enough yet and it's definitely overshadowed by the other, more powerful attacks.

And the buff in Skill #4 is, frankly, a mess. Just a little too much but not focused enough. Which, I think, sums up this character as a whole. Still, Skill #3 is something to build around. I just haven't hit upon the right combination yet. Really, a troubled card and I'm running out of time to make it right.

Idea: An outsider. A character who works outside the range, outside the deck, and outside of the turn all to get in position to stab, as it were, her opponent in the back. She's a rogue, a weakly protected character who relies on deception and surprise.
Name: Robin Echs, the Shadow Killer
Innate: After making a critical hit, this character has a 40% chance to dodge attacks for the next turn.
HP: Below-average (55~60)
RES: Low/Low/Mod
Bar (v2):
  1. Skill 1. Phantom Strike. Deal 12 damage to a random target. At the end of the next turn, your foe takes 28 dark damage. Moderate cost (35), high speed (7), higher crit (10). Close. Phys. 95h/95p.
  2. Skill 2. Shadow Step. Deals 30 damage to your foe. This attack has a 50% chance to set the range to its opposite. Moderate cost (40), moderate to high speed (6), higher crit (10). Both. Dark. 90h/50p.
  3. Skill 3. Stab In The Dark / Spectre's Blade. Deal 12 physical damage to your foe. You are switched out of the battle but the next time your target is struck you are switched back in and they take 12 dark damage. High cost (55), low speed (2), higher crit (10). Close. Dark. 95h/100p.
  4. Skill 4. Penumba Shroud. For the next 4 turns, you have increased resistance (+3/0/+6), when you are struck, your target begins Bleeding, taking 10 damage for the next 2 turns. Moderate Cost (40), low speed (3). Both. Dark.
I really like this card, in case you haven't noticed. She's just brutally awesome. She's an interrupter but rather than using dedicated interruption skills she uses what I like to think of as soft interrupts. Abilities like range changing and switch out that will stop an attack from landing but aren't necessarily interrupts per se. She's got a bunch of those, wrapped up in a vicious little package that should lead to some interesting gameplay.

She's gotten a big change from her original version when I originally wanted her to have a Dodge chance tied to someone's health – hers, her opponent's, wasn't sure. Instead, I've kept the idea that this character who can meld into the shadows (I picture her, by the way, as a small, frail girl, perhaps no older than a child, who's wrapped in living shadows. Perhaps only a very pale face peering out from a cloak of inky blackness.) is well-able to avoid her opponent's attacks by making her proc a Dodge chance when she crits. To play into that, I've taken the idea of increasing a character's base crit rate which I recently stripped off of Rocker #3 and added it here. Shadow will have a base 10% chance to critically hit which will help her innate see play. I'd like to give her a bit more but her skills are already jam packed with modifiers so I don't think I can slip a high crit in there.

And, boy, does she have some interesting skills. The one I'd like to highlight is Skill #3 which is what I call a Free Switch. This is a skill that, when used, allows a character to switch out of battle and to another teammate, avoiding the risk of an intercept. Sort of like a reverse P-Swing. Like how a skill that hits fleeing can replace the intercept button on a character's bar, a free switch effectively replaces the switch button. Because of how they eliminate intercepts they have to be carefully restricted. I've made a few before and, indeed, they're an interesting idea to play around with but, here, I might have gone too far. Because, not only does this skill allow Shadow to switch out, it lets her switch back in. Since it leaves a debuff on its original target for a few turns where if they're hit, she'll pop back into play, the character she switches too can pretty much go berserker and blast away since they'll only have a limited amount of time to act. And it deals a kick of damage besides, so it can really eat a card up. But it should be really fun since it leads to some interesting concepts – imagine switching back and forth between Psychos #5 and #4, the one that causes damage when switched in, with this skill.

The fun doesn't stop there with a rangeless move that can cause the range to change and, perhaps, interrupt some casting in Skill #2. And a move in Skill #1 that gets to the heart of what Shadow is all about – attacking indirectly and not where you'd expect since it first hits a random opponent in hand and, then, boomerangs back to hit the card that was, at that point on the field in a few turns (You might have wondered why I never included such a simple concept as “hits and then hits again” when it came to filling out the Rocker's Echos, well, here's why. And, really, it's where I got the whole concept of Echos to begin with.).

I'm still not quite sure what to do with Skill #4, though. At the moment, I've scooped up another abandoned idea from R3 and given her what I used to call Spiked Armor – an increase to resistance and a chance to penalize those opponents who dare to attack. Unlike Rocker #3, this card is probably going to be a soft target so that might be good for an extra bit of protection but, I don't know, it just doesn't feel right.

Idea: A shrewd, calculating psychopath, always knowing the angle and just the right pressure to apply. An excellent interrupter. This character shuts down his opponent's and ties them in knots.
Name: Oberon Woodridge, the Clockwork Killer
Innate: Deals 12 damage (U) when his foe is interrupted.
HP: Average
RES: No/Low/Low
Bar (v2):
  1. Skill 1. Pressure Points. For the next 6 turns, when you attack you have a 35% chance to interrupt your target before they can attack. Low cost (30), low speed (3). Both. Dark. 100h/100p.
  2. Skill 2. Studied Risk. The next time your target attacks, they have a 40% chance to be interrupted (Duration: 5). Low cost (10), moderate speed (6). Both. Dark. 100h/90p.
  3. Skill 3. Needling Strike. Deals 20 damage to your foe. Low cost (20), high speed (9). Close. Phys. 90h.
  4. Skill 4. Barbed Whip. Deals 7x5 damage to your foe. Has a 30% chance to Bleed, causing 2 damage for 4 turns. Moderate cost (30), high speed (8). Far. Phys. 90h/30p.
The original idea here was for a Pin-head like demonic torturer and a card that exploited debuffs. Actually, I'll be honest with you, the original idea for Psycho #6 was a DOT Trapper that eventually became Gangster #4. When his original bar didn't quite work out, I stole the one I had slated to appear here and, with a few changes here and there, I think it's worked out well. It's left me floundering a bit as I try and work out what to do with this guy – like the final skill on a bar, the last character in a group or a set can be difficult since you've run out of good ideas. That seems to be what's happened here since I don't think the bar I posted the other day was all that hot.

So, instead, I'm going for a revision here. P1 is sucking up the Hellraiser vibe so, instead, we're going to go for the thoughtful, calculating movie villain here. Maybe it's just because I watched Saw over the weekend but the kind of elaborate plotter now appeals to me and the thinking man's psychopath, a cross between Jigsaw and Hannibal Lecter, just might work. I'm also changing the underlying mechanics away from a focus on exploiting debuffs instead to just a pure interrupter.

Psycho #6 now deals damage to his opponent when he lands an interrupt through his innate. And he has plenty of ways to get those interrupts. Rather than having a specific interrupt, though, he has a buff and a debuff which give him a chance to interrupt – or to have his opponents interrupt themselves. And a pair of quick attacks he can use at either range to capitalize on them.

I'm not sure if it works well or not, I need a little time for it to sink in and that's a precious commodity for me, at the moment. But, at the very least, a heavy interrupter theme is more in keeping with the Psycho's themes.

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