Midnight Munchkin Madness

Hello Mr./Mrs. Reader,
Game OverviewToday I will be going into a review of the board game Munchkin

  • Card game for 3-6+ players (expansion packs allow for more players)
  • Role Playing Game
  • Play time: 1hr+
  • Set up time for new players: 10 – 20 min
    • Need a large table or surface to play
    • Need a pen and paper to record level and token count or any other method (iPhone Munchkin Application, phone note taking application etc.

Game Rules

Essentially Munchkin is a dungeon crawler.  There are two decks of cards, a treasure deck and a door deck.  You play the role of a level 1 human dungeon crawler.  The point of the game is to kick open doors (draw a card from the door deck) to find out what is in that room and to be the first to reach level 10.  You will encounter one of three things when you open a door: a monster, a curse or a buff.

If you encounter a monster you can fight it and if you beat it you get a level and you get to draw from the treasure deck.  If the monster’s level is too high then you can ask for help from one person and other players can play curses and buffs to aid or backstab you.  If you can’t beat the monster then you can flee, depending on the monster you may die, loose a level or have a negative penalty of some sort.

If you encounter a curse then the player has to submit to the effect of the curse.

If you encounter a buff you can keep it or play it immediately.  Buffs can be anything from a race (elf, dwarf and halfling) to a class (thief, warrior, wizard and cleric) and other bonuses (raise a monster’s attack by 5, loose two cards etc.).

A players turn begins with the door kick, then a combat phase if they fight a monster.  Followed by the looting phase where they get the monster’s defeated loot or they draw another card from the door deck if a monster was not encountered.  The player can also summon a monster to fight from their hand to fight if they did not normally encounter one.

Munchkin Items

Likes

  1. Very entertaining once the player is able to learn the rules.  All our group members were fully immersed in the game and had a great time playing it.
  2. The balance for the player levelling system is mostly fair.  There are plenty of ways to increase your level and decrease your competition’s level.  There were many times when two players were near to winning the game and everyone ganged up to backstab the player in the lead to keep the game going.
  3. The social aspect of the game was also very fun.  Since board games are meant to be fun social experiences, Munchkin did this through the use of their class and combat system (Thief’s can back stab other players to create obstacles in their battle).  You can form alliances and bribe your friends with items that are not in the game.  At one point I formed a secret alliance with another player and it was our goal to team up annihilate the other team mates because we were both clerics and the rest of the players were thieves.
  4. The game can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.  If the players would like to play a simple game where they would just draw cards and play free-for-all, they can do that.  Whereas, if they wanted to players can form alliances and gang up on their friends while creating obstacles for others, they can also do that.
  5. The level of simplicity is probably one of its best points.  While the game may seem complicated at first the actual gameplay is fairly simple.  A player’s turn can be finished in 10 seconds e.g. open a door, fight a monster, collect treasure.  If others were to interject, then the turns would last longer going into alliance agreements and player’s asking for help and what not.  This makes the game flow nice and quick at times while the other players are not waiting a long time for their turn to come.
  6. The art style of the game is also very enjoyable making it both graphically and aesthetically pleasing.  The names of the cards and the pictures on them are along the lines of comic-mischief making it seem like you are playing a game with the characters on your Sunday morning comic paper
Chicken on your head

Dislikes

  1. The rules were a bit tough to pick up for very new players.  The rulebook is essentially a small pamphlet that could be turned into a more graphical and easier to read book.  The pamphlet is informative and it seems like it was meant for players that were ecstatic to be playing Munchkin and familiar with these types of games.  For new players it was a bit like drinking water out of a fire hose.
  2. The coin and monetary system was very useless and didn’t serve such a good purpose.  The description for it could have been better in the rule book.  If there was something to change in a future version, this could be it.  The game does not include tokens to use for money, it simply states use whatever you want (poker chips, tokens, real money).
  3. There should be more classes and more variety.  When our group was playing, we had 3 players playing as thieves that coordinated their backstabbing ability with other players to annoy them.  This was a bit demoralizing to those players and it felt like they were losing interest in the game because of trouble advancing.  However there are expansion packs available for this game that you would have to purchase elsewhere to solve this issue.  However given that the price of the game is about $30, there should be more content considering it only comes with about 170 cards and one die.  Not the best bang for you buck.
  4. More items!  It would be nice if there were more physical items, like figurines, visual aids and some other physical devices players can have to increase immersion.
  5. The levelling reward system for killing monsters was a unfair.  If you managed to kill a level 16 monster and you are level 5, the level boost should have been greater.  I don’t think players were rewarded enough for great efforts in killing higher level monsters.
  6. The classes and in-game combat could use a bit more depth.  It felt like sometimes it was over to quick.  Since this is a Role Playing Game, it would be nice if it came with a history book or something advanced players could read to pull off more moves in combat.  For example, if you were a cleric and you were fighting a vampire or an undead monster, the history book would show that if they defeat that monster they are allowed to take a specific item from a treasure pile.  Something along those lines to give the battle and classes more depth.

What to change

If I was able to design some parts of the game differently I would choose between changing how the monetary and coin system worked, to increasing the depth of the combat system.  The combat system currently is fine for new players.  However, if you were playing with more advanced users, it would be nice if there was a history book or extended rule book that had class, race and item profiles that gave a nice twist.  This way when a character is in a pickle fighting a high level monster they could pull off some expert move and get away safely without losing items or dying.

For the coin and monetary system, I would create a shop where it holds decent items and other things the character can buy.  Also after each monster kill you would be awarded treasure and coins.  This would give the player more cash flow.  Not enough to amass for a level increase every turn, but enough to get cheap items to use.  This would give a more RPG feel to the game and give players more cash flow.  Otherwise the old way to get money is to trade items in.  However items are very valuable and are worth more in your hand then gold is.

Questions

To get some feedback on this post here are some questions that I hope you take the time to answer in the reply box below:

Those who have not played Munchkin before:

  • Do you think that board games like Munchkin offer a better social experience then an online console game (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Starcraft, League of Legends etc.) or Facebook social game?
  • Would you rather pick up Munchkin for $30 bucks or spend that money on a video game? If you pick the Video game, write down which video game and why.
  • Do you still play board games? Which one if your favourite?

Those who have played Munchkin:

  • Do you agree that Munchkin is a fairly simple game, or do you think it is really complicated?
  • How do you feel about the level system? Do you think it is balanced? Should players be offered greater rewards for killing monsters?
  • Do you agree with my idea for a small in-game store that with a few items?  What would you do differently?
  • If Munchkin came with a history book, would you read it and plan out advanced strategies to use with your favoured class or race?

Also feel free to criticise and comment on whatever else you would like, the questions are just guidelines to help formulate an answer.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose

Game Construction: Assassin’s Creed

Happy Saturday dear reader,

Today I will be going over the wall climbing technique used in the first Assassin’s Creed.

Overview

Assassin’s Creed is an open world stealth adventure game that takes place during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) with the main player character being Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad or Atlair.  I wont go into to much detail about what the game is and other gritty details because it is a fairy popular game (over 5 million units sold) and part of a popular franchise.

One of the core gameplay elements of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, is the ability to parkour across any in-game surface and climb any building.

Goal

My goal is to figure out how they created the wall climbing system for Altair, both his locomotion and animation.

Breakdown

Starting of with the gamplay trailer breakdown:

  • From 0:15-0:20 – Here we can see that Altair is in fact floating above the ground showing us that they are not using Inverse Kinematics to bind the feet to the floor.  This is also known as foot skating.
  • 0:34-0:37 and 0:43-0:51 – Altair does not seem to be walking up the stairs like a normal person would rather it seems like he is diagonally interpolating  to give the illusion that he is actually climbing the staircase. Altair is not walking up every step, he seems to be playing an animation and another force is slowly increasing Altair’s elevation making it seem that he is walking up a staircase.
  • 0:53-3:00 – Wall climbing

Locomotion

First let’s begin with user input.  Assuming the player is playing on the Xbox 360, he will be holding the ‘RT’ and ‘A’ button in order to run up a wall and begin to climb it.  After this point they use the analog stick to pick a direction to climb in.

Now the only way to climb a wall is to look for different ledges to point to and then Altair will climb to that direction.  Most the most part he is limited to horizontal (X axis) and vertical (Y axis) movement.  For the most part there is no diagonal movement (X and Y axis) unless there are special landmark buildings where they have certain designs that can be climbed differently.  For the most part there is just X and Y movement on a building.

For the normal movement locomotion, they are not doing anything special other then basic physics across the world.  Altair’s movements are segregated into 2 categories

  • Low Profile – Basic walking movement, the ability to blend and steal
  • High Profile – The player must hold down the Right Trigger and the low profile buttons change.  Atlair can now run, jump and start a wall climb as well as assassinate others and pull out his weapon.  Altair can also tackle and shove people while he is running.
This makes the locomotion for the wall climbing a lot easier.  In the normal default stage (low profile) Altair is grounded on the floor and cannot scale buildings.  However as soon as he begins his wall traversal (0:50 – 1:00) Altair is in another “mode”.  In this mode all his other actions are unavailable.  All Altair can do is traverse the building, drop and let go of the building or jump away.  Essentially Altair is bound to that face of the building.  He switches one axis of freedom.  While on the ground Altair can move on the X and Z direction, as soon as the wall climb starts, he looses either the X or Z axis and gains a Y axis to move upwards in.

In this first image, we can see Altair hanging down on a ledge.  To prove that they used a similar system for almost all the buildings you can see his right arm is going inside the mesh.  This means that the ledges are essentially small bump mapped graphics separate from the locomotion system.  If the locomotion system was parented to the mesh of the building that Altair was climbing, then he would not be going through that ledge in the picture.

The hardest part to figuring out how Ubisoft managed to code the wall climbing system is the “ledges” system.  Did they use nodes that were hand placed on the buildings that indicated the ledge type? Did they physically make ledges in the mesh and had Altiar read in the the triangles to determine if it was a ledge? Was each ledge manually stuck on and treated as another object?

It took me a while to decide on one, but with a little helpful discussion with Kevin a.k.a. @Iceninja77 we were able to agree it was a mixture of nodes and separate objects. We believe that the basic buildings are plain rectangular texture mapped objects and the landmarks are just several polygons in one mesh. The level designer might have manually placed nodes on the building using their game engine to indicate where he wanted ledges.  Those nodes would have different type depending on what type of ledge they wanted and what animation Altair would play to reach it.

Figure 2: Ledge Types

Here we can see some of the basic types of ledges there are.  There are the Purple ledges that are just pieces of geometry that pop outwards and are not connected to other ledges.  The purple edges are only used as stepping stones.  Then we have the Blue type of ledges that wrap around the whole building that Altair can shimmy toward the left or right on.

Figure 3: Ledge Highlights

Each colour seen in Figure 3 is a ledge that Altair can climb on.  The window pane (Blue, Green, Pink, Red) would be a special node that has sub-nodes (Sub-Ledges) in it so that it can be traversed. The normal ledge (Purple) would be another example of a ledge Altair can shimmy around.

So far we have learned:

  • The only inputs are a direction given as a degree from the X-inputfrom the Xbox 360 controller. For example:
    • Left = -X axis
    • Right = +X axis
    • Up = +Y axis
    • Down = -Y axis
  • Once Altair enters a wall climb he is only limited to three options and the other walking actions are locked from use
    1. Move in a direction – Analog Stick
    2. Drop – ‘B’ button
    3. Jump in a direction (upwards or away from the building) – ‘A’ button
  • There are several basic ledge types:
    • Stepping stones – Used for Altair to from to other ledges
    • Shimmy Ledges – Altair can move left or right on these ledges until he finds a stepping stone to climb up, or another Shimmy Ledge.  Shimmy ledges can also wrap around the whole building
    • Sub-Ledge Objects – Special objects like window panes and steel grates that are a mix of Shimmy Ledges and Stepping stones.

Animation

We have a choice to pick between a key-frame animation system or a skeletal animation system.  Assuming that Ubisoft has lots of motion capture data for Altair climbing from and to different ledges, a Skeletal animation system would be the better pick.  Using a keyframe animation system would involve a lot more coding and a much larger animation blend tree.

Lets say that the wall climb is done in a doubly linked list, tree data structure.  The root would be the the top of the tower and the children would be the start of the building.  The way to traverse the tree is to give a direction from the analog stick.  For example, if you initiate a wall climb by walking up to the building and grabbing the closest ledge you would start of at one of the youngest children in that tree.  If you initiate a wall climb by running up the wall you would pass one child node and go to its parent.

Figure 4: Ledge Climbing Tree
  • White is the Root node for the top of the building.  This can be either a point or another flat surface like a roof where Altair is no longer locked in wall climbing mode and is free to roam in the X and Z axis
  • Red/Pink are the Stepping stone ledge types
  • Blue are the Shimmy ledge types
The colours of the line are the types of movements Altair can make.  Altair can go from Stepping stone to Stepping stone provided they are on the same level.  If Altair would want to move up a level he would have to use either a single Stepping Stone or a Shimmy ledge to move upwards.

Now the basic idea here is that you would start at the bottom and work your way up.  This is NOT a BST (Binary Standard Tree) so some rules of tree’s do not apply to us.  So if you start at the bottom on a Stepping Stone ledge type you can traverse the tree by going upward and increasing your level to a Shimmy ledge type and Altair would play the animation from Stepping Stone to Shimmy.  If Altair does not move then he would play the animation for idle on Stepping.

So the best idea is to store the animation to be played in the nodes themselves.  A boolean would be changed and then that animation would play while also moving Altair to that new position.

The reason I would use a tree like this for the wall climbing is that it makes it easier for combining user input and traversing the tree.  If the user inputs a negative X value and if Altair was on a Shimmy ledge he would move left until he reaches the end of that ledge or forever if the ledge wraps around the building.  If the Shimmy edge has a Stepping Stone to the left of it and the user is still inputting a negative X value then Altair would climb to the stepping stone.  If the user wants to climb upwards, the just input a positive Y on the analog stick and Altair will keep climbing upwards until he reaches a dead end and has to move left to right to find another ledge to climb upwards with.

Closing Statements

This was a fairly quick overview of how the climbing system would be done.  I didn’t go into detail about the linked list aspect of it because that would be more complicated.  We would have to factor in several items to choose which animation to be played.  Since sometimes Altair is grabbing the ledge and hanging freely, and other times where Altair is grabbing a Stepping Stone and two level’s under him there is a Shimmy ledge and his feet are held up on that ledge.

I think that having a logic tree for each building would be easier to program rather then giving the player unlimited freedom thinking that each ledge is special and there are unlimited ways of climbing each building.  In reality they are just picking a random point in the matrix and depending on their inputs they are just following a predetermined path.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose