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  Ludum Dare 15 06:13 PM -- Mon August 31, 2009  

Well, I gave it a brief go this weekend for LD15 (Theme: Caverns). For me, it takes place over Friday night, all Saturday, and most of Sunday. I spent Friday night at the airport and out to dinner, Saturday afternoon giving blood and out to lunch, and most of the rest of the time playing WoW and watching TV/movies.

That's not to say I did nothing! In fact, prior to leaving on Friday, I whipped up a Keynote Address for LD15! The first in history (which I was forced to do by the evils of peer pressure). Enjoy:

Hopefully that really gives you a good idea of the great history behind Ludum Dare. The more key figures behind the contest also really beefed up the entry and voting systems, and even redid the look of the site. Everything has reached a level of class so vast that it cannot be comprehended by ordinary peasants.

As for actually doing an entry, I DID in fact work on one! I probably spent about two hours of total time working on it, but I wasn't really doing an entry exactly. I was messing around with and trying to learn to use the Unity system. It's amazing. You make an animated 3D model in Max and you can literally just drag & drop it into Unity and it works. I'm really blown away by what it can do, and not so blown away with the tutorial options available. There's really nothing about starting from scratch, just ton after ton of tutorials about "so your game is done, but you want to add lightmaps?" or "you want to implement [some complex shader trick] in your game?" NO, I just want to start up a basic game! So there's a curve to it. I actually had to dig into the reference manual just to see how to get input. Anyway, this was as far as I got, but I feel like I learned a lot at least:

You can move him forward and back with the left and right arrow keys, but can't move any other direction or jump, and the camera doesn't follow him. Also his pupils are inverted, which is an interesting issue (I think the normals are backwards for some reason, they weren't in Max). But he animates! Anyway, I will probably buy Unity. It's really incredible, and I could see making a game with it rather easily. But first I have a website and another game to finish.
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  How To Make Popcorn 10:53 PM -- Wed August 26, 2009  

As a public service announcement, I sometimes like to post about stuff that I came across randomly and then had to spend a long time googling further details on. My theory is that by having this info in more places on the web, it's easier to stumble across it, and someone like me will have less work someday.

You know how movie theater popcorn is goooooooood? There's a secret, but it's not some far-out thing that requires special industrial items. Well, it sorta does, but this item is easy to obtain and very cheap. Buy Flavacol! It's an artificially butter-flavored salt. Don't buy the 50lb tub I just linked to. Go to a restaurant supply store and pick up a $1.50 carton (looks like a milk carton). That carton will last you a lifetime.

Now you ask, where do I find such a store? That's easier than you think too. I got mine at Smart & Final, which is a chain you can find all over the place. There are other such stores, but I'm afraid that is going to take some googling if you don't know of a local one. There is one somewhere reasonably near you, you just have to figure out where it is.

So Flavacol is very light on instructions, what do you do with it? Well, after more googling, I can tell you. Pop your popcorn however you like (obviously not premade microwave bags, though - Alton Brown does have a recipe for making your own microwave popcorn in a paper bag, look it up!), but sprinkle the flavacol on the corn before popping. It takes extremely little: for 1/2 cup of kernels, I find 1/4tsp to be a good amount. There are about 20 trillion of those in the carton, so your $1.50 is going to last.

What this won't get you is bright yellow, super salty, butter-tasting corn. It's actually a rather mild flavor, but it's very good. You can use more Flavacol next time if you want to push it up to the super salty movie theater style. That's extremely tasty, but beware: After further excessive googling, I can tell you that a teaspoon of Flavacool has more than your entire daily allowance of sodium in it (2750mg). That's all it has in it, so it's nice that there's no fat or anything, but it will squeeze your arteries to death.

I'm very happy with this because my popcorn is now much healthier - I used to melt butter onto it (YUM), but with Flavacol rocking, I don't need to, and I most likely put on more sodium worth of salt than I ever did in Flavacol (this stuff I actually measure!). However, if you don't want to be healthy, I'd also like to note that movie theaters use butter-flavored coconut oil to make their corn, another popcorn secret I have learned. So slather on the Flavacol and coconut oil, and then top it all off with artificial yellow oil goo (I love that stuff, I don't care that it's made of the screams of the iniquitous)!

There are Flavacol varieties too, it seems... BB for Better Buttery... one "with Saltwise" (hugely more expensive) which sounds like an answer to the sodium woes, and Premier, which gets rid of the artificial color. And don't forget to check out the pre-made popcorn packs which include the butter-flavored oil, and I think flavacol-sprinkled kernels. There's really a whole world of pro popcorn products, and you can find them online if you don't mind massive shipping charges and equally massive products (need a 35lb bag of coconut oil?). But plain old Flavacol from your local Smart & Final is small, cheap, and easy to get. Give it a chomp.
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  Mikeyquest Updated 10:28 PM -- Sun August 23, 2009  

This is probably quite unnecessary, but I noticed a lot of people really latching onto MikeyQuest (let me remind you, it's not under construction, and quite likely never will be! It's just one of many millions of game ideas floating in my brain soup), and at least half of them seem to have a very wrong idea of what it is. So I thought I'd communicate it more clearly, especially because I keep thinking about it more.

MikeyQuest is not a user-editable game. I know those are good, and really spark lots of involvement, but that's very definitely not what this particular game is about. Suggestions that users could have their own worlds to edit and that sort of thing just don't make sense in the context. As far as players are concerned, it's a straightforward action-RPG game. If you think of it like that, you will understand it better.

So it's just an action-RPG. Say it's Loonyland 2 again, just with a different plot and characters (the gameplay would in fact surely be quite different, but that's irrelevant like an elephant). The only thing that's different is that when it first comes out, it's a very teeny tiny game. You can only level to about level 5 or something, and only play as one or two classes. But gradually over time, more and more content appears, and the maximum level increases. That's all there is to it from your perspective (so suggesting there should be a huge level cap doesn't help you, since there'd be nothing to do once you leveled higher than me).

It's only uniquely fun and exciting from my point of view! For me, I am gradually adding the new content as I play it, so it's always new and interesting for me. This does have repercussions for you as well. Besides the obvious fact that it means you can't level faster than me or finish any quests or kill any bosses before I do (and I will be rather slow, since making that content will take a while...), it also means that your suggestions and ideas could easily be incorporated as it moves along. So that's kind of fun.

Anyway, I hope that is much clearer. On another note, I invented a nice simple plot for it that makes it all make sense! Somewhat. Some guy somewhere has opened the Gates Of Oblivion, which is understandably something that is generally frowned upon. As a result, darkness has flooded over the world, eating everything. When the game begins, all that's left is one tiny village, where the Great Wizard is furiously chanting and whatnot to push the darkness back. He's the only thing holding it from completely engulfing the world. This explains why only that tiny bit of game exists initially. It's just darkness beyond. What's interesting is, rather than having the things I create just appear, it can be a 3-stage process:

The wizard asks you to do quests for him, or maybe there's just a generic thing - the more Light Crystals you bring him, the more power he has, something like that. Once you achieve the next level of that, a new section of darkness is pushed back (and of course, you can only reach each next level of Light Crystals/Wizard Quests once I have created the content that goes under that darkness).

But wait! This is bad darkness, not just night time. So once it is gone, the land is still corrupted and ruined. So phase 2 is to go to where the darkness has been removed and restore it by smashing dark crystals or killing monsters or something. As you do that, the land is cleansed bit by bit, until at last you see that new area as it was meant to be - a typical fantasy world, with people offering you quests, and ordinary non-dark monsters to slay.

So the third stage is usual RPG fare. "Now that the darkness has lifted, I can return to my home! Thanks! But our crops have all died, so can you get me 12 Zagnut Seeds to plant?", etc. I guess maybe their souls were in stasis in the darkness and now they come back to life once you fix it, because they couldn't all have been staying in the one remaining village.

I think that sounds very cool to me, because it adds extraneous 'arcade-style' gameplay to the game (i.e. not doing a specific quest, but just accomplishing something because it's the general thing you are supposed to do... if that makes sense). It's also cool in that it not only explains the world starting out tiny, but lets you personally unlock the extra world that appears, rather than just saying "wow, that tree wasn't there yesterday!" Maybe each time I finish an area, it could have a big notice "A new Light Crystal has grown!" and you have to go find it, and know that getting it will get you some new gameplay.

A very appealing game idea to me. Maybe I ought to stop slacking off on weekends and just mess around with that instead! Beh, sounds like work.
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  Meet The Bunnies #2: Chaplain 05:00 PM -- Thu August 20, 2009  

The Chaplain is of course the religious arm of the Order Of The Snuggly Bunny. And like any fantasy religious guy, he's all about healing! This is probably the most complex Bunny unit to use, but also the most important when used right. It's the Zerg Queen of Loonyland. He can have the following abilites either inherently or through skill upgrades:
  • Smack - A weak attack, smacking somebody with the holy censer. That'll learn 'em.

  • Heal - Zap a nearby ally, healing him for a good amount. Really straightforward. Possibly can be upgraded to also remove one negative effect (Blindness, Poison, etc).

  • Martyr - Drop dead. There's an upside, though! The targeted nearby ally is healed to full health, and can't be harmed for a turn or two (duration possibly upgrades with skills).

  • Holy Light - Zaps an enemy within a couple of tiles, blinding him for several turns (so he provides no line of sight, but can still attack just fine if someone else is doing the looking for him). Airborne enemies that are blinded become grounded. This is key to the Bunnies, because they don't have much anti-air ability.
The Martyr ability is part of the overall unique feature of the Bunny faction. Order Knights don't seem to have it (yet anyway), but all the other units do. It's inflicting damage to yourself (death, in this case) to do more powerful things. I don't know how that will work out in the balance, but even if the other units can't have it, I think Martyr will still work nicely. Sacrificing an entire expensive unit to heal and protect another is always a fun and tricky decision to be made.

For other units, where they just take X damage in exchange for a more damaging attack, or some other buff, I worry that either the damage will be too low, so nobody will mind and the unit is then just too powerful, or the damage is too high, so nobody will ever use the ability since it's not worth the loss. Perhaps having a few Chaplains around with their Heal ability will make the difference. And someone under a Martyr shield could use abilities like that freely! So it does get interesting... wish this was all made so I could try it out.

I may also drop Smack, since it's pretty useless and just for fun, and replace it with Shield, which protects the targeted ally from the next hit they would take. Maybe that too could be used to protect them from self-damage. That makes it even more intriguing! Of course, that effect could be done just as well by just reversing the order you move the guys in: have the other guy use his self-pain attack, and then have the Chaplain Heal him (assuming the self-pain is equal to or lower than the heal amount, which seems likely).
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  Two Fun Games To May-Be 02:40 AM -- Tue August 18, 2009  

Just sharing a couple game ideas I've been kicking around and can't seem to let go of. It's always fun to set those down here. They will probably never happen, but they're fun to think about.

Kid Mystic: Armies Of Evil

I have a certain fondness for the Kid Mystic universe. It is most definitely not Loonyland. It's basically a fairy tale land (there are even fairies!), with the kingdom of Tulipton, and the Monster Wilderness, and the completely stereotypical wizard outfit. I'd like to explore that world more and see what is out there.

But more importantly, I really enjoy blasting big groups of guys with AoE ("area of effect" - spells that hit multiple enemies at once) magic in WoW. The specific set of tools a Frost Mage gets for doing that is a lot of fun - you run and round guys up with a magic shield on you, then when it's about to break from them hitting you, you blast a frost nova to freeze the monsters all in place. Then you blink away and throw a blizzard down on their heads, which eventually breaks the frost nova, and then things get interesting (if they're not all dead from the two Blizzards you can drop before they reach you), with assorted tricks at hand.

So I thought, I want a game that's all about that! I was also inspired by Atari 2600 WoW, which it turns out is a really fun game, that does a great job of distilling down the 'point' of several different WoW classes, and giving you the fun of exploiting a small, focused and interlocking set of tools to deal with various encounters.

So, thus you have Kid Mystic: A.O.E. - Kid Mystic sets out of Tulipton on a dangerous trek through the Monster Wilderness (for some reason) and levels up spells in one of several sets (or mix and match, but probably not until higher level): Ice, Fire, or Thunder (did some thinking about Poison, too, but I don't know if there's enough tools there). The monsters come in vast numbers, and basically you run around and round them up and mow them down. Very fast paced, very fun. Sort of like the Crimsonland type games as well (perhaps Smash TV is more memorable?), in case the influence count was too low.

Each magic type has a different style: Ice is about controlling the enemies - freezing and slowing them, so they don't hit you as you gradually destroy them. Fire is about doing tons of damage at close range, so your life is very much at risk, but you can kill them quickly. Thunder is about moving quickly and escaping danger while you destroy.


The actual gameplay and content of this game, I have no idea about. Well, I have some ideas, but they're beside the point. The point is the game layout/style/scheme/some other word. MikeyQuest is like an MMORPG, but single-player (it's online, and downloads the maps and enemies as you go, that kind of thing. Probably auction house/trading stuff between players, and of course chat, but you're each playing in your own world). It definitely has leveling up, lots of leveling up.

So what's so special about it!? Well, I would release it with only about 5 levels of content. Just sort of the beginner area where you get your first things. And probably only one playable class. As you travel around and reach the edges of the content, you see a vast empty void of stars. The world just ends. But, here's the part I like, as *I* play it, I go along and create new quests, expand the terrain (handy in-game tools would let me actually throw down new terrain in my path as I traveled!), add monsters, etc. Whenever I leveled up, I'd sit down and think "Hmm, what new skills should this class have at this level?" And I make them! So when I gain a level, there'd be this big game-wide announcement "HOORAY! MIKEY HAS DINGED!" (that means 'gained a level'), and the level cap for all you not-Mikeys would go up by 1!

Eventually, I'd get bored with that class and roll up an alt (that means start a new character) of a new class, adding that in. And in playing it, I'd be like "I already did these quests, bleh", and I'd head off in a new direction, and lo, new quests and monsters would appear before me to meet my blade. So when I did that, you too would now have new starter content, and a new class to try, and so on. After a year or two of me playing like this, there'd be a huge detailed world, a game truly worth playing! Warning: I am a total altaholic, so the level cap would probably be 20 and there would be like 50 character classes. But there'd be a lot of stuff for them to do! Like one day I'd be sitting around going "I don't wanna go questing. Why can't I craft things out of wood?" and lo and behold, there would gradually become a Woodworking profession, that I would level up, and gradually add new recipes to!

The reason I invented this idea, and what I love about it, is that it fulfills my desire to level up and try out new things. Normally, when you make a game, it's just a boring grind playing the same bits over and over and growing to hate them, or at least not want to play them. By the time it's released, it's no fun. But I'm in business to make the games I want to play, so it's no fair I don't get to play them! WoW has shown me that I really don't care about 'lore' or the reasons behind the quests. If a guy tells me to kill 10 boars, I'll go do it, no questions asked. I'm good like that. The fun for me is then in employing my assorted abilities against said boars. So it wouldn't bother me that I'm never surprised by the storyline or the scenery, I'd get to enjoy what I always enjoy - leveling up, getting new skills (even if I have to invent them), theorycrafting on which ones should combine with others, and squishing monsters with them.

It sounds awfully fun to me, a perfect replacement for the money I waste on WoW every month. It would need very robust tools for making the content, though, or I'd spend all my time replaying things fixing bugs just like usual.
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  Meet The Bunnies #1: Order Knight 04:37 PM -- Fri August 14, 2009  

I'm going to complete the entire Loonyland Tactics game with just one army, The Order Of The Snuggly Bunny. Once everything is working deliciously with them, I can gradually slip in the others. The game should be released and played by millions with just one army. The others will add spice!

So to that end, I've been working out exactly what this army contains. Let me take you, every so often, through the units of that army. I won't be giving out any numbers, because I'm not messing with numbers at all until I actually have these things live in game where the numbers might mean something. Today, we meet the backbone of the whole force. The cheapest unit, of which you will have many in every game.

Order Knight
This is your basic infantry unit. A man in a bunny suit, armed with a poleaxe. Cheap to buy, low-medium damage, weak armor, low-medium life, medium speed, medium vision. Just your basic soldier. He can eventually obtain 3 active abilities and one not-so-active, if you choose the appropriate skills when leveling your commander (Captain Capitan):
  • Slash: This ability does not require skills to obtain. It's just a basic melee attack. This being a rather standard turn-based game, attacking ends his movement.

  • Fury: This is a buff you gain each time you hit an enemy with Slash. You can stack it up to 5 times, and it never goes away. It either has no effect, or it gives you 1 Armor per charge (maybe a skill would add the Armor bonus, but it seems sad to spend a skill point to gain nothing!). So look below to see why you want it.

  • Fist Of Fury: You can only use this when you have at least 1 Fury. It uses up 1 Fury to quickly strike someone for 1/4 normal damage. The wonderfulness is that it does not end your movement to do so. If you have 5 Fury, you can wander around smacking 5 guys before ending with a Slash.

  • Furious Slashes: You can only use this with at least 1 Fury also. It uses up all your Fury to strike your target that many times for half damage each time, but it is armor-piercing.
And there is the first one! A nice straightforward attack unit, easily countered with ranged attacks (I think). I'm trying to stick in several interesting mechanics in each unit, so that I have to develop the code to manage such things, making it easier to make the future armies. If that makes actually playing too confusing, I can always trim them down to more simple features (hey, Advance Wars just has plain old attack!), and still have the ability to make the fancy features for specific units that need them.
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  The Magic of Loonyland 04:44 PM -- Wed August 12, 2009  

I mentioned earlier that there's a religious system in Loonyland. So let's hear about it! You have already met 2/5 of the pantheon if you finished Loonyland 2. You see, there are 5 Titans that rule Loonyland - and by that, I actually mean 5 kinds of Titans, there are in fact hundreds or thousands of each. Each Titan has dominion over one aspect of the land (or not-land in 2 cases). They are the machinery that makes the world run. The people of Loonyland often follow one of these 5 Titans, worshipping them and bringing them offerings at temples that are set up in various appropriate places. In exchange for their obeisance, they gain magical power of the appropriate type. It will be clearer after you meet the Titans:

Ice Titans - Remember them? They are petty and cruel. That shouldn't speak ill of their followers, though. If you lived in the frozen north, you'd be quite nice to the Ice Titans too, if you wanted to keep living.

Sky Titans - Think hard to see if you've seen one of these! They control the skies - whether it rains or is sunny, the actual rising and setting of the sun, the winds, anything that goes on up there.

Sea Titans - These oddly live in the ocean, and I have yet to decide how they appear. Whale-like? Squid-like? Cthulhu? They control the tides and all that stuff. Despite being Sea Titans, they're also in charge of lakes and rivers. Water in general.

Stone Titans - These slow-moving, long-deliberating guys rule the mountains and deserts (sand is just very very small stones, you know). They are the most non-magical of the Titans - a Stone Priest (there are Priests of all 5 types, and they're not very priestlike - more like mages with magic of the appropriate sort) is a big warrior that smashes things with a stone hammer. Logically, these priests value toughness above all. There's plenty of magic powering that smashing, but it's all much more physical and, yes, earthy than the other Titans.

Green Titans - They are the Titans of the woods and trees. All plant life is their domain, but they of course live deep in forests.

So everything that goes on in the world (except for things animals do, which is up to them) is a negotiation between these Titans. Sky and Stone Titans argue over how high mountains can be, Sea Titans want to encroach on the other Titans' land (and woods and ice). Green Titans want to spread their forests out into the deserts. And of course, the nasty Ice Titans just want to cover the world in ice, but they're held in check by the other four.

The Titans have various personalities (individually, and general stereotypical ones for their kind), but their followers, as I mentioned above, don't necessarily fit with that. Someone who's flinging ice magic around isn't an evil person (of course, Baron Von Frostburn is), and a follower of the endlessly benevolent Sky Titans isn't necessarily your friend. It really has more to do with where you grew up, who you've turned to for protection, and of course as usual, who your parents worshipped. Then there could be someone actively seeking magical power - they could cynically make offerings to any Titans they wished. In general though, Titans are not going to bestow much favor on someone who is spreading their offerings around. The Titans know if you are being true to them!

That's where the Priests come in. They usually live at a temple devoted to their particular Titan, and they spend most of their time in some sort of worship to it. As a result, they have great power with that 'element'.

In general, nobody ever sees the Titans. It's not like they're having chats with them (hence why their personalities don't affect worship - people don't even know what they're like in the first place). They work behind the scenes, just managing the world. When your wedding gets rained out, you decry it as the Sky Titans messing with you (and most likely, wedding planners are making offerings in the hopes of preventing it), but you'll never know if it really was something out to get you, or just where the rain had to be at that time. The arrival of the Ice Titans in LL2 was completely abnormal, as was what happened in the ending. There are always rumors of seeing different Titans, but it's like the Loch Ness Monster - that log out in the lake is not a Sea Titan even though Billy Bob swears it is.

And if you wonder where fire fits in, it doesn't. Fire just happens.
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  Daily Sketch #9: Doodley Doo 10:39 PM -- Thu August 6, 2009  

That's why it's called Morning Doodles, folks! All the O's are because I was having a really hard time drawing smooth lines and circles, so I just decided I'd practice making circles. It got rather addictive. And seriously, those are honest attempts at making perfect circles. Back pain is not conducive to precision drawing, that's for sure. But I'm always really sloppy with my lines and curves, I just don't have a steady hand.
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  Yea, Verily 09:36 PM -- Wed August 5, 2009  

I'm having fun, having blocked out a couple hours 3 days a week for "Hamumu art". So not knowing what else to do, I've been making these Snuggly Bunny units! I won't be needing them for a very long time, but it's fun to do, and productive.

This is of course the Priest. He'll have a marginally more interesting name than that eventually (Order Priest? He may be more specific than that... Loonyland has a religious system we haven't discussed!). His holy censer is a lot like a mace with a hula hoop, so I hope he finds a slot in his move list for "Bonk".

What you can't see that I think is kind of cool is that like all Snuggly soldiers, he has a bunny hat. His, however, is a hood with the ears on top, so since the hood is pulled back, the ears are hanging down his back (you can kinda see a bit of them behind his arms). But, this being a 'board-game' where guys don't ever face away from you, you'll never see them! Oh well.
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  Bunny Stats 11:01 PM -- Tue August 4, 2009  

This is tech stuff that many people won't care about, but I know I dig right into things like this when it's for a game I'm excited about (Diablo III...), so here you go:

I'm settling on the specific stats that units will have in LL Tactics. It's not actually final, and I'll probably find some I need to add later, but these are currently the stats:
  • Might: most physical skills base damage on this
  • Brains: most magical skills base damage/healing/etc on this
  • Guts: your max life
  • Feets: movement points per turn
  • Armor: reduces damage taken when hit
  • Eyes: tiles of vision
The only reason we have both Might and Brains (which are the exact same thing, but applicable to different types of skills) is simply so that I can have Commander talents that boost one or the other. You wouldn't want "Might Of The Hedgehog" to increase how much your healers heal for, would you? So other than that, Might and Brains are pretty straightforward. An Order Knight will have something like "Slash: hit the target for [Might] damage." (where [Might] is replaced by the actual stat value, dependent on your talents). Other skills might do "does [Might/4] damage to everyone in a radius", so it's based on Might, not necessarily the exact amount (maybe [Might x 2 + 7] sometimes!).

So why stats at all? Why not just say "Slash: does 5 damage." in the skill? First off, as I mentioned, your Commander has talents which affect the Might of all units (or specific ones), so it's nice that they can boost the damage of everything without reading like an encyclopedia ("Slash does +1 damage, Whirlwind does +2, Axe Bonk does +1..."). Secondly, a unit might buff its allies with "+2 Might to all adjacent units" or something. If instead that were "Adjacent units do +2 damage" it would unfairly boost weaker attacks (like that [Might/4] one) and have a minimal effect on big ones. Also fun here is that it can boost Might or Brains - makes sense for magical stuff to get magically enhanced by one guy, and warrior stuff to get cranked up by a different one. Without stats, that would again be a laundry list. I am also considering (maybe not at release...) having various items your Commander can get which boost the stats of your units. So stats are nice.

That's about all the stats I'm sure that I need. Some others might sneak in there. Conflating healing spells and damaging ones into one stat is iffy, but you don't need 500 different stats!

And yeah, Armor probably needs a Dumber name, but I'm not sure what.
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