More to Come Soon

Hopefully I'll get back to actively writing on here soon.

Until then, enjoy some good music.

Intercession Tanking

In order to run an intercession tank you don't really need much prep work. You'll need +3 speed and +2 strength in order to unlock the intercession skill, and from there it's all a matter of making the other skills work for you.

The most important part is the Shield's skill cloud. It's abilities are as follows:
Name - Description - Stats Requirement
Block - For the next round, your shield takes 50% of the damage directed towards you. - No requirements

Intercession - Move between a nearby ally and enemy at melee range of each other, knocking both away from each other by 2 meters. - +3 spd, +2 str

Clipping - Swing the shield out in front of you for a chance to knock back an enemy 2 meters. - +4 str

Shield Smash - An overhead attack with the shield that hits for double the critical damage on a critical hit. +1 spd, +2 str

Burrow - Push your shield under an enemies guard to open them up for attack, enemy gains -20% armor for 2 rounds. - Body size must be at least one level lower than enemy's, +6 str

Long Yard - +33% intercession range for 1 round. - +4 spd

Double Body Blow - Use the edge of your shield to punch the enemy's body twice in quick succession, deals 2x normal attack damage. - +7 spd

Dual Shields - Allows you to wield two shields at the same time. - Medium/Large body size

Dual Block - Requires Dual Shields. Block with both shields at the same time for 2 rounds, each taking 50% of the damage intended for you.

Dangerous Impediment - Swing your shield(s) around in front of you to ward off enemies, lasts 2 rounds, knockback anyone within range 1 meter and makes 1 meter of ground in front of you impassable. - Medium/Large body size, +3 str, +2 spd

Crashing Symbols - Requires Dual Shields. Attack with both shields at once swinging them from opposite sides for +100 damage and a 36% chance to stun for 1 round. - Medium/Large body size, +5 str

Wall of Flesh - Open yourself up entirely to physically occupy as wide a space as possible, all attacks taken automatically ignore 50% armor. - Large body size

Crushing Blow - An overhand attack with both hands for 250 damage. - Large body size, +6 str.

Interceding Step - So long as two allies within intercession range are being attacked at melee range, intercede both enemies in the same round. - Large body size, +6 spd

The bull's head is also an excellent choice for a tank as it adds the hard head skill.
Hard Head - Head butt an opponent knocking them back 3 meters with a 20% chance to stun for 2 rounds.

Tanking Styles
There are two main styles of intercession tank, the knock back tank and the zone of control tank. Kb tanks focus heavily on strength, the idea being to intercede an enemy then physically remove them from the fight long enough for your back rows teammates to move out of the way or change the flow of battle. ZoC tanks on the other hand should be constantly moving. Obviously though you'll need to prioritize correctly so that you break enemy damage dealers off your squishier members, while not interfering in your damage dealers taking out their squishier members. Both are highly tactical positions, but the kb tank is more likely to make a single weighty decision every few rounds, while the ZoC tank is going to be constantly attempting to adjust the situation.

ZoC tanks are also very good for protecting sniper nests since the highly specialized units need to take almost no damage in order to survive. Kb tanks on the other hand are really at their best against other tanks, they can temporarily shut down a ZoC tank, or run merry havoc against cannoneers by preventing them from firing a loaded charge.
Both tanks benefit from size increases, though the strength based kb tank can also benefit from being smaller than an opponent due to burrow.

Combo Setup
In terms of combo rotations, you'll really want to set up a first track of five very quick abilities starting with intercede. This way you can run a cycle against a single opponent then go back to the start to intercede another player. Kb tanks will want their second track to focus on knock back abilities, and third track to focus on utility, and maybe an extra intercede just in case. For the ZoC tank the second track should be all intercedes (you can change the first ability on the first track), and the third track should be utility and especially Long Yard.

Things to Keep in Mind
Make judicious use of Block. While there may not be any healers, there are channelers who can repair your shields in the field. Any damage directed instead to your shields could be a major advantage in a fight.
Bring spare shields. You never know when a huge attack is going to whallop your shields into submission. If you can pull out a new one and get right back in the fight, all the better.
Don't suicide lightly. Wall of Flesh can prevent a whole lot of damage from reaching your team, but it's not wise to throw yourself under the bus if you're the team's only or main tank. You'll have to weigh the effects of this particular barrage of damage, against how much you could save your team from by not taking it.


What I've been up to

Cleaned out the garage.

Beat Dragon Age: Origins twice.

Having some fun with League of Legends.

Gave up on partnerships and started programming Ronin Beat myself in XNA.

Started playing Darkfall.

A lot of drawing that I decided not to keep.

Sleeping, lots of sleeping.


This caught my eye.

main road|post showreel 2009 from Arman Yahin on Vimeo.

Primary Source care of Abduzeedo

Showreel from a group named road|post


The Sound of Gaming

An Argument for Studying Music in Relation to Gaming Rather Than Film

Get ready for some heavy listening.

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Bunny Hop
In the clip above Julie Andrews character is teaching the children using a system called solfège. The notes are sung aloud at the proper tune using a solfège syllable, do, re, mi, etc...

Unfortunately, game design doesn't seem to have any direct analogue to solfège, though any individual genre within games could probably create something close. Fighting games especially, fore, back, left, right, punch, kick, block, jump. Indeed, if you open up the dojo in Virtua Fighter 5 you may see that very notation attempting to teach you the various combos.

At it's core, solfège exists to give voice to the fundamental basics of musical graphing and notation.

A concept not wholly unfamiliar to game designers.

Bare Metal Mechanics (Ludology)
Any time we attempt to discuss games in relation to films or novels we are immediately caught in discussing the narrative(narratological?) issues of games. While not necessarily a heinous act, it creates a problem quite similar to discussing music purely in terms of lyrics.

For instance, if you watch the first couple minutes, of the next two videos, then the third for at least the first four minutes or so, you'll notice something about the relationship of lyrics to music.

The narrative of a game has, I believe, almost exactly the same relation to games. In music, the tune of a song can be expressed through the voice as an instrument, or the lyrics can simply be a layer applied over top of whatever music is playing. Similarly the narrative of a game can be built with interesting choices, becoming itself part of the game, or can be layered over the existing game play as something completely separate.

I'm not saying that lyrics are bad, it's just that as lyrics are not in and of themselves music, narrative is not in and of itself a game.

What's more music is, at it's core, an abstract set of rules applied to sound to create something our mind recognizes as more than simple sound. A game is much the same, an abstract set of rules applied to a space such that our mind recognizes it as more than simply a space. What's most important, I think, is the abstraction. To use a somewhat famous example, a film can show you a peach in detail, a book can describe it in detail, but a piece of musical notes cannot go into detail about the peach. In order to express a peach in musical notation, you must call upon the emotional underpinnings, on connections in our ontological basis. So it is with games, the rules of a game cannot describe a peach in detail, so it must attach itself to the mechanical and emotional associations of how we interact with a peach.



A Brief Intermission

While I'm trying to think some things over, we can have a quick intermission.

Gotye: Hearts a Mess

C Block - Vladimir Kooperman of Sheridan College


The Specific Problem of Game Ecology

The UO Ecology Problem
First Raph Koster's posts on the ecology system planned for UO, first, second, third. Now the problem is, I think, best summarized by a commenter named Derrick over at Hardcore Casual. Let's take a quick look at what he says.

... You see, the reason these things don’t work on the large scale is, quite frankly, that the players ruin them. People suck.

In these systems, from a player/armchair designer perspective, it’s easy to say “This is what I’d like to see”, to design a masterpiece of a virtual environment.

The reality, though, is you need to be absolutely cognizant of “How can a large group of players, acting out of nothing but pure malice, cause this system to fail?”...

This problem is one that needs answering in the conceptual "NPC ecosystem" I implied in my last post.

Why Not UO Ecology
Our friend Derrick gives a very specific reason why the UO system of ecology fails against griefers. "The fundamental problem is one of consequences. Until a game is designed in such a way as to remove anonymnity and the lack of real consequences, people will act like utter asshats." Well, in this instance, I actually don't think the flaw lies with the players. Rather, I think there is a very fundamental flaw with the resource ecology itself.

The UO ecosystem was an open system. Things entered the system and exited the system, even worse players were given control of one of those opening. It was such in an attempt to mimic real life ecosystems, but that doesn't mean that our game, Skies of Mondea, needs to attempt something similar. In fact we can fairly easily close off the vast majority of the system.

Our System
For the sake of simplicity we'll start with a five layered social system top to bottom, with three resources and one currency. The social layers are detailed in this image. There will be a finite number of NPCs, a finite amount of money, and a finite amount of one of the resources. This third resource will be essential to the construction of Superheavies. One of the remaining resources will be fuel, which can be sold to NPCs, but the NPCs will automatically gather enough of to meet needs if not. The last resource would be aluminum which is required for all construction projects, again NPCs will gather enough to meet their own needs if they haven't already bought enough from players. In both of the latter cases, the NPCs will pay less for anything beyond their needs, and once filled to carrying capacity will simply stop buying all together.

Now the social hierarchy is self perpetuating, to get a taste of it, let's look at the original example of a flight deck attendant.

Our theoretical attendant exists on the labor strata so long as he makes between 20k and 50k. Now if he does not receive tips and drops to 20k he immediately search for another opening in labor level jobs that does not match his current one, same job different ship or different job on any ship including the same one. Failing that he falls into the poverty class. That sounds awful, but if the regulars of his region tip him decently there isn't any reason a bunch of random griefers would be able to force him to drop. So long as his regulars still pay him enough to stay above 20K, the griefers actively not tipping is no more damaging than all the players who've never seen them passively not tipping.

Now if he raises above 50k, he will move up into the pilot/crew strata. At this strata he can become a transport pilot delivering between carious shops, be a shop pilot opening a special shopping ship up near the initial ship, or get a job as a crew in another superheavy ship. His job on the deck will be filled either by a job hunting labor or be filled by someone from the poverty strata. If the pilot/crew strata is saturated and they cannot maintain enough sales from a shop, enough traffic in their transport and/or there are no open crew positions then they will soon fall back into the labor strata and seek a job there. Failing that they move down into the poverty strata. So if griefers were attempting to instead promote our flight deck attendants, they could only really effect those individual attendants without a truly massive effort across the board from nearly all players which would end the instant they ran out of money.

The system will always defend itself. There can only be so many wealthy, so many middle class, so many pilots/crews, so many laborers, and no matter how large the disruption, others will enter to fill the vacuum, or simply and inevitably fall to the bottom. By this mechanic the system cannot be gamed to cause significant problems for other players. On the other hand, on the level of an individual NPC players can do irreparable harm or exceptional good.

However, on the systemic level players as a total force are capable of removing the bottom of the strata. In order to increase the need for crews and laborers you can build superheavies, however these are based on one of the limited resources meaning you can never build enough to leave no labor for anyone else. (It also means any time an account lapses to the point of deletion, is permanently banned, or for any reason deleted, the superheavies associated with it will be taken and put up for auction.) The sheer difference in money between the rich and everyone else, though, means that while players could technically destroy it as a strata, by making only players rich and then "tipping" it all off to the lowest stratas, it would take a concerted effort of an extremely large proportion of the players and could only really "damage" those actively taking part.

Oh and I've already thought of player based inflation. Have a number of slots for player characters on the server hard capped. Then make an equal number of positions with a code tag of "young pilot" that do nothing but fly around all the time. When a player joins, you remove one of the young pilot positions so that they fall back into the laborer strata and drop an npc in the poverty strata (starved to death, how sad). Whenever a player is deleted a position opens in the young pilots, is filled by a laborer, and a new person comes of age in the poverty strata. When the number of total player positions on a server is stressed, it's time to open a new server and probably think about closing off access to that server all together.


Airways and Ethics: Skys of Mondea

Back on the Bus
So here we are, my first return post to MMO design. Before I get too far into this, the goal isn't to "make a game". At the end of the day this is a glorified thought experiment, but the constraints one might apply to a real design are a useful set of constraints for this thought experiment.

This is not intended to be a wholly solitary endeavor. I'm accepting not only constructive criticism, but also brainstorming and design collaboration. If you see some way it could be improved, just throw it out there. No guarantees it'll make it into future discussions, but then I tend to never guarantee anything.

The Foundation
Title: Skies of Mondea
Base Gameplay: Flying Airships
Core Conceit: Players/Player Characters as Moral Agents
Constraints: No quests/writing. In other words, no content design.

So lets take this from the top.

The landscape that makes the most sense to me is to simply not employ a ground level at all, meaning no method of landing or transversing the ground, to the point of keeping land hidden below a cloud layer at all times. Instead the landscape design will be one of drafts, updrafts, down drafts, east/west/north/south drafts, which apply directional motion to the player. In other words to sit in a north draft will cause an unmoving ship to always drift north, will increase the acceleration and maximum speed of a ship moving north, will apply a northward drift to a ship moving east/west/up/down, and decrease acceleration and maximum speed of a ship traveling south.

Ships come in 3 classes, light, heavy, superheavy. Lights are fast and maneuverable but are heavily subject to drafts. Wandering into particularly turbulent areas will typically cause extreme loss of control, these areas should be clearly marked. Heavy are slower ships that see less effect from drafts, capable of ignoring all but the strongest, but also not particularly benefiting from complimentary drafts. Superheavy ships ignore all drafts, in fact if dynamic drafts are supported they would create drafts around themselves. A Superheavy is actually capable of moving quite quickly, but has terrible maneuverability and takes a particularly long time to slow down.

Lights are capable of leaving colored smoke trails, and can drop smoke cannisters to mark resource deposits hidden below the cloud layer. Heavies are capable of resource acquisition, permanent marker buoy deployment, hauling, and are an ideal platform for diving competitions as they can fight updrafts and acquire downward speed more easily. Superheavies function more as home bases with lots of storage, a place to park yourself, and can move swiftly across vast distances. Certain heavies can also act as modular attachments to Superheavy ships, providing services such as player housing.

Ships can never run out of fuel so as to be completely stranded, they can only enter a state at which their speed and maneuverability suffer severely. Weapons are not currently planned, sorry sky pirates.

Moral Agents
A moral agent must fit a certain set of criteria. They must be able to make choices, they must form an opinion on the morality of those choices, those choices must be what game designers would call interesting, in other words they cannot be foregone conclusions. Interesting choices implies scarcity, for instance there is no ethical choice in deciding whether or not to steal a resource if that resource is infinitely available in infinite quantities. It also implies soft rules, there is no ethical decision in not stealing resources if there was never an option to steal resources. And finally it implies consequences, as there is no ethical choice in stealing a resource if doing so has no consequence to any party involved.

When players interact with each other, they are always acting as moral agents, that's the good news. Our job then is to make them interact with NPCs and the game world as moral agents, a significantly harder task as the NPCs themselves cannot be moral agents. However, the non-player characters can be used to simulate the behavior of moral agents. Alternatively they can be used as a quite literal "voiceless and powerless" population, which has ethical implications I won't go into here.

For now there are two major items that must be removed from the table, the win state and the unnamed instance. There can be no win state because having one makes winning the overriding moral imperative within the context of the game. The unnamed instance is also, by it's very nature a non-entity, a pure object to be used as befits the current goals since it's existence is limited purely to the context of those goals. An example of an unnamed instance would be any mob or npc that is considered not as an individual, but as merely an identical instance of a particular archetype.

This does not have to mean that every NPC needs to have a full life simulation, but they need to have some persistence both as an object within the game world, and as an engine of choice. Say for instance we gave players the ability to tip NPCs with variable amounts of cash, then a flight deck attendant who was regularly given very large tips would eventually leave the flight deck and reappear in a higher status in society that required some starting cash, such as a shopkeeper. Alternatively, a flight deck attendant who is never tipped despite having a salary that relies on tips will soon disappear and reappear at some similar level in society, while their job will likely take longer to fill due to being unprofitable.

Ethics is, at it's core, a complex subject. It cannot be our goal to define what Ethics are, or what is/is not ethical. The goal is to create the depth of field and necessary conditions for there to be issues of ethics and morality at all. This is why I began not with what a moral agent is, but rather what is required for one to exist. However, if I were to lay out a heuristic for what sort of choices would be needed in order to have interesting ethical choices, I would avail myself of two kinds of decisions first and foremost. Decisions of short term loss for long term gain versus short term gain for long term loss, and decisions of personal gain at others expense, versus others gain at personal expense.

I'm not going to go into specifics in this post, there will be plenty of opportunity to expound upon this in later entries.

Why No Content?
I choose to add a constraint against content design in this in spite of the fact that it is actually very useful for our purposes. The problem is that it's more likely to be used as a band-aid than as an actual fix. Once you have a band-aid solution in place, problems begin to rise from it and you eventually find yourself arguing in circles about something that isn't terribly important to an actual working model.

In this case, I'm really looking for a ludic solution. Once you have a ludic solution in place, we can then began to create deep, rich content that takes advantage of it. Without that solution though, your content will almost always be ineffective and will largely be chaff to be ignored as people play "the real game".


CO Free Weekend - A Critique

An image of my main hero, Arare, from the login screen.

The Free Day Or So...
So Champions Online had a free weekend, which I found via Steam. It had intrigued me earlier, but not enough to actually buy sight unseen, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I downloaded the client through Steam on Friday afternoon, Sunday morning I was done patching and had a chance to get in and play around.

Yes, that was over a day of patching. The total patch size was 2 gigs, my pipe can handle that in about an hour or so, therefore I can only assume they were pretty hammered for bandwidth at the time. Not to be too much of a Monday morning quarterback just yet but... why did they advertise it on Steam without the ability to have them handle patching? No offense to the people at Cryptic but Steam's account numbers most probably dwarf theirs by a significant margin. I understand the concept of wanting to get lots of people to try out the game, but I don't think slashdoting yourself is really all that helpful overall.

The Point: Irony
Thing is, after one day I'm pretty well convinced that Cryptic has managed to land me in an ironic situation. Truth be told, the game is a blast to play so far. In fact it's so fun that if they had a free trial to begin with chances were I would have bought the game, but since I recently bought Borderlands, I'm now too broke to afford the initial $40 $35.

So what is it that Champions does oh so very well? Could it be their itemization makes Diablo players salivate? No. Do the missions create those same sorts of free form, randomly RPing groups that CoH did so wonderfully? No. Well does it tell an epic one of a kind story that grips you by the nadgers and won't let go? Hell no. The place where Champions really shines, above all else and in a way that puts most MMOs to shame is... playing the god damn game.

Seriously, that picture up there is of an acrobatically inclined, beast stance, guns akimbo hero. I spend the entire time madly jumping and running around my enemies spraying them with bullets and then closing in for the occasional "gun ballet" kick to the balls. Equally as fun is one not pictured here where they have dual swords for their energy gain power and a psychic sword for their real damage output and are also acrobatic.

What More Is There To Say? Plenty.

Yes the game is fun to play... at least up to level 11. Within that sentence was contained what seems to be Champions greatest flaw, character levels. The great Achilles heel of their design is that they begin with fun game play and then level people out of it. My main gunslinger is already suffering from a major stats problem. Their recovery stat is falling behind a laundry list of other important stats meaning that my energy bar is getting to the point where only about 25% of it is capable of regenerating outside of combat. I've found ways of dealing with it so I'm not a cripple but without a few other fortuitous decisions my character would likely have already found themselves a hopeless gimp.

It leaves me wondering time and again, why? Why does this game have character levels at all? There are plenty of other forms of progression they could have gone if they just wanted stickiness, supergroup levels, alignment with various organizations, storyline, equipment, nemesis levels or even a sort of "gotta catch em all" for powers and costume bits. So why, with everything they already have and everything they could have done just as easily, did they choose to make the game with character levels? This is an honest question by the way, I sincerely do not see any way in which that decision assisted their design. In fact the more I look the more ways I see that it hinder it.

And The Rest...

While levels may be the designs fatal flaw, performance in general tended to be a rather thin line. Considering I only had one day in which to experience it, there certainly was a lot of rubber banding and just straight up lag. Never quite to the point of being enough to quit over, but enough that over time it would certainly grate on the nerves.

Level 10 PvP had a certain binary quality to it the few times I tried it. Generally one team was fairly well organized and moved as a group completely dominating the other group with extremely low, or no, casualties. I wouldn't write off the PvP completely, it is still interesting to see how different powers mix and compete, but I wouldn't rate it as more than a sideshow. Also I only saw the "cage match" style so perhaps the other style is a significant bump up.

In Closing
I can only repeat what many other internet commentators have said, "lots of potential but fatally flawed." Somehow Cryptic managed to take some of the magic little bits of CoH, like that first time you fly, and turn it into truly fun game play. Then, in the same breath, they managed to grab some of the very worst parts of RPGs in general and mixed those right on in. The great tragedy of it all is that while it's initial potential completely blows you away, the fatal bits are so fundamental that it's simply far too late to change.


A bit of painting I was just working on.

MMO Design Discussion to Return Soon

I've taken some time off from MMOs, going back to single player games has given me a great deal of perspective, in my opinion. Single player games have a few simple rules that seem curiously absent from MMO discussion. A: If this isn't your game, go play something that is. B: If you aren't in the mood to play a game... don't play it. It'll still be there tomorrow, and probably a lot more fun then. C: You're game's competition is not Starcraft, Brain Age, and Halo 3, it's whatever else in your genre is happening to release in a nearby time frame.

I certainly realize those don't work on a one to one basis in the MMO market, but they do help pad out some foundation. Before I get back into seriously discussing MMO design I'm going to lay out some basic rules, definitions and philosophies. I'm tired of talking at cross purposes with everyone, so from now on these can be used as a filter for all discussions unless explicitly stated otherwise.

The Definition of Success: Actually there are two. In the case that a core overriding goal is specified for the design, success is closeness to achieving or expressing that goal. If however there are no defined goals, a successful MMO has a subscriber base large enough to theoretically pay back it's development team in three years given it's business model. When in doubt, assume 30 million in development and a sub model of $15/month. That's about 220K players without box costs.

A Game Not the Game: The WoW killer and the Platonic game are pretty much pure flights of fancy at this point. If you find yourself wondering whether a design will kill WoW or be "The Perfect MMO", stop yourself right there. My goal will always be to design a game, one intended to exist in a field of many, not some ideal of a game. Also the mechanics will have flaws, period. You cannot design non-flawed mechanics, so any discussion of mechanics will be mainly about how well they fit the overall concept, not whether or not they are flawed.

When in Doubt, Quit: My personal philosophy is that if a game stops being fun, stop playing it, at least for a while. This also means that you can assume any game I design is supposed to, assuming I don't forget, encourage that behavior.

Two for Tuesday: A game exists within the context of the games around it. This also means that there is no point putting time and energy into a system that games around it simply do significantly better than my concept will allow. In other words, no "one game to rule all play styles" reasoning. If someone else does one bit better, I'd rather they played that for that bit, and my game for my bit.

The Inefficiency Coefficient of Efficient Content: Measuring the efficiency of content in number of players who get to see it is simply wrong in my opinion. Content does not exist on it's own and for it's own sake, only as part of a larger context of the game. Ergo if the game seeks to benefit players going off the beaten path, one time content is perfectly applicable to that. Content that is seen by all players but breaks suspension of disbelief or disrupts the flow of game play should still be weeded out. If you absolutely need some other measure of quality, then go to the level of positive reporting by the audience who do see it.

Ludic and Narrative Harmony: I strive for it.

Quest Hubs, Quest Givers, Quest Vendors, Quest Aerospace: I'm not going to say I won't use them, but it seems to me there is a lot of space to explore in what exactly most of these are.

Dude Where's All the Rats: Just because almost all of our games have rats doesn't mean you should just assume the ones I'm talking about do. Some won't have mobs, others just won't have static mobs. For even some others, they may be enemies who simply don't fit the mob classification.


206 Odin

The raw pencils of a comic that I had the idea for last night.


Artistic Tendencies

Just some recent artwork.

Got access to a scanner again, so here is some sketchwork. on Twitpic

Speed paint - The Unseeing Eye on Twitpic

Messing around in Photoshop. on Twitpic

Some modeling, twice smoothed in front, poly in back. on Twitpic

The March on Twitpic

And this one is NSFW:


A question for the listening audience.

Just real quick, I was wondering if any of my readers were reading this on their phones? And if so is it because of or in spite of the layout?


September 25th, 1958

From the diary of Dr. Arland Wright:

Having already lapsed a day in my journaling, I had feared that this journal would be of difficulty to maintain. However, while present in my mind, I can hardly wait to write of this days events.

It was in the early morning that I was gathering samples in the area of the old town hall. The fore of the building had survived the years of quarantine well enough, hardly looking dilapidated in the slightest, the rear, though, had caved in long since creating something of a garden area. While in this partially enclosed space, I was standing with my back to the opening when I noticed a shadow cast on the ground. When I turned to investigate it's source, I found myself not but a few inches from the face of a vampire.

The skin on her face had a the quality of rubber drawn taut, the veins and muscles of her face were clearly visible without any fat to obscure their shape. Her eyes were of startling properties, the irises being a bright pastel purple and the general shape being slightly too round and too tall to seem correct on her face. I was immediately taken a back out of reflex, but she instead leaned towards me, as if to examine me for her own curiosity.

The shock had left me unable to find an appropriate reaction, and so I merely remained still. I was never more aware of every inch of my body, I was afraid that even small twitch might startle her and end this momentary meeting of the species. For a few seconds I even found myself pondering the possibility of removing the top of my hazard suit so as to get a better view of the creature, but what small rationality I had preserved persuaded me otherwise. Nonetheless I found myself in place for what seemed like far too long, and yet every moment brought a fear that it would soon end.

In those moments I had a better chance to study her general appearance. The rest of her visible body was barren of fat, as her face had been. Her musculature, combined with the lack of swelling around her stomach, seemed to indicate this to be a property of her race and not the result of being malnourished. Her clothing was an old style of workers pants about her legs and a crudely sewn bandanna about her blonde hair. The fact that her breasts were exposed hardly seemed to be bothering her, and I would have to admit that their form, that of the skin being pulled taught over two small spheres, made them not of any particular stimulation to myself either.

Finally, the vampire grew bored and decided to escape my presence at best speed. Even the form of her running seemed feral, though not so much as to be completely dissimilar in form to that of a typical human's running. At this point I could hardly help myself but run straight back to the compound, forgetting in it's entirety the task I had originally set out to perform. But once returned I immediately made a full reporting of my spectacular incident to Doctor Shelby and the Lieutenant. According to Doctor Shelby I am, to wit, the second human being to ever be so close to a living vampire.

For the rest of the day, as I completed collecting the samples I had originally intended to obtain and began the initial testing I could not help but feel a certain sense of giddy optimism. Not even Doctor Gunterson's usual churlish manner was enough to dent this pleasant sensation.



Opening shot of a woman watching the fireplace, camera should be on getting a left rear view with an intimate shot width.

"It's just not the same without Mom and Dad..."

Change to a shot of a man watching the fireplace with the exact same camera angle.

"Well, so long as there's cocoa it's Christmas to me."

Change to a shot of another man watching the fireplace from the same camera angle.

"It's a good thing we can all still get together like this, watching the fire and drinking cocoa..."

Camera shifts back to the girl. The angle is now from far back, slightly higher and to the right of her showing her alone in the room with a laptop playing World of Warcraft and a bluetooth headset in her right ear.

"So what instance are we going to tackle today?"

Play the usual WoW commercial outro without the voice over, just the fading sounds of the sibling's banter.


Trying to get some more written.

Sorry I haven't been posting as much here. I do have a few story ideas floating around that I want to get written up, but lately my pixel art and 3d modeling have been sucking up all my time. I'm also working on UV unwraping my latest model, a process that, I must confess, frustrates me to no end.

With luck, I'll be getting back to writing updates for the blog soon(tm).


Avoiding MMOs

Looking back, I think part of the reason I've been avoiding MMOs lately is just because I don't really want to spend my time organizing people to do things.

It was a good long while ago that I got pretty bored of complaining about stuff all the time and decided to just do things myself. This led to me being more active in trying to organize people to get groups going, running more pick up groups, and just generally being more active in my various guilds. Unfortunately, I just don't have the patience for people, they give me headaches.

So in many ways, more than the game play itself, I'm probably just not wanting to get back into the whole "organizing peoples" side of things.


Monologue 001

"So there I am, it's starring at me, I'm starring at it. Thinking to myself, what the hell, it's just a book. But it's not just a book, it's my inaugural book. For the first time in my life I'm going to be reading a book where the main character is a lez. Not some best friend of the main character, not that mauve shirt who winds up killed off part way through, it's the main event.

Part of me is curious, part of me feels like I'm being bad just looking at it, but either way my hands are reaching for it right now whether I like it or not. So once I have it in my hot little hand I immediately grab something else, something to cover it with. Put on my best cool as you please attitude and head for the librarian feeling like the whole world has got it's eyes on my back. It's just a book, they won't even know what's in it if they haven't read it, and I know that logically I'm right, logically there ain't anything scary about checking out a book. For me, though, it's not just a book, it's proof, it's something that could prove I'm different.

Take it home and read it every spare moment for three days straight, hiding it under the pillow, worrying if it'll be seen. Not a single scene I can't remember in detail, though verbatim dialogue still escapes me. Get to the end and put it down, all that's in my mind is an overwhelming feeling of catharsis. Can't say as the ending wasn't happy, they certainly wound up together, but all that pain along the way, just saps it right out of me. It's like coming face to face with the crushing reality that being different is dangerous, even if they did make it through in the end. Yet at the same time, man, it's the first romance I've ever identified with. Oh I've enjoyed watching straight romance for years and intellectually I got the whole relationships, even felt good for them when they got together. That's not the same as actually identifying with a protagonist though, the sheer emotional weight when you can really understand their feelings.

So I started reading more... well I say more, as such it was only four odd books. Of course I noticed a bit of a common theme by the end of them, by the end of the story, the main character had always been ostracized by their peers. At the time I thought it was terrible, wanted more happy stories. I kind of still do. Yet, since I've been really lonely, a true outcast, I've been stuck more and more with the memories of those stories. There is just something about knowing that someone out there understands, that kind of slight glimmer of hope that maybe they understand what you're going through. Kind of feels warm, and yet still so cold."


What I think about in my dreams.

So I was having a dream and suddenly started wondering about various properties of exponential growth. Yes I am drop dead serious. After waking up, this is what I came up with. For bonus points see if you can guess the functions used to create these numbers.






Ronin Beat

It is known to every child on this planet, the meaning of our justice. It is taught in every school and whispered in the back streets. For over two centuries it has pushed the helpless and insecure as well as the greedy and powerful to take up a sword and stand in the counting. A tradition recorded in the plants of our fields by the waves of blood that nourish them.

It was two centuries ago that our eyes were opened. In greed and arrogance the people of our second moon fought with those on the planet, razing cities and ravaging continents. A weapon was developed to end that war, and it did. In the space of a single hour the second moon was destroyed, and now only the field of it's debris remains. The testament was sealed, humanity knew only how to live by spilling blood.

For this reason, we adopted the law of the sword. Those who win make the laws, those who loose die. A system of observers was set in place to monitor the duels, and a system of enforcers to ensure the laws are carried out.

To risk ones life in order to obtain the law with their own two hands, that is the meaning of our justice.

The Authority

It is the ego of man, and his aggression that breeds the worst of situations for our world. Though the majority of people are peaceful, the few that act as wolves, the criminals and the corrupt, prevent that peaceful majority from attaining the world. So long as the wolves exist, there must be those who protect the kind from their predation. However in the process of hunting wolves, one becomes a wolf, so as a man hunts monsters does he become a monster.

The answer was that we needed that which was not a man. For if they are not a man they cannot become a monster. Though they perpetrate the monstrous, they are not monsters. But what makes a man, what is the measure of humanity? To this we came to the conclusion of identity, for a man without an identity, without id or ego, is not a man.

So we created the Authority, an organization centered around the principle of removing the identity of those selected for service. There are no volunteers among the members of the Authority. Agents are drafted from the population at random intervals, with as few traits as possible to suggest any sort of pattern or bias. To these agents is given our mandate, "to destroy the organizations of crime and corruption in all its shapes or forms and at all times." In order that they may fulfill that mandate, they are then protected by the article of Authority, "When on active duty, the word of the most senior authority agent on the scene is the law."

Our justice can then be summed up thus, to empower a puppet with the power of monsters.


Stable vs. Decreasing Options (MMOs)

Before I begin, this could be seen as another way of talking about Horizontal vs. Vertical design. As well, what I'm pointing out isn't "what's wrong" with anything, it's just my observations of what things are. This post was inspired by Spinks post about obsession with choices, and may be considered something of an open response to that as well.

I'd like to begin by focusing on the differences between two games that are very common in Japan, Shogi and Go. Specifically the different balances in creative versus technical options available to players at a given time. A creative option could be thought of as one that is asymmetrically balanced, though the choice is made between two different options neither one is inherently better or worse than the other. A technical option on the other hand is where the choice is between something of high value and something of low value, in other words even if there isn't necessarily a "right" choice there is one that is mathematically/logically better.

In Shogi, the creative vs. technical options are kept in near perfect balance on the board, though are traded between players as the game progresses. To capture a piece in Shogi means to have that piece to play yourself almost anywhere on the board. This means that as a player begins to loose they are forced into a corner where their choices are limited to various technical options to improve their situation, while every time the opponent captures one of their pieces it increases that opponents creative options. If you were to change the king in Shogi from being the Achilles heel of the team to instead being completely invincible, it is conceivable you could have a game of Shogi that both never ends and continues to generate interest.

In contrast Go has exponentially higher options from the outset, and to begin with they are all creative options. Experienced players know of technically good openers, but even in that case they have to choose from the set of openers they know which is a creative choice. As stones are placed the number of total options reduces and the ones that remain become increasingly technical. After both players have finished staking out their opening positions comes the central game where the creativity and technicality hovers around the sweet spot between the two. There are many creative options, and many technically correct options. Having a good result depends on you understanding how to use creative options to situate yourself somewhere that your own particular set of technical skills gives you an advantage. Towards the end however, the number of creative options sharply declines and is instead the players vie for advantage through finding best technical moves they can make.

When Go enters the endgame the board metaphorically calcifies. If you kept playing without passing you could eventually bring the board to the point where the only open spaces are the ones that have been completely closed from entry. Barring any spots of infinite repetition, the game will always end simply due to how pieces interact with each other. You couldn't change a single rule and continue the game infinitely, since the very act of playing destroys options.

If I had to say which game WoW, EQ2, and LoTRO remind me of, it's Go. The player begins assailed with options, while veterans will recognize some as better than others in the long run the simple truth they are all creative options to begin with. As the players gain levels they enter a sweet spot where there are technically correct choices, but there is also a good variety and some options that are purely creative. Towards the end, the game calcifies, builds are no longer good enough or better, they are right and wrong, classes are right and wrong, and the methods of following through the final bits of progression are left almost entirely to technical options. In time, the board is essentially calcified with nothing but the infinitely repeatable Ko moves left.

I don't think any MMOs I've played to date remind me of Shogi. There are certainly some closer than others, but I don't think any of them have that tit for tat mentality down. Far too much inflation. Of course, that may not be a bad thing, Shogi could be a terrible MMO.

so yeah...

I had a whole post about philosophy and overcoming depression planned. Instead I'm going to leave you with this awesome example of fight music.

Oh, and a thought on leitmotifs. If you're going to use a leitmotif, it reallllly helps if the song you choose is awesome and appropriate, less so if it makes people want to claw their ears out.


Nohbot 01



"Okay it seems to be working, and it's all hooked up. Then lets get started."

"She mentioned getting strange shadows in the recording, so we're just gonna let you run for a bit then check the footage."


My EVE Character Bio

This is the bio for my character in EVE Online.

At the dawn of a new era, mankind stood at the precipice once again. But why, I ask, must we always court the fatal edge? What is it in the nature of humanity that draws us like moths to the flame?

Perhaps, it is because we overcome. Through all times and tribulations mankind has survived and grown, thrived, even on the knife's edge of desolation. So stand we all, in this cursed galaxy, on that razors edge. We stand against the murderers and the psychopaths, the gluttons and the tyrants. We challenge the zeitgeist in the vain hope of creating our own, with mere ego to back our claims.

This galaxy rages and thunders at our audacity, yet we stand. Corporations stand in stead of justice, beating on the brow of this people, yet we stand. Locustine swarms and spartan warriors strike at those who exist between, yet we stand.

We stand for that which is right, because it is right. We stand for justice, for it is our right,


A Grave of Red and Black

The red planet below her filled her entire view. A small fragment of scrap from her ship floated by past her right shoulder. Moving so fast and yet hardly seeming to move at all, they fell together towards the dust.

1400 Zulu Time 16 of Common June of the year 48 HE
After the loss of multiple occupation zones along both fronts, alien fleets are detected en route to the Sol System as well as the Cyrus, Calypso and Elysia colonies.
Border fleets are recalled to the colonies, and garrisoned fleets are mobilized. In Sol the Imperial Guard at Luna is mobilized in full, as well as the fourth fleet which was home for repairs. Martian Defense Force, Home Guard and Outer Planets Defense Force fleets were also mobilized off Mars, Io and Proteus respectively.

For a few seconds he remains within in the warm confines of the network, watching information flow and queries pass him by. Then the main connection breaks and all that remains are the sensor feeds. The cold of space had never bothered him before, it was ever present in his design, but now it seemed to cut him to the core. Feeling left one drifting appendage as it floated beyond transmission range, leaving only the sensation of tumbling in it's wake. Off to one side the red planet mocked him, beckoning him to her rocky embrace.

400 Zulu Time 18 of Common June of the year 48 HE
Calypso and Cyrus are able to achieve 55% and 45% evacuation rates before the surface of the colonies are completely destroyed. Elysia was able to achieve only 3% evacuation before subterranean high yield explosives destroyed the majority of the colony. The majority of Elysia's defense fleet was destroyed while providing relief and evacuation for the remainder of the colony.
In Sol a Human Empire fleet of 400,000 ships engaged one alien fleet of approximately 1.5 million ships in the space surrounding Saturn and it's moons. Battle is still underway but casualties are presently reported at around 220,000 human ships and an estimated 412,000 alien ships.
A second alien fleet of approximately 1 million ships approaching from the opposite end of the system will be passing Mars shortly. 616,000 human ships composed of 398,000 MDF, 170,000 Home Guard and 48,000 Imperial Guard are stationed at Mars to engage the second fleet.

She looks out the small porthole of the compartment. Light reflecting off the surface of the red planet is all that illuminates the small compartment. The cockpit of the passenger shuttle floats across her view, riddled with holes and tears. In the distance she can see small figures, barely larger than ants floating by. Small, frozen testaments to the larger battle, small reminders that nobody would be coming for her. For a moment she thinks she'll cry, but instead she starts to hum a wordless melody half remembered from her childhood. As the red planet stares at her, and the air grows thin, the soft melody continues.

600 Zulu Time 18 of Common June of the year 48 HE
The forces around Mars are reinforced by the unexpected arrival of 32,000 AI ships, thought to have been extinct since the war four decades ago. Meanwhile the forces around Saturn finally crumble, with 40,000 ships remaining the fleet retreats towards Earth. Enemy losses at Saturn are estimated in the range of 700,000 ships.
The engagement around Mars lasts for eight hours. Though the Human Empire forces manage a technical victory, effecting losses of 750,000-800,000 ships on the alien fleet, the badly damaged fleet, 274,000 of their starting 648,000, is forced to retreat towards Earth.



I just figured this out, but if you really want to relive those golden moments of games of yore... it works best to get a copy of the soundtrack and just listen. All the memories come rushing back like it was yesterday.


Stuff that's happening soup.

In local news, we have an arsonist in my town. So far they've kept to empty houses, yay housing market bubble, but who knows how long that will last. Saw a fire last night that was probably one of theirs, was only about a mile away.

The hard drive I had my OS on fried. In order to get my computer back up and running again, I had to install XP on my other drive. Good thing I only had about 200 gigs of data to loose.

In what I've been playing there's Rock Band and Virtua Fighter 5. I make a mean Vanessa, ranked warrior in quest mode, and am having fun with both games purely deterministic natures. Not that I get to play as much as I'd like.


The Authority

A trio of Authority agents entered the back of the theater. A woman flanked by two men, the men wore black trench coats falling to around their ankles over their black uniform of slacks and button up shirts. The woman's trench coat only fell to a bit above her knees, and wore a tanktop. All three had the Authority's distinctive round mirror masks as well as the official armband, white with a single black square in it.

While the play continued on un-interrupted, the three agents walked deliberately down the center isle towards the stage. A fourth agent stood there, facing them, whatever emotions may have been playing across his face hidden behind the masks mirror. A group of regular police suddenly stormed out from behind the stage, surrounding the actors and dragging a large crate to the very center of the stage.

"Sargeant, please open that, if you would," the woman ordered.

After a few moments with a pry bar, the police break open the side towards the audience. A slurry of clear packages filled with a glowing blue liquid spill out across the stage. The audience let out a great collective gasp as the contents came into view, and then began to whisper amongst themselves.

"Agent number 2453, Vance, Cameron J., you have been found guilty on the charge of captial Graft, as well as accessory to felony smuggling and drug trafficking. As a first time offender you have been granted the right of pennance and shall be detained for the next 48 hours to meditate on your deeds. As it seems you have placed your own gain above your duty to this people, you have shown a clear lack of understanding of the principle of non-identity. Such being the case, you will be delivered to the Authority Medical Center after your detainment to undergoe premanent face removal surgeory. Once you're rehabilitation is complete, you will report to the Authority Training Grounds to requalify for field duty.

If at any point you cannot or will not return to the field, you will face permanent interment at an Authority run prison." The female agent cast judgement on the fourth agent, betraying no emotional inflection at all in her words. The agents that had followed her quickly took the fourth agent into custody, leaving her behind to watch the police lining up the theater's employees and players to take in for questioning.

"Ma'am, I don't doubt that face removal is a terrible punishment, but why would you allow someone like that back into the ranks?" an audience member asked. The female agent did a heel face turn to face the civilian, but found herself frozen in place once the woman was in view. Beautiful, the word hung alone in her mind, all other thoughts blown away by the slim woman's visage. "Ma'am?"

With a start she recalled the question, and her purpose for turning in the first place. "Many agents loose their way at first, the principles of non-identity are difficult for even the best of our ranks to fully master. Thus agents that loose their way are at least given the opportunity of an object lesson. Still, they only get one second chance."

"And have you ever needed that second chance?" The faces of the woman's friends, which had been locked in a permanent state of shock, suddenly changed to silent horror. The agent merely rolled up her left sleeve to reveal the shiny metal of a permanent IV plug.

"Everyone makes a mistake sometime." With that she turned towards the exit and walked out.

Later that night...

She stared at the ceiling through the cameras built in to the mask. With a small bit of fumbling she picked it up and held it looking at her face. The mechanical eyes perfectly recorded the smooth flesh that had once been blue eyes that others had called piercing. It was the first time she'd thought of her own eyes in over three years.

More than her own face though, the face of that woman from the theater haunted her mind this night. Her emotions were causing her body to feel hot, and nerves that had been dormant for years to sing all over her body. The way her stomache was tying itself in knots was what finally convinced her though, it was definitely love, or at least infatuation.

It was a dangerous feeling. Emotions could cause her to be irrational, to change her priorities and objectives. A threat to her non-identity had emerged, and the more she thought of how it might engulf her... the more she wanted it to.


Blogging Deprioritized.

I'm not sure when I'm going to be writing another blog post... or if.

I originally started blogging to drum up interest in projects I was working on. Most of those projects have in their turn fallen by the wayside, and at this point I've rather learned my lesson of just not opening my mouth about things.

The second pattern I eventually fell into for blogging was that of spreading ideas. Lots of long winded examination, as well as a few short but targeted spurts of inspiration. While I certainly feel that I've grown while writing these articles, I've finally come to the conclusion that they aren't really an effective use of my time. I'm not being read by other designers for the most part, and what I have to say really doesn't seem to be penetrating very far into the places I'd most want to read it. In short, it's a lot of effort with no apparent final result.

The final pattern was just as a form of self expression, and I hope to continue that to some degree. I may still throw up short writing bits, and links to music videos or what have you. But even that I'm not going to make any guarantees of.

I pretty well know that I don't have many readers to disappoint with this news. Those that I have, I'm truly sorry. Hopefully, things will change in some way, but for now, I'm just too disillusioned with the industry in general to spend my time continuing to critique it.



I wonder if Ubisoft ever thinks about bringing the SSI brand out of retirement.


Homework for people who own Risk

I don't know how many eyes are going to see this, but I've gotten used to never getting any good feedback from play testers. Rather than try and tempt fate and work to get a bunch of people all signed up to test, this time I'm just going throw it out there and ask that somebody please send me back their results at some point.

I'm only testing a particular addition to the game Risk this time, to see if I've accomplished a particular design goal.

Click for full size.

Examine your current Risk board, and make certain it matches the board above in all critical ways. If it differs in how countries connect, or how they're named, take careful note of that. Preferably, use Gimp or Photoshop to go in and change those details for yourself.

Preferably before you actually meet to play, make sure every player has a copy of the board you are working from, and these rules:
Using your preferred method, dole out the starting territory before anything else.
Players will plan out actions to happen at the beginning of their turn while playing the first 15 turns of the game.
There is a maximum of 1 action per turn.
Players are afforded [50/(no. of players) rounded up] units to place according to plan, while a maximum of 3 can be placed per turn.
5 players = 10
4 players = 13
3 players = 17
2 players = 25
Units that are placed on enemy territory automatically invade, while units placed on friendly territory simply reinforce.
Any Territory conquered in this method gives a the player a card towards a second pool of cards. This is considered entirely separate from the usual card, and the successful planned invasion does not count towards their being able to draw a card for their regular pool that turn. The second pool of cards can only be used as part of the pre-written plan.
Actions that can be planned in advance are, the placement of troops, movement of 3 troops one territory, turning in your second pool of cards.
If you do not own territory your trying to move troops to, it becomes an attack. If you do not have the troops there to move, it fails.
If you do not have the cards in the secondary pool to make a set, the action fails.
If you have already lost the game, your plans are considered void from that point forwards.

The Game Crafter

Raph Koster just linked to a service called The Game Crafter which seems to still be in beta in some form. I've made an account on there, and fully plan to release a few games on there. That will be at some point in the future though, after I've finished work on a prototype.


Feeling Good Today

For some reason, I'm in a bright and sun shiny mood. The car is "working as intended" more or less, and pretty soon I'll once again be able to do stuff out in our kitchen area without feeling like an invader. So all of this good will has spilled over onto my thoughts on Blizzard, and I thought I'd say something somewhat hopeful about their next MMO.

My hope is, it'll be the Starcraft to WoW's Warcraft 1/2. However, don't misunderstand, I'm not saying I hope it's a Starcraft MMO. Rather, that it will be the strong variation in principles that a team is willing to stick to, as Starcraft was.

For those who never got a chance to play Warcraft 1, the two sides were rather disgustingly similar. The core game play was still tons of fun, don't get me wrong, but many times it felt like you were playing a recolor army with a whopping 3 different units from your opponent. Warcraft 2 wasn't quite so bad, but the storyline campaign wound up being literally interchangeable between the races. In the end, it often seemed like the core underlying lesson from game play and story is "we're not so different after all!"

Starcraft was different. It had three races, for starters, and even more each of them was fundamentally different from the ground up. The zerg were so iconic in their role of massed units who are individually worthless, it's even bled over into a more common gaming vernacular and isn't uncommon to be heard used by people who probably don't even know what Starcraft is. The Terrans were masters of bread and butter units and tactics, with the siege tanks and nukes to keep them in a sort of "heavy artillery" role. And of course the Protoss with expensive warriors that are pound for pound better than their counterparts, and the only race to have shields giving them a huge boost to defenses.

I'm not going to say this was completely new at the time, I'm pretty sure other people had been using three armies with balancing traits before. However, within their own games, it was a total shift away from Warcraft. The Zerg were not misunderstood, the rise of a formerly human leader didn't calm them into noble savages. Zerg just spread, it was what they did, and it was certain death to anything in their way. The Protoss aren't humans by another name, they have a totally different history, culture and technology. Their war with the zerg however left them ready to go to any length, including purging entire worlds that they considered too far gone. And the Humans are almost always magnificent bastards, but still a diverse bunch with a metric ton of internal division and quarreling.

And when they released their expansion... they kept within the correct feel of each faction while expanding tactical options. The Lurkers provided, somewhat ironically, anti zerg defense to the zerg as well as a mobile defense strategy that formerly would have been exceedingly difficult. The Toss gained access to units that had formerly only been available in storyline, invisible super attackers with paper thin armor that melded together to form a mind controlling sorcerer type. Both fit within the flavor quite well, and each added it's own unique spin on general combat situations. The medic increased the defense of a standard marine squad, while allowing them to stim more often, making them significantly stronger attackers, but also providing an Achilles' heal to the formation and still keeping them rather weak against concentrated damage.

From here it isn't too hard to extrapolate how this could be related in MMO form. Mostly it just means that there needs to be no overlapping classes between races, and each race's classes need to be internally consistent. I was thinking of inelegantly demonstrating a possibility using WoW's classes, but after lining them all up separately they still made more or less equivalent groups.

So let's consider something along these lines:
Race A:
Heavy defense warriors
Not much healing, mostly self heals
Good buffs

Race B:
DPS heavy, but almost entirely made of paper
A HoT based healing class, who is also made of paper
Locational buffs

Race C:
Burst damage heavy, mostly ranged types
A standard healer with some medium armoring
Strong debuffs

I'm not saying this would be a perfect MMO, or my perfect MMO. I just think it would be really nice to see Blizzard do something along those lines again. Also, I think it would be a lot of fun to get back into a PvP system where the combatants were honest to god different from each other. Tactics would need to be worked out on the fly based on who you're fighting. The emphasis would also return largely to tactics, as certain races would be completely decimated if they tried to zerg, while others are probably just going to get picked off one by one if they don't work together.

Still Looking

I'm still on the lookout for a C# coder willing to partner up with me. My primary emphasis being that they be fast.

If you're interested, or know someone who might be, please let me know. Either in a comment here, or at my gmail account, sara.pickell


Interest in Aion


Venting Off Some Steam

I'm so fucking tired of having to teach myself design tools. Earlier tonight I felt like getting some hands on experience with fps level design, since I don't have HL2:EP1, I can't use Hammer, so I reinstalled Unreal Tournament 2K4, spent some time re-aquainting myself with the game's style pace and weapons, then opened UnrealEd. Holy fucking shit people, can you make a program any more intimidating on first opening. What happened to the days of Starcraft map editor where if you just wanted to build something incredibly fucking basic it didn't take a degree in nuclear fucking physics.

Okay so I'm clicking in the workspace and it's just moving the viewport around, grand. I manage to make something... fuck all idea what, but supposedly some sort of terrain object. Well gee, camera tool makes things pan, lets try the vertex editing tool, that way I can grab vertices and drag them around... and queue several minutes of me dragging the camera around to no effect on the fucking object. Greaaaat. So online I go. Atari's forums have an entire section set aside for 2003/4 editing, awesome. Stickies, even more awesome. Every tutorial being a broken link, not awesome.

And I wouldn't fucking care if it wasn't the same damn shit every fucking time. "Hey everybody we have this great new engine," well awesome, I'll check it out and suffer from your incomplete wiki and nonsensical tutorials and shitty code commenting. Fucking awesome. Hey want to move a sprite forward at a speed of .00025 milimeters a second? Well then now's your chance to take a refresher course in trigonometry! Don't have seventeen years of C++ under your belt? That's okay, every scripting on language on Earth throws all those conventions painfully ingrained into your consciousness to the wind and feels just fine making you learn an entirely new syntax to do all the exact same shit.

Better hope you learn well from reading shit on forums, and like asking questions of random forum strangers. Maybe if you're really lucky you'll get to catch them on IRC and deal with them pontificating their opinions on the merit of your present goal without any fucking clue what the hell it is you're trying to make.

*sigh* I'm just tired right now. Physically tired, and tired of fighting the same fucking battle all the time. I'm sure if I just spent more time with any particular sets of tools it'd eventually become as easy to use as Maya is for me now. But god damn, every time I want to start on something it's some new fucking two year project just to get to the point where the fucking tools are usable.

And the Aurora toolkit, which I was finally starting to get, crashes every god damn time as of last patch and they are NEVER going to fix it.


Just linking to a good piece of music.

333 posts, half way to hell

So according to Blogger this should be post number 333. Although somewhat auspicious all on it's own, it's not really what I'm here to write about today.

I've mentioned before that I felt a similarity between game design and music. At the time I didn't really have the words or the experience to describe what I meant exactly. I think I may have gotten a little more under my belt now to be able to define it more clearly.

The first thing I'd recommend is that you find and acquire, my preferred method for such is iTunes, Moonlight Sonata, by Ludwig van Beethoven, Nocturne No.2 in E flat, Opus 9, No. 2, by Frederic Chopin, and Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy. Since I've managed to stumble across all of these, I doubt they're too far down the classical music rabbit hole. Now just listen to each of them, but turn the volume up fairly high, you want it to be comfortable to listen to, but also to be able to hear more than the melody. What you'll probably notice is that there is a subtext to the music, most notably in Chopin's work. For the other two, this subtext is the play of the resonance of the notes, how long you can continue to hear a particular note's influence on the sound.

So here we have subtext, but there is also speed. Depending on performance in the Moonlight Sonata certain notes will be rushed through while another just on it's heels will be drawn out for some time. But each variance in speed creates a different feel to the note, where the same sound let to draw on might be poignant, moving quickly it can be a foundation for a longer phrase that is collectively more effective.

One of the best things about listening to piano music at a higher volume, though, is that you can hear the soul of the instrument. The vibration of the hammers striking the chords and filling the area with a sound that you can feel in your chest. Even if you can't feel it yourself, you can just hear, even through the recording, that it felt like that in the room as they were playing.

And I choose these songs because they are not merely good, they are great. Each one is a communication of the soul of the player into the world. A sort of indescribable truth made for a short while into an almost tangible reality by the composers writing and the performers drive and talents. My concern for games right now is that we have so few who even seek to be great. In MMOs in particular the rallying cry is some sort of need to be a greater commercial success than WoW, and my primary contention is that such success isn't even a worthy goal, and more likely than not self defeating. To be perfectly honest, I have yet to see a major studio aspire to greatness, indeed most of them seem to aim consciously for some level of "just good".

A game designer has the ability to create the sort of powerful performance that catches us so tightly in music. And we see an occasional glimpse of that in games like Iji, Shadow of the Colossus, or Facade, but compared to the power of Beethoven's music even those don't quite make the mark. Which isn't to say we haven't had any designers that were important, or pretty fucking good, just that I haven't seen any that crossed that unspoken line into the realm of truly great. Most importantly though, it's valuable, in and of itself, that we push ourselves to reach those heights.

But for now I have to go back to my spot in the cheap seats and wonder. Is it really so unfair to not care about the next big thing, but want, or better yet demand, greatness. To rail against the state of affairs not because I think it's bad, but because it could be so much more.


Game Dev Concepts: lvl 3 challenge

The prompt for Game Design Concepts: Level 3's challenge. I took on the hardest, black diamond, difficulty, and this is what I have so far.

Green Circle

The theme must relate to World War I. The primary objective of players cannot be territorial control, or capture/destroy.

Blue Square

You cannot use territorial control or capture/destroy as game dynamics. That is, your game is not allowed to contain the concepts of territory or death in any form.

Black Diamond

As above, and the players may not engage in direct conflict, only indirect.

Wartime Reporting
players are reporters - 2 - 4 recommended
players begin with $10 and no fame points and no informant cards
shuffled Common Informant cards are placed in a face down stack to the right
shuffled Command Informant cards are placed in a face down stack to the left of that
shuffled Front Lines Informant cards are placed in a face down stack to the left of that
the deck of event cards in chronological order is placed above those three stacks on the table
Players cut the deck of Command Informant cards, whoever gets the highest value going first. The deck is reshuffled and play then proceeds clockwise from there.
At the beginning of a turn, a player may choose to invest in an informant
To draw from the Common Informant cards costs $10
To draw from the Command Informant cards costs $50 and requires 5 fame
To draw from the Front Lines Informant cards costs $50 and requires 10 fame
In the middle of your turn, you can choose to write a regular story, gaining 1 fame and $5 per star of your current informants
or you can choose to write an exploitation piece, gaining double the worth of one of your informants, but forcing you to discard them.
Players can then end their turn
A set of turns beginning from the first players turn and ending with the last players turn is called a round.
Starting on the first round, an event card is uncovered at the end of every other round. Players gain two extra fame if they can meet the requirements on the card before another event card is turned up.
Event cards begin with "The Resignation of Bismark" (End a turn with $10 and 1 informant), ending in "All's Quiet on the Western Front" (Have at least six Front Lines Informants, or over 80 fame)
Play ends when all event cards have left play.
The winner is the player with the most fame at the end.

20 Common Informant cards - 14 1-star, 6 2-star
18 Command Informant cards - 8 3-star, 5 4-star, 3 5-star, 2 6-star
18 Front Lines Informant cards - 6 3-star, 6 4-star, 4 5-star, 2 6-star
Event Cards (rough)
Resignation of Bismark, The
Germany Breaks Alliance with Russia, Establishes Alliance with Austria
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Assassinated
Austria Declares War on Serbia, Russian Troops Mobilize
German Troops Roll into Belgium
British Expeditionary Force Arrives
The Miracle of the Marne
(Space reserved for several events from Asia)
The Sinking of the Lusitania
The Arab Revolt
Bolshevik's Success Closes Eastern Front
United State's Declares War on Germany
Paris Under Fire
Summer Counter Offensive
Peace Declared
All's Quiet on the Western Front


Tentative Definition

I'm tentatively placing this out for criticism as a definition of "game".

Game - A game is when you place yourself in conflict with an opponent, real or conceptual, within a system of rules.

Game - A game is when you place yourself in conflict with an opponent, real or systemic, within a guiding system of rules.

Donations Are Now Welcome

I've added a gadget off to the side for a Paypal donation button. I'm not exactly expecting anything to come of it, and by all means ignore it if you feel like it. Also know that I don't have any particular use in mind for the money, there's a bunch of various things it can go towards, from food to equipment to freelance work, all depending on just how much exactly winds up coming in.

My only thought is, if you like my design ideas, and want to see some progress moving forwards on them, go ahead and donate. There are options that come with my actually having money that are just nowhere near the table at the moment, and I'm much more motivated to allocate my time into things that consistently bring in some cash over those that aren't.

As I've already said, I don't expect this to bring in much of anything, but hey, couldn't hurt to ask I think.


Of Memories

It's overcast with angry gray storm clouds as the casket is lowered into the ground. A handful of mourners stand around the open grave, though nobody is crying. Two women stand out from the other mourners, closer to the grave than the rest, though on opposite sides of it. The woman on the side away from the rest of the crowd is a blond transsexual in a black three piece suit, while on the side towards the crowd is a slight woman with black hair wearing a long black dress. Each keeps their eyes glued to the coffin.

It's four years ago and three women, the two beside the grave and one more, sit in a coffee shop having a boisterous discussion. And in the present the dirt is being shoveled onto the coffin. Three years ago and the transsexual and the black haired woman are showing the third woman their rings. They finally look at each other over the grave, a hard look, unreadable from the outside. Two years ago, the bottle of Vodka on the table remains half empty.

They walk to the waiting cars, passing a line of protesters waving signs with slogans about not playing god and the sanctity of life. The transsexual stops and stares at the crowd. The closest ones start shouting epithets at her but she calmly continues her appraisal. Finally she says, "I'll see you later," and finishes her trek to the waiting car. She gets in, sitting beside the woman with black hair.

"You seem to be doing well." The transsexual states. It's three years ago and the two are lying on the couch under a blanket as the reflection of a movie plays in the window behind them. "Thanks. I hear you've been keeping busy." It's four years ago, the transsexual is smashing a man's face into the pavement. "Well every time I think of taking a break, I get another reason not to." Four years ago a newspaper slides off the table, headline reading 'Gay Teen Slain', while the transsexual loads a gun. "Maybe you should take a break anyways, it can't be healthy working so hard." Two years ago and the black haired woman is cowering in a corner with the beginnings of a black eye, while the transsexual towers over her holding the half empty bottle of vodka.

"I would have thought you'd have been with her family. Since you two were together." Three years ago, the two are making out on the couch, a giddy excitement in their faces. "It was never like that." Two years ago, a shadow frames itself in the doorway as the black haired woman looks up in horror from the bed she's sharing with the woman from the coffee shop. "What a shame, you two were perfect for each other."

"You aren't going to..." the black haired woman begins. "Of course I am. I don't let personal feelings interfere with my work," the transsexual states. "I still don't understand why," the black haired woman says staring at the reflection of the inside of the car in the window. "Because it needs to be done, it's as simple as that."

It's later that night and a protester is putting away their sign in the closet. Behind them they hear a soft click, they turn around to see the transsexual sitting in a chair facing them, gun pointed squarely at their chest. "Who are you?" he asks, looking around in desperation for some way out. "The ghost of Christmas past. Although I'm sure you have many ghosts in your past." Six years ago the man is swinging a shovel at a young boy. "But more recent events are what bring me here. There was a funeral today, I saw you there. Deep as you are down your movements rabbit hole, I was thinking you'd know some of the people who were responsible for it." A few days ago, and some men are boasting about finding the location of a scientist from the virtual life project. The boasts of what they'd do to her grow more and more violent and graphic, then one suggests they go right then. The whole group moves towards the door. "Thanks, I thought you'd be a big help." She says. "But I didn't say anything," he whimpers. "You didn't have to."

"Are you going to kill me?" he asks. Six years ago he's crying over the broken face of the young boy, filled with horror and disgust for himself. "Yes. Does that frighten you?" she says impassively. "Yes!" he cries. "Good." She pulls the trigger. As she walks out of the building she can't shake the feeling of unease that's been holding onto her since the funeral. The weight still hasn't been balanced, a sin still hasn't been washed clean. Maybe she should buy more bullets on her way home.

Elsewhere the black haired woman is sitting in the private study of her former friend. Papers and print-outs spread across the floor, next to a pile of journals. The mess before her remains indecipherable. Slowly the papers begin to shift, logical order asserting itself on them under her concentration. Her eyes skim the pages, finding keywords and concepts, internalizing and reviewing them. And then her concentration breaks.

Three years ago she sits in the study, watching the mousy scientist go about her work. A paper begins to inch it's way across the table towards her. "Stop that," the scientist chides, grabbing the paper and replacing it in it's former position. "Sorry, I can't help it sometimes." Figures and diagrams paper the walls, research journals and academic journals litter the ground at odd intervals, as though only ever moved when someone needed to actually cross the floor. "You know, not to be too down on you, but have you ever thought they might be right?"

"Who?" the scientist replied without looking up from her computer. "The people who want you to stop, who say scientists aren't meant to play god." The scientist stopped typing but still remained glued to the screen, "and what do you think?" The black haired woman sighed, "I don't know. Making life seems like a good pursuit, but what about the ethics of it, are we sure we're all ready for that?" The scientist turns around in her chair to face the black haired woman, "ready or not, we're here. We've built all of this, society, government, ethics, to advance our own cause, to make ourselves happy. Now we finally have the chance to take part in true altruism, to create life outside ourselves. Who's to say that life should live by our morals or ethics, and is it our role to decide whether or not it gets a chance to live based off only our own flawed wish for 'what's best'."

And her mind refocuses, a particular diagram hanging in the air before her. The heavily altered hard drive schematic makes references to a variety of terms she's only recently seen and barely understands. It's function is entirely opaque to her, but down in the bottom right corner a single word stands out, 'baby'.

In the predawn hours the black haired woman sleeps, the papers around her scattered yet still vaguely neat. The transsexual stands over her, simply watching her breath. Three years ago she sits off to one side, asking her opinion on some domestic matter. The lines of text on one of the monitors caught her eye, a single character repeated over and over again. "What's that?" She asks pointing at the monitor. "An unexpected mutation, it was supposed to be the first to experience sensory input, but it's failed." The scientist's tone is matter of fact. "Well, what's wrong with it?" she asks. "It can only interpret the input as pain."

Her stomach dropped for a moment and she recoiled. "Isn't that torture?" she asks almost breathlessly. "I suppose you could say that, though I'm planning to put it down once I've discovered the cause of the mutation," the scientist responds in a bored tone. A crash sounds as she slams her fist into the computer connected to it. The scientist looks up, "what are you doing?" "Putting it out of it's misery. Like you should have done a long time ago." The scientist gives her a hard stare then finally hisses, "get out." In the present she examines the study again for the first time in three years. But it's the study of a few days ago she watches.

A trio of men, two of whom she recognizes from the protester's memories, break into the room. She watches as they break the equipment, as they mercilessly beat the scientist as she cries. Despite the almost overwhelming desire to turn away, she even watches as they take turns mounting her and forcing themselves into her most private places. Even as they leave, there is no relief, the tortured woman writhes on the floor, spilling blood over the covers of books and journals. Her mouth shapes words that come out as barely a whisper while she reaches towards some point on her desk.

Vertigo overtakes her as she finds herself in the hospital, standing over the broken body of the woman she'd once considered a friend. The words finally took form there, save my baby. The scene melted back into the study as she stood there, trying to access more, to find some other memory that would give the words meaning. But the rest of the memories were opaque, little more than shadows of symbols that held little meaning to her.