Thursday, June 30, 2011

Random minecraft post

So in the way long past I've bought into Minecraft alpha. Back then it was mostly due to a few friends playing it and the prospect of it becoming multiplayer. Normally sandbox games are not my thing, I like a lot of direction in my game. Being given a world canvas and told to do what I want leaves me messing around for a few minutes then going to another game where I could be railroaded in eye rolling ways but just continue. May just be my lack of imagination but I'd rather have the developers show me the features of a gaming world than to fumble around like an idiot trying to entertain myself.

This all said, I do enjoy Minecraft. For a sandbox game with little content in it there is just something very satisfying about building rudimentary structures and being able to walk around them. lately I haven't done much with it. Played a few things called "castle runs" with a friend where we try to make above ground villages as fast as we can then expand from there. None of that find coal vein and that's your new home, nope your first night is usually spent scared in a wood hut with one torch, but we're just weird that way.

Now on to why I have a Minecraft post. 1.7 just came out with Pistons. The single thing that is likely to get me building in Minecraft again. They've had redstone for a while which didn't appeal to me, you could certainly make complex things but it just seemed too troublesome and hard to do if you got material normally. With pistons though, I get a bit more sense of accomplishment making gates and doors, and other things moprh like a transformer into their final form. I have not done much with them beyond make a test bridge and a few other pointless tests but it has been one of the best developments in Minecraft in a long time. I'd get the full effect but it seems I need to go slime hunting before I can make my piston powered contraptions work just the way I want them too.

One last thing to mention. You may notice my image lacks any piston use whatsoever but there is a reason. Long long ago when I made that map it was a time when snow was a finite resource. Me being an odd case of OCD when it comes to limited or hard to get materials had cleared the entire fort ground of snow with a shovel, making them all snowballs then eventually snow blocks as to not waste them. After going about mining for redstone I returned to my main base to stick the iron and the few bits for redstone in a chest and an in game snow storm started up. I had not heard about this being added in any patches and thought it was just a nice visual addition to the game. A few seconds later I noticed all my clear green field of my castle grounds starting to get snow tiles on them. So all my tedious hard work was rendered useless, only now I can completely disregard snow blocks and destroy them however I want, they'll just come back now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


One Shaw made a comment on my last blog about difficulty. Saying "It's important to have the AI scale with difficulty." which I agree with. Though on thinking on this I reached my old problem of "what is difficulty?".

And to illustrate as I have not added images to this at all, have a horrible MSPaint quality image that I should have been ashamed to make.

Once again I apologize, but it kind of gets the point across.

So the first thing to start off with is what a lot of games like to do with difficulty being big numbers. This comes in all manner of flavors both hidden and not so hidden. One is hit points or the number of times something has to be hit or damaged to take it down, this is the oldest of the old for difficulty. If you played a mario game that had all bosses take 4 more hits it would be more "difficulty". This happens a lot in shooters where difficulty just means increasing enemy damage and enemy health. For real time games there is always just how far the AI can "see" you. As it stands I do not believe there is an AI in a game right now that legitimately uses 'vision'. It just calls a method for the location of any player, checks if there are any solid objects in the way of 'seeing' them then goes about all the other functions. The higher the difficulty the more easily the AI can spot you, or even see through walls so it can plan a route around them to shoot you. That once again is more "difficult". RPGs have a notorious difficulty increase purely by numbers. Every number used by the enemies is increased which means ultimately the player just has to kill a lot more monsters to level up to continue than if it was on an "easier" difficulty.

For me this isn't the difficulty I am after. It's what I like to call "lotto" difficulty. I mostly use the term as a trap in Pen and Paper design where fights can only be won if the player rolls high consistently while the monster rolls low. Nothing the player does actually in the fight matters only what the Random Number Gods decides to give them. Any input on the fight the player had was decided before hand in how much they beat up lower level enemies or the quality of equipment they are using. This effectively just turns the bread and butter of the game into a math equation. For shooters and RTSs some of this is mitigated as there is a lot more things to do than click a button but at it's core it's not what people want. People want some challenge which comes down to their actions influencing the outcome, not some long formula of success that has no bearing on what they did during the time of conflict.

It isn't impossible but it is hard as a designer to address the problem. For shooters there is always changing up the map making the play have to choose the approach enemy, or by giving the foes tactics of their own while rudimentary can it more challenging for the player. RPGs have a lot harder time with their system not being twitch based but 'tactics' as some basic multi turn stratifies or nullifying players can prove quite rewarding if you're looking for a game that doesn't require a lot of grinding. Still it's a lot of work for what ultimately isn't what players really want, something akin person behind the scenes with forethought and a bit of an imagination. I fear it'll be a lot longer than we expect before we get such an AI and for now Pen and Paper games or ones with heavy Game Master involvement will be the closest we get to it.

Ai and choices

Well back at home after house sitting. Got a lot of programing done over there, the basics of the combat tester engine are pretty much complete. You can hit a guy, aim better, and guard. The very very basics are here and it works out which leads to some problems if I want to get to my goal of having something
interesting in game play.

So I have the basic mechanics down, you choose dice to assign to differnt aspect in the combat round and the system calculates everything and then goes to the next round until someone falls down. This is working but not quite what I want it yet. After some brain storming I decided to try some of the basic ideas that are common in some pen and paper games.

I'm unsure if D&D started the whole idea but I know it best from D&D 3.5. A little feat called power attack. Effectivly power attack reduces our chance to hit for some extra minor damage. I'm unsure if from there other X attacks spawned but in mutant and masterminds 2nd edition a few more were made allows if your to sacrifice damage pottental for the chance to hit.

Why this matters for my system? Because as it stands it doesn't work. The main problem is that I'm flatly using how much attack beats defense as damage. So a -2 on one side and a +2 on the toher just reduces the average damage overall, and how many times it actually does damage. Using something more drastic such as *2 on one side and /2 on the other leading to the more accurate but less damageing attack somehow able to deal more damage than normal attacks and other such crazy things. So the most basic ideas in the hit them till they fall down to try and increase the complexity of this system sort of fails so I will have to think harder on this.

Now for the other part of combat, the enemies side the AI. AI is decently hard. For me I don't have to worry about a lot of things, position, movement actions, and all the sorts for things that make games annoying to program. For me I have it easy as I just have to choose what ability it can do so I have a few routes to go. I can go through a gauntlet of variable comparison and spit out an action. I could do what no RPG has ever done and do breadth or depth first searches taking into account what the players and random number generator into acount and make one of the hardest RPG games out there by virtue of that. Though I could also do what I usualy end up doing and go with my "randumb" model of RPG enemies for the mooks at least, where it just randomly picks from the list of abilities and goes with it.Not the most imaginative but I have little work with applied AI and would rather have it work or use some scripts to act though it is something I could work on.

Until later I'll be working a bit more on trying to make this system interesting as is.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weapon of the gods and combat testing

Haven't been posting as much due to house sitting. Something about having access to cable and more food than I could buy in a month has made me as lazy as the cats I'm here to watch. Either way on with the blog.

So I've been playing game designer again and trying to come up with a more complicated than usual combat system. So as it usual goes with my designs I wanted to see what else was out there and did some digging through a few rule books and dug up a gem called Weapon of the Gods. A self proclaimed wuxia role-playing game with special effect martial arts which include a technique that will break apart your armor and cause you to lose limbs if you're unlucky. For how campy most martial arts films are this is taking itself decently serious, lots of 'historical' fluff in there and a lot of techniques. The system is a dice pool that uses matching, no successes or cumlative adding though. It takes the interesting approach of using d10s and having the number you pick be the 1s (a zero in 10s case) and the amount of dice matched being the 10s. So rolling 6,3,3,0 lets you have the choice of 10 (set of one 10 die), 16 (set of one 6 die), or 23 (set of two 3 dice). So the craziness is a little toned down from things like frameworks matching dice pool system for the number it can generate. Beyond this intersting take on dice pools is what is called the river.

The river is a very crunchy and somewhat narrative idea where you can save dice for latter. In our pool we rolled before we had a set of pair of 3s. After we roll we go through the "phases of the river" first phase is to wash out what we have in the river, also known ans plainly discarding the dice we have saved there. Each scene starts with no dice in the river so you can't keep your 9s sticking around to save you when needed. To get dice into the river after you "wash" them you can float in anything from a set of 2 or more dice. You can just put one in or both in. With the pool above we could float in the two 3s as insurance for later, though this would have to be a legitimate roll not something the game defines as a 'style' roll which will come up in a minute. After this you enter the "flowing" phase where you can move dice out of the river and into your dice pool so that you may use them to generate the dice pools results. So for example later when we roll nothing but 1 sets we could flow in the two 3s and have at least 23, or we could be waiting for 3s to be rolled and roll a much higher possible number.

Now I mentioned style above, style is generally skill checks for mundane things, or pointless things that you will succeed at regardless of your skill at it. Getting the attention of a friend across a room with a few people, climbing up the ladder, other silly things you want to roll dice just to see how awesome you are. So for giggles you order noodles at restaurant and stay you want a style roll for it, GM rolls his eyes and asks for the attribute and possible skill in question and you pull out something around 30s just to say you made the cook weep with your love of the noodles. Silly idea but style checks apply to something else, damage. Damage in this game is determined by how much you pass the targets defense. For every 5 over you roll you get another die in the damage pool.  From there it's standard pool reading though you can flow in from your river some 9s to put a serious hurt on.

Now there are other interesting things that I could talk about concerning such wonderful euphemisms such as yin-yang warrior but for now onto my little project.

The actually straight up manipulation of the dice pool got me thinking a bit for at least the basis of what I'm thinking of playing with. Every rpg system I can think of besides Baten kaitos(which used a card based dice pool like system) just has you select an action and just watch the results. So after reading through the weapon of the gods system I wondering if assigning what you roll could add an interesting element to
this. I don't know how valid it is but that's why I want to try. To follow my computer science roots thinking I'm following the KISS rule (keep it simple stupid) and just going to have you able to assign dice to your initiative, action, and defense pool. From there your chosen actions play out as normal, so far I'm seriously lacking in them but I have to see if the current system pans out.

And as a bonus my first image, it didn't feel right at the start so here it is. I'm programing in python cause I haven't been bothered enough to get oracle or C family compilers on here.

Got most of the tools finalized and am starting to play with actual combat mechanics. Learned more things in python recently, list comprehension as I'm showing off a bit can't believe I wasn't taught that in college. All console based, my philosophy is if I do it right I can just use another shell to output it correctly in a GUI anyways.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Role playing games, the non table top kind.

I've been into gaming for a long time. I started writing up a brief history for my gaming but I'm thinking it'd be boring. So quick long short, started in shooters, got exposed to pokemon, played a lot of japanese role palying games, and don't grind in grinding games. That about sums it up.

Now onto something interesting. I have tried programing a few rpg like games over the years. A few ambitious goals considering I am not good at GUI work that I technically have enough framework to finish but never do. In the end I program things far faster and to completion more often for others than myself. I did get together a very badly clunky "fighter" rpg for giggles just to prove I could do it. "Fighter" being something a friend made in middle-high school with one of those programmable TI calculators. Hit things for exp, get spells, fighting his wacky idea of things with special abilities and all that. With X areas you could go go through. By areas I mean fight X enemies in a row and then the boss then you "beat" it meaning the next is unlocked and maybe something more in your home base. Simple design, enough that you can play with and test combat systems. Which brings me to my next thing.

I've had this one idea floating around for a semi roguelike. 2d "Odin sphere" maps as I don't want to deal with 2d maps and all those calculations. I actually have the system roughly built with some AI even. The problem was I had an ambitious  idea for an item format. You take some material and combine it with others to produce what is effectively your weapon parts. There is some rolling going on based on the parts used that give stat bonuses and even special abilities. It was when I wondered how good this was I realized I would rather test this in a less complex environment than my current game layout. That one failed, then I made my "fighter" just to say I could, then worked on a more complex version based on that ones workings and have just sorta stalled. It sits in a state of limbo due to how close it is to finishing with how I designed it, I have the parts to put them together but little reason to go through it as I'd have to get up to the next step of incorporating the item system in which could be quite frustrating.

This was a while ago. Recently I've been looking into the various combat systems in games. They are sort of disappointing. The basic mecanics beyond getting into magic spells which start to follow their own individual rules to a degree boil down to take a penalty to hit gain a minor effect. This is all well and good in pen and paper actually, the more complicated a mess you make it the more frustrating and long combat takes but for video games I want something more than that and the "know the elemental immunities" that pop up. I've heard of some complex RPGs in the videogame side but I can't remember them and missed out on them due to coming in late on the rpg craze with the 64 and no playstation till much later. So I think something for me to work on may be some "simple" ideas on enhancement to combat mechanics. While this sounds difficult from a programing standpoint it's just a few more functions to play around with in a combat loop. If I get it down to combat basics and a few enemies I'll call it a successful run.

So project "Combat tester" is go. Hopefully I'll have something by next week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Probability the dice of life

Bad puns aside in table top gaming there is always a want or need for randomization and quite a few methods for randomization have been used for our polyhedron chunks of plastic. Every system has their own special name for what they're doing but more often than not you can compare it to something that's been done before. As no official name exists for any of these I'll just be pulling names out of thin air to get the point across.

The Basic Roll

Even had to pull out the bold and size change for this but I digress. The basic roll is the tried and true RPG odds generator of choice. Can function on as little as one die and is typically the same for all characters and non playing characters. The most basic idea is you roll a die or a few dice add them together, modify it with some number from somewhere, and compare them to a number to see if it's higher or lower to see if you succeed. Doesn't matter if it's a single nerdy 20 sided die or three standard 6 sided dice the basic mechanic is the same. It's good for fast rolls and for players to know the odds of success, especially if it's percentile and they're trying to roll lower than some attribute generated. I called it the basic roll as a lot of systems love this D&D, d20 systems, Basic role play, and Dark Heresy come to mind. There is one that tweaks this idea but still follows the basic mechanics and that is Legend of the 5 rings and possibly 7 seas. They use a system of Roll and Keep where you roll a number of dice like everyone else but then you pick a few from that. Typically the dice kept are the highest amount but allows an interesting function with a variable number of dice rolled.  There is a lot of probability things I could get into about the difference in amount of dice rolled and the horrible results when there is a differnce between two but I think I'll save that for another day as I have a story with that.

The Dice Pool
Dice pools are different than the basic roll for a two reasons. One the amount of dice rolled can greatly vary between players. Two each die rolled in the pool is counted as it's own roll, the dice are not added up like in the basic roll. Typically when you roll a dice pool you are given a target number, this number being lower than the number of sides of the dice used. If you have 10 sided dice you can't have a target number of 11 as it is impossible. From there you tally up the number of dice rolled that meet or beat that number and that is your amount of "successes" you tell that to the person running the game and they will tell you if you succeeded or not. Typically this is a little less insane than rolling numbers and adding them together thus letting the guy rolling 2 for fighting keep up with the guy rolling 4 for fighting though the 4 dice pool is still doing more. I used to love dice pool systems mostly for the mystery behind them. I can do some basic probability and get the odds behind the basic roll systems (besides Roll and keep) and have no idea what is happening in a dice pool. This quickly turned to crap when I started running my own games and realized I have little clue behind the monster I'd make up or the what amount of successes needed for a challenge would be too easy or too hard for my group. It's still usable I just like having a little more knowledge of my gaming mechanics now. For the most part White Wolf games all use some for of dice pool, I also know of Burning Wheel using one too.

Match Systems
Frankly I have no good name for these systems. They're usually some weird combination of the first 2 but have mechanics that separate them. There are only two I know of for this, Frame work (of Cthulhutech) and One Roll Engine. They both have a variable amount of dice rolled but instead of looking for a target number or adding them all together they look for a pattern of some sort in the dice. Both use matching as one combination, Frame Work will take straights of 3 or more dice or the highest one giving it the nick name of dice poker. From there they differ Framework just adds what it finds together as it's output number and O.R.E. uses the number rolled and how many that were found for it's various aspects. These are the most difficult systems to use, there is no quick glance at them to get a number or amount of successes and there can be a lot of "missing" in these systems if you don't get matches which leads to frustration. Now O.R.E. does a lot for it's single roll; it tries to get hit location, damage, and initiative all from one roll which is interesting but takes a lot of explanation to even get people used to it.

And that's the lowdown of how funny looking dice work in pen and paper games. Partway through this I realized that maybe I should have given a rundown of how pen and paper games work but this subject is more interesting to me at least.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Table top gaming and the internet.

Alright it seems my Keeper for the night is too depressed to run his game from what evidence can tell. So I'll make a legitimate topic now. Topic being internet table top gaming.

First of I'm not too experienced of a roleplayer for in face interaction. I did some in highschool which were a lot of making a character and playing for a few hours as it's too late then forgetting we ever did it. I can think of 4 separate times this has happened even in some systems we just made up. What it did teach me though is that getting ground rules and figuring out what you were doing was important.

So here comes the internet. Wonderful tool that allows you to contact people at nearly half the speed of light depending on your connection material. Play with people all over the world in many different walks of life and all that, wonderful right? Not really, it seems there is many features in real life games that help alot. One is you don't get as much creepiness in real life, being in slapping distance probably influences this along with the fact you actually know the person. While I am a creepy bastard at times I know some games do not need that sort of horrible twisted or perverse things in it and thus hold back, it seems other people don't so you have genetically altered little boys posing as girls and wondering why no one loves them in military magic themed games. Another part related to this disconnect with people is turnover rate. You know how there is an empty chair that could use filling in tables for D&D, in online games you could have only one person left playing after a week with no notice from the rest and that is the norm. Email is easily ignored, calling someone up or bumping into them at the store is not.

Now beyond the personal gap causing creepy or disappearing people (this may be more related than one thinks) is actual game play. A round of combat from what I've seen in real life after people understand which is a d12 and which is a d10 goes decently quick. Online, combat is a grind. Combat can take a few hours for a few rounds, though I have seen it sped up when people are fully at attention. Viewing youtube, checking mail, looking at images are pertaining to cats is the main cause of slowing down combat. I can understand this and do it myself, if there is some rolls going on I'll tab to something else. The secondary part is people typing up what they are doing because this is where irc gaming does shine. People do not like to plainly go  "I attack the orc". They want to "With a howl rush the orc with crazed eyes and swing the sword at it's head!". Which takes a bit more typing. Typically this enthusiasm wears out as time goes on in the battle but the first few rounds always look like they're trying to make the simple attacks as entertaining as possible. Now this is great, but somewhat time consuming especially if the person doing it is a slow at typing. With this and even being interested in the game more often than not gets me to look for a new youtube song to listen to even though I shouldn't.

After all those problems what are some pros? Information sharing. Using multiple irc rooms you can split the party every way and pass notes that other players can't even begin to meta on. It's wonderful to have a player off doing things that are effecting the main party and they don't even know it. Or even just mysterious visions or one of the players spot roll being higher then the rest so they notice a certain detail which they can easily choose to keep from the party, wonderful thing that I have seen work in game a few times.

Personally I find online games more enjoyable. Face to face is a bit intimidating to me and the fact you hear the other players voices doesn't get me into it. Seeing text and imagining the voices does a lot more for me. It's a personal taste and probably more influenced by never feeling comfortable in groups.

pretending to be a food bloger

I like fast food. There is something more satisfying for me to go out, drop 8 dollars on the most unhealthy thing I can think of and get it in under 5 minutes and start eating it all than spending 3 dollars on something that takes 3 hours to cook a sink worth of dishes for prep work and will feed me for a week if I'm careful.

Sufficent to say I don't do that very often. In fact my current budget runs around doing the second part so I can pull off the previous when I feel like it once possibly twice a week. Food stuff may be coming up on this blog as I like to try new recipes and I could be talking about the joys of trying to make wonderfully cheap pork chops into something with a bit of red pepper, but not today. Today I want to talk about horribly fattening food.

Now why do I bring this up? Slightly because I haven't gotten up the urge to talk RPG theory and mostly because I have just discovered that McDonald now has 6 different sauces for their parts is parts nuggets. Not having access to television at the moment has rendered this an actual surprise to me. A quick run to the site gives me this list: Honey mustard, Tangy Barbecue, Sweet and Sour, Creamy Ranch, Sweet Chili, and Spicy Buffalo. When this happened, I don't know but I was game for Spicy Buffalo, and it was actually decently like mild buffalo sauce. A bit of a vinegar kick to it but not much. Still should have gotten the old standby of sweet and sour though. Not bad though, still surprised to see Buffalo sauce making it to a sauce though.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I like table top games. Granted I never have people in real life to play them with so I mostly go through IRC channels. Played quite a few games over the years with some long lasting ones still going, even running one myself with plans for another but that may be for another post.

I've known qutie a few systems, even some poor homebrews back in the middle/early highschool school days when I wanted to get in but honestly thought that D&D was a bad thing and tried to skirt the issue by looking at online homebrews which were probably unplayable. Granted never played them till I got roped into some D&D group. 3.5 edition, with minmaxers who have played since advanced D&D that seemed to enjoy custom random tables than the bread and butter of D&D. Learned a lot of things back then, never actually played too much though. Years later I bought my own collection of 3.5 books and failed to start my own thing. Only in college did I actually playing online. Found a group for "magical girl" game and decided I could at least laugh while the ill conceived idea exploded into flames. Didn't turn out that bad, system was a bad choice but it's my main group to this day.

Pen and Paper gaming online is something a crap shoot. Lots of horrible things out there and horrible people, should know I'm one of them to a degree, but if you find the people that can put up with your idiosyncrasies just as much as you can put up with theirs while being open about what you actually can't stand in a game without instantly rage quiting you can do fine.

Anyways current systems I've been exposed to or played in rough order.
Horibad homebrews
Earthdawn (thought it was a board game)
D&D 3.5
Mutants and masterminds 2nd edition
Cthulhu Tech
Chaosium Call of Cthulhu 6th
D&D 4th edition
Dark Heresy
Various Dark Heresy home brews.

I know I missed a few but it escapes me. I also actually have my foot in those home brews actually in some online channels, not sure if it's kosher to go about them here. I can say that no game really wins mechanically over the others, they all have their glaring faults and broken features in some places. Though if you focused on that you'd be missing fun of actually playing them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The birth of yet another blog

Seeing as I have had far too much time on my hands in the job search busts I think I could try my hand at this blogging thing.

So for an introduction. I'm a programmer by trade, a scribbler by some fluke, and a gamer through free time. Don't have much to show for most of the things at the moment though I may bring them up as I get more comfortable with this whole concept. Though for the most part out of college with seemingly some credentials for the first two. The third though did take up a lot of the time at college. As of right now working on my own projects and more avidly others while looking for some way into the CS industry which seems dead in this area. Beyond that well, I'm sure I'll go on about it later.

Here's to the bloging experience.