Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

Silver Sky, second go

I’ve been re-reading Spirit of the Century, thinking about Road to Amber, and looking at the sketch for Silver Sky I have here.

I’m sure at this point that I want to ditch the homebrew rules for SS and replace them with SotC.

SotC is not a rules-light system but what would be seriously cool would be to code a SotC engine for MUX and just let the players go at it. Every player is a potential GM. Minimum of staff judges. The world grid is not one city, but in true pulp spirit players can globe trot from crazy location to location. If Dirk Danger is in Istanbul but his friends are in the Congo, he just grabs a plane and he’s there. It’s all for color. Players can either fully customize their character at startup or go with the quick start and stat them as they play. Throw in some Thrilling Tales of Adventure-esque plot hook chain building for players to grab onto and discover, but all character sheets are public. All help files are in Mediawiki and all BB stuff is on a SMF forum linked to the wiki. Just forget about how things have been done.

mud player types survey

Last year Richard Van Meurs conducted a mud player types survey, as part of his Masters at Tilburg University. The results are in — he’s made an interesting revision of Bartle’s old model of player types. Read them as PDFs:

The summary.

The full thesis.

I haven’t had time to compare this with a study done by Nick Yee of MMORPG players but the two studies seem to share some conclusions.

Road To Amber

is rocking it lately:

54 players logged in, 54 unique, 71 record, no maximum.

And one of the RtA designers has some thoughts about this growth.

fondling wheat

The second lo-fi recording experiment: “Game Writing 101”, InPrint at Richard Hugo House.

About the Panelists

New York Times best-selling writer Eric Nylund is the author of “Halo: Ghosts of Onyx” and other novels; he also writes for games such as “Gears of War.”

John Sutherland has written for games including “Mind Aerobics,” “Go” and many Microsoft games such as “MechAssault 2,” “Asheron’s Call 2,” “Shadowrun” and the “Mass Effect”; he also writes poetry, fiction and screenplays.

Panel moderator Melanie Henry’s first video game was “Pong.” As an editor at Microsoft Game Studios for the last seven years, she’s worked on such games as “Gears of War” and “Counter-Strike” for the original Xbox.

[InPrint at Richard Hugo House]

Thanks to Leslie Howell of InPrint at the Hugo House for putting together this group of Microsoft game people, who threw down an informal introductory rap about what it’s like to write for games in general, and AAA titles in particular. There’s ongoing Q&A during the discussion, with Melanie Henry posing questions every so often. Eric Nylund answers first in part one.

I haven’t got around to annotating the tracks yet but hope to do it soon — almost two hours of discussion! All I did in Audacity was amplify the tracks between 10-14 db., and go through with the envelope tool to bring down some of the spikes from coughs, knocks, laughter, etc. I need to find some way to quickly do that without losing the dynamics of the live sound.

Highlights were the 12 year old (? — hope I guessed your age close enough man!) who owned the Q&A, the man with the Q&A buzzwords (who managed to work in auteur theory, ludology, and agile development into I think four questions), and the title of this post, courtesy of a quote from Eric Nylund in reference to a certain film.

Each part is about 30 minutes.

Game Writing 101 (part one)

(part two)

(part three)

(part four)

–|>——- O.O imm

You would think that in playing muds and IF I naturally would play a lot of roguelike games too, but this isn’t the case (unless you count Dwarf Fortress I guess). It is one of those things I’ve been meaning to check out — with full awareness of the rabbit hole I could then slip down, but never mind that…

The thing is, while I like graphical RPGs, a lot of times the interface isn’t very satisfying. The characters are clumsy looking, it’s hard to get them to move in a natural way, the buildings and landscapes are just that side of pretty where they aren’t very pretty at all. It’s like a cross between Zelda and Virtua Fighter, and not appealing. On the other hand, while roguelikes are (obviously) stripped down to the barest of graphical representation, I can totally get into it and let my imagination do the work.

Thanks to RAIF and TIGSource I found my first roguelike, and it’s called Legerdemain. Coincidentally, according to the developer it’s a cross between IF and roguelikes — the site is even called roguelikefiction. Maybe this is the roguelike I was meant to play first?

legerdemain1.jpg

Robin Hobb at the University Bookstore

Following on the last post, the other night I heard Robin Hobb read at the University Bookstore, on her tour supporting her new book Renegade’s Magic.

I brought the recorder to try it out. I was about ten feet from the podium, and the bookstore is something of a big open space so there was a lot of ambient noise. For the introduction of Robin I had the recorder in my shirt pocket (I don’t have an external microphone yet) and for her reading I held the recorder in my lap pointing up. The PA system for the reading wasn’t very loud — kind of like a little louder than normal speaking voice. The final file was about half a gig of 44.1 khz WAV.

In Audacity I cut out a few spots of the WAV file and used the envelope tool and amplify effect to increase the volume on some points, and the envelope tool to decrease some loud spots, but other than that I didn’t do too much. I still haven’t figured out how much of that works.

I did cut up the file into two parts — so if you just want to hear the question and answer you can skip to that.

Robin Hobb introduction and reading:

Robin Hobb Q & A:

I was impressed by the reading, she seems really cool.

+ sound

So I’m pysched lately because I’m starting a new thing that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. After much reading of reviews and gazing at EBay, Craigslist &c. I went out to (local) Streamline Audio (totally nice there) and got a digital field recorder! My choice after looking at the Zoom H-4 and H-2, Edirol r-09, m-Audio MicroTrack and a couple of others was the Marantz PMD620.

Marantz PMD620

All of the super-portable recorders seem to have their pros and cons at this price level, but for me the Marantz has the features (good and basic) and the form factor (streamlined) I was looking for.

I took it out of the box and within seconds I was up and running; it’s really very easy to use, feels well-made and just solid. In the coming weeks I’m going to record some readings and talks, use Audacity to edit the files and then put the mp3s up here. In the farther future I want to experiment a little, possibly making some IF/audio games. OK!

progress

I know I tend to go on and on about how great God Wars II is. Well, if you needed another example:

The developer of GW2, Richard Woolcock (aka KaVir), has been posting weekly updates of progress on the game in this thread at the GW2 forums.

Weekly updates.

For five years.

Not only is it pretty inspiring, it’s a kind of fascinating look at how a game is developed.

hot muds

It does seem like it’s getting harder to find muds that instantly impress me these days. It’s just a theory but I think most muds develop by accreting features onto the ‘outside’ of the mud, the edge that long-time players inhabit as they’ve exhausted the content on the ‘inside’. The content immediately apparent to the new player, like the look and feel of the mud, and major systems that new players interact with from the get go, don’t change that much. If no one is improving them, and they weren’t good to begin with, there’s a problem — without something or someone telling me to stick around, I’m just not likely to put time into a mud to see cool systems when most of the time the look, feel, and content is stale, not interesting, confusing, or plain ugly.

Many new muds don’t seem to offer anything new or exciting either, just retreading old ideas and not making it look very nice either.

A few muds buck the trend. In no particular order they are:

God Wars II: if I was a hardcore PvPer or achiever I would play this mud to death. It’s without question one of the most interesting and nice looking muds out there.

Legends of Karinth: lots of cool features, big world. The best ROMy ROM I’ve seen.

Aeonian Dreams
: many interesting features to recommend this mud. Unfortunately the UI isn’t that great and that makes it hard to get into.

Blood Dusk: just found this mud. Highly recommend this for something different.

does anyone play IF games anymore?

I noticed someone made a Google search on that when I was looking at the WordPress dashboard here (i.e., obsessively checking the hit counter for this blog). A typical question for the IF scene, you might say, until you do that search. ‘Does anyone…’ is like the question of the ages.

And no, I haven’t played Lost Pig yet. Though I have spent many hours in the last two days on Desktop Tower Defense. Damn you, Jon! Damn you!