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Report: 22 December

A day late. Bad form.

I, uh, spent all of yesterday watching American Horror Story with Emily. Now I feel bad writing this, because I usually get a solid chunk of work done on Saturdays. I think this week work will be low-stress and maybe I can make up that time in the evenings. I’m taking this shame as evidence that writing here will potentially help my work ethic? That’s probably an assumption too far.

 

Game Studies Series

A little more on this project:

This pursuit is between me and two friends from college, Luke and Aaron. A few years ago (wow, I can say that?), I had won an “undergraduate research fellowship” and the three of us had earned some grants from Carnegie Mellon for a project on games and learning. Our usual setup was that Luke acted as the psychology/methodology expert, Aaron acted as the technical expert, and I worked in the HCI space and handled administrative stuff (dealing with advisors, the IRB, volunteers, etc.). The results of the actual research ended up being sketchy, which is par for the course- but it was a great learning experience, scheduling, building, and testing. I had been on many game development teams before, but experiments required a heavy administrative and social element. Herding people was hard (which was news to me at the time!)

Since then, we’ve gone separate ways physically- Aaron’s in Pittsburgh pursuing research/advanced degrees, Luke’s in Boston working for a media research firm, and I’m in New York doing what I do. We’ve still kept in touch and decided that attempting this new project would be fun to do and also accomplish some common goals we have in consuming the corpus and sharing our view of a stricter, more ludological approach to deconstructing games and related media (our position is a minority view in the circles we ran in).

Our first phase is to pass through the curriculum we constructed, and take relevant notes that we’ll condense into scripts. We have a definite common direction in mind. We’re using the built-in wiki for Bitbucket to organize these notes. We’re setting up a go/no-go test to determine whether we can reliably produce an episode of this thing in a reasonable amount of time/effort. Each of us is tasked with generating a new wiki stub everyday (as an average- skipping days is permitted). There will not be much to update in this area until January.

 

ShamanGame

I built out the “energy” system.

All units, when it’s their turn, project a circle around them indicating how far they can travel before expending all of their energy. I also intend for non-moving actions to also suggest how much energy they expend. The game is not built on a grid, so for the player there will still be some approximation about how much they can do with each unit each turn. I wanted this feel: I didn’t want the game to be chess-like, instead I expect that situations will develop where the player has to make judgment calls and get a “feel” for how much a unit can do before their energy limit is reached. Sometimes he may be wrong.

There are RPG’s that have innovated with mechanics like this before: I’ve seen turn-based RPG battle engines where each unit gets an allotted amount of time (say, 7 seconds apiece) and anything the player can do in real time is doable. So when it’s a unit’s turn, the player moves them around and presses attack buttons to cause as much damage or get a particular action done (ex. get in range and heal friendly units) before time runs out. A sense of MP/energy/magic limits are missing in this system: instead, high-performance actions take more time and skill just to pull off before the unit’s turn is over.

The game will be designed so that units are non-fungible. I intend to accomplish this by drastically changing units based on their experience. So, a brave who kills certain things will develop specific benefits. No two units will necessarily have the same stats. The player may learn to develop his units with a strategy in mind.

Aside from the Enemy player, there will be wild units (wildmen, and animals). Wildmen can be converted or coerced into joining either the Player or the Enemy team. Animals, if hunted, will yield bonus stats that are different depending on the species of animal. A player may mounting hunting or other expeditions in order to train units before engaging the enemy (this is basically “grinding”). There are also mythical creatures in fixed places that play a “Roshan“-like role (an optional, expensive fight against a very powerful unit that gives up valued prizes), in that when they die they give the victor’s Shaman a new ability.

Before dealing with the complexities of multiplayer (which I might attempt later), I expect for the game to take place in a few levels, each of which take ~15 minutes to complete. Hopefully I can keep the code simple enough that implementing multiplayer later will be only a chore, instead of torture. I wouldn’t bet on it.

 

Digital Magazine

I got the site hosted (I use Laughingsquid.us) and built a WordPress site. We looked into Wix and Ghost as publishers, but there’s not much going on with either of them yet. I’ve got a few people who are writing. We’re looking for a New Year’s Day launch date. There won’t be any fanfare since it’s not really a burgeoning media empire or anything, just a fun writing exercise in a different voice than what’s going on here (and also an opportunity to pull some writing out of some friends that I think can/should be writing but currently aren’t). If it looks like it’s floating, I’ll invite some others to scribble something out for it. The first submissions will be in soon, so I don’t even know what attitude our opening articles will have yet.

Published in dev