8Bit Boating For Conversation Trading

Ok so this is going to be more related to You’re Invited than it might seem.

However I have run into a bit of a snag with conceptualizing the game. See in the game you watch people talk. During the conversations you can click on different bits of it to record it to use for later. This means that in order to complete the game the player will need to pay close attention to the things people say. Along with what people say there is what is ACTUALLY going on. This is what you want to know. You have to figure out what is going on by watching what others say and using that to get at the real bit of information.

I can imagine it like a map, each character having dominion over a certain bit of area. You want to get at their area but they may not want you to go near certain things. They want to control the access you get. So in order to get information you have to use information. This is essentially trading, trading is just path navigation.

So I understand conceptually what all of these things are but I’ve never built anything around trade. Let alone trading esoteric concepts. I can’t seem to envision how the player will use the information step by step to win the game. I have a lot of ideas but I think developing an isolated trading game may give me something to study and understand.

When I was younger I used to go to as summer camp. One of the leaders invented a game he called “pirates”. Around the camp leaders set up trading posts. Your cabin was to go between various trading posts trading goods. Finding which goods sold for what where. Along the way other cabins were pirates. they got money by robbing others and dealing in black market goods. However they were in turn hassled by a third type of cabin/ship the navy. The navy confiscated goods and gold from pirates. As well though they could confiscate black market goods from merchants. The point of the game was to find which cabin at the end of the game time had the most money.

This is a fine little example of trade. All sorts of multi layered concepts. A few different types of exchange and a nice understandable theme. I’m hoping by making a little game around this concept I can make a sort of ant farm type thing to view trade.

First off I needed a map. I get caught up on things like this and a static map wasn’t going to do. I wanted something that would create interesting trade routes that were constantly different each time. In order to do this I started with a concept based on the game of life

Here is a gif of the process in action
Island

Each bit of water and land are switching between water and land based on a set of rules. The water has simple rules. Only if it has 0 neighbors does it switch to land.

Water

On the other hand the land is a bit more complex. It will dissolve if it has less than 3 neighbors. More than 3 it stays. However at 3 there is a 1:300 chance that the tile will flip to water. This little difference makes a massive difference when it comes to the variety of islands. Once I added in the little bit of code on #3 the maps become very interesting.

Land

Once that is done there is a process of placing merchants. This has a more complex series of rules that require a number of merchants be also on the same body of water. No merchant can be a minimum distance. In order for an island to have more than one merchant it must meet a number of resources.

The resources are basic staple resources. Here they are ripped from the sprite sheet
resources

In order as they appear. Ore, Wood, Food, Wool, Stone, Spice, Wine.

The rarity order however is Food 13/146, Wood 8/146, Stone 5/146, Wool 3/146, Ore 2/146, Spice 1/146, Wine 1/146.

Using Fibonacci’s sequence in order to get a good covering of the rating. There are also Villages, Blacksmiths and Castles. Villages consume things in order with rarity. Castles consume more luxury goods and blacksmiths consume more wood, and ore. Each settlement gives money back as well to the port. The total collection of resources and settlements defines what goods a port has. If a port runs negative it simply indicates high demand. If they run positive it means a surplus. In this way there will be some ports with no settlements that will have a lot of goods for sale, and in the opposite way some will need to accept a lot more goods because they have settlements.

From this start I hope to build up a version of the camp version of pirates. Replacing some of the game functions that exist for a group of campers. Combat will be simple. Pirate and navy ships will have canons but they will only disrupt movement. When 2 ships catch each other combat is done based on rock paper scissors. Giving caught ships a chance to get away again to represent a victory. As well the ports goods are going to be based off of created demand. A bit of tweaking should allow a functioning economy to develop. I’m hoping to give the ships some learning / ant AI so that they can show how they go about establishing trade routes.

The end intention being to create a bit simpler but more abstract version of trade to represent secrets and conversation analysis. Allowing people to feel like they are navigating unseen trade routes through conversation.

The next step is pathing, like conversation is a path through ideas a trade route has a more literal path to navigate. The boat has a pretty nifty movement. Indeed I have actually spent a lot of time just enjoying navigating the little boat. I make it so that it constantly diverts any momentum into forward momentum. If the boat tries to move against its axis then it will resist more than if it moves forward. This gives the boat a pretty unique water feel, although it moves like a motor boat but meh.

Here is where I would put a HTML5 unity build but I’m broke as shit and can’t afford the licence. Instead here is a video of me being bad at boating. (yes that is the slightest plea for attention to my lonely donate button, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ASK FOR MONEY!).

I will likely post the full code at some point for others education and enjoyment.

A Dev Blog… Of Course!

My mind fascinates me at times. So incredibly capable at problem solving and calculation. Intuition, pattern recognition. It’s an astounding instrument. Yet over and over I will be left speechless at my minds inability to put together simple concepts. Overlooking small details until I’m essentially hit in the face by something I’m sure most people would have noticed. This results in me leaving most cupboard doors open until I realize that almost all of the cupboard doors have been opened throughout the day. Unable to catch simple spelling mistakes and occasionally maddening program issues caused by a very small detail Lik dis

That was a pretty nutty error until I realized the semi colon at the end of the if statement :/ it was only giving a warning which I was flat out ignoring like a dingus. Anyways that’s what I mean. My mind is very very smart and very stupid sometimes. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to interact with an audience more. A member of reddit inquired if I had a dev blog. And I suddenly had to ask myself why in the fucking hell I didn’t. I’ve been trying to think of something to maintain updates and interact with an audience. I have an entire website with a blog engine. What the hell is wrong with me? Well besides the mental illness?

Anyways because I can I think I will go an back date some shit because I have a lot of half saved stuff and enough content to flesh out a dev blog retroactively.

You’re Invited

I invited myself to a game jam a few weeks ago. I had heard through a friend through a friend about a game jam as part of research study. The study centers around the dynamics of developing a auto-pathological game (aka a game about your experiences with an illness). The specific illness variety it deals with is mental.

YoureInvited

As I started Triggered as a way to gameatize my mental illness I emailed the creator and asked if I could participate. She was enthusiastic about having me and “You’re Invited” was born. Triggered focuses on the entire story of my mental illness. It is a massive undertaking of the entire emotional history that I’ve gone through. On the other hand a game jam is quite a bit shorter than something like that and I needed a concept I could hope to even come close to finishing. There was no competition so how hard you pushed yourself was up to you. Being me I pushed myself so hard I made a lot of stupid mistakes and kinda had a shitty weekend outside of the jam. Inside the jam it was slammin and very refreshing to develop around humans again. I met some cool people but was also shown how paralyzed I become because of my problems with scripting.

Scripting is the concept where in people create sequences of expected behaviors in order to interact. When you go get a coffee there is an expectation for the cashier to begin, followed by the customer. A certain amount of small chat is polite, an extended amount is allowed but not entirely desired and anything that extends the script is then a violation of the script. We get pissed when people do not adhere to them and we get really weirded out when people do not know how to follow them. They exist because social interactions are laborious. If we have to figure out how to interact with everything all over again every time we would never get anywhere. So people use scripts.

I am terrified of social interactions going poorly. That hot impending danger feeling boils up in the room. Everything physiologically about me changes. I go into a complete panic. However any hint what so ever of the panic can lead to more problems. People took advantage of these overwhelmed states when I was younger, when I was so scared, confused and embarrassed I didn’t know what to do. People recognize that as an opportunity for amusement, the psychological problems of one individual are merely an amusing curiosity to others. When I became overwhelmed it was important to keep composure. These two concepts blend together into massive scripting issues. I am very very very aware of scripting. I solve my scripts to an absurd degree, I essentially do not understand what “socializing” is if it isn’t based on a script. I let very few people close enough to be unscripted around.

I once worked for this gentleman named Rob. He was a good fellow and very analytical, you could always see his eyes working on a thought when he was talking to you. People like this scare the shit out of me because I have to spend so much time scripting for them. They don’t give a lot of information but they are obviously processing it. I can distinctly remember finishing up my work early and trying to tell him I needed another task. I was terrified to email him, there were too many unknowns. I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t blind side me with something I couldn’t handle. I remember trembling and just being endlessly confused at why I could not convince my fingers to move. I literally just fucked around for an hour because I was too scared to tell my boss I was done a task early. At the time I had no idea I had mental health issues. To very much prove my fears right I ran my mouth one day and I can clearly remember seeing it click in Rob’s face. He looked dead at me and I knew right then I was fired. I played stupid but I saw it. I basically described some of the work habits I had because of being mentally ill, not connecting it with mental illness I was thrown pretty swiftly out on my ass. I was really really shaken up by it. I still have weird violation feelings because I had really sorta trusted them, that was one of the last times I considered myself to have “friends”. Learning that someone could just fire you and remove not only your income but your social network was disturbing. Without the lubricant of work I couldn’t maintain social relationships. My new workplace was colder, I was jaded and not interested in getting to know more “friends” bosses who will end all contact if you don’t perform. It was these experiences that led me to discovering I was mentally ill. The issues I experienced massively centered around my various problems around exhaustive scripting.

You’re Invited is a game about conversation monitoring and scripting. The vehicle for this is a Murder Mystery Dinner. Under the pretense that the player has accepted a random invitation to participate in a murder mystery. They are given the role of the detective. During the night each player has a set of information they need to relay to certain people as well as a number of tasks to complete. The detective has no information to give but instead is tasked with collecting the information, informed that there is a plot for one of the characters to be assassinated he must figure out who and stop it if he can, if not he must find the culprit.

When the player arrives at the dinner its revealed that there is a bit more going on beyond a fun night of murder mystery improv. The host of the evening is not intending for anyone to actually leave alive. He has invited 8 strangers to a dinner in order to play a game. As the detective you are tasked with both solving the murder mystery and finding out which of the characters actually intends to murder everyone. As further complications you are informed that you can’t let anyone know you know this or the game ends immediately (this is backed up). Even further complicating it you are told that other guests may have been given sub tasks as well (In total 1 guest is the player, 1 is the potential killer, 2 are also sub players, the remaining 5 think its a super awesome random murder mystery dinner).

This sets up the dynamic I need to show how intense I find conversations with people. In order to proceed and talk to anyone you want to be very careful not to give bits of information but you need to proceed through expected interactions and get the things done that are required of you. All while maintaining a constant idea that you are the only one so worried about everything and you just wish you could talk about the danger you feel. But talking about the danger makes it real.

Triggered: Contraption Creator

Triggered is an art experiment I am undertaking to translate my experiences with mental illness into game design. I attempted to raise fund to develop it and am still doing just that. My first attempt at a hail Mary crowd funding effort didn’t go well. But with good reason, it was a long shot. I had very little show, and not much beyond my words.

So I don’t want to begin developing the narrative side until I understand my funding and situation better. I need more money or the narrative is going to suffer due to the erraticness of my behavior during poverty. I have a hard time doing certain things when I am exhausted because I am afraid of the noose of poverty closing around my neck. I despise the effect money has on art and I refuse to compromise Triggered to get paid. Not because of anything beyond I want Triggered to not give off finance vibes and if I use it as a finance vehicle it will.

In order to compromise I am willing to develop a portion of Triggered into a free to play sort of game / play thing. Triggered is about interacting with a world that has observable rules and limits. While privately dealing with things that seem to have undefinable rules and unobservable limits. To starkly draw this comparison I want to give most of the functions of the world of Triggered a very accessible and real feeling. Instead of having just an elevator the elevators in triggered will be made of sub components. That are seen over and over and understood. Weaving throughout the world a sort of established mechanical reality. That these things function like expected when arranged. It’s easy to see and easy to accept as a reality.

With this in mind I came up with the idea to have a contraption creator. This is drawing heavily on games and programs in the past that I have willingly paid for. Minecraft and the Fantastic Contraption are both games that I shelled out money for to expand my experience on the game. They both offered decent free experiences but I decided to volunteer money because I enjoyed the concepts so much (to be all hipster about it I bought minecraft in alpha).

The contraption creator then seeks to make those underlying mechanics accessible to people but in a format that captures some of the things I enjoyed about those other games. Of course I don’t think you can build a contraption creator idea without also being influenced by The Incredible Machine. Which just through my entire life has plagued my ideas for game design. I spent too much time in my child hood building things. Anyways I’ve come up with nearly 120 individual parts that go Together. And made is accessible to people. These videos are through varying dates so forgive the different looks. These are all just me messing around and hitting record. If I’ve somehow offended you by borrowing and or forgetting to credit people, I’m sorry.

Lasers

Lasers are activated by logical components. When they are on they shoot a ray of light forward. At the end of this ray of light a burst of light is found. The ray of light can interact with several different things. If it hits things that can be heated it will heat them based on the intensity of the light. If it hits mirrors or mirror balls it will reflect. There is a separate logical component that represents a Gel filter that will change the color or the lasers.

The gel filters work by blocking out different colors. Here is an example of it.
PEW PEW

There are lumospheres which get charged and grow brighter and brighter as the laser shoots it. Providing light
Lumosphere

Also laser orbs are bouncing balls of light that will change their color when hit by a laser. There are laser orb dockers that will turn on when they get an orb of the appropriate color. Here is Simon standing underwater with one.
Green Orbssss

There are prisms that don’t quite work like real prisms but close enough for what I need
Prism

This is a comparison between the early laser and the current laser.

Old

New

Logical Components

There are several different systems at work in triggered. In the same manner that the laser above interacts with certain parts. There are logical parts that work together.

Those are music boxes that are tuned to different notes. Being activated as toggle switches turn on and off. The binary numbers display what state the switches are in. Using an increasing amount of toggle counters and a timed repeater you can move through a sequence. Here is that concept displayed using toggle switches and other logical components.

The logical components support basic binary logic functions. XOR, OR, AND, NOT, and some other toggle like binary functions as well.

The important part is that they work on input / output propagation. So any output can be plugged into any input. This means that the limitations to the functions are as limited as one can rearrange a near infinite number of 1’s and 0’s.

There are several sub systems that interact with the logic system. Taking advantage of the ability to wire things together. There is a music player that allows you to play sounds and change noise, pitch and volume. All functions are controlled by logical inputs. Allowing complicated music boxes to be constructed. There is a pinball bumper that sends a signal when it is struck. This means it can be used to play a sound effect for instance. While another bumper may pitch the sound.

Early Kinetic Music Box

Recently added a camera object. It interacts with the logic so when it receives an on signal the camera moves focus. Allowing monitoring and recording of complex Rube Goldberg Machines.

Deleted Facebook

It is the year 2014, back in 2006 I joined facebook, meaning I hung out on that platform for 8 years. It had its ups and downs, there was a golden age for facebook, I would put it in the year 2007. Things felt real still. Over the years facebook learned a lot. They slowly became smoother and more corporate. Eventually giving way to what it is now, that familiar smooth nerf world that corporations erect around you, kept safe from experiencing negative thoughts. Becoming a vibe around you, influencing you but so subtly you don’t notice.

I don’t claim to have hard proof, and I don’t think that corporations do this consciously or sinisterly. More like it’s simply the most beneficial behavior to the entity and thus it’s chosen. The end result being that facebook depresses the shit out of me. I don’t need it and updating this post months out I’m still glad I did it.

Economics and Game Development

Share Holder Questions

Stupid or not this is the driving selection criteria for the AAA industry.

Imagine that the gaming landscape is like an ecosystem. Different player bases and trends represents resources and availability. Games are made by game companies. So these companies exist in an even greater ecosystem.

At one point when videogames were stupid things that were a complete waste of economic time no one gave a shit about games. Games got made because there were some very ambitious people willing to seek money and take risks. We look back at the ones who made it as visionaries. But really the fact that there was so much untapped potential meant that eventually someone would do it. There was an emerging ecosystem where great risks had great pay off.

Once videogames were discovered as interesting people recognized the potential to make money off of it. In the late 90’s it began to really take off. And in 2006 the videogame industry surpassed the movie industry in capital.

Before games were worth investing money in the selection criteria for games was largely based on player interest. If you made a shitty game people didn’t want to play then you went under pretty quick. Games at the time still tried to meet their capital requirements and the design reflected it (lives and difficulty were of course ways to cash in on quarters). Some people invested in games of course, but they recognized the potential of the medium. Not the potential for it to direct pure capital. Because if you wanted to focus on capital there were much better investments.

So there are 2 levels of ecosystems deciding what AAA titles are made. What companies have money to make AAA titles. And what game designs return the money to appease the people who invest the money to make the titles.

This is why we get samey redundant design. Because it is the perfect thing to appease the real people making the selection of what gets made. When games sunk or float based on interest game design was competitive and inventive. (And crazy, confusing and stupid sometimes). Now that companies sink or float on investment the player market share is now what is for sale. Games are approached as things to capture percentages of interest. Established tropes and concepts are utilized for their return potential. Deviating from them is simply not worth the risk.

Call these people stupid or whatever. But they make the decisions on how Nintendo makes games. Much more of an authority than you. And this will continue as long as collectively we make it worth their time to influence game design for profit while they actually give no shits about games.

It’s not good or bad, it is how it is. It has terrible implications in many ways for the game industry if you like game design. Obviously not so bad as to stop them producing products people still derive enough pleasure from to continue purchasing. Companies aggressively keep game design from leaving its comfortable spot. By controlling the talent and copyrights they are able to completely stagnate game design. While also making obscene profits. The status quo isn’t that great for anyone but shareholders.

We as players are cut out and not allowed to participate. Players view games with such a narrow view that deviating from the big players often means you can’t get enough money to even survive. Does it matter how well a game is actually designed? Or is it enough to be Nintendo and produce a game wrapped up in an established brand? If a games success is better predicted by the mascot than anything else, we have run into serious issues in terms of moving a medium forward.

Imagine if we could only ever write books about Sherlock, Gilgamesh, or King Arthur. Game of Thrones can be written but the entire world has to be drapped in the theme of King Arthur. Twilight is written but it’s an adaptation of of Sherlock. The original concepts all stripped away but it’s still called Sherlock and it uses all the same characters, but it’s still twilight. Every damn story the same sickening universes reused and touched up to evoke different things. If you write a story about other things people get upset, but so long as you use the same names then people feel comfortable. It’s not conducive to good design.

It is stifling to creativity to lock a medium into concepts and characters. We as players deserve better than this. There are millions of us sucking off the teet of a few big companies that are essentially run by people that despise us. Game design can move forward from this. It will happen slowly at first as people get completely fed up with the medium and its current state, how many years of fucking mario? How many useless DLC’s and steam sales?. Then suddenly the bottom will completely fall out. The game industry is not aligned with reality right now. That is the making of a bubble burst. The sooner it pops the better for players everywhere.