Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lighting fires in UnAngband

Last night I had been rummaging around my pack in UnAngband looking for something to combat the trolls. On closer inspection of the flasks of oil I realised that they would possibly do fire damage if smeared on arrows and my sword. (Don't know why it took me so long to think of it, I'd been dipping my arrows in all sorts of things before). So off I trundle to the forest with oil glistening from every pointy bit.

While searching for trolls a goblin sprang up out of the bushes, to which I immediately ran through with my longsword.
"you have no more arrows (1d6 +0 +0) ".
?? Huh?.
There were a number of other messages, but this one caught my attention. I fobbed it off as something the goblin did and looked for useful things on the ground after the goblin's demise. Nothing but mushrooms. I step over to one and I lose another arrow. WTF??. That's when I 'l'ooked around to find that it wasn't mushrooms I was collecting, but fire. My oil coated longsword not only dispatched the goblin, but lit up a patch of the ground. "hey, that's cool".

I headed off to continue looking for the trolls when I noticed that the fire was following me. Back-tracking to see what was going on revealed that the fire wasn't moving, it was spreading. I'm in a forest. There's grass and trees. There's a fire that's spreading..... Uh Oh ...

I could easily outpace the fire front, but I was concerned at the size it was getting. One whole side of the map was alight. "Hmm", I thought, "I wonder if I can lure the troll into it. Would that still count as a kill?". Off I went through the forest with a swathe of destruction behind me. The message bar was delighted to inform me of unknown creatures meeting their demise in the conflagration. There were still some buildings through the forest and I poked into one to pick up some more potions, but took too long and the fire had me surrounded. If it's a true fire it would burn out eventually, so I rested a while until the message bar stopped with it's death notes. I stepped outside into a charred landscape. It was all gone. Save for a little pile of gold over there ... and a hat over there. Luckily the fire hadn't wiped out all the goodies left behind from its victims.

I spent a while picking up the "profits" of my devastation, but couldn't find a troll statue to signify my main goal had been achieved. It was cool though ....

GameLog 49 & 50

Football Manager 08 (13h) - Gateshead Season 4, 3rd - Half way through the season and we're sitting solidly in 3rd. The team is playing well and the 4 new purchases are delivering both on the field and entertaining the crowd. 2 new strikers have frontlined the attack and even Clarke is fighting for a spot. With good quality up front I've dabbled with a 4-3-3 and it seems to work well against the standard 4-4-2. Both left and right attackers have good penetration, better than the attacking wingers, although the sprints down the sidelines have declined.

We picked up an ageing AM last season not realising he would only be transferred at the start of this season. He's been playing above himself and keeps managing to get on the scoreboard. His fitness keeps him from playing every game, which lead to the formation of the 4-3-3 instead of either 4-3-1-2 or 4-1-3-2. Exited the FA cup in a poor away performance, but we're still in for the trophies. Concentrating on the FA trophy this season so we'll have one of each when we go up to Div2.

World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade (7h) - BundyBow, 12 Hunter - Started new characters again with Ben & Levi on Trial accounts. I'd moved over a Drenai hunter into the Night Elf starting area to kick along a bit. Don't know whether Ben will continue on with it or not but at least he's had a solid go now and know what it's about.

UnAngband (7h) - VRBones XVI, 14 Rohan Ranger - After a long chat with Andrew Doull about the inner workings of UnAngband, I've pumped through a couple more characters to test the level generation. There's lots of things i haven't seen before in rougelikes. There's lots of stuff on the floor, but mostly junk (skins, wood piles, etc). Features like cupboards that line the walls and hallways can be searched through to find better items. This adds a lot to the game. With the room descriptions and themed rooms like cloakrooms I found myself playing slower and exploring rather than madly running to the next battle. It doesn't feel too different at the moment, but I'll really miss it if I go back to another rouguelike. To me that's a good quality. I used to advocate strong user interfaces for the same reason. You won't get any extra sales for having an intuitive interface, but once they try it they'll never go back.

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space (3h) - Inspired by Caffo's GameLog post i had a look at Wierd Worlds. Played pretty well, but seemed lacking compared to what I'm used to with FM08 and UnAngband. The length of game is refreshing, although I really need longer games that grab ahold of you and don't let go until sunrise.

Guitar hero III (4h) - Slowly going through Easy mode 5 starring all the songs. ~4 more to go. One song I had never played before I almost flawlessed it on the first go! Missed the final note! it was a crappy song though, so I was contemplating stuffing it anyway so it wouldn't be the first one I'd flawlessed. Tried Cliffs a couple more times, but I'm missing silly notes. I've been noticing that i play better at the start of a session. Once you cover a couple of different songs you seem to lose your way, even though you can put the guitar down, go have tea, come back and nail it. Very interesting dynamic going on there.

TrackMania Nations Forever (3h) - St Luke's has started back into TMNF for winter sport. Only 2 showed up for the first day so we spent the time looking at some of Matt's track design as well as racing online.

Battle of Tiles (1h) - Scott got past the final dragon to complete it, so I'm probably done now. I don't think I've ever put down a game and knew I wouldn't play it again apart from demos, so I don't believe this game is truly finished, but I'll mark it as such to clean up the list a little. In part that was one of the reasons for starting up the GameLogs last year: To see what games I play and where I got up to.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

GH: World Tours for your own songs

I've been debating with Andrew for a while about the differences between Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Tonight we weighed up whether RB2 or GH: World Tour would be the way to go. The problem from my perspective is that Sony is limiting my options with olden days lock-in. Do I fork out for a cross compatible 2nd guitar so that we can co-op in GHIII now and be complete when (if) RB hits our shores? Do I wait out for the new "I've got drums too" GH:WT? The whole thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth ...

It's a bit weird I'm even labouring over Guitar Hero anyway. If it weren't for Andrew's generous birthday gift I still would have been oblivious to the potential of this game. After a few sessions I began to hum the played songs all the next day, I couldn't get them out of my head. Not just the song, but the beat, the rhythm, the solos. It was ingrained into me. Andrew had noticed the same thing, as had other people I had talked to who had played the game. This is not just listening to music anymore, it's deconstruction, analysis, living the music !

There's a term I'd like to adopt. Live the Music. GH has a knack of getting you into the song more than mere appreciation. If you also happen to like the song it gels so well that it's a glorious experience. I never would have guessed I would enjoy this game so much because I thought it was targeted at the wannabe rockstars ala MovieWorld. But it's more than that. It encourages you to break down the songs, to understand an off tempo solo section by analysing why you keep missing certain notes, keeping the beat and feeling the energy change in the song, humming purely the downbeats. I had never heard of Cliffs of Dover before playing it, but I distinctly remember 1/2 way through thinking that I really like this song. The more I played it the more I loved it. It made me google up who the artist was, why was it in the hardest bracket? and OMGWTF!!@!
I've never done that for any song in the last 10 years.

So where's the next step? If this is such a great experience (not quite front row concert but better than listening to it) why aren't new songs being pumped out all over the place for free so you'd try them out? I'd certainly play through some freely downloadables (like the Dropkick Murphy's ones) just for the fun of it, but if there were more I'm sure there'd be another Cliffs of Dover experience in there. A new "Live" album or REM. Man, "New adventures in sound" was hard to get into but incredibly rewarding. How much better would it have been going through that experience in GH? So why aren't there millions of songs out there? If I were a record label and had played the game it would be obvious that it's the replacement for radio. I'm guessing they just don't play.

Rock Band on the other hand looks like it's moved on. It's still not songs, songs everywhere, but it's certainly getting there. It feels like they are one step ahead at this point and that they can see what the final goal is, just not able to break through the music industry chaff. Neversoft, on the other hand, still seem to be stuck under the maintenance of the franchise rather than sallying forth to rewrite the rules. The initial GH:World Tour pack just looked like a catchup move. That's when I saw the trailer:

Make your own song anyone?
Why bother waiting for the music industry to "see the light" when you can have a million people churning out songs faster than sporn. That's it. Game over.

The only thing will be whether the game can cope with sorting and organising all the content into useful ways like spore doesn't. A system akin to LastFM would be a nice start.

Supreme Ruler 2020 download

Get it from FilePlanet when I get home.

Spore @ E3

Will wright has a pretty interesting opening talk at GDC about spore's underlying drive.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Dwarf Fortress just had a new update and it got me to poke around the net for info on some new issues. I happened across a large co-op AAR done up in the SomethingAweful forums and repackaged for easier reading. Boatmurdered was an interesting read, but when StarkRavingMad took over it became hilarious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GameLog 48

Football Manager 08 (14h) - Gateshead Season 4, 14th - Raked in over 100K from the friendlies as well as testing out some trialling players. Only one or 2 that are much better than the current crop, most are on par. Still haven't quite gotten rid of my dirty midfielder. 25 yellows in a season where he was playing on easy tackling means he's just not worth his great defensive stats. Played through the first 6 or so games and it's looking a little dicy. I always seem to start poorly?

UnAngband (12h) - VRBones, Level 7 Rohan ranger - After reading a lot about the level design that's gone into this variant I'm enjoying the different experience. There's simply more interesting stuff going on. The rooms have descriptions as you enter them. Most walls have features, even torches you can grab, plus there's lots of junk lying around to make it feel more 'lived in'. Coming down from FuryBand it's a little hard to get into the slower fighting mode where you can't just slice through any living object with 16 attacks a round. What seems most annoying is that certain creatures like faeries in the initial sewers seem to dodge about 19 times in 20. Lucky they can't hit the side of a barn door either.

played a couple of different characters. The obligatory pally to get used to the system, then some hobbits since it was so LotR themed. Hobbits are even worse for hitting things, so eventually I settled on a rohan human for the additional speed and a dual-weilding ranger for added damage with a little divination. Even though you choose a school of magic at the start it still didn't give me a starting book, so at level 7 I still haven't used any magic. Dual-wielding looks incomplete. It mentions using a throwing weapon as a secondary, but if I do it simply mentions that 'I know the weapon better', even with the starting configuration. Had a hunt through the code and it didn't seem to do what I expected. Instad of giving an additional strike, it alternates attacks between the different weapons per blow (except when charging, although I still haven't figured out how to do that). Maybe the dual-wielder style gives you additional melee strikes sooner?

FuryBand (10h) - VRBones LXXI, Level 29 Mutant Beorning Jedi - Finally made it past level 27 where light jedis get *identify*. Found out that most of my random artifacts were crap, but at least I know I can drop them now. The RNG pets are working wonders. They breed super fast to help initial takeover, confuse enemies to last longer and also drop goodies if they die. It'll take some serious summoners to top these guys.

Guitar hero III (3h) - keep plinking away mainly after work. Slowly improving medium songs. More of a relaxing thing than something I'm dedicated to ATM.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Secret passage?

Playing through UnAngband recently looking at the level generation changes. One thing I've noticed is that there are a lot less stairs down than in other variants. I had thought the proliferation of downward stairs are to facilitate finding a quick way down as that is the more natural path for players, especially when 'word of recall' scrolls replace up stairs in the deeper levels. Without many stairs I find myself stair scumming (not in the truest sense of the word) for simple to explore dungeon that also contains a staircase down.

One dungeon I recently explored had only a couple of rooms and no obvious exits. As I was making my way back to the stairs to 'reset' the level I noticed something odd, a room with mossy granite walls also had a single slime covered wall to the south. "I wonder if that's the start of another passage?" I thought. Sure enough, searching around the slimed wall revealed a slimy passage leading to another room. Not sure whether it was intentional or not, but it stopped and made me think how cool that was. It was much more natural than blindly pressing 's' along each wall.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Do you Golem?

Golemizer is an interesting MMO that uses pets for combat.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fractal river basins

Doing some more research on river basin techniques uncovered the veritable motherlode. Fractal River Basins

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Linear level design

Was reading through Andrew's lament about levels and literally laughed out loud at one of the comics used as an anecdote of level restrictions

Monday, July 07, 2008

GameLog 47

Battle of Tiles (17h) - Got back into BoT while I was sick. It was an easy way to pass the time while the HDD had a long overdue defrag.

Modified the strategy somewhat this time with the pick of the elite archers frontlining the show to get as high as possible. I didn't pick up anything apart from Priests (6), Thunder Wizards (4), and a boatload of slimes if they had 250+ health. The slimes made a corridor themselves below the main archer s that if needed they can push up through to sacrifice themselves when I need to retreat. This is mainly for boss time, but it's convenient enough to just leave them there in that formation for the whole trip.

Spent aaages levelling up both mages and priests to level 50. Priests are easiest by simply backing up any melee unit that goes up against an archer. The archer stays in place happily plinking away into your meatbag while you level up your heals. Hardest thing is choosing a decent archer with damage close to maximum healing strength so that it doesn't take forever. Wizards need a squishy isolated priest to pound on for their levelling pleasure. Just need to check that the thunder defence is low enough to damage them, but not enough damage that they can't heal themselves in one turn. Takes far longer than the priests though as the damage is usually pretty small. I'm still not sure what dictates whether you get area effect or 3 range as your additional skill. At first I thought it was getting longer range if you levelled up to 50 with a 2 range attack, but that proved incorrect later on. Although the area effect healers are great, I had 5 of the suckers and I would have dearly liked another ranged one to reach the front man.

Through all the levelling I took a couple of notes in my spreadsheet about how they progressed. It looks like at each level they gain the same amount of attributes with only slight variation between different tiles of the same type. The change is nothing like the initial stat spread (~20%), so i'm still going to spend most of my efforts optimising the choice of tile based on initial stats.

The money savings were to be ploughed into a golem on the 4th level at 200,000 a pop, but with ~6400 HP it is double the elite archer at level 150. no defence is also a good thing for extra XP from healing.

Finally lost all this great buildup by accidentally closing the game with the windows close button rather than saving it. Restarted it again to find it had wiped the save. Aaaaargh!!!

Football Manager 08 (7h) - Gateshead Season 3 finished 10th - After a brief hiatus I went back in to finish off the season, only to find I had just 2 games to go. We draw the first and keep 14th place, then win the last against 12th placed Aldershot to finish 10th. Moderately happy with the season, but i don't seem to be getting any serious replacements during the off season so it looks like more or less the same team will need to make it to the playoffs next year.

We do the usual home game bonanza for next season's friendlies, getting 5 championship division teams to fleece on each Saturday with more modest Blue Square Premier team to check our progress on Wednesdays. Wigan even wants a friendly at our place after our schedule is packed, but club is flushed with cash at the moment so there's no real need to push it.

Lots of staff turnovers planned for the end of the season, but 2 unexpectedly get bought out from under me. One awesome scout was pretty hard to replace, but Gk, Atk, and Def coaches all roll over to make way for fresh blood.

First friendly in the new season has Birchall break his leg! Now I'm definitely on the hunt for a striker. Maybe Byrne can step up and play as good as his stats suggest.

Guitar hero III (7h) - The PS3 is now living upstairs and it does make it simpler to pop into GH3 for a quick session after brekky & lunch, usually with Cameron in tow for drum support. Managed to go back through easy and 5 star pretty much any song I play. I'm so close to getting a 100% too. Only a matter of time.

Team Fortress 2 (4h) - There's been a couple of new updates coming through, so I hopped on for a bit of 2FORT fun to see if there were any drastic changes. I can still top the pub charts as rocketman, but there must have been a pyro skillup akin to the medic one recently as they now can blow back rockets :/

TMNF (2h) - A little race here and there to keep the stats up

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

GameLog 46

Testing to see if the GameLog website is a more useful place to store these logs.

Football Manager 08 (15h) - Gateshead, Season 3, 12th BSP - We've won the Setanta Shield in front of 27,000 paying public to boost morale, the coffers and my profile at the club. I'm coming off contract at the end of this year so the bargaining table is open, open enough for them to accept an upgrade to the training facilities. I'm not going anywhere as although we've given up hope of advancing this season, we're set for a solid run next season. I could still finish ~10th as we're all clustered in the middle, but with 5 games to go there's no real need to bust a gut. Roll on July 1st to clean out the deadwood in the squad.

Guitar Hero III (8h) - After moving the PS3 upstairs and with Greig, Matt & Scott still here we hammered GH3. Finally got to play "Cliffs" on Medium and barely made it through. Scott's playing on medium now too, but it's easier to keep it on Easy and swap between everyone.

TrackMania Nations Forever (7h) - My lack of play had dropped my rank out to the 50,000's, but at least I'm getting 200+ points a race now if I finish on the podium. Ended up back down to the 20,000's

Battle of Tiles (5h) - Showed it to Scott and it filled in a Tuesday night while the WoW servers were down. Kept losing men to the level 3 boss, enough to piss me off and restart. Playing back on medium to see how many levels there are.