Friday, November 28, 2008

Chrissy Breakup

The St Luke's Laptop club had somewhat of a breakup today, and we (I) decided to to decorate up a chrissy page web2.0 style!

Secret messages in SearchWiki

Lauren came up with an interesting concept to bury secret messages in SearchWiki. At first she outlined the concept and then set about placing the coded message onto an obscure search. Unfortunately Slashdot picked up the story and the horde proceeded to munch up the comments so badly that the original secret comments were dropped off the search!

Brings a whole new meaning to the "Slashdot Effect"...

Thursday, November 27, 2008


After attempting to follow a blog based discussion it once again raised the issue of no trackbacks in Blogger. I tried WizBangTech's pinger, but it too wouldn't add my contribution.

Next up was HaloScan, it's been taken over by JS-Kit recently which raised some warning bells, but upon further inspection it looks like a better comment system to try. I especially like not having any logins or account creation (a personal beef of mine). Hopefully It'll do pingbacks automatically too.

So, testing testing, 1.2.3 ?

No Lifers to No Dedication

Excellent little post about your perceptions of the perfect levelling speed is:
Dear people on General Chat/Forums,

Ever notice how anyone who plays more than you has no life? And anyone who plays less than you is not dedicated enough to deserve epics?

It's amazing how you managed to hit that perfect balance.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

GameLog 67

Fallout 3 (5h) - VRBones, Level 12. Massively overburdened to take out all the stuff from the long tunnel run to the citadel. Walking is sooo slooow it keeps putting me to sleep, but It's just wrong leaving stuff behind.

WoW:WotLK (5h) - BundyBear, 70 Warrior.
Big session with Sandy to end up on top of a floating zigguraut with the Lich King. There is certainly more varied storylines this time and in-game movies, but it gets a little tiring having to see the same 2-minute-long spiel 3 times in a row because there are so many people queuing up for it.

One good thing is that instead of spawning killed creatures in the same spot, they typically run in from off screen, or from a ship unloading or the like. This creates a much more believable scenario than just having someone appear out of nothing in front of you. There are still places that do the instaspawn, but I appreciate the effort in doing it right. I had that as one of my recommendations way back in Original WoW Beta. I'm sure others had requested it too, but I'd like to claim a little bit of the credit ;).

Guitar Hero: World Tour (4h) - Couple more sessions and an impromptu youth gathering to thrash through some songs. Funniest thing was watching Ben, Sam and Levi all play drums together. Got to upload the video sometime...

What was a little odd is that most of the youth didn't know more than 5 of the songs in the full playlist. I would know at least 1/2 of them enough to sing. Is the playlist intentionally for my demographic? I would have thought that teenagers were the target market.

Little Big Planet (2h) - Cameron likes it, but gets frustrated when he can't make the jumps. Going to have to make some more run-by levels like the intro.

World of Goo (1h) - The move over to the new HDD wiped my old completed game, so I'm now redoing the levels every now and then. It isn't as replayable as I would have thought, especially as I'd done most of the OCDs. I still want to work on a super tower though, so I'll keep going until I have the 500 goobers.

Conversations by trackback

David posted a conversation starter to demonstrate how Blogs can now be used instead of discussion forums:
The assumption should be that, if possible, each participant in the conversation can have their own blog on a different provider. i.e. everyone shouldn’t have to get a blog on to engage in the discussion.

I'm pretty sure I've tried it before, but Blogger doesn't natively support trackbacks. It was one of those optional features that didn't really seem too useful 2 years ago when I searched for another blog platform after the demise of VRWorld. WordPress didn't really have a decent label system back then, which was far more important as this blog still remains a personal space for me to collect thoughts and ideas for my own use.

Since that time I've searched a number of times to see if they have finally implemented trackbacks, but alas, backlinks seem to be the preferred option (possibly because Google has a virtual monopoly on providing backlink information and would not be in their best interest to devalue them?).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yeah, it's pretty good ...

Ahh, Yahtzee. You make me laugh!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cheers to Darren

One thing that skipped my mind in the mad rush of last week was that Darren, the local GameTraders manager personally hand-delivered my copy of Wrath of the Lich King for the midnight release. THAT's worth supporting!

Gratz to Darren, that extra effort is appreciated. And I'm sure you're happy I've picked up ~$700 worth of games in the past month ;).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CGS belly up

Wow, this is huge. Out of all the new startup competitions these guys seemed to have the public edge. The competition structure itself was a bit of a let-down, but they had it all over WCG, ESWC, etc with their on-screen presentation. Admittedly it was still B-grade stuff compared to NFL, baseball,, but was on par with extreme sports coverage and poker.

For me the big indicator was the forums. 1/2 the commentary on the forums were from team members. The fan base per team is non-existent (compared to other sports on the same tier). I would have thought the TV viewing numbers would have supported it though.

This is going to be a big setback. I can't imagine another company attempting a TV-centric competition in the next 5 years after this failure, so it looks like we're stuck with the old stalwarts for the time being.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GameLog 66

Matt and Nat arrived on Wednesday night in preparation for St John's Gala Dinner. Just in time to help me get Guitar Hero: World Tour out of the car. Greig and Tanya made it mid-morning Saturday after being stuck for 9 hours on the highway after a semi-trailer gas leak.

Guitar Hero: World Tour (15h) - With brothers arriving from up north, this one got a hammering. Drums are certainly new, lead guitar is a bit spongy, mic tone display looks borked, and old guitar can only play bass. Apart from that the songs are a blast. Seems to be many classics compared to GH3.

Fallout 3 (5h) - VRBones, Level 12. Bit more through the storyline, then shoved out of the way as the PS3 entertained the northerners.

Little Big Planet (5h) - More online than the storyline, although I'm up through mehico.

WoW:WotLK (4h) - After grabbing a couple of games right on release, I sheepishly asked Darren, the Gameterader manager whether he was going to be open for midnight release of Wrath. Nope, but he delivered it instead! THAT'S AWESOME! Matt and I played through 'til 4am in the new area.

World of Goo (1h) - Greig wanted to have a look at this one as well as others from crunch month.

Farcry 2 (1h) - Demoworthy

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Site Redesign?

I've been more and more frustrated with the newspaper-like design. It started out as a simple selection from the blogger templates that needed only minor tweaks to match the "green screen" look of the old VRWorld website, but the lack of resizing has always bugged me.

A couple of years on and the right hand pane is filling up with all sorts of crap. It's now just looking messy. I tried to make it resizeable fairly early on in the piece, but the template uses a fixed width background to do the dropshadow and it was relegated into the "ToDo" bin to figure out what needed to be hacked up to make it scale.

Now I'm of the opinion it all needs to go. Start afresh with a new template that automatically scales, then build back the theme. After playing through the virtual level in World of Goo it reminded me of the neon VR feel I wanted at the start that the site now no longer resembles.

- Back up the page as it stands.
- Dump in a new template
- Re-add the tag cloud code
- Fix delicious links
- Fix feedjit colours
- Fix the background
- Play World of Goo

Monday, November 17, 2008

Game On Expo

something for the trip down to Andrew's place in the holidays:

Game on Exhibition

Thursday, November 13, 2008

WCG 08

I didn't go to WCG this year as a referee as I'd decided that it was time to concentrate more at home, and Cologne should have a plethora of replacements from Europe. Turns out it's all finished up last week! Totally forgot about it during crunch month.

Warcraft 3 wrapup
Starcraft finals wrapup

5mill to starcraft

Another starcrafter hits it big playing poker

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

VRWorlds: Procedural World Generation

Although my PhD has been put on the backburner while I'm completing my teaching qualifications, I've had a couple of interesting conversations with other developers regarding Temporal ROAM (which I'm now naming VRWorlds as it's less and less to do with ROAM nowadays).

With another discussion starting up I'm constantly trying to explain areas which I'd covered before, so it's about time to get it down in one spot. I probably should make a whole new section for this stuff, but here will do in the meantime (Ok, I'm lazy).

VRWorlds: Genesis
I've been studying random terrain generation techniques for ~15 years, even buidling an erosion model for my 3rd year Uni project. My ultimate goal was (is) to build a living, breathing world purely through procedural generation.

About 4 years ago I was working on a bifurcating river basin algorithm using the ROAM technique and stumbled on another idea entirely. Since ROAM uses the importance of a vertex as its criteria for deciding which ones to cull, what would happen if instead of vertexes being the atomic unit of a model, you used importance of events as the atomic unit of a whole world in a space-time graph? This would mean that at each bifurcation the system would generate the most important event for a whole chunk of space-time based off previous parent's events. The crucial part of the system is making sure that existing events constrain the generation of new events to create a consistent and coherent world.

After a number of discussions with Sandy and Andrew the idea had coalesced into my PhD Proposal. CQU passed the proposal in principle, but required a proof of concept for the application to proceeed.

I have had in mind a simple historymaker application that would generate a web page that reads like an index of a country's history book. You can then open each "chapter" to see the events belonging to that era, then dig down deeper and deeper. This should be relatively simple to implement, but complex enough to vet the process for breaks in causality.

Another proof of concept was to change the level generation of a simple procedural game like Moria. I then stumbled upon Andrew Doull's dissection of Random Dungeon Generation that he used for UnAngband and was gladdened to see the level generation technique almost mimicked what I wanted, but from a different tack.

Modifying UnAngband?
One of the problems with the proposed system is that the event generation will be so intrinsic to the running of the generated world that it almost demands a total rewrite of the way games are made. I needed to find out if there was an easy way to go further with importance based level design without totally rewriting an angband system. This would mean that once a room is selected first as the most important room for a level, it should also influence the placement of the next room in accordance to the architectural style, or, as Andrew had highlighted, starting another important room with a different leader / style in a separate area to lock in the scope of the level. The other thing would be to look at introducing the monster insertion directly after the room insertion (even if it's in a virtual sense by testing the seed that the room would use for population) to gauge the relative importance of the room that can then be used for constraints against the rest of the level generation.

In essence it would simply require an even further refinement of the architectural and ecological structures that UnAngband had in place so that more meaning can be embedded into the level for a more consistent and coherent world. Thing like Orcs being happy to use groups of worgs or goblins as slaves to do their dirty work, but wouldn't share their level at all with elves. This is getting more akin to Dungeon Fortress, however the lack of open source precludes it from experimentation.

Andrew (Doull) had a more pessimistic view of the alterations having a hunch that the human brain is a lot better at determining importance than a computer. To rate importance, you'll end up writing a small expert system, which can be complex and hard to debug particularly in the context of a procedural environment.

That is certainly true. Since importance is a personal preference something that can be important to one person may not be important at all to another. MkII of the project will introduce additional dimensions to allow these preferences to propagate in 'alternate world' histories. This is especially true for systems involving more than one player. From the system's perspective though, it is enough to assume that it can generate a consistent and coherent scene by determining an importance level to itself. Since the system (through the design of the event templates) decides what is important at each stage it is a self-fullfilling algorithm. Important events in the history of the world are important because they were picked first and no events picked after that can have more importance by definition of the algorithm.

Yes, the end result is an expert system in the sense that each event template is defined by a developer with possible importance levels, required objects, possible contributing objects, related events and constraints that it would impose on the system once in place. The system needs to be able to interrogate existing objects to see if they are capable of participating in the chosen event as well as having container objects to represesent a group mentality of undefined object instances.

As an example imagine that the coronation of a king is the most important event chosen for a chunk of spacetime. This event will require a king, a country, a crown and possibly a crowd of witnesses. From important objects first, you check whether there is a country already defined for that chunk and if so interrogate it to see whether there is anything that contradicts a coronation at the chosen time and place. If there is no country the group container that represents countries is interrogated to see if there are any reasons why a new country could not exist for that event. If the check is successful the group container would then define a new instance of a country that will participate in the event. This new country is now also available for subsequent deeper events.

Next up the king is interrogated in the same manner. If there already is a king instanced for the total duration of the chunk then there is no possibility of coronating a new one. If a king exists, but there is enough unknown space for the existence of another, then the king container is interrogated for the possibility of a new king for the chosen country. The king container needs to interrogate other related objects and within itself to satisfy that no other objects or events known to this point will preclude the formation of a new king. This means both a check into the future to make sure there is enough possibility for the king's reign as well as checking the paast for the possibility of king candidates (heirs, general, etc). There is also a location check. If an heir exists but has already participated in an event on the other side of the country then there is no way that he can get to this event. This may mean the the whole event is contradicted if there are no other heirs that have the possibility of being generated. You can imagine these requirements as an event cone that extends back into the past to constrain all possible objects that can participate in the proposed event. The further back in time the further away the object can be to still contribute to the event. Even though this VRWorld technique sets a maximum rate of expansion (akin to the speed of light), the technology tree is interrogated to deliver a more reasonable slope for that time period. Once the event is completed it 'pins' the participating objects to that specific point in time and space, so it also limits their involvement to a cone of events in the future.

The crown continues this trend of object interrogation but is not slated as a requirement. This means that an existing crown may be used if it meets the spacetime requirements (in fact it may have been the trigger that elevated the coronation event to such importance), but either a new crown or no crown at all may be acceptable to the design of the coronation event. The event itself is implementation agnostic, however it would be natural to include a description generator that can build a description by combining the participating objects into a sentence similar to Andrew's room description generator or the Infinity Universe history generator.

The crowd of observers shows another aspect of the workings of the system. It would be easy to build in an average attendance into the coronation template that can be massaged through the existing population object to give a crowd of people. This may be a combination of existing person objects that have already been defined and can make it to the event (and want to be there) as well as a new container of people defined as the coronation witnesses. This container does not need to know who all the people are that attended, just that the number of attendees are locked to that point in spacetime. The system intentionally does not generate any more information than it has to. As long as the event is satisfied the other details are not important. The system will make them important in future divisions of that spacetime chunk.

(I managed to record a long chat with Andrew (Doull) discussing these ideas, but I'll need his permission before adding it here.)

There was another interesting post onto the roguelike development forums regarding an attempt at a fully procedural universe from star systems all the way down to trees on planets. I initiated a discussion with Tapio regarding the methods he used to see whether his project may be suitable for adaptation to VRWorlds.

This is a different way of describing VRWorlds:
The crux of what I'm working on is to look at events first and foremost rather than visual attributes. Important events are created first for large areas of both space and time, then agorithmically work out next most important events as you break up the area into smaller and smaller chunks. From these events you not only have the development of a random world, but a causal history and a living, dynamic world on completion.

Could an event be, for example, a couple of tectonic plates colliding and therefore generating mountains? Perhaps you could give a practical example of those events...?

At the start, yes. Building a world starts with large events, then continues to refine itself from those events. Imagine looking at the whole world and asking yourself "what is the most important thing that has ever happened?". Possibly the creation of life, or an asteroid hit, or even tectonic plates colliding. This first event shapes the rest of the world. All other events cannot be as important as that one (by definition) and must not contradict that one. You can then divide space and time into segments where the main event occurs in one segment and you have a deterministic method of generating an event in the other segments.

Imagine the first event is Tectonic plates colliding. This event is rated at importance level 50,000,000 and occured at time 150,000,000 BC with specific coordinates. Because it involves 2 plates, those 'objects' are then created and given names (EG: 'Europe', 'Africa') as well as other attributes for whatever a plate object has (mass, size, direction, etc). The event also dictates certain attributes, such as the plates must have been moving toward each other, the size / mass must be larger than normal (because it is a very significant event), etc. The event itself is generated from a template that handles plate collisions, which in turn depends on a plate template to generate needed objects.

Once that collision event is in place, it now divides the unknown world into 2 states, before collision and after collision. Before collision, there should be no events that are allowable that rely on the 2 plates being together, and after the collision there should be no events that rely on the plates being apart. Everything else is fair game though.

Now we divide up spacetime into new segments, say everything that happened before 1,000,000 BC and everything that happened after that. The collision is the most important event before 1,000,000 BC, so we just need to generate an event after 1,000,000 BC that still abides by the collision occurring. Say we decide it is the end of the 2nd World War. A war template is used to generate an "end of war" event with importance 20,000,000 a time in 1945, and a specific place. the war event then builds a list of objects that participated in the war. Since plates are the only objects generated at a higher level than this one, there is nothing stopping us creating any type of country. The only limitation will be that the countries would have had some animosity before the event and may or may not exist after the event. We generate objects with names (England, France, Germany, etc). There can be many, many attributes for a country that are not needed to illustrate the event of the war ending, so they are not fleshed out until an event calls on them to do so. So we possibly only need the names of the countries and that they existed at that specific point in spacetime. Not developing all information allows more flexibility in what events are available and how they integrate. In this type of design, any attribute can be deterministically generated, so there is no need to generate anything that is not needed. It's like asking an NPC "do you like fish?". You don't care what answer he gives as long as it is consistent (if you asked him the same question again 5 minutes later he should answer the same way).

In my project the highest (galaxy) level is generated from one RNG seed and then the subsequent view levels (apart from starmap, which is one huge block) use a seed number calculated from its position in the upper level.

Yep, this is essentially random determinism. Since you are always using the same algorithm (X,Y coords) to generate the seed for each level, you are guaranteed of generating the same scene once supplied with the same initial seed. My method uses this extensively, however the algorithms are different. Once you start a world with a random seed, that seed determines the event that is first out of all the events available. Once it it set, other events are generated using the initial seed AND the existence of the first event to shape the events available. These are also done deterministically so that the world / universe will always be consistent, but you don't need to store every event itself as you can re-create them. It is dynamic in the sense that a star exploding event could occur after the user starts playing that totally changes the landscape of the universe, but it still is deterministic and available to be rolled up once the user is no longer in that area. Generating by events means that you have a living, breathing, world that can (and will) change from its initial starting state.

The problem is, of course, that the changes in the world have to be saved and the management of them adds a lot of overhead to the engine.

I've been mulling over using shadow AI's that I'd played with for Personal Learning Environments to track the only thing that isn't deterministic; the player's actions. To minimize these changes, you can have an AI that DOES abide by the framework that attempts to pick the same choices the player makes. That way once the player leaves the area, any important events that have been conducted (killing the king, blowing up a city) can be answered by interrogating the AI. So you can roll up those events, then when the player comes back, the system re-builds the event tree while also interrogating the AI as a proxy for the player's actions. It is then up to the AI to decide whether chopping a tree down is important after 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 days, or revisiting the planet in 5 year's time. It's not always going to get it right, but it minimizes the data needed to be stored on the player's movements and actions.

To limit the amount of data needed for storage, I plan to limit the players' ability to shape the world to the closest view level.

In a VRWorld system, even though the data for the world itself is deterministic and does not need to be stored, I would expect there to be far more data used in presenting event and object templates than normal. On the whole though, it allows you to have an infinite, dynamic world with a known memory footprint (just like ROAM allows a consistent frame per second regardless of the scene).

That, to me, is one of the key points and the reason I believe a VRWorld system will eventually work despite the exponential explosion of data it leans toward; you only need to build as much of the event tree that you want/need to. If you know that your system can handle a 10,000 event tree, those 10,000 events can be highly targeted to the time and place where your character is existing. Even if your system could only handle only 1,000 events, it's essentially the same place. The most important 1000 events are generated first, which means that the shape and context of the space you are in remain but without the added "ephemera" of a world presented with 10,000 events. As computer systems become more and more powerful, the VRWorld system can provide greater immersion by delivering greater and greater fidelity of events seamlessly.

The system your are depicting would be quite astonishing, but at a
first glance it seems quite a few events would need to be described
in order for it to work properly.

Exactly. The biggest hurdle is creating an event template system to run it all. I'm also working on a way for people to develop "libraries" of events that represent a certain field of interest. Eg you might want to create a medieval set of events, and I might create some more modern events. We both publish the libraries for use by others, so someone could play a game with both libraries in existence. Currently I'm going with a gentoo-like dependency tree to cover this and library updates (the engine also has to be able to merge libraries together into an existing game). To do this, events before the updated date use the old events for a consistent universe, but any new areas that have not been explored can use the updated set. This will allow a distributed workload to develop the event libraries with no hard time limits. I would fully expect there to be libraries to build alternate worlds that are not compatible with each other, which is where the dependency tree is brought in to help sort out the web of libraries.

Hopefully once the engine is up and there are a number of libraries for generating real worlds, this would be a compelling starting point for most games or virtual worlds. Imagine if you could have a world ready made where you could insert specific events to 'pin' certain events to always occur. You can do this by simply providing the event that must occur at the start of the event tree, and use that tree as a start point instead of a totally random one, or generate a random tree from a known seed, then tweak an unwanted event to change an area. Building scenarios this way would be much easier than the current method as everything else (the ephemera) you get for free. So saving one seed and, say, 15 events allows you to create a custom scenario inside a consistent and coherent random universe.

Hopefully the first demonstration of this system will be the HistoryMaker; a (possibly web) program that will give you the top 10 events of a country as described at the top of this article. This demo will simply need events to do with countries and major characters and I would expect only 20-50 event templates to give a sufficiently varied history. The test will be to look specifically for causality breaks and to test exploration paths that develop 'interesting' stories.

I'm also working on a project to do almost the opposite. I want to track every single action that a player does in UnAngband or WoW and produce an XML file that can be parsed to produce a story of the character. The idea is to isolate what events are significant to make an interesting story upon reading back. You may not want to say that you went, left, left, left, or that you killed a monster each time it happened, but you might want to have a greater significance when you reach milestones (have gone 10,000 steps, killed 25 rats). This app will help get a bearing on all the events capable in a typical game that you would expect to be evident in a world and their relative weighting.

Creating "Fun" Maps
A new article by Steve Segreto placed up on roguebasin discusses a way to procedurally create levels based on 'Fun'. It turns out that he's developing the same type of algorithm, but from a different perspective again. This has certainly been the closest I've seen to design by importance, and with the binaries I'll be spending some time testing how this method fares in providing 'interesting' maps.

Monday, November 10, 2008

GameLog 65

Fallout 3 (20h) - VRBones, Level 10.
The gamelogs have stopped, but more because I've turned toward the main storyline. After detailing the vampire plot it felt potentially spoily, even though I've had no such qualms in getting very detailed in other AARs. I think it's because I know that the plot will remain the same. It's not a football side in a game that diverges so fast it's more or less unique or a turn based strategy in a random world, it's going to always be the same. The main plotline is even more like that as everyone sooner or later will try to get to the radio station to find Dad and go through the 'cutscene' stuff presented.

Suffice to say that I'm another 10 hours along the main storyline. I've been having a blast digging around and exploring, but it just felt right to go find Dad and continue on what transpired from there. I know I could just bail out and do another quest if I felt like it, but I'm happy on the rollercoaster so far. Weird. The main plot is incredibly linear, but doesn't feel that way due to the knowledge that you've chosen to keep on the trail.

The game is going good and it sucks me in for hours on end when I get it started.

Football Manager 09 Demo (10h) - Gateshead starting off again. New 3D match mode was a bit of a disappointment on first impressions, probably because it feels like 5 year old technology compared to FIFA. I went back to the 2D engine for a bit, but there's enough extra detail in the 3D engine with a direct correlation to what's happeneing on the 2D engine (unlike other manager games that have tried 2D/3D) that I'm happy now.

Little Big Planet (7h) - Had a blast getting started, but it got a little tedious in that platformer type way. SO much more fun online though. Seriously thinking of getting another controller to play through it with Sandy.

Cameron now has his own profile too, and he's OK with the running and jumping, but just starting to get to grips with the up/down -> in/out of screen translation. He's grabbing stuff now too. Sandy and I made up a level for him to muck around in. Boy it's harder work than I thought...

Living Epic

Brainy gamer's Michael Abbott and Roger Travis, another lecturer at Conneticut, have put together a Video Games and Human Values initiative to bring together the storytelling elements of games. Roger's first course will cover the emergence and validation of ethics and virtues though Living Epic.

Sent off an email inquiring whether it's available to students outside the states. I can't see why not as it's non-credit and all online.

Friday, November 07, 2008

FM09 7 star coaches

From the research I have done so far it looks like there are no changes to the rating system for coaches from FM08. This means that the 7 star coach attributes still apply as well as the formula for calculating any star rating (which is more useful for lower league clubs).

On the whole it seems that coaching stats are down from where they used to be, but that might just be the demo settings. I'll need to play a little longer to see if they have tightened up the coaching appointments for low league clubs.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Widdle Big Planet

.. is out! woo!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

DeltaCopy on Server 2008

DeltaCopy was working on our 2003 backup server, but moving it to Server 2008 the clients failed to connect. First issue was setting up the proper account, but the main issue was punching out through the firewall. I'm sure I didn't have to set that up for server 2003, so it might be a new issue.

GameLog 64

Fallout 3 (20h) - VRBones, Level 7.
FalloutLog 01
FalloutLog 02
FalloutLog 03

Far Cry 2 (7h) - Dart gun braking was the last straw. I'm done with the game for now and seeing there's such a wealth of stuff on the horizon I doubt I'll be back.

TrackMania Nations (2h) - Had to re-download through steam. Easier than plugging in the other HDD

Guitar Hero (1h) - Been swimming more after work than unwinding on GH.

Monday, November 03, 2008

FalloutLog 03

It turns out that the last spot for The Family was an open drive-in theatre with no-one in sight. Luckily the navigator wasn't as confused as i was as it pointed back to the original train station I'd checked earlier. There was a hole in the floor past some radiation barrels that I jumped through earlier, but it seemed to be a dead end guarded by Mirelurks. I jumped through and managed to take out the Mirelurks a lot easier now that I've got a new assault rifle for facial deconstruction.

The Family is even creepier than the stories I'd been told, but for different reasons. I didn't manage to get the whole story, but it's an attempted vampire clutch led by a deluded guy that sounds rather convincing. I managed to sweet talk Lucy's brother out of there, but there's more to the story I'm sure.

With that little diversion out of the way it's more north to the minefield. I stumbled upon a hidden shack up in the hills that I only found by seeing a rope bridge crossing a gully. First pass through the old lady wouldn't talk to me, but the gnome outside looked like he wanted to join the posse.

I later returned when I realized that in sneak mode you can only pick pockets rather than talk to people. Duh! She's also got problems to solve. Violins!!?! Whatever, give me the waypoint and I'll get back to you.

A bit further north is another distraction; a scrapyard that's full of junk but nothing to hoover. I did find a dog though, and through a couple of barked out exchanges he's now my best friend (Note to self: Hide the dog meat). He's able to sniff out food and guns(!), which turned out to be pretty useful in the scrapyard.

He wasn't so handy in the minefield though. The mines are tricky to time the approach and disarm without a dog running about wanting to play fetch. Eventually I took him home and left him in the shack. The butler can look after him if he condenses any more water.

1/2 way though the mine field and things get weird. Mines start to go off near me and I'm taking radiation from something. Some coot has set up shop in one of the taller buildings and is taking potshots at me!

It was a good setup. Concentrate on the mines. Keep looking down intently for the next one. You don't expect a sniper up high in a ghost town. It took a couple more trips back to town to collect all the mines and mower blades around the place. Moira will be pleased.

The next task she has for me is fixing radiation sickness, which involves, well, me getting irradiated. She makes it sound fun, and in her own naiive way it might just work. Luckily there's an abundant radiation source in the middle of town so this task will be way quicker than the last one. A couple of sips and I'm positively incandescent!

I also want to know where the Atom guy gets his boots. He's standing in this stuff day in, day out. Moira's pleased I'm back so soon; I'm pleased that her radiation treatment worked. Sorta.

I'm not sure whether she should be running a gun store with her 'experimental' nature, but at least she's happy about it and is kinda fun to work with. It looks like you can talk her out of doing another chapter, but I'd rather see what else she's got ideas on. Waving a stick at rock moles? Maybe she does need the straightjacket. At least it's on the way to the radio station where Dad was supposed to have been.

Heading east from the ant town I can't help but stick my nose in a couple of open buildings to see what's going on. A bit like Oblivion it doesn't take me long to get off the beaten path. A lady down by the river warns me that someone's looking for a recent escapee from vault 101. I know it's me and that can't be good. Sure enough I get sprung on one of my retail fast-travels by 3 guys from Talon company (or something). I vaguely remember bumping into some of those guys through an unmarked door north of ant town. They outnumbered me and outgunned back then and it looks the same now. Luckily Dogmeat is with me to provide a distraction while I shove a rifle in their heads. A couple of Stimpaks and some jet gets the battle done. Good boy Dogmeat! Good boy!

I should be going to bed, but I'm wired after the last fight. The bridge east is littered with mines, however I'm used to disarming them on the run now so I don't even bother telling Dogmeat to stay put. Over the bridge are even more distrations; a pump station taken over by mirelurks. They used to be really tough to drop, but now with Dogmeat and a laser rifle to the face they curl up pretty quick. Sometimes they even disintegrate!

Somewhere in here there's a plotline, but I'm missing it. Time to hit the hay. 2:30am? Shit.

I'm still pleased at the VATS mode cinematography, although the amount of blood and various giblets exploding from criticals makes me shudder how bad the Bloody Mess perk would be ...

FM09 demo out

Gah! another one in crunch month!
Steam has the full demo already out.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

FalloutLog 02

VRBones, Level 5 (7h)
The first chapter of the "travellers guide" is done. Pre-war stores do have food for survival, but also raiders for a bit of spice. Met a kid outside the store who had troubles with an ant infestation back at his town outside the store, so that seemed a bit more interesting that irradiating myself or walking into a minefield for the guide's next chapters.

Turns out the ants can now breath fire. Awesome. Thanks for letting me know that tidbit sonny-boy. The laser gun is pumping through the energy cells trying to drop these suckers before they get into napalm range. The kid's dad is dead anyway, but I break the news gently to him.

Turns out a scientist has been experimenting to reverse their size, but has so far only managed to make them breath fire. Makes me want to recant my scientific abilities. I actually find him alive down at the centre of the problem and agree to help clean up the mess he's made. Crazy coot can do what he likes now. I'm not coming back. Nice Ant Vision perk and a lab coat for my time though.

Dodging land mines looks like the next main thing to do. Not too keen on following Dad just yet as Megaton is quite comfy. They are running out of money though. I think I'm the richest guy in town at the moment and no-ones got any more spare change for my junk.

On my way up north I pass by the school again and find there's still a few raiders based there, so they make a nice diversion for more caps. The leader's dog ripped me up a bit, but with stimpaks the new pseudo currency for bartering it's not such a big deal.

Looking at the map it seems that Lucy's letter home is more or less in the same direction and it would be nice coming home with 2 people happy to see me. On the way I stop for another happy snap looking west along the Potomac valley.

Talkie toaster is there along with a teddy bear and gnome I've picked up along the way.

one thing I've been pretty impressed with is the dramatization of the battles when in VATS mode. You get a wide variety of angles watching the action unfold with bullet time zooms, victim-cam, etc. Here's a collection of shots from battles on my way north:

Reached Lucy's home town only to find another parental massacre. This really isn't turning out to be a nice place to raise a family. There were also a couple of sad stories in Big Town too about it being decimated by super mutants and slavers. I'd like to help, but it seems a lost cause. Managed to revive one of their townsfolk though, so that should give them some extra backup when the next raid comes.

Everyone's got problems. Lucy's family is dead, but the sheriff still wants me to hunt down "The Family". He's a bit sketchy on the directions though. They are also living in a fairly precarious spot on top of a bridge over radiated water. Wouldn't want to sleepwalk.

I;ve noticed that there looks like a border around the map, and I'm kind of close enough to the westerns side to see how expansive the game is. Sure enough it's a hard limit. Most of it is walled off naturallly, but I found a place to shimmy though only to be greeting by a "you can't go any further" notice. I don't think I mind. The place is gorgeous and you really get the feeling it's open everywhere, and there's more than enough stuff going on to keep me entertained within the borders. I wonder if it moves on to other areas once the story progresses ala FC2?

Another scenic shot from an abandoned train station:

The station is clean, no gang in there. So too is the next potential location; a hideaway cut into the hillside. It's full of radscorpions though and they are tough suckers. They aren't worth the effort to kill as you spend more ammo on them than you could ever get back in 'parts', so I skirted around most of them just grabbing whatever was in easy reach. Seriously considering getting friendly with the animals so that I don't have to waste ammo.

After a quick trip home to sell up I'm done for the night. Only one spot remains for "The Family" so it'll be action straight up next session.

The Servant King

A while back I did a sermon on the Servant King; based off a Philippians 2 reading. Sandy has done up a faithbook for it already, but I've finally got all the notes back together to put up.

The Servant King

 - Children's address
    - Who wears a Crown?
    - What would you do if you were King / Queen for a day?
       - Servants to carry out your will
    - King becomes a servant for a day
       - Sounds weird? Why?
       - ask everyone
    - God is the King, he became a servant through Jesus. Any clearer?

  - LOVE !!!
  - Service comes naturally
  - Parents don't expect children to feed & clothe themselves
     - Don't look at the costs
  - Voluntary services to others is a display of love  
  - Service to others is voluntary
    - When we think of a servant we think of a slave, doing duty against their will
    - Did Jesus come down to be a slave? or a servant? a voluntary servant?
       - Power to change the world
          - harness power
             - heal sick
             - raise dead
        - Temptations
           - Bread from stone
           - Jump and the angels will catch you
           - Worship me and I'll give you the world. no need to suffer
        - Jesus could clearly see through the temptation because his heart and soul were focused on love for us. Understood his power was not to be mistreated. For selfish reasons. There were no shortcuts to make us love him back. Why inherit the world if you destroy the people you came to save? Jesus only had eyes on the prize; to save us from sin. To break us out of our love for ourselves and to see God in others.
        - Jesus didn't come down to demonstrate service. Didn't say :look at me, this is the way to do it". He genuinely loved others and service naturally flowed.
  - Difference?
     - Pride vs Humility
        - Doing something for the glory rather than doing it because you see the need
        - QGL
     - Philippians 2: 3-4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also the interests of others .... Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus

  - Practical ways for us to show love for one another
     - Ask Sandy
     - Ask others
     - Serving in the Army, voluntary service. Life on the line.
     - Serving your country by leading it
        - Dictatorship  
        - Benevolent Dictatorship
        - Last King of Scotland. Idi Amin
     - Serving in Church
        - Singing
        - Ushering
        - Preparing morning tea
        - Giving time and encouragement
        - Organise the singing group

  - God LOVES us. Loves us so much he sent his son. That is his service to us. We can't spend eternity with God without Jesus clearing away our sin. We love God back by seeing God in others, and serving others with God's love.

So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone him
Each other's needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving

This is our God, the Servant King
He calls us now to follow him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King