16 October 2010

Another Day AFK

Today was another day spent away from the computer.  I expect to get some CL work done on Sunday.

I have another large RL project that will probably begin this upcoming week, and my available CL time will reduce accordingly.  This will be a large project, too.  Oy.

15 October 2010

Spending Time

I spent the evening away from the computer, so I did not do any development for Clan Lord this evening.  Instead I spent the evening playing table top games with friends.  It was a great way to spend the evening.

14 October 2010

Fairgrounds Visit

I stopped by the fairgrounds for a couple of hours.  As with most of my visits, I made no formal announcements, nor did I have a formal agenda.



I enjoy not having an agenda, as it allows for a variety of topics.  Through the course of my visit, we discussed the following:
  • Fellblades and the Champion subclass still need some tweaking
  • Experience for high level characters
  • Mystics need a boost (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun)
  • Monster AIs and fun hunting areas
  • Untrainus and respec quests
  • The upcoming Capture the Flag event (plus some TF2 quotes which do not translate well to text)
  • The changes made to Mazika's Mushroom Hut, and its subsequent impact
  • I still get tricked by Hoggle


Thanks to everyone who kept me company during my visit.

13 October 2010

Welcome to V672

This update surprised me in that the UpdateGM had an early opportunity to apply the update.  I had secretly half-expected to update a script and submit it before the storm whilst no one was looking, but the storm had come and passed by the time I logged on this evening.

I had also wanted to stop by for a fairgrounds chat – something that I haven't done in a while – and receive some feedback.  I hear that there was some changes to the Centaur Isle Mushroom Hut and, based on a sampling of the bug reports, concerns were expressed regarding this change.

Perhaps I'll stop by the fairgrounds this evening, time permitting.

12 October 2010

A Footnote

ServerGM contacted me and mentioned that he was unable to replicate the test server crash bug.  The problem which I had been experiencing is on my end.

Ruh roh.

11 October 2010

Tricks and Treats

Sunday, October 31st at 11:00am PT.  That will be the date in which we'll hold the Clan Lord Capture the Flag event.

We'll play for an hour or so.  I am really looking forward to it.  Costumes shall be optional.

10 October 2010

10000 Frames

I am thrilled to see this report from my test server log:
23:35:53 Game: still alive after 10000 frames.
Cheers to the ServerGM and his hunches!  After some correspondence, the ServerGM replied "I think I know what the problem is; try [doing stuff] and tell me the results."  Sure enough, the test server no longer crashed and I was able to log on to the game.



All is well indeed!

09 October 2010

Road Blocks and Detours

I am still working with the ServerGM in an effort to resolve my test server problems.  I am excited at the prospect of finding and identifying a genuine server bug!  Only a small number of GMs have accomplished the feat of crashing the live server, and these elite have their names added to the "Don't Do This" list.  While crashing a test server will not get my name added to this list, identifying the cause of the problem and resolving the issue will make Clan Lord a little bit better – at least from a technical standpoint.

There's an old saying: one door closes, and another door opens.  I find myself facing a road block on my projects – I am unable to make any progress on them until until the crashing bug gets resolved – so instead I find myself taking a developmental detour and I am learning a little more about the server.  As the other old saying goes: if there are no problems to solve, then there are no lessons to learn.  And boy howdy, am I learning!

08 October 2010

No Soup For Me

On the evening of submission night, I was still unable resolve why my copy of the test server was crashing.  The ServerGM read through the crash report which I had sent him and found the cause of the problem, but was unable to pinpoint how or where it was happening.  One of the masking gerbils in my areas or scripts is holding a rebellion, and it is consistently overthrowing the system.

I spent this evening deleting script files and rerunning the server in an effort to isolate the cause of the crash.  I made the (rather obvious) decision not to submit any my V672 content while this problem persisted.  I think that this is the second time in my three years as a GM that I will not be submitting material for an update.

No soup for me.

07 October 2010

Technical Difficulties

I completed updating a couple of scripts, including changes to housing which affects home alone monsters.  I had wished to test my code and confirm that my changes were stable.  I certainly wouldn't want any of my scripts to be the cause of any problems!

I launched my copy of the Clan Lord Debug Server.


That's bad, right?  I guess that I have more debugging to do!

06 October 2010

Home Alone

I spent some time today fixing (gulp) a housing bug.  Housing scripts continue to intimidate me because of their complexity and the volume of their numbers (there are a dozen core scripts which manage the various operations of housing).

The bug in which I addressed was an odd problem: monsters were being lured into players' homes and were then wreaking havoc within neighboring homes.  Some may not consider it a problem when the monster is a rat or a vermine, but it's a very different problem when the monster in question is an olive arachnoid.  That is a problem.

I had been thinking about how ways to resolve this bug.  The obvious approach would be to set up some sort of filtering system which would prevent monsters from entering the housing buildings.  The ServerGM came up with a simpler, more elegant solution: allow monsters into the housing areas, but if they're left home alone, then eject them.

I have updated my copy of the related script to boot "home alone" monsters, but I need to test it before committing the changes.  Rangers will have the remainder of V669 to cause mischief!

05 October 2010

Blood In The Water

There has been some very positive responses from the GMs on holding a Clan Lord Team Fortress match!  All I had to do was use the term "easy prey" and the GMs have been drawn to this event like sharks are drawn to blood in the water.  We are in the process of selecting a date for this event.  Expect Koppi to make an announcement very soon.

I urge the citizens of Puddleby to practice their CTF skills.  Mwahaha!

04 October 2010

Frag A GM!

While I continue with my recent, shameful TF2 binge, I have a new appreciation for the work that Slarty did on Clan Lord Team Fortress.

I have floated the idea to the other GMs on holding an in-game CL Team Fortress match, perhaps players vs. GMs.  We'll see if schedules will permit us to arrange an afternoon of old fashioned Capture the Flag or King of the Hill.

Stay tuned.

03 October 2010

How I Spent My Day

I love Sundays. And I love that I now understand how to spray paint images onto a TF2 map.


Yap yap!

02 October 2010

Choose Your Own Genie

If you were a child of the 1980s, then you may remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book series.  In each book, you (yes you!) were the hero of the story, and the narrative would develop based on your decisions.  Did you want to fight the dragon?  If so, turn to page 98.  If you instead wanted to retreat to safety, then turn to page 63.  Your choices would change the telling of the adventure.  Christian Swinehart has an excellent technical analysis of this series on his web page.

I am still thinking a lot of about Story Genies, and I began to wonder if they could do more than just behave as a walking sign post.  What if – like the choices made within the CYOA books – the speech of the genie could change, based on interaction with other genies?  For example, suppose I have two genies which I name Alpha and Beta.  I tell Beta what to say, but then I also give it instructions on what to say to those players who have visited with Alpha.  When I release Beta from the genie bottle, she says:
"There's money to be made at sea.  A resourceful merchant could carry stone and wood to the builders on Gold Dust Island."
But for those who have met Alpha, she instead says:
"Oh, so I suppose you've been listening to that fool Alpha and he's been filling your head with nonsense.  He's nothing but a pirate, and a poor one at that.  You'd do very well to stay away from him."
What I love about this idea is that a story has the ability to morph, albeit in a limited way.  I view this ability as an option to Story Genies, and it may be available to those players who desire a little more variety in their stories.

This idea is bubbling its way up On The List.

01 October 2010

Another Shameful Milestone Passed



I really should delete Steam from my computer.  Perhaps then I would have any hope of being a productive member of society.

30 September 2010

Money Can Buy Happiness

Today Valve released an excellent update for their Team Fortress 2 game.  In addition to numerous new items, mini-games and new clothing, they created the in-game Mann Co. Store.  This store enables players to spend real-world money to get game-world gear.

Most of the character classes for TF2 have items sets.  These are comprised of individual items which, when all are equipped, give an additional bonus/ability.  While these items may be found randomly within the game, many players opted to spend the money and outright obtain all of the completed sets.  It was rather remarkable to listen to players comment on their purchased items (literally listen – many of the players use team speak): one individual spent $60 at the Mann Co. Store and was very happy with his tricked-out sniper.

Some other cool things available at the in-game store are paint and name tags.  Paint enables a player to change the color of certain items, such as the color of a hat.  Name tags allow players to change the name of certain items.  There are also some new clothing accessories which are available only through the Mann Co. Store; these special items may not be found nor created within TF2.  They are available only through the in-game store.

I like the idea of spending a couple of dollars to customize your character.  The prices are low enough to make this an enticing option.  This lead me to wonder: (a) will this business model be successful for Valve, and (b) can a similar business model be applied to Clan Lord?  Joe has stated that he never wanted CL to be the type of game where players could buy in-game advantages, but what about allowing players to pay real world money for in-game vanity?  Would CL players pay $1.99 for a unique female fen healer icon, or pay $2.99 for a unique permanent skin dye?

My TF2 teammates were very happy with their purchases.  I guess money can buy happiness!

29 September 2010

When "No Problem" Becomes A Problem

An old bug has surfaced on my To Do List, involving the raffle house.

It's not a bug, per se, but it is a common-sense lack of a feature: why don't the raffle house NPCs mention the condition of the raffled items?  For example, if I were to raffle off a gold shirt, then why won't the raffle ticket sellers tell potential buyers "I am selling Yappy's gold shirt, which is in pretty good condition?"  This is good information to have, especially if the item is badly worn and can not be repaired (like Rocko Armor, for example).

After working on the mannequin bug, I felt that I had a pretty good sense of what changes needed to happen within the raffle house script.  I glanced through the script and noted where the description functions would need to be located.  These functions would snap into this script like jigsaw puzzle pieces snapping together in place.  And these functions existed within other scripts, so it would be a simple matter to just copy and paste them into the raffle house script.  In fact, I was so convinced that this was a trivial task that I added a note to the bug record, boasting that it would be "no problem!" and that I would personally take care of this feature.

And then I read through the supporting raffle house script – the one containing all of the functions which handle the heavy lifting for the raffle house.  Hoo boy howdy.  It turns out that the raffle house is powered by numerous sophisticated, complex functions, and there is a lot data management happening behind the scenes.  This is further complicated by the way that items are structured: it appears that the condition of armored items are handled slightly differently from the condition of clothing items – at least that is how I read it.  Therefore the functions used to describe a pair of pants may not be the same functions to describe an iron shield.  I hope that I read that wrong, and the two items are handled identically.

As with the mannequin script, I must be very careful in how I blend a new data structure into the existing data structure.  The format that I implement must be backwards compatible.  Items containing – or lacking – item-condition descriptors must be understood equally by the raffle house NPCs.

What on earth possessed me to believe that such a simple addition to a script would be... well... simple?

28 September 2010

So Far Away

An unexpected RL project has dropped into my figurative lap.  Therefore I expect to be AFK from CL work for the next couple of days.

O, Clan Lord!  You are so far away from me.

27 September 2010

The Golden Bug Award

I should hand out awards for the best bug report of an update.

All of the reports are great and helpful, and they're all very appreciated, but some reports are simply outrageously obvious, in a cartoonish-double-taking-I-can't-believe-that-no-one-and-I-mean-no-one-ever-reported-this-before kind of way.

The Golden Bug Award for V660 is awarded to an individual who noticed that some monsters were spawning in an area that was a little out of character for that monster type.  While I won't offer any details on the bug itself, a comparable example would be finding Savannah Mahas spawning underwater – and rejecting the IC explanation that they were sea lions.

Thanks to the individual who filed this bug report, and thanks for bringing this discrepancy to our attention.  We're working on a fix for V672.

26 September 2010

Story Genies

I have been mulling about Jeanne's thoughtful journal entry on reviving role playing within Clan Lord.  One particular comment that caught my attention was a request for more story tools:
Giving everyone more tools aside from different colored text boxes will be useful. Less powerful tools than the apprentice GMs get but something that will make it so creating their own stories will be fun. I'm not sure exactly what tools are needed but I'm sure many folks have ideas of what they'd like to have.
One of the general weaknesses of player-generated stories has been dissemination of a story.  Sometimes word of mouth works, but sometimes it doesn't.  Players should be able to learn of ongoing stories within the Clan Lord world without relying on external sources (such as Thoomcare, for example).  Koppi is a good example of sharing information within the game, but Koppi is better served for news than developing an ongoing story.

What tools could help a player spread a story?  One obvious idea would be a dedicated story NPC, something along the idea of Koppi.  A player could speak some lines of a story script to the NPC, and that NPC could repeat those lines – either sequentially or randomly, at the choice of the player.  But the problem with NPCs is that they can not be created on-the-fly; there needs to be a predetermined number of them.  How many story NPCs would Puddleby need?  One?  Ten?  Thirty?

This lead me to think: instead of NPCs (which need to be created ahead of time), why not use monsters – which may be created on-the-fly?  If you have ever encounter a T'rool then you probably already know that certain monsters possess the ability to hear and repeat phases.  Why not create a new type of monster to assist with role playing and story telling?

These monsters – I'll call them Story Genies – would be something along the idea of a portable pet.  My caveat is that I have given this idea minimal thought, but in broad terms, I envision that story genies would behave thusly:
  • The player would obtain a genie bottle from an NPC within the fairgrounds. Each bottle contains one genie.
  • The player may name the genie, like "Timber Arm, Darshak Mate," or "Gh'rgh, Summoned Orga Warrior."
  • The player may select the genie's appearance by touching the bottle to another mobile (such as a monster, another player, or NPC). Other methods of defining the genie's appearance could be to chain a corpse to the genie NPC in the fairgrounds, or to simply hold a stuffed trophy while holding the bottle.
  • The player may speak their story lines into the bottle, and the genie will remember these spoken lines.  I imagine support for standard actions, such as ponders and growling.
  • The player would carry the bottle to a location and release the genie.
  • The genie would wander around within its released location, speaking its story lines for the duration of the Chaos Storm.
  • Story Genies would not attack players or other monsters, but could be killed by other determined players.
Would such a story tool help?  Are there any improvements to this idea?  Is the idea overall worth putting "On The List?"

25 September 2010

Almost Done.

I am nearing completion on my Helper Assistant script.  I am resisting the temptation of beginning another project, for my experience with the mannequin script has taught me to focus on one project to get it done.

I hope to put some hours into it this weekend.  It would be great to have the script completed and ready for use by Monday.

24 September 2010

Eliminating Share Dependency

I was pleasantly surprised by the responses to my ramblings about sharecads.  Thank you all for your comments.  I wish to quickly address some points:
  • It is not my intention to remove sharecads from Clan Lord, but the macro's popularity lead me to scratch my head and wonder if there could be an in-game alternative.
  • I have no intention of removing @env.textLog or any other macro features.
  • I recognize that healers are dependent on shares.
  • I recognize that some healers use sharecads to harvest shares for experience rather than for the action of healing.  In my opinion, this is an exploitation of the macro.  A clever macro scripter could address this issue by adding a personalized blacklist of healer names to their copy of the macro.
  • I recognize that Clan Lord's sharing system has numerous limitations.

23 September 2010

Temporary Code

The ServerGM approached me this evening.  "I have a question about a script," he said.

I don't know if I possess the language to adequately describe the draining sense of fear that I experience when the All Knowing ServerGM comes to me with a question about a script.  My immediate, panicked assumption is that I touched a script and somehow broke it.  ServerGM proceeded to name the script and my anxiety increased: I had indeed touched some code back in V633.

ServerGM described the situation.  I shall spare you the boring technical details, but in summary a section of the script was propagating data changes to areas of the Clan Lord world.  What puzzled ServerGM was that this section was labeled as "temporary code."

"Temporary?" I asked.

"Yes, this code has been temporary since 2005," replied ServerGM.

After a brief discussion, it was evident that these changes needed permanent implementation.  The work involved could be done in one evening, and that's exactly what we did: I updated all of the game data which the script had been changing dynamically, and ServerGM retired the temporary code.  As of V672, the temporary data changes made by this script for the past five years shall become permanent.

While it's not my place to discuss what was changed, I will instead say that this evening was a great learning experience.  And it was a relief to know that I didn't break anything!

22 September 2010

Welcome to V669

I had prepared some monsters for the final invasion of V666, and then missed the opportunity because I stupidly fell asleep.

Lame.

You may read about the V669 changes on Delta Tao's page and on Thoomcare.

21 September 2010

Sharecads, Shareheals and Shares

I had the idea of creating in-game support for sharecads-like healing, but I remain unconvinced that it is a good idea.

I assume that most players are aware of sharecads, but if you are new to Clan Lord and never heard of it: sharecads is a macro (originally written by Prince Valiant) which enables a player to automatically share with the healer who is healing that player.  Gorvin has written a sophisticated, updated version of this macro and has it available on his web page.

The sharecads macro is very clever in its application, but it has numerous limitations: it only works if a healer is healing a player with the caduceus (or "cad" for short, hence the macro's name "sharecads"); the macro does not support those healers using the moonstone, nor is there support for the asklepian; and the functionality of the macro relies on scraping the text log for keywords via the macro variable @env.textLog.

For a long while I had felt that the ideal sharecads macro would be more of a "shareheals" macro, in which the macro would be aware of all healing sources and enable the player to automatically share with healers supplying the healing.  I had envisioned that this healing information would be supplied by the server – not the text log – in the form of the macro variable @my.heals.  This value, in theory, would be updated every frame and it would contain a list of the last five healers to provide any healing to the player, either by moonstone, caduceus or asklepian.  New healers would be added to the front of the list, and healers that have ceased to provide healing would be removed from the list.  In theory.

I was initially excited about the potential of this macro support.  A macro scripter could compare the list of names held within @my.shares_out to the list of healers held within @my.heals and determine which healers required a share and which ones could be unshared and delegate a new share as desired and ––

And then I paused, stepped back from this idea and asked myself exactly what problem am I trying to solve?  I became so caught up in the technicalities of the design that I had lost sight of its purpose.

At its core, the purpose of sharecads is to facilitate efficient healing.  The healer using a cad (typically) gets a share from the player running the sharecads macro, and only five healers may benefit from this macro.  I may be wrong, but sharecads seems to be a situational macro, one that is used under a specific set of circumstances.  I can't speak for the frequency of use, but it has been my observation that sharecads is most popular during invasions and events where a large party consists of more than five healers.  I imagine that this macro is less popular in smaller parties that consist of two or three healers.

This lead me to think: instead of relying on a macro to haphazardly share the last five healers to heal a player by a caduceus, wouldn't it make sense to offer an option of allowing more than five healers to efficiently heal one player – without the need of sharing the healers?  For example, suppose that players had access to an item, something like an orga eye, which when held in the player's right hand then that player would be healed almost as efficiently as if that player had shared the healer?  Would such an item be a reasonable alternative to the sharecads macro?

I see pros and cons for such an item.  The pros are that the unsharing player gets healed almost as efficiently as a sharing player, and all healing styles (stoners and cadders) may equally enjoy the benefits of this efficiency.  Players using this item also retain control over their shares instead of relying on the disorderliness of sharecads-assigned shares.  The cons are that such an item requires inventory space, and cadding healers would not automatically receive a share from healing a player holding this hypothetical item.

Allow me to be clear: this idea is no where near to being "on the list."  This is all vaporware, and I view this example as an interesting challenge in design.  And as I stated, I am not convinced that my idea is a good idea.

But I still think about it.

20 September 2010

Raising Hell

One of my regrets for V666 is that I did not have adequate time to raise hell.

I had envisioned daily invasions throughout this update.  I wanted to run some large scale undine attacks upon Puddleby and its surrounding areas, attacks that would originate from places such as the Undine Hut or the Dark Chamber on Ash Island.  I had wanted to create buzz and excitement throughout this update.  Six hundred and sixty-six versions is a phenomenal achievement for a MMORPG, and I had wanted it to be memorable for its hellish invasions.


I still have a couple of days remaining to raise a little hell.

19 September 2010

Pappy Yappy

As the dust settles from my RL project, I find myself once again looking forward to tackling my multiple CL projects.  I spent this afternoon updating the Helper Assistant script – and by "updating" I really mean that I deleted the old version and began writing a new version.

As I developed the revision of this script, I realized that the tone of the script was – for want of a better description – rather negative.  Instead of writing the script in the form of "do this action, then do that action," the script instead read as a stern parent scolding a young child: "confirm that the data is valid before taking action" and "don't take any actions under these conditions."

And I do believe that I am feeling some paternal pride in this script, and I hope that it remains well behaved.

18 September 2010

Yappy, Unplugged

Today I stayed away from my computer and allowed myself to decompress from my previous two weeks.  I simply could not bring myself to look at a computer monitor.

17 September 2010

Silent Service

My personal submissions for V669 consisted of several minor bug fixes, and there were no more than half of a dozen of these fixes.  The real heroes of this update were the helpers with whom I work: they supplied lots of content for multiple projects under development, and their content is, in a word, great.  I am grateful that they were able to remain productive in my absence.

A lot of thanks is owed to these silent assistants.  Their efforts are just as valued as those of the GMs.

16 September 2010

Dirty Dishes

I was AFK all day today, and therefore was unable to touch any of my CL projects.  My RL project is drawing to its conclusion, and my untouched CL projects are on my mind much like a growing pile of unwashed dishes stacked within a small sink.  They need to get done, and I want to do them sooner rather than later.

And I don't want "soon" to be the Clan Lord kind of "soon!"

15 September 2010

WTB: Gold Pocket Watch

Today was one of those days.  You know the kind: the leave-home-early-arrive-home-late kind of days.  Today was one of those days where I simply ran out of time.

I have jokingly suggested that I should clone myself, but I think that a more practical solution to finding time is to get a time-stopping pocket watch.

Craig's List needs a better selection of affordable magic watches.

14 September 2010

The Teardown

I spent this evening reorganizing, redesigning, and basically rewriting the Helper Assistant NPC script.

As previously stated, the development of this script was unplanned.  It started as a couple of notes which morphed into a stream-of-conscious script, and now that I have reread it I see plainly that the design of the script was improvised.  For some inexplicable reason I created one small main routine and numerous supporting functions.  I guess that I had really enjoyed creating functions on the day that I wrote this script!  I have revised the script by eliminating these cluttered functions and incorporated a simplified version of them into the main body of the script.

Another problem that I see with the script is the scope of its purpose.  The script helps manage quest data, and initially I had tried to support multiple data fields for multiple quests.  I have revised the scope so that each NPC focuses on one data field of one quest.  This simplification was made primarily so that I may have the script ready for V669.  I can always expand upon this feature in the future.

The new version of the script is forming well.  It's a large effort to develop a script for a handful of people, but if those handful use it in turn to develop better quests for Clan Lord, then it is an effort well placed.

13 September 2010

Two Races, One Goal

This is a week where I enter two home stretches: both my CL and RL projects are due on Friday.  Two projects, independent of each other, hurtling forward and destined to collide!

That sounds like the premise of a disaster film.

12 September 2010

Crashing A Fancy Dinner Party

Thanks to all who participated in Stinkfist's fancy dinner party this afternoon.  I think there was a point in which we had over 70 people online, and that was very pleasant to see.

11 September 2010

Memory Shortage

I met with a helper today.  Our conversation went something like this:
Helper: Have you completed work on the Helper Assistant NPC?
Me: Ummm...
Helper: You had mentioned that you were developing a Helper Assistant NPC, and that NPC would be very helpful for my project.
Me: Errr...
Helper: The Helper Assistant NPC is vaporware, isn't it.
Me: Uhhh...
In truth, I had developed a Helper Assistant NPC, but my script had required redesign and simplification.  I placed it aside and promptly forgot about it.  And because this was a side-project, I never placed this script on my punch list.  Now that I have been reminded of it, I am definitely putting it on my "to do" list, and because there is a need for this script, I am placing it high on my priority list.

I can't believe that I forgot about this project.  I think that my brain needs a memory upgrade.

10 September 2010

Perverse Incentives

This is my new favorite phrase: perverse incentives!

I never knew that this concept had a label, but now that I know it, I simply love it.  This falls under the umbrella of unintended consequences, another concept which I bear in mind while designing quests.  As I had mentioned in a previous entry, I tend to be cynical in my review of designs and look for ways which quests and items may be exploited.  Now these exploits have a name.  Perverse incentives!

One quest that I had really wanted to do was a variation of the "escort the NPC from point X to point Y."  The variation that I had in mind was that the path taken would be laced with ambush points, and customized monsters would attempt to attack the defenseless NPC.  Players would need to fight the monsters to protect the NPC.  If the NPC died, then the quest ended in failure.

My idea was that this quest would be difficult, and this difficulty would be reflected within the rewards.  While drafting the quest, I started to think "well, what's the incentive to complete the quest compared to the incentive to deliberately fail the quest?"  If the ambushing monsters gave particularly good experience, then it could be conceivable that a group of five players could escort the NPC through all but the last ambush points – vanquishing monsters along the way – and finally allowing the NPC die so that the quest may be repeated.  And repeated.  And repeated.

Perverse incentives.

One day I'll get this quest working without the perversions.

09 September 2010

5/7 Efficiency

This evening started well enough.  It was my intention to spend tonight outlining the design for my Next Big Quest.  I had been thinking about it all day and had some ideas that I wished to develop.  Tonight was also the opening official game of the NFL season (American football).  Instead spending my evening yelling at my computer (something that I frequently do while scripting), I instead spent the evening yelling at my television.

I worry that my Clan Lord productivity is going to suffer on Thursdays and Sundays.

08 September 2010

Mark Your Calendars

I have returned to my current RL project which shall be commanding my time for the next week and a half.  I want to get ahead on my RL responsibilities so that I may make time for some upcoming CL activities:
  • Operation Fancy Dinner Party, scheduled for the 12th
  • Trip to Trillbane, scheduled for the 19th 
Both events sound like a lot of fun and I want to attend them, providing that I get my RL chores done.

07 September 2010

Random Inspiration

Have you ever experienced the sensation of an idea passing by you?  Have you ever been deep in thought on a subject, and you have a sudden, random flash of insight on something absolutely unrelated to the topic on which you focus – and the idea is gone just as quickly as it came?

I experienced this today.  I was thinking of something totally unrelated to Clan Lord when I suddenly had an idea for a Clan Lord quest.  The experience was rather surreal, like starting awake from a deep sleep and losing the memory of a dream.  As the idea faded from my mind, I went to my computer and hastily typed the idea.  Later this evening I refined this idea and have started drafting outlines for the supporting scripts.

I have been working on a large area for a while now, and although the project has been creeping along slowly, the overall project has been missing a cool central quest.  Today I found that central quest – in a rather sudden, random sort of way – and I am really excited about the idea.

I am very inspired and motivated right now, and that's all that I'll say.

06 September 2010

Weather Report

Instead of taking the day off and relaxing like most Americans on this Labor Day, I spent today catching up on cataloging and resolving bug cases.  While I managed to organize all of the cases from V663, I noted that there are still outstanding cases from V660 that have yet been organized.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

One of the personal goals achieved today was organizing the bugs related to weather, which included comparing and closing duplicate reports.  The most popular weather-related bug report has been of the "it's raining indoors" variety.  For those who are curious, here is the list of the unique areas that we have so far:
  • The small safe caves in Sasquatch Valley
  • The lower level of The Meshra Cave
  • Both PF trees in The South Forest
  • Elendil Fa'ril's tree in The Meadow
  • The small cave in the marshy section of The Wetlands (this one is debatable; this small area could be a gorge bottom instead of a cave)
  • Arial's Hut near The Northern Plain
  • The tree in the Old Cemetry
  • Ehmboff's hut in The Estuary
  • The small hut in wooded section of The Wetlands
  • The tunnel near the Myrm Highlands
  • The tunnel in The Spirit Wood
  • The safe cave in The Northwest Forest
  • Geisela's hut near Kitty Beach
  • The tunnel in The Northern Plain leading to the chamelopod area 
Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to file a weather report.  It is much appreciated.

05 September 2010

Chaos!







This evening involved cheap, silly fun – but fun nonetheless!

04 September 2010

The Potion Of Disguise

While holding a fairgrounds chat prior to the update, I entertained myself by throwing disguise potions at several of the attendees.  This item has been around for a while – it was created circa V321 – and I admit that I have never seen disguise potions available in game (I should also mention that I never saw oak bashers available in game, so your experiences may differ from mine).  I had wondered as to why this item has been unavailable for so long.

Allow me to begin by stating that there's more to designing an item than "what can the item do?"  A designer should think ahead on how the item will impact the game.  Personally, when designing an item, I do not think "what cool things will this item do," but instead I tend to take the cynical view of "what can go wrong" and "how will this item be exploited?"

Having said that: the potion of disguise is a frivolous toy.  The technology that powers this potion is similar to a butterfly's kiss.  The change of appearance is temporary and cosmetic; it does not actually change the race of the player.  One may not quaff a potion of disguise and then enter a tree on KI which one would normally not have access.

If the potion is harmless, then why is it unavailable?

It may be that the potion is simply confusing.  If you see a character with a human icon and their /INFO reads that they are a thoom, then that is confusing.  It may have been decided that such a situation conflicted with the expectations of the /INFO command, and therefore the potion of disguise brought more trouble than fun to the game.

Another reason why this item may not have made its way into the game is because, like a bottle of paint, one player may use the potion upon another (unwilling) player.  We've all grown accustomed to our personal character's appearance, and I can understand how some players may not appreciate having a change forced upon them.  A player who wishes to avoid a butterfly kiss may move away from the butterfly, but that is harder to do with a thrown potion of disguise.

In truth, I do not know the reasons why the potion of disguise was never made publicly available.  But as a designer, I have some ideas.

03 September 2010

RSVP

As a follow-up to my discussion of games within games, I wanted to mention one of my favorite web games: RSVP.

The premise is that you are hosting a dinner party and you, being a good host, must keep everyone happy.  This is achieved by seating matching guests next to each other.

This game has everything that makes a game enjoyable: simple premise, very simple rules, even simpler game play, and a lot of planning and thinking.  The retro look and jazzy lounge music are all bonuses.  And there is no time limit!  This is, in my opinion, a well-designed game.

You may play RSVP online here.

02 September 2010

Bugday Is Now!

You may have heard from another player, or experienced for yourself, that a health-poison bug was introduced into V666 which impacts the ranger's shape-changing ability.

The problem originates from several of the support scripts which manage temporary changes applied to a player's stats.  For example, when a ranger morphs into a vermine, all of the ranger's stats – atkus, detha, regia – temporarily change for the duration of that morph.  These support scripts oversee and manage those changes.

Up until now there had been handshaking between the numerous scripts – or perhaps a better description would be to say that there had been "silent nods of acknowledgment" – on how to manage changes to a player's histia stat.  This arrangement worked well enough for morphing rangers but less so for stonegirdling champions: champions using the stonegirdle continued to experience situations which would invoke health-poisoning.  We tried to correct this problem within the support scripts for V666.  It appears that the problem has instead been transfered from champions to rangers – so champions: you're welcome!

We're aware of the issue, and we are working on a swift solution.  On the bright side, this bug is certainly keeping in the spirit of V666: it is, without question, hellish.

01 September 2010

Welcome to V666.

While UpdateGM commenced the process of initiating the update, I stayed out of the way by chatting in the fairgrounds for a while.  Paramedic had some insight on the gerbil wrangling process:



Details about V666 may be read here. Have fun exploring!

31 August 2010

An Open Letter To Blue Castle Games

To the developers at Blue Castle Games:

I read a story over at kotaku.com regarding your upcoming Xbox game Dead Rising 2: Case 0.  I was disturbed by the game play depicted within this video.

I suppose I should have been better prepared for what I was about to see after reading "[c]heck out this video showing off the game's real world beer keg foam physics, vomit viscosity and drunk punching."  And the video delivers just that: the game's protagonist runs around and fights zombies, fires a weapon at a keg of beer, consumes alcohol and then doubles over and vomits.

While I recognize that this is just a video game – one that involves fantasy violence whilst battling zombies – I am nonetheless troubled by the questionable judgment used in the development this game.  Was it necessary to depict an individual vomiting?  I suspect that this matter was discussed within your development meetings: how did you arrive at a decision that vomit would bring value to the game play, and specifically what value does it bring?

I feel that there are better methods of showcasing your game's liquid/particle system (may I refer you to Portal 2 game play as an example), and I found it disappointing that you chose such a sophomoric display as representation of your work.

Respectfully,

30 August 2010

It's Not A Distraction If Town Is Endangered

I met up with another GM this evening, and our conversation went something like this:
Me: I have to finish testing a script this evening.
OtherGM: I think I'm going to invade town.
Me: !
[OtherGM throws some Darshak in town.]
And that was it for me.  I just can't ignore a good invasion, and as a result I got zero testing accomplished this evening.  While I may not have gotten any work done, I instead managed to have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, and I hope that the Defenders of Puddleby had as much fun as I did.

29 August 2010

Testing, Testing... WTH?

I was, for the most part, far away from the computer for most of the day.  I spent a portion of this evening doing a little testing on some upcoming changes to a script.  I found one unexpected bug – the kind of bug where the server spews out several lines of errors unrelated to my testing, and I react by saying "well, that was unexpected!"  You know... that kind of unexpected bug.

My brain is still fried from last week, and I am entering another busy RL week.  Thank goodness we have the Labor Day holiday on the horizon!

[Edit: spelling.]

28 August 2010

Games Within Games

The crew over at Rock, Paper Shotgun recently reviewed a game called Morplee.  The basic premise for Morplee is to play as many mini-games within sixty seconds.  The game is written in Flash, and may be played over at Newgrounds.

While I was playing Morplee (my high score is 1460 – an easy score to beat if you wish to brag about it here), I was reminded of how there are numerous mini-games scattered throughout Clan Lord – games within the game.  We have the Tower of Hanoi and a sliding Fifteen puzzle, two great examples of mini-games.  And what floors me is that the scripts that power these games are relatively small, with each game having around 300 lines of code.

I would love to see more mini-games within Clan Lord.  I have always been fascinated with railroad tracks; I loved the 1980's arcade game Loco-Motion, which is basically the Fifteen puzzle merged with dominoes.  This is the mini-game that I dream of making for Clan Lord: sort of a mining-cart-loose-in-a-mining-cave sort of thing.  More mini-games in Clan Lord is definitely "on the list."

Now if you'll excuse me, I shall return to stomping on colored tiles.

27 August 2010

Living In Denial

  • I deny that I played hooky from my RL responsibilities today.
  • I deny that I alone consumed a two liter bottle of cola in one afternoon.
  • I deny that I spent over twelve hours preparing content for the update in one day.
I will confirm that my update content was delivered before the deadline.

Whew.

26 August 2010

AFK, Again

I love being busy.  I love having projects and looking forward to them – but boy howdy how I prefer to have one project at a time!

The last grains of sand are now falling through the deadline hourglass.  This promises to be a challenge.

25 August 2010

Yappy's Choice

RL continues to keep me preoccupied and I find myself behind in my CL work.  The update deadline is two days away and I find myself in the position of needing to choose the projects on which to focus: some will now receive more attention than others.

I don't like having to make these type of decisions.

24 August 2010

Arty Like It's 1998

While cleaning up some of my areas from my recent move, I was reminded on how sophisticated areas have become over the years.  When Clan Lord first started, we had a very simple version of Puddleby:



And Puddleby had a very simple waterfront:



These areas were a lot of fun because it was all that we had and we didn't know any different.  As the years passed, the quality in areas increased as did the quality in art, and now we have a new generation of areas, including Metzetli Island:



And the Estuary:



I still shake my head in amazement at the level of sophistication that the artists and area designers bring to Clan Lord.  Each new area raises the standards of quality and increases the expectations in design, and it floors me that the artists and designers can still meet – and often exceed – those expectations.

That's an awesome achievement – especially when you take into consideration that both the tools and technology for designing Clan Lord areas are over twelve years old!

23 August 2010

Tee Minus Five, But Don't Wait For Me

I was AFK for a good portion of today, and my development time was nonexistent.  This pattern is likely to repeat for the rest of the week.

This promises to be one helluva update week.

22 August 2010

The Eviction Of Yappy

One of my helpers recently contacted me to resume a project on which he had been working.  He wished to confirm that he still had ownership to the group of areas that I had assigned to him earlier in the year.  I told him plainly that those areas belonged to him, and I felt that there was no need to discuss nor investigate the matter any further.

Earlier today I received a submission from that helper.  Whilst importing the areas into my editor, I immediately recognized one of the area assignment numbers: I recognized this number because it was one of the areas on which I had been working.  Moreover, all of his submitted areas occupied the same areas that I had been using for my own project.  There was a conflict: both the helper and I were using the same areas.  If I were to import the helper's areas, then they would completely overwrite my areas.

I was confused.  My initial thought was that the helper accidentally used my areas, but I then recalled his diligent letter of area ownership, and I felt that sinking feeling that one feels when one realizes that they are the cause of a mistake.  A quick review of our email conversations from earlier in the year revealed, indeed, that the areas in question were assigned to him and that he rightfully held ownership to those areas.

This situation is my own fault.  When areas are assigned to me by UpdateGM, then they are marked as "Yappy."  In turn, when I assign these areas to helpers, I mark them with the helper's name.  I failed to do the latter in this situation, and if I had, then I would not be in this situation.

So now I begin the process of evicting myself from the helper's areas.  I await for an assignment of new areas from UpdateGM; once I receive these new areas, I may then begin the process of transferring my areas from the helper's areas.  This procedure includes a thorough cleaning of my project areas, ensuring that none of my other areas accidentally lead to the helper's areas.

While I am waiting for assignment of my new areas, I think that I shall go train some Mentus.  Clearly my current method of area management – "I-don't-need-to-write-it-down-because-I-can-remember-it-just-fine" – ain't working too well for me.

21 August 2010

Chasing Bugs

I spent a portion of this afternoon chasing down some bugs.  No, not scripting bugs – I was shooing away fruit flies.

Early last week I bought some fruit at the market and saw the fruit flies in my kitchen the following day.  The numbers grew as the week progressed; today I must have swatted close to a dozen of them and there's still another dozen buzzing around.  I found it difficult to concentrate upon the computer screen whilst frequently interrupted by dive-bombing fruit flies.

If anything good came from this experience, it was an inspiration for a new Clan Lord monster.  I think that we can all be grateful that I did not draw this inspiration from experiencing bed bugs!

20 August 2010

Forward!

As the first week of my RL commitment concludes, I am growing aware of the impact it has had on my CL development.  I am further behind in my CL work than I had anticipated, and now the focus of this weekend shall be to catch up on projects rather than to pull ahead.

Small steps forward are still steps forward.

19 August 2010

Command-Z

As a designer, there is a certain quality that I strive to achieve.  While creativity and stick-to-it-tiveness are certainly valued, I think that one of the most challenging qualities to develop and exhibit is to recognize when a design is not working.

I recently spent a lot of my time into implementing a quest.  Although I did not author the quest, I still felt that it was a clever quest and I liked a lot of the elements within it.  It seemed like a great idea and I was excited about it.  I put the quest aside and continued to work on other projects.

When I came back to the quest with fresh eyes, it no longer glowed like the great idea that had shined earlier.  I now saw some potential problems with it, and my solutions to address the problems all seemed contrived.  The best solution was to abandon the quest.

It pained me to throw that quest away, as I still like the idea of the quest and I placed no trivial amount of time installing it into the game.  Throwing it away was a hard decision but it was the right decision.

On the bright side: I get to start over again and do something new!

18 August 2010

One Sucky Fighter



This reminds me of my 2nd circle fighter.

17 August 2010

Divide By One

A real life project has fallen upon me and I now find myself in a position of having to divide my CL development time with this new RL commitment: two projects divided by one Yappy.

As such, I was unable to do any development today, other than reorganize and prioritize my TO DO list.  Does anyone know where I can have a robot built by Thursday?  I plan to send the Yappo T-1000 to handle my RL responsibilities.

16 August 2010

Read Instructions Before Assembling

I have started designing a new script.  I have outlined the tasks and behaviors of the script, but I did not have any of the details of how the script will accomplish these tasks.  I needed some guidance, therefore I spent this evening doing the unglamorous job of researching and reading scripts.

I had around 15 semi-related scripts opened at once (and I will say that I really enjoy the way that TextWrangler manages multiple documents).  After choosing and reading a script, I would visit an out-of-the-way area to see examples of the script in action.

I can't say that this task was glorious and exciting, but it was informative and inspirational.  I've read the instructions; I think that I'm ready to assemble this new script.

15 August 2010

Power Scripting

I scripted for ten hours today.

The good news is that I got a new quest script mostly working.  As I mentioned yesterday, there is a good amount of math involved with this script.  I got almost all of the algebra resolved, but somehow along the way I started adding numbers instead of subtracting them – or something equally as goofy as that – yielding predictably confusing results.  I still need to resolve that problem.

The bad news is that my tush is sore from ten hours of scripting.

14 August 2010

More Math

I was AFK for most of today, but upon returning home I went straight to the computer and began writing a new script which, alas for me, contains more math.

At least it is simple math – just addition and subtraction – but there's a lot of it.  And it's that fuzzy Z=X-Y type of math that relies a lot on variables.

If my math teacher had told me "pay attention Yappy (my math teacher called me Yappy), because one day you'll be applying algebra to one of the coolest MMORPGs on the planet Earth," then I would have... you know... attended classes.

Does anyone know where I could rent a time machine?  I need to go back to school.

13 August 2010

Friday Is Bugday?

I began the process of cataloging the voluminous listings of bug cases that were imported from V660.  Topping the bug list have been weather-related bugs, which, based on the bugs that I have processed so far, are split between praise for the technology and the leaky roof within the Estuary Hut.

I managed to research and catalog close to 30 bugs – which is roughly one quarter of the reported cases.  Now you may be thinking "but Yappy, Monday is Bugday; why are you handling bugs on Friday the Thirteenth?"

Because I felt lucky.

12 August 2010

Artte, Ye Olde Fashioned Wayye

I am in the process of designing some art.  I had tried using Photoshop to design the images, but I found a disconnect between my hand, the mouse and what I was seeing on the screen (which is probably related to my being left-handed and clicking the mouse right-handed).  My solution was to turn off the computer and do the artwork the Olde Fashioned Wayye: pen and paper.

It has been a while since I've drawn on paper, and it was satisfying to undertake an activity that did not involve a computer.  As a side benefit, I found that I had completed the process much faster than if I had attempted drawing the images digitally.

I am amused that I found it more efficient to use an old form of medium (pen and paper) for creating content for a digital game.

11 August 2010

Welcome to V663

I stopped by the fairground for a little while and chatted about nothing in particular for several hours prior to the update.  CrumblingGM stopped by for a visit and, coincidently, the body count started increasing from a prior count of zero.



Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and enjoy exploring V663.

10 August 2010

Spot The Differences

I spent some time this evening debugging a new script – and by "debugging" I really mean "comparing the functionality of one script to several others."  I felt as if I were searching one of those "spot the differences" pictures.

The purpose of my new script is to preform one specific task.  While this script is functional, it is not functioning well.  After giving the problem a little thought, I began reviewing similar scripts to see how they addressed the function.

I'll say this: Clan Lord has some very creative scripters!  Some of approaches used to undertake a specific function are simply remarkable.  And after reading these scripts, I despaired a little, as they reaffirmed how little I understand about the Socks scripting language.

I consoled myself in knowing that I was never very good at those "spot the differences" pictures either.

09 August 2010

Winning Through Losing

I enjoyed a small diversion this evening by ambushing a group's hunt.  I had started by sending a large force upon the group.  I then set up a secondary force in a flanking position, followed by a tertiary group in reserve to cut off any retreats.  I was convinced that I could rout the players and force a retreat from the area.

Even with this strategy, I still got defeated – all the while making a sincere effort to vanquish the group.  There were enough surges and retreats throughout the battle that the outcome of the battle was never obvious; there were numerous times when I thought that I had finally defeated the party when a couple of healers and a fighter would break off, regroup, and rescue the fallens.

Even though I lost the battle, I still consider the event a victory: it was fun, there was a lot of group participation, and I felt pretty good about running a challenging battle.

Now all I need to do is balance the monsters!

08 August 2010

>TELL OTHERS ABOUT LAMP.

I watched Get Lamp today.  The short review: I enjoyed the documentary for its nostalgia factor.

Director Jason Scott tackles the very broad subject of interactive fiction, covering the history of text adventures, the rise and fall of the industry during the 1980s, and the state of interactive fiction today.  There are interviews – and perspectives – from both developers and players (including fascinating interviews with several visually impaired IF players), and an amusing segment on puzzles.  There are also bonus feature-ettes which cover the Bedquilt (the RL caverns on which the original Colossal Cave/Adventure game is based), as well as a segment that focuses upon the history of Infocom and its games.  And that's all on disc 1!

The documentary is without a narrator leading the viewer from segment to segment – that is to say that Morgan Freeman is not there to tell the history of interactive fiction via lots of exposition.  Instead Scott allows the interviewees to tell the story, and this technique gives the film more of a low-key, intimate feel.  The pacing is pensive; Scott does not rush though topics nor does it linger on them.  What we're left with is a very large, broad overview of the world of interactive fiction.

What I love about this film is that it was done by an independent filmmaker who unapologetically loves the subject.  After watching Get Lamp, I wanted nothing more than to play Zork 2 again (and that's exactly what I did for the remainder of my afternoon).  If you ever played IF games and loved them, then I would recommend supporting this independent filmmaker and picking up a copy of Get Lamp.

[Edit: clarification on narration.]

07 August 2010

>EXAMINE LAMP.

My copy of Get Lamp arrived in the mail today.  As I was oot-n-aboot, I did not have the opportunity to watch it today, but I am excited about seeing it.

I find it hard to believe that I've been waiting eight months for this movie.

06 August 2010

V663 Is In The Mail

Man.  Am I ever so glad that that is behind me.  Thanks to the GMs and helpers that worked with me for this update.  That was a lot of content to schlep through.

I think I'll go celebrate this accomplishment by routing town.  Or making a benevolent visit.  I haven't made up my mind.

05 August 2010

Down To The Wire

It is the eve of my content submission and I did not do a lick of work today.

I should feel guilty or anxious, but in truth I just feel weary.

04 August 2010

Did You Say Subclass Or Suckclass?

In Yappy Lord, I had mentioned that Healers would be revered and Mystics would be feared.  I had been thinking a bit about Healer subclasses and was reminded of some notes that I had for my take on them.

I'm fairly embarrassed to share these thoughts publicly, and the reasons should be fairly obvious why they have not been seen in game.

• Earth Healer: this subclass would eat lightning and fire for breakfast and then go brush their teeth with broken glass.
  • Strengths: lots of histia, physically strong, self-heals well.  Does anyone remember the human female healer Jackie?
  • Weakness: Heals others poorly.
  • Cool unbalanced ability: "Share the pain" – any incoming damage is distributed evenly amongst those cross-sharing the Earth Healer.
• Moon Healer: this subclass would be the Shepherd of the Dead.
  • Strengths: lots of sespus, lots of respia.
  • Weakness:  physically vulnerable
  • Cool unbalanced abilities: "Soul Herding" – bring a body from purgatory to the Moon Healer's location (like an indulstone stone).  "Second Chance" – if a character falls, then it is immediately healed again to one pixel of health.
• Sun Healer: the know-it-all specialist of healing
  • Strengths: fast healing of others, training bonuses to their specialized version of Eva
  • Weakness: smaller spirit capacities
  • Cool unbalanced ability: "Leech" – transfer health between cross-sharing patients, either between the healer and the patient, or between two other patients
The idea behind the design of said subclasses is that they would be strong within their own realm, but weaker in a neighboring realm.  The problem with these classes – I mean besides them being just awful – is that I don't think that they would be fun to play.  Slarty had a better grasp of involving the healer in active, fun play.

This is why I stay away from designing subclasses.

03 August 2010

Apples, Oranges, And Ironwood Giants

I was discussing some of the bug cases with a couple of other GMs the other day, and the conversation went something like this:
Me: There are numerous bug cases for reviewing monster experience.
OtherGM: Compared to what?
Me (confused): I don't understand. The complaint is that some monsters are too hard for their experience payouts.
OtherGM: If the complaint is that a monster is too hard and its experience is too low, then there must be some sort of comparison to a monster that is likewise in difficulty but with a good experience payout, right?
I did not have a response to this question, but the question has been on my mind for the past couple of days.  A brief sampling of bug cases revealed that many of the experience-related complaints read thusly:
Ironwood giants have one of the worst, if not the worst exp to difficulty ratio; needs a boost.
And now I understand OtherGM's question: the ironwood giant gives poor experience for its difficulty – compared to what?  What other monsters are out there that are just as tough as the ironwood giant but give more reasonable experience?

I think that if players were to cite an example for comparison, then that would help the GMs a lot.

02 August 2010

Four Eyes

A footnote regarding yesterday's entry: while it is true that the trigonometric functions that I wrote for my script were not functioning properly, it turns out that my logic was very, very close to the correct answer.  One of the other GMs volunteered to review my script and my error (errors?) got corrected.  Even though I was wrong, I am pleased with myself for almost having the right answer.  If only "almost" would have given me a passing grade in math back in my school days.

All I need to do now is to give a little polishing to the rest of the script.  Thanks to the GM for the loan of the extra pair of eyes!

01 August 2010

Putting The "O No" In Trigonometry

I am writing a script that relies heavily on math.  Not just any math, but trigonometry.  As I have previously lamented, math is a personal weakness of mine, and I struggle to understand the functions on which I rely for this particular script to work.

Of course the script is not doing what I want it to do, because I do not understand its functions.  This has resulted in an evening of experimentation: I would change a line of code, compile it, run it and review the results.  This process was typically followed by muttering and more changes to the script.

Work continues on this script, and I am keenly aware of the time I spend debugging it.  This is update week, and time is running down.  Tick tock.

31 July 2010

Day Off, Day Out

With the exception of a brief review and organization of my scripting punch list, I was unable to do any development today due to my AFKness.  I admit that the fresh air felt good.

I am now entering update week.  This promises to be interesting.  I still have a lot to do.

30 July 2010

The Worst Kept Secret

...is this blog.  I wanted to take a moment to welcome the newer readers here and to thank everyone for your comments.  I enjoy reading them.

I am amused (bemused?) at the increase of readership, as I have not spoken of this blog to anyone.  This blog started as one part journal, one part catch-all for ideas, one part editorial and one part something-constructive-to-do-with-my-time.  I wouldn't say that anything has changed in that respect: I continue to add journal entries about the highs and lows of my experiences; I still daydream about cool vaporware for the game; and I still voice my opinion and share my thoughts.  I guess that I have some trouble grasping why anyone else would find my self-indulgent ramblings of any interest.

I was genuinely surprised to see a link to this blog on Thoomcare:



I have always considered Thoomcare a great source for public knowledge of Clan Lord, and I found it surprising to see my silly little blog listed there – which therefore makes Yap3 one of the worst kept secrets of Clan Lord.

I find that to my liking.

29 July 2010

Save Early, Save Often

The summer months are upon the residents of North America, as are the hot, humid days associated with it.  As the temperature rises, so does the need for energy, presumably to support the millions of simultaneously running air conditioners.  With this demand for energy comes the struggle to provide it, often resulting in brown-outs and black-outs.

Whilst writing a script for Clan Lord, I had the misfortune of experiencing a brown-out, which turned off every appliance in my home – including the computer on which I was writing the script.  This happened thrice throughout the day.

While I did lose changes that I had added to the script, the loss was not severe because I have a habit of frequently saving the documents on which I am working.  The habit is an unconscious one, bordering compulsive: when I add some changes to a document, I reflexively hit command-S.  I acknowledge that it's an odd habit to have, but today I am relieved that I practice such a habit.

I wonder if I can get a discount on my electricity bill for the frequent interruption of service.

28 July 2010

Hot Pink and Hot Fire

I am quickly approaching the first milestone of my current project.  I feel happy with the content that has been provided to me and I think I am just about ready to move onto the next phase.

I took a break from project design to work on some bugs.  Has anyone noticed if pink paint turns blue after the paint wears off?  I have been unable to replicate this problem, and I look like a fool wearing pink paint.

I then took a break from taking a break, and I ran a small invasion.



I am learning quite a bit about what challenges players are capable of handling.

27 July 2010

Starcraft 2 and Real Time Strategy

I am glad that I do not play Starcraft.  The Starcraft 2 trailer looks totally bad ass, and the last thing that I want in my life right now is another way to waste time.

I have played the Warcraft series.  My take on these types of Real Time Strategy games is that they're not too dissimilar to farming kudzu while defending crops from Pazu-Ohwi: the player works towards a production goal (kudzu seedlings in this example) while warding off opponents that are trying to destroy the means of production.

It's fun, I suppose, if one enjoys that style of gaming.  I happen to find kudzu farming dreadfully dull.

26 July 2010

You Dirty Ratticus.

I spent a good portion of today continuing with development of new content.  The work is rather a bit of a grind; lots of repetition and not a lot of variety.  I took a break from this numbing work to see what was happening online and was appalled to see that nothing was happening.

Town center needed to go from quiet to riot.







Thanks to all who participated.  I needed the stimulation.

25 July 2010

Scales And Balances

A question of game balance came up in one of the recent comments.  I thought that I would address this concern.

I feel that it is unjust to determine whether or not something is balanced without examining the scale used to measure that balance.  For example, would it be fair to say that it is unbalanced to place an Orga Fury in one of the rat towers or on Kitty Beach?  I say that it is unbalanced, because this monster doesn't fit the scale of the other monsters found in those areas.  It's too large and too tough and too overpowering for the skill level of the players who hunt those areas.

On the other hand, would it be unbalancing to find an Orga Fury in the Slate Caverns?  I am of the opinion that an Orga Fury in the Slate Caverns would be marked as "junk," because the threat of an Orga Fury does not measure to the threat of an Albino Arachnoid.  In this setting, the Orga Fury falls on the other end of the scale.

The new monster AIs will need to have their degree of threat weighed, and then monsters running those AIs will be placed in an appropriate area for that level of risk.  In the example of monsters flanking players, it is unlikely that you will see this tactic used on Kitty Beach (although the thought of Rockodiles trying to maneuver around players makes for an amusing mental picture).  However in a place like the Orga Village where the threat level is already rather high, having some Orga try to maneuver around the players to cut off their escape makes for a new and exciting combat experience.  This tactic would not be unbalanced within such a dangerous area, so a flanking AI scales well for that hunting ground.

So yeah, no Flanking Rockodiles for Kitty Beach.  The new monster tactic AIs will need to scale into hunting areas that match the risk level of that area.

24 July 2010

23 July 2010

Smarten Up!

We have a lot of dumb monsters in Clan Lord.  I acknowledge that we do have some very clever ones too, but the majority of them are dumber than a brick.  I've been giving a little thought on making our dumb monsters a little smarter.

There are three basic monster combat AIs in Clan Lord:
  • Straight Attack, like bolok cougars.  These monsters hone straight in on players.
  • Circle Attack, like ferals.  These monsters disengage and try to flank players.
  • Flee, like starbucks.  These monsters avoid players, but defend themselves if they become cornered.
I had the idea of incorporating tactics into some of these AIs.  Some tactical concepts are:
  • Guardians: monsters would guard a specific area, like an exit, and chase away intruders
  • Retreat: monsters would fall back when injured and regroup at a location
  • Patient: monsters that would conserve balance and not swing out unless it thought that it could kill a player
  • Gang-up: also known as the surround-and-pound, multiple monsters would focus on one specific player
  • Flanking: a group of monsters would circle around and try to cut off the player's escape route
It would be cool if monsters could work together, like having the Guardian monsters distract the players long enough so that a group of Flanking monsters could move around into position.  This sure looks great on paper!  I hope that we will soon see smarter monsters that present tactical challenges to players rather than just dumb monsters running around in circles.

22 July 2010

Just Can't Get Enough

I am overtired.

Earlier today I became sidetracked while categorizing and organizing some of the new bug reports from V657, as well as closing out the confirmed bug fixes for V660.  I managed to do a third of them before taking a break.  I spent the rest of my time – just over eight hours – on developing new content.

My eyes are burning and I am exhausted.  I really need to sleep, but my mind is still racing with ideas.  I need to stop, but I just can't get enough.

21 July 2010

Welcome to V660

The 660th Chaos Storm has arrived at Puddleby.  You may read about the changes here.

I was about to log off for the evening when I noticed a problem in one of the areas: there were 1,800+ monsters there.  This, needless to say, was a problem.



I was fortunate that the ServerGM was available to do a quick debugging session and he swiftly resolved the issue.  After the bug fix, all that there was left to do was clean up the area!



Have fun exploring!

20 July 2010

Punching The Punch List

I have undertaken a new project that requires a lot of work.  After compiling the project's punch list, I am worried that I may be undertaking too much.  The list is long, and the required technologies are new which means a lot of hours spent scripting.

I love feeling excited about new content, but this excitement is tempered by the stress and anxiety of making it happen.  My ambition may exceed my ability to deliver.

Time to put my head down and punch my way through the punch list.

19 July 2010

Works In Progress

I spent a little time today doing some art for a project under development.  That's all I say, other than the Clan Lord artists who have created mobiles must have worked at Disney Studios.  I don't know how they create animated images which look so smooth.

18 July 2010

Mental Blueprints

Have you ever been focus on one thought when suddenly an unrelated thought sweeps into your mind with such vivid clarity that you actually find yourself surprised?  I had such a moment today whilst debugging a script: I had a sudden moment of insight of how to construct a new quest script.

The idea itself isn't new – it is basically an item collector script – but the approach is novel in that the script may be attached to other existing scripts to act as a filter.  An example could be a trainer – an old war veteran – who is willing to teach fighters a new fighting technique in exchange for a long sword, a wooden shield and an iron helmet.  I also had the idea for supporting groups of items, so that if a player brought items A, B and C to an NPC then the player would be offered reward D, but if the same player had items E, F, G and H then the NPC would offer rewards I and J.

The idea is still vaporware –more like a mental blueprint – but I am really excited about the concept.

17 July 2010

Meet, Greet And Seat

I wish that Clan Lord had more tools for players so that they could hold more community-driven social events.  Bard auditions are a good example of people getting together to support other members of the community.



I also wish that I could think of examples of "social events" that do not involve hunts and quests.

16 July 2010

The Quest Is In The Mail

My content for V660 has been submitted.  I have mixed feelings about my content for this update.

While I am pleased that I resolved the issues surrounding housing mannequins, I had really wanted to get some quests in for this update.  As I was writing the quests I discovered that once again what I wanted done within the quest could not be done with the scripts I was using.  I had spent some time trying to update and modify the existing scripts to support the style of quest I had in mind, but I soon realized that it would be easier if I were to simply write my own quest script from scratch.  Unfortunately for me I simply did not have the time to do that in time for the V660 deadline.

I really want more quests in Clan Lord.  I just wish that the act of scripting a quest would not become a quest.

15 July 2010

Do-It-Yourself Summer Haircuts

Today I drove the final debugging nail into the mannequin.npc coffin, or so I hope.  I believe that this script may be laid to rest and be considered Done!

I had overlooked a reported bug that described unusual mannequin behavior: one could bump a mannequin and don clothing that one should not normally be allowed to wear, such as a fighter wearing a healer's shirt.  I was able to duplicate the bug but could not understand how the bug was getting triggered.  Hours passed and I grew bald from tearing hair from my head.  How was the mannequin script allowing this to happen?

It turns out that the problem had nothing to do with the mannequin script, but it just so happened that the mechanics of the mannequin exposed the bug (when a player bumps a mannequin, then the contents of the mannequin are automatically equipped upon that player).  The problem instead lay within a remote clothing utility that manages how clothing is equipped and unequipped.  It was an amusing bug in hindsight: the utility would diligently check if a player was qualified to wear an article of clothing that was being equipped (like a fighter attempting to wear a healer's shirt), and if the player was unqualified to wear it, then the utility would order – nay, it would demand! – the player to re-equip the last article of clothing worn.  However the utility was not confirming that the last article of clothing worn was still in that player's inventory!  And because the last clothing worn was now resting on the mannequin, then it was impossible to equip it – so we are left wearing the article of clothing that we should not be able to wear.

All that to say that the bug case is now resolved and closed, and I now have less hair on my head.

14 July 2010

Soon!

When referring to projects and bug fixes, one of the common GM-isms is "It's On The List."  Roughly translated, this means that there are plans to develop/address the project in question.  This is not to be confused with "Soon!" which means development on the project has commenced.  The ultimate goal is to get the project moved onto the "Done!" list, which means that it has been implemented within the game.

I have a very long list of projects that are On The List, and a longer list of projects that will be completed sometime Soon.  My current method of time management – which is to nibble away at multiple projects at once – has met with mixed results; some of the smaller projects get Done while other larger, complicated projects seem no closer to being completed anytime Soon.

To paraphrase Skirwan, I have more projects than time.  Dividing my time evenly amongst my projects has not been an efficient method of managing my time.  I can say this now because after working exclusively on the mannequin.npc script, I found that devoting all of my attention to one singular project worked got the project moved from Soon to Done.

The lesson learned: focus on one thing, and it gets Done faster.  I hope to apply this method of time management to my other projects so that they will get moved from On The List to Done.

"Soon!"

13 July 2010

Fa Fa Fa Fa Fashion


You equip your shirt named “test”, which is in nearly perfect condition.
You equip your cloak named “cloak of testing”, which is in very good condition.
Not only do mannequins remember /name'd clothing, but they now also correctly display belt colors, and the colors of the mannequin NPCs are no longer transparent.  Three bugs fixed; three bug cases closed.

There are no words to describe just how happy I feel right now.

Well, maybe there are.

12 July 2010

109

Team Fortress 2 tracks the number of hours that one spends playing the game.  So far I have logged 109 hours on Team Fortress 2.  109 hours.  Two and a half work weeks.

In other news, I have spent 109 hours not developing content for Clan Lord.  I wonder if TF2 had an achievement for that!

11 July 2010

Won't You Please, Please Help Me

The mannequin script continues to torment me.  I opted to throw away my changes and start over.  I benefited from this decision, as the script has been updated since I started working upon it.  I am now able to incorporate my changes to a more efficient version of the script.

I spent very little time working on the mannequin script today, as a good portion of my day was spent meeting with one of the CL Helpers.  Together we power-debugged one of the scripts for a new area, and I found the experience sufficiently humbling:
Helper: I want the script to perform a specific task.
Me: I have an idea on how we should handle that.
We try my idea and it does not work.
Helper: How about if we try it my way?
Me: Let's try to debug my way first.
We try debugging and continue to experience problems.
Helper: I think my way will work.
Me: Okay.  Let's try it.
The Helper adds one line of code and the script works flawlessly.
Moreover, the Helper's solution was a method that I would never have thought of doing.  It was simple, straightforward and elegant.  If I continue to experience problems with the mannequin script, then perhaps I should ask the Helper for help!

10 July 2010

Splash Screens

Clan Lord is in desperate need of a new splash screen.  The current one is five years out of date.

I thought that it might be fun to do a short series of new splash screens that show old areas that are no longer used (like the Castle's Mirror Room), old areas that were developed but never used (Puddleby Sewers), and perhaps include some previews of areas in development.

Asides from needing to submit one new splash screen for each update, there is also the issue that players would need to download every new splash screen as they are updated.  They're not small – around 400k in size – and I am mindful that some players are using dial-up modems.

The simplest option is to update the copyright information on the current splash screen and stick with that, but if we were to do that then we would never see charming Glacier Town, built circa V212.



I would like an updated splash screen for V660.  This is update week, so content is due Friday.  That does not give me a lot of time.

09 July 2010

Procrastinationcomplete!

I had intended to spend this evening debugging the mannequin script.  Instead I spent four hours hanging around the Fairgrounds and chatted about music, red onions, boobies, clothing, and the Clan Lord community.

In short, I completely procrastinated.



While I did not spend any time debugging, I still feel that my evening was well spent.  Thanks to everyone for stopping by and keeping me company.

08 July 2010

The Man With The Golden Harm

Today, while I was diligently looking for bugs – or for something that may be a bug – I missed a golden opportunity.



Instead of unlocking the Golden Wrench in Team Fortress 2, I spent my day repeatedly jumping around in the healer's animal pen, willfully allowing myself to be mauled by Lyfelidae.  I suppose that it could have been worse.  I could have unwillingly allowed myself to be mauled by spies!

07 July 2010

Mannequin? I Hope I Can.

Work continues on the mannequin script.  I had it working earlier without errors, but I changed something – I can't remember what it was that I changed – and now I am getting color errors that do not make sense.  The server is logging "these colors are bad," but the colors are perfect and exact.  Why would the server tell me that the colors are bad when they are good?

I also noticed that some mannequins have weird colors in specific areas.  Closer examination revealed that some of the mannequin colors are actually transparent (just like Skirwan's cloak, or Slarty's head), and what we're really seeing are the colors of the ground.  I tried changing the colors of the mannequin but the colors were not taking correctly.

Huh.  I wonder if my changing the default  colors of the mannequin is somehow related to the color errors that are currently logged on the server?  This is a case where the color of the mannequin should be completely separate and unrelated from that of the colors of the displayed clothing, but I have learned that data within Clan Lord are often linked to each other in unexpected ways.

So work continues, as does the debugging.  Once I recover from my small gaffe, I can move on and give some thought on how I am going to display belt colors on the mannequin.

06 July 2010

Am I Blue

All is right with the world.  Signposts and mirrors and coliseum listings are once again correctly displaying their blue action boxes.

It turned out that my suspicion was correct: the problems with the action box displays were related, and after a lot of trial-and-error testing I was able to locate and fix the problem.  There was a slight delay for the bug patch to get applied as I had to wait for a GM who had the authority to apply a hot-fix.



While it is good to see the mirror's blue action box message once again, it only reminds me that I still do not have mirror access!  It's almost enough to make me blue.

05 July 2010

/Bugger

I have said in the past that "Monday is Bugday."  I really should have said "Monday is Debugday," as I have traditionally spent my Mondays debugging.

This Monday, I discovered bugs, making it closer to a Bugday than a Debugday.



Normally when one bumps the mirror – and one does not have access to the mirror – then one receives some form of feedback (a blue action box displaying the words "The mirror seems impassable").  As pictured, I did not receive that feedback.  Why is that?  What changed?  There have been no changes to the mirror script since V648, so the change must be elsewhere.  Out of curiosity, I tried to create a sign:



And when I tried to read the sign (which should have displayed the words "This is a test"):



Nothing.  I got nothing.  Now I am left to wonder if these are part of the same bug, or – like my huntmaster bug – there are two separate bugs that seem related.

Bugger.

04 July 2010

4th Of July.

If you celebrate Independence Day, then I hope that you found it relaxing and enjoyable.  I'll be BAK tomorrow.

03 July 2010

Changing The World

It was on this day, July 3rd 2007, that Yappy entered Puddleby as a Helper.



It certainly does not feel like three years have passed since I was granted a back stage pass to Clan Lord.  During my time as a Helper, I asked a lot of questions and I made some mistakes.  During my time as a GM, I have asked a lot of questions and I made some mistakes.  I suppose that I should be pleased that I have remained consistent!

Upon reflection, I feel that I was unprepared for the amount of knowledge that is required for Clan Lord development.  I recall feeling very overwhelmed and feeling very much that I had made a gross error in judgment in accepting GMship.  I admit that I was lured by the dream of "if I were a GM, then I would change the world," and I quickly realized just how much work – real work – is required to change just one element of the Clan Lord world.  For example, the mannequin bug on which I am currently working requires knowledge of how housing works, how color works, how clothing works, how naming items work and how player data management works.  Add to this some special exceptions (belts are wearable like clothing but can not be dyed, therefore they have their own special set of rules), and pretty soon ten hours of work is spent just learning about the mannequin – ten hours to change one small detail of the world.

Three years later, I find that my lofty ambitions have been tempered.  Somewhere along the way I had abandoned my aggressive goal to change the Clan Lord world.  I am but one man, and changing the world is not a one-man task.  Instead of changing the world, I settled my focus on repairing bugs, reasoning if I can't change the world, then I can – at the very least – eliminate some of its problems, one bug-fix at a time.

And in doing so, I find that I have changed the world.