28 February 2010

Bugs, Features and Opinions

A portion of my day was spent reading the bug logs and fixing bugs.

I find it gratifying to close out bug cases: fixing a bug means that there is one less thing wrong with Clan Lord.  One of the bugs that I fixed wasn't even in the bug log: a Sentinel reader had lamented over the hues used for white shoes and white hair, and I was pleased to address both of his concerns.  I even expanded the shoe store and threw in some new shoes colors for V642.

Many of the bugs that I fixed today were the simple "two minute" fixes.  Some of the bugs were masking problems, some bugs reported misaligned images, and some bugs were fixed in previous updates but the cases were never closed (I like those fixes).  And some bugs were labeled as suggestions which required a little more scripting work.  For example: the hunting preserve to the south of town is accessible only by newer exiles.  What happens when a new exile falls in there and there are no other new exiles to rescue the fallen in this area?  The fallen either waits for a rescue from someone able to enter these areas, or departs.  I have added a new option for V642: time.  Beginning next update, after a certain amount of time, fallens will teleport from the hunting preserve to a location where they may be rescued by non-newbie characters.

One of the things that I want to address is making Clan Lord more fun.  Falling in a hard-to-access area is, in my opinion, not fun.  As only young exiles can access this area, I feel that the overall new exile experience should be better than being trapped and fallen behind a locked gate.  I am moving forward with my project of improving the experience for new players, and this is one small improvement.  I would like to think that many small improvements make for a better game.

27 February 2010

while ( frivolousItem == true ) experience++;

I spent a large portion of the day developing two new scripts.  One script is to support a new (and rather frivolous) item.  The other script is to support a new (and even more frivolous) item.  Both items will play roles within a new quest.

These scripts are doing more than just increasing the total file count, or increasing the in-game count of green token-like items destined to fill Junko's yard: these scripts are giving me scripting experience.  The more often that I write, then the more I understand the format and structure of Socks.  Just earlier this week I had an idea for an NPC support script and I was able to write it with a minimum of copying-and-pasting from other existing code.  It was a small utility script for the game and a large personal achievement for myself.

And sometimes it's fun to have new items, regardless of their frivolity.

26 February 2010


I'll give it one last run-through before dragging the NPCs into place.

It turns out that the reward NPC for the new quest is not delegating the rewards properly.  I've tried changing the format of how the reward is bestowed, but it's a graceless, kludgey fix and I'm very unsatisfied with it.  I may need to review the reward script, but I suspect it's just the way that I'm (mis)using it.

So, that's a YAPPYFAIL for getting this quest in and running on this update.  My goal is now to get this quest – plus another new quest – ready for V642.

25 February 2010

Lottery Numbers

NewMan had this to say on the Sentinel:
Perhaps someone could finish/open the tunnel under town where the builder has been waiting for permits for something approaching 2 ooc years.
And from our "What's New" page:
  • The Puddleby Zoning Board has reviewed and approved permits for several shovel-ready construction projects.
NewMan has been looking into his crystal ball.  Since he has an apparent ability to look into the future, then perhaps he could tell a number from 0000 to 9999.

24 February 2010

Plus One

It's looking very good for V639 having one more quest.

This came about in a rather silly fashion: one of the background images that I submitted was assigned to the wrong image plane.  This meant that players would have been walking under some flagstone tiles instead of over them.  Whoops!

While this cosmetic repair was being made, I used the time to make another attempt at repairing the scripts for the new quest.  It turns out that the problem was with the way that I was structuring the speech filters (the "does the player have this, and if so, then say that" kind of stuff).  After a little spit-polishing, I think that the new quest scripts are ready for public consumption!

I'll give it one last run-through before dragging the NPCs into place.

23 February 2010


I was so convinced that I could write a quick, bug-free quest.  This evening I was humbled.

One of the supporting quest scripts is very robust, thus also very complicated.  The quest works well right up to the point where this support script becomes involved.  Then nothing happens.  That's bad; we want the big reward is to happen, not nothing!  I will need to review some other scripts that call this quest script for reference.  I'm convinced that I am using the script correctly, and I don't understand why it's not working.

I still have tomorrow to review the script.  I'd love to slide the quest in for V639, but I won't do it if it's buggy, and especially if there's no reward!

22 February 2010

PAX East

Is anyone other than myself attending PAX East?

I'll be there primarily to see the GET LAMP documentary, but since I was buying a ticket for one day, I decided to spend the few extra bucks and get the three day pass.  I don't know what the event schedule is like (I'm not even sure that the organizers know what the schedule is like), so I don't really know if I'll be hanging around for the entire weekend.

This will be my first gaming industry trade show.  I don't know what to expect.  If it's anything like Magic: the Gathering tournaments, then I can expect three days of that "musty gym locker" aroma.

Just sayin'.

21 February 2010

Sometimes Cheaters Prosper

I had an idea for sliding in a quest after the V639 deadline.  Each GM is responsible for submitting content (areas, NPCs, monsters, images, so forth) by Friday's deadline, but GMs may submit scripts right up until the Chaos Storm.

On Friday I submitted some NPCs and attached some placeholder files to each.  This gave me a couple of extra days to work on the script files and submit them to our file repository before the update.  I did a little work on them this evening and will debug them before Wednesday.

And if all goes well, then one more quest will be added to Clan Lord.  Sometimes everyone prospers from a little cheating.

20 February 2010

Day Off

I did nothing today, and it felt great.  Update weeks drain me and it was relaxing to spend the day away from Clan Lord.

I'm still giving some thought to my NPC AI.  Another thing that I want NPCs to do is recognize and react when a player stops bumping them.  Some NPCs already do this: when an NPC offers a service and the player steps away, then NPC will say something like "please come back if you change your mind."  I think that it would be useful to fold this analysis into the AI routines.

Even on my day off I'm still thinking about Clan Lord.

19 February 2010


...is down to the wire.

I may be able to get all of my content in: areas and quests!  I'm putting the finishing touches on my areas now, and I have an idea on getting the quest submitted post-deadline.

I may have to cheat a little.  Don't tell anyone that I'm cheating.

18 February 2010

Clan Lord is a Game of Choices

I am trying to get a new quest in for V639, but I also want to get a couple of new areas in for the update.  The areas will be easy to do but they will be time consuming; the quest will require a lot of work, and it too will be time consuming.

I'm gunning to do both, but I think one will need to wait an update.  This is the part of the game that I dislike: I will need to decide what gets placed onto the back burner until V642.

Twenty eight hours until the V639 deadline.  Tick tock.

17 February 2010


One of the awesome features of Clan Lord design is that if a function does not exist, then we have tools to create the needed functions.

For example: the most popular script that runs NPC speech is both very powerful and very flexible. The script grew in power as GMs added functionality to the script.  In the early days, the NPC would talk to players only when they were bumped.  Today the player does not need to bump all NPCs to hear their speech; some NPCs talk as players approach the NPC.

This script does a lot, but it doesn't support a function that I want NPCs to have: I want NPCs to analyze the movement of the player and respond to the player's movement state.  This is different from how NPCs currently behave; NPCs have a prepared speech which they repeat the speech while players bump the NPC (or while players are within listening range).  I don't want NPCs to talk if the player is in listening range, but instead I want NPCs to react to how the player is moving.  For example:

As I pass by the NPC, the NPC notices my presence and analyzes that I am in "sight state" and the NPC begins speaking it's "players in sight" text.

As I come closer, the NPC analyzes my movement and realizes that I have gone from "sight state" to "approach state," and begins speaking the text prepared for "approaching players."

While I bump the NPC, the NPC analyzes that I have passed from "approach state" to "contact state," and speaks its text for players in contact.

As I walk away, then the NPC analyzes that I have moved from "contact state" to "departure state," and speaks its departure text.

NPCs would also be able to analyze players who move to "return state" (players who are in departure state but then turn around and move into approach state), and players who move from return state to contact state (I don't yet have a name for this state).

My caveat is that the pictured NPC is not running a script; these are staged images for how these script would function in action.  As of now, this is all vaporware, but because we have some powerful, flexible tools at hand, we can turn vaporware into awesomeware.

16 February 2010

Post Scriptum

I had so much fun with the Wild Tuesday that I completely forgot to visit here!

I knew that I was overtired and it was time for me to stop when I tried to extend the Mirror Steeple Chase.  I placed the new steeple mirrors in locations that were accessible without having to go through the earlier mirrors in the chase – essentially I was creating short cuts to the goal.  Oops!  Regardless of that, I think that the players got a kick from seeing the old Mirror Room again, as well as the Desert and Cold and Snowy.  These areas used to be fantastically challenging, and it was very telling of the player's strength to watch them tear through these areas like the rat towers.

The experience was still a lot of fun.  All of the server admin work was completed in record time.  We could have ended the Wild Tuesday early, but since everyone was having so much fun, we just kept going Wild.

15 February 2010


One of the new scripts that I had authored suddenly and decidedly ceased working on my test server yesterday afternoon.  The remainder of Sunday was spent bug hunting for the cause of the problem which, I am relived to report, was resolved – but only after hours of debugging and re-debugging.

I typically enjoy debugging but yesterday's experience was frustrating.  I have no idea what I did that caused the initial failure, but I am grateful that the problem occurred while I was still in control of the script.  When a script breaks on the live server, well, that typically means three weeks of shame-time shared with a broken script.

I have a couple of other scripts that need committing this evening before the the file depository gets closed for the move.  I won't jinx myself by wishing for a drama-free evening.

14 February 2010

We're Moving

Eldon made an announcement today that the CL server is moving.  I knew about this move, but I hadn't realized that it was going to be so soon!

What this means for me is that I need to get my scripts checked into the old server so that they'll be present when all content gets moved to the new server.  I spent today doodling around on some new areas, but now I need to put those areas on the back burner for a couple of days and get my absolutely-need-to-be-done-for-V639 scripts in before Tuesday.  By my calendar, that's two days away.

And here I was thinking that I was ahead of schedule!  I jinxed myself yesterday by boasting how so under control my projects were for V639.

13 February 2010

Busy, Busy

The last two days simply flew by.

I've been working on some new areas, and while doing this work I had a sudden idea for a frivolous support script.  I wrote this script from scratch, and I'm very pleased with the result.  I'm also pleased with the creativity of this script; I'm growing more comfortable with developing and expressing new scripting concepts.  I will admit that the script is pretty fragile – there's not a lot of error checking, so the script is placing a lot of trust into the hands of the individual calling the script – but I suspect that I'll be the only one using it for the time being.  We can always bulletproof the script some time after it's been shot a couple of times, right?

I have some lofty goals for update V639, and I'm now one step closer to this goal: I cross off an area and a puzzle from my TO DO list, and place both on my DONE FOR V639 list.  How satisfying!

The V639 deadline is now six days away.  I'm feeling pretty good about having a lot of content for this update.  It'll be interesting to see how I feel on Friday.

12 February 2010

World of Clancraft

Activision and Blizzard recently had its 4Q Conference Call, which was summarized on Inc Gamers:
Much talk about WoW:Cat. Reworking all the early areas to bring them up to the quality of the later areas. New players who make it past level 10 are very likely to subscribe, while only 30% of all trials players do so. So they want to make the earlier stuff better to suck you in.
This really strikes a chord.  There's been quite a couple of discussions on improving CL's new player experience (CL's Calling Card, Have Fresh Off Boat Exiles Start With A Sunpebble, and Newbie quests), and I agree: the initial Clan Lord experience can be improved.  It is certainly on my list of projects to tackle.

It would be wonderful if we were able to retain 30% of the people who try Clan Lord.  We don't need fancy graphics to experience fun in Puddleby!  We do, however, need an experience that is fun.  And there's always room for more fun in Puddleby.

11 February 2010

Redaction Action

Today was spent undertaking a project that I had not planned on undertaking: I updated the image list for the Helpers.

Helpers get a "lite" version of the world editor, and it includes pretty much nothing.  It doesn't even include instructions!  Helpers may view the CL image file, but the images are unlabeled.  This is a problem in that if I were to ask a helper "please create a forest area, using only pine trees" then the helper would need to sort through images manually/visually and note which images are pine trees.  This is a massive waste of time and resources.

The full version of the editor includes tags for each image, but some of the information needs to remain private.  I spent the afternoon going through the list line by line – 4,741 lines to be precise – and redacted any information that could be considered as private or as a spoiler.

It was a good use of time, and it really needed to be done.  The last update to this list was 2005.

10 February 2010

Divido Dies

I had an idea for a silly quest.  As with most of my ideas, I needed to customize a script to ride the quest.  This script that I wrote was done mostly from scratch with a lot of referencing to other scripts.

It's not done, but it should be completed by tomorrow. Writing this script was a fun way to spend the afternoon.  Then comes the worst part: testing it.  Not that testing is bad, mind you; it's just that it's very time intensive, and since I'm pretty sure that I didn't write this script correctly in one pass, I can predict that a small portion of tomorrow will be spent finishing the script, and the remaining portion of tomorrow will be spent debugging the script.

You've heard of the phrase Capre Diem: Seize the Day?  In Clan Lord, the phrase is Divido Dies: Divide the Day.

09 February 2010


Mostly done.  Just a couple of little things left to do.  Like populating every room with furniture.

08 February 2010

Welcome to Clan Lord

I've been giving some thought to the overall newbie experience.  This is another area that needs attention, and it is high on my to do list.

One of the things requiring attention is variety of low level monsters coupled with local hunting grounds.  The rats towers are a fine introduction to simple solo hunting, but the towers are rather dull, and I'm not a fan of rank grinding.  A couple of easy hunting areas will offer some variety, but it's not the sole solution.

New players could use some activities and some goals.  I think that a couple of quests for low level players within the safety of town would be a welcomed addition, allowing the players to familiarize themselves with town and services.  New players will find such quests helpful, and old players with new characters will find the quests fun (I would hope).

The hardest part of a MMOG is getting players to group together for hunts.  As I've mentioned before, game designers can't force people to play together.  Some players just want to solo hunt, and that's fine, but Clan Lord's goal is (was?) to be more of a social game and encourage people to cooperate together.  As the playing population shrinks, this game model becomes increasingly challenging to support.  Is it time to branch out and support the solo experience, and is this a game model – or game tone – that we want to introduce and instill in to new players?

I have to shake my head in amusement for giving thought to "the new player experience" of a game that's eleven years old.  I'd like to think that it's still a timely topic.

07 February 2010

Dances with NPCs

I saw the movie Avatar today.  I enjoyed it well enough, but I enjoyed it more the first time when I saw it under the title Dances with Wolves.  I wish that James Cameron's new film technology had a new story to go with it.

Thinking about Cameron's fancy digital movie technology lead me to think about storytelling technologies in Clan Lord.  I had mentioned earlier that I was designing a new script; I am moving forward with this storytelling tool in earnest.  I believe that it would be a great improvement to the game, and I could certainly make use of it.  The current NPC system works well enough, and I've managed to rig it so that there appears to be a little interaction between NPCs, but I'm not entirely satisfied with it.

It is my hope to get a bare-bones version of the storytelling tool up and running for V639.  Bells and whistles and shiny polish can follow on subsequent updates.  Then Puddleby may meet their own version of Neytiri – I mean Stands With A Fist.

06 February 2010


Please /bug any problems and comments that you have about these items.

There have been a couple of initial problems that should have been smoothed over (thank you, Eldon!), and an oversight on my part kept Lucy silent on some important information (Cami'lyne covers this information for the remainder of V636).

05 February 2010

Just Do It

One of the classes that is in need of attention is the healer.  Healers need a boost.  Part of the problem is giving a boost that is not abusable.

There have been some great suggestions for the healer, but my first question isn't "how hard is this to implement," but instead I ask "how can this be abused?"  For example, a very simple suggestion was to increase the frequency and increase the bonus for "learn from healing" message received when raising a fallen.  This would be very simple to adjust, but how do we address impact?  We would normally assume that the healer would make an effort to heal an exile and keep the exile healthy, but if there was a frequent and sizable reward for healing fallens, then what's the motivation for keeping said exile healthy?  How do we differentiate between an exile's accidental fall from a deliberate fall?  What is the risk for abuse?

I also feel that healers should receive higher experience for participating on honest hunts.  This is experience beyond that received from shares.  How do we define "honest hunts," and how to we differentiate them from "a slave healer parked in a safe area?"

I'm giving this some thought.  It's just not as easy as "just do it."

04 February 2010

The Pleasure of Progress

Today was a productive day: I managed to get a new script working as intended.

I started this script a while ago, but it was so plagued with bugs that it often failed to compile.  I tried an old approach for resolving problems: I threw out the broken script and started again from scratch.  This time around the script worked fine.

Not only was it pleasurable to get an old broken script up and running, it was doubly pleasurable to cross off a task from my "to do" list.  Although this script is unimportant – in fact it could be considered boarding frivolous – it is still an achievement and it is still progress.  And progress is always pleasurable.

03 February 2010

Paths in YappyLord

I have one last comment on character classes in YappyLord and then I'll stop.

Staying with the Clan Lord character class model, a character would develop core skills within the class.  Players who train skills that keep their balance within the white triangle are considered well-rounded, having no real strengths or weaknesses.

If our character began training Earth-heavy skills, then the character's balance would begin shifting towards Earth, moving away from Moon and Sun-based skills.

A character crossing over into the red triangle would be considered an Earth-specialist, the equivalent of a subclass in Clan Lord.

The character's Earth skills would be strong, and her Sun and Moon skills would be weak. At a later time in the character's career, she could choose to develop her Sun skills, and slowly shift the balance of her training towards the yellow triangle.

I envision the game engine automatically calculating what type of character you had based on your training: if you had a lot of spirit skills studied, then you would be weighted towards the Moon.  There would be an NPC around similar to Kretski (found in Puddleby's fighter hall) to analyze your training for you.

No real point to this entry, other than the pretty triangles that I drew.  I wanted to see a visual representation of this idea.  Thanks for indulging me.  We now return you to our regularly scheduled Clan Lord blog.

02 February 2010

Subclasses in YappyLord

Continuing my thoughts from yesterday, I had some other ideas on how I would handle classes and subclasses in YappyLord.

Instead of having subclasses, I think that I would have "paths" for each class.  Each path would be related to the sun, the earth or the moon.  All paths are open to a class, but the further one walks down a path, then the weaker becomes in skills of other paths.

An example: suppose we have a healer who has three paths available: the path of the sun, the path of the moon, and the path of the earth.  Our healer decides to walk along the path of the Earth, and gains benefits from its studies.  Our healer grows physically, becoming quite a skilled combatant and being able to withstand a great amount of damage (does anyone remember Jackie?), but our healer's skills slowly diminish in the realms of Moon and Sun skills.  At a later point in time, our Earth-strong healer could change paths and begin exploring Moon skills.  As the healer grows in Moon skills, the healer's Earth skills slowly diminish, and the Sun skills diminish further due to neglect.

One of the features that I don't like about subclasses is that once you make a choice, then you're stuck with it (unless you meta-game your way out of the class, which is a entirely different topic for discussion).  One of the GMs explained subclasses this way: it lessens a player's choice.  I didn't understand what he meant, but the more that I thought about it, the more I've come around to understand this point: if we were to combine all of the fighter subclass trainers and make them available to all fighters, then – asides from that being pretty cool! – allows a fighter to have many, many training choices.  As the system stands now, when a fighter chooses a subclass, then only one third of these subclass trainers become available to the fighter.

YappyLord would allow one class, like the healer, to branch out a little and specialize in a path, but at the cost of skills from the other paths.  Maybe I would go one step further and eliminate classes all together, and, using the above model, just allow players to train as they wish.  A player that studies fighting becomes a lousy healer/mystic.

I'm deep into SACWAG territory now, but isn't that what YappyLord is all about?

01 February 2010


No one has asked me, but if I were to make YappyLord (or Clan Lord 2.0), then this is what I would do:

  • Combat interface.  Collide into a monster to swing at it.  It's very simple and I love simplicity.
  • NPC interface.  Another elegant system of interaction.  Just bump into an NPC and it automatically begins speaking to you.  Perfect.
  • Speech bubbles. It's probably the finest feature of the game, and it really sets the cartoonish tone.
  • Client applications.  YappyLord would run from a web browser plug-in, just like QuakeLive.
  • Spawns in purgatory.  I just hate them.
  • Purgatory pendants.  If there's no spawns in purgatory, then there's no fallens to rescue in purgatory.  Therefore there's no need for healers to travel to purgatory.
  • The graphics.  I'd keep the same overhead view, but instead it would be in glorious 3D.  I would also keep the cartoony feel by cel shading everything.
  • The experience system. It needs to scale better and be broader in its service. If you're out on a hunt with a group of people, then you should be rewarded for this activity, regardless on your slaughter level and shares.
  • Classes.  There's a gross unbalance of the current class structure and, in my opinion, the entire system needs an overhaul.  In YappyLord, Mystics would be feared, and Healers would be revered.
My ulterior motivation for YappyLord is to stay home all day and get paid for playing an online game!  That would look pretty sharp on my resumĂ©.