30 April 2010

Please Leave Your Name at the Beep

I'm briefly checking in to say that I'm still AFK.  Other than that I haven't anything exciting to discuss.

29 April 2010

Way, Way AFK

RL is carrying me away from CL for a little while.  I was gone today and will be gone through Sunday.

I'm planning in my mind what needs to get done for V651.  I have three new quests – no wait – five new quests on the drawing board which I wish to complete for the next update.  It's a lofty goal and I may struggle, but I'm going to try.

28 April 2010

V648 Is Live!

The news is listed here.  Have fun exploring!

27 April 2010

When You Have Eliminated the Impossible...

Sometimes I amuse myself.

I added an option to one of the NPC scripts and submitted some NPCs that utilized this option a couple of updates ago.  I recently noticed that the option was not working properly within game which puzzled me because it worked perfectly during testing.  This evening I spent almost 30 minutes debugging the code, looking for a reason as to why the option was not triggering within the game.  My frustration increased with each reading and rereading the script: the script was perfect.  Why was it misbehaving on the live server?

And finally, I realized the answer to the problem.  I never submitted my script changes to the server.

Oh brother.

26 April 2010

The Benefits of Participation

Something that's been on my mind for the past couple of days.  When does participation within a quest stop being fun, or a lack of participation within a quest become challenging?

Suppose that there is a quest for a key to unlock a treasure chest filled with assorted desirable rewards.  The quest is open to and accessible by everyone.  Here are five variations of the same quest.  In all examples both the key and chest vanish after accessing the rewards.
  • The first quest is to unlock the unguarded chest with a key.  The key may be freely obtained from an NPC.  Anyone in possession of the key may unlock the chest.
  • The second quest is to unlock the unguarded chest with a key.  The key must be created by an NPC, and the player supplies the raw materials.  Anyone in possession of the key may unlock the chest.
  • The third quest is to unlock the unguarded magic chest with a custom-made magic key.  The key is made by an NPC, but it is customized to the player providing the supplies.  Only the person for whom the key was made may open the chest.
  • The fourth quest is to find the hidden magic chest and unlock it with the customized magic key.  In addition to the customized magic key, the player requires a magic compass to find the chest.  The compass may be created by an NPC in exchange for raw materials, and the compass will point to the chest only when a magic key is held in the other hand.  The compass is not customized to the player who supplied the materials, so it may be shared with other players (but will only work for a player when they hold their customized magic key).
  • The fifth quest involves all of the elements of the fourth quest, but the player also needs magical fire-proof gloves because the chest is covered in magical flames.  These flames kill anyone touching the chest not wearing the magic gloves.  Anyone may wear these gloves, but they are destroyed when the player bearing the magic key unlocks the chest.
In the listed examples, the requirements for participation gradually increase.  The first quest has almost no participation requirement (possession of the key is the only requirement to complete the quest), while participation for the last quest is involved-with-a-capital-I.  Assume for a moment that the value of the rewards for each quest were all equal.  Which quest would you prefer to do?

My feeling is that if a player is going to benefit from a quest, then that player should have reasonable participation within the quest.  The activity should be fun and challenging so that accomplishing the goal is rewarding.  In the first quest, any player could pick up the key at the auction house and use the key to claim the reward.  This could be fun, but it is not especially challenging.  The fifth quest is very involved and could be very challenging, but is it fun to jump through so many forced-participation-and-high-requirement hoops?

The answer isn't clear.  Each player has their own barometer for what is fun, challenging and rewarding.

25 April 2010

Mentus Not Included

Today was spent polishing and re-polishing my "parting words" code.

The addition of this code is borderline frivolous, and I doubt that it will see a lot of usage.  I had a specific use in mind, but after some reflection, I'm not sure that I can use it the way that I had envisioned.  The script that powers NPC speech would require much finer control over what the NPC says – and when it says it.  For example: the standard greeting for NPCs is "Greetings, Your_name_here."  The NPC will then say its text, and when it runs out of things to say, it starts from the beginning by saying "Greetings, Your_name_here."  I want a way for NPCs to recognize "oh, I've already said hello to Yappy, so I don't need to repeat that part."  Furthermore, with this new parting words function, if the NPC's parting words are "And remember: tell no one of this matter!", then these words make no sense if the player moves away from the NPC just after being greeted.  The NPC isn't clever enough to realize "oh, Yappy didn't listen long enough for me to tell him about this secretive matter, so I shouldn't be saying that as he walks away."  I want more control over how NPCs speak to players.  A really cool technology would be an NPC never having to say "stop me if you've heard this one before..." because it would remember what it has told you.

Writing this short bit of code has given me a better understanding of how NPCs process their chunks of speech.  I feel that I this exercise has moved me closer to enabling NPCs To Talk To Each Other.  I just hope that they're smart about it – and I hope that I'm smart about making them smart.

24 April 2010

Doctor Jekyll and Mister Yap

I realized today that I have a split personality.

My normal, non-Clan Lord persona is one of an optimist, living by Yappy's Maxim.  I recently experienced a RL flood in my apartment building: a pipe on an upper floor broke and water seeped through all of the tenant's apartments and triggered the fire alarm.  As the local fire department checked the apartments for damages, one of my neighbors complained about the inconvenience and hassle of having the fire department present.  I spoke Yappy's Maxim: "if this is as bad as our day gets, then we're having a pretty good day."  I added that if our building's fire alarm is going to trigger, then I would much rather have the fire department present looking for water rather than looking for fire.

However, when it comes to Clan Lord scripts and design, I had an epiphany that I am – at heart – a pessimistic curmudgeon.  I don't look at an area or an item or a script and think of how awesome it is, but instead I find myself thinking "how can this be abused?  How can this break?  How can this be exploited?  What's wrong with it?"  This realization came to me while reviewing my code for parting words: while the functionality of the code was fine, it wasn't very efficient in the way that it handled itself (it would reinitialize itself every time the function was called instead of initializing itself once).  Addressing this problem is high on this weekend's fix-it list.

Another example of my pessimism surfaced during a discussion of libraries outside of town.  My initial reaction was not "oh cool, a library far from town!" but was instead "not cool – why would we want a library so far from town?"  I hold the opinion that, because Clan Lord's population is small, I see no benefit from dividing an-already-small population by placing libraries on nearby islands.  The libraries of Puddleby keep players returning to town, and if we were to decentralize the logoff-for-experience locations, then I feel that our diminishing community would ultimately suffer from such design.

I admit that I am a little nonplussed by this self-discovery.  How can one with such a positive attitude in life have such a negative approach to game design?  I wonder what Robert Louis Stevenson would have to say about Mister Yap!

23 April 2010

V648 Is Done.

Whew.  I submitted exactly 100 areas for the V648 update.  One hundred areas.  Wow.

Granted that many of the areas are bug fixes.  Some of the fixes are really minor (like the slightly shifted tiling in the auction house) and some fixes address problems a little more serious (like the "trampoline bridge" in the wetlands).  It feels great getting all of these problems resolved.  I still have some scripts to touch, but I can nudge those over the weekend.

I think for V651, I'm going to work exclusively on quests.  I feel that I'm falling behind in getting them implemented.

22 April 2010

Brain Jelly

I think that I've done as much as I am going to do for the V648 update.  I've spent some time this evening on touching up some areas, but I find myself struggling to concentrate on Clan Lord.

Once my V648 content has been submitted, I think I'll spend a day or two outside and enjoy the spring weather.  I need to recharge my creativity as well as my mind.

21 April 2010

Activities > Tasks

This week has been a busy week for me, and Real Life continues to interupt my CL development.  The deadline for V648 content is Friday evening, which leaves me with Thursday and Friday to squeeze in some finishing touches on areas, items and scripts.

Yesterday I discussed Quests and Tasks; I've since felt that the word "Task" has a connotation of undertaking an unpleasant grind; I think that the word "Activities" is lighter and more appropriate.  I found a nice, little-used script that is perfect for supporting collection Activities.  I just need to expand it a little to support some new ideas.  I hope to have this script ready and tested for V648.

20 April 2010

Quests and Tasks

I've been giving a little thought to Tasks, which are simplified versions of Quests.

I view a quest as something epic in proportion (FMOCR), while tasks are something much smaller in scale.  For example an NPC could say "I'm looking to collect 5 pinches of catsbane" or "I am collecting different types of fish."  These types of goal do not require an army of exiles to achieve and, depending on the task, could be performed by an individual in a short amount of time.  I envision tasks as repeatable and open-ended, so when one chains a butterfly corpse to the butterfly collector, then one will be able to repeat this task as often as one wishes.

When I come out of the library, I'm looking for is something to do.  I hope that tasks will be a fun activity to perform while waiting for a real hunt to begin.

19 April 2010

Parting Words

I have taken one step forward towards Awesomeware.

After reviewing sayinitstring (which is the primary "make-an-NPC-speak" script), I added a small section of code which now enables an NPC to react when it is no longer bumped.

As illustrated in this example, the NPC will sing (and rather badly, I might add) while it remains bumped, but when the listener moves away – breaking contact with the NPC...

...the NPC will then speak some "parting words." There is still a lot of work to do on this concept, but it's a good start.

18 April 2010

One Quest Down...

Finally!  The quest that I have been struggling to implement is in for V648.  What a relief.

While implementing it, I realized that there could be other possibilities when trying to solve the quest, so I am polishing the script of one of the hint-givers to offer more clues and direction.  I feel that feedback is important, even if the feedback is "you're getting colder."  Other than this, the quest is working as intended – special rewards and all.

I also closed out layout/design bug of one of the areas (not really a bug, but the design was a little odd), and I created new (albeit silly) area.  Tomorrow I plan to work on another quest.  We'll see how far I get with it.

I now enter update week and I'm feeling really good about V648 (and yes, I remember what happened last time I said that).  I've made a back-up of my submission materials just in case something goes terribly, terribly wrong.

17 April 2010

Today's A Day of AFK

I'll be out in the Big Blue Room and will not be developing any quests today.

Well, I won't be implementing any quests today.  I'll still be developing them... in my mind.

16 April 2010

If I Had A Hammer

I'm still hammering out bugs.  How dull.

I shouldn't say "how dull."  It's just that there seems to be little appreciation for bug fixes.  Using my playhouse example from yesterday, imagine the following conversation:
Yappy: I fixed the playhouse.
Player: It looks the same.
Yappy: I took out some of the old screws and put in new ones.
Player: But it still looks the same.
Yappy: Well, it's still the same playhouse, but now it's sturdier.
Player: Couldn't you have given it a fresh coat of paint while you were fixing it?
So yeah, I need to paint our playhouse sometime this weekend.  And maybe load it with treasure.

15 April 2010

New And Improved And Now With More Fun

Today was another productive day in fixing bugs and closing out bug cases.

Once I have finished with my current fix-it list, I feel that I should focus on supplying new content.  It's nice to fix some bugs (actually, it feels great) but just about all of my bug fixes are unnoticeable.  I feel that after all of this work, V648 needs something visible.  Something... you know... fun.  Bug fixes are great for the game but they're not fun.

I've spent a lot of time in twisting screws into the playhouse, and now I want to play in it.

14 April 2010

Bug Log Two: Electric Boogaloo

I spent another day weeding out easy-to-fix bugs from the bug log.  I've lost count on how many bugs I've closed out and resolved.

Some of the bugs are a little more involved, and those are the ones that I want to do next.  There are some problems with the University of Puddleby that need fixing (one bug was easy to fix, but while fixing it I discovered another one that was a bit more involved); Tanglewood needs a face lift and a little reorganization (as does the rest of the East Forest, but please – one problem at a time), and portions of New Ash Island need some serious fix-ups.

I'm pleased to be addressing these bugs.  It's gratifying to resolve problems and making the game that much better.  And once I have these three areas fixed, then I return to doing my work: I have a couple of new quests that I want in for V648.

13 April 2010


Yesterday was a very busy day for me: I pored through the bug logs and was able to fix and close out over thirty bugs.  Thirty-plus bugs!  I should give myself some experience for that achievement.  I felt very good about some of the bug fixes: I resolved the horrid bounce-around-the-bridge bug in the wetlands.  I also moved a certain altar away from a certain pool of blood so that certain subclasses won't accidentally collide into said altar.

This evening I had an idea for randomizing quests.  It's not a great idea, but it's a start.  Personally I prefer to not know the next step within a quest.  I like surprises, and I think that I'm not alone in feeling this way.  If I know that I need to visit NPC-X and then immediately run to NPC-Y, then the quest is predictable.  But if NPC-X were to tell me "please take this treasure to NPC-RANDOM," then I won't know what to expect.

On an unrelated note to nothing, I created a Twitter account today.  I'm not really sure why I did this, other than I seemed to have gotten caught up in some sort of buzz excitement from reading Mashable.com, and thought that it would be a good idea.  I've been good about making a journal entry every day here, and I wonder if I can do the same with Twitter.

Creating the account was very easy, but the Pooch Café image that I use looked absolutely terrible on Twitter, so I opted to use the silly Sparky and Yappy image instead.  It's a good size, but still looks a little dark.  I guess that I should treat that as a bug and fix it.

I don't yet know about what I'm going to Tweet.  Or should I say "Yap."

[Update]: I was annoyed enough with the Sparky image that I created a new, small picture of the Pooch Café dog.  Much better.

12 April 2010

Yipping At Yappy

This cracked me up.

11 April 2010

One New Quest on Standby

I was going to introduce a new quest this evening, but I have decided to wait until V648.  The reasoning for this delay is that I have lowered one of the requirements for the quest, and this adjustment will not take effect until the next update.  It didn't make a lot of sense to introduce the quest – with its high requirements – for this update only to have them lowered within the next.  I'll be patient and do it The Right Way.

I want more quests in Clan Lord.  A lot of quests.  I want to rename Clan Lord to Quest Lord, and then rename Quest Lord to Quest Quest.  That's how many quests I want in Clan Lord.

"Soon!"  Very, very soon.

10 April 2010

Bad Day at Yap Rock

I spent a portion of my day clearing out problems from other people's areas (mostly old Helpers who are no longer helping).  Every time I would fire up my test server, the server would log lots of errors and warnings from badly initialized NPCs and masks.  Today was the day that I was fed up from being reminded about other people's mistakes, so I went in and fixed them.  This was cheerless work, and even when I was finished I lacked the satisfying sense of accomplishing something good.

After cleaning up the problems within the editor, I attempted to log onto my test server with my laptop computer to test some scripting ideas, but was chagrined to discover that my iBook's hard drive was kaput.  I spent time trying to revive the drive without success.  I guess I'll be stopping by the Apple store during the week to have one of the Geniuses take a look at it.

I could really use a little good karma.  I'm grouchy and I've had a bad day.

09 April 2010

Pen and Paper

This evening I was invited to participate some old fashioned pen and paper role playing.

It's been a while since I sat at a dining room table with a copy of the player's handbook by my side.  It was, I admit, a lot of fun.  It was fun to hold and roll dice, but I found that it was really fun to role play.  There's a certain quality to live role playing that's missing from computer games.  I think that it may be related to being surrounded by the audience at the table.

Maybe when we play Clan Lord, we should try using web cams so that we can read each other's reaction as we play.  That should be easy to do.

(Yeah, right.)

08 April 2010

Shirt and Tie Are Optional

Today was an unusual day for me: my role was uncharacteristically administrative in nature.  I spent a large portion of the day responding to numerous emails, and later in the day I met with a new Helper to discuss a project proposal.  It was almost like having a real job.

This lead me to reflect upon how remarkable and admirable it is that the GMs and Helpers that contribute to Clan Lord are volunteers.  We all have lives and commitments and demands upon our time, but we still manage to make time for contributing to Clan Lord.  Furthermore, I'm impressed at Joe's relaxed, laissez-faire attitude in allowing generation after generation of GMs shaping and morphing his game.  That requires a lot of trust and faith on his part, but it's also one of the coolest things about him: this trust gives us a lot of creative freedom.

Clan Lord has a unique business model – one that wasn't covered at any of the PAX game industry panel discussions.  I wonder how other game companies would react to having their product run by a group of dedicated volunteers.  But then again, most game companies don't have a laid-back CEO like Joe.

07 April 2010

Grit Grinding

Today felt like a long day.

With Slarty's guidance, I spent a portion of my time polishing the reward script, and after that I worked alone on rewriting portions of a new quest that relies on the new content of the reward script.

The writing is the easy part.  It's the debugging that takes forever!  Not only do I need to ensure that my scripts are without technical errors, I need to insure that they are also without logic errors.  If, for example, I have an NPC offering 20c for a mug of beer, then what happens when I agree to sell the beer to the NPC, but then drink it myself?  Or /drop it on the ground?  Or sell it to another player?  Will the NPC faithfully give me the money for something that I no longer possess?  I suppose that it's all part of making good scripts: keeping the structure from falling down is more important than how many stories it has.

My eyes burn from reading all day.  The quest script could use some more polishing before releasing it into the wild, but it looks pretty good – at least from a technical standpoint.

06 April 2010

Slarty At Your Service.

I've been reviewing Slarty's excellent reward script (which pretty much rules all of New Ash Island).  It is fantastic at distributing rewards to characters who complete quests, and it supports distribution of rewards to multiple individuals.

I had asked Slarty for assistance in phrasing an initialization string which would enable me to distribute dissimilar rewards to a group.  Consider a quest where the NPC says "if you bring me the corpse of an Orga Hatred, then I'll give you 100c and I'll give each of your buddies 25c."  How would I rig the script to handle this kind of payout?

Today Slarty confirmed what I had thought: the reward script could not support awarding players with varying rewards.  But then he sent a follow-up email that read "try it now!"  And sure enough, there it was: the script now had support for varying rewards.

I wish that everyone on the planet would work with Slarty's speed and efficiency.  Including myself.

05 April 2010

Time Divided

I divided my time this evening between creating a new script for an upcoming area, and doodling around with some art work.

The script is to support a new quest, and both the script and the quest are still in the planning stage.  I'm trying to visualize how the script would run and what information it would require from the quest to do its job.  I should probably start with a small, simple script that does one small task and then expand upon that, but if I can maximize the number of hooks and options now, then I'll be thanking myself down the road.

As for the art: I tried modifying a mobile image.  I think that I've mentioned this before, but if I haven't then I'll come out and say it now: creating mobile images for Clan Lord is hard!  It just make me respect and admire out artists all the more.

The mobile image is done and will be submitted for V648.  And the script: "soon!"

04 April 2010

Yappy Spoils Clan Lord

I found some bugs in the April Fool's Boardwalk area, primarily with rangers gaining advantages by morphing into high-speed animals.  I sealed up these problems for V645 by prohibiting use of the belt within this area.  Yes, I realize that the Boardwalk will be closed by the time the bug patch is applied.  I won't have to think about it next year.  It's done.

While I was poking around with the ranger belt script, I added support for a new reward item.

*** Spoiler below ***

03 April 2010

Sick Day

I've been fighting a head cold all week, and today I believe that I've lost the battle.  Instead of working on scripts like I had wanted, I spent most of today napping and trying to regain my energy.

So much for having a productive Saturday.

02 April 2010

It's Miller Time

The update for V645 is now behind me.

Upon review, there was very little in the way of original content from me for this update.  Most of the area submissions were bug fixes, plus some new areas from a helper, and one new Story Pen from me (and I now realize that this pen is incomplete, whoops).  It also included a lot of art for an area under development.  I'll need to do some scripting to support this new area.

I still have that quest script to debug, too: I have a new quest but it doesn't work the way I want it to work.  I hope to resolve the problem over this weekend, and place the quest in game manually after the update.

But now it's time for me to open up a Miller and relax.

01 April 2010

All Fools Day

In case you missed it, here is today's web page from clanlord.com:

All your islands are belong to us.