Friday, September 20, 2013

On the death of the real money auction house

RIP (on March 18th), real money auction house.

I have always felt that the Diablo III real money auction house strategy reeked of corporate market-droid meddling. To be honest, its inclusion was far more likely a function of who the company has chosen to hire/promote to lead projects than actual requirements that came down from on-high; but as a consumer, this type of decision has never felt that way. Sadly, the effects are the same; someone with decision making power ends up pushing for the inclusion of revenue generators that are detrimental to the games themselves.

Kudos to Blizzard for realizing their mistake and making a course correction. Apparently the "new era" of game revenue that many heralded at the launch of Diablo III will have to wait for some other game to carry the torch. The death bell is tolling for now, but this sort of "take a cut of in-game, real money transactions between players" feature is bound to return when some other studio takes a crack at it.

I'm not entirely unsympathetic. Blizzard is faced with a problem endemic to the AAA industry: namely that some customers are willing to pay much more for an extended or enhanced experience, but the ability to capitalize on that is difficult in an industry machine that has been geared towards treating all customers the same. The real money auction house was an interesting stab at solving that problem, but ultimately one that has failed. What remains to be seen is whether that was due to poor execution by Blizzard or that the idea itself is fatally flawed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

ThereIFixedIt: Knockoff 360 Controller Thumbstick Fix

A while back, I was given a third party xbox 360 wired controller as part of a gift. (thanks bro!)

After a short while of use, it developed an issue where one of the thumbsticks was very difficult to use because its cover had ripped. During the most critical part of whatever game was being played, the cover would choose that moment to strike. It would flap around like a useless appendage, mocking me and ensuring my doom in that game was sealed.

At first I tried gluing it with super glue, which failed miserably. The rubberized material is just too flexible, and I don't think the glue ever adhered properly.

Then I hit upon an idea; an idea which not only works perfectly, but looks so gloriously haphazard that I had to post it: I sewed it shut.


There, I fixed it! Or, perhaps more appropriately: #ThereIFixedIt.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why I Chose To Defy The Linguists

When working on a recent post, I came across a little bit of trivia: rack vs wrack.

Particularly interesting was this item:

Though the general advice of linguists appears to be to use the form Rack and Ruin or Nerve-Racking, I chose to use the form Nerve-Wracking. The reason is simple; rack is an overloaded verb, whereas wrack is not.

When I think of "to rack" something, I think of organization. Racking billiard balls, primarily. What I don't think of is the destructive term which is primarily associated with the medieval torture device "The Rack". We don't have that kind of rack anymore, so it seems silly to use that as the basis for the modern verb.

Should I wrack my brain, or rack it? The answer seems simple to me: one is [thinking so hard you're] hurting it, whereas the other is [thinking so hard you're] placing it into some kind of organizational box; at least if you go by the primary meaning.

That said, such a rule would go counter to accepting that most people cannot remember when to use "except" versus "accept". I think the linguists have just given up, and are desperately picking their battles, hoping that "sumday were not left wit nuthin but a shell of english that we should of protected".

First StackOverflow Answer Posted (Consuming RESTful Services in C#)

I've been meaning to do this for years, but its nerve-wracking* to put yourself out there, even when you feel you have something valuable to add to the discussion. This is especially true for me in places such as Stack Exchange/Overflow, where the prevailing social norm is to post under your Real Name.

Anyway, after circling round the Internet for a while on the correct way to consume a RESTful web service in C#, I finally bit the bullet and decided to answer a question with the updated information that I eventually found.

Here's a link to my response:

I figured, the best thing I can do is post the answer I wished would have been there when I first found the question, because that would have saved me time. Hopefully it does just that for anyone else that stumbles across it.

*Interesting tidbit I ran across when researching how to spell this phrase. Here's a blog post on nerve-racking verses nerve-wracking, just for fun.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Enabling Linux Mint 15 Wireless on Dell E1505

Good news! The process that I posted for getting wireless working on a Dell Inspiron E1505 for Mint 14 also works for Mint 15 as well. Here is a handy link if you need it:

For the step after that, setting up the connection to your wi-fi, is a bit trickier than it used to be. It hides "unused" connection types now.

After you've followed the instructions in the link above, here's how to get the rest of the way:
  • Right click on the connections icon in the tray and click Edit Connections. 
  • Click the Add button. 
  • Click on Wi-Fi in the list. 
  • Click the Create button. 
  • Give the connection a name that is meaningful, like "home" or "work" or whatever. 
  • Type in your SSID (this is the SSID value of your router, which your other machines probably autodetected for you). SSID is case sensitive. 
  • Click on the Wi-Fi security tab. 
  • Pick the correct authentication type (probably WPA & WPA2 Personal). 
  • Type in your password. 
  • Click the Save button.
Your battle-station should now be fully armed and operational.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I finally had a chance to look through Rot.js a little bit. For anyone not familiar, Rot.js is a roguelike engine written in JavaScript.

It is an interesting little piece of kit, and The Royal Wedding example does a nice job of showing off all the various things it is capable of.

There are a few features that I would like to see added, though. My biggest wish would be for graphical tile support, followed closely by 100% deterministic mode where all randomness determined is by initial seed + player input (which allows for easily creating a replay system as well as shareable "challenge seeds").

Github for Rot.js:

I might fork it and give adding some features a shot sometime.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Seven Day Roguelike 2013 pt.7


After some more tweaking this morning, it is clear that this project needs a lot more than 7 days, at least for me. I've had a busy week that just didn't allow for enough coding opportunity.

What I've ended up with is a game that still feels far too much like Brogue, but has removed most of the fun from that game.

I'm probably going to keep working on this project from time to time. I want to see if I can get the core gameplay mechanic to revolve around hunting creatures for food, while avoiding being killed by the tougher creatures of the deeps.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seven Day Roguelike 2013 pt.6

I finally found the bug that I introduced, and removed it. Monsters are trying to hunt down and kill the player again.

I still need to add visible monster corpses though, and I need to add monster eating behaviors, like being full making them less likely to attack, and eating distracting them from trying to follow the player. (Not to mention more advanced stuff like gobbos hauling kills back to camp.)

Right now I'm messing with the architecture code to try and make the cavern levels follow my general plan: the catacombs, the cave river, the cavern forests, the underground meadows, and the lakes of the deeps. I'm trying to decipher how the existing code leverages the blueprint objects to generate interesting level pieces.

After messing with it a bit though, my biggest concern is that, in the state its in right now, it just isn't much fun. I'm hoping that as I continue to add my own flair to it, and increase the amount of interaction between items and the environment, the fun will start to emerge; but I don't feel that is a certainty.

There's really way too much to do in the final day tomorrow. It is likely that I'm going to fail, but I'm glad that I've given it a shot.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seven Day Roguelike 2013 pt.5

A little bit more progress on Rational Brogue; I've got prey animals running from the player. The effect is pretty great when you run through a group of them. Unfortunately, once they get away, they all run together, so it looks a bit silly when chasing them.

I also managed to break all of the predator creatures, they don't want to move anymore, which is a huge bummer.

One step forward, two steps back.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Seven Day Roguelike 2013 pt.4

I've made a couple of changes that have started to make the game feel a bit more like what I intend.

For one, I've reduced the HP of the player by two thirds. This has revived the dangerous feeling of the caverns a bit after I've taken the teeth out of just about everything down there in search of my goal.

Secondly, I've modified some of the animal behavior in very simple ways. Predators will now take attacks of opportunity against prey creatures, though they won't hunt them yet. Prey creatures will try to stay away from the player, though unfortunately they still retain the need to hunt the player, so they're eternally torn in a foolish dance that eventually just gets them killed.

I've got a long way to go...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seven Day Roguelike 2013 pt.3

Minor Success
I've managed to get the menu updated. It wasn't as hard as I thought it might be, though I spent a lot... Actually, lets be honest, way too much time messing with it to get it just right. In the end, I think it turned out pretty nice.

But that has distracted me from doing more important stuff like overhauling the entire AI system. All I've done so far is remove a bunch of creatures from the creature list.

Oh, and that wasn't my first attempt at a new logo, by the way. My first attempt ended up looking pretty horrible:

Now its back to code!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Seven Day Roguelike 2013 pt.2

The Good
After a few missteps, I managed to brush away the cobwebs in the back of my mind and grab the golden idol called "how in the heck to get Brogue to compile", and bring it back to the surface. After a bit more mucking about, I've actually gotten it to build with only a few small warnings spit at me by the compiler. Yay!

I was even able to merge in a couple of changes that I had previously proposed.

So, my build is now exactly like Brogue 1.72, except that this one gives you a message if monsters wake up, and it also allows you to use the 'a' key to equip and unequip. This means that the 'a' key can be used for any object in the game. If there are any exceptions to that last statement, they won't last long once I start paring everything down.

The Bad
Yeah, after building it, I just realized that modifying the title screen is probably going to be a huge pain; and that if I'm not able to mod it, I probably won't release it.

Next Steps
I need to start removing all of the extraneous monsters and items out of the game so that I can get to a working core.

Seven Day Roguelike 2013

Announcing my first seven day roguelike, [name to be determined later].

I'm starting with a working copy of Brogue 1.72.

This is a total conversion of Brogue. I want to investigate whether a rational world can still make for a fun roguelike. My intent is to create a world in which creatures behave rationally, in relation to both the player and each other, and in which the entire ecosystem of the dungeon is logical. Success will mean rebuilding the dungeon generator, a complete monster AI retrofit, changing most of the monster menagerie, changing a lot of the items, and modding the combat mechanics.

Here's a quick rundown of the most important changes that I'd like to make:

Rational Ecosystem
The world should be believable in that, when I enter the caverns, I should believe that this world could exist without me. Rats, for instance, should not attack me. Rats are scavengers; they should scatter when I come near and should opportunistically eat anything left behind. They should be a food source for other things, like jackals and so forth. One of my goals is that players should be able to see, throughout their travels, how exactly these creatures survive in the underground.

Creature Behavior
Creatures will no longer cooperate with one another unless they are part of the same pack or society. Many creatures will run in fear from the player immediately, or only approach you cautiously. Creatures will often hunt each other rather than bother with the player, the thing with all the pointy sticks.

Accounting For Nutrients
I'm going to be modifying the dungeon generator so that it generates terrain that supports enough plant life and other nutrients that all of the other creatures in the food chain can realistically survive. The number of creatures at the top of the food chain must derive from the amount of food available to them. I can't have levels with sixteen dragons in them unless there are are an astounding number of prey creatures on that level for all of them to eat.

Player Advancement
Like Brogue, this game does not reward experience points for combat. In fact, my intent is that the game will not have any sort of experience points at all. Player advancement will be driven entirely from items that are collected. Speaking of which:

Realistic Item Distribution
Items will not be found just strewn about randomly. All items will be found in one of three locations:
  • On the body of a dead adventurer
  • In some sort of cache, either from previous or current occupants
  • On the person of some creature that would reasonably carry it
I have some other goals in mind as well, but if I manage to get as far as the above, I'll be happy and consider it a success.

More to come later.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why Those That Watch The Hobbit Before Reading It May Be Disappointed

The Hobbit, the book, is a whimsical story; one in which songs and poems make up part of the narrative, and one in which the author occasionally cautions us not to be frightened. It is the perfect sort of story to be read aloud to a six or seven year old who is just opening their mind to the fantastic and strange; to the amazing power of fiction to awaken us to worlds that never existed. It wasn't written grim-dark and it was never intended to be A Serious Piece Of Dramatic Lit. Anyone looking for either of those will be disappointed. For more than a decade, I have read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series at least once a year as a way to rekindle my creative juices.

Tolkien was an expert in old and archaic words, his texts are laden with them. They provide not only an amazingly rich linguistic tapestry but also a sense of weight and age that subsequent imitators have not matched. I have read that no word is used in the Lord of The Rings which had existed in some form for less than 400 years. Whether that is true, I have been unable to verify, but professor Tolkien, steeped deeply in the knowledge of linguistics, and delighting in discovering their use and etymology, would have been the one to do it.

Much has been said about the lack of characterization in these books; that they are mere cardboard stand-ups or ghostly apparitions only pretending at true depth. This may be true; and I find myself not a very fit judge for making such a determinations as my peculiar personality comes into play. I care not for the machinations of characters, for whether I can identify with the motivations of a particular character, or for whether a particular character is "deep" or "multifaceted". I've never been particularly good at understanding other people, or talking to them for that matter. Plotting and scheming do not impress me, long soliloquies and heavy dialog I find obstacles to be overcome, rather than a source of delight or enjoyment.

If you approach The Hobbit with the mindset of the movie, one which (mostly) takes the world of Middle-Earth very seriously, I think you'll find the book to seem quaint and childish. Beneath that whimsical exterior lies a deep world described in amazing detail by an author extremely adept at his craft, but those who do not connect easily with setting description and the characterization of nature may miss this entirely. The book is written for a particular audience, and many future generations may find that it is not at all what they expect after having seen the films first.