Ludum Dare #26: Round 1 Voting Results

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Note: This is only the FIRST ROUND of votes.  The top few themes from this will appear in the FINAL ROUND, which decides the actual theme (on Friday).

 

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Afterlife made an appearance in the previous few LD votes, and it always seemed a bit dull to me.  It makes me think that we’ll be playing a lot of generic games that happen to be placed in heaven or hell or something. That being said, there are interesting opportunities to draw from a variety of more interesting literally sources and to mine from a large variety of religions and mythoses. Mythosii? Mythosaurus Rex?  Anyway, there’s also the mechanic angle — where the game changes after you die or somehow requires death to progress.  Note that this is different from a game that revolves around things killing themselves to accomplish goals (i.e. Baneling swarms or something).  I’m still having trouble coming up with a specific (and hopefully multiplayer-friendly game).

No Weapons Allowed is, in many ways, what I consider to be a classic Ludum Dare style theme. I think that’s because it reminds of some of the older LD themes, such as “Enemies as Weapons”.  Now, it’s important to remember that this is not a rule of the competition. You could have a game in which you have TONS of weapons, but you’re trying to go into an area protected by metal detectors and x-ray machines. Although, as I type that, all the scenarios I’m imagining are kind of “terrosisty”…so best avoid that.  There’s also the idea that you aren’t allowed to use conventional weapons, but what about fists, or nerf bats, or paint guns, or maybe you’re fighting “grumpikins” by throwing “flowers” at theme.  You could make a classic Quake-style FPS game…but all in bright cheery pastel colours.  I like this theme because it should force creativity.  To me it’s not about making a game that just doesn’t have weapons — it’s about explicitly subverting genres that classically rely on weapons to function. What is a “weapon”? Paint guns feel too weapon-y, but what about snowballs?  Of course, this could be a game about rebuilding after a war so devastating that everyone is trying to come together to build a big peace monument. It could also be a game where you don’t have weapons and are mostly stealthing/running/parkouring away from people who do.

Against the Rules is kind of “meh” to me. So broad and yet so specific. Maybe it’s just a lack of creativity on my part. I guess what starts to come to mind are all the “do not” signs you see in life.  “Wrong Way”. “No Skateboarding”. “No Smoking”. “Employees Only”. A graffiti game? A game about removing tags from mattresses? Actually, the graffiti game might really be fun as a multiplayer game.  Everyone is trying to “tag” as much stuff as possible within a time limit.  Maybe you can’t “tag” something that’s still wet (forcing people to spread out), but after a certain amount of time you can start to overwrite other people’s tags. Okay, I’m starting to like this now.

Dreams. Wow. And I was complaining about other themes being too open-ended? Okay, what comes to mind is the idea that dreams can shift so rapidly on you. One minute you’re running through the jungle and the next you’re walking down and aisle in Walmart. Okay…the art for that would be impossible for me to produce in the allowed time (or ever).  Maybe it’s more that your abilities shift?  One minute you can fly, then you can’t, but you can breath fire, then you can’t and all of a sudden you can’t open a door even though it wasn’t locked a minute ago.  Or, with the door thing in mind, it could just be a totally surreal adventure game where the way to unlock the door is to put the teddy bear in the coffee can.  Well, no, that sounds pretty dumb.  Maybe it’s more of a building game, where you can create physics-defying landscapes?  Gravity could be totally subjective — walk along vertical surfaces — and some areas you just “float” in.   Calvin-ball? You can do something that changes the physics on the fly, to screw over the other team.

Colony. A solid contender in recent LD votes, and certainly something that would align itself with what I — and my viewers — enjoy.  A co-operative survival game. Maybe in space. Maybe on a deserted island.  Maybe in the “new world”.  Heck, maybe you’re a colony of fungus.  Or Ants.  It’s Dwarf Fortress, except YOU are the dwarves. Hard to make in 48 hours? Fuck yes. Epic as hell? Indeed.

Ancient Ruins.  Maybe an exploration game. Find artifacts. Could be done a puzzle game — some variant of Sokoban or Soduku.  Maybe you’re constructing Stone Henge.  Who doesn’t like a good henge?  Or maybe even building the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  Kind of a “prequel” to them becoming ruins.  An E Truly Hollywood story.

Alternative Physics.  The “Dreams” calvin-ball idea certainly fits here!  I don’t know what the single-player version would look like though. AI bots are hard enough in CONVENTIONAL physics.  Maybe the physics change on their own, and you’re trying to “score” as many points as possible in the amount of available time?  There can still be the option of changing things yourself to try to make things easier for you and improve your time — and in multiplayer, it’s a combination of easy for you and hard for the other players.  Maybe your in a “cube” room — you start on one side and have to go to the other. There are obstacles in the way that you can shove away. The catch is that the bottom/left/right/top of the room each has its own gravity — and every time you score you get moved to a different floor.  So when you change the world, you are potentially screwing other player or just yourself on future rounds.  A different, but related idea: “The Enemy Gate is Down”.

Anyway, that’s the last of the positive-voted ideas.  It’s possible that Journey or Chaos or something will still show up in the final round, but in theory the above themes have the best chance to win out of this lot, so they’re the ones to start thinking about.

Round 2 voting should be finishing up soon!

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Ludum Dare: I want to make a multiplayer game.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, my plan for this Ludum Dare is to try to make a multiplayer game in Unity 3d.

It’s crazy. No one does that. 48 hours is a microscopic amount of time for a simple, single-player game. Debugging is going to be a *bitch*. The real challenge, however, is that the game must be playable solo because I can’t guarantee that there will always be other players online when a judge tries the game. Fun times.

Anyway, as a mental exercise, I’m going to go through the top-20 voted themes from the PREVIOUS Ludum Dare and try to think of ways to work this theme into a multiplayer game.  The basic control schemes I’m considering, in ascending order of “hardness”, are:

  • First-person (may or may not be a shooter)
  • Over-the-shoulder third-person (shooter? platformer?)
  • Diablo/UO/-style 3/4 view (RPG/Adventure?)
  • RTS

 

Things that WON’T work:

  • Fully automatic physics. The built-in physics engine does not work correctly in a peer-to-peer setting. Physics aren’t impossible, just trickier and/or more limited.
  • Persistent worlds. I will be using cloud-based peer-to-peer networking, with no central server. (Assuming something miraculous happens, I MAY have time to have some things sync to a central server, but those things would be more like leaderboards.)

 

 

Note — these were the possible themes for the PREVIOUS Ludum Dare and are unlikely to come up again. This is just a mental exercise.

 

Chaos:

  • Butterfly theory — what kind of small changes can players do to something that has a large effect down the road?
  • Are the players trying to build something, but there are unpredictable disasters that keep happening?
  • Some twist on something like the classic Kerplunk game might be possible (with just the Master client resolving the physics).

Colonize:

  • FPS game with day/night cycle. Players are space colonists that have crashed on an alien planet. During the day, they can scavenge for debris, resources, build barricades, etc… During the night, they must defend themselves from monsters.  Each night brings more enemies. How long can they survive? (Number of enemies scale proportionally with number of players.)
  • Multiplayer dwarf fortress/SimCity/Tropico. Because I’m a masochist.
  • Players are shipwrecked. Gilligan’s island.  Under the Ocean. The Settlers. Players have hunger, thirst, tiredness, dryness, and coldness. They must hunt, make fires, cook food, build shelter, craft items, and survive for as long as possible (X number of days until rescued?). Friendly-fire is enabled (can be disabled when creating a room?).  Dead players drop their inventory…..and meat.

Construction:

  • See “colonize”.
  • Players control cranes and work together to build a tall tower. Depends on ability to resolve physics on the master client with reasonable latency to clients — not sure if this is possible.

End of the World:

  • See the ideas for “Colonize”. Replace space aliens with zombies. Cliche game, but a good one.
  • See the ideas “Chaos”.
  • The world  is literally disintegrating around us.
  • Some kind of “free running” game? Where’s the interactivity? Or is it just a race?

 

Fortress:

  • See “Construction”. Medieval variant?
  • Alternatively, top-view castle building. Tower Defense game?
  • Rampart.
  • Co-op or competitive?

 

Journey:

  • Players are on a souped-up bus, trying to make it out of town during a zombie invasion. One person drives, others fight? Problem: Some roles are more fun than others. What about solo-play?
  • Players part of a convoy of vehicles? Cars?  Horse-drawn wagons?  Players can choose to drive (including for solo play) or if they’d prefer, they can man turrets or something.
  • Players represent the environment — either assisting or obstructing something trying to make a trip. Are they working together to blow a ship through a reef-filled bay?  Maybe they take turns placing down road segments, jumps, turns, etc… for a vehicle (or instructions for a robot) or something.  Players have 5 seconds to place their next piece somewhere on the board. Reminds me of something like RoboRally.

 

Night and Day:

  • See “Colonize”.

 

Outer Space:

  • See “Colonize”.
  • Multiplayer space sim. Artemis? Escape Velocity? X-Wing?

 

Parallel Worlds:

  • Players cannot see each other, but changes they make in their environment are reflected to other players. Where’s the game? What’s the solo mode?
  • An actual play on “parallel”, where one player operates on the XY plane and another operates on the XZ plane. Solo mode could allow players to <TAB> between them. Or if it’s competition, have an AI opponent option.
  • Maybe each player is playing on a separate “floor” of something like an office tower building.
  • It might be fun if we intentionally FAIL to sync something across the network, such as physics.  Players can see each-other, but their worlds start to diverge as various boxes and stuff get moved around or destroyed in completely different ways.  Imagine an FPS where a box you can see doesn’t exist for another player. He can walk right through it or shoot you through it, but you can’t do the same.  You need to build a mental map of what you think HIS world looks like and how you can take advantage of it.  Maybe you can place “bombs” that only blow up in other dimensions, allowing you to affect other worlds in ways different from your own. No solo mode that I can think of, but remarkably innovative/unique.

 

Salvage:

  • Maybe a “sorting” game, where you’re having to divide up paper/plastic/metal recylables using some sort of claw?  A little like the construction crane game. Each player has his own claw.
  • See the Colonize idea, where players are salvaging during the day.

 

Time Loop:

  • Ugh.
  • Seriously ugh.

 

You Are The Villain:

  • The players are the enemies in a shmup or something.  They have hundreds of (shared?) lives and must destroy the “hero” before he reaches his goal. It would be neat to show a “zoomed out” view of the area, where you can clearly see where the hero’s screen view is (and bullets cannot go in/out of that area) and then the huge armada of ships that the players can claim just outside of it.
  • Dungeonland.

 

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Ludum Dare is Coming!

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Like a smoker waiting for his lunch break, I am craving the next Ludum Dare. This will be my 5th time participating, and each time just gets more and more fun.

You can read about (and play) my 4 previous entries here.

Why do I love LD so much? It’s a combination of things. Certainly I love making games, but that’s only part of it. Part of what makes it so fun for me is the fact that I livestream the entire process for my relatively large audience. There is something unbelievably gratifying about getting instant reactions about your ideas and massive amounts of feedback as you post hourly builds (most of it complaining about how it’s not a AAA-quality title).  Last LD I peaked at around 600 concurrent viewers. I strongly expect that I’ll pass 1,000 this time (with 5,000+ individuals checking in over the full 48 hours).

For LD #23, I did a multiplayer strategy game (a sort of “Chess meets Starcraft”), which was a great way to bring my audience together. However, because games took a while to play out and because you needed to create a user account, the LD judges often were not able to fully experience the game.  But since then I’ve done a tutorial for multiplayer in Unity 3d on my programming channel — and it’s got me thinking that I’d like to revisit the idea of doing a multiplayer game for LD, but now with instant, automatic matchmaking and much faster and shorter gameplay sessions.

I’m almost certainly going to have to drop a few bucks to acquire a server that can handle the required matchmaking (which is not optional, IMHO) — but I think that the pleasure I’ll derive from having my community play together (destroy each other?) will be priceless.

Tools (may change in a post closer to the actual date): Unity 3d, Photon Unity Networking, Photoshop/GIMP/Paint.Net, Blender, Audacity, BFXR, atrk-bu, SchismTracker.

 

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SimCity Traffic, Under the Hood – Explained

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The offcial SimCity blog just made a post explaining the internals of the traffic routing system:

http://www.simcity.com/en_US/blog/article/under-the-hood-of-simcitys-traffic

It’s pretty simplified, but I suspect that it might still be hard for people to understand so I figured that I would try to distill it even further. I’ve done  work with pathfinding systems in the past, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been studying D*Lite, which is the pathfinding algorithm used in SimCity, and also playing with road networks and such in Unity (hence the latest tutorial on quill18creates).

There are two ways in which the pathfinding system in SimCity differs from how most people “think” of pathfinding in real life.

  1. The pathfinding system works backwards. It starts from the “goal” and works its way to the “start” location.
  2. The pathfinding system is about intersections, not roads. (NOTE: This doesn’t necessarily mean ACTUAL multi-way intersections — sometimes road segments can get split depending on how they were laid out. You can see this in game when you are upgrading roads or CTRL-bulldozing them. Sometimes only a certain amount will get selected. This will look like a single road, but is actually several road segments.)

Basically, here’s how it works:

When a vehicle is at an intersection, it looks at all other connected intersections and asks: How close are you to (this thing I want).  Each intersection then replies and the car picks the one with the lowest number.

Note that at NO POINT does the vehicle have any idea what the cost of travelling to that next intersection is.

 

 

For example:

 

 

A car leaves the green residential area in the morning, trying to get to work at the yellow industry.

It will turn NORTH onto segment 5, because the north intersection has a lower number than the south intersection.

It will then go NORTH onto segment 6, because the next intersection on that route has a lower number (60) than the one on segment 4 (110). It doesn’t matter how much traffic is on segment 6, because the next intersection Is truly and correctly 60 away from the industry.

 

Now let’s look at the next example, in which segment 6 is split into two by the addition of a little dirt road intersection:

 

 

 

The previous intersection still has a weight of 60 (which is correct). However now, because of the traffic, the mini-intersection in between 6 and 7 has a very high weight, which means that our car will now take segment 4 (I am 110 away from industry) instead of segment 7 (I am 560 away from industry).

Using this information, we can DRAMATICALLY improve our traffic. Again, as mentioned above, this doesn’t mean that we literally need to add intersections (which slow down traffic in their own way) as long as we can force road segments to split.

Expect a video soon!

 

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50k +/- 0.001k

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Why Everyone is Wrong About SimCity (except me.)

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When it comes to SimCity, everyone loves poop — whether it’s flowing through the sewage data layer or being flung at EA.

And generally that’s fine, but there’s one place where people have it wrong: The shortest-path traffic routing does not represent some kind of incompetence on the part of the programmers who worked on the game, nor a failure of quality-assurance, not is it representative that the game has been rushed out. Here’s why:

  • Shortest-path is a game rule that is absolutely clear to the user. You don’t have to guess about what’s going on. Once you understand the rule, you know exactly how the vehicles are going to behave and you can plan accordingly. This is how all games work: Figure out the system, then figure out how to best take advantage of it. The value of this CANNOT be ignored. (Also, people in real-life often don’t have real-time traffic updates and often find themselves driving into traffic jams. Omniscient Sims would actually be unrealistic.)
  • Routing that takes traffic into consideration is not something that it trivial to implement — it has major programming and performance considerations. Non-programmers have no idea how much of a problem this is — they just say: “Just have the car look to see if the road has too much traffic, and if so choose another route”. If it were that simple…don’t you think they would have just done it? Furthermore, as per my previous point it can lead to unclear behavior that the user doesn’t understand. SimCity has always been a game of traffic management. There will *always* be bottlenecks. The key is to make sure that the user understands why the bottleneck is happening and can then work with the system to eliminate them.
  • Finally: “Smarter” traffic routing will not solve the real problem with traffic.

What’s the real problem with traffic? The fact that when vehicles are spawned, they aren’t properly aware of if other vehicles are also going to the same target. This is particularly evident with things like fire trucks (all trucks go to ONE fire while the rest of the city burns down), but it also happens with people leaving work — a ton of cars all go to ONE house, then all the cars (minus whoever fit at the first stop) move to the second house, etc…

That’s what is causing the worst of the bottlenecks and if this were resolved the shortest-route driving would be far less of a problem. And the good news is that this should actually be much easier to solve than “traffic awareness”, while also creating far less of a performance hit because it won’t require constant recomputation — just a check when the vehicle is spawned.  Even if it doesn’t resolve traffic jams completely (although it would help!), it would make emergency vehicles and buses far more effective, which by itself would make cities run a lot more smoothly.

 

 

Also, the poop-flinging about “fudged” population numbers is ludicrous.

 

 

 

 

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Path of Exile: Hardcore Summoner/CI Witch

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So, yesterday my friends and I played Path of Exile all night in the Hardcore League (effectively permanent death).  We had one fatality right after the prison: Briarstoned was pounced upon by leaping critters while most of us were selling in town and his level 12 duelist, which was built more for dishing out the beats than absorbing them, fell in a quick one-two punch.

Impressively, he was able to reroll a marauder and catch up to us in levels by the time we hit the mid-teens.  We are currently on he edge of completing Act 1.

None of us (a sword & board tank, an archer, a marauder né duelist, and a necromancer) are particularly informed on the right way to min/max everything, which is making everything considerably more exciting as we stumble around Wraeclest scared for our virtual lives.

I am playing the aforementioned necromancer: A summoner witch. With the recent nerfs to Chaos Inoculation, my Energy-Shield-centric build may be less than optimal (especially in hardcore), but I’m intrigued by the mechanic and I want to explore it.  Right now I’m going for pure ES and full intellect, but it’s possible that I’ll want to hybridize into Armour with the Body & Soul passives — though I think that will also require a bit of investment into Strength (which is somewhat wasted if my health will be permanently set to 1 via CI.)  A “full” hybrid build, which would include more strength, more +% Life nodes, and fewer +% Energy Shield nodes is probably more appropriate for hardcore. But where’s the fun in that?

Another arguable inefficiency is that I’m already using Summon Skeleton. It sounds like a lot of people don’t bother until they get Spell Totems and until then they mostly just nuke things down with Freezing Pulse.  Still, the Skeletons are FUN — and even without Unstable Minions my critters seem to do okay.  They also do a great job of tanking and distracting the enemy.  On top of my summons, I just lay down Firestorms and Cold Snaps, which feels great — though my single-target damage is weak and I don’t contribute as much to boss fights.

That being said, once I find some Faster/Multiple projectile support gets I suspect that Freezing Pulse spam will be the order of the day until totems (I’m still going to use Zombies though). I do have a FP gem socketed and gaining XP already.

Click here to see the core passive skills I’m looking at.

The big question marks is whether I pick up bonus minion damage nodes or if I invest in something that will improve my direct damage output (via increased damage of a particular elements or just general casting speed/crit). I got one minion damage node early, but I should be able to undo it when I make a decision.

In terms of gear, we have crap. All of us are totally fresh accounts with nothing in our stashes. While trading may happen down the road, right now we’re just wearing whatever rags we happen to find.

 

I can honestly say that I had more fun on Path of Exile last night than I ever had in Diablo 3. Maybe even more fun than I had playing Diablo 2 — which is a hell of a thing to say.

 

P.S.  Path of Exile is free to play. If you like it, you can support the game by buying cosmetic upgrades, non-combat pets, and increased stash space.  There is no “pay to win”.

 

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Pretty much this.

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Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

Read more at http://www.explosm.net/comics/3074/#JeJGH0CAvk0p9e3P.99

Update: Crusader Kings! Victoria 2!

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Sorry for the slight pause in videos — I went out of town for the weekend and got stuck an extra day and a half due to extreme weather.  It’s thrown off my entire schedule.  I’m hoping to start cranking out more Crusader Kings 2 videos “soon”.

Speaking of Crusader Kings — there’s a new DLC coming out!

 

 

Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods

 

  • Play as a Pagan chieftain and ravage your weak neighbors. If you remain at peace for too long, your people will grow restless…
  • New special start date in 867 AD: The Viking Rurik has founded the kingdom of Rus and the Great Heathen Army under the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok rampages through England.
  • Play as a Zoroastrian lord and restore your ancient religion to prominence.
  • Adventurers: Landless characters can gather armies and go off to carve out new realms on their own.
  • Prepared Invasions: Declare your intention to invade and watch your armies grow with adventurers and restless warriors, but don’t wait too long to start your war or it might all fall apart…
  • Rebels with a Cause: Rebels are no longer a faceless menace – they are now led by characters with agendas.
  • Loot and pillage provinces. Burn down their cities and take their gold!
  • Sacrifice to Odin at the great Blot!
  • Christians and Muslims can dispatch missions to convert the depraved heathens.
  • New beautiful Pagan interface skin.
  • New events and decisions: berserkers, sejdr, curses, omens, divinations, runestones and much more.

 

I will NOT be LPing a pagan game immediately, because we have other videos to get to after The Republic completes.

 

 

Victoria II: Heart of Darkness

 

  • Experience a brand new colonization system: Use your navy to expand your empire, compete against other colonial powers and struggle to maintain your overseas control. Colonial conflicts can spiral out of control and become international crises where they will have to be decided by diplomatic negotiations or risk costly wars.
  • Battle your enemies in the new naval combat system: Together with the new colonization system, your navies are more important than ever. We have revamped the entire naval combat system and made it much more detailed and exciting with a new system of gun ranges and maneuvering into positions for battles. New powerful battleships join the other classes of ships to bridge the gap to Dreadnoughts.
  • Prepare for International Crises: Around the world international crises continually call on the Great Powers to mediate and compromise, with war always being the last resort. As one of the lesser powers, use your influence to stir up the local flash points so you can use fleet footed diplomacy to get the Great Powers to right the wrongs that have been committed against your nation!
  • Follow the global events with the new newspaper system: You will receive reports on local and global events as well as the world’s changing situation to keep up to date and get a greater sense of immersion. Over 60 newspapers, both historic and otherwise, periodically present you with the latest news reports of war, major events, royal gossip and other matters of interest.

 

God damn, but that sounds great.  I’m so happy that Victoria 2 is still getting love, despite being a bit dated and not at all being Paradox’s most popular game (EU and CK are far bigger).  As with CK2:TOG, I probably won’t be able to LP this immediately.  In fact, I suspect that the next Paradox game I play after HoI3 (which I have promised) will be Europa Universalis 4 — which will probably be out by then.

 

 

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It’s so comfy and safe in here.

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Also, running makes me sweaty.

 

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