Rant Tuesday: Ranting About Not Able to Rant Anymore

Today, I’ve finally come up with a good topic that I wanted to cover. However, about an hour into it I’ve realized that I can’t post it, not publicly anyway. It’s not the first time I have to reconsider posting something candid but controversial, and for that reason linking these writings with my real identity does sort of suck.

In any case, I should be careful about what I post, anyway… too many people got their fifteen minutes of fame the wrong way by posting something incredibly irresponsible and stupid on the internet, and they have to live with its consequence for months if not a lifetime. I don’t think I’ll ever post anything as severe here, but some topics will get a rise out of someone regardless of how carefully I craft the argument… so in the end, I err on the side of caution.

Then I have to consider my potential audience. There are just things that I would gladly talk about with my friends but not my family; there are things I’d talk about with my family but not my current and potential future employers. If I have to self censor and post something that’d satisfy all three categories of audiences, what’s left over (or what I’ve been posting so far) is so generic that I might as well not make the posts at all.

The reason I’ve decided to blog-a-day is to re-hone some of the crafts that I’ve dropped post-college; ranting about brain dead, politically correct topics is not going to improve any part of my being. Starting next week, I’ll replace this space with short stories, scripts, or extra materials from one of the four other daily types (game design, webcomic, music, art).

Still have to make up for last Friday. More art to do for tomorrow, too!

(Belated) Design Diary Monday: Deception

Last Monday I began brainstorming ideas central to the Pirate movies, and after mulling over it for the rest of the week I’ve found the concept of deception to be the most intriguing. Deception was present, or it was intended to be present, in every stage of the pirates card game design, where part of the crew you set sail with are suppose to be hidden, but in practice what your enemy brought to a fight never seemed to matter as much as your own composition.

So I kept the idea of deception as the central mechanic and narrowed my focus. When it comes to deception, two types of games come to mind: hidden role games like Mafia or The Resistance, and hidden value games like Dead Man’s Chest’s very own Liar Dice (okay, the movie didn’t invent the game, but it certainly brought it to most people’s attention). Of the two, I’ve come up with an idea to work with hidden values: the art of running researches and the possible deception involved in securing funding while having honest breakthroughs versus lying through your teeth.
In the beginning, I’ve started the idea with two very basic concepts: research projects and research breakthroughs, which supports the projects. The projects are public knowledge: everyone knows you’re working on a project and trying to complete it in time. The breakthroughs, however, are hidden by default: you may have materials strongly tied to the project (yellow), “wildcard” materials (green) that supports the project but not to the degree of the “pure” stuff, and fake materials (white) that are made up stuff to prop up your project’s credibility. The deception surrounding your research’s actual progress forms the core idea of the game.

Expanding on this core idea yield the following:
Let’s say your research’s real progress is the sum total of your relevant material’s strength (let’s just call breakthroughs “materials” for now). Strong materials gives you 2 points, related materials 1 point, while made up materials obviously 0. At some phase in the game, investors would come in and invest more funds based on the number of materials you have, not the actual progress of your research. In turn, you can pour those funds into acquiring more projects and getting actual breakthroughs. This sets up the incentive for players to risk putting down fake progress because it means they’d get themselves the real stuff faster. We still need a reward mechanism for busting other people’s lies though:

Here is one possible implementation of the investigation mechanic. An opposing player must spend some of the grant money for a private investigation into some aspect of the research. The more you pay, the more through the investigation becomes. For example, a cheap investigation can only randomly expose whether one of the materials is completely fake; another one might reveal several pieces of info at once; the strongest would probably tally all the materials and wager the actual progress is below a certain level. Problem is, I don’t feel like there’s a good reward to a successful investigation that is thematically and mechanically sound. I suppose the one paying for the investigation might get money from a lawsuit, and maybe this model is ultimately the best one (since it is extremely simple), but the one that I’m going to try developing actually looks like this:

So I’ve added one more layer to a research project, that is when you have enough actual progress, you can open up those materials to sell a real product for money and reputation. Reputation becomes the game’s real measure of victory, not money. It gives research projects a natural life cycle so there’s no need to clog up the play space with projects where all progress are real, and I can balance the game to give honest players appropriate rewards. I can also set up a reward for investigations that thematically makes sense – reputation – where exposing other researcher’s bad practices would earn you some reputation but falsified claims might actually give you a reputation penalty. That part of the diagram might be changed, to be honest, but I think I’d very likely keep the “release a product” part of the project life cycle – it completes the game in ways that the simple version simply cannot.
I have some other ideas such as having collaborating research partners (splitting funds and reputations), or special restrictions attached to specific projects, but the general idea is sound. The next phase of the project involves a bunch of heavy calculations to come up with an initial set of numbers attached to all the different components of the game. Math… I guess… I’ll do that next week. Yup!

Missing Two Deadlines in a Row

I’ve missed Art Friday from schedule issues, and family matters came up in the last minute that’d prevent me from posting Design Diary Monday on time (I’ll still get it up in the next hour or two, though). The blog-a-day schedule is not as stable as I want it to be since I have not been able to (or had the motivation) to build a back log, even though that was my intention from the beginning…

And I just thought I’d link this up with my g+ since I’ve just read about that today! Not exactly the best face to show after a month of (mostly) consistent day-a-blogging.

Oh well, there would be a burst of contents, since I’ll be doing my design post, a make up art post, and a rant post all in a matter of hours. Well, the art post would come even later, actually…

Webcomic Wednesday: Future Sight P6

I really have to work out a schedule for these kinds of things. I blame Dead Island…

I’m not a fan of being able to read into someone’s internal dialogs, but soon as I planned the rest of this chapter I realized it’ll be necessary. Oh well, at least there’s a setup page for it so it won’t get confusing later…

Rant Tuesday: I Don’t Want to Rant about Dark Knight Rises or the Shooting

…but apparently I can’t put anything else in my mind at the moment, so I’m stuck with these ideas.

The movie was fine. It was… good, I guess? It certainly didn’t leave an impression like The Avengers did, or Inception, if we’re talking about a movie in Nolan-verse. I think the movie worked up until the Lazarus Pit sequence… everything was logically hopeless up to that point. And then the writers realized they’ve written themselves into a corner and things started to unwind in increasingly comical manner, until the ending when it pretty much ended up like this:

(I still can’t believe none of the friends with me got the reference when I mentioned it)

…and the shooting that’ll forever be associated with this movie. Whenever inhuman tragedies like this happens, I really wish there’s a way to erase the identity of whoever is responsible… not for their sake, but so that their names would never be recorded anywhere in history… in a generation where every voice wants to be heard but few would be heard, I find that rewarding these extreme acts of depravity would fast become a dangerous slippery slope.

…on the other hand, I find it extremely difficult to sympathize with the victims and those related to the victims of these events. I’m suppose to feel sad, I think, but I don’t know any of these people, just a name and a vague description. I know how I’m suppose to feel, but whatever feeling I have is not going to be genuine. And when am I – when can I – be happy again?

Design Diary Monday: Brainstorming Solutions

Alright, so starting from this week there’s no more scripts for me to follow. I’ve arrived back at the point where I need to make changes to the game, and I’ll be spending the time on these posts actually working out problems instead of reporting results from the past.

The first order of business is to try and see if the pirates card game, in any form, is salvageable. I had a chance to watch some of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies over the past few weeks, and I was reminded of the things I wanted to portray:

  • Hunting for legendary treasure (Aztec gold, the compass, the heart, what have you)
  • Deals and betrayals
  • Satisfying broadsides making ships explode
I didn’t think I was successful in getting any of those points across. I’ve never come up with a convincing way to make players go after specific pieces or types of treasure; none of the versions ever got to a stage where temporary alliances made sense. The closest I’ve gotten were the ship battles, back when there were dice rolling… getting a good cannon roll and making ships explode on the spot felt good, but that was all the way back to the first version of the game and I don’t want the rules to ever get that complicated again.
Honestly, let’s just pretend I have the Pirates of the Caribbean license for a moment and think about how I can get the back and forth wheelin’ and dealin’ between all the characters work as game mechanics. In Dead Man’s Chest,
  • Jack needed the Dead Man’s Chest to avoid his fate of servitude
  • Will needed the Compass from Jack to secure Elizabeth’s Release
  • Elizabeth acquired the Letter of Marques but needed the Compass in return
  • Jack agreed to trade the compass for the chest…
Actually, this is clearly not as complicated as I remembered, is it? An easier way to describe the formula is,
  • Player 1 is after item A
  • Player 1 has B but for some reason cannot directly reach A
  • Player 2 is after item C, and he can trade B for C
  • Player 2 now has the option to get A so he can trade with Player 1 for B, or steal B from player 1, or negotiate with a player 3 directly for C instead…
Okay, the trading is getting Catan-ish. I can work with that. Ultimately, I think I’ll need to introduce secret objectives to the game: for simplicity’s sake, let’s say each player needs to acquire some unique item that won’t come up as a found treasure.
Secondly, there would be time limited opportunities that allows items to convert from one type to another. probably a set of cards that shows the item obtained with the item requirement in small print.
Thirdly, items randomly appear and the players have low influence on the items they can get their hands on. It sets up scenarios where two player can trade items that’d benefit each other. There needs to be justifiable reason for trade to make more sense instead of just killing or blowing up each other, which should be an option…
I guess this is how the game would proceed. Next week I can continue this work or try and fix the rock-paper-scissors combat!

Melodic Thursday: Chip Church

I was actually looking around Renoise to see if it comes with a string synth that sounds somewhere near the ballpark of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, but I ended up finding a chiptune instrument that I want to play with instead:

A very simple melody. I’ve never quite figured out how to spice these basic pieces up a little though.

Webcomic Wednesday: Future Sight P5

Completely ran out of time today since I’ve lost my head start doing the game concept yesterday. Also: Title Drop!

I have immense trouble drawing any character that looks to the right, mainly because I’m right handed and I’ve never made any effort to spend even amounts of time drawing people that faces different directions. This is also one of those pages where it’s just suppose to be two people sitting around and talking about a bunch of stuff, so it’s kind of rough to think of a layout that won’t bore everybody to death.

I really have to draw more people facing right.