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Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 released after five years!)
« on: May 20, 2021, 02:03:50 AM »
Some cool new stuff :). Procedural coin generation:

Shrines for a new "cult" religious type! For instance, these worship the moon, castles, mountains, and forests.

And 0.8 is out! As I expect most people reading this know, but I'm going to try to get back to properly updating here :)

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: August 24, 2019, 06:10:03 PM »
Here’s the URRpdate of the last two months. A lot of travel and my laptop breaking while abroad has slowed things down, but a lot of progress has been made both on finishing off the last remaining bug-fixes, and adding the final small “feature” required for 0.8. The game is becoming increasingly stable, as well as increasingly polished, with each passing week. So, here’s what I’ve been up to in the last two months:

– Handled a puzzling issue where sometimes two general (i.e. “unimportant” and not saved by the game) NPCs would sometimes be on the same place with the same objective, and wouldn’t know what to do; if this happens, the game pushes one of them to one side, and then gives them a new objective.
– Fixed a range of grammatical issues with people talking about nations or cultures.
– Resolved a problem where certain kinds of buildings didn’t always generate correctly if they were building on ice as well as snow within a polar biome.
– Made sure that a few more buildings couldn’t possibly generate with furniture in the way of a door, which might therefore wind up blocking that door for NPCs who need to get through it.
– Altered and improved a few of the guidebook entries to make certain aspects of the game much clearer, and to stop a bug where looking at a certain entry caused a crash.
– Improved handling the names of relics, especially when people talk about them, and NPCs should no longer add in extra words at random times to describe them or their names.
– Put in some groundwork for future NPCs of classes that do not currently spawn in the game, such as inquisitors, royals and various other sorts of leaders, high-ranking soldiers / officers, and so forth. (This is a 0.9 thing if I develop a 0.9, but doing this also helped me clear up some of the code for existing NPCs)
– Resolved a weird and very rare bug involving saving the game at a certain point on the travel map after a particular set of moves, and then reloading the game, which would cause the game to crash when you tried to move again.
– Dealt with a problem where sometimes all the buildings required in a town didn’t correctly spawn if it took a while to place them intelligently.
– Handled a couple of remaining problems where wandering versions of certain classes, such as priests, would find themselves unable to talk about the things they should be able to talk about, by virtue of not being attached to a particular religious building (or equivalent for other NPCs)
– A couple of buildings which sometimes had weirdly high or weirdly low numbers of NPCs present seem to no longer run into this problem, although this is something I should keep an eye on.
– Without doubt, all problems around NPCs discussing the armour they might or might not be wearing have been fixed, and likewise all problems regarding NPCs telling you they are not wearing a necklace, nor any rings (as these have yet to be implemented in the game)
– Discovered that over time guards in certain districts tend to disappear, which I think must be due to some issue in how they move in unloaded areas when the player isn’t present. This doesn’t seem to cause a crash, which is great (and indeed it was coded precisely in this way, so it’s pleasing to see this works), but obviously this shouldn’t be happening. I’ve put in some new code to try to resolve this and “catch” guards before they somehow disappear into being stored in some place the game can’t retrieve them, and hopefully this will have improved matters.
– Checked a few buildings I originally missed when seeing whether buildings generated in one period (day or night) still work correctly and have the right NPCs when you return later, and I’m now very confident this is working correctly for all buildings (except embassies and mints, which I am aware of and need to resolve)
– Improved the grammar and listing when an innkeeper tells you about the (procedurally generated and region-specific) drinks they have on offer.
– Resolved a couple of remaining issues with certain questions being asked to either nomadic or tribal NPCs, who were unable to give sensible answers.
– Slaves and servants in castles were sometimes getting mixed up when the game tried to generate them, and thus causing confusion about which floors each should be sleeping on (the servants tend to sleep on the ground floor, but slaves sleep in subterranean floors) – this should now have been fixed.
– Very rarely a non-“guard” guard, by which I mean an NPC which isn’t of the “guard” class but was carrying out guarding actions (such as soldiers or knights in certain civilizations) didn’t function correctly, precisely because they were not “guards”. I believe I have fixed the last few places where this either caused a bit of NPC confusion (at best), or the game to crash (at worst)
– Fixed an issue with certain kinds of buildings in towns sometimes causing the generation of houses to stop weirdly early, leaving a strange eerie town almost completely devoid of actual homes and people, yet filled with roads.
– Spread out some of the loading symbols on the world generation page so it doesn’t look like the game might have crashed (when, in fact, it did not).
– Handled further issues with religious districts at night time, in particular people struggling to figure out how to worship, and priests behaving strangely when they can’t figure out how to get to a bed.
– I have also added some important new content! Since you can no longer, er, walk across the water, entering a “Dock” district in a city, or a new “dock” building in a town, now allows you to be transported to another city or another town! There are screenshots of this down below. This also causes time to pass – not much time right now, but that’s fine for the time being.
– Even better, when you get into a ship it now gives you a little story about your travel! This mentions something about the ship, the destination, your fellow travellers, what you see on the voyage, and so forth; these elements draw on a range of information about relevant nations, cultures, and locations, to generate a unique little paragraph for the player to read while the player is transported to their final destination, and while the required time passes for that journey to occur.
– For the time being you can reach any place with a dock via any other place with a dock, even if (as in the below map) there are different oceans; this will be changed later, but for now, it significantly helps with navigating the game world.

So: the last two months have brought much more polish, more bug-fixes, and some quality of life changes, such as allowing you to move quickly around the game world through the use of docks and the like. I’m really excited by how this is all coming together. Aside from URR updates, in the last couple of months I’ve also done almost all the remaining work for making my move to the University of Sydney at the end of September, finished writing a journal article about Super Mario Maker I’m excited to share in the near future, presented a whole bunch of work at this year’s Digital Games Research Association Conference in Kyoto, talked about Twitch and disability at the European Sociological Association, and spent some time with the family back in the UK. That said, though, it’ll be nice to get back to Canada for one final month to catch up with friends and colleagues before the move itself…

So: with all of this done, in a week from now I’ll be back in Canada and back to being able to work hard on the game, so I hope to have another solid update some time in September. The list of remaining tasks is pretty much only resolving two long-running bugs (involving ambassadors and mints), handling a few more issues around sentence generation, adding a little bit more polish here and there… and then… that’s it?! See you all soon!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: July 23, 2019, 06:18:00 PM »
Hi everyone - I have some awesome news to share this month which isn't completely game-dev-related, but is pretty life-changing for me. More URRpdates next month!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: June 23, 2019, 05:07:55 PM »
Here’s June’s big update. The bugs and fixes continue to get smaller and smaller with each passing fix, and they’re generally taking less time, being more and more obscure, and often involving text or grammar for sentence generation rather than things which actually cause the game to crash. With that said, some new crash bugs around pathfinding have arisen, but – see below – I think they are now all fixed, and hopefully no more will appear as bug-fixing and tweaking continues. Without further ado:

– Fixed some more crash issues surrounding people not being able to tell you they are not currently wearing any jewelry.
– Monasteries can no longer spawn on rivers, thereby preventing some very strange generation of their local maps if the player decides to explore one.
– Fixed an issue where one of the guidebook entries was too long, and consequently “leaving” some of its text on screen even after the player navigated away.
– Non-religious NPCs can now definitely always correctly respond to religion-based questions.
– NPCs from a religion not based in the nation they currently live in no longer tell you their cathedral is in their current nation / city, rather than the place it genuinely is.
– NPCs without armour no longer sometimes tell you they have armour and then crash because they can’t find information about it, and NPCs with armour no longer sometimes tell you they don’t have armour. AND NPCs with armour no longer sometimes tell you they do, and then in the next sentence (from the same NPC) tell you they don’t.
– Asking certain NPCs for their perspectives on religious heresy no longer leads to a crash if they don’t really care about it.
– Fixed an issue with clerks who spawned at random in places like parliaments incorrectly thinking they were important, and thus behaving in a manner inappropriate to their station.
– Resolved another strange issue with banks at night and tellers appearing when they should be asleep, and similarly, an issue with tellers not appearing in the day time.
– A rare bug with NPCs attempting to leave the grid the player is on, while the player is also leaving the grid, has been solved… I think?
– Relatedly, fixed a very complex and strange issue where if two or more guards are moving off a grid at the same time, then sometimes they get confused about where to go because they look at each other as potential guard exchange partners (i.e. the guard they switch guard duty with), and then they freak out and don’t know what to do. Pretty sure this is fixed now.
– Fixed a timing bug which could trigger if you left a grid and then returned before the predicted time it would take, in the abstract, for an NPC to reach its next objective; this would cause the game to just lock up as it tried to figure out the NPC’s movement.
– Similar and related to the above, also resolved a problem where sometimes an NPC couldn’t make it to where they were supposed to be (hypothetically, in order to estimate how long a particular path would take), and now the game notices if they’ve got stuck one tile away from their target, and ends the counter there, just adding “1” to whatever the total was to represent what the final step would actually require (for example, if an NPC is currently blocking the way, but will not be in the future).
– Confirmed that a wide range of buildings – such as taverns, churches, cathedrals, jails, and others – do not crash when you spawn them in day then return at night, or in the next day.
– You can no longer travel into the ocean; I will shortly be adding quick alternatives for getting across the sea.
– Fixed a bug where an NPC already on their bed will try to find their bed, and without thinking to look underneath them, will cause the game to lock up as they search, desperately, for somewhere to sleep.
– Fixed a similar bug where sleeping people were sometimes being transported through walls; this must have been rather distressing.
– Talking to someone in a tribal civilization about religion, laws and money no longer leads to a crash.
– Fixed some name generation things which made certain items of clothing too long.
– NPCs now properly tell you what is special about their armour (which is to say, nothing, because I haven’t coded that yet).
– Added information about policies which haven’t previously had clear effects or impacts.
– Fixed a bug which I had not noticed until just a couple of days ago, but now I see it would have actually affected a huge number of religious buildings in city centres and potentially elsewhere as well: guards for archives are no longer selected at world generation if there is no archive beneath the cathedral, which is almost always the case, and so this bug would have applied to almost all cathedrals when the game later tries to find a place for this guard, only to discover there is nowhere for them to go…
– Removed a bunch of irrelevant chaff from the “Load Game” screen.
– Hunted down and resolved a pretty large bug where, again, guards might be sitting on top of each other and the one who was supposed to go home wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not sure why this bug was still sticking around, but I’ve put in some catch-all code in case this ever happens, and this should really never be a problem again.
– Fixed an issue where servants or slaves, in a mansion that had been spawned or previously visited at night, wouldn’t know quite how to get back to work in the daytime.
– Resolved a rather complicated issue, whose cause (again!) I don’t fully understand, where after walking around for a long period of time and then returning somewhere guards had previously been spawned, one of the guards was on the roof. Of a different building. I have absolutely no clue how this person got up there, but I’ve now implemented a system which checks for guards (or equivalents) who are on rooftops (???), and then looks at guard locations on that map grid, finds the empty one belonging to the appropriate civilisation, and moves the guard there before the player gets a look at their strange behaviour.
– Related to the above, the game can now notice any guard out of position and put them back in their rightful place, which should catch any potential future errors of this sort which I’ve never even observed (if they exist).
– Fixed a bug where certain conditions would try to remove a bed as an option for an NPC to move to, but if the bed wasn’t already in their list of valid movement targets, it would crash trying to remove it (since it wans’t there). Again, not entirely sure what caused this, but it has now been dealt with.
– Made sure that priests in castles which contains priests of multiple religions (with particularly open-minded rulers) all behave correctly at night and in the day.
– Servants or slaves in castles, when you have spawned the castle in the day but then return at night, now correctly spawn in / move to the appropriate beds instead of becoming paralysed with indecision on the ground floor.
– Handled issue with priests not turning up correctly in their beds in districts containing multiple religious buildings.
– Fixed a problem with buildings in hunter-gatherer settlements sometimes being spawned just a little too close to each other, and thus potentially blocking off an entrance.
– Handled an issue in religious districts with some random NPCs, at night, not really knowing how best to worship in the religious building they have selected.

At this point there are only two “major”(ish) bugs I haven’t fixed: one involving multiple ambassadors trying to sleep in the same bed (although one imagines this would do wonders for diplomacy), and one involving mints still crashing if you go back into them later. These both seem to be fairly big tasks, but I aim to tackle them in the coming days; I believe the former will be easier to deal with than the latter, but we’ll see how it goes.

So, that’s everything for this month. The rest of June is pretty clear at this end, aside from one academic paper I need to finish writing (about Super Mario Maker: this has become a rather exciting side project I’ve been working on for a couple of months now, particularly focused on troll and “kaizo” levels and the communities of players who both design and play these monstrosities / masterpieces). At this point, however, I’m really trying to push URR 0.8 out. There’s so little left to do now, so little left to check: of course I’m going to miss some bugs, and I fear, maybe even a couple of crash bugs, but I’m doing my absolute utmost to make this as stable, complete, and finished a product as I possibly can. Next update hopefully soon!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: May 21, 2019, 05:23:39 PM »
Welcome to May’s URRpdate! Things are still moving along, and rather pleasingly, it has now been a full month of coding since I discovered any more major bugs. Now, maybe that’s tempting fate, but I choose instead to read it as a very encouraging step forward. It does actually seem now that only small bugs remain, and many of these are not even crash bugs. Nevertheless, in the past couple of weeks I’ve manconqaged to resolve more issues, and I feel like we are very nearly now at the stage where I’m just polishing the front-end of things like menus tooltips and the like, in preparation for the final release. It’s all very exciting! But without further ado, here’s the latest:

– You can now properly talk to non-religious NPCs from all kinds of civilizations about their beliefs, and none of those conversations cause the game to crash. Individuals from “free religion” civilizations can also intelligently give different answers depending on their preferences.
– Priests no longer always spawn (for some reason) on the same tile as the altar within their religious building, thereby making it hard to find the altar unless you know the priest is standing on top of it.
– Prisoners can now properly tell you that they are prisoners when asked about their “job”.
– Prisoners can tell you everything about their past crimes, their sentence, when (if ever) they expect to get out, and so forth, without ever trying to generate a sentence they can’t figure out.
– Jailers no longer crash the game when you ask them about whether any particularly important or interesting prisoners are interred at their jail.
– Jailers no longer sometimes just decide they fancy a career change, wander out of the jail they are in charge of, and immediately crash the game because they have no idea what to do once they get outside.
– Entering a building which will (in a potential 0.9) house a regional representative in a democratic nation no longer crashes the game from time to time.
– Mints and Banks no longer sometimes crash the game when you enter them at night (I think?).
– Fixed a few more double-word issues (yep, I hadn’t actually caught all of these last time, but now I think I have… again).
– Handled a bug which made world generation, in extremely rare cases, get stuck in an infinite loop of trying to generate certain aspects of a civilization’s culture.
– Found an extremley rare issue where sometimes an NPC can sometimes find themselves off the road in a city district and fail to figure out what to do or how to get back onto the road. I’m not entirely clear what causes this issue and I’ve only encoutered it once, and this was just because the NPC in question was screaming in the debug log  while I was playing. As such, I’ve added in a new bit of “catch-all” code at the end of NPCs deciding where to walk next, which – if they somehow find themselves in that situation – will encourage them to walk back onto a road and resume normal behaviour. I also inserted a catch-all after that which states if finding their way back is also for some reason impossible, then once the player leaves their line-of-sight, they will just despawn.
– Handled a few more buildings where it is possible for furniture to spawn in such a way that someone sitting on a chair, for example, can block a door and then all the people who in the building can no longer find their way out. For any 0.9 I will definitely implement a more general solution here allowing NPCs leaving or entering a building to walk “through” someone sat in a chair, but this solution will do for the time being, and should deal with the issue.
– Removed a handful of special NPCs who were being generated at world generation but not spawned in the world; this shouldn’t have caused any issues (famous last words), but it’s better to be safe than sorry for the time being.

This is a slightly shorter update than last time because I have also been hard at work on a chapter for a forthcoming book (alongside a number of world-building luminaries!) about world-building. In it I talk about how important I think social, political, economic and cultural detail is to creating a convincing and “breathing” fictional world, looking at Ultima Ratio Regum but also other game series which have always stood out to me in this regard, such as the earlier Command and Conquer games (the Tiberium series, that is), many of Paradox Interactive’s games, the Deus Ex universe, and several others. Although I’m really enjoying writing this – and the book about world-building it’ll be a part of will, I think, be something quite special – this has taken up some of my coding time in the last fortnight or so.

Now, the rest of May is pretty busy at this end – I’m going down to Washington DC to talk at this year’s International Communication Association conference to chair a panel on live streaming and talk about Twitch and the games industry. As such, the next update will be some time in June. See you all soon – and the journey is nearly at its end!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: April 25, 2019, 05:02:25 PM »
Things slowed down a little in the past few weeks due to a lot of unexpected travel and some job negotiations (more on this very soon), but here’s another set of fixes and corrections:

– Fixed a complicated bug which spent a long time to hunt down, and involved guards trying to exchange positions with other guards. Normally if you enter a map grid, relevant NPCs will spawn and play out an appropriate number of actions before you gain control of your character. For example, if a guard entered the map grid twenty turns before you enter the grid, then the guard needs to catch up with those twenty turns in the real grid rather than in the abstract grid. Normally it is possible for a guard in that “interim” period of movement to find the guard they should exchange positions with and exchange positions with them;  however, in some cases this wasn’t happening, and both the new guard and the old guard were standing on top of each other once the player properly entered the map. This, er, shouldn’t have been happening. I eventually discovered it was because in very rare situations, the “old” guard would spawn later than the “new” guard, and so the new guard would walk to where the old guard should be but not find the old guard, then the old guard would spawn on top of them. The new guard is not then programmed to detect being on top of the old guard (as that should never happen!) and so the two would just stand still doing nothing. This has now been fixed! Upon moving the new guard into position, if the new guard is where the old guard is shortly going to spawn, the new guard just takes two steps back; then once they’ve spawned the new guard will meet the old guard properly, and everything will work correctly.
– Resolved an issue where sometimes a set of guards or equivalents, upon returning to a building after leaving that building to sleep, would not be able to figure out where to put themselves if the player entered the map containing that building long after they switched back over with the previous set of guards (I know, it’s a complicated one). I’m not entirely sure what the cause of this was, and I actually think there’s a good chance this was caused by my own playtesting (and fiddling around with saving/loading to test other things) rather than a bug in the game itself, as I’ve never encountered this issue before, and the save file I was testing stuff on I had been playing around with a lot before this bug emerged. Nevertheless, redundancies are important, so I have now implemented a system whereby a generated building stores the initial locations of all guards or equivalents, and if a later guard ever cannot figure out where to return itself to for whatever strange reason, then the guards will look at this master list, find a location which matches their class (Guard, Knight, Sodier, whatever), and an x/y/z coordinate set which hasn’t yet been occupied by a different returning guard, and put themselves there. Sorted.
– Found another issue related to the above where sometimes you would get two guards trying to go to the same location if you returned to a location after a long period away, because one of them would have recognised it was where their guard “partner” was stationed, while the other would see it as a free spot. This has also been fixed.
– Resolved a minor issue with NPCs selecting homes in appropriate districts under certain conditions, particularly if the player has previously been in that map grid.
– Fixed quite a few points where words could be duplicated, such as “that is not a question I want to give an answer to to”, and I’ve now hopefully got to the bottom of the last of these.
– Handled a bug slowing down NPCs who were trying to find a path to staircases in larger buildings, yet spent most of their time dithering around and examining walls in great detail.
– Fixed issue with some soldiers being unable to properly about their ranks with appropriate grammar.
– Handled a very strange issue where iron bars, such as those in jails, dungeons, or between an audience and an arena, very rarely become invisible.
– Handled a problem where Tellers don’t spawn correctly in banks if you first enter the bank after the first day of world generation.
– Changed the name of the speech category “Past Life” to simply “Life”, as this is far more descriptive (since you can ask them about their current job and things like this).
– Fixed issue where plants could not spawn inside a nomadic citadel, and crashed the game.
– Resolved a problem with NPCs who spawn in town halls in towns not having any idea where to go, and getting stuck in an infinite loop of uncertainty.
– Resolved a problem involving NPCs in barracks in towns, not knowing what to do when they decide to go for a wander (unlike in military districts in cities, where there is always something for them to do). These NPCs can now always find something relevant/sensible to do when they decide to move.
– Fixed an issue with some NPCs in taverns being unable to find their way to the door when they’re done drinking (and I do appreciate that there is an obvious comedic interpretation of this particular bug).
– Soldiers in castles no longer crash the game as a result of not knowing what to wear.
– NPCs are now even less likely than they were before to clog up a doorway and thereby block you or anyone else from going through it (I thought this was completely fixed before; it wasn’t; I now once more think it is completely fixed…)
– Wandering versions of important NPCs like priests and the like can no longer be asked questions which would make them crash, such as “what relics are there here?” while they’re walking through the streets and therefore nowhere near any relic of any sort.
– Finally, resolved a bug where sometimes reloading the game, going immediately to fast travel, and taking a particular path (NE or NW after moving N, SE or SW after moving S, etc) will take an infinite amount of time, and the game will attempt to perform 9999999 turns before giving up. I am not entirely clear why this happened, but it no longer does. No infinite hikes for anybody!

So: more progress, getting closer and closer! My list of buildings and conversation possibilities to check is getting shorter and shorter as time goes by, and it has now been well over a week since I found any large bug. This means I’ve almost exhausted everything I know I need to playtest, and once that’s done, I’ll be onto polishing things like menus, displays, information, and the like. More coming in early May!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: April 24, 2019, 11:43:53 PM »
Mark! Glad to see you are back in the saddle 8) All the best.

As always,

Thank you my friend! It is great to be back...

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: April 17, 2019, 05:40:52 PM »
Continuing to chop down the list of URR stuff to be checked before 0.8’s release! Here’s what has happened in the last couple of weeks:

– Resolved some strange issues with churches, especially if you approach them at night. Priests weren’t sure where to spawn or where to sleep, and random worshippers kept appearing off the map and finding no way to path in to the map, rather than being where they should be. I’m not entirely sure what the cause was – and, indeed, I feel this was working fine a while ago – but these strange behaviours have all now been fixed.
– Fixed a number of conversation options not working correctly when talking to nomadic speakers.
– Fixed a number of conversation options not working correctly when talking to speakers from tribal civilisations.
– Merchants were not always spawning correctly in their shops in town; this has been fixed.
– Merchants also could not always describe to the player what kind of product they sold – the problem was different for merchants in cities, towns, and fortresses, but all three kinds can now correctly tell you about their wares.
– When you insult or compliment someone several times, they no longer say you “asked me that” several times, but instead say “you told me that” (or some close equivalent).
– Asking about laws on violence has distinctive answers now for nomadic and hunter-gatherer civilisations, with particular kinds of concerns and laws relevant to them.
– Asking about laws on trade has different outcomes for nomadic and tribal civilisations.
– Asking about laws on religion has different outcomes for nomadic and tribal civilisations.
– Helmets do not appear correctly when you select someone who is wearing a helmet (no picture yet, but relevant text).
– Tribal people respond correctly to questions about money; all peoples respond correctly to religious questions, especially if they don’t have a specific religious belief; and NPCs correctly state when they aren’t wearing a necklace, rather than trying to tell the player about a necklace that doesn’t actually exist.
– Starting to ask an NPC stuff before saying hello will get them to say something like “Oh, hello there”, or “Oh, good morning”, before they give you the full response.
– All guards (there are at least twenty sorts of places a guard might guard) definitely now correctly talk about their respective charges correctly.
– Fixed obscure bug with some feudal NPCs being unable to remember the correct punishment for certain religious crimes.
– Resolved an equally obscure bug where game would sometimes choose “Monastery” as the word to describe the church of a certain culture (a la “Church”, or “Pagoda”, or “Priory”, etc), thereby potentially generating confusion with actual monasteries.
– Farmers no longer sometimes possess access to teleporters when they really, really, want to get to bed quickly.
– Fixed a number of issues with random NPCs in buildings (other than religious buildings) sometimes spawning at -1,-1, and therefore being unable to path or do anything.
– Fixed a problem with some church generation algorithms which didn’t produce interiors containing sufficient options for NPCs to always work out where to go.
– Improved the generation of insults, greetings, farewell and compliments by removing a number of weird grammatical mistakes (still more to do here).
– Fixed a strange bug where unseen NPCs very very rarely fail to complete their scheduled tasks at the right time in another part of the world map and instead crash the game – this is another where I don’t understand the cause, but it has definitely been resolved.

So, the list continues to shrink, and I’m now basically just checking out schedules and fixing bugs in the conversation system. I must say, though, that it is a little dispiriting that I keep encountering new bugs while trying to fix the old ones, but I take a lot of reassurance from the fact that the speech system has gone from “almost every possible question might lead to the game crashing” (a month ago) to “no question causes a crash, and just a handful of questions are still a bit inaccurate or strange in their responses” (now). Progress is continuing to happen at a pace I’m very comfortable and very pleased with, and I should have more to show in, again, some time later in April. I’ve been travelling a ton for work lately (week back in the UK, week in Sydney, and soon another week travelling in Canada), which has stretched this update out a little, but things are still moving at a nice speed. Thank you all for reading, and see you all soon!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: April 12, 2019, 05:42:09 PM »
More URR progress! I am now down to the final two things before URR 0.8’s release, which are 1) check every line of dialogue as comprehensively as I can, and 2) deal with some strange issues regarding game speed and optimisation which are bothering me. In the mean time, though, the fact we’re now at that point is because I’ve managed to get done all of the following:

– Fixed an issue with leaders failing to generate correctly at night; leaders of civilisations temporarily disabled.
– Fixed a number of issues with synonyms for words in certain dialects producing some very strange linguistic outcomes.
– Fixed some word variables not correctly being replaced with the right words or phrases because of where in the code those particular sentence are generated.
– You now cannot talk to NPCs when asleep; if 0.9 happens I will likely implement a simple process for waking NPCs, but angering them in the process.
– NPCs who have special things you can do with them, besides talking, such as smithing (with a blacksmith) or worshipping (with a priest), no longer crash the game when you select them.
– Guards and soldiers and the like now spawn with armour (although the armour has no pictures – again, if 0.9 happens, that will be a priority).
– A few issues with farmhouses are now fixed.
– NPCs of a certain sort – who are finite in number, but not always important enough to be generated when the world is, such as some priests, some monks, most prisoners – no longer display a range of bugs when they are “normal” rather than “special” versions of those NPCs.
– Fixed (I think) issues with some buildings in tribal societies, and also hospitals in military districts should also now be issue-free.
– The guidebook has been updated with a number of new entries for this new release detailing language, speech, and so forth.
– NPCs can now properly end conversations when they say they’re ending the conversation, instead of just saying they’re done talking, and then continuing to talk by just repeatedly saying they don’t want to talk.
– Fixed a wide range of issues and minor bugs with language generation, grammatical structure, the correct “calling” of other pieces of information, and so forth.
– Resolved a bug where certain kinds of religions didn’t generate backgrounds for their holy books, and then relevant NPCs asked about those books caused a crash when they couldn’t work out what to say.
– Fixed an issue with certain kinds of NPCs spawned in rare circumstances not being able to respond to the “What was your previous job?” question.
– Some guidebook entries no longer display incorrectly in rare circumstances.
– Certain name generation techniques no longer (I think) mix up the genders of the characters they are trying to produce names for.
– Many more questions can now be answered completely, and a handful of others have been given acceptable placeholder responses for the time being.
– NPCs are now generally more willing to talk to you, as until now this was definitely balanced too much in favour of NPCs keeping information private.
– A couple of rare world generation issues have been fixed, primarily involving the creation of names for things like relics (primarily), artworks, books, and the like.
– Fixed issues involving guard schedules within military districts, and the guards not knowing where to go or what to do.
– All ranks of soldiers are now much better at telling you what they actually do.
– Some ranks of soldiers (and some wandering soldiers in cities) didn’t have the “Soldiering” conversation option; this has been fixed.
– Resolved issues with armour for NPCs from nomadic civilizations.
– Fixed a problem with substituting certain words in certain conversation responses if the word was followed by punctuation marks, specifically “!”, “,”, “.”, and “;”.
– Fixed a major and long-term bug involving too many servants or slaves trying to spawn into a mansion if you first set foot in the building at night when everyone is sleeping.
– Clerks and diplomats in embassies now correctly have appropriate old jobs to talk about.
– You can no longer force someone into talking to you again after they end the conversation – they will instead now ignore you.
– Asking people about nearby nomadic or tribal civilisations no longer just involves them telling you about nearby feudal societies…
– Fixed an issue with entering parliamentary buildings sometimes causing clerks to spawn off the map, and therefore have no way to path, and consequently result in a crash.
– Many more linguistic fixes.
– Characters can now accurately tell you what embassies from other nations, if any, are nearby.
– Solved a gigantic bug which took me a long time to figure out, where sometimes there weren’t enough guards being able to spawn in castles. It took many hours to trace it back, but it turned out the game was registering a passing guard outside of the castle as being one of the castle’s guards (incorrectly), and then that cascaded through the rest of the code to tell the castle to spawn fewer guards than it should, and then some places were not being filled up, and so the game collapsed. This was probably the hardest bug to find since resuming development – and had a guard not been passing through the castle district while I was testing other, completely unrelated things, I would never have even known this one existed!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (0.8 back in development!)
« on: February 12, 2019, 09:34:49 PM »
It is with immense pleasure that this month’s blog entry is going to be a long and pretty thorough update on what I’ve programmed into URR in the last little while. As many of you readers will know, the latest version – 0.8 – has been about 90% done for over a year, until I restarted development, slowly, a month or two ago. It is now sitting at somewhere around 95% or so, I would say, although I have also reduced the scope of the remaining 10%, so that I can just get it released as soon as possible – if there is a 0.9, I’ll return and fill in the blanks then with a much smaller release.

Nevertheless, here’s a rough log of the things I’ve done since resuming development, quietly, slowly, in the background:

– Names of artworks now generate, and NPCs can talk about them.
– Names of books and poetry now generate, and NPCs can talk about them.
– Names of relics now generate, and NPCS can talk about them.
– Everyone can name and talk about the rulers of their nations.
– Friendly NPCs will warn you to be wary when asking potentially sensitive questions.
– Rulers have appropriate titles and sets of roles and responsibilities.
– Asking a soldier or officer about their job no longer results in a crash.
– Removed the ability for the player character to change dialect; if implemented, this will be a 0.9 feature.
– Monks and abbots can tell you about the history of their monasteries and what they produce.
– NPCs can tell you appropriately about their past, their upbringing, etc.
– Servants and slaves correctly discuss whoever they serve.
– Officers tell you about their histories and how they were promoted.
– Shopkeepers will tell you what they have in stock (for, er, once they have items in stock!).
– Removed the possibility of NPCs recommending you talk to someone else (i.e. an expert on the topic you’ve asked about) instead of them; again, if implemented, that’ll be 0.9.
– The mood of NPCs talking to you declines more slowly than before, even if you ask them daft things.
– NPCs can talk about their current and past jobs, and their backgrounds and origins.
– Guards will tell you about what they guard, who they guard it for, who is allowed in, and so forth.
– Mercenaries will give you ample information about their skills and abilities if asked.
– Relevant NPCs have lots of information about their religions, holy books, festivals, and so forth.
– Military figures will tell you about their armed forces (if appropriate).
– Mercenaries, military figures and other relevant NPCs can tell you about weapons, armour, how their people fight, etc.
– NPCs can talk about travel, where they’ve visited, where they were born, where they grew up, etc.
– Farmers can tell you about farming (which, I’m sure we’ll all agree, is absolutely vital).
– Innkeepers and jailers tell you about their jobs and the histories of their taverns or jails.
– Various titles for rulers and religious leaders and the like are handled correctly whenever an NPC needs to talk about them.
– Prisoners will tell you all about their crimes (which they may well insist they didn’t commit, of course), when they were imprisoned, and when they will get out.
– NPCs can tell you about the plants and animals found in their areas, and what plants/animals (if any) might be sacred to their people.
– Handled a number of broad answers for big questions, which now serve as placeholders until more detail can be added.
– Checked that a number of bugs relating to speech patterns have been fixed.
– Added a lot of new information about civilizations and religions that NPCs can talk about, mainly preferences for/against certain things.

Where does this leave us? Well, the conversation system is more complete than ever, and more bugs have been fixed. As before, I’m now not giving deadlines or anything, but the 0.8 version of this mad sprawling worldbuilder is finally on its way in the not-too-distant future. More soon!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (v 0.7 released, 18th April!)
« on: January 26, 2019, 09:37:04 AM »
Hello everyone! Long time no see.

Firstly, 0.8 is back in development, finally, and things are being finished off now! Just some tweaks to go until it's ready to release; been putting in consistent coding hours regularly for the past month or two, really "back into it", and things are coming together. I'll have more to say on this soon.

In other news, my book is out, where I talk about lots of PCG stuff! You can read about it here...

...including a sample chapter. It would be awesome to get any thoughts on this! A big URRpdate is coming next month, and I'll be back with that in a couple weeks :). Hope everyone is otherwise doing well!

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (v 0.7 released, 18th April!)
« on: April 08, 2018, 01:27:09 AM »
After rather a long while, here's an update for you all...

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (v 0.7 released, 18th April!)
« on: November 04, 2017, 06:57:16 PM »
Hello everyone! It has been a little while since the first Interlude, so I thought it would be appropriate to post a sequel.

Firstly, thank you all so much for the amazingly kind words on the other blog entry (and which I’ve had through email, Facebook, etc) – they really mean so much to me, and they are deeply deeply appreciated.

Secondly, I’ve now successfully moved to Canada, found a flat (or rather, an apartment), signed the contract, and done the majority of all the admin and bureaucracy stuff that comes from moving to an entirely different country; I still need to get a mobile phone that functions in this country, and there’s one or two University-admin things I need to complete, but otherwise I’m settled, moved, I’m “in the system” in the Canadian bureaucracy, and I’m getting ready to officially begin this job just a couple of days from now. This has been a pretty huge task in the last fortnight, but it’s now coming to an end.

Thirdly, on the health front, the physical symptoms are improving, and the psychological symptoms are (more slowly) also improving. Things are still tough, but I’m making some good choices to improve the newfound psychological difficulties this complication from my older illness has dumped on me. In the short-to-mid term, I think things might be on the up (slowly), but it’s always so hard to know.

Fourthly, here’s the cover for my upcoming book with Bloomsbury. I’m so happy with the design! I should have more information soon about an exact publication date, but there’s lots of roguelike-y goodness in there to be had.

Fifthly, any of you folks who are interested in Twitch and live streaming might want to read this paper I recently published about it – you can find a paywall-free version here - In it we explore the backgrounds of live streamers, the everyday work and labour of being a professional live streamer, and their hopes and fears about the future of their practice. This is part of a larger project on Twitch I’ve been developing alongside my colleague Jamie Woodcock in the last year, and we should have some more exciting stuff on this front to announce soon. Stay tuned.

So yes, that’s everything for now. I’ll hopefully be able to post more again once I have some kind of stability. I’ve also been thinking over some pretty fundamental questions about the website, how I blog, how often I blog, my general online visibility, these sorts of things, so there might be some big changes coming in the future (once I feel a little stronger). In the mean time, take care, everyone.

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (v 0.7 released, 18th April!)
« on: September 28, 2017, 12:49:44 PM »
Things have to stabilise sooner or later… right?

Yup, you're right :) Take care, good luck.

Thanks, my friend :).

Early Dev / Re: Ultima Ratio Regum (v 0.7 released, 18th April!)
« on: September 27, 2017, 10:53:54 PM »
Interesting! Maybe I will one day learn another programming language...

And now, finally, an update:


Just a short one this week, to say: my apologies for the silence over the last month. A combination of an unexpectedly high workload (five different paper revisions to complete in a short time-span), along with caring for an extremely ill relative, and preparing to move 4200 miles across the globe in around three weeks, has been quite challenging. I also managed to send myself on a trip to the Accident and Emergency part of my local hospital, which was all totally excellent, but has put me in bed recovering for quite a few days. And, to top it all off, a side-effect of the far more serious illness I got several years ago has just manifested; it’s not life-threatening, but it’s intensely dispiriting and depressing. I’m still alive (barely) but just absolutely swamped under everything right now; the injury and the new medical issue are both just extra things I could really, really, do without. I thought the past couple of months would be the proper restart on URR’s development, but apparently that isn’t going to happen just yet.

Nevertheless, I’ll be back to 0.8 as soon as possible. Things have to stabilise sooner or later… right?

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