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Topics - Lummox JR

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Other Announcements / Advanced magic, freeform system
« on: June 13, 2008, 04:36:34 AM »
I'm not sure how relevant this is to Roguelikes in particular as to RPGs in general, but I've been thinking lately about magic systems. I had an idea I wanted to write up as an article on my own Roguelike development blog, but every time I try to pin down a good design the whole thing falls apart.

Essentially, it struck me that a more reasonable, well-recognized form of magic in fantasy worlds would be one that requires study, has arcane and hidden knowledge, and in which new things can be discovered. Most fiction puts magic in those terms, but when translated into a game it always ends up as a preset list of spells that do specific things, often attempting balance but never achieving it. So I thought, screw balance, let's just think of magic in more practical terms: an alphabet, or RNA sequences, spelling out the building blocks of a spell. This alphabet would be deterministic, such that transposing letters would produce a different spell, using certain sequences would affect the mana and time requirements differently, and spells have to be discovered.

Where I ran aground is that it's fairly difficult to contain an entire set of spells in a single alphabet. Key concepts would be elements to act on, targets like people and objects, spell action as in a transfer of energy or a change of physical properties or some kind of transformation or illusion etc., and method of spell delivery. It should also be possible to, via another spell, bind a spell into an item or person, so you could create an enchanted weapon or some such.

Perhaps a better analogy, different from an alphabet, would be chemistry. In chemistry many compounds are formed by taking smaller molecules and forming them together in a certain way to create a unique topography. So the spellcrafter would, in trying to design a Wall of Ice spell, want something that would act on thin air, drain heat, do so very rapidly, and pick a target location and orientation of his choice. The latter might be swapped out, for ease of use, with a way of forming the spell directly between the caster and a chosen target. An explorer wanting to brighten a dark underground room would want a spell that acts on the nearby walls, summons bright light, and lingers for a certain time (perhaps hours).

I know there are various magic systems out there, but I suspect few of them require players to essentially become "magic programmers", which in a very real sense is what fictional wizards are: mana hackers. I'm thinking some kind of simplified grammar could be used to convert freeform spellcasting from a problem of natural language interpretation into a problem of simple parsing, not unlike the way a text adventure operates.

In adventure-game syntax, this is how I picture some spells would work:

Heal: Transfer life from air to target
Incinerate: Summon much heat at target for 10 seconds
Terrify: Show target's greatest fear to target
Break: Rupture target moderately
Shatter: Rupture target greatly
Teleport self away: Jump me to any large empty place

I think my own mental picture of the possible lists of spells is fairly incomplete, and without that it'd be hard to describe such spells in consistent terms. Feedback and related thoughts are much appreciated.

Other Announcements / Any fiction out there?
« on: August 14, 2007, 02:26:28 PM »
I've been wondering, is there any good Roguelike or dungeon crawl themed fiction out there? I know there's the Rogulike Fanworks Archive, which I had thought said it listed fiction (it doesn't seem to say that now), but there's none there. Heck, I don't even know if there are any books on it. I have read fictionalized accounts of people's gaming experiences, but I don't count that in the same league because it's basically a play-by-play with window dressing, not a complete narrative. I'm looking for something that's more of an actual story set in a Roguelike environment, rather than a Roguelike experience spun into a story.

I wonder this because I've written a short story in the genre myself, and I've been looking around to see if anyone else has done the same, how they had approached it, and whether it might be of interest to me. Seeing how other authors handled the material would be fascinating, because honestly it's a difficult concept to make viable. The idea that there are monster-infested dungeons where gold is just left lying around is fairly silly, but if you posit that such gold is somewhat hidden or inaccessible, that past adventurers or monsters might have left behind something of value when they died, that some creatures hoard what they find, it gets a lot easier to swallow.

I don't read a lot of fantasy, mostly sci-fi, so I wondered if someone might be aware of a book or story that fits this theme. And are there any spots online that I haven't found that might have such stories?

Programming / Good interface ideas
« on: August 05, 2007, 08:30:00 PM »
Sean Howard has an interesting post at his game mechanics page about Roguelikes:

The first part is a neat idea, but the real meat is below. The idea is to encourage Roguelikes to go with a simpler interface instead of having a zillion and one commands that only work on one item each, or menuize item interaction in a way that's simpler. It certainly makes a lot of sense.

Also of note is his article on procedural content:

Other Announcements / Ranged weapons that don't suck?
« on: August 05, 2007, 08:12:54 AM »
I'm not the consummate Roguelike expert, but I've found in most of the RLs I've played that ranged combat is really only feasible with spells and wands. That is, bow-and-arrow attacks are quite nerfed. In Rogue for example, arrows do a semi-reasonable amount of damage (maybe a little less than they should), but to use them effectively you need to 1) wield the bow/crossbow, 2) go through a complex throw sequence to fire, and 3) pray you can see any other monsters coming up or that you kill your target before it gets too close. Wandstrikes don't have this problem; you fire and forget, still keeping your trusty two-handed sword in hand. #3 is a bigger concern in Rogue itself, where darkness can hurt you bad.

Have any RLs found reasonable solutions to this problem? Besides the obvious ones that is, like I suspect in Doom RL there's a lot more ranged weapons fire but simplified (I haven't played it yet).

Other Announcements / Developing Roguelikes in BYOND
« on: August 01, 2007, 04:07:17 AM »
Hi, everyone. This is my first post here. By way of introduction, I've been a fan of Roguelikes for a long time, having played Rogue, Nethack, and a bit of Crawl (mostly just those) in my spare time. I can't say I'm an expert player of any of them but I do love the genre, especially the sheer imagination of it. So much in fact that I actually wrote a short story around the premise, and I'm hoping to get that published in a collection on when time permits.

Anyway, I don't know if anyone here has heard of it, but there's a game platform called BYOND that allows you to create your own tile-based games (including the use of text mode), which is quite well suited for Roguelikes, graphical or otherwise. It was originally designed for graphical MUDs. I've been part of that community for almost six years now, but I'm still dismayed at the dearth of good Roguelikes there. Right now I run a BYOND guild called Dungeon Crawlers, where my goal is to get a lot of BYOND users more interested in developing and playing Roguelikes. (That way even if I don't have as much time to develop my own, I can play theirs!) Through one of the users there I was told about this site, and I've been enjoying the news here since. (The story on AGB Rogue specifically fascinated me, since I own a DS Lite and the idea of portable Rogue is really awesome. I've been playing a bit with modifying the controls.) Since then I got to thinking, I wonder if more of the Roguelike community at large would be interested in using BYOND as a development platform.

Just to give you an idea of what to expect, the BYOND platform is an interpreter for a custom language called DM, which is actually one of the friendliest languages I've ever worked with without sacrificing flexibility (my other all-time favorite is TADS). It's especially a good choice for C-phobics who'd rather get into the meat of the game than mess with structs and pointers. It also has built-in multiplayer support, although that probably isn't of as much use to the Roguelike community (though if anyone has ideas on how to make a multiplayer RL work well, do let me know).

So hey, if anyone's got any interest or ideas, feel free to stop by Dungeon Crawlers, or even respond here. My top picks for dungeon crawls on BYOND right now are Darke Dungeon (more a crawl than a true Roguelike, but good; hosted on weekends), Ruin, and my own simple game Runt. It's not much yet, but it's a start, and the whole point of the guild is to encourage more development there.

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