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Messages - Paul Jeffries

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Programming / Re: Programming habits, standards, and learning.
« on: October 22, 2012, 11:22:54 PM »
I think VB.NET gets a bad rap among people who've never actually used it.  It has inherited the idea from Basic that it's a 'beginners language' but I don't think that's really true - you need to have a fairly deep understanding of OOP in order to use it effectively.  I've taught it to people in the past and there are a fair few theoretical hurdles you have to help them across - it's certainly less 'pick up and play' than the older versions of VB.

I think it only has two really meaningful drawbacks:

1. Garbage collection.  Although unless you're super-concerned about performance that probably counts as a plus.
2. It's not terribly cross-platform, what with being based on an MS-owned framework and all.

That said, if you feel you must learn a new language I recommend C++.  I moved to that from VB and didn't find it all that difficult to pick up the basics, although of course it's very difficult to fully master.  More importantly, I found that learning C++ actually made me a much better VB.NET programmer, because it exposes you to a lot of the stuff that VB.NET hides away behind the scenes.  It helped me to make sense of some of the stuff in .NET that always struck me as a bit bizarre beforehand because I could finally see where they were coming from.

Other Announcements / Re: Roguelike Radio podcast
« on: October 22, 2012, 11:01:40 PM »
I agree with Mosenzov that it'd be nice to see an episode on real-time roguelikes (mainly because I'm currently working on one myself, so it's something I've been thinking about a lot and it would be interesting to see some other perspectives).  Although, that said, most of the decent real-time roguelikes that I can think of (Spelunky, BoI, FTL, Red Rogue etc.) have all already had their own dedicated episodes, so perhaps there's not much more to be said!

Since I've been playing the new XCOM for the past two weeks, it'd also be good to see an episode on X@Com (maybe when its finished) or even the original X-Com (or UFO: Enemy Unknown, to give it its proper name) itself, since its basically a roguelike anyway (at least, it is the way I play it).

Off-topic (Locked) / Re: RPG roguelike
« on: September 08, 2012, 10:18:15 AM »
TOME 4 is probably the roguelike game that I think comes closest to being a 'normal' RPG - but then what I think of as being a normal RPG is typically very stat-heavy, so it may not be the kind of thing you're looking for.

Shiren the Wanderer might scratch at least some of your itches - it's fairly stat-light and has a fairly zelda-y-pokemon-y feel to it.  You might not get quite the sense of loss that you're after since your character doesn't technically die - he just goes back to the starting village with all his equipment and levels lost - but it's a brilliant game that you should probably play anyway.

Incubator / Re: Roguelike Bundle preparations
« on: September 07, 2012, 07:35:40 PM »
Playing devil's advocate (or devil's PR) a bit: I think you guys need to decide if you haven't already, or make clearer if you have, what the actual purpose of the bundle is from a player's perspective.

What I mean by that is that I think it's clear what you guys all hope to get out of it: a concrete outcome to drive the first stage of the incubator, a bit of cross-promotion, maybe a mention on a couple of gaming sites, bring in some players who haven't tried roguelikes before and so on.  But what isn't so obvious at least to me is what exactly is in it for the prospective player.  What are the key selling points?  What's the 'story'?  Why should I, Mr. John Q. Videogamesplayer, give a crap?

 The humble bundle etc. offer the purchaser a chance to buy a load of games a lot cheaper than they usually would (or a lot more expensively, if they choose to be very generous) and in doing so try out some games that they might not have done otherwise.

Obviously, that doesn't quite work here because (presumably) all of these games would be released for free anyway.  So there's not a lot of financial incentive to waste bandwidth downloading them as a bundle when you could just grab the one(s) that you might be interested in individually and ignore the others - like you can with any other freeware game.  You could emphasise the 'for charity' aspect of it but it seems like that's entirely optional anyway and something of an afterthought - the current website doesn't put a whole lot of emphasis on it.  Of course the danger with really pushing that aspect is that it might seem a little disingenuous to people familiar with the origins of the bundle, but what the hell - I won't tell anyone if you won't.

Alternative spin, and I guess the one you're probably going for, is quality: i.e. these games have been through a rigorous and intensive development 'boot camp' and are the best of the best of the bestiest, quality 100% guaranteed.  Of course in this case the games need to actually be really really good (as I'm sure they are), but then this is still really more of an outcome of the incubator itself, and the bundle is fairly irrelevant - the incubator is the focus of that story.  Where the bundle might gain some ground however is if it were selective - if it represented the 'best' n games to have been developed in the incubator as selected by peer review (or public vote, whatever).  It seems like you don't really have the number of games to do that, however, and so should delay.  And of course it's maybe not the strongest pitch in any case - most people won't know you from Adam (or your games from ADOM) and have no idea what any guarantees of quality you might make would be worth - while those of us that do will probably play the games anyway, bundle or no.

Alternative alternative spin would be something more akin to something like the 7DRLs - that creating these games was a specific challenge/accomplishment that took place under certain conditions and restrictions and the bundle is the result of that incubator 'experiment'.  In which case you shouldn't change the release date because what's on trial is not just the games themselves but also the process/environment that they were created in.  This doesn't really present any benefit to the players but it's still something that might pique their interest and get them to try out the games.

Anyway, you get the idea - I think you need to focus in on what exactly you want the bundle to achieve and then from that make the decision about what should go into it and when it should be released.  At the moment it seems a little like you're doing a bundle just because indie bundles are like, so totally in this season and I don't think that's a good enough reason on its own.

Programming / Re: Monster spawning algorithm
« on: August 30, 2012, 06:18:00 PM »
In my last game I did it by giving each level a "style" which (among other things) contained a list of the enemies that were allowed to spawn on that level.  Separately, each level had a 'points budget' and each monster had a 'points cost' based on how dangerous it is.  When populating the level, enemies were picked at random from the enemy list and their points cost deducted from the budget until it was all gone.  This meant that I could give different levels the same style and hence the same monster set, but varying difficulty, since some levels could spawn more or higher-cost monsters off that list.

Another balancing trick I employed to try and make sure that you weren't faced with all of the monsters being generated in one small portion of the level was to randomly nominate and store a number (based on area) of 'spawn points' within each room during the level generation.  When placing enemies later on I just picked spawn points at random off the list and then discarded them.  This made placement easy (I didn't have to bother checking for obstacles because I knew all of the spawn points were in accessible places) and ensured that no room could have above a certain monster density.

I didn't write that article and I've never used that generation method, but I would assume it's usually just placed randomly.  i.e. the room width and height are randomly generated within a desired range and then the position of the top left corner is also randomly picked with x in the range 1:(cellwidth-roomwidth) and y in the range 1:(cellheight-roomheight).  But that article just gives a basic framework in any case - you can implement it any way you want.

Programming / Re: When is Random Too Random?
« on: August 18, 2012, 11:05:30 PM »
It depends what you are trying to achieve.  Generally the aim behind randomisation is to prevent knowledge of previous games from spoiling various discovery-related aspects of the gameplay (i.e. the map layout, item identification etc.).  But that isn't the only thing you can use it for.  For example: I think POWDER does the thing you are talking about where it slightly randomises the strengths of monsters.  I think the aim there (I'm guessing) is to keep the player alert and stop them from treating enemies as 'windshield bugs' - even if you're facing a monster that is much weaker than you generally you still need to be careful and can't just hold down the arrow key until they disappear with no real risk, because you can't be entirely sure how strong they actually are.

I think randomisation only becomes 'too much' when it throws up situations where whatever the player does they have no chance of winning.  I've been playing Hack, Slash, Loot recently and this suffers a lot from this problem: how well you do in a given game is almost entirely down to what items you come across.  This is not so much a case of there being too much random stuff, however - it's more that there's not enough other stuff in there to give the player the ability to deal with that randomness: you have to use/equip items as you find them and there's no other kind of skill system - so the only real tactical element you have control over is positioning and that doesn't have that big of an impact on combat compared to whatever items you happen to have randomly come across.

Programming / Re: Multiplayer in Roguelikes
« on: August 06, 2012, 11:51:12 PM »
I've been playing the old boardgame Dungeon! a lot with my girlfriend recently and have been thinking that it could form the basis of a pretty good competitive multiplayer roguelike.

For those that haven't played it: as the name suggests, the game takes place in a dungeon which is divided up into six levels.  The aim of the game is to 'descend' into the dungeon, grab a certain amount of loot and make it back to the entrance before anybody else.  It even has its own form of procedural generation: although the map is set, each room in the dungeon contains a monster and a piece of treasure that  is determined by a random card - these cards are split into several decks that are colour-coordinated with the different levels: so the level 1 deck has fairly weak monsters but also much naffer loot cards, while the level 6 deck has super-powerful monsters but also higher-value treasure.  So, the game becomes a quite interesting risk-reward problem - do you stick around level one and beat up the weedy monsters, but gain treasure slowly, or do you take a risk and dive down to the richer but more dangerous levels, where you might reach your target amount of gold faster but stand a much higher risk of being squashed...

The 'advanced' game has a few more elements that mix things up a little - you can choose from several different classes with different strengths and weaknesses (Wizards are generally shit, but have a limited number of powerful elemental spells, rogues are weak, but quite good at stealing treasure from other players, Paladins are big beefy knights who kick ass and can heal themselves, but also have no choice but to follow their goody-goody code and spend a turn healing any other player that needs it... etc.) and you can find magic items as treasure that give you combat bonuses, let you open secret passages easier and so on which works quite well as a way of opening up alternative tactics.

I think this could all translate quite well into a roguelike.  The main concession I think you would have to make to normal 'roguelikeness' is to make it a bit more board-gamey by letting the player do more per turn.  In Dungeon! for example you can move (typically) 5 corridor tiles per turn, and each room counts as a single square all by itself.  Maybe I'll have a go at doing something based of this for next year's 7DRL...

Off-topic (Locked) / Re: Darkest videogames ever
« on: July 24, 2012, 11:16:09 PM »
Vampire: Bloodlines had some fairly dark aspects, some of which were quite brilliantly subtle and insidious.

Incubator / Re: Intro to the Incubator
« on: June 12, 2012, 09:54:00 PM »
This looks really interesting - I'm not sure I necessarily want to join the Cabal (I'm not sure I could realistically commit to a strict schedule of new releases and in any case the stuff I'm working on at the moment is probably straying too far from the 'standard' roguelike template) but I'm definitely going to keep an eye on this and try to offer feedback if and when I can.

Early Dev / Re: MicRogue
« on: June 05, 2012, 10:06:45 AM »
Played the latest build - very nice!

I got myself into a couple of unwinnable situations like the ones shown in the images, but it always felt like it was my fault for not planning ahead properly so I'm not sure it's not a massive problem provided you don't start the level that way and there is always some way of winning.

Off-topic (Locked) / Re: Shop system for a ss2 rl
« on: April 29, 2012, 09:24:17 PM »
It might be useful to try and pick apart what exactly it is you want the shop to do in gameplay terms and then think about other ways of achieving the same goals through different (possibly multiple) means.

So, a shop typically fulfills some of these roles:

- Gives meaning to the concept of currency as a reward: i.e. it gives you a reason to want to collect money/credits/energy/whatever and potentially sets up some interesting risk vs. reward scenarios.  Could be replaced with some other form of reward that aids progression in a similar way.  If you wanted to simplify things you could just replace monetary rewards with experience point gains, since they basically fulfill a similar function in this regard.
- Allows the player to make strategic decisions about the way they want to play the game by letting them choose their equipment (within certain limits) rather than having to rely on whatever they can find.  Could be emulated by having characters or containers that let you pick only one object out of a selection.
- Makes all items useful in some way, since even if you don't use them you can sell them to exchange them for something you do want.  Of course the downside to this is that the player usually then feels compelled to pick up everything he can carry just so he can sell it and thus engage in lots of dull inventory management, so you may want to avoid this anyway... but, could be replaced with some kind of 'recycling' or crafting system where items can be broken down and used to build other items.

And probably a few more things based on the specific game - I'm sure you get the idea: rather than replacing the shop system with something that acts exactly the same way but that has a big sign on it saying 'this is not a shop, honest' you could break down the functions of a shop into separate, potentially more setting-appropriate, forms.

Off-topic (Locked) / Re: legend of grimrock
« on: April 25, 2012, 07:49:47 PM »
Oh, I know all about the circle strafing, although I didn't know you could cure poison by resting - I'd assumed that would just kill you... the more you know...

Off-topic (Locked) / Re: legend of grimrock
« on: April 25, 2012, 12:18:19 AM »
I bought this yesterday and have been playing for a couple of hours now - I'm really liking the atmosphere and the nostalgia factor, although I'm finding the combat a bit tedious and fiddly.  Just beaten level 3, which I found rather annoying due to the large number of spiders - I kept getting poisoned and having used all my antidotes have to keep trekking back through the level to the big blue reviving gem thing.

Off-topic (Locked) / Re: Foreigners
« on: April 25, 2012, 12:08:49 AM »
I live in an area of London with a large immigrant population - in fact I think where I live there is technically no such thing as an ethnic majority, since no one ethnic group has over 50% of the population.  If one hundredth of the bullshit scare tactics that the media and people like Krice came out with about immigration were true I would probably be lying in the gutter with a stab wound right now outside the burned-out remains of my house while fighting off plague rats with a stick.

(Spoiler warning:) I'm not.

In fact it's fine.  If anything I have less problems here than in the area with 99% native white population where I grew up.  The so-called 'problems' of immigration exist solely in the minds of people so deluded that they think being born one side of an imaginary line makes you somehow 'better' and more 'deserving' than those born on the other side.

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