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  I Can See Through Time.... 10:09 PM -- Sat March 31, 2007  

No, I kid. We made a curry dish this evening and it was great! It was not at all hot, however, so my Simpsons reference title is a terrible lie.

So I have not been notably present around here lately. What's up with that? Well, a couple of things. First, and less incriminating, it is Sol's Spring Break. So I'm kind of vacationing too. I'm still working, but whenever she stays around here all day, even though we might be on different ends of the house, or not even both in the house, I just don't feel like working. It feels like a vacation, so it becomes one. I always want to see what she's up to, or find something pointless to do with her like watch yet more Netflix. But even if not, it just feels like not the time to get things done. I guess part of it is a flow issue - if I think I don't have a bunch of uninterrupted hours, I can't get started doing stuff.

Ah, but there is a more significant and pressing concern. For you see, I recently obtained (thanks to a huge sale at Circuit City), the game Titan Quest (plus the expansion - $30 all together)! It's awesome. I am completely hooked. I mean, it may not actually be such an amazing game, but it's the perfect game for me. It's a total Diablo 2 clone. So it's like I get to play that again, only with all new skills and items, and I don't know where everything is yet. Mmmmmm. I haven't been this hooked on a game in years... since Diablo 2! I think I played something like 8 hours one day. And then the next day. In fact, I got it about halfway through my 10-day WoW guest pass, and it took precedence very quickly. Forget WoW! I just need more Diablo clones. I hear Silverfall, which just came out, is another one...

Anyway, so I haven't done much in a week. I did get the merge built. Bad news there - its the last one, at least for a while. The participation is once again horribly low (4 builders), and it's just too much work for so little result. I mean, it'd be fine, except I can spend those hours working on an actual game! I don't mind doing extra stuff, it's all part of building the community, but when there's so little interest in it, it's just not worth the time.

Aside from that, just done some LLTT design stuff, and a little bit of work on it. Many inspirations from Titan Quest. I tell you, playing games gives me ideas! LL2: CE is just about ready to go. Still haven't gotten around to recording that last commentary, but I promise tomorrow! Then it's just a matter of making the installer and creating the disc and waiting for it to get produced and stored in the warehouse, so I can start taking orders! Everything else is done.

So that's the big update finally after a long delay. I'm still slacking. Spring Break has another week to go! But I'm getting things done a bit, and will do better as it gets less new. Tomorrow's busy - the whole first of the month thing. A bunch of addons to prep and release, the newsletter. Fun for all!
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland: Titan Tunnels 04:47 PM -- Fri March 23, 2007  

Hard to get new pics when I'm at the library. But it sure is a convenient time to write Sneak Peeks!

The thing I've been working on right now is pretty nice, though certainly not earth-shattering. I changed how skills are displayed, so now you don't have to do the math yourself - For example, the Toughness skill has as the last line of its description "Level 1: +3 Life." (or "Level 3: +9 Life." as the case may be). You can hold down the Magic button to see what a skill would be like with another point in it. For extra fun, the numbers that change are nicely highlighted, like how they show up green in Guild Wars. I kinda enjoy this, it's making the game feel more solid to me, and it means I am sharing more data than I was in LL2 - for example, when it used to say "range increases with level" (because I didn't have a good way of expressing the exact range), it now says "affects everyone within 4.5 feet". A "foot" is a tile, because I hope you'll agree when looking at the screen that that seems about right.

Another thing to discuss: quests. Nothing very solid here, but my current thinking is quite straightforward. Having about 5 people who give quests, and what happens is, when you finish their quest and come back, they give you another. It doesn't matter what your level is or anything, the way it works is that each one gives progressively tougher quests. Each one also has a specific style of quest they give. For example, Kinyova Sr. would give you "beat X monsters", "beat X monsters of type Y", and "beat boss X", since he's big on that. The number needed would increase with each quest, the type offered would be progressively harder types heading down the monster list, and the bosses chosen would be progressively tougher bosses from the list. None of this would be hardcoded, though - he randomly decides which type to give you, then randomly chooses a suitable value to fill in for it, based on how many of his quests you've done before.

You could of course ignore quests entirely, or make sure you finish off every one offered, or pick the people who give quests you like to do, or anything in between. I like the idea that the difficulty/reward depends on quests you've done rather than your level - if you want to get rewarded highly for questing, you need to put in the effort by doing all the lesser quests from that person. And if you do religiously complete quests, you'll always have a lot to do, and the game will be fairly easy, since that will force to clear things out pretty thoroughly before descending deeper.

Other potential quests and questgivers include: Curaga, who wants you to collect X herbs/X herbs of type Y/potion of type X quality Y; the Junksmith who wants you to do similar with junk items; a new guy named Clumsy Pete who gives you "I lost X on level Y of the dungeon, can you find it?" (X is a randomly generated quest item, has no purpose but to give it to him); the Guru who just says "I'll go hide on level X, find me!", then maybe gives out "max out talent X" once you have all talents. That's all that's coming to mind at the moment.

Then of course there's one or two other quests that are fixed - "Get to the end and win", with maybe some couple of lesser quests that put it together. Like maybe you need to find the pieces of the Titan Key or something to get from level 49 to 50. It's nice to have something like that instead of just the single "get 'im!" quest. But not a story with a long series of meaningful quests or anything. Just 2, 3 at the most, and definitely no attempt at making a story.

Oh, another thing I have considered: naming it Loonyland: Outcast, and replacing Loony with a Shroomulan. First, that makes it good as a side story - forget Loony, this one is on the side. It's called Outcast because Shroomulans believe in taking NO risks, since they live forever as long as they can get to a new mushroom in time, so your character, as a big fat hero, is an outcast from Shroomulan society. This is an idea I've had since creating Shroomulans, and planned to include as a playable race in LL3, as you can hear in the LL2 commentary if you listen to it.

Speaking of that, the LL2 commentary is now done except for one room - the very first one, where it introduces how the commentary works and such. We'll record that this weekend, then LL2:CE will be coming your way soon! Just need to get it printed and ready for shipping.
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland: Titan Tunnels 05:21 PM -- Mon March 19, 2007  

Same shot again. Someone asked about talents recently, and yes, new Talents are planned. They of course depend on what all the new skills are, since Talents tend to boost up skills. I think 20 new Talents is good, for a nice round 50. A few that help out Grappling, a few related to Thieving things, and some more general ones (inspired by/related to the new magic skills for the most part). You can certainly suggest Talent ideas. One I have already thought about is Cartography - an auto-generated map of the level you're in. That can be quite handy, since they'll be randomly generated. I also think there should be a new 'crafting' one, like Junksmith, Alchemy, and Clockwork. I'm not sure what it should be yet, though. Perhaps you have ideas.

But that's not what we're discussing today! As I said last time, it's time to talk traps, doors, keys, searching, and something or the other about items.

Searching. Let me discuss this first, since traps and secret doors rely on it. One of the talents will be Searching. Every second, the game checks to see if you detect anything invisible near you (within a 3 tile radius or so). Raising the Talent will improve the odds of finding them. So, if you are willing to stand in one spot for hours, you can be guaranteed to find anything hidden in range. But as you raise Searching, it will become much more likely that you will just notice things as you walk along. So let's see what you have a chance to find...

Traps. These are placed totally at random around the level, and presumably there will be special rooms, like vaults, that have a bunch of traps around a big treasure. They are of course invisible unless detected by Searching. There will be a few different types, and they get progressively more dangerous the deeper you go in the dungeon. They do the obvious things: burn you, smash you, stab you, freeze you, and poison you. Perhaps for a twist (and to add something worth dispelling, that monsters could also inflict), there could be traps that curse you in ways - cut your damage in half for 2 minutes, lower all your skills for 2 minutes, stuff like that. If you do detect a trap, you can walk around it or jump over it (maybe some traps trigger even if you are airborne, like a dart trap in the wall). You can of course try to Disarm traps with the appropriate skill, a nice way to get some XP and money (gambling your life on it, of course). Definitely, a couple of the new spells should be able to destroy traps. I would think Stone Spike would be a likely candidate, but it'd be too easy to just toss those down every hallway before you. Having the Burninate explosion destroy them would be much more appropriate - you don't toss out Burninates willy-nilly! Maybe Brambles could 'suppress' traps. If you step on a trap, but your Bramble is also on it, it blocks it from triggering. Just a concept.

Keys & Doors. We'll be reusing the same exact keys as LL2, but they'll work very differently. Now, enemies drop them randomly - they are progressively rarer in the same order of their 'greatness' in LL2 (Snowman most common, Bear rarest). You collect them, and they get used up when used. So doors tend to lock off little vault areas like mentioned above, or sometimes are just at random. You'd never need to go through a door to get to the next level, but it may be blocking a chunk of the level, for no reason. But then again, maybe there's a big treasure behind it... you won't know until you open it! Thieves can of course pick locks as you already heard.

Secret Doors. Sometimes there are secret doors. They look just like walls until you detect them by Searching, when you suddenly realize that they in fact look just like a normal door. You still need a key to open them.

Treasure Chests. Randomly placed, and need keys just like the doors do. Of course, the rarer chests give you better stuff, just like they do in LL2. Of course, the aforementioned vaults would have chests in them too.

Hidden Treasure. Just to make searching more exciting, you will occasionally discover (via Searching) a hidden crack, like the mining cracks. Jump on it to find a little bit of random treasure.

That's about it. A lot of interesting stuff to turn dungeon delving into a virtual trip to the casino. And by the way, in a random game like this, it is actually reasonable to let the player destroy walls to an extent. So that should be possible in certain rare situations (Perhaps again, Burninate is the answer here?). Don't have a bear key? How about blowing the wall down around the door instead? That's something I'd want to limit quite a bit, so you don't just flatten the entire level every time (as happens sometimes in Angband, actually). Perhaps something that requires a valuable and limited item. Still pondering the details, as usual.
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  Unproductivity 04:48 PM -- Mon March 19, 2007  

Bad news, everyone! With my newfound library access (which I am enjoying at this very moment), I used the free and extensive bandwidth to download World Of Warcraft and sign up for a 10-day guest pass! So as of last friday, productivity is precisely zero. I am, however, level 13. And really cranking up my Tailoring skill.

Why this has been so good at destroying productivity is another bit of terrible news for you, great for me: It turns out that of all games in the world, WoW is the one (not counting turn-based ones) that works pretty nicely over satellite. Seriously! I can play it despite it indicating a ping of 1500 usually, and for quite a while, it was 2500 (that means the round-trip for data to/from the server was 2.5 seconds, as opposed to the 10th of a second it is here at the library). Not that it's perfect, or even decent - there is a solid 2 second delay between me clicking on any button and getting a response (not movement though, they handle that very very nicely), so my "instant" spells are 2 second casts, and longer spells are just really really long. What this means is that while I can play, I am not very good.

I had to carefully select my class accordingly. I have a Paladin started up (handy because attacking happens at a set pace, once you start it off with the 2 second delay, and Paladins have the strongest armor in the game, making killing them a slow process I can react to, and they can heal themselves and even become invincible if need be - of course, I'll have to plan that invincibility 2 seconds in advance), but have instead been working hard on my mighty Warlock. Warlock is pretty good for lag, because instead of spamming spells, a Warlock casts a few spells which then tick damage constantly over time automatically - one of them is virtually identical to the Drain spell in LL2. And more importantly, you get a pet demon to help you out, and he is not subject to lag at all. I've done reasonably well for myself. And best of all, fishing works fine despite the lag! Hooray!

The worst thing about all this is that it means I can definitely buy and play WoW. The $15 monthly fee is the only obstacle, and I am quite cheap enough to make that a serious obstacle. For now, I will enjoy my 10 days, get back to work, and wake up in cold sweats each night, shivering for my fix, thereafter. But eventually, it will be time to turn this guest pass into a life-destruction pass, and that will be that. Maybe a reward for finishing Titan Tunnels?

Hey, speaking of wasting time and Titans, I just bought Titan Quest today, thanks to a really nice deal at Circuit City - buy the expansion (on sale for $25) and you get the game for only $5. Can't pass that up on a Diablo clone. So once the WoW guest pass is over, I'll luckily still be hooked on something! Well, lucky for me, too bad for you. Okay, not that lucky for me. I like to finish games and make money. But I do also enjoy playing them.... hmm, a dilemma.

For now, I'll get to work telling you stuff about TT on the Sneak Peek. Catch you there in a few minutes when I'm done. Then I better get back to WoW - I'm at the library, I should take advantage of all this speed!
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland: Titan Tunnels 02:21 PM -- Thu March 15, 2007  

Same pic. Okay, the basic layout of skills is down now. There will be twice as many as LL2 - 100. As usual, this will be broken into sets of 10. Here are the sets the game will have:
  • Passive - From LL2.
  • Attack - From LL2.
  • Throwing - From LL2.
  • Grappling - The wondrous third axe mode.
  • Thieving - See previous sneak peek, various stealth and utility skills.
  • Nature Magic - The 4 from LL2, and 6 new ones.
  • Fire Magic - Like Nature Magic.
  • Wind Magic - Again.
  • Ice Magic - Yep.
  • Death Magic - And the last!

And here are a couple sets I created and very thoroughly fleshed out with complete skill ideas, but won't be including (and yes, they do sound really fun, but 100 skills is enough/too many already!):
  • Zoid Riding - I wasn't entirely sure it would be a zoid, but something you ride on. It would let you move very quickly and inflict extra damage, but if hit once (or more times by upgrading the riding skill), you'd fall off and be yourself again, while your mount ran around crazily for a while. You couldn't ride it again until it calmed.
  • Pet Swampdog - A pet that would be quite tough and follow you around, with its own stamina bar for the moves it does. It would level up with you, and there would even be Collar items which you could equip on it to boost its power, like your own items.
  • Weregorka - Transforming into a Gorka, where you could smash things up until you ran out of stamina and returned to normal. The Gorka can't jump (it does a stomp attack instead) or cast spells (it roars instead), but has a variety of 'special moves', thanks to combinations of the three buttons. Or that is, each of the three buttons is one move, and if you roar (by pressing magic button), and then push one of the buttons during the roar, you can do a couple other moves. It generates Rage, a new meter, when it hits enemies. The more Rage it has, the more damage it does. The fancier moves (the ones that you do during a Roar) drain all your Rage and do enhanced damage/effect according to how much you had.

Those are the kind of fun ideas I like to think up, but in the end, they're too much complexity, especially to shoehorn into an existing game. Not that I couldn't have done them, they're all quite possible, but I really think going beyond 100 skills is just plain too many for the player to even be thinking about, broken into groups or not. And of course, each one is a lot of extra work, potential for bugs, and just not necessary to the core gameplay.

I've invented a lot of the new spells to fill up the 30 new spell slots, but there are more to go (feel free to propose!). Of the 6 new slots in each school, a few have specific concepts, though I haven't filled all those concepts. First, two of them are passive (to keep the spell list from being too big when you scroll through), but in different ways.

One is a regular passive boost - for example, Conflagration is the passive Fire "spell". It adds a little chance for flames to spread. That will be a fun one, I think. These skills are basically just Talents that cost Skill Points (but since they do, they're more powerful than Talents).

The other passive skill is what I am referring to in my notes as a "boost-other". That is, it's an upgrade to some other skill, not necessarily one from the same school of magic. So when you use that other skill, this skill takes effect with it, possibly making it more expensive at the same time. An example is the Wind skill Whirlygig. It upgrades your Whirl skill, adding a small Magic cost to it, and making it create a tornado like Capitan's Whirl move does. The tornado sucks in enemies, making Whirl much more powerful. As an added bonus, it boosts your armor while Whirling too.

Also, one of the 6 slots is a Grab spell. I mentioned those in the Grappling talk - they are not in the spell list normally, and only show up when you are holding an enemy (and no other spells are listed at that time, only the Grab spells). A fun example I came up with yesterday is Healing Touch (Nature). It actually heals the badguy you are holding! Why would you do that? Well, if you look back a few sneak peeks, you'll see that the damage an enemy does when thrown is dependent on his current health. So you are making him a better weapon. The same goes for Badguy Bonk, and by using this spell, you can keep a guy alive to keep using him as a club. As an added bonus, this spell restores your stamina too, so you can really keep clubbing guys. That also makes it great for Conversion... maybe too good, now that I think about it!

Another slot, though this is less solid than the others and may not be in every school, is for a "buff". That's an MMO geek term for a spell that provides a temporary boost to the player. Fire already has this slot filled, with Heat Shield. Wind has Berserk already, but will have a handy Invisibility spell also (letting you Stealth without using any stamina, and even when enemies can see you).

I have one idea for a Fire spell to go into another category, but I'm not sure if it should be a whole category, or even if this spell is worth having. The category would be "spells that use up all your Magic, and vary their power according to how much you had". I'm debating whether to do that, but I have a fondness for the idea, the ability to completely exhaust yourself with one ultimate attack.

So there are 3-4 slots just waiting for random magical mayhem (though I've gotten many ideas for many of them). One thing I'm trying to give every school is a Summon. Several of them already have them - Cryozoid, Bonehead, Toasties. I love summoning things, so I'm happy to add one for each. I'm really trying to look through the entire skill list and see what can interact with what. What kind of skills might allow for new and interesting builds. I want to make sure that the new stuff, Grappling and Thieving, aren't left out in the cold as one-trick ponies. I want to integrate them with the other skills and the new spells so that you can really explore a lot of interesting character ideas. Another thing I'm doing as a result of that is making sure that there are a bunch of sources of different things - poison, freezing, stun, flames, lightning - so that you can benefit from the talents and skills that boost those things without resorting to one specific skill.

That's about all the sneak peeking to be done on Skills. I'll be back next time with notes on traps, searching, doors, and keys. Don't forget to share your ideas.
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland: Titan Tunnels 03:32 PM -- Tue March 13, 2007  

A new shot! I took a hiatus from Grappling Skills, because I'm trying to get all the major new systems in rather than get every single skill in. So here's a major new system - Stealth! As you can see at the bottom of the screen, this comes from a new skill set called Thieving Skills. Here's the list of proposed skills for it:
  • Stealth - The key to most thieving. It's triggered like a spell, as you see in the shot, but it costs Stamina, not Magic. You can only become stealthy when you are out of sight of enemies, as I am in this shot. It costs a certain amount (level it up to decrease the cost), then drains Stamina over time as you stay invisible. As you can vaguely detect in the picture, being invisible makes you transparent, and throws up a cloud of smoke, because everybody knows that's the best way to hide. Attacking, casting a spell, or getting hurt will all end your stealth.

  • Blinding Trap - Also in the spell menu (the Thieving Skills make a set that you flip through just like a spell school). Much like the Axe Trap skill, this drops down a trap. If an enemy gets close to it, it explodes in a flash of light. This does some semi-decent damage to all enemies in line of sight, and stuns them for a very short time. Since they were theoretically blinded by it (hence the name), it also instantly switches you into Stealth mode for free, if you are not in the sight of other monsters (ones that weren't stunned). Stealth mode still drains your Stamina over time, of course. Blinding Trap costs magic.

  • Poison Trap - Same deal as Blinding Trap in terms of how it is used and how it triggers. But as you might guess, instead of blinding enemies, it poisons them! I have written that it fires out a ring of poison bolts, like a Plague Rat, but I don't know if that's right. Whatever it does, it poisons nearby enemies. It only does 1 point of damage, but it poisons for a very long time.

  • Decoy - Sets down a fake Loony which monsters may attack. For some unknown reason, as you level it up, it becomes more likely that enemies will decide to attack it rather than anything else, even if you or another goodguy are closer to them. It also has more life at higher levels. Costs Magic to create, of course.

  • Escape - The last skill that goes into the Thieving set on your spell menu. This is a general utility skill. LL:TT, like other Rogue-Like games (Angband, Nethack, Diablo, etc), has a town you start in that's above the dungeon. You get scrolls or something that let you teleport back to town, then return to whatever depth you had reached. This skill works like one of those scrolls. It costs more Magic the deeper you are, but leveling it up reduces that. You'll need to level it up to even be able to use it at very deep levels, because otherwise the cost would be more than your max magic could ever reach. But that's the price you pay for laziness!

  • Disarm - I haven't mentioned there will be traps in the dungeon, but now you know! I'll go into detail on them, and the whole "searching" concept, another day. You might want this skill - it gives you a chance to disarm traps (and earn XP and money from them, for some reason) when you step on them, instead of detonating them.

  • Pick Lock - Something else I need to cover on that other day is how the key system will be quite different in this game. But suffice it to say that having this skill can save you keys, since it gives you a chance to unlock doors and chests without having the appropriate key. If you fail, you get hurt, but you can always keep trying, at least until it ends up killing you.

  • Pickpocket - I said Stealth was the key to many thieving skills, and apparently I was wrong, because it wasn't until now that you actually find one that relies on it! If you are stealthed, and you bump into a character, friendly or evil, you attempt to pick their pocket! If you succeed, money and items pop out to collect. If you fail, you unstealth and lose all Stamina. You of course can't pickpocket the same guy twice. I suppose to make this fair to be used on friendly guys, I'll have to have mighty guards who pop out of nowhere if you fail on a pickpocket of a friend. Maybe even a special flag gets set so that a guy you failed pickpocketing says rude things to you if you try to talk to him again (until you leave that map and return of course - can't punish you that severely!).

  • Assassinate - And here's what you were waiting for with regard to Stealth! As you who are gamers surely suspected, attacking an enemy when you are stealthed is a good thing to do. If you have points in this skill, doing so costs all your Stamina, and does boosted damage according to the level of the skill and how much Stamina you spent. Specifically, the formula I came up with off the top of my head is that it adds 100% damage, plus 1% per level of the skill per Stamina spent. So at level 10, if you had 50 Stamina when you attacked, you'd do +600% (100% + 10% x 50) damage, or 7x normal. It also stuns the victim for 1/30 of a second per point of Stamina (so around 1.5 seconds in the above example). That's not all that long, but stuns in this game are always quite short, and coupled with 7x damage, you can't complain.

  • Toxicity - A very powerful passive boost. I noticed how poison and fire damage are so weak at higher levels. So Toxicity increases the damage poison does by 1 point per 2 levels, and as an added bonus, causes weakness in poisoned enemies. Specifically, their damage output is reduced by 1 point per level of this skill.
Those are the Thieving Skills! With all these new skills, I'm trying to not just create a new separate set, but to give you something you can use in concert with existing skills. Assassinate will be better the better your attacking is (I plan for it to work, by the way, with Throwing too - it just boosts the damage of whichever attack made your Stealth end). Toxicity obviously helps out many different skills. Stealth is just all around useful - being seen means getting hurt! Maybe too useful with stuff like Boneheads, but if your Boneheads are engaged in a battle, odds are you will get caught in the crossfire at some point. And you can't stay invisible forever. Decoy similarly helps you keep from getting hurt. There's a lot of just plain utility stuff in Thieving too, which I think is good. It broadens the gameplay to have you considering things like picking locks, and pickpocketing (which pretty much is just for fun... maybe it needs some kind of combat effect, like you are "stealing their weapon", so they do less damage after being pickpocketed, or maybe lower their armor instead).

What do you think about all that?
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  Spring Has Sprung! 10:41 AM -- Mon March 12, 2007  

As of this Saturday, it's officially Spring here. I don't know when Spring actually starts, and I don't care. Because it's awesome here. It's been 80 (for those who think that is unpleasant, let me say two things: This is in Fahrenheit first of all, and it's also bone dry - I know 80 might be gross where you live, but here it is bliss!), and a constant breeze. It's just idyllic. We hung around outside so much that somebody got a little burned. And it wasn't the pasty computer geek who knows his limits and came inside!

I realize that I'm blogging about the weather at the moment, but it's perfect!! We've been locked in eternal* winter for so long, I missed perfection. Actually it snowed a ton one day a couple weeks ago, so this is pretty out of the blue. And we're seeing the first few bugs outside now, and lots of green things, and all our trees are coming back to life. This is the real deal. And what makes it most perfect is that the ants aren't back yet! In a month or so, our entire yard will become one huge anthill, but for now, I tiptoe through the sand-tulips barefoot and love it. Hooray for niceness! And open windows. We sleep with our windows open again! And all day the wind blows through, and the sweet spring smells come with it.

What? There's nothing wrong with getting excited about seasonal changes. You get excited about what happens on House, M.D. My species has lived on this rock for eons, and this has always been the best part about it. Computers and pop culture and civilizations come and go, but every year without fail, the springtime air flows in and the sun on my (and my ancestors') shoulders feels good. Feeling good is a transitory wonderment that should be celebrated, and never dismissed. Just last week I was lying awake in discomfort all night from some heartburn. Now I'm not. And it's good. Spring won't last forever. In another month, it'll be horribly hot (not that I mind summer either, it's really nice out here). The perfection will be broken with ants, too-hot nights, and sweat. I'm going to enjoy Spring while it's here, and then I'll do it again next year. And I'll enjoy complaining in between!

* 3 months. Maybe 4!
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland: Titan Tunnels 10:24 AM -- Mon March 12, 2007  

To clarify something people keep asking, this is a new game. Obviously it's more than a little similar to Loonyland 2, but just pretend that's a coincidence. It's like Quake and Ratchet & Clank, or Candyland and Tony Hawk, or Tic-Tac-Toe and Gradius. Two different games. I hope that is clear. Not an expansion, not a patch, a new game. It's one of those "If you liked Loonyland 2, you'll love Titan Tunnels!" kind of things, in marketing terms. And the reason it's not Loonyland 2: Titan Tunnels (by the way, this is just the working title, anyway) is that this is just a "side story" to the whole Loonyland saga. It's not a part of Loonyland 2. I was thinking of Loonyland Side Story, but that's long and ugly (there's a console RPG that does that, though).

So, with that said, here's a new thing in LL:TT: Classes! The concept is pretty simple, but affects the entire game a lot. When you begin, you choose your class, like any RPG. But the only class available initially is Peasant, which is nothing at all. When you open treasure chests while playing, there's a chance of finding Class Manuals for the other classes, so you gradually unlock them.

All the classes other than Peasant have a set of 3 Primary Skills, and 2 Primary Talents (or maybe it was just 1). You begin the game with those skills and talents unlocked. You have to find the others, which are randomly hidden like in LL2. But there's a downside of sorts to having Primary Skills and Talents. Your other Skills can never be higher than the lowest of your Primary Skills (not counting bonuses from items and such). So that basically forces you to level up those 3 skills (but then, you chose to play this class, so they are presumably skills you want to use). Talents are similar - you better work on leveling your primaries, because your other talents won't level up unless they are lower than your primary talents.

In this way, your class forces you to play a certain way to an extent. You can certainly bend any class to do anything, since you have access to all skills and talents (eventually), but you will need to level up the primary stuff first. So if you are playing a Warrior, you'll be doing a lot of axe swinging, and presumably you'll stick with it the whole game, because you'll have leveled those skills up the most.

There's another thing that pushes you into a certain playstyle. Each class has a specific bonus. For example, the Warrior just mentioned has +10% damage with an axe. So that's all the more reason to really focus on using the axe instead of casting spells.

The last thing going for a class is a starting item. The starting item you get is a little better than normal, but certainly won't last the whole game. It's just to give you a start. Since we're talking Warrior, he of course gets a magic Axe. It has a random magical bonus, a +1 to Axe Mastery, and stats of around 4/4 maybe. Maybe 3/3. I don't know yet.

There is one more thing to know about classes. I haven't really worked on this concept at all yet, but instead of achievements, this game I want to have Class Goals. So depending on the class you play, you get a set of 5 or 10 achievements to seek. Some are generic - one will definitely be "Win the game", and others are unique to the class (generally based around which skills that class uses, like a Necromancer might have "2,000 enemies beaten by Boneheads"). Since there are a ton of skills, there shall be a ton of classes. Before I even added many of the skill ideas, I had a list of 20 classes. So the game is intended to be played many many times, playing every class.

What can you earn by completing Class Goals? I'm not sure yet. Maybe that should be how you get classes instead of random finds - you buy them with stars you get completing Class Goals. So you need to complete maybe 1 goal as a Peasant before you get your next class, then between those two classes, you need to complete 2 more goals to unlock a 3rd. Each class could require 1 more goal to open, but you have a wider variety of options to get it from.

I also like the idea, which I have not really considered much yet, of having Hero Classes. That's an idea that Blizzard talked about being in World of Warcraft that still is not in. It's a super-duper class they were going to let you switch to at max level. In my case, it'd just be an overpowered class. It'd be very hard to unlock, either requiring a lot of stars in the above system, or otherwise (wouldn't it be cool if there was a Hero version of every class, and you unlocked it by getting all goals of that class?). These classes would have some absurd advantages, and start with golden items (or a specific artifact?) and a bunch of money and stuff. Just a walk in the park version of the game, pretty much. The Hero Warrior (Champion?) for example could have as his bonus power "1% damage bonus for every point in a Swinging Skill". That's both very powerful and a unique thing. Or maybe instead of a walk in the park, Hero characters play a Heroic difficulty mode, like a lesser version of Madcap.

That sounds good - off the top of my head, Heroic Mode would let you buy Madcap items, but you start at level 1 and all. The enemies are boosted by an increasing amount, according to your level. So once you reach level 50, the enemies are exactly equal to Madcap in LL2. But as you get there, they keep ramping up, so you need to work on those Madcap Items. Maybe that's a bit questionable, since you wouldn't really be able to move forward in the dungeon, as it would keep getting tougher as you leveled up, until you reached 50. But perhaps your Heroness would counter that somewhat. It's an interesting situation that sounds fun to me. And brings to mind two obvious new Modifiers: Hero (isn't there one called that already? Anyway, this one would put you in Heroic Mode even if you are not a Hero class), and Wimp (puts you in normal mode even if you are playing a Hero class).

So, a lot of ideas there. As you can see, it's not solidified yet, and you are welcome to toss around your own ideas. I do listen!
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland: Titan Tunnels 03:55 PM -- Fri March 9, 2007  

Back again, with Grappling updates. Here's a list of all the Grappling skills planned (10, of course).
  • Grappling - The key skill. Like Throwing, you need this skill to be able to use Grappling at all. When you hold a guy, your stamina drains (faster depending on how much life the enemy has), and you move very slowly. Raising this skill increases the movement speed, and decreases the rate that your stamina drains.

  • Badguy Toss - Having the Grappling skill allows you to throw badguys once you lift them (since it's pretty useless, otherwise!), but this skill improves throwing them. Raising this level boosts the damage done by throwing, and decreases the stamina cost of throwing. Both the cost and damage are based on the enemy's current life, just like the cost of holding it. So as you meet tougher enemies, they become harder to lift and throw, but make more effective weapons when thrown. That makes it quite a bit different from other attack skills. Of course, you are limited to smaller enemies. No lifting Ice Titans, Gorkas, or any bosses (or immobile enemies, like Roses).

  • Tickling - This is a nice passive ability. As long as you are holding an enemy, there's a small chance every half second that he'll take a small amount of damage. Not only is that a fun way to kill monsters (or will be once I had a "heehee" sound effect), but it also makes the cost of holding the monster decrease, as his life gets sucked away.

  • Conversion - I've implemented this, but am in no situation to test it just yet. The concept is simple: if you hold a guy long enough, you lose some magic, and he converts to your team permanently. Leveling it up makes the required time shorter, and decreases the magic cost of converting. This skill has some great built-in limitations that make it interesting. You need a lot of Stamina to hold an enemy for a long time, and the tougher the enemy, the more quickly you lose Stamina. And most importantly of all, since you can't pick up any big monsters, I don't have to set any limits on who you can convert or how many or anything. Make yourself an army, if you have a whole lot of spare time, magic, and stamina.

  • Atomic Drop - This is not implemented yet (and none of the below skills are either). Press Jump while holding a guy to slam him into the ground. It causes an explosion which does damage over a radius. It does lots of damage to the victim, and half that much over the radius. What's really interesting about this skill, and you'll see this concept come up several times in the new skills, is that it drains all your Stamina when you do it. You can do it with as much or as little Stamina as you want. The damage it does depends on how much Stamina you used (leveling the skill gets you more damage per point of Stamina, as well as a bigger radius). I like that idea a lot. Like Conversion, it makes its own unique and interesting balance elements.

  • Badguy Bonk - This skill is debatable. I may need to replace it with something. If you tap Attack without pushing a direction (as opposed to holding a direction to throw the badguy), this smashes your badguy onto the ground in front of you, like a club. It does smallish damage to the guy used as a club, and lots of damage to enemies in a small radius. You of course get to keep holding the badguy (it just costs some stamina), so this is a fun way to use up your limited holding strength, clubbing monsters. The big problem with this skill is that there are no special "get thrown" animations for monsters, so when you "swing" the monster, he'll stay in his standing position, rather than tilt to be laying down. I think that will look very weird and wrong.

  • Atomic Quake - A passive upgrade to the Atomic Drop. Just adds Stone Spikes shooting out in random directions whenever you do it. I haven't really detailed this skill idea (and it's an awfully basic idea anyway), but I guess it would either add a certain fixed stamina cost to Atomic Drop, or a magic cost. Maybe instead of launching spikes, it should shake the screen, stunning all enemies onscreen for a short moment every time you do an Atomic Drop. That doesn't sound bad at all.

  • Badguy Bomb - A passive upgrade to Badguy Toss. Makes a radius explosion where the badguy hits. This is an important upgrade, because without it, throwing an enemy can never hurt more than 2 enemies at once (the throwee, and the guy he lands on). The radius is small, increasing with levels, because it spreads the full throw damage over the radius, which could be hefty.

  • Hoover Hands - Increases the range at which you can grab enemies, sucking them in from further away. That's not such an amazing upgrade, so it comes with a side bonus: you suck in nearby coins and items any time you are holding down Attack to do your grabbing. Still, this skill isn't blowing me away (no pun desired).

  • Magic Hands - Another rather boring one, this decreases the cost of Grab Spells by 1 per level. Remember, there is one Grab Spell in each school of magic, and they can only be cast while you are holding a monster.
So there are the ten Grappling skills! However, some of them aren't very exciting. Do you have ideas to replace them? I can't really have a variety of throws (nevermind that Loony has no throwing animation, and the monsters have no getting-thrown animation), since the 3 'moves' in the list above use up all the reasonable button combinations. I guess there could be a 4th, by having just Jump versus Jump+direction. But probably even the 3 I have is a little more Street Fighter than it should be. That's another reason I'm unsure about including the Badguy Bonk. The Toss and Drop are good, because that's just one to each button (and the Jump one makes a lot of sense, since you jump up when you do it), but beyond that, it starts getting a little tricky. It might be nice to have more skills that modify the existing throws, much like how there are a stack of skills that upgrade Throwing and Axe Mastery.

Incidentally, this throwing stuff is partly inspired by Murray, from the Sly Cooper games! Right down to having an upgrade that makes thrown guys explode.
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  Live Via Library 04:06 PM -- Wed March 7, 2007  

And now I am not on satellite, but rather on the wireless network at the Temecula library! It's a nice fancy new library they just built. I have a lovely huge view out this window, gazing down upon a park with some baseball fields and a residential area and distant mountains. This is my first try at library working. When they built this new one (the old one is not to be thought about), Sol and I discussed how it might be fun for me to come down and work here once a week. They're all set up for it, with free wireless (and fast! Maybe I should see about gaming...), free plugs (nice since the laptop's battery hasn't worked in years), lots of tables, and free aforementioned view. It's actually set up a lot like a university library, not a public library.

I don't think I'll be doing any serious work here, though. The problems are myriad, none huge, but all conspiring. The laptop makes typing awkward, the screen gets glare from the lovely windows, it doesn't have all my most important stuff on it, it's physically painful to sit a long time working on a laptop (there's hunching involved - why won't anybody invent my laptop idea: the screen can be disconnected but stays in touch via a cord? You'd need a stand to really benefit from that in a library, but that could be available too!), and of course there are many things I can't do. Like have any sound at all, or record my commentaries. Or have any degree of privacy.

It's not all brimstone and hog droppings, though. It's nice being here, and a fun break from spending all my days at home. I may come down here every so often for the change of pace. It definitely won't be productive, but that's not the point. I am free to be unproductive if I want! It's just for fun. Though programming here is a challenge, other tasks can be done somewhat well. So if I developed an alternative task to work on, I could do it here every other week or so. Could do writing, drawing (the real kind), some marketing stuff online for sure. Who knows?

They are filming a documentary here at the library today! That's sort of exciting. I had to wade through the crew and cables and light thingies (those big flexi things they use to deflect light) to get in the door. I was kind of worried they weren't open, but once through the maze, I found the doors worked fine, and there was a note by them saying "The library will have extra activity in it today, because a documentary about the Boy Scouts is being filmed." I'm not sure exactly what they're doing at the library, but here they are. I only have one real observation about the issue, since mostly I haven't seen them except for all their junk out front. That is that I am seeing firsthand how not-real documentaries are. It's not a couple guys and a handheld camera, it's a full-fledged film crew (ooh, someone just said "Alright, let's do a take!" It's like Hollywood in here). There's even a craft services table outside (it was unguarded when I went by, I could've enriched my food supplies!). Nobody could possibly act 'natural' when confronted with an entire crew like that. They spent several hours just setting up (for all I know, this is their first shot of the day, and it's been 5 hours since I first got here). Nothing spontaneous or real there. Of course, on the flipside, documentaries aren't all about catching reality as it happens. They also film setups to show as they are talking about stuff. Maybe they just want a shot of bookshelves going by, I don't know. Or it's a dramatic reenactment. Could be! Someone just shouted "action", so whatever it is, it's certainly scripted. Ooh, I hear the dialogue... it's indeed a scripted scene of some kind. If you ever see a Boy Scout documentary which contains some talk in a library about "Okay, so no multiple choice option for this next part. We're going to talk about the difference between Constitutional and Non-Constitutional governments.", then just know I was sitting about 10 yards away while it was filmed! Not sure how that relates to the Boy Scouts, but hey, it's their movie.

So that's the kind of exciting new experiences I get to have when I come to town. It's surely worth having an unproductive day once in a while. And most importantly, I got to eat lunch out.
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