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  Trains By Request 12:59 PM -- Fri February 29, 2008  

Someone asked yesterday for me to report on my train layout construction. Well, I hadn't actually DONE anything with it since pretty much the last report. But the request inspired me! So I got onto it and did some things, and it's sort of underway. Here's the overview currently:

I'm trying to show a huge area in a small picture, so it's hard to see what's going on. First of all, there are my two trains - lower down you see the santa claus train which is hauling Christmas trees and toys (really, I want to seriously edit that train... bleh. But I love the actual style of it, very old-fashioned locomotive). On the right side is the big cargo train, with a crane, a box car, a ... buckety car, and an actual automotive car on a car. That train is motorized. It has a hard time with slopes, however. It can only haul two cars up the slope, and it struggles to do that.

That slope is in fact the big issue. See at the top of the picture, a series of increasing trestles raising the track. You probably can't tell, but over in the top left of the picture, the track is greatly elevated (the track where the santa train is headed), held up by a random assortment of ugly legos. The flat track behind that is actually supposed to be attached to it, but without support, it falls. So building that series of trestles is my current issue. I'm making the track go up so it can go under itself, which is something I truly demand in any train set. See the pile of black legos in the middle of the picture, next to the yellow train station? Those are pretty much all the black legos I own. And they are not remotely enough to make my trestles! I did a bunch of research, played around with Lego Designer (really cool software!), and designed a super cool trestle:

Lego Designer actually creates an instruction set for it, too, which you can watch animated as it builds your model. That thing is so cool. Anyway, this was my trestle design (the tallest size, what is needed at the peak of the hill). But Lego Designer also has another handy feature, where it shows you what the price would be to buy those pieces individually from Lego Shop-At-Home... and it was $4.30. That's not a lot of money, until you think about how many trestles I need (around 40, though admittedly, they get smaller and smaller, so maybe multiply that price by around 20 "only"). That's crazy talk.

So I hit Ebay, and discovered a great place selling big lots of pieces, and have just now ordered a few hundred black pieces of various shapes, at massively cheaper prices than what Lego charges. Sadly, I couldn't get the big slope pieces I have in that design, but I got stuff that will make some good ones. I have literally thousands more Legos to use... too bad I have extremely few of any given specific shape and size! It's kind of frustrating.

In other news, I also need some more track, as you can see. Just one more box of track should do the trick - right under the caboose of the santa train is a cross track, so I just need enough to cover from the end of that switching piece to the cross. The layout is kind of a big figure-8, and the part with the cross-piece is sort of a shortcut.

And here is the one building I have made for my town. You can't really tell how dumpy it is in this picture, but I took advantage of the fact that my Legos are very old and dirty to build slum housing. After all, housing right next to train tracks is not typically upscale. In the upstairs apartment, a woman is beating her husband with a wrench (see, he's got his arms up to protect his face), and their downstairs neighbor is pounding on the ceiling with a broom, telling them to shut up. It's the kind of adorable slice of life you find at Legoland! Well, sorta. Later, I will make a bunch of police cars that have been called to the scene.

Also, speaking of slum housing, look at the stuffing coming out of that couch! That's what happens when you live with cats. That's our old couch by the way, we have taken much better care of our current one.
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  Mmmm 12:49 PM -- Thu February 28, 2008  

Mmm, Primal Strips. Thai peanut flavor.

Yesterday, I played WoW for wayyyy long, because I was just having a blast! Wait, this is going somewhere with merit. But first, let me say that I take back my displeasure with the Paladin class. I'm having more fun on my Paladin than anyone else except the Hunter. I think it's mainly because of the quests she's been on, very epic things. Which leads me to the meritorious portion of today's commentary:

Quelastima, my mighty Paladin, got a quest a looong time ago, which I finally accomplished. It's a great quest - you need to go around the world to four very different areas to collect the components that a smith needs to craft you a special weapon. The downside is that the places you need to go are inside "instances", which are areas where you need to go with a group to stay alive. I don't do groups, so instead I just ignored the quest until I got powerful enough to do by myself (and consequently, it was worth almost no XP). So this was really my first in-depth experience with instances. Well, previously I had done Ragefire Chasm (with an actual group!), but that one is lame - it's basically just a regular area filled with monsters that are tougher than normal.

And it was fun! The fun I had going into these places and seeing the simple story-tellish nature of them got me thinking about the random nature of Titan Tunnels. You can definitely have fun in a random dungeon. You sort of make your own stories - you come around a corner and Gorthagg The Unpleasant is there, and you engage in this long fight, hiding around corners and plinking away and just barely surviving his Death Noodles and healing up just in time. That's what you get in a random game. But in a hand-made adventure, you can still have that same thing - the designer places Gorthagg somewhere, and you have that same encounter. Repeated visits are diminished, since you know exactly where he is and the environment you'll face him in, but your first meeting is just the same as in the random scenario. Then the other fun you get in a hand-made adventure is that these "story events" will happen, at cleverly paced and plotted moments. In a random scenario, you may hack away at Zorp Worms for an hour before anything of any interest happens. A hand-made adventure is always interesting, assuming competent design.

What does that all mean? Well, what I'm considering, as a possibility anyway, is to make Titan Tunnels not a random game, but give it a series of Quests. A Quest, in this case, is like a Supreme level - you lay out the walls and monsters, and throw in special events where you need. The player would choose which quest to tackle from their town, depending on which ones were available to them, and what level they were at. I would want people to be able to make their own Quests, so the options for a player are always growing. There are some serious issues with that that would need working out, though. That's a whole separate issue from the editability that allows you to make your own entire world (classes, items, monsters, bullets). That's easier, but it fragments the game - I'd want you to be able to make quests that go in the original 'world', rather than having to make a new world of your own to hold your quests. It's hard to explain. But the presence of an unending collection of user-made quests would be a fitting substitute for random generation, in terms of keeping the game always new. And it would of course have the benefit I talked about above, of offering a sense of story and interesting events. Lastly, of course, I'm always very aware that Supreme is what keeps this site alive - I'm always feeling the need to offer more editing opportunities. It's user creation that drives community.

Anyway, it's something I'm considering. I have hundreds of hours worth of stuff to do before I even have to worry about what format the maps will be in, and how they'll be generated. Everything about that game (and Happyponygate) is feeling very far away right now though... so much to be done. It makes me tired enough to play WoW (or avoid work by writing a huge journal entry).
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  Summer! 04:23 PM -- Wed February 27, 2008  

It's summer today. Awesome. All the windows are open, and the fresh air's rolling on in.

There are currently 250 rooms in the Maze Of Ludicrosity, so you better get exploring! I doubt you've seen them all.

I can't say I'm too productive today... I drove the Happyponygate car around in a few circles without touching a line of code, and filled in a bunch of the spreadsheet for Warrior skills in Titan Tunnels. That's about that. I spend half my time approving rooms for the Maze... I don't know why I keep creating things that add to my general workload.
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  The Maze Of Ludicrosity 04:50 PM -- Sun February 24, 2008  

Play The Maze Of Ludicrosity

Well, this weekend's contest was to follow the theme Weird/Unexpected/Surprise. I was not into that theme, but I finally came up with this game! And there is no doubt that you will encounter an endless array of weird, unexpected surprises when playing it. Give it a go, and add some rooms of your own! It's already got over 40 rooms, and it's growing fast.

Speaking of surprises, we had an adventure today. We went out for lunch, and the dirt road is super muddy (it's raining), so we were slip-sliding all the way down until we got to the good road. On the way home, however, it was a little more serious - it's fairly steeply uphill, and we just couldn't make it! We ended up, after several exciting slides up and down the hill, parking at a house down the hill and walking the rest of the way. Good thing we don't live too far up the hill!
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  A Weird Unexpected Surprise! 10:10 PM -- Fri February 22, 2008  

This weekend is a 48-hour warmup contest! The theme is, unfortunately, Weird/Unexpected/Surprise. So I am off to watch TV and consider what I could do with that.
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  The Center Cannot Hold 01:16 PM -- Thu February 21, 2008  

Well, I didn't delve into ripping out the skills yet as described previously, but I might as well. I removed the talents, and achievements and modifiers, and right now things are a huge mess! There are still hundreds and hundreds of lines I need to edit or remove as a result of that. Really, it's hardly even worth working from an existing game, given the sheer amount of eradication occurring here. But I think it's going to work out... eventually.

Another thing I'm going to do is up it to 800x600 resolution like Happyponygate. I like that so much better. That again will involve tons of hacking and damage. It's really a lot like surgery. You have to cut it open to get at the innards, then chop them up and tie them together in new ways, then seal it up again and there it is! Weak and barely functional, but slowly recuperating. The actual act of surgery is physically hurting the person, doing enormous damage, but as long as the doctor knows what he is doing, he can put it back together in such a way that you'll be better off for having done it. This has been a long series of reconstructive surgeries so far. Just when it was recovering from the massive changes to items (it could compile and run, or at least hobble), I started the next round by yanking out the talents.

Aren't you glad I'm not a doctor?
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  Grinding Away 08:01 PM -- Tue February 19, 2008  

I spent most of the day in a tizzy trying to work out some attribute stuff in the game and not really accomplishing anything. So at the end of the day, I just dropped that and decided to get something done, so now the game can read in the text file that describes character classes! Well, I don't know that it can, but the code compiled at any rate.

The first character class, the one I'm doing to get things started, is to be expected: the Warrior. Oh, another new thing today is that each class has potentially a different set of 5 item types they can equip. Warriors equip Axes, Shields, Armor, Helmets, and Boots. They have a Stamina meter only. Their three skill sets are Offense, Defense, and Tactics. I have only actually thought up the skills that go in Tactics, but Offense will be pretty much a copy of the Attack skill page in Loonyland 2. Defense will be, surprisingly, defensive skills. A lot of the passive stuff will be there, like increased life and armor, along with some active abilities. I suppose Parry will probably go in there. Tactics includes things like a shout to boost your stats temporarily, another shout to stun enemies, a passive ability to make all your shouts hurt badguys, and the always handy Retreat skill (double speed and increased armor, but it cancels if you attack!).

I kind of mentioned before that each class would give you something in your town. Today I am modifying that - each class gives you the potential for something in your town! The Warrior's "building" is a Training Dummy. You'll need to collect a bunch of logs, maybe some rope, and of course some money in order to build it. Once it's built, it grants a permanent 5% bonus to how much experience all your characters gain. So a lot of the buildings work like that - they just make your whole team more powerful rather than actually being used for anything. Then as you collect more logs and money, you can bump into the Training Dummy again to upgrade it, increasing the XP bonus.

So you can kind of see how the game will push you to play with all the different classes and accomplish things, gradually making everybody more powerful. It's sort of like quests to accomplish, but nobody tells you "Bring me 10 logs and $50" - you decide for yourself that you should do that, since the Training Dummy requires that for an upgrade. In addition to those self-imposed quests, each class has a set of achievements to complete. Completing those earns you Stars (or maybe something else, but you know, a token of completion) which are the things you spend to buy new classes. The class achievements include one or two that are unique to the class, and then some obvious generic ones like "Beat the final boss" and "Reach level 50". There will be enough low-level goals that you will be able to add on character classes pretty quickly at first, but there will also be special high-end classes that cost a whole lot of stars. They won't necessarily be more powerful, just more complex to play, I think. You may also get a Gold Star (or whatever) for completing all the achievements of one class, and the high-end classes are priced in Gold Stars rather than regular.

This is a game that's really in its infancy still, though. Almost none of what I said above exists anywhere except on paper and in my head. I'm really scared for the moment when I tear out the skills to put in the ability to enter skills through a text file. That's going to involve ripping apart almost every file in the game, and not leaving much at all behind.
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  Long Weekend 04:24 PM -- Mon February 18, 2008  

Ah, today is President's Day, so this is a long weekend here at Hamumu. I could have theoretically worked today, but I've had my computer set up in the living room all weekend, so I'm just hanging here while the lady plays Harvest Moon. Obviously there was also WoW earlier, and will be more later.

I am still doing lots of thinking about Titan Tunnels all the time. I know Happyponygate is where I really am expected to be laboring, but since that is actually labor, and TT is fun, I'll stick with it. I will put some time into the Gate this week at some point, though.

Here's another Titan Tidbit: One of the long-held RPG ideas I've had for many years (and way before WoW stole it from me!) was to have different classes use different forms of power. So that's something I'm looking to do in this one. Each class will have either one or two meters. A Necromancer would of course just have a Magic meter that works the usual way, while a Berserker might use both Stamina and Rage. Here's the different meter concepts I have so far:

Stamina - Just like in Loonyland 2, it's a meter that builds up very quickly over time. Unlike LL2, attacking will be free normally, and Stamina is spent only on special attacks. However, some skills will add Stamina cost to the attack itself, but again unlike LL2, running out of Stamina won't actually stop your attack. It just stops the extra features that those skills gave you. A basic attack is always available.

Magic - The classic. Refills slowly over time, spend it to cast spells.

Rage - Not a meter at all, but rather a row of skulls that you collect. Each time you kill an enemy, there's a chance of getting a skull (and of course skills that increase the odds). It's not an item you carry or anything, just a symbol that goes in the meter (it's not meant to actually be a skull, sicko). You spend skulls to use your abilities.

Resolve - This one is specifically for a highly defensive class. It builds up when you get hit, faster with more damaging attacks. It drains over time. So the more you get beaten on, the more Resolve you have to strike back with.

Wealth - This one's a little goofy, but I like it conceptually for certain classes (thief and merchant mainly). It increases by 1 for every coin you pick up, and you spend it to use your abilities - things like summoning mercenaries and planting traps (stuff that seems like it should cost money!). But the important thing to note is that you aren't spending money. It's just your Wealth meter you are using up. It goes up as you get coins, it's not actually the coins themselves. I think that concept might be tough for players, but I don't think it's fair for a class to literally rely on money as their weapon. They'd either be wasting money they need for important upgrades, and in a constant downward spiral, or they'd be using millions of dollars accumulated by your other characters and never have to worry about limitations on their power at all.

Them's the meters. There may be more, there may be less. Just ideas!
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  It's ALIIIIVE! 05:24 PM -- Fri February 15, 2008  

I just compiled Titan Tunnels successfully, and ran it! Now, it doesn't particularly work as a game, but it does run and function in a general sense. Pretty amazing, and much sooner than I expected. There's still miles of guts that need to be pulled out and new miles that need to be grafted in, but it's a start.

This trip back into the Tunnels all began last week, when I was playing my Warlock in WoW. I was having a moment of particularly relishing dishing out DoTs. DoT stands for Damage Over Time - it refers to spells/attacks that work like poison. They gradually inflict damage over time, rather than a big hit. The Warlock has a bunch of them, so a fight as a Warlock generally consists of throwing a bunch of DoTs on your victim, and then waiting as he inevitably dies (and your demon smacks him around). It's pretty satisfying.

I was thinking how I'd like to be doing that in my game, but that it's not really available in LL2. There are certainly some DoTs there (poison, mainly, but also Ignite and Drain, and you could consider the Cryozoid to be one in a way), but I just had this image in my head of a class I would call a Corruptor, built entirely around rotting his enemies away before his eyes (not the most heroic of classes). But there are already 100 skills in Titan Tunnels, I can't add more without making the skill list even more ridiculously annoying to page through. And anyway, the classes only had a few skills (you could obtain all 100 skills, but you only got 3 "Primary Skills" that define your class).

So that led me down a whole new mental path, and here is my new Titan Tunnels vision, which is quite different. Now, you do not get 100 skills at all. You pick your class, and you get 30 skills broken into 3 pages. Talents are removed from the game - skills can pick up the slack. If you want to do 30% more fire damage, you'll put points into a skill that does that. So now there will be a lot more than 100 different skills, but each character will only have 30 to deal with.

The game is not about Loony - these are some other random heroes that you name, and there will be a variety of different looks for the different classes. The game is now about obtaining the different classes (by completing goals) and building up a little encampment/town where they all live. Things like alchemy and junksmithing are no longer talents you have, they are something your town has. Each character you get adds something new to the town, like the alchemy cauldron for example. You can then use that thing with any character, and level it up gradually as you do. You of course also have a shared stash between the characters. So while there's a goal to go kill the big boss monster at the bottom of the random dungeon, the real overarching goal is to accomplish everything with each character, working together as a team. A team of people who never speak to each other or interact in any way other than trading items.

It's kind of a combination of a bunch of different RPG ideas I've had, including some elements I haven't mentioned here, but will someday tell you about. It's basically taking the metagame that I personally play with RPGs (make one of every class, and share their gear so that when my warrior finds a magic wand, it's not disappointing - I've got a wizard who can use it!), and making that the official game. It may not be how you like to play games, but that's why I'm the one making it!

And by the way, the Corruptor will have a pet called a Rotweiler (spelled that way). Get it? That's entertaining!
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  Hack n' Slash 09:33 PM -- Thu February 14, 2008  

In more ways than one. Today, I was whacking away at the Titan Tunnels code (but I'm pretty sure the finished product won't be called that now), really changing stuff around internally. It still doesn't compile, but some nifty new elements are coming together. Nothing that is interesting to a player, but fun and worth doing to me.

I'm completely changing how skills work, and it's rather possible that a bunch of the existing LL2 skills won't be possible under the new system. The upside is that hundreds of new skills will be possible and present. I'm moving skills out of the code and into a text file. Now I'm not really sure that this file will be editable by humans after release, because I want to avoid a situation where everybody just modifies Axe Mastery to grant +100 damage per level. If I can find a way to lock down the official game, but then you can edit all you want to create your own unofficial "worlds", that's what I want to do. The only real problem I see with that is that I'd need to provide the original text files as a base. That would be fine, the only problem is that it would mean spoiling every surprise that is to come. I don't like that too much, but it'd probably be worth it.

Here's a weird and unprecedented idea - the text file could be encrypted, and winning the game gives you the prize of decrypting it. Kinda strange, and not something the casual user would even care about, or understand.

Anyway, here's a totally separate thing that also fits the title. When you play LL2, do you rely on holding down the fire button to continuously attack, or do you often find that you are tapping it? I'm considering the bold move of removing autofire. It would give me a new thing I could use for skills - holding down the button to charge up. There are a lot of good uses for that, but it does mean you wouldn't be able to chop away without pounding on the key. I think that might be too much of a sacrifice.
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