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  Ooh, Goodies! 02:27 PM -- Fri June 27, 2008  

Today, I was working on a major system of the game: Goodies. I had to come up with a name to differentiate them from items like trees and trash cans - Goodies are items that you pick up and carry. There are a few main types of Goodies:

- Junk items. They may have a use in making other things, or they may not. They're just stuff you carry around.
- Jellybeans. They can be slotted into your weapons to boost those weapons. Weapons begin with 1 Jellybean slot, and get up to 5 as they level up.
- Equipment. Like in any good ol' RPG, there's gear you can wear. As an oddity, in this game, you don't care what kind of gear it is. You could wear 3 hats at once, if you want. You just get 3 gear slots, and equip any 3 equippable items you like.
- Food. You make this at restaurants that you buy, from various items you find. It sits in your inventory, where you can click it to eat it. When eaten, food gives you a long-lasting boost of some kind, but you can only be digesting 2 foods at once. No eating more until one of them is fully digested! Or maybe it replaces the older of the two you already have, which makes more sense (in a gaming way, less sense in a reality way).

There won't be randomly generated items, just handcrafted bits of wonderment. But there will be an awful lot of those, with more added every so often, because the online system makes it easy to do so! Then hopefully people will want to auction these off and get the right gear to suit your particular skills and style. I often think of all this stuff in terms of how Kingdom Of Loathing works. Imagine this game as that game, except that instead of just clicking "Fight", you run around shooting like crazy in fantastical action craziness. Of course, it's also equally inspired by 12 other games, so don't imagine too hard.

And no, it won't show what you are wearing on your character. Many reasons against that! I know it would be cool, and I'd like it myself, but there are a lot of reasons why it's entirely unfeasible.

One of the things I like in WoW are the items that have random chance effects ("Procs"). Like I just got a trinket that has a 3% chance when I get hurt to give me 500 armor for 15 seconds. So that's something I'm focusing on here. It's a lot more fun to decide between an item that can give a damage boost when you get hurt and an item that can speed you up each time you beat an enemy,* than it is to decide between one that gives you +2 damage and one that gives +2 armor. It's also much less precise, and nobody can really say exactly what the one best path is. Just like the food buffs, you might have several of those effects on you at any time, if your Jellybeans or Equipment caused them. You can have 5 buffs total on you at any time, and the 2 foods are included in those 5. That only applies to time-limited buffs. You can have any number of permanent effects on you at once (like the armor your hat provides, the accuracy you gain from some eyeglasses, or whatever).

*I know that sentence shouldn't have a comma there, but it was just much too long and messy. I'm sure there's a better way to write it overall. Perhaps you can have a grammar contest in the comments!
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  Free Bees 08:53 PM -- Thu June 26, 2008  

Something I have been considering is an interesting change in business model (just for the new game, not changing my actual business!). I know it's something that has worked for others, and probably failed for other others. The idea is to make Happyponygate free. Instead of having a demo where you can play the first little bit of the game for free, you'd get to play the whole thing free. Then, of course, you can still buy the game and get more than "the whole thing". I haven't really worked out details, but things like making your own levels, and playing others' levels, would be in the "Premium Pack". But without buying, you could still play the story from beginning to end, and get all the normal weapons, and that kind of thing. There would definitely be limitations and things only a paying customer could do, but what you would have would indeed be a legitimately complete game.

The benefits I see here, speaking in business terms, lie in the fact that the game requires a Dumb Account to play. Free games spread like wildfire (quite unlike non-free games!), and so I would presumably gain tons of new members to the site as a result. Some percentage of those people would go on to buy other games, participate in the forum and chat, and generally make the place better. I think overall, I'd probably get as many or more sales this way (especially if you count other games that those new people buy). It's also easier to implement, given the whole online thing, than a standard demo vs. full. And it's less pirateable, though I think the online thing alone almost kills that possibility entirely.

So I like the idea. I don't have any real objections to this plan or thoughts on how it could be less effective than the traditional demo/full model. I think we'd end up with three (or maybe more at some point...) levels of ownership:

- Free: a complete game
- Paid: adds a lot of the user interaction stuff like level-making and playing, shops for buying and selling items. Stuff that's well worth paying for.
- Deluxe: the "collector's edition" equivalent, with some kind of bonus stuff.

And yes, one thing ruled out is paying monthly. Won't be doing that. Maybe someday with some game, but not this one for sure.
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  Sneak Peek: Happyponygate 01:55 PM -- Wed June 25, 2008  

[jamul] You can guess what this is a screenshot of!
[jamul] it really pretty much explains itself... The green line is an in-game notification of something happening. In this case, gaining a level of the H.R. Puffencrush (I'll have a less incomprehensible message someday for that).
/me points out that there's still one thing missing - no buttons to scroll back and see older messages.
[jamul] There is a backlog, you just can't get to it yet.
[SERVER] Messages from this person (which are always red), have been typed directly into the server. This will also be handy for the server to say "Shutting down in 5 minutes for urgent maintenance!" or "Alert! Angry Teddy Bears are overrunning Westbrook Hills!"
/me notices that he still hasn't moved the text in the typing box down a couple pixels like he kept meaning to...
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  Profile Of A Madman 04:09 PM -- Tue June 24, 2008  

Okay! Now I've sort of gotten somewhere in a way. This was some of the more seriously crunchy code I've had to do yet. It now saves and loads your game. That entails taking your profile data, making it into a packet to send over the internet, then at the other end, making it back into a data block, then finding a way to stuff that into the database. Good thing that only makes for a whole lot of places for mistakes to be made (in two separate programs, as well)! It's tricky to deal with binary data in a database. I got around that by not doing it. I'm storing the numbers as strings, which is ever so slightly less efficient (100% more space used, to be exact).

But anyway, now you log into the game, it loads all your profiles from the server, you choose one to play or create a new one (you can have 12 of them), and then the game begins! So it's all pretty good. Now I need to spend the rest of the day figuring out exactly what the next step is, because I'm really not sure.

That, and lighting Midsummer fires in WoW, because the clock's a-ticking on that!
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  Nothin' 04:05 PM -- Fri June 20, 2008  

That's what I've been doing this week. We had a guest for several days, loads of fun to be had (several hundred rounds of Mortal Kombat 2 in there), and now I'm still not doing anything. Things will be done soon. But not today. Today is for chillin'. A lot like yesterday. Things will happen again soon. Especially on Tuesday and Wednesday when the wife is off to her tutoring. So... nothin'.
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  School's Out! 09:32 PM -- Fri June 13, 2008  

For Summer!! Not forever, though. I guess that's good, since it keeps our mortgage paid. So here's topics of absurd interest:

- Rock Band rocks. Drumming is like drumming. Not that I know, I've never done it for real. But I'm hitting things with sticks in a rhythm, that's drumming. I even did some "singing", but not in front of other people.

- My new dance pad that supposedly has raised buttons totally doesn't. But it does work a lot better than my old one in every way. One fine advantage is that it's much grippier on the bottom, so it's not going anywhere.

- You can now log in in Happyponygate! Once it recognizes you from the database, it lets you play. I need to add an intermediate step in there so you can select and load any of a bunch of save slots (right now you always start from the beginning, but it's been that way... from the beginning!). It's really cool to see it all working together - the client and server talking to each other, the server reading from the database, and the password encryption functional.

- One thing I'm thinking about is Happyponygate's equivalent to a Collector's Edition. It will be something quite different, something more along the lines of KoL's Mr. Accessories. But what exactly, I haven't really considered. I just like the idea - you can pay more to get 'status'. It's not terribly useful, though in this case it may be something that adds fun/power (not like I have to worry about balance - you're not competing!). You would buy it as a show of support or just because you Just Gotta Have Hamumu. It would give you some kind of distinguishing mark, maybe a web trophy like "Pony Power!" Ooh, I just had a cool idea for it that I will keep to myself!

- Teachers get crazy amounts of gifts from their kids and parents at the end of the year (and nearly as much at Christmas and Valentine's Day). It makes me feel guilty for how I never gave any of my teachers anything. Well, I gave them grief. I just finished a big fancy sundae because Sol got an ice cream party pack as one of her gifts. It had sprinkles, marshmallow fluff, hot fudge, caramel, cherries, oreos, bowls, a scoop, root beer, straws, glasses, and yes, even more. Man, I love sprinkles.
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  Deep Behind The Scenes 04:17 PM -- Wed June 11, 2008  

Okay, well, there's been some sideways progress. First of all, today I converted the internet code from TCP to UDP. Most don't know what that means, and it really doesn't matter. It was just a good idea, since I found (or at least heard about on IRC, thanks X-Out) a library that implements some nice features over UDP - the reliability and sequencing of TCP along with some bandwidth stuff that I don't even really understand. So it's a good fix, and it kind of even made the code a little simpler. And most importantly, it means the lowest level networking stuff is no longer written by me, which means I trust it!

So the latest additions to the game are that now the title screen asks for your name and password, and then connects you to the server, and sends that (encrypted, of course!). The server still doesn't know what to do with that information, but it is definitely getting there, which is nice. Converting the code took quite a while. Also, I have a sore throat. That didn't interfere with my work in any way, and I have no other symptoms of illness, I'm just whining because it hurts.

OH! And double-also, I ordered Rock Band, and it should be here tomorrow! Tremendous excitement beyond measure. I really wish I had the Xbox 360 version, because you can download Still Alive for it for free, but I'm just not ready to dish out that kind of money (not $0 for Still Alive - $400 for an x360). I got the good ol' PS2 version. My original plan was to hold out for the Wii version, even though it has the same lame limitations the PS2 version does. I was hoping that the newer model drums and guitars it includes would be of higher quality and less prone to breakage, not to mention they're wireless, and we never play the Wii so it would be nice to have a reason. But since that would be $50 more expensive, I decided to just dive in and go PS2. It's sad, because I could've done that 6 months ago. As a bonus, I have a guitar for PS2 already due to Guitar Hero, so that means I have the full 4-person rock kit!

I also ordered a newish version of Dance Dance (Supernova 2), and a new dance pad. That's my substitute for Wii Fit, since you can't buy that anywhere outside of Ebay. Oh yeah, and that Wii Fit shortage? Entirely fake! Every Ebay seller has a gigantic stack of Wii Fit boxes as their picture for the item (with a piece of paper with their name on it in the shot, just to prove they're the scum that bought them all). They each own at least 100 of them. It's not a shortage, they just all got bought by greedy bumweasels who wanted to scalp them. Stores need to stop letting people do that. Anyway, I still have a working dance pad, but it doesn't work well. I am very tired of losing a 300 combo in a song because the pad doesn't work. And don't tell me I'm blaming my own problems on the pad! I can prove it doesn't work. I'll be hopping around on the down arrow, and onscreen you can see the up arrow is being stepped on too. That's on the entirely opposite side! But it mostly works, it just gets kinda bad sometimes. Plus, on any song of remotely high level (not that I play high levels - medium is about my limit), I always end up mis-positioned at some point. The new pad has raised arrows which should save the day.

So that's the story of ponynet and my video game purchases.
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  Mini LD #1 Over! 06:12 PM -- Sun June 8, 2008  

Well, the contest isn't over, there are 2 hours left, but I submitted my entry. It's not going up on this site, since it's garbage. There's no game to it at all, but I link it here for you to check out if you care to: Miyamoto Vs. Yamamoto (712kb). I hope someday I'll come back and finish it up because I think it has real potential game-wise, but what you have right there is really nothing. It's just an opportunity to hop around on 3 boats in the ocean. And the collision isn't very good either.

So bleh to that. I was excited about the prospect, but not excited about making it, somehow. Working in my living room while watching TV and hanging out with my wife was a real productivity killer. In fact, don't tell her this, but the one point where she went outside for half an hour, I plowed through a ton of work all of a sudden. It also helped that the TV was off at that point. A major factor is the physical dynamics - it's not comfortable and well set-up out here, like it is in the office. So, lessons for future LDs. Don't mess around - when it's LD, you gotta be in the office where you belong!
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  Happyponysrv 04:43 PM -- Tue June 3, 2008  

Good news, everyone! Happyponygate now connects to the Happyponyserver! I was going to include a server screenshot, but too much trouble. It's just some text. There are 2 commands available on the server, and 50% of those commands are implemented! The implemented command is "quit". But it does work, as does the game connecting to it. Next step is to have it actually log in and check your credentials.

This stuff is really exciting, and I'm really glad I started the Happyponygate Internet Contest. I thought it was a little too abstract, and people wouldn't know what to do with it, but the submissions have been amazing so far. If I had the time, I would probably implement more than half of what has been suggested so far. And best of all, there are things in there that I not only love, but that I don't think I would have ever thought of myself. So I'm really glad I'm asking for that input. It's definitely going to make the game better.

If you haven't voted yet, you should! I'm glad online-only is winning by such a huge margin. It's really such a fundamental difference that I have to pick one or the other to even make further progress on the game. As you can guess, I've picked online-only. It's not even close to set in stone, with the tiny amount of stuff I've done (what I've got done would be useful either way), but it's looking like there aren't very many people who are dead-set against the online-only game. That's great news, because there's so much more that can be done! And the internet contest just shows me even more! I'm totally excited about where this could go, and if you're not, you need a visit from the Happy Ponies.
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