Gravity Wing

Gravity Wing is a working title for the game I’m building. This isn’t supposed to be a AAA game with a fantastic story and quests that take you to the edges of the world; it’s supposed to just give me a space to be putting together some of the techniques I’ve been learning.

Features added this sprint

  • Added in your ship!
  • Added a spacey background, so that your ship is clearly moving.
  • Added some space trash that you can click on, see a tooltip for, and then pick up.
  • Added an Inventory screen with 3 “bays”.
  • Fooled around with the camera angles.

I’m actually still miles behind even the tutorials which covered spaceship games, even so whilst the above isn’t objectively impressive, I’m quite pleased with how this is coming along. I did initially toy with the idea of just copy and pasting the tutorial space shooter but I have learnt a whole bunch in making something non-prescriptively.

I don’t actually have a gameplay idea for the game yet: no story, no mechanics. The only inspiration so far is Rey’s (Star Wars) home world job, where she’s collecting space trash and selling it. Even there, I’ve not decided if this is a “shoot through the monsters to get to the loot” or “adventure around for the loot” game. At the moment I’m following where the features I need to make will take me.

The entire game right now consists of clicking some loot, collecting it, and then checking your inventory to see that you picked it up. As you can’t close your inventory yet, that’s your end-game success screen too!

The messy first commit is actually over on Github. You can even download the game right now, if you’re on a Mac. (I only know how to build for a Mac.)

Camera

I’ve not decided that the camera will stay like this.

I started off with a simple top-down view. However, I think this view gives a bit more life to the 3d of everything.

There’s still work to be done around decided how much the camera should follow the ship. I can imagine it getting frustrating to have it flicking all over the place as you move around. Maybe separate controls for the camera? (Like the right joystick in most games.)

Bugs fixed

Constant rotation. The player should mostly always be parallel to the ground. I wrote no code to change this. However, when I decided to rotate that piece of space trash to give it a bit of a “stuck in the sand” feel, some problems arose.

Unity tries to keep the physics of an object bumping into another object quite real, which includes the fact that if you run head first into a sloped object then you’ll be pushed down (or up) a little. This made the ship go spinning like crazy.

The fix here was just to apply Infinite angular drag, so that it could spin at all like that. I’m sure this’ll come back to bit me, but I’m not sure how else to fix it until it does.

Sliding under the floor. I’ve gone ahead and constrained the player’s vertical movement, as the above bug also paused the movement to change.

3 Principles of the Game I Want

In my last post I referred to a game that I wanted to build and had to learn Blender and 3d modelling to get started on it. I don’t have a huge success ratio of projects started to projects finished, so I’d like to walk you through the three key things that I want the game to have so that maybe someone reading this will one day make the game of my dreams.

The Principle of Finite Resources

There is X iron in the world. Once it’s all been dug up and turned into swords, you need to start melting down swords if you want to build something else.

Or, more interestingly, say you come across a beehive. You bet that you’ll find some tasty honey in there! Be aware that if you loot all of the honey, the bees will probably starve to death. Without the bees, who’s gonna pollenate those apple trees? Then what will the squirrels eat?

I love this kind of mechanic because it immediately starts to get away from the developer and change the world in ways they never wrote. Those squirrels had to move further north to find food, which the wolves there are pretty thankful for. Now there’s more wolves. That northern part of the map is now a more difficult area to travel through, all because a few in-game months ago you took too much honey.

Dwarf Fortress’s famous cat story shows this off pretty well.

The Principle of Finite Stories

I started playing Elder Scrolls: Online the other day and have been quite enjoying it. I was super pleased with having saved a living god from someone sapping away his powers. I walked around town with my head held high knowing that the Warrior-Poet himself gave me his blessing.

I can’t say I was modest about this. I told everyone. At some point someone said, “oh, yeah, I remember that quest. I did it on my other character a few weeks ago.”

Well that sucks. Either Vivvec is really clumsy or my achievement is down to nothing. No one on the other side of the city is thinking “gosh, there’s that guy that saved the Warrior-Poet.” They’re thinking, “bloody hell, so many people wearing that unique gift from a man that can’t keep his powers to himself.”

This principle bleeds from Finite Resources: only one player can ever have the reward for that quest. Only one player can ever save a city from its 12 year siege. You can’t allow bloody everyone do it.

I’d still like the game to have people within the world though. I acknowledge that it’ll be very tricky to do this as an MMO. I’m imagining that the population for player characters in a world like this might be 100 people, rather than thousands you’d find in WoW. Of those 100 people, just one will be known as the guy that saved the world from The Big Angry Lizard.

Hopefully the reason for this is clear from my example scenario: players should be making the history of the world with their actions. If you see someone with a fancy axe that glimmers with the cold energy of the Mountain Giants, you know it’s because they were the first to adventure through that particular area of the world. They were pioneers.

The Principle of Persistent Life

I’m aware I’m going to lose a few of you with this one.

Your character should never “log off”. Never should you close the game and your avatar disappears from the world, taking all of the Finite Resources and Finite Story loot with it.

This raises two opportunities in the form of mechanics: the Logic system and complex crafting.

I did not invent the Logic system, but I hope you’ll forgive me for giving it a name I can write around. Dragon Age was the first game where I saw this kind of thing. There’s a rather complicated and well-loved part of the game where you set up lots of conditions and actions. Handsome Templar should always rush first into a fight and trigger his Big Swing ability if there’s two people in range. If there’s only one person in range, use Little Stab. In Dragon Age you do this because combat happens in real time and you are controlling a team of four people. In this game, you do it because you won’t always be at the controller.

As your avatar never disappears, it may as well be doing something.

That takes me onto the complex crafting system. In Minecraft it takes half a second to make a turn some iron bars and a stick into a pickaxe. At worst, the iron bars took a couple minutes to smelt. The reason it takes such little time is because it’s boring as hell to sit around and wait. There are also many steps between ingredients and completed pickaxe.

In a game with the Logic system and Persistent Life, all the crafting can be done in “real time” (read: not actually real time) whilst you’re offline. Maybe you just have the game running on a monitor that’s hanging from your kitchen wall to watch your guy painstakingly making two hundred clay bricks. However, you watch it – or don’t – your avatar is doing the tasks that you’ve predefined it should be doing.

That doesn’t have to be crafting. Hopefully the system will be smart enough that you can send your adventurer off on a big journey towards that smoke cloud that appears every two weeks. You can set the Logic system to keep an eye out for food, fighting off bad guys, and run away if needed.

Your “Log of interesting things” will catch you up when you get back.

Together

All these things together add up to a world that can change and grow on its own, with butterfly affects changing it entirely with each act. New servers maybe created identically, but as soon as your avatar starts killing blades of grass by walking on them, the world starts rapidly changing into a unique one no one else has been in.

Economies can emerge naturally. Magic can be truly rare (since not everyone has the same quest rewards). Careers can develop. Alliances forged. It’ll be a world your avatar can have a real impact on.

Stories can still be told within the possibilities of the principles, but for the first time your experience the stories will happen around you. No one will be waiting for you to kick off a story line. The moment you start a new server The Siege of Capbelly Castle is already underway. The Lord there will send off a man through the hidden tunnel exit to try and find aid. Will he get to an ally in time? Or will he (due to the randomness of combat) be killed by a passing bear? Without the allies’ aid (which could happen either way, entirely out of your hands whilst you’re on the other side of the map) Capbelly will fall. By the time you get to it, it’ll be a ruin.

But if you so choose to go towards it first, maybe you’ll be there in time.

Say you want to help Capbelly; what can you do? Well, they need more weapons. Maybe you can smuggle some in. With enough armaments they might just be able to push back the aggressors. You could spoil their food or disrupt their supply chain – remember persistent resources means they can’t summon food from nowhere. There’s a caravan out there on its way with their supplies. You could kite a hoard of wolves to the battlefield, and then let them do their thing.

None of this would be in a quest description box anywhere. With the three principles the restrictions and reactions should be obvious to an action you do. Make your own mind up.

3D Modelling

Hey, team.

If you scroll back far enough, you’ll notice that I don’t exclusively blog about D&D here. I’ve talked about other projects too, like ideas for card games and whatnot. Today is one of those days where I’m blogging about something that has little to do with D&D: video game development, specifically modelling.

I recently had this idea for a game which I was hoping to make using my normal web development tools (Ruby, HTML, etc). That didn’t seem likely after I got a few thousand words into what I’d loosely calls the spec for the game; I’d need a 3d world with depth – literally – that you could dig through to get to lower layers of minerals and ores. Think Minecraft and other block-based games. The webstack doesn’t seem like the right tool for the job.

I did a tutorial for Unity, but then quickly realised that my blocker is actually going to be making 3d objects. I’m not an artist by any means. I’m bad at drawing. In the 3d world though, I’ve been a fan of ThinMatrix for a long time and his uncomplicated geometric animals seem like something I could pick up.

I picked up a udemy course on Blender. I’m so thankful that it goes through rather slowly. It only drips new features on you at a speed that I’m really pleased with. I started with building simple objects like this set of stairs. You can see the crudeness of the transformations here: it’s just a cylinder with some rectangles rotated around it.

Then I learnt how to add colour to each of the meshes (shapes).

And most recently I’m really proud with this little scene I put together, making use of light and a better rendering engine.

Today I’ve been working on editing vertices, faces, and edges. This is where I can start to break away from simple primitive shapes and get into more complex wedge shapes and whatnot.

I tried making a 3d model of my house, but very quickly got annoyed by trying to replicate the ramp of our driveway. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be more patient with it.

IKEA but for Magical Fortresses

There’s this feature in Dragon magazine called Bazaar of the Bizarre. I randomly picked up one of my copies – #145 – and it seems J. Jasper Owens wrote the one I chose. This one is all about magical items you can put in your fortress; below, I’ve copied a bunch and added a little more to them.

Where ever JJO is, I hope they don’t mind.

Basin of Decent Temperament

(Basin of the angel)

These stone water fountains can be placed within the home of any kind-hearted person. There are not many in existence, not since the gods stopped whispering. Only when a cleric hears the true words of their god offering their blessing over the basin can it become holy.

Once blessed, the basin cannot be moved. It is held down by the weight of the god themselves. In many places around the world you may come across a time-destroyed city with an unyielding fountain amongst the rubble. Once rediscovered, it’s a keen idea to rebuild around it.

These basins are said to be “owned” by whoever controls the land, whether that be the few feet around it, or the miles that stretch out from it. So long as their heart stays pure, the conjured water will flow cleanly and without taint.

A good person who drinks the water will feel revived (as with the effect of Greater Restoration).

If the shrine is cared for by a holy person – the stone work cleaned, mould kept at bay, and sun light allowed to shine – the basin is said to be encouraged. Whilst encouraged in this way, all good people within 200 feet of it have the effect of Protection from Evil.

In times of need, the holy person who cares for the shrine can ask for aid of a deva.

Pool of Twisted Temperament

(Like Basin of Descent Temperament, but from a demon.)

In exchange for a favour a demon may well request this tainted water feature as part of the bargain. In a land owned by the bargain seeker, a crack in natural stone or flooring appears which endlessly seeps a fetid liquid. The only way to clear it away is to drink it – the demon will keep its word so long as the liquid never spills over.

The crack continues forever, even long after the death of the original sinner. Over the years it takes control and taints fertile lands. The land is difficult to re-consecrate and can take decades to cleanse.

An evil creature who drinks the liquid recovers much of their youthful looks and health.

If the pool is defended, the defender becomes empowered by the patron who provides them with a familiar (the effect of Find Familiar, cast once per day). The demon may lend a hand in defending the area too, summoning something wicked from the ooze.

Chains of the Gaoler Wizard

(Danleor’s dungeon chains)

Unheard of for centuries now, Danleor was one of the most power wizards in the realms. Eager to avoid confrontation with each other, he and the King came to an accord. Danleor was to show fealty by providing a service to his king, and the King would leave alone the entire plains area that Danleor lived in. The service, it was decided, was a prison for the most troublesome and threatening people and creatures.

Uninterested in being an active warden in his duties, Danleor created the most perfect chains ever made and imbued them with unbreakable magics. These ranged from enormous links of metals to secure giants to fine necklaces used for more delicate beings.

Danleor and the location of his prison has long vanished. However, every once in a while, one of his chains will appear in a marketplace for the elite.

Each chain has a single key, which cannot be replicated easily.

The chains are too heavy to be thrown and so are not useful as weapons.

Whilst locked in a chain, the creature automatically fails all Strength checks. Dexterity will not help escape these chains, and also automatically fail. Additionally, they’re covered in an antimagic field (akin to the spell).

Two-faced flag of many colours

(Flag of untrue colors)

This is a large rectangular flag, though it is happy to be folded into smaller shapes. In its dry state, the flag is merely grey. The kind of grey that once used to be white. Its edges are fraying with age and it seems to have been weathered quite considerably.

The flag is rejuvenated – at least it appears that way – when it feels the lick of wind and is slightly damp. In this state it will appear to be the flag of an ally or at least the flag of a neutral partner. The same magic spreads to other flags mounted to the same building (or within the same regiment), making them appear similarly.

The enchantment is smart enough to attempt to have its targets see the same flag, if possible.

The illusion can be seen through with a descent Wisdom save.

The last known location of this flag was in the possession of a flag collector. Unlike her other flags, she keeps this one bound and hidden away as losing it would break her heart more so than any of the others she has.

Teleportation Arches

(Libram of teleportation arches)

These arches come in pairs must be built at the same time, one in each of the positions to teleport between. They must be identically built – in design and process – for them to work. Once complete, a wizard may use the Teleportation Circle spell to permanently open a two-way gateway to the two places.

Teleportation through the two is without further cost. It is always perfect and holds no risks.

These do not work with other Teleportation Circles.

If either becomes damaged, both stop working and must be rebuilt and reenchanted.

Everlasting Smoulder

(Reimagined Oil of eternal fire)

Keeping a fortress, underground tunnel system, or manor house lit is a tiring job. Going around all of your lanterns each night takes many hours, and wizards (who can do the job far quicker) are still a daily cost. A better investment is Everlasting Smoulder.

These are coals from the Plane of Fire which, to date at least, never stop giving off their warm glow. They spread enough of a glow to completely light 30 feet of space with just one small coal ember. Of course, these coals are also incredibly hot and should not be handled by hand. Mage Hands work well for this purpose.

The Smoulders can be purchased for a dear some, but it’s almost a rite of passage for the owner of a new fortress to venture into the Plane of Fire themselves to collect it. A dangerous jaunt but well worth it.

When writing is difficult

“Everyone has a novel inside of them, and that’s perhaps the best place for it to stay,” is a witticism that I find a bit disheartening. There are quite a few people out there and judging by the number of hours humans have spent watching Gangam Style alone they have plenty of time too. Surely, someone must appreciate your drivel if they come across it at the right time in their life. If it fills a niche – however specific that niche may be – then someone must like it, somewhere out there.

On the unlikely event that there is literally no one, you can at least attempt to have fun whilst writing. Then it’s just a hobby you enjoy doing. It’s quite possible that writing a novel only you will ever read (or find worth reading) is as much as a waste of time as video games, but we still play those by the decade every day.

So, I say to you, just bloody write. Keep writing through the shit parts (you can always edit it later; another hobby to take up, perhaps) and push on for an end. A cliched end, an unsatisfying end, or even kind of meandering end that clutches to life for a few pages too long. Write your story and be glad you’ve done it. Then start on your next. That might be better, who knows.

The bad news is that getting to the end is awfully hard and I’m not sure why. I always lose interest. Often, I do have a premise that I quite like. As an example, I took Aladdin recently and tried writing it as if it were set in the future; a cyberpunk scavenger comes across a long-lost artificial intelligence which appears to have been created and then lost before it could find time to boot up. The AI so incredibly sophisticated that even today it can hack into any Internet-connected system, offering the opportunity to collect cash, information, even a cleared criminal record. That’s when the antagonist appears, someone who spots this highly intelligent algorithm poking around some servers and sets out to get their hands on it no matter the cost – and awfully, does. How will our hero get the tech back into the correct hands? Well, you know the plot of Aladdin.

I’m pretty pleased with that premise. A spin on a tale told many times before. I’ve not managed to finish it though. I’ve not managed to get past just the opening few paragraphs. I’m really unsure why.

At times like these, when a writer has an idea and can’t get it onto the page, do they just push on and crank it out? That was my very advice I just put above. Is that always the correct advice to live by though? Instead, should I decide that the story hasn’t gripped me, regardless of how interesting the idea might be, and I should just move onto the next idea?

I wonder if I keep pushing, will I get the ball rolling and start to gain a rhyme.

I suppose there’s only one way to find out.