Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SC2 campaign editor? I am intrigued.

Following Stormshrug's post on the Starcraft 2 map editor, I think I've figured out how to deal with its monstrous complexity (and it truly is monstrous):

1) Figure out what kind of stuff you want to do.
2) Find a map that does that stuff.

No, seriously, that's pretty much how I got into Civilization 4 modding-- the nice thing about having an introductory programming course under my belt is that, even though I can't do much actually useful in terms of programming by my lonesome, it at least gives me enough understanding to copy code that does approximately what I want.

So, I'm strongly considering taking SC2 as it stands now, and creating something that is to Starcraft 2 what Apocalypse is to Warhammer 40k. (Which is to say: heinously unbalanced, but awesome.)

Terrans: Allowing them to research campaign units and upgrades at the Advanced Engineering Bay (upgradable at Armory!).
Zerg: Causing them to spawn free (though uncontrollable) units via upgraded tech buildings a la Nexus Wars.
: Hero units! With experience points and everything.

It'll be hell to balance, but also (I suspect) be good times all around-- and if I can get my rear in gear, I think the relevant bits of coding have already been done for me.

I'll almost certainly be cannibalizing:

Monster Slayer (or whatever that terrible one was we played last night): Figuring out how to create giant units.
Left 4 Starcraft:
Protoss hero mechanics.
Nexus Wars: Zerg mechanics.
SC2 Campaign: Drop pods, yo.

Am I a overreaching? Probably. Do I care? Not really.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dark Heresy Six: Omake Files

Now gentlemen-- I strongly suspect that the true source of the heresy lies just beyond that portal! Let us venture forth, into the future!
The Linear: Let's roll!


Dadadum-thump. Dadadum-thump. Dadadum-thump. Dadadum-thump.
The system. Is down. The system. Is down.
The system. Is down. The system. Is down.

(record needle scratch)

(awkward silence)

"Well," Daret said. "Don't let us interrupt."
"He's right, fellas!" a Grey Knight shouted. "Let's get back to what we do best, eh?"
"Damn right!" a power-armored daemonette ejaculated.
Thump. Thump.


Now gentlemen-- I strongly suspect that the true source of the heresy lies just beyond that portal! Let us venture forth, into the future!
The Linear: Let's roll!


Callidon: Echhh! What in the Ecclesiarchy did I just land in? It smells like my great-great-great aunt, and now it's all over my clothes.
Callidon: Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu--

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let's Play: Europa Universalis 3

So I've been digging through my collection of elderly games, and I noticed Europa Universalis 3. EU3, for all y'all who haven't heard of it, is a highly intricate nation-building game that incorporates the entire world. Which I will be playing on normal difficulty, since I haven't really played the game. However, I'm faced with 2 main questions before I begin, and I want you all to help me with them:

1) Which nation should I play? I could totally go for playing as Scots, and trying to beat the tar out of those dickish Englishmen. Or France, whereupon I would immediately try to conquer Russia. (Nobody's tried that before, right you guys?) Alternatively I could try out rolling with the Native American crowd and repelling the heathen Europeans. Worth a shot.

2) What goal should I set for myself? Mind that I'm probably not gonna conquer the world as the Scots. Although I suppose I could at least try to conquer Western Europe...

So yeah! Give me a response in the comments, and I'll follow through on EU3, giving commentary on the sociopoliticalmilitarysocietal happenings as they, uh, happen.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Art of Web-Vidjas, Part 2: Background Music

(The Art Of Web-Vidjas Part 1.)

So, music. A couple of friends and I once did a game that didn't really have a name, but that I'm going to call "Monologue." That game being, one person jams on the piano while the other makes an overly-dramatic speech to the music. There are a few types of music that are good here.

The first type is the sort of music which starts slow, but builds to a crescendo partway through that you can mold your speeches to. It's great if you've got a friend that's good at improvising on the piano, because you can just go crazy with the speech and he'll be able to follow you. This is the stuff demagogues are made of, I'm tellin' you.

The second type is the sort of chill, jazzy tune that immediately gets filtered into background noise by anybody listening. (I suspect that anything labeled "smooth jazz" actually fits into this category.) Nice for fireside chats while it's raining outside-- nothing too dramatic, just relaxed classiness and camaraderie. (Y'all might notice I've used this one earlier. Good eye!)

Alternatively, you could be spilling out your life philosophy, in which case you'll want something a bit less subdued. The end of the song's introduction (at 0:21) is the perfect place to start on the main body of your speech, or to change the tone from general to specific. If you're into that.

Or you could just be engaging in hilarious dickery, in which case, I salute you.

What not to use: Anything with words in a language you or your audience can understand, 'cuz that's distracting.

Check out how RoxinPunch uses background music. You miiiiight not have noticed it before, due to how subdued it is. But it's there, and it totally makes a difference-- check out how it marks the end of the starting joke and the beginning of the actual introduction to her main topic ("I'm getting fat.") When she goes into example-mode in 0:40, music goes off; and at 0:55, when she's back into the normal monologue, she starts it again. It's like whatever sections of the video that don't have music are footnotes tacked onto the main body of the speech.

Damn, there's a lot more to this whole "you-tubing" thing than I thought.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dark Heresy 6: Hereticus ex Maximus

Last session, we left our intrepid heroes protagonists as they investigated the source of the dread heresy-- in the ruins under Terra herself! Having opened a door and found a vast army of heretics inside, our stalwart adventurers bravely shut the door, valiantly striding forth in the opposite direction, seeking out-- ever seeking-- the light of the Emperor in this dark place.

What terrors will they find in these heretical catacombs? What dread secrets will they uncover? Does everybody die at the end? All this and more, dear reader, will be revealed in the final issue of Dark Heresy:



Daret: Okay, guys! We need to trap the door so that the heretics can't chase after us!
The Linear: I've got a land mine. Can we use that?
Daret: It's a good idea, but we'll need something to hide it in. Callidon, I need your shoe.
Callidon: What?! You can't have my shoe. I need that for walking.
Daret: Tell you what: if we all die, I'll buy you a new shoe.
Callidon: Deal. Okay, so we'd better get away from the door as soon as possible. Daret, what's the iSpex say about this other corridor? Any signs of life in there?
Daret: Well, let's see:
Daret: ...
Callidon: What about powering it with your own bodily electricity? Don't get me wrong-- I can't say I approve of what you've done to some of the doors in here-- but can't you just, y'know, jack into the iSpex and give it some of your own, uh, stuff?
Daret: ....
Callidon: Oh, don't tell me....
Daret: Look, this happens to every techpriest sometimes.
Callidon: Maybe you're just nervous?
Daret: The important thing is to remember that it's not a big deal, and we should all just, y'know, never tell anyone. Oh hey, look, a door! Let's open it!
The Linear: I don't know if that's such a good--
Door: (whirr)

(Awaiting on the other side of the door, about fifty feet away: Five psykers, the apparent BBEG in power armor, and five dozing arcoflagellants.)

#4: It's the prophet! The prophet! THE PROPHET IS HERETICS!?
The Linear: Hey, chill, just 'cuz your prophet, mentor and only friend for half your life has suddenly turned heretical is no reason to mope!

Me: Snap out of it, man! (activates the Power of Vilhelm.)
#4: ... of course. It's clear to me now what I have to do.
Excellent! So everything's cool, right?
Commissar Hark: I sense heresy in this one!
Remski: Not now, you fool! If you turn on us now you're no better than the heretics!
Commissar Hark: (glower) We'll talk about this later.


Enemy Psyker #1:
Remski: Hurk
Me: Not to worry, gentlemen! For I have psychic powers as well! BOOOOWEEEOOOOWEEEOOOOO
Me: Well that was a let-down.
Enemy Psyker #2: Hah! Foolish mortal, allow me to show you how the Warp is truly handled! (...)
Oh, whoops.
(Ground shakes)
Enemy Psyker #3: Damn and blast! This is how it's done, you... wait... aw, dammit.
Enemy Psyker #4: I'm blind! I'm bliiiiind!
Man in Power Armor: Can't you lackwits do anything right?
Enemy Psyker #5: Well that's just unciv-- (gets hit by a flying table)
Callidon: Go team!
Daret: Damn, Callidon. With your skill in weaponizing furniture, and Commissar Hark's skill at shooting things, your children would be terrifying to behold.
Me: Hey, why is #4 opening his trenchcoat-- oh.
#4: I like to strap on allllll the grenades!
Guy in Power Armor: Oh dear.
#4 and Guy in Power Armor: (explodes)
Remski: Did they just... die?
The Linear: I think so. Poor number four.
Me: You know, guys, I like to think that, in a way, #4's still with us. At least parts of him are.
Daret: (falls to his knees) Omnissiah, you can rebuild him! You have the technology! Deus ex Machina power, NOW!
Me: Hold, chums! I sense a current in the Warp! It seems a portal just opened up, exactly when and where number 4 was detonated!
The Linear: Suppose he was sucked through before he exploded?
Remski: We'd better go in after him.
Commissar Hark: Not so fast, Remski. You are guilty of extreme insubordination towards an officer of the Commissariat! The penalty... is summary execution. (Levels pistol)
Commissar Hark: Hurk
Commissar Hark: ;_;

(It's super-effective!)

Now gentlemen-- I strongly suspect that the true source of the heresy lies just beyond that portal! Let us venture forth, into the future!
The Linear: Let's roll!


Remski: I'm pretty sure this is the hall leading into the imperial throne room, you guys.
The Linear: Ah.
Daret: Yep.
Me: Well, that would explain the Grey Knights.
#4: (unconscious)
Me: Maybe they won't notice us.
Grey Knights:
Me: Dammit.

Bad End.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Art Of Web-Vidjas

I remember some time back I was in an experimental mood, and tried out recording a ten-second clip of myself saying something in front of my webcam. I looked like a dweeb, not gonna lie-- but the main puzzle was, why? I'm not an inherently dweebish fellow in real life; clearly I was doing something wrong there.

Well, I figured I'd better take a look at what such webfolk as ZeFrank or RoxinPunch do for their own stuff, since they seem to have excellent stage-presence and as such have a very large quantity of viewers. And here's what I found in the those videos (but mainly the one by RoxinPunch.)

1) They speak very quickly. (Well, okay, that one's pretty obvious, but gotta start somewhere, amirite?)

2) They very often (I counted this a full 29 times in the 1:22 RoxinPunch video, so just about once every 2-3 seconds) cut into the video with the editor. That is, the RoxinPunch video is made of 30 clips of around 3 seconds each. Probably to give the effect of 1, since I'll bet it takes a lot of self-discipline before somebody can really eliminate all the um's, ah's, and awkward pauses that infest normal conversations, even from rehearsed scripts.

3) About 20 times in that same video, this editing causes the speaker to shift dramatically in position from one clip to another-- like, the speaker moves from the left-hand-side of the screen to the right-hand-side, or moves heavily forward or back from where she was originally.

4) No "natural" movement in position occurs. Which is to say, she doesn't move right or left at all within a clip. This is less-true of motion forward and back, but still generally holds. I wonder if this is intentional, or whether it's more a side-effect of 1 and 2 combined with the desire to give the viewer some movement for their eyes to follow. (I must admit, when I'm watching the vast majority of talking-heads online content I end up listening to it while I do something else. The fact that I don't get this urge with RoxinPunch definitely says she's doing something right.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leadership seminars? In MY iPod?

They're less useful than you think. Wait, lemme back up.

Okay. So you know how, whenever you go to a bookstore, there are always certain books that are always there? Not actual titles, mind, but always on the same general subjects. Things like Ways to Lose Weight Without Expending Effort. Most of the time they just kinda fade into the background, but I recently noticed at a bookstore* an 4-CD audiobook on Leadership. I figured, well, leader-ness is an important quality to have, right? And it only set me back the cost of a sandwich. So I bought it.

So the next day, I got in the car to Branden's, and I plugged in the first lecture. And I have to say, I wasn't impressed. This fellow started off his lecture by saying how important foresight was. Seemed reasonable enough. But then he spent the next ten minutes talking about the various studies that showed the importance of foresight, and in various ways telling me about how you really needed to have foresight to get ahead, and how you always have to have your eye on the ball, and must pay attention to your goals oh my God I get it already srsly you guys.

Okay, skipping ahead a couple of tracks. Now we're hearing about the importance of courage. I can deal with this. And then he spends the next three-or-so minutes reciting platitudes. Learn from experts, the future belongs to the risk-takers, move boldly out of the comfort zone. The superior person does not make the right decision, but makes the decision right. Act with integrity. Honesty is the surest way of getting rich. Also noticed at this point: that a great deal of the advice appears to take the form of platitudes, with many restatements of the given platitude-- oftentimes by famous persons-- that nevertheless don't lead on to any sort of concrete advice.

I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, perhaps these platitudes simply don't lead themselves to concrete advice, and the best thing you can offer to people with ambition is repetition-- restatement of the qualities you need to have to be all leader-y. I suppose that nobody would really disagree with those things (one site I've read refers to statements such as these as "applause lights.") And I strongly suspect that something like foresight can't just be gained, really, just via bold resolutions and clenched teeth.

I suspect a good test for advice is to see if, in your mind's eye, you can see someone having a "Eureka" moment over it. ("Of course! This entire time, all I needed to do was think about my goals!")

What advice should have been given? Hell if I know. But I suspect any book on leadership should end up reading like a primer on practical psychology. (For reference, I've actually found How to Win Friends and Influence People to be a book that's really good about this. Also greatly enjoyed, but for different reasons: the less-technical essays of Paul Graham. The link leads to one I particularly like.)

*I also noticed an awesome-looking book on tunnel engineering.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shared control? In MY starcraft teams?

Apologies about the lack of blog post last night-- I was over at Branden's from early yesterday until this morning, so there wasn't much of a chance to. Anyway!

So Blake, Branden and I have just discovered a cool new function for Starcraft 2 team matches. You can, via opening up a window and checking a couple of boxes, allow your allies to get control of your units.

If this doesn't sound great at face value, that's understandable-- mechanically, you derive no advantage from this practice. However, there's several situations where the team would benefit from each member having automatic access to the others' units. Examples follow:

1) "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Terran players like to wall up chokepoints, which to other players can be endlessly aggravating as your units can't get around them without the Terran player in question manually lowering the wall. Sharing control makes it marginally less annoying.

2) Stupid multi-race shenanigans

1) Terran Medivacs + Zerg Mutalisks = long-lasting harassment of opposing mineral lines
2) Terran Medivacs + Zerg Ultralisks = assault unit utterly invulnerable to small-to-medium-arms fire.
3) Terran Medivacs + damn near every other Zerg unit
4) Marines + Roaches = Low-gas-cost attack force with a damn fine tanking unit to absorb blows for the Marines.
5) Vikings + Brood Lords = Siege force that can be parked outside a base over water/deep space and thereby be damned near invulnerable to ground OR air.
6) Observers + Nydus Worms

3) Twice the force, half the APM!

Consider: two players are attacking. That means that both of them must attend fully to the attack, or the attack suffers. This stops being true if one player controls all the units, thereby allowing the other to concentrate fully on macro. (I did this last night with Bryce, Branden's brother, and it worked out quite well-- he would lead assault forces composed of equal parts his marines and my roaches.)

4) Focus fire has never been so easy.

'Nuff said.

5) "Help me! Oh god! I'm being attacked! NO NO NOT ON THAT BASE, MY OTHER BASE, THIS IS HORRIBLE"

If you have a detector, and your ally who is getting swamped by cloaked Dark Templars does not, he can shuttle that detector over to his base quickly and easily without having to yell profanity at you. ("Sorry, can't help you, I'm occupied with vomiting on my hatcheries.")

6) Coordinating assaults individually can be difficult.

And is made much easier if you can just grab the spare units at your allies' bases and send them marching along (though this really only works well if they're not specialist units-- I would not want to have to juggle the abilities of a High Templar, Ghost, and Infestor all at once.)

That said...

I'd definitely recommend not messing with your allies' production and econ. That's just common courtesy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Speaking of Bioshock...

...since Blake mentioned it in one of the comments, I decided this picture was germane to the blog. Is it strange to trawl through DeviantArt looking for pictures related to bees?

Original source:

On Morality in Bees

Part Three in a series on morality.

Bees do not have morality. They consume to exist, and exist only to consume.


*Not a real post.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I've been watching some of...

... A Very Potter Musical. Stay with me here-- watch these first two videos before you make any judgements. Parts 1 and 2 (totaling about 12 minutes for both) right here. Most of the good times to be had are in part 2, I think.

The writing seems to alternate between hilarious and terrible, although I'm tempted to watch the rest just because of how they cast Draco Malfoy. I'm not sure if I'd actually recommend much past Part 2-- though I must say that Voldemort/Quirrel's first duet is pretty excellent (and is, in fact, as far as I've gotten due to time constraints.)

It's interesting that (so far) most of the jokes that fall flat come from Dumbledore and Snape; most of the better ones from Harry and Draco. My initial impression was that it's a difference in how well they're written, but given how much they seem to differ in quality, it may well be more of a casting problem. I wonder how much better they'd do if they were cast differently.

Anyway, might be worth a look-- at least those first two links. I mean, don't get me wrong-- A Very Potter Musical is no Shoggoth On The Roof. But on the other hand, what is?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Morality in RPGs

Dragon Age gives you the following moral decision early on in the game. (It's not really a spoiler, since it's such a minor event.)

You've entered a village filled with huddled refugees from neighboring areas-- the results of a recent attack by Darkspawn. The inns are full, and food supplies are stretched to the limit trying to keep everyone fed.

A nearby merchant has a cartful of food, and is selling it at very high prices to the local population. The locals feel this is unfair, and wish the merchant to distribute the food for free-- in fact, a small mob has formed making demands to that effect. You are the only really well-armed presence at the moment, so your actions are pivotal here.

Your choices, given by the game, are:
1) Force the merchant to distribute his food among the peasants.
2) Do nothing.
3) Accept 400 coppers from the merchant to disperse the mob.

Now, this choice maps very clearly onto the good-evil system used in most games, where most moral decisions boil down into:

1) Do action X for no material gain. (thereby making it an act implicitly based on Principle; that is to say, Good)
2) Do nothing.
3) Do action Y for material gain (thereby making it an act implicitly based on Selfishness; that is, Evil.)

Which means that, despite the fact that there's no explicit change in your character's Morals Meter depending on what action you take, the game's designers are still telling you what they think the most moral action in the situation is-- which is to say, mugging the price gouger and distributing his goods among the townsfolk.

I had some trouble with this, since I'm not sure about the idea of robbing a merchant who's done nothing wrong, beyond being in a needy area with food supplies on hand. What I really wanted, in that situation, was a couple more choices allowing me to say this. Like:

4) Disperse the mob, refusing offers of reimbursement from the merchant (essentially the same as 3, but refusing the reward makes it Principled, not Selfish.)
or, the best of all possible worlds,
5) Buy the merchant's food from him and give it freely to the peasants, thereby neither robbing the merchant or letting the peasants starve. (Likewise principled.)

(Now mind, when I use the word "principled" I don't mean that it's the Right Thing To Do, necessarily. I just mean that you are making your decision based off of an ideal of abstract justice, rather than your own personal gain. Defending or robbing the merchant-- when done for no material benefit-- can both be principled decisions, whichever one you or I may believe is ultimately Right.)

I suspect the reason that neither of these choices made it into the final game was simply because they don't map very well onto the good-evil dichotomy the game's designers were used to. Which is a shame, because Dragon's Age, at least lore-wise, seems all about moral ambiguity. (Cutting failed/risky magi off from their magic and all human feeling, for example.)

What's really needed here is another alignment chart. Not with the dichotomy of Good vs. Evil (principles vs. selfishness), but with the dichotomy of two competing essentially-Good principles, say,

Deontological Ethics (helping the merchant avoid being robbed) vs. Consequentialism (helping the peasants avoid starvation by robbing the merchant.)

As you take actions becoming of a Deontologist, you'd get lots of status effect abilities like Categorical Imperative and the perenially-overpowered Divine Command. If, however, you were a Consequentialist, you could summon up temporary potions with The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number, or self-buff with the risky The Ends Justify the Means. It'd be great!

Seriously, I think such a system would make for much more interesting moral choices in games. Particularly since these games are always basically assuming the PC is a "good guy", what with going on quests to save the world and all that jazz. May as well give the PC different and interesting ways to be Good.

Any other ideas of competing principles we could use for morality systems? I'm all ears!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dark Heresy 5: The Interrogation: Omake Files

Unknown Voice: Halt! In the name of the Lord Inquisitor Argon!
Unknown Voice #2: Praise be his name!
Inquisitor Lord: Gentlemen! You have been in close contact with a daemon, and I smell the stench of heresy on you! Prove your loyalty to the Emprah, or we will be forced to execute you as heretics!
Cantor (whispered): Can he do that?
Me (whispered): He's an inquisitor lord, he can do whatever he wants.
Cantor (whispered): What if we asked him to provide proof of his position--
All (whispered): No.
Inquisitor Lord: I'm right here, you know. Psyker! You first!

Quickly, you fool! Make something up! Uh, let's see, dangers of heresy, goodness of emprah, uh...
Don't worry about it, Callidon! Ol' Vilhelm's got this.

Captain Vilhelm/Me: T̶͇̰ͮo̵̫̝̝͓ͪͩͨ̈̽̓́̆ ͖̣̝͗̏ͣͨ̾̎͒̋͢͝i̓̇̒͏͙͓̰͉̯̠ͅn̄̌͌̅̅ͤ͏͖͈̀v̢͓̄o̖̺͉̱ͨ̆͐ͪ̃̒ͅk̢̙̯͚͔̫̯ͧ͐ͨ̀e̡̧̡̠̩͇̞̒̄̐͒͌̉ ̖̹̫̞̜̗̝̇͗̅͑͂̄̑͘t̶̩̟͌ͭ̎͢ȟ̶̰͚͙̻̹͉͓̟ͪe̸̢̝̹̖̙̲͉̠̩̣̋̔͑ͨ̂͟ ̺̪̭͉̌́̽͒̎̐ͫ̒͘h̸̘̯̱͖͛ͦ̍͆̿ͮͥ̕i̶͈̗̟͚͖̯̖ͫ͌̔̄v̠̠̙̭͉̥͈̜̙͐͑͋̽ḛ̩̥̰̟̘̲ͪ͌ͯ͠͝-͎̰͇͖̭͙̄̿͊ͭ̃̚͡m̸̤ͮ͛͜͠i͕̞̖̟͎͂͌̌̂ͧ̈n̹̣͚̰̭̦̳ͨͪdͯ̋ͯ̏̆ͪ҉̡̥̪̱̦̕ ̮̤̖̄̐̒ͣͫ̃̈͜͡r̡͙̫̦̖͕͕̹̹̜͐ͯ̔̃́̒ͯẽ̡̡̆͊ͭ҉͎̱̜̮ͅp̜̝̺̑ͤ͛͊͛ͮ͗́̚r͕̼̉̓̌ͩͯ̒̕͡e̴̤̝̯̭ͨ̂͗ͣş͙̠̳̰̲ͯͩͦ͝e̸̡͍̻͉̅ͯ̈̋̾͡n̗͈͍͓͓̲̟͂ͮ̾͝t̜̟͍̜̠͋ͫ̽ͨ̎͐i̷̷̼͓̝̬͙̪͗̄ͫͮ̎͊̂́͊͞n̲̟̘̆̌ͧͩͬg̭͍͛̏͌ͬ̃͂ͦ͋͊ ̴͍̟͈̣͂c̴̭͇̟̝̓ͫ̓̓ͅh̗̫̖̭̟́̐̔̀́̀å̶̭͚̜͉ͫ͊͜o̡ͬ҉̧̫̫͎̻͇̞̯s̾҉̦͔̻̺͖͖̬̗̩͡.̗͇̰̱̟́̅͗̇̊͡͝
̆͌ͪ̊̍̿͏̨̱̝̗I͉̞ͫͪ̂́̚n̮̭̻̠̫̅̅ͬ̔̊̔v̾̔̿͐̑͏̼ȱ͇̥̱͐ͭͪ̚͜k̨̘̤̘̗̀̾̑͢͡i͇̯̣͖͚̱̦͌ͦͯ̋̎́́n̰͍̣̗̰͍̰̹̫̓͑̌ͬ͒ͧ̈̑g̩̱̭̙̩̞ͥ̄ͪ͢͝ͅ ̵̞̰̳͓̉͊ͣ͐ͭ͌ͨ̒tͪ̓ͩͧͦ̇̍̈́̚҉̛̗͉h͓͙̜ͭ̐̽͘e̡͚̪͕͔͑͂ͨ́ͧ͐͞ ̧̳͙͍̬̟̗̜̗̿͑̓͑ͪ͜f͔̮̠͎̻̯̰̋̍̉̄ͪ͢͢ͅe̛̯̮̠̯͈̰ͫ̊̇̎̃ͥ̌̃̒̕ȩ̬̲̲̂̊̽̐ͣ̓ͯ͗̾l̘̘͔̘͙̆̎ͥͭͨ̏ͮ̚͘͢ͅi̶̷̳̯͕̖͙̍ͣ̒̕ñ̢̫̦̮̟̇ͦ̅̚ͅg̽̊ͫͤ̿̈ͤ͋̚҉͙̮͍ ͚̰̺̲̐ͧ̏͝ͅͅo̹͍͕̬͖̿̏̄̀ͯ͂̀͡ͅf̵̡̱̼̭͈͍͙̞̫̾ ̻̻̇ͬ́̆͐c̴̤̺͚͒̍ͭͫ͞ͅḧ̡̼̗́̍͒̔a͉̲͎̭̻͙͐ô̳̯̬̳̮͟ͅṡ̷̸̵̲͚͖̿̓ͥͬ͌͋ͦͅ.̭̞̺̻͖̙̩̔͒
͕̠̹͈͙̯̠̝̦̾̏̂̚Ẅ́̔̊͌̋ͨ͐ͮͨ͏͏͉̗͙̲̝i̛͚̞͑͢t̝̘̬̙̦̙͔̃ͤ̚̕͞ḩ̶̩̗̞͕͉̯̠̪̤̌͂̂̕ ̵͖̰̲͇̯̖̞̦̗ͮ̏̇͟o̢̬̼͈͍͍̜̜̬̒̏͐ͫ͌̚ù̵̧͚̣̹̥̖̇̐͊̒̾̋ͭ̚͝ť͇̲ͯ̔̇̈̿̌ ̞̔̃̃̐͝ǫ̶͚̤̭̮̩̎̉ͭ̈̆͑̒ͥ͝r̴͓̜̯̃́ͬd̟̞̙̞̾̿ͮͮ̚͢͞e̢̗̭̯̬̠̦̗͌ͧ̽ͨ̈͟ͅr͓̭̮̟͔̞̗̓̊̈́ͩ͛̋̓͋́͠.̰̮͕͔̟̉̂̾̌́̕ͅ
̮̟̻͉͔̮͓͕̘͋̿̉͌͛̆ͧ̔͐͟T͍̼͍͓̱̭̐͋ͅh̴̜͔̖̜̯͓̓ͦ̇ͥͩ͜e̸̷͈̲͓̯͇͕̽ ̶̮̰̥͕͙̰͆̊N͓͔͉͍̆͗e̴̼̖̖̠̗̲͇̹̿̏ͤͨ͐͑̃͜z̨̻̮̞̎̂̑̍̔p͈̥̥̙̠͔̈ͧͪ̀̉̄̽̇͘ͅe̐̀̈́҉̺̝̭̬̮͎ŗ̣̖̬̹̲͓̬̐͞ḓ̡͖͙͇͈̯͔̻̄͑̏̈ͭ́i̵̺̭͕̬̹̰̥̳ͯͥ̚̕ͅả̴̛͜ͅͅn̸̗̑̉͛̈́ͣ̐̔̊͂ ̧̌ͫͬͧ̉͑̎ͣ͏̜͎̘̹͇̣̟͖̙h̛̤̱̱̳̺͚͇̤̪̎ͤ̂̿̿̑̃i̷̹̹̦̣͍͙͈̥̟̒͒̐̿̾v̙̦͔̣̹͕̳̅͒́e̴̸͓͚͖̝͉̗ͤͤ-̬̫͕͙͉͉̭͓̐͂̐ͦ̿͌̚͝m̷͙̠̖̭̺̗͎̌͡ĩ̍ͦ͛ͯͭ͂̂҉̗̲͍̱̺̺̣̙nͭ̊ͪ̀̎̓̐ͧ҉̰̖d̨̡̠̯͊̐͆̉̓ͮͯ͟ ͣ̽̉̾́͋͏̥͈̣͚̭̀ͅọ̷̬͈͎̻̇ͬͦͦ͜͢f̶̦̱̿ͫͩ̀ ̵̭͙̩ͧ̏̄ċ̸̼̤̩̰͆̾̚͟h̜͇̰̎̈́a̭̹̫͎ͧ͠o͔͈̝̥͈̦̣ͩ̒͐ͬͬ̀́͟ͅs̫͙͍ͯ̈̊.̧͈̘̙̲̟̫̳̟͋ͬͅ ̮͉̙͖͊ͦ̏ͯ͗ͭ͛ͫZ̳̝͎̞̫̥̪͔͈̒ͦͪ͡͠ā̗̤̄ͯͪͭ̄̇̀͞l̶͚̟̥͍̘͍ͤ͒̔g̥̖͇̥̬̹̳̪ͭ͜o̴̴̝̻̯̳̥̖̠̣ͧͦ̀.̸̛̰̪̣̯̘͇̺̳̬͗̌͊ ̧̤͉̹̦̱ͫ͋ͤ̇͡
̵̬̭̰͖̰ͪͥͯH̷͖̫̦̟̫̮̮͓ͣ̍ͪ͑e͉͆̀̑̈̑ͤ͑̐̀͢͞ ͊̊ͣͭͬ͗͆̚͏̬̤̘̫̭̜̫̺͜ͅẃ̡̜̯̆̍̾̽̊͜h̻̠̙̳̱̒͢͢o̥̖̩ͭͨͨ̒̀ ̡͇̜̺̭̬̦͖̑̿̑̅̏ͣ̂̄ͅW̧͙̝͉̰̬͒́ͬa̙̤̟͙̬̎͒̓̈́ͫ̐ͮ̊̚i̶̙̜̞͇ͮͬ̈ͤͤ̊͝t̑̿̒̃ͨ̚͏̣̲̭̣͇̺͕̻̝͡s̎́̋̉͘͜͏͙̙̭ ̷̛̞̜͂ͭB̢͇̦̰̯̞̯̮ͤ̋ͭ̔̒̆̉͋ȩ͍̂̽ͥ͌̇͐̚ͅh̥̪̯̙̝͕̃ͪ̊͗ͧ̿̊̑̈ͅi̺̝̇̈̈ͥ̎͋́͞ǹ̸̴̢̼̣͕̣͎̊ͨ͋ͪd̦̯̽͗͊̔͘ ̛̻̼̪̯̖̼̻͍͌̅̄ͫͣ͟ͅT̵͓̼̹ͣ̌ͣ̓̏ͦ͡h̝̦̯̩̑̄͞eͬ͒ͣͮ͛҉̷͚̝ ̥ͣͭͥ̍͝ͅWͧ̓̾҉͓͔̞͢͜a̴̶̵͖̳̪̹͈̣̩͙̜͒̂̎ͥľ̨̹̺̳ͤ͑̍́̊͐͟͠l̇̊ͩͤͭ͌̚͏̶͙̬̹̬̳̲̘̟.̵̘͔̑͑̓

Inquisitor Lord:
Commissar Hark: *blam* *blam* *blam* *blam*

Me: I̧̙̬͌͑͌ͭͭ͌̏ ͎̖͚͇̥̑f͙͔̟͍͓̝̗̐ͥ́͘ë̄̔è͉͓̝́̈́ͬ̌͑̈l͚̭̬̃ͬ ͭ͏͉t͕̻̓͑͐̈͘h͍̱̫̻̀̉͠ĕ̏̄̆ w̌ͤ҉͉̜̦a̪͙̺̖̮̱̞͗̓̄r̭̝̜̊̓̎͐p̯̟̗̰̲̭͍̊ͩͤ̅̚ ̣͔͙̫̰̥o̳̭̽̇̃̉v̿̓̽̈́e̱̝̥̾ͯ̊ͪr͉͖̼̩̺͂ͩͥ́t̯ͪ̃̕aͥ͢k̟̰̱̤̇̑ͩ̒ͭ̀i̵̼̟͒͐͂̀̽n̟͎̟̚ͅğ̬̮ͣ̓͒ͧ̂̈́ ̃͊́͗ͬ͠mͯ̽͛e̷͌̾ͨͧ̾!̧͔̻̠̖̠̻͈ͥ
̝̠̘ͣ̈́͗̏̋͗ͮ͟ÏT͚̜̻̽ͨ̆͒ ̦͍̟͌ͨ̿́ͣ̀I̓͗̎ͫͮ̚͏Š̖̺̹̮͔ͮ͒̐ͥ̃ͨ ̯̣̫̒ͩ̽ͥ̒ͨ̔̀A̡͇̪͍ͯ͂̀ͯ̒̽ ̳͓̬͇̊̋͛͛̃̀G̗̪͓̝͚͚̓ͬͬO̪͚̭̳̊ͥ͋O̳ͫ͆D̒ͫ͒̊͏̥̖̜ ̸͕̲̒̇P͖͓̅A̷̜̹̠͉ͅỈ͕̝͙̘ͭ͂̾̓̔N̦̝̯ͅ!͈̟͓̞͌
Brutus: Ia! Ia! Shab-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!


Inquisitor Lord: I'm right here, you know. Psyker! You first!

Quickly, you fool! Make something up! Uh, let's see, dangers of heresy, goodness of emprah, uh...
Ahh, screw it, that'll never work.

Me: Of... course I can prove my loyalty! Just let me reach into my pack here, and I've got... a gift for the.... Inquisition that I'm sure... will be appreciated.
Inquisitor Lord: Really? What is it?
Me: (mumbles something)
Inquisitor Lord: Sorry, didn't catch tha--
Inquisitor Lord: Not the bees! Holy Emperor, NOT THE BEEEEEEES



Inquisitor Lord: I'm right here, you know. Psyker! You first!

Quickly, you fool! Make something up! Uh, let's see, dangers of heresy, goodness of emprah, uh...
Captain Vilhelm/Me: *static* ....Emperor on his golden throne... *static* ...Terra shall construct in his name the... *static* ...as does the great Baneblade as a symbol of his holy dominion over... *static* ...with the fist of the Emperor at his... *static* ...burning, as did the terrible Warp-Bees of Fenris over the scarred and accursed heretics of Nurgle!
Inquisitor Lord: Not good enough, psyker. Not nearly good enough. Commissar, execute him.
Commissar Hark: ...
Inquisitor Lord: I said execute him, Commissar Hark.
Commissar Hark: Inquisitor, do you... do you think that love can bloom, even on the battlefield?
Inquisitor Lord: Goddammit, not this shit again.
Commissar Hark: I am pregnant with Callidon's child!
Inquisitor Lord: (sighs heavily)
Commissar Hark: We shall run away together, Callidon! It'll be just like old times!
Brutus: You whore! He was mine!
Commissar Hark: WHORE?!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Other Interrogations

Inquisitor Lord: Techpriest Daret! It is time for you to prove your loyalty to the Emperor!
Daret: Certainly! I will investigate this strange piece of machinery your minion has, as proof of my loyalty.
Daret: Because machinery comes from the Omnissiah.
Daret: Who's... an aspect of the Emperor.
Daret: And that's... just great.
Inquisitor Lord: FAIL !


Inquisitor Lord: "Number Four! It is time for you to prove your loyalty!"
#4: Certainly! (drops weaponry)
(drops ammunition)
(drops more weaponry)
Inquisitor Lord: Your valuable and extensive additions to the Imperium's armory have been noted! PASS!


Inquisitor Lord: The Linear, it is now time for you to--
The Linear: No, boy. Now's your turn to prove your loyalty.
Inquisitor Lord: What?
The Linear: What does the Emperor look like, Inquisitor?
Inquisitor Lord: W-what?
The Linear
: [overturns a small table in the room] What planet are you from?
Inquisitor Lord
: What?
The Linear
: "What" ain't no planet I ever heard of! They speak Gothic in "What"?!
Inquisitor Lord
: What?
The Linear
: Gothic, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!
Inquisitor Lord
: Yes!
The Linear
: Then you know what I'm saying.
Inquisitor Lord
: Yes!
The Linear
: Describe what the God-Emperor of Mankind looks like!
Inquisitor Lord
: What?
The Linear
: [points lasgun directly in the Inquisitor's face] Say "what" again. Say "what" again! I dare you! I double-dare you, motherfucker! Say "what" one more goddamn time!
Inquisitor Lord
: He-he's dead.
The Linear
: Go on!
Inquisitor Lord
: He's a bit-- a bit rotten in places.
The Linear: Does he look like a bitch?
Inquisitor Lord
: What?!
The Linear
: (shoots the Inquisitor Lord in the shoulder.) Does he look … like … a bitch?!
Inquisitor Lord
: [in pain] No-o!
The Linear
: Then why are you tryin' to fuck him like a bitch, Inquisitor?
Inquisitor Lord
: [faintly] I'm not!
The Linear: Yes, you are! Yes, you are, Inquisitor! You tried to fuck him. And the Emperor don't like to be fucked by nobody, and probably hasn't for millennia. You read the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, Inquisitor? Well there's this passage I got memorized, sorta fits the occasion...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dark Heresy 5: The Commissar Cometh

Is... is this thing on? Damn it all, why do the techpriests make these things so...
*several seconds of static*
There we go. Okay, with any luck it's recording now, and I'm not just speaking to the void. Ahh, hello! This is Callidon, special investigator for the Inquisition. Keeping records of our investigation into the Tzeenchite cult on Terra via subvocalizing into a receiver. Inquisitor Shoulder asked me to keep detailed notes on our endeavors here, to be broadcast to the nearest archivist in the event of our death. Uh, not that...
We're starting our investigation at the spot where the daemon manifested earlier. I am attempting to stand as far as possible from the Linear, who seems to want to shoot something very badly.
Daret: All right, looks like we're to see where these cultists came from. Anybody know anything about forensics? The criminal sciences? Robocop, I'm looking at you.
The Linear: I'm really more about shooting people.
Cantor: Well, I'm very well-versed in the Ecclesiarchy.
Me: Gentlemen, please! I am well-versed in the art of soothsaying-- the art of predicting the past and future! I am only happy to lend my considerable talents to this expedition. As Vilhelm is always saying...
#4: Callidon, I'm not sure that Soothsaying is a real thing. Anyway, I think I'll check out one of these bodies. It can't hurt.

Not a real thing!? I never...

Daret: What do you see?
Me: I see a great tree, gnarled, but with a certain strength-- obviously a symbol-- this clearly tells us that we will get our answers from the great and terrible Warp-Druids of Nox Caliss!


Number Four, what do you see?


Oh! I found a crumpled-up address in one of the acolyte's pockets.
The Linear:
Oh! And I found a keycard that should let us in to that address!
Daret: Cool! With it, I'll bet I can hack past the mainframe so that we can extinguish the firewall, thereby letting us open the door into the compound.
The Linear: Makes sense to me! Let's roll!


Unknown Voice: Halt! In the name of the Lord Inquisitor Argon!
Unknown Voice #2: Praise be his name!
Inquisitor Argon: Gentlemen! You have been in close contact with a daemon, and I smell the stench of heresy on you! Prove your loyalty to the Emprah, or we will be forced to execute you as heretics!
Cantor (whispered): Can he do that?
Me (whispered): He's an inquisitor lord, he can do whatever he wants.
Cantor (whispered): What if we asked him to provide proof of his position--
All (whispered): No.
Inquisitor Argon: I'm right here, you know. Psyker! You first!

Quickly, you fool! Make something up! Uh, let's see, dangers of heresy, goodness of emprah, uh...
Don't worry about it, Callidon! Ol' Vilhelm's got this.

Captain Vilhelm/Me: *static* ....Emperor on his golden throne... *static* ...Terra shall construct in his name the... *static* ...as does the great Baneblade as a symbol of his holy dominion over... *static* ...with the fist of the Emperor at his... *static* ...burning, as did the terrible Warp-Bees of Fenris over the scarred and accursed heretics of Nurgle!
Inquisitor Argon: (sniff) That was beautiful, psyker! Here I thought you'd be the first to be executed. Okay, now you can prove your loyalty, priest.
Cantor: If my faith is not sufficient for you to be sure, it is your duty to execute me!
Inquisitor Argon: Good. Assassin?
Wait, is he going to kill... ohh, I see. This is just to see if Cantor flinches. Go Cantor go!
Cantor: (flinches)
Inquisitor Argon: Your faith appears to be lacking, Cantor! Why couldn't you be a good, pure Imperial citizen like Callidon here?
Me: I know, right?
Inquisitor Argon: Therefore I shall assign a commissar to your group for this investigation, to keep you honest and unheretical.
All: ...
Hey Caaaaaaaaaaaaaallidon.
Commissar: :D
Commissar: :D
Commissar: :D

Bad End.

Monday, August 16, 2010


So THAT's why Starcraft 2's queen doesn't autocast Spawn Larvae.


Interesting article. Good points. You should read.

So apparently Blizzard's goal is to have the economic part of Starcraft be an important part of the game-- that's the idea behind the Nexus' speed boost, the Terran's comsat station, and the Zerg's Queen. So, contrary to what I thought, it seems like the problem is not (necessarily) a lack of autocast with the Queen's abilities (or, for that matter, MULEs, which apparently are very similar in lack-of-thinking-required), but rather that casting Spawn Larvae is such a no-brainer that you'd want it to be autocastable. I mean, just look at the competition:

1) Transfusion-- that's the one that heals a zerg unit 125 HP for 50 energy. This is not a good deal, since any time you are likely to have the energy to use it (read: mid-to-late game, because by then you've got the accumulated energy of your missed Spawn Larvaes), 125 hitpoints is a drop in the bucket compared to the combined hitpoints of your entire army. And the idea of intentionally deciding in advance to trade 8 potential units for 125 hitpoints on a single unit is so ridiculous as to not be worth considering.

2) Spawn Creep Tumor. I actually think this one's pretty cool-- you spend 25 energy to get a cloaked creep-extender that can spawn other creep extensions, which also give you line of sight to the affected areas. Excellent for map-control, in theory, and one I've always felt I should use more.

The problem here is that when you've got 2-3 creep tumors, the added utility of additional creep tumors drops dramatically due to APM considerations (as you can't hotkey them in any useful way), thereby hoisting Spawn Larvae again into the "no-brainer" category of abilities to spend your energy on.

I suspect that Blizzard has somewhat backed themselves into a corner here-- they want macro to be a viable and interesting part of gameplay (the reason they don't want the Zerg autocasting Spawn Larvae), but they've made the Zerg's most powerful economic ability limited by the cooldown on the hatchery, not by energy considerations on the caster. Which means that any non-hatchery-limited abilities you give the Zerg Queens have to be horrifically weak and not-economics-based, or else players would just spam relatively cheap Queens all over the place without building a conventional economy.

I think this is the root of the problem with the Zerg economy-- the other races have economic abilities generated from their command centers, which have energy. Zerg have theirs generated by 150 mineral Queens, but Blizzard still wanted their econ to be highly Hatchery-dependent. That spells trouble, since it means, due to hatcheries not having energy, the only "currency" that Blizzard could use for the Hatchery's abilities is time. Which leads us to this problem.

I suspect the only real way that Blizzard could deal with this is by explicitly shifting the Zerg macro mechanic off of the Queen and onto the Hatchery/Lair/Hive, giving it an energy cost in exchange; it's effectively that way regardless. Well, I suppose they also could double the cost of Queens (to 300, making them on-par with hatcheries in terms of getting larvae) and also allow you to stack Spawn Larvae-- which wouldn't be such a bad solution, though it would nerf the hell out of the Zerg as a whole. And they'd still need a comparable ability to SL, otherwise we're nearly back to square one.

I swear, it's the last I'll be writing on this topic. XD

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In Which Aaron Proposes a Toast

Ladies and gentlemen-- if you wouldn't mind, open up a tab in your browser, and set it to this website.
Now, on another tab, this website.
And finally, the last tab should be set here.

So pour yourself some cider (or, if you prefer, wine), and let's get started.

It would appear that this is my blog's two-month anniversary. Bloggiversary, if you prefer. It's been fun times--I definitely needed a hobby before the start of the school year, due to my rather spotty work schedule, and this provided just the outlet I needed for the long-winded essayist in me. Probably will go to a twice-weekly schedule when I start grad school-- say, Friday and Saturday night deadlines.

Hmm. I'm rather regretful that I didn't go to the career center at Pomona and attempt to find a summer internship here in Carnation-- my plan, ill-thought-out in retrospect, would be that I'd just get a full-time summer job at a bookstore or someplace. Well, no place is really hiring-- thought I have at least found a job that lets me work on weekends, so I do have that.

I suppose that when I got into grad school, I just thought of all my graduate needs as being met, and didn't consider at the time what I would be doing before the fall. My mother brought this up in the car yesterday, and-- you know that singsong, I-told-you-so tone parents can use, which is endlessly irritating, and which never fails to provoke a heated response? Under most circumstances I've found I can grin and bear it, but in this case, I found myself getting a bit snappish at her for it.

It caused me to reflect that the accusations we get angriest about are those we know might be true.

And back on-topic, I find myself curious: who all is reading this, beyond my regular commenters? Lurkers, I have found myself among your number many times. But tonight is the night for all y'all to stand out in the moonlight, spines and all, and to raise your glasses high!

Ladies and gentlemen, lurkers and aboleths! To the Internets!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Most Interesting Man In The World...

On Designing Game Mechanics To Reward More Skillful Players

"I have noticed a disquieting trend of skillful players-- such as myself-- consistently losing to mediocre opponents-- everyone else. So I'm all for it."

"Stay thirsty, my friends."

(Anybody else like this meme? Anybody? C'mon!)

Friday, August 13, 2010


(Correction: Spawn Larvae takes 45 in-game seconds to use, not 25.

On the subject of last night's post: I read Blake's link, and it would appear that the arguments against autocasting for the Zerg's "spawn larvae" ability fall into three main categories, to which I offer rebuttals:

Objection 1) "The mechanic of Spawn Larvae would be overpowered if the Zerg could do it automatically."

Rebuttal: It seems to me that Blizzard either was accounting for the difficulty in using Spawn Larvae when deciding its power/energy cost, or it was not. (I love tautologies.)

If the mechanic was balanced around the Zerg forgetting to use their mechanic on occasion (thereby taking an average of 45+X seconds to use), the obvious fix would be to 1) implement autocasting, and 2) increase the incubation time on Spawn Larvae to 45+X seconds to compensate. I would so give up a lot of Spawn Larvae's incredible power if it meant I didn't have to endlessly babysit my Queen to use it.

And if, on the other hand, Blizzard was not balancing around the incubation time being 45+X seconds, then the solution is obviously beneficial to balance.

Which leads me to the other main argument:

Objection 2) "Managing the spawn timer adds skill to the game. If you have a good sense of timing, the game rewards you for it, and this is how it should be."

Rebuttal: This is the primary argument that makes me RAAAAAAGE. The fact is, there are endless ways a designer may add arbitrary degrees of "skill" to a given game. A short list follows:

A) Eliminate all hotkeys.
B) Eliminate all queuing for units and/or actions.
C) Eliminate the "attack-move" button, such that the players with the best reaction times inevitably win combat.
D) Force the players to solve simple math problems before they may issue commands.
E) Have mineral income be dependent upon how well the player can sing along to a karaoke version of "Don't Stop Believing."
F) Whenever a player loses a building he has to take a shot of vodka.

Now, anybody can see why these would be a bad idea to add to Starcraft. You could make Starcraft a karaoke game, or a math game, or a timing game, or a drinking game, but that's not the kind of game Starcraft is. It's a strategy game; therefore all the difficulties a player should face should relate to strategy--that is, making interesting choices-- and strategizing should be the only skill that matters. Not the skill of strictly adhering to a spawn timer, any more than it should be the skill of holding your liquor.

Although the drinking-game-version might still be cool.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Starcraft Rant!

You know what bugs me about Starcraft 2?

Zerg queens.

Every 25 seconds they are able to use "spawn larvae", and this is entirely optimal for them to do since larvae are, for the zerg, a resource comparable to minerals or vespene gas; and Spawn Larvae is your main means of getting them, due to their slow rate of regeneration from Hatcheries.

The problems with this are threefold. Problem the first! It is pretty much optimal to use this whenever possible, because neither of the Zerg Queens other two abilities are nearly good enough to use instead due to the value of larvae to the Zerg.

Problem the second! Spawn Larvae takes 25 seconds to take effect (the "incubation period.) The energy the Zerg Queen uses in casting Spawn Larvae takes 25 seconds to regenerate. Spawn Larvae cannot be cast when you've got another Spawn Larvae incubating at the same time. That means that you will always have the ability to chain-cast Spawn Larvae, assuming you don't do anything else with the queen in the meantime (and with very few exceptions, it would be disadvantageous to do so, because (again) Spawn Larvae rocks the hizzy.)

Problem the third! You can't autocast Spawn Larvae. Which might be called the root of the problem.

This leads to a situation where.... well, it's a bit like a sub-game that you have to play as Zerg, where every 25 seconds you have to cast Spawn Larvae on your hatchery. This is because every second where you don't have larvae incubating is basically some amount of larvae lost until the end of the game. Or to put it another way-- take one player who remembers to cast Spawn Larvae every 25 seconds. His opponent, on average, takes an extra 10 seconds to remember to cast it after the last batch of larvae is done "incubating." At the end of the game, the first player is going to have gained 140% the larvae the other player did from Spawn Larvae, which means having significantly more units by the endgame (since Zerg units are spawned directly from larvae.)

Ech... it seems wrong somehow that in a game that brands itself "Real Time Strategy", so much of a Zerg player's victory depends solely on how conscientiously they hit the "Spawn Larvae" button at the appointed time. Which I've gotten pretty good about doing, admittedly-- my win % dramatically increased after I figured out how to have all my queens cast Spawn Larvae in rapid succession-- but it's still an annoying distraction from actually playing the game.

1) Increase the cost of Spawn Larvae to 30 energy, rather than 25-- this would mean that you could, in fact, catch up after wasting 5 seconds of hatchery incubation time. Could also be accomplished by decreasing the incubation period.
2) Have Spawn Larvae be autocasted.
3) Write myself a program that beeps every 25 seconds.

Actually, that last one might not be such a bad idea. Diamond leagues, here I come!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

City states? In MY civ 5? It's more likely than you think.


By God. I find myself mightily intrigued by this concept of "City-States"; I remember that when Galactic Civilization came out some time ago, I spent a great deal of in-game time and resources trying to help the Snathi (a minor (read: NPC) civilization of carnivorous squirrels) up to their proper stature as Rulers of the Universe, via gifts of technology and highly advanced fleets of warships. Tragic thing was, the game designers apparently did not forsee the need for teaching minor civilizations to command armadas of fleets with weapons named things like "Black Hole Guns" and "Terror Beams," and as a result the Snathi's vast fleets sat in their star systems, unfeared by the quivering masses. So much missed potential. Sad times...

Wait, where was I? Oh, right. So I'm definitely liking the idea of a civilization acquiring lasting power through means other than "having a bigger empire than the other guy", which leads to "Sprawling Empire" situations like I outlined here.

Also mightily approved of: the fact that culture is less of a "tacked-on" mechanic in the new game. In Civilization 4, if you weren't going for a cultural victory, there was really no point in doing anything with culture beyond the piddling amount it took for your cities to reach peak production. Oh, sure, in theory you could culturally dominate a neighboring empire's cities enough that they'd spontaneously flip over to you. Which would be cool for like five seconds before that empire declared war on you and grabbed its city back, plus probably some of your other cities for good measure, since while you were building things like the Sistine Chapel and the Taj Mahal, they had opted to build things like "rifled cannons" and "arquebusiers." Bah!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

By God, my whole day has been spent reading this


I found this via Methyl Ethyl Aldehyde, and it's a fantastic piece of Harry Potter don't judge me fanfiction called "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality." Seriously, it's right up there in terms of entertainment value with classics like the Orphans of Chaos trilogy. Basically it's about an alternate-universe Harry Potter raised by intensely-rationalist parents, who attempts to revolutionize the magical world via scientific means.

Harry: By God, wizards don't understand currency arbitrage! I could make a fortune!
Me: I'm listening....
Harry: But before I make that fortune, I'm going to start investigating the practice of magic using the scientific method!
Me: ...sounds good so far....
Harry: Also I think I've figured out how to use a Time-Turner to create a device of infinite computational power!
Me: Squeeeeeeeeeee!

Like all of my favorite fantasy novels (see: Orphans of Chaos, Dresden Files) it alternates between the protagonist waxing rhetorical on how the magic system works, and using it in internally consistent and clever ways to solve problems. It even comes with all sorts of D&D and fantasy references, and who doesn't love those? Anyway, I'm seconding MEA's recommendation on this thing, 'cuz damn.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dark Heresy 4: Return to Heresyville: Part 2: Heretric Boogaloo?

Note from the Scribe: Due to my advanced state of exhaustion in this stage of the mission (as well as the time of composition), my transcription here may not be up to my usual standards of fairness and accuracy. However, I'm 90% certain that at least a couple of the events that are transcribed here did, in fact, take place in some form. Maybe.


Whilst returning from your successful expedition against the Genestealer cult, you run into a group of gangsters from a hive world!
Stormshrug: Anybody speak Hiver?
Kory: Nope.
Rome: Nuh-uh.
Stormshrug: I got nuthin'.
Me: Only what I've seen on cheesy crime holovids.
Jesse: Well, I suppose then that it falls on me to be our diplomatic arm. What are the haps, mein hiver homies?
Hive Gangsters: (Luckily ignore Jesse due to being engaged in a firefight with a bunch of guardsmen.)
Rome: Hey, isn't that some of the Stealer cult members we fought previously?
Jesse: Why, yes it is! YES IT IS!
All: (kills heretical guardsmen.)
Rome: Anybody else hear chanting coming from that nearby rune-filled pit?
Jesse: Perhaps they are Imperial Priests?
Me: No, no, that can't be right. Psykers having a picnic, maybe?
Kory: Wait a second... you guys. I think I've figured it out-- those aren't picnickers at all! Those are BAD GUYS!
All: (blank look)
Kory: You know, chaos cultists.
Kory: Quick, kill them before they finish their chanting!
Stormshrug: Feel the might of my horseless electro-carriage!
Ki eh-eh sudomi ne (Squishing sound.) Donna ee'is requiem!
Stormshrug: Huh, thought that'd be more lethal. Time for a little reverse action!
Vehicle: Brmbrmbrmbrmbrmbrm
Cultist: Ki eh-eh sudomi ne (Squishing sound.) (................)
Stormshrug: Score one for the good guys! Psyker, do something about the others!
Me: Not to worry! I have psychic powers! Spasm, you cultists, like the puppets you are!
Electronic Equipment and Guns: (Cease to function)
All: Dammit, psyker!
HTMC (our heroic DM): A Daemon appears!
Me: Me am play gods!
Stormshrug: (drives Salamander into the materializing Daemon's chest cavity)
Daemon: (dies)
Grey Knights: Ho, citizens! We heard there was a daemon here!
Us: Yeah, but it's cool, we killed it like a second ago.
Grey Knights: Then our work here is done!
Bystanders: Huzzah for the Grey Knights!
Inquisitors: Truly, the Grey Knights are the greatest heroes of the Imperium!
Us: Goddammit.
HTMC: But look on the bright side, you guys! From extended proximity to a Daemon, you all gain 1d4 corruption points!



Me: Hey, Mister Grey Knight, can I ask you a question?
Grey Knight: Shoot.
Me: Is it true that some Grey Knights are actually disguised Slaaneshi daemonettes, and that you guys all have wild dance parties with them when none of the other chapters are around?
Grey Knight: Yes, yes it is! In fact, we're having one right now!
Grey Knight Daemonette: But watch out for those female Grey Knights! They're Daemons on the dance floor!
Female Grey Knight: Enough chatter! Commence dance partying now!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dark Heresy 4: Return to Heresyville: Part 1

Stormshrug: Okay, gang, there's a large group of soldiers in there armed with a great deal of vicious and painful-looking weaponry, and their guns are all pointed at the only entry. There are also no windows to flank from. Suggestions?
Me: Crash the Salamander into the building. They'll never expect it! DYNAMIC ENTRY!
I dunno, Flask, that sounds like a lot of work. What if we just lit the building on fire then blockaded the only exit with our vehicle?
Jesse: I've got a flamer!
Me: I've got a hand-flamer! Also a fuel canister that could be used as a molotov cocktail!
Kory: And I can snipe off any of the heretics and/or genestealers that try to escape!
Rome: Go team!
Stormshrug: Unless.... wait, what if they're not heretics and just shot at me out of friendly banter?
All: O_o
Rome: A valid concern.
Jesse: I'm gonna see if I can't make nice with them.
Kory: They are heretics and must be purified!
Is there a way of telling without risk of getting gibbed?
Not to worry! I've got a brand-new iSpex! It's sure to tell us all sorts of useful information about the beings inside this building.

Backup plan: How about we just ask them if they're genestealers?
Hey! Hey guys! Sorry about the misunderstanding earlier! We understand that the gunfire was probably just high spirits! Can we come in?
Look, why don't we tell them to it's the Inquisition and that they must lay down their weapons or be burned as heretics? Win-win all around.
Well, they wouldn't expect it.
Stormshrug: What about pornography? We could just throw pornography in, then raid them when they're distracted.
It'd have to be extra-heretical.
HTMC (our valiant DM):
You know, guys, it's been an hour and you still haven't actually done anything. I'm just saying. I'm not sayin' anything.
Stormshrug: Wait! Wait! I have a cunning plan! We could have Mister Flask levitate my cloak and helmet inside! And if they shoot at it, then we'll know they're heretics!
That's a terrible idea.
You are way past having credibility on the judgment of ideas.
Me: Fair enough.
Jesse: Hey! Gentlemen in the saloon! Can we come in?
Gentlemen in the Saloon (GitS): Suuuure. Just put your weapons down and head in single-file.
Me: I think that we should think about this some more before doing anything rash.
Pretty sure the GM wants us to hurry the hell up.
HTMC: Damn right. You're thiiiiiis close to a daemon appearing.
Stormshrug: Okay! So! Gentlemen in the saloon! We are here to administer blood tests, in the name of the Inquisition!
(Braces for a hail of gunfire.)
Stormshrug: (extracts blood samples from the model-citizen GitS.)
Rome: Hey, do I see a suspiciously large, unmarked crate in the room?
Stormshrug: What's in the crate, citizen?
GitS: Uh.
Stormshrug: What's in the crate?
GitS: Well, I'll tell you what's not in the crate. Genestealers.
We'll see about that! iSpex, what's the biosignature reading on the crate?
Stormshrug: Well. In that case, I shall just open the crate, and we'll see what kind of... uh...


Jesse: Cheese it, fellas!
GitS: (fires flamethrowers at Jesse)
Jesse: I'm on fire! I'M ON FIRE!
Quickly! Beat the fire out with large sticks!
Why is it always me?!
Kory & Stormshrug:
We'll take positions on the roof! So as to snipe the genestealers and soldiers which will inevitably follow you.
Me: (guns the Salamander to a safe distance from the saloon.)
GitS and Genestealer:
(suspiciously does not chase us.)
Stormshrug: Oh snap! It seems there's an entrance to the back. Guys, we have a problem.
GitS: (loading up a truck with Genestealer cargo)
Kory: Problem, Stormshrug? I see only an opportunity. (hurls frag grenade into the truck from the rooftop)
Truck: (explodes violently)
GitS and Genestealer: (explodes, also violently)
Jesse: First dibs on salvage!
Kory: But it's tainted by heresy!
First. Dibs.

Part 2 of DH4, in which our intrepid adventurers face off against a Chaos daemon from the Warp, is coming soon! And by soon I mean Monday, since tomorrow I shall be taking a short, but all-day, trip to Tapps Island in order to hone my Starcrafting.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thoughts on voice chat vs. real life vs. text

Hmm... so I feel like I've now had enough experience about voice chatting to be able to write a bit about it. One thing is, it's obviously much faster to speak than to type, which is most of the reason we're using it for Dark Heresy. One thing I don't like about it, however, is... well, an analogy to regular conversation should be helpful.

When two people in conversation simultaneously begin talking, one of them has to quiet down first so the other can be heard. This is normally done by the two people signaling, via an interplay of looks and gestures, which of them can go on. Then the conversation continues. One thing I very much don't like about voice chat is that you don't have the help of these looks and gestures, which means about half the time two people start talking at the same instant (which happens pretty often, given that there are six people in our group) one of two things will happen.

1) The two players each assume the other will stop talking, and so they start talking over one another for several seconds.
2) The two players each assume the other will keep going, so an awkward 5-second silence will result wherein each waits for the other to continue speaking.

Both of these cause a lot of confusion-- #1 for myself is especially a problem because I can't speak very loudly over voice chat, due to my parents sleeping one room over during gaming hours.

I'm also less talkative over voice chat than over text, which I think is directly related; in text, I can ramble on as much as I like in-character (I once played a techpriest whose shtick was long-winded stories that never went anywhere), simply because doing so doesn't cut into anybody else's play time. In voice chat, though, every second I spend talking is a second that everyone else is forced to be quiet and listen. Players also seem to use fewer emotes (basically, character actions added for flavor, like "I stop and admire a nearby beehive"), for likely the same reason.

Now, it probably sounds at this point like I want us to go back to text-based gaming, but the speed advantages of voice chat really are pretty considerable, and I can't understate how nice it is to not have to wait an eternity for the GM to respond to character actions. Anyone else have thoughts on voice chat vs. real life vs. text-based gaming?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bees of Angst

Following Stormshrugs post on conversion ideas... I decided that a close-combat Traitor Guard army might be pretty fun. THEREFORE!

The Bees of Angst

A traitor guard regiment from the planet Hee'Vibe, the humble guardsmen of the Bees of Angst became heretical when they traded five hundred years of dread service to the Chaos Gods in exchange for a temporary reprieve from gruesome death. Of course, being an untested and untrained legion of guardsmen, the Bees of Angst were not sent out alone to do the Chaos Gods' bidding; rather, the four deities each sent a representative of their will to ensure the guardsmen followed their plans to the very letter. These four representatives... are as follows:

1) Captain Felsah

Allegiance: Tzeench
Position: Platoon commander
Accent: Space-Southern
Likes: Long walks through the Warp; untrained psykers.
Dislikes: Rescuing guardsmen who are in over their heads. (Ostensibly.)

"It's... it's just a part of my master plan. It's n-not because I l-like you, or anything. Stupid guardsmen."

2) Commander Boras, The Ill-Tempered (counts-as Commander Straken)

Allegiance: Khorne
Position: Ill-tempered company commander
Accent: Space-Scottish
Likes: Disliking things; antique bolters.
Dislikes: "Chaos Spess Mehreens! Y'know, if I had an [REDACTED] set of Power Armor like that, I'd just go to [REDACTED] Cadia, and after findin' Creed me own damned self, I'd pull down me pants, and [REDACTED] right in [REDACTED] [REDACTED], and furthermore [REDACTED] regiment [REDACTED] from his mechanized forces just before I [REDACTED] his [REDACTED]. That's right-- the whole baneblade."

3) Commissar Kribble

Accent: Space-'Murican
Chaplain; commissar; moral support
Likes: Pitting his body's various diseases against each other; romantic comedies; comforting frightened guardsmen.

Guardsman: "Commissar, the Tau... they're everywhere. Jonas even got shot up. I don't think I can go out there."
Kribble: "Son, everyone gets frightened in wartime. Important thing is to keep your chin up! Do you... do you need a hug?"
Guardsman: "Oh! Uh, actually, I feel much better now! No need for the hug, I'm off to face the Tau!"
Kribble: "Don't believe in you, Guardsman! Believe in me who believes in you!"
Guardsman: (absent)

Dislikes: People who talk loudly in the theatre.

4) Private "Iron" Lord Byron

Position: Independent Operative; Platoon Musician; Space-Nobleman
Accent: Eversor
Likes: Doomrider; cocaine; doing cocaine with Doomrider; Slaaneshi baneblades; entering battle via skydiving from his pimped-out Valkyrie; doing so while carrying a boombox playing the song that will end the world.
Dislikes: People who complain about the noise.