Category Archives: Dragon’s Den

Dwarf Fortress

There are games that are considered complete and final upon shipping but, in this internet age, I’ve largely been drawn to games of another classification, ones in a state of perpetual development. I go in, completely unrealistically, seeing games like this not so much for how they are, but for how they could be with enough time and the right development. Like a battered lover, a glutton for punishment, I keep returning to games of this type after being disappointed so many times before. My best example of this is Infantry, which met many of my expectations but fulfilled almost none of my dreams. I could spin similar tales of games like Graal and EUO. Wesnoth happens to be the only real success story, but something about Dwarf Fortress make it seem like it really will deliver.

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Magic Eye Films

Just a random idea I had at some point. Don’t know enough about the technology to know how one would go about it, but . . .

So “Magic Eye” pictures (a.k.a. autostereograms) are those 3D images that you have to stare at a book to get. A few folks can see the images really quickly, some can only see them after staring awhile, and apparently there are quite a few who are never able to see the things.

It’s kind of an interesting effect though if you can get it to work: Hiding information in the background noise in such a way that when you are able to interpret it you can trick each eye into interpreting it differently.

I think one of the things that makes it tough to pick out the 3D image is that there are no obvious visual cues. It seems to me that in a lot of cases with normal vision the human brain is picking out the edges of things, or contrasts and gradations of solid colors that define shape. But those things are absent in autostereograms, so it’s tougher to pick them out.

It occurred to me though that what would happen if you ran together a string of similar autosterograms to produce an animation? The consistency of the 3D image against a changing background might make it easier to spot the image than with a non-animated version.

Voila! I’ve just invented 3D animation without special glasses!

Well, not quite. Apparently someone else already thought of it.

I don’t know if the image portrayed on wikipedia is exactly the best example though. ‘Twer it me, I probably would’ve made the background as a more randomized image (like basic static), rather than a sweeping colored pattern which seems to distract from the 3D image.

Aside from the wikipedia article though I’m having trouble tracking down other good examples of animated autostereograms. Seems to me there should be some small creative sector devoted to them though: Cartoons maybe. Or segments of horror film where a random background (foliage or TV static for instance), kind of becomes 3D and leaps out at the viewer. Or possibly some sort of video game.

I also wonder if there might be ways to color the 3D objects, or have the background pattern be somehow meaningful in the context of the 3D scene it’s self, rather than just the standard splatter painting effect.

Wesband

lighting bolt

Wesband is a modification of The Battle for Wesnoth that I’ve been making. It is a dungeon-crawler, loosely based on ZAngband, but with features unique to the genre.

Wesnoth is a mutli-platform, open source, turn-based strategy (TBS), fantasy game. Originally made as a single player game, Wesnoth has expanded its mod-ability to the point of allowing multiple players to play co-op in a continuous series of scenarios. Wesband makes use of the newest modding functionality that Wesnoth has to offer.

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Whence Baltimore?

So Adrienne and a friend were watching Hairspray the musical recently and I ended up watching most of it with them. For those who’ve not seen the movie yet I’m not spoiling anything by mentioning that at the very beginning the protagonist belts out a song called Good Morning Baltimore in which she soliloquizes the city while marveling at it’s assorted vermin, bums and deviants.

This got me pondering a serious question which seems to have been overlooked by accredited historians and other limbs of what might be called “The Establishment”. I know ya’ll are from Salisbury, but my hope was this might be an issue that some of you folks from the Maryland Krew might be help shed some light on. My question is this:

What evidence can you provide to support the theory that after his death the body of Lord Baltimore was not in fact buried as is commonly thought, but was instead brought to his eponymous city where it is maintained in a tank of formalin and rare earth salts and kept animate through a combination of geomancy (ie. Look at the map of Baltimore for crying out loud! Druid Hill Lake ring a bell? I defy any right thinking person to look at this map and tell me those highways don’t correspond to major ley lines.), ritual magic, and increasingly with an array of modern biomedical devices fed via thick snaking cables and tubes implanted in his back and abdomen; and that he stands at the head of a “shadow government”, controlling the state of Maryland, and indirectly much of our country’s national policy, through a set of political agents working in the Maryland Chamber of Commerce?

And if I might add a corollary question to this, it would be: Which Lord Baltimore is really running things? Are we only dealing with a Cecilius Calvert here? Or is he in turn actually the puppet of the good old original Baltimore, the real power behind the throne: George Calvert, who wanted the land not for the originally stated purpose of giving good Catholics a refuge from the wrath of British tyranny, but instead as a base from which to pursue his own existential domination, first over North America and thence the world?

Dragonball Z: Burst Limit, Review and Comparison to Dick’s Cinematic Combat System

sup

Early fighting games had one status, a life gauge, and it only went one way: down. Some other fighters added another layer in the form of an energy/rage gauge. That too usually only went up until filled to max, then you can use some devastating ability. Dragonball Z: Burst Limit not only employs a third gauge, but the ones apart from the health gauge are freely dynamic, filling and depleting depending on action. This is a lot like my earlier-drafted cinematic combat system.

Continue reading Dragonball Z: Burst Limit, Review and Comparison to Dick’s Cinematic Combat System

d20 – Deadlier Dungeons Hitpoint System

Thanks to Cyrusjle’s recent comment for reminding me about this.

A bit under two years ago now, shortly after playtesting the Injury & Consequences system, I started work on a completely different variation how to record damage.

Injury & Consequences was inspired by a similar system suggested in the D&D/d20 Unearthed Arcana supplement (not to be confused with the AD&D supplement of the same name). And it was an interesting take on how damage was received and what it’s effects were. But I couldn’t help thinking it was just getting too complicated. Too many rolls to determine the effects of damage, too much to keep track of.

This annoyance provided the impetus for the Deadlier Dungeons rules set.

Those familiar with White Wolf games “Storyteller” systems might find the Deadlier Dungeons rules system a slightly familar, but anyone initiated into the Ars Magica cult will no doubt notice that an even more significant parallel with that system.

And fair enough. There are many elegant and well designed aspects to the Ars Magica mechanics and I’m proud to draw inspiration from them.

Unfortunately It was taking a little long to re-format Deadlier Dungeons for convenient reading here, so it’s been converted to PDF to dowload and peruse at your leisure:

Deadlier Dungeons

War Without Sacrifice

By Elias Richarts

It took twenty-five years. Twenty-five years of merciless slaughter.

I rose all the way from second lieutenant to colonel in only seven years. That shows the appalling losses we were taking. The last seven years were the hardest. But little by little we pushed them back from Styx, Charon, and finally back to Proxima. We were closing in to finish off those fuckers and that damn message came through on all channels. I’ll never forget it:

“We are the Partisans. We wish to end hostilities. We wish to negotiate. Please respond.”

The message was relayed back to Allied HQ on Poseidon and we were given the order to halt. I couldn’t believe it. We had the bastards on their knees. But no, the politicians decided to take up their offer.

The Partisans, who had been so vicious in war proved to be remarkably docile in negotiations. All they wanted was a half-billion mile sphere of space around Proxima Centauri. The Allies could have everything else. After four hours it was all over.

And so the Great Partisan War ended.

Almost immediately the defense budget was cut in half. Most of the veterans who had been in the war from the start took the retirement offer and got out of the service. left. Those diehards like me who stayed discovered we weren’t really wanted anymore. I found that my colonel’s rank was only a “brevet commission” and I was reduced back down to a first lieutenant. And I stayed a first looey for fifteen years. Finally there were enough retirements that I was promoted to captain. They offered a new retirement: twenty-five years service and retire at the highest rank. This is my last year. I’m taking it. I know when I’m not wanted. And what about the Partisans?

Nothing.

For eighteen years there was nothing. Nothing but the Partisans’ homeworld racing around Proxima Centauri every twelve days, one side in light, the other in darkness. Blasted with enough X-rays to kill ten thousand human beings with one dose . And nothing was known of them. Like the ancient Japanese, suicide was apparently part of their military tradition.

For eighteen years they lay waiting like a cancer metastasizing. Waiting for memories to fade, for budgets to be cut, for Man’s attention to once again turn to new worlds and away from a feeble red dwarf.

But as the ringing in my ears subsided, I knew today was not going to be like all those other days of the last eighteen years.

For today was the day the Partisans came back.

It started like any other day. Just like any other day of the last eighteen years. I was going out on the flight deck on Neutral Zone 42. That was the outpost I was assigned to which monitored the treaty zone set up with the Partisans. They were allowed outposts too. They never built any. We built ours on asteroids orbiting Proxima. Cheaper than building them in space.

They looked at me with reverence and awe. A real live veteran of THE WAR. So I spun my tales and told them what they wanted to hear. I told them of past battles and past callsigns of fallen friends and how they got them:
Spanky (got caught jerking off in the barracks)
Dweezer (had a fetish over a 20th century musician)
Mr. Moto (Master of the Obvious)
Asshole (self-explanatory)

And what was my call sign do you ask?

Shrike.
Honest

Ok. Not orginally.

Originally it was Breeder.

Well what do you expect when you’re the only strate in the whole damn squadron?

But after I got 12 kills, after I nuked that Partisan heavy carrier with 40 fighters on it, after I put that 20 KT right down the throat of the refueling station on 3487a927G which, according to the official history, “opened the way for the final invasion”, then they finally let me change my call sign.
But they still wouldn’t promote me.
What the fuck?

It happened only once. I grabbed her tight little ass. I kissed her and then I pulled back.
“I’m sorry” I said.
“It’s Ok. I’m bisex.” She replied.
“Oh”
“Ohmigod. Ididnt know. Youra strate.”
“Frade so.”
“Wow. Thatz OK. I always wanted to make it witha het.”
WE made love like crazed weasels.

Yeah, right.

Now for the real story.

We were both drunk off our arses. We went back to my quarters. Made out. Did it. The whole thing was over in fifteen minutes. Two years worth of friendship down the shitter in fifteen minutes.

When I saw her this morning on the flight deck I noticed the sparkle in her eye was gone.

I’m sorry Jess. I’m so so sorry. But it’s the only way. Don’t you understand? It’s the only way. We can’t let that fucker get back alive. Who knows what they’ll do. Will they just send out another ship? Or are they gonna come at us with everything they’ve got? No, that sonofabitch has got to be destroyed. And we both took an oath Jess. We both took an oath that we would give our lives if need be. If you would just stop screaming in my ear. Please stop screaming that doesn’t make it any easier.

Then everything went black.
The flash brought me back to consciousness. I would have been blinded if I hadn’t put my blast visor down before… Before I ejected.
Then I remembered what I had done.
Back during the war, an old Banshee mechanic had shown me a trick that saved my ass. He showed me how it was possible, by just rewiring a few simple nanoelectric circuit lines located next to the pilot console I could rig an overload in the Banshee’s reactor with a 15 second delay. Enough time to hit the switch and punch out. The 20 kiloton blast would fry or at least seriously fuck up any fighters that were on my tail. I used it once when my gunner had been killed and I was about to get my ass waxed.
I’m sorry Jess.

Then I checked my suit. There was a tear in my right arm. Moving as fast as I could I got the emergency repair kit and sprayed on the sealant. But it was too late. I checked the oxygen gauge. Seven minutes. It would take at least twenty for them to get a rescue ship out here. Guess fifteen seconds isn’t long enough.

I’m an atheist. The idea of God showing up as a burning bush makes me laugh. And if God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the apple, why did he put the fucking tree in Eden in the first place?

But I’ll pray for you Jessica Wu. I’ll pray for your immortal soul. It’ll be the only prayer you’ll get from the only person who knows what really happened.

Because the Partisan ship is destroyed. So they know not to fuck with us. We’re still ready for them. But Earth can’t let it out that the Partisans challenged us. That would cause too many problems. It would disrupt the colonization program, make them put more money into the defense budget, panic people. Bring back all those bad memories of the war. Open a real can of shit.

So they’ll bury it. Put it down to “pilot error” or some other such bullshit. An old guy, past his prime, fucked up, didn’t see an asteroid and boom.

The 2nd Partisan War ended before it began. And don’t worry about the casualties.


Download the story in Word document format here.