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We’re Going To Market

This past weekend I played around with Project Universe a bit, trying to get the station UI up to speed. A speed. Not THE speed, the speed that the UI will be at once I have an actual aesthetic to apply to it. Right now, I just want to get it working.

The overall design hasn’t changed a lot. When you (the player) are in range of a station, you’ll be able to”dock” and you’ll see the main station services menu. From there you can visit the different amenities that the station has to offer. One of those is the commodity market, which is a freelancer’s venue for buying items which have little to no purpose elsewhere in the game except to give you something to buy for cheap and sell for (hopefully) less cheap.


Unlike last iteration, I am trying a grid approach. The keys to the display, really, are the quantity, the price, and some indication whether the station buys or sells the item (no station will do both for a specific item). The good thing about this is that the view port is more compact than a list of horizontal data because the item is nothing but an icon, an image, the price, and the quantity. To get further details, you’d click on the item in the grid to have it bring up info on the right hand side. There’d be a name, a description, and a way for you to add quantity to your hold, or if you have that item in your hold, to move it to the station (note to self…need an indicator on the grid item to display if you have that item in your hold!). All of this was fairly simple to set up, considering this is the third iteration of this exact system I’ve done for this project now, although some parts (price calc, buy or sell, quantity in hold) aren’t in place.

What took some time was setting up a hierarchy of windows so that the player could close them all at once, or one at a time. Since the window displays in a hierarchical manner, it stands to reason that the player should close the windows in a LIFO manner: last in, first out. The Esc key is the traditional vehicle for a keyboard-based game when closing windows, so I had to wire that key to close just the most recently opened window. Press it again, and it closes the previous window. And if there’s any other windows open after that, close each in the reverse order in which they were opened. Technically, this will rarely (probably never) go more than two Esc presses deep before the player is “undocked”, but the manager does pretty well and should allow the system to handle closing windows one by one. Yes, there will be a manual button on each window to close just that window, but there’s a design decision that needs to be made as part of that, like where the button will be and what it’ll look like, and I’m not at that point quite yet.

One issue that I ran into was the locking of the mouse when flying. There’s three ways to go about movement when dealing with mouse and keyboard. The first is to go all keyboard. The second is to go all mouse. The third is a hybrid. I had originally used the all keyboard method, but that gets kind of awkward for slight maneuvers like when you need to line up with a target or other object and are using the movement script I have currently. Using the mouse works better in that regard, but it also requires me to lock the mouse in “mouselook” mode, where movement of the mouse controls pitch (nose up and down) and yaw (nose side to side). In this mode, there’s no mouse pointer to use in clicking on things like the “Dock” button that turns green when you’re within docking distance, or to use on the station menu when you’ve docked. You’ll need to exit mouselook mode in order to get the pointer back, and while that’s not exactly a foreign concept in games, I’m not sure I like it. The plan I have is to automatically turn off mouselook while the player is docked, and re-enable it when the player undocks. And in order to dock or interact with anything in the world, the player can use the now-becoming-ubiquitous “F” key to interact.

All of this has lead me to think about controller support, which I plan on doing, because this kind of game begs for controller support. I’m just not sure what kind of inputs I’m going to end up needing, so I can’t fully commit to creating controller support with that information.

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Extra Life 2015 Recap

I enjoy participating in the Extra Life event, in as much as I am able: I’ve not pulled a full 24 hour shift, and I’m not sure that I could, especially these days where I’m spending less time playing games than I ever have in the past. But I think I’m at that age when I’m slowly settling into “myself” and the groove where my needs and wants are taken care of, and have been wanting to “do more” for others both to help out, and to get an additional level of fulfillment for myself in the knowledge that I’m “making a difference” for someone who doesn’t work at Steam, Xbox, or Playstation Headquarters.

This year I’d set my personal goal at $500 after having reached over $400 last year. Sadly, I didn’t hit my goal, but I still managed to raise almost $400 for the Boston Children’s Hospital, so there’s no way I can complain!

Most of the donations I received were from family and — oddly enough — my wife’s co-workers. She spreads the email around her small office, and the folks there are usually generous. Facebook, as usual, turned out to be a real disappointment. Aside from the wonderful folks I follow on other networks, the people I follow on Facebook are the kind of people who think that giving a Like actually helps people starving in Africa; their sense of social responsibility ends at the “share if you support our troops; ignore if you hate freedom” kind of posts. So, Facebook.

Although I had a four hour period to broadcast as part of the League of Extraordinary Rodents team (earning $555 out of a goal of $200 GO RODENTS!), I only played two games. I started off with Guild Wars 2 where I came in a bit late to help the Kamikaze Runners obtain the guild hall, but spent the rest of the time collecting materials to help upgrade it, and running guild missions to help the group gain the reputation it needed to improve. Unfortunately my system was choking on the process; I was getting CPU warnings from OBS while running the game, the streaming software, and the webpage I needed to keep an eye on any conversation that might be happening. That lead to a really jerky stream that I apologize for (and for the auto-play):

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For the last hour, I started Call of Duty: Black Ops III which was the epitome of an impulse buy for me. I only played for the remainder of my time, at which point I had to allow my family to reclaim me for the rest of the evening. I was playing the game on the Xbox One and streaming from the console using the Xbox app on the PC, which was then re-streamed to Twitch via OBS. This video seems to be a lot better in terms of performance, though I can’t say why. Nothing else aside from the application I was using changed, which might actually be the culprit.

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History Repeats Itself; I Don’t Even Know Me Anymore


History Repeats Itself

A tale of many platforms.

Even though I claimed to have been on the fence regarding Fallout 4, I know that as soon as I start with the “ehhhhh…” diatribes, the battle is already lost. I pre-ordered and consequently pre-loaded the game on my Xbox Oneonly hours after publishing my earlier post.

I am fortunate to have had a choice as to where I wanted my depressing, post-apocalyptic saga to take place. I claim seniority on the PC, but I threw my hat into the current-gen ring by purchasing a PS4. Later, intense pressure and a stroke of opportunity allowed me to pick up an XB1. I am now in a situation — once again — where I own all of the powerful gaming platforms (sorry, Wii U), which means I am also — once again — in the position where I need to determine which platform will receive the bulk of my attention.

In more general terms, the divide between the PC and console ecosystems is pretty cut and dried. For me, there’s some things I must have (and can only have) on the PC, and some things which I must have on a console, and in most cases there’s no difficulty in deciding which platform gets which game. But when it comes to which console gets which game, the struggle is real #firstnerdproblems.

I opted to get Fallout 4 on the Xbox One mainly because my brother had pre-ordered it for that platform. He’s become a big console gamer, and is a massive Fallout fan, and while the game is single-player only, some part of my mind equated playing the game on the same platform as him would achieve some kind of parity between us. Maybe we could discuss the game without the vagaries of different bugs or something.

Then I saw this off-the-cuff screenshot from my friend Pete of Dragonchasers fame:


I was kind of bummed. Why didn’t I get Fallout 4 on PS4? They both have “4” in their names, right? I talk to Pete more than I talk to my brother, truth be told, so if that was a factor in my platform of choice, PS4 would have been the better option.

Or is it more than that? Last gen, I heavily favored the Xbox 360 over the PS3. I don’t know why; I suspect it’s because Xbox games tend to speak to the Western gamer more, while the Playstation lineup also includes a very large contingent of Eastern games. While I like Sony just fine, I will not gloss over the fact that I am a Microsoft fan, and in the end, I guess I just preferred the Xbox 360 over the PS3.

This generation, though, I went with the crowd and picked up the PS4 first (and for a while, swore that it would be the only console this time around). I did not regret my decision, especially since I managed to pick it up for about $150 new, thanks to trade-ins of last gen-hardware and games. It wasn’t until a somewhat recent spate of circumstance — getting a fantastic price for a new XB1, availability of games I like for the XB1, available of people to play with on XB1 — that I opted to pick up the new Xbox.

Since then, all of my purchases have favored the XB1. The last game I bought for the the PS4 was Disney Inifinity 3.0, and that was only because it was a digital download for $20 (I had PS3 hardware and figures already from 2.0). When I considered Fallout 4, I thought that I should get it for the PS4 because it would give me an excuse to use the device more often, and to use the PSTV I have hooked up to the TV in the computer room. But then I remembered that I could play the XB1 on the couch, or stream it to my PC, or to my Surface tablet, effectively allowing me to play Fallout 4 anywhere in my house.

Last night I considered trading in the PS4. Right now it’s only playing DI3.0, and since I have a portal for the 360 that would work on the XB1, I could easily shift that to the XB1 (I’d lose my progress, but that’s life). Of course, Dragon Age: Inquisition and FarCry 4 are on the PS4, but they’re gathering (virtual) dust. The few exclusives for the PS4 that I might be interested in, like Uncharted 4…I don’t know that I’m so invested in the franchise that I’d end up feeling that I missed out. Games like No Man’s Sky will be coming to PC as well, so that takes the wind out of the PS4’s sails in that regard.

I suppose I won’t do anything at all. I’ve got both consoles, and both are paid off. The crisis of conscious comes from having the device sitting there staring at me under a pile of dust while I favor the second-place purchase. It’s effectively “useless hardware” right now as I pay more attention to recently released titles I bought for the XB1.

I Don’t Even Know Me Anymore

As if my whining about the perils of good fortune weren’t enough to turn you off on this Monday morning, I want to talk about Call of Duty: Black Ops III.


For some unfathomable reason, I bought this game. I have owned approximately one CoD game in my life, and I think it was the first. I’ve never really given the franchise another look because shooters aren’t usually my thing, and because CoD is the epitome of brogamer douchebag gaming (slightly ahead of Assassin’s Creed).

But I am apparently on a shooter kick. I blame Destiny, and the timely arrival of Halo 5. I’m still playing Destiny here and there, soloing bounties and playing with friends through The Taken King content now whenever we’re able to convene. I completed Halo 5 in almost one sitting.

CoD is a well-done franchise, though, albeit a kind of on-rails shooting gallery where you are pushed through set-pieces that have all the contrived majesty of “thrill rides” at high-end amusement parks. Oh, that giant ship is going to plow into the docks? An airplane is going to crash into the road ahead, leaving just enough room for my jeep to coast underneath the wreckage? Just go with it, man, and keep shooting. But I guess I don’t mind the staged venues, especially since they’re pretty well done and give a better sense of “story” than Destiny does, but is a little more overboard than Halo 5 was with its story.

I don’t do multiplayer, and I certainly won’t do CoD multiplayer. Case closed.

I was intrigued by this entry’s “zombie mode”, which is apparently some kind of a requirement for CoD games now. It takes place in the 1920’s, which is not a time period that gets a lot of attention in games (I think Bioshock might have been the most recent, closest analogue). I don’t even know what the heck “zombie mode” is about, but the videos I saw on it a while back made me make that face that I make when I think “yeah, I might be interested in that.”

So far the game is “nice”. I really don’t know what other adjective to use there. It doesn’t suck. It’s not mind-blowing. I’m enjoying it, but it’s a different experience from the always-online Destiny and the more accessible Halo 5. You can tell it follows a set of it’s own tropes handed down through the CoD lineage, but since it’s “futuristic” you get some new things like “cybercores” that allow you to use cybernetic abilities like shutting down or taking over robots and remote turrets, or sending out swarms of nanobots to envelop enemies and confuse them. You can’t take a punch in this game like you can in the others, and the gogogo nature of a more cinematic presentation means you need to be both cautious and on the move all the time. The shooting parts are otherwise unremarkable; they work the same as any other shooter out there, so I guess I’m playing for the narrative mechanics and because I apparently have to have another shooter that isn’t all Destiny, all the time. 

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Poetry In Motion

Maybe that’s going to far, but here’s the latest video on Project Universe. It covers some of which I’ve talked about earlier (NPCs, player movement, crew UI), but it moves! And it’s somewhat attractive!

I bought some models from the Asset Store for space ships and stations. The player, NPCs (police and merchants), and at least one space station have models now. There’s also a skybox added (although I still plan on using “SPACE For Unity”, which is fantastic). Players will bump up against the station without clipping, but suffer from a kind of physics-based stutter as a result that I’ll need to address.

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The Mythology of Mythological Places


Here’s a thought exercise that hit me out of the blue while driving to work this morning.

As gamers, we’re used to our entertainment being set in worlds based in “fantasy”, which is a kind way of saying “this shit’s made up”. Sometimes these worlds borrow things from our real world mythologies: unicorns, trolls, orcs, and pretty much everything in The Secret World. We’re used to (and sometimes demand) seeing the things that we know as “stories” incorporated into fantasy worlds as ways of proving that these are fantasy worlds, and are nothing like our real world.

I’m not asking anyone to “leave a comment showcasing your knowledge of The Silmarillion” or to provide a Powerpoint presentation on the lore behind World of Warcraft, but think about it in terms of the fact that if our fantasy is these character’s reality, what fantasy do these characters realities have?

For us, mythology is the representation of what people believed to be possible (deities with human traits) combined with what’s impossible (humans flying or being transformed into things) either to explain natural phenomenon that they didn’t have the knowledge to explain and prove, or to serve as allegories warning against undesirable character traits. We’ve since progressed to the point where we as a species can look back on those days and those explanations and consider them to be “quaint” and sometimes even “backwards”. We now mine those past beliefs as a scholarly pursuit (especially in literature) and to build our fantasy worlds that form the basis of popular culture entertainment, filling them with anything and everything we know about our mythology, but employing it as actual fact within these made-up worlds.

In thinking about it, that asks a question: when your reality is someone else’s mythology, what kind of mythologies does your reality have, and how would you know what’s a story or allegory and what’s real? When it’s fairly common for someone to shoot fireballs from their bare hands, the notion that some bearded dude is throwing electricity from above the clouds doesn’t seem all that far fetched. How weird does something have to be in a fantasy world before the only logical place that inhabitants can dump it is in the “mythology” bin?


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