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All looks good for this Saturday’s get-together… the RSVPs at the meetup site are piling up.  Looks like we will have a fair number of notables amongst the crowd, including more than a few names from the blogging continuum (a rather humbling list, to be honest.)

… and those are just the confirmed RSVPs.  I had an expression of interest from Jonathon Stevens (CEO Last Straw Productions, IMGDC organizer), and there may well be other devs and bloggers amongst the RSVPs… if I’ve skipped/missed any links, I apologize.  I admit to being just a bit anxious…  (We’re all just going to sit there and stare at each other for 5 minutes straight, wondering who will say something first… I just know it…) 🙂

Anyway, I look forward to meeting everyone… hope all who can make it have fun!

So, I was thinking about this little test game mentioned below while I was running to get caffeine (in the Diet Mtn Dew form, of course), and decided to try something maybe a little different.  Here’s kind of a summary of how the thinking went as I was walking to and from the store.

I’ve ranted about how perception and communication are somewhat less focused on by existing RPGs, and how they were far more crucial in pen-and-paper, at least from the GM perspective.  Thus, I decided I should do something to try to flesh out and test my own ideas on potential gameplay systems for perception and communication.  I already have systems I want to try out… I just need to do something with them.  The question is, what?

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No matter how many times I run into this kind of thing, I’m always a bit surprised…

Long story short… I am working on a little tile based thing to familiarize myself with the core XNA libraries. I’m using a long int (32-bit) to store X and Y position.  Simple enough.

I want to track a position within each tile as well as which tile any specific object is on, and briefly wondered whether I should use two variables (a TileX and a subTileX, for example) instead of using the single X position to determine both.  Given the situation, I figured there was no risk in just using the single variable scheme (X, Y) for both, but then I got curious… exactly how large a map could I make?

Well, I figured splitting each tile, which represents a 5 foot square in my little design here, into a 100×100 grid would be more than sufficient (maybe 128×128 to use binary masking and shifting as opposed to having to mod 100 all the time, I’ll figger that out later.)  That’s fractions of a pixel when you translate to the screen, and essentially locating a person within about 1/2 scale inch.  Close enough, I should think… 😉

So, a long unsigned int ranges from 0 to 4 billion and some change.

Translate to tiles: 4 billion divided by the 100 units per tile equals 40 million tiles.  In each direction, both North-South and East-West… and I was momentarily worried.  LOL.  Okay, let’s take this a bit further…

Translate to scale feet: appx 40 million tiles times 5 feet per tile equals 200 million feet.

Translate to scale miles: appx 200 million feet divided by 5280 is approximately 38000 miles.

By comparison, the circumference of the earth at the equator is only about 25000 miles.

In other words, two simple long integers are far more than enough to define where you are on the surface of the earth to within one half-inch.  Throw in a third for the Z axis, and you can be about a tenth of the way to the moon, as well.

Good enough for a little test app, I should think :boggle:

So, as mentioned previously, I am working on arranging for a little get-together here in the Twin Cities for as many of us local MMO enthusiasts I can round up.

I have reserved a small event room (Longford boardroom, max occup. 14) at the Minneapolis Marriott West in St. Louis Park (169 and 394, essentially) for June 2nd, 2pm-6pm, which includes the convenient ability to wander back and forth between Kip’s Authentic Irish Pub and Restaurant as each of us sees fit.  Should be a decent venue, I would think.  (It’s not finalized just yet, so if there is a huge outcry about schedules, etc., no problem making changes over the next day or so.)

I would like to make this a semi-regular event if possible.  No agenda per se, just get together and discuss games in general, and presumably MMOs in particular.  Any and all interested are welcome… I’ll spring for a round or two, as well.

So… anyone interested?

Update: Per Brent’s suggestion from the comments, I have created a group for MMMOGIG at for the gathering.  Feel free to stop in and RSVP, take the little test poll I’ve set up, etc.

I don’t quite know what to say about the Tseric/CS meltdown event, explored in some detail at Broken Toys and Nerfbat, amongst others.   Something like it happens every couple years, it seems.  I’m going to post my own thoughts, which will prove 1) you don’t want me as a forum moderator, no matter how desperate you might be; and 2) there is a definite skill to being a CS/CM, especially for an MMO.

Understand, I currently directly support a half-dozen different business applications, serving approximately 300 companies and 35000+ daily users.  I not only do CS, I do it daily and I own 20% of the company that I do it for.  I provide first and second level support for all of them: I take the call/email reporting the problem, often end up tracking down the problem, and fixing it if that is needed as well, plus work with the customer to get it all resolved.

I know what customer service is, and needs to be: you do not tell the customer they are stupid, or wrong, or blind, or whatever they are that day.  You can (and should) mention when they are insightful or innovative or spotted something you missed… that happens, too, and it’s actually a good thing to point it out when it occurs.  You need to vent, you do it in private.

(More below the fold…)

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I was tagged for this meme by the good Boon over at MMOCritic, and thus, here is my response…

1.  The Voice in the Wilderness: to simply express my desires (and disappointments).

I’ve been at this RP gaming thing for a while, and involved very deeply (as a participant) to boot.  RP gaming, in all it’s forms, is a burning interest of mine, and has been for nearly 30 years.  There are things I want to see done (even if they were to fail commercially) that I would love to be a part of experimenting with… this is one way to start advocating for those concepts.

2.  Documenting the rambles: to “talk through” ideas

When I am not quite so swamped by “real world” projects and concerns, my mind is continually flitting back and forth over ideas for these types of games, on topics ranging from the fanciful to the mundane.  Many an early morning and late night has been spent pacing back and forth in my living room, muttering and gesturing as I work through the fascinating-idea-of-the-moment, noting limitations and exploits, adding provisos, etc.  I’m sure, were someone watching, they would think I had gone insane.  This blog is a way to simply document some of the results of all that mumbling and gesticulating to an empty room…

3.  Wallflowers-R-us: to be a small part of the conversation

I have long lurked at the edges of these types of communities: I read the posts and boards religiously back in the day, I’ve posted at various gaming (, sites over years, lurked on the mud-dev mailing list, and so on.  I simply felt an urge to be more an active part of the conversation, even if in a minor way.

4.  Five Seconds of Infamy: to start becoming a “known” entity

Eventually, I’d like to participate directly in this industry in some way… my combination of temperament, skills, and experiences means such participation is likely to be as an independent dev or with a small indie firm like Last Straw, but I want to at least make some rudimentary preparations in case a position was to become available in the big name companies that I had a burning interest in.  Psychochild did me the honor of actually recognizing my blog name and talking with me for a bit at IMGDC… that, in itself, has made this blogging effort worthwhile.

5.  Echoes of the Past: reminding people that D+D was not the only RPG.

A lot of the topics and memes that rebound through the blogs on occasion are hardly new.  There were discussions about the viability of permadeath, gimped character classes, the hassles of food and encumbrance, etc. in the Letters pages of Dragon magazine back when the “net” was mainly composed of a series of 300 baud modems deep in the bowels of university research labs and military installations.  This blog also is meant to serve as a reminder of the questions that were once asked, and to sound a note of caution that occasionally the answers they found then, and incorporated into their rules and core philosophies from then on, are not always 100% compatible to the vastly different venue we discuss today…

As for continuing the chain, I’ve never been comfortable with tagging people with these things… I’m not gregarious enough to know who would enjoy it vs. whom would be annoyed.  I’ll leave that task for others of greater insight and/or thicker skin… let’s do it this way: anyone that wants to participate, please feel free, and let me know so I can link to the results.  My definite thanks to Boon at MMOCritic for giving me the impetus, however. 

In relation to my little rant of a couple days ago…

The modern MMO is, to me,  very much like the Monopoly board game: a literal host (1225 and counting, apparently) of “localized versions”, all of them pretty much the same except for the names on the board and the occasional “house rule”.

Just struck me as an apt analogy.  YMMV, of course.

Well, figured I’d take another stab at this, with a little more lead time, and a more central location, see if there is really any interest.

My thoughts at present: first Saturday (or Sunday, if preferred) of each month, mid-afternoon (2:00 was suggested by Ethic), at some location relatively close to central Mpls/St. Paul (still to be precisely determined).  For this one, let’s say Saturday, June 2, 2:00 pm.  I’ll firm up a location over the weekend.  Does that work?

I’m still looking for a place where people can both get some quiet space to talk and maybe even actually hear one another, but can also have a few other things to do in case the main topic isn’t of great interest.  Throw in a desire for some sort of wi-fi in the mix… I’m still weeding through the options.  (I’ve had 3 possibles suggested over the past couple weeks.)

Feel free to post here, or join the google group in the sidebar, to chime in…

(cc’d from an email I just sent off to mud-dev… heck, at least it is something to post 🙂 )

On 5/15/07, “Tess Snider” wrote:

>> Is there /any/ ways perma-death can be implemented without being hated
>> by players?
> I used to be an admin on an RP TinyMUSH with permadeath.  So, what I’m
> about to tell you is not a load of ivory tower theoretical BS.  For
> permadeath to work for the players, you need to satisfy the following
> requirements:
> 1.) Death must be rare.
> 2.) Death must be meaningful.
> 3.) Death must be noteworthy.
> 4.) Death must be avoidable, and it should be a *consequence* of
> something the player has consciously chosen to do.
> 5.) The player must be able to make a new character with the same —
> or roughly the same — level of ability as the old one.

Thank you.  That has to be the most succinct and complete summation of the necessary components I have yet seen.

>> Well, the first question is surely why?

The answer, for me, is that it would be one way (amongst many possible options, admittedly) to _force_ the designers (assuming they have clue one about what they are doing) to NOT make Diku-WoW-clone #5439875… and counting…

I pre-ordered LotRO and played off and on for about two weeks total.  That’s probably going to be about it, too, despite all their excellent work and solid release.  Worse, I have none of the typical excuses to fall back on… poor performance, buggy initial release, or any of the other old dodges I’ve used in the past to explain the problem away.

So, why?

Because I sit there at the login screen, and say to myself… “I’ve done all this before.  Why bother?”

Now, I was an early adopter, been playing these things on one level or another for coming up on 20 years.. first text, then graphics (and I was a pen-and-paper RPer for nearly a decade before that).  I’m not the typical player, I fully admit and agree.  Regardless… if that’s not a “canary in the coal mine” moment, I don’t know what would be.

My two cents…

Another hectic non-stop week.  Had a few moments of relative calm, thankfully… but far too few.  There should be more posting over next week or so, tho…

On a positive note, I have signed up to help out on an intern-style basis at Last Straw Productions, working on whatever needs doing, basically.  My first project is to just add some simple AI to the targets in the Fowl Prowl game… the challenge will be not to go overboard (I have 4 pages of ideas… all of which are drastic overkill for a basic arcade-style target shooting game.  Sigh.)  I met with the other interns a few nights ago, looks like a good crew.  It should be a good experience.

My solar panels are in and generating energy… woot!  Next step is to run some cable out to the converter… it has an RS232 port, after all.  That’s an open invitation if I ever saw one.  Real time monitoring, heh.

I haven’t even had time to pursue much linkage, I’m afraid.  My first excursion into the interwebs didn’t come up with much of great interest that I wanted to comment on/about.  Everybody is busily working away on the next WoW-killer I guess.  And without me, dagnabbit.

Something significantly substantive soon?  Surely!

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Promos and Events

Live in or near Mpls/St. Paul? Interested in talking MMOs with other like-minded people? Join us on either June 30th or July 14th at MMMOGIGs #1.9 or #2.1 (or both!), details coming soon. You can also join us in Google Groups or to discuss the when/where of the next meeting, provide feedback, etc.
May 2007

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