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Building on previous posts in the same line: for example, this one on potential Races, this on potential Travel options, and this on Economic levels and options… rambling through some of the occasional thoughts I’ve had re: a mutation mechanism for a Gamma World type of setting.  As always, feedback is welcomed.

The Difficulty

As most probably already know, mutation in real life (in most known lifeforms) doesn’t really work the way it is presented within the Gamma World mythos: “expressed” mutation is a process which occurs over generations of offspring, not within a single individual.  Since the setting is at least implied to be a future version of our own world, this is a potentially significant issue: if it doesn’t work this way now, why would it in the future?  However, the concept of mutation occurring regularly to an individual is a central concept to the Gamma World paradigm (and a sizable factor in making it an interesting setting)… I want to retain it for the implementation.

There are two basic options for dealing with the apparent disconnect between “how things really work” and “how things work in this imaginary future”: 1) simply ignore it, or 2) come up with an explanation for why this changes.  My preference is to attempt the latter: nothing wrong with going the former route, I just believe that by developing a coherent (tho fanciful) story for why this change occurs, a foundation for further enhancement and future decision making is also created, making a consistent setting and plot more likely.

This is a long one… much more beneath the fold…

Read the rest of this entry »

If you’ve ever read any of my random musings on my “dream design”, you may recall running across references to “Awareness” scores in one form or another.  One of the challenges I was fighting with (prior to getting buried at the office) was how to effectively convey the needed information about Awareness to the player in order to make it a viable and interesting part of the design.


In Voyages, the Awareness score is an objective mechanism meant to measure whether the character detects various potential events/stimuli, and in what level of detail.  Prevalent examples of situations in existing games/systems that would be analogous might be things like trap detection, secret door detection, listening at doors, detecting hidden/invisible opponents, etc.  In Voyages, the intent was to take the concept to a finer level of detail than is usually offered, and give increased control to the player.

In essence, the player is asked to monitor and control up to two related Awareness scores: a “general” score and a “focus” score.  The “focus” score applies to whatever specific stimuli the player indicates the character is focusing on: selecting a trap detection technique, for example, would tie the “focus” score to that endeavor, leaving all other stimuli to be compared to the (usually lower) general score instead.

On the other side of the coin, every stimuli is assigned two threshhold ratings: a “detection” rating and a higher “recognition” rating.  If the character’s current Awareness exceeds the “detection” rating, the player is notified of the stimuli in general terms (“You hear someone speaking quietly nearby.”)  If the “recognition” rating is exceeded, far greater detail is offered, potentially limited by other knowledge/skills (“You hear a guttural male voice whispering in Orcish, about 40 feet to your left.”)

The intent is to tie this system in to nearly all aspects of the game.  For example, attacks in combat include detection and recognition threshholds: an attack must be detected to defend against it, and recognition offers the additional detail of whether the attack will miss despite lack of defensive action.

Interface Issue

The question I’ve been worrying away at for a while is, how best to offer sufficient feedback to the player such that the Awareness mechanic is a viable part of the gameplay?

I wanted to try to avoid using simple status bars, if possible.  One idea I was playing around with briefly was the following:


The larger golden circle representing general Awareness, the smaller overlapping golden circle representing focused Awareness.  The blue filled circles would represent current score, expanding and contracting based on the character’s actions.  Each stimuli would generate the two “open rings” demonstrated in each display (the inner ring being detection, outer ring being recognition), popping in as the stimuli occurred and fading away over a second or two.

In action, it kind of gives off a “radar/sonar” kind of vibe, which seems appropos.

However, plenty of problems as well.  Problems with the idea include:

  • There can be multiple nearly simultaneous stimuli; displaying 2 rings for each could easily lead to confusion with relatively few events;
  • Even with the overlap, this takes up a lot of real estate on the screen: the example is 100×100 pixels;
  • There is no obvious way to express changes of scale: a buff that increases potential Awareness significantly, for example, might be difficult to indicate to the player;
  • The number of “steps” in value that can be effectively indicated is small (relative to the screen real estate consumed, at least).  The larger circle is 80×80, and really only can express 40 discrete “steps” in value as proposed.

One alternative I started to play with was using the same base concept, but using “barbell” lines to indicate stimuli, which would essentially radiate outward from near the center to near the edge, somewhat like hands on a clock.  That would increase the number of stimuli that could be displayed simultaneously… if the lines were separated by 22.5 degrees (out of 360, of course), that would give room to display 16 at once (12 if you cut out the overlapped area…)

Anyway, I’m kind of casting about for some original ideas here.  Anyone got anything?

Through the magic of the 4-sided die (first time I’ve rolled one of them in a while), the winners of the drawing for the IMGDC passes were determined to be Ethic and Emi.  (Apparently the letter of the day was “E”?).  Drop me a line at huberc -at- frontiernet -dot- net, and we’ll get the registration process figured out.  My apologies to those not selected… if I could, I’d spring for more.

(One more week of “crunch time”… it’ll be nice to get back to normal.)

Old news at this point, I imagine, but I weaseled my way into the latest SUWT, kinda by accident… the show is available as part of the Virgin Worlds podcast collective here (with links and show notes) and on iTunes.

Darren – Common Sense Gamer


John – Ancient Gaming Noob
Dennis – Potshot
Michael from MMOG Nation, etc.

… and me.


    • Introductions
    • Listener mail/What we’re playing
    • Cheater cheater, pumpkin eater
    • Predictions for 2008
    • Out of the Gate
    • We all get a hug

    Blog of the Week:

    As many may recall, there is a game development conference here in Minnesota at the end of March (29-30), the Independent MMO Game Developers Conference.  As per the site…

    IMGDC is a venue for Independent designers and developers to come together to share ideas and learn in all areas related to MMOGs.

    It was a great conference last year, and I’d really like to encourage the denizens of the MMO blogosphere to come and join in the experience… perhaps we can have a blogger sub-convention of sorts?

    As an incentive to encourage attendance, I’d like to have a little contest.  I have a couple of extra conference passes to give away, and anyone who can make it to the conference is welcome to put their name in the hat to receive one of them.  (In addition, anyone who wants to save on hotel costs is welcome to crash at my place, as well… it’s not exactly the Ritz, and a ways out in the burbs, but it’s got a roof and 4 walls, and plenty of room.)

    To submit your name for the drawing, simply leave a comment after this post.  If you have a blog, please leave a link.  If you don’t have a blog, list a couple of blogs you frequent and comment on.  I do want to try to keep it confined to people who are involved in the MMO blogs on some level, but beyond that, no restrictions apply.  Depending upon how much interest there is, I’ll do a random drawing from amongst the submitted entries to determine the winners, if necessary.

    Other people likely to be at the conference include Brent ( and Cuppy (  I’m assuming Michael Zenke from MMOG Nation will be there as well (Madison isn’t _that_ far away 🙂 ).  Aaron from Anyway Games will be attending as well, last we talked, assuming it works with his schedule, of course.  I’m assuming other locals like Cameron, Kendricke, and Ethic will be there as well (or at least available for a dinner gathering, perhaps?)

    And, of course, there are the actual speakers at the event… check out the list at the conference site.  It should be a great conference.

    So, free conference passes up for grabs.  Anyone interested?

    Obviously, I’ve been a bit distracted/busy/overwhelmed of late (pick whichever strikes your fancy, all apply).  I will be returning to regular posting only slowly, I’m afraid… still a bit of pressure from real life to deal with before something approximating normalcy will return.

    BTW, on an utterly unrelated note, anyone else looking forward to finding out what the monster actually is in that Cloverfield movie, coming out on the 18th?  I haven’t been much of a monster movie fan over time, but the refreshing POV on this one captivates me…

    Anyway, just a “not dead yet” note.  Type at you tomorrow…

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    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.
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