Last week I announced that starting in a few months I planned to have an entire year of full-time development on URR. The response here and on other websites has been overwhelming, so I must give a huge thank you – I’m amazed at how excited and positive everyone has been, and I cannot wait to start the year! My objective is to do everything currently on the Development Plan page, and I think that is very achievable within a full year. This year will be starting within a few months (a little bit into the new academic year) and that’s what I mean when I say “next year” within this piece.
Until then, however, I do (alas) need to actually finish my doctorate. I estimate this taking 2-3 months, so I expect to start the full-time year some time in September, depending on exactly how long it takes, when I move house, and various other factors. The second half of next week’s announcement is that my best friend has got a PhD in Game Studies in Lincoln, so we’re both moving there in September, at which point I’ll be starting my full-time year (with a little bit of game studies publication on the side, hopefully). As mentioned last week there will be no Kickstarter, though I do appreciate the willingness many have stated to donate to help me out this year. I may add the possibility for this, but I’m more likely to wait the full year and then evaluate. If, however, the entire coding year goes by and I haven’t yet found a job and I find myself ~15 months from now suddenly entirely lacking in money, I may then set up some form of donation system to potentially keep myself afloat. But that is in the distant future.
So, what now? Well, these next few months I’m unfortunately going to have very little time to program, though I hope to snatch a few hours of coding here and there. The past week I’ve been making a little progress on some more fortress archetypes and the mysterious standing stones in hunter-gatherer settlements, but not enough for a full update. Thus, instead, for these next two months we’re going to have primary game criticism updates. I know a lot of people have enjoyed these in the past and I’ve got a line-up of interesting ideas. I’ve had a bunch of things in the work for a while now, so here’s your schedule for the next few weeks (with one or two coding updates thrown into the mix):
I’ve had this one in the mix for a while. Some time ago I thought of the question – to what extent should AI behaviour be predictable and totally understandable? – and this entry is my attempt to answer this question. Should you be able to figure the AI out perfectly? If not, how do you prevent that – from randomness, or complexity?I think it’s very relevant to roguelikes, especially those with complex combat systems, where the AI’s decisions might be the difference between life and death.
I’ve decided to extend my little side-helping of level design analysis on this blog into the FPS arena, specifically with Perfect Dark. It’s one of my favourite games, and the re-release a few years ago on XBLA got a lot of negative criticism about the apparently poor level design. This entry is going to analyse these claims, the changes in FPS level design over the last decade or so, and look closely at three of the smartest levels in the game, and why I think these critiques are, for the most part, totally unfounded.
In URR, maps are going to be essential. There are map stores in cities (and some towns) and acquiring maps are going to be a crucial part of the strategic layer of the game to figure out where you actually want to go. I was reminded recently that Alpha Centauri allows you to trade maps, and this raised an interesting question – in a game with money, and items with monetary value, can you assess the numerical value of a map?
This entry has also been in the works for some time and is mostly finished. Dark Souls is likely the game I love most on this Earth, but Dark Souls 2 was a colossal disappointment. This entry is a detailed analysis of the strengths of DS1 – story, level design, mechanics, NPCs – and why DS2, sadly, falls so flat by comparison. It also describes some of the links between Dark Souls and URR (or rather, some of the ways DS1 has inspired me).
The third entry in the world-renowned (…sort of) serious of level design analyses of the Command & Conquer games – this one now moves on from C&C 95 to Tiberian Sun, the sequel, and covers three missions, two of which are from the expansion. As with the others, this series tries to highlight some clever level design in a genre of game that isn’t generally renowned for clever level design, and these three levels especially focus on some of the unique units and setups developed for this game.
So! There will likely be one or possibly two short URR updates to keep everyone up to date on what I’m working on when I have a little bit of spare time from academic work, but the blog is going very games-crit-heavy for the next couple of months. Many of these are already at least half-written (some fully written) and it’s just going to be hard to find the time to set down and really do that much coding. Hopefully you folks like the look of the delicious offerings listed above, and we’ll be starting with one next week (probably Perfect Dark or Dark Souls 2). Some time in late September remains the current target for starting the full-time year, and see you all next week…