Making a monster

I’m working on combat. It’s kind of slow going, because it’s the most involved part of the game, and it needs a lot of other structures and objects to be in place first. Not least of which are monsters. Thanks to an audience suggestion, I’ve started with skeletons, a classic 1 hit dice monster.

For that, I needed a way of creating new monsters, keeping each unique copy of them persistent in the database, and managing them. I also wanted a way of making sure that combat could occur between players-and-monsters, monsters-and-monsters, and players-and-players. I big part of the BONES of the LOST GOD setting is battling in the magical arena at Rooksfoot, so I need to support all those types of combat.

The easiest way to go about that is to make sure that both Monsters and Characters are interchangeable; Monsters should implement the same interface as Characters. Looking through the game ruleset I’m using, with a bit of fudging and the invention of some creative items (monsters will have to invisibly equip items like “dragon’s hide”, “dragon claws” and “scroll of dragon’s breath” to set their AC, damage output, etc.) I don’t see why that shouldn’t be possible. So after a bit of work and some refactoring, I now have some new factory and blueprint objects.

When I want to create a new type of monster, I just have to crack open my trusty Monster Manual, and create a corresponding new Blueprint. This defines the monster’s name, appearance, attributes and statistics, equipment, and so on. I can create permutations of the same monster by defining some methods in there to return different values each time.

Then when it’s time to spawn a monster into the world, I take the Blueprint and give it to the Factory object, which creates a new Character and applies the settings from the Blueprint, resulting in a brand-new character/monster saved to the database. In fact, it’s so nice and flexible that I named them NPC Factory/Blueprints; and I’ll be using them to generate townsfolk, quest givers and the like, as well as monsters. It’s also pleasing to me that everything that’s alive and active in the game world is stored away in the same place in the database. There’s some enumerated flags in there so I can tell PCs and NPCs apart at a glance, and it seems to work quite nicely.

(In theory, all this means monsters and NPCs could be recruitable as player characters, further down the line. It also means it’s trivial to turn or clone player characters into NPCs; which is how I intend to do asynchronous PvP combat — it’s almost like I had a plan for this all worked out!)

Last but not least, I’m changing the way Characters are attached to Users; instead of tying them directly to the user’s account as I’m doing currently, I’ll be introducing the concept of a Party; a container for a list of Characters. Having this intermediary step means I can write combat as an event that happens between two or more parties, without having to consider who owns the party; all the UI will have to do is allow the player a way to assign actions to their Characters instead of AI and combat will progress non-the-wiser. Actually writing the monster’s AI, though, is a task for another day.

Character and Item generation

I’ve been working on BONES of the LOST GOD’s Character and Item generation this week. First of all, here’s an example character, wearing a few items:

The stats rolled might look a little off if you’re used to Dungeons & Dragons‘ traditional 3-18 range. Instead, each ability score falls in the range 11-16, with lower numbers being much more prevalent. Ability bonuses scale much more linearly as well, with no dead spots, so getting an extra +1, even at the low end, should feel like a genuine improvement. It’s going to be a brutal game, but you’ll have a whole party of hapless heroes to use, and an infinite stream of fresh recruits, so the odds are still in your favour.

I’ve also got some encumbrance and quality ratings in there. Each item generated is unique (albeit built from templates), so I can track the durability of each item separately. Because your items can break, and you can’t carry an infinite amount of stuff, there’s some tactical decisions to be made before setting off into the wilderness. It also opens the door for having perishable items, field repair kits, and all sorts of other little mechanics.

You can have a play with the generator herelet me know if you manage to roll up someone cool! Both player characters and NPCs are going to be drawn from the same pool, so each time I need a NPC, or to populate a roster of potential new recruits, they’ll be coming from the characters created by this generator.

Next up I’ll be fleshing out the items a little more, and then having the game automatically generate a new party of characters for newly-registered players.

Scheduled Maintenance

My hosting provider, Linode, will be performing scheduled maintenance next Wednesday, October 23rd:

Recently, we identified a commit to the upstream Linux kernel as the cause of an increase in emergency maintenance on our platform. After implementing and gaining confidence in a fix, we are now ready to roll this update out to the remainder of our fleet. We’re confident this will resolve the bug and ultimately lessen the amount of unplanned maintenance for your Linodes as a result of this specific issue.

The server will unavailable from 2019-10-23 2:00:00 AM UTC, for up to two hours. Typically it’s much shorter than that, usually lasting around half an hour.

There and Back Again

Welcome to day one of full-time development of BONES of the LOST GOD! A few weeks ago, I resigned from my web developer/devops role at Unnamed Small eCommerce Company, worked out my notice, and left, just so I could be here today, starting work on BotLG full time. This is it. This is what I do now; work full-time on this browser-based game that’s a love letter to old-school tabletop RPGs, text adventures, and party-based RPGs of yesteryear.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

I’m working from my own little hobbit-hole, sat at my little desk in the living room. I have my small curated selection of RPG handbooks to my left; a sleepy cat to my right; a mug of tea; lofi hip hop beats to relax/study to playing in the background, and my IDE of choice fired up and cursor blinking. I had wanted to start the week with a Twitch stream, or perhaps a podcast, but in a cruel twist of fate, I’m currently full of cold and less than presentable. So we’ll save that for another time.

Today I’m going to mainly downloading things, configuring things, composer installing things, setting up my Trello board of things-to-do, and getting started with a bit more of a professional attitude. Character (PC and NPC) creation needs finishing off, and in the spirit of NaMuBuMo, I want to work on my location editor.

Wish me luck.

If you want to learn a little more about BotLG, there's a brief synopsis of the project and my goals up on my Patreon page. I'd love you to take a look, and if you're interested, throw in your support alongside the other brave and virtuous souls already subscribed.

Mapping BotLG

It’s October now, so that means NaMuBuMo is upon us! This seems like a perfect excuse to take some time to plot out the world of BONES of the LOST GOD; luckily, I have some geography already, from it’s first incarnation as a play by mail game. I’ve started a Twine project to help with the mapping, more for the editor’s layout and connection tools:

There’s a lot more stuff in Rooksfoot that needs adding — the forge-shrine to Phaestus, Myxile’s Menagerie, the various Guild Houses, the offices of the Statistique, the Temple of Anama, the Halls of the Stone-Blood Fists, Froome’s the chemists, Wilson & Co., (a cheese shop of some good standing), and I’m sure a bunch of other places that got mentioned once in passing.

That’s great and all — Rooksfoot is the main hub location after all — but it’s also a little daunting given that BotLG is now a lot more graphical, with each location having a couple of sentences of description, but more significantly, a tiled map to explore (complete with fog of war and line of sight). I’ve made a start on a graphical map editor, and, while not strictly in the spirit of NaMuBuMo, I’ll be using some time this month to also work on that.

I can lean on some procedural generation to create some of the maps — the forests, for example, and some of the more dungeon-like content (like the Rat’s Nest, and the eventual procedural dungeon beneath The Skull), but I think much of the city will end up being hand-made. I’m thinking I can use a traditional dungeon generator to dig out room shapes, and then re-connect them with wider passageways and hand-decorate them to produce some sections of the city; but to really do justice to some of the more “iconic” locations, like the ribcage arena, I’ll be making those from scratch.

A few new sprites

I’ve been doing some edits to Quale’s Scroll-o-Sprites to create some new creatures, I’m particularly pleased with the cat wizard and horse soldier. The bear-man is also kind of interesting; it makes me wonder if I could eventually come up with something to represent an owlbear.

I’m thinking of chopping the sprite sheet up further into heads and bodies, to see if I can create something like the system Pokemon Fusion uses, but that’s a job for another day.

Upcoming game jams

There are two game jam events coming up in the next couple of months that are of distinct interest to me. Next month, the Mud Coder’s Guild are holding a month-long jam in association with the folks at Written Realms, the first National Mud Building Month (or namubumo, if you’d rather).

NaMuBuMo challenges you to create 100 MUD rooms (or substantive locations) in 31 days, mirroring the long-running NaNoWriMo novel-writing challenge:

Writing up 100 rooms in 31 days doesn’t sound quite as daunting as 50,000 words over 30 days but making an interesting world in those 100 rooms (or more) within that month will be more challenging than one might suspect. Like NaNoWriMo participants are expected to craft this world within the confines of the given month, concept to completion. There is no one holding you to that or any other rule but yourself, of course, and there is nothing to gain other than personal satisfaction.

Secondly, November will bring 2019’s Procjam. It’s always a great event:

The goal is to Make Something That Makes Something – that could be a videogame with procedural generation in, or maybe an artwork that uses generative systems somehow, or a physical card deck that randomly creates Shakespeare plots – whatever you like, whatever makes you excited to make things. As usual, we encourage you to make it your own by starting early, finishing late, or adapting the times to make it healthier for you. We can’t wait to see what you’ll make!

This year’s announcement post from long-time organiser Mike Cook contains some further news; after this year he’ll be stepping down and is looking for volunteers to take over the reins.

Tiny constraints

Yesterday I dashed off a quick, flippant tweet about developing mobile-accessible web apps and ultimately how folks in past managed so much with so little:

sometimes I catch myself thinking URGH making this RPG work on mobile is so painful, maybe I won’t bother. Then I remember what folks managed with a 320×200 display and less processing power than a hairdryer

@rumorsmatrix

It’s true, though. Sometimes I struggle working out how to fit everything I want onto the screen, even in full desktop mode, and then I’m shamed by what was accomplished with just a display measuring just 320×200 pixels back in the day; a screen that makes even the most conservative of viewport settings seem positively generous.

Pathfinding, redux

This evening I got pathfinding working around a larger, scrolling map. I thought this would be best demonstrated in motion, so here’s a little YouTube video of it in action:

I had to turn the sprites down to 32×32 from 64×64, as the view seemed too claustrophobic that zoomed in. This has some unfortunate knock-on effects for the mobile client — I think at 32×32 the tiles will be too small to accurately tap on — but I’ll tackle that another day.

Numbers getting bigger

Here’s a fascinating article on the math behind incremental games; Numbers Getting Bigger: The Design and Math of Incremental Games, by Alexander King.

Each line represents a different building, with cost on the y-axis and income rate on the x-axis (both logarithmic scales)

You know what it all boils down to? It’s this handy formula:

Price = Base Cost × Multiplier(#Owned)

It works particularly well, psychologically, if the multiplier is set between 1.07 and 1.15. Less than that and you progress too quickly to enjoy each new upgrade, and much larger than that and the game bogs down and feels like a tedious grind. Somewhere between 1.07 and 1.15 is the sweet spot, used by many, many idle/incremental games.

And me, too.