Wednesday 26th February, 2020

Gave up all pretence of being productive today and just completely relaxed. I go back to proper work next week, I’m going to chill for a few days. So I took a bath in the middle of the afternoon, watched dumb conspiracy videos on YouTube, and read some articles, like this great New Yorker piece on artificial languages. And I don’t regret a minute of it.

I built a new C.A.M.P. base in Fallout 76 that I’m pretty pleased with, too. I’m still enjoying it, mostly, though some of the shine is coming off. I miss playing World of Warcraft when it was new and exciting and all-encompassing, but you can’t go back: not even the Classic servers are the same, because that feeling was not just the game, but a sum of time and place. I’m not sure any game, MMO or otherwise, could ever recapture that specific moment, and there’s no point in getting nostalgic. I ping-pong through so many games now without ever committing to one, and I don’t like that, but I can’t seem to settle.

I also wrote a little bit of PHP again. I’m going to be using PHP a lot at work, so I thought it’d be a good idea to get back to it — I’ve pretty much exclusively used JavaScript for the last six months. Man, it was hard going. I’d forgotten all the basic language commands, kept screwing up the syntax, made a bunch of dumb mistakes just because I was rusty. It’s going to be hard to hit the ground running.

Tuesday 25th February, 2020

Still felt a little queasy all day, which was not great. On the plus side, had a quick chat with Simon about work over Discord at lunch time and I’m really quite looking forward to going back. I miss doing a bit of dev/ops and saving the day now and then…

Not much to report on either of my current obsessions, BotLG or Fallout 76, as I generally felt too crappy to do much of either. I’m in a really bad place in ’76. I think I’ve misjudged when spending my SPECIAL stats and picking perk cards, and I’ve ended up with almost no ammo and meds left. I’ll have to go scavenging.

Monday 24th February, 2020

Chased bugs around and worked on a little PHP script for mass generating items, specifically weapons and armour pieces. I also just spent some time actually playing the game, which I feel is a good sign. Even though I know all the possible outcomes the dungeon generator might come up with, it was still fun to stomp around the randomised caverns, hacking and slashing.

I really doubt I am going to be ready for a launch this weekend though. Wherever I am, I’ll throw it up on the live site and that can be that. I don’t know how much coding I’ll get done once I’m back at work; I’ll have to find a new pattern. I’m a little down-in-the-dumps about it, truthfully. I sort of wish I had another month or two, ideally, but that’s just not practical. Still, there are plenty of working hobbyist roguelike developers out there, and I will join their ranks.

Feeling a little sick this evening though. I don’t know why, I haven’t eaten anything odd, but my stomach is distinctly unsettled. Urgh.

Sunday 23rd February, 2020

Some days I feel like I haven’t got so much to say here, but I hope the slow accumulation of posting everyday will eventual reveal deeper truths. Or something.

Pretty standard Sunday. Bacon and brie sandwich, episode of QI, and then watched Detective Pikachu on Amazon Prime, which was a much better film than it really had any right to be. It is quite possibly the best videogame adaptation film ever, though that’s really not saying much at all.

After that I wandered the Appalachian wasteland in Fallout 76 a little more. Still enjoying it, and still haven’t encountered any terrible bugs, though I did have a pack of rabid molerats invade my C.A.M.P. base despite my perimeter turret guns, which apparently do nothing.

Next week I’ll be back on the BotLG development, hopefully adding in a bunch of content; equipment items and corresponding recipes first. To be honest, now that all the heavily coding is (air quotes) done I feel a little deflated with it; but you can’t wait for inspiration to strike or it never will. You’ve just got to get on with things, whether you feel like it our not.

Saturday 22nd February, 2020

A very relaxed Saturday. Did some cleaning and tidying of the house, walked down to the shops for a few bits and pieces, and then spent about six hours proving to myself that, in fact, Fallout 76 is not a bad game. I really enjoyed myself, and got up to level ten just wandering around and trying to survive. It feels harder than Fallout 4.

It is a bit buggy and sometimes unresponsive feeling, though, I admit. The gunplay feels a bit clunky, there’s lots of weird floating ragdoll glitches, but nothing game breaking. I’m enjoying building my little campsite hut and foraging for food. Can’t complain, and I’ll likely play some more tomorrow.

Friday 21st February, 2020

Nothing much to report today, really. Do of a few bug fixes and a couple of CSS tweaks, and then this afternoon I closed my dev tools and played some Fallout 4. Okay, a lot of Fallout 4.

I really love the first three games, but I’ve never played New Vegas, and the last time I tried FO4 I bounced off it pretty quickly. But I got interested in it again after watching that speedrun video the other day, so I thought I’d give it another try — and this time it’s clicked. I’m really enjoying wandering the Commonwealth, collecting junk and shooting raiders in VATS.

Is Fallout 76 still terrible? I played it a little at launch on the PS4, and to be honest, it was fine. I didn’t encounter any weird bugs (nothing more than the usual physics jiggles and slightly chunky animation that accompanies all Bethesda’s Creation Engine games, anyway), but I didn’t get too far into it, and of course it was the Internet’s favourite punching bag for a long time.

I have a pretty generous tolerance for bad games. I loved No Man’s Sky even at launch. I pre-ordered it, bought a PS4 for it, and I wasn’t even disappointed. It’s a much, much better game now, and I still play it periodically, but I thought it was pretty amazing even on day one. Maybe it’s not so much that I’m able to enjoy a bad game, but that I’m not particularly swayed by the Internet Zeitgeist telling me what I’m enjoying is wrong…

Thursday 20th February, 2020

Had another meeting with my chief game-tester and rubber duck, Simon. It was pretty productive as usual, and we uncovered some interesting bugs in the storage system, an interesting quirk in pathfinding, and an issue with monster respawning. None of them are particularly complex, and I should be able to get them all fixed up tomorrow.

We also had a chat about the overall state of the game, and I was able to show him the new starting map I’ve been working on my immediate plans. It seems like there’s still such a lot to do, and I’m not sure I’ll make my (completely arbitrary) deadline of next week. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I don’t make it — I’m going to be working on this for a long time to come — but it’d be nice to go back to full-time employment with a clean to-do list.

Mainly, it’s content. All the main systems are in place, which is great; I just have a lot of items, recipes, NPCs and quests to make. I’m starting to wish I’d written some more tools, to be honest. I often don’t like to make a tool too early, lest I get caught up in making them too nice and never actually making the thing the tool is supposed to make — so many game ideas over the years have resulted only a half-baked engine and a really nice level editor.

But I could really do with an item editor, and a monster editor, and an NPC dialogue/quest editor. Making an NPC in particular is a bit convoluted. I may have over-stretched myself right at the “finish” line. We’ll see where I’m at by this time next week…

Wednesday 19th February, 2020

I learnt a new web development term today: the JAM Stack. Yes, it has a silly name. JAM stands for JavaScript, APIs, Markup; the idea being that you serve up only static JS/HTML (preferably heavily cached and distributed through a CDN), and make use of APIs to do all the interactive work. Very nice, in theory.

Everything old is new again. When I first started dabbling in creating stuff for the web, everything was “static”. Then we had cgi-bin, scripting languages, server-side whatever, huge web applications many layers deep, and now we’ve come around full-circle to pushing out static files again.

The funny thing is, the BotLG client definitely qualifies as jammy. It’s all static, and once the initial page load has happened, it’s done. There’s literally nothing server-side, so I could easily host it through something like Netlify and benefit from all that lovely CDN caching. To be honest though, it does seem a bit like overkill. At the moment it’s hosted through my Linode account, and I’m perfectly happy with it. I do want to go and double-check my Apache rules for caching and so on, but, you know. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

Tuesday 18th February, 2020

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I made almost no progress on BotLG today; I just couldn’t seem to settle on anything, and everything felt very unsatisfying.

I made a little progress on adding keyboard controls. So far everything is mouse-driven, so things work equally nicely on mobile. But when playing on a desktop machine, it would be really nice to be and to use the keyboard. I’ve got it so you can move around, and start and stop interactions, which is 90% of the game, but I need to go back to the pop-up/overlay system and make sure all the dialogue boxes can be controlled and navigated with the keyboard, too.

This afternoon — and let’s be honest, most of this evening, too — I ended up in a YouTube black hole of watching GDQ speedrun videos. I watched Doom (2016), the entire mainline Fallout series as a marathon, which was very impressive, and then a random-seed Minecraft run. I haven’t touched Minecraft in a while, but I think I’ll get it reinstalled; it’s always fun to noodle around in there for a while, and there’s so much content that’s been added since I last played.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be a bit more productive. There’s dungeons to build, NPCs to write and new items to impotent. I want to get a “version 1.0” out by the end of next week.

Monday 17th February, 2020

I’ve had a really great, productive day today. This morning I implemented account-wide storage, so players can keep items and money safe in chests — doing the money side of things was way more complicated than I expected, due to my dogged insistence on having copper, silver, gold instead of just one number. Obviously I only store one number in the background, but the UI had to allow for all the coins the player is used to seeing. It was a bit of a pain, but it’s working now.

Then this evening I did a bit of work on the procedurally generated dungeons. I want them to be the main focus of the game, really, so it’s worth investing the time in them. As usual, I was using the Rat King’s Lair as my development ground, and it’s looking pretty good now. It starts out as a dark, wet cave, with lots of mushrooms and water — with plenty of mushrooms for the player to harvest to make potions, and water to fish in for food — and then progresses into a more traditional rooms-based dungeon, with carved walls, but still with water and rubble, making it look run-down and badly constructed.

Because of the new, more damp and fungus-y environment, I added a new monster, the Sentient mushroom. It’s pretty easy to kill (about on par with a regular rat) and drops loot from the same pool as harvesting mushrooms. It also has some fantastic attack verbs. Splorp splorp splorp.

This only leaves account-wide progression through retirement left to do, and if I’m honest, I’m not sure it’s needed now that the game is more active and less idle; I’ve been having second thoughts about it for a few days now. I think I’m going to spend the next few days pushing out new content — there’s a great new starter map I’m working on — and see how I feel.