Friday 27th March, 2020

On Monday evening, the UK government took the unprecedented approach of telling everyone to stay in their homes, to only make essential journeys outside to collect food, medical supplies, or to help the vulnerable, to absolutely work from home wherever possible. The country is in lock down. I’m writing this not because this blog is going to become a daily account of life under quarantine (it might a little bit), but just to set the scene a little. I am at home. I’m working from home. I haven’t left the house since Monday, and only then briefly and keeping social distance — I got home just hours before the government announced the new rules. Working from home is actually going really well; the worst part of the job is the commute.

On Tuesday Belghast, a blogging hero of mine, announced Blapril, an update of the annual Blaugust event, which asks bloggers to try and publish every day throughout August, while supporting each other and newbie bloggers along the way. With much of the world sat at home, isolated, it seems like a nice idea to bring that forward to April and spread a little internet love; the Blaugust community is a fantastic little corner of the sometimes creepy Internet. So I’m going to take up the challenge. If you’ve been thinking about setting up a blog, or have one that could with some TLC, this is an ideal opportunity and I’d be happy to offer any help, advice or encouragement you might need!

I set this blog up to document my progress in writing BONES of the LOST GOD, a little web game that mutated from an idle/incremental RPG into something more akin to a semi-traditional roguelike. That project still exists, but it’s no longer a burning daily passion, and so the blog had started to lie fallow. Going back to work full time more-or-less killed any desire to work on it as my schedule and energy levels shifted into a new normal, which is exactly what I thought might happen.

Instead of tossing everything away, as I may have done in the past, instead I’m re-branding this blog to be more multi-functional, and I’ll be posting here about anything and everything that catches my eye. There’ll still be a lot of programming and web development/devops I imagine, but also gaming and reading and weird chunks of internet cultureā€¦ and how I’m surviving the CORVID-19 apocalypse, I hope. URLs from the old blog should still work, though internally everything should be pointing at my own domain (rumorsmatrix.com) now. Let me know if you find anything broken or odd.

Work, work

I have some news. About four months ago, I quit my job to work on BONES of the LOST GOD, and, after a few mis-steps and prototype dead-ends, it’s now nearly finished. I’m really pleased with it and the work I’ve done.

However — I need to go back to work and start earning some money, and so I’m taking a full-time devops role at an e-commerce company. However, I don’t start for three weeks which should give me time to finish off, do a little refactoring, and get the game into a position where I can more easily add further content on evenings and weekends.

I’ve got four main things left to do:

  • Re-balance combat and the monsters. Monsters (and combat with them) doesn’t scale very well at the moment as you level up; in particular attack quickly outstrips defence, and combat is a bit swingy at low levels, which can feel frustrating. So this needs looking at, and I have a big spreadsheet of numbers on the go at the moment.
  • Improve procedural generation of dungeons. This works, but the environments it generates are not very interesting. I want to improve the environments it generates, add more dungeon templates (forest, cavern, dungeon, caves etc.), and make delving into dungeons a more rewarding experience.
  • Implement merchants and account-wide storage. So far there’s no UI for buying or selling items, and no UI for long-term storage and retrieval of items. Both of these are going to share some UI and behind-the-scenes work, so I’m bundling them together.
  • Character retirement and account-wide progress. Right from day one I’ve envisaged BotLG as an idle/incremental game, and the one key genre mechanic that’s missing is the idea of prestige; that is, giving up all your current progress for a long-term bonus. I’ll be implementing this by allowing player characters to retire, at which point they will provide resources periodically based on their skills.

I don’t regret doing this — I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve created — and similarly I’m not sad about going back into work; I’m looking forward to it. If I get everything listed ticked off, the game will contain all the major mechanics I envisaged, so I can’t complain.

I’m going to keep the Patreon campaign open until the end of February and then close it; it seems a little disingenuous to take monthly pledges for something I can’t hand-on-heart say I’ll be working on most of the time. If you want to continue to support BONES of the LOST GOD, I have a ko-fi donation page up and I’m going to try and use that a little more.

This is definitely not the end of the project! There’s still a tonne of content to implement (on top of the things listed above) and I have a feeling I’ll be updating and supporting this for a long time to come. Thanks for sticking around.

Two new beginnings

Today is the first of August, and that marks two new things starting for me. Firstly, it’s the beginning of the 2019 Blaugust blogging challenge, which sees bloggers of all kinds banding together to create content for their sites throughout August. The greatest goal a Blaugust participant aims for is one new post per day, but any amount of activity is rightly celebrated by the incredibly friendly community. All of my Blaugust posts here can be found under the tag #blaugust2019.

Unofficial mascot of the After School Study Club

Perhaps more excitingly, this evening will be the first meeting of new club I’ve set up. One of the hardest parts of working on Bones of the Idle is actually finding the time to do so. By the time I’ve spent the day at work coding, then commuted home and settled down, often I find my energy and enthusiasm waning.

In wondering how to combat this, I struck upon the idea of carving out a few hours regularly for working on projects like this in a different environment. And so, after consulting with my manager, the After School Study Club was born. I’ve arranged for some interested colleagues and I to stay behind after work for a couple of hours every other week, to work on, share, and get feedback on whatever personal or professional projects they have in progress.

I’m hoping that some people will also volunteer to give little informal talks or workshops on new technologies and things they’ve learnt, but mainly I want a relaxed, supportive environment to geek out and work on passion projects, if only for a few hours at a time. If nothing else, it’s a bit of progress and a spotlight to show off every two weeks, and that can’t be bad.

Wish us luck!

Welcome

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.

There is a small mailbox here.


ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of fun, exploratory programming, making little games and engines and example systems with an eye towards creating a persistent browser based game. I’ve experimented with using ROT.js to make a JavaScript roguelike engine using the command design pattern; written the barest of bones of a MUD and learned about websockets along the way; and most recently started on a Laravel project that I’m hoping is going to be the surviving incarnation of this browser game idea.

I’ve been thinking about starting a little research and development blog to go along with my programming efforts, so I posted a few questions to the always-helpful r/roguelike community, and Kyzrati (of Cogmind fame) posted this characteristically generous and informative reply; consider this brand-new WordPress install my response.

I’m going to be posting a mix of development notes, changelog discussions, thoughts on theorycrafting and design, procedural development, idle/incremental games, computer and tabletop RPGs, plus any links and asides that catch my eye. You can find me on twitter at @rumorsmatrix.