Saturday, January 4, 2014

New beginnings

Well, with the new year here, I thought rebooting this blag would be a good way for me to record thoughts, vent, rant, and basically just keep my brain going. I'll try my best to post everyday, to keep me sane and honest with myself.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MMORPG-ing

Ah, the MMORPG - Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Since World of Warcraft its popularity has sky-rocketed. I want to make games, and to be honest, an MMORPG is a very intriguing concept. The onyl problem I can find now is that it seems like everything after WOW will always be compared to it in terms of gameplay. Well, I've come up with a few concepts which will, I hope, lead to a success.

First is a matter of setting. With all MMORPGs to date, the setting is constant - you're in a medieval fantasy world, or the future, or something in between. I hope to add a certain level of strategy to the game by having multiple settings for the game, tied around a central theme of a shattered reality. This way a player may be in a fantasy world one day, only to find their character in the future the next, or vice versa. Certain quests and goals could only be completed or attained in certain realms or, on occasion, between certain realms. I've already given a great of thought to the network connections necessary to pull this off, although optimizing the connections will take a great deal of time, as well as someone who is better-versed in networking than I am.

Next is a matter of uniqueness. One of the main reasons players continue to play MMOs is to attain some status that no one else has attained, to be counted as "unique" in some way relative to other characters. Allowing more players to be counted unique, if only for a limited time, encourages newer players to continue playing with the knowledge that more rewards are to come. My way of implementing this is to introduce "relics" to each of the realms, out-of-place objects for their setting that will randomly appear to players fulfilling certain qualifications. Finding a relic would grant you a title depending on the relic, and each relic would have certain properties helpful to gameplay. These would be time and/or other restriction in place so that a player cannot hold onto a relic indefinitely. Some relics may also require assistance to attain, to encourage interaction between players.

I truly hope that my ideas can some day become a reality. Until that time, I'll try to improve my coding skillz so that maybe I can make it happen.

The Future of Displays

So I was looking through the gaming magazines at the grocery store with absolutely no intention of buying one, when I saw that the latest EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly) had a bunch of articles on the future of gaming, including a promising tag line about paper-thin displays. Needless to say I was intrigued by this, so I left the store and magazines to ponder.

Inevitably, I got distracted by one shiny object or another, but eventually, I started to look stuff up. I found at least 3 different companies rushing to try to make paper-thin displays in three different ways. One uses tiny molecules, black on one side and white on another, "floating" in the paper and sends a current to the flip them in the desired pattern, another (the most popular now) uses OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) that make up a thin flexible screen comparable to most LCD screens available now, and the third I can't even remember. But it got me to thinking, as most things do. Didn't I hear something about a holographic display being developed? As interesting as the concept of paper-thin, flexible screens is, the concept of 3D interactive screens appeals more to the geek in me.

So I looked it up. I found not a holographic screen, but a heliodisplay (the sites were very insistent on making this distinction). The screen, developed by IO2 uses a finely controlled layer of mist to allow a computer screen to be projected on. The latest interactive model, the M3i, plugs right into a USB port and detect someone disrupting the display with a finger to allow for rudimentary dragging controls (unfortunately, no double-clicking). That's just awesome, but I still have to think - do I really want my display device for my computer to be spraying water into the air next to delicate equipment? I think not. I think I'll just wait for holograms.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

< STORY > Once upon a time... < /STORY >

Amazingly, some researchers in Mexico created a program to write fiction without much input from a user. This is a huge step for computer programming, as sometime in the future an almost completely autonomous program may be in existence that can write fiction as well as some authors can. It's amazing when you think about it: the entire fiction writing process has been reduced to a series of values attaching emotion to the fictional characters. This is big, and worth some consideration. Once a program capable of understanding human language instead of a programming language is created, will it be possible for it to create the first digital saga? The problem now is that programmers have not been able to determine a way to let a computer "read" human language and interpret it as instructions. Early games show a primitive form of recognition, with such commands as "get flask" and "look" interpreted as game commands. But if we can figure out a way for a computer to understand human speech, then almost anything is possible. "Get flask" can become a spoken "open a Word document" which is interpreted through speech recognizers and understood by the computer. To be honest, I'm considering trying to write an English recognition program, which uses standard grammar rules to determine form and structure, and databases to sort out meaning, including word associations. I don't know enough about artificial intelligence programming to have a smoothly running program, but I think I'd enjoy it anyway.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Shortest Code Contest and Obsessions with inefficiency

Tomorrow night (Thursday) is Mercer's Shortest Code Contest, in which different programming problems are presented to be solved by the participants with the goal being to write solutions that require the smallest file size to solve the problems. The contest reminded me of a oddly philosophical conversation I had with one of the Computer Science teachers, Dr. White, concerning why people are fascinated not just with improving things, but in finding ways to make them worse. The discussion was sparked by a conversation among programming team members on the idea of a sorting algorithm which sorted in the least efficient manner possible while still having every part of the algorithm necessary to complete the task. Affectionately dubbed the "slowsort," it ended up being a factorial algorithm, meaning that to if sorting 1 item takes 1 second, then sorting n items takes n! seconds. But why were we fascinated by it (aside from the fact that we were CS majors)? Why were the Rube Goldberg machines so fascinating? Why do people enjoy inefficiency in this way? I'm still waiting for an answer, but continue to enjoy designing code that works as inefficiently as possible. Maybe someday I'll design a "slowersort."

Software pricing and upgrades

It's been awhile, but I recently was talking about this, so I thought I rant for a bit to get it out of my system.
Productive software prices are dumb.
Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks...they're all wonderful programs that have literally thousands of uses, but one main problem remains: the new versions are almost identical to the previous ones excepts for a few added features here and there and a cosmetic makeover. The original Photoshop was new, innovative, and a boon for graphic designers everywhere. It was also priced such that only major companies could afford it. I'm no economist, but I think that by now the price should have lowered into something that is more accessible to the general public. I'm not suggesting they lower it to a measly $20, but even at $60 or $70 apiece they would be flying off the shelves. As it stands now, Flash is $700, Dreamweaver is $400, and Photoshop is $650. The price has not been below $200 for the entire lifetime of the products, nor does it seem like they will be lowering their prices anytime soon. The production costs of developing the software must be well paid off by now, and with such software as Flash which currently has only one competitor with similar capabilities (Swish Max), Adobe really has a hold on the market. I really wish I had Flash right now, and would be willing to pay $70 for it, but not anywhere in the vicinity of $700.
All other software companies lower the prices of their products over time as the production costs of creating the software are paid off and the company starts turning some real profit. This is why many of games are often cheaper within one or two year's time. I just wish that someone at Adobe would get a clue and realize that their prices scare their customers away.
To end this rant, I would complete understand a steep price for a new "version" of a program, but only if the company retooled or redesigned a large portion of the program.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

ROM Legality & Fan Games

Once again the issue of ROMs was brought up in class, and I still can't figure out the legality of everything. Logically, if a game is not readily available (or available at all) , then the emulation of them should be unrestricted, as there is no other way to purchase the product. Unfortunately, laws often follow greed more than logic, so that's probably illegal.

One of my favorite games, and what is often considered to be one of the greatest RPGs of all time, is Chrono Trigger. I first experienced the game through emulation, as the game for SNES was out of print and nigh impossible to find used, but the difference between me and other emulators out there is that I enjoyed the game so much that when Final Fantasy Chronicles came out (which includes Chrono Trigger) for the PS1, I bought it. Now, this isn't to say that I would judge N64 owners for not buying a PS1 and the game to legitimize their ROM-playing, because that is an unreasonable request to make.


Chrono Trigger brings up another usual issue I discovered: the prevalence of shutting down fan games. After Final Fantasy Chronicles was released, a group of highschool students started a fan project that would eventually become known as Chrono Resurrection: a fan-revamped Chrono Trigger in full 3D. Square Enix issued a cease and desist order, and the public release of the game was prevented. What was the reason for this? The small group was planning on releasing the game to the public for free, so there was no profit to be made, and by this point no further copies of Final Fantasy Chronicles were being produced, so Square Enix couldn't say that the game would draw sales away from the sales of the original. This was not an isolated incident, either: a fan-created King's Quest 9, subtitled "The Silver Lining," was also in production until a cease and desist order from Sierra almost shut them down. Fortunately, they were allowed to continue as long as they dropped the "King's Quest" from the name, so the game became known as just "The Silver Lining." The only thing I can either company gaining by this is that if the resulting game is bad, their own name (or names closely associated with the company) won't be plastered on it. Personally, I think both groups were improving their game creation skills and merely wanted to release them to others so they could get feedback on their work. As it is, Chrono Resurrection will never be seen outside of that group that created it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It begins...

Well, this is the first time I've done a blog. It's amazing how many blogging names were already taken: "technomancer," "technomancy," and even "digitalchaos" were taken (although I did notice that "chaos" was free) . Ah, well. Digital journals for a digital age, I suppose. More entries are to come.