Dark Unknown status report

It's been nearly two years since I've posted anything to this journal, and over two years since I've posted about the game. Gamedev posts have mostly wandered into the Dark Unknown facebook project page I made. But, I was reminded yesterday that there are a few people who only followed it here, so I'm going to try to talk a little about where it is now.
I had originally made a Dark Unknown filter for my posts so people who aren't interested don't have to see them, but having not posted to LJ in 2 years I no longer understand anything about the interface and can't find how to add that screen. Hopefully what few people still read LJ at all won't mind one long post here.

Looking at the last few posts I made, one of them included a list of things I needed to work on. Looking at that list, they are all either done, have had some work done on them, or are the Save/Load system, which is the last major engine piece that I need to finish.

To start, the website got a major overhaul a few months ago. Just a week or so ago I updated the demo version of the game, which I have no idea if it works on Linux and I don't think it runs well on IE. Last I checked it was ok on FF and Chrome on mac and windows, but it's currently not very optimized so sometimes it lags if you're doing a lot of other things in the browser or have an older computer.

Right now, the things you can do or that will happen:
* Bandits spawn from the one spawner so far in place. They have a world AI, but no combat AI if they attack you. But you can attack them or be attacked on the world map and it will take you to a combat map, where you can beat them up and they will drop loot. The chests dropped might be trapped, even.
* All but three of the towns/settlements have maps. Most NPCs don't yet have dialogue trees written yet, but some do. There are a couple of merchants you can buy from and sell to, including one who will sell you spells if you have a spellbook. (Currently the only way to get a spellbook, however, is with a cheat code: (Y)ell BEAMAGE . )
* If you have a spellbook, you can cast the spells that have code attached so far- Light, Cure, Levitate, Transport, one or two others. I just haven't gotten around to the rest yet.
* Speaking of conversations, I wrote a conversation editor so I don't have to compose them directly into javascript data structures.
* Among the things that have conversations attached is a door. It challenges you to produce a password before it will open for you. In theory you can force it open with the right spell, but it is an obstacle in the way of getting to be able to cast that level of spells in the first place, so if you can't figure out how to learn the password you'll have to get lucky with scroll loot drops.
* Sound effects are slowly being appropriately applied. Music works but defaults to off on the demo- hit (M) for Music to toggle it.
* My brother, who has a growing interest in cartography, has drafted a map for me, which I intend to print as cloth maps for a Special Boxed Edition. It looks like this:

* I've been in talks with Denis Loubet, artist responsible for most of the art on the boxes and in the manuals for Ultima, and will be commissioning a piece from him just to have one. I have a few artistic friends who are going to be helping supply art for the manuals.
* Speaking of manuals, I've made a first draft of a Player Reference Card and the front cover for what I hope to have printed as a booklet like the ones that came with most Ultimas:

The Reference Card is split into 6 images and as such I will just leave that on the website. It's under the Media tab.
* I'm working on drafting the Almanac, so I know what pieces of art I actually need.
* I also still need some tile art- I've had a number of offers from people that they'll try to make me some, but it is yet to pan out. I'm ok at modifying existing art but not so great at making stuff from scratch, so we'll see how that goes.
* I am toying with various ideas for a trinket to go with the boxed edition. Likely options are a coin or a dragon's scale.

So yeah... sometimes I'm deep in this and feel like it's not going anywhere fast enough, but sometimes I step back and go holy crap, there's almost a game here. Save/Load is the last system that needs to be added for me to consider the engine feature complete- everything else is specific to the game, like spell code, AI, and dialogue. I don't think I'll be done by the end of the year, but I am hoping to have an alpha by then- engine feature complete, working on making interesting puzzles for dungeons and the like.

One of these days when I feel up to it I am going to do a video walkthrough of what you can do in game right now. If anyone has recommendations for software to do this with I'd be happy to hear- currently I'm planning on trying to get it done with the 30 day demo of Camtasia.

A little over a year ago I did a demo during a google hangout and among the audience were Chris Spears and Starr Long. Both are working on Shroud of the Avatar now (Richard Garriott/Lord British's current game project), and Starr had worked on some of the Ultima series. He said he always finds it humbling when people are inspired by things he's worked on. Richard is aware of DU and thinks it's cool. I plan to send him a boxed copy once it's done.

Long term, I think once it's done the next step will be to port it to Unity. I have a Unity Pro 4 license and haven't done anything with it because I don't want to take time away from this project.

So... that's where the project is right now. Check out the demo and fool around. This was originally the "small" project to prove I could get to the end of one, with a "large" project waiting for me to finish... now I've ditched most of the large project's idea and am 6 years into working on the small one. Shows what I know.

Cosmic Encounter

I recently discovered that there is Yet Another damn version of Cosmic Encounter out. My initial reaction, based on gut feeling and then on the small blurb on Fantasy Flight's website, was that it was going to be as awful as the Hasbro/Avalon Hill version. In fact, I was surprised they'd gotten the rights to it- wasn't Hasbro going to do an expansion or something? Well, I guess not.

But, I am a completist (aside from some of the Eon expansions so far) so I went and bought the FFG version. I hadn't played it yet, but I've read the rules, alien powers, and all the cards, and I'm ready to offer an opinion. And that is- this version might be as good as the old ones. It's hard for me to say that, because Mayfair was my addiction through and after college, so I want to be a "get offa my lawn, in my day it was better!" type, but really, this version looks pretty good. I'd say 80% of the rules are the same as Mayfair's, 10% go back to Eon, and the other 10% are new but follow the right spirit. So, I thought it was time for an in depth review and comparison with the older versions.

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A PS: I've played my first game tonight. It really feels Cosmicy. Hasbro was missing so much, only 20 powers, no flares, no moons, etc... this has flares, has 50 powers, has techs... I think in Mayfair we tended to play overly offensive games combined with random moonshots. And we had rules timing questions, which of course felt very Cosmic. ;) So yeah, I recommend it, especially if you don't have a copy of either Eon or Mayfair.

I have gigged

Woo. I just got back from Santa Cruz, where I had my first real gig. I just played 25 songs in front of an audience that was at least half people I didn't know. And... it went really well. We sounded really good, even. I'm excited and I had a lot of fun.

Love's Been a Little Bit Hard On Me was a crowd pleaser, especially when we told the audience they should sing along. That being followed by the Beatles' "The Night Before" had a ton of people singing along to that, too, which was unexpected and cool. People who I did not know told me that Numb was really good. (For those playing at home, that's one of our originals.)

Next time, somewhere a little closer to home, hopefully.


This may be the best thing ever. Well, not really, but I honestly wish it was longer. Thanks, dolohov for pointing this out to me- I'd heard of it, but hadn't actually seen it.

(What is it? It's a guy who can't play drums or piano, who videoed himself making all the various noises and notes he was going to need, and then turned it into a song entirely by editing the video.)
  • Current Mood
    impressed impressed

Weird-ass dreams

This is copied out of an email I wrote earlier today, because I am lazy.

Anyway, other than that... overslept this morning, had a weird dream
where I was basically in a cross between a LARP and that Heroes TV
show. I was one of a bunch of people who had powers, there were like
12 or so of us total, but we were split into two 'teams' or groups,
and mine was the "good" team and the other one was the bad types. My
power was something telekinetic and was duplicated on my team, which
had us suspecting that one of us was going to figure out how to do
something different with it. We were in a room, like a hotel room or
something, and the other team was next door, and I guess we'd all been
friends when all this started. One of the evil kids who had spider-man
type powers knocked on our door, and I let him in because hey, we're
the good guys, we'll give him a chance, and he came in and did
something that caused water to start spewing from the sink, and then
he laughed and left, and I was pissed.
This is when it turned into a partial LARP, there was a GM or Referee
around at one point, I asked him if I could take a bunch of pencils
and write "sharp" on them so "in-game" they'd be treated as sharpened
pencils I could telekinetically send at people.
Both teams reached wherever we were going, and I talked to some girl
that wasn't in the "game", and complained about how for our side it
wasn't actually any _fun_ because we just kept being made miserable by
the things the evil kids could get away with (like drenching us by
making our sink explode, for instance).
Then we got to our "sponsor" or something, some guy that had a mask on
(or maybe it was his face?) that looked a lot like the V for Vendetta
mask, but green... he wanted to get some pictures of him as proud
sponsor with all 12 or so of us, and then he asked me about my
complaints earlier, and I made a "T" shape with my hands to say "this
is out of character" and said I fucking hated it when I told someone
something OOC and they went on to tell other characters (refering to
the girl I'd talked to earlier, who had evidently done so), but that
yes, I didn't see how it was supposed to be any fun to be playing on
this side. And actually around here was when I found a GM and asked
about the pencils, because soon we were going to have to start
fighting the other side. And around then I woke up.
  • Current Mood
    hungry hungry

Words, words, words...

Lately on occassion I've been doing something called "Word war". Group of people all start at the same time and, for a predetermined length of time, they all write. The winner is whoever wrote the most words.
In the group I've been doing it in, out of the 3 or 4 of us I've been consistantly winning. The few times ago (4 or 5), I had no preconceived ideas of what I'd work on, and then... something just started pouring out. After 4 or 5 wars, averaging 800 words for 20 minute spans or so, I've gotten this story up to 4000 words, and I have no idea where it came from, where it's going, and it continues to surprise me as I write it.
It's also probably the best thing I've ever written. I'm not really sure what this says. But damn. 4000 words. I feel simultaneously like it's moving too fast and too slow, which probably means it's doing ok- I'll see when I actually go back and draft. But this is what doing nawrinamo must be like- plowing forward, not letting myself edit or redraft, just keep going. At this point I'm deliberately not allowing myself to think too much about it when I'm not actively writing it- I've had really good luck just seeing what comes out so far, I don't want to spoil it. If I get stuck or it starts to suck, sure, I'll think about it, but for now... I have a vague sense of where it's going and how some of it will fit together. It still feels like it's at the beginning of the story, but it's about to get to the "middle", I think. (The last 20 minute span I had expected to be taken up with an involved Council meeting, but instead the main character had a weird dream, and then talked to a friend. So that killed that 20 minute war. 815 words, though. So the council meeting... I'm deliberately not planning it, but I know that however it goes, the next stage of the story will start soon afterwards.)

It also, for once, isn't nearly as totally Zelaznyan as a lot of my short stories tend to be. It still is a little, but it doesn't jump out and slap you around this time. (At least, I don't think so.)

4000 words of totally unplanned fiction, and I reread it and actually think it's cool. That's a strange feeling. Meanwhile a story with a plot and a ton of work on worldbuilding sits there and stagnates. There's a moral here, I'm sure. (Though I do still think the worldbuilding I've done is cool, and hopefully I'll use the setting eventually.)

I don't really write that much, so having something that I'm actually interested in working on and finishing is novel (pardon me) and intriguing. I'll stick it on a website somewhere when I get the time, so people can see it. (I suppose I'll password protect it or something, since while I don't actually intend to try to publish it, one never knows.)

Arg, I just thought of a direction I could take it... must... stop... thinking about it...

*sigh* Ok, back to tedious data entry.
  • Current Music
    Either Way, Guster

Music meme

Number of Songs: 8501

Sort by Song Title:
First: '85 Radio Special Thank You, They Might Be Giants
Last: Zydeko, Cirque du Soleil

Sort by Time:
Shortest: Fingertips 11 - They Might Be Giants (tie with "Lose Castle, Heroes of Might and Magic II")
Longest: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op., Beethoven

Sort by Album:
First: Neil Young, 'Decade' disc 2
Last (not including songs without album information): John Beal, Zork: Grand Inquisitor (soundtrack)

Top Five Most Played Songs:
(This is kinda nonsensical, because this is a relatively fresh install of iTunes. As such all 5 most played songs are from the same album, so I'll just put that: Guster, Ganging Up on the Sun)

First song that comes up on shuffle:
We Are the Ones, Jack Blades

Search results:
Sex - 26
Death - 41
Life - 121
Love - 242
You - 608


Today was supposed to be the day to clean.

Woke up at about 10am with the worst headache I've had in years. Made me miss living with people, as it took me about an hour to get to the point where I could get myself a drink to take ibuprofin. Took 2, tried to read for a bit. That lasted about 10 minutes before I decided it hurt too much. So I took a third ibuprofin and went back to bed. Lay there for a while, finally falling back asleep I think. Woke up, decided a hot bath might help, as the pain seemed to be mostly coming from very, very upset neck and shoulder muscles. Took a hot bath. Took another ibuprofin.

Went to the couch, read for a bit, fell asleep again. Woke up at about 3pm. Still have a headache, but now I can tolerate looking at a computer screen- earlier it hurt too much. Gonna take more ibuprofin in a bit. Not sure how much cleaning I'll get done today.

Hope some of y'all are having better weekends.
  • Current Music

The day

So yeah, I was awakened by my property manager telling me my car had been broken into, and yeah, I'm almost definitely out $250 for the stolen amp.

But the night is clear and bright (as bright as it gets this close to cities, anyway) and I saw a shooting star. How can any day where this is true be all bad?
  • Current Music
    Walk on the Ocean