The – Beginning of the – End?

So, I’m writing this at 4AM because I’m alert at this time.  I can honestly say I’m finally starting to be in a place where I can get to work again, or start to do so, after a couple years of nada and then some time of flailing attempts at it.  But this is good – lol, you see when I was a kid I used to daydream about becoming a successful writer, fantasize like I think everyone who goes for it does, and after many years yes, I can say I did it.  Well, it took a long while, but about a week ago I started doing so with regards to game design.  And, that’s how I knew I was ready to go at it again!

I finished creating a text adventure a couple years back, before the mess with my intestines, and that’s the one I want to put out there as my first.  In order to spruce it up and get it ready for play, I still need to:

  • code in an ending that’ll allow for people to choose to go back and start again, or just end
  • code in end credits
  • I suppose I also need to figure out a name for my “company”, whether I just want “JAHowe Games”, or what:)
  • figure out how to make a page online people can get to in order to access the game
  • figure out – for the long run, anyway – how to have some of those games pay-to-play (this first one and some others down the line will be wholly free)

It has been a VERY long road to get here.  I’m still hobbling around, still have to have help with a lot of things – man was I excited to be able to make a salad in the kitchen on my birthday some days ago!  I really miss cooking and doing dishes… but I can at last sit up in bed and have some oomph behind me going, “Yeah!  I can do this!  I’m not making Centipede, nor am I Kim Swift, but I can do this too!”


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Things that Need to be There

I’ve been off for quite a bit and I know it; battling my own internal demons.  Severe depression is, well, severe and hard on a person, and if you add a sizable amount of stress like I’ve been having, it all adds up to some badly disabling stuff.  Today was literally the first in ages when I’ve awoken to actually feel like doing something.  And, it’s led to some remarkable ideas.

Nobody I’ve ever heard of has had disabilities in comp games – oh sure, pirates have peg legs and there are eye patches galore in tales.  Historically, “twisted” or dwarven people used to commonly be used as the kings’ jesters.  But what about a disability actually being used and thought of as an asset?

Wheelchair swordfighting anyone?  Why not?  In LOTRO at the moment there’s fighting on horseback – don’t worry veterans of that horror; I am going to work at it so it’s less cumbersome in a chair – so it’s feasible as far as I’m concerned.  Also, let’s not forget World of Warcraft where you can fight on a flying mount, and its copycats.  And then, people with one eye actually have a ranged weapon advantage; those with two have a tendency to close one orbit to aim.  I myself, having only one working so I don’t need to do so.  Knights may often end up with PTSD, which wasn’t talked about (till now).  Actually, those who’ve read The Lord of the Rings might have noticed that Frodo Baggins shows signs of it by the end, and it’s more blatantly mentioned in the movies.  It’s useful, though, I think; not something to run from, not in Kritter.

These things have been running around in my head tonight; these thoughts.  Once I’ve figured out the mechanics, Players of games from Kritter will for the first time be able to be badass in a wheelchair, and see the scope of possibilities for other things as well, because disabled people really need to see that they’re still able to do things in fantasy.


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I’m Definitely ‘Learning Python the Hard Way’. And I like it.

The first time I tried learnpythonthehardway, it was three years ago at least, and I skimmed it – well, not skimmed, exactly; I did read the entire site/book.  But it felt too daunting and time-consuming at the time to do the exercises, so no, I didn’t.  Did I learn anything therefore?  Not sure.

This time, however, I am indeed going through the entire site/book AND doing all the exercises.  After at least three years of it I’m considering myself at least sort-of ‘intermediate’ at this language – which is a little different than “I’m intermediate in Italian by now”, i.e. I have a bit of reading comprehension and my vocab is getting better – which in this case means I can write and comprehend small bits of code.  Anyway, I decided to go over the learnpythonthehardway site/book again due to that, but this time taking it more slowly and doing all of the exercises.  I’m on chapter 7 by now, and I believe some of it’s sticking.

I mean, I’m able now to recall some symbols used in the language – like, %r is good for debugging, while other letters are better for variables – and, the other day on the way home from a doctors’ appointment, I passed the time considering some programming/dev issues.  Being able to do that in my head is something I’d never have thought of back when I was going on my first round through the “Hello, World!” book, I can tell you.  But I’m finally seeing it, or beginning to do so.  After so much hard study and interruptions by severe illness/hospitalizations, that’s a damn coup in my book!!

I seem to have learned more than I thought I did from the past couple years:  more Patience with myself.  Oh, in some senses I’ve still got an impetuous nature, that makes me overdo it in PT and so on, but at the same I’d be moaning and groaning – no I actually remember doing that – at the thought of doing a ton of exercises over and over again.  You ever run across that problem?  How did you fix it?

By the by, I’m also still game-testing, which likewise fit into my inner debate of the other day:  lol, my husband was shaking his head when he heard I’d conquered Death, but any gamer knows that’s an important topic.  Implementing save areas seemed like a good idea to me, when I finally realized it (takes awhile sometimes).  Being able to save and start from there if you want to is good, I hear, and since I don’t plan to do MMO’s – no, there will not be some gigantic “Kritter MMO” or anything – it’s an important thing for me to learn about.

I have an idea how to implement these save areas, but I’ll see whether I’m right or not.  I need to finish the site/book for my intermediary level, first!

How did you guys feel when you suddenly knew you weren’t just a green beginner anymore?  (doesn’t have to be just regarding programming)  Did you celebrate?  Did you get impatient and move on farther too fast?  Did you just buckle down?


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Testing, Testing, … R,P,G…

I’ve been slowly going back into my old work habits, which include game-testing.  So that’s today’s topic:  game-testing RPGs.  I feel like at some point in my year-long hiatus, I’ve somehow learned to work a little smarter at what I do; should have been game-testing the kinds of games I’ll be writing – just like since I’m an sf/fantasy writer, that’s what I read – a loong time ago.  Also, I’ve learned to not wholly rely on the book from which I started, the “Hello, World!” one, but move on from there now and start studying Python from other angles – and so, currently, I’m working at the information on the website – as well as now being certain to follow the instructions better and not just gloss over stuff that’s a bit difficult for me (as math is at times).  Even more importantly, I am doing the skill drills no matter how slowly they may come.

Right, so back to the matter at hand:  game-testing.  I started doing this last week first with games on Kongregate.  There are some very interesting ones there now, and I’m actually learning a lot.  For instance, I did not know there was once upon a time a precursor to the MMO standby wherein you’re in a group, you die and get resurrected by the healer… or conversely, if you’re hanging out alone and die you can call and see if anyone around could help.  Yeah, back in the days of regular old RPG, when you died, your “group” would help (it’s just that the “group” wasn’t other real people).  I’ve also seen some stuff I think is just neat, like in The Trade of Stories, wherein you’re a trader who literally collects tales, as a bard might, in a lovely-painted world.

Then, slowly, I’ve shifted over into game-testing a little bit of other RPGs.  With my husband I’ve done some of “Undertale”, for instance.  I’ve also gotten the newest version of “Dwarf Fortress” and gone into that some.  Still doing Kongregate games like today, when I’m a little low-power as the wind whacks branches and howls at the windows, and the pressure changes, so I couldn’t even answer the question “What do you want for breakfast?”  But low-power game-testing can be very useful in the end.

Like, now.  I mean, from the notes I take when doing game-testing (in any state of mind), I know that I’ve been paying attention to what mechanics are possibly being used and what’s happening that I might or might not want to do for my own games.  Things I might want to try slightly differently, at least.  In the newer “Dwarf Fortress”, for instance, I love that they stuck in new instruments and actually made instruments useful, but for some reason they won’t tell what a visiting bard (another new feature) is saying when he or she recites poetry, though they give a very intriguing description of rhyme and meter according to a made-up system, and they only give the first line of any story they’re telling.  Curious? You might want to try this one; it’s intriguing.  Anybody have suggestions for RPGs I should try out?  Any thoughts on ones you’ve done recently, that you’d change just a little bit maybe, or even better some amazing stuff you found in this or that one?  I’m always ready to try out new things.


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“Hello – again – World”!

Dear readers…

No, I have not dropped off the face of this planet or any other one.  The past year and a half I’ve been dealing with major health issues, that are sort of calming down, so last week I started back to work.  First, I finished – no, honest this time – the storyboard for “Nikria’s Menace” (that took several days last week but was very much worth it).

So, we know what comes next:  programming.  I think it goes without saying I’m a tad rusty even on the amount I did pick up the past few years before that stuff happened.  So, being damn determined to figure this out now that I’m sort of on the mend – just some things to patch up – I’ve started working my way through “Learn Python the Hard Way” (the online version though I’d like to get the actual book sometime).  Now, it’s true that a couple years back I kind of skimmed through the site, (I know, not recommended, and if the author sees this by chance he can certainly noogie me for it because I deserve that), however this time we’re playing for keeps.  I am – scout’s honor – reading the book page by page, and doing the exercises bit by bit, every single fricking one.  Who else has gone through this one?

Oh yes, I’ll be adding game-testing back in to my regimen – suddenly got the “Rocky” theme in my head lol – today, I think, since it’s a weekend.  My husband’s discovered a new game called “Undertale” and I have heard tons about it from him by now.  As of yet, though, I’m unable to sit up for too long so playing it with him is out.  The info he’s told me about it did remind me of a game on Kongregate which I remember really liking, so I think I’ll go there just now.

Anybody else play “Undertale”?  What’s your thoughts on it?

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The Name of the Thing

Hello, after a wait; I’ve been sparsely doing work on “Nikria’s Menace” or anything regarding game design, to be honest.  What I have been doing, in addition to some bits of worldbuilding here and there and putting in the storyboard – thought I’d finished that, but apparently not – is naming functions that’ll proc when Player puts in commands.  There’s been a lot of that, actually:  humandiscussion, for instance, is well past number 80 and it looks like there will be much more of that.

Now bear in mind I’m kind of shooting into the dark with this.  It popped up in my mind after beta-testing Starbound so much; whenever you set up a server in there, you get to see the Command Core, and I’ve been paying heed to it, watching what commands and/or functions go that would say what’s where.  I’ve seen it to some extent too when I played World of Warcraft, and watched it a little while that game was and while LOTRO is patching/updating.  So I’ve seen things like what shields load, what environments are going to be present.  All the same, it’s surreal and tentative doing this myself.

The functions also go along with another issue I’ve found that I need to deal with, also regarding Player interactions.  I have found three kinds of these now, which I believe I need to define and classify within the game:  1)Passive Interaction (i.e. there’s an Event going on in this or that room where the player is, but all the Player gets for the moment is a bit of text); 2)Direct Interaction (i.e. Player is talking to NPCs, getting something, or fighting; and 3)Indirect Interaction (i.e. the Player has chosen one thing or the other with regard to how he/she wants to move on, but at this time the game only has a bit of writing to show).  I think that when a complex Direct Interaction is going on, for instance when the Player is in the Ghlaanan market and he/she has a lot of possibilities, there might be a need for a kind of master function (like a main humandiscussion or something).  I’m also wondering if the Passive and Indirect Interactions are happening, they should be defined as such, but still along the lines of a humandiscussion function.  Something like passive_discussion or indirect_discussion maybe.

It reminds me of something I saw from a friend of mine on Facebook the other day: “Naming is easy; REnaming something much less so.”  My husband has said to me that I’m creating a language for the game.  I hope I’m doing it well.

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Anatomy of a Legendary Villain

I love this post, actually. Not having cookie-cutter, one-dimensional villains is important for game writing too! I mean, how often can we just shoot down the penguin’s pirate ship in Starbound without getting tired of it (which I think the writers of that one sensed, so they broadened out that storyline a little more). How often can we do dungeon crawl after dungeon crawl in, well, more games than I can name, and learn the tricks specific to this end boss or that one before we get tired of doing it?

I thought a lot about this while writing up the villain Spaud for “Nikria’s Menace.” This posting actually does help me get deeper in my thinking about it, though. Not sure if I want to apply it in this case, or the next one (which will be a Kritter game:)).

Next time we’ll be exploring other programming things. Sorry I’ve been gone for awhile; baaaad health problems got in the way, I’m afraid. Meantime, enjoy this post!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.14.12 AM

Before we get started, I’d like to remind anyone who wants a WAY better chance at winning my 20 Page Death Star Critique, that I have started the Dojo Diva Blog and we are talking about Beginnings, namely giving ourselves permission to be NEW. Comments and trackbacks on the Dojo Diva count double and, since it is a separate contest, there is a LOT better chance of winning.

Moving on. VILLAINS!!!!

The antagonist is the most critical part to any story. No antagonist, NO story. Villains are only a type of antagonist and though this type of character has the power to be legendary, often what we see in books, series and movies are mustache-twirling caricatures. Villains can easily become one-dimensional plot puppets.

As writers, we must get in the head of our villains as much if not more than the protagonist. The reason is that eventually our protagonist must…

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