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Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip and come on in to the mothership!

## Halley's Comet of Journals?

Lessee, 2014 huh? Last journal entry was in 2008. Previous one was 2006. Geez, at this rate my next entry should be done by what, 2020?!

I've been possessed of late, animated with a need to write about games, mostly surrounding a topic in gaming that's become absolutely radioactive. Likely everyone who follows gaming news knows what I'm talking about, and it's extremely divisive, so I don't want to talk about it here. But I find that I feel so strongly about it that its cut into my game development time, so maybe writing here is a way of recovering balance.

So, with that in mind, be warned. Serious TL;DR ahead.

I'm not posting much about games these days, but I'm still working on them. Some of the ideas I've posted about ages ago are still alive. I'm not sure I'll ever stop loving space games, or wanting to make them.

This year, however, has been about beating the logic of the "sunk cost fallacy," the lie that you can't turn back now because you've spent too much going the way you're going. I had been working on a game using Torque 2D, but the farther I got, the more wrong the process seemed to be. Torque's a great engine, especially in its new open source form, and my project had started life on the closed source version (Torque Game Builder) as an epic space trading RPG set in a randomly generated galaxy. Initial development seemed easy once I'd picked up the scripting language of TGB, and once it went open source I started dreaming of a sort of Dwarf Fortress in space, with a huge emphasis on exploration, crew development and random encounters.

But as I succeeded, I began to struggle with an embarrassingly simple problem. I didn't want to make a 2D game.

Yeah, I know. Dumb. What's that they say about insanity?

I'd originally chosen Torque because it felt faster to get up and running for a lone wolf dev. My dirty little dev secret is that although I can program, I don't especially enjoy it. The faster I can move a thought into interactions on the screen, the happier I am, and I've preferred engines over rolling my own because I really can't stand the fiddly bits. I'm like an author that just wants a typewriter without having to learn the metallurgy and chemistry needed to build one.

Torque Game Builder had rudimentary 3D support, treating 3D objects as sprites. It was perfect for what I was planning. But the collapse of Garage Games took out TGB, or at least any future updates, and when the company came back from the dead with Torque 2D MIT, 3D didn't make it and wasn't planned. Not devastating, though, because there were lots of other goodies, and isometric was still possible. A big challenge was that the engine now lacked an editor, which was a hit to productivity, but I reasoned that I had lots to learn, the editor was around the corner, and the ability to customize the engine was compelling.

After awhile, though, I felt frustrated and stuck, less due to the engine and more to my own limits. The smart thing to do to learn and improve in game development is to make and COMPLETE small projects, but every time I've done this I've felt my motivation disappear mid-project. At this point in life I realize I'm only ever going to be who I am. Whatever is happening in my head that causes this experience is unlikely to change any time soon. So the best I can do is manage my own insanity and try to abstract and constrain gameplay in a way that doesn't balloon content and coding requirements.

(My success here may be debatable.)

So I lost a lot of time trying to shoehorn my ideas into 2d. I cut things out, I abstracted, tried to add gameplay to bolster weakened areas, saw the design contort in the wrong direction (life sim/RPG?) and through it all attempted to maintain my failing morale by playing games more like what I was likely to be making. Smugglers IV, for instance, showed me that abstract space combat might be fun. Weird Worlds gave me quick and dirty planetary encounters. Character portraits could stand in for characters. Exploration might work like in Planet Stronghold.

Maybe? Maybe? Yeah, maybe.

At this point I'd sunk probably thousands of hours into design and development. I'd gotten as far as a huge space map, randomly generated planet surfaces, rudimentary logic for procedural empires, some specific encounters. There was a bit of base exploration, a history generator that I thought could be turned into some sort of procedural story/mission generator and a sweet random word generator I'd stayed up until 5 AM coding one night. I was about to push into procedural cities.

At this point I was starting to notice that it was getting harder and harder to make the game more granular, and the more zoomed in I got the worse the game looked. I'm only slightly dangerous with art, and it's a heck of a lot easier to animate an asteroid than it is an animal. Add to that Torque 2D MIT still didn't have an editor, even months after release, and I was increasingly finding it hard to learn and experiment with risky concepts.

Eventually, I hit a wall. Carving up my design into more and more abstract representations began to feel like bludgeoning myself with a hammer. I think I stopped working on anything for months. Maybe lots of months.

Unity had been exploding through this time, maybe well before, but I barely noticed other than to note the growing number of "Made With" games out there. I think I'd last looked at it back when it was Mac only, can't really remember. But I have a habit of sticking to whatever I invest myself in, sometimes well beyond the point that it's not working (queue life lesson *bing!*), so I didn't notice.

It's a weird fact of my life that no matter how hard I try to get away from game development, even when it's not working,I can't stop doing it for long. I once gave up gaming entirely, no making, playing, thinking or talking about it allowed. I got into motorcycles and databases and stressed out a good gamer friend who suddenly didn't know what to talk to me about anymore. I lasted a year.

I guess this is a curse, one which some of you share. To me it's not about profit, or career or success. It's about the need to say something no matter what. To quote the annoying mission failure screen in Fuel, you.. "Keep trying, or fail forever."

So at some point I stopped being stubborn, started seeking other options and risked Unity. Hidebound as I am, afraid of change as I am, I gambled that it had to be better than being stuck where I was.

It was the best decision I've ever made.

I think I started experimenting near the end of last year and since then my productivity has exploded. As with Torque, I find there's a huge learning curve, and I've always had crappy math skills so I'm again confronting that. But the stability and maturity of the engine has really rescued my project.

The local lottery here is up to $250 million. The only thing I can think about is how many games I could make with that. (Of course, with next gen budget balloonage, probably two... anyways...) Straylight Update I finally have the cash to buy game tools! I picked up the Torque Shader Engine, Character Viewer and Torque 2D. I'm getting into learning the viewer because I really want to see what my models look like in their engine. But I can't seem to get WinCVS to download TSE! I'm going to fight with it a bit more before I try switching to an older version of WinCVS. The real thing I want to talk about for a moment is this, though: What are some credible ways to build a galaxy? One major problem I find in trying to come up with new game design ideas is the search for validation. You might have an awesome idea with great potential. Or you might just be off your freakin' rocker. This is one of those areas. How do you even approach an idea as intimidating and potentially overwhelming as trying to generate the illusion of a seemingly boundless play space? Our galaxy contains between 100 and 400 billion stars, more than anyone could ever explore in any lifetime. How can you create the sense that not only can the player strike out in any direction as often as they like, but that there'll be something interesting to do when they get there? I've got several ideas here. The first, as I've written about before, is "Go Anywhere Gameplay." Whatever you are as a character, that's what generates the gameplay. It could be a ship filled with mutinous pirates, or the cybernetics, AI and nanotech in your own body. But that by itself is not enough. There needs to be the sense of story, there need to be interesting places to go, and worthwhile characters to meet/defeat. I'm considering a number of issues here: Simple one, but how do you name everything? I don't like the results I've seen of some of the random technologies like Markov lists, so I'm experimenting with phonemes. Ideally, I can both screen for inappropriate names (or even legally verbotten ones, like "Skywalker"), and create grammars that match the disposition of the race (harsh sounding words for a harsh culture, IOW) What does the world look like and what is a planet good for, let alone a solar system? This is a hard design conundrum because it basically asks what the player can do and what they're supposed to be doing. Should every planet be a threat of some kind? Should there always be resources? How many "duds" can there be, even if it's realistic to find a barren, radiations blasted wasteland without life or minerals of value? How do you (or do you?) keep the player focused? If the play space is too large, they may wander down so many paths that they get swamped and can't even remember the main goal. I think one of the biggest secrets lies in giving the illusion of boundless space but making the player so involved that they don't need to find its edges. I'll explore this more in coming posts. ## Just When You Thought It Was Safe Sincere apologies for the lack of updates of late. I've been even shorter on time than normal. Not only have I just started a new job, I forgot that I now have to respond to edit requests for my book. I'll be doing this for another couple of weeks and trying to pick up MS Access as well. So progress is still going to be slow for another month to come, I expect. Straylight Update I'm in the process of trying to figure out several things: Details of the 3D modeling format Torque requires How much change you need to see in the form factor of equipment and building interiors as time advances from 2100 into the future (what should 3100 AD's equipment look like, for instance?) How the Montage Mode (which gives you the ability to fast forward through months or years while the game world changes) should operate What the best 25% of a 4X game is Whether or not invisibility should, like Ghost In The Shell, be a major option in combat (you'd use hints like people leaving a wake walking through water) How story might be broken into states which change random encounter tables I'm always irritated that I don't have more to show for this, but I think it's important to plan so you don't paint yourself into a corner. Some Details... Montage Mode I've touched on this before. This mode is intended to merge story with expansion/empire building gameplay. You would choose to park your character in a location for as long as you had resources to do so and the game world would evolve around you . While this was going on, you could set your character to perform automatic actions, such as training or working on some great project. During this mode, you'd get a chance to drop back into normal RPG gameplay whenever certain events appeared on the horizon. Best of the 4X I'm starting to think the best parts of empire game that will merge nicely with an RPG-like game are Unit design Strategic unit deployment (with proper grouping) Diplomacy People modeling (so they're not just population points) Tech tree advancement Land development, at least in the beginning (eeking out roads, developing terrain) City / base / station upgrades I have several ways that each of these can be a part of your gameplay when you first start out, but I'll save that for later since this post is already too long. More later... ## FREEDOM!!!!!!! Well, just a little over 10 hours ago, I finished a 34 hour marathon session on the last three chapters of my book. Sorry for not updating, but this has been the week that was: I was behind on writing because of bugs in the program, and I started a new job. So my week has consisted of working 8 hours in the day, then working 8 hours at night. If nothing else, it shows me that I'll probably be able to pull a lot of weight for Straylight. [rolleyes] You can't BELIEVE how psyched I am to get this thing "in the can." If I weren't flat out broke, I'd be celebrating... (maybe next week, when the check from the publisher comes in [grin]) Straylight Update Nothing really focused this week. I'm going to look at setting a goal for recruiting and locking some of the more risky design elements. I also plan to dive into Torque character viewer tool as soon as I get some cash. ## Open Your Golden Gates, George Franscisco! Points for those who know what movie that quote is from! Straylight Update Well, I've pretty much blown today on trying to model a mockup of the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the world fiction, this should be destroyed and San Francisco should be a partially submerged aquatic arcology... but what the hey...! I decided to again exploit Wings3d's new bend feature. This time, I wanted to see if I could recreate the bow the of span and the cabling. Months ago, I tried without this feature and found that trying to make curves from straight objects was murder! It's technically not complete (I didn't finish end span details because I got bored). I also went nuts and used a few selection tricks to do all the cabling as well as the X-bar girders along part of the span itself. I think the cabling, which amounts to triangles, and the X-bars along the midspan would instead be done with textures. At 25,564 polys total (triangulated), those details are extremely costly-- but it might not matter if it was for a full level you could walk and drive across. ## A Bridge Too Far Mysteries of the Universe #7,271: How is it that all the 3D graphics tutorials made by amateurs out there reference the high end features of Lightwave, Maya and 3D Studio Max, tools which cost thousands of dollars? o_O Straylight Update Since my book's almost done I've been taking some time to remember how to use all of those dev tools I've had to put down (more than 6 months ago!) One very cool tool is Wings3D. If you think you have no artistic skill but you need 3D models, this is, next to Blender, one of the best free tools I can recommend. I've been playing with the new Bend feature, which allows you to create very nice curves in objects. Using it, I was able to go from this to this in under 15 minutes. I've also been exploring what it takes to create even more elaborate structures, like suspension bridges: This new feature is real a blessing because the colonies in Straylight will need lots of roads and bridges once you leave Earth. ## Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin... ...into the FU-CHAAAAA![rolleyes] Well, I know I've been doing something in these last few days, but everything's been a blur since I pulled a 30 hour day to finish the 75% of my book. Only 25% more to go! In the mean time, I've been experimenting with Wings3D to mock up O'Neil Cylinders (these are tube-shaped space colonies with air, cities and land inside). Here's a couple of shots: It doesn't look like much in wireframe (it is just a mockup after all), but it's shows what the environment would look like and some problems that will crop up in trying to place content. By the way, I created it by extruding a cylinder in sections, selecting interior points, and using the deform option on the interior to generate makeshift hills and mountains. I then threw together some blocks for buildings, duplicated them, and then spotted the interior with a bit of color. I wanted to up the poly count, but Wings kept crashing on me, so I'll either have to wait for a fix or seek out another tool. And because I've been getting a kick out of reading Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy (just finished the 2nd book), I'm going to have to include in the game something that looks supiciously like the Lady MacBeth: [grin] Straylight Update Ships in Straylight will (if I can get everything textured & animated) start with a sort of 2001 look and end up with a kind of modular anime fighter look (like Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star or the old Galaxy Rangers). Gameplay-wise, this means several things: System Era ships will be slow, expensive strategic platforms. They'll cost hundreds of millions to buy, making them limited enterprises you can invest in but not really own to start. If you serve on one, you'll be hopping between ports for months, with the meat of gameplay either being a time-skipping montage or personal interaction and skill building. Combat between ships will involve slow, strategic moves limited by G forces mixed with fast action involving killer drones (this is more the Freelancer gameplay, except I see you being able to remote fly drone squadrons). The System Era ships will give way to gravity-drive ships that can generate fields to compensate for the crushing effects of high-G acceleration. They'll be smaller, more aerodynamic and modular. The difference will be like shifting from sailing ships to ironclads in Civilization. But because colonization will take centuries, you'll still see the cost-effective System Era ships plying the starways, especially on the Frontier and Hinterland regions. So they'll be retired from combat and placed into service as civilian haulers, available for a fraction of the original price. Because it's space, ships can conceivably last for centuries, allowing you to inherit the same vessel across lifetimes. These ships will also serve as deep space colonization vessels. And if humans get scattered by Siegers or an alien empire, the O'Neil Cylinder design will become generation ships (by mounting a Bussard ram scoop to one end and drives to the other). Btw, here's an example of a Pioneer Class generation ship: It might be a wasted focus, but I think it makes the whole expansion of human civilization experience more gritty and vivid. You'll start out as a citizen of Earth and in Master of Orion fashion, watch the human empire expand, split and in some cases even fall, all with RPG-like gameplay. [smile] ## Why RPG-Empire games are COOL! Well, shame on me for not doing any real work, but I've been coming up with some cool ways to fill out this blasted game. Straylight Update "Survive & thrive in a fantastical future and change the destiny of the human race." That's the game goal. Building and relationships modification are going to be the primary ways to accomplish this. I see three environments for this: In a civilized habitat In the wastelands of Earth and frontiers of alien planets Inside something mobile, like a landship or starship The goal is to make money and/or influence others. The money making part can be accomplished through building structures. In concept, this happens on a gridded environment, like Startopia, but with the ability to enter structures and interact with NPCs. Influencing You'd influence NPCs by helping them achieve their goals. This is standard quest gameplay, except I think I'll be able to make the relationships between NPCs dynamic. Maybe Joe hates Fred and wants to see his business drop. Normally, a game makes you do a specific thing to make that happen, and then you get a reward. But what if you could make Fred's biz drop by threatening customers? Or hacking into his shop's power regulator? Or by infesting his shop with nanite cockroaches? Basically, Fred's shop would be an effect generator (business) with stats attached (attractiveness, defense, hack security, etc.) Fred himself would have stats, which in turn generate effects (ownership of the shop, advertising, etc.) Scare off Fred, his customers, or sabotage his shop... in most cases, Joe doesn't care, as long as it gets done (he may care in some cases, and might tell you not to do certain things, but that just makes missions more varied) Smooth Operator As a young immigrant to the towers, you need cash to build up your enterprise. Your enterprise can be anything from "monster hunting" (nanite neurozombies & constructs in the wastes); policing; racketeering; space expansion and exploration; or running an operation. The operation basically consists of people who perform some service or control some machinery, and the machinery itself. If you want to create a waterpark, for instance, and make money attracting tourists, you would find a district in the tower to ally with, negotiate with NPCs for terms, buy the templates, rent some workers and building tools, and lay down structures RTS style. I'm seeing raising and lowering of interior terrain possible as well. Or say your operation is a mining town. If it's in the wastes of Earth, you don't get permission, but you do need to bring in either expensive automated help or cheaper human labor. Or if you're really nasty about it, you use a nano-sequestration virus and bodyjack people into service (do this far from the law if you know what's good for you). Then you start laying down structures. The structures create an effect, such as improving productivity, defense of the town against bandits and monsters, possibly even attracting in cheap victims labor. Autonomous Agents Behaving Badly I'll post more on this in the coming days, but I think I've got some improvements on Oblivion's proposed autonomous agents that make up a village. Here's what I see as possible: You divide NPCs into "people units." The people units then use basic A* pathfinding to find attractors based on needs (Sims stuff here). This covers the basic behavior that you see. But behind the scenes, you use an influence map or some nodal structure to create NPC interactions. The interactions are events that get generated and solved by rules you've devised that say how plots get solved. This is then journaled, made available to you as a town foreman / interloper / bandit / citizen. You can then interact with the NPCs so that the radiate the events you desire. The events they radiate can be very complex because they'll happen abstractly. If Joe is sleeping with Fred's wife, it's too expensive to animate that. But if Fred beats the crap out of Joe in the middle of town, that becomes a resolved effect using standard combat anims. I've got a lot more to say about this, but I'll do so in the next post. ## In A Jam Mysteries of the Universe #5,769: Why is it that crappy strawberry jam, which is loaded with what I'm sure will be found to be cancer causing preservatives and diabetes generating high fructose corn syrup, three types less expensive than jam whose incredients is simply fruit? o_O Anybody on this one? Anybody at all? Straylight Update Ah, enemies... So the design calls for combat, stealth and trade over multiple eras. That's multiple planets, multiple cities. It's a pretty steep challenge, but I think that story and world design can come to the rescue here. The storyline I'm going to go with first starts you on a ravaged, recovering earth. A major substory will be the world rebuilding, with the increasing appearance of "neurozombies," people who have been sequestered by nanotech & modified against their will. This will be a remnant of war tech, as will these huge sandstorm clouds of deconstructing nanites. Alright, the enemy behind this will be a rogue doomsday AI that's bodyjacking people, creating the huge storms, and generally wreaking havock. It will be driven from the earth, and flee to space, where it's tracked down and destroyed. But not before it secretly scatters itself to the stars on clouds of nanites launched near the speed of light. What does this do? The result will be tens of thousands of "vehicle" characters, people who were forcibly downloaded into machines. These people will opt to become a culture of machines in space, transferring to probes and rovers and even large ships. The rogue AI's nanite clouds and constructs will make an appearance on other planets. On Earth, the threat will start out balanced. But out in space, you may encounter fleets, sprawling factory bases, or even dust clouds where planets uses to be. I would LOVE to be able to procedurally create aliens like Spore will do, but that's like wishing for a Lear Jet when you're homeless. However, I'm going to search high and low for graphics genuises that can help me populate planets with aliens and creatures. One thing that MIGHT work is to simply accept that there will be four or five body types, and then try to scale the animations, vary the textures procedurally, and use attachment points for things like horns or tufts. It won't be anywhere near as varied, but a little is better than nothing. Ultimately, I'm seeing four types of environs for enemies: * Human cities, with bots, humans and later aliens * Alien outposts, with aliens, bots and humans * Land frontiers, with bandits, colonists / survivors (if on Earth), and possibly creatures or rogue AI constructs * Space, with "post-human" probe/ship people as like NPCs in space, and alien and human ships with crews If I can get a few scalable, reconfigurable animal body types going and mix and match human machine pieces, that should be enough variety. I hope, that is... ## Straylight Summarized Straylight Update I've been posting so many different ideas on in the forums of late that it's hard for people to keep track of the game's focus, so I'm going to summarize: Premise: Survive and thrive in a fantastical future where you can change the destiny of the human race. Synopsis: Play across generations as a citizen infected with mysterious, developing powers that can shape the future. Start on a recovering, ravaged Earth, expand to the Moon and Mars, then discover secrets that lead to interstellar travel and galactic exploration-- all from an RPG-like perspective. Command starships, evolve colonies, or grow rich expanding networks made up of legal or illegal enterprises. Follow the story, confronting a cadre of constantly evolving immortals like yourself, or play your own way in a sandbox mode. Core Concepts: RPG-like: Gameplay focus is on character interaction, combat, stealth and trade. There is skill building, items and a far reaching grand story. Immortality: Somehow, you never seem to die. You can't be killed by combat or accidents. Only your immortal enemies can send you on to the next lifetime. Generations: Success in one generation allows you to build up the next. Reactive Cosmos: The world around you changes and grows and can be affected by your actions, or the action of NPC immortals just like you. You cannot quickload the world, so every decision counts. Destiny: Dramatic changes sweep the world every so many generations, drastically altering the course of human events. You must try to build yourself up enough to stand against the tide, or even use it to your advantage! Details: Survive: You begin life in a sleeper coffin, a citizen of the libertarian-socialist Community, a high-tech utopian society that has survived the near annihilation of the human race. Choose to make your way in the massive arcologies and space stations of civilization, the treasure and danger filled wastelands, or the depths of space. At first, you only have 3 concerns: Health, Energy and Morale, all of which slowly decline. Health is replenished by food, which also fortifies stats and resistances. Energy is replenished by rest, which also increases skills and aids in completing inventions. Morale is replenished by winning missions, gaining friends and improving one's life, and allows you to excel in integrating with mind-machine interfaces. Health Health controls resistance to normal death. When your health drops below zero, depending on your luck, several situations spawn-- but all allow you to keep playing. Energy Acts like fatigue and limits physical activity. Energy amount drops with age, but can be enhanced with implants and nanotechnology. Morale Controls social reactions and the ability to interface with machines, a vital skill in a high tech world. . Thrive You thrive by gaining status, money, allies and building up your personality. Status Gives rise to better job opportunities and access to characters who can change the world. Money Most equipment, items and hired help cost money by the hour or day, but allow missions to be completed which build status. The trick is to balance money going out and money coming in. Allies Protect you in combat, help you build yourself up, rescue you when you're in trouble. Allies have unique personalities and goals and will act independently with or without you. Personality Who you are is what you can do. Personality impacts your ability to take some risks or capitalize on certain challenges, adding a whole new dimension to character interaction and leveling. You can grow from an unsure cadet to a confidence inspiring captain, or young thug to brutal strongman, winning things like personal auras and special interaction techniques. Destiny Ancient alien gods are fighting a war using human beings as pawns. Some have picked you as an avatar. Do you engage in the struggle against characters like you who have your powers and abilities to resist death, or do you try to shape the future your own way, in freeform gameplay? The Avatar You start the game viewing motes doting the Earth. Each is a destiny point, a life waiting to be born. When you begin a life, you immediately begin to accrue Lifeforce. Lifeforce is banked across lifetimes and allows you to access more and more powers. Powers allow you to perform near-miracles, such as travel back in time, or see into the future. But each use of power drains Lifeforce, and the greater the use, the more visible across time and space you are to enemy avatars. Only enemy avatars have the power to send you onto your next life. When you die, you can choose to instantly convert all Lifeforce of the last lifetime to reincarnating instantly as you were, or you can choose to become a member of your bloodline. Your bloodline includes family you've managed to gain, or clones and cyborgs if the technology exists. Nemesis Characters Twelve other NPC avatars share the world with you. None know who the others are, unless they use their powers. Each has a unique focus and will try to change the world in their own way. Some can be allied with, others must be opposed. Each lifetime, avatars may be born into new bodies. Avatars can only be known by special hints during interacting with their characters. You may know that an avatar is an enemy who ravaged worlds the last lifetime, but in this, he may be masquerading as a pillar of a community protected by the law. Shape The Future With or without you, the world changes and grows. Businesses and entire worlds go through boom and bust. Factions rise and fall in power. Empires change governments, laws or culture, sometimes even breaking apart in peaceful or violent revolutions. The game is played out in eras, each of a limited length. This gives you a limited number of lifetimes to accomplish your goal. At the end of every era, a dramatic event drastically alters the playing area. The end of an era may usher in a wild new frontier, an invading alien race, or a great war or catastrophe that must be survived. You can choose to pursue the story and discover how to stop these cycles of destruction. Or you can decide to play freeform, building up your own personal empire to weather and even beat back the coming storms. Feasibility: The game will depend on a number of techniques, including procedural development and focusing a wide variety of events through character interaction. Levels Prefab levels will be mixed and matched and populated with random interaction nodes and customizing artwork. The Torque Shader Engine should allow for custom environments such as canned cities and continuous random planetary maps. Cities will be procedurally generated from block parts. System-based Gameplay Trade, reputation, crime and stealth will all be system driven, meaning that you will have stat resources that are affected by challenges throughout the level. Sneaking, for instance, might involve keeping a low heat signature in space and sound signature on foot. This allows emphasis to be on numerical customization of environments, rather that art heavy asset customization. Minigames Equipment and HUD minigames will spice up and fill out a great deal of gameplay. Activities such as scanning, item repair, engineering challenges and medbay challenges will be done through puzzle or action games depending on the equipment you buy. Timeline Still in process, but should become firm once I get a sense of how much help I can expect to get by partnering with local universities to offer work experience for credit. Whew! That's it for now! ## C Spot Run. You know, one of the things I hate about the book I'm writing now is breaking EVERYTHING down into tiny sentences. I have a bad habit of expressing myself with complex (convoluted????) phrases which pack a lot of ideas into the text. Call it my programmer's natural instinct for compression! [grin] But everything in this book has to be broken down, step by step. I can't assume that you know ANYTHING. So instead of saying something like, "Hey, there are red apples in the world and they're delicious," I've got to say, "There are apples in the world. Some are red. Red apples are delicious." I will be so happy when this is over this month. Then, aside from worrying about what I'm going to do next, I can devote more time to Straylight!!! ## Dihydrogen Monoxide!!!! I've gotten a chance of late to do a lot of swimming, which has been a blast and a great way to destress as I work full time on my book. I haven't been swimming in five or six years. What's funny is that I've been living for three years in a huge condo complex that has three of these but never bothered to register with the powers that be to get a key. It cost$100.00 to do so, and I just figured it'd be better to spend that on game development!

Oh well, I guess we all have our priorities. [smile]

Straylight Update

A few cool ideas have been percolating that could really spice up the world & reduce dev costs:

Shadow Self: The shadow self is your will encoded in AI. It roams the wires, acts as VR assistant, and reports back on events in the world. Like a constant NPC companion, you interact with it through symbols and dialog. It can advise you of plots against you, business opportunities, and act as continual built-in help.

VR Command Centers: Ships, bases and businesses will be controlled in VR (think Matrix, Zion docking control). Emphasis will be on character interaction and minigames, with summarized decisions requiring your strategic input. No low level micromanagement!

HMI & Emotional Noise: Human-machine interfaces require a level head to control. This now makes the morale bar and personality stats MUCH more integrated. Morale will affect your ability to control things like ships, drones and power armor.

Nano-template Chips: Change the stats of items using a chip add-on! I hope this will clear the unrealistic expectation of having massive varieties of low level items.

The battle is always how to reduce content, and I'm hoping these will turn out to be satisfying options.