Mutators

November 25th, 2012 by Ian

James is finishing up the auto-updater and the first update.  We’ve fixed quite a few problems and we’re also launching the new Open Challenge system – I hope you guys will be pleased.

 

This week I’ve been working on the new unit (which I’ll talk about soon), but what I’ve started on today is Mutators – a medium-sized part of the DLC.

 

One of the things I really want to do with FS now is to subvert some of the rules and see how it impacts the play of the game as a whole.  Today I’m implementing “Double Kill”, which when activated will remove the only vaguely luck-based element of the game.  When two units engage eath other with *exactly* the same situation, currently a slightly arcane process chooses who dies.  With the Double Kill mutator enabled both units will die.

Here are the other mutators I have planned for the DLC:

– Focus Aim – when move-aiming, if you round a corner and engage someone very close to where you set the target, you are said to be “focus aiming”, and would have a big advantage over that enemy.  This would lead to less camping, as camping units would be killable by moving units if you can predict exactly where they are.

– Move-and-shoot: You continue moving on your plan while targetting and firing at the enemy.

Mutators are enabled from within the Advanced Creation editor, and if you load a game with mutators enabled you will be informed in a very clear way.  They are not allowed in standard match-making.  The new Open Challenge system should work really well with this functionality.  Mutators will be available for AI skirmish games (no guarantees the AI will use them effectively though.)

Let me know what you think.

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Skirmish

August 28th, 2011 by Ian

Of all the features I’ve ever been excited about in a forthcoming game, Red Alert’s “Skirmish Mode” ranks number one.  The idea of being able to play multiplayer C&C – of which I was a humongous fan – against the computer… frankly, I dreamt about it.  And when it came around, it didn’t dissapoint either.  Skirmish modes and bots are slightly less important nowadays that it’s so easy to get games online, but back then I could only host a LAN party once a week, and needed something to do the other six days.

Anyway, today I put the Skirmish mode into Frozen Synapse.  We have a big single player with a big story, but of course people are going to want to design their own games against the AI easily.  Here’s the Skirmish Generator screen (click to enbiggen):

Please note that the layout is not final – these are simply programmer art windows.

This allows you to set up pretty much any Extermination match you can think of.  A couple of notes:

– Our AI is infinitely scalable.  For the single player, and by default in the Skirmish Generator, it is set at “Level 2” which tends to get turns calculated in about 5 – 20 seconds – we’ve found that to be an acceptable wait for most people on most computers.  However, if you’re running some kind of super computer from the future or are very patient you can crank it up to 5, which may take a few minutes on modern hardware to run.

– You can choose to have the units deployed near each other (“Situation”) or at opposite ends of the map for a more traditional form.

– There’s a little indicator at the bottom which warns you if you’re setting up a match your computer may have trouble with.  Get many more than 16 units and AI calcs are extremely slow, and very very large maps can have similar problems.  But I wanted to make it available anyway – so we just warn you if we think you’re going to have problems.

So that’s all pretty cool, but I actually wanted to go further and give players control over the map generator.  Here’s the map generator screen:

Map generators tend to be highly eccentric things which only work the exact way the developer has set them up – and of course the “default” settings are what I think gives the best FS experience.  However, my map generator is pretty good and by changing most of those numbers within the limits you’ll get very different but still very playable maps.  The headline settings are:

– “Stop zone side”: Set this low and you’ll get completely dense maps, like the inside of a massive office block.  Set it large and you’ll get something more akin to a village, with lots of open space.

– “Max zone side”: You can get massively bigger rooms by increasing this.

– “Outside wall delete chance”: Crank this up and you’ll have a much more “ruined” feel to the map, with lots of free standing walls and half destroyed buildings.

I hope some players have some fun making different map gens for different experiences.

With this kind of stuff, players will always want to share their settings, so I’ve made it as easy as possible to do that.  Click on “Share These Settings” and you get a piece of text which you can copy and paste to a forum or an email:


If someone wants to try your settings, all they have to do is load up FS and paste the text into a box – easy as that, no messing around with files.

Finally, here’s a map produced by the newly-tuned map generator:

At the top is a “Regenerate” button which allows you to keep generating maps with your given settings until you see something you like.

Let me know what you guys think.

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Pathfinding

November 9th, 2010 by Ian

I’m rather pleased with myself this morning.

The pathfinding in FS has always been atrocious – experienced players pretty much have to use shift all the time to bypass it.  It’s a pain in the ass.  Here’s a great example of it going wrong:

The reason pathfinding sucks so much is that my algorithm for it is terrible – it splits the levels up into a grid, each square about the size of a unit.  It then checks each square for obstacles.  It’s a really innaccurate representation of the level.

This weekend I was reading up on advanced pathfinding stuff, and considering using some kind of Navmesh with movement polygons.  Then I was hit by a flash of inspiration – the only thing that matters in FS is corners.  If you ever want to make a path in FS, you only ever use the corners to get there – the only points I need in my nav-graph are the corners!  Here’s my code for identifying the corners in action:

As you’ll know if you’ve written A* before, the algorithm needs to know how all the navigation nodes are connected.  Here’s the same level with that info:

The nav-graph for this level is pretty simple – here’s a more normal one:

Yikes.  Lucky computers are fast at this sort of thing!  Here’s the same level that the initial algorithm got wrong, but with the new algo I knocked up this morning:

Perfect.  You guys can play around with this pathfinding right now – the download is here.

Lots more UI improvements to come.

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Feature Announcement: Duplicate

July 27th, 2010 by Ian

Duplicate is an important part of the FS “ethos”, and one that really should have been in the first release.  I’ve implemented it today and it will be going live for everyone tomorrow.

What is “Duplicate”?

Whenever Frozen Synaps finds you a game, you play a randomly generated map.  Duplicate keeps this, but means that other people will play the same maps as you do.  Whenever you get into a match, the FS server will try and find a recent “Duplicate” map which neither you nor your opponent have played.  If it finds one, you play that map.  If it doesn’t, the system generates a new map, which future players will also play on.  (Duplicate is a very important part of Contract Bridge, a game which FS’ community aspects draw heavily from.)

So what’s changed?

On the surface, very little – if you wish to go through life never thinking about Duplicate, you can – and Frozen Synapse will be exactly the same as you’ve been experiencing it so far.  Duplicate mainly affects scoring, and in addition to the current scoring systems and leaderboards, new ones will be introduced based on Duplicate Scoring.

Duplicate scoring

When you finish a match,  you have two scores – the “map” score, and the “duplicate” score.

The Map Score

This is the score you’re used to seeing.  In basic Extermination, it is calculated as

10 * kills – 10 * losses + a bonus of 20 for wiping out the opposing team

So let’s say you’ve just played a match against Bin, and you killed two of his guys and he killed one of yours – you have a score of 10.

The Duplicate Score

As you post your score on the match, the FS server looks at all other matches played on that map.  Let’s say the following results were posted:

Ian vs Paul – Ian wins, score of 20
You vs Bin – You win, score of 10
ThomS vs Archa – Draw, score of 0

Your Duplicate Score is defined as the percentage of people you beat on this map.  In this instance, you did better than ThomS but worse than Ian, so you get a score of 50%.  ThomS’s score will be 0% (he beat no people), and Ian’s is 100% (he beat everyone).

Paul’s score on this map is defined as -20, ie the loser’s Map score is the negative of the winner’s.  Paul’s Duplicate Score is 0 because he beat no-one, Bin’s is 50 and Archa’s is 100.

Duplicate Scoring only compares you to the other people who played as your side.  In this instance, Ian, you, and Bin are being compared to each other, and Paul, Bin, and Archa are being compared to each other.

Why?

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These reasons:

1. By far and away the biggest reason is that Duplicate Scoring allows you to have un-even sides in a battle, and for the result to still be competitive and meaningful.  Even with the comparitavely even sides in standard Extermination matches there are still complaints about unfairness.  I personally think that this adds texture and makes FS better, but Duplicate really takes away the notion of unfairness from map and unit layout.

2. A leaderboard based on Duplicate Percentage is one of the most fair and representitive scoring methods there is.  Your performance on each match is no longer compared to just one person (your opponent) – it is now compared against tens or hundreds of other results.  But a bad result on one match will not kill your leaderboard chances, as it only makes up a small percentage of your score for the day.

3. After finishing a game, seeing how others played the same map is really fun and interesting.  Maybe they took an amazing line at turn 1, or maybe they did something stupid you’d never do.  It’s just fun to interact with.

4. On a similar note, playing the same maps as everyone else gives more shared experiences in the community and more stuff to talk smack about.

So as I say, this will be in in a basic form tomorrow – look at any game’s Game Page and you will see the Duplicate results, along with links to all the other games played on that map.  There will also soon be a “Daily Duplicate Leaderboard” which will be an average of your Duplicate results over the last 24 hours.

I sincerely hope that my testing of this system has been thorough enough, but it’s always possible I’ve introduced some terrible bug into the server.  I’ll be launching it during the quiet time tomorrow morning and I appreciate everyone’s patience if anything does go wrong.

When the client patch is released next week the interface to see other games on the same map directly after finishing a match will be improved.

Flooded

December 12th, 2009 by Ian

My village, which houses our office, is pretty badly flooded.  Every eight years or so you get flooding so bad that you can’t drive to my house but you can canoe around the village on the flooded roads.  I have to park at the other side of the village and climb accross a load of fences to get to work O_o.  Here I am though!

Exciting times for Synapse this week, as I finally get the SENSATION I’ve been looking for from it.  I’m very much hoping the beta will relaunch soon so you guys can play against me.  I have to fix this annoying bug first though…

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Crapple

December 4th, 2009 by Ian

Today I was having some issues syncing my iTouch 2nd gen iPod, so I decided I might as well do the paid os upgrade.  It costs £2.99, and I don’t really agree with it, but “sod it” I thought – if it fixes my problem then fine.

I don’t like Apple.  I have an iTouch mainly because of the podcasting support – I have an iPod compatible car stereo and being able to listen to my favorite shows when I’m driving is actually a serious upgrade to my life.

So let me tell you what this paid for, 270 megabyte OS upgrade (whose main feature as far as I can tell is to allow you to buy movies from Apple) did:

First, it stopped my iPod being able to connect to the internet through my router.  I checked the forums and this is a very common problem.  People advise replacing the router (!) or firmware upgrading the router.

Second, it broke compatibility with my car stereo.

So yeah, at this point I’m pretty pissed off.  This is actually the worst consumer experience I’ve ever had, and the only thing that mitigates the situation is that it’s Apple, and I’m highly glad I now have this story to tell.  It’s like catching sypholis from someone you hate.

So, I post on their forums a fairly rude “Apple, wtf are you doing” thread.  It was fairly rude, but it didn’t have any swearing in it, and did involve an actual question.

I had thought this situation couldn’t make me more angry.  I was wrong.  Apple went ahead and violated about the only ethic I really strongly believe in: free speech.  They removed my post.

This whole situation got me to thinking about Apple.  I know a lot of people who really evangelize apple.  I have always hated them.  I’m going to try and explore why.

Let’s start off by comparing Apple and Microsoft.  Here are the core aims of the two companies when it comes to their customers:

Microsoft want a monopoly.
Apple want to make money.

Let me rephrase that:

Microsoft want you to be addicted to their software.
Apple want to sell you more things.

Here’s another one:

Apple has a customer base which largely loves it.
Microsoft is at war with its customer base.

Do you think that really favors Apple?  Because I don’t.  Apple can do whatever the hell it likes and still be loved, whereas Microsoft actually has to please people.

Now don’t get me wrong: Microsoft is evil.  But the crucial difference here is that Microsoft is evil to companies.  Not to you.  To companies.  It buys companies and kills them, or kills them by obscufating supposed standards.  It does this so it doesn’t have worthy competition.  But it also understands that part of having a monopoly in a software business is to have good software.

Microsoft buys companies with good products, consumes what’s good about them so it can give it to you, then throws away the husk.

Apple does something much, much worse.

It buys companies with good products so that they can’t release them on Windows; uses them as a selling point for OSX, and then ignores them.  Case in point: Logic.

Exploring Apple’s forums is a really, really shocking experience.  I advise you to try it.  The forums are full of complaints about how this or that or the other has broken on someone’s ipod.  And no answers. Apple never reply.  The only replies that aren’t “I had this same problem and I just had to buy a new iPod” (translation: result for Apple) are idiot Apple fanboys basically pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

This has been a bit of a badly structured rant, and I apologise for that.  But I’ll just finish by saying that the bug list of the new iPod OS appears to be longer than the feature list.  And this is an update you have to pay for.

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Reprint

December 10th, 2008 by Paul

Here’s a recent comment I made on Blues’ News which may be of interest:

“I am the person responsible for getting Puppy Games’ link wrong and I would like to apologise. It is http://www.puppygames.net and has some extremely high-quality indie games…not what you might expect from the name. This has now been fixed on the petition so that massively judgmental people aren’t suddenly thwarted by something that, at first glance, appears to confirm their ignorant preconceptions. Joking.

I think that pretty much everyone can agree on the fact that Valve need to be more open and sensible about their acceptance criteria for Steam. They need to at least provide a sensible contact for submissions, for a start.

The petition is now essentially saying that developers need a real dialogue with Valve about these issues and that is the core of what I hope to achieve.

I’m best qualified to talk about Determinance in the context of Steam, as I worked on it. Determinance is a game that some people genuinely love, send us fan mail about, beg us to do updates etc. etc. and some people despise with the very totality of their being. It is not perfect by a long stretch – it was a low-budget over-ambitious experiment just like an indie title should be. We believe that it should be possible to distribute it on Steam because *customers and potential customers keep telling us that we should do this*, and not for any other reason. The petition started as a way of formalising this desire amongst people to have the game on Steam; we then found that other devs were having the same issue, and some wanted to get involved to help open up the dialogue with Valve, rather than campaign to get specific titles on there.

It’s delightfully simple to say, “ALL THESE GAMES ARE CRAP LOL” but that is part of the point. Games that some people think are crap should reach the widest audience possible so that people who might love them can find them. If you’re a hunchback with one eye looking for a date, you need to get yourself out there to increase the probability of meeting someone with a cycloptic posturual deficiency fetish. ”

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Prototyping

December 5th, 2008 by Ian

Prototyping on Frozen Synapse continues.  At this early stage I really can’t talk about the game itself very much, but I thought I’d give you guys an insight into some of our prototyping process.

I’m using an older version of Torque Game Builder from GarageGames as the prototype engine.  TGB is a bit bloated and kind of aimed at the old Click-N-Play market now, but it renders things, takes keyboard input, has a good ui system, and does collision.  The last thing I want to do is write those things at this stage.
I find it pretty difficult to show the prototype to people, even people in the team.  I keep worrying that they’ll misinterpret it or that it’s nowhere near showing my actual gameplay vision.  But at the moment I tend to lock myself up for a week, then show it to someone, get a lot of feedback, lock myself up for a week… rinse and repeat.

Just a bit of an insight there for you guys.

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Bowdlerisation

December 23rd, 2006 by Ian

Determinance is now fully Bowdler 1.2 conforming.  We only conform to Bowdler “standard”, as we didn’t think it necessery to conform to “advanced”.  I’m sure worried parents will be happy at this announcement.

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Quiet…

December 12th, 2006 by Ian

I’ve been pretty absent this last week on the blog front, so apologies all.  I’ve been working very hard at GarageGames’ pad in Eugene testing, bug-chasing, and doing some back-end stuff.  You guys will be getting some more considerable updates soon.

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Jalepeno

October 30th, 2006 by Ian

A couple of things. First, huge Kudos to Paul for getting the new website sorted, I think it looks great. He had to piss about a lot with HTML to get it working – something he liked very little – so good work.

For a few reasons why I love staying in San Jose, here’re some things that have happened in the last day:

  • The FDA have apparently “declared spinach safe for eating” – that’s a headline in the Mercury News so I guess there’s some sort of back-story
  • For breakfast I went to a Bay Area Safeway (not to be confused with the horrible UK Safeway) and had:
    • A jalapeno and cheese bagel
    • A diet Sobe (juice drink) with two ingredients currently illegal in the UK
  • The News Of The World tells me that the US government are digging up Steve Irwin’s body because they think he may have been hit by the Mafia… and that it’s tied in with Bobby Hoffa
  • The Globe News tells me that Steve Irwin’s son is the product of genetic research going on in his farm in Australia

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Just so we’re clear: the News Of The World and the Globe News are conspiracy-papers. Both of those stories are at least ten times less ridiculous than the 100% true stories about “revenge-attacks” against Sting Rays.

Weekend

October 29th, 2006 by Ian

Due to the draft and the May Day bank holiday we may not get too much posted this weekend. I’ll try and get an article about IP in games up tomorrow though.

Ian

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Away

October 25th, 2006 by Ian

I returned Just Cause yesterday and swapped it for Call of Juarez. Games publications – both here on the net and in the real world – seem massively divided over Just Cause. Eurogamer’s view ties in most with mine – there’s plenty of cool stunt stuff here, but that really is the only draw. I happen to think it looks absolutely atrocious, while everyone else seems to think it looks great. This is fairly typical of the wrong opinion on game graphics: it’s not about how good your best effect looks, it’s how good your worst effect looks.

I’ll be in the Lake District for the next two nights, probably spending most of the time trying to get Lizzie to allow me to watch the Falcons game tonight. Yes that is my idea of a romantic break – normally I would just tell her I’m watching it.

I’ll be back Wednesday, but then depart to the US for two months of contract negotioations (hopefully) and whiskey-drinking. I’ll be online as much as I am here though, so you shouldn’t see much of a drop in service.

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Some actual benefits

August 18th, 2006 by Paul

Superb blog Reticulating Splines (Blog Name Of the Year Award 1998) posts some more “games are damaging” journo-nonsense for our mockery and puts up some standard, if eloquently-constructed, defences.

Why do people always talk about games improving reaction time?  While that’s true, I think it’s perhaps not nearly as vital as games improving judgement.  Intelligent games require you to develop a skillset to make a series of rapid effective judgements within a set of highly constrained parameters: essentially synthesizing one of mankind’s greatests acheivements (rationality) and excercising it.

Judgement is great, we use it all the time (hopefully), and it makes us do stuff correctly and helps us on the way to competence.  Games allow people to achieve competence in abstract and have fun while they do it, they also allow people to examine the processes by which the attain competence in activities, which is also profoundly useful.

So there.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 108

April 19th, 2017 by James

This week Ian and Paul discuss SNES Classic rumours, Project Scorpio, the Switch, frustum culling and more.

We also have The Film and Television Lounge Area and the UK Steam Top 10.

Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting the Village: Episode 107

January 13th, 2017 by James

On this week’s show we talk about the recent Switch announcements, Elder Scrolls remasters, tutorials, luck and falling out with your publisher.

We also have a special Paul’s Audio Corner segment along with This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 11 and your listener questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting the Village: Episode 106

January 6th, 2017 by James

This week Ian and Paul discuss the top 100 selling games on Steam in 2016, Bethesda’s approach to constructing open worlds and more.

We also have the UK Steam Top 11.

Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting the Village: Episode 105

December 22nd, 2016 by James

On this week’s show Ian and Paul discuss Crytek closures, more Switch rumours, eSports agen sbobet gambling, bug bounties and more.

We also have This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top, uh, 11 and your questions.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 104

November 22nd, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 104

On this show we talk about Nintendo & ‘managed scarcity’, virtual sports, insider trading and more.

We also have the This Week’s Old Releases & the UK Steam Top 10.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 103

November 15th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 103

This week Ian and Paul discuss PS4 Pro teething issues, Android porting issues, the importance of Day 1 sales, Steam store changes and more.

We also have the UK Steam Top 10.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 102

November 4th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 102

On this show Ian and Paul discuss the Nintendo Switch, Hitman’s elusive targets system, Sony’s OtherOS lawsuit, Twitch Prime and more.

We also see the return of Ian’s Magic Corner along with This Week’s Old Releases and the UK Steam Top 10

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Visiting the Village: Episode 101

September 28th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 101

On this week’s show Ian and Paul discuss suing your users, franchises, VR and more.

We also have the UK Steam Top 10 and the Television and Film Lounge Area.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 100

September 16th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 100

This week Ian and Paul talk about: Steam review changes, an ‘art history’ of games, the National Videogame Arcade, League of Legends and more.

We also have a special 2009 retrospective in honour of our 100th (!!!) episode, This Week’s Old Releases, the UK Steam Top 10 and your listener questions.

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Visiting the Village: Episode 99

September 8th, 2016 by James

Visiting the Village: Episode 99

This week on the show Ian and Paul discuss cartridges, ‘trash’ items, the price of old wargames and much more.

We also have the Television and Film Lounge, This Week’s Old Releases and the UK Steam Top 10.

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