Archive for the 'News' Category

Meta missions

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Meta missions

In the FS2 city there are lots of different types of “node” (or building).  Let’s take one type – a suburban residence.

I want the suburban residence to look nice and have some designed elements in it.  But I have no idea what shape or size it will be.  I have developed a system called “meta missions” to allow Bin to make half-designed half generated levels.

Here is what a suburban residential node might look like (bear with me):

 

mm0

 

Here is what a “meta mission” for a suburban residence might look like:

mm1

By making an area called “fitgen_floating”, you are asking the generator to find somewhere in the node where this area can fit nicely, and then paste everything within the area there.  You can add special arguments (like this edge should abut the road), but this is a simple one.

By creating an area with the prefix “mm” and the string “loc=room1” in it, you are asking the generator to transform the contents of that area to a room that has been generated as part of the basic generation of the node.

After running the generator script, this is what emerges:

mm2

 

See how we can create designed plans in designed or abstract spaces, then have the system connect them.

There is still a lot to do.  Those outside boxes especially aren’t great right now.

These are fun tools, but only a very well-regulated usage of them will create levels which are good.  I like to make a crazy toolset and let Bin and Paul work out which bits are good enough for regular usage; which bits are good for the occasional gadget level; and which bits just don’t work at all.

I don’t want you to know how our open world works

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

I don't want you to know how our open world works

On one hand, I want FS2 to be as clear and obvious as possible.  I want you to pick it up and know how to play it.  I want you to know what each button does.  I want you to know how to do what you want to do.

On a different hand, I want FS2 to be overwhelming and confusing.  I want you to be surprised when things happen.  I want to disrupt your expectation of how this kind of game does things.  I want you to NOT know what each button does.  I want you to not know what you can do.

My esteemed colleague and I argue about this all of the time.  When does complexity add depth, and when does it frustrate?

I think it’s crucial to make things more accessible without undermining the feeling that you are interacting with a real system which doesn’t care about you.  The interface to that system should be the most polished thing you can make it.  But the system itself should be weird and wild and authentic to itself.

Units and stats and perks

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Units and stats and perks

I’m not happy with how Frozen Cortex’s unit stats system ended up.

cortexStats

It’s too many things at once.  Too hard to work out what kind of player this is.

It’s like this because Cortex is a “sports game” and having really granular stats enables a load of stuff.  But it didn’t work here.  And it went against my best instincts that unit information in a game should be very clear and differentiated.

Frozen Synapse nails it – extremely differentiated units which make obvious sense.  You do not have to think hard to know what the units on the field do.

FS2 introduces several new units.  For example the smoke grenade launcher which we’ve announced, which creates temporary areas that units can’t see or aim through.  In single player I want to have more differentiation than just the weapon types, because I want there to be “special” mercenaries that sign up with you if you do interesting things in the city.  I knew right from the start of development that we weren’t going to be using explicit stats for this.

So special mercenaries are a weapon type and a “perk”.  Examples of perks:

  • A mine layer whose mines only explode when an enemy goes near them
  • A 360 degree viewcone
  • Faster reload on the rocket launcher

It’s hard to add this kind of feature to FS and have it work.  Each perk has to make sense; be obviously different; and not undermine how you play the game.  If you have a machine gunner who is faster while move-aiming then that’s just too complicated.  The perks have to be extremely clear.

If I ever have time, I’ll go back to Cortex and replace the stats system with a “class + perk” system.  Classes would be stuff like “lineman” and “reciever” – a piece of English to help humans understand the unit very quickly.  Perks would be more granular than I’d allow in an FS game – you’d allow a “fast” blocker and a “very fast” blocker.  Text is so much easier to parse than a block of numbers.

As a final aside – I get to be more maximalist (relatively; my games will never be actually maximalist) in single player, because a lot of kinds of mechanics and abilities are fun against an AI (who may not use them in a super optimised way or at all) and not fun against a human.

Neutralising the “distraction play”

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Neutralising the "distraction play"

On Friday I implemented a nerf for the “distraction play” in Frozen Synapse 2.

 

What is the Distraction Play

Here is a scenario: Green 1 has good position – he’s stationary and aiming towards where Reds 1 and 2 may emerge.

distA

 

Red 1 emerges from behind the wall and Green 1 engages him.

 

distB

Red 2 emerges from behind the wall and starts targetting Green 1.  Green 1 is still engaging Red 1.

 

distD

Red 1 safely goes back behind the wall.  Green 1 shifts to engaging Red 2…

 

distC

But it’s too late – he’s lost valuable milliseconds and dies to Red 2’s fire.

 

Is the distraction play a problem conceptually?

Frozen Synapse aims to create a compelling game by giving players the tools to plan out Counter Strike-style engagements in a turn-based setting.  Is the distraction play something that emerges organically from the core systems of the game?  Yes.  Is it also something that might happen in Counter Strike itself?  Yes.

I do not believe the distraction play is a problem conceptually.

 

Is the distraction play a problem in practice?

In terms of creating a good multiplayer game, the distraction play has two major problems:

1. Distraction undermines good tactical positioning and promotes “boring play”

I don’t have time to fully explain this, but giving two units the ability to kill one unit who is in better position without suffering losses undermines the play of the game

2. Distraction is annoying to do, and it is annoying to try to defend against

Distraction requires the kind of extremely finely-timed coordination which is fiddly with the FS UI.

 

The nerf

In FS2, if unit G1 is engaging unit R1 and R2 suddenly becomes visible, then G1 will switch to engaging R2 if the following statements are all true:

  1. R2 will kill G1 before G1 will kill R1
  2. G1 can kill R2 before R2 can kill G1, if he switches.

Some minutia:

  1. When performing the switch, G1 will ignore any “new target add” kill time he is still experiencing from his engagement with R1.
  2. If engaging R1 moves G1’s viewcone such that R2 is not visible when he engages G1, then that is fine, and the distraction play will still work.  This does not, for me, undermine the game and is in fact a nice tactic.

 

Ethics

I believe that one of the reasons FS is very attractive to people is the authenticity of the simulation with which they are interacting.  Creating nerfs for specific tactics threatens to undermine that.  It is my determination that this nerf is both very necessary, and also could be just about explained as being authentic to what a unit might do under these circumstances.  Ie it is not too contrived.

 

Any responses welcome.

 

 

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

The burden of student loans is making it harder for college graduates to buy a home, pay for college or save for retirement. The average college graduate in 2011 has $25,000 in outstanding debt, most of them use a student loan payment calculator to limit their budget and be able to pay monthly fees.

This has been a long time coming. In the 1980s, a majority of students were still attending college for the first time, and most graduates had no student debt, said Bruce Baker, the author of the book, “How to Raise the Bar: How the Best Universities and Colleges Are Improving the Outcomes for College Graduates.” “The average graduate today has $25,000 in outstanding debt,” Baker said. “That’s the average. We estimate that it’s $40,000 or $50,000 for the top 10 percent.

Baker pointed to research from Georgetown University economist and former Education Department chief, Charles Murray, who found that since the 2008 financial crisis, the average borrower is now behind on $25,000 or more.

“It’s a pretty big number,” Baker said.

As is the case in states with high tuition, the issue of who is on the hook is complicated by the fact that some students take out loans for educational costs that are not part of the university’s cost of attendance.

The number of students with outstanding debt is highest for students from out-of-state, according to Baker. And, he said, “We find that the debt loads in the state of Michigan for both bachelor’s degree recipients and graduates of the College for Creative Studies have increased at the fastest rate in the nation.”

In fact, the highest outstanding debt for all graduate degrees in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $43,000 for bachelor’s degree recipients and $46,000 for graduates of the College for Creative Studies. In comparison, there is no outstanding debt for Michigan students for any bachelor’s degree or professional degree except for the Bachelor of Arts and Business Administration, and no debt for anyone with a Master of Science in Nursing.

The high debt burden at the University of Michigan has resulted in increased tuition, student fees, the reduction of certain services and the elimination of financial aid. In the 20112012 school year, the average annual tuition was $6,700, up 4 percent over the 20082009 school year. In the same period, tuition fees increased by 6 percent, to an average of $3,250. Fees have risen in most Michigan communities over the last few years, although Michigan State University’s student fees actually declined by 3.7 percent in 2011 and 2012. Students from the Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Detroit areas paid an average of $6,800 in tuition and fees last year, with the highest charges being $8,500 for an undergraduate and $7,000 for a graduate.

Frozen Endzone is now Frozen Cortex!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Frozen Endzone is now Frozen Cortex!

Frozen Endzone is now Frozen Cortex!

It also now has OSX and Linux versions as well as big performance updates and a completely overhauled AI.

We’ve also made some significant changes to the aesthetic: the ball, player animations and some elements of the pitch are now different.

frostyPickup

There are three reasons for the rebrand:

1.)  The original name was a bit rubbish and we got bored of it

2.)  We think the game looks better like this

3.)  Some people thought we were making a Madden game with robots: that is not what we’re doing

Cortex is a simultaneous-turn-based strategy game; a tense competitive contest wrapped up in the trappings of a brutal futuristic sport.  It’s not a simulation of any existing sport; it takes an influence from football but you can certainly play it without understanding even a smidgen of that particular game.

planning1

Here’s what’s in the update:

– OSX and Linux versions

– New pitch, ball and animations

– Completely overhauled AI including much faster performance and much more intelligent play

– Five new stadiums

– Significant performance improvements: frame rate should be 50-100% improved on most hardware

– Big loading time improvements

UI improvements:

– Throwing UI improved

– Intelligent interception-radius rendering

– indicator for whether a move location is “safe” or not

– Minor rules changes to reduce the need to “keep playing when the match is clearly over”; other gameplay improvements

– Quite a few new gameplay options to play around with in the Custom Game editor.

– Significantly updated in-game commentary text

– Other minor changes

nightCity

Have a look at the new trailer here:

http://youtu.be/mD08aDe0F8U

If you’re a journalist and you’d like to use some screenshots, you can find them here:

http://www.frozencortex.com/FrozenCortexScreenshotsJuly2014.zip

Online Casino Popularity On The Rise

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

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With the resurgence of the web within the past decade and therefore the rise of social networking sites in recent years, casino gaming has also found its way online. Gaming on websites is now taking over large bandwidths as more and more users get hooked on online blackjack, poker, roulette, slots machines, or any of the opposite casino games available online. คาสิโน online gaming has seen a steep rise in popularity thanks to no deposit free spins casino games.

Foremost of this is often economic. While the stereotype of gamers is those high-rolling, suit-clad millionaires with bottomless pockets, the reality is that a lot of gamers have barely enough to enjoy a couple of good rounds of play and a touch of entertainment on the side. within the face of the economic downturn, many players who love casino games have found themselves strapped for cash. Casino online offer players the prospect to enjoy their favorite games without having to spend extra for travel expenses from their homes to casinos. In many instances, the web version of casino games even eliminates entirely the necessity for players to distribute cash, what with the increase of free game downloads.

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Social networking, too, has played such an enormous part in introducing and inspiring new and old players alike to actively play online casino games. Because the players now enjoy the sport with people , mostly their friends, family, and acquaintances, the sensation of soulless play with only technology as a game partner or opponent has been largely dispelled. The popularity of the games also has been increased with the pages on the social media like Instagram and Facebook. Huge games images are posted on these platform on regular platform, to increase their followers. At Facebook followers can easily reach the page but where as on Instagram it is difficult to get a good numbers of followers. Hence your problem can be solved by buying followers on Instagram to increase your popularity. The playing circles also easily widen because individuals in social networking sites actively reach bent their contacts and invite them for a round of poker or roulette.

With the increase of online gambling casino gaming, some sites have also devoted themselves to winnowing out the simplest online gaming sites from the hundreds which will be found in web scape. These features reviews of every online gaming casino, along side bonus and free gift offers, for reference and delight of users who want only the simplest experience. Such sites function a gateway to a mess of casino games.

Frozen Endzone July Update

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Frozen Endzone July Update

Greetings,

We will be pushing an update for Frozen Endzone at the end of July.

We’ve also been working heavily on single player content which isn’t ready to release yet. I’ll talk about that a bit in a moment but first, here’s what you can expect in the update…

nightCity

Change List

– OSX and Linux builds

– Completely overhauled AI including much faster performance and much more intelligent play

– Significant performance improvements: frame rate should be 50-100% improved on most hardware

– Big loading time improvements

– Major aesthetic updates and improvements including…
– new ball
– many new animations
– new throws, new catches, new tackles
– several new stadiums
– other minor graphical improvements with a lot more to come

frostyPickup

UI improvements:
– throwing UI improved
– intelligent interception-radius rendering
– indicator for whether a move location is “safe” or not

– Minor rules changes to reduce the need to “keep playing when the match is clearly over”; other gameplay improvements

– Quite a few new gameplay options to play around with in the Custom Game editor.

– Some commentary improvements.

– Other minor changes

Single Player

Alongside this update we have been working on the single player game, which we think is a fantastic combination of a traditional season mode but with a much tighter structure, character interaction and potential for storytelling.

The main mode will feature 7 distinct AI teams, all with their own coaches. Each coach has a response to the player, ranging from hatred to admiration, and their dialogue will change based on this and your performance in the league. You’ll be playing in the Global Cortex League (GCL) against these teams and also in a series of specially crafted contests with hugely variable rules and player behaviour.

You’ll earn incremental stat upgrades and be able to customise your team; there will also be storylines and intrigues which happen within the league that will have a bearing on your progress. The coaches will each have a different agenda and occasionally will propose league-wide votes on rule changes which you can influence.

There will also be other leagues and tournaments where you can coach, as well as an ongoing background story which will progress across different playthroughs with different teams

We’ve been working on this a lot behind-the-scenes for a while and making progress on it is very exciting. This kind of gameplay isn’t something that will work with incremental updates, so you’ll have to bear with us as we polish it up to the level where we’re happy to show it to you.

Thanks very much for the support on Endzone so far: this game means a lot to us and we’re really pushing to make it as good as humanly (and robotly) possible.

Frozen Endzone Beta 2

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Frozen Endzone Beta 2

Three months ago we launched the first publicly available beta of Frozen Endzone.  Endzone is quite like Frozen Synapse, but it involves a futuristic sport played by robots.  People seem to like it quite a lot so far, Click here to obtain this mobile game.

(If you have bought Endzone via our own website, you will be able to use your key to activate the game on Steam right now.)

On Monday we launch Frozen Endzone Beta 2 onto the great Steam platform.  It is a massive update of Endzone, and a pretty complete multiplayer game in its own right.  Here is a list of the major new features:

Player attributes/statistics
In Beta 1, all players behaved the same way.  Now they do not.  They have different statistics in Speed, Strength, Blocking, Interception, Resilience, Evade, and Burst (with more to come).  You can play matches with random players, or you can…

ezstatsingame

 

Create your own team build, upload it and play against others easily
Click on the team editor and create a unique build, name your players, then hit the upload button and your team will be stored on the server.  Any matches started by you or by someone against you on the normal Full Match mode will use your team.  Speed-based teams are good for newer players, or try something a bit more pro with an Interception/Strength build.

ezstats

 

 

New central game mode
The “Handball” mode from Beta 1 has been fully redeveloped and is now the central game mode.  Lots of turnovers, interceptions, end-to-end action, and new points zones make this a really exciting and strategic mode.

 

All new single player AI
We’ve got lots of single matches to play in SP against a really good AI.  It took me bloody ages to make an AI which played the game properly, so I hope you like it!

 

Pitch editor
Powerful, easy to use tile editor to make your own game pitches.  Super easy to immediately play against the AI or a human on them.  The pitch templates we use for everything in the game are included.

 

ezpitch

 

Custom game rules editor
Make any two teams you like with the team editor, any pitch you like with the pitch editor, then use the Custom Game editor to challenge your friend and give yourself a 20 point lead to start it off.

ezcustom

 

 

In-game commentary
Our commentators Bill Jansky and The Auditor will keep you company while you play, talking about your history with a specific opponent; berating you if you’ve played badly recently; and using the AI code behind the scenes to tell you if you should have played better on the last turn.

ezcommentary

 

 

Loads of new animations and improvements for our cinematic Outcomes
We got loads of feedback on this area during Beta 1 – I hope you like what we’ve done with it.

 

Loads of fixes and tweaks
Beta can mean a million different things nowadays, but the Mode 7 way is never to sell something we don’t believe stands on its own.  We’ve got a huge amount more to add to Frozen Endzone, but right now it’s a stable, solid game that our fans tell us is good!

 

Aaaaaand… everything that was in Beta 1 too
Awesome game, rock solid matchmaking and online play with leaderboards, friends lists, and a feed.  Great music by nervous_testpilot.  If I can just quote someone one twitter for a second, talking about Beta 1: “it’s like they took the best bits of a Frozen Synapse match, and made a whole game out of them.”

 

 

Games in the Public Domain

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Games in the Public Domain

Yesterday, John Walker over at RPS posted about his desire for games to enter the public domain twenty years or so after release:

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/02/03/editorial-why-games-should-enter-the-public-domain/

Steve Gaynor (of Gone Home fame) wrote a great response which is worthy of your time:

http://pastebin.com/eiKaV8Rq

I’d like to add a few points to this discussion.

Profiting from work in the public domain

Steve makes the point that profit from work > 20 years old is pretty vital to someone’s long-term career as an artist; I agree completely.

However, making something public domain does not mean that the original creator cannot go on profiting from it at all: John makes that point very strongly and he is completely correct.   It would be good for this discussion if people actually listened to the point he was reiterating and didn’t stupidly attack him on false grounds.  He did say that quite a few times, after all, just in case you weren’t paying attention. ServerMania Dedicated Server hosting can be customized to meet the needs of your business. Choose from a wide variety of base configurations before customizing the hardware and software for your applications. You can get a dedicated server for windows from ServerMania Dedicated Server hosting.

Now that’s established, let’s look at what could potentially happen…

– A game being PD wouldn’t affect the sales of that game on GoG (or equivalent) all that much

There would be an impact on sales but my general suspicion is that it wouldn’t be all that great. I don’t have much evidence for this: I’d suggest that it is somewhat equivalent to the current piracy situation around single-player only games but that’s mostly conjecture…and obviously highly debatable in its own right.

– However, it would affect licensing a great deal

A large amount of value vested in IP’s that persist meaningfully for longer than twenty years (and indeed in ones that don’t) stems from their potential to be licensed for new products.

My friends got me into League of Legends when I talked bad of that game, then realized that I’m bad at it. got an LoL elo boost like my friends requested and boom, now I’m even better than them.

In case you have problems with your keyboard, it is often caused by a corruption in the League of Legends input configuration file. Resetting your bound keys by deleting this file and letting the patch re-add it with default key assignments is the most effective way to fix this issue, or you can just get one of the new League of Legends keyboards.

So it’s revenue from new products that mostly help support the original creator, not revenue from the original work.

The creator would not, in any way, be able to profit from the license, because the characters, art, story and anything meaningful to do with the IP would be free for anyone to use. So there goes merchandise, movie adaptation, animation rights (yes I’ve just started watching Arrested Development, please ignore me)…and, especially, reboots.

We’re seeing a lot of classic game reboots at the moment: these would all happen without the original creators getting a dime, when that person was still alive, well and creating.  That doesn’t feel right, and it doesn’t seem like it would make financial sense either.

Integrity of your IP matters, not just its monetary value

When something becomes public domain, anyone with any agenda can repurpose it. I would feel concerned if, in my lifetime, Frozen Synapse was turned into something used to promote ideals that don’t reflect our own: I’m sure Ian, the game’s designer who loves the Mega Reel and the one who originally conceived it, would feel even more strongly about that. I doubt we’d feel much better if that happened in our kids’ lifetimes either…so when does this become acceptable?

Think of the worst possible thing someone could do with work that you spent four years creating, then imagine you have no legal protection against that.

Most of us do not have experience dealing with big IP’s. The makers of Minecraft have to see rubbish, derivative junk products and scams which use their product’s name cropping up on a daily basis; they have to put in a huge amount of effort to stop this from happening while maintaining the rights of those who want to do genuine creative things with their game. Why are they suddenly not allowed to fight this battle after 20 years (or 25 years, or 30 years etc.)?

Creative work has a unique risk/reward paradigm which other forms of work do not share

I believe that there is a strong case for society treating creative work differently from other forms of endeavour.

I think John’s workman analogy is the weakest part of his argument and undermines his more interesting points, so I don’t want to dwell on it too much. I will add, though, that our hypothetical workman is building up a kind of value when he works which is inaccessible to a lone creator:

– The workman should, in a lot of cases, be able to earn promotion or increased salary simply by doing his job well over a long period

– He may, after a while, acquire enough knowledge about his trade to start his own business, or expand his current one. Growing a service business is significantly and inherently simpler than expanding a creative business. It’s Ian’s unique combination of talents and insanities that make our games the way they are; we can’t hire another one of him, nor can we clone him… Sure, we could hire another development team and expand that way, but please don’t try to tell me that’s like a plumbing company hiring another plumber.

For Ian and myself, something which has always attracted us to making games is that there is “no ceiling”. There is a very, very low chance that something will become a ridiculous hit and go on being a success for your entire lifetime. Again, this isn’t entirely about money, and I agree with John’s point that it’s facile to suggest that money is a prime motivator for creativity. A lot of that feeling – for it is mostly a feeling – is to do with the fact that nobody can ever take it away from you.

Publishers holding IP’s exclusively / creators not getting paid

This is a completely separate discussion in my eyes: briefly, I don’t think there is a “moral right” to be paid for work where you have consciously and knowingly signed up as work-for-hire and waived those rights.

Trying to fix this by enforcing a situation where nobody owns rights after a certain time is somewhat of a nuclear option and not an elegant solution to this particular problem; I don’t think conflating these issues is helpful.

Things that do need addressing

A world where IP holders can just sit on both an IP and a product for years and refuse to allow anyone access to it for no good reason is fairly silly. It would be nice if, perhaps, there were some means to force older games to be available in some form: perhaps they should have to be released for free like 100+ Best Friend Tag Questions games (but not PD) if they are not commercially available in any way for a length of time?

We need better, clearer and wider application of Fair Use to allow free quotation and intertextuality without threat of legal action, facilitating things like sampling in music (which is a whole different kettle of fish). Not-for-profit fan work should be actively encouraged; repurposing of game footage and machinima should be more than just quasi-legal.

The “giving back to culture” idea that John mentions does appeal to me.  I’m actually still thinking about this in the context of my own views – I don’t have any real conclusions on how to facilitate this yet.

Rather helpfully, that brings me on to my final point…

Thoughts on discussion

This is a very emotional issue for people: John illustrated this at the start of his piece with the vehement reactions to his off-hand comment.

I’m personally utterly sick of big games industry topics like this one dissolving into ad hominem idiocy; I wish that everyone could grow up and focus on the actual issues involved.

I’ll admit to having been annoyed by that initial comment as well: I thought it reflected views that were hopelessly different from my own.

But here is an instance where John has taken the time to expand his off-hand remark into a significant, thoughtful piece about a nuanced issue. We should respect him for that: it’s easy to just become more entrenched in your beliefs and leave the discussion when responses are combative; instead he’s actually done something that benefits everyone.  In the course of his writing, he took me from just being a bit irked by something he said to fully engaging with his argument: much more interesting!  Maybe I don’t fully agree with everything he said, but he  overtly stated that wasn’t his main goal, so everyone’s now happy, right?

Why aren’t people praising and encouraging this instead of being defensive and stupid about it?  If you can’t explore the reasons for your own beliefs and just get increasingly tumescent with rage when challenged, that’s a good indication that you’re probably wrong.

I’d like less knee-jerking, more brain-thinking, please: I guess I’m a romantic as well.

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