Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The results of the xkcd color survey are up on the xkcd blog. Funny how my art teacher talked about how "all color is relative" just a few weeks ago!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Project DIVA.

Finally unlocked all the songs in Project DIVA. Overall, it seems to be a fairly decent rythmn game, but it has a few flaws that become rather annoying after getting into it a bit.

The most notable problem is that the game occasionally lags. The framerate seems to drop on some songs, making hitting the beats rather difficult. I also found that occasionally, if you jostle the PSP accidentally, it causes the UMD to skip a bit, and the song and the beat you have to hit get desynchronized, basically forcing you to restart the song. (This seems to only happen near the start of songs, at least, perhaps it gets buffered up nicely later on?)

The songs in general are not as difficult as in some other games (Elite Beat Agents!). Getting a "Great" rank on normal difficulty is, for the most part, very straightforward, and easily attainable within three attempts at each song. One oddity seems to be that normal difficulty only uses the circle and x buttons -- easy difficulty uses the square and triangle occasionally, making me wonder whether this was an accident on part of the designers.

Perhaps the most interesting part is the Rythmn Edit Mode, which lets you basically make PVs and levels out of MP3s that you stick on your flash card. It's a neat feature that doesn't seem to show up often in such games. The saved levels can be shared with other people.

The selection of unlockable costumes for Miku is pretty extensive, though the last few seem to be recolored versions of each other. The other notable Vocaloids (Rin/Len, Luka, Kaito, Meiko, and Neru/Haku) can be unlocked as well, though with the exception of four songs, the voices and dance moves all remain Miku's regardless of who is picked. Watching Kaito do Miku's songs and moves is entertaining in a somewhat brain-melting way.

Songs are generally all fairly well known Miku works, by the expected artists (ryo, Oster Project, kz, etc.), there aren't any original works in the set, so anyone familiar with the Vocaloids would probably have heard most of them. The PVs are generally replaced by either the dancing CG Miku, or by slideshows with art taken from various sources.

Overall, the game is fairly straightforward, and it's hard to complain about a cute dancing Miku.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Old Doom 3 modding tutorials.

I recently found the Doom 3 Coding Center again, after it dropped off the internet way back when. It contains several really nice intros to the SDK, scripts, and shaders, and is pretty much a must for anyone interested in modding the game.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Using VIM as a man page reader.

Just recording this old tip for posterity -- I'd lost it for a bit.

export MANPAGER="col -b | view -c 'set ft=man nomod nolist' -"

Sticking this in .bashrc or whatnot should let vim deal with man pages and things. Nice syntax highlighting and stuff.

export PAGER="col -b | view -c 'set nomod' -"

This wouldn't hurt for a regular pager too.

Original thread at Gentoo Forums.

Friday, September 11, 2009

New public key!

I completely forgot to regenerate my public key after it expired a few days back, so here's the updated one.

Version: GnuPG v2.0.11 (GNU/Linux)


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Healer design in MMORPGs.

Just recently, a friend directed me to a link discussing how "fun" and interactive playing a healer is in an MMORPG like World of Warcraft. The healer role in a raid is often stereotyped as, essentially, a whack-a-mole game with the various health bars of people in the group, and, perhaps, the description is not too far off.

The problem needs to be defined, first though. In World of Warcraft, most of the healing is reactive. The target of your healing takes a hit, and as such, he is at a health deficit. You target him and cast a healing spell to attempt to minimize that deficit. There are two mechanics present in the game for doing this -- direct heals and healing-over-time effects. There are a few proactive damage mitigation/healing skills, the most notable of them being the priest's Power Word: Shield and Prayer of Mending. There are a few other skills with similar effects, but tend to be on long cooldowns (Pain Suppression, Hand of Sacrifice), or are merely time-savers (Earth Shield).

As one might guess, there is a disproportionate bias in favor of reactive healing mechanics in the game as it stands. This, perhaps, is the first part of the problem with healer design in this game. Reactive healing does take a certain degree of the skill, especially in timing when there's a significant burst of incoming damage, however, it generally is always effective. It's hard to heal the wrong person, since the heal only happens when there is an actual health deficit.

What advantage do proactive defensive mechanics have over reactive ones from a design standpoint? First off, proactive measures, to be used effectively, require knowledge of how the opponent works. If you throw up a shield on the wrong person, the shield is wasted. Mana and time are expended putting it up, and the effect is not consumed. Secondly, they must be timed appropriately. Against an enemy that actually pays attention to the effects on his targets, shielding someone can act as a deterrent, enticing him to switch targets since he may know that any attacks against that particular character will be blunted; therefore, the shield must be placed on the target as close to the actual attack as possible. Additionally, putting a shield on after the fact is of minimal use -- the attack has happened already, it can no longer be mitigated. As a result, a player must actually pay significantly more attention to a battle and the pacing of the combat to make his skill usage effective.

Costing of such spells is also tricky. Proactive effects, in general, should always be more efficient than their reactive counterparts, as effective usage of a proactive skill requires a higher level of skill on part of the player than a reactive one. Most of the reactive spells as it stands right now are so much more efficient than shields or such that if it the proactive effects are almost unnecessary.

Now, having at least defined what we consided to be a more engaging design for healing effects, we come to the main problem, which, perhaps surprisingly, is not actually related to the skill design in and of itself. It stems from the actual encounters involved. PVE encounters in WoW are basically a matter of adjusting the rates if incoming damage vs. the rates of incoming healing, modified by mitigation available. "Only tanks should be getting hit!", or "just get a druid to pick up the raid damage" are symptoms of a type of design that makes players assume incoming damage to anyone besides a tank stems directly from a mistake. As a result, proactive healing takes a backseat to simply using standard healing mechanisms to keep tanks alive while the rest of the encounter happens. There is no large difference in proactive mechanisms and reactive mechanisms on a tank, since bosses attack extremely predictably, and any shields or similar effects are more or less guarunteed to be consumed in an optimal manner. (tl;dr: the tanking mechanic as a whole forces healing into a certain optimal setup.)

Let us conjure up a hypothetical combat scenario. Instead of a boss that smashes your tank in the face, you have a group of enemies that need to be dealt with. They have a better method of picking targets. Instead of smashing on a tank, arguably one of the least enticing targets, they attempt to head for your healers or DPS. To stop them, DPS can snare them, or whatever along those lines (before someone mentions it, the issue of crowd-control effect design in WoW also needs to be looked at in-depth at some point. For now, please imagine that they are in some reasonable state). Taking a hit on a DPS or healer wouldn't be a one-shot, but it should be strong enough to provide a severe incentive not to get hit. As a result, when enemies switch targets or when people are positioned in dangerous places, proactive healing once again becomes useful, as both a way to blunt incoming damage that couldn't be avoided, and as a way to dissuade attacks on specific characters.

So, while healing characters in WoW could be designed much better (and, in fact, should be designed much better -- one hopes Blizzard is at least working towards such a goal!), the bulk of the issue with healing in PVE scenarios stems mainly from the lack of incentives to use specific healing effects in efficient manners due to encounter design.

Sky Girls.

Just finished watching the Sky Girls anime. The series started out as a single-shot OVA by Konami, and proved popular enough to be made into a full series by J.C. Staff.

The setting is centered around resolving a war between humanity and the WORMs, a strange type of enemy weapon. The WORMs are constructed of several cells that rearrange themselves into the shapes of larger creatures and wreck havoc on human military and industrial complexes. Their motivation and origin are a mystery at the start of the series, but are explored in fairly great detail as the plot progresses.

The first war with the WORMs left Earth in a fairly broken state, as WMDs were eventually used to try to stop them. In the aftermath of the fighting, much of Earth's landmasses have been rearranged, and humanity is only just starting to rebuild. The main characters come in at this point -- due to a lack of military-age personnel still in existance, the average age of most soldiers has been heading downwards. The main characters are chosen for their ability to pilot experimental aircraft, the Sonic Divers.

The Sonic Divers, at first, are explained to be designed for various uses, but naturally, as the series progresses, their main function is to perform as a weapons platform. The WORMs reappear, and the Sonic Divers are equipped with a particularly effective weapon for destroying them. The reappearance of the WORMs is somewhat of a myster -- they were meant to have been eliminated much earlier on, and a significant portion of the plot is dedicated to figuring out what purpose they exist for.

Sky Girls is particularly interesting due to the fairly extensive amount of character development present. It makes what, at first glance, is a fairly standard mecha anime into something far more character-focused. Even secondary characters get a fair amount of screentime dedicated to their motivations and backgrounds, and a viewer's first impression of a character can often be fairly off from what the character actually is like.

The technology shown in the anime is fairly internally consistent. There are reasons why specific pilots are chosen to use the Sonic Divers, as well as why the Sonic Divers were designed in that specific way as well. There isn't too much tech-speak, and the reasons behind all the designs are not difficult to grasp (though as with most science fiction, there's an element of handwaving with regards to theories that have not been defined in real life).

The animation is fairly good, and the music is decent. There's a few instances of fairly obvious 3D CG works, but they do not detract from the animation as a whole, as it's blended in fairly well.

All in all, the series is quite worth watching, being well-written and with amusing enough characters.