Wikipedia article updates

I have been updating Role-playing video game, History of Western role-playing video games, Parallel projection and Isometric video game graphics, fleshing out content and fixing grammar and punctuation issues as I find them. The first article is a good candidate for Good Article status if I can just find a few more sources. The second already is a Good Article, but could use improvement. The third article is more of an outline or overview of existing topics. And the fourth is not sufficiently detailed yet to be elevated. I am not as active on Wikipedia as I used to be, but over time I would still like to improve these articles.


Tenderfoot Tactics

Tenderfoot Tactics is a very minimalist tactical RPG set in a fantasy island world of goblins, that is being overrun by an ominous, evil power. I like the aesthetic a lot; the artwork and 3D models are bare but still nicely designed. There is not much of a narrative; mood and ambience are conveyed through the artwork, sound and a few scripted encounters, mainly. The game world is open to exploration by foot or by boat, but is largely empty as well.

The game is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, in that it is a fantasy TRPG featuring exploration and a large number of unit classes. It is also very chess-like compared to most CRPGs. For instance, area or straight line attacks each have their own shape and dimensions, sort of like how a rook and a knight in chess each move differently geometrically across the board. Combat damage is also deterministic versus being based on dice rolls. I.e., you always know how much damage you are going to deal or receive.

Unlike FFT or chess, however, there are a number of environmental effects such as ice, fire, earth and water, that can change the properties of the terrain tiles your units are standing upon. Wet becomes ice; bushes catch fire; earthen obstacles bar your way, etc. etc.

Units can be upgraded to over a dozen different classes. Classes are unlocked sequentially or by combinations of previously-unlocked classes. Certain classes only become available after clearing certain fortresses or towers. All units start out as members of the same “goblin” class, and can eventually be upgraded to any of the higher classes.

Travel across the islands is done in third-person perspective, with your party following behind you like ducklings. Travel between the islands is done by boat. There are maps to help you find your way, but they are often drawn in weird orientations, and your current position is never marked upon them. You have to sort of remember where you are and judge your position by comparing the maps with features and landmarks around you. You have a literal “bird’s eye” view to help you out, but the range and altitude are very limited. There are many complaints about the lack of map markers among players on the Internet, but it does permit the game world to feel more organic and alive, in my opinion.

Combat inside a forest
Combat on a hillside

There is not much of a story. The game relies heavily on a weird ambience or mood to convey itself, versus a clear, written narrative. The weird mood of the game is definitely nice, but the lack of narrative is also the game’s major weakness, IMO. I wish there were more to the story. But the game is still fun to play, so it is not a big deal.

I quit after about twenty-two hours, however, as the “boss” or “special” combat encounters started becoming too difficult. The game utilizes “level scaling”, so the option does not exist to move to different areas to try and locate enemies that are weaker in order to “level up”. I have since learned that if you lose a few battles, the difficulty of the game is reduced somewhat automatically. I also forgot that the difficulty can be adjusted incrementally using a slider in the game’s settings. I will likely try continuing playing the game at some point now that I have been made aware of this.

Overall, I enjoyed what little of the game I did play, and would recommend anyone pick it up. It costs only US$25 or so currently on Steam.

★★★★


All pages are WordPress; a to-do list

I spent a few hours converting all (or nearly all) of the sub-pages of this site to WordPress pages. This should make it easier to manage the site without using FTP, add social media features using plugins, and enhance search engine integration. I still have to figure out how to generate a list or menu of all WP pages, create a WP page hierarchy, and add syntax highlighting to the editor (since the pages contain some HTML). Please forgive any broken links and so forth.

[ed]

I tweaked the header navigation menu to make it a fly-out menu with multiple levels instead of a single-level drop-down menu. I also renamed a few sub-pages. Yes, “Miscellaneous Debris” is a reference to a Primus EP. Finally, I made it so that users can log in using their Google IDs. I’m working on adding Facebook and Twitter ID support too. Their rules are a little more strict. I have to have a privacy policy for instance.

[ed]

I keep a to-do list for all of my coding (and other) projects. The projects are listed in no particular order. The list is plain text because I find plain text to be easier to maintain. I’m not sure if I will keep this post updated, or how often I will update it. I may create a dedicated page for the list, instead.

[ed]

I moved the list to its own dedicated page.


Roman civilization and bad poetry

On Quora there was a discussion over whether or not the Roman Empire still exists, today. I mentioned a professor who years ago suggested (or mentioned someone who suggested) to our class that what we know of as “The West” (or “Western Civilization”) today is in fact the fractured remnant of the Roman civilization. I.e., that it still exists, but that it was split apart at some point, with parts of it going extinct or dormant for several centuries; and that it is only much more loosely connected today. (Or, at least that is how I remember what he said.)

In the Quora discussion I suggested that maybe the transfer of official titles and broken or unbroken lineages are not all that important, and that other surviving characteristics (language, knowledge, cultural and legal institutions, etc.) are in and of themselves sufficient indication that the Empire or Republic or civilization still exists. That a duck does not necessarily have to call itself a “Duck” in order to be a duck, even if the current duck is stitched together from parts or remnants of other ducks.

We live in what Rome would be if it were some (grotesque) living biological experiment.

Le Fornaci romane di Ronta, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0
A physiological demonstration with vivisection of a dog, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

Anyway, the above in part inspired me to write the following:

What are we but flimsy, temporary structures built upon what came before us? Made of the same material. Breathing, eating, drinking the same food and air. Ingesting/absorbing the same toxins. The very same electrons passing through our minds. Eternal in life and eternal in death; mutilated beyond repair.

I couldn’t think of good a last line (or paragraph) sadly. The one I came up with was pretty bad, so I omitted it.

[ed]

I combined the two posts into one.


Datsville terrain

I spent today and yesterday remodeling the town in order to incorporate the terrain mesh I created earlier in World Machine. I had to make room for the new river, extend and strengthen the bridges, and move some of the buildings around. I also created a few new roads that will eventually connect the town to neighboring areas. At some point in the future I would like to add a divided highway outside of town.

Terrain screenshot 1
Datsville when viewed inside LDCad

I wrote an article on the Datsville wiki briefly describing the issues I am facing trying to continue to work on Datsville. The model is huge. The software and hardware I am using are having trouble coping.

Lastly, I re-added the old “Datsville College” and “Chapel at Eastwicke” models by Anders Isaksson and Joseph Gonzalez. They’re not MOCs, but I am desperate for models to fill these roles. And they’re nice models. I’ll leave them in until we decide what to do with models that are not compatible with the town’s current, free license. (Or until I find/create replacements.)


Colony ship montage

I uploaded a longer video showing how my colony ship model has evolved over the years, starting with the original CityGen script (created by Chris Colefax). The model is nearly completely procedurally-generated from intersections, differences and unions of spheres, cylinders and boxes. There are a few mesh-based models, but not many. I can change everything on-the-fly just by modifying a handful of configuration settings. If you zoom in really close, everything is pretty low-res, though. People are made from simple ellipsoids; train cars are made from superellipsoids.

I also created a video showing how the city is able to collapse from a flat plane into a narrow tube. The buildings themselves are cylindrical, and are able to shrink or grow to fit whatever radius I specify for the spacecraft. The very first and last frames of the animation are a little wonky: the city does not like to lie completely flat, and there are several trigonometry-related divide-by-zero errors. I’ve tried implementing workarounds, but you’ll notice how some of the textures still disappear or render improperly. A proper fix is probably not worth the effort, since I don’t really need the city to lie flat, anyway, except in the animation.


Datsville RPG synopsis

On the RPG Maker Central forums many years ago I wrote a outline/sketch for an RPG set (partially) in the community-created virtual LEGO town of Datsville. I have been updating it over the past few days, and will continue to do so over the next several weeks. I’m not sure how far I will progress with this, but here is what I have so far:

Working Title: “Datsville Through Time” maybe? Currently, it’s “Datsville RPG” which sucks.

Abstract: Datsville RPG is a story-heavy tactical RPG that begins in the community LEGO town project of the same name (begun c. 1999). There is a Facebook page which talks about Datsville. The party later travels to a number of exotic locations, meeting lots of strange people and doing many exciting and interesting things along the way. See “Story / Setting / Premise” for a better description.

Releases: My progress so far has mainly been in getting the graphics and combat scripts working. The source 3D models needed to be converted to POV-Ray format, rendered into images, then cropped and imported into RPG Maker. Several tech “demos” for RPG Maker VX Ace and MV are hosted on GitHub. The version of Datsville I’m working with has its own GitHub repository as well. There are no “releases” yet. You’ll need to download/clone the whole repository. You can find a high-res isometric render of the town here. There are only a few characters in the “demos” at this time, mainly to help me figure out how to script events.

Genre / Features: The game “demo(s)” currently feature a true-to-scale overworld map, with separate combat encounter maps, and one simple scripted side-quest. Combat is going to be TRPG-style, like Shining Force or Fire Emblem. Incorporating d20 rules somehow and making the role-playing system more complex would be nice but is not mandatory. (I have already worked with d20 in a programming context in the past, and could re-use a lot of the code.)

Note: the latest RMMV “demos” for the project only include a single scripted combat encounter. The older VX Ace “demo” is the one that includes the overworld map and side-quest. The LeTBS “demo” for RMMV is not working correctly. There is some kind of issue involving parallax backgrounds that I was never able to resolve. The newer SRPG Engine MV “demo” seems to be working okay.

Game Progression: Linear, no branching narrative. Maybe some traveling back and forth between locations in vehicles (van and spaceship).

Recruitment: I have no solid/fixed ideas for an overarching story as of this time. If someone were to join the project and contribute some story beats that would be awesome!

Story / Setting / Premise: I don’t have much as of now. I haven’t written a story since High School! However, I want the RPG to start out in a contemporary residential or small town setting. Sci-fi and fantasy/occult elements will appear later on. I’m not sure yet how much combat there will be in the game. Probably a lot, but I don’t want the combat to be the sole focus. Thematically, I am aiming for something between between Earthbound (video game), Farscape (TV show), Alien Resurrection (movie), X-COM (video game), Independence War 2 (video game) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (novel series). Sort of a semi-whimsical story involving aliens, deities, government agencies and possibly time travel, that focuses on a rag-tag band of misfits who find themselves on the wrong side of local/global/galactic law and are seeking to clear their names after being (unjustly) accused of some horrible crime. I would like it to be a “PG-13” or “Teen”-rated game. Likely a few mild or cloaked drug and sex references. I would like to incorporate some of the original Datsville model designers as NPC “Easter eggs” in the game, with their permission. (There are already two such named NPCs in the game, currently.) I’m not sure when this game will be set, though. Late 20th century? Early 21st? The present day? Does the entire group travel through time at some point prior to or during the story? Dunno. If I don’t feel confident in my thinking, I will just keep adding layers. Eventually a new structure/form will emerge by itself.

Character Bios: Here are the characters I’ve come up with so far.

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XyG4obH.png

(From left to right, and top to bottom.)

  1. Owen: English, teenager or young adult, hero, maybe a typical stoical Cowboy Western or anime-inspired “do-gooder” blank slate-type character, or a less narcissistic Bart Simpson/Zach Morris. I’m not really satisfied with him and may change him to something with a more elaborate and complicated backstory, for instance maybe he’s a wimpy nerd/bookworm/orphan with glasses and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, who has a powerful hidden arch-nemesis (okay, I haven’t actually thought of anything interesting on my own, yet). I don’t want the character to be overly one-dimensional though.
  2. Gabriel: Latin-American or Spanish, small time thug/criminal, thief & barter & gambling, passionate and romantic, ties to criminal underground, in search of his lost significant other, melee & small guns & shotguns & knives
  3. Terell: African-American or Caribbean, hero’s childhood friend, martial artist, strong & athletic, physically adept, blunt melee & unarmed, musician/bard, gamer, maybe kind of sarcastic/cynical/a jerk, nerd about something (what?)
  4. The Doctor: former Eastern Bloc/USSR, science/chemist/medicine, academic, heals stuff, somewhat of an intellectual elitist/snob, implied or openly gay
  5. Ingrid/Ursula: German, Technomancer, all things technical & computing, possibly connected at all times to a cyborg hivemind, pansexual/polyamorous including machine intelligences, two separate personality “programs” who are in control at various times, high mechanical/physical strength, hacking and “cyber mage”
  6. (Sir) Sanford: British, knighted late 19th/early 20th century big game hunter/officer/explorer, unwillingly transported through time, lots of anachronisms, “Fish Out of Temporal Water”, military officer training, tactician, highly adaptable, optimistic & affable, but sometimes callous, tracking & long guns & explosives
  7. Angus: celebrity “rock star”, vaguely “British/Scottish/Irish” gaelic with links to Ancient Egypt & antiquity & pre-history, possible alien life form and/or minor deity, think Zaphod Beeblebrox or Spinal Tap, “bard”, can summon undead, a mystic and semi-anarchist for whom “anything goes”
  8. Esmée: British/French/Scandinavian?, ninja and spy/secret agent, access to government funds, a member of the intelligence and espionage “family”, gadgets, knives & small swords & small silenced guns, thief & rogue
  9. Skelly: not much is known about this guy, he was summoned by Angus and simply never left the group, maybe that makes him a “groupie”, the only character other than Angus who may have non-technological “special powers”, comedy relief, also who was he when he was alive?
  10. … n. Need to keep brainstorming.

Additionally:

  1. Jeff Stembel is the mayor of Datsville. He always wears a bow tie and top hat. Very friendly, but kind of a dunce. Offers some dumb quests.
  2. Brian Sauls owns and runs the apartment complex at the northwest end of town. He is looking for tenants. Is he a good landlord or a shifty landlord? Don’t know yet.

Story Beats / Themes: Lots of tropes.

  • Falsely accused/mistaken identity: The group has been falsely accused of doing something they didn’t do. Don’t know what yet. Maybe they were mistaken for someone else.
  • On the run: The group is on the run from a variety of members of authority. Local/global/intergalactic authorities. The whole shebang. One group of “enforcers” you battle with will be pretty similar to what you see in X-COM, including a possible cameo by some aliens.
  • False motives/divided loyalties: Are the members of your group really who they seem to be? What are their real motives? Are they loyal to the group/hero or to another faction? Are members of other factions manipulating things from behind the scenes? Esmée’s professional loyalties. Esmée’s boss is also her father. Sanford’s loyalty to a once-great but now-diminished empire, and what it stood for. What are Ingrid/Ursula’s hivemind’s views on things? The Doctor is kind and generous, but also an ideologue. Terell is fiercely loyal, but also kind of an ideologue.
  • Time travel/cultural anachronism: 1. Sanford likes to trophy hunt, but hunting is not considered fashionable today. He holds what we would consider to be antiquated views on a variety of other subjects, as well. Yet, he remains upbeat and positive, and is well-liked by the rest of the group. 2. Skelly has been dead for God-knows-how-long. But he remembers virtually nothing from before he was summoned. Who was he, and what sort of life did he live before he died (the first time)? 3. Angus is an ancient being, and possibly immortal. What sort of experiences and wisdom does he bring with him from eons past? What are his actual motives? 4. Esmée and The Doctor seem like (and possibly literally are!) refugees/holdovers from the Cold War. Are they resurrecting/perpetuating old conflicts and fears into the present day and future for their own gain? 5. Ingrid/Ursula comes from a very “futuristic” society and culture. She brings with her ideas and mores that many of us would find radical and shocking. Does she represent mankind’s ultimate evolutionary terminus? Or, is our future not (yet, or at all) determined? The game will hopefully touch upon the subject of what it means to be a “fish” out of the “water” of time, including a trip or two through time together as a group. There won’t be any “causality loops” a la Back to the Future, though. Just possibly a couple of visits to alternate time periods while on the run.
  • Lost/unrequited love: Gabriel is searching for his lost girlfriend/fiancée. Sanford left his wife behind in the past in England. Esmée loves another spy in secret. Did Skelly have a wife and family when he was alive? Ingrid/Ursula has a tumultuous relationship with the cyborg hivemind.
  • Sanity in jeopardy: Ingrid/Ursula has two personalities that don’t always get along, as well as issues/conflict with the cyborg hivemind. Unrequited love is also causing other group members issues/anguish.
  • Mystery: What are “Zaphod’s” motives? What are Esmée’s faction’s motives and involvement in [plot]?
  • Tragedy: Not sure yet. Gabriel’s SO is missing, for one.
  • Intellectualism: The Doctor and Terell are both very highly educated, but are also somewhat rigid/inflexible ideologues.
  • Creativity: Terell and Angus are both musicians and performers. Terell started his own school of martial arts.
  • Spiritualism: Minor theme: The universe is full of needless/scary complexity that acts to entrap people’s minds. The heart/love/simplicity are what matters. Or something like that. Other themes: ???
  • Supernatural/occult: Need to create an occultism-related subplot for Angus.
  • Friendship: Doubts and suspicions are voiced/raised at various points in the story, but everyone ends up being awesome buds.
  • Romance: No, or only very limited “shipping” among the aforementioned characters, sorry. Gabriel will eventually find his lost love. Not sure if I will create a love interest for Owen, or who that will be.
  • Fun: Terell and Angus are musicians. Terell and Owen like gaming. Sanford likes to hunt rare and wild animals for trophies (as opposed to sustenance/survival) but really shouldn’t.
  • Training/discipline: Esmée, Terell and Sanford spend a lot of time in training/preparation. Angus never trains or prepares for anything. Owen is kind of a slacker.
  • Redemption: Redemption should be another major theme in the story toward the end. Not sure how, yet, other than that the group is struggling to clear its name after being falsely accused. Other members of the group may have legal/other issues that get resolved.
  • Comedy: A dumb idea for a running gag is that one or more of the party members is secretly a scholar of some silly or arcane subject matter (the mating habits of spotted leopard toads, for instance) that at first seems totally useless, but ends up being a crucial at some point in the story. This begins with The Doctor, whom you expect to be kind of a nerd given his background. It (maybe) ends with Angus—the most outlandish and enigmatic member of the group—having a much more ordinary and incongruous subject matter of interest, such as home plumbing or auto repair. The joke gets dumber or sillier (in a “Dad joke” sort of a way) with each iteration.
  • Other: Complicated structure is scary. For instance, the tangled plot the group finds itself mired in.

Locations:

  • The town hall is in the center of town across from the James Jessiman memorial.
  • There are a cricket stadium, reptile park and Buddhist temple in the northeast of town. A mosque lies to the southwest near the industrial area. I removed a chapel from the center of town because it is not a MOC and is therefore copyrighted by LEGO. I may re-add or replace it at some point in the future.
  • Outer Space Command, radar telemetry, and a plutonium storage facility are located on the south side of town. Tore Eriksson indicated he had some story ideas for this area…
  • A shopping center lies to the north.
  • An office complex and apartment building lie in the northwest end of town.
  • There are two schools: a grade school and a high school. There used to also be a university near the cricket stadium, but it was an official LEGO model and had to be removed. I hope to replace it as well.
  • An industrial area and (military) airport are on the far west side of town.
  • The town has a police station, fire station, hospital and construction yard. There is also a combination paramedic/fire brigade. Not really sure what it is.
  • The town’s denizens are currently not very diverse. I hope to rectify this in the future. (Messing with characters and vehicles is tricky in the software I’m using.)
  • Other locations, such as futuristic interior complexes, caves or wilderness, should be somewhat easier to design through the re-use of assets and procedural generation.

Credits: The following people have created LEGO models for Datsville:

  • Allan, Nicholas
  • Andersen, Jacob Sparre
  • Bliss, Steve
  • Burger, Thomas
  • Dennet, Ryan
  • Eriksson, Tore
  • Farver, Rob
  • Gallagher, Mike
  • Gatrelle, Ben
  • Gerber, Alan
  • Gevaryahu, Jonathan
  • Glöckner, Fredrik
  • Gonzalez, Joseph
  • Gould, Tim
  • Hess, Duane
  • Horvath, Michael
  • Isaksson, Anders
  • Jackson, James
  • Lambrecht, Bram
  • Loch, Kevin
  • Moolhuysen, Manfred
  • Probst, Joachim
  • Sauls, Brian
  • Sproat, Jeremy
  • Stembel, Jeffrey
  • Svensson (now Palmberg), Martin
  • Teed, Tamyra
  • VanZwieten, John
  • Virsik, Rene
  • Virsik, Robert
  • Walton, Calvin
  • Wilson, Jonathan
  • Zide, Leonardo
  • JAYSTEPHER The Lego Nerd
  • Dennis Osborn
  • Kevin Wilson
  • David Till
  • Joe Davenport
  • Kevin M Bane
  • Alex Taylor
  • D M Garcia
  • Michael Heidemann

A full list of creators and what specifically they contributed can be found in this table. New contributions are always welcome!

In RPG Maker, I am currently still using some Enterbrain resources, but am fazing them out. Third-party scripts I have used/am using at various times include the following:

  • “SRPG Engine MV” by Gakuto Mikagami and Doctor_Q
  • “Lecode Tactical Battle System” by Lecode
  • “Yanfly Engine Plugins” by Yanfly
  • “TDDP_BindPicturesToMap.js” by Tor Damian Design / Galenmereth
  • “SilvSkipTitle.js” by Silver
  • “Rhyme_MapSmoothScrolling.js” by SpeedDivider
  • “fullscreen.js” by Christian Schicho
  • “easystar.js” by Bryce Neal
  • “AS_InputSettings.js” by Astra Cat
  • “ARP_TitleCommandExit.js” by Atreyo Ray

Thanks to Eric Shumaker for donating a very nice audio track!

License: Probably Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 wherever possible. (Use of plugins and LEGO elements makes this problematic.)

Legal Disclaimer: LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this project.

Slide Show:

datsville_rpg_screen_01

Videos:

More videos, here.


Goodreads widget

I’m not sure where I can squeeze this onto my site since there’s so little room, but I stumbled across this widget on Goodreads that I like a lot. It shows a list of the twenty-four most recently published books I’ve read, in reverse order of publication. If I kept reliable records on the order in which I read books I could use those instead, but this is still a pretty good alternative. (And maybe more useful for visitors.) If you have JavaScript disabled in your browser you will see a static list that is current as of the date of this post.

Michael’s books

Leviathan Falls
The Trouble with Peace
Interlibrary Loan
Network Effect
Agency
Auberon
A Little Hatred
To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Tiamat's Wrath
The Raven Tower
The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction
The Winter of the Witch
The Book of Magic
Exit Strategy
The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London
Rogue Protocol
Record of a Spaceborn Few
Spinning Silver
The Flowers of Vashnoi
Artificial Condition


Michael Horvath’s favorite books »

The book covers are centered with respect to each other, and are separated by 2 pixels. I also added a black background and a hover effect that changes the cover graphics to appear lighter and grayer. I couldn’t figure out how to style the extra link Goodreads places at the bottom of the grid, so I hid the link using the associated URL parameter that Goodreads provides. I had to manually add Flexbox styling to the widget since it does not include any by default, and the default styling conflicts with my website. The grid should be responsive, though I haven’t tested the widget on my phone yet.

Here is the custom CSS code:


div#gr_grid_widget_1615614778 {
  background-color: #000000;
  max-width: 600px;
  margin: auto;
}
div#gr_grid_widget_1615614778 h2 {
  display: inline-block;
  padding: 4px;
  margin: 0px;
}
div#gr_grid_widget_1615614778 h2 a {
  color: #ffffff;
}
div.gr_grid_container {
  /* customize grid container div here. eg: width: 500px; */
  display: flex;
  flex-wrap: wrap;
  align-items: center;
  justify-content: space-around;
  padding: 0px;
  margin: 0px;
}
div.gr_grid_container a {
}
div.gr_grid_book_container {
  /* customize book cover container div here */
  width: 98px;
  height: 160px;
  padding: 0px;
  margin: 0px;
  overflow: hidden;
}
div.gr_grid_book_container:hover {
  filter: grayscale(1) brightness(1.5);
}

The actual widget code can be gotten from the Goodreads website under your personal Account Settings.


Website updates

I have made a number of small updates to the website over the past few days. Hopefully it looks a little better and loads quicker. I’m also using a private GitHub repository now to organize and manage the site.

[ed]

I have made considerable changes to the site’s appearance since this post was made in January. See my Evolution of a Website page for a series of screenshots going back many years.

[ed]

My apologies for any broken links and so forth.



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