Anathema

Those who know me realize that I’m into role-playing games. My game of the moment is Exalted. Like most games, software exists to manage characters and so on. The best of the breed for Exalted right now is Anathema, a java-based system for which I have kind of defaulted to be the “Mac release guy”. Basically, I’m responsible for turning releases into double-clickable Mac applications.

Doing this with Java applications is easier than I expected, though presently Anathema is fairly non-Mac looking. I’m looking to change that, if possible. Having never done much Java development specific to the Mac, I’ve been logging my experiences from initial check out of code on in an Exalted-based forum. I don’t have a lot of time to tinker, especially since my laptop drive died (again), but I’ll continue posting there as long as I can stand it.

And, if you are a Mac-using player of Exalted, please download the Mac package and let me know if it has any problems.

How you will be wasting your time in the near future

Will Wright has changed the face of computer gaming at least twice. He’s about to do it again in what may turn out to be the coolest video game ever. I’m not even going to try to explain it, but let Mr. Wright show you himself in this video. The video is quite long. After about the first two minutes, you are thinking to yourself “well, that looks like it might be kinda fun”. After about seven minutes, you really want to play it. But the video continues for another twenty minutes and just keeps getting better.

Seriously, if you like computer simulation games at all, spend the time to watch the whole thing. Keep an eye out for the way he uses the word “landmark”, which gives some interesting insight into the way his mind works.

Once you’ve seen the video, you might also read this article about it. I think it’s pretty clear that “Spore” will be a household word before the decade is out.

WoW Hollywood

Like any good on-line game, World of Warcraft has spawned numerous communities, each with their own culture. I think two of these cultures could come together fairly soon and create something impressive and fun.

A robust, talented and creative collection of people use WoW to create machinima, animated movies that use 3D game engines to capture “live” motion of the models (as opposed to frame-by-frame hand rendered stop motion animation). Like most genres, machinima obeys Sturgeon’s Law (90% of anything is crap), but when it’s good, it’s extremely impressive what can be done with just images from a game. The Warcraft machinima community, in particular, seems to cut across a wide swath of styles, from drama to advertisements, comedy, even…uh…romance (may not be safe for work). Even using just the limited emotional and motion range of the avatars and camera in WoW, much of this work is impressive.

A completely unrelated group has been irritating Blizzard, the makers of WoW, by running private servers. These servers emulate the real game servers run by Blizzard, allowing clients to log in for free. Generally, being reverse engineered, these private servers are buggy, slow, vastly underpopulated and potentially ripe to be shut down an any moment by Blizzard legal. Still, there are a bunch of them. One of their attractions is that, given control over the server, it can be tweaked to, say, increase the rate of experience awards or otherwise customize the game.

And this is where I think the two communities could meet. It seems like it would be desirable for the machinima community to have a hacked server with additional camera motion control, undisturbed access to sets (that is, the ability to reach places in the game without being attacked by mobs), complete wardrobe control and so on. Sort of a Hollywood back lot for producing machinima.

I’m probably the worst person to comment on this, as I neither produce machinima nor use private servers. For all I know, something like this already exists. Still, I’m not going to do anything with the idea, and it seems a shame to let go to waste.

Also, since I’m on the subject of WoW, just a random lament: if only the game supported selling short! With the war effort currently ongoing, you could probably make a killing on commodities that were close to being fully collected.

World of interface geekery

While watching the blessedly final appearance of some bad football announcers (“we could end up on the ocho”), I tinkered with some World of Warcraft addons. I had an idea of how I wanted things to look, but couldn’t realize it until finding FlexBar. Along with Titan, this incredibly arcane add-on (the FAQ indicates that the original author considered vi good user interface) allowed me to make my UI look like this:

If you want to do the same, the following might save you some pain. Once you install FlexBar, logon to WoW and go to the screen that allows you to edit your keybindings. Scroll down and you’ll see a bunch of FlexBar related bindings, all bound to nothing. Do the following:

  1. Bind some key (I used ctl-shift-f) to the “Open Flex Main Menu”.
  2. Bind FlexBar Button 1 through 12 to your primary action keys (e.g. 1, 2, …, 9, 0, -, =)
  3. Bind FlexBar Button 25 through 36 to some lesser-used action keys (e.g. shift-1, shift-2, …, shift–, shift-=). If you follow these instructions, these would be actions assigned to your right vertical bar.
  4. Bind FlexBar Button 49 through 60 to some lesser-used action keys (e.g. shift-F1, shift-F2, …, shift-F11, shift-F12). If you follow these instructions, these would be actions assigned to your right secondary bar.
  5. Bind FlexBar Button 61 through 72 to your secondary action keys (e.g. F1, F2, …, F11, F12). If you follow these instructions, these would be actions assigned to your left secondary bar.

Once done, return to the main screen and hit the key combo you assigned to the FlexBar main menu (item #1, above). In the ugly window that pops up, click “Script Editor”. This brings up another ugly window. Paste the following into it:

RunScript Script='MainMenuBar:Hide()' on='ProfileLoaded',
group button=1-12 anchor=1,
group button=25-36 anchor=25,
group button=61-72 anchor=61,
group button=49-60 anchor=49,
horizontalgroup group=1,
moveabs button=1 xx=2 yy=40,
horizontalgroup group=25,
moverel button=25 trgbtn=12 dx=38 dy=0,
horizontalgroup group=61,
moverel button=61 trgbtn=1 dx=0 dy=38,
horizontalgroup group=49,
moverel button=49 trgbtn=72 dx=38 dy=0,
show group=1,
show group=49,
show group=61,
show group=25,
lock group=1,
lock group=49,
lock group=61,
lock group=25,
text button=1-120 text='%b',
justifytext button=1-120 pos='bottomright'

This script assumes standard UI scaling. Under this scaling, buttons are 38 pixels. If your UI uses different scaling, you’ll need to change items in the script like “dx=38” to use whatever pixel size you use. Also, if you don’t want the labels on the buttons, remove the last two lines. Pasting this might strip out the returns, which you will need to add back in.

Once this script is pasted in, click the “config” button. This will run the items in this script (you’ll see them flash in green at the top center of the main screen. You might want to save the script as “DefaultConf” or something similar.

At this point, your new bars should be set up, but the default button bars (with the dragons on the side) is probably still visible. The script above will have added a line to take care of hiding it on startup, but you need to force one execution of it. You can do so by doing anything that changes the resolution of the screen (moving to windowed mode and back, for example) or logging off then back on.

You should also read the FlexBar docs if you use this beast, but that should get you going.

Update: I should have made clearer that if you hide your main bar as show here, non-toolbar functionality, like bags and xp display, are hidden. This is where the aforementioned Titan comes in, as it gives access to much of this functionality. Also, key combinations (e.g. ‘o’ for the social panel or ‘p’ for the spellbook) continue working as normal.

One thing that I do need to change is to move the “Channeling” bar up a bit. When I get this working, I’ll update the script above.

Wow

If art moves you in some way, it’s priceless. If it doesn’t, it’s worthless. While wandering through Blizzard’s fan art section, where random people can submit artwork inspired by Blizzard games, I ran across a rather amazing painting. The artist is Russian, as is most of his site. A good portion of his gallery, however, is most impressive. My Russian is a bit too rusty to translate his more recent pages. Babelfish isn’t much help either. Mechanical English/Russian translation really sucks, usually. The urban legends aren’t far off. In any case, thought some of you might dig the art. I bet he’d be a good Shadowrun illustrator.

Wasting money

With shockingly little consideration, I just spent an indefensible amount of money (over $100) on a single role-playing game supplement. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I’m now the proud owner of the world’s largest dungeon. Let me see if I can convey the size of this thing: there is a map measuring 17″ x 22″ with 114 rooms. This map is described by 45 pages of very small text. This is “part A”. The dungeon goes to “part O”, each with a similarly sized map and usually larger text section, all bound into an 840 page hardback book.

Initially, I was interested in the gimmick of it, kind of a “just to say I have it” sort of a purchase. Surprisingly, though, the whole thing is bound together by a fairly decent story. It’s also pretty well organized and is thought out to run a party from low to high levels. It’s good enough to make me want to run it (or, at least, in it), but at the rate I play, it would take a really long time. I could never, I thought to myself, “do it right”.

Then I got to thinking about what “doing it right” might entail. Since I was in an extravagant mood, why not really go for broke? I think I could do it right if I could throw away no more than $250,000.

The basic idea would be to rent a house for a month to six weeks somewhere remote, but still cool, like Turks and Caicos. A group of five to seven players and a DM would live in the house and game starting at noon every weekday, usually until late in the evening. This group would probably be recruited somehow, possibly over the net, then weeded down to an interview and so on. Players would be given:

  • Travel to and from the location
  • Lodging and food
  • $2500/week salary
  • A 12″ PowerBook to keep

The DM would receive a similar package, but would be paid $3500/week and given a 17″ PowerBook. A minivan or similar vehicle would be made available for the duration for the group.

The computers are crucial for two reasons. First, in exchange for the salary, the players and DM would each be expected to blog about the experience each day. They could do this in their own voice or in character. For best effect, the members of the group would not be permitted to see each other’s blogs (probably just by using the honor system but perhaps through firewall rules, though these can be dodged).

More importantly, all the machines would be networked to a LAN while playing. Some of this might require some custom software, but the basic idea would be that nearly all of the events of the game (like die rolls, awarding and spending experience, etc.) would be done with the laptops (rather than pen, paper and dice) and it would all be logged automatically. In particular:

  • All dice rolling would be handled by software. (If necessary, cheating could be avoided by hosting a dice server on the DMs machine.)
  • Players could send secret messages to the DM or other players.
  • Players could track all aspects of their characters (including expendable equipment like torches, which is more important in this dungeon than others).
  • The DM could get a summary view of all the characters and make changes to them that cascade to the player’s machines (things like reducing hit points or increasing experience).
  • The DM could send images to individual players or the whole group.

Audio of the sessions would be recorded (either by the DM’s machine or by another on site machine). Video might be taken, though it would probably need to be more of the “one image every few seconds” kind. Everything (including the logs) would be made available online, so anyone crazy enough could reconstruct it if they wanted. The group would be incommunicado with the internet (and vice versa) while in session.

Now I just need someone to fund it. Maybe I could pitch it to the Sci-Fi Network as a reality show.

Charm tree update

About two days after last updating my Exalted charm trees, some new books were released, so I’ve updated them yet again. Thanks go out to Thomas Balls-Thies, a reader who spotted a number of problems (the fixes for which uncovered about a dozen more). Changes in this version are:

  • Added charms from The Autochthonians
  • Added charms from the Cult of the Illuminated
  • Changed “Dragon-Blooded” pages to “Terrestrial”
  • Changed celestial martial arts trees to start with a generic “Celestial initiation” requirement.
  • Fixed a slew of errors, including a handful of missing charms

You can grab the update in the tools section of my Exalted page.