नीडϠ (Nidats: 900 Nests) and Monetization

You may have noticed a recent drought of content for this blog. There’s a number of reasons for that, but the most pressing is that no one is paying us to do this, so we do it whenever we feel like.

So, how do we get paid to work on Fledgeling? We could just take donations, but they don’t work well. Patronage is just regular donations, and this model hasn’t worked well for us either. At least, not so far.

The classic approach is to charge for copies of the software, Continue reading

Uplift: Plants

PlantExampleTerestrial plants grow from seeds. A seed is a concentrated bit of building materials, energy, and instructions that is missing one thing… water. In fact, water is the critical component which allows seeds to flourish. There are also factors such as temperature, air, and light.

In keeping with the simplified nature of Uplift, this process is simplified as well. A plant has three primary resources it keeps track of (alongside the structural and thermal ones that are inherent to all blocks in Uplift): Nutrients, Energy, and Water. In addition, there are three primary structural components: Leaves, Stem, and Roots. Continue reading

Uplift: Components

Uplift is a toy-box. Each of the components can be thought of as a toy from a compatible set. But it is also software, and some things rely on other things in order to function. Trees, for instance, need water to live. If you tried to play with trees without the concept of water, you wouldn’t get very far.

UpliftFoundation

Tada! … Maybe it’s still not obvious what is going on here? Yeah, I don’t really know either.

In order to simultaneously provide toy-box freedom alongside robust dependency visualization, while staying true to the nested voxel presentation, I decided to structure the component dependencies such that they form a voxel structure. Each block relies on all of the blocks beneath it.

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Uplift: Not Minecraft

I love procedural content generation. I enjoy Minecraft, and contributed to its development. It’s a fun… Game? Toy? Software?

Minecraft is a fun software.

And it does a lot of things right. It has a consistent abstracted graphical style. It encourages the players imagination. But it also blindly incorporates luck, refuse to give players abilities afforded to the AI, and tends to seem to suffer quite a bit from designer hubris. Overall, it like it, but I also want to improve on it. Continue reading

Uplift: Introduction

Minecraft is a proven product. Fledgeling is a distant dream. Somewhere between Fledgeling and Minecraft, Uplift juts, jaggedly jousting juxtaposition.

How much can be accomplished in a breath? A day? A lifetime? What can be done with a grain of sand, a brick, or a mountain? What is it like to be a tuft of grass, a bug, a crystal, or an avalanche? Could intelligent rabbits build a civilization? All these questions and more, I intend to explore in Uplift.

If none of that interests you, you should probably stop here. But if it intrigues you, please read on. Continue reading

Uplift: The Game, The Name

Aside

Small Uplift image

Perhaps something like this?

Working on a game concept: codename Uplift.

Where did the name “Uplift” come from? There are a few reasons, that make sense.

  • One of the main mechanics is lifting large blocks of stone and earth.
  • It involves elevating unintelligent creatures to intelligence, technology, and civilization.
  • It is intended as a step between Minecraft and Fledgeling, an attempt to raise the expectations of gamers without attempting any mind-breaking leaps.

Further details forthcoming!

Informed Action

In the case of the people talking, it seems that the surrounding nodes would need to broadcast their shatter conditions so that the node’s currently being simulated know what factors to calculate… Perhaps even, the only factors that need to be simulated are those that relate to shatter points of surrounding nodes… Like sarcasm, its not even thought about (thus not simulated) amongst those who don’t care. Has this been thought about already?

-Excerpt from a comment by Luke

You raise an interesting point, and one I think bears examination.The idea of simulating only the bare minimum required by circumstances is a sound one. It avoids many of the problems of creating masses of extraneous information, and transmitting this information between characters. On the other hand, one of the core ideas in Fledgeling is that of imperfect perception, either by way of being incomplete, incorrect, or deluded. And, in real life, one of the characteristics of shatter points is that you rarely know where they are until you reach them. In other words, they are very difficult to perceive. Continue reading

Fledgeling Discussion 01

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If you’re interested, here’s the raw live recording with an extra twenty minutes of random chatter and dropping calls.

NOTE: The following is a dialog between a couple of friends of mine. I’ve talked with “A” extensively on the topic of Fledgeling, and he’s probably the world’s leading expert at this point (Certainly above me. I may be a “visionary”, but half the time I can’t concoct two clauses to rub against each-other). Participant “Q” is also an old friend, and a vetran of industry-critical software development, as well as high traffic web design. The dialogue has been edited for clarity, and I have inserted notes where appropriate to offer clarification. On the whole, I find this discussion fascinating and enlightening, and I hope you do as well. Enjoy!

Q: Do you think the whole “glorified social experience” is just a sort of fad that might pass? Or do you think games will continually develop that way?

A: Both yes and no. An interesting phenomenon to which crowd sourced funding and increased availability to starving developers has given rise is the rise of new, usually-single player, original game experiences. Things like Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program and Dwarf Fortress. At this point they’re generally focused on exploring an idea. Minecraft is basically “will people play a game that isn’t really a game?” in a java app. KSP is “will people play a game where the only rules are Newtonian physics?” Dwarf Fortress is “will people value integrity in a simulation over presentation?” Continue reading

Books, Movies, and Fledgeling

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My dad is a salesman, and works from home fairly frequently. When we were little, he used to walk by while we were watching movies, on his way to or from his home office. We had a fairly small library of shows, so we re-watched them with fair regularity. I recall him asking with alacrity, “How’s it going to end this time?” It became a running joke.

Because, of course, it always ended the same way. Continue reading

The Unconscious

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Fledgeling will likely have an “unconscious layer” of information. Things the player can not view or directly change, but nevertheless influences the player character’s actions. Unlike most games, the player’s control over their character will be tenuous at best. Most of the necessary functions required for efficient functioning are trivial and unimportant for conscious decision. The player controls the character, by which we mean the character’s major decisions. But for everything else the character relies, to a great degree, on the subconcious.

Now, before you point it out, yes, I am fully aware that “unconscious” and “subconscious” mean two different things. Fortunately I intend to ignore both formal definitions. What I mean is basically anything that you don’t make a decisive choice about. Continue reading

Flenglish

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What language will Fledgeling speak?

Not precisely your language, unfortunately. On the other hand, no one speaks anyone else’s language precisely. From an early age we both conform to others linguistic oddities and invent them ourselves. Thus arise “dialects” and “slang” and a host of other linguistic structures which continue to concern both young and old (though, usually, in different capacities) Continue reading

My Daughter’s Storybook, and What Griefs Came of It.

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My daughter came up to me with a book. It’s one of those “books” with four pages, entirely fabricated from impact rated cardboard and primary color paint. Within is depicted a house (Along with what seems to be a completely random assortment of other objects. A dog, a tire, a pond, what is this? It should be titled “A Child’s Guide to Pastoral Free Association”… But I digress.) with a front door, a couple windows, a roof. Common fare.

But it is not common to her. To her, this house is a place of infinite mystery. Continue reading

Kerbal Space Program

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A couple of weeks ago, dudecon introduced me to Kerbal Space Program, an in-development “space program” simulator. Since then, I’ve started getting up early to squeeze in an hour or so of play in the mornings, played at home, played at work, and spent no less than 20 hours developing a Python script to parse the game files to do out-of-game “rocket science” analyses on parts and spacecraft. You don’t know me very well, so in case I’ve not made it clear: I think this game is a ton of fun.

Continue reading

Imagination

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You are going to need some imagination to enjoy Fledgeling. It won’t be all in your head (or will it?) but just like a lot of other games the presentation and interface only tell you enough to get you started. You have to (get to?) fill in the blanks yourself.

But this is the norm. A certain amount of imagination is required for any activity. Continue reading

What Fledgeling is Not

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Fledgeling is not what you expect, nor what you are familiar with. Fledgeling is not like some other game you’ve played before. It is not generic. (Just a note, I’ll be talking about what “Fledgeling is” in the definitive existential sense, despite the fact that it has certainly not been implemented yet (except to the extent that it is a mimicry of the real world and the mind, both of which seem to have been implemented quite handily (but not by us)). This is mostly for clarity and simplicity. If it bothers you, simply replace each occurrence of “Fledgeling is” with “we haven’t quite figured out what we’re doing yet, but by the time we’re finished it’s quite possible that Fledgeling is going to be”. My intention is to communicate, rather than offer prophecy or misleading present tense declarations.)

Fledgeling is not Minecraft, or COD, or MOO2, or Starflight, or Dungeon Siege, or Missile Command, or Spacechem, or Trine. It draws from these (and many others) as a source of inspiration. It is not really like these at all. Continue reading

Master of Orion II

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This is one of those older games. We played it quite a bit (my brothers, friends, and myself) when we were younger. It’s a “classic 4X” turn based game with a good bit of depth and variation. I haven’t played it in years (and years) now, but here’s what I recall.

Nostalgia Warning! My memories of the game may depart vastly from the game itself. This game may actually be much less interesting and enjoyable than I recall.

Things Master of Orion 2 does right:

  • Interesting tightly woven systems. The race choice (along with a powerful race customization tool) and research options play tightly together. Both directly and strongly influence space combat and planetary colonization choices. There are very few “dud” options, but the choices you make early on can come back later in the game. The no-back-tracking science research acts like a modern skill tree, requiring your entire race to make decisions about trade-offs between different abilities. Continue reading

Tank Made of Paint

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One of the most frustrating things about computer games is the common focus on graphic fidelity without matching high fidelity mechanics, interface, and characters. There’s a good overview of the problem over there. I’d like to add a few points.

Graphics are like paint. A good coat of paint does wonders for a project. Paint can really solidify a design, whether code or concrete, into something stunning. Paint takes “machined” parts and turns them into “finished” ones, ready for assembly. Paint can turn a car into a statement, an expression!

But don’t build an engine out of paint. Continue reading

Why Fledgeling?

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Why create Fledgeling? What is so special about this concept? And why this and not something else? Why take time from my friends and family and invest in idea which, truth be told, will likely never succeed?

We all believe we understand the world, more or less. But there are also mysteries. For me, the mystery is pretty much everything. I’m not able to confidently predict all of it. I’m curious. I want to know if I understand things properly. Creating is a way to check that, to compare the internal world with the external one. Fledgeling is a model of the whole world. I’m curious how accurate it is.

That, and I’m too proud for my own good. Continue reading

Issues of Scale

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Things come in different sizes. That’s the premise here. A given. Most games deal at least a little with scale imbalance. Fledgeling will deal with objects and organizations on vastly different scales.

But what does it mean that something is bigger or smaller? Does size really matter as much as we think? Can a difference in size amount to a difference in kind? I would say, respectively: Larger things are more difficult to work with, but also more useful. Not really. No. A single set of flexible rules should be able to account for the behavior of large and small alike.

What does scale mean? Like any distinction, scale means relative motion along several gradients. Here are five to get you thinking. Continue reading

What is Fledgeling?

Aside

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Fledgeling is a numeric role playing framework with integrated Simulated Intelligence and nested fractal structure.

Fledgeling is a computer game. Sort of. It is also a game engine.The TableTop RPG analogy is probably the best. Fledgeling is an attempt to fabricate a computer program that can act as both mediator and storyteller, with the ability to adapt to player actions. So basically we’re trying to make an AI DM.

The overview page says the same thing in more words.

On how minds turn

Aside

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Fledgeling is, at its core, a game about your mind.

No, not the character’s mind, the player’s mind.

The mind that is reading this sentence right now.

Your mind is dumb. I want to build you a better one. Construct something new with the rubble that is left, once you have seen what I have seen.

Oh? Your “sanity” is strong? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it will withstand the blows, the rocking shift beneath your feet, as the soil turns to sea. Can your philosophy survive at twenty thousand feet underwater? Perhaps it will.

You may be blind to the implications. Perhaps, both unseeing and unhearing (or lashed upon the mast) you will sail past the sirens. You could come, unaltered, to familiar soil, and eat the same bread you ate before.

But then, if Fledgeling does not change you, why would you play at all?

The Metaverse

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Let’s talk about “The Metaverse”. What is it? Why is it desirable? Who cares? Sure, you can look it up on Wikipedia, but here’s the digested version.

Basically, the Metaverse is a shared artificial computer-based world. It’s like an MMO, the Internet, and Sim Everything all rolled into one. Throw in a bit of Science Fiction and a dash of the Matrix and you’ve got the Metaverse. Let’s break this down a bit: Continue reading

SpaceChem

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I really can’t say enough good things about this game. I’ve already written about the experience elsewhere, so I’ll try to stick to seeing SpaceChem from the game designer’s perspective.

Things SpaceChem does right:

  • Player freedom: The story stays out of the way and lets the game go. You can even ignore the story entirely, and just play the “puzzle” part of the game. The puzzles let you solve the challenge any way you want. There is no “right” solution (though some are better than others). SpaceChem never forces you to take time out of gameplay to experience the story. It’s totally optional. Continue reading

Dwarf Fortress

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Dwarf Fortress is an amazing game. When I first began playing, it fulfilled many long-nascent desires (desires later scratched in a different way by Minecraft). After a while, I grew tired of its idiosyncratic foibles (and I discovered Minecraft). Here are my thoughts. Keep in mind that DF is still in development, and could use your support. Consider downloading the game and donating a meal or two worth of cash to the talented Tarn Adams.

What DF does right:

  • The interface is really dense. Sure, when you first look at it it appears that the Quadratic Formula exploded but after a while it grows on you. The interface exposes a ton of information that would normally remain hidden in sub-menus. The keystroke oriented input also makes it easy to automate tasks. A whole set of AutoHotkey scripts are available, which would be impossible if not for the input oriented interface. Continue reading

An Ode to The Glorious

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Some credits up front, most of the ideas that Fledgeling was drawn from are not my own. Many have been drawn from other computer games, or things other people have said. Mostly, however, the ideas have come from God’s creation (which is to say, from experience of the world) or from God’s word (which is to say, the Bible). In recognition, here’s a short psalm.

in his name, from the seat of his personality
for what you have known, the things proceeding from your understanding
right things, the firm knowledge
give glory to the origin, ascribe to Him the just Honor!
when doubt assails you, when your hope grows dim
then make your foundations firm, search out the sound basis
with Him is the right way, in Him can be found the sure path
though you may have good ideas, your reasoning understandable and convincing
all good things come from His hand, the free gifts flow without bounds
take from the Glorious One, receive the good things without shame
rejoice in firmness and health, and make good use of your powers
without Him we are nothing, lacking the Source all streams dry up
continue in His mercies, make sport in the good paths

It doesn’t do Him justice, but I hope it does Him proud. Thanks to all of you who have helped through the years. I really appreciate it.

What does this have to do with Fledgeling? Well, the philosophy of the designer works its way into everything that a game is. It affects what is put in and (more subtle) what is left out. I believe that God made the world good, and understandable. It’s going to come out in anything I do, and especially an everything-sim like Fledgeling. If you want to make a nihilistic ode to destruction, go visit some other series. I serve a different spirit, one that has blessed creation.

Computer Toys

Aside

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I’m going to say up front that I can be sloppy with terminology. I re-define words mid-argument and occasionally use words as their antonyms. It should therefore come to no surprise that, on a blog almost entirely focused on computer games, I use the term “computer games” with a bit of latitude.

There is a real and useful distinction between games and toys, and I intend to ignore it. The term “game” is used to denote an activity with a clear win condition. A toy is just something you play with. One could hardly call Minecraft a game; It’s more of a toy really. Yet, no one refers to Minecraft as a “computer toy”. That makes it sound like a pink plastic fake laptop that plays children’s songs when you press any one of the six oversize keys. But, “computer toys” (like Minecraft) are important, and employ many of the same design principles as games. So, throughout this website, I’ll be using the term “game” in all its permutations (computer game, game design, etc) to refer both to computerized games, and computerized toys.

Please forgive me.