Sunday, July 31, 2011

[Inform ATTACK] Version 3 released

I am happy to announce Version 3 of Inform ATTACK. As always, the latest version can be found here; if you specifically want version 3, click here.

Code written for version 2 will generally be compatible with version 3, though you should check out the changelog below to see if any of the changes might interfere with your existing code. Updating to version 3 is recommended because it brings a more robust handling of readying and natural weapons. Version 3 also adds the "weapon damage bonus" property, which can be used to increase or decrease the damage dealt by weapons in a more flexible way than was previously possible with only the "damage die" property. (The base damage dealt by a weapon is now a random number between 1 and damage die, plus the weapon damage bonus.)

Full changelog:

  • Added "wield [weapon]" and "use [weapon]"' as synonyms for readying.
  • Readying now applies to a visible rather than a touchable thing.
  • A new check readying rule, the cannot ready what is already readied rule, rejects the readying action when applied to a readied weapon. This failed action takes no time.
  • The standard report readying rule now handles second person singular and any person plural correctly, and has a slightly improved message.
  • The parser now considers it unlikely that the player wants to ready a natural weapon.
  • The ready natural weapons if no other weapon readied rule has been removed in favour of a more robust system of readying natural weapons.
  • There is a new phrase "ready natural weapons", which readies the natural weapons of any alive person in the location who has no other readied weapon. This is run every combat round (by the govern combat first part rule).
  • When play begins, the ready weapons for everyone rule is run, readying a weapon for every person in the game -- carried non-natural weapons if possible, otherwise natural weapons.
  • The standard AI will no longer sometimes choose to ready an already readied weapon. (The weight entry has been decreased from -100 to -1000.)
  • When striking a blow, the game now abides by (rather than considering) the immediate results of hitting rules. This gives the author more control -- for instance, the author can now stop the blow if the immediate result of hitting someone is death.
  • The phrase "You were killed by X." will no longer be printed as (for example) "You were killed by the dead troll." if the troll also died during the attack. ATTACK will now always print "You were killed by the troll.".
  • If the damage die of a weapon is less than 1, it will no longer be rolled by the standard damage roll rule; its result will be considered 0. (Negative dice make little sense.)
  • All weapons now have a number that varies called the "weapon damage bonus", which is usually 0, but can be both positive and negative. The standard damage roll rule adds this number to the damage roll. The damage dealt by a weapon before modifiers is therefore 1d(damage die) + (weapon damage bonus).

Friday, July 15, 2011

On judgement

This post has been in the back of my mind for a very long time, but has recently been promoted to the front by reading reviews of The Witcher 2. I guess I should make it now, before a proximity with a competition I intend to enter may make it seem less disinterested than it, of course, is.

Here is a typical discussion you'll find on the internet about a review of a game.
A: This review sucks, because X.
B: A review is just an opinion, man! It can't be wrong or right.
C: No, a review is not just an opinion.
D, E, F, G and H: You're really stupid!
But C isn't stupid. C is right. If you write a review, you are not just giving an opinion. You are giving a judgement, and a judgement is something that aims to be reasonable and objective. There are standards to which a judgement must conform; and a judgement can fail to conform to those standards and be wrong.

It is important to understand that this reasonableness and objectivity have little to do with the final verdict expressed in the judgement. Reasonable judges can give the same game a 10 or a 3. A judgement is reasonable and objective when it is based on reason; when the judge can give an analysis of the game and explain his verdict using criteria that other people can understand and sympathise with. There may be disagreements about the exact application of those criteria, but there is in general agreement about the criteria themselves.

Why was this topic in the back of my mind for a long time? Because every IF competition has a couple of judges who flagrantly ignore the basics of what it means to be a judge. These are the people who write reviews that go: "After playing for five minutes, I really didn't like the game and I couldn't be bothered to play any further. So that is a solid 1." That is not a judgement about the quality of the game. That is an expression of personal feeling. There is nothing wrong with approaching IF with the idea that you will stop playing any game that doesn't make you enthusiastic in five minutes. Fine. But something is very wrong with having this attitude and then being a judge in a competition. When a competition is looking for judges, it is looking for judges, for people who are willing to invest enough time and thought into the games that they can form a reasonable judgement about its quality; it is not looking for people who believe that their immediate emotional reaction to something is valid and worthy of being communicated to the rest of mankind. (This may be hard to grasp in the era of Facebook and Twitter, but really, it is true!) If that is the way you approach a competition, you are just as wrong as a legal judge who doesn't weigh the evidence but bases his verdict on personal like or dislike of the accused -- the only difference being that the consequences of your actions are less dire.

So, yes, reviews can be reasonable or unreasonable; they are not just opinions; and judging a competition is serious business. Before you give a bad mark to a game because you "didn't like it", ask yourself whether you have seen enough of the game to come to a reasonable judgement. Otherwise, a little bunny cries. Really.

Kerkerkruip design journal #8: an update on progress

You may think my not posting about Kerkerkruip means that I haven't been working on it. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. In fact, I am very rapidly approaching the first beta: a feature-complete game with documentation, cover art, and hundreds of bugs!

Talking about documentation, I am planning on recording a short introduction video. You will see me playing the game in gargoyle (the video captures a part of my desktop), and you will hear me explaining the basics of the Kerkerkruip system. Technically, this is very easy (using gtk-recordmydesktop); and I suspect a tutorial video can be a lot more fun than a written tutorial. There will also be written help, of course, for those who prefer it and those who wish to look something up.

I just got permission to use the photograph I found on Flickr, so let me share the cover art with you:

Perhaps the text on the right should be a bit more orange? Let me know what you think.

I'm really looking forward to the IF competition. And it is still so far away...