Idea Byre

All World-Building is Modeling

First, I want to propose that all world-building is model building. When I say “model” you may think of something technical, like a climate model running on some super computer. But there are many kinds of model. They can indeed be mathematical, but can also be purely mental, drawn on paper, or made of clay. A model is really just a (theoretical) understanding of a system.

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Imagine that a posse of armed fighters, with few connections to society, travel around a sparsely-settled wilderness. They ride into town as vigilantes, have a drink at the tavern, and dispatch some wrong-doers. They are generally men of violence, and take on missions for reward and fame. They battle barbarian monsters outside of town, and care most of all for their own skill and freedom. We could be at the O.K. corral, or any knock-off of the Shire, couldn’t we? Just swap the revolvers for swords.

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In a basic sense, puzzles in adventure games are very simple: you have discrete objects, with different stats. By combining the right objects, or perhaps taking the right action type, you can advance through a chain of causality; eventually unlocking the final "win" state of the game.

I find it u...

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There is a big resurgence in adventure games, especially form indie developers, many emulating classic tech, with big pixels. It's amazing, and a boon for adventure lovers like me, who grew up with text adventures. But what enabled this? Easy indie development for one, and the technology for nicer palettes and voice acting, which the originals couldn't do. But I think the biggest reason is difficulty.

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There is an interesting irony in the last historical intellectual revolution, which ended the imperial period. The hierarchical social structures that dominated life then were presented as absolute, but were not actually justified by universalism, as we might think. In fact, universalism was a refor...

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For world-builders who work upwards, from physical detail to people, there comes a phase in every project when you have to worry about climate: the long-term patterns in weather that will matter to the civilizations of your world. This article is a practical guide to getting yourself a decent, believable climate without enormous amounts of work. You can consider this a first-order approximation of climate; there are many ways to add more detail and realism, and I’ll point some of these out as we go. I often do world-building with the computer, but here I’ll mostly talk about drawing on a paper map, for simplicity.

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In looking for the next intellectual/religious revolution, we can search for patterns in those of the past. Here is a summary of the major patterns I see, with the axial age as an example, followed by some musings on how we might fulfill these patterns today.

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Data analysis involves a lot of technicalities, but also sometimes accounting for human error. If data have been manually keyed in, typos are inevitable. Checking numerical values for outliers can find some of these mistakes; but what should we look for?

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In a computer game you can have numerical variables that span any range, that are even non-linear, and otherwise very complex. But in a tabletop game, the players have to do the math themselves (or consult tables) and must track everything too. Tracking if variable states is especially tough with mi...

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Here I give my thoughts on The Banner Saga: Warbands, a cooperative board game by Megacon Games, in association with Stoic and Versus Evil.

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