Idea Byre

For a game to be about a certain idea or topic, it must focus on that idea. Focus can be created in a few ways. One is through detail: with charts, tables, die-types, modifiers, etcetera, you can cause more time and thought to be centered on one aspect of the game. (It is easy to unintentionally focus to much on the wrong things, by adding too much detail to them.)

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In tactical fantasy RPGs, characters can be sorted into major roles like tank, healer, etcetera. Most of these specialize in one tactical pursuit during combat, like ranged damage; a few blend more than one pursuit, such as the off-tank support role; and in particular, magic users often employ several tactically-distinct types of magic -- mixing up those types will be the focus of this piece.

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Computer generated terrain usually begins with a base of random noise, or perhaps a fractal. These look nice in small sections, but are unconvincing for a continent: noise has none of the major features it should, like mountain ranges, and fractals are nothing but feature -- they're too regular. Here's a method for generating continent-level trerrain using distortion fields.

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1. Elaborations

Elaborations have indeed produced better results. Simply having water flow over a surface was not terribly hard to implement, but each sophistication -- even within the limits of a cell-based, time-step-based system -- have paid off. Initially, I tried having water flow according to the landscape alone, without recomputing where water was pooling; adding it in allowed much longer rivers to develop, as well as lakes (the lakes were all I expected to gain). Adding even a very crude momentum mechanism -- to prevent immediate back-flow when water is evening out over an area -- eliminated a strange checkerboard artifact.

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In this post I introduced my erosion-based model for building landscapes -- and promised details on how it works. Here's how.

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If a bank is creating new paper notes, what sizes should it issue to make transactions easiest for the public? This is one example of an type of problem I've become interested in. It is basically about how to divide a scale into discrete intervals, under various constraints. It seems very abstract, but it actually has a lot to do with real-world design and engineering.

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Tabletop games can often only handle a narrow range of physical (or other) scales, but for some concepts, widely varying scales are relevant. WEG's old Star Wars d6 used different scales -- so people, speeders, and ships could all come into play -- using one method we'll look at.

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What does it take for a game to be good and also centered around an abstract dynamic?

For instance, can we have a game that "explores" or is centered around the idea of allometric scaling? (This is where relative strengths and weaknesses change disproportionately with changes in something's size.) Such an idea seems promising, but how can a game be made from it?

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The fighters launch from their carrier! They jink and turn -- shooting bogeys down as they go. Finally, they approach the enemy capitol ships. They fly close, fire torpedoes -- and escape, leaving behind billowing fire. Wait. Is this World War II or a space opera confection?

In this article, we'll consider how the size of ships affects how they can fight -- and come to some surprising conclusions.

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Imagine you're given the task of evaluating the abilities of the individuals in a group -- perhaps in sharp-shooting -- and award ratings like A or F. You might plan a series of challenges of increasing difficulty. What should you do if these turn out to be much harder than you planned -- so that while you expected a mean success rate of 60%, it was actually 20%? An obvious solution is to multiply all scores by 3 to bring up the average. But it turns out that this (and any other linear correction) penalizes the weaker performers. Better alternatives exst.

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