Monthly Archives: August 2017

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was curated?

My thoughts on this are a bit of a disjointed mess, so I’ll use bullet points again:

  1. The population of the Earth keeps increasing. But there probably aren’t enough traditionally productive jobs available for all these new people. As if that weren’t bad enough already (for capitalism anyway) we’re soon going to replace a bunch of jobs with robots.
  2. If the above is true, won’t there be a disparity between consumers/creators? To consume something, you need to expend money (in a capitalist society anyway). To get money, you have to produce or create something (nebulous though that something might be).
  3. So if there are waaaay more consumers than creators, how does anyone pay for anything? Do the consumers start creating things? Especially as it gets easier and easier with each passing year. Does capitalism stop? (Probably not, right?)  Do they get free money so they can still consume things? What if they consume the wrong things?
  4. There’s way too much content out there already, with more coming out every second. How are you supposed to find something you’ll like among all the noise? I feel like the things I’ve found that I really enjoy have all been lucky accidents. I don’t like relying on lucky accidents even though that’s basically been my life until now. Can we do better?
  5. Well, one way to start would be to follow a person who talks about one thing you like. If you learn their tastes well enough, you can usually guess how much you’ll like something based on their opinion of it. This is what I’ve been doing lately. But a similar sort of problem arises here. There are so many damn people willing to talk about things. How do you pick the right one for you?
  6. In other words, I need someone to review the reviewers. Curate the curators. Find the finders.
  7. I think this is actually a thing that will happen soon. There’s too much stuff.
  8. Should I do this? I think it’s quite fun. I won’t do it too regularly, just whenever I find stuff that makes me more excited than usual.

On that note, go watch Twin Peaks. The original two seasons (if you’re getting bored with the second one, watch till episode 9, then watch the last episode), then the movie, and then the new third season.

Go watch Your Name, or Kimi No Na Wa.

Go play Brigador.

Go listen to the Axiom Verge soundtrack.

Go watch both excellent seasons of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.

Go read Marrow, by Robert Reed. Talk to me about it because apparently no one else on the internet is talking about it or him right now.

Go listen to (or watch) Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. If you like it, consider paying the man a pound a month at http://www.gofasterstripe.com or buy one of his dvds or books there.

(Go make a list of links to all the things I’ve mentioned here because I’m too lazy to.)

Go learn Haskell. A little bit. There’s an online tutorial. It’s very weird. I should write about it.

Go draw something. A girl I barely knew at the time drew me a beautiful parrot and framed it and gave it to me as a farewell gift, before I left town and moved to Hyderabad. I have it to this day. I’m going to hang it up in my room when it’s done being painted. I don’t talk to her anymore. It’s so strange that I should have this picture.

Go sing? I sang the first two verses to a song from Taarein Zameen Par to someone I was trying to impress before shutting down from embarrassment. I’ve never sung since.

Go write a blog post about something. I want to read what you have to say. I want to know if I can trust you. I want to know if I can finally stop putting effort into finding the things I find, or finally stop depending on dumb luck for it, and instead just consume what you consume.

 

 


Breaking down a metroidvania (Part 1)

I feel like I need to preface this with so many things that unless I list them all here to get them out of the way, I won’t ever actually start this goddamn blog post. So here:

  1. I have, in the back of my head, an idea for a method of representing and studying metroidvania games.
  2. This system (for which I have no name) is nowhere near complete. In fact, I keep thinking about and adding to it every few months.
  3. This system (such that it is) exists more or less in my head. I had implemented it in Python, but I got too bogged down in fixing the nitty gritty of the code rather than focus on the design of the system.
  4. Since I want to actually design the system, and I wasn’t getting anywhere with a pen and paper, maybe switching to a different language/paradigm would offer a nice new canvas from which to draw inspiration.
  5. That brings me to Haskell. Or rather, functional programming in general. My first brush with functional programming was when I coded a little game involving knots way back when for a college project (I believe there are posts about that here on this blog). Unbeknownst to me, I had coded the whole thing in a functional style. It was a very mathematical problem and hence most of the code was a composition of pure functions. I think I think functionally when it comes to code by default.
  6. Another thing that brought me to Haskell was a lecture series on Category Theory by Bartosz Milewski, where he used a ton of Haskell examples.
  7. Oh okay I can stop my list now.

So now what do I write here? Do I explain my system? I don’t think we’re quite there yet. But okay whatever. Here’s a skeleton outline of what I managed to implement in Haskell:

  1. There are Abilities.
  2. There are Challenges you can pass only if you have the correct set of Abilities.
  3. There are Rewards for passing Challenges.
  4. There are Encounters, which are tuples of (Challenge, Reward).
  5. There are Rooms, which contain paths to other Rooms, and maybe Encounters.

Those are the basics. The suuuuper basics. To expand:

  1. Abilities form a partially ordered set, in that some Abilities supersede (are greater than) others when it comes to certain Challenges. A concrete example would be a sword that does 10 damage supersedes a sword that does 5, but it doesn’t compare to a double jump ability. You the player start with Ability 0.
  2. The most basic Challenge is analogous to a locked door. If you have the correct set of keys to open all the locks, you can open the door/pass the challenge. That’s the version I’m going to implement here. Obvious modifications from analogy are to implement a sort of additional “skill” check, in that merely having a sword is useless if you don’t know how to use it well.
  3. A Reward can be a new Ability, another Encounter, a path to a new Room (or a shortcut back to an old one), or Victory.
  4. Encounters are not just a bundle of (Challenge, Reward). This is where you implement your story/lore/plot/atmosphere/mood.
  5. Rooms are tricky.

Rooms are the bits I have the most trouble with. Another blog post about that someday.

I know this stuff seems very bare bones, but it needs to be if my goal is to recreate an existing metroidvania in this system in order to analyse it. I’m already a fair bit into mapping out Environmental Station Alpha, analysing the first few areas, and I’ve already found some cool patterns. My hope is to compare it to Axiom Verge and see if I can explain my relative dislike of that game compared to ESA. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both great, but I think AV lacks something that could have made it truly excellent. And I’m hoping to find out what, if anything, that is!

I think that’s enough for today. I’ve titled this post “Messing around with Haskell”, perhaps prematurely. I’ll rename it to something more appropriate and get to the Haskell bits some other time. “Breaking down a metroidvania (Part 1)” because I’ve mentioned at least two other posts here. This title is worse because I haven’t even explained what a metroidvania is. Oh well, another post.