Good Morning, November 19th 2016

Good morning on this the nineteenth of November, in the year of our Lord 2016. I missed posting yesterday, but today will make three out of four, which isn’t too bad. Yesterday was very busy, as you might imagine, and since I’m hoping to write each day in the morning, a friday morning meeting made it hard.

I had a curious exchange with a commenter on one of my videos (Atheism vs. Meaning) where he basically took what I said to be something completely different and concluded I was very wrong. This happens to all people with surprising frequency; a great many people never ask what another person means by their words, they only ever ask what they themselves would have meant by the words the other person said. There’s a great line Father Brown has in the story The Invisible Man:

Have you ever noticed this–that people never answer what you say? They answer what you mean–or what they think you mean. Suppose one lady says to another in a country house, `Is anybody staying with you?’ the lady doesn’t answer `Yes; the butler, the three footmen, the parlourmaid, and so on,’ though the parlourmaid may be in the room, or the butler behind her chair. She says `There is nobody staying with us,’ meaning nobody of the sort you mean. But suppose a doctor inquiring into an epidemic asks, `Who is staying in the house?’ then the lady will remember the butler, the parlourmaid, and the rest. All language is used like that; you never get a question answered literally, even when you get it answered truly.

But this very often goes wrong; the fellow in question thought that when I said that atheism must deny meaning, that I meant that all atheists must be unhappy. As a matter of fact they are, because all fallen creatures are unhappy, but that’s beside the point for the moment. I was discussing meaning, and for some reason all he could hear was that I was discussing practical happiness. It’s very annoying when people have arguments with other people and use me as a stand-in for the people they want to be arguing with.

On another subject, I learned that Minecraft was inspired by the game Infiniminer (which never really became popular). They had in common the block-based world and mining; minecraft added in a quasi-rpg element with swords and spells and crafting items out of the things mined. This got me to thinking about what sort of game I would make inspired by Minecraft. I’ve never successfully made a game before; the closest I got was a slightly playable top-scrolling space fighter game. I may someday go and finish it, as it would be fun to play, and in any event it will be some time before I actually have time to seriously code on my own projects any more. Between work and three children, I don’t really have the spare brainpower left over. (Mostly it’s the kids; young children need a lot of time and emotional energy, and they come first.) But I think I hit on an interesting idea for a game which I would like to make some day. (The other game I’d like to write is a realtime strategy game in the genre of StarCraft, which I intend to call Violent Conflict Resolution, and feature the ability to write up complex orders for units before playing, so the game is more about strategy than instructions-per-minute that one can issue. I just don’t like twitch games, whether first-person-shooter or realtime strategy.

Anyway, the idea I came up with is this: Order of the Wilds. The main character is a wizard in the Order of the Wilds, which is an order of warrior wizard engineers who vow to go into the wilderness and make it fit for mankind. The basic idea is one would start off in a city, then go off into the wilderness, far away, conquer the things which spawn monsters, drive away tribes of monsters, etc. then found a city and make a road back to the original city. After doing that, one would go do it again, conquering more of the world. The founding of the city would probably consists largely of building the city wall and a church, which would suppress the undead from rising. I’m thinking that like minecraft it would be a voxel-based world where one can put things anywhere, as well as be able to mine for resources. I’m thinking that the warrior-sorcery engineer would, after taking his vow, venture forward with three things, aside from clothing: an enchanted hand-pick, which would never break and could be used to mine anything (basically like fists in minecraft, except making a tiny bit of sense), a magical backpack of holding which would explain why one can carry around many cubic meters of stone, and a cloak, which can be used for camouflage and sleeping at night in the wilderness.

I’m thinking that unlike minecraft, it would have a variety of weapons, and unlike most RPGs, the different weapons would actually have different sizes. This way a spear gives you a long range but stops working if the other guy gets too close. A long sword would have a longer reach but would be slower than a short sword, etc. Also possibly different woods can be used to made different kinds of bows, etc.

Incidentally, a warrior-engineer-wizard is not as absurd as it sounds; the roman army proved how useful it is to have all of one’s soldiers be engineers, too. And while RPGs often follow highschool stereotypes of jocks-versus-geeks being developed into fighters versus wizards, in reality exercise and mastering one’s body help with mastering one’s mind; further I think most good magic systems require physical endurance to work magic; since magic is basically a human being a conduit for magical energy that exists ubiquitously in nature, it makes vastly more sense for them to need endurance to withstand channeling the energy than to be capacitors who store it up as mana and then expend it. The latter is workable, and still much better than AD&D 2nd edition mechanics of memorizing spells that get wiped from one’s memory (and worse, memorizing a spell more than once if one wants to ask it more than once!), but I think a unified stamina system makes vastly more sense.

Another interesting dynamic I was thinking of added is having a minecraft-like food system, and having male and female characters as options where the male character is stronger but needs more food. This is:

  1. Realistic
  2. An interesting balance

I’m thinking it won’t be a huge difference, especially given that either way the character is a wizard and enchanted weapons and armor (and generally useful spells) will tend to even things out anyway.

This does introduce one problem when it comes to sacraments, though. It would be possible to make a male character a priest, which takes care of the availability of sacraments. On the other hand, being a priest might well complicate things; warrior-priests are in a very strange place, to say the least. On the other hand, doing without the sacraments for a while is doable—I don’t believe that sailors had ready access to the sacraments, for example. And it will be possible to travel back to the original city, so possibly it could be a thing periodically restocked. Perhaps the character could carry around a small gold box with a supply of the consecrated host as a special exception made for exceptional circumstances. And the order of the wilderness would make sense as a religious order. Granted, magic and religious orders don’t go together in our world, but that’s largely because magic consists of harnessing demons to do one’s bidding. In a world where humans can act as conduits for natural energy, magic would be natural, and so there would be no tension. And magic could be easily made rare by, for example, requiring the wizard to embed a special gemstone into his chest; the ability to be a wizard would be as limited as the gemstones, and therefore arbitrarily limitable. (This would also work well with a religious order, because the powers of the kingdom would possibly supply such stones to the order who uses them to expand kingdoms into the wilderness.)

Overall I think this fairly workable, and at the same time not so grand in scope that it’s utterly undoable for a small team. Some work needs to go into trade-offs; game mechanics like weapon length/range are very easy to do since the combat engine needs to take distance into account anyway. And a seeded, programmatically generated world takes work, of course, but way less money than hiring a ton of artists and voice actors does. Anyway, it’s going to be quite some time before I get a chance to start on it, but I may take a look at lwjg3 just to see how much work getting anything at all done is. There’s no harm in playing around a little before a serious start. 🙂

And on a random note, it is amazing how much my one year old daughter loves David Hasselhoff’s version of Hooked on a Feeling. Her brothers before her loved it, too, though.

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