finally! my moth reaction gif compilation
from now on i will only express feels in moth gifs
edit (not mine):
"A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them." - Steve Jobs
I assume he was talking about a gallery of moth reaction GIFs.
Twitch Plays Pokemon by Sesskaka
Given this fanart, I’m surprised nobody has written some weird horror story about a pokemon trainer who has his head taken over by the internet. Wrote a story years ago about a cyborg who became a psychotic after he became infected with malware, but this… This is much more terrifying.
that’s what you get when you count on a bunch of criminals to get shit done. that and spiders.
So, a lot of people are claiming that with Twitch Plays Pokemon, it was the surge of American users that established democracy and beat the Safari zone. I really hope they’re tracking this data, as it would be really interesting to map out a sort of pseudo-geek map.
Pobre Flareon =C
I’ve been watching Twitch Plays Pokemon lately. As someone who geeks out hard about random generation leading to narrative formation, this is one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a while. An entire subculture and ensuing narrative emerged from this insane mix of a million monkeys with typewriters and Pokemon Red. Meanwhile, I’d better check my Helix Fossil.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve been very interested in procedural generation and D&D for a while, and last weekend, to celebrate D&D turning 40, I ran another dungeon crawl. Last time, where I had zero story, the players stumbled drunkenly through a chaotic maze, building a silly narrative of a bunch of drunks and their pet slime mold searching for more beer after the bar had cut them off. Laughs were had, and all seemed to have a very good time.
This time wasn’t as successful. I decided, why not add a story to this dungeon, and see if it’ll work out. I had the players pick up where they had left off, having drank the mysterious keg of beer, but revealed it to be throughout the story a keg belonging to a mad wizard who had once used an underground cavern as a lair, but now exiled anyone unlucky enough to cross him down there to die slowly. As a result, there were small parties of survivors who made their way by hunting, cannibalizing, and performing mad rituals. The story aspect of it was something that I was rather proud of, but given that I had to work with a randomly generated dungeon, it made things very difficult to weave a coherent narrative. There were a lot of interesting non sequitor rooms, like a drake chained up to a crib in a nursery, or a giant alchemical torture machine which would be the explanation for a spike trap encountered in the room, but ultimately I found the lack of ability to control the room design to fit the story made it seem very shallow.
Before the game, I spoke with the owner of Tacoma games, who has been kind enough to let me use his store as my gaming spot, and he flat out told me that by letting players design the narrative, it will be better- and that this session probably wouldn’t go as well. He was correct. While people seemed to have fun, we were pressed for time, and I personally was exhausted, having not gotten enough sleep the night before, and in my concern about time, I left key clues out that helped form the narrative on several points- we only had 3 hours, and finished maybe half of the dungeon, so in the end it didn’t matter.
So, the point of these randomly generated dungeons is to learn something. There are three scenarios that I was interested in trying out, and I’ve tried two.
I learned that by creating a dungeon with no story and allowing the players to craft their own, you end up with a fun narrative and a reasonably strong story.
I learned that by creating a dungeon with a more or less coherent story can actually be worse for the players, as they don’t get the character development time. (Note, had I several more hours, I would have given them more RP time.) Also, by using a randomly generated dungeon, it actually hurts any attempt to create a coherent story.
The final test I would like to try is to create a coherent environment for the players, and meaningless dungeons. The way I’d like to do this is to randomly generate a town- I’ve been looking at random town generators and have found a few I like. By giving the players a place for them to openly explore, I think I could allow them to form good player identities, and even if they just wander around, get drunk, pick fights with guards, and accidentally burn down an orphanage, at least they’ve got a story to tell about them as characters. I do intend to throw in a few randomly generated dungeons for them to check out if they like, but by giving them a lot of freedom in a rich, open world, I think the end result should be interesting.
The one caveat is that much of the experience is also based on the group- it would be impossible for me to try every type of dungeon against all the permutations of stereotypical players (rules lawyers, actors, munchkins, explorers/puzzle geeks) but the bottom line for me is the experience as a DM, and what I can discover about the nature of players in what limited experience I can have.
That being said, the biggest thing I’ve found is that as far as feasibility and easiness on the side of the DM goes, it’s really easy to just randomly generate a dungeon and let the players roll with it. Much easier.
One last thing I’d like the players to do in the next session, or perhaps the following one, is to ask them three questions about their characters, and have three physical aspects that somehow reflect their personality. The questions: What is their job/position in life. What’s their family/social life like. What is their life view all about. I created a few characters using this method, here’s a few of them.
The Half orc fighter.
Job: Looking to be an escort for a caravan, guard duty, that type of stuff.
Family: Abusive father. Ran away recently. No friends otherwise.
Life view: They’ve never really had any good social contact, but the one thing they understand is hurting others, so that’s good enough. No real other reason to live, just taking it day to day.
Physical aspects: Strong, but no body fat from a life of living on next to no food. Always glares, when he smiles it’s obvious that his eyes aren’t following suit. Armor he wears is rusted to hell, no personal flair at all, just utilitarian.
Job: Worked in a temple for many years, before settling out to be a traveling missionary.
Family: Good family, merchant line. He decided to join the church with their blessing at an early age and that became his life. He’s got a lot of friends in the order, and is held in good esteem.
Life view: Even though he’s got this great life as a well respected clergyman, he’s having a crisis of faith. The closeness to his god he felt growing up is completely gone, and he keeps that to himself.
Physical aspects: Spotless robes. He keeps himself immaculately cared for and is by all appearances a paragon of faith.
Sickly looking. While he’s not quite sick, his illness if faith shows on his face and movements.
Shaved head. Doesn’t look good on him, and he’s not losing his hair, but he shaves his head as a sort of atonement.
I had a thief I based on Edward Snowden, a mage with low self esteem and an anxiety disorder, a recovering alcoholic Paladin, and a few other characters. Just over the course of a short walk, I came up with these characters using these ideas, and perhaps in my next game, I’ll have the players try doing this themselves. The big question then becomes, is it better to create a character and have him experience the game, or let the experience of the game shape the player? (Or are both things valid, and it’s ultimately based on the personality of the player and the world they’re in. Probably that one.)
Anyway, I’ve got to go back to figuring out this random city generation thing…
On a future road trip, your robot car decides to take a new route, driving you past a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. A pop-up window opens on your car’s display and asks if you’d like to stop at the store. “Don’t mind if I do,” you think to yourself. You press “yes” on the touchscreen, and the autonomous car pulls up to the shop.
Wait, how did the car know that you might want an original glazed doughnut? Because it has data on your driving habits, and you’re a serial offender when it comes to impulsive snacking. Your car is also linked to your online accounts at home, and you had recently “liked” Krispy Kreme’s Facebook page and visited its website.
Is this future scenario convenient—or creepy? It’s one thing if a car’s driver-drowsiness detection system (which exists today) sees that you’re nodding off and suggests coffee. But to make your automated car divert from its usual course because some advertiser paid it to do so, well, that sounds like a mini-carjacking.
Whatever you think of it, this future may be coming up on the road ahead.
Read more. [Image: Alexis Madrigal]
This is a very, very scary and completely realistic scenario.
I recently played Assassin’s Creed 4, and I was very underwhelmed. Playing it, I found myself feeling like I was doing some type of chore, going through the motions, and near the end I just wanted to walk away and try something else. That’s not to say it was a particularly bad game- it was well executed, had solid action, opportunities for great competitive multiplayer as well as some cooperative content, had an engaging story (albeit a bit less so than some of the earlier offerings), and some interesting puzzles. Arguably, it had all the pieces to make it a fun, enjoyable experience.
If it did all these things which should make a great game, then why didn’t I enjoy it?
It’s because Indie games are doing it better. They don’t have all of these factors, they have one. And they do that one factor very, very well. Having played quite a few mainstream games, I get the point of having a well rounded game that appeals to the maximum possible audience. But after a while, I’d rather have something that gets one aspect down perfectly, while doing a mediocre job at the rest.
I’m a storyline gamer- I enjoy experiencing games as a narrative, and anything in the game should lend to that. If there’s a particularly difficult battle in the game, I want the character to be physically winded, and have it have represented something very draining for them. If there’s a puzzle in there, it had better make sense. If there’s multiplayer, there had better be some fun fluff in there- Team Fortress 2 does a fantastic job of this simply because of the characterization of the classes- instead of it being a bunch of bland military guys going and shooting eachother, it’s a silly battle between a colorful bunch of lunatics set in spy fi middle America, and the Meet the videos have helped transform what a team based shooter into an entire narrative.
Before Assassins’s Creed 4, I sunk a ton of time into The Stanley Parable, Outlast, and To the Moon. (Also, Starbound, but that’s another story about how gaming addiction is actually a thing.) These games were not fun in the traditional sense, but they told a story very, very well. I’m now playing Spec Ops: The Line at the suggestion of a fellow Storyline nerd, and thus far I’m impressed, and expecting that I’ll enjoy it a lot. All of these games I played around Assassin’s Creed 4 will stick out in my memory, simply because they did one thing that I love better than Assassin’s Creed 4 did. Meanwhile, one of my more puzzle oriented friends spent some time LAN gaming with me. We played Left 4 Dead 2, which was fun, but we spent a lot of time discussing a quirky sort of puzzle games he’s been playing, and I’m sure he enjoyed that game more based on his geeking out about Arztoskian immigration policy.
And I think that’s the real genius of indie games. They can afford to do one thing really, really right. Given the current generation of aging gamers, they’ve played a lot of games, and they’d rather have excellence in one field, rather than mediocrity in a bunch. It parallels my tastes in food- I used to love all sorts of decent food, and would often settle for junk food as it was pretty good in all areas. Now, I love spicy food. If I’m not eating spicy food, I don’t care what it is, but when I decide to go after spicy food, I want excellence in that. Same with beer- I don’t want something overall solid, I dig the hoppy IPAs. And in gaming, I want to experience an excellent story. I have discovered what I like, and the only thing providing that in excellence is Indie Gaming.
Does this mean that all of gaming is going to lean towards maxing out one stat? No. Mainstream games that appeal to the largest possible audience and are fun in a mediocre way for people who don’t know what they really like or are just killing time will always make a lot of money. But thank god for Indie Games.
I’ve been thinking a lot about procedural generation in games since I last ran that procedurally generated adventure at Tacoma Games. Since then, I’ve had the introduction of two games into my life- Starbound and Assassin’s Creed 4. Strangely, I love both of these games for the exact same reason- the story.
In Starbound, you exist as a character wandering around procedurally generated planets, slowly getting new suits of armor, better weapons, and more useful gear. But at the same time, you come across artifacts of this world- abandoned outposts, castles run by robots, military bases, and strange alien villages. You can customize your character to look any number of ways, and as such after hours and hours of playing, I had in my head the story of a roving scientist who was seeking a new home to create a base, and as such he wore a lab coat and glasses as the only indicator to an outsider of his position in life.
Meanwhile, in Assassin’s Creed, I’m experiencing this rich narrative that hundreds of developers and hundred of years of history have built. The story is intoxicating, and there’s so much going on, so many narratives that I have to try to make sense of, especially given the previous games, that it’s hard to keep track of.
However, if asked which story I like more, I like my roving scientist.
When I ran my procedurally generated game, I gave the players very little input, but they created this whole narrative experience. I’ve been trying to figure out what makes the perfect narrative within a tabletop or videogaming scenario, what degree of creator input when working with something procedurally generated leads to the ideal story. I think a lot of this is built off the general assumption, even active planning to have storyline gamers- There are multiple types of gamers, those who play to solve puzzles, master something, compete or cooperate with others, break the game, or experience and build a story, and I think most gamers fill several of these niches.
But for those who are interested in a story, what must be acted upon for the narrative to progress richly? While I haven’t run my second session in my procedurally generated campaign, I intend to try imposing more creative control, but the question then is, to what end? What works? Should I control the environment as much as possible, or the character’s stories?
I ran myself through three scenarios.
You are an adventurer in a stone room that is 15 feet by 20 feet. (Nethack, anyone?)
You are Judicar Harthak, Paladin of the Northern army, sent on a mission from Judicar Alarthar to slay the dread psychomancer Zehthro. You wear thick plate armor with runes written by the fortress Sage Neelim, and are a tall, imposing man with a furled brow, a shaved head, and a thick mustache, dedicated to the cause of your order. You are currently in a stone room that is 15 feet by 20 feet.
You are an adventurer in a room that looks to be 15 feet across and 20 feet wide. The ceiling above you shows faded murals of some horrific ritual being performed, and the ground is paved dirt, although you see some sign of activity recently. A pungent odor emanates from the wet dungeon walls, and clumps of luminescent fungus illuminate strange carvings on the wall in an unknown language. In the center of the room is a worn book.
Immediately, in this exercise, I personally felt drawn to the third scenario. I had my own idea of who I was, some crafty mage delving into a rich, interesting dungeon, and I think that is what has drawn me to spend hundreds of hours in games like Minecraft, Starbound, and Roguelikes, while fully enjoying but not overplaying games like Bioshock and Silent Hill.
And that echoed back to my roving scientist in Starbound I’ve been putting so many hours into. The flip side, however, is that I can’t tell anyone about it. I have a hard time having discussions with people about Starbound, as while we can discuss the technical aspects, the story in my head and theories about what various outposts backgrounds are is generally lost. Silent Hill, on the other hand, I’ve had many discussions about, eking out obscure elements of plot, character analysis, and trying to figure out which ending is ‘correct.’ For any degree of social interaction over storyline, it helps to have a coherent narrative- at least with videogames.
But tabletop gaming is a different beast. I’ve always hated games where you are assigned an adventurer and sent out on a dungeon with tiles and a card with some character art, a quote, and some abilities. I’d rather have a hand drawn map on graph paper, and a good group of people who can create a story out of that. The stories I can tell that have been spawned from graph paper, dice, and the imagination of myself and good friends will stick with me forever, and is it the puzzles, or the mazes, or the environments? Those things help, but what’s really great is when my friend playing a half ogre threw the entire party into a strange portal after the hapless gnome got sucked in. When my friend playing an insane elf abandoned the entire party in a sealed room by switching teleport controls. When my trustworthy cleric turned out to be the vampire’s thrall, leading into a carefully staged trap. All these amazing stories, all based on the people, not the world. And I am not dismissive of the world, that’s very important to it all, but the narrative that people create for their avatars is what makes a game fun, from a narrative junkie’s point of view.
It will be interesting to run round two of the procedurally generated adventure.