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In Socialist Life, Diversion Gets You

A week since my last entry about finishing Bioshock, I have not done anything else with my free time, because I'm rather prone to diversion.  How prone to diversion am I?  So much so that I came down with diverticulitis.  Yet, despite feeling the solution was in better time management techniques, it turns out that what I really needed was antibiotics.  Go figure!
Diverticulitis doesn't look like a fun leisure activity at all!
Actually, I have a pretty good excuse not to have blogged anything in the last week: I was actually working!  Well, not quite full-time, but I had as many hours in the last week than I did the entirety of February, and the end of March was not looking too shabby either, so that's a definite improvement of my life situation.  Honestly, I was out of work for so long before landing this substitute gig that it's not even so much about the money anymore... I'm just glad to be a contributing member of society.

It is still not enough to live on.  One day, I may gain sufficient job experience to be promoted to regular hours but, in the meanwhile, I should really consider buckling down during my free time to get some supplementary income.  Instead, in what free time I had over the past few days, I pretty much did the same thing I was doing 3 weeks ago: playing Planetside 2 and Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead.

Planetside 2 is earning my money, one patch at a time.

Last weekend, Sony Online Entertainment had their first station cash sale in 3 months, so I borrowed $50 and ended up with a goodly amount of virtual dosh to spend on virtual weapons on Planetside 2.  Despite the reality that I just traded real money for play money under the pretence I would get twice as much play money as usual, I am still trying to be as frugal as possible about it, waiting for in-store sales of the various equipments I want.  But I now have some fairly decent weapons on most of my Planetside 2 classes that actually makes them play somewhat distinctly:
  • My infiltrator has a bolt-action sniper rifle which allows one-shot kills on headshots at range against most targets in the game.
  • My light assault has a submachine gun which has better damage per second than most weapons in the game, albeit at short range.
  • My heavy assault has a slightly-better heavy assault gun... it's not the best, but hey, it came in a weapon pack with stuff I did want.
  • My medic has a very accurate and effective assault rifle.  Frankly, this NS-11A puts so many of the other guns to shame that either it should be nerfed or they should be buffed.
  • My engineer has a shotgun... which was never a great choice, and they just nerfed them anyway, but hey, it plays differently than my non-shotgun using characters, I sort of appreciate that.
  • My MAX... actually, none of the MAX weapons have gone on sale yet.   
  • For that matter, I have yet to get any vehicle weaponry because the only vehicle weaponry I saw on sale (in the "vehicle starter park" was generally lousy stuff: most vehicle weapons are really quite pathetic compared to the few good ones.
Time will tell what future sales will bring.  Honestly, Planetside 2 is an easy game to burn out from, I only shelled out for "station cash" knowing that I may be able to spend it on other SOE games in the future if it does not all go to Planetside 2.

I will say that the alert system that the last big patch delivered has made the game more interesting by successfully encouraging players to visit other continents.... but, unfortunately, the developers have made the cardinal mistake of holding "alerts" too often.  Dynamic events are only interesting if they happen rarely enough to be a novelty!  (This is a mistake Rift made near release, as well.)  At least there's a new "ribbon" system that allows me to get a nice big chunk of bonus experience, which both boosts the far-too-slow experience gain they had since release and also helps to even the playing field for people with varying play times slightly.

Overall, these changes reflect that somebody working on Planetside 2 actually knows what they're doing.  The game is looking better and better each patch and may very well be on the cusp of being the kind of game it should have been at release in a better world... provided they manage to avoid making too many game-breaking mistakes like the anti-infantry effectiveness of the Engineer's anti-vehicular turret.

Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead would seem to be making me an optimist.

Funny enough, I ended up spending more time in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead than in Planetside 2... despite it being a text-based roguelike with a rather buggy release in version 0.3 that rapidly caused characters to freeze to death no matter what the player tried to do to stop it.  I played mostly the 0.4 pre-release version that is currently being circulated, and it's generally working well except my current character's maximum hit point count for their head seems to be steadily decreasing in time and it's probably inevitable that I will eventually reach the point where I can be one-hit killed by just about anything.

All this Cataclysm playing had me put some thought towards my own little kinda-roguelike game I wanted to make, and I think the problem I am having works out to something like this:
  • BYOND was a pretty good platform for what I wanted to make.  It was a persistent-state multiplayer environment that was also quite tile based.  It could have worked well...
  • Except BYOND ultimately had some limitations I could not accept.  It approximated floating point variables, which caused me some problems.  It had a maximum of 65535 mobs and objects, which was too few for my purposes.   I tried devising a way around this via saving off things that the players did not need to interact with, and uncovered that the platform had I/O issues.  If it was not for that, I may have eventually finished a game in it, but it seems my aspirations were simply too big for the platform.
  • I splurged on Game Maker, thinking it may potentially be a solution, but I am not so certain now.  It does, at least, handle floating point variables very well.  However, it was not created to be a persistent-state multiplayer environment, though it is capable of rudimentary player-to-player Internet communication.  
  • In fact, I have yet to even figure out how to get Gamer Maker to generate a randomly generated map.  I've seen plenty of forums posts about this on yoyogame's forums, but I have yet to wrap my head around the right way to do it.  I've noticed that Spelunky has a "loading" screen between levels, and that's probably mandatory given the way Game Maker builds everything (code included) into individual "rooms."
  • I was capable of more advanced GUI interfaces in BYOND,  but this is probably largely because I have yet to figure out how to use views in Game Maker the way I want to.  For that matter, how do you create a map that scrolls unlimited in all directions in Game Maker?  I don't think you can, it's confined to rooms and, though you can make them very large, larger rooms just mean more processing work for Game Maker to do in order to create and simulate the events inside of that room.
Anyway, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead is making me think that "survival roguelike" may actually be the heart of the game I want to make.  A multiplayer persistent environment just multiplies the potential awesome (while introducing a host of issues of its own, of course).

You know, Game Maker might just be flexible enough, after all - I could even throw out the "multiplayer persistent environment" aspect, if I wanted to.  I can hardly blame it when I do not exert sufficient effort in learning how to do all the neat tricks with it.  Basically, I need to roll up my sleeves and dabble with the thing: the only way to get good at game development is to do it, and I have not been.  I am, after all, rather prone to diversion.
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