26/08/10 Deadly Sins

This was posted on the blog of a friend of mine. Because I like these sort of questionaire thingies and find them interesting I shamelessly copied it from there and filled in my own answers. Feel free to answer it yourself if you want to.

Who did you last get angry with? Really angry? My father. Sort of pseudo-pissed? Religious people on the internet.

What is your weapon of choice? Reason and rationality. In an actual fight I usually go for the throat.

Would you hit a member of the opposite sex? Yes

How about the same sex? Yes

Who was the last person who got really angry at you? Quite possibly my father.

What is your pet peeve? People who think they think they are entitled to stuff they really aren’t.

Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily? Usually I can let them go easily enough. Some I’ve been carrying around for several years, though. Mostly towards people I never see anymore anyway.

What is one thing you’re supposed to do daily that you haven’t? Have a structured life.

What is the latest you’ve ever woken up? 4 p.m.

What is the last lame excuse that you made? I’m tired

Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through? Yes

How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock this morning? Didn’t even set my alarm. On average it’s 6 times, though.

Are you a meat eater? Hell yeah!

What is the greatest amount of alcohol you’ve had in one sitting/outing/event? 3/4 bottle of champagne, several beers and a sip of vodka.

Are you comfortable with your drinking and eating habits? They work for me.

Do you enjoy candy and sweets? Omnomnom

Which do you prefer: sweets, salty foods or spicy foods? Sweets

Have you ever looked at a small house pet or child and thought, “lunch”? As a joke? Yes. I never seriously consider eating creatures other people love.

How many credit cards do you own? None

If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? Invest, live comfortably (but not in obscene luxury) and donate a shitload to charity. Possibly live in the UK. A lot of that money would also go to the Make Helena A Woman fund.

Would you rather be rich or famous? Rich

Would you accept a boring job if it meant that you would make megabucks? Yes, as long as it’s only boring and not too stressfull.

What’s one thing that you have done that you’re most proud of? No idea.

What’s one thing you have done that your parents are most proud of? My mother: pass high school. My father? No idea… I think the last time he actually showed an emotion of pride towards anything I did was when I was around 10 years old.

What thing would you like to accomplish late in your life? Be a successful writer.

Do you get annoyed by coming in second place? I like second place. Less spotlight with still more or less the same benefits.

Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors? Poetry competition on a forum.

Have you ever cheated to get a better score? Who didn’t?

What did you do today that you’re proud of? Nothing, really.

How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies, family, strippers, locker rooms)? 4

How many people have seen you naked (not counting physicians, doctors, family, locker rooms, or when you were a young child)? 4

Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a person of your chosen sex during a normal conversation? I confess my eyes are often drawn to a woman’s chest when I talk to them, but I do ‘correct’ myself every time it happens. On the whole I try to keep eye-contact as much as possible during a conversation (which, apparently, freaks some people out)

What is your favorite body part of a person of your gender choice? eyes

Have you ever had sexual encounters (including kissing/making out) with multiple persons? No

Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute? No

What items of your friends would you most want to have for your own? Clothes, mainly

Who would you want to go on “Trading Spaces” with? No idea.

If you could be anyone who existed in the world, who would you be? I would happily switch places with some of my friends.

Have you ever been cheated on? To be honest I don’t know. My guts tell me yes, though.

Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own? To put it lightly.

What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself? Discipline.

What deadly sin…

Do you do the most often? Toss-up between sloth, envy, gluttony and wrath. If I were more… desirable, I’d have to throw lust in as well (desire’s there, opportunity isn’t).
Yes, I am a bad person and will burn in hell.

Do you do the least often? Greed and pride.

16/08/10 Perceived Reality, My Dad, RTS Counter Systems.

I’m back after about two months or so… I’d like to say I was busy (which I was, but not *too* busy) but to be honest I simply didn’t think of this blog. Or when I did, I didn’t feel like writing anything for it. But to make up, I have three, yes three subjects to rant about!

Firstly: I have won The Game!
And you all just lost it. 😉 But now that the 30-minute rule is running, best read on, because I’ll mention it a few times in the following paragraphs.

In all seriousness, though, I’m out of The Game. I am no longer going to cringe, sigh, and/or swear when it is mentioned or when it pops up randomly. Why not? Because I see no reason to. I refuse to believe that being reminded of the words ‘the game’ is reason enough to feel bad. In fact, I’m going to start a new game, called ‘the Gamble’. Every time you are reminded of the words ‘the gamble’ you win!
Ok, not really, but it does open up the question: ‘if you won the game every time you were reminded of it, instead of lose it, would it have been as popular’? Would people randomly shout ‘the Game!’ or post it on fora or on Facebook if they knew it would bring  joy to those around them, rather than annoyance? Would The Game be grafitied on walls of buildings if it would cheer people up?
Somehow I doubt it. The success of The Game thrives on the fact it annoys people. Making people lose The Game is a form of trolling much like Rickrolling. This worries me, because it means that our generation, as well as the next draws a large part of our entertainment from the misery of others. If you’re younger than 12, that should be natural. However, after that, there really should be some maturing happening.
Then again, I’m not really much into pranks. Like anyone, I don’t like being pranked, but I don’t enjoy much pranking others, either, so maybe I’m a little biased in all this. And, when you get down to it, The Game is a form of pranking. It does, however, require everyone (including (especially) the prankee) to play along. And this is what I chose to no longer do.

It’s called perceived reality. When you tell yourself that something is true, and you believe it, then you will perceive that as being true. Opinions find their basis in perceived reality. Religion works that way: the religious believe that God exists, so for them God becomes a reality. Most often when someone’s perceived reality is very different from ‘the norm’ it is chalked up to physical or mental conditions. Someone who perceives the sky to be red is either colourblind or crazy. And yes, I just compared religion to schizophrenia.

If you approach things very rationally, you can choose how you perceive your reality. And I’m not talking about things like ‘I believe I’m rich’ or ‘I believe I’m (fe)male’. Nor am I talking about things like ‘I’m beautiful’ or ‘I’m popular’. Believing the former couple could be dangerous, believing the latter couple is arrogant narcissism. No, I’m talking about things like what makes you feel bad. A short while before my girlfriend (one and a half year ago) broke up with me, she put quite a bit of music on my computer. After the break-up, this music made me sad, until I said ‘damn it, this music is too good, I’m not going to avoid it because of her’. I no longer perceived that music as something that was intricately linked to her, and I could again enjoy the music for the music’s sake.
Another example is one I did ages ago, entirely subconciously: at one point I ceased judging people on their appearance, and purely on what they say and what they do.
And finally, the Game. While most people I know percieve The Game to be real, with real rules you have to abide to (you lose it when you remember it, and the 30 minute rule) I chose to percieve The Game as something that was invented. Something made up. Something that should have no greater hold on my life than, say, pixies. And so it doesn’t.
Now, if you want to step out of The Game like I did, that’s your choice. This isn’t meant to be an anti-Game rally. I’m just pointing out the futility of playing and the fact that there’s a way out.

Here’s a link to a site about perceived reality
And this one’s pretty interesting too.

Right, that’s one. Secondly: my father’s a dick.

As most of you might know, my parents are divorced and my dad lives on the other side of town. I live with my mother, or rather I live in a room in my mother’s house, and I occasionally come down to eat or relieve myself. A few days ago, my father came over to ‘discuss my future’ with my mother first and then with me. Some of the things he said were simply infuriating. Not the things he said to my face. He still wants me to waste two times two hours a week visiting him. No, it were mainly the things I heard when I was eavesdropping on him and my mother. (Yes, I eavesdrop on my parents when they talk about me). The most striking example was the following (I’m using a name for ease of use. This is not the person’s real name)
Dad: “…and he only makes virtual friends. He can’t meet real people.”
Mom: “Actually, he did meet someone a while ago. Sophia, and he went out with him a few times.”
Dad: “Him? This Sohpia is a guy?”
Mom: “Well, yes…”
Dad: “That’s ofcourse an influence…”
To recap here: In five lines he went from ‘he can’t make friends’ to ‘his friends (which he at one point made) are a bad influence’. And yes, he really does believe all my friends are excentric. This isn’t me assuming he assumes this, he actually said so later on. And yes, if I met you on the internet, you’re not real, apparently, because I don’t meet real people on the internet.
Anyway, later that evening, I had a few lovely insights in how his thoughts pattern works. A few examples:
-I have some excentric friends -> I hang out with excentric people -> I don’t have normal friends. (at this point I asked him to define ‘normal friends’. I’m still waiting for the answer)
-I don’t say much when I’m over at his place -> I don’t say much -> I’m socially inept.
-I spend a lot of time in front of a computer -> I spend all my time in front of a computer -> I am wasting my youth with games where I shoot people’s heads off (I never play shooters, by the way, but shhh)
-I didn’t do that thing he asked me to do I never did before -> I am incapable of figuring out stuff on my own.
Coupled with
-I went to the psych on my own to deal with my gender -> I’m doing this gender stuff behind his back -> I’m going to get a sex change without telling him -> I’m going to get a sex change tomorrow without telling him.
-I went to the psych to deal with my gender -> I’m too focused on my gender issues -> I failed this year because I’m only focused on my gender issues.
-I made up my gender issues either to spite him or to ‘feel special’
-I like fantasy -> I dislike anything that isn’t fantasy -> Anyone I know who likes fantasy is reinforcing this feeling of disliking anything non-fantasy -> Anyone I know who doesn’t hate fantasy is a bad influence
-I also apparently chose to study history because it’s related to fantasy
-I didn’t like reading books 10 years ago -> I don’t like reading the books he gives me -> I still don’t like reading books

So yeah… my dad…
He means well, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a dick about it. Because he is. A dick, that is.
Did I mention I don’t get along well with my father?

During the ‘conversation’ (monologue) I wasn’t sure if I should beat him, run away crying or start laughing. I’m still not sure, really.

Thirdly, games.

For a while now, I’ve been running around with ideas for what I would think would be a great RTS game. Depending on the reactions on this I might share more ideas in future posts (y0u know, in half a year) but this time I’d like to discuss the counter system. Why the counter system? Because setting up a proper counter system is the very basis of building a balanced RTS. If you have a counter system in place that works, you can dress up the game any way you want without skewing the balance too much. There’s still things to keep in mind like cost-to-effectiveness ratios, but if we forego the math for a moment and only talk about the concept, counters are the basis.

Those among you who play RTS games are no doubt familiar with the rock-paper-scissors system that they use to decide which unit counters which. The archer counters the infantry counters the cavalry counters the archer. This system, while simple, is flawed in that infantry used various types of weapons on the battlefield, their role changing based on which one. It basically boiled down to the polearm versus the close-quarter weapon (usually a sword). Battle for Middle Earth II solved this by splitting up the infantry into swordsmen and pikemen, in a ‘archers counter swordsmen counter pikemen counter cavalry counter archers’ cycle. However, this cycle is also skewed, because there are two couples where theoretically neither counters the other: the archers vs pikeman couple and the cavalry vs swordsman couple. However, it is safe to assume that the archers beat the pikemen because they could be mowed down from long range and the cavalry beat the swordsmen because cavalry could trample foot soldiers in that game, skewing the balance in favour of massed archers and cavalry (making mounted archers imbalanced to the extreme. I remember being nigh-invincible with only Rohirrim equiped with bows, spider-riders equiped with bows and whatever the elven horse-archers were called).
Age of Mythology did a pretty awesome job of balancing an on-paper complicated-looking system: The game had three cycles (four if you include ships) overlapping and criss-crossing. I’ll try to explain with just words here: the first cycle catagorized each military unit (bar siege units and ships) into one of three groups: human soldiers, heroes and myth units. Heroes worked differently for each of the three factions: the Greek had up to four heroes who were insanely powerful compared to other units (but not invincible), the Egyptians could mass weak priests as heroes and the Norse had the Hersir unit which could also be massed in theory, but was expensive. The heroes counter myth units. If a group of myth units faced a group of heroes with the same population and/or resource cost, the heroes would always win… always. The same was true for myth units versus human soldiers in favour of the myth units. Human soldiers versus heroes would also go in favour of the soldiers, but for various reasons: Greek heroes are in theory superior to regular soldiers of the same tier, but are limited in number, and thus could be overwhelmed. Egyptian priests are just weak withou their damage bonus to myth units. Norse Hersir are classified as infantry and fall into that cycle.
That cycle, by the way, only includes human soldiers, and is the classic archers > infantry > cavalry > archers cycle, with the addition of so called counter-units. Rather than splitting up infantry into swordsmen and pikeman, like BfMEII, the game takes the heavy infantry as the mainline infantry and designates certain types of units as so called counter-units. These units still belong to their own class of infantry, archers of cavalry, but instead of having a damage bonus against the unit type they usually counter, they have a damge bonus against another type, usually their own (all greek counter units counter their own type, just like most Egyptian counter units), though there are exceptions: Egyptian camel riders counter both archers AND cavalry, norse raiding cavalry counter archers extra hardly and their huskarls counter archers as well, making them weak only to counter-infantry units. (the Norse, by the way, seem to hate archers, as they have two counter-archer units and no archer units of their own). These counter units do more damage to the units they counter than regular units, but take more damage from units they don’t counter, especially units that counter them.
The third cycle is looser: siege units counter buildings like towers and fortresses, who counter human soldiers and some myth units who counter siege units. Some myth units, however, like the Scarab are designed to be building killers, and can eat a whole town if it’s not brought down with other units.
This system, while awesome, has plenty of room for improvement. For example, I think it’d be awesome if myth units represented powerful versions of non-myth units. The centaur, for example, could make a great cavalry archer unit, but isn’t classified as such, thus doesn’t receive the bonusses and penalties of either. I think it would be great if the centaur did have his myth unit bonus, but could be threatened by counter-cavalry units, like the camel rider. The aforementioned scarab does this already, by being really powerful against buildings, but useless against human units.

I remember a really old game called Knights and Merchants. I’m still not sure if that’s an RTS overly focused on economy or a city-builder-ish game with a deep focus on combat. It played a bit like cultures (for those who know that game) but much more structured. It had four unit types: swordsmen, pikemen, archers and cavalry, and two tiers: wooden weapons and leather armour being tier one and metal weapons and armour tier two. Swordsmen countered pikemen countered cavalry countered swordsmen. Archers had insane damage against everything but had almost zero health so fell over when you peed on them. Keep in mind this game is ancient and slow as hell. It took several hours to get an effective fighting force and when you lost an attack, it would take several more hours to build that force up again. But the idea seems solid.

Now, for the game I had in mind. The setting would be Shades of Light, which is a fantasy world I invented and am currently writing stories in. (mainly why I discussed only fantasy/medieval games, and not, say, Starcraft) The world has three major factions and includes both magic as well as different levels of technology. The factions are: The Federation of Light, which would be the standard fantasy ‘human-elf-dwarf’ faction (one thing to note: Shades of Light is not a world with various races, but with one dominant species with several cultures). The faction would rely on heavy infantry supported by archers and cavalry; The Union of Stars, which is a conglomeration of tribes. They would mainly have a large, very large number of light units; and the Empire of the Sun and Moon, which is a Steampunk-inspired faction that uses heavy machinery as well as telekinetic magic. I have pondered several ways a counter system could work here. One is to have the type of attack counter the type of armour, but that would put the Empire in a favourable position, as their machines of war would be strong to anything but magic users. Another one, one that I like on paper, is one that vastly reduced the health of human units, vastly increases the damage they do, and vastly reduces their chance to hit. I could also give soldiers the ability to overwhelm machines, break into them and kill everyone in side, if they have sufficient numbers, though that wouldn’t give a non-magic answer to the flying ships and unmanned creations the Empire wields. This would also mean that, say, an archer is stronger than an infantry unit because the archer has the chance to attack the infantry unit several times before the latter closes in, and not because the former has an attack bonus.
I could also look at Warcraft III’s counter system, where every attack type does extra damage to a number of armour types and reduced damage to several others and where every armour type is strong against several attack types and weak against several others.

And that was it for this time. As always, if you have comments or feedback, do not hesitate to post them or to otherwise share them with me. I have reexams coming up in the next few weeks, but after that, I’ll try to put more rants up. I can’t promise if they’ll be as long as this one, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad think.