March April Goal Review

Where did March go!!?? It’s been a blur for me, though I hope you’ve had a finer time on this… unacceptable but all too real anniversary.

But why dwell here? There’s the future to consider after double-checking where the most recent accomplishments laid the way here!

March Goal Review

    1. Truths Chosen Formatting
      1. Won! Kinda. Taking a note from folks like Scott Galloway and my own truth of “Simplify,” I’m going to write blog posts on a shortlist of truths. These will be longer-form, combining TLDRs with a chapter-like story delving into the reality of what seems true.
    2. Truths Draft 3
      1. Failed. I’m not giving myself this one. I’ve focused on the end-of-life deathwalk, work, and yearly medical checkups. I’ve done no major changes to the “Truths” list other than paring down to a shortlist of Top 4, Top 10, and Last 10 from a list of about 30 truths I can defend without doubt.
    3. End-of-Life Checkup
      1. Won! This deathwalk (my term for it) has been brutal but oh so valuable! (Highly recommend it for you!) Found that some documents needed updating, recalibrated my endeavors, and have started already on April. (Goals below.)
    4. Another 20 Into Witcher 3
      1. Won! Bam! And no-where near to being done, so it seems 😅 Very much enjoying it so far. Wonder what it would be like on the highest difficulty? 🤔

April Goal Proposal

    1. Summer Plans
      1. May and June will see some location changes. My thoughts are to get a new permanent residence while also getting up to New York State to see fam and a very important cat (COVID precautious, of course). Since I’ll be uprooting, I can head off any downsides now rather than later.
    2. Ditch Property
      1. Physical assets hold a person back, hold them down. I’ve lasted a year-and-change without things like my heavy wooden kitchen table, guest beds, and 90% of my wardrobe. Though I may not get down to 10% of my current ownings, 40% is doable! (If I can move my current storage into a 5×10, this is a win.)
    3. 1 Hour Writing Habit
      1. Everyday, 1 hour, writing. Doesn’t matter what, but it needs to be writing and only writing. 1 hour. Everyday. 1 month.
    4. 1 Hour Chill-out Habit
      1. Like the above, I need to learn to relax. Part of the deathwalk was identifying what I wanted to do in my short life. Under that new awareness, I uncovered that I would re-consume some of the media that has changed me through the years. This hopeful habit gets me on the ball for that enjoyment.

April could bring a lot more change than what I mentioned here – heck, since I’m writing this a bit before month’s end, A LOT could still happen!

Enough about me. How are your goals doing? Do your actions live up to your intentions? If you need answers, check my other goal posts and, perhaps, fast for a day (doctor’s note excused) and do your own deathwalk ~

Anyway, cheers to you and I as we get after it!

BITS – Starcraft

This is Jimmy.

Jim Raynor

Greetings! Taking a break from heavier topics to write something light: A game!

Not just any game, but a roleplaying game set in Activision Blizzard’s Starcraft universe driven by my very own BITS engine. (Of course to note: I own no stake in the Starcraft IP owned solely by Activision Blizzard, nor to I may any claim on the IP. The following is personally for education and publicly for entertainment purposes only.)

This came to me over the course of two afternoon hours, cleaned up and expanded here for you! As a modest, very prototype design of a famous IP, it ought to serve to highlight how to bring a real-time computer strategy game to the role-playing world.

Tough talk, Jimmy, but I don’t think you have what it takes to be a killer.

Kerrigan, Queen of Blades

Who the Characters Are

Awaken, my child, and embrace the glory that is your birthright. Know that I am the Overmind, the eternal will of the Swarm, and that you have been created to serve me.

Overmind

Players take on the roles of the units available to a faction in Starcraft: the haughty Protoss, the ravenous Zerg, or the troubled Terrans.

Any character is a standard unit in the game that then may play alongside GM-controlled hero characters. “Standard” means the player starts in an early tier unit, someone not the weakest (unless compensated accordingly), but certainly leaving room for growth.

Starting units come in tiers. Within the tier roles, each character comes with or chooses their own gear and specialties. Not all factions start in the same tiers. A shortlist of examples:

    • Terrans – Either a regular human or a robot.
      • Tier 0 – Space Construction Vehicle (SCV) operator, equipped with an exo-suit that is really bad at combat, but can breakdown structures, repair machines, and build anything anywhere given enough time and materiel.
      • Tier 1 – Marine, armed with powerful rifle and powered armor, though is unable to pilot vehicles.
    • Zerg – A spawned monster of leathery wings or chitinous hide.
      • Tier 0 – Zergling, a nasty creature of teeth and claws that travels with other Zerglings due to their minor stature.
      • Tier 1 – A slithering Hydralisk, armed with massive scythes and spewed barbs, but is a slow target.
    • Protoss – Either a psychically attuned alien or their AI servants.
      • Tier 1 – Zealot, the frontline warrior armed with energy fields and two psychically-powered forearm blades.
      • Tier 2 – Dragoon assault walker pilot, trapped inside a metal shell bearing a massive photon cannon.

There are gives-and-takes for each selection: Slow but powerful, restricted in capability but excelling in what can be done, etc. Choosing both opens and closes options to get things done while on missions.

What Characters Do

I do this for Aiur.

Zeratul

Players take their characters on missions, either as one-offs or as part of a larger campaign with the consequences of previous actions influencing future contexts. Every mission has a single environment the characters operate in with a clear goal.

Different obstacles prevent accomplishing the mission goal. They range from sneaky sabotage to ruthless assault to cautious evacuation to stalwart defense against armies. How these things get accomplished is up to the players and what their characters are capable of doing.

A character can do things in relation to what tier they are. To execute an action that has a moderate amount of difficulty, a player must role at or above the difficulty level with two six-sided dice. The player then may add the applicable BITS value of their character to the action.

An example:

    • A Terran Marine character wants to shoot a Zergling before the ‘ling can get close enough to attack. The Zergling is Tier 0 which equals a difficulty of 7+ to do anything against them. The Marine must roll 7 or above. To help the Marine, they may add their BITS value of Interaction 1 (this value applies to shooting actions) to the roll.
    • The Marine rolls a 4. Even with 1 added, the Marine fails their action. The Zergling is now close enough to attack the Marine with sharp claws. The Marine is Tier 1, so the ‘ling requires a roll of 9+. The Zergling has a Body BITS of 2 that they can add to their physical action. Rolling a 7, the ‘ling adds 2, barely getting the 9 needed to carve into the Marine’s armor.

How and Why to Improve Characters

You must construct additional pylons.

Advisor

Characters ‘level-up’ when they try to do things and fail but survive. When a level-up happens, between missions, a player may choose any number of upgrades for their character that improve how the character operates. Players may also choose to re-equip their character into a new specialty.

Upgrades allow characters to succeed more often and survive at the cost of failing less, therefore slowing down how many upgrades are gained. Characters also receive rewards for accomplishing their missions. Better gear, more allies, stashes of materials, or other tactical or strategic advantage become available for use.

Any upgrade from the Starcraft video games can be used, though customization is encouraged. Example:

    • A Terran Marine doesn’t have the ability to lay mines in Starcraft, but in this roleplaying game, they may come to carry one on their back every mission.
    • A Zergling can use in-game upgrades to become faster (Metabolic Boost), jump higher (Raptor Strain), and attack multiple times at once (Adrenal Glands).
    • A Zealot can improve their recharging shield, but might also customize themselves to shoot psychic blasts or hover off the ground. 

With better gear, players may expand from their starting roles into more advanced roles and tiers. A Terran moves from combat armor to driving a powerful Siege Tank or flying a nimble Wraith Fighter. A Protoss warrior studies to become a Corsair or a hyper-powerful Archon. Zerg evolve into bat-like, acid-spitting Mutalisks or vile, contagious Defilers. These and more are the outcomes for courageous players.

Four Example Missions

I hunger for battle…

Fenix

Players choose characters and gear together. For ease of play, they all pick from the same faction. There are few decisions to be made in selecting a character at the beginning (name, gender, role, gear), so they begin the first mission right away.

Mission 1: Escape the Base

Nuclear launch detected.

Adjutant

The GM details the environment, what has happened up the the present moment, and what is happening. The GM does this at the start of every mission.

The characters must escape a base that is being attacked and overrun. There are multiple routes out of the base (aircraft, ground transports), but also non-player characters (NPCs) that could help as well as communications equipment that could call for help.

Tier 0 enemies are everywhere with a few Tier 1 challenges. Whichever route the players choose, a Tier 2 ‘boss’ must be overcome for the characters to escape. A Tier 4 ‘super’ enemy destroys the base behind the characters.

After the mission, the players take note of what they took from the base and any upgrades they have available.

Mission 2: Steal the Keys

I have returned.

Dragoon

The characters are stranded unless they get the encryption keys to a spaceship. The keys are kept in a well-guarded base that doesn’t know the characters are nearby.

There are multiple routes into and through the base, as well as different styles of play available: Sneak through the base to avoid Tier 0 and 1 patrols, direct assault at the front gate, cause a distraction outside the base, or disguise as part of the base’s inhabitants.

Whichever rout the players choose, they must escape the base with the keys.

After the mission, a player decides to change their character role based off of what happened in the mission.

Mission 3: To the Victor

(harse growl)

Kerrigan, Queen of Blades

The characters must secure a spaceship for themselves. The spaceship is on a space station. The characters are already on the station when an enemy raiding party attacks.

Battles happen throughout the station. There are multiple ways to get to the spaceship: Fight anyone encountered, run through any firefights, or sneak through the conflict. Extra rewards are on the station but are also where the heaviest enemy presence is.

Whichever route the players choose, they must make it to a spaceship and fly away.

A player character died during the mission. That player then chooses a new character to join the surviving characters, coming up with a plausible reason why that character is joining.

Mission 4: Space Race

Carrier has arrived.

Carrier

The characters must use their spaceship to defeat other spaceships to save evacuees from the invasion started in the first mission. NPCs are available to help with their own space fighters and ships, but need the direction of the characters.

Players may choose to fly fighters, operate spaceship cannons, coordinate friendly spaceships, board the enemy, or fight off boarders.

Whichever route the players choose, Tier 3 and 4 enemies are frequent. Before the mission succeeds, an enemy hero must be overcome as a final ‘boss.’

After the mission, players upgrade their characters. The NPCs who have joined as allies and rewards collected help the players decide what their next mission will be.

Tiers

Power overwhelming!

Archon

A partial list of units in their tiers per faction. BITS stats are given more or less in proportion to the tier of the unit.

TerranZergProtoss
T0:SCV, CivilianDrone, ZerglingObserver, Interceptor
T1:Marine, MedicHydralisk, ScourgeProbe, Zealot
T2:Vulture, GoliathMutalisk, QueenDragoon, Corsair
T3:Frigate, Siege TankOverlord, GuardianScout, Templar
T4:Battlecruiser, GhostUltralisk, DefilerArchon, Carrier
Heroes:General DukeBrood CerebrateFleet Arbiter
Sample Unit Tiers

The tiers ought to be altered to better reflect the “technology trees”

Dev Notes

We sense a soul in search of answers.

Arbiter

Actions have abstract ranges of effect. Some actions require a minimum distance, but all cap at a maximum distance. The types of distance include Melee (hand-to-hand), Close (line-of-sight shooting), Long (sniping), and Far (indirect). Other games present systems of abstract distances that can be adapted here.

The quantity of effect an action has is by default 1 for accomplishing the action. 1 additional quantity is added for each number rolled above the minimum challenge required for the action to succeed. Some equipment or actions have a higher default quantity (e.g. a Siege Tank would have more effect in shooting than a Marine’s rifle). Some actions are lower (e.g. a human fighting with only their un-augmented body is 0).

To iron-out absurdities such as a Marine (Tier 1) shooting down a Battlecruiser (Tier 4), a unit may only interact with one and only one tier above that unit or below. Two or more tiers above a unit’s tier cannot be interacted with in a harmful manner by that unit. If an action affects a tier above, the action is at disadvantage (i.e. the highest die in a roll changes to be the lowest die). If an action affects a tier below, the action is at advantage (i.e. the lowest die in a roll changes to be the highest die).

There are more high-tier Protoss units than Terran, but Protoss are fewer in number. There are more Zerg units than Terran, but Zerg are lower tier.

Terran (2 units)Zerg (4 units)Protoss (1 unit)
T0:10%30%10%
T1:30%30%20%
T2:30%20%40%
T3:20%10%20%
T4:10%10%10%
Frequency of Tiers and Units (the math isn’t balanced [yet])

The merging is complete.

Archon

And there it is! My brainstorm that leveraged inspiration when inspiration hit.

I hope you like it! This would be a prototype if played. With the BITS ruleset and the prebuilt Starcraft universe, a game could be played, and that’s what really matters!

What have you been playing? Care to give this a shot? The ruleset here will get you well on your way to enjoying your own space adventure! Cheers!

February March Goal Review

February: my birth month and a month of great writing and studying endeavors.

Did I succeed? Or have a good time? What’s next?

February Goal Review

    1. Truths Draft 2
      1. Won! Thanks to the invaluable help of close friends, I’ve wrangled and rewritten the Truths content to something more palatable, more universally applicable. I’ll continue this work going forward.

    2. Birthday Enjoyment
      1. Won! Didn’t make it to Death Valley as planned, yet I did manage to have an excellent hike! It turned out to be a swell birthday weekend of food and some of the best presents I’ve ever received (high-quality framed pictures of a very important cat in my life). Death Valley is on pause for now, but have it on the agenda to make it out late March/early April.

    3. Start Witcher 3
      1. Won! 20 hours was the goal, and 20 have (barely) been achieved! Witcher 3 is a fascinating, engaging, and oh-so-well written game – highly suggest picking it up!

    4. Private Goal
      1. Won! February demanded a lot of time and focus to a core endeavor that had multiple parts to it. Though some of those parts fell through, even more than I expected are rockin’ because of my drive 😎 Looking forward to how this goal turns out in the long run!

March Goal Proposal

    1. Truths Chosen Formatting
      1. Going to pick a format for how to deliver the collection of seemingly universal tidbits. Though, while I write this, the truth of “Simplify” comes to mind… So I may just skip straight to formatting what I have!

    2. Truths Draft 3
      1. That collection that’s going to get formatted? How about I give it another scrubbing, getting it in front of a few other folks (maybe even you)? That sounds like a plan I can get behind!

    3. End-of-Life Checkup
      1. Be not afraid of the heading! This is a periodic checkup on the state of affairs in my life. Is my documents up to date? Does someone else know how to find out my passwords? What are my aims in life? If I was to die in three months, what is there yet to do (a fantastic exercise to take at least a day of contemplation on)?

        Get these things in order and the goal here is met.

    4. Another 20 Into Witcher 3
      1. Let’s finish what was started, eh? 20 hours worked well for my tighter schedule during last month, so about 20-odd hours (totaling ~40 over two months) in will grant me the ‘chill’ my workaholism would seek to get rid of. (Heck, I might just finish the game!)

With the dubiousness of my private goal for February, let’s call it 90% completion for February – cool? By that reckoning, still a fine month! (I know it certainly kept me busy throughout!)

March aims high too. Gimme a month to accomplish what I might, but you would do me a favor: What habits do you think I could include that I’m missing here?

I look forward to hearing from you! For now, much success for your own goals – see you back here in a week! Cheers~

Rewriting: Halo, Preamble

I must begin by confessing that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all of the games.

Over the course of three more posts I’m going to give a crack at getting that narrative consistency back 😎 Less out of hubris, more out of affection for a fantastic series ❤

What follows is only a look at the story as written that fits the established plot pattern of the first three Halo games: Halo CE, Halo 2, and Halo 3. Talk over mechanical balance, aesthetic, features like multiplayer, and similar will be left to others. However, critiques on complexity and needing to know the expanded universe of the franchise will be addressed.

This post covers the common ground that the proceeding analyses need to make their point. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead. Here’s to it:

Defining Terms

The avatar of Halo is the Master Chief. MC (also an abbreviation for ‘main character’) is a hulking human cyborg with the best armor and weapons humanity can muster to fight.

Chief has slain legions of foes, obliterated entire fleets, and stopped multiple galactic menaces. He is a legend among humanity and aliens alike. The former call him “Savior,” the latter (represented by the theocratic Covenant alliance) “Demon.” Other titles:

    • “Reclaimer” – From the robots left by the Forerunners that built and then killed themselves with Halo array to win a lost war. (Humanity is meant to ‘reclaim’ the former Forerunner responsibility for peace in the galaxy.)
    • “Food” – From the ancient-beyond-reckoning parasitical Flood that Halo was built to combat. (Finally contained in Halo 3.)

All of this would be impossible without his ‘spirit-guide’ and supernatural protector Cortana, the most advanced of the most advanced AI humanity can create. She lives in the circuits of MC’s suit and brain, sometimes transferring to other computer systems to find information, open the way for Chief, and stop their enemies.

Master Chief, Cortana, Halo, Covenant, Forerunners, Flood. Remember these as we proceed.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

The first three Halo titles each internalize the 6-point structure of:

    1. Greet the Hero
    2. Fight Off and Crash
    3. Fight Back with Friends
    4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap)
    5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)
    6. Explosions and Goodbye

These games also represent these points as whole products:

    • Halo CE – Greet the Hero. The first title in the series introduces all the main themes, mechanics, and factions that are the constants through the other games.
    • Halo 2 – Fight Off and Crash. Chief fights off the invasion of Earth, the spread of the Flood, and an entire city of Covenant. He also aids in the crashing of the entire Halo activation system (needing a reboot in Halo 3) while smashing into a Forerunner dreadnought controlled by the Covenant.
    • Halo 3 – Fight Back with Friends. MC joins forces with human armies, Covenant separatists, Forerunner machines, and even the Flood (for a time) to stop Halo being activated and the Flood from spreading. The fight is finally brought en masse to the enemy! A disgraced alien admiral tags along with Chief the entire time as a constant buddy.

If we go a step further, we could consider each trilogy of the Halo franchise internalizing the 6-point structure in each of its titles:

    • Halo CE – Greet the Hero + Fight Off and Crash. Introduction of MC who fights off the Covenant, the Flood, and murderous Forerunner robots to ultimately destroy the Halo ring with a crashed starship’s reactor.
    • Halo 2 – Fight Back with Friends + Stop the Very Bad (Trap). More allies join the Master Chief as he takes the fight to the enemy (bombing a capital ship, retaking an occupied city, chasing and assassinating Covenant leadership, etc). He must stop another Halo ring from firing, but in doing so, he both leaves Cortana behind and the Flood are released.
    • Halo 3 – Stop the Very Worst + Explosions and Goodbye. All the Halo rings can be triggered easily from one location, the Flood spread unchecked, the Covenant have the means to trigger galaxy-wide death, and once allied Forerunner machines turn on the Master Chief (the very worst stuff this is).

      MC blows up the Covenant, the Flood, and the Halo ring activation, but his allies think he’s dead (they say “goodbye” to his memory) and Cortana needs to freeze him (they’re both lost in space indefinitely).

      In a meta sense, the original creators of the franchise (Bungie) say goodbye as they cease work on further Master Chief stories.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Halo games follow basic Campbell-like monomyth story structure. For example, Fight Off and Crash is a crossing of the threshold where return is impossible.

However, the Master Chief games have their own flavor of delivering twists on this plot over and over again. When Master Chief is in a Halo story, a person must expect the presentation to conform to the pattern. There will otherwise be consequences (e.g. low Metacritic scoring).

Metacritic is also only semi-useful as a quantitative correlator to narrative conformance. The score takes into account many things, including mechanics and features, which muddle the narrative analysis. If there’s a better scoring system discovered or proposed, it will be used.

For now, it is plain that each Halo title featuring the Master Chief has to follow each beat of the 6-points in itself, the beat of where the title is in the franchise, and where the title is in its own trilogy.

With these conclusions, other titles can be analyzed, improvements put forward, and predictions made to what may be the final title in the Master Chief saga, Halo Infinite.

And that’s the intro! Halo 4‘s analysis is coming next, along with 5 and 6 (this may be the upcoming Halo Infinite, but I’ve yet to decide if we’ll keep the naming conventions). Keep an eye out! Cheers ~