[Aradon Templar]'s diary

1153113  Link to this entry 
Written about Friday 2012-08-17
Written: (3078 days ago)

Dreamed of an aesthetically beautiful video game. From what I can remember, gameplay seemed like a mix between Warcraft and Civilization, and now I'm tantalized. I really want to play this game and figure out what I recall making it so good. Apparently something about starting off with only two units, a peasant and a priest, made it seem very 'classic.' Unorthodox in that any unit could build structures or harvest resources, though I suspect different units could build different structures. Anyways, it looked really nice in its art style :)

1150252  Link to this entry 
Written about Wednesday 2012-05-02
Written: (3184 days ago)

Saving this post here, so I don't lose it later and have to look it up. It's a post about GW2's music customization feature.

Mike Ferguson:
It’s actually in and working, but the feature wasn’t publicly documented. Here’s how it currently works:

Under [your name]\Documents\Guild Wars Gw2Dev folder, you’ll see that GW2 creates a Music folder next to the Screens folder (where screenshots go). All you need to do to get your external music collection playing in the game is to create a playlist of the appropriate name and type in this folder.

Supported playlist formats are .wpl, .m3u, .pls, .asx, and .wax.

Supported audio types are everything FMOD supports by default, which includes .mp3, .ogg, .flac, .wav. aiff, and a bunch of old-school music formats, like .mid or .it files.

There are eight specific playlists the game recognizes, and these are designated simply by the playlist’s file name. They are: Ambient, Battle, Underwater, City, Crafting, BossBattle, NightTime, and MainMenu. Hopefully these are somewhat self-explanatory in terms of when you might expect to hear them play.

So, for example, if you create a playlist called Ambient.m3u, anything in that playlist will be heard instead of the standard in-game ambient music (the general music you hear when running around in the world).

Each internal playlist can designate a primary and secondary playlist to look for. Most of the playlists will fall back to Ambient if they do not exist. This means that if you’d like to simply replace the majority of the music in the game, you can just create an Ambient playlist, or maybe just Ambient and Battle. However, if you really want to customize your playlist in detail, you can create the more specialized playlists such as NightTime or Crafting.

The easiest (and at the moment, the only) way to test this is with a MainMenu playlist, since that will replace the music at the login screen.

Edit: https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/audio/Choosing-our-own-music/page/1#post157856

1148819  Link to this entry 
Written about Thursday 2012-03-15
Written: (3233 days ago)
1147407  Link to this entry 
Written about Tuesday 2012-02-07
Written: (3269 days ago)
Next in thread: 1147442

When did I stop listening to my elders?
When did I decide that I could decide things for myself?
I wonder if that decision was in fact a grave mistake.

1135979  Link to this entry 
Written about Tuesday 2011-05-24
Written: (3528 days ago)
Next in thread: 1136542

Since writing a story is hard work, notes shall be made here. What story would I be writing? The Machine of Death short story, of course. Deadline for submissions is July 15th and since this is an extremely awesome collection and premise, nobody anywhere has any excuse not to be awesome and write a short story for it.

Considering the following ideas:
1. Error
2. One day at a time
3. Free will

1126633  Link to this entry 
Written about Friday 2010-11-26
Written: (3708 days ago)

Hello diary stalkers. Heavens knows why you read through the confusing ramblings of these posts, or why I am suddenly audience-aware in these posts. I have two bits for today.

1. Hi, I'm Aradon Templar and I'm a webcomic addict. I don't know if it's hurt any of my friends yet, but who knows what it's doing to my sanity and my school grades :P Latest comic to add to my list that I check obsessively is http://www.questionablecontent.net . Apparently the sexy/cute/social drama factor in this one compelled me to like it. So I've spent the last few days reading through each of the 1800 strips so far. Picking up a new webcomic just takes over my life sometimes, often quite abruptly. It's rare that I see a webcomic that I enjoy to any extent and do not subsequently go on a webcomic binge. There's something about them that I deeply enjoy. I dunno if it's healthy, but I think I'm at least beginning to understand it sometimes. Anyways, never link me a webcomic unless it's really really good, or really bad. Or if you want to consume my life for a while for whatever reason. The biggest offender so far is that list of webcomics at the bottom of http://www.dinosaurcomics.com that Ryan North likes. It's like, "Gee I could stand to lose a few days out of the week, how about I take a peek at LOOKATALLTHEPICTURESOMGOMGOMG." If this strikes you as somewhat out of character for me, then you can appreciate that I have a substantial dependency on webcomics :P

2. I thought of a neat idea for a pixar/disney animated film. True, I don't like a lot of animated films for one reason or another, but they have a certain air to them that can be used effectively, much like any medium of art does. Essentially the idea for this film is to display the concept of cars driving on a road. Woohoo exciting rite amirite isn't this krazy fun? No? Now that I have sufficiently underwhelmed you, I'll explain a little more clearly. See, a car driving on a road has a person in it. Sometimes several people. Sometimes a whole family. They are all headed somewhere. They all have their own lives. A car is a small microcosm of a very significant life. And there are dozens of these in the vicinity of the road around you. Next time you're on a populated street, just consider how many lives are driving right next to you in their own little bubbles. I think the concept is very neat. So this movie basically takes place on the road, traveling with cars while the audience sees bits and pieces of dozens of families and individuals. A plot of some sort would probably be needed to tie these individual glimpses together, but there are several advantages to this animation concept:
- It will portray an everyday and probably very mundane experience in a quite different light. The audience will be able to relate while still gaining new perspective.
- It is unique. I can't say the concept has ever been done before, to my knowledge.
- It gives the opportunity for a lot of terrain visuals. It's always nice to see new places, and that'll never be easier than in this film.
- The most compelling thing I've found about movies is the ability to transport you beyond yourself and your mental setting. Often this is either to a new place literally, such as in fantasy movies, or to a new psyche, such as in romantic movies. You don't worry about your own issues but are consumed by the issues in the movie. I think that this transportation feeling is extremely fascinating, and that it is felt strongly in my film concept. The camera is always on a move along the road and is never stationary. It should convey that same great feeling of getting on to a plane and knowing that it's going somewhere and that you don't have to do the driving :P

Anyways, I think it'd be a neat movie, once the plot issue is resolved and it's made cohesive. I also like that it's pretty unique, so I thought I'd jot it down here so I can read it later and think it's neat again.

1126123  Link to this entry 
Written about Sunday 2010-11-14
Written: (3719 days ago)

Thoughts on conversation in videogames-

Early games have straightforward dialogue. Talk to NPCs, they say something. If you talk to them again, they said the same thing. Down the line programmers were like, "ooh talking twice gets a second line of text" and things like that. It's like continuing conversations with them. Later, you might get the choice of answering questions with certain answers, which might impact the text you get back. This is the style of dialogue that you see from Square Enix to this day. For RPGs, this isn't very role-play-ey. There is no real conversation going on here; it's closer to interrogation. You go up to each NPC and say, "Hey you, what are you programmed to tell me?" It's extremely limited. Bioware is a leading game company renowned for its lore and in-depth development. It has branched out with dialogue in its games, giving your character a number of lines to say, featuring a variety of attitudes, inflections, and topics. Usually you can just select a manner of saying the same thing, which isn't as free-roaming as I would prefer, but when you're in a real conversation, you don't really have the choice of saying non-sequiters anyways. Fair enough. So you make your statement, and they respond with their pre-organized reply. If you get back to the same place in the dialogue and say the same thing, they respond in the exact same manner. You can do this any number of times, and they will never realize that they are repeating themselves. Recently they have made some statements trigger the ends of dialogues and things like that, so that your words can actually start having very real impacts. For example, you used to be able to say something that the other NPC would refuse to talk about, and you could go back and try a different dialogue line until you find one that works. In Dragon Age, though, I've found that if I say the wrong thing, they stop talking to me. I don't get to go back and ask about something else, that's it. I pissed them off and now they won't say anything else. That's a step in the right direction.

Anyways, my point is that I saw an AI developer mention that he wants to integrate AI into dialogue, and this turns the concept of talking to NPCs upside down. How does that even work? AI makes decisions, with choices, when up to now, dialogue has always, always been 1:1 with action-reaction. This is almost necessary, because interaction with people is the same way. If you offer someone ice cream, they can accept, reject, or do some other response. In any given situation, they will make the same choice, because honestly, you need a good reason to turn down ice cream. You aren't going to roll a die and say "Oh I guess I don't want ice cream this time. I hope they offer it again." So, the AI in this case isn't about randomizing choices, it's about analyzing the exact situation the NPC is in, and giving responses based on that. What's the problem? NPCs already do this in a lot of cases. If you want a gate lowered, but the guard is worried about the dragon on the other side, you have to get rid of the dragon first. Then you go back and talk to the guard and he checks "Is dragon gone? Yes? Then I will open the gate." His [Yes/no] looks at the situation and makes a decision. That essentially is AI. What does this developer want to do with AI conversation, then?

Well I would hazard a guess that it has to do with the fact that NPCs say the exact same effing information every time you talk to them and have no minds of their own. You don't feel like what you are talking to has any intelligence, artificial or not. Usually you talk to them hoping to get a result Y/N, they check a very simple flag to see if some condition is fulfilled, then give their (elaborately-worded) Y/N response. You don't feel like the NPC has any character to them at all. How can this be changed, though? There are a couple things I can think of.

1. Instead of one way of phrasing something, write a dozen. Yes, this is a ton of work, but if you ask an NPC something, then need them to repeat it, it feels SO hollow when they echo their exact words from before. It also opens up some other options I'll look at.

2. Usually dialogues are very goal-oriented. You talk to someone with an intent of finding something specific out. It is possible to incorporate many different dialogues together. For example, say you hear about something interesting from one NPC. That sets up an internal flag that your character knows about event X. You can now talk to other NPCs about that. Now the fruit of your conversation is not just getting some specific thing from an NPC, but opening up various dialogue lines. Now you aren't just working through NPCs, but actually conversing with them, because who knows when they'll reveal something interesting or useful. It avoids the 'I must convince such-and-such to do this for me' and leaves conversation more open-ended.

3. Increasing the complexity of character dispositions can assist in the usage of more varied phrasing from #1 and also the Y/N basis of dialogue that pervades most persuasion attempts in RPGs. What I mean is, giving NPCs values for things like 'helpfulness' 'annoyance' and 'charmed' will give more values to base decisions on. Even if the dragon on the other side of the gate is gone, if you've pissed off the guard, he might not want to let the gate down for you anyways (unless you threaten to report him to the King- he could be easily intimidated; or maybe he'll just arrest you for harassing the guards). These values could be affected by outside tasks such as doing favors for them to increase their helpfulness, or by dialogue choices. Using a more antagonistic phrasing could increase their annoyance, but if you talk to them enough in the right tone you could convince them to help you. The interaction becomes a lot more in-depth.

4. Bioware's been implementing in some of there games a sort of 'intimidate/persuade' system whereby you can open dialogues (that are usually beneficial for you) if you have enough skill in intimidation or persuasion. In Mass Effect this was determined by renegade/paragon points. If you had enough, you could choose lines that would (if they were successful-- they always were) get you some sort of bonus. In Dragon Age, you would be able to use (intimidate) or (persuade) lines that would then check your strength or cunning respectively to see if you were successful. While these are nice features, they are a little transparent. You could always assume that wherever a (persuade) line came up, it was the best one to choose and had a chance of being successful, since if it wouldn't work it wouldn't show up to begin with. These lines often became the easy way to solve dialogue confrontations in game. I understand that this helps reward people who invest in the cunning or whatnot to take these paths, but it doesn't feel real anyways. If #1 were to be used, then you could phrase things in several different ways. The higher your intelligence or charisma or cunning (whatever you want to dominate dialogue interactions) the more different phrasings you could have available. This way, a character with low intelligence would only be able to express himself in one way, probably with little helpful impact to the NPC's hidden values of helpfulness, annoyance etc. A more intelligent character could try other phrasings. The more ways you have of discussing a topic, the more often you could return to it. Think about it in real life. If I asked you, "So tell me the secrets of your awesome piano playing," you could maybe say a little about it, maybe a lot. Or you might not want to. Whatever the outcome, imagine that five minutes later, I go, "So tell me the secrets of your awesome piano playing." Is the outcome going to be different? Well you probably won't repeat yourself, you might offer a little more info, but if you didn't want to tell me anything the first time, that won't change. But if I phrase it differently, I could ask about specifics of the technique which you could expand upon more precisely. Or if you didn't say anything the first time, you could be less reluctant to talk about that specific point, or I could try a phrasing that could convince you. But simply repeating my previous request should not be an option. And in video games it isn't. If you keep asking about something with an NPC you won't get any more information than the first time. With this system of different phrases, you could revisit a topic from a number of angles.

Essentially what I am proposing is that NPCs are given a larger variety of texts to use, making conversation feel less mechanical and rote. Creating more branches and possibilities in dialogue makes conversation less 'something you can figure out and map out entirely' and something more like a game, where you explore what you can. The system of modifying internal values of NPCs helps to avoid repetition and cases of just pestering an NPC about a certain topic. Imagine if a 'patience' value were given for each topic an NPC could talk about. Every time you ask him about something, he'd lose a little patience. If you can make good conversation on the topic it'd go up again as you keep his interest, but if you simply go through every dialogue choice you can to brute-force the system, he would run out of patience and stop talking before you could visit every dialogue option. For the sake of good gameplay it could return over time so you could revisit and try it again (I hate for options to be closed off to players forever, even though this is a good basis of elevating the importance in decision making, and thus is crucial to RPGs). This way dialogue would feel a lot more fluid and far less predictable. More natural. This is the sort of thing I envision when I hear about 'AI conversations.' Making intelligent choices based on a variety of factors, but those choices have to be varied before it really feels like intelligence. And overall, it has to feel real and not artificial. We honestly already have 'AI' conversations in video games. (To the extent that AI is applied to games- obviously we are not talking about real thinking. Combat AI doesn't refer to sentient planning, just execution of sufficiently complex and sophisticated actions without direct input from a player.)

The discussion of AI in combat, such as with Halo, refers often to decision trees, and often in very advanced planning. Computers evaluate the value of certain positioning in relation to different objects, coordinated plans and things like that. Applying this to dialogue would be a complex analogy, but the first step I could imagine would be giving NPCs goals of avoiding or gravitating towards some subjects, rather than simply entering conversation as an open box to discuss whatever the player wants to. I'm not sure how to effect this in terms of programming, however. I suppose it has to do with dialogue links- avoid giving out lines that branch towards a subject they are avoiding.

Anyways, those are just my thoughts on dialogue AI. It would be pretty neat, but that is a heck of a lot of writing for the developers. Bioware already writes books and books of script for its games, and what I'm proposing essentially multiplies all that by 10. But hey, it's a means of doing it. You have to have choices for an AI to choose from, or else there's no room for intelligence at all.

edit: It occurred to me that one big flaw in NPC AI is when they try relentlessly to run into a wall, because they want to go in a certain direction and don't realize they can't. This is roughly analogous to an NPC repeating himself over and over just because you are saying the same thing too. It's a terribly obvious flaw in combat AI, and it's almost just as bad in dialogue. Also, a way to give some proactivity to NPCs is to allow them to direct conversation too. When you are talking with a friend, they don't just talk about what you want to talk about. They can introduce topics too. This is kind of inconvenient on the player, true, but it gives a lot of agency to the NPC to manipulate conversation realistically. Also, talking with someone about what they want to talk about a) makes the NPC seem like he actually has interests, and b) is a way to get him to open up (increase friendliness values!) and maybe convince him to talk about what you wanted to hear about. Fair's fair, right?

1123568  Link to this entry 
Written about Monday 2010-09-27
Written: (3768 days ago)

Whenever I look at something someone else has created, be it visual art, performance, music, or even mental concepts, opinions, or theories, I try to understand them. How they work, what the intent of it is, etc. I think that's pretty natural. I've noticed a strange bias effect, however. When observing the creation, I form my own initial opinions about them. I could support those opinions with further observation and analysis to come to what I think would be fairly strong conclusions about the creation. However, if I happen to come across a perspective that shows what the creator might have intended, or get some sort of insight as to how it's 'supposed' to work, then the perspective has a frighteningly large impact. Knowing what the creator intended to focus on and how it was supposed to come together, I invariably end up analyzing, "did it do what the creator intended?" And most frequently I can justify how the creator was successful in those specific goals or features. This hugely skews my opinion of the work.

An example might clarify what the heck I mean. Often in my music education I end up listening to and analyzing modern pieces of music. My initial reaction is that it's terrible and I don't like it. Abstractly I feel this is usually justified. The pitches are not at all pleasant, and there's no compelling force behind the music. But if I listen to it for a while longer, and focus on what I feel the unifying themes are, I end up going, "Oh I see, there's an emphasis on a few of these intervals, there is a textural pattern of ABA, and there's a figure introduced early that undergoes a series of variations." Having recognized this, and what the focus of musical development is, all of a sudden I decide that the piece of music is successful. Do I like listening to it? Nope. Do I feel that it's compelling yet? Nope. But since I know that the composer achieved what he set out to, I tend to favor it as successful and valid, and maybe even good. Even though I'd never enjoy such music.

I just find that inside perspective to be a scarily affirming bias. I have no proof that the things I identified were the foci of the work. I found an interpretation, justified it, and used that to justify approval of the work. It's due to this bias that I'm actually kind of opposed to studying things I like. I feel like gaining an understanding of a work limits my ability to impartially experience it. Which I guess is really obvious actually. But you know. Who would have figured understanding something would limit you.

1115296  Link to this entry 
Written about Tuesday 2010-04-27
Written: (3921 days ago)

Depressing flash games? Yes the do exist, apparently. http://armorgames.com/play/4918/the-company-of-myself

The story of a hermit. It actually briefly reminded me of Up.

1114706  Link to this entry 
Written about Saturday 2010-04-17
Written: (3931 days ago)
Next in thread: 1114715, 1114721

I'm currently writing a research paper on Debussy's only opera, Pelléas et Mélisande. It's based on a Symbolist play by Maeterlinck of the same name, with only minor cuts of scenes. Debussy is known for his unorthodox harmonies and inventive exploration of new timbres in instrumentation, especially in wind instruments, and his approach to opera was quite interesting. The play itself is rather surreal, and the music for the opera has been described as 'atmospheric' which heightens the surreal aspect. In any case, I've really enjoyed reading about it, and it makes me want to write a similarly-styled opera. In particular, the recitative style I thought was especially effective.
So anyways, this is where I jot down my incomplete plot ideas so I can at least remember them.

Kingdom A is a large and prosperous woodlands kingdom, renowned and successful for its emphasis on learning and scholarship. It's an idealistic kingdom that tries to maintain peace and order. Bordering it (and sharing a border with each other) are two lesser kingdoms, with whom relationships are tenuous, but not hostile. The opera begins with the princess of one of the other kingdoms (B, lets say) being happily married to the prince of Kingdom A, cementing an open and friendly relationship between the two kingdoms. The prince and princess are delighted to be married (and probably sing a love duet in the first act, which is unusual to say the least), but shortly thereafter a messenger arrives from kingdom B saying that the third kingdom has invaded the second, and requests that the king of A attacks C in retaliation. He is opposed, of course, but after pointing out the bond from the princess, and the fact that the military of A would be used to protect B rather than as a weapon, he reluctantly agrees.

A short time later, the Knight-Captain of Kingdom A relays information to the king that, upon arriving in Kingdom C, their armies found no hostility or signs of war, though they nearly started one themselves with their invasion. The king calls the messenger of B in for an explanation, and the messenger attempts to assassinate the king. The princess rushes to stop him, and is caught in between, and killed. (I'd like a better explanation here, but this will suffice for now.) The Prince enters just as the messenger has wounded the king (a would-be-fatal blow diverted by the Princess), and in a rush of outrage strikes the messenger down. The messenger's dying mockery informs everyone that it is too late, that both kingdoms B and C are invading together to take Kingdom A for themselves while the army is diverted. The Prince vows to put an end to their scheming, and then to himself promises justice for his wife's death.

Later, the armies have been repulsed and might Kingdom A has fought its way to Kingdom B's capital and castle, where the prince confronts the evil king, is ready to kill him in vengeance, but instead sees the emblem of the kingdom on the King's chest, a rose and a drop of blood. The colors (which I intend to develop as a symbol/theme) remind him of the happiness he had with the Princess and how murder had taken it all away. He then forces everyone out of the castle and lights the castle on fire, symbolically destroying his authority.

Obviously it's a complicated plot, which is one problematic contrast with Debussy's Pelléas. I wanted to develop some symbols of the wind, the color red, and ideally two or so others, which will give it a little more substance for literary analysis. Finally, the ending is fairly incomplete. There is not much resolution. It can use some more working, if I ever decide to take this up.

1109911  Link to this entry 
Written about Thursday 2010-02-11
Written: (3996 days ago)

I had a rant in here about that 'Evony' browser game and how its ads such because they basically look like porn ads and are entirely irrelevant to the game itself, but it got erased by my archenemy 'navigating to another page while letters are in the diary box'. It was complete with the angry face that ad gives me, which looks like this: >:(

The other half of the entry, before it disappeared was some links to Final Fantasy piano collections, courtesy of BlueLaguna.net . It's good stuff, for the most part, I'd give it a listen. I do apologize though for whoever listens to the Cosmic Wheel one from FF XI. It is a blatant, and horrible rip off from Jurassic Park. There is nothing I can do to help this. I am sorry :P

FF VI: http://bluelaguna.net/music/ff7pc/mp3s.php
FF VIII: http://bluelaguna.net/music/ff8pc/mp3s.php
FF XI: http://bluelaguna.net/music/final-fantasy-xi-piano-collections/mp3s.php

And the rest of the Final Fantasy selections, of course: http://bluelaguna.net/splash/ff.php

Hope you guys enjoy them. No real reason for linking, just listening to all of them and thought they were nice and maybe someone else might like them :)

1093247  Link to this entry 
Written about Saturday 2009-09-05
Written: (4154 days ago)

Had a fun dream which contained a particularly picturesque scene that I shall describe here for future reference, should I ever attempt to reproduce it in Finale.

Basically a simple scene, it was looking up a hillside. The horizon was complemented with trees, close enough that individual leaves could be made out easily, and the leaves were various colors, orange, red, green, and white. Sunlight was flooding the horizon behind them, causing the light to illuminate all the leaves, and bleaching the sky white too. There wasn't much sky above the trees, so the majority of the picture is filled with green-brown colored grass (the color being a result of the sunlight, not deadness). There ought to be another tree closer, in the middle ground. It was really windy, and thus lots of leaves blowing around everywhere. Finally, two people were running around playing.

The picture overall is very warm, soft, and glowing. I can do most of it, but the people, which fill up the focus of the picture, will be difficult. Oh, if only I had downloaded Poser when I had the chance :(

1092111  Link to this entry 
Written about Wednesday 2009-08-26
Written: (4165 days ago)
Next in thread: 1092118, 1092145

Zomg picture is rendered. 265 hours of solid rendering. My computer needs a break. And you need to check it out :P
Yeah, same old landscape formula, but honestly I'm using new shaders every time. Included in this installment of moon over body of water are post-worked stars and in-program light manipulation, as well as some good technical work on water. Hurray!

1091674  Link to this entry 
Written about Sunday 2009-08-23
Written: (4168 days ago)
Next in thread: 1091814

I have a job, and it makes me sad :P
Posting this here because it is a momentuous occasion where Templar has actually bothered working, instead of expecting everything to be handed to him on a golden platter. Needless to say, I find it less than pleasant. On the bright side, I learned how to make omelets today, and there is the prospect of learning the art of smoothie making in the future.

In any case, you should all be sufficiently shocked that I actually went and got a job, and even more so that I am still alive, the spoiled loser that I am :)

I'm doing work and I'm Still Alive.


1087168  Link to this entry 
Written about Saturday 2009-07-18
Written: (4204 days ago)
Next in thread: 1091836
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