Stardock’s crazy Winter 2015

Published on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 By Frogboy In Stardockians

imageLast year we released zilch.  No new games, no new apps.  It was a year of building. 

This year, things start to get interesting.

Let’s take a look at just this Winter:

February: Offworld Trading Company goes into Early Access

March: Sorcerer King is scheduled for release

April: Galactic Civilizations III is scheduled for release

And we still have two more games that are unannounced that are going to be shown at GDC.

Sorcerer King Pre-Beta 4 screenshots

Published on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

Sorcerer King Beta 4 is starting to come together. We expect to release it in early February.  There’s a ton of changes coming to it, most notably the new crafting system and summoning system. 

Below are two screenshots that give you a taste of some of the visual changes coming too.

 

MinorFaction

StrategicScreenshotExample

There’s a dog in my search

Published on Thursday, January 15, 2015 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

image

I hadn’t used Windows XP in years.  It’s easy to get nostalgic about how great Windows was back then.  Then you load it up and try to search for a file and you’re greeted by a dog.

DirectX 11 vs. DirectX 12 oversimplified

Published on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

imageUnlike previous versions of DirectX, the difference between the new DirectX and previous generations are obvious enough that they can be explained in charts (and maybe someone with some visual design skill can do this).

This article is an extreme oversimplification. If someone wants to send me a chart to put in this article, I’ll update. Smile

Your CPU and your GPU

Since the start of the PC, we have had the PC and the GPU (or at least, the “video card”).

Up until DirectX 9, the CPU, being 1 core in those days, would talk to the GPU through the “main” thread. 

DirectX 10 improved things a bit by allowing multiple cores send jobs to the GPU. This was nice but the pipeline to the GPU was still serialized. Thus, you still ended up with 1 CPU core talking to 1 GPU core.

It’s not about getting close to the hardware

Every time I hear someone say “but X allows you to get close to the hardware” I want to shake them.  None of this has to do with getting close to the hardware. It’s all about the cores. Getting “closer” to the hardware is relatively meaningless at this point.  It’s almost as bad as those people who think we should be injecting assembly language into our source code.  We’re way beyond that.

It’s all about the cores

Last Fall, Nvidia released the Geforce GTX 970.  It has 5.2 BILLION transistors on it. It already supports DirectX 12. Right now.  It has thousands of cores in it.  And with DirectX 11, I can talk to exactly 1 of them at a time.

Meanwhile, your PC might have 4, 8 or  more CPU cores on it. And exactly 1 of them at a time can talk to the GPU.

Let’s take a pause here. I want you to think about that for a moment.  Think about how limiting that is.  Think about how limiting that has been for game developers. How long has your computer been multi-core?

But DirectX 12? In theory, all your cores can talk to the GPU simultaneously.  Mantle already does this and the results are spectacular.  In fact, most benchmarks that have been talked about have been understated because they seem unbelievable.  I’m been part of (non-NDA) meetings where we’ve discussed having to low-ball performance gains to being “only” 40%.  The reality is, as in, the real-world, non-benchmark results I’ve seen from Mantle (and presumable DirectX 12 when it’s ready) are far beyond this.  The reasons are obvious.

To to summarize:

DirectX 11: Your CPU communicates to the GPU 1 core to 1 core at a time.   It is still a big boost over DirectX 9 where only 1 dedicated thread was allowed to talk to the GPU but it’s still only scratching the surface.

DirectX 12: Every core can talk to the GPU at the same time and, depending on the driver, I could theoretically start taking control and talking to all those cores.  

That’s basically the difference. Oversimplified to be sure but it’s why everyone is so excited about this. 

The GPU wars will really take off as each vendor will now be able to come up with some amazing tools to offload work onto GPUs. 

Not just about games

Cloud computing is, ironically, going to be the biggest beneficiary of DirectX 12.  That sounds unintuitive but the fact is, there’s nothing stopping a DirectX 12 enabled machine from fully running VMs on these video cards. Ask your IT manager which they’d rather do? Pop in a new video card or replace the whole box.  Right now, this isn’t doable because cloud services don’t even have video cards in them typically (I’m looking at you Azure. I can’t use you for offloading Metamaps!)

It’s not magic

DirectX 12 won’t make your PC or XBox One magically faster. 

First off, the developer has to write their game so that they’re interacting with the GPU through multiple cores simultaneously. Most games, even today, are still written so that only 1 core is dedicated to interacting with the GPU.

Second, this only benefits you if your game is CPU bound. Most games are. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a modern Nvidia card get GPU bound (if anyone can think of an example, please leave it in the comments).

Third, if you’re a XBox One fan, don’t assume this will give the XBO superiority.  By the time games come out that use this, you can be assured that Sony will have an answer.

Rapid adoption 

There is no doubt in my mind that support for Mantle/DirectX12/xxxx will be rapid because the benefits are both obvious and easy to explain, even to non-technical people.  Giving a presentation on the power of Oxide’s new Nitrous 3D engine is easy thanks to the demos but it’s even easier because it’s obvious why it’s so much more capable than anything out there.

If I am making a game that needs thousands of movie-level CGI elements on today’s hardware, I need to be able to walk a non-technical person through what Nitrous is doing differently. The first game to use it should be announced before GDC and in theory, will be the very first native DirectX 12 and Mantle and xxxx game (i.e. written from scratch for those platforms).

A new way of looking at things: Don’t read this because what is read can’t be unread

DirectX 12/etc. will ruin older movies and game effects a little bit.  It has for me. Let me give you a straight forward example:

Last warning:

Seriously.

Okay. One of the most obvious limitations games have due to the 1 core to 1 core interaction are light sources.  Creating a light source is “expensive” but easily done on today’s hardware.  Creating dozens of light sources simultaneously on screen at once is basically not doable unless you have Mantle or DirectX 12.  Guess how many light sources most engines support right now? 20? 10? Try 4. Four. Which is fine for a relatively static scene. But it obviously means we’re a long long way from having true “photo realism”. 

So your game might have lots of lasers and explosions and such, but only (at most) a few of them are actually real light sources (and 3 of them are typically reserved lighting the scene).

As my son likes to say: You may not know that the lights are fake but your brain knows.

image

You’ll never watch this battle the same again.

image

Or this. Wow, those must be magical explosions, they don’t cast shadows…Or maybe it’s a CGI scene..

And once you realize that, you’ll never look at an older CGI movie or a game the same because you’ll see blaster shots and little explosions in a scene and realize they’re not causing shadows or lighting anything in the scene. You subconsciously knew the scene was “fake”. You knew it was filled with CGI but you may not have been able to explain why.  Force lightning or a wizard spell that isn’t casting light or shadows on the scene may not be consciously noticeable but believe me, you’re aware of it (modern CGI fixes this btw but our games are still stuck at a handful).

Why I’ve been covering this

Before DirectX 12, I had never really talked about graphics APIs.  That’s because I found them depressing.  My claim to fame (code-wise) is multithreading AI programming.  I wrote the first commercial multithreaded game back in the 90s and I’ve been a big advocate of multithreading since.  GalCiv for Windows was the first game to make use of Intel hyperthreading.  

Stardock’s games are traditionally famous for good AI. It’s certainly not because I’m a great programmer. It’s because I have always tossed everything from path finding to AI strategy onto threads.  The turn time in say Sorcerer King with > 1000 units running around is typically less than 2 seconds. And those are monsters fighting battles with magical spells and lots of pathfinding.  That’s all because I can throw all this work onto multiple threads that are now on multiple cores.  In essence, I’m cheating.   So next time you’re playing a strategy game where you’re waiting 2 minutes between turns, you know why.

But the graphics side? Depressing.

image

That magical spell is having no affect on the lighting or shadows. You may not notice it consciously but your brain does (DirectX 9). A DirectX 10/11 game would be able to give that spell a point light but as you can see, it’s a stream of light which is a different animal.

 

You don’t need an expert

Assuming you’re remotely technical, the change from DirectX 11 to DirectX 12/Mantle changes are obvious enough that you should be able to imagine the benefits.  If before only 1 core could send jobs to your GPU but now you could have all your cores send jobs at the same time, you can imagine what kinds of things can become possible.  Your theoretical improvement in performance is (N-1)X100% where N is how many cores you have.  That’s not what you’ll really get. No one writes perfect parallelized code and no GPU is at 0% saturation.  But you get the idea.

GDC

Pay very very close attention to GDC this year. Even if you’re an OpenGL fan.  NVidia, AMD, Microsoft, Intel and Sony have a unified goal.  Something is about to happen. Something wonderful.

AI coding as a platform

Published on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 By Frogboy In Journals - GalCiv III

Well the party is almost over for you humans.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I consider human beings playing my AI a necessary evil.  I need your money to fund my AI work. Smile

This time around, I’ve got a talented young developer working with me.  He makes me feel old. Very. Very old. 

A lot has changed over the past 20 years.  It is still technically C++ but it’s all very different from what it used to be.

Example code

//GalCiv III:  Example code tags a planet as a potential target.

if(atWar)
        {
            FixedDecimal militaryPower = GetInterface<IStat>(*it)->GetStat(StatTypes::FactionPower, StatUsages::Actual);

            CBasicGameObject* pClosestPlanet = NULL;
            ULONG closestDistance = ULONG_MAX;

            const ObjectPtrList& ownedPlanets = GetInterface<IGC3Player>(*it)->GetOwnedPlanets();
            for(auto planetIt = ownedPlanets.Begin(); planetIt != ownedPlanets.End(); ++planetIt)
            {
                TilePair planetPos = GetInterface<IBasicGameObject>(*planetIt)->GetTilePosition().tile;
               
                BOOL isPlanetInRange = CGalaxy::GetInstance()->GetRangeSystem().IsWithinFleetRangeValue(m_pPlayer, planetPos.posX, planetPos.posY, rangeToUse);
                if(isPlanetInRange)
                {
                    ULONG planetDistance = CWorldSpace::HexDistance(capitalPos, planetPos);
                    if(planetDistance < closestDistance)
                    {
                        closestDistance = planetDistance;
                        pClosestPlanet = (*planetIt);
                    }
                }
            }

            if(pClosestPlanet && militaryPower < weakestPower)
            {
                weakestPower = militaryPower;
                pWeakestPlayer = (*it);
                pTargetPlanet = pClosestPlanet;
            }
        }

 

 

  //GalCiv II: I wrote this to control a transport

//*****************************************************************************
//* AIFindTransportDestination
//* Purpose:
//* Find a planet for a transport to go to
//*****************************************************************************
BOOL classCivilization::AIFindTransportDestination(PclassStarShip pShip)
{
 
   if(pShip->IsInFleet() && !pShip->IsFleet()) return false;


   //Preliminaries: Wait for escorts
   if(pShip->HasDestination() && pShip->IsOrbiting() == FALSE && !pShip->GetAttack() && !AIHostilesInSector(pShip->GetSectorID()) &&  g_pGalaxy->GetDistanceFromFriendlyPlanet(QueryID(),pShip->GetTileX(),pShip->GetTileY())<SECTOR_SIZE && pShip->ulTransportWaitTurns<5)
   {
      pShip->CancelDestination();
      pShip->SetMovesLeft(0);
      return false;
   }

   //Preliminaries: Wait for escorts
   if(pShip->IsOrbiting() == FALSE && !pShip->GetAttack() && !AIHostilesInSector(pShip->GetSectorID()) &&  g_pGalaxy->GetDistanceFromFriendlyPlanet(QueryID(),pShip->GetTileX(),pShip->GetTileY())<SECTOR_SIZE && pShip->ulTransportWaitTurns<5)
   {
      pShip->ulTransportWaitTurns++;
      return false;
   }

   //Step #0: Let's see if there are hostiles near by..
   if(AIHostilesInSector(pShip->GetSectorID()) && pShip->GetAttack()<10 && !pShip->IsOrbiting())
   {
      PclassStarShip pEnemy = pShip->FindClosestLocalEnemyShip(0);

      if (pEnemy && pShip->GetTurnsAway(pEnemy->GetTileX(),pEnemy->GetTileY()) < 2 && pEnemy->GetAttack() > pShip->GetAttack())
      {
         pShip->AITakeEvasiveAction(pEnemy->GetTileX(),pEnemy->GetTileY());
         return TRUE;
      }

   }

   //Step #1: Let's see if there's another undefended planet in sector.
   PclassPlanet pPlanet = AIFindUndefendedEnemyPlanet(pShip->GetSectorID());

 
   if(pPlanet && (!AIHostilesInSector(pPlanet->GetSectorID()) || pShip->GetAttack()>8))
   {
      pShip->CancelDestination();
      pShip->pPlanetDestination = pPlanet;
      return true;
   }

   //Step #2: Let's see where they're currently going.
   pPlanet = pShip->pPlanetDestination;
   if(pPlanet && ulIntelligence<40)
   {
      if(pPlanet->IsDefended() == FALSE && GetRelationsWith(pPlanet->GetOwner()) == AT_WAR)
         return true;
   }

   if(pPlanet)
   {
      if(pPlanet->IsDefended() == TRUE || (AIHostilesInSector(pPlanet->GetSectorID()) && !pShip->GetAttack()) )
         pShip->CancelDestination();
   
   }

 

   //Step #3: Let's look at our primary sector focus and use that.
   if(this->AIulSectorFocuses[0] != INVALID_SECTOR_FOCUS)
   {
        ULONG ulSectorsToFocusOn = this->GetNumSectorFocuses();   
        for (ULONG ulIndex = 0; ulIndex<ulSectorsToFocusOn; ulIndex++)
        {
           ULONG ulSectorID = this->AIulSectorFocuses[ulIndex];
           pPlanet = AIFindUndefendedEnemyPlanet(ulSectorID);
           BOOL bHostilesInSector = false;
           if(pPlanet)
           {
               bHostilesInSector = this->AIHostilesInSector(pPlanet->GetSectorID());


               if(this->ulIntelligence<50 || pShip->GetAttack()>5 )
                  bHostilesInSector = false;
           }
           if(pPlanet && pPlanet->ulAIInvadersAssigned[QueryID()]<4 && !bHostilesInSector )
           {
              pShip->CancelDestination();
              pShip->pPlanetDestination = pPlanet;
              return true;
           }
        }
   }

   //Step #4: Let's see if there are other planets to deal with.
   //Note that we won't go over to sectors with undefended planets
   //IF there are enemy ships in there
   pPlanet = pShip->FindClosestUndefendedEnemyPlanet(0);
   if(pPlanet && (AIHostilesInSector(pPlanet->GetSectorID() == FALSE || pShip->GetAttack()>0)))
   {
         pShip->CancelDestination();
         pShip->pPlanetDestination = pPlanet;
         return true;
   }

   //Step #4: We're AT the Rally Point
   PclassRallyPoint pOnRallyPoint = this->FindNearestRallyPoint(pShip->GetTileX(),pShip->GetTileY());
   if(pOnRallyPoint && pOnRallyPoint->GetDistanceInTiles(pShip) == 0)
   {
      pShip->GoHome();
   }
  
   //Step #5: What if there are hostiles here? Let's retreat
   if(this->AIHostilesInSector(pShip->GetSectorID() && !pShip->GetAttack()))
   {
      pShip->GoHome();
   }
 
   return false;

}

GalCiv II: Community update status

Published on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 By Frogboy In GalCiv II News

imageThe GalCiv community has been working on an update for GalCiv II: Twilight of the Arnor.   You can find the discussion here.

It’s really quite a thrill to be able to work with the community on a new update to the game.  I originally came from the modding community as did the VP of Stardock Entertainment (Kael – aka Fall From Heaven).  So being able to integrate the ideas, fixes, and improvements into the official game made by the fans is quite a joy.

Some of the changes necessary are requiring some code changes. Luckily, the IT team got me set up with a Windows XP VM so that I can load up Visual Studio 2003 to make those changes.

Stay tuned!

Gamergate: Through My Eyes

Published on Monday, January 12, 2015 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

Notice:

This article was written by Elizabeth Fogarty and originally published on Buzzfeed.  I have reposted it here with permission.

This post does not represent Stardock or its affiliates or its partners.

I will use the comments section to discuss what I agree/disagree with personally.  If you agree/disagree with what Ms. Fogarty has posted below, you are free to comment below. If you feel it is inaccurate, feel free to comment. We welcome all points of view here.  Please be aware that our forums are a diverse environment and we strictly enforce our policy of no personal attacks. We expect people to act like adults here. Our moderators are also very diverse so don’t expect any special treatment because you’re pro or anti something.

 

Gamergate: Through My Eyes

by Elizabeth Fogarty
January 2015

Corruption. Politics. Nepotism. Sex. Moral panic. Adam Baldwin. No, this isn't a Hollywood film. Rather, it is the very real saga that is the video game world's current controversy, known as Gamergate. While the consumer revolt has garnered a large amount of press between small game publications and mainstream media outlets, a majority of this coverage has failed to include a complete and honest picture of both sides of the controversy, rather selling conjecture as indisputable fact. My name is Elizabeth Fogarty, and for the past 4 months, I have actively fought for the key goals behind the Gamergate consumer revolt. And they are not what you think.

But Seriously, What IS Gamergate?

The Gamergate controversy is the result of a combination of separate, yet related, issues. Firstly it is a call for ethical reform in the games press, primarily in the form of disclosure of either personal or financial conflicts of interest between a journalist and a subject they are reviewing or reporting on. Secondly, it is a response to ideological manipulation of the gaming industry, and the censorship that has occurred as a result of this. These two things are, in fact, related, because we are seeing the praise of this manipulation by members of the gaming press, as well as praise of the censorship of discussion by members of the gaming press. This combination of the lack of objectivity and fact checking with the desire to adjust or omit truths in order to appeal to a particular "group" is in no way exclusive to games journalists, but rather is indicative of a larger, more universal issue in how we all receive news.

Ethics

You hear the phrases “right wing news” and “left wing news” quite a bit nowadays, yet the truth is, news should not have a wing because facts do not have a wing. Facts are facts. We do not expect journalists to be unbiased. Everyone has bias, we’re human beings who are designed to think and feel. However, when you are in position of power, such as in the case of a journalist with incredible reach, you should put your personal bias and politics aside in the interest of being honest, fair, and neutral. In gaming many articles, particularly reviews, are indeed a combination of fact and opinion. If a journalist knowingly agrees to write a review on a game or company that they have a personal or financial tie to, it is highly unlikely they would be able to position themselves neutrally enough to cover it fairly, and they should either recuse themselves or disclose the conflict.

One of the largest issues people take with Gamergate is the origin. Gamergate did in fact initially begin with the Zoe Post. A game developer’s ex boyfriend wrote a blog post detailing the end of his relationship, which had indications of being emotionally and mentally abusive. He outlined the alleged infidelity of his girlfriend throughout the course of their relationship. Several of the names included in the post drew attention to a potential conflict of interest in gaming journalism, most specifically Nathan Grayson of Kotaku (and formerly of Rock, Paper, Shotgun). Many people feel everything that has resulted was a reaction to a female developer having sex. In reality, the developer was a character backstory, and most of those involved in the discussion were interested in the plot of the film. The first use of the hashtag #Gamergate was by actor Adam Baldwin, who has actively spoken on the matter.

Stephen Totilo, Editor in Chief of Kotaku, claimed to have conducted an investigation, and stated that the relationship between Grayson and the developer, Zoe Quinn, began after he covered her game (an assertion that has since been disproven.)

When this potential conflict of interest was brought to light, two other undisclosed conflicts of interest were exposed at essentially the same time (Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez and Polygon’s Ben Kuchera)

When we, as consumers, began questioning these conflicts, over a dozen articles declaring the “death of gamers” were published within a 48 hour period, from competing sites, some more vitriolic than others. It was later revealed that these journalists were part of a private email list, where discussions took place regarding what to report on, as well as attempted censorship of forum discussion of the topics surrounding the controversy. Ben Kuchera of Polygon is seen in leaked emails repeatedly chastising journalists from competing publications for allowing discussion of the topic on their forums.

In addition to journalists halting, and attempting to halt, discussion of the topic on gaming publication forums, third party sites such as 4chan and Reddit began deleting threads which pointed to potential journalistic impropriety. This occurred to such an extent that even Wikileaks joined the fray.

Many of the journalists involved have installed the GG Autoblocker, which is a program for Twitter that immediately blocks anyone following two or more accounts which were classified as alleged "ringleaders" of the leaderless consumer revolt. This has limited the ability to engage in any productive conversation about the issues.

Although several publications willingly updated their ethics policies, many were resistant. Supporters of the revolt began organized email campaigns, contacting advertisers on the websites of the publications and providing evidence of wrongdoing. Multiple advertisers have pulled ads on the sites in question as a result.

It's unlikely that this call for disclosure and ethical reform appears extreme, or unreasonable, to many of you. Why then, has this become one of the greatest controversies within the industry?

When you accuse someone of doing something wrong, one of two things will happen. They will admit they were wrong, apologize, and change what they are doing. Or, they will accuse you of something much worse. That banal response is what we have seen with Gamergate. Instead of addressing the claims head on and responding to our evidence, the very press we were fighting against painted us as misogynist harassers, intent on keeping women out of the industry. And because they had not only pen and ink, but an audience, they were believed without question.

Ideology

In recent years, people have been more willing to view video games as a form of art. As a result, there has been an increase in critiques of games, most notably with the Feminist Frequency web series. This series has been accused of "cherry picking" examples, out of context, in order to argue a sexist epidemic in games and their portrayals of women. To be clear: They have every right to say what they are saying, whether I agree or not. However, those involved in the discussion of Gamergate, as well as neutral parties within the culture, have expressed concern over the amount of clout and influence the creators of this series have.

Since the series rose to fame, the industry has seen one title pulled from several stores in Australia for perceived sexism, and Sweden is currently discussing adding additional labeling to games which are found to be sexist, despite a rating system for games already existing. The standards by which this will be measured are currently unclear. Additionally, after Jonathan McIntosh, writer and producer of Feminist Frequency,  began publicly speaking out against the game, Hatred was temporarily pulled from Steam Greenlight (it was later reinstated, and shortly after was Greenlit).

There is a demand for the evolution of the industry to leave behind "offensive" tropes and characters completely. However, offense is taken, not given. Games are not sentient beings. They are incapable, on their own, of acting with volition or prejudice. This interpretation happens in the mind of the individual player. It is a widely held belief by those involved in the revolt that artistic and creative freedom should be protected without exception.

A majority of the "other side" of the discussion oppose the goals surrounding Gamergate from an ideological standpoint. Many disregard the call for ethics, some openly mocking it. It's easy for them to draw an incorrect conclusion because they don't care about games journalism, and can not fathom how, if they don't care, anyone else could. They focus on the ideological debate, which essentially boils down to those who support creative freedom, versus those who want specific universal representation of certain types of characters.

As a result of our push against the politicization of the industry, we were minimized to the singular demographic of "white cis male."

#NotYourShield is a “sister hashtag” to #Gamergate, and was started as a response to this characterization that all gamers were white nerdy man-children. Female and minority gamers spoke out in support of both ethics and creative freedom, while also largely condemning both artistic and spoken censorship. We were met with accusations of being fake, or of internalizing our own self hatred - be it "internalized misogyny" or "internalized racism." In addition, many of us have been called tokens, shields, gender traitors, and “uncle toms.”

In 1968, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II spoke on behalf of free speech: “One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.” Works of art evoke diverse and deeply passionate responses in people, be it positive or negative, and as a result, have been the target of numerous censorship efforts throughout history.

Claims of the Harassment of Women

The primary assumption regarding those involved in the Gamergate revolt has been that we are a harassment movement intent on keeping women out of both gaming and the game industry, through threats and targeted harassment. I am not disputing that people have received threats and harassment, because that has happened - on both sides. I myself have received quite a few threats, regular harassment, and I’ve been doxed. Most recently, someone printed out my picture from Twitter, masturbated onto it, and tweeted an image of this publicly.

A vast majority of the threats and harassment on both sides have been the result of online trolls. They target both sides in order to further tension and get deranged laughs out of what is happening. And the truth is, this has happened to both men AND women. I would never claim that my harassment is because of my gender, rather as a result of both my stance on the Gamergate controversy and my involvement in the discussion. Should the threats be taken less seriously? Absolutely not. All threats should be assessed, reported, and monitored. But to place blame on an entire group with no evidence is not only dishonest and unfair, it's also potentially dangerous to the person who has received them.

People who actually care about the key goals of the Gamergate revolt often speak out against threats, harassment, and doxing. Yes, there are women involved of whom we are critical - Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and Leigh Alexander, for example. We criticize posts, we dispute and debate points that they make. Yes, this is happening. No one is denying that. However, I will deny until my last breath these two points: 1) that we are disputing what they are saying because they are women, and 2) we are only disputing the words and opinions of women. That is untrue. We have regularly criticized Jonathan McIntosh. We have regularly criticized Ben Kuchera of Polygon, and Stephen Totilo and Nathan Grayson of Kotaku, and Arthur Chu, who actually does not care about video games, as well as many more. The idea that we are simply “targeting women” for just being women is asinine and often dishonest. But if someone were to actually share all of this information, they’d have to leave the “they’re just woman-haters” narrative behind, and they aren’t willing to do that.

We have questioned the actions of many people, yet are widely portrayed as only criticizing women. The idea that women should be exempt from criticism is insulting and, frankly, meets the criteria for sexism.

In Summation

Ethics matter. If you believe in the right to trust the news you receive, regarding anything, then you must constantly demand more neutrality. Personal biases shaping the delivery of facts only serves to hinder  progress, not help it.

Creative Freedom matters. If you believe in the right to think, to feel, to discover, to play, and to create, then you must support and defend the right for others to be able to do the same.

The only proven fact of "offensive" material is whether you personally find it offensive or not. What offends you may not offend me, and vice versa. As long as we have options in games, you have the ability to participate in the hobby comfortably. Removing any of these options helps no one. When you allow things in life to be censored, censorship becomes life.

More diversity in games is a good thing. Developers should be open to this. They should not, however, be pressured into creating a checkbox character in an attempt to please people who will likely never be content.

There are real people on the other side of your computer screen. It is possible to treat others kindly while still asserting your stance.

To learn more about the Gamergate consumer revolt: Talk to some of us.

Note: This article was originally posted to Buzzfeed.com, at 7pm EST on January 11, 2015. It was removed at some point during the morning of January 12, 2015.

You can follow here at https://twitter.com/lizzyf620

They sure showed that strawman who’s boss

Published on Wednesday, January 07, 2015 By Frogboy In Game Development

imageAt CES Intel unveiled a program to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to get more people into technical fields, particularly women and minorities.  This is great news! In fact, I can’t think of anyone who would be against this.

During the event, Intel even featured the Feminist Frequency logo which, to me, implies that she’s either compromised her position or surrendered it outright if she’s now in favor of more people getting into game development rather than arguing how bad games are for society.

The more diversity in the people who make games the more diversity there will be in the types of games being made. I hope. If that happens, maybe there will be less pressure on people like me to insert socially conscious robot wizards into my space ship games.

Meanwhile…

What I found particularly strange is how some in the media have covered this. The Verge has made a very odd article literally entitled “Intel opposes Gamergate as part of $300 million effort to fix diversity in tech”. I’m not sure what that has to do with GamerGate one way or the other.

Last time I checked, the issue GamerGate had was with journalists choosing who and what to cover based on their politics and personal relationships along with misrepresentation their critics as misogynists.  Getting more people to become engineers instead of say, communications majors, would be something I suspect most people who identify as supporting GamerGate would want.

If someone else wants to show their opposition to GG by giving hundreds of millions of dollars to something everyone wants then please, do so. I’ll build the strawmen myself to help.

Sorcerer King: Beta 4 Change log

Published on Sunday, January 04, 2015 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

This is NOT released yet.  Target release for Beta 4 is sometime this month. 

-- Change Log --

(or how Brad spent his Christmas break..)

Code

  • Big update to the tactical AI to make units effectively use all these cool unit abilities intelligently
  • Tactical AI does positioning and enemy stat analysis to choose what ability and who to use it on (wait till you see this in action, it now plays better than I do manually)
  • Music choices greatly increased as the game goes on (very tired of hearing the same 5 songs early on)
  • Music playing during tactical battle takes more into account to get a better variety
  • Fixed the really annoying hour glass showing up when it shouldn’t bug. (lots of little code changes to do this very annoying)
  • Fixed the really annoying tendency of the doomsday counter updating at the same time as a lot of things are going on resulting in choppy animation (still needs more work).
  • Fixed the slow, inefficient and often inaccurate tile yields displayed. So founding a city that claims to have 4 grain and 2 materials won’t happen anymore (it’ll display the correct amount). Also, this was called a lot and it was really really inefficient .
  • Increased SK unit moves to 3.
  • Fixed bug that caused monster lairs to sometimes spawn with nothing in them.
  • Rewrote the guardian spawning to support multiple, randomized wandering monsters. Supports XML.
  • Fixed bug that caused the Sorcerer King’s fortress to be turned in weird ways with the gate floating off.
  • Fixed bug (heh) where monsters could go on quests and thus make them unavailable to the player (forgot I had had that in there, seemed like a good idea at the time)
  • SK Strongholds are not seeded as much
  • AI good (arguably too good) at summoning monsters at the worst possible time for the player.
  • Added support to XML via AIPriority to nerf AI’s summoning if necessary
  • Fixed bug that was preventing AI from making use of certain types of combat abilities
  • SK has more spells to use on the player.
  • Fixed embarrassing bug of mine where a minor race would still adjust its favor with the SK even after you were allied.
  • If you haven’t met a minor race, it won’t declare war on you anymore. They now have to know you to want to murder you.
  • Player Threat to SK now impacts how many monsters the SK can have (not by a lot).
  • General nerfing of the SK’s armies on lower difficulty levels.
  • Monsters won’t attack cities unless their army size is at least 3 (very annoying being attacked by a lone bandit).
  • However a monster that is sufficiently powerful WILL attack a city, even if it’s alone (I’m looking at you Umberdroths).
  • Fixed bug that caused multiple trait quests to come up on the same turn

 

Campaign (bulk of work was in this, but won’t be released in beta 4)

  • Rough draft of SK-Kingdom campaign scenario created
  • Various recipes and items for the campaign created
  • Various new quests created for the campaign
  • Lots of new quest locations created (lots)
  • Lots of terrible terrible programmer art

Balance

  • Lots of new weapons have gone in. We are playing around with the idea of letting trained units get to equip weapons as long as they have the proper profiency to use it (rational is that while it’s silly that 1 sword can equip 3 soldiers, it’s just as silly that 1 chain shirt can equip them too and let’s face it, equipping units is fun)
  • Pikeman becomes trainable by the Barracks, does not require metal.
  • Tons of tweaks to units to balance them better
  • Massive increase in the number of abilities units have.
  • Warlock enemy unit has been redesigned.
  • Lots of spells enhanced to make them more worthwile
  • Coaltstones cooldown increased from 5 to 7
  • Coalstones damage decreased from 2X level to 1X level
  • Despair now has a 20 turn cooldown and only removes 1X caster level HP from all units.
  • Divine shield mana reduced from 15 to 3
  • Inner Fire will summon a Flame Elemental
  • Nightmare casting time eliminated, now an instant
  • Shrink fixed to target enemy units
  • Lots of AI fixes to the targetworthy code
  • Lots of new items
  • Linguistics, Pragmatism, and Archeology are now sovereign traits (mostly for future modder use in quests)
  • Lots of new goodie huts and monster lairs created to provide more variety, especially early game (so sick of same 3 bandits)
  • Wizard Sovereign has a skill that gives him a Yetti Hero
  • Priest Sovereign has a skill that gives her a Scoundrel hero.
  • Balancing of the various unit abilities, especially in terms of how valuable they are in determining the units actual combat rating.
  • City improvements made slightly less expensive
  • Official game year is set to 651 AC.

New Units

  • Sentinel. Requires Armory to be trained
  • Xeron the Warrior. New Champion
  • Netros the Mage. New Champion
  • Rygos the Ranger. New Champion
  • Darkling Shaman
  • Urxen Commander
  • Trog Commander
  • Trog Sniper
  • Rabid Dire Wolf
  • Bandit Sharp Shooter
  • Baby Black Widow
  • Skeleton Warrior
  • Syndicate Enforcer
  • Quendar Rebel Archer

Music (thanks to Mason Fisher)

Game/Layered Music/RaceTheme_SK.mp3
Game/Layered Music/RaceTheme_FrozenRealm.mp3
Game/Layered Music/MapTheme_Ambient_LateGame_5.mp3
Game/Layered Music/MapTheme_Ambient_LateGame_4.mp3
Game/Layered Music/MapTheme_Ambient_LateGame_3.mp3
Game/Layered Music/MapTheme_Ambient_LateGame_2.mp3
Game/Layered Music/MapTheme_Ambient_EndGame_1.mp3
Game/Layered Music/MapTheme_Ambient_EarlyGame_6.mp3
Game/Layered Music/GameTheme_SetupGame.mp3
Game/Layered Music/GameTheme_Credits.mp3
Game/Layered Music/BattleTheme_Medium_3.mp3
Game/Layered Music/BattleTheme_Medium_2.mp3
Game/Layered Music/BattleTheme_Medium_1.mp3

New Spells:

  • Enhance Land (turns grassland into fertile land)
  • Restore land (turns marginal land into grasslands)
  • The Drain fertility and harvest spells no longer cost doomsday points. Just mana
  • Bewilder (reduces enemy accuracy by 33)
  • Call Skeleton ability (special ability for summoning a skeleton)
  • Unearthly attack (15% splash damage)

New Quests: (Thanks to the Mod team! )

    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_34.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_33.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_32.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_31.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_30.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_29.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_28.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_27.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_26.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_25.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_24.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_23.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_22.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_21.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_20.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_19.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_18.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_17.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_16.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_15.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_14.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_13.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_12.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_11.xml

    Game/data/English/Core Quests/NewChampion_Yetti.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/NewChampion_Scoundrel.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/NewChampion_Cleric.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1_QuestLocs.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1_QuestItems.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-TheHermit.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-TheExile.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-TheBazaar.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-SouthGate.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-SectionHQ.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-RockSlide.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-MerchantCity.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-Linquists.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-Garrison.xml
    Game/data/English/Core Quests/Campaign1-FearfulFog.xml

 

Updated Quests:

Game/data/English/Core Quests/SK_Interaction_Threat0_03.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/SK_Interaction_Threat0_02.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/SK_Interaction_Threat0_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/SK_Interaction_CityBuilt_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quests-Pariden_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_SorcererKing_Gates_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_RandomEvent-10.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_NewHeroQuest_Slayer.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_MysteriousCave_06.xml

Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_04.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_02.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Inn_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_DM_Fame_07.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_Battlefield_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AncientTomb_09.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AncientTomb_02.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AncientTomb_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AbandonedVillage_30.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AbandonedVillage_08.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AbandonedVillage_03.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AbandonedVillage_02.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest_AbandonedVillage_01.xml
Game/data/English/Core Quests/Quest-DM_Honor.xml


Stay tuned..this post will keep being updated…

Things my wife says

Published on Saturday, January 03, 2015 By Frogboy In Life, the Universe and Everything

My wife is a mathematician by training but her wit is second to none. In a different life, I think she’d been a good comedy writer.  So I’ve decided to start tracking some of her quips. Smile

This is all from this morning:

 

Me: You’re too good a cook. You’re making me fat.

Deb: And if I was a bad cook, you’d be complaining about that instead.

Me: And?

Deb: You’re like the Kobayashi Maru of food.

--

Deb: Every time we travel now we have to find people to take care of the chickens.

Me: Look, we’re chicken people now. And we’ll be chicken people until the day you die.

Deb: Oh, you’re definitely going first.

Me: Oh really?

Deb: How’s that coffee?

Me: Er..Almondy.

--

More to come..

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