Medieval Monday: The Peasant


I love this! Allison Reid is going to talk about the social classes during the medieval time, starting with the peasant. If you like this, please go to her website and give her a much deserved Like.

Allison D. Reid

Now that I’ve gone through all the labors of the months, my first-of-the-month posts will shift focus to something new–social status and occupations. We’ll start with peasants, who were at the bottom of the social scale. They had limited to no voices in feudal society, might not be allowed to own property, and led rather difficult lives.

While we tend to lump “peasants” all into the same category, there were really 3 basic types of peasants, with important differences that distinguish them from one another.

Serfs were just a step above slaves, bound to the land on which they provided manual labor for a lord. In addition to working in the fields, they might also do things like work in the mines, forests, or maintain roads. Serfs were not permitted to leave the lord’s land (or purchase their own) and might be sold with it like property. Marriages between serfs…

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Designing Worlds: How to create more realistic geography/geology


I am currently working on a world terrain for a game we are making. This is one of my favorite parts of game development and design. In a previous job, I made maps for a game with a relatively large world. Their original map was horrible and very unrealistic. It drove me crazy so I asked to remake the maps, trying to make them more realistic. As this was some time ago, we had some major restrictions so I had to work around that but today, it is much easier to make worlds that look and feel real, and obey the laws of nature.

A couple of gripes I have had with maps, some in AAA companies’ games although even more in indie games, is the way lay of the land, the way rivers flow and transitions between different biomes. For example, rivers do not divide, they flow into each other. Deserts exist due to specific conditions, such as in a rain shadow, on the leeward side of mountains or in specific latitudes, with very specific conditions.

While you can get away with this in a fantasy game, as many say to me about anything they want to justify, but why do that? Many of your players will not notice, but some will. And once that one person starts complaining in your forums, others will notice too.

So..while working on a new game, I went searching for some specific information for story development. I found some information from a novelist who was talking about World Building. I felt happily vindicated when his first lecture on geography talked exactly about rivers and coastlines and other geology/physics forces that form landscapes.

I know nothing about coding but I have a master’s degree in geology, with my specialty in geomorphology which is the study of land forms and the process which form them. Now, the tools out there are not yet capable of making terrains that are 100% realistic. Some try, like World Machine and World Creator, which, by the way are my go to tools for terrain creation. World Creator stand alone is one of the best and they are adding simulation which should go a long way it making terrains more realistic.

But…my concern is the map you create, the one that you build your terrain upon.

Rivers: Rivers start from high, and flow to low areas. So start your rivers in the mountains and then have them join up at lower levels. This creates a water basin or watershed. Everything within that basin flows together eventually, and as the rivers and streams join, the river becomes bigger until it runs into the sea. All rivers go from the high elevation to other rivers and/or to the sea. The only exceptions are where humans have artificially changed the flow, such as in a canal. Remember, a river always tries to find the shortest route to the sea. It does not flow around east and west and then go to the sea, it heads for the sea. Higher ground will affect it’s flow, and often you will see rivers that flow around a hill or between two hills. There is a lot more complexity, such as how glaciated areas affect rivers flow, or karst topography (cave systems), or unique systems where softer sediments are exposed in mountain building. But that is a different post.

watershed_illustrated

 

Here is an example of multiple river basins that flow into the Mississippi river.

Mississippi River System

Hopefully that helps. Some folks ask me about deltas, which sometimes occur when the rivers flow into the sea. Very specific conditions much occur in order for deltas to form.

river-changes-and-landforms

The three major conditions are the river must be carry a large load, meaning it must have the capacity to carry a log of sediment, such as sand or silt.

The river must be flowing slow enough to allow the river to drop the sediment in the river’s mouth. This also means that the river is in a flat area, not a steep slope. A river that flows from coastal mountains steeply to the sea will be moving faster and not have time to drop it’s sediment before it reaches the coast.

And where the river joins the sea must be shallow, either a shallow sea or a shelf that extends outward for some distance. This keeps the sediment from simply flowing down the slope and dropping in the ocean.

I am simplifying my explanations because honestly, the only important thing here is to look at your map, the relief of your map and think about how you want it to look. Remember, it is the illusion. Your map and resulting terrain do not need to be 100% realistic, and that is impossible unless you run a complex simulator.

But…you can make sure your rivers go from high to low. I have seen so many maps where the rivers go from sea to sea…crazy! They drive me batty, honestly. Unless your river is a man made canal or you use some sort of fancy magic, then this would not happen.

If you use deltas, place them in a proper place. Delta’s are one place where rivers do divide. They do this because they are in a very flat area and as the river tries to find the shortest path to the ocean, it constantly changes as sediment blocks it’s path.

There is a lot more I could talk about.
Lakes, how streams flow from lakes and where they should be positioned
How other factors affect river flow
Coastlines, how to make them realistic
Different types of mountain building
Deserts, where to place them and why
Etc.

If this is something you are interested in, let me know. If it is dry and boring and you do not care, then that is okay, I am sure you will let me know.

Anyway, just trying to find some way that I can give back the community.  So hope you enjoyed if nothing else.

Teila

P.S. I also posted this on the Unity forums. 🙂

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The Double-Edged Sword Of Immersion


Here is an article about immersion that you might enjoy! Read and comment below if you wish and make sure you press like for the author on his site if you enjoy the article.

via The Double-Edged Sword Of Immersion

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Medieval footwear and gait


Thought you would like the latest from Allison D. Reid on Medieval Monday! The video she included is fabulous!

via Medieval Monday: Boots, Shoes, and Walking Medieval

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Hurricane Irma


irmalostsome

Well, sometimes life just throws you a curve ball and in this case, in the form of a hurricane track. The past week has been harrowing to say the least.

When we realized a hurricane was coming our way, we did what all Floridians do in such cases, we went out and bought lots of canned food and water. We live inland, so felt pretty safe, but prepared just in case.

Irma just kept getting stronger and stronger, some monster storm that threatened to swallow our state like some great demon. When the track moved to the east coast, a loud sigh of relief could be heard across the western half of Florida. For several days, we felt concern for those in its path with that vague feeling of superiority because WE were not going to be badly affected.

Plywood shutters for the windows were made and put aside, just in case. We ordered a generator….because power might go off. We helped my mom box up her precious photos to bring to our house as her roof was not in good shape.

Then….everything changed. The hurricane was headed up the west coast….winds would be higher but still off shore, then it crept eastward again, right over our house. Now things were serious.

Plywood on every window, blocking our lovely sunny days and creating eternal night. Every item that could be a missile in high winds moved out of our yard and porch and into the garage. It was too late to trim our trees and cut down the dead one in the backyard, nothing to do about that.

I became locked to Weather Underground’s hurricane blog, watching the path, the strength, staying up every night to watch the models run and read the analysis of the data. I have my graduate degree in geology and my research actually involved hurricane erosion and over-wash, so I had at least some idea of what all those graphs and models were showing me and it was not pretty.

A storm of epic proportions headed toward us. It threatened the entire state with category 5 winds, flooding on the coasts, and a lot of rain.  I spent each day fighting down the panic. Could our house survive this? Would a tree fall on our roof? What about my car?  And most of all, what about my family? Would we be able to keep them safe?

We thought about leaving…and looked online for hotels. Since the east coast, now relatively safe, was evacuated, everyone came inland, millions of people. Hotels were full up through Tennessee. Gas was in short supply and many cars had been abandoned along the highways when they ran out of gas. A 4 hour trip was now 12 hours.

So…we decided to “hunker down”, that great term that simply means, shelter in place. Now the sailboat was brought into our porch, the hot tub filled with water to use for washing. We filled everything we had with water.

My elderly mom and her elderly dog plus her 2 cats were moved into our house along with my son’s friend, who was alone in the next town. 7 of us, 6 cats total and 2 dogs. Nerves were frazzled, personalities conflicted, elderly dog peed all over my floor. 😦 Very stressful….

Tropical force winds hit us and we could hear the whistling and howling through the plywood windows. I think the wood dampened the sounds to some degree, but as the winds because stronger, the fact that we could not see what caused the big thump on the roof was disturbing. I felt trapped in this big box with no way to see what was on the other side. It was like some movie where the zombies are outside battering on your house to get in and you could only hide and wait for them to leave.

Rather than continue up the coast as expected, Irma took a turn inland and headed toward Orlando. We thought maybe the worst was over. But she took another turn. By this time, we had lost power. We started up the crank radio and listened to a local report of the hurricane. The announcer told us the worst part was to come, 100 mph gusts, go to your safe room! Now, Florida does not have a lot of houses with interior rooms, so our safe room was the laundry room, a narrow hallway.  We gathered all the cats, put them carriers, put chairs in the laundry room and waited to see if the wind picked up.

Turns out, we were in the very center of the path, and this meant that after some over 90 mph winds for a very short time, we were in the center of the eye. We went outside to see the perfect calm. It was eerie. The eye wall to the south was gone, weakened by the movement over land. My friends to the east were battered by the very nasty eastern eye wall, but the storm was over for us.

So at 2 am we went to bed and had the best night’s sleep we had had in many days. We slept late as the plywood made the house very dark. We woke and ventured outside to see our neighbors picking up debris. The sun was trying to shine, limbs and green leaves were scattered everywhere, on the roof, in the grass, and on our cars. A couple of large limbs had fallen but no damage. The dead tree did not fall.

We survived the eye. A category 5 hurricane that tore apart the Caribbean islands, killing people, destroying houses, and leaving devastation behind. Cuba was probably the island that saved us when a landfall occurred and Irma brushed over the northern side, weakening somewhat. The Florida Keys, a delightful place to visit, full of quirky personalities and great bars was very badly damaged. I am sad. Sad for all those who suffered. Flooding was horrible along the coasts. Only Tampa and the northwest seem to have been spared.

I feel very fortunate. One turn either way, across a state that is no more than 150 miles wide, could have made all the difference. It reminds me that even when we are lucky, we really do not know when that line will come our way.

As for the game, our trailer will not be done before Unite. Unfortunately, the week of prep happened as we were getting ready to capture the video and we are just too emotionally and physically exhausted to believe we will get it done in time to get it to the composer for music. So, since we want to do it well, we will continue to work on it and have it after the conference. I think it will even be better. 🙂  Plus, we will come back from Austin with great new ideas, new contacts, and feeling much less exhausted, I am sure.

In the meantime, we will try to get out some gifs, mini-videos, screenshots and concept art that we had ready for the trailer.

Thanks for sticking with us!

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Drama among role players


roleplay

A team member sent me a link to an interesting article release this week by Larry Everett on Massively Overpowered  which I thought was interesting. I posted a response on the forums but thought I would re-post here. I am still gathering my thoughts on how to find a solution that would work in a game like ours, which is designed to attract role players of all kinds, but that will require some team brainstorming so will have to get back to that.

Here is my comment:

I too have had a similar experience with role play drama and it caused me to leave the game.

I have role played in games for many years, both online and pen and paper. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive and the vast majority of role players are there to have fun, are not mentally deranged, and do not take it all too seriously, just like the vast majority of PvPers are not violent psychopaths.

Anytime you get a group of people together you are going to eventually have drama. I know a guild of PvP gamers who are constantly infighting, so much so that their guild is failing badly. I have friends who complain about the drama in their church, or their academic institution. It is a huge part of human nature and our need to socialize, belong to a group, etc. Drama simply is a part of life everywhere.

Back to role players..one of the biggest problem is that there are so many different types of role players.

There are Casual role players, who stay in character but otherwise just play the game. There are what I call more Hardcore role players who not only stay in character, but separate player knowledge from character knowledge, and the Intense role players who write pages of bio and expect everyone to read them as soon as they meet your character so you can become part of their story. They are more apt to blur player and character knowledge by sending “tells” to defend their character and let you know how wrong you are.

I once played a SWG Emu game and when looking for a group of role players, I found a what appeared to be a nice group. Eventually, it became evident to me that this was unlike other games I had played. Not only did I get the “read my bio, you are totally not getting my character” tells, but had a very nice guy who was studying to be a minister try to save my “real life” soul. I stuck around too long, left angry and disgusted.

Unfortunately, there was no where else to go, which is true of many games out there, especially one like this without a role play server. So I left the game. Now, I played on an unofficial rp server for SWG (the actual real game) for many years and never had any issues. The majority of folks were casual or hardcore, we all got along, and if there was drama, we could easily go find other individuals or groups who shared a similar play style. I also found that the vast majority of non-roleplayers would join in with us sometimes and really enjoyed our role play. This to me is the perfect setting for a role play scenario. It is FUN, not stressful or at least not any more stressful than another other social game.

Sadly, many run into those Intense groups which do not suit their style and suddenly all role players are dramatic, mentally ill, or perverts. This is no better than labeling every PvP player as violent, anti-social, and cruel. There will always be the fringes and the goal here would be to find a place to play where others share your style and/or are mature enough to respect your style may be different from yours before you get to the point where you are so traumatized that you leave the game.

Respect and maturity are certain part of the answer. But even among adults, there are always those who are less mature for a variety of reasons. I think part of the solution must be that the role play guilds/groups need to be open about their style of play. They must make that clear to new members when they join in the role play, and they need to use “tells” to remind each other that this is supposed to be fun.

Visit the link above and let me know what you think.

Teila

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Classes are boring


tTltVLI

No, I do not mean those classes you take in school. I mean, of course, classes in MMO’s. Again, I did a bit of research into games with classes (your typical paladin, wizard, etc.) and those that did not. Few MMO’s do away with classes and those that do often replace classes with something that is REALLY a class but has a different name.

Why are classes popular? First of all, they make character creation easier. You choose the class and then you choose from within that class various options. It is fast, quick and you know if you choose a wizard you will get a character high on wisdom, and able to throw fireballs at the enemy. Easy…which is really the goal of many modern games these days.

The other reason is balance. If one has 8 classes in their game, they can balance the damage and defense for each class, making them almost equal, much easier for design. That way, you don’t have a game full of just Paladins.  Of course, if you dig deep into most games, you realize the balance really is an illusion. There will always be the most powerful class for fighting and most people will play that class who want to fight. Yes, the wizard might stand a chance, but the bard and the rogue need to use other means to compete.

Balance is good, right? But is it good? Having played many DnD games and similar pen and paper games, I rather wonder what balance takes away from the game. In a DnD game, balance is based on party more than on individuals. If you enter a dungeon with a bunch of Paladins, you may find yourself stuck when confronted with a locked door.  You need that rogue. Of course, in DnD, as the campaign goes on, the party members can learn skills in lockpicking that have nothing to do with being a Paladin. But..in most MMO’s you can only choose the skills/abilities that are within your class. The Paladin cannot learn lockpicking most likely. So a party full of Paladins in an MMO dungeon would simply be out of luck unless they can find a rogue, but of course since rogues are boring and can’t fight as well, they are rare and unusual creatures…maybe.

Now, I have some odd ideas of how games should be. I like the idea that balance comes from outside the set of rules that define a game. In the real world, everything balances out naturally. If there are too many bakers in town, some of the bakers will move to another town or they will switch professions, maybe specialize in wedding cakes. During major changes, such as wartime, the demand may switch to recruiting soldiers or people to work in factories that produce products demanded during wartime. During the holiday season shops hire extra people to handle the demand.

The point is that outside influences create the balance in the real world. It is not about having a factory worker balanced with the waitress, but about the demand for factory workers vs. demand for waitresses.

So..what if this were extended to a game? Give players the ability to create their own “classes” and choose their own abilities/skills for those classes. Give them the ability to change their mind if outside influences suggest that they would be better off if they did. Bob the Baker might decide to join the military if a war is threatening his village. In doing so, he may have to put aside some of his baking abilities in order to learn more fighting skills.  But Bob is still Bob, with the same friends and maybe able to bake some great bread for his buddies in his platoon.

One thing I have discovered when sharing ideas with others is that gamers are pretty rigid in how they see games. I get the…”this will never work” from those who see games as working this way or that, the typical MMO, this is the way it has always been done. I see very little flux in the way people/gamers/developers think about games. Unfortunately, this is why we see only minor evolution in the way games are made and how the player fits into the entire structure of a game. Games market their great event systems which really are just a short burst that involves a handful of players and then everything goes back to the same old stuff. Players really only have the illusion of impacting the world because they are stuck in the same roles.  How many games actually allow you to have a class called baker?  You must mold your character to the game rather than allow you, based on how you play, who you play, and what you do actually create change in the world.

If Bob the baker comes back from the war and reopens his bakery, he will be a very different Bob from the one who left. He will have war stories and buddies from the war. He might be more compassionate after seeing the horrors of war. Or maybe he will be angry and bitter due to his experiences. The player gets to decide. For role players, this would be an ideal situation and a real way to drive stories. For those casual gamers who are not interested in role playing or anything deeper than XP, this might be a chance to surround yourselves with a living world full of dynamic evolving characters, even if you just want to drop by to kill a few rats. The joy of players creating the stories is that they are totally unpredictable compared to a bunch of NPCs repeating the same dialogue and repetitive quests.

I am most certainly talking to a blank wall here, but regardless, I think I will continue to muse about how to engage players in a different sort of game.  Please feel free to comment and share your ideas or your concerns with me.

Teila

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