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Designer's DiaryNovember 2000

Image: Kitty CatFriday, 3 November 2000: It's been a long month. The eternal struggle versus the epic new back story and growing race bible (that now includes space monsters as well as species) has been sucking up my brain through a straw. I know a lot of you out there are less than thrilled to see some of your favorite old MOO races not working out as "players" in MOO3. Someone went so far as to put a black cat on my desk recently with a note to save the Mrrshan. How do you break it to a cute little kitty-cat that his kin are, at best, an oppressed minority in your game. (The gods saw fit to mock Rantz, however, who is responsible for the demise of the Mrrshan in our story. You see, he ended up taking this little kitty home for his girls.)

A lot of banging on the AI design has happened this past month, along with the design of the Technology system. While a bit of the AI is already being coded, mostly it in the careful, detailed design stage where I get asked a lot of questions about how things are supposed to think/make decisions in the game. Since I don't speak AI as well as I do English, Bill Fisher has been doing a lot of translating. But Bill, Tim Hume and company are pleased as punch with how the structure is shaping up, so that's a good thing.

As for Technology, we've got a very robust system designed, and Tom Hughes, Bill Fisher and Stormhound have been burning a lot of midnight oil to get it hammered out. There still some more back-and-forth to do, but we're ready to talk about this on the boards now (bug Stormhound) and, hopefully, we'll have a data dump on the new technology model this month. For now, you might want to catch the little movie on this subject where Bill Fisher does some explaining (just click on the picture).

Floyd Grubb and Dennis Volper have been ironing out Surface Combat and getting things in balance before we share the Surface Combat Simulator with you. And while Harel has left the project, we've added Jacob Ossar who is using education in religion and philosophy to help us flesh out that part of the design (in particular, the descriptive bits of what each theological series and dogma "really mean").

As for me, I'm finally starting to knife into the second edition Design Doc. There's a lot of "fill in" design to do, so this is going to take a while.

Monday, 27 November 2000: Well, the backstory is written and we're posting it up in installments (and taking player feedback in consideration every step of the way). At the end of the day, it ran about twenty pages in the design doc. Once I can get Rantz to refocus on the Race Bible, we'll be sharing some juicy tid-bits for each species in the future as well.

These days, a lot of the "fine tuning" of the design doc is being farmed out. Floyd Grubb and Dennis Volper are taking the point on Ship Combat (and Floyd is trying to put some balancing touches on Surface Combat so that we can post the simulator online for you guys), David "Stormhound" Craft is on Technology, while Tom Hughes and I are doing a ton of fill-in work on the hyper-critical Planet Building & Economic Model for the game.

I noticed that a lot of "newbies" have dropped onto the MOO3 boards on Delphi. I can tell, because of the types of questions and comments they post. I'm very grateful to all of you who already "know the answers" and reply to their posts. Time is getting harder and harder to come by, and you're doing me a great service. I really appreciate it!

Image: Thomas Prowell and Bob Ryan playing Totaler Krieg Since this column occasionally takes a personal turn (and if you can't get enough of my columns, be sure to read PC Strategy Games magazine, where I have a monthly column), let me tell you guys that I got to recharge my batteries at a local (Los Angeles area) game convention where I got to play my favorite wargame, Totaler Krieg! with a couple of my buddies who flew in from out of town (Seattle and Detroit). Man, you can't beat that! Nothing like kicking booty across a map of Europe while simulating World War Two. Ah...

Finally, I'll end with this personal anecdote that I shared recently on the MOO3 discussion boards. I think you'll be amused...

I used to be a clerk at a hobby shop here in Southern California when I was in High School (Brookhurst Hobbies -- it's still around, now owned by one of the other clerks I used to work with back in the 70s). There were three of us clerks (and the owner). Each clerk had a specialty. One knew models, one knew books, and I knew games.

As the "game expert," it was my job to analyze all the new game releases and advise the owner how many we needed to stock and how to promote them "in-store." There were some that I was right-on about (Cosmic Encounter) and others... well...

I remember the day we got this little white box in containing miniatures rules. I duly opened it up and flipped through them, then rendered my verdict to the boss: "This game has 'loser' written all over it. It's got no rules -- just three booklets full of exceptions. There's no map, no pieces, you have to supply your own school supplies to play it, and look at these dice! You can play a real game with those!"

Ah, to be young and to so certainly know everything! :-)

The company that produced this game was Tactical Studies Rules (a well known miniatures rules publisher back in the mid-70s).

The game? Dungeons & Dragons.

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