Tuesday, 4 November 2014

How to be a jerk

Photo courtesy EveryCarListed
When I lived in the US, I quit a job I enjoyed and took a job I hated because that hated job – car salesman – offered health insurance. Keep in mind that I had something called a cholesteatoma and in the worst-case scenario, you can die from this relatively easy to treat condition. I had bloody pus running out of my ear for well over a year until the pre-existing medical clause expired and I could get my surgery. Not having medical care was not an option.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Veure - Turning Bugs Into Features

Published by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Despite the post title, I'll cover a number of areas as I continue to document my (initially) one-man quest to write a text-based MMORPG. What follows is mostly me rambling and isn't trying to be overly coherent.

I've already written combat in Veure (side note: we think we have a real name for it now) and frankly, I like some of the features it has, but recently I hit a snag when I was rewriting the item system (guns, medkits, and so on). I had put a stub item system in place originally, just to have something there, but now I needed to make it more robust. However, in rerunning my combat simulator (which generates a 16M spreadsheet and takes hours to complete), I discovered that for one of the combat stats, if you increased the stat, you decreased your odds of winning a fight. Oops.

Now if you're curious about how combat in a text-based MMORPG works, I recommend checking out torn.com. In fact, if you're curious about text-based MMORPGs at all, check out that game (it's free). It's huge, has been running for over a decade and just released a major update to its interface. It's a fun game, but it's exactly the sort of game I don't want: there's no story, no immersion.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Wizpert Spam

Fair use photo by Sreejithk2000
Dear Wizpert,

You're spamming me. And you know what? I get it; I really do. I also have my own company and from what I can see, you're likely a small, New York-based startup with limited funding and high overhead. You have a dream and you want to keep it afloat.

I really get that. However, if your dream requires you to constantly spam people like me, I have an issue with that. Amusingly, I am one of the world's best-known experts in my field, but from everything I've read, Wizpert is a waste of my time.

Curtis "Ovid" Poe

Dear everyone else,

If you're not familiar with wizpert, they're an online help desk. They get people to sign up as experts in a field and possibly earn money by answering questions for their customers. Not everyone's been thrilled with the experience, but the basic idea seems nice. That being said, I suspect they're struggling because they're spamming for experts. As it turns our, the spam is better than most and had they actually linked to my blog, I might have not realized it was spam (though I still wouldn't have signed up). However, they're clearly using software to "find" blogs on the Web and robomail people.

No names are redacted because there's no one innocent I'm protecting.
Hi Ovid, 
I was reading your blog https://metacpan.org/pod/Env::Export#AUTHOR and thought that your knowledge would be of great value to our users, who pay our experts a premium for advice. 
Our platform, called Wizpert, is a fast growing community of experts, where users seek advice and coaching on a wide range of topics, such as programming languages (PHP, C++, JavaScript, etc.), computers and more. 
If you decide to sign up, you will also get a customized Wizpert button to place on your blog - it will allow engaged readers to connect with you directly at your convenience for a live conversation. 
Please go to http://wizpert.com/register_expert?beta_key=computers  and create your quick profile - it doesn't cost you anything and takes just 2 minutes!  
For more information, pls see our FAQ section on the site, or feel free to contact me personally with any questions. 
All the best,
Michael Weinberg
Founder, CEO
Wizpert - NY, NY
The "blog" Weinberg refers to is actually software documentation (https://metacpan.org/pod/Env::Export#AUTHOR). Here's the text at that section (#AUTHOR) of the documentation:
Randy J. Ray <rjray at blackperl.com> 
Original idea from a journal posting by Curtis "Ovid" Poe (<ovid at cpan.org>), built on a sample implementation done by Steffen Mueller, <smueller at cpan.org>.
For those with a software background, you can see how this mistake could have been made. In fact, at no point in this software documentation are any of my blogs linked. Just one is mentioned. Nonetheless, Wizpert is spamming people trying to get more "experts" in their fold and this was a clumsy attempt. As it turns out, they've been doing this for quite some time and not bothering to try to hide it.

So, unethical behavior and crappy software. Nice.

Here's Wizpert:

And yes, there are plenty more out there. From what I understand, they were originally going with a hand-curated list, and then with a paid spam campaign, and then "word of mouth" would take over. Well, if they don't stop spamming, I'd certainly like a word of mouth campaign to begin ...

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Thoughts on game design in MMORPGs

Back in 2006 I was living in the US and had accepted a programming job in the UK but had to wait several months for the paperwork to come through. My previous employment ended because the company was running out of money and since I knew that games are actually one of the most cost-effective forms of entertainment, I made the conscious decision to play World of Warcraft in an effort to deliberately save money and not go out so often to restaurants or clubs with friends. This was the first MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) I had ever played.

A new star map we're investigating using.

A good friend of mine (and then roommate), Michael Schwern, convinced me to try a PVP (player versus player) server instead of a PVE (player versus environment) server. The primary difference is that in PVP, enemy players can kill you. In PVE, they can't touch you and you just play against the game (yes, I'm oversimplifying). This was a huge eye opener for me because I thought I would prefer exploring the game rather than fighting other people. I was dead wrong. When you're trying to finish a particular quest and there are human bad guys all over the place, it makes the game much more challenging and that really pays off.

Over time, I had played enough games, both single player and multi-player that when I decided to create Veure I was pretty sure that I knew what I was doing. Once again, I was dead wrong.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Veure Update

Veure is coming along quite nicely. Just take a look at this screenshot (you can click on it for a larger image).

Your status page in Veure

Money, visas, stats building, education, space ships, clones, inventory, and more. But we still don't have a name. We have over 50% of the Alpha tasks finished and pushing further ahead, but that damned name is pesky. We actually thought we finally had one, but a double-check of the name revealed that someone else is using it. Damn, damn, damn. The name is rapidly becoming one of the biggest obstacles.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Help me name Veure!

I'm currently working on the education system for my browser-based science fiction game, Veure, and things are coming along nicely. I can only work on it part time as I have another contract that actually pays the bills. We've also hired a very talented developer who's been helping me clean up many areas of the game which have heretofore been problematic.

The "Advanced Navigator" course display.
Click on the image for a larger version.