Posts archived in Shattered World

Programming is getting me down, though some actually is getting done. To cheer myself up I’m going to revisit the original feature list for Shattered World. I’ve learned quite a bit over the last year, and some of my opinions have changed, while others wound up never being clearly defined. Without further ado, here we go:

A game without skills or classes, but still maintaining character progression built around mostly open ended PvP, player built cities, powerful guild management and communication tools. Shattered world also attacks the problems of PvE and end game raiding head on, allowing players to observe real change in their environment that they initiate. Crafting will also be meaningful and challenging.

Characters begin in Shattered World, not looking much different from a typical humanoid. However, when you collect Biomass, the basis of all in-game crafting and creation, you can absorb it and devote it to a mutation. These can be anything from denser muscles to growing two percent larger. What mutations you select will change the appropriate character statistics, your level is the average of all your statistics.

I decided to keep those two together since while the purpose statement covers a wide range of topics it opens with perhaps the strongest statement I’ve ever made about the design. No classes, and no skills. Saying no classes is easy enough, hardly a leap there, but no skills needs a certain amount of definition as to what I consider a skill. To put it most simply, a skill is a proportional measure, between 0 and maximum, tracking a player’s ability and bonuses to performing an action successfully. Or in other words, I think of a skill system as following the model from UO, or as you see in EVE.

My thought was that when these two are used in practice, they are layers on top of your base statistics. In other words, from a design perspective, the fundamental point of a class would be to control the growth rate of say strength as compared to stamina, or speed as compared to endurance. From there you would grow that into the creation of abilities that function along synergies of the basic statistics, mages have higher mana pools and mana regen so they get spells for instance. Skills approach statistics from a secondary angle of competency, for instance if our skills are a range of 1-5, then at 1 you can leverage 20% of the underlying statistic, and at 5 you leverage 100% of the underlying statistic. It wasn’t a hard leap from there to say, “why not just play around with the statistics directly.”

From there I later decided that the best approach for abilities was to simply have them ‘unlock’ at certain statistical gates. In this way, the player is responsible for building their own character’s abilities and style. However, not everyone is a class designer, and not everyone can run around min-maxing at all times. While not the entire reason, that played a large part in my decision to work off the morphing system rather than a straight point buy. The great hopes were that it would simplify the decision making process for players, ease balancing somewhat by creating decisions between things rather, and that players would go with things that they preferred the look of over whatever the strict min/max is.

The brief mention of levels at the end is actually a very important distinction. The way levels are handled in every MMO that has them, that comes to mind, is that you are progressing towards the next statistics gate. In other words, any particular level is more or less a plateau of base statistical progression until you fill the XP bar. In ShW on the other hand, a level is more similar to a weight class. Two people with a level of 5 in the same gear are not likely to be perfectly equal, one could be towards the high end, the other towards the low end. Which leads to…

PvP is allowed for anyone within five levels of you, without setting any flags or doing anything at all other than walking up and attacking them. You may select from two factions to begin with, Purist and Carnalist. While aligned with the Purists, you will be fined both scrip(currency) and biomass when you kill a player without a bounty. When aligned with Carnalist, you will not be fined for killing a player, however the bounty placed on your head for pking will be doubled. While in the starting city, guards will defend players without bounties when they come under attack.

The first part has to do with this new concept of levels. Basically, by limiting people to fighting relatively speaking within their weight class you almost entirely disassociate the level carrot from the stick in terms of PvP. And in retrospect, I think I would make that just “cannot initiate combat with players over five levels below you.” I know from Neveron that there were plenty of people who held their empires at the point at which logistics became nightmarish, simply because they preferred to stick to more tactical combat. In WoW I held myself at level 39 for a long time, just because I had more fun with BGs and the occasional instance run than I was having leveling. By designing PvP bottom up with this weight-class style of mentality, you leave openings for those who don’t want to become “all powerful” to still be useful.

The segment on bounties though has been pretty much completely removed. Between the obvious abuses of simply having carnalists kill each other all day, I’ve also realigned my views of the main island being more or less 0.0 space. On the other hand, the area right outside Ventrair’s gate is one of my biggest concerns. Much like low security space in EVE, it’s simply the most fertile zone for pirates and griefers to occupy. That area where you’re still close enough to the safe zone to abuse it to your own advantage if needed. I don’t have a solid answer yet, but it is constantly on my mind.

Players may build their own cities in the wild. Though any building may be placed anywhere, if you find a wide enough space of open ground you can build a Town Hall which will give your guild the ability act as planning and zoning within the effected area. You may set certain areas to be marked as road, residential, or commercial only, and/or require the appropriate guild officers signatures on any potential building sites. Buildings are destructible, and will need to be guarded, as such the Town Hall also creates an area in which members of your guild may PK any non-guildmate player without acquiring a bounty. Towns also leverage taxes, taking a percentage of all sales and trades involving scrip or biomass in the area.

My mental image of cities changed forever after playing SWG and wandering into a player built city. I took one look at the sea of shanties, the total lack of direction and terrible planning and said, “ye… no.” From then on I kind of came to the conclusion that player built buildings should always be within the confines of a city. I’m certainly greatly in favor of giving people all the tools they need for easy and efficient city planning, and certainly in favor of setting aside space in and around Ventrair specifically for players without guilds. At the end of the day though, I’d rather that housing be to some extent a social decision, something to build a community up. My problem with the shanty town is that for those not “initiated” to the communities, the lack of order and organization acts as a barrier to interaction with a cities respective community.

The rest of it is still pretty spot on except for the complete removal of bounties.

The Chat System in Shattered World is actually a separate client that is automatically started anytime you run Shattered World, if it is not already running. After exiting the game, the chat will minimize to your quickbar, but can be opened to chat with guild mates, friends or any other player just as you would were the game running. The hope is this will free you from feeling the need to be at all times, since you can easily find out if you are really needed. It’s powerful guild/player relations tools, should also allow you to contact your in game friends without needing the game running and manage guild functions, friends, and ignore lists without having to enter the game world.

This honestly hasn’t changed hardly at all. In large part, I just don’t see any reason to make people open a hugely graphically intensive game with insane load times just so they can ask if anything’s going on. On top of that, a lot of the time guild management and officers will have plenty to do just shuffling around text without really needing to be in-game at all. And finally it all comes back to keeping friends connected even if they may not always have time to play with each other.

An additional advantage though, is that it allows me to purposefully blur the line between game and meta-game.

The player versus environment dynamic is turned on it’s head by giving the enemies strategically located spawn in points, and a real time strategy level AI. This means that the AI will intelligently attack player owned towns as well as the starting town. The friendly AI will give quests that work towards it’s goals of defeating the enemy nations. You may see an increase in fetch style quests as they prepare to repel an attack or launch one of their own. During the actual attacks and defenses you will be given kill quests and raid targets based on what will actually help your side’s agenda most.

Making the PvE game play fundamentally dynamic is actually a key point in the entire design. The point of PvE is that it should be, to my mind, a fundamentally cooperative endeavor. With the large dynamic shifts, you can get players across the level spectrum to work together both in direct grouping, as well as in a more indirect fashion of smaller objectives that contribute to larger successes.

The environment on Shattered World is, well shattered. You can take on the roles of farming, gardening, foresting, breeding, and a host of others to attempt to repair to the broken landscape and turn the barren desert into a flourishing paradise. Farming and Herding can greatly increase the aggregate Biomass in the world as well, making your guild more powerful and allowing your craftspeople to build heavier arms and equipment.

This also hasn’t changed at all. I want the game to be, in many ways, a teaching tool. A sort of primer in ecology and resource management, along with a chance for a society to use that primer effectively or otherwise. Of course, I also don’t have any one set vision of how it “should” turn out, I’m just far more interested in watching what actually does come out of it.

Crafting is not a matter of merely gathering components, you must also combine them in the correct proportions. Beyond a few simple recipes all others are found through trial and error. The properties of the various metals in the world will have a direct effect on the final product depending on how they are combined. For instance, when creating a sword, you will need to balance the blade and pommel to increase damage dealt, but using too dense of a material for the blade and to light of a material for the hilt will still result in a product that is overly heavy for the amount of damage it deals.

For this I’ve been thinking of the machining equipment that my dad maintains for his work. Their really isn’t a way to prevent the “most bestest” items from having their production secrets leaked out over the internet. What I can do is make it so that making those items, and in fact even determining what really is the “most bestest” a difficult task. For instance, if we were to take a plasma rifle for instance, getting it about 85% of the way would be fairly easy. Get the metal and the biomass, find the right measurements, and start machining the pieces on some lathes or CNC machines. But then comes the hard part, those machines all have a small amount of built in inaccuracy, differing based on how they themselves were built, and also take wear increasing their inaccuracy. So now you need to decide if it’s worth it to replace nearly brand new parts because of a very small loss of accuracy. Of course, the inaccuracies in individual pieces accumulate into the final assembly. Even then, there are going to be differences based on the metals you picked, harder metals being undercut, especially if you have one of the weaker metals trying to cut them. On the other hand you have softer metals which can be cut to much greater accuracy, but are naturally going to wear out faster.

A sword will be an order of magnitude simpler, of course you’ll want some nice hard metals and a good weight ratio. However, I suspect there will be a market for custom swords. Those who prefer a particular fighting style and want something more specialized for their needs.

Going beyond weapons you always have furniture, clothing, and tools. All of which have their own process and their own specialties.

Taking a page of what I have so far, this is Isobel’s page from the current Source Book. I’m certainly open to any criticism that may improve this piece.

Isobel The Defender (later The Conqueror)
Role: Isobel was a duchess in the South of the Al-Hau mountain range. She had already served as captain of the Holy Guard and was well known as not only the best fighter, but the best commander in the Ecclesia. After retiring from the Holy Guard after two terms as captain, she had barely gotten resettled in the management of her fief in the foothills when the reach of the One Empire’s third crusade reached their borders. As the Ecclesia in Al-Hau lost their mountain range to the west, Tsenara arrives on Isobel’s door step. After careful negotiation with the high priestess, Tsenara devotes her greatly improved powers, aged twenty-two at this point, to the defense of Isobel’s lands which are now the front-lines of the battle, in exchange for an arranged marriage with Isobel.

After breaking the waves of the third crusade in a close battle, a distant invasion by the Tsuta Empire of the One Empire gave them a more permanent reprieve. Isobel sets out with a detachment of her most experienced troops to retake Nor for her new consort, and to keep the attention of the One Empire divided. Almost three weeks into the campaign, the couple had their first and last tryst for the next thirty years. Four months after liberating the majority of the kingdom of Nor, including the new capital city of Eory which is the coastal city in which Tsenara was born, their daughter Moia is born. Moia has the wings of an Angreal but her wings are colored blue with white tips. A mere two days after birth, Moia is kidnapped by members of the One Church clergy that had remained behind under the pretenses of tending to their congregation.

The kidnapping of Moia began a new chapter in Isobel’s life, and is the tipping point at which she changed from being known as The Defender, and became The Conqueror. In a few short months she had mobilized not only her own remaining forces, but dissidents from across the region to prepare an all out assault on the One Empire.

After almost a decade of hard campaigning, the capital of the One Empire falls. The next five years are spent routing the remainder of the imperial loyalists into Tsuta where they are accepted as refugees. Her military career ends with herself as Empress of the newly formed Nor Empire, centuries later renamed the Isobel Empire to legitimize a tenuous succession, with Tsenara as her consort.

Age at Death: 68
Reign: 35 years
Description: Isobel is a strong woman, both mind and body, heavily muscled and intense. Her hair is raven black and usually kept in either a single ponytail while prepared for battle, or in carefully arranged dreads for formal events. Her usual dress is a rather plain halter top with loose breaches, for formal matters she usually wears a burgundy version of the Angreal officer’s uniform, an open backed shirt with elaborate, but usable, sleeves and loose straight breaches gathered into leather boots. In battle, her armor is the standard Angreal heavy armor with strong forward facing plates, and leg armor mostly provided by plates hanging from the belt.

Isobel and Tsenara have a famously tempestuous relationship. Isobel is not a lesbian, however she agreed to the arranged marriage for political expediency. Tsenara on the other hand holds a very strong unrequited love for Isobel which rules her love life for the entirety of their reign. Immortalized in poetry, stage and song for the rest of their history is a famed event where Isobel supposedly slashes her own eyes, blinding herself, in penitence for her philandering with men about court. Her bastard sons inherit the empire from her, but over the coming centuries, the lost blue winged bloodline is a constant fear of those seeking unquestioned rule.

Just finished a meeting in my Metaplace world, The Lectern, on the recent shift of Shattered World to a CC license. This is my record of the chat.

SaraPickell: All right, well let’s begin then.
Pixeleen: YAY! I bought Pixeleen St in MP Central!
SaraPickell: First of all, thank you to everyone for showing up. It means rather a lot to me.
bionicghost: altouh i don’t actually know what’s going on here
bionicghost: but the spirit is here
SaraPickell: Before I go into any specifics about the setting, I’d like to explain what exactly I’ve done, and why exactly you should care. =)
KStarfire: *grumbles at people taking his street corner*
chooseareality: simmer down
chooseareality: :P
Tizzers simmers.
SaraPickell: Shattered world is a setting I created a little over two years ago specifically to support the creation of an MMO. Over those two years it has grown and expanded somewhat.
SaraPickell: I am now releasing all of that writing, all of the design work for the MMO, as well as all of the IP that would normally be part of a license free to everyone.
chooseareality: KS or someone can you grab a log of this for me please :)
KStarfire: if i dont crash sure :)
chooseareality: I should have been offline 15 minutes ago
chooseareality: poof
KStarfire: go brooke.. :)
Pixeleen: what sort of license are you releasing it under?
SaraPickell: Not only free to use, but free to copy, free to profit from, and free to modify. The only rule being that I be credited, and that you maintain that right for everyone else.
Tizzers: Creative commons license?
SaraPickell: It’s a Creative Commons Share and Share-Alike
bionicghost: point for tizzles
Tizzers: <3
Pixeleen: why did you decide to do a creative commons license?
SaraPickell: Well, I was watching the commentary on a Jackie Chan movie once, and it was mentioned the character he was playing was the star character of a great many movies in Hong Kong Cinema. Since then, I’ve alsways been interested in the idea of a shared culture that doesn’t also try to limit people’s abili
SaraPickell: *ability to profit from it.
Pixeleen: where is the work available? is there a URL?
SaraPickell: For the moment it’s still spread out a bit over two sites. I’m going to be working to compile it all into a PDF soon. Let me grab those two urls for you.
Pixeleen: thanks
SaraPickell: http://soagcure.blogspot.com/search/label/Shattered%20World || http://swmmp.wikidot.com/
Omnifrog: Awesome
KStarfire: very well put together Sara
Omnifrog: I’m a big supporter of CC
Pixeleen: I know someone who will say that this is communism or socialism and destroys business
bionicghost: let’s… not tell that person about it
Omnifrog: thats wonderful Sara
SaraPickell: Actually, it’s opportunity cost, right now I’m loosing more money on the IP than I’m making because without mind share it remains worthless.
Pixeleen: so this is a way to get more mindshare
SaraPickell: With mindshare, although I won’t be in control of all the profits made, it attains worth.
SaraPickell: From a purely cynical perspective, yes.
SaraPickell: However, I’m not here to attempt to force or even really sell anyone on the use of the IP. Rather, I want people to see what is there, see if it can help them with some endeavor, and if it can to use it.
Omnifrog: quote “the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity”
Tizzers: What kind of assets exist Sara? Object/Character models? Textures?
SaraPickell: At present moment, there is mostly writing and design work. Some character art does exist but not as much, and a lot of it is floating around my hard drive, and will be hunted down as I compile more.
Pixeleen: the world needs more models and textures
SaraPickell: However, I’m not ceasing work on the IP myself, and all future assets will be covered under the same license, so even if you don’t find anythign that works for you now, that may not be the case in the future.
bionicghost: wait. Everyone who modifies it will have his/her own version, or the modifica game?tions would be added to an overall
bionicghost: wait. Everyone who modifies it will have his/her own version, or the modifications would be added to an overall game?*
Pixeleen: if people cooperate the mods could be added
Pixeleen: but then you have a governance issue
Pixeleen: who decides which mods go in the common game?
SaraPickell: Whoever decides which game is the common one.
SaraPickell: And there is nothing to say that you need work on “the” game I’m working on. You can create your own, merely using the setting.
bionicghost: like a source code
SaraPickell: I suppose, I’m not starting a project, just opening up the tools I’ve used so far, and will create in the future for others to use.
Pixeleen: its sounds pretty cool
Pixeleen: if you can get a community sharing things will move faster than if you try to do it all yourself
SaraPickell: exactly.
bionicghost: A game of many
SaraPickell: or many games/stories/movies from many.
bionicghost: A many of many =P
SaraPickell: So have I explained that to everyone’s satisfaction so far?
Pixeleen: yes
SaraPickell: Then I would like to continue to a quick overview of what I hope will wind up in the eventual “Source Book”.
bionicghost: me/ sips on coffee
bionicghost sips oon coffee
SaraPickell: I’m a very character driven person, so I’ll be starting it with a list of characters, as well as a timeline and connection graph so you can get a feel for who I have worked on so far.
SaraPickell: wow, that is a lot more boring than I thought it would sound.
bionicghost: uhmmmm
bionicghost: WOOHOOO!!!
SaraPickell: So I’ll put it to you, would rather hear me give an inventory of the book, tell you about parts of the setting and design I find interesting, or should we skip strait to questions.
bionicghost: i say first option
Omnifrog: please go on
bionicghost: i will show my exitement by throwing a tomatoe at omnifrog
Omnifrog: lol
SaraPickell: Okay, then continuing with the book. The second part will be about the major historical events along the timeline.
Omnifrog: I’m a bit of a copyleft freak so …
SaraPickell: That will be followed by an “art” segment, which will contain concept art, as well as any sprites, and also a preview of all the art files that come with it.
bionicghost: such as the ones behind you
SaraPickell: Correct.
SaraPickell: That will be followed by writing samples, to round out the overall setting and art portion of the book.
bionicghost: Quick question: what is that on that guy’s feet?
SaraPickell: The man in the grey uniform?
bionicghost: this guy
SaraPickell: Ahh, that is a very poorly rendered rock formation.
bionicghost: oh thanks
SaraPickell: The next segment of the book will be devoted to high level game mechanic designs.
SaraPickell: Then it will be low level mechanics, these will include mathematical formulas and very low level implementation details.
SaraPickell: After that will be any source code or pseudo code samples.
bionicghost: The physics laws of SW
tayboy: hey
SaraPickell: Correct.
bionicghost: So, will it be a physical book?
bionicghost: or an e-book?
SaraPickell: It will be an e-book. Perhaps if something changes durastically and either I can afford it, or there becomes enough demand for it I would look into printing options. But for now e-book is my only realistic option.
SaraPickell: So are there any more questions then, on the book and it’s contents?
bionicghost: uhm.. it’s a buyable or a free e-book? =3
SaraPickell: It’ll be free.
bionicghost: woot
Pixeleen: free is good
Omnifrog: how long has this work been under CC?
SaraPickell: I put it under the license yesterday. Which is why this meeting has been largely about the choice and process and less about the IP itself.
Omnifrog: there is a lot to look at but it’s very cool that you chose CC
bionicghost: So, if the plasma cannon’s trigger is pushed for too long, it blows up in my face
bionicghost: (I apologise if the question seemes a bit out of context)
SaraPickell: More like the gun melts.
Omnifrog: this would make a good post for boingboing
bionicghost: on… my hands
bionicghost: a failsafe could be added… i think we’re getting out of subject
SaraPickell: I personally will be waiting until I have the source book available before I try to push this to any media outlets.
Pixeleen: I think that is a god idea Sara
Omnifrog: I wont submit a post at this time than
Omnifrog: Hi moe!
moeshere: hey hey what can I say how all yall today
moeshere: hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
bionicghost: Soup moe
moeshere: sup
SaraPickell: I suppose, I do wnat to impress however that I am not trying to “lead from the top” in this. My goal is to make this and grow this, while trying not to create undue expectations. However I’m not going to tell anyone else what they are or aren’t alowed to say or do about it.
moeshere: ok what did I miss who’s getting shot
Omnifrog: YOU!
Omnifrog: hahah
moeshere: I knew it
bionicghost begins tinkering with a photon cannon
SaraPickell: Simply because, if you want it to be, it can be as much your project as it is mine.
moeshere: K
Omnifrog: thats very cool Sara but projects still need leaders even in an open environment
moeshere: well who made the cannon
bionicghost: the “leader” could be an assam… wait, what’s the word in english…
Omnifrog: the community will select who they follow but it’s your baby
moeshere: the mean boss thats what it’s called hehe
bionicghost: assambley
bionicghost: congress
bionicghost: cheesecake
moeshere: ok so what does the cannon do at this point
moeshere: just shot meeps right
bionicghost: http://soagcure.blogspot.com/search/label/Shattered%20World
moeshere: ok
bionicghost: http://swmmp.wikidot.com/
SaraPickell: Well, I want to start winding this down, any last questions before we officially close?
bionicghost: i got disconnected
bionicghost: did i missed anything?
Omnifrog: It’s a bit late for me to get too deep into it Sara but I will look at this all more tomorrow
Omnifrog: I logged the chat text
SaraPickell: Well, thank you all again for coming.
Omnifrog: and I’m looking at the SF site
bionicghost: woah, we’re finished already?
bionicghost: dangers
SaraPickell: With what I wanted to cover in the meeting. I’ll still be here for a while, and will always be available through pm to answer questions.

As of now, all materials related to Shattered World, here-after renamed The Shattered World, are now covered under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License
The Shattered World et all by Sara Pickell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

What this means is fairly simple. The IP, as well as all of the design work for the MMO completed so far is available for people to use for whatever they want, basically. The terms are that you must attribute the IP to me, you are allowed to use it for commercial purposes, and you are allowed to change it as you wish so long as you maintain the terms of this license.

I’m going to put in some work towards getting something more along the lines of a Source Book put together to help share my underlying vision and give other creators a jump off point if they wish to join in the creation of this world. Also, while it’s not required, I’m very interested in seeing where people take this, so go ahead and send me an e-mail if you pick some of it up.

Plasma Canon core mechanics:
A plasma canon is almost always smooth bore. Canon cartridges are two layers of cylindrical crystal formed from a mix of readily available quartz and biomass, surrounding a gaseous chemical compound with a base of Xenon or a similar heavy gas. The rear of a cartridge contains a segment of explosive solids used as a propellant.

When a cartridge is loaded it is immediately given a short electrical charge which the crystal naturally maintains and prolongs. As the charge travels through the gases, they are converted to plasma at a rate relative to the amount of charge applied. This reaction causes extreme amounts of heat which the crystal conducts across several layers of varying resistances and surface area, insulating the worst of the reaction from the barrel of the cannon.

The charged cartridge is then fired by the application of a second electrical charge to the propellant. By maintaining the cartridge in the barrel, the user can allow the crystal’s inner surface to disintegrate while the reaction builds more heat. This allows for a hotter cartridge that loses less energy in the destruction of the crystal on impact. However, as the crystal breaks down so does the built in heat sink, prolonging it too far too often may result in permanent barrel damage. If the crystal is completely destroyed prior to firing, the plasma is likely to destroy the entire structure of the gun when the propellant inevitably goes off.

Plasma Rifle core mechanics:
A plasma rifle is generally long and thing, with a rifled barrel. The cartridge is usually smaller than cannon cartridges, and uses only a single layer of crystal. Rifle cartridges do not have a propellant component on the back, and also have rounded or sharpened tips.

Rifles do not apply an electrical charge to the plasma cartridge when loaded. Primarily, this means that a rifle cartridge cannot be “overloaded”, however it allows for a variety of accuracy enhancing attributes. In order to fire, a brief electrical charge runs down the length of the barrel, charging the cartridge and powering an electromagnet which slings the shot out of the barrel at very high speeds.

Most rounds have an ideal range of roughly two hundred meters, where their chemical reaction is at it’s hottest. Beyond that range the chemical reaction is usually in decline and the crystal sheath is beginning to degrade and loose it’s aerodynamic qualities.

Notes:
I love it when setting and game play come together in a happy medium. This provides a good solid explanation for some game play mechanics, and works well with the proposed resource model.

I feel like having another Q & A. Let’s take this opportunity then to get on the same page about Shattered World. Ask any questions you may have about it, or relating to it, please. If you don’t have any questions about it, then this is the perfect opportunity to go back and read up on it so you can have questions about it. ^.^

15 comments

Frustration

I’m sorry to any of my new readers, haven’t exactly been in best foot forward mode lately. This post, probably isn’t going to be a great exception, but it’s just eating away at me inside. Every post, every comment, everything I write is colored by a certain amount of snark over these same underlying issues.

It’s funny, I’ve been working with clay again lately. When I was a kid I worked with clay to relieve stress, you see I never argued with my parents even though I often disagreed with them. In fact I never argued with anyone. I hadn’t started seriously drawing yet, had done some poetry but I didn’t like frustration poetry, I still don’t like my writing when I’m frustrated. So I molded clay, some air dry, some kiln fire, all mixed together into this sort of blue-gray mess that I’d work around in my hands, never really wanting to fix into any one shape too long.

Lately, I’ve had drawing to help me along. I always figured it would help me with my work, and be something I could share. For a while I thought about working in art, but I’m not competitive, just plain not that good. So it’s been subsumed into a greater pursuit. And it is a great pursuit, there are days that all I wish for is that I could let someone else see inside my mind. Then I realize what a jaded misanthrope I’ve become. I’m not sure I’d wish this on anybody.

I’d work with the clay at night in bed. In the dark, just seeing with my hands. I liked people, but I hardly had enough for huge amounts of detail. Legs, torso, I liked working out that big shoulder bone on the back, and the ankle was always interesting. I suppose that’s how I was able to make the skull I made the other day. Hardly what one might call brutally realistic, but understandable, all the right pieces in pretty much the right places.

I was raised to be a problem solver. See the problem, examine the problem, learn what you could about why something worked to begin with and why it wasn’t working now. A broad knowledge base helped, a solution to a problem could come from any number of fields. After coming from Neveron into WoW, I saw my own growing dissatisfaction. Things I didn’t like, things I hated, things that just got to me. Problem found, and better yet a problem in an area I like. Information began to coalesce, forming into a new stream of consciousness merging old, sometimes original sometimes not, settings and mechanics into a new form as I plumbed the depths of my knowledge for working answers.

The funny part about clay is that I use a lot of the skills initially developed in it in Maya. There is one particular shape that has always evaded me in Maya. I’ve only produced even a close facsimile once. The shape of an Angreal’s helmet. I can produce it on paper in an instant, perfect in every detail. Voluminous, three dimensional on the paper, but not in Maya. I’ve been trying for a couple days now to make that helmet in clay. It’s just not coming out, even though it should, it simply is not taking form.

It was August or September of 07 when the final setting emerged, perfect in every detail for a virtual world. In world explanations for immortality, for why the players existed, for why they would not understand or have already been part of the existing lore. Trans-dimensional travel at it’s very core, allowing for every server to have a forward moving timeline, for them to have events that fundamentally change their very nature. And allow server transfers, hell for a while I was thinking it could be as simple as walking through a portal any time you wanted… now I can’t decide yea or nay on that one. One shard, many shards, I’d have a working answer for both, and a working middle ground. Combat made sense, ARMOR made sense instead of being the puddle of half understood garbage that plagues rpgs. It was magic incarnate, and it wasn’t until February of 08 that I penned it into existence for others to see. The final problem stood before me, creation.

The great insoluble problem. I threw myself into design projects, knowing I needed more design know how, more skills before anyone would take me seriously. The knowledge from my early prototypes of Birth were fresh in my mind. A character who’s conceit allows the minimum friction between player and character, because they are a blank slate and don’t have amnesia. I made mercenaries, and it died as nobody play tested it. Too complex, too inaccessible, I could do better.

Of course in the mean time I talked a bit about what I saw in the industry. For instance I stated that anyone who competed with WoW was going to have to handle a max of 500k players. I think Age of Conan and WAR disproved the exact number, but not the idea. They did prove growth in the market though.

So I created a management game. A few bugs, no ending state, but more accessible. It was a toy one could play with, but I never did complete the design… I don’t remember why exactly. I began writing more, drawing more, programming more. I could do all to begin with, but not enough for a project of this size. More, and better, all of them, hour after hour, sometimes in states of mania or utter catharsis. My writing improved, my drawing improved but I lost a key element… my scanner. I no longer had a way to display my hand drawn works, my best works, for people to see or critique. Only those I was making in a brand new medium on my pen tablet. Far too small for drawing, it was more like painting and the bad news was, I knew jack shit about painting. Slight tremor in my hand being magnified far beyond what could ever be seen on paper didn’t help much either.

I went to school again… I’d consistently failed out of all but five classes my first two years. This time was different, straight As in three classes, and then the money ran out. No job, no school, more time to work, and more time to let depression sink in. It’s strange how these days I have so much time, and yet can hardly use any of it because I simply don’t have the energy. Part of me thinks I should be out there job hunting for a part time job, it’s the right thing to do after all, get work, support myself. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Can’t bring myself to come out to a new set of people, not knowing if I’ll get to keep the job. Having just enough money to start thinking about transitioning and putting everything else in life on hold for the next three or four years. Or worse, trying to do it in my parents house and dealing with that stress every day. Watching myself waste every paycheck staving off depression and spending all my free time recharging so I can face dealing with people I don’t know or even like on somebody else’s terms. Dealing with the fact that it is just a delay tactic, that I could easily enough end up like my mom, delaying my whole life away.

School has crossed my thought sometimes. Not the one I went to, god I couldn’t walk into that building and face those people again unless my life depended on it. But school has a cost I can’t ever recoup, the years spent in it. My dream is ahead of the curve now, but I’m already seeing pieces that I put real soul into creating slipping out into the games around me. Chronicles of Spellborn released in Europe last year with only minor differences from my parallel thought based combo system that I finalized last October, but had in rough draft form for several months before. Free Realms took so many of the same questions that founded Shattered World, and simply found different answers for them. Answers for a different target audience. I thought I might still be ahead of the blog-i-verse, but not as certainly anymore. Any more delay and I’m going to have to watch pieces of my dream taunt me from every side for years, maybe decades. I’ve seen that too, in my dad, and I’ve seen what it’s done to him… what it’s doing to me.

And so I have the great dilemma. No route to success, no palatable road to tomorrow. Just a big lump of blue-gray clay all molded up into a lumpy sphere, taunting me with the vision of what it could be… what I should be able to make it. Here I am, though, writing a fucking blog post. Wasting my time pondering how to make an interim project whose prototype was so stunning it spawned complete and utter silence into something that can fund some sort of start up.

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Ventrair

The t is not a standard t sound, it’s somewhere between t and th. You press the tip of your tongue against your top teeth and the sound quickly and harshly. Don’t worry if it’s hard to get at fist, I’m still practicing.

For as long as I’ve been working on Shattered World, Ventrair has been my one great constant. It was born from my frustration with places like Stormwind, Ascalon and well most any MMO capital city I’ve ever seen. Most recently some thoughts of it’s underlying content have been informed by The Inevitable City, though primarily on the lower level as the high level hasn’t changed at all.

I could give a dry talk about how Ventrair is big, gothic, and bustling. But that’s not what makes Ventrair the dream worth fighting for. Not what brings me back to it again and again. It’s so much more than the scale of the city, or the design of the architecture. So much more than the density of content and NPCs.

Ventrair is a society, a living, breathing society that’s still unsure of it’s identity and it’s role in the world. It’s people huddled in stadium seating in a massive cathedral to see and pay respects to a woman who has been a vegetable for ten years. And they do this because it was giving them their freedom, their emotions, and the whole of their lives since her appearance that left her in that coma. Their mysticism steeped in duty and sacrifice, in this deification of the role of a parent, the role that has been fundamentally missing from their culture for millions of years.

It’s a dozen factions vying to be heard in the council and on the streets. Each with something important to say, each with something important to contribute, but all screaming at the top of their lungs to not get drowned out by the hoard. A fertile political ground, waiting for the rise of it’s great leaders.

Thousands of people mulling about the two main streets of the market district, hawking wares in bazaar style and opening disparate shops right next to one another. The deals made and broken up and down this street deciding the future for so many of it’s citizens. But also the occasional rickety shop or eccentric salesman, that makes shopping with them more than just a matter of consumerism.

It’s the story of a brand new influx of people, full adults who may not have existed the day before. Citizens who may not have had any concept of life before Ventrair, who have no appreciation of what has been built for them. But most terrifying of all is that they are the future; their decisions will shape the entire world that all of them will have to live in for better or for worse. Two generations of beings attempting to coexist as their entire concept of the world and what it means differ by huge extremes.

There is so much to this city. Their four sports teams that regularly compete in front of massive audiences. The Mercenarium training sim centers. Residential housing standing in rows of mismatched buildings, each one representing not only someone’s personality, but a serious investment in their own ability to produce and compete. A city should mean many things, to many people, it doesn’t belong to just one person or group. Everybody who inhabits it should have their part in writing it’s story, line by line, event after event. Those are the stories worth writing, the stories worth remembering.

Brief Translation of a First Year Ventrair Languages Class at Ventrair University’s Mokiin School of Law

For today’s lesson, we’ll delve into a single sentence of Late Isovedian. (Eye-so-ve-D-an) The sentence is the motto that surrounds our city’s official seal.

Matre u tch iiy uch kooam ututnua grio.

Literally translated to, Mother’s eye kind order maintains. Or more fluidly, “A mother’s kind eye maintains order.” This is in reference to the third paragraph of the Articles of Foundation in which Mokiin writes, “It is considered a simple truth that those who govern the children of Matre are not to be their rulers. The wisdom of Matre was to bring us the fundamentals of parenthood, and we hold it to be right to follow these principles in governance as well as daily life. Within the walls we have built, let no child stand as ruler over another, instead let the wisdom of the elders be looked upon as a means of guidance.”

So let’s take this a word at a time.
Matre is a word carried over into our language from Late Isovedian, though only as a proper noun. Nobody knows how it was carried over exactly, but the word seems to have survived primarily in the vocabulary of the Angels. It is in all likely hood from the those first Angel Children that Matre became the proper title that it is today. It’s important to remember though, that in Late Isovedian Matre was neither a proper title, nor a proper noun, making it a more general reference to all parents*.
U means eye. In the writing system of the Isovedians it was symbolized by a low line with a slight downwards tilt. Though it’s debatable whether this was a new invention of Old Isovedian, or left over from an even older ideographic language, the connection is quite clear.
The tch particle is used to assign a word to the before it. In this case it denotes the fact that the eye belongs to a parent. It’s important not to confuse the letter tch with a combination of the letters t, c, and h, though those letters will probably never be used together. Like the letter tre, tch uses a softer tuh sound, made by placing your tongue against your upper teeth rather than the roof your mouth. While tre, nua and gr have been adopted into modern Angel as sound rules, Demon still uses short hand letters for them. TCH and uch however have not survived to either language, as they existed solely in the use of particles which have been either replaced by suffix rules or removed completely.
The adjective iiy means kind and follows the y rule of double i adjectives. The entomology of iiy is still in a great deal of doubt. Unfortunately the section of the library ruins which housed the books on entomology was on the west end, which remained exposed to corrosion for roughly ten thousand years longer than the rest of the library.
The letter uch was used to denote that the word before it was an adjective or adverb. However, with language rules like the i rule, the y rule, for adjectives, it was instead simply wrapped into the u adverb in Angel and the uj suffix in Demon.
Kooam and ututnua can’t really be explained independently of each other. The words are only used in the context of governance and kooam is almost exclusively used with ututnua or atnua. Kooam refers to more than just order in the traditional sense, but order as an ideal of behavior in which the individual contributes to the flourishing of society around them. You can have, atnua, kooam, or maintain, ututnua, kooam, but rarely is it ever used as a stand alone subject. Also note that kooam is not a proper noun, it’s always considered plural and only exists as on the level of a concept. I’d recommend finding a translation of Ngra Amitte’s “Commentaries On Justice and Society” if you can, Oringa’s translation is my personal favorite as he’ll often explain where the Isovedian mind set differs from our own. Also Mokiin’s “Gathered Translations of Isovedian and Onos Philosophy” should have a section entitled “Kooam Atnua es Vern”. If you couldn’t guess from the Middle Onos in the title, the article focuses on differences in fundamental concepts between Isovedian law and Onos law.
I won’t go into kooam ututnua any more here, but as you can tell from it’s inclusion on the seal, it is an important concept to Ventrair law. There is a required course on it in the legal philosophy major even and more than a few of your professors are going to be looking for papers on it. Second year it’s going to be considered basic knowledge, so if your looking to impress one of those hard grade professors, you might want to fully understand it as soon as possible.
The sentence ends in grio, which means the preceding word was a verb. This was a rare word to use in Late Isovedian, and only came up in highly formal, and impersonal communication. Very much in line though with a governmental seal, or during an official governmental edict. If a city official were to write an open letter to the city’s police for instance it might have grio, however, if the empress of Isoved were sending a letter to, say for instance their top general, grio wouldn’t make it. Basically it means that the target audience is more important the level of formality, a relatively known audience wouldn’t have it, but an audience of unknown size or identity would have it.

Any questions? Yes, in the back.
Student: I’ve been interested in Isoved for a while now, I know it was named after one of their mythological heroes, Izoval, but I had heard that the names were once identical, is that true?
Yes, actually, we have found some corroborating sources that prove that the name of the country and the hero were exactly the same at one point. It ruffled some feathers among the fans of the united drift theory, that was a fun few months to be a languages professor, believe me. But back on topic, it has been found that in Old Isovedian the name of the country Isobal, is identical to the name of the hero at that point. It’s likely that towards the end of Old Isovedian, as the rules were beginning the shift as to what particular sounds implied, the ed sound was at some point considered to be a governmental sound. When exactly the s and z changed is unknown, however by the later end of Middle Isovedian we can see from their entertainment literature and plays that is was completely deprecated for fictional characters and iz was almost universally adopted instead, with only a scattered use of ix to compete with it.
Well, it looks like our time is about up now. If you have any further questions, just visit my office, the hours are in the syllabus.

*Translators note: The Ventrair have no concept of gender permanence, to them the words mother, father and parent are all relatively interchangeable. Also to refer to someone using male, female or neutral pronouns is generally more of an observation of how feminine, masculine or androgynous the person looks.

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Queen of Nor