Sloe Times

A journal of my adventures in learning and growing personally and professionally

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


General: SWG Combat System

These are some thoughts I wanted to remember that I wrote about the SWG combat system as it exists today. Maybe I can actually get someones ear that it could make a difference on.

The combat system as it is is both good and flawed in many ways. The NPC/MOBs are in the same boat. The problem is that you can't create a reasonable AI to compete with the way that humans will try to exploit the game, your alternatives are either make the non-player components unnaturally challenging, apply bounds that limit the exploitation of the system in place, or a little of both.

Thinking like a DM, the first thing I would do is change how the game evaluates a challenge, and how it rewards players for overcoming that challenge. A classic example of this are solo groups and buffed players. The system will grant difficult quests to individuals based on the cummulative level of the members of a group. One person in that group then runs off and completes that quest acquiring all of the xp and reward for doing so. they can do this thanks to some great armor, some great buffs, and some great food.
The exploit here is gaining a mission above their abilities and being able to complete it as an individual because the game does not accurately evaluate and adapt to the players real challenge level. Quest challenge level is based on weapon in hand, perhaps even skill with that weapon, but perhaps not. I'm thinking I can recall getting some healthy missions holding a nice flamethrower that I couldn't use while at the mission terminal working on my marksman tree.

When developing challenges for a normal RPG more stuff is taken into account than the weapon an individual is holding, in fact here are the things I would want the system to look at:

* Number of individuals in the group
* HAM level of group individuals (cumulative)
* Relative Power (weapon/armor/resists)

Using that information I would then randomly spawn a mission that would actually create a challenge for the person(s) acquiring it. As it stands now using my example above, you're looking for specific types of missions/MOBs and I wouldn't give players that option. I would allow only the group leader to acquire a mission (if it's jsut you, you default to the group leader right?) and basicly offer a Good/Neutral/Evil ... perhaps more SWG correct method would be Rebel/Neutral/Imperial aligned mission. Not a factional mission, although maybe that could be a toggle for the group to decide to use or not, but a mission that is in line with the focus of those three alignments. You shouldn't have to change things up too much since this can be as simple as something you have today like clearing some vicious animals where the wants to mine/build/etc for individuals and low powered groups, to something more complex for large/powerful groups like a one shot dungeon. As you may have noticed many of the dungeons/caves in the galaxy look a lot alike, so the template is there, it just needs a starting point which I don't see it being difficult to make dynamic by spawning stairs down into a dungeon or a mini base instead of a nest (there when the mission starts, gone when it ends just like the nests), content (quantity and difficulty of NPCs/MOBs based on power level of group) and rewards (treasure chests and mob loot based on the challenge level of the quest plus the mission bounty). One other thing I would do to reduce the clutter is put a time limit on the mission based on the challenge level. At level X the mission it should take Y amount of time to complete. If you don't complete it, despawn it, and if you're in the middle of it, teleport you(group) out of any dynamic dungeon and you get to keep whatever you looted and if there were a mechanisim for determining how far along you got, maybe a partial bounty, otherwise no bounty since the mission didn't get completed.

Some changes in the the way NPCs work (MOBs excluded since creatures seem to have a good setting, they just need more appropriate matchups vs. PCs when they are a mission objective) would be to actually assign professions and skill levels to NPCs and have them use the specials and weapons to full effect just like PCs. As it is there seems to be a little of this for NPCs in that you see those with rifles actually try for range vs. you and then shoot, but their weapon graphic is random and damage is apparently capped based on the level of the mob. I would also make armor that NPCs wore relavent rather than just random set resists, put them in armor and let that armor provide its resists. Now, you might be thinking more DB bloat to actually make this work, but I don't think it would really have to be any different than it is now. Skin the NPCs with armor and weapons that they would reasonably have (flags in the code) and identify vulnerable areas (no armor/resists/vulnerabilities). The only reason you would have to create objects is if you actually allowed linked loot to a given NPC(type). i.e. An NPC with a T21 in Ubese armor may have ubese armor pieces or even a T21 available to loot (spawned in the container when killed/looted). I wouldn't make these loot items better than what players could make except as ultra-rare drops, and in general slightly inferior to what players can make (this could be determined via point in time scrapes periodically from the server DB). In addition to these gear type loots, I would then have a 1:n chance of random object junk or treasure also on the body.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


General: SWG JtL Beta Ending

Tomorrow morning the Beta officially ends for the Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed expansion. It will be officially unleashed upon the general population on Wednesday October 27th. I've mentioned it before, but in general I had a lot of fun getting back into SWG. Learning the new crafting profession was a nice challenge and the way it has been implemented is a significant improvement over existing crafint professions. Add on top of that the ability to fly your own ship and an excuse to break out the joystick and I think I'm gonna be back in the groove for SWG for quite some time. While I messed around with the Beta Test I happened to put my main character in a position to start working through the Force Sensitive quests for Jedi so that's definetly a direction that I wanted to go when the game first came out and I'm glad that it now at least appears to be within the realm of possibility. And on that note, it's bed time for bonzo, tomorrow's a working day.


Poker: 505th out of 2329

I played some great cards today in the CPC tourney. Using a combination of my cards and my opponents I was sitting a little over double the average stack just after the break having floated between 2nd and 20th of the remaining players most of the way. I guess I got cocky after the break and after seeing a couple of folks limp I raised it up to just over the pot to 1100 trying for a steal with ATo. So much for stealing, I catch 4 callers including both blinds. Hmm, that didn't work out so well but the flop is complete garbage. I've been at the table with the folks that are in for awhile and none of them raised PF so I figured they were on big cards and with a crap flop I can try for one more steal. That was a bad move. The pot was 4700 and I shoved all in. Everyone drops but the guy who stayed with crap cards that gave him two pair. Such is life. I'm not terribly unhappy with how I played. I would have liked to have done better but concidering I was a leader 90% of the time I'll accept that one mistake cost me and try and learn from it.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


General: Reverse Engineering

I've been beating my head against a solid wall for a bit over a week now trying to reverse engineer a complex excel spreadsheet someone created. I suppose it wouldn't be so hard if I actually knew something about VBA or macro coding for excel but I don't and that's all there is to that. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I've succeeded in adding the new functionality that I wanted into the project and that's a good thing. On the other hand I seem to have broken some things that worked before so *shrug* what are you going to do. I think my head is almost numb enough that I don't care any more but needless to say building on top of someone elses work (that isn't documented very well) is probably as difficult as trying to do it all yourself from scratch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Poker: 6520th out of 6965

Well, so much for settling in for a long night of poker. I put in a pot sized raise pre-flop with KJo (50) and have two callers. The flop is not too bad with K,K,T. I check and call a minimum bet. I think this was a dumb move because I wasn't paying to close of attention since I had trips with a decent kicker and no one played like they were holding big slick. The reason I think this was a mistake is beause there were 2 hearts on the board. It compounded when the turn brought a third heart. Since the J in my hand was a heart I figured it wasn't too bad off as far as things go I still had a one outer for quads and three for a house. So I pot it and the first guy bails and the other one doubles my bet. I think about it for a second and figure that he's probably not holding anything better than me and go ahead and shove which he quickly calls. Turns out I was right, he was holding K9o (no hearts) and I wasn't feeling too bad about the whole ordeal until the river brought a 9 giving him a house. With only 60 chips left I caught a pair of sixes and figured that was probably as good as it was going to get with the blinds getting ready to go up. I guess it just wasn't my nice since the flop gave the only caller trips and a house on the turn. Game over rover.

Friday, October 15, 2004


General: I can't believe it

I can not believe I forgot to journal this. So last night I'm playing with the boy (who's about 10 mo. now) and he's jibber jabbering and stuff and so I figured I'd see if I could actually get him to say a coherent word. First rattle out of the box, I say "Hello" and he looks at me and says "ello" Dude! He's been making noises that sound like "da da" and stuff, but this is definetly the first word that we're sure he meant to say it as opposed to babble that just sounded like a word. He so totally rocks. :)


General: Ugh

I don't really want to be posting now, but it's been a few days and I couldn't deal with the thought of letting this thing go for a whole week. I have a tooth infection where a little decay underneath a filling is killing me.... or rather the pain makes me think using a hammer to crush my jaw there would feel so much better. Back to the dentist today to see if I can get it cleaned up enough for the ammoxicillan to finish the infection off.

Thanks to the pain and the pain killers I slept through the $1500 freeroll I had been invited to on Royal Vegas. I'm sure my dead chips were appriciated by someone. :( Looking forward to the CPC MTT on Sunday and hoping to do better there than this last time. Hopefully the tooth pain will be gone and I can focus.

The Betas for Pirates and Axis & Allies have ended so that's both good and bad. Good that the games will be out soon (just in time for Christmas??), bad that the reality is I probably can't justify to myself going and buying them to continue playing them once the retail version is out. Something we didn't get to test in A&A was the single player campaign. That should be fun but I'm on the fence on that one. Pirates! is very cool, but also a huge time sink since mostly you're going at it and then look up and wonder how you could have spent 3 hours sailing a little boat around saying Argh! to yourself. It's addictive and that just means it's got good play/re-play value but not something I can see buying to try and work into my schedule. I suspect the SWG: JtL beta is coming to an end soon with a planned release date only 11 days away (Oct. 26). This has been a lot of fun and reminded me why I liked SWG in the first place. I will probably pick up JtL and continue my quest to become a Jedi as well as become a terror of the stars :)

Sunday, October 10, 2004


Poker: CPC - 608th

I pretty much played like crap today. My stack performance was like a wicked roller coaster with a crash at the end. The biggest hit (and lesson) was slow playing a flopped two pair trying to be fancy and letting my opponent catch his flush on the river. There had been some pretty heavy betting pre-flop so it was a nice pot and I should have gone to take it down straight away but ended up shooting myself in the foot. *sigh* Nothing more to say about that.

Friday, October 08, 2004


General: Career Foo

These days everybody wants to be a DJ. Let me just tell you who. My Mother wants to be a DJ. My Father wants to be a DJ. My Sister wants to be a DJ. My Aunt wants to be a DJ. My Cousin wants to be a DJ. My best friend wants to be a DJ. My Girlfriend wants to be a DJ. My cat wants to be a DJ. My goldfish wants to be a DJ. My Neighbor wants to be a DJ. The Postman wants to be a DJ. The Teacher wants to be a DJ. The Bus Driver wants to be a DJ. The Wed Nerd. The Bum wants to be a DJ. The Pimp wants to be a DJ. My Bucci Bag wants to be a DJ. The President wants to be a DJ. The Queen wants to be a DJ. The King wants to be a DJ. The Priest wants to be a DJ. Jesus wants to be a DJ. The Trees wants to be a DJ. The Ground wants to be a DJ. The Sheep wants to be a DJ. The Dogs want to be DJ’s. The Stars wants to be DJ’s. The Moon wants to be a DJ. The Sun wants to be a DJ. My Foot wants to be a DJ. My Ears wants to be a DJ. My Mind wants to be a DJ. My Hands wants to be a DJ. My Head wants to be a DJ. My Dick wants to be a DJ…I Just Want To Be a Drummer.
-- Heavy Rock - I Just Want To Be a Drummer

How can one person be so effing busy yet so bored at the exact same time? That's the situation I find myself in now. By profession I'm what you would call an I.T. person. From my perspective I'm a person who warms a seat, fills out paperwork, and attends meetings. Now to be honest I ground out many years as an operations level person who was responsible for monitoring and fixing broken things. In a sense I've paid my dues for the club and have been progressing into areas of more... impact. Or at least that's the theory. The problem is that I don't feel like I make much of an impact on anything. I take someone else's plan, implement it and then hand it off to another group to support. As important as the role may be, there's not much technical ability involved in it and there's no sense of real control over anything. It either gets done, or it doesn't. Not getting it done impacts the company negatively and generates all kinds of noise and undesirable events. On the other hand, getting the job done doesn't generate anything. I think there is a proportional response missing in this equation. Lets see.... lots of anguish and teeth gnashing when things go badly, but rarely an acknowledgement when things go as designed. This isn't just true for my current situation but it's a recurring theme in a lot of work places and lots of people. Giving this particular problem some thought it's not as easy to solve as you might think. There really isn't a proportional response for doing your job because from a company perspective, that's what you're paid to do. However from a worker point of view, there has to be a level of job satisfaction and as important as a paycheck is, it doesn't amount to very much if you're not satisfied with the type of work your doing or its perceived value/impact to the organization. For me, I think it's a degree of challenge. The problem is, that everything a company needs done isn't always a challenge. What may have been a challenge the first six months on the job is old hat a year later, now what? I think this one of the reasons the .com era was so great for people like me. Once the challenge was overcome there was always an opportunity a phone call away that you could jump into. Not so much now. The challenges are out there, but now days it takes a little more than a phone call and frankly as you get a little older your priorities shift to the point where job hopping isn't as attractive as it once was. They don't make golden parachutes for the little guy so it's a precarious position now to try and job hop and look out for your financial future.

Anyway, all of this lead me to thinking what would be a cool job today? Then I got to thinking, what are some of the pitfalls we try to ignore when going for that dream job?

Since about the age of puberty and the first dirty magazine, what boy hasn't wanted to be an erotic photographer? The barrier to entry is pretty low, you need a camera, and a willing beautiful model. Take some pictures, shop them around, and rinse and repeat. The downside is that it's much more fun looking at the output than it is dealing with all of the hassles of producing the pictures. Models are finicky creatures, who knows why they won't wear the bridle and prance around in 26 inch heels but some of them flat refuse. Go figure. On top of that, there's very few 'perfect' people in the world so the pre and post work involved is really not that glamorous. Who knew you'd have to airbrush out the 2 day growth of pubes that make her look more like a hazardous waste zone. While it's not exactly a tough life, you've got to figure that its going to have some impact on the way you look at sex and other people and not necessarily in a good way.

Moving on, there's the perennial favorite, sports superstar. The problem is, there are very few real superstars relative to the total number of players in a given sport and on top of having to have some sort of athletic ability you spend most of your time practicing and then riding the bench when the real action is going on.

Part of what you want to do also depends on the culture you're around at a given time. I spent some time in England and everyone from 12 - 30 wants to be a fucking DJ. Like trying to party 24/7 is really as great as it sounds. First, you've got to have some talent (an ear) for music and the ability to match beats and create an energy and flow using music that people want to shake their ass to. Next you've got to start out by being willing to play the 4am - 6am set at some hole in the wall during the week where the only thing on the dance floor is are two passed out birds and somebody's dinner making a second appearance. If you're still banging away at it after all of that, you might catch a break at a summer festival or maybe a get a set in Ibiza where you'll get some recognition that you can turn into a more premier gig with some big name producer. Then you'll realize that the real glory and glamour is in banging out your own tunes and not spinning someone else's.... unless you've had a go at remixing it.

Bah, enough cynicism and pissing and moaning for now. I'm certain things will work out, and if not, I'll do the trendy thing and join the pro poker circuit, anyone want to stake me? I know all the suits and and numbers of the cards real well. ;)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


General: SWG: Jump to Lightspeed

Just thought I would mark down some of my general thoughts about this. The beta has had the unexpected effect of rekindling my enjoyment of the game and that's not necessarily a bad thing. However due to an unfortunate vendor accident my Armorsmith character lost all of their resources so I'll be killing off that character which isn't too terrible since that saves me the subscription cost of one account. Anyway, onto the beta thoughts.

The JtL expansion brings the space/flying expansion to SWG that has truly been missing since day one. Along with it comes two new player races and 2 new player classes a builder (shipwright) and pilot (rebel, imperial, neutral sub-variations). The crafting aspect will be familiar to players who have pursued other crafting classes. To fly in space you're either going to be a pilot or a passenger, and since we all know how much you want to be a passenger that means becoming a pilot. I think it's fairly safe to say that you'll need various levels of experience to fly different classes of ships and to operate ship equipment. This should be a nice change of pace for the builder class since in most of the other crafting professions if you're not a master, it's difficult to find customers. In this case most customers can't use the items a master could craft until they become very experienced themselves.

One aspect that will take SWG players a bit to get used to is having to actually aim at what they're fighting in space. Personally, I think this is an improvement but it's probably too much to hope that this gets implemented on the surface as well. Then again, I'm probably just bitter about all the punk players who like to grief other players. There's not much else to say other than space is beautiful. Each planet has it's on mood and environment and so far I like flying around Endor.


Poker: It's Official

Well, it is official, I got my email today verifying that I had made it to the satellite based on my performance in the super satellite. I guess that really doesn't mean a whole lot since I've still got to play well to get into the championship game but it is one step closer. Fortunately there's super satellites every Sunday until sometime in February so lots of time to practice my MTT play. Who knows, if I can work my way down in to the top 20 I'll even cash at some of these things and that would be a nice turn of events.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


General: On the Beta Testing front

On the beta testing front, I just picked up an invite to the Star Wars Galaxies: Jump To Lightspeed beta last week. From a timing perspective that works out pretty well as both Axis & Allies and Pirates! betas are both winding down and preping to go gold. Of course the irony here is that I just canceled my SWG account (that doesn't expire for awhile so no issues there) because I really didn't have the time to play any more. So far the game play isn't too much different in terms of movement from the standard SWG client. Additions include a Z axis and flying takes a little bit to get used to. They've added a couple of new races as well as new professions related to piloting and building ships. One of the things that is semi annoying is that you can't go from system to system unless you have a ship equipped with a hyper drive. I guess this makes sense but it would be nice if I could fly from system to system 'the slow way' if I wanted to. I'm not sure what else I can say about it but if you're playing SWG and on the fence about picking up the JtL expansion, at this point I can confidently recommend it.


Poker: College Poker Championship Qualifier

I played in the 5th qualifier today (after bombing out of the first and missing the next three) and placed 162nd out of 1876 players. In theory becuase I finished in the top 10% I've made it into the the championship tournament in February. I didn't get very many good cards today and spent an abnormal amount of time folding. I'd have to say that all in all, tournaments require an amount of patience and stamina that I apparently don't have... I was bored silly and ended up making at least a few goofy plays that I shouldn't have. In theory the cure may be to play in more of them to 'condition' myself, but I'm not sure if I've got the time to make that kind of investment in training. For someone who wants to be a better poker player that sounds silly, but it is what it is.


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