Node.js experiments – getting Zappa to work

27 Jul

These days we are playing with serverside javascipt programming using node.js and coffeescript.  Zappa looks like a promising web development framework, strongly based on the ruby-based Sinatra.

We installed it with the standard

 npm install zappa --global 

but for some reason any time we tried to run it we got a big Cannot find module ‘coffee-script/lib/optparse’ error.

Anyway, we managed to do an ugly hack that got it to work.

1/ Find where npm installed your zappa module. In our case we found it via the error message: /opt/local/lib/node/.npm/zappa/0.1.5/package/bin/zappa

2/ Go there and open the package/lib/cli.js file

3/ Find the failing statement: OptionParser = require(‘coffee-script/lib/optparse’).OptionParser;

4/ Jam in the absolute path. In our case it was:

OptionParser =  require(‘/opt/local/lib/node/.npm/coffee-script/active/package/lib/optparse’).OptionParser;

5/ Ugly as hell, but now it works!

It looks like node had trouble resolving the path of the coffeescript sub-library and this is the only way we could make it work.

Do you have a more elegant solution?

Sleep is Death – an online story game

11 Jun

I just bought Sleep is Death, an awesome 2 player online story game. One player plays the GM role, while the other player is the protagonist. Every player has 30 seconds to interact and author his turn within the scene.

We are looking for more examples of online storytelling tools and we are hoping to learn from Sleep is Death and incorporate it as a tool in our MikiWiki..

Please let us know if you have any suggestions for more such games and tools!

Play by Wiki and Emergent Properties

9 Jun

I have been intrigued by the possibilities of wiki + story games for a long time.
Wikis can express powerful emergent properties that fit well with story games.

Does anybody know of any games that are played primarily by wiki and that are designed to explicitly leverage the nature of wikis? ‘Caravan’ by Emily Boss looks very promising, but I couldn’t find any real example of play.

We have also designed a wiki that can be programmed and evolved ‘from the inside’ by its users, so that as new mechanics get defined, they can be automated within the system, but I feel we need to learn more from actual play before releasing it to the community.

Any good pointer in this direction is highly appreciated!

Surprise by Complexity Principle

2 Apr

How can you surprise yourself in a solitaire story game? After all you are generating the adversity and you are solving it! Can the Czege principle be violated?

The Surprise by Complexity Principle claims that: when you create the adversity, you should not be sure you can solve it.  The act of attempted resolution should be complex enough to leave you with doubt about the outcome.  It should take time, reasoning and fiddling with your various game props and notes to find out how (and if) the adversity can be solved.  The act of finding a way by going through the complex activities, elicits surprise, happiness and fun!

I noticed this for the first time when I created a card-based solitaire story game. Every character and every scene had a number of Locks that could lead to some evolutions.  Every Lock could be triggered only by a specific Key, that could be related to a character, a scene, an item, etc.

The relationship map between Locks and Keys was associated to playing cards, randomly generated and quite complex.  I had to keep track of the meaning of the cards and the web of keys and locks on different pages of a notebook.  Sometimes a Key needed to solve a situation could be acquired only by Unlocking a certain character or situation, bringing to more adversity and negative consequences for some of the characters.

When a scene was generated it could carry some kind of adversity with it and only going through the web of characters, keys and locks could lead to a potential solution and when it did.. it felt like fun 🙂

More Ritual, More Drama Principle

31 Mar

More observations from solo games..

I noticed the Principle of Immersive Actions at work: doing something during the game (writing, rolling, sketching, etc..) anchors moments of fiction in your memory and your emotions.  If you don’t do it the experience feels somehow muddled.  You don’t recall the scene, you don’t care about it, and you feel generally detached from the fiction.

The More Ritual, More Drama Principle states: the more ritual actions and crunch you perform, the more the fiction becomes detailed, with twists and turns, despair, recovery and elation.

I noticed this several time.  If a conflict can be resolved with a single action, it gets done quickly and you associate it only to a short piece of fiction in your mind.  If the conflict is multi-roll and calls for some decision making in the middle (use hero points, change action type, escape, etc) then your mind will automatically start building a narrative around it.  I find this is interesting, as it is somehow counter-intuitive and goes against the trend in minimising the crunch in story-games.

Principle of Immersive Action

31 Mar

courtesy of th5 at deviantart

In the past 6 months I have been experimenting with solo story-game techniques, and I was happy to see the story-games community also moving in that direction with the RPG Solitaire Challenge.

These are some notes on what I saw working for me.  They might apply only to me, but I’ll state them as principles, making it easier to quote them and challenge them.

The Principle of Immersive Action states that: all the normed, explicit actions that you perform within a game, make you feel more immersed in the game and make it more real and emotionally connected to you as a player. Short, easy, obvious actions with a minimal amount of player-generated-content work better than long actions requiring creative engagement.

When playing solo games, you are often asked to imagine a situation or a dialog. Well, it doesn’t work for me.  If I am asked to write it, it works though.  If I am asked to write it in generic terms, either I don’t do it, or it doesn’t work.  If I am asked to do it within a very specific format and I don’t have to put too much imagination into it, then it works.  When I am asked to perform some ‘ritual writing’, even if it is something simple like ‘give a title to the scene’ or ‘give a one-line description of a character’, then my imagination is engaged and it fills the gaps with narrative emotional elements.  If I am asked to directly engage the imagination like in ‘write 200 words describing the character’, then it doesn’t work and it feels heavy and contrived. It feels like I am writing literature and not playing a game.

Have you played solo story games? How does it feel for you?

Lovely lovely Valencia

30 Mar