Vir's Archive

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Real Life Railguns (Research)

Railguns are one of the core weapons in TDE.  Well, looks like they may be a mainstay of the battlefield sooner rather than later.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Emergent Gameplay via Parenting, Tabs for 2y/os, and Other Musings...

Lets take another break from Sci-Fi to take about gaming and parenting. 

In the last couple months, as my daughter’s coordination and speech have improved by leaps and bounds, so has her capacity to engage in games.  

My eldest daughter is rapidly approaching 3 y/o and hitting the first stages where she and I can play “real” games beyond itsy-bitsy spider and singing BINGO.  It’s a great age.  Lots of work, but I find that I enjoy this stage of her development a bit more than when she was a little, little baby.  As a new-ish parent, I am reminded of the standard platitudes often – that you will be amazed at their development, that you will love them more than you knew – that stuff.  I am here to say that all those platitudes are not correct.  Love, attention, and fascination hit us all differently and we will all get our energy to keep up with our kids from differently places.

Not surprisingly, I have found I become really engaged and excited when my eldest wants to play a game.  At this age, its fascinating to see the cognitive and competitive parts of her thinking come together.  Just a few months ago we tried to play hide-n-go-seek and it was a sad failure.  My daughter didn’t quite get the idea of having to wait to count nor did she understand the idea of hiding as a game. Now?  Just a few months later, we are not only playing a number of common games, we are making up our own.  

Physical Games

I can see her mind processing games all the time – including at inopportune points.  Lately, E has started to run away from my wife and I when its time to go out.  This is a form of game play, simple tag in this case, with a captive (and increasingly frustrated) audience.  When I saw her doing the run-away thing a couple times, it was an easy transfer of those skills to the playground where we play “Tiger.”  For whatever reason, chase and tag don’t resonate with her.  I tried to explain the simple catch games to her – “I chase you, you run away.  If I catch you, you chase me,” but that was too esoteric for her. So, I switched it around and told her I was a tiger and would chase her.  She immediately understood that, and now “Tiger” is a staple of our outside play.  I introduce complexity once in a while such as her friends also being tigers or, most recently, safe zones where the tiger cant go.  Since safe zones were introduced, E has learned how to taunt. 

We are also working on Hide’n’go’Seek. Standard Hide’n’go’Seek is a bit beyond her right now, though.  When she hides (sometimes with the help of her mother) she is so tickled and excited she cant but help to announce “here I am, daddy!” after 10 seconds or so.  She is much better at counting and then coming to find me, but the symmetry of me hiding then her hiding hasn’t quite developed. All that said, I always smile when I see some squiggles coming from under the blanket as she cant help but help me out by telling me “Daddy!  Here!”  Her heart is in the right place. 


Playing "pretend" is just roleplaying without polyhedrals.  

We are also in the early stages of roleplaying together.  I imparted my love of dinosaurs on her, and so we really enjoy playing dinosaurs, which involves us pretending we are dinosaurs by stomping around, making fierce faces and making our best roars (she is a champion roarer).  My daughter also has an inexplicable love for robots.  So, one of the variations on “Tiger” is “Robot” where I stomp around stiff like a robot and make tickle “attacks.”  E has evolved the game on her own and introduced her own rule variations, demanding that as a robot I have to say “mi-churd.”  I don’t know where “mi-churd” came from, but it sounds suitably robotic, and I am happy to play along with her rules.  I think it empowers her to know that her rules are just as valid as mine.

(Mi-churd”, BTW, is an example of the truest form of emergent gameplay.) 

E has also started mimicking TV characters on her own.  During a game of Tiger she unexpectedly changed the rules to make herself Mike the Knight and me the Dragon.  She demanded I roar and “fly” (hold out my arms).  As “Mike the Knight” she added a rule where she could now touch me with her hand, which was now a sword, and make me stop.  We have now played Mike the Knight a couple times, and the rules have stayed consistent. 

I guess that may have been our first game of Dungeons and Dragons.  Huh. 

We havent hit dressup and pricess yet with E, I expect that is around the corner.  


Traditional games like Chutes and Ladders are still a bit beyond her, as is Hungry Hungry Hippos.  She really, really wants to play Hungry Hungry Hippos, and we own a little travel version, but the detached concept of boardgames still don’t quite mesh.  However, her language capacity and reasoning skills are growing amazingly fast – so fast I notice the improvements day to day.  I expect abstract concepts like simple boardgames are only a few months away.   


TV helps.  In the last couple months I saw E start to respond to prompts on the TV.  When Dora asks a question, E will eagerly respond.  I think she sees it as a game.  I know some parents are down on TV, but I have seen some amazing jumps through educational programming.  E probably watches too much TV, but so do I.  So there you go.

Space Pango!  Pro tip: this is an app you should nab.  
The really amazing stuff in terms of gaming is, not surprisingly, with the aid of computer technology.  We all know kids are getting more and more capable with technology, and E is no exception.  We has an ASUS Ee-pad that we bought, in part, as an entertainment center for the many long overseas trips we have to take.  My eldest took to the tablet almost immediately, and since she has been about one and a half, it has been a staple of her day’s entertainment.  I have been selective of the apps I download for her, trying to find ones appropriate for her hand-eye and cognitive control.  Its been a bit hit-and-miss, with more hits and misses.  The tablet and its near infinite variety of games and puzzles have been great for her.  Not long ago she would struggle with e-puzzles, now she is a pro.  The tablet has helped develop her brain in all sorts of gaming ways, from virtual playhouses (imagination), to memory games (retention), to alphabet challenges (word play).  As she gets older and the games get easier, I present her with new challenges. 

(Incidentally, if anyone wants suggestions on good, age-appropriate gaming apps for little ones, drop me a line.)

The tablet has been great for fostering a love of books as well.  Interactive e-books are amazing tools.  They are also great for quieting a fidgety toddler on planes.  If you have a child, and don’t own a tablet of some sort, change that immediately.

Boo for me.  
To my chagrin, I made the mistake of letting her see me play a simple side scroller called Zombieville USA.  E immediately took to it, even though zombies eating people is wildly inappropriate for that age.  Her mind clearly wants to go more advanced with the dynamic animation and bright colors – even if she isn’t quite ready for it.  


So, there it is.  Just over 2 and a half, and we are already playing games any adult would recognize.  This is a great age and really has me excited for the next couple years. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Divisiveness of the Human Condition vis-a-vis Space Lasers! (Content)

I need a war. 

Pew! Pew! Pew!

Something I really want to drive home in TDE is that Earth is not united.  United Earths are boring and unrealistic.  Even if a hypothetical outside power were bearing down on all of Earth, there would be factions within factions with competing interests – even if it (likely) meant our doom.  Humans are a tribal people, and while we can present a united face against a larger threat, in times of peace, where no such threat exists, I think it highly unlikely that the world would unite under one government.

So, I have a number of challenges before me in order to avoid giving the reader the inaccurate view that the UN is the world government.  Its not.  Its as close as humanity has ever come to a united government, but the UN is still very much just one political player among many.  The UN still gets its resources and bureaucrats from member states.  No one is a UN citizen, even the high mukety-mucks in the UN of TDE still call nation-states of SCEs their home.  The UN likes to play at being the world’s government, but the Hegemons, in particular, aren't interested is conceding any more power than they already have.  For them, the UN is a useless organ that has little purpose now that the Population crisis appears to have passed -- an artifact of a different time and a different crisis.  The UN doesnt see it that way, and still see a number of crucial missions it needs to accomplish.  They see themselves as the one government that can speak with authority for all of humanity, not just Earth.  So, the UN and its constituent parts play a high-wire act with trying to impose its will on its member states, while still going to them for funding and resources.  Neither side really has an advantage.  

There needs to be other factors, I think, that drive home to the reader that Earth is not united.  Part of the problem is going to be that the Hegemons all look very similar in terms of policy and goals.  They all want power, riches, and stability – they just want it on their own terms.  They tacitly agree that the Earth governments should be the lead players in the political stage of the Solar System, and that the colonies should know their place as the support engines for the function of Earth.  However, how the colonies should behave and just how much political autonomy they should have is a major divide among the factions of Earth. There is also the fact that certain colonies are more aligned or confrontational with different Hegemons and SCEs which, in turn, define how they react to the allies and enemies of the Earth factions.  Friend of TORA?  You may not get along with the European Union because of outstanding political rivalries.

This brings me to a conclusion - I need a war.  Okay, maybe not a war, but a conflict... 

I need a war to drive home to the reader that Earth is not a happy family.  They are driven together by Earther-chauvinism and the desire for profit, but once you scratch the surface, the divisions outweigh the commonalities. 

I look at the major Hegemon blocks; TORA, the EU, Ansar, The Russian Commonwealth, the Imperial Chinese State, African Alliance as well as the SCEs and “non-aligned” actors like France, Brazil and India and I see a lot of chances for conflict.  In the year 2191 a lot will have changed politically, so burying the cause for the conflict on passing political divisions simply wont due.  However, I would like the conflict to harken back to issues faced in the modern day.

This leads me to the EU and Russia.  I am thinking that resource rich Russia would still be a major trading partner and energy provider for the EU.  Similarly, despite the move to the planets, the EU’s energy situation could still be quite precarious.  Add to that continuing trends by the EU to demilitarize while the Russians retain a strong martial tradition, and you end up with significant policy divisions along a potentially volatile border. 

To make the Russian energy stance ever more powerful, the Russians have been very canny and smart with promoting SCE and traditional business opportunities in Low- and Near Earth orbit.  Russia and its close political allies control a sizable portion of the energy trade both on and off Earth (this would likely make them players in Mercury and the gas giants as well).  The EU has focused its business efforts elsewhere, and while it controls its own energy assets, it has traditionally turned to Russia to help supply its shortfall. 
Something happens.

I don’t yet know what, but I think some sort of political turmoil will make it so the EU demands more and more resources from the Russians – resources the Russians cant/wont give.  The EU feels they are being starved by the Russian monopoly, the Russians feel they are being bullied by the EU who stands in a position of weakness. 

Even with Jammers kickin' ass,
 it may just come down to a really big tank, dammit.
The conflict between the EU and Russian Commonwealth wont be a shooting war – at least not at the beginning of the game (again, that’s for the GM and PCs to decide).  Instead, for years leading up to 2191, the EU and Russians have been playing a very vicious game of espionage and proxy battles.  Just enough deniability has been able to mask the belligerents and their actions, but it is no real secret that the two sides are taking pot-shots at one another using clandestine resources.  The rivalry, I think, would extend to the planets, colonies, and ultimately, to the halls of the UN.  The impact on the UN should be significant, again showing the competing interests of its members can force the body into inaction, or worse, policy schizophrenia (where competing policies are being pursued at the same time). 

The end result is yet another gameable event, and a reinforcement to the reader that, no, not everything on Earth is hunky-dory. 

Yes, there are very deep divisions on Earth - deep enough that a war on Eden is a very real possibility.