a guest Oct 13th, 2019 135 Never
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- ***Important warning and disclosure: This is an open source project, planned to release under the GPL license. It is very unlikely that any contributor (including myself) will ever receive compensation for this project. It is ideal for students with time on their hands or very interested people. To be clear: if you have a >40 hour work week, a family to support, and seven parrots to feed; I'd recommend following the project when you're able, and not signing on as a permanent contributor. This will not look cool enough in a portfolio to get you hired. This is not sustenance employment. It is work, and it has expectations (much like a badminton club or a neighborhood garage band). It's not the soul crushing 'do this or die of starvation' that capitalism imposes on us. I want to be clear about realistic expectations. In the unlikely event of donations existing, I'd plan on an even split.***
- TL;DR: I'm making a a game that's sorta like chess except more complicated, more customization and IN SPACE
- This is a project I've been passionate about for a long time, and it started when I was 5 and learned to play chess.
- I became enthralled with the pieces and such noble and foreign titles as 'bishop' and 'knight.' I learned the game, got pretty decent at it, and it crushed me at age 9 to learn there was a robot that would always be better than me. I gave up. I still played (mostly as a parlor trick) once in a great while, but being the automation-concerned preteen that I was, I decided I needed a job that a robot couldn't take. When I was in middle school, that meant programming and art (my gaming switched to the tabletop pen-and-paper variety).
- As I got older and began to study history and symbolism, I found out more about what chess represented. I found out about the estates-generale in Europe, and the labor-capital-consumer triangle. I read political theory, ethical theory, I joined the debate club and the philosophy club, I took a sociology class, and I found myself coming back to "How do people look at the mess of human civilization and organize it?" I looked at traditional models of society, like the classical conception of a cyclical universe, the realms of incarnation, republics and empire, Marxism, Progressivism, Liberalism, but I also looked at games like EUIV and Vic2 and how they represented the world and its entities. Then I came back to chess. It seemed to be, despite its relative simplicity, the oldest and most popular metaphor for the competition and communication of societies. In the part of my life I've spent analyzing why chess is so attractive, I've come up with the following:
- I. Representing Power
- You protect your king, your key to power, your survival, at all costs. No other piece on the board is as valuable. As ideology and popular sovereignty can feel external to our leader's pursuit of absolute power, the focus on the king at the exclusion of all other pieces is a reflection of this. The optimal player's obsession with power excludes the goals of any other piece.
- II. Disposability and Humanity
- Studies have shown the number one weakness of middling chess players is unwillingness to sacrifice pieces, or even put them in danger. When a piece is taken, it strikes at something human in us. We can almost see ourselves in chess pieces. They're designed to have heads and necks and collars, and even the most oblique abstractions of chess pieces can inspire empathy for the captured heroes of war. Teachers at Soviet chess schools used to tell students to remember the bravery of Stalingrad when they were trading pieces. As much as we acknowledge the practical supremacy of the king, we seem to have a bias against loss.
- Given my observations, I started to play chess a different way. I thought of computer chess as fascist and monarchical--given no unobjectivce bias toward protecting anything but the key to power and the objective of destroying all possible threats, the computer played as efficiently as possible, and unless humans found a way to cheat the system the whole resistance was doomed. It certainly added stakes to my matches. I searched for varieties of chess that embraced the human element--like survivor chess, where you're assigned a random pawn to keep uncaptured regardless of the game's outcome. I looked at different chess sets and the commonalities and differences of how pieces were represented--their relative heights, icons, symbols, and bases. And I decided I would, in a grand tradition of arrogance and sophistry, make my own rules.
- After a few varieties, and finding a few other things I wanted to represent, I ended up trying out hexagonal boards, 3d boards, different pieces, three- and four-way chess, and all sorts of other things. I ended up with seven truncated icosahedrons, 64 players, and interplanetary mechanics.
- I appended the following to my vision of what chess should be:
- IV. Common and Accessible
- A child in a neighborhood woodshop can make chess boards and pieces. Any digital or physical version I made would have to be optimized for the commons. No matter the quality of the rendering engine, a table of inputs and outputs should give any kind of renderer or engine the information necessary to render arbitrary game states. The game should run on potatoes and domino computers if possible.
- V. Cyclical history
- I decided that if I was going to take a step toward Civ with the hex grid, I'd take a step back from the tech stages. Rather than progress being the key, I decided that as civilizations reached certain milestones they would simply set back the status of their fellows. When one city reached beyond the technological limits of their age, others by comparison became weaker.
- VI. Resources
- Learning sociology and psychology reinforces the power of incentives and the power of the economy. I knew resources, scarcity, and trade would be a major player in the balance of the game.
- VII. Relationships
- I wanted to model situations where the pawns revolted against the king, or the black and white bishops conspired together to take out the white bishop. I wanted the rook to be cautious to lend support to the reckless offensive of their own color. Independence, ideology, and diplomacy would ideally be central foci.
- VIII. Humanitas. Human attraction to the pieces of the game would be enforced by non-mechanical means. The player could make moral or ideological decisions that violated the principles of strategy. They would customize their pieces and characters to their tastes. They would name them, personalize them and make them symbols of the efforts that bore their civilization.
- IX. Mythos. I've always had a fascination with astrology and the 'Jungian dream-commons.' I decided to supplement the practical class symbolism of the pieces with mythological symbolism. I cast the board as a mock solar system made up of seven planets and the fixed stars. Each represents astrological concepts shared by cultures as far flung as Ghana, Japan, the Aztecs, and the Jews. I would also abstract the inspiration of the games's civilizations from history. I looked for allusion rather than direct commentary.
- X. Aesthetic Minimalism. I knew early on that I wanted the pieces to represented in the most minimalist artistry possible. I wanted to afford the player as much customization as reasonable on a low-end machine, with as little interference from the development as possible. That means, in this context, flexible low-poly design. I remember building giant castles out of dominoes and stuffed animals when I was a kid. That, the sort of model-train set simplicity and nostalgia, is the goal of the models and textures.
- That, in summary, are the starting points for the project. There's some technical specification I've begun, some algorithms I've researched, but the goals are really what I have so far. The layout of the hexes, the seven planets, some buildings, and some broad civilization outlines are set (although in need of review). If you find this interesting, let me know. Even if you can't contribute with technical skills, all sorts of people have made interesting remarks about society that crept into the foundations of this game. That said, because of my complex and infinitely wise psychology, I require a partner to truly become invested in a project. Ideally, an expert-trained graphical engine developer with a deep and sophisticated interest in my vision would volunteer for enslavement. Barring that, a college student that skimmed my essay, did some python once, might be willing to learn OpenGL, and has some free time would do. I'm closer to the latter category myself. Anywhere below, above, or in the middle of any skill range should feel comfortable approaching me if they like the concept and have time to donate. Time and effort are, after all, the most valuable resource after dolla dolla bills (for the student loans). Thanks for your interest, thanks for reading, and thanks for catching this conclusion on your scrolling skim.
- Best of fortunes and sweetest of pomegranates,
- Ezekidam YLD
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