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One day, while telling a friend that I was bored and needed to find a new game, he jumped up and told me that I needed to try Dave’s Galaxy. So I wandered over to http://davesgalaxy.com and read the home page… Beer and Pretzels? What the heck is that? It piqued my interest, so I created an account and began working my way through the tutorials. After just a few days I couldn’t wait for my daily turn report to show up in my email: I was hooked. Each day, planning trade runs, taking over planets, making friends and even getting attacked once. Dave’s Galaxy is a game that unfolds slow but gets you hooked right away. Each day (or turn) brings a new chance to expand your empire.
With entertainment like this, The Greater Geek had no choice but to find Dave’s corner of the internet and force him to answer a few of our questions.
The Greater Geek: Your name?
Dave: David Case
TGG: What you do for a living?
Dave: Dave’s Galaxy, occasional consulting. I used to work for a glass panel avionics company, keeping aircraft from plummeting out of the sky.
TGG: How old are you?
TGG: What made you think of Dave’s galaxy?
Dave: The original germ of the idea came from a bbs door game I used to play (slow turns, stars scattered across a map, variable travel time based on distance), Some mechanics cribbed from Larry Niven and Vernor Vinge novels (planet connections, mechanics that may be present or absent based on star density, etc…). I always wanted to algorithmically generate a galaxy, so that’s in there too.
TGG: When did you first start working on Dave’s galaxy?
Dave: The end of 2008 I think? It took about 2 years before it was playable.
TGG: How many times did you rewrite the game before you decided to
release the game to the public?
Dave: 0 rewrites, the basic mechanics worked almost exactly as I intended (I am always refining the game however; adding improvements, fixing bugs, etc.)
TGG: Do you have other contributors?
Dave: A little help here and there.
TGG: Care to share who?
Dave: My wife has contributed some graphics (maybe 10% of the total art)
A friend of mine administers the bug tracker and git repo.
Another friend is my business partner when I need one.
TGG: Explain Dave’s Galaxy to us?
Dave: It’s a grand scale 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) strategy game that plays in a web browser. It’s HTML 5 based, using SVG, and does not require Flash to play. All players are on the same map, which is made up of 650,000 stars in the shape of a spiral galaxy. It’s turn based, with one turn per day. The turns run fairly slowly, and most players only spend 10-20 minutes per day on the game. The slower pace enables more contemplative game play, and takes the place of grinding mechanics in other games. The game unfolds over months of real time and is open to many different styles of play.
TGG: Dave’s Galaxy is fairly simple to learn and understand, was this deliberate or just a side effect of the mechanics you chose to implement?
Dave: Hehe, I hope it’s deliberate, I get people who come up to me at conventions and say it looks horribly complex. I like simple but deep systems, and following logical consequences of the given mechanics. When faced with a decision that would result in the player having to manage something that isn’t ‘fun’, I try to make it automated. A lot of people want very finely grained controls on trade fleets, but having to manage several trade fleets would very quickly get tedious, so I try to automate the process as much as possible, and simply let trade fleets run autonomously.
TGG:How many players are registered in Dave’s Galaxy?
Dave: 832 (with some duplicate accounts)
TGG: Each day, Dave’s Galaxy is closed to run the “turn”. What
processes are actually being run during this time?
Dave: Haha, it should run concurrently in the background, but I’m a victim of my own success, and it currently runs out of memory if I leave the game running, so I put up a page saying the turn is running. I’m working on fixing the current problem, but inevitably something else will come up that stops the turn from completing when it normally should, so I’ll be back to putting up the ‘Turns Running!” page again. I’m starting to think about opening a second galaxy (Frank’s Galaxy?) to handle the overflow. I haven’t finished optimizing the turn yet, I’m sure there are improvements to be made.During the turn, the game universe gets updated — the fleets get moved around, the planets produce resources, what player/planet/fleet can see what other player/planet/fleet is determined, etc.
TGG: Do you consider the game “complete” or are you hoping to add more to the game?
Dave: Oh lord no, I have a list as long as my arm, and I’m always adding new stuff to it.http://www.davesgalaxy.com/roadmap/
TGG: What would you like to see added?
Dave: More stuff for experienced players to do, people tend to get bored after 6 months or so. Which very nicely models the birth/expansion/decline of civilizations, so I don’t feel bad when people stop playing — it just means there’s some unclaimed territory that can be picked up.
TGG: When coding I have a habit of inserting odd comments in hopes that
someone looking at the code latter may get a laugh. Have you done this?
What is the silliest comment you’ve ever placed in code?
Dave: I have an ascii representation of a man making love to an IRC channel hiding in my source code.
TGG: Boxers or briefs?
Dave: Boxers. Well, boxer-briefs. depends.
TGG: Favorite game? (not Dave’s Galaxy)
Dave: Ooooh, tough one. Settlers of Catan? The original Grand Theft Auto, Road Rash (Amiga version)
TGG: Favorite beer?
Dave: I live in Portland, that question could start a brawl up here… Ummm, Black Butte Porter, anything made by HUB (The owner used to be my neighbor)
TGG: Comics or Novels?
Dave: Comic — Cerebus, Novel — hmmm most anything by Varley, Vinge, Stephenson…
TGG: Favorite TV show
Dave: The Wire (thinking about a top down Baltimore drug trade game — “Omar’s Comin!”)
TGG: Ever listen to podcasts?
Dave: Occasionally, I should listen to more.
TGG: Which ones?
Dave: Mostly NPR shows I missed during the week.
TGG: Paper or Plastic
Dave: Haha, the city has banned plastic, so paper.
TGG: Greatest evil in the world?
TGG: How much does Dave’s Galaxy cost?
Free to play, but please make a donation if you feel guilty, I have t-shirts!
TGG’s been on hiatus while some of us relocate in pursuit of career advancement while others stagnate in inadequacy, slowly devolving into puddles of misery on Twitter.
While we’re still waiting to regroup, a news article recently evoked an indirect response from me. I wanted to post my thoughts for public consumption while they’re still relatively fresh. As it turns out, the idea behind the thought is likely not fresh at all. Having written what follows before bothering to see if anyone had already thought such thoughts, I’m pleased to see they have. At the same time, the unmodified official release of TF2 remains all-male, so the issue has not been addressed at the Source, so to speak.
I recently noticed a few waves trailing behind a young lady gamer who lobbied successfully for the inclusion of female characters in an upcoming sports sim. Details can be found at The Globe and Mail.
The crux of her argument was a player’s right to self-expression. She wanted to have a female character to identify with, despite the gender-segregated nature of the sport being represented. Quite a few questions arose from that particular story, but I mention it here as the catalyst for a thought I had some days later.
Caveat Lector: I’m a male who doesn’t play female characters when given the choice. Well, except in Resident Evils 1 and 2 where the girl characters had more powerful weapons.
I was playing Team Fortress 2 after having read the above story, with no loftier goal than enjoying the simple pleasures of fast-twitch cartoon brutality, when it occurred to me: I couldn’t play as a girl. This led to a train of thought that made me realize some interesting things about TF2’s gender representation.
It could be argued that the extreme uniqueness of characters are unnecessary on a purely mechanical level. TF2 seems to be a powerful example, however, of aesthetics directly impacting play. From the cartoonish, distorted humanoids to the voice acting and out-of game animated shorts, TF2 bends over backwards to make sure every player can guess what every other player is up to at any given moment. If I’m running around as a Heavy, I’m probably feeling overconfident, and probably have a swarm of other players behind me. Did I just run past you with an Engineer’s toolbox? Stay out of the Intelligence room. In short, I’ve found TF2 gives me a genuine sense of being represented at any given moment, even though I’m constantly switching from one representation to another.
Even so, my revelation pointed out that I’m content because my personal choice is the only option anyway. In retrospect, I’d go so far as to say I might not play at all if the cast were all females. I know several ladies who play TF2, but I suddenly wonder how many don’t because of that same logic.
Speaking for myself, “Gamer Girls” stopped being “a thing” for me at least four or five years ago, which would have been right around TF2’s 2007 initial release. Add to that the continued male dominance of the gaming world plus the Team Fortress franchise’s established player base and I suspect demographics were never a significant concern during TF2’s development.
I also wonder how real-world views on women in combat influenced TF2’s cast. From Samus Aran to Lara Croft, female protagonists are not without precedence, but I’m not aware of one in a game focused on tactical squadron combat against explicitly human enemies. Despite TF2’s cartoon style, the physics and combat at least hit at realism: the action is fast and often confusing, even the strong characters die quickly without support and tactical behavior, and no one is an invulnerable super hero, Ubercharge notwithstanding.
The real-world lines demarcating limits of active duty service for women are blurring. For what it’s worth, I believe that’s a good thing. Still most world powers still balk at deploying women to front lines violence. Even I don’t immediately picture females in such situations, although for me it’s more a matter of conditioned response than internal reasoning.
Everything now comes back to the young sports fan. Should combat simulation games exclude female characters simply because, on the whole, women aren’t stereotypically associated with the real-world equivalent? I’m not attacking Valve for TF2’s all-male cast. It’s a successful game and the only addition I’m discussing here would ultimately be aesthetic.
I will say I absolutely do not endorse the introduction of a whole new character class. For one thing, I would see it as an almost patronizing gesture. For another, TF2 is nothing if not well-balanced. I’d hate to see that offset without significant forethought. I would even balk at female personalities noticeably out of sync with the current game. Aside from being arguably sexist in her own right, a giggly “Valley Girl” type doesn’t feel like something I’d accept as plausible in the admittedly exaggerated TF2 world.
I suggest that the only necessary step to introduce female characters would be to create duplicates of the existing cast with feminine physiques. Someone once told me there’s a difference between masculine and macho, and I don’t believe anything about the TF2 is unalterably “male.” It follows, for me, that a boisterous, hulking, bloodthirsty Russian would be just as believable wearing a babushka as a 5 o’clock shadow.
As noted at the beginning of this article, the idea of females in TF2 is not actually new. The question then becomes: how would female counterparts effect other games? Titles like the Dead Space franchise and Deus Ex: Invisible War have approached the question from a distinctly either/or point of view. In spite of the recent “Fem Shep” fervor that I never fully understood, I believe they are to be commended for their presentation. As with my earlier examples of Samus and Croft, though, their emphasis is on the primarily single-player experience. Much as I usually prefer to deny the impact of context and circumstance in questions of gender equality, I think the question here arises from the multiplayer arena. It’s not a question of whether two video game characters are equally matched, but whether or not the players behind them are being represented as they wish to be.
Do I think every game should have to include a coed cast of player characters? Absolutely not, in so far as I’d never endorse mandatory requirements imposed on the artistic expression of game developers. Do I think games TF2 might be a little more entertaining with female options? If they were introduced in a way that meshed with the game’s established feel and charm, absolutely. Will I quit playing male-only games in protest?
I was listening to the latest episode of Starfleet Comms, an Eve Online podcast and we got a wonderful shout-out from them. We appreciate all the help we get from our fans and fellow members of the community! Thank you!
Today, Wargaming.net (the creators of World of Tanks) announced the final game in their free-to-play series, World of Battleships. With last month’s announcement of World of Warplanes, it seems they plan on taking the internet by land, sea, and air. With fast-paced, easy to play action, a dazzling array of vehicles to choose from, and a common economic system that allows you to benefit from playing all three games, Wargaming.net has hit on a winning combination.
As an avid fan of World of Tanks, I have to say I’m looking forward to their new games.
Read more here.
I realized yesterday I haven’t been posting to the site regularly like I should. Many apologies for that. Here I am again to entertain and… more likely to irritate.
My fellow Fly Reckless cohost Priest Kristoph kindly let me stumble through a tirade earlier tonight comparing the EVE Online player protests a few weeks ago to the recent England riots. I’d like to expand my thoughts on the subject, even though the episode won’t air for a few days. For this week’s caveat, I’ll admit to being both non-English and nonviolent. If you choose to see me as uninvolved and biased… I can’t say that’s incorrect.
I was not a supporter of the EVE “riots.” I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people who joined in didn’t even think of the larger group’s various activities as riots. There were demonstrations, but no one was actually injured and ultimately it was little more than players either playing a game in an unusual way or deleting their accounts to contribute towards the proving of a point.
The merit and success of the event is, I believe, debatable. CCP Games, the company responsible for EVE Online, did respond through various media and did make a few concessions as a result, so no one could argue the movement was not at least partially successful. If I went into a bullet list of my specific views on the subject, I’d be here all night, and it’s almost midnight as is.
Before I move on, I’ll reiterate something I said at the start of the thing: everyone who chose to get involved was and remains free to disagree with CCP’s business decisions and practices. I myself take issue with a few of their decisions. I never saw the point in getting angry about it*, and I was not comfortable with the vitriolic response and what I saw as provoking of the community into increasing levels of frenzy. Many people disagree with my view, and that’s fine.
Fast forward a few weeks, and now there are daily reports of real life rioting, mass vandalism and the harnessing of social media to perpetuate a string of violence in England. While I’m not stupid enough to compare the consequences of a player base raising a collective objection to burning store fronts and murder, I do see some commonalities.
First, a major source of each outcry centered around the loss of an individual. In EVE, an individual behaved in such a way that the GM’s felt a permanent ban was warranted. This became a rally cry of injustice.
In London, 29 year old Mark Duggan was shot and killed by Police while being arrested on 4th August, 2011. Some reports hold that Duggan was unarmed at the time, spawning public outcry and eventually leading to riots, looting and lethal violence.
Again, the severity of these events will never be comparable. I’m also glossing over other sources of the EVE Community’s fustration, such as possibile of changes to the game’s payment system (which, coincidentally, is something that I’m particularly concerned about). Also, while I do believe there are similar philosophical points at work, anyone who suggests a permanent ban is anything like the loss of a life needs to go play outside for a while.
Second, both disturbances were fueled by social media. During the EVE controversy, people across many platforms (including podcasts, and I’m certainly guilty of that part myself) grumbled loudly about recent changes to the game, behaving like what we call Bitter Old Vets. This eventually reached a fever pitch, bolstered by supporters of the banned individual harnessing mass communication outside of CCP’s control. Under the banner of having the account reinstated, a growing number of people wouldn’t let the issue alone.
In London, figures as high ranking as the Prime Minister have reached out to companies like Research in Motion (RIM), who produce the Blackberry brand of smartphones, to either shut it’s London social media services down or allow authorities to bypass encryption to track riot organizers. Reports vary on this account, but, as of this writing, RIM has been vocal about cooperating with police without completely doing away with its concern for user privacy.
It’s too early to tell in either case what the long term ramifications will be. While some concessions were made, all I can point to as direct results of the EVE protests were a calling of CCP’s player-elected representation group, the Counsel of Stellar Management (CSM), a few public announcements assuring the community that the current changes would not be taken to feared logical conclusions for the foreseeable future, and a considerable internal review of the company’s handling of public relations. There are many people who will take issue with my opinion here, so I’ll clarify that I’m just editorializing.
The situation in London hasn’t even fully subsided as yet, and may continue to escalate, so sociopolitical forecasting wouldn’t be helpful.
What grand, sweeping moral edict am I going to issue that covers both of these substantially different events that I’ve cavalierly drawn parallels for? None. Earlier tonight, I would have said something trite, like “violence doesn’t solve anything,” but no actual violence was perpetrated in EVE Online. Not only that, but Priest Kristoph, a military veteran and recently ordained Deacon himself, made a surprising amount of sense when we were recording. In his words, “[Actually] violence solves plenty of things [...]”
I’m taking that out of context, but as I thought about it, I realized it was a very valid point. I wouldn’t be able to say “I’m an American” without historical violence, and I believe there are situations in which peace can only be restored through force. It’s an unfortunate reality, but as a professor once told me, “When we make unethical decisions, eventually the only options left to us are, themselves, unethical.”
To put that another way, as I jokingly remarked to a friend this week on an entirely different subject, “What tangled webs we tweet…”
*Except one one episode of Fly Reckless where I had too much to drink and went a bit off the deep end. This is your Uncle Angus reminding you that moderation is a good thing, kids.
The hardest part was coming up with who is number one, the hottest guy in gaming today. So many rifles, armour, and biceps to chose from!
The leads are Richard B. Riddick of the Chronicles of Riddick franchise from Starbreeze and Tigon Studios , Marcus Fenix of the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, Ezio De Firenze Auditore of the Assassin’s Creed franchise from Ubisoft, and Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 of the Halo franchise from Bungie.
(I requested a wet tee contest, but was subsequently denied by the developers, this is not on record.)
These protagonists have the right combination of “getting things done”, “root for me”, and .. they look awesome in their artist’s creations. There is a lot of saving the world types out there, guns blazing, or adventuring and so on, but the named candidates host the most BANG for the buck, providing immersion into their plights, and by looking so damn good.
Before we debate over just who is number one, let’s look at the overall Top 10 list of the hottest guys in gaming today! Presented in no particular order:
Splinter Cell franchise
Army of Two franchise
John “Soap” MacTavish
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise
Dante and Nero
(in a walk-off for skills)
Devil May Cry 4
Final Fantasy VII
And the already mentioned:
Richard B. Riddick
Chronicles of Riddick franchise
Starbreeze and Tigon Studios
Gears of War franchise
Ezio De Firenze Auditore
Assassin’s Creed franchise
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117
The race for number one is challenging with such awesome candidates, the sheer braun and oils needed for the various armour of our heroes is intimidating. The evaluation criteria is secret, but its thorough, I promise!
The Top 5 results …
- Master Chief, like you didn’t see this coming. 117 is not only hot, a hero, and epic, he’s sucked us all in.
- Marcus Fenix, his uber tough guy situation handling is awesome, gets results, and he has killer arms.
- Ezio, sly and handsome, this stealthy assassin is one most girls hope steals into their window at night. Creeper? You bet and we love it.
- Riddick, scares us, but we also love it. One damn hot protagonist, we all root for him in the end.
- Sam Fisher, getting caught up in double/triple/who’s your daddy conspiracies has never been so hot, thanks Sam.
It wouldn’t be a great listing of things, if we didn’t add the honourable mentions, .. The extreme honourable mention, for being something epic, if not hot:
For Being Badass
Army of Two
Unnamed member of the US Navy Submarine command
Alternative Version to Hot
Half Life franchise
Making *Confused and Emo* Hot
Star Wars:Dark Forces franchise
My Fish Boyfriend
Mass Effect 2
“I’m no Jedi; I’m just a guy with a lightsaber and a few questions.”
Welcome to TGG, I’m Angus and I’m going to put my foot in my mouth without further introductions. One caveat: this editorial is not trying to issue moral edicts against any game, company or event. References are made for hypothetical purposes only.
I recently picked up S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow Of Chernobyl. It’s about half a decade old because I’m a cheap Luddite, so this isn’t a review. I will say I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend it. The premise, somewhat obviously, is a romp through a radioactive Zone of Exclusion more than 20 years after the Chernobyl Disaster. Blah blah blah alternate history blah secret project blah SUPERPOWERED NINJA ZOMBIES! Again, this is not a review.
There have been two sequels so far (Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat), both set around Chernobyl. Given that the narrative hinges on a historical nuclear disaster, the choices during the first game’s development were limited. The collapse of the USSR and Chernobyl’s enforced isolation perhaps invite speculation more readily than similar events such as the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident. The human tolls were also wildly different, with anywhere from 31 to 60,000 deaths attributed to Chernobyl depending on the context, while almost no deaths have been clearly linked to TMI.*
One thing both events share is their distance in time. The TMI meltdown occurred in 1979, and Chernobyl went “promptly supercritical” in 1986. An entire generation has grown to adulthood in a “Post-Chernobyl” world. S.T.A.L.K.E.R., being a hardcore FPS with moments of creeping horror, realistic projectile parabolae and people spouting words like “shit” a lot, was aimed squarely at that generation.
Was a twenty to thirty year gap enough to excuse leaning on a major human tragedy for narrative content? S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has a massive cult following and has spawned sequels, so, yes. Ukrainian parents are still kissing the hands of doctors who volunteer to patch the defective heart valves of their young children, so, no.
You could look at World War II and find the issue of timeliness just as divided. It’s is a relative, often inflammatory consideration with any given tragedy. Games like Darfur is Dying focus on tragedies by setting out to raise awareness and aid for those affected. Games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. sidestep reality to create compelling, mature-themed content. It might not have been so readily received if it had come out in 1987, but for all it’s thrills, backstabbing and blatantly unrealistic treatment of radiation, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. doesn’t come off like an abject blasphemy.
To my knowledge, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise has not attached itself to any charities or humanitarian aid, but that’s just an observation. I’m not condemning the game’s developers, THQ. They’re under no obligation to join or start a charity, and I’m not suggesting they should be. It’s not unheard of for formal partnerships with charities to present many unforseen legal drawbacks. Without meaning the least disrespect to either party, the people for whom Chernobyl is a continuing disaster might well be better off not having to think about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. at all.
What about critical, ongoing emergencies? I mentioned Darfur is Dying, but no one with any social graces would suggest that title is the least bit exploitative. Let me ask you, though: at any time while reading this, did the situation in Fukushima occur to you?
It seems like the Fukushima crisis will be remembered for being every bit as devastating as Chernobyl, compounded by the additional natural disasters that began it. To be sure, the radiological issue is going to take more time to address than the tsunami and earth quake, but all three took lives, displaced families and disrupted societies.
We’ve already heard of cows eating radioactive hay, fish contaminated with waste, and indefinitely evacuated cities. Whether the Fukushima Daiichi NPP’s damaged reactors will be encased in a sarcophagus similar to Chernobyl’s remains to be seen, but it does bear many similarities to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. backstory.
I would be genuinely surprised if a S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-esque game set in Japan isn’t eventually released. Should THQ rush to produce “Shadow of Fukushima?” Not necessarily.
Bearing in mind I’m only using THQ as an example, such a release occurring while control of the situation is largely nonexistent would almost certainly be in the worst possible taste. On the other hand, what if it were released with the explicit understanding that some generous portion of the proceeds would directly benefit Japanese aid? I don’t believe a game is morally obligated to present as sympathetic a face as Darfur is Dying. I also don’t think any amount of PR spin can wash away the aftertaste of a morally bankrupt title.
Assuming a title capable of standing on its own merits were to come out in the near future with Fukushima as a backdrop, would a gesture of good faith and compassion justify the time frame, or would it still be too soon?
*PLEASE note: casualty reports concerning the Chernobyl and TMI disasters vary wildly, and long term life threatening conditions are still not wholly understood.
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