Missing elements of communication in Transcendence

General discussion about anything related to Transcendence.
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<WatchTVDoNothing> in transcendence half the time you are living like an animal, without language, other ships/sovereigns only communicate their intentions to you by physical force and you can only gain insight into them by watching them and examining their remains
<WatchTVDoNothing> there are only a few exceptions, Arco Vaughan straight up asks you why you are attacking him but the only reply that you can give him is a missile.
<Adran> thats the universal sign of "hello"
<WatchTVDoNothing> basically in the transcendence universe there are no corrective forces that support moral behavior or discourage immoral actions. the player seems to generally up playing like a concentration camp inmate; if they can get something good without risk of repercussion they usually do it .
<WatchTVDoNothing> well maybe that's a bit strong
<WatchTVDoNothing> yeah, but i think it's more important to first understand why so many people in the universe are hostile to you before looking for a way to befriend everyone.
<WatchTVDoNothing> maybe there are people out there who are shooting at you because of where you are, so you can avoid them if you don't want to kill them
<WatchTVDoNothing> maybe there are people out there who are shooting at you because of who you are, in which case you would have to change your own nature to end their attacks
Reading this on IRC a couple of days ago struck a chord with me because those are the exact elements that were missing in the game. I even wrote a mod called Dynamic Systems to remedy this missing element, but WatchTV got it spot on. It wasn't the sovereign relations or the absence of enemy fleets killing each other that was missing. What was missing, rather, was that there are limited interactions in the game.

I can't believe I missed this in my ~3-4 years of interacting with the game.

What differentiates Transcendence from other roguelikes is that we aren't killing animals or demonic beings or zombies but humans and neo humans that we, the player, presumably could converse with.

Most enemy factions are introduced as a new thing to kill.

Dwarg?
dead.
Luminous?
Kill it.
Ares?
Communism.

The underlying motivations are spoken or alluded through by NPCs throughout the game, but without allowing the player to explore those interactions I feel that something is missing. It's similar to another concept in good storywriting: "Show, not tell".

How do we show most of the missing elements of the lore?
I think an easy answer to this question is that George simply hasn't had the time to expand the several minor factions in the game, but with him working on Part II I doubt that there will be time to expand the Abbasids, Heliotropes, or Ventari.
< Atarlost >Killing random opponents in random places is the very definition of a roguelike.
Does Transcendence have to be a roguelike? The core game engine has so much more to offer than just a roguelike. Although D&O is definitely what attracts gamers, I feel that the core engine should only be a platform for different games and genres scattered throughout the multiverse.

D&O does have a selling point, though, in that it attracts the niche community that loves Nethack and Star Control, but having played none of those games I feel that Transcendence has a strong selling point of just being Transcendence. It doesn't have to conform to those rules, and in fact breaking them in more fun and enjoyable ways are what makes games better and ultimately draws more players in.

I would like to point to one drawback to defining Transcendence as a roguelike — roguelikes inherently attract a niche market and audience.

Ultimately, if Kronosaur Productions would like to push Transcendence as a profitable game has it to compete with other indie titles. I feel that defining Transcendence as a roguelike impairs what Transcendence really is, because roguelike is not what Transcendence is. Roguelike is what D&O is. But the Transcendence game engine is so much more, and in that respect the possibilities are endless.

I recently created an adventure that demonstrated my belief that Transcendence is *not* strictly a roguelike. Even George is willing to create a more RTS-like adventure in the future, and by definition RTS =/= roguelike.

tl;dr:

Therefore, I'm asking that we stop calling Transcendence a roguelike and start calling D&O a roguelike.

I also really want to move Transcendence in a slightly different direction from its nethack/roguelike roots and turn the conversation into 'what does Transcendence need?' It should not and will not be defined in terms of other games. Instead, we should move the game into a direction where Transcendence is just Transcendence, and is the benchmark for other games.

Proposed solutions:
-Community mods:
This is a very fickle solution, because the last two community projects failed miserably and we're losing more people because of RL and losing interest.
We're not getting a huge influx of new members that stay and contribute, and the modding interest as well has dwindled back to simple weapon mods and XML changes.

-George needs to communicate with his playerbase more
I feel that George wants strong creative control of where Transcendence is going, and that's not bad at all. I do, however, want more communication and leeway in terms of what can be done with mods. I know that this will interfere with Vanilla progress, but if George interacts more with his playerbase it will create investment in the game, and will further his strategy for generating revenue.

Neglect is the worst thing that can happen to a playerbase that is focused on heavily investment.

There are several places of neglect right now, by both George and the community, that should be resolved before we move on.
These are:
-Xelerus
What's happening? I have no idea. Is multiverse replacing Xelerus fully or...?
-Wiki
Nobody's updating it and nobody is invested enough to work on it. Where are all the noobs going to go for help?
-Trac
It doesn't even exist, 'nuff said.
IRC
-Read the 'One Last Comment' section below.
I don't have answers for these problems, but if we solve each one of them, swiftly and efficiently, I feel that 2014 will be a great year for Transcendence.







One Last Comment:
<WatchTVDoNothing> if i were RPC or wolfy my communication would be carry meaning, whereas because I'm WatchTVDoNothing my communication is basically a combat taunt
What is this? Why do new people on IRC feel this way? Are we not welcoming?

This is the second or third time I've heard a comment or sympathy that shows how unfriendly the community is.

I feel that we really need to rethink what the Transcendence community is, and our noob-friendlyness. To be honest, the only reason I'm so invested in Transcendence is because of my ridiculously impossible stubbornness and potentially unique life circumstances.

My typical playstyle has been called this:
<Katami> PhaseMacaw: Quote #162: "<Atarlost> I think [Dynamic Systems and The Network] still separate, but I think they're compatible. It's not recommended unless you're a masochist though." (added by sdw195 at 02:02 AM, March 07, 2012)
I'm not your typical person, and the fact that Transcendence appeals to the 'not your typical person' isn't a good thing if George wants the community to be welcoming or to sell well. This is going to be a problem when (and if) Transcendence will start attracting more people in the community. Investment starts growing, but as soon as they hit IRC they feel hostility and a horrible sense of uselessness.

I, for one, don't want this to happen.
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I agree that we don't really need to force roguelike elements into Transcendence anymore. We already have developments on faction-specific quests such as the Huari campaign, which allows players to interact and befriend an (initially/previously) hostile faction. While I think it is only proper than many factions will remain hostile (or joining one faction will turn their enemies hostile) at any one point in the game, the option for the player to choose his allies would provide a new depth to the game.

For the last comment, I personally don't really think the Transcendence community is hostile to new people, at least, I haven't seen solid evidence for that. It is, however, quite inactive, especially on the forums. The problem with our community is that, in order to get the most out of the community participation, one must use the IRC, which, frankly speaking, isn't extremely user-friendly. Most of the new people who try to post on the forums would therefore get frustrated as they have to wait longer for a reply (for most of the community is focused on the IRC).
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Generally a decent set of issues. One problem I've had when approaching modding is that simple weapon mods and the like are pretty easy to do, since XML is a nice thing to pick up and learn along the way....but to move on to complex things you have to swap over to transLisp, which has a learning curve that feels like trying to beat yourself to death with your own teeth. More so because our documentation is scattered between the forums and the pretty-much-broken wiki, and there's very little to go from when trying to learn how to use it. This can't really be changed, and translisp is a powerful tool, but it's an inherent difficulty spike when learning to mod that a lot of people (myself included) never get over, causing the far easier XML-based mods to proliferate. Some fresh modding tutorials from some time after 2009 would really help to teach people the basics of setting up an extension, working with XML, and the basics of transLisp. Many times I've looked at a new thing added into the game engine, thought "this could be handy!", but then gone away knowing that there's basically no way I can learn enough to use these things.

I feel the same anguish over community work. I've wanted to do it for ages, but I've either had to vanish when RL caught up with me or it's just never taken off. As modders, we really don't work together that well in general.

I think I agree that we could do with the possibility to do more interesting tweaks with relations and the like. Since 1.1, Transcendence has evolved away from the D&O campaign to be able, in theory, to do so much more. While I'd love to see more space-roguelike stuff as much as anyone, it's probably good to diversify.

I'd also love to hear about what's happening with mod hosting. Xelerus feels old and clunky, and we've been promised mod hosting on the multiverse for quite a while. Eventually, we could really do with a "this is what it'll be like, this is how it'll work" summary. How do mods get registered? Will it be possible to host an unregistered mod via multiverse? What about monetising? Is there a way for people to sign on or apply to join the official extension projects when/if they occur? There's a lot of questions out there, and no central place to answer it. I can understand ETAs not being an option with multiverse and Hexarc still in development, but some basics of how it's going to work would be handy.


And in terms of IRC, I've mostly stopped going there because it's just empty these days. We can be a bit hostile to people (we've all seen enough arguments, and most of us have been in them on occaision), but generally we're not too bad. IRC does present a barrier to new people though, since most people don't know how to use it or just don't bother learning.
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I looked through the irc records once for one NithrilDark and 366storm due to a conversation on the forums http://forums.kronosaur.com/viewtopic.p ... 1&start=15 and I found that he was most likely either a child, very immature, or mentally disturbed. Of course, I was also very uh... energetic like he was, but my... energy was caused by anti-anxiety medication, but I digress.

My point is, that his situation could have been handled with a little more... finess. He seemed to enjoy getting a reaction from people, as I doubt that he was actually that... chemically imbalanced. I can imagine him two ways, overly excited to be a part of the community and a modder and therefore shooting too high, and as a troll that was simply trying to cause trouble. Either way, many times (at least at first) you remained unclear in your comments, and he (seemingly new to an IRC period) most likely either took it the wrong way or didn't know how to respond. Also, his mother claiming that you were tainting his mind could have been either a desperate attempt of his to quit while he was ahead, or perhaps an overprotective mother that was fearful of what she didn't understand.

In any case you lost a potentially extremely helpful part of the community, or perhaps exterminated an anarchic troll.

I use this case as an example as it was incredibly extreme and I had past experience with some of his posts.
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This is a heart-felt thread and I really appreciate the feedback. If I understand correctly, there are a few separate issues here. Let me try to capture and discuss each:

MORE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN ME AND THE COMMUNITY
This is definitely an issue and I have resolved to be better about it. The end of the year report (http://multiverse.kronosaur.com/news.hexm?id=188) lays out some of my plans for 2014. In addition, IRC day this month will be a great opportunity to talk about current and future plans.

Plus I plan on being better at multitasking. I aim to respond to posts here regularly, instead of in bursts. In the next couple of months I'll be spending some time working on Anacreon, which has been neglected for months. But I'll continue to keep you all updated on Transcendence plans at the same time.

[TIP: If you've posted something and you want a response from me, just put "George" in the subject line. If I still don't respond, send me a PM. It's OK to bug me.]

MORE MODS & MOD FLEXIBILITY
We all want Transcendence to grow and evolve. Clearly I can't do it all, which is why many of you have stepped up to help by creating mods. But there are certain limitations to mods (both in terms of difficulty and lack of engine support). So what do we do?

This is a hard question and deserves a lot more attention. Some ideas/questions:

1. I have a limited amount of development time devoted to engine changes and we need to allocate that fairly. What is a fair system? Does every developer get a slice of time? Do you coordinate to get the most important fixes first?
2. Is there are way for people to work together on mods to spread the work (and knowledge)?
3. What's the best way to coordinate?

I'd love to hear more ideas. [Though maybe we should split this part to a different thread.]

IS TRANSCENDENCE A ROGUELIKE? SHOULD IT BE?
This is a tricky question. First, I never want to add or remove a feature because "that's how roguelikes do it". My goal isn't to create a roguelike. I happen to like many roguelike concepts (like procedural generation), but I'm also happy to allow control over those concepts at the mod level.

From a branding perspective, I like promoting the roguelike-elements in roguelike forums. Some people who like roguelikes will give Transcendence a chance because of it (and people who don't like them won't go to roguelike forums).

COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE PLAYER AND AI FACTION
This is a great idea and it really resonates with me as well. The Transcendence universe should feel alive! We all agree on that. I'd love suggestion on game mechanics that would help. Should the player be able to talk to enemies? What would be the result? Is it just to get info? Let's discuss this.
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There's obviously a desire, when looking at a game without communicative hostiles, to make them communicate.

Whenever anyone actually tries to implement it they wind up with repetitive and cringeworthy combat taunts. It may be slightly less annoying as floating text than audio, but I believe it will still be distracting and detract from the game.

Transcendence is also the genre where it least fits. It's a game with lots of impersonal enemies who communicate with their own allies over encrypted channels.
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Atarlost wrote:There's obviously a desire, when looking at a game without communicative hostiles, to make them communicate.

Whenever anyone actually tries to implement it they wind up with repetitive and cringeworthy combat taunts. It may be slightly less annoying as floating text than audio, but I believe it will still be distracting and detract from the game.

Transcendence is also the genre where it least fits. It's a game with lots of impersonal enemies who communicate with their own allies over encrypted channels.
I tend to agree. Repetitive taunts won't work (IMHO) and coding (or generating) sufficiently unique content is hard to impossible. There are some other possibilities, however:

1. Allow the player to dock with (some/most) enemy stations at least once. The player would get to learn something about the enemies. In some cases, the encounter would end in an attack. In other cases, the enemy might stay neutral until the player attacks. Once the sovereign realizes that the player is an enemy, it would turn permanently red and docking becomes impossible. [This is what Star Control II did.]

2. Add more mission arcs like the Huari. This requires a ton more work, obviously, but it would be cool.

3. Add more missions which reveal more things about various sovereigns. These might temporarily (while on specific missions) allow conversations with various sovereigns (through the usual mission screens).

4. Add more interaction with friendly sovereigns. For example, when passing a random freighter you could ask to escort it (or it might ask you to escort it). Similarly, when a friendly station is under attack, it should ask you for help. I'm sure we can come up with a list of these kinds of interactions.

5. Add more wingmen, including some from the various sovereigns. Plus add more interactivity with wingmen.
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Re: factional communication

Something Ive been spending free time on during the break while visiting family was generating a big dictionary for semi-procedural dialogue. Which is a lot bigger of a task than it sounds, because I have to figure out how every race talks.
Lisp's syntax happens to be ideally suited to a modder using this library.

I initially planned to use this system in procedural missions once TAI was complete(ish) - ie, if a station's supply freighters were being bothered, you might have a character on the station called 'station manager' who might be annoyed or angry, and wants the pirate ship attacking the freighters to be dead. For the most part however, this was planned to be done in dockscreens, not live-communication.

I didnt have any plans for docking with enemy stations though. Thats interesting..
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Atarlost wrote:repetitive and cringeworthy combat taunts
lol wut

There is a *VERY* easy answer to this.

You have the player initiate conversation. This removes all qualms you have about this because then once the player initiates conversation there's nothing unwanted. It will only become unwanted when we:
A. The NPC has repetitive stuff to say (which defeats the whole purpose of communication)
or:
B. NPC is very annoying.

I realize that there are many issues that I tried to discuss in this thread so I'm going to break this up into lots of separate issues when I come back from school and respond to George's post. I'll also put this up on the etherpad.

*EDIT:
Transcendence is also the genre where it least fits. It's a game with lots of impersonal enemies who communicate with their own allies over encrypted channels.
What is the genre you're referring to? This goes back to my *not* roguelike point. And impersonal enemies is, in my opinion, one of the weak points of the game we have to change.
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I'm grateful that RPC read my conversation with Atarlost and took it to heart, and that it's provoked so much discussion here. However, I also feel that some of the context in which the discussion took place has been overlooked.
  • First off, Atarlost made some excellent points which I didn't and still don't have good replies to. I don't have the IRC logs, but the combat taunts problem one was one of them, as was his emphasis that combat and brute-force problem solving are at the core of what makes people want to play and continue to play the game. Transcendence isn't a text adventure where people are driven by words and descriptions of things; the precedent established by missions and general gameplay flow is that action needs to be taking place onscreen from the cockpit, and shooting tons of enemies is the easiest way to implement that. Atarlost emphasized that the game development needs to prioritize consistently excellent core gameplay over offering a broad range of mediocre things to do, and I agree.
  • I don't feel that the Transcendence community is unwelcoming, and the interaction between me and Atarlost wasn't a hostile vet intimidating a newcomer. I've been on these boards since 2007 - I used to post under the name "Retroactive" but forgot the password and for whatever reason decided that re-registering would be easier. And I'm an infrequent visitor to IRC. Our conversation was jokey, and we were both made overly broad statements that sort of parodies of our own roles as "faceless leech asking for something impossible from the dev or modders" and "jaded vet".
The transcendence forums community is top-heavy and vet-heavy. My impression is that most of the long-term vets stick around to mod and look at what other modders are doing.Their words can, do, and should carry weight when it comes to the direction that the game should take, and they are responsible for pushing George to develop the engine in ways that allow them to do new and interesting things.

Modders right now are most interested in mods that break new ground functionality-wise; the limits of what you can do with Transcendence aren't clearly established and George is continually tweaking the engine to allow it to do new things. From the viewpoint of new players coming into the game, these mod efforts are mostly opaque; the good work that people like RPC are doing is difficult to appreciate if you aren't already familiar with what the game can and can't do.

It's hard for us to view the game through the eyes of someone coming across the game and playing it for the first time. Personally, I think a $3-$5 devtool that could spit out ironclad XML implementing ships, stations, weapons, and a few simple mission types could be a great way to draw people into the community, especially if it were combined with a way for people to easily share graphics resources. It would lead to the creation of a huge number of terrible, pointless mods and people clamoring for attention, but might be a good way to engage and retain people who want to spend money on the game.

I reflexively approve of anything that's even remotely related to Star Control II. ;)
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As far as communications with other ships in passing, it might be a good idea to have an option for communication lines to be monitored. This could be toggled on and off under the typical communication menu.

On the genre front I have always felt that this was almost more like ZZT than rogue. Last I checked ZZT still had a following due to the whole game creation ability. To date thousands of games have been created by their community and even more have been lost or never distributed.
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RPC wrote:What is the genre you're referring to? This goes back to my *not* roguelike point. And impersonal enemies is, in my opinion, one of the weak points of the game we have to change.
One where you're flying a space ship fighting other space ships separated by vacuum, different frequency hopping schemes, and encryption rather than running around in mail and hacking at your enemies from within comfortable conversational range or running around in an improbably robust bullet proof vest shooting them in improbably quiet and short range guns within shouting distance.
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I have to be honest though, if someone sold me a fancy ship yet didnt give me the ability to mute - or at least turn down - the comm system on certain channels.. Id.. Yeah. Thats like putting in folding chairs into a $100,000 car in place of proper seats.
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Wolfy wrote:I have to be honest though, if someone sold me a fancy ship yet didnt give me the ability to mute - or at least turn down - the comm system on certain channels.. Id.. Yeah. Thats like putting in folding chairs into a $100,000 car in place of proper seats.
Having seen a few stripped-down supercars that get sold for more than the original model, this isn't that unrealistic actually. :P



I'd definitely support having requests for help. It allows more missions to be added to the game in an interesting way. Heretic sorta shows the way, with distress calls from the research bases (although they're almost impossible to save half the time). If the game adds that sort of thing in to stations/ships within a certain distance of the player and then has the ability to create missions based off it that reward the player, that gives a whole new branch of interaction right there.

I'd also love to see the ability to talk to enemies and potentially do deals with 'em. It'd get interesting if multiple factions want you to do multiple things that clash with each other. Maybe even combine it with the former bit: a desperate call for help from an enemy freighter under attack could create a chance for the player to befriend (or be-neutral?) that faction if they help out.
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Shrike wrote: I'd also love to see the ability to talk to enemies and potentially do deals with 'em. It'd get interesting if multiple factions want you to do multiple things that clash with each other. Maybe even combine it with the former bit: a desperate call for help from an enemy freighter under attack could create a chance for the player to befriend (or be-neutral?) that faction if they help out.
This remind me of the X-series by Egosoft.
There are different factions (different races and corporations).
If a ship is under attack and you destroy the attacking ship you get reputation by the faction.
Depending on your start you are friend or enemy to the faction. You are allowed to enter their sector, docking stations, trading more or less important goods dependig on your reputation.
By doing nice things like saving ships, missions or even trading you can build your fame. Of course if you going pirate you can be state enemy in no time (if there are witnesses).
Regarding communication if you shoot somebody, they are mad at you. But the engine differs between being mad and calling you an enemy. If you didn't kill anybody you have the chance to call them and say you're sorry and everyone's happy again.

I think all these things are already possible.
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