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Old December 23, 2009, 12:13   #1
Magnate
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Magnate's thread

I doubt I'll ever reach 10k posts, so for my 1000th I thought I'd do one of these navel-gazing All About Me threads. No real reason, other than that Takkaria gave me commit access to the V codebase earlier this year (to implement the new randart generator), and if I introduce myself a bit it might help put some of my other changes in context, and give people a chance to vent before they happen. (Takkaria is now back in regular contact, btw, so the chances of me doing anything really stupid to the nightlies are reduced.)

I'm about to turn 40, and have been gaming for over 30 years. The first game I can remember was Space Invaders on the Commodore PET, but not far behind was my first roguelike - the Temple of Apshai on the C64 in the early '80s. At the same time I started playing AD&D, but that only lasted a decade or so (I never got over the changes in 2nd Ed.) while the computer gaming went from strength to strength. At university in the late '80s I was introduced to Moria, which I loved but never beat. I just missed Angband, which existed but hadn't made the journey from Warwick to Cambridge by the time I left.

I got my first PC in '92 and didn't go near a roguelike for the rest of the decade, being far too busy with Civ, MoO, Frontier, MoM and tons of other games. In early 2000 I was looking for a new game and a friend recommended Angband, which was at 2.9.0 then I think - RR had just become the maintainer. Over the past decade I've had the occasional break from Angband (though nothing on the scale of Leon), but usually for reasons of being distracted by other games rather than RL. (Diablo II being the main contender - if you're going to do a real-time graphical roguelike, that's the way to do it.)

I love the fact that there are so many Angband variants, but personally I prefer the ones that tweak the gameplay without overlaying a whole bunch of stuff. So I never really got into the complexity of Z or ToME, and instead preferred 'smaller' variants like GSN and O. I'm a huge fan of Leon's work: O and S are the only two variants I keep going back to. I have promised myself to give Un another try one day (I wanted to like it but it felt too complex - to Angband as ADoM is to Crawl), and I'm saving FA and Steam for a day when the whole genre seems stale and I want some refreshment.

IRL I'm a (non-IT) project manager (well, programme manager now), and most RL projects follow a strict 'cathedral' setup where everybody has a very clearly defined set of responsibilities. So the 'bazaar' model of Angband's development fascinates me (read this essay for an explanation of these terms). I started off wanting to improve Greg Wooledge's randart generator, and it so happened that someone else wanted to do the same thing, so we did it together. The new one was actually ready in about 2002, but RR was never really interested in it.

I've not done any serious coding since a gap-year job writing library functions in fortran77. Like many before me, I've learned what I know of C from the V code. Someone on #angband-dev derided the overly simplistic structure of the code (comment line, line or two of code, blank line; repeat) - but it does make it an amazingly effective learning tool.

I've been using Linux since 1995 (Slackware then RedHat then Debian since ~2003), and when 3.1.0 came out I volunteered to become the maintainer of the Debian package. It so happened that the existing maintainer was keen to pass it on, and kindly agreed to 'mentor' me. (Debian maintainers who are not fully fledged "Debian Developers" need a mentor to upload packages for them.)

So my two primary interests in the code are artifacts and packaging. I'm currently working on revising the packaging stuff: the previous maintainer always built it using --with-setgid, but I want to change to --with-private-dirs, which is now Takkaria's preferred default. A straightforward change from the building/installing angle, but trickier for upgrading and purging. I hope to get this done for the release of 3.1.2

Beyond that I have a bunch of other aspirations, mostly around enhancing my own enjoyment of the game:

- sorting out pref files so I can have the right macros and squelch settings and autoinscriptions loaded for each character, and a monster memory that spans save files. IMO the existing pref file system has not coped very well with more recent additions like autoinscriptions and squelching. Could do an artifact memory here as well, though being a randarts man I'm not too fussed about that (worth saying here that I do think it's important that the artifact set is well-balanced and interesting, even though I rarely play with them)

- improving the knowledge menu so that you can browse last-known store and home inventories from the dungeon. Of course you won't know about any stock rotation since you descended, but I share Eddie's view that anything that can be accomplished by note-taking should be available in the game UI.

- packaging Dubtrain's sound pack so that users of Debian-based distros can install them on top of the main game (Dubtrain's choice of licence is considered "non-free" by Debian, so they cannot be part of the main package).

- abstracting elements into a structure so that they can be modified / balanced / added to more easily (there are currently hundreds of lines of duplicated code which could loop over an array of elements, and this would dramatically improve the monster power function)

- more revisions and improvements to monster and object power ratings (including making non-magical armour useful by changing base AC and weights)

- more changes to randarts (more interesting curses, more intelligent combinations of powers, etc. - this will always be my ongoing project) - including new artifact types if Takkaria goes in that direction (artifact staves and rods, for example).

Well there you go. That's what I want to work on after 3.1.2. This is way too long already so I'll save my views on TMJ, sterile statistics and instadeath for another post.
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Old December 23, 2009, 12:39   #2
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- packaging Dubtrain's sound pack so that users of Debian-based distros can install them on top of the main game (Dubtrain's choice of licence is considered "non-free" by Debian, so they cannot be part of the main package).
That's interesting. The Ubuntu folks at Launchpad were fine with it - everything hosted there needs to be "open source" to qualify for free hosting - and I have (MP3s of) Dubtrain's sounds in FA now.
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Old December 23, 2009, 12:55   #3
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That's interesting. The Ubuntu folks at Launchpad were fine with it - everything hosted there needs to be "open source" to qualify for free hosting - and I have (MP3s of) Dubtrain's sounds in FA now.
Yes, the DFSG are quite strict, and a lot of "open source" licences don't qualify, especially anything which restricts commercial use. The CC-BY-NC licence falls foul of this.
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Old December 23, 2009, 15:02   #4
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Wow, I could have written those first 3 paragraphs about myself, right down to our age. Though I was a prolific programmer as a kid, I never pursued it as a career, though many of my closest friends did. I'm just now teaching myself C++ so I can seriously tinker with rogue-likes and maybe, just maybe, develop a marketable skill to fall back on.
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Old December 23, 2009, 15:49   #5
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Wow, I could have written those first 3 paragraphs about myself, right down to our age. Though I was a prolific programmer as a kid, I never pursued it as a career, though many of my closest friends did. I'm just now teaching myself C++ so I can seriously tinker with rogue-likes and maybe, just maybe, develop a marketable skill to fall back on.
Heh, nice to find a kindred spirit. Out of interest, why did you choose C++? I don't know anything about it except the aphorism I saw in a sig: "if C++ is your hammer, everything looks like a thumb".

Both my brothers work in IT (one freelance, one for the Evil Empire), and both scoff at my desire to learn an "obsolete" language like C, saying I ought to be spending my time learning more useful things like dotBLOAT. I try to keep them at bay by saying I'm learning Python, but there isn't an Angband-like learning environment for Python that holds my interest.
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Old December 23, 2009, 16:07   #6
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I picked C++ because it seemed to be the rogue-like language of choice as well as being a currently relevant language. Also, I was fluent with Pascal back in high school and read or somehow came to the conclusion that C++ was similar, which it is, I guess. As you could have probably guessed, I grew up programming in BASIC, and those BASIC instincts are still my strongest influence. I find C++'s pointers most frustrating/unfamiliar right now. I just can't get past the fact that they seem somehow redundant.

The only bit of Temple of Asphai that I remember - "Blackheart! Thou taketh the food form my children's mouth's!", sayeth the shopkeeper. The shopkeep routine was written in BASIC, as I recall.
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Old December 23, 2009, 17:27   #7
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Python's a wonderful language; it's my current favorite. I've done some work in procedural map generation with it -- though, for a 2D platforming game, not a roguelike. Having spent awhile working in Perl and then Python for work, going back to C/C++ is pretty painful.

Clearly someone needs to make a Python roguelike. Clearly that person should also not be me, as I have way too many projects on my plate as it is.
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Old December 23, 2009, 17:53   #8
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Magnate's gaming experience parallels my own, the C64 generation (SM's Pirates!) + MOM/Civ. Sadly, I never learned to code, but when i discovered angband I was tempted to learn.

My silly unmade variant would have featured a character race 'Zephyr Hound' where your class would evolve from a lowly clear hound to an allmighty Aether Hound and you would be granted class promotions to these ranks by some canine entity (Anubis? ... Wuf the Bika from Dungeonmaster?) after fullfilling tasks. The Game Boss would have been Bubaastis. [no, I have no plans in ever doing this!]

I'm just looking at steamband and after years of Tolkien/D&D it's a refreshing change. Once again it's tempting to learn to code just to crack open those gears.

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The only bit of Temple of Asphai that I remember - "Blackheart! Thou taketh the food form my children's mouth's!", sayeth the shopkeeper.
...........Oops, I dropped the keys!
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