Author Topic: Character software from concept  (Read 3937 times)

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Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Character software from concept
« on: July 05, 2011, 08:56:23 AM »
I'll freely admit I know basically zilch about software. My knowledge extended to "barely competent" back in the days of ones and zeros, and hasn't progressed much since. What I do know is that using an already existing template for something similar but not the same often creates its own problems later down the road. This is why the designers of the space shuttle had to deal with the aftermath of decisions made by Roman chariot-road builders. So instead of taking an already existing pencil-and-paper character sheet and lumping all my "it needs to do this" assumptions into just pointing at the character sheet and saying, "like that," I decided to start a thread to actually state explicitly what an RPG player's and/or GM's program or app should do.

All you guys feel free to jump in, but I'll start with the notion that made me begin this thread.

The core of what a character is, is a list of skills. Yes, there are stats and talents and etc, but the bottom line of a "character sheet" is to put the player's perception of the character, "He likes to _____", "He's good at _____", into terms you can add to a dice roll. Depending on the game system, that list can get pretty long and intimidating, and a player can get plenty frustrated trying to pick out the one skill he needs from such a list. So to that end, what about a... comparison log, I don't know what else to call it, that tracks how often the player references each skill, and changes the font color of the skill total accordingly? Skills you never use are in black, the most used 1/6th or so are in red, and it works its way through the spectrum down to the least used (but actually used) at violet.

Don't feel like you have to comment on that idea in particular, don't be bashful about "for my money, character software needs to _____" that's completely different, that's what this thread is for.
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Offline TerryTee

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2011, 04:27:07 PM »
A character sheet needs to make it really easy to access more information about what ever is on the character sheet. So a skill in the skill list should have a link (right click the mouse etc) to the skill description and relevant rules. A spell needs a link to the spell description and a piece of equiment a link to more details about it then what is listed directly on the sheet.
 
-Terry

Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2011, 06:15:34 PM »
So a skill in the skill list should have a link (right click the mouse etc) to the skill description and relevant rules. A spell needs a link to the spell description and a piece of equiment a link to more details about it then what is listed directly on the sheet.
Ideally, every block that is part of a skill total should have such a link. That way the brand-spankin-new player can not only right click on Perception and see what the skill is, he can right click his way through each block, from number of ranks, skill total, stat bonus, etc. so he can tell where all the parts of that total came from. This would take a lot of the weight off the GM to teach him how to make "intelligent" decisions regarding character development. What the GM considers an intelligent decision may not fit the concept logic of the character.
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out... Traditional Somatic Components
Oo Ee Oo Aa Aa, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang... Traditional Verbal Components
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog... Traditional Potion Formula

Offline providence13

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2011, 09:02:36 PM »
Even if it is just for info, we could do something similar with wiki.
Take a RM character sheet (even home made) and give it hypertext look-up...
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Offline markc

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2011, 12:50:27 PM »
 I think the main problem with the above idea is that it is essentially the book and a PC gen program combined. That is great for the game do not get me wrong but it can be $$ for the people to buy as you have the programming cost as well as the material in the book cost.
  I personally think it is a great idea and can work well for an all electronic group or even a partially electronic group. Each e-player would have a copy of the program on their device that may hook up to the GM program to run the game.


MDC
Bacon Law: A book so good all PC's need to be recreated.
Rule #0: A GM has the right to change any rule in a book to fit their game.
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Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2011, 01:28:37 PM »
I think the main problem with the above idea is that it is essentially the book and a PC gen program combined. That is great for the game do not get me wrong but it can be $$ for the people to buy as you have the programming cost as well as the material in the book cost.

I'd think that would be fairly easily solvable. Author's payments on the core book(s) would be figured into the cost of the base program of course, but if the program can also accept plugins, you have a way for expansion to keep making money. The way to do it is charge a quarter or fifty cents for a particular expansion ruleset/database, and add it as a plugin to a few million programs. That's basically how phone apps work, right?
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out... Traditional Somatic Components
Oo Ee Oo Aa Aa, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang... Traditional Verbal Components
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog... Traditional Potion Formula

Offline markc

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2011, 02:00:05 PM »
 IMHO a better way would be a date base hosted by ICE that people could access. That way the whole thing is hosted by ICE, all the info is in ICE's servers and the only printout possible would be your PC sheet. This would also store the persons PC online as well as you said make it easy to do updates.
 In the above set up the correct way to go would be a base fee plus a small monthly fee. By small I would hope it would be $1/month or so, that way it does not hurt too much.
 But I do not know the cost associated with such a project and the break even point for the various price points.


MDC
Bacon Law: A book so good all PC's need to be recreated.
Rule #0: A GM has the right to change any rule in a book to fit their game.
Role Play not Roll Play.
Use a System to tell the story do not let the system play you.

Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2011, 08:26:29 PM »
  But I do not know the cost associated with such a project and the break even point for the various price points.

Me neither, but I've seen books at $10 or so become PDFs at $1.50 or so. That, combined with a long standing observation that it's easier to get 10 gamers to each pitch 50 cents for something than to get 1 GM to spend 5 bucks, is what lead me to the "as cheap as possible, but hit everyone for it" idea of financially supporting the people behind the project.

Quote
IMHO a better way would be a date base hosted by ICE that people could access. That way the whole thing is hosted by ICE, all the info is in ICE's servers and the only printout possible would be your PC sheet. This would also store the persons PC online as well as you said make it easy to do updates.

Whatever works. It has been my impression that it's easier to get people to spend money on a one-off than a recurring subscription, no matter how cheap... but then again, the purpose of the thread wasn't to brainstorm how to make character software profitable, I assume game companies have people for figuring out things like that. I was just brainstorming how to make it something gamers would want to spend money on.
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out... Traditional Somatic Components
Oo Ee Oo Aa Aa, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang... Traditional Verbal Components
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog... Traditional Potion Formula

Offline markc

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2011, 11:10:35 PM »
GOF;
 Yes I agree that a 1-off is the best way for customers generally but the problem IMHO is pirating of software or the GM buys and all the group uses. Yes this is generally how a physical book is used but in general not how software is allowed to be used., IE Microsoft vs Linux.


 The advantage of having a central source of info is the ease of updating the info or you can build into the software an update feature. The other advantage of having a small size access face is that it can work on a lot of other devices besides a computer, as long as you have internet access.


 Now if you are making a program for you only then your idea is perfect but then as soon as someone besides you uses it you are technically breaking copyright rules, even if they own all of the books. And if it ever gets out from your group you could face penalties as well as be liable for other stuff.


MDC 
Bacon Law: A book so good all PC's need to be recreated.
Rule #0: A GM has the right to change any rule in a book to fit their game.
Role Play not Roll Play.
Use a System to tell the story do not let the system play you.

Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2011, 06:26:31 AM »
An update feature is good. That would allow you to put the updated files (such as expansions to core books) into a format nothing but the parent program could use. Which means other people can't use your game files without borrowing the machine it's on. If you want it on your phone/laptop/whatever, it ends up being easier to just pay $2.50 or so for the core program and a quarter apiece for a couple of updates than to try to get it free. One of the ideas behind cutting the price to the bone is making pirating less attractive, because it doesn't save you enough money to be worth it.
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out... Traditional Somatic Components
Oo Ee Oo Aa Aa, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang... Traditional Verbal Components
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog... Traditional Potion Formula

Offline GrumpyOldFart

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2011, 08:50:00 AM »
One of the few nice points about ignorance is that if you don't know something can't be done, you don't feel bashful about suggesting it.

 ;)
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out... Traditional Somatic Components
Oo Ee Oo Aa Aa, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang... Traditional Verbal Components
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat and Tongue of Dog... Traditional Potion Formula

Offline markc

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2011, 09:07:00 AM »
One of the few nice points about ignorance is that if you don't know something can't be done, you don't feel bashful about suggesting it.

 ;)


 And sometimes you can even do what others say cannot be done in the first place.
MDC
Bacon Law: A book so good all PC's need to be recreated.
Rule #0: A GM has the right to change any rule in a book to fit their game.
Role Play not Roll Play.
Use a System to tell the story do not let the system play you.

Offline TerryTee

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2011, 02:02:38 PM »
The feature I mentioned about have a lookup function for all entries on the character sheet works in all types of architectures. It may be a web interface with a central server, a local application on the PC with a local database or a central database, or pretty  much any other setup.  Licensing and payment is a separate issue, and must be solved for the architecture in question.

For an application used to play the game, you need a dice roller that everybody can see.
It must be easy to roll dice for a skill check or similar (double click the skill).
Everybody must be able to see everybody else’s rolls.
It should be possible to make rolls visible to only yourself (GM needs it), or maybe only a selection of players.
The dice roller needs to have a log or history of some sorts.
Each player should have their own local dice roll log, so you can click in the history to make an identical roll.


It needs a chat room feature. It should be possible to send messages to everyone or to only a few people.

It needs to have a shared white board. Everybody must be able to write/draw/paste on the white board, but the GM must be able to control the level of freedom the players get.
The white board need to support multiple sheets.


A nice GM feature is automatic table lookup based on rolls made by the players. So if a player rolls an attack with a given weapon, then the Gm easily can get the correct attack table with the total result marked out. It must be simple to apply modifiers to get the final total result on the table. Same thing with criticals.
For me, such features are great when they are automated, but it must provide freedom to use it the way you wish (like ignoring the automated highlighted total result, and simply scrolling to the part of the table relevant to you at that time).


The whole thing needs to be really intuitive. Not easy, but hey…

It need to fit as many features a possible in as few screens as possible. The less the players need to swap screens, the better.

That’s all for now.
-Terry

Offline markc

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Re: Character software from concept
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2011, 11:44:34 PM »
 I still think a central program hosted by the GM or possibly by ICE that can be interfaced with by lightweight clients. So the central program does all the work not the clients. A player wants to make a roll the client sends the request to the central program which generates the results and then sends the out put to the client. So the central program has a complete log of everything that it has done and no thin client can mess up the main program. (Hopefully  ;D )
  In the above case the GM would approve all actions taken by the player, ie a pop up screen would appear with the info the player wanted to write to the DB or the interaction they wanted and the GM would approve or disallow the action. This would work for everything from adding equipment, rolls, skill look up, etc. 

 The main program is a Data Base app that does everything the GM and players want it to do. The problem is always how to design the DB and allow for expansion as well as mods that the GM may want for their game world. I am not a data base guy but I know that dynamic data bases can cause a lot of problems for CPU's, hardware and software. 


 The advantage of a light weight client is that it has very little cost associated with it the big cost is in the DB app. This can keep all of the costs down for the group.


 There may be a better way to do it I do not know but I think the above is one of the best. Again the big problem is pirating of software and information. That is why a lot of companies have programs that log into their servers to work or to access the main program. In fact the above idea works for groups that have internet access but the problem is the cost of using the DB server. When hosted locally ie GM computer then that computer has to be robust enough to run the software (hardware, RAM, CPU, HD space, maybe even HD speed, # of connections) which can be a problem. Also if there is a hardware problem who is going to solve it? If there is only a thin client then there are very few hardware problems compared to a program that can be hosted on numerous different types of PC's and all of the things people do to them.


MDC
Bacon Law: A book so good all PC's need to be recreated.
Rule #0: A GM has the right to change any rule in a book to fit their game.
Role Play not Roll Play.
Use a System to tell the story do not let the system play you.