[Announce] CircumReality - A multiplayer IF develoment toolkit

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Mike Rozak

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Mar 28, 2007, 6:41:56 PM3/28/07
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For several years now I have been mentioning the multiplayer-IF development
kit that I'm working on. (It can also be used to create graphical MUDs and
single-player IF.) I finally decided to make something public. I have loaded
a very small world onto my server. You can try it if you like. If you don't
have time now, don't worry, since I'll post another message in a few months
when I have around an hour's worth of content.

Just be aware: The current release has only a very-very small world of a few
rooms and NPCs. It'll take you all of five minutes to explore. I'll have
more content in a few months. However, if you wish to try CircumReality, you
might want to try the following:

- Listen to the text-to-speech; this is probably the first game you've
played a game that uses it.

- Type in the "change appearance" command, and experiment with different
looks for your character. My favourite feature is currently linked to at the
bottom of the "change appearance" page; it lets you visually select an
appearance from slight variations. This UI will be improved later.

- Type in the "change voice" command and try different voices. This UI will
be improved later.

- Try using voice chat and voice disguise (which can be turned on from the
main "CircumReality" menu). You'll need to have someone around to use voice
chat, especially if you want to see the amusing automatic lip sync of the
other person's voice.

- Buy a torch (and matches) from a NPC and wander around some of the dark
regions of the world. The photorealistic lighting is pretty.

- Try combat, since it's probably different than any combat you've tried in
a MMORPG/CRPG. The world is open PvP at the moment. Check out the caves, or
just wait for someone to show up and challenge them to a duel.

- Try the dual-monitor support if you have two monitors.

- Check out the scripting language and editor. See "How do I create my own
world?". If you have copious amounts of spare time you can even create your
own world.

For more information, see http://www.CircumReality.com

Thanks


Victor Gijsbers

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Mar 28, 2007, 7:42:03 PM3/28/07
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Dear Mike,

> For more information, see http://www.CircumReality.com

Is this game Windows-only?

Regards,
Victor

ChicagoDave

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Mar 28, 2007, 7:49:25 PM3/28/07
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On Mar 28, 5:41 pm, "Mike Rozak" <MikeRo...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> For several years now I have been mentioning the multiplayer-IF development

This seems more like a graphical UI adventure simulator than having
any connection to traditional IF. What is traditional IF? That's a
loaded question, but basically instead of seeing the setting, you have
to read about it. At least that's my take on what IF is. Of course
what you've done is certainly interactive and you can certainly create
a fictional environment, but you lose me with all the visual setting
stuff.

But to each their own. I just make this point because from my
experience, this particular community goes more for words than
pictures. This balance has shifted slightly to having IF contain
static artwork embedded into the games, much like a computerized
interactive comic book, but still, rendering visual scenes seems to go
far beyond that.

David C.

steve....@gmail.com

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Mar 28, 2007, 8:10:17 PM3/28/07
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Cornelson wrote:

> What is traditional IF?

Oh come on Dave. Piss off. Really: Piss. Off.

signw...@lem.signwriter.name

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Mar 28, 2007, 8:19:06 PM3/28/07
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On 29 Mar, 00:42, Victor Gijsbers <vic...@lilith.gotdns.org> wrote:
> Is this game Windows-only?

Poking around the thing's website, I see the answer's an emphatic yes:
XP or Vista only.

And the recommended spec includes a quad-core processor and two gigs
of RAM, although there's an additional note which generously allows
that if you bought your PC in the past year, it's *probably* fast
enough.

Oy.

ChicagoDave

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Mar 28, 2007, 8:28:36 PM3/28/07
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That's not my department. Mr. Bandit will take care of that for you
though.

David C.

signw...@lem.signwriter.name

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Mar 28, 2007, 8:36:33 PM3/28/07
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On 29 Mar, 01:10, steve.bres...@gmail.com wrote:
> Oh come on Dave. Piss off. Really: Piss. Off.

No, it might sound disingenous to you, but there's no reason to lower
the tone of the thread *this* early.

In our niche, "IF" may usually go hand in hand with parsers and world
models, but we'd have to be pretty damn parochial to ignore the fact
that other people consider their niches to fall under the same term -
hypertext theorists, MUDders, et al.

James Cunningham

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Mar 28, 2007, 9:04:25 PM3/28/07
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On 2007-03-28 20:36:33 -0400, signw...@lem.signwriter.name said:

> On 29 Mar, 01:10, steve.bres...@gmail.com wrote:
>> Oh come on Dave. Piss off. Really: Piss. Off.
>
> No, it might sound disingenous to you, but there's no reason to lower
> the tone of the thread *this* early.

No. *No.* We need someone so childish and eminently dislikable; it
makes frequent non-contributors like me look better.

Anyway. Alas! But CircumReality is Windows only; I cannot use it. I'd
like to, though.

Best,
James

Mike Rozak

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Mar 28, 2007, 9:25:09 PM3/28/07
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Chicago dave wrote:
> But to each their own. I just make this point because from my
> experience, this particular community goes more for words than
> pictures. This balance has shifted slightly to having IF contain
> static artwork embedded into the games, much like a computerized
> interactive comic book, but still, rendering visual scenes seems to go
> far beyond that.

I went about a step (or two) beyond what Inform/TADs do with static images
for rooms. You can also have text-to-speech describe the room. It is much
more verbal than adventure games. A lot of what IF would display as a text
string, like "You pick up the nasty knife" is actually spoken by a narrator
voice.

Yes, it's not what many people would call IF (in the sense that it's not
solely reliant on text, and it does include other sub-games than just
puzzles), and yes, that idea won't sit well with many people here.


Mike Rozak

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Mar 28, 2007, 9:26:19 PM3/28/07
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James Cunningham wrote:
> Anyway. Alas! But CircumReality is Windows only; I cannot use it. I'd like
> to, though.

Unforuntately, doing Linux and Mac versions is fairly low on the priority
list now. I'm only one person.


Mike Rozak

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Mar 28, 2007, 10:11:40 PM3/28/07
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signw...@lem.signwriter.name wrote:

> And the recommended spec includes a quad-core processor and two gigs
> of RAM, although there's an additional note which generously allows
> that if you bought your PC in the past year, it's *probably* fast
> enough.

I remember working on speech recognition at Microsoft and spending a lot of
time tyring to get speech recognition working on a 486sx with 16 meg of RAM.
Nowadays, my digital watch is probably faster. :-)

Yes, it's high requirements now. In a few years it won't seem so high, and I
don't see this thing being "done" for at least a year. And then there'll be
1.1, 1.2, 2.0 versions, etc. for many years to come.


ChicagoDave

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Mar 28, 2007, 11:19:25 PM3/28/07
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On Mar 28, 8:25 pm, "Mike Rozak" <MikeRo...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> Yes, it's not what many people would call IF (in the sense that it's not
> solely reliant on text, and it does include other sub-games than just
> puzzles), and yes, that idea won't sit well with many people here.

I think people will appreciate it. They might just not call it "IF".

David C.

Evenbit

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Mar 28, 2007, 11:48:54 PM3/28/07
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On Mar 28, 6:41 pm, "Mike Rozak" <MikeRo...@bigpond.com> wrote:
>
> - Listen to the text-to-speech; this is probably the first game you've
> played a game that uses it.

Nope! "text-to-speech" was standard on the Amiga and software like
TACL (The Adventure Construction Language) took advantage of this
feature. An example of such an IF game:
http://amiga.emucamp.com/severedheads.htm

Right-click through the introductory screens. You will need the "walk
through" --
https://www.flash.net/~rayearle/Sfiles/SvrdHeds.html


fel...@yahoo.com

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Mar 29, 2007, 12:50:41 AM3/29/07
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First of all, nice concept you have there, Mike.

But it's much closer to present-day MMORPGs than IF.
And you know why? Because I can play IF on my Palm,
but I can barely play CircumReality on my main
computer, which meets *just* the absolute minimum
requirements though it *was* bought in late 2006.
I'll let you know how it runs once I actually get around
to play it (real life's a bitch); right now I have doubts.

By the way, isn't it possible to create all kinds of
gameplay with any regular FPS or CRPG engine?
I mean, since I'd have to do 3D graphics anyway...

Cheers,
Felix

Mike Rozak

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Mar 29, 2007, 1:23:56 AM3/29/07
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fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> But it's much closer to present-day MMORPGs than IF.
> And you know why? Because I can play IF on my Palm,
> but I can barely play CircumReality on my main
> computer, which meets *just* the absolute minimum
> requirements though it *was* bought in late 2006.
> I'll let you know how it runs once I actually get around
> to play it (real life's a bitch); right now I have doubts.

It's interesting to see how people define different genres. I understand
your point about CPU requirements being high, but back in 1978(?) when Zork
was written, it required a mainframe (or mini?) computer, and wouldn't run
the desktop of the time (an 8K Altair). Was Zork any less Interactive
Fiction in 1978 when it required such a high-end machine?

Just to explain where the memory and CPU is going (not that it helps the
problem any):

- CPU goes into graphics. I'm not using a graphics accelerator because (a)
they're a real product-support nightmare due to incompatabilities, and I
don't think amateur authors wan't to get E-mails like "On my Random 3D card,
none of your characters have heads, and the sky is all orange, and then it
blue-screens." And (b) I'm using a better "lighting model" (shadows and
whatnot) than 3D graphics cards do today, which makes things even slower.

- A lot of memory goes into textures and models. Teams that produce 3D games
spend a LOT of time optimizing their polygon count and textures. They have a
lot of skill doing this too. I don't expect an amateur author to know about
backface culling, LOD models, how many pixels a texture should be, etc. This
convenience (for the author) costs memory (and CPU), much like scripting
language is easier for the author to code, but much slower than assembly.

I also don't expect authors to spend 100 man years producing textures, so
most (if not all) of the textures are procedurally generated. I can say
virtually the same thing about saving the author from producing too many
models. Since much of what makes a 3D game look good is oodles of 3D
textures and models (100's of man-years), I'm using the better lighting
model (mentioned above) too visually offset the lower-quality textures and
models in CircumReality. People still won't say it looks as good as a $40M
game, but if I used faster traditional game lighting models (and their
restricted polygon counts), CircumReality would look even worse.

- A lot of memory goes to TTS. I managed to get individual TTS voices down
to 8 meg and still have them be acceptable. Since I assume you'll encounter
a few characters, I install 8 different TTS voices = 64 meg (about). I can
build the same voices even smaller, but their quality is worse. I can (and
do) build the same voices larger, and their quality is better, but then the
voices are 50-100 meg each x 8. Of course, I don't need all that cached into
memory at once, but it's still a sizable footprint.

So, if you want lousy TTS voices (worse than the current ones), no textures,
very few polygons, and a poor lighting model, (and assuming I wrote a WinCE
version) I could run CircumReality on a handheld. My current guess (and you
can tell me if I'm wrong) is that the current graphics and TTS quality are
barely acceptable (but getting better).


> By the way, isn't it possible to create all kinds of
> gameplay with any regular FPS or CRPG engine?
> I mean, since I'd have to do 3D graphics anyway...

If you mod a FPS or CRPG, you'll spend most of your time creating models,
textures, and animations. So much of your time will be spent on that, story
will be an afterthought. You certainly won't be able to modify the
fundamental game (of killing lots of enemies).

In CircumReality, you'll (hopefully) spend closer to half your time on eye
candy. The rest will be spent on story and coding, just like Inform or TADs.
And just like Inform/TADs, the coding is VERY flexible. You could turn
CircumReality into a chess game if you wanted. You can't do that with a FPS
or CRPG.


PS - I hope I don't appear confrontational here. Your posts are helping me
identify (a) potential problems that I hadn't thought of, and for those
problems that I can't fix, (b) what potential customers think about those
problems. For the issues that I have thought about, I'm just trying to
explain why I did what I did, so I don't create the impression that I'm
ignoring your comments (which I'm not).


Mike Rozak

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Mar 29, 2007, 1:28:33 AM3/29/07
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Evenbit wrote:

> Nope! "text-to-speech" was standard on the Amiga and software like
> TACL (The Adventure Construction Language) took advantage of this
> feature. An example of such an IF game:
> http://amiga.emucamp.com/severedheads.htm

I never had an Amiga so I must have missed that one. Hopefully my
text-to-speech is better that TTS in 1991.

And I suppose, technically, blind players have been using TTS in IF/MUDs for
decades.

And then there was TI's speak-n-spell circa 1982.


fel...@yahoo.com

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Mar 29, 2007, 3:04:23 AM3/29/07
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On Mar 29, 8:23 am, "Mike Rozak" <MikeRo...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> PS - I hope I don't appear confrontational here. (...) I'm just trying to

> explain why I did what I did, so I don't create the impression that I'm
> ignoring your comments (which I'm not).

Not at all. Your explanations are very interesting. You've obviously
given a lot of thought to these issues, and your parallel with Zork
is right on target. CircumReality is obviously a platform for the
future
(next-gen IF?) while I was thinking more about the present. Which
brings me to another issue: it's obvious that by next year your
hardware requirements will not be an problem anymore. What
about the creative requirements? 50% graphical work is still a lot,
even with declarative/procedural techniques, as any POV-Ray user
can attest. Aren't many people drawn to IF precisely because they
don't need to draw one pixel? I don't think they're likely to change.
Are you aiming for a younger crowd then, the "3D Max generation"?
(Yes there is such a thing. It's a common teenager hobby.) It's not
like IF doesn't need a change. It does, badly so. But CircumReality
seems just a bit radical. I'm not sure what to think about that.

Regards,
Felix

P.S. What's with the taboo against being confrontational? I thought
*some* aggressiveness is an essential quality of living beings?

OKB (not okblacke)

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Mar 29, 2007, 3:15:40 AM3/29/07
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Mike Rozak wrote:

> Yes, it's high requirements now. In a few years it won't seem so
> high, and I don't see this thing being "done" for at least a year.
> And then there'll be 1.1, 1.2, 2.0 versions, etc. for many years to
> come.

In a few years it will still seem pretty high to me. The last time
I upgraded my system RAM or CPU was three years ago. I might buy some
new RAM. I have no plans to upgrade my system. Requiring 2 gigs of ram
and a quad-core processor just seems over the top to me, especially
given that you're apparently mostly using that fast CPU to render
graphics, and most people expect that their graphics card will help with
that, which isn't true with your game.

The idea is interesting but from my perspective the system
requirements are prohibitively high.

--
--OKB (not okblacke)
Brendan Barnwell
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is
no path, and leave a trail."
--author unknown

Mike Rozak

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Mar 29, 2007, 4:40:47 AM3/29/07
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> is right on target. CircumReality is obviously a platform for the
> future

I wouldn't say that. Inform and TADs have some pretty impressive stuff about
them. I happen to be interested in graphics and speech, so I put more
emphasis on that.

> Which
> brings me to another issue: it's obvious that by next year your
> hardware requirements will not be an problem anymore.

The lifespan of a PC is 3-5 years, so it'll be a problem for awhile, but
people's eyes won't pop out of their heads at the quad-core recommendation
12-18 months from now. :-)


> What
> about the creative requirements? 50% graphical work is still a lot,
> even with declarative/procedural techniques, as any POV-Ray user
> can attest. Aren't many people drawn to IF precisely because they
> don't need to draw one pixel? I don't think they're likely to change.

I don't think they'll be attracted to CircumReality.

Here's a claim that I'll throw out. (I threw it out on a MUD website and had
several people strongly disagree.) Taking a text game and adding good
(professional) graphics and animation (and sound) increases the market by a
factor of 100x -1000x. For my example, I pointed out World of Warcraft,
which is the #1 MMORPG right now, with 8 million users. The #1 text MUD
(aka: a text-based MMORPG) has 40K-80K users.

You aren't going to get professional-quality graphics with CircumReality,
but if adding eye candy increases the number of players by a factor of 10
for 2x (maybe 4x) the work, is it worth it? (Of course, I don't know if that
will happen. Adding graphics might result in a reduced market. There are no
guarantees that there's a local minima between all-text and
lots-of-eye-candy.)

> Are you aiming for a younger crowd then, the "3D Max generation"?
> (Yes there is such a thing. It's a common teenager hobby.)

3DMax is a professional (and difficult) package to use. You can create
graphics more easily with programs like SketchUp; you can't create a
professional movie/game with it, but for amateur work it's fine. The
modeller I wrote is a lot more like SketchUp in difficulty. (You can
download it from my web site too.)

And if you still don't want to model, you can always team up with someone
who does. Around 6 months ago I saw a post about a graphical version of
Vespers where a group had teamed up. I haven't heard how that's going.
Working in a group brings its own challenges.

> But CircumReality
> seems just a bit radical. I'm not sure what to think about that.

CircumReality is just plain wierd. I tried to avoid evolution and to produce
something revolutionary. Revolution is risky and prone to failure. It also
tends to create creatures like Platypuses. :-) But once in awhile revolution
actually works. The Sims, for example, was revolution.


Mike Rozak

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Mar 29, 2007, 4:58:38 AM3/29/07
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> In a few years it will still seem pretty high to me. The last time
> I upgraded my system RAM or CPU was three years ago. I might buy some
> new RAM. I have no plans to upgrade my system. Requiring 2 gigs of ram
> and a quad-core processor just seems over the top to me, especially
> given that you're apparently mostly using that fast CPU to render
> graphics, and most people expect that their graphics card will help with
> that, which isn't true with your game.

It does run on a 512MB 2.5 ghz computer, but it tends to be slow.

The requirement are high. I am trying to optimize them down, but that'll
only go so far. The author can optimizie them down too. If the author
reduces the complexities of the scenes (like putting fewer trees in - heaps
of semi-transparent polygons) then it runs faster.

For example: On my dual-core computer, a 360-surround outdoor scene takes 20
seconds to render, mostly because of all the shrubbery and the mountains in
the distance. (Once drawn, the scene is cached. And, the 90-degree
field-of-view that the player is looking at is drawn first, causing
something to be on the screen in about 4 seconds.) A 360-scene in a cave
takes around 10 seconds. Outdoor scenes are also more costly since most
authors will want a daytime and nighttime version, as well as morning and
evening. (By the way, a lower-quality render can be done in half the time,
and a higher-quality one in twice the time.)

One of my theories is that sometime around 8 or 16 cores, Intel or Microsoft
will write a software-based renderer for games that uses 75% of the cores to
produce real-time 3D. This will intially be adopted in low-end computers
because the 3D accelerator (and much of its associated video memory) can
either be entirely removed or signfiicanly cost-reduced.

The reason I think this is because it's happened before, such as when I was
working on speech recognition. One year you needed a DSP to do speech
recognition. Two years later it was all done on the CPU. The same happened
with music synthesis chips. One year you needed them, and two years later
synthesis was done on the CPU.

Furthermore, the next step-up in 3D quality is ray tracing. Graphics
co-processors lose their edge with ray tracing, and it's just as efficient
to use a CPU. (I can explain in excruciating detail if anyone wants.)


Adam Thornton

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Mar 29, 2007, 4:59:52 PM3/29/07
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In article <1175128116.8...@p15g2000hsd.googlegroups.com>,

He can take care of the last several sentences. The first one is more
the specialty of Mr. Makane.

Adam

P.S. *THIS* is going to be my legacy? Bodily Fluids and the IF
Community? Oy.

Rubes

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Mar 30, 2007, 2:20:39 PM3/30/07
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On Mar 29, 2:40 am, "Mike Rozak" <MikeRo...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> And if you still don't want to model, you can always team up with someone
> who does. Around 6 months ago I saw a post about a graphical version of
> Vespers where a group had teamed up. I haven't heard how that's going.

Still going...drop me an e-mail if you're interested and I'll let you
know.

Mike Rozak

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Mar 30, 2007, 5:40:04 PM3/30/07
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Victor Gijsbers wrote:
> Is this game Windows-only?

I just got E-mail from someone who tried it with wine. Apparantly, it was
working but crashing from time to time. I just added a bug to Wine's
database, although I doubt that CircumReality will be a high priority for
them.


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