Author Topic: The TOTPP  (Read 875 times)

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Offline Elok

The TOTPP
« on: January 15, 2019, 12:55:41 AM »
This is something I just incidentally became aware of, bringing it up here because I'm not sure where else: over at CivFanatics, a guy named TheNamelessOne has been methodically hacking the devil out of Civ2 Test of Time for the past five years or so.  He's now got it so that it's basically a whole different game, with drool-inducing features like a vastly more robust scripting language (with no file size limit) and greatly expanded unit, city, gold, tech, and other limits.
Just for example, there are videos on YouTube of a Conquest of Gaul scenario where units are given projectile attacks.  Just press a button with an acceptable unit selected, and a "slingstones" or "arrows" missile unit is created on the same tile, with the launcher charged movement points for the privilege.  The scripting is sophisticated enough that a ballista can only fire if it's on a prepared site.  In the same scenario, you can "hire" auxiliaries by moving a unit onto a barbarian village tile and pressing a key.  You lose a thousand gold and get a new soldier on the tile.  Bam.
Now, this is Civ2TOT, not SMAC, but the sheer versatility and power of this doohickey suggests that, if you want a SMAC-flavored scenario, you can probably have it, and if you can't now he might add the required functionality soon.  It's wild.  https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/the-test-of-time-patch-project.517282
If this has been brought up already and I'm just wretchedly late to the party, sorry, and BUncle, do move this if there's a more appropriate location.  It just struck me as the kind of thing I'd have gone nuts for back in the day when I had free time to fiddle with rules.txt and the like.  I have other projects now, but I do like to see the young people having fun.

Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2019, 02:16:49 AM »
Oh.  Yeah, I guess this works as a forum for it too.  Heh.  Sorry.

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2019, 02:52:38 AM »
[shrugs] We luvs us some CivII
-but, you know, it's an AC forum...

Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2019, 03:41:10 AM »
Have you looked at the bloody thing?  They've got guys simming weather with it!  Drifting cloud patterns!

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2019, 03:55:26 AM »
Sounds awsemose.

Offline bvanevery

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2019, 04:17:58 AM »
What people are willing to do to a binary, as opposed to writing a new game, never ceases to amaze me.

Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2019, 12:21:34 PM »
Well, there's an existing mod community for TOT, which has been totally reinvigorated by this guy's work when it was on the brink of extinction.
EDIT: I don't know how much experience you had with Civ2 Back In The Day, but it was modded six ways from Sunday and kept being modded for a long time after more advanced games came out.  Even though Civ4 had far more muscular modding options, the sheer size and tech level of the game made mods intimidating, if not technically near-impossible for one guy.  Even if you waded through all the options and got them hammered down, your project would likely die for want of a gifted 3D renderer: "Okay, so the Uruk-Hai are attacking Lorien--represented by a generic axeman and a generic medieval city respectively, use your imagination here--while the Witch King, that's this Great General with modded stats, watches and laughs ... "  Kinda pointless.  But even early Civ2 scenarios with laughably primitive custom graphics could be fun.  The story I'm planning to serialize right now is the vastly mutated result of a run-in with Mr Temba's Underdark scenario.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 01:32:55 PM by Elok »

Offline bvanevery

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2019, 04:11:40 PM »
I have played TOT to death.  It was my intro to Civ, because I wisely avoided learning how to play Civ back in college.  I knew I could not possibly afford the time a game like that would suck away.  I already had a history of big timewaster games in college and knew what the consequences of that were.

So yeah I think it's 1998, it's the height of the dot.com boom, I've just quit DEC to find my star as a game developer, and I pick up this TOT thing.  No job, so played an awful lot of TOT.  Think I threw roughly a year into that before noticing there was this SMAC thing.
 
I never looked for a community or content extension for TOT.  I never played it multiplayer.  I don't think I ever so much as talked about it in a public forum.  We had Usenet back then, which certainly sucked up lots of my online communication time.  I was Newsgroup Proponent of the comp.games.development.* newsgroup hierarchy, the guy that did 50% of the work of bringing that thing into existence.

I never talked about SMAC in a game player community either, until I found this site maybe 2 years ago.  Talk about being slow on the draw!  I wonder how many people with a strong single player orientation have been in my same shoes?

I really don't get why anyone would ever choose TOT over SMAC.  Ok, you say modding.  Easier to do 2D sprites.  Can't even mod some of SMAC's units, due to the proprietary format nobody knows how to edit.  People can mod Civ IV if they suffer the pain of 3D.  Don't know what modding Civ III is like, but I hated that game anyways.  I can see why people would choose IV over III.  Going back to Civ II, that's pretty retro.  The open source GPLed Freeciv has been around a long time, seems developmentally irrational to work on a Civ II binary instead.

Maybe it's just how some people have fun, seeing how much of an ASM badass they can be.  For me personally, being a badass isn't enough anymore.  I want to create a franchise, to be able to profit from my own work, to get a real audience, to have my work output be sustainable... the endgame of badass is the badass gets tired of dinking upon it, gets forced to move on.  And frankly, I've already been as much of a game design badass as anyone's gonna be with SMAC, just text modding, never touching a line of code.  At least I've crossed some kind of soft finish line, if this year my life changes and it's time to put it down.

The Dwarf Fortress guys, I don't really dig their work, but at least they have a business model for being a badass forever.  Why does someone with the ASM talent to mod Civ II, waste it on Civ II?  It's career stupid.  Maybe some people just don't know any better, or are decidedly un-talented in other areas of game production.  Not like I've demonstrated myself to be any good at the business end of things, so far.  But it is something I stalk, I think I will overcome it...


Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2019, 05:16:42 PM »
Maybe they like sustaining the creativity of a whole community; maybe they make enough money at their day jobs, and want the pleasure of creating something to help other people.  If you've never modded Civ2, you don't have a good feel for how it becomes an open-ended canvas.  And this makes that canvas vastly more open-ended.  I looked at FreeCiv once, but it didn't look like it was designed with modding in mind; it's designed to replicate the experience of vanilla Civ2.

Offline bvanevery

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2019, 07:16:11 PM »
Maybe they like sustaining the creativity of a whole community;

Is TOT a substantially larger community than this one?  If a community were much larger, and I was getting a lot of downloads, that would probably change my motivation level.  I guess I can answer that question by going over there and seeing what this fellow's view and download counts are.

I like people here, but with the tiny audience, I can only justify the amount of work I've done on SMACX AI Growth mod as a personal goal.  Something that helps me design my own 4X TBS game.  I think I didn't completely waste time doing it.  It's an open question whether 5 person months of full time production effort, stretched over 9 calendar months, would have been better used on a brand new project.  But this is the development arc that kept me interested, that I actually managed to do in the real world.

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maybe they make enough money at their day jobs,

and like their day jobs.  I don't, and thus, I don't have one.  Or else they don't like their day jobs, but they've got kids and financial responsibilities, so they do what little they can on the side.  I still wouldn't be doing ASM bravado in that case.  I'd go script something.  Heck I do less than even scripting for SMACX AI Growth mod and I've made it take 9 months.

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and want the pleasure of creating something to help other people.

It's a bit overrated for me at this point.  I've thrown away most of my so-called career on open source pursuits.  Tilting at the windmill of the better ideal programming universe.  Finding out what sustainability means in the real world.  All I end up with in the end, is if you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself.  The Linux crowd will never do it, as far as consumer software goes they can't punch their way out of a paper bag.  Meanwhile, I'd like to start getting paid for having honed my ability to do things right.  People can still be "helped" by paying for a game they play, a game that inspires them.  SMAC inspires me, it "helped" me that way.

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If you've never modded Civ2, you don't have a good feel for how it becomes an open-ended canvas.  And this makes that canvas vastly more open-ended.
 

I'm having my doubts that anyone can come up with mods for that, that aren't basically Civ II.  But I'll take a look just for sake of due diligence.

Quote
I looked at FreeCiv once, but it didn't look like it was designed with modding in mind; it's designed to replicate the experience of vanilla Civ2.

I've changed the world building parameters and the units around.  For instance, I made a seagoing Engineer unit that I called a Dredger.  Textual genericism, data drivenness, it's got that.  It's got vast numbers of nationalities available, and translations.  The real problem is, so what?  It's just Civ II.  You can skin it however you like, but you're still playing Civ II.  Game design wise it doesn't matter.

SMAC had enough complexity, and enough flaws in its tech tree layout, and faction balance, and social engineering choices, to be worth modding.  Civ II doesn't have any game design scope.

Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2019, 07:34:11 PM »
Okay, I'm not totally sure why you're arguing here.  People spent more than a decade feverishly modding Civ2 to make it about hobbits or ancient Romans or Nazis or Klingons or eldritch undead terrors beneath the earth.  Its very simplicity makes it easy to recast in most any setting you like, whereas SMAC has a hard time being anything but SMAC with different ideological factions.  If you don't like that, well, that's your business.  Nobody's forcing you to play the bloody thing.  But now this fellow has cracked it open--and I think the total man-hours involved were substantially lower than making a comparable game from scratch--and the existing community can do things it always wanted to, but lacked the means to execute.  As for his not making money off it, a lot of people have non-lucrative hobbies.  I've spent a lot of time arguing with strangers on the internet.  I could have spent a lot of that time more productively; I do regret much of the time lost.  But people get their rocks off in different ways.

Offline bvanevery

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2019, 08:25:57 PM »
I guess I can answer that question by going over there and seeing what this fellow's view and download counts are.

TOT patch has 992 Replies.  208,917 views since 2013.  50 webpages of responses.

SMACX AI Growth mod has 314 Replies.  10,597 views over 9 months.  21 webpages of responses.  From a live talking human being standpoint, I'm doing much better per unit time.  On a site that's had a lot of trouble with user traffic in recent times, that was much more robust 5 years ago.  From a total eyeballs standpoint, I have no idea where my work will be in 6 years.  Or where his work will be.

TOTPP.zip has 2,422 views.  I'm going to suppose that's equivalent to downloads.  That was just his 1st version, he's got different files for all the other versions.  He releases another version about 5 weeks later, that gets 498 views.  Then a lot of talking ensues.  1 month later he releases a 3rd version and gets 98 views.  I don't have the patience to go through the whole thread, but it looks like the downloads aren't a linear phenomenon.  Let's see what the end of development looks like.  Latest version has 615 views since April 1, 2018.

I began development mid-April, 2018.  If I add up all my downloads for all my versions, what do I get?  Weird... when I archived old versions that wouldn't fit at the top of my thread anymore, something still downloaded them.  No human being should have had a reason to, let alone say 38 human beings over time.  A site scraping bot?  Anyways I will go with real numbers as I recorded them in my posts.

Versions 1.0 through 1.9.  Consumes 3 web pages.
12 + 15 + 8 + 10 + 15 + 16 + 12 + 15 + 19 + 23 = 145

Versions 1.10 through 1.19.  Consumes 4 web pages.
17 + 18 + 12 + 15 + 17 + 27 + 21 + 21 + 21 + 24 = 166

Versions 1.20 through 1.24.  Consumes 7 web pages.
28 + 29 + 33 + 37 + 34 = 161

Versions 1.25 through 1.27.  Consumes 7 web pages.
This is when I started posting on /r/4Xgaming.
92 + 83 + 0 = 175

145 + 166 + 161 + 175 = 647 downloads

So my math says we have the same number of downloads now.  In other words, the TOT audience is the same size as the SMAC audience.  If I wait 6 years I might have my own "long tail" of 200k views.  Meanwhile I'll take 10k as "ok".

Now if he pimped TOT on /r/4Xgaming maybe his numbers would go up.  Personally I think SMAC ages much better for that crowd though.  People still recommend SMAC regularly on that forum.

Offline bvanevery

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Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2019, 08:38:23 PM »
People spent more than a decade feverishly modding Civ2 to make it about hobbits or ancient Romans or Nazis or Klingons or eldritch undead terrors beneath the earth.

Those faceplates did exist in Freeciv for awhile.  I think at some point they got rid of some of them.  I don't know if it was due to licensing, or squeamishness about a swastika, or not wanting to include fantasy / sci-fi stuff, or what.  I've lost track and lost interest.  But at some point in the past I definitely played as the Nazis, and I've done the Tolkien ones as well.  I'd be shocked to find out it's independently reinvented work, as opposed to the same stuff adapted for Freeciv.

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If you don't like that, well, that's your business.

As fun as it might be to play the Nazis or the Elves once or twice, these are only skins.  They have no game mechanical depth.  SMAC's got the depth, if not the skinnability.  In GNS Theory I lean towards Gamist.  And to the degree I might want something Narrativist, SMAC has got everyone stone cold beat, let alone Civ II Test of Time.  The only impulse left is Simulationist and neither of these games is suitable to simulating something terribly different from what they already are.

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But people get their rocks off in different ways.

My analysis of current community participation is it's a coin toss, one way or the other.  I don't know why others should prefer TOT and I don't have a reason to care.  I like having an audience for my work; I'm impressed when I see a much bigger audience, not the same-old-same-old.  I'll give that guy props that he's had the discipline to maintain "his baby" for 6 years though.

Actually I shouldn't be revisionist... I went through many years of playing Freeciv, not playing SMAC.  I think because SMAC's probe teams would piss me off, then I'd shelve it for a few more years.  Eventually though, Freeciv AI development never got any better.  Just got ultimately tired and fatigued of the same old game, even if it did take me quite awhile to get there.  That's when I started playing SMAC again and didn't look back.  It had better AI, "canned", no development for 20 years, than the Freeciv project ever managed.  Only subsequently did I discover this SMAC website.

Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2019, 08:43:38 PM »
Again: what are you arguing?  That the archaic video game you tinker with is superior to the archaic video game he tinkers with?  That those people are having fun in the wrong way?

Offline Elok

Re: The TOTPP
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2019, 08:58:46 PM »
I mean, SMAC is a great game with lots of fun features.  You just can't use it to simulate any environment where there is not an endlessly encroaching wall of zombie-spawning red mold, and where people don't fight with tanky-looking modular vehicles.  The beauty of CivII is that it's bound only by the restrictions of its primitive gameplay.  Which have now been loosened.  If that doesn't strike you as fun, hey, I never saw the point in Dungeons & Dragons, but I get that a lot of people enjoy rolling dice around and doing math to figure out if their sword hit the orc or not.  Different strokes.

 

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