Notes from a quiet desk


I've been wanting to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I've also been trying to be all responsible and productive, which makes it harder to justify long stretches of time writing each day. Or 'writing', as is more often the case. The plan I've settled on is to put some time toward studying each day, and if after taking care of that and any other urgent, important business there is still time, then I should write. No particular story in mind this year, once again I am aiming to work scattershot on a variety of small ones. My real goal is to get back into a regular writing habit.

The study is especially important, as I got a letter back unexpectedly quickly offering me a place in the course I applied to. Much of yesterday was used up accepting the offer and reading over documents I am required to read. So today will be putting in mandatory application for optional government loan on an already-subsidised course of study. I've been quite worried that I won't be sufficiently prepared this time round either, so I am making extra effort to reacquaint myself with physics and mathematics between now and then.

I aim to be more organised, capable and diligent than I was a decade ago, and actually get this done. Really, I am in a very fortunate position to have the opportunity.

In other news, I was bored at work last week and started taking down notes on scrap paper for some personal projects. One side was for a library classification system I'd like to develop:

Top-level categories - three? Roughly Knowledge, Action, and Creation. Knowledge, straightforwardly(?) about 'things' in the world, containing e.g. Computing, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Language, Mathematics, Sociology, Technology, History, Law, Chemistry, Politics, Biology, Physics.

'Creation' covers creative works + their criticism and interpretation, etc. Includes drama, music, poetry, prose fiction, essays, comedy.

'Action' covers activities which are primarily something done, such as play or entertainment, rather than descriptions or theories about the world or acts of imaginative creation, though subsets may include both or either. Includes sports, athletics, motor racing, performing arts, board games, computer games, role-playing games, card games, and other formal or informal competitions at which generally the only thing at stake is itself (or the contents of wagers).

Design principle: 'unboxed'. To avoid the DDC pitfall of cramming less (designer perspective) central material into the margins as new is discovered or deemed sufficiently important. Each level should in principle be open-ended, so that new sub/categories can be added and occupy the same amount of notational space as previous categories. May be best to use letters since those are not decimalised and can be wrapped around e.g. 'A', 'AA', 'AAA', etc. However with proper hierarchy markers numbers may not be a problem, and thus become desirable as less in need of translation.

Interdisciplinary work + 3 spatial dimensions precludes perfect cataloguing and shelving.

The other is part of a series of exercises in mapping for the game Doom. I'm not sure what the long-term benefit would be, since it is not as if I have grand future plans those are merely a skill-development prelude to, but it is something I would like to do. The first of those exercises is making replacements for each map in the original game, within vanilla (i.e. unmodified) limits and taking inspiration from the original map name and some other elements. That is, to practice by making my own take on the originally released game. So, I wrote down some notes for my level ideas, which have been rattling around for a few months now. I really ought to either succeed at getting an editor to work on Ubuntu or getting access to a Windows machine.

E1M1 (The Hangar): Former humans + imps only, no keys, no shotgun. Ideal design: two large, open, cratey rooms (the hangars), 'bridge' crosses a chasm and reverse direction through area overlooked by starting zone, proceeds straight to exit. Secret area: after bridge, lowered wall ambush leading to a 'shooting gallery' running parallel to the main path for several rooms - player should be able to ambush some monsters within the gallery and in the regular run. Possibly a further secret to a last stand room. Open + airy feel.

E1M2 (Nuclear Plant): Early encounter in one direction with locked doors, no key on map. Former humans, imps, demons, secret shotgun. Early, easy key (make it hard to miss). Rad-suit in small switch-opened compartment (can we do overlooking glass window from control room?). To access second half of map player must proceed through reactor area. Bounded by airlock (used timed door if possible to force it remaining closed a while after passing through), player must seal their entrance to open an access tunnel, and fight through that to the exit-airlock. Entire space between airlocks is radiation zone. Enclosed feeling, tight corridors. Map is relatively small, to be revisited later.

E1M3 (Toxin Refinery): Lots of perilous catwalks around toxic sludge, barrel areas, active machinery if possible. Teleporter ambushes in awkward environments to fight from.

As you can see, I don't have so many specifics in mind for E1M3 as yet. The major concept I have in mind is to feature damaging 'nukage' floors a lot more than the official level, where they show up only occasionally, and try to a) make the playing area more interesting and difficult with environmental hazards and b) make the map look a bit more like that stuff is actually processed there. Since this is the map with the exit to the secret level, I need to come up with a somewhat interesting puzzle to unlock that too. I like the idea, too, of introducing the first teleporter ambushes of the episode make what seemed a safe, easy path suddenly cramped and dangerous, with the player at risk of falling into the toxic liquid (not far) below if overzealous in evasion. This would also be the first level that outright gives the player a shotgun, as well as featuring shotgunners / sergeants as enemies.

A concept I would like to use in general is what I call 'last stand' areas, where most new weapons and notable supply caches are found in areas decorated to indicate your fellow space marines died with or wielding them. Or else are traps.

E1M9 (Military Base): Almost exclusively zombie / possessed enemies. I want to feature tight, oppressive spaces with lots of line triggers revealing enemies and being sniped at from cubby-holes. Possibly some more open corridors too. Given the previous map, player should probably enter from something like the sewer. Chaingun or multiple chainguns present only in secrets. At the end of the map, the player should be ambushed by a swarm of imps and demons, the only non-humans on the map.

Ideas for further on are vaguer. Since I think I am probably not so great skillwise, am planning to balance maps so that I find them hard on the middle difficulty and shape the other difficulties around that. Shall see if these ideas get anywhere.