Gravelords and Passive Multiplayer in Dark Souls 2: Meaningless Just-For-Fun Thought Experiments

Hopefully this is the last bit of my current Dark Souls posting madness. Anyways I was having a conversation with someone over how multiplayer currently works and was talking about the things they’d probably want to do in Dark Souls 2. The return of dedicated servers probably represents an increased capacity for inter-game communication. The ‘lobby’ system build upon XBL/PSN/GFWLs intrinsic room systems is cute, but I have a feeling it really restricts how much they can do.

Passive Multiplayer

They’ve probably been thinking about this since Demon’s Souls. The idea of slipping into someone else’s world unknowingly is deeply in the spirit of Dark Souls. Imagine while exploring an area, you encounter a “grey” phantom. In fact, both of you look grey to each other. You can harm each other, share souls for enemies that were slain and can share the victory of boss battles. This is similar to when a red and blue phantom meet in Dark Souls… Do they gang up on the host, or do they fight each other? The tension is wonderful.

Now, even if they could have done it in Demon’s Souls though, they probably wouldn’t have. The maps in that game would not lend themselves well to it. You’d slip into another players world and everything in front of you would be dead. Dark Soul’s more open maps make this more of a possibility, but the game is already doing too much when it comes to juggling connections.

Dark Souls 2, with an open world map and dedicated server could make this happen. It’ll likely also change how the world is formulated if they do it. Approaching areas from different directions is key to making this sort of interaction interesting and jarring. An idea that sticks with me is the idea of an important bridge or road that connect parts of the world, where, even in the absence of a boss, such connections could be made. Where when crossing the road, you might for a moment pass other player traveling in the opposite direction, who might continue on his way, attack you, or who knows what else. Such transient interactions deeply interest me, as does the tension surrounding them.

Another small idea is simply using an item (maybe just the white soap stone) to ‘ally’ with the host (for practicalities sake if you decide to help each other) but also having the ability to break this alliance on a whim (say, using a red eyed orb).

Grave Lords

I’ve written about this before. Conceptually, Grave Lords are awesome. I gave the idea earlier in the year of ‘placing’ grave lord signs as a source of enemies. While this would be more fun than the current setup, the result would just be attempts to redundantly clog important areas with piles of BPs. So I came up with what I thought would be a decent implementation for DS2. What they do, if the continue the Gravelord concept at all, will likely be much better, but this was a rather complete implementation, so I decided to share it.

On the Gravelord sign, I would put 3 markers, one for each world. You see them ‘fill in’ as you successfully corrupt worlds. When a player you corrupted dies, one of the markers turns red. This means there is a bloodstain in the area, much like the ones invaders leave. You explore the level to try to see where the player died to collect some souls/collectibles/whatever. You can also watch a more in depth death replay than normal (just show the enemy silhouettes too, basically). Now you have tactile feedback and you’re doing more than standing around waiting for PVP.

Now, to make this more interesting, you can also have it so BPs spawn in the gravelords world too. Perhaps his local ones get weaker as he infects more worlds or something. Now, anyone who invades him will also be attacked by these phantoms, as will the host. So the gravelord has to be able to carefully navigate his world to collect his winnings. Aural decoy, alluring skulls, some new spells that are covenant specific? He can use this BPs to his advantage when invaded, but that can also turn on him and get him killed. The Gravelord will probably want to clear out some enemies to make his life more manageable, but if he empties the level, or the level around him, he can’t make use of the advantages of his BPs. You can try to balance this in other ways too. I don’t know what the mechanic would be for handling this, but I like the idea that the strength of the BPs are based on the Gravelord sacrificing strength (if only for that life). So the more powerful the BPs in the world, the weaker the gravelord is… but the weaker the gravelord is, the harder it is for him to reap the blood stains of his victims and the more dependent he becomes of the enemies in his stage to do the fighting for him.

So yeah, just wanted to throw those two thoughts out there. I feel the neutral phantom thing is something that FROM has to be considering (whether they actually do it is another thing entirely), but the Gravelord thing is just my own little thought experiment. I should probably get to working on Brave Earth more, rather than wanking it to Dark Souls. :P

Dark Souls Map Explorer

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I’d like to introduce the Dark Souls Map Explorer. The Dark Souls Map Explorer is a simple tool made by me, in Unity, using Vlad001’s data files. The Dark Souls Map Explorer does not replace the Dark Souls Map Viewer, but instead, focuses on an aspect Dark Souls Map Viewer was poor at: In close camera control.

DSME allows you to explore the Dark Souls collision data Map both in first person FPS style controls. Made in Unity, It also allows you to switch to a no-clipping free flight camera. This allows for a closer and more personal interaction with the map data. It is not as good as the DKSMV or the .obj data when it comes to more precise analysis, like taking technical pictures of the world, as I’ve done with my analysis of Oolacile and Darkroot Garden. Unity’s FPS style POV and other factors would probably produce far more distortion, with far less clarity. DKSMV is also amazingly lightweight.

DSME’s data is also slightly flawed in some places. Unity, to allow such big data pieces to even be loaded, had to cut up some of the stages in ways that occasionally leave unsightly and inaccurate seams in parts of the world.


Controls
WASD+Mouse: Move and look around
Space: Jump
Shift: Quick Move (only in Free Flight mode)
Q and E: Move up and down (only in Free Flight Mode)
R: Cycle between FPS and Free Flight Mode
F: Toggle Oolacile and Darkroot Garden

As a note, ‘detached’ words have been adjusted from their in game position. Oolacile is placed exactly over Darkroot Garden for the purposes of comparison and is invisible by default. The Kiln was moved slightly to not clip with parts of Oolacile. The Painted World and Undead Asylum have also been moved slightly, to make them easier to find. Besides this and the necessary ‘slices’ in the map to work around object size limits, no intentional changes to the world geometry have been made. If you find any, please report them.

If the unity logo fades and you’re stuck on a black screen… just keep waiting. On some computers it can sometimes take minutes to properly launch (another point toward DKSMV).

Download PC Version
Download Mac Version (Might only work in Mountain Lion? Anyone with Lion or lower, please test this out and comment)

I have also decided to release the source code. You can do whatever you want with this, but I encourage you to get in contact with me if you make any significant improvements to the program. A lot of simple features could probably be added relatively quickly by people with more experience than me. If that happens, i’d like to host whatever the best version is.

Download Unity 4 Source Code

edit: Due to crazy amounts of spam for this link and the lack of any real discussion at this point, comments have been disabled. Feel free to email me with any questions instead

Dark Souls Map Viewer

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The Dark Souls Map Viewer is one of those wonderful things that most people in the Dark Souls community don’t know about. Part of this is because there is no obvious public place talking about it, and because the update made by a 3rd party which added the DLC content was on a website that was infested with spyware.

Dark Souls Map Viewer is a program made by vlad001 on the xentax forums, who released the program open sourced. Ispohr on the Dark Souls Reddit re-released the map viewer, with the DLC content and a online map analytics too, but for whatever reason his website is now down (likely got hacked). Because of this, the Oolacile data file was kinda ‘lost’. A nice person over on Reddit posted it and I decided to package it up and host it. Now it’ll have a place to exist other than random rapidshare links. This is Vlad001’s with the map files from Ispohr’s release. Vlad001 has also been kind enough to endorse this mirror.

If you wanna get some idea what the Dark Souls Map Viewer is like, check out this video.

To Download the Dark Souls Map Viewer, Click Here

Thansk to Vlad, I was able to convert the DKSMV files into .obj files. The maps themselves are not the -actual- maps of Dark Souls but instead the collision maps. The game’s collision maps are surprisingly complete, even when it comes to objects you should never be able to reach, but keep this in mind if something seems missing.

I plan to use these to make a more ‘first person’ map viewer (Likely to be called Dark Souls Map Explorer). It likely won’t replace the viewer, as it is very effecient at what it does, but the Map Explorer will hopefully excel where DKSMV fails: In close and in doors. But feel free to use these in your own projects, but keep in mind that we’re technically playing with other peoples property.

To Download Dark Souls Collision Map Data, Click Here

Keep in mind that the data here is technically the property of Namco-Bandai and FROM. I think we can claim fair use on this tiny subset of data. Sharing it only benefits the community and, by extension Namco and FROM and the value of their products. but be respectful and know these resources many have to be removed at any time. I doubt that will happen (IWBTG still exists, after all), but it can.

Twitter’s 140 Character Limit Objectively Sucks

There was a time where I hated the concept of twitter. It made absolutely no sense to me. Why would ANYONE use such a service? Hell, I wouldn’t even use facebook for a long time. Now I’m on everything and I’m a social networking junky. Twitter is by far my FAVORITE place. It allows me to interact with fans and talk to people in a way that is less personal than instant messaging. If you want to interact with me regularly, Twitter is the place to do it.

… but I have this bitter-sweet relationship with Twitter because I really really hate the 140 character limit. I like twitter because (unlike say, Twitter) it is public and has a very public culture. Facebook lets you subscribe to feeds, but the culture isn’t the same as Twitter. I also like that you can’t use twitter for blogging. That would be a service like Livejournal. But 140 characters is just a bad number, no matter what a plethora of change fearing articles on the subject might say. The argument is over and app.net is the silver bullet. Let’s look at app.net’s Global Timeline. App.net has a character limit of 256. Are the results poison to the very idea of twitter? What percentage of posts do you see that even exceed 140 characters? The truth is simple — people aren’t going to start spamming twitter with bigger posts. Most people don’t have that much to say. What 256 characters mean is when they say it, they can say it well.

Critics will say “140 characters means you have to be succinct and get to the point”. Those people are lazy anti-intellectuals (well no, they’re probably all nice guys and gals, but they’re being those things on accident). How many discussions happen on twitter where someone tries to fit a complex idea on twitter and then has to spend 3 tweets explaining what they meant and correcting a whole bunch of people sending angry @ replies? Twitter is about communication (well, according to Twitter it’s self, it’s about BRANDS and FAMOUS PEOPLE but whatever, this doesn’t affect those things anyways). If the limit you have on communication is crummy, you communicate crummy, crude or simple ideas. Junk food thoughts, stripped of elegance or nuance. This stuff isn’t art — it’s probably bad for you. So in practice, the 256 character limit on app.net only comes up when it needs to.

But let’s forget app.net. It costs money to use, so it’s largely irrelevant for people like me. Even if I was willing to fork over money, not enough people will be willing to use the service to make it worthwhile to me.

What I want to say that I believe 140 characters is an objectively bad number. First, let us ask — why is Twitter 140 characters? Most people know the answer to this one. 160 characters is the SMS. Twitter reserves 20 characters for user names. Now, at this point, SMS use of twitter is probably low — low enough that they could simply cut off tweets that exceed the limit if need be and only a few users would be effected, so lets cut the SMS support out of this. At this point, 140 characters is cultural. I noticed an amazing thing over time. I rarely notice the SMS character limit, but hit it all the time on twitter. Usually with less than 20 characters. I’ve theorized for a long time that 160 characters were chosen to comfortably accommodate 3 sentences. Turns out that wasn’t a crazy guess.

Alone in a room in his home in Bonn, Germany, Friedhelm Hillebrand sat at his typewriter, tapping out random sentences and questions on a sheet of paper.

As he went along, Hillebrand counted the number of letters, numbers, punctuation marks and spaces on the page. Each blurb ran on for a line or two and nearly always clocked in under 160 characters.

That became Hillebrand’s magic number — and set the standard for one of today’s most popular forms of digital communication: text messaging.

“This is perfectly sufficient,” he recalled thinking during that epiphany of 1985, when he was 45 years old. “Perfectly sufficient.”

Hillebrand picked a number that would not stifle conversation. By reducing the limit makes 3 comfortable lines of text become a battle of compromise. Sure, you might say, do 2 tweets. But you usually want each tweet to be its own thought. Since each tweet should be its own package, you actually WASTE words trying to make something two tweets when it would be much better suited for one. Twitter does not support brevity, it encourages awkward waste and it’s hard not to notice this when you start getting into in-depth @ replies (which are usually far more sloppy than what most people post in their main stream). It’s hard to argue that 140 has any magical properties 160, 200 or 256 characters don’t have and by following Hillebrand’s reasoning, it’s easy to see why 140 characters can be so oppressive to those of us who try to have conversations on twitter. 140 characters is a bad limit that exists only due to former technological limitations. We’re past that now and it’s time to move on. It’s not going to become a blogging service. It’ll just become easier to say certain things we occasional want to say.

The limit might never change and if a better competitor never comes, I’ll just have to deal with it. But when I read people defend the 140 character limit, my head spins.