Trials, Triumphs and Trivialities Article
Series Info...Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities #114:

Fool Me Thrice

by Shannon Appelcline

April 1, 2003 - Humor is, I believe, a vital ingredient in life. It makes the brightest days sunnier and even lightens the gloom when things go badly. To a real extent it helps us all maintain our sanity. My wife has said, on more than one occasion, that I make her laugh every day, and there's little higher compliment that could be made.

Back when I started this column, two and a half years ago, I often ended my columns talking about some funny bug that we'd discovered or some weird thing someone had said. Since then, my columns have become more coherent and thematic, and the humorous asides started seeming out of place, and so I'm largely dropped them.

However, at the same time I've continued to save this day — April the First — to pass on some of the funny business that occurs at Skotos over the year. Before you get started on 2002-2003, if you want to be reminded of the humor of previous years, take a gander at Fool Me Once and Fool Me Twice.

And now, onward, with quotes, bugs, and other weirdnesses...

Bug: Silly Error Messages

> duel Mienty
You cannot attack Mienty; you have different combat systems!

Error messages are always a trial. How do you explain exactly what a player's doing wrong when clearly he doesn't know what he's doing? One of the worst error messages we ever had at Skotos was something like "Max frontal area too large" which was our half-assed way of trying to tell players that they couldn't enter a room because they were carrying something to large to fit through the door.

The Mienty message quoted above was funny for similar reasons; in each case we gave a precise technical description of a problem that players could not understand because they didn't have the context.

Fortunately, this was a message that players probably never saw, because it only appeared when we were testing out the revised Marrach combat systems. If players had seen it, doubtless Castle Marrach would have filled with people looking for that "other" combat system. Imagine the story possibilities. We could have invented new martial art masters, creating different schools of training and generally gone to town. Out of bugs come stories.

Quote: Sour Grapes

"So I can code grapes, but they'll go bad and rot before anyone needs them...."

Online game design joins together a number of different paradigms and the result can sometimes be disorienting, as was the case for our grape designer.

On the one hand, in order to stay ahead of the players, we have to code well in advance. But on the other hand we're trying to create a (somewhat) realistic virtual world that, among other things, results in food rotting when it's left out.

In reality there was an easy solution to this problem, because we can code items without actually creating them in-game, but our designer had a smart mouth, and the insight for how reality and virtuality sometimes clash is still amusing.

Bug: Raw PotatoEs

There is always a tension between reality and virtuality. In the quote I just offered up the tension resulted because the two dimensions had different needs. Another common tension lies within the question of how realistic we make our virtual world. On the one hand we want to make it as realistic as possible, but on the other hand everything takes code and there isn't unlimited time in the day.

Enter the great potato wars of 2002.

In a somewhat silly plot in Castle Marrach, potatos were attacking the denizens of the Castle. Eventually players learned a simple way to deal with the potato hordes: eating. They simply began to devour these rampaging sword-wielding armor-wearing potatos, and there was nothing the poor potatos could do.

You see, eating wasn't an action that required consent. I mean, it seemed redundant, because clearly edible objects weren't volitional.

But, the bug was even worse than that: the potato never knew he was being eaten until it was all over, because we'd never bothered to send messages ("Dolfin takes a bite out of you") to the object being eaten, again because clearly they weren't volitional.

So, our "realistic" reality failed a bit, mainly because we made assumptions about what things were and weren't possible in our virtual world.

In retrospective I can only say: hope you never get marked as edible.

Web: Funny Searches I

For a year or two now, Skotos has had enough content on the web that we have quite a few people coming to our site through search engines. The cool thing about this all is that we can figure out how people are finding our site because that our logs tell us what search terms people typed in to get to us.

Often they're things we expect. For example, I've very pleased that 63 people got to our site last week by typing in "Castle Marrach", because it means that our brand is becoming increasingly well known. Other times, the search terms are not stuff I'm expecting, but still nice to see. Another couple of people found Skotos last week with the phrase "trial online games". However many searches that land people on Skotos are just bizarre.

The following real search results show some of the games that we clearly should be making, but aren't:

text based sex roleplaying games
online games where you can build your own car
create your own computer games online hockey
interactive vr 3d women stripping games online
online christian multiplayer action/adventure rpgs
telling time games
the game of the dead werewolf
roleplay sex lesbian
biting rabbit game
zookeepers game

And if you think a lot of those are sex related, it's just the tip of the iceberg in search results...

Quote: Dead Librarians

Admin A: "Cool. a spoken signal and an all signal would be nice."
Admin A: "Then the librarian can shush people who talk."
Admin A: "And I can stop dead bodies from doing anything."
Admin B: "Normally, walking down the street, people seem less concerned about how to stop dead people from doing things."

Our well-known Admin B just reiterates the point that I think underlies much of the funniness that I see here at Skotos: we have to think in weird ways because we're doing modeling work that usually is taken care of by nature.

Signals, in Skotos, are emitted by actions that players take. They can be specific to a verb (ie, a "shout" signal) or general to a category of action (ie, a "spoken" signal). Admin A realized that if he could catch all signals, he could prevent someone from doing anything (also of use for paralysis, which we're considering for Lovecraft Country).

But, as Admin B pointed out, worrying about that sort of thing is potentially certifiable in the "real" world.

Web: Funny Searches II

When my time was a bit more free I used to read through the entire web search list every Monday morning and crack up constantly, often disturbing my officemates in the process. So, for this April 1st column I want to finish up with some more of those search results from 2002-2003.

A lot of them have to do with sex, which seems to be the main purpose of the Internet:

nudity secrets for gta: vice city
topless dresses
talking dirty words
nymphomaniac lesbians
everquest nude
lesbians wooing

(And I predict that particular list will make this specific article a huge sex-search-engine magnet.)

Other search results were scary, and it's probably for the best that I didn't save any of those in my April Fool's file.

Finally, some search results are just so bizarre that I don't know what to make of them. For example:

bowling balls for dummies
romeo and juliet fan fiction
king arthur was in fact gilgamesh
i love making my own cigarettes
pictures of people telling secrets
candy bar wrapper templates
magic spell to make someone call you
harry potter crossed over with star trek fanfiction
build your own mud truck
oh no! i forgot to have children
i pack a chainsaw
mythic character mickey mouse

I guess I should finish up my discussion of search results by saying that some were genuinely about us:

castle marrach secret passage

Though shame on you, whomever was lookup up this info OOC.


Here's hoping that no one was hurt and maimed during your own All Fool's Day Festivities this year & also that you found some humor in my collections of writings from the ~365 days past.

I'll be back here in 7, as usual.

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