Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

New Cyber City 404 pub game, monsters, Red Titans, bugfixes
Staff2021-02-17 20:52:47 [Permalink]
Hey folks! For too long the pub in Cyber City 404 has gone without a neat retro-style Requisition gambling game, because Robots are far too logical of a species to be interested in games of chance.

I started working on a game for the upcoming Pleasantville pub (which I was calling into existence because I want there to be a good place to listen to a hairy old bloke cough about mythological monsters (which is happening because I finally got my new monster editor working well enough to implement more unusual beasts, more on that later (which is possible because of the Arbitrary Roleplaying Stats Engine and Project TimesTen of late 2020))) and while I was halfway through making it and thinking about sources of randomness, it gave me an idea for a game suited for the Cyber City 404 pub (this is more or less how every update to Improbable Island plays out).

So, let me introduce you to PseudoRandom Amusement Trap, available in the Glass and Mirror at Cyber City 404. It's a pretty simple game but it offers some neat dialogue and has an unusual source of randomness.

You know, even old mechanical one-armed bandits are pretty bad at being properly random! Way back before computers were a thing, slot machines were all mechanical clockwork affairs, that's why they had that big handle on the side, pulling that was equivalent to winding them up. At the bottom of the handle's travel, a big spring would propel an arm towards the three drums with symbols on and kick them into motion, and then three smaller arms would slowly move down and stop the drums spinning. Now this mechanism is very different from, say, spinning a wheel of fortune style thing, because everyone's going to spin the wheel a little faster or slower, but in a one-armed bandit the kicker arm always hit the drums with the same amount of force no matter how you pulled the handle. If you had the key you could actually force a jackpot if you knew where the drums would land versus how they started, and manually set them to that starting position.

So how's a one-armed bandit random, then? If the way you pull the handle doesn't change the outcome, where's the source of entropy? Well, there's a wheel inside the machine that governs the speed at which the stop arms descend. It's connected to the stop arms with such a gear ratio that it spins really fast with very little torque, and it's got big paddles on it so that air resistance will fight it. If you stick a finger against it while it's running really fast the whole machine stops and it doesn't even hurt your finger - it's a very light wheel with a ton of speed and hardly any power. All the massive springs inside the machine are fighting against this little wheel, and after everything's over and the player's walked away, it takes it a while to slow down and come to a complete stop.

If you ever get the chance to play a proper old pre-computer mechanical one-armed bandit, you'll notice that on your first coin, the drums take a long time to stop spinning, but if you play again straight away, the drums will spin at the same speed but stop much sooner. When you pulled the handle the second time, the wheel was still spinning, the springs didn't have to fight against it as much. The faster you get your money out of your pocket and get it into the slot, the sooner the reels stop. So the source of randomness isn't inside the machine at all - it's you. You and hundreds of other players are providing the randomness that the game is based on.

I find this idea fascinating. I figured that the Robots would want to extend this to its so-logical-it's-illogical conclusion, and so there's absolutely nothing random about the new game in Cyber City 404 at all. Every tenth play wins, that's it. Still, do go see it, the fun part's in the dialogue.

In other news, I've spent some time extending our email confirmation requirement to other player-to-player interaction spaces such as the Gifting Station, the sending of Rookday cake, and player bios. I've fixed a bug in the combat healthbars module that caused Nightmare Court to lock up, moved Titan-related messages so that they're above map Places, fixed World Community Grid integration again, and added new Red Titans to the game, which move faster, hit harder, and are squishier than regular or Green Titans.

I also got my new Monster Editor working well enough to use, so I varied the hitpoints, attack and defence values of most of the game's monsters, and introduced lots of new monsters from the Monster Submission Hut. And fixed a couple Javascript bugs.

Busy week!

Stay tuned for yet more monsters and interesting shit,

~CMJ
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