Get the Fuck Up!: How RNG Creates Compelling Human Drama

So I plan to have skillset building in my game, and one of the skills I intend to steal borrow from PAYDAY is Inspire. But not as it is today. No, I want Inspire the way it used to be.

Aced Inspire in its original form allowed for a 75% chance an incapped teammate would immediately get back up if you yelled at them. I forget what update, but it was later changed to its present terms, where you can yell at a teammate and, provided you are not currently in the 20 second cooldown that disables the skill after use, they will always get up.

I hypothesize that part of the reason for this change, aside from 75% being pretty good odds for a skill this powerful, is that Overkill tends to simplify any advice or criticism they get and their use of the Random Number Generator is a subject upon which they receive a lot (and rightly so). So removing the RNG element from an apparently overpowered skill seemed like a good idea.

Here is why it’s not.

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Blueprints: Preferred Character Selection

So I spent all of yesterday putting preferred character selection together and I’m real proud of it ’cause I had to come up with all this logic myself so let me show you it.

If you follow the official Unreal Multiplayer tutorial, you end up with situation where you spawn into the lobby as an invisible base character. This character has all the functionality of the playable characters. In fact, all those characters are child blueprints of this character, but obviously they have visible models. Anyway, you spawn in as this invisible character, but your Ready button is disabled until you switch to an actual character through the character menu.

Now, I like being able to switch characters in the lobby and I’m leaving that functionality in. I think even with preferred selection, sometimes even established crews would use it to try out new characters. Moreover, sometimes when you’re playing with randoms, it’s nice to just be able to negotiate for characters. Plus, it minimizes having to wait for Certain People leaving and rejoining to get the character they want if their three preferred ones are taken.

Nonetheless, I think people generally do prefer to just spawn in as the character they want instead of having to fight for it so preferred characters was a feature I wanted.

I made it happen and here’s how you can too.

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Transitional Period

“It’ll take us about three days,” Cleo said into the hotel room phone. Her shoulder pinned the headset to her ear as she organized her things in her suitcase. “Eleven o’clock on Saturday? Yeah. We’ll be there.”

Still listening to the voice on the phone, she leaned to dodge Dixie, who was darting around the room, tossing her things into her own suitcase. Cleo put her hand over the receiver and said, “Unload that gun if you’re just going to toss your shit in there with it.” Dixie stopped in her tracks and returned to her case. She dug the her revolver out from under her clothes, popped the cylinder, let the bullets fall into her suitcase, and then dropped the gun back on top of the pile. Satisfied, Cleo returned her full attention to the phone.

“Great! Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing you again too,” she said. “Thank you again… Goodbye.” She hung up the phone. “All right, she’s invited us to her house in New York for brunch to talk crew setups. We could be there in two days, but I asked for three so we wouldn’t have to rush,” she explained in a raised voice so Dixie, who was in the bathroom, could hear her.

Dixie came back with a zipper lock bag of her toiletries in one hand and her makeup bag in the other. She tossed both on top of the pile in her suitcase and began smoothing and smooshing the mountain of personal effects down so the lid would shut.

“Seems weird to invite us to her actual house,” Dixie commented as she struggled with her suitcase.

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Weapons!: Part 2

Actually, though, now that I think about it, I am missing one weapon behavior prototype: the flamethrower. From what I’ve seen of the TF2 Pyro’s flamethrower mechanics, you attach hitboxes to the particle emitters. This behavior could be used for things like mace or that deadly tear gas that PAYDAY 2 likes to throw in your hostage coral sometimes.

Anyway, the thing about the flamethrower is, I wasn’t originally planning to include one. One thing that I don’t like about weapons in PAYDAY 2 is how outlandish they’ve become. Like, honestly? Who’se going to take a fkn flamethrower to a bank robbery? You might burn all the money. Or half the melee weapons. A microphone as a melee weapon? I mean, that’s funny, sure, but it’s permanent, you know?

And for while, I thought this also extended to the grenade and rocket launcher as well. But I’ve decided that I would rather let you have those weapons than not.

First of all, these weapons are incredibly situational. Which means that investing in them, especially at the very first and over more practical weapons, means that a player would have to live with that decision until they either give up and sell the weapon at a loss and buy something cheaper or until they make enough money to buy something else while keeping their silly-ass choice.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, Logan and I were developing a Left 4 Dead 2 survival map. The premise of this map was that the survivors’ helicopter would crash land on the roof of an honest-to-god discotheque (that was heavily based on the Roman Disco level in The Warriors) where there had been a Masque of the Red Death-type disco party with a Masque of the Red Death conclusion. You were supposed to drop down into the building, but the doors were welded shut to keep out the sick so you would then be unable to get back out. So you’d turn on the disco music, which would be meant to attract other survivors to rescue you but would only attract zombies. Then you’d fight until you died, as survival maps go. We’d use copyrighted disco songs because haha, and the waves would last as long as the songs. We also planned to only spawn Walking Witches, Spitters, and female Boomers during “Ladies Night”. The title of the map would “The Last Dance” like the Donna Summer song. Yeah, it was all very copyright infringe-y but it was for our own personal enjoyment, not public consumption. Anyway, we had this shit planned out, but there were problems making the nav meshes work correctly for the bots. Hammer is a fickle beast.

Logan was in charge of putting this map together, which he did. And he came to me in the process of this and asked me, “Hey, do you want me to put up an invisible wall so the players don’t fall or jump off the roof?”

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Weapons!: Part 1

So let’s talk about weapons. I’m about to start coding up my basic weapon classes, so I thought you might like to know a little about what makes them all different. I mean, that probably seems obvious, but I’d never really thought about it before now so why not.

Here’s how the setup works: I have two “base” weapon blueprints; one for the third person weapons and one for first. Both of these blueprints are simple. They have no meshes (physical bodies), and only a few variables that all weapons will need in order for the inventory system to use them. These blueprints also control the base visibility options, since I need third-person weapons to always be visible to other players, but to disappear for the player when they are in first-person mode. Similarly, I need the first-person weapons to be hidden from everyone else, including the player, unless they are in first-person mode.

From there, I have seven weapons: pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, and knife. All other weapons are going to be a derivative of one of these.

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This Is What I Know About Music

I am not a musician presently.

When I was in middle school, I was given a choice. Students at the school I attended in sixth grade could either devote their entire year’s worth of elective class blocks to band or they could instead take physical education, computer science, and health class. Yeah, it was weird. Anyway, the band teacher was not a nice person and my parents didn’t seem keen on spending $300 on an instrument so I chose to have more variety in my schedule. The next year, this school was shut down for remodelling and I was sent to another middle school with far more choices. So many choices in fact that band didn’t have a shot in hell at making my schedule. High school had even more elective options, few of them requiring the financial investment of band or orchestra, so I chose otherwise.

Basically, I had a very diverse and well-rounded education, but it didn’t include learning to read or compose music.

Music, however, is going to be something I need to know something about, even if I end up hiring someone else to do it.

So I started teaching myself to play the recorder. Recorders are cheap as hell, and if elementary school children can learn to play them then so can I. Fortunately, I also have Simon, who plays trumpet, to help me out with whatever instruction doesn’t make sense from the book alone. I’ve also been playing with a few different digital tools to help bridge the gap in my knowledge. I haven’t done anything yet but get acquainted with these programs, but I’ve been using Stagelight to put together little repeater tracks and ScoreCloud, which records sounds and then outputs notation, so I can hum little ditties into it and then play these little notes on the keyboard in Stagelight.

So I’ve been laying some groundwork for music, even though that part’s still a long way off.

But actually? Music may not be as crucial an element as I originally thought.

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No Money, Mo’ Problems

Don’t worry! This isn’t about funding. It’s actually about fake money.

So way back in the day, I said I wasn’t gonna lock out content behind dick-waving metrics like leveling or how much money you had. There wasn’t even gonna be anything you had to spend money on. Everything would be available to you immediately.

And you know what? I’ve decided that I lied. I promise I have a good reason though.

For one thing, much as I want to emulate Left 4 Dead more than PAYDAY 2 when it comes to elegance and simplicity, it really is strange to have a game about stealing that doesn’t let you use the shit you stole in any tangible way. Like, one of the few failings of PAYDAY: The Heist is that money is a resource of some kind in that game, but its use is so fuckin’ nebulous that most people (including me) have no idea how it works or how to use it. So we don’t.

The thing about the first PAYDAY as compared to the second, the thing that makes the obscurity of how money works in it not that important, is that it lacked the baggage handling mechanic. Since there were only ever four bags, there was really no difference in how much money you could earn (save for picking up gems and bill stacks), and there was therefore no real reason to care about it. That sounds like a negative, but it gave it that L4D simplicity.

But the thing is, I fuckin’ LOVE the baggage handling mechanic.

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Media Club: The Dillinger Days, Pt. 2

No bank robber had ever looked more like a bank president than Harvey Bailey. In addition to his appearance, he also had the reputation – like Pierpont’s lieutenant, Makley – of being able to talk himself out of almost any situation. As soon as he was arrested for complicity in the Urschel kidnapping and placed in a call on the tenth floor of the modern Dallas County Jail, the local newspaper assured its readers that even the ingenious Harvey Bailey could not possibly get out:


The paper went on to say that the few who had escaped before the present system was put into place had done so “through trickery” and officers were “keeping a close eye on Bailey to avoid any such turn of events.”

It took Bailey only two weeks to convince one of his jailers, Deputy Sheriff Thomas L. Manion, to smuggle in saws. Bailey, assuring the jailer that he was innocent of any kidnapping charges, also promised to split the take of his next few bank robberies if he got free.

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The Matter of Scope Scope

So lately, a friend of mine from game classes has been asking me to help him with merit badges and sidejobs in PAYDAY. Thus far, these have mostly been of the “suits only, no skills, these specific weapons that I don’t normally use” variety. So I have been buying a lot of fresh guns and then having to mod them with the quickness.

And a thing I have noticed is that for most mods, there are only two to six options.

Except in the case of scopes.

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“Hot damn. D’you know nitriles come in black now?”

Cleo froze, holding her wrapping scarf up by both ends, and leaned to the left so she could see Dixie in the hotel bathroom mirror. Dixie was lying on her stomach, flicking through her burner phone.

“For real?” Cleo asked.

“Yeah! Look!” Dixie said, rolling off the bed and meeting Cleo at the sink. She held her phone up so Cleo could see while she finished tying her hair up. “They come in purple too, but black, am I right? A hundred of ’em for thirty bucks.”

Cleo pulled the knot in her scarf tight.

“I wonder why the Syndicate doesn’t jump on that,” Cleo wondered. “It’d go with the uniforms better than the blue ones.”

“Fuck their uniforms. We just called dibs,” Dixie said. “We can wear them with whatever we want and they’ll still match.”

“Well, don’t order them yet,” Cleo said. “We got a lot of other shit to sort out before we worry about gloves.”