Saturday, January 23, 2010

Superheroes, classes, and math, part 2

So after the first week of classes, and the character creation session for the superhero game, here is what has happened:

- I don't have anything particularly interesting to say about Stephen Bond yet.

- Steve LaValle is kind of a funny professor. The first day in class he said that "normally I try not to stay too close to the book, but in this case I am kind of confused as to whether I should do that, because I wrote the book." Also he had us look through the book and vote (by email) on which chapters we want him to focus on for the class. Not everyone turned their vote in on time, so he said that "just like real elections, we have low voter turnout here" and joked that "actually, I'll just ignore the voting and do whatever I want, just like the real government."

- Jeff Erickson called me a "great graduate student" on his web page.

- At Armored Gopher Games we had our character creation session for the superhero game. I had to take a cab there because my bike got a flat tire. But it was really cool and people had lots of funny superhero ideas. One of the superhero ideas was an alien who was given superpowers and sent to Earth to live among the humans as part of a "reality show." One of the character's disadvantages is that occassionally the "producers" will teleport him to a "more interesting" location, or teleport him back to the mothership to alter his powers. My idea was a "gadgeteer" type character who has an army of robotic UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that will help him - like a "combat" one that has powerful attacks and a "scout" one that has stealth and detection powers. Dave said that this was a good idea for a character, but warned me that the focus of the game was on the heroes, and if the robots took up too much of the spotlight, he would find ways of disabling them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Superheroes, classes, and math

Today is the first day of classes at UIUC. I didn't have any classes today because all my classes are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In addition to working as a research assistant for Jeff Erickson, I am also taking two courses: Planning Algorithms with Steven LaValle and Numerical Analysis with Stephen Bond.

Additionally, on the gaming front, I'm about to start playing in a new role playing game campaign run by Dave, the owner of Armored Gopher Games. The game is going to be a superhero game, based on a rule set called the HERO System. The unique part about the HERO System is that unlike games such as Dungeons and Dragons where you have to pick from a given list of powers, in the HERO System there is a point system where you spend "character points" to create your own powers by picking from a list of effects (like "ranged killing attack", "energy blast," "entangle," and "transform,") and add in "advantages" and "limitations" to improve or restrict your powers (such as "armor piercing," "limited number of charges," or "reduced endurance cost.") As you can probably guess, there is a lot of math involved in this, which is why I'm excited about it. For example here is an actual conversation about one of the powers in the game, which allows you to have a group of "followers."

Me: "So, if you build your follower as an N-point character, you can have (2^k) of those followers for a point cost of (N/5)+5k, right?" (I am writing this formula on the whiteboard)
Dave: "That could be right, I don't know. You're talking in a foreign language to me. That's math. I don't speak math."
Me: (Pointing to a page in the rule book) "It says in the rule book that the follower costs 1 point for every 5 points it's built on, and you can double the number of followers by spending 5 points extra. Like it says in this example, if the follower is a 200-point character, he costs 40 points, and you can get two of him for 45, or four of him for 50, etc."
Dave: "Yes that sounds about right."

Anyway, we're going to be finalizing our characters on January 23rd, and then the actual game is going to start the second Saturday in February. I will post more on my blog about any more superhero action!