[news] [forums] [wiki] [buy] [Steal Real Money]
Version 26 Released
by jasonrohrerWednesday, December 25, 2013 [8:32 pm]

This release improves the visibility code in the game to make non-visible objects under the shroud truly not visible on the screen. In previous versions, objects under the edge of the shroud could be vaguely seen (and with the help of a boosted monitor gamma setting, they could be clearly seen). Now non-visible objects are not drawn at all. The upshot is that a single-thickness wall is now sufficient for visually hiding other objects.

A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 25 Released
by jasonrohrerWednesday, November 27, 2013 [8:48 pm]

When I sent out a call for a final round of alpha testing, over 600 of you came through and hammered on the game. You found a slew of tiny issues that no one had noticed before. Thanks to all of you for your hard work in reporting all of this stuff.

I spent the last two weeks fixing all of these. The result is version 25.

A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 22 Released
by jasonrohrerThursday, October 31, 2013 [7:39 pm]

This release focuses on closing a few resource-gathering loopholes that could be exploited by using multiple accounts. A few bugs have also been fixed, and the reach of the gun and throwable items has been shortened.

A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Tammy's Got a Gun
by jasonrohrerThursday, October 24, 2013 [7:00 pm]

Something has been missing, both mechanically and thematically, from The Castle Doctrine.

First of all, though the castle doctrine (the in the legal sense) is a very old idea, our modern discourse around it generally centers on the right to shoot an intruder with a gun. Of course, so far, there have been no home-defense guns in my game. In fact, home defense has been an entirely indirect, hands-off, automated affair. You set up mechanisms to trick, trap, and kill intruders, but you never shoot them. You come home later and watch security tapes to find out how well your contraptions worked.

The game works this way because you're not home when intruders come in, and you're not home when intruders come in for a variety of good design, technical, and thematic reasons.

But someone else is home when intruders come in: your wife.

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/wifeAndKidsMechanic/familyByDoor.png

So far, the wife has been somewhat unsatisfying both mechanically and thematically. Yeah, she earns money outside the home, making her a valuable mechanical asset. But when a robber comes in, her interaction consists of hiding until she spots the intruder and then running along the shortest empty path to the door.

The empty path requirement is important for technical reasons (otherwise, if she could interact with your traps on her way out, the server would have to verify a viable interactive path for her, which I believe is an NP-hard problem). It also adds a nice texture to each house, because you have to design different sections for the house with different styles---a heavily mechanical part surrounding your vault, and a smoother, more hospitable part surrounding your family.

But the empty path requirement also means that your family protection options are quite limited. You can put dogs in clever places along the family's exit path, but that's it.

And thematically, when a robber comes in, the wife is completely passive. This seems like a commentary about the different roles of men and women when a family is under threat, and it is, to some extent (as a man, I have felt a stronger family protection pressure placed on me when things have gotten dicey). But I think the setup in the game is too stark, and it's missing some important aspects of the truth, as I see it.

Women that I know, when under threat, are willing to arm themselves to overcome inherent physical disparities. My wife is no exception. In fact, she had pepper spray in her backpack twenty years ago, before I met her.

And what about guns? Well, they're by no means an exclusively male concern. I'm not exactly immersed in gun-owning culture, but out of the self-defense gun owners that I have met, quite a few have been women. I'm reminded of my scrappy, ex-nun aunt Ginner, who used to go camping alone in the national parks packing a .38 special revolver.

And my experience matches the data, because nearly one in four U.S. women is a gun owner.

But what kind of gun is appropriate here? I recall talk show radio host Michael Savage saying something zany like, "A shotgun is your best friend in a darkened bedroom." And when I lived in New Mexico, our neighbor across the street had a shotgun as her home defense weapon of choice ("Dude, when it's nighttime, and you can't see nothin', you don't need to aim it---just point and shoot, dude," her husband explained to me).

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/tammyGotAGun/shotgunBlast.jpg

And a shotgun is mechanically rich, because it's deadly only at close range, so it provides a nice mechanical contrast to the handgun potentially carried by the robber.

I also added a way for the family members to interact with the other mechanical aspects of the house, somewhat indirectly: they now have a panic button that they can press on their way out, and that button can connect into whatever house circuitry the owner devises (opening the trapdoors, releasing the dogs, and so on). My wife actually had panic buttons in her house when she was growing up.

So, a robber who stumbled his way into the family's chambers used to find something like this:

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/tammyGotAGun/tammyBefore.png

And now, that same robber might find this instead:

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/tammyGotAGun/tammyAfter.png

Tammy used to be a victimization waiting to happen. Now she's Jodie Foster in Panic Room.

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/tammyGotAGun/panicRoom.jpg

That's more like it.




Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 21 Released
by jasonrohrerTuesday, October 22, 2013 [7:31 pm]

This release fixes a bug in family movement being triggered as the view shifts near the edge of the screen. A glitch in name text overhanging the house picking list has also been fixed.



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 20 Released
by jasonrohrerFriday, October 18, 2013 [6:35 pm]

There are two big changes in version 20.

First, the introduction of a panic button that allows family members to switch on circuits as they run out of the house. This one little object pretty much changes everything in terms of house design and the family. The panic button, along with animals and shotguns, is one of the only objects that doesn't block their exit path.

Second, animal movement has reverted back to the way it was in version 15: animals remain in place until they see you, but then they attempt to direct-line follow or flee you forever after seeing you once.

Lots of other little fixes and tweaks, of course. A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 19 Released
by jasonrohrerTuesday, October 15, 2013 [7:15 pm]

Along with several small fixes, version 19 changes the game in two major ways.

First, regular salary payments have been turned off and replaced with bounties that are earned when a robber dies in your house. The point of this change is to discourage salary grinding from inside a scary or impenetrable fortress and encourage more psychological and varied house design. The hope is that the "optimal house" is now the house that tricks the most people, which means that the optimal will forever be changing (a given trick only works a few times before you have to move onto something else).

Second, family defense has been made more interesting through the addition of a shotgun that can be placed for and picked up by the wife as she makes her escape. After she picks up the shotgun, she becomes a deadly close-range threat to the robber. Of course, she can shoot you by accident too when you are testing your own house. This also brings family defense closer to what I want it to be thematically (women are not helpless, and they are plenty willing to arm themselves when necessary).

A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



On the Wife and Kids Mechanic (Dynamical Meaning)
by jasonrohrerThursday, August 29, 2013 [8:03 pm]

In The Castle Doctrine, one set of game elements is more thematically loaded than anything else: the family members.

This is as it should be, because family is a key component of the self-defense issue and the construction of manhood. Nothing brings these issues into sharper focus than when your children are present during an attack. We can argue about whether women inherently need the protection of men (I don't think that they do, even though society is still built this way, and some women still expect men to protect them). But there is no arguing about young children needing protection in dangerous situations---they are smaller and weaker than adults without exception.

The Castle Doctrine originally had no family members. It was a game solely about protecting physical possessions from theft---a bleak, lonely, post-female world of male violence run amok. It felt like something was missing thematically. In response, I added family members.

But, as many critics have observed, I didn't just stick them in there as thematic frosting. I gave them a mechanical function also. Should I have done this? Does this cheapen them through instrumentalization? Are they made less meaningful this way?

No. In fact, the opposite is actually true. Characters that have no mechanical function are less meaningful than characters that do. That is a bold claim about game design, and I'll spend the rest of this article defending that claim.

First of all, how do the family members function mechanically in the game? As you design your house, you can chose where you put the family members, and what you build around them, but other than that, they are out of your immediate control. The wife character has her own salary in the game, which she earns whenever you (and she) are away from home. You earn a salary too, but it is half the amount that she earns (she's a 1990s-era working mother). She holds onto the money that she earns while you are away. When you come home, she shares her money with you for home improvement purposes.

When a robber comes in, the family members each behave individually. They remain in place, hiding, until they see the robber. Then they try to run to the exit. If they make it to the exit, they are safe, and they return to their original positions after the robber leaves. If a child is killed while the wife is still in the house, the wife immediately runs to the child. If the wife is killed, the robber can take the money that she is holding.

An obvious alternative here would have been to keep the family flight mechanics in place, but get rid of the money element. But before considering that alternative, we need to think about what kind of player behavior the mechanics, as described, encourage.

Since the wife is a major source of income, she is a crucial element. If she is killed, that source of income, along with the savings she was holding, are permanently cut off. So, players will tend to protect her. They will also tend to protect the children, because not doing so will indirectly endanger the wife.

How does this prediction match with actual behavior in the game? Perfectly. Nearly all players devote substantial resources toward protecting family members, sometimes even at the cost of weak protection for the physical possessions in their vault. The ultimate expression of this behavior comes in the form of the "vault by the door" strategy, which crops up from time to time:

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/wifeAndKidsMechanic/vaultByDoor.png

The family is hiding somewhere off screen, and the robber is tempted to go for the risk-free vault payout.

And what kind of player behavior would be encouraged with the hypothetical value-free family member alternative? Players wouldn't care about their family members, and they wouldn't devote any of their precious resources toward protect them.

Really? Wouldn't some still be motivated to act based on the thematic implications? These are children, after all. Yes, some players would be so motivated, but most would not.

How do I know? Because I've experimented with the relative resource value given to the wife in the game. When she matters less mechanically, players protect her less. When she matters more, they protect her more. There have been times in the history of the game when the wife carried far less resource value than she does now. At those times, the "vault by the door" strategy was replaced by a "family by the door" strategy.

And what would happen to those still-thematically-motivated players in a hypothetical game where the family wasn't "worth" protecting? They would "waste" resources on family protection that other players were not similarly wasting, and thereby put themselves at a disadvantage relative to other players. Such players would learn quickly that they were playing the game wrong. The game would be whispering, "Don't protect the family, they don't matter."

So, players in the current game devote extensive resources and effort toward protecting the family. But is this meaningful? After all, it's mechanically motivated.

On its face, what does the player behavior seem to be saying? What does the "vault by the door" say, for example? It says, "Here, take whatever you want, just leave my family alone." This is a great example of tight thematic coupling. People actually would behave that way in real life. The "meaning of life" in the game, as expressed by the mechanics, is thematically consonant.

What would a "family by the door" player behavior be saying, on the other hand?

http://thecastledoctrine.net/newsImages/wifeAndKidsMechanic/familyByDoor.png

Okay, so players end up behaving in a way that is thematically consistent when they are mechanically motivated in this way. But what are they feeling? Because what they're feeling matters when we're talking about what a game actually means.

First of all, we must acknowledge that these are not real family members. Nothing that we can design in the game will turn them into real family members. So, whatever the player feels for them is necessarily some kind of strange shadow version of a real feeling.

But my next claim, and it's a bold one, does not depend on this fact at all.

The claim is this: if you get people to act like they feel a certain way for long enough, through whatever means, they will actually end up feeling that way. Behavior and emotion cannot be held apart forever. They eventually converge. And this link has been observed in research across a wide range of human interactions, from nursing to prisons and from pet ownership to parenting.

It works in real life. It works in games too. And when we're talking about meaning in games, this is the only way to do it.

Why? Because games are about players behaving in certain ways---there's no way around that. We need to face the fact that player behavior matters. If players are behaving in thematically dissonant ways, they will eventually be feeling thematically dissonant feelings. So, our only option, if we want to avoid dissonance, is to build systems that encourage thematically consonant player behavior.

(This, by the way, is by no means a new idea.)

When you come home in The Castle Doctrine and walk around a corner in your house to discover that your family has been killed, how do you feel? Violated. Hopeless. Hurt. Your heart sinks. You contemplate suicide. Is it because of the money and corresponding time and effort lost? Yes, at first. But over time, as you feel this way repeatedly in connection with that sight, the feeling becomes less calculated and more reflexive. It transfers gradually from the head to the gut.

If we're dreaming about a more perfect solution to this problem, and that solution avoids encouraging particular player behaviors through mechanical systems, then player behavior can either be left dangling and thematically dissonant, or it can be minimized to the point of almost being eliminated entirely. Many games have experimented with these two approaches, but neither alternative is satisfying to me.

I want to make games where player behavior is the meaning.



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 17 Released
by jasonrohrerTuesday, August 27, 2013 [9:52 pm]

This release has another bunch of small tweaks and fixes.

Three major changes should be noticeable. First, a new Club tool has been introduced to complement the price-rebalanced Crowbar tool. The Voltage Detector has been removed to make room. Second, vision no longer passes partially through diagonal gaps between tiles. Third, living animals now jump back to their starting positions after a successful robbery. No more dogs blocking the front door.

A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log



Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]



Version 16 Released
by jasonrohrerWednesday, August 21, 2013 [7:19 pm]

Along with a bunch of small bug fixes and improvements, this release changes the way a few different objects work in the game.

Wired wooden walls have been removed, and metal walls no longer transmit power. Doors and trapdoors also no longer transmit power. Animal movement has also changed slightly: animals now stop following/fleeing you when they can no longer see you.

These changes are minor, but they have an enormous impact on the emergent dynamics of the game. I'll be writing more about this soon.

A full list of changes can be found here:

The Castle Doctrine Change Log




Discuss this post in the forums

[Link]


[16 in Archive]