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Monstroid

Currently in development by Orphic, Inc is Monstroid, exclusively for the Android platform.

 

As the title suggests, I’m beginning work on a Pokemon game for the iPhone and Android platforms. The game has been thoroughly planned out and very basic coding has been started. The game is being programmed in Java and Objective-C. Since the scope of this project is far beyond the power of one or two developers, I’m reaching out to the community to find talented coders who would like to make this project a reality.

Briefly touching on gameplay, the idea behind the game is to create a Pokemon game that uses the device it is running on (iPhone, HTC Magic) to immerse the player in his or her environment. This is acheived by having the user engage with Pokemon that are spawned based on location and seeing real time updates of other players in the area. Other features include Pokemarts that coincide with real stores, and player run gyms.

So, as you’re walking around with your “Pokedex” (it’s actually your iPhone or HTC) you’ll see your sprite updating on the screen, and you might see Pokemon, depending on where you are. Pokemon will spawn based on many factors. Some of these are your location in the United States, current temperature at your location, date, proximity to urban areas and time of day. What this means for you is that to catch certain Pokemon you may have to travel beyond your bedroom and front yard. Though, this doesn’t mean that you have to venture out by yourself to the middle of nowhere just for the sake of capturing rare Pokemon. I hope to encourage people to take their phones with them when they go on hikes, and when they sit down to take a break, see what rare Pokemon are around.

Once a Pokemon has been spawned, its sprite will appear on the screen. Each Pokemon has a different movement speed and movement pattern. Your job as an aspiring Pokemon Master is to get within range of the Pokemon you wish to capture, and then engage it in battle.

From that point out, the game continues the same way that the handheld games functioned. One of the key parts of this game is keeping the core game play (battling and leveling Pokemon) unchanged. Once a Pokemon has been captured, leveling it will be exactly the same as it has been in other games. It’s capturing it is the tricky part.

And don’t worry, there will be breeders. You won’t necessarily have to sit in the woods during the middle of the night to catch that rare Pokemon!

In every Pokemon game, Pokemarts have played a large role. No Pokemart means no potions or pokeballs. So where do Pokemarts fit into this game?

In this game, Pokemarts are based on real world stores. All of this information is gathered from sites like UrbanSpoon and Yelp. This means that as new areas are encountered by players stores will show up in the same place they are in real life. Pokemarts will also specialize in goods based on the type of restaurant their real world counterpart is. Fast food resteraunts may carry basic merchandise, whereas Coffeehouses have a wide selection of berries for sale.

Not only does this peg the Pokemon economy (Pokéconomy?) to the real world economy, but it creates in game cities. These urban areas will serve as gathering places for players and real time markets. Players will also be able to purchse land around the large metropolitan areas that form and create their own businesses. More on that in another post.

However, there is a downside to these large urbansprawls. Certain pokemon don’t like these large areas and will tend to retreat to less urbanized areas. However, you’ll still be able to find small flocks of pidgeys and the occasional rattata behind the deli.

Gyms are a huge part of the handheld Pokémon games. Since the United States is quite large, placing a unique gym in every county would take years of work. The same stands for breeders. Without breeders it would be near impossible to obtain many Pokémon. Creating breeding centers in every town would be just as difficult, especially since you don’t want an overflow of breeders, you want just the right amount.

To solve these problems I’m opening up these institutions to player control. Once your character reaches a certain level (yes, your character not your Pokémon), he (or she) will be able to start up a gym or a breeding center. You’ll be able to purchase any plot of land you wish that a PokéCenter or PokéMart doesn’t stand on. For breeders, once the breeding center has been created, it’s mostly computer automated. You can be anywhere you want, and the breeding center will remain open to players. However, good breeders will want to invest some time into the business. If you wish, you can determine which Pokémon are placed with others, to selectively breed. As a breeder you’ll also gain insight into stats that other players cannot see, making it easier to determine which Pokémon should be bred. This makes breeding a lucrative profession for advanced players.

Gyms are handled a little differently. Once you purchase land and apply to become a gym leader, you must design a badge, decide what kind of gym you want to be (fighting, fire, etc) and then the size of your gym (different size gyms cost different amounts of money). The next step is to choose the lineup you’ll use to battle players, and the lineup for your minions (the little guys people fight before they fight you). You’ll also get to choose your payout (how much you pay winning players), and how much you take from losing players is determined based on that. Once all of the groundwork has been laid, an official announcement will be made regarding the opening date of the gym, some basic information, and where the gym location. When your gym is up and running, you have the option of battling players yourself (if you’re logged in), or letting AI take control (which is what will happen when you’re logged out and someone wishes to battle).

The secret to being a successful gym leader or breeder is location, location, location. This means choosing a spot with a lot of players and a place that’s easily accessible (since players will need to approach the location in person). Breeders can choose any location that has no other breeders within 5 miles, and gym leaders can choose any location that doesn’t have another gym within 25 miles.

On top of making money, gym leaders will also serve to shape the story line of the game. Posts will revolve around new gyms, the latest gym leader battles and the best leaders. Gym leaders will become the celebrities of the game, and the end game “goal” (besides catching all of the Pokémon).

When you create your character on Pokédex, you get to choose a few things. First thing you choose is name — not very exciting. Then you get to choose class, which provides minor benefits to finding certain Pokémon, and gives you a sprite a little different than the standard Pokémon Trainer sprite. Last thing you create is your home location — more exciting than both latter and former! Your home will serve as a command center for you, allowing you to revive your Pokémon by shipping them out to a Pokécenter, get access to the Global Market (for both items and Pokémon), manage your PC and store your money.

The decision to make your home your Pokémon center is intended to make what would’ve been an otherwise frustrating game mechanic, into an easier to manage system. Pokémon centers will still exist, but will be the equivalent of a health oriented store with the ability to revive your Pokémon instantly. Currently, the idea is to peg the Pokécenters to Post Office locations, however, that may change.

The other neat function of the house is to serve as your bank. However, you have more options than just storing your money now. Since the newly named Pokéconomy is pinned to the real world economy, you can invest in items and resell them through your PC. So if you’re unable to get out of your house for some reason, you can still get PokéDollars (unit of currency?) from your office chair or kitchen table.

Trading Pokémon through the Global Trading System will also be done through your PC. It will be completed similar to the way that trades are done in the Generation IV games, however, there will be a waiting period of a day or two to receive the Pokémon. It’s expected, however, that trading will be a more infrequent thing in this game, due to the fact that Pokémon rarity is increased and as such, the value of Pokémon. If you want a Pokémon without wait time, you can visit a breeder. Breeders can be permanantly traded Pokémon as a form of payment, and these transactions will be completed instantly.

Lastly, you can release Pokémon from your PC into the wild. There’s an added twist, though. If the location the Pokémon is released from is similar enough to it’s native environment, and enough of that Pokémon are released in a similar time window in the same area, there’s a slim chance of speciation. With any luck, this means that the Pokémon world will start out very divided (species wise) and slowly meld together to create a more interesting and diverse population!

Previously I mentioned two end game professions, breeding and gym leading. There have to be ways to make money when you’re a low level character, though. The answer to this need is berry farming. Since berry farming is available to all players of all levels, it’s not techinically a profession, and as such functions differently. The key difference between berry farming and other professions is that you don’t have to open up a store to retail your goods.

In previous games, berries needed to be planted in “loamy soil”. As we all know, the real world is not nearly as restrictive as the Pokémon World — so you’re allowed to plant berry trees wherever you like. From a player’s view, you plant a berry, return to water it, and over a given amount of time a tree will grow. Once a tree is grown you have two options, harvesting the berries, or letting the tree die. If the berries are harvested, the tree withers away and another one will need to be planted. If the tree is left to wither away on it’s own, it will drop it’s berries to the ground. If the conditions are right, new trees will spring up in the vicinity bearing the berries of the recently deceased tree.

The speed of growth, seed spread and prime conditions are all predetermined berry traits. When a berry is planted, the server is queried and the areas conditions are pulled from around the web. Once a tree dies, a few GPS points from around the tree will be chosen and checked for growth conditions. What this means is that in areas with great growing climates, wild crops of berries can be found. Don’t worry though — berry trees won’t grow near areas of urban development.

So how do you make money from all of this? It’s possible to grow berries right outside your own home that aren’t native to your area. All it takes is a little watering and close care. Once you’ve harvested your crop, you’re able to sell your wares through the Pokémon world equivalent of eBay.

Catching a Pokémon in game, requires you traveling within range of that Pokémon’s location in real life. The range is planned to be 50 feet, or about 15 meters. Once you’re within range of the targeted Pokémon, the “Battle” icon will light up and you can engage the Pokémon.

Let’s say, for kicks, that you’re trying to capture a Ponyta. Ponyta’s clearly run faster than you. Seriously, it’s a pony on fire — you have no chance. UNLESS you use a Pokémon outside of battle to catch up. If you can’t seem to make a Pokémon sit still, try binding it! If you want a bit of a longer range, try using Vine Whip.

These moves aren’t exclusively for capturing Pokémon either. They can be used to access your home when you’re not there, or stores you’ve recently visited. There are plans to make teleportation give you access to your home wherever you’re located. Fly will give you the last places you visited and allow you to reenter that place from wherever you wish. The way this works is that you don’t get actually flown or teleported to the area near the store, you just get to enter that store. The same applies to your home.

All of the moves in this post are just Bulbasaur’s moves, so they’ll be a little different in the game. If you have any ideas for moves that could be used outside of battle in an interesting way, comment away

Alpha 1:

Pokémon Display

Pokémart Display

Pokémon Class

Alpha2:

Proliferation of Pokémon (Original 150)

True Spawning (Based on Locational Factors)

Searching Algorithm (for Pokémon)

Introduction of Pack

Alpha3:

Pokémon Capturing

Pokémon Battling

Alpha4:

Functional Pokémart code

Additional things to consider:

Using moves outside of battle

“Special” events

Farming

Gyms

Home Location Implementation

Above is a basic road map for the planned Alpha releases. We’re officially open for business here at Mobile Pokedex, now able to accept coders from around the Internet to help with the code. If you would like to help with the game, you must have knowledge of either C or Java. If you want an idea of the difficulty level of coding, I would direct you to Bulbapedia to search through their articles about how Pokémon leveling, capturing and battling has functioned in the Generation IV games.

The work done in Objective-C is entirely client side code. The work you’ll need to do will be mostly networking and GUI construction. The work done in Java will be all server side code. The server side code is a lot heavier than the client code, and will require coding a lot of algorithms, working with mySQL storage and doing a lot of networking.

 There are plans to make the game compatible with the iPod Touch, albeit in a bastardized form. Since the game will rely heavily on GPS location, devices without that function can’t explore places without WiFi signals. Places with an abundance of WiFi hot spots will allow the iPod Touch to mimic the GPS functionality and play the exploration portion of the game.

In a more general sense, if you own a GPS-less device you’ll be able to participate in other aspects of the game, playing the “stock market”, until you have enough money to purchase a choice baby Pokémon from a breeder, or open up a breeding center on your own. While this clearly isn’t the full game, it’s not a crippling disadvantage. Since the Pokémon in every area will be unique, most people will encounter the same Pokémon repetitively — you have to travel to catch unique and interesting creatures. Having the inability to explore simply means you’ll have to complete the “goal” of becoming a Pokémaster or Gym Leader through controlling money and owning businesses until you can trade for a lineup of Pokémon you find desirable. With all of the above in mind, it’s important to remember that the competitive aspect of game play will remain wholly intact for GPS-less phones. As long as you’re able to connect to the Internet you can battle anyone else online in friendly or competitive (for cash and experience) match.

So now, what happens server side?

When you send the server your location, it pulls information from around the web to find out what it’s like where you are. The main factors that contribute to Pokémon spawning are weather, temperature, time, date, altitude, and of course location. Once all of these attributes have been discovered by the server, it searches through the database of Pokémon to find which ones are suitible for your location.

Once the server determines which Pokémon can spawn, it needs to decide which ones will spawn. Pokémon have a couple of characteristics to determine if they’ll spawn, rarity and urban tendency. Rarity is self explanatory, Ratatta is more common than Charmander is more common than Charizard. Urban tendency is a new attribute that describes the tendency of a Pokémon to spawn near urban areas. What does this mean for the players? As you walk around, the world is populated with Pokémarts and Pokécenters. As more people join more houses appear. City centers will develop, and Pokémon will slowly retreat to areas with less raucus. To catch rare and unique Pokémon you’ll have to explore the natural world around you — not neighborhoods and city centers.

In previous Pokémon games, many Pokémon were only found if you fished or surfed. In the handheld games it’s been easy to determine if you could do either of these. There was a simple check to see if your sprite was bordering and facing water tiles. When your surroundings are determined by geological data it’s a little more difficult to determine if you’re near a body of water.

To solve this problem, we’re using the Google static maps API. By downloading a map tile of your current location and determining surrounding pixel color, we can figure out if you’re near water. Instead of checking game tiles whenever the fishing rod is activated, a Google map tile is checked. If you’re within a certain distance (10 meters?) of water, then fishing will be activated.

Previously, your sprite would animate and cast into the body of water. Since the sprites in this game are representative, animating your character to approach a body of water would not only be astoundingly difficult and needlessly time consuming, but unnecessarily complex. The current idea for The Mobile Pokédex is to make fishing more than selecting ‘Fish’ from a menu until you get a bite. We want to make fishing a game of its own.

When your rod is selected, a ‘mini game’ opens. The reel is positioned at the bottom of the screen. You can shake your phone to cast out, and as Pokémon nibble at the bait, the iPhone will vibrate. At the right time, you shake your iPhone to engage in a battle. Hopefully this modification will make fishing a more unique experience, and more interesting than just pressing a button until a fish is caught.

Of course, this is all concept right now. Since this won’t be coded until much further into the future, it’s subject to change. I’m looking for some agreement on whether or not this is a good implementation of fishing!

- Kyle

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Deep Space Network “Rise This Flap”

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We lost the Great Bird of the Galaxy 22 years ago on this day. As a fan of his vision I was profoundly saddened by his loss. Thank you Mr. Roddenberry for sharing your vision. I believe that it was your vision shared through Star Trek TOS & TNG (that I grew up watching) that gave me open mindedness that I possess this day. Yes, I am human, and I am not perfect, but I see so much ignorance and hate still in this world, and it saddens me. We are NOT ready to step out and explore the vast universe, when we cannot even tolerate each other’s differences here on earth. Some of us are ready, but if I was another species looking down at our society and culture as a whole, I would say they are not ready, but perhaps someday! That someday is the vision that Gene Roddenberry had. I hope that someday we can get there. I fear it will not be in my lifetime, but I still wish for it, and support it! Mr. Roddenberry you were man of wisdom beyond your years! You are missed! 

Watch on roychez.tumblr.com

Thank you and goodbye, Harley - A tribute to FnaticMSI legend Harley ‘dsn’ Orwall by MMd

Late night in the desert: Goldstone’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna tracks spacecraft day and night. This photograph was taken on Jan. 11, 2012.

The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, located in the Mojave Desert in California, is one of three complexes that comprise NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). The DSN provides radio communications for all of NASA’s interplanetary spacecraft and is also utilized for radio astronomy and radar observations of the solar system and the universe. DSN, the world’s largest and most powerful communications system for “talking to” spacecraft, will reach a milestone on Dec. 24: the 50th anniversary of its official creation.

meet DSS-14, one of three 70 meter antennas or radio telescopes that operate in the Deep Space Network (DSN). This has got to be one of the most amazing scientific instruments I’ve ever visited.

It’s almost the size of a football field, with a surface area of 3,850 square meters, and weighing 2,970 tons. Here’s some cool things about these huge antennas:

  • These antennas are mostly used to support spacecraft that are either beyond Saturn’s orbit, or are in distress. Because of their enormous size and power capabilities, they’re able to pull down even the faintest of signals from far away spacecraft, or to help find and communicate with spacecraft that are in some sort of distress, and aren’t able to broadcast on full power.

  • DSS-14 was actually set up originally to accommodate lunar missions - this is the antenna that received the very first human message from the moon, the famous “That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.” message from Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission

  • All three of these 70 meter telescopes (there’s two more at the other two DSN sites in Canberra, Australia, and Madrid, Spain) were used to listen to and for a series of 128 specific tones being sent back from the Curiosity Rover on August 6, 2012 as the rover went through the final landing stages placing it on Mars. (cool thing: I got to listen to these tones live from the Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) - probably the most exciting 128 noises I’ve ever heard in my life)

  • DSS-14 has supported other cool missions as well, like finding Voyager 2 as it passed Neptune, communicating with Cassini - the amazing probe orbiting Saturn, and tracking the final known movements of Pioneer 10 as it was dying in the astroid belt.

  • When they’re not finding the signals from far away or distressed spacecraft, these antennas function as radio telescopes, using their enormous power to send waves that function like radar, mapping faraway planets, and even investigating distant quasars, stars, and comets - pretty cool, huh?!

Anyways, this is an amazing scientific instrument, and I thought you people should know more about it :)