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Gryphon

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Reply with quote  #91 

Wow, it's been almost two years since we batted ideas around and I wrote up the 1st edition of Away Team! At the risk of necro-posting, I'd like to raise this thread from the dead in anticipation of Artemis 2.

I've been thinking about paring the AT rules down to bare essentials, bouncing ideas off other LARP organizers, and searching for more elegant ways to accomplish some of the in-game abilities - especially things like scanning and repairs. There are a number of LARP groups now that use the 1/100 sec. counter on ordinary stopwatches as randomizers, which is a nifty idea that got me thinking, "What if a stopwatch and a countdown timer were mounted in a tricorder-like housing and used for all in-game randomizing and task completion timing?" This would eliminate the need for NPCs to carry farby Attempt Decks from which players draw cards as well as the assortment of small props I wrote into AT (bioscanner, omnivox, techpak, medipak); instead, they or the players could flip open and punch the buttons on the cool-looking general purpose "scanners" they carry on their hips and achieve the same results - a ten-option randomized determination of the task demands. Console panels could be affixed internally to both halves with graphics that explain how the scanner is used in-game so that there is no need to consult a separate rulebook or flag down an NPC for routine actions.

I wanted to base the scanner design on a readily-available prefab rigid plastic housing that was about the size of a Nerf dart magazine, and discovered that these are commonly available at thrift shops for around $2 or $3 a pop. Each set includes two suitable housings:

  IMG_0912.JPG  IMG_0916.JPG  IMG_0918.JPG 

These housings are of a sturdy styrene and have cast-in post rings, which means that components could be glued or screwed in place. The detailing is bold and will reward a simple two-tone paintjob with a touch of wash and/or drybrushing. They are cast in two pieces that easily separate for repainting in a more dignified black-and-silver color scheme.

Next steps: find the right digital kitchen timer and cheap stopwatch combo to mount inside the shell, design and print some internal console graphics to screw down over the off-the-shelf electronics, paint the shells, attach shoulder straps, mount the guts, and field-test the new scanners!

Stay tuned as our thrilling adventure continues....


janx

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Reply with quote  #92 
Interesting to bring it back...

as always you bring up an idea and then take it a different direction than I think of when you raise the initial idea.

I was going to suggest the fact that everybody has cellphones, which have timers and such and are techno enough...




Gryphon

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Reply with quote  #93 
Yeah, I actually did consider that, janx. Finding a randomizer app and a countdown timer app might be less labor, but it doesn't leave anywhere to paste in a rules summary and I wanted the scanner to function as randomizer, timer, and rules summary. Mighty small screen for text, timer, and randomizer all at once. Besides, the cellphone is needed as a communicator. [wink]

A tablet or small touchscreen laptop would work, though - the screen would be big enough to have two or three windows open and legible at once. Unless I am thinking all wrong about the sort of cellphone app you had in mind, and someone is volunteering to program the all-in-one Sci-Fi LARP scanner app for IPhone and/or Android?

My thing is that I'm a techno-dinosaur whose skill set revolves around building props out of stuff found in thrift shops and dumpsters and big box stores, not cutting code.
Gryphon

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Reply with quote  #94 
A "bio-scanner" app that would allow a player to detect the location of any other cellphone running the same app in, say, a 10-meter radius would be wicked, especially if there were different identity settings. Does this sort of cellphone app already exist?

Some lasertag guns, like Hasbro's LTAR, have built-in short-range enemy detectors that call out "Danger!" whenever a member of another team points a gun in your general direction at close range - I assume they run on low-power coded IR pulses emitted continuously when the gun is in play. I have an entire bin full of these things but never thought of using them primarily as Aliens-style enemy "motion detectors" instead of as weapons. That could be a REALLY interesting game if lasertag guns were only the scanners and Nerf guns were the weapons, especially in a cluttered low-light play area. A detector that only detects other detectors, hmmm....

Another option would be to call the LTARs some form of anti-torp beam weapon that protects its bearer from Nerf "mini-torp" dart hits but not hits from other LTARs, while Nerf gun-armed crew are beam-shielded but not anti-torp - in other words, Nerfs can only hit Nerfs and LTARs can only hit and detect other LTARs, and each away team has at least one of each type.

Or we could just use the LTARs and skip the Nerf guns entirely. They're cool enough, just take a lot of batteries and everyone must be carrying an activated one at all times during the game for hits to register. I have never liked using lasertag for LARP weaponry because of the targeting limitations imposed by the poorly-oriented/too-few-for-360-degree-coverage IR detectors built into the retail-grade offerings; some of the lensed emitters, however, do have amazing ranges.

I suppose I could just bring a big boxful of Nerf guns and another big boxful of lasertag guns to Artemis 2 (assuming there's room for rough-housing and that the organizers will let me run some short scenarios,) and we could see which ones players prefer for Artemis-themed LARP combat....
janx

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Reply with quote  #95 
Making an app for iOS and Android could take some time and resources and delay getting to the app store.

But it is trivial to make a website and hand the URL out to players to load up on the browser of their phones.  lo-tech but it will work.

A web site can easily run javascript for a dice rollers, timers, randomizers, etc.

Location based stuff CAN happen, but it will be a bit fiddly.  Along with people opting to share location data with the web page, you'd need a server to catch it from all players who load up the site (and update it constantly) and then refresh the Scanner page.  this isn't hard, but the traffic to and from the site over a convention's wifi might be cloggy, especially for "near realtime speed".  The actual datagrams can be small, but we've all see how internet sucks at conventions because of all the people...
Gryphon

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Reply with quote  #96 
OK, the website URL idea is very simple and could be quite cool on a cellphone or tablet. Even I might be able to manage setting something like this up...Maybe....

The way you describe the location tracking function, however, it sounds to me like my old-school dino-tech LARP way of doing things with NPCs or a "call & response" rule might actually be easier to set up and more reliable in operation, though not nearly as techno-cool as an integrated electronic device network. A simple explanation of how to do a call & response "lifeforms scan" could easily be incorporated into the scanner website.

Thanks for the feedback, janx - I always enjoy our exchanges and learn from your insights.
Mike Substelny

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Reply with quote  #97 
I wonder if Bluetooth might help with the scanner? I just downloaded the BLE Finder App to my iPhone and I'm having fun tracking the distance between my phone and my Fitbit. It even generates a graph of signal strength as I get further from and closer to my phone.
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janx

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Reply with quote  #98 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Substelny
I wonder if Bluetooth might help with the scanner? I just downloaded the BLE Finder App to my iPhone and I'm having fun tracking the distance between my phone and my Fitbit. It even generates a graph of signal strength as I get further from and closer to my phone.


That's an interesting approach.  Sort of realistic when you consider a bunch of convention attendees as "life forms" that might be detectable because they have blueteeth.

this is where the variations of the ideas for using a smartphone fork off.

We could use individual as-is apps (like a stop watch or BLE Finder app).  The user has to know to use these apps specifically to solve in-game problems.  For a small group of friends, that could be fine.

We could build a web-site (a web app really).  It's all HTML/javascript and can look and act like a regular application, except that it launches from the browser.  Advanced stuff where my phone interacts with yours is going to need a server and some server side coding to catch your data and relay them to other players.

We could build an App.  The iOS devkit costs about $100 and you'd also have to go through submitting the app to Apple.  Android is probably free, though you also have to publish your app to the Play store.  You'd need to code for both to ensure you hit everybody.  This would let you build in every trick like the BLE finder and possibly bypass needing a server to act as a middle-man (making a peer to peer game instead).

Given that this is for a custom game, the web site is probably the easiest lift.  If you aren't needing server-side stuff or interaction with other phones, it's pretty easy to make something that looks nice, and then write javascript bits for randomizers, etc.



janx

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Reply with quote  #99 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gryphon
OK, the website URL idea is very simple and could be quite cool on a cellphone or tablet. Even I might be able to manage setting something like this up...Maybe....

The way you describe the location tracking function, however, it sounds to me like my old-school dino-tech LARP way of doing things with NPCs or a "call & response" rule might actually be easier to set up and more reliable in operation, though not nearly as techno-cool as an integrated electronic device network. A simple explanation of how to do a call & response "lifeforms scan" could easily be incorporated into the scanner website.

Thanks for the feedback, janx - I always enjoy our exchanges and learn from your insights.


I think the challenge is making enough devices for everybody.  Which is why when you mentioned stop watch for getting a random number, I thought of smart phones, because everybody's got one...


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