Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning LibreOffice Forms

The Link is to the documentation regarding LibreOffice. Documentation » LibreOffice

GMs and World Builders write a lot, so keeping things organized and making a very efficient system helps save time and focus on the more fun aspects of the hobby.

I've only learned to format recently, around this year, when I learned to use Google Docs. I'm late in this piece of news and productivity, but I wonder if anyone else has delved deeper in it? I've been able to download the notes of other GMs and can see there are some "best practices" worth sharing.

You'd think I'd learn this in college. Especially when there was 3 unit class for APA style journal writing (what it is doing in a Multi Media arts course, I don't know but if you ever see the curriculum of my college you would really be suspect of their motives) but no, I only learned it in gaming because good GMs are should be hella organized.

Customization. Ok, there are a lot of things to talk about for customization. "Alot" involved what I know the software can do plus what I have successfully done. I've just started formally reading the LibreOffice manuals, but I've been tinkering with LibreOffice for a month now. I'd rather show what I've learned and sure about. I can later describe my plans since it is based on what I've read the program can do and have yet to try to achieve it.

Tools > Customization

Headings, gateway to auto updating Table of Contents. I learned the value of headings because I found out that Google Docs automatically formats the table of contents for you. I learned it when I had to write up massive Minutes of the Meetings during works strategic planning sessions. LibreOffice and OpenOffice does the same, but I'm sure of LibreOffice you can click on the table of contents to auto update. Note that there are hot-keys for these and you will have to customize your documentation software and write down the hotkeys and etch.

I followed Google Docs default Heading format. GURPS has a style formating guideline and template, SJGames WYSIWYG. I have yet to learn to fully use templates and how to shift between styling formats. Ideally I should have APA, SJGames, and Wikipedia as the formating styles I have access to when I write.

Collaboration Tools. Google Docs is not the only software that allows you to simultaneously write on the same document. At work we did performance test for Google Docs and various Browsers, obviously the best is Google Chrome (although we happen to have evidence of it now). We found Live Documents in the Google App Store, there are other collaboration writing tools to be found there to.

We were able to test Live Documents vs Google Docs and found live Documents faster and more familiar for people who use MS office BUT less accessible. So most people default to Google Docs. Note that you need around dedicated ~0.1kpb bandwidth or non-dedicated ~1mbp to use collaborative systems. In the office of about a 50 users and dedicated 2mbp (leased line) we can barely use Google Docs.

Record & Show Changes. We play GURPS with a particular style that will explain why we use regular documents instead of character sheets. This simple tool, in LibreOffice Writer it is EDIT > Changes, helps keep track of additions and deletions. Currently i don't know how to make Show Recorded Changes as hot key, although you can just go to Category: Edit > Function: Record a give that a hot-key.

In Google Docs you have a permanent history for the document.

Commenting and Discussion. When making changes or keeping notes about the adventures, commenting allows for clarification that can later be added as a footnote or the appendix and a clear history of what is going on be plain and easily reviewed. This Ctrl+alt+N in LibreOffice.

Hyperlink. In Google docs this is Ctrl+Q, in LibreOffice you will have to go customizations and assign it. In Customization, Category: Tools > Function:Hyperlink.

Footnotes. If your fond of researching and wikipedia, footnotes are your friend. I learned the value when I was writing for a group and I needed to cite my sources (and had to learn the value of sources etc.) Category: Insert > Function: Footnote/Endnote. I used alt+down.

Color Fonts. Coloring text is important when trying to highlight information easily. In Libre Office, you will need to assign it a hot key Category: Format > Function: Fill Font Color (I use Ctrl+G). For coloring background its Category: Format > Function: Fill Color (I use Ctrl+Shift+G)

Indenting. In Google docs, Indenting is also upgrading and downgrading bullet points or numbering. So indenting is very useful and can be made the hotkey for both. In LibreOffice Writer Category: Format > Function: Increase/Decrease Indent (I used alt+left/right)

Learning Plans. I learned the value of hot-keys when I worked in 3d Graphics and when I used to paint. Hot-keys are easy to master with enough time. Time goes by and the learning seems quicker when there are projects that are exciting and fun.

Even tedious processes aren't that scary when you realize that learning to use Macro allows the writer to recorded certain processes and automate it.

A lot of the untapped potential of LibreOffice is in the database program simply known as Base. My simple project right now is creating an equipment list that allows a calculated tally of weights automatically show in another box. Later on that value can be used for encumbrance and determining movement.

LibreOffice GURPS Character Form. This is my learning exercise. I will learn about data management and the capabilities of the tools. An editable characters, maybe built over this one (an old character sheet I made long ago). Anyway this is all usefull at work, since its all very Six Sigma-ish (the language of munchkins).

Here is my saved customization file. In LibreOffice the hotkeys you assign appear in the mouse over name of the function.

I've been looking at the Document foundation where I can share and exchange and track the customization notes, as well as develop a menu of styles and templates (from APA, SJG's WYSIWYG, Wikipedia, etc.) No luck as of yet.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Figuring out Worldbuilder's Spreadsheet.

Figuring out Worldbuilder's Spreadsheet.

Going about this "World Builder's Spreadsheet" I look to the LibreOffice manuals, particularly writer. I realized a Booklet with an Imbeded and Linked Spreadsheet with Form would be the best medium for this. Writer allows the step by step creation, with forms elements in each step and summarized in the end of the chapter, while Spreadsheet can be linked and displayed in the same PDF booklet.

I wonder if a Macro can be made that allows the byproduct of the operation be exported into a spreadsheet? A sheet having several Households, each sheet being village or community with one sheet summarizing all the data for a Master document to access for larger and larger communities.

I think it works backwards, with the summary sheet generated fist and the Macro generating each sheet (village/community) and all the data of the village.

The first Step would be a Household generator.

This household generator should be useful for generating the peasant (or lower status) background of a character. It should has a list of key word generator to describe personalities, circumstances, and certain social structures.

A challenge is being able to provide a list of social structures and personalities typical of a particular culture. Should it be culture defined or, as in Civilization 5 did, Social Perk based (focusing on the values of a Culture).

Another challenge is because non-monetary costs. In medieval economics there are a lot of things that are not given any monetary costs. A lot of productivity that deserves a large monetary value are: house-wife's labors, a serf's or peasant's labor duties to their lord, duties also owed to religious institutions, as well as neighborly and community contributions that survive to this day.

Resources i can list are: man-hours of labor in primary, secondary and tertiary competences, bushels of seed grains, equipment, beasts of burden and

Expenses i can list: social duties, religious duties, duties to one's lord/master, those from season, those from the current economic circumstance, and typical cost of production/productivity.

Anyway, I need to generate a mind map and several lists before I get into this. Already from the amount of tools and information I may need to detail it is very easy to get lost.

for now I need to further reflect on how I should pull this off.

a 4 hour productivity rule

I have this 4 hour productivity rule based on hunger cycles. A simple rule of thumb for dieting is that, I ate too much if I'm not hungry in 4 hours, too little (and not strategically enough protein) if I get hungry in less than the that.

I developed the 4 hour increment based on many of the marching and soldiering literature, both in historical and modern.

I apply that 4 hour increment in mental activities. Divide the day into the 4 hour increments, minus the 8 hours of sleep. You have 4 slots of noticeably optimal and decreased mental alertness and energy levels. At the last slot, my self control is noticably weakened. I would say a GURPS -1 to -3 to will rolls depending on how much psychological beating I had that day (which can be something of a morale stat).

Some of the slow risers out there, the optimal productivity hours come 4 hours after the zenith of sleep. Depending at what point one reaches this full mental defrag....

I leave it to people who want to min/max mental performance to read up more on sleep and cognition...

More to the point. What is interesting is that in the BPO industry, there is a rule of thumb that comes from average performance of agents of 6 hours. After 6 hours most agents do not have the mental stamina to close a call. (this is in outbound). Talking with the objective to persuade should be counted as a challenging mental task that requires a lot of concentration.

What is remarkable of this rule is that it follows also some of my observations about the 4 hours slots. if I were to assign these slots 1st to 4th. Then the 2nd slot is the most productive, followed by the slot before it and the slot after it. the 1st or the 3rd slot is not necessarily half as productive as the 2nd, but closer inspection at where these episodes of productivity clusters should be observable in the reports provided by the call manager.

So it is Evidence, but not well documented evidence of the performance curve of mental endurance of the day.

In a game, I would use the 1st to four slots as a way to gauge the morale of the NPCs and ideally the way PCs should view challenges (easy when their full of energy, insurmountable when tired).

Damage from Fatigue. What is interesting at looking at all these performance, also watching and experiencing Burn-outs is the RPG abstraction of Damage vs Fatigue. An interesting differences is that Damage is like Burn-outs, it is much harder to climb out off.

When managing our selves and those of our team, Burn-out is Damage. Burn-out is a line which, once crossed your stuck with much diminished capabilities and have to dedicate resources (time) nursing back to health/mental health.

Its not a penalty that will go away in a nights rest, it is something that will take a few days, weeks, months or a lifetime. Psychological wounds doesn't have to come from drama, it can come from incredibly frustrating work... (my opinion about my work).

Play it like a Game. Given the amount of responsibility and the fire-fighting at work, managing one's self is a game which has a lot at stake. Games teach us to weigh risks, plan and maneuver our assets quickly, Unlike PCs, the mind (or ones' sanity), is an entity that is more challenging to preserve since resources are not so clearly written. All one really has are a ton of personal notes and time to reflect on limitations and mistakes. (a PC without a character sheet)

Friday, July 22, 2011

the World Builders Spreadsheet Dream

I'm trying to learn as much about LibreOffice spreadsheet as possible. Currently work, Philippine BPO industry, has me dealing with a lot of Key Performance Indicators and trying to make sense of it all or present them in the easiest understood way possible.

As a Gamer, seeing the potential in what I am learning in LibreOffice I see first its uses to my hobby: The World Builders Spreadsheet. A spreadsheet that will allow a World Builder Given certain Parameters to populate a World in a near Realistic/Historical manner.

I also see that the Form Section in LibreOffice Writer can make an awesome character sheet.

Anyway, what this spreadsheet should be capable of doing based on what it can possibly do becomes clearer and clearer. basically given a set of Parameters:
  • Regional Area,
  • the Largest and the number of these social units units
  • Natural resources (with the option to generate it randomly)
  • Technology Available
  • Domesticated Animals or Plants Available
  • Level of Organization
  • Various templates of religious institution and their method/pattern of spreading
  • Current Economic Condition
  • Influence of various States: Warfare, bountiful season, Peace, Famine, etc.
  • Geometric Relationship
and many more.

The product is detailing the region and its inhabitants down to the smallest social unit: the Household. Each of this household will have a productivity value for future reference and further random detailing. The spreadsheet, through a Macro, will create households, their professions, and their villages and communes based on a lot of economic factors and rules. The Macro would also group these villages based on a randomly determined political/social balance (many semi-equal regions, one more powerful with many lesser that are equally weaker, or decending levels of resources and influences etc.).

It should assign where the Specialist/Professionals based on resources and other factors or allow the World Builder to move these around. These then affect Price Modifiers and availability of Goods as well as offer a sheet for the World Builder to place all products and goods to allow the World Builder to generate regional price lists.

Such a spreadsheet and macro should be able to track these details. It illustrates these all by the story it tells with its Income Statement, which takes a snapshot of the year. Ideally the program can lists certain expenses by the season, so that the World Builder can better tell the story.

  • Households and their Professions, and where they can be found.
  • farmsteads, mines, mills, villages, market villages, manors, fiefs, and towns and where they are
  • Regional Price and Availability List
  • See where demands and supplies of goods, skills, people, or social needs can be found.

Details and even More Details. It would be nice if that there is already a World Builders Spreadsheet Project, at least as a spreadsheet the barrier of learning is much lower than if it was a software. As an open spreadsheet projects copying variants, data ranges and tables is much easier and anyone can create increasingly detailed and customization outputs.

Anyway just started checking out WorldBuilders and despite how many of the topics there might appear similar, it has made me realized this one I'm talking about has key words like: realistic, historical, human-centric, economics based, simulationsists, etc.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just Finished A Dance with Dragons

I got my copy from Random House Audio for $45 for the Audio download (cheapest when I looked around).

If you are avoiding spoilers don't read anything of the Wikipedia article, it has a ton of spoilers even when your not reading the content. I just finally got to read it as i just finished the audiobook today.

Its a great story and its really inspiring to run a game. Especially a game that focuses on the drama and motives instead of the standard rpg motives: xp and gp.

i really want to find time to write my financial statements for squads, companies, bands, farmsteads, villages, and manors plug them into a spreadsheet and figure out a way to generate variants to populate game worlds and the status quo. To forge the one spreadsheet to rule them all.

It also inspires me to write my own epic, with cast of thousands, tell tales of their broken dreams, and their own undoings set in 19th Century farflung Colony.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reading A Dance with Dragons and thinking of the Game of Thrones

Now that the world has now learn about the Game of Thrones, I wonder how best to play it as an RPG or as an RPG with some wargaming aspect. GURPS has some answers, but alone it does not suffice. HARN has the verisimilitude that comes closest (and the deepest respect for economics, historical precedent, and realistic limitations) to AGoT.

I tried learning HARN, but I find GURPS more elegant and easily tweaked to how I interpret what I observe or learn. If one can Convert Harn Character Creation into GURPS abilities (so you remove the Point based Creations and go with the Harn method of chance) but have such a setting for AGoT.

To have AGoT done up by Kelestia with such detailed maps of villages which they did for HARN. Such detail will allow for Harn's Manor System (which is basically a method of creating a Manor Income Statement) to be applied in.

And that just reminds about all the Spreadsheet projects and Books I planned to write in my free time... "What free time!?".

Too Damn Busy I'm considering a Career Change. I'm so damn busy at work, if I'm not working I'm being a dad. I've not been out with my team on milsim, not able to maintain my guns, write game material, or achieve any of my hobby goals.

All those "Time in Motion" studies helped me figure out my free time, and I have about 3 hours made up of small 30-45 minutes.

I'm cheap, my hobby is mostly cheap, but I was very productive and could find some time to write. Getting back to reading AGoT got me wishing I could write my own Philippine Historical Epic set in the 19th century when Spanish Elite Sensibilities Ruled this Farflung colony.

Side Note: The Phils was a colony that did not provide any significant strategic advantage but one of the few places a western power can chance to tap the massive and falling Chinese market of about +300M. Every other "benefit" seems like a "sunk cost effect" or "self fulfilling prophecy" or "ownership bias" for having such a colony. It has been very clear in the economic records that the Phils was always a net loss and a prestige colony to be held. Even the US found it a net loss when we moved from steam to diesel. (the only Power that would net the Phils as an asset with a net profit is Imperial Japan, but as a soft target and a future platform for continued imperial expansion)

Because of how tropical civilizations began very late (9C CE) because of the many environmental challenges despite how they can produce an awesome amount of food (rice is x2-3 more productive per acre and can be harvested x2 per year, more frequently even if the river seasonally floods) it is a matter of chance who happens to bother to get these islands (and spain and its overzealous expansionism had the best chances).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Open Source Linux Friendly FPS review

I found out about Urban Terror from my brother-in-law. Its Linux and MAC friendly (so I can play this with my wife). I just need to download, open the zip, make a file executable and Viola!

It has an Endurance System, Movement affects accuracy and a whole lot more options that CS. Its great, unfortunately I'm not that 1337 to be able to fix most of the problems it has with my current 11.04 ubuntu set up to really work out all the bugs. Only Con, other than the bugs, is having to learn a new set of hotkeys.

  • I can only open it once per reboot, after that it errors when I try opening it a second time.
  • Camera Shake (discounted the possibility in the gaps of the polygons in the game area).
  • Skipping (i dont know if its cheating as some opponents just "blink" as they run and I can't hit them.
I really wish I can figure out optimizing it on this Lenovo Idea Pad y430.