Saturday, April 16, 2016

Video Game Automation Device

Automating repetitive actions in video games has been on my mind. I have been playing Elder Scrolls Online lately and it's a decent game. Had a lot of fun, but there are a few fundamental problems with the game. It's a good MMO, but not a very good Elder Scrolls addition. It's missing a lot of what makes ES the series it has been in the past. The need to balance the game for PvP has completely destroyed the value in equipment crafting. 9 trait armor is no better than 3 trait and it takes months to earn 9 trait. Searching for legendary ingredients can also be very time consuming. In the case of Perfect Row, it takes hundreds of fish that you have to fillet for a random chance of getting one perfect row out of one of them. So after an hour or more of fishing, it takes 30 minutes of just sitting there tapping the A button to fillet them. Developers have been adding crappy chores like this lately so they can increase player in-game time. News Flash for developers, twice the amount of time in your game does not mean people are having twice the FUN.

To fight back, I created an automation device to take over these mundane tasks. In the case of filleting fish, I just need to press the A button every 1.5 seconds. Super easy for the Arduino Uno.

Foam and cardboard box big enough to hold the Xb1 controller. 

Make sure to cut the foam for a tight fit. 

I used some scrap materials to make a micro servo holder. Attached a small servo arm and a plastic barrel spacer for the button contact.

Under the wood servo holder is an aluminum plate to press between the foam and box. (Tesla approved)

A cable adapter to connect the servo to the Arduino. 

Now to load the Sketch (code)

Copy/Paste the sketch below to the Arduino Software and load it to the board. 

#include <Servo.h> //From Library
Servo servoMain; // Define Servo
void setup()
servoMain.attach(9); // servo on digital pin 9
void loop()
  servoMain.write(45);  // Turn Servo Left to 45 degrees
  delay(1500);          // Wait 1.5 second
  servoMain.write(0);   // Turn Servo Left to 0 degrees
  delay(750);          // Wait .75 second

This is only the beginning of what's possible. Adding some photo sensors, more servos and new code, this can become a very useful tool to level up or earn $ while I'm at work. I hope it inspires you to get out there and make something!

Thanks for stopping by!

-Lonnie Sexton

To Arms Gamers!

Okay gamers, don’t go Trevor rage on me for going out on a limb here… I’m going to talk business ethics and game development… Yes, Business Ethics. Move over Billy Madison, I got this...
I don’t expect the younger generation to understand. If your first console was an Xbox, you may not see this from the same perspective. Downloadable content is just a part of gaming. Buying a car online you can’t earn in the game, clothes for your avatar or even temporary hop ups is what games have always been… to you, But!, For the Old School gamers that started on the 2600, watched the Arcades get replaced with in-home consoles like the NES; downloadable content appears to be the end of FUN in video games. It definitely has my attention as I watch the progression of game dev head into the in home arcade market. Micro-transactions are going to get more aggressive as they find better ways to force gamers into pay to play markets. If we gamers don’t unite, if we let it slide and feed the pig, the next gen console will have a Credit Card swipe socket installed… $1 to power up, $1 per character, $1 per clip…. You get the idea. I hope I'm wrong, just wait for the day you get the popup after dying, To Continue from this check-point, pay .99cents. 

I'm not bashing R*, ESO, Forza or any of the dev's that test the market, but it would be nice to have a serious discussion about the purposeful programming to slow progression and force in game purchases. Yeah, I get it. Great for business... Until this whole idea of DL content came about the consumers got a full game that the player could earn everything and unlock all parts of the game. Now is seems the corporate world is pressuring game dev's to create 1/2 a game and sell the rest of it in micro-transactions. Not only that but FUN is being replaced with time wasting efforts just to earn anything in the virtual worlds we play in. Just program the game to make the player work for months to basically have mediocre rewards. While all the best stuff we all strive for in games is on the game store.  They turn real cash into digital 1's and 0's...1's and 0's we don't actually own if you read the fine print. We are paying for access to content, not the ownership of it. Where are the ethics? This isn't directed at the guys doing their job for $25hr, it's the corporate man at the top that doesn't even play games, just thinks profit...

Understandably there is a big difference between games you pay full price to own and games they give away for free, then charge for 'upgrades'. Clash of Clans developer SuperCell made $1.7 Billion in 2014 and they don't sell games, they sell upgrades in the game. They have to make money is the argument I hear, but do they have to make it that way? Where does the programming language stop producing a balanced competition and start using competition against the player? At some point it will cross the ethics line. Just follow the link below to see a player explain why he thinks it's okay to spend $1,000 in Clash of Clans. 11 forum pages later you will be no more convinced it's okay to spend $1,000 in any game, much less a free game. Today's youth has no idea what they are doing, but it was a gift card that gave them 'credits' to spend on the apple store, a gift card from mom or dad, it wasn't real money anyway... *sigh*  

"Guy spends $1,000 in Clash of Clans and doesn't mind"

Just like real life, the have's and have not's has entered video games and it's here to stay. I know writing this won't change a thing, but it's not going to stop me from expressing my disappointment and concern on where this is going if it's not checked soon. It will enter other market too, like your car, home and public access. Aggressive programming has just started, in game NPC's might make fun of your gear you earned, while they are honored to stand in your presence when wearing purchased gear. Racing cars you earned, will never be as good as the cars you buy. That virtual pet you have raised since a pup, needs in game purchases to 'survive'. Where are the ethics? 

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Stay with me here, this one will take an open mind. Again, I hope I'm wrong. I see this turning into something much worse. You just bought your first brand new 2020 truck. It's not the fully loaded model so it doesn't have everything included, you didn't purchase the extra add-on contract so now you will have to pay to use the A/C for 1 hour, but don't worry the store is located on your dash touch screen that is connected to the internet. Next example, you just finish your business in a public bathroom.  The TP dispenser has a pay option... just tap your rfid debit card and well you get the idea. 

I love gaming, I went to school for Game Art and Design as Westwood Online. Games have come a long way from Pong and they will continue to get better. Until one day that virtual holo-deck is allowing paraplegic people to experience what it feels like to walk again. I joke about when Microsoft offers the human bio-USB port, I'll be the first in line. Downloadable brains, 3D printed clone bodies made from our own DNA (Bio SIM's). Nero state brain wave recorders and telekinetic controllers are just around the corner. Make no mistake, we will all be "plugged in" in this lifetime. 

Microsoft HoloLens

I can only conclude with this. In game micro transactions is a $30 billion per year market, that's B for Billion. At some point, I will stop arguing why we need to regulate  this to protect the youth and just start milking the Y Generation, after all if they are fine with it, I'll be fine with taking their hard earned pay check.

Keep Calm and Game ON!
-Lonnie Sexton