Welcome to the website for Quivering Communist Zombie Space Death (QCZSD). QCZSD is a multiplayer text-based game built on the PennMUSH server and HSPACE 5.0 space system. This game is about space ships, communist zombies that quiver, and making the universe safe for shopping.

        to play: get your favorite mush client, and connect to server, port 4202.

        How far away is that?!

        I have started this exercise late in the year, and haven't had any luck grabbing students. Drat. I invited some teachers to participate, but they haven't bitten. I intend to continue onward, building our text-based space game about quivering communist zombies.

        A simple exercise, to create a reasonably accurate model of the solar system, yes? Let.s dig.

        We start with the planets (trivial google search) and then move to modeling them in hspace. We use the new universe wiki to help us. We use this fairly well referenced guide to get us started.

        Creating the actual planets objects is pretty easy. In pennmush, logged in as a wizard (with hspace running, of course):

        @create Earth
        @create Mars
        @create Venus
        @create Sun


        We then assign each object an attribute . 1 is an internal attribute for planets in our example, assume #4 is the object for earth, and #5 is the object for Mars

        @space/addobject #4=1
        @space/addobject #5=1

        And then we need to define size, mass, name and location. And here, friends, is where things get interesting. Let.s look at the actual command syntax:

        @space/setobject #5/NAME=Earth
        @space/setobject #5/MASS= MASS HERE
        @space/setobject #5/LOCATION=10000 10000 0

        So, what is the mass of earth? Again, a google search reveals: 5.9742x10^24 (it is referenced to NASA, and I checked the source, so it looks legit.

        A first task is to convert scientific notation to standard number that hspace can understand. We know 5.9742x10^24 equals 5,974,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 (which is freaking huge) So we simply plug this in.

        @space/setobject #5/MASS= 5974200000000000000000000

        We do the same thing for size. I know, MASS isn.t SIZE, but for the purposes of this game, this will work. According to the wiki, hspace uses size of an object for sensor reading (very weak sensors might not see pluto) and MASS for how much an object can .hold.. For planets, this is kind of irrelevant. But if you have a big ship that serves as an aircraft carrier, mass is important.

        We are using cartesian coordinates to represent position. We.ve placed the center of the sun at 0,0,0. So where do we put earth?

        We are not modeling orbits, but we are trying to be .about right. with distances. So we return to our resource page and look at how far earth is from the sun. We see the mean distance is 149,597,890 kilometers. so, if the sun is at 0,0,0, we can put the earth at 149597890,0,0 This puts the earth on a straight line from the sun - pretty far away! The syntax:

        @space/setobject #5/LOCATION=149597890, 0, 0

        We'll need a pretty zippy ship to get around our solar system. I wonder how fast a ship would need to be in order to make it from Earth to Mars in a decent amount of time?


        The first project!

        I'm developing a new game, Quivering Communist Zombie Space Death. It's a text based game with an integrated (hardcoded) space system. What this game means, and why I'm developing it, is what this post is about.

        Quivering Communist Zombie Space Death (herein qczsd) is a game where players take on the role of humans desperately trying to save the earth from quivering communist zombies in space. The game is deeply educational, deeply funny, satirical, blatantly ribald, and of course most of all, fun. Basic mechanics are all textual! The player creates a persona (over-the-top stereotypical), get's a ship, and flys on different missions to take out the zombies. There is a leveling up mechanism, and "buy better crap for your ship dynamic". The zombies will be AI bots, and there will be all sorts of funny in-space dangers.

        Here's the website: http://quiveringcommunistzombiespacedeath.com/index.html

        I'll be blogging frequently about qczsd - talking about my journey of learning as I create this new game. Let's start, though, with the first task to make this game.

        Let's start off with the first student assignment. Let's see where they go with this one:

        We are going to work with an accurate model of our solar system. What does this mean? It means that we are going to try to accurately model the planets, their distance from one another, mass, and even their moons. We of course also need to know their location from each other. What we are NOT modeling is orbits and gravity (I'll write the "difference between fun and realistic" post later).

        So, finding the names, mass, and distance of our solar-system planets is as easy as a simple google search. It might help to cross-reference them so we know the numbers are right. But we will eventually need to represent the location of the planets on a XYZ grid. Here's where it get's kind of interesting.

        How do astronomers (you know, the dolts who didn't even see the communist zombies coming) measure and represent distance in space? What scale of measurement do they use? How do they represent mass? Let's start with a simple assumption (that might be wrong). Let's say the very center of the sun is 0,0,0. Where would the center of the sun's closest planet, Mercury, be? Please reply via email to bmackenty@gmail.com.


        Development update

        I've decided to add sharks with lasers that fly in space by flapping their fins. Also, I've added a bulletin board system, and I've invited some world-renowned zombieologists to discuss what motivates zombies.
        Still in the design phase, QCZSD is looking for talented and bright coders, writers, and builders who want to make a difference in the world. We will be actively developing the space system, which really means thinking of a wide range of weapons systems and shield systems that players can modularly add to their ships. Also, there's the whole "zombie AI" thing, which needs to be done carefully.
        I am working on systems to support the creation of systems - which is kind of tricky, but also fun. A current space issue is how big should space be? I think I will model our solar system, and keep the game centered in our system. You know, to keep it realistic.


        What is educational about this?

        What does a kid need to know to model 3-d space? What does a kid need to know about communism and free-market capitalism to model government policies? What IS the mass of a shark with with a laser, and could it fly through space by just flapping it's fins? What about game deisgn and game mechanics? What makes a game fun? More specifically, what makes a space-based text game (no graphics at all) fun? Since we are in a textual milieu, the idea of writing and written prose become very important. Designers must understand sarcasm, kitsch, and subtle humor; even the suggestion that the zombies are breeding laser sharks and somehow getting them into space - what's up with that?

        Let's touch on this idea of the actual code that runs the game - how do designers calculate What hits? from where? What happens when it hits? What information is passed to the player when they hit a target?

        That the topic and subject are silly serves only to introduce students to a world where they can roam about freely; and learn a hell of a lot in the process.

        About me

        My name is Bill MacKenty, and I'm the lead developer for QCZSD. I am the director of technology at a prestigious international school, and have been working with games in education for over a decade. Please feel free to visit my blog, at www.mackenty.org where I talk a whole lot about how games work. If you would like a deeper look into games and learning, please visit balancedgaming.com.

        © Copyright 2011