Date: 1993-10-26
From: John
Subject: Attachment, Paths, etc.

My Dear Mr. Duk:

Attached is a Microsoft Word 5.0 document which I hope will kick off a discussion about the process of attaching pieces to one another. As I mentioned on the tape, I would like to try replacing the Alexander journal with a series of Word documents which could be assembled first into a binder, and eventually into a proto-manual.

I'm not much of a Word maven, so perhaps you can improve on my design layout. I've included author, date, and revision number at the bottom of each page. I know nothing about style sheets, but perhaps we could come up with some kind of template to automate the process of cranking out consistent, professional-looking book sections. We could also try adding changes and ammendments in red. The correspondant would return the document with red additions; the author would then incorporate them, turn everything black, update the revision number, and re-send. What do yo think?

Don't be too alarmed by the crude drawings of the new pieces. This is a temporary fix until I can figure out how to create spiffy new color designs.

There's obviously quite a bit to talk about regarding this attachment business. I filled up most of the tape talking about it, and my notions continue to evolve. I'm eager to hear your reactions.

I've also been having quite a few miscellaneous ideas, which I am in some danger of forgetting before I can write them down. For example, in response to your idea of camouflage I am proposing that paratroopers be camouflaged in much the same way that submarines are, that is, not seen unless they attack or get stepped on. A refinement that just occurred to me is that during the turn they detach (jump) from an air transport, paratroopers should temporarily lose their camouflage and be immobile and visible to ajacent pieces. This would capture the vulnerability of real paratroopers during their descent and landing.

I'm beginning to think that engineers should have an interface much like cities, that is, they should have a small repatoire of pieces they can produce, each at a given time cost. Just as cities produce armies, fighters, etc., engineers could produce bridges, roads, tunnels, explosives, canals, and maybe even landing strips. A landing strip could be like a city without fuel where air transports could land to load or unload things other than paratroops, like engineers and artillery, but probably not armies. Too wacky?

Spies are still a bit nebulous. I am concerned that attaching a spy to a fighter might make the fighter too powerful if this means that spy-fighter sees every square ajacent to the flight path. Instead I think the act of spying should be like an attack, an act performed by the spy himself and limited to once or twice a turn. To peek into an enemy city you could fly a spy next to it and then have the spy "attack" the city. In this way the spy would only see that one square, not every square he flew past.

Attachment is proving to be a very potent concept. I am beginning to suspect that our notion of patrol paths can be similarly expanded. In the attached document I discuss using moving patrol paths to achieve automated escorts. I think patrol paths could also be used to generalize the notion of city destinations. Actually, we shouldn't call them patrol paths, but simply paths. Maybe we could find a way to add programmable branches to paths; if so, we could actually control much complex behavior by simply drawing paths and attaching pieces to the paths. This could become a kind of visual programming language.

Another alternative or enhancement to a programming language would be an interface which would allow the player to sketch out overall goals and then let the computer come up with the most efficient way of achieving the goals. For example, upon landing an army on an already-explored continent, the player could point and click to say something like "I want to capture these cities in this order, build a road from here to here, build a transport in this city and fill it with armies from here and here." The computer could come up with a project schedule which the user could inspect or change at any time. Cities and pieces would only ask for further instructions after all their assigned roles had been completed.

As you can see, the ideas are coming fast and furious. I strongly reccomend that you take a week's sabbatical from DEC so that you can devote yourself fully to Alexander.

Yours in feverish unemployment,

Epicurous J.