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theTombs.com Frequently Asked Questions

last updated: 4/13/05

Basics

What is/are "The Tombs?"
"The Tombs" is a single player Roguelike game written with Macromedia's web scripting and animation software, Flash MX. It originated as my Senior Project for my BA (in English, of all things), but has since grown into a massive, ongoing work.

What is "theTombs.com?"
theTombs.com is this website, created to house The Tombs and all relevant information pertaining to its ongoing evolution. It also creates a channel of communication, via the forums, between myself and the people playing the game. I hope, as time goes on, to include a lot of player-created content in theTombs, and I intend to release editing tools and/or templates in the foreseeable future.

Who is Martin Woodard?
Me. I am an amateur game and mod designer currently living just south of San Diego, CA. In the past, I've worked on mods for games such as Doom, Unreal, Morrowind, Alpha Centauri, and others. Most of these can be found at my personal website, mwoody.com.

What is a Roguelike game?
Roguelike games are a very specific subset of CRPGS, or "Computer Role Playing Games." They are so-named because they pattern themselves after a computer game written in the late 1970s called Rogue. Roguelike games tend to have several things in common, although one or two of these traits might be left out and still have the game be called Roguelike:

  • Simplistic graphics, often generated with simple text or ASCII characters
  • Randomly generated levels
  • Numerous, randomly generated creatures and items to collect
  • An RPG-esque "leveling" system or similar mode of player advancement
  • An unforgiving save scheme, often only allowing a save on exit, and deleting all saves when the character expires
  • Single-player only
  • Turn based control - the game waits for a key press before anything can occur
  • Keyboard controls
  • A level of difficulty uncommon in modern computer games, with some games taking days or even months to be completed, a feat many players will never accomplish.
  • Often distributed freely, sometimes even with open source

Common examples of Roguelike games are (of course) Rogue, NetHack, Angband, and, my personal favorite, ADOM. Some people argue that Blizzard's Diablo games are heavily enhanced Roguelikes; the argument is not without merit, but if so, they are vastly atypical of the genre.

If you'd like to learn more about Roguelike games, check out Petri Kuittinen's excellent site. Other good resources include the Roguelike Wikipedia entry, the informative but horribly outdated Roguelike review, and the rec.games.roguelike.* series of newsgroups. A simple Google search will turn up some information, as well.

What is Macromedia Flash MX?
Macromedia's Flash MX is actually two programs. The Flash Player is a free, client-side application downloadable over the web. Most computer users already have some version of the Flash player installed on their computer, whether they realize it or not. There is also a larger, commercial product called "Flash MX" that allows for the creation of Flash content. At its simplest, Flash is designed to deliver interactive animation over the web quickly. Many sites use it for menus or other navigational constructs, as well.

There are even quite a few games that run in Flash. But few are as complicated as theTombs, for good reason: until the past couple of versions, Flash did not have a powerful enough scripting language built in to handle complex programs. But with the release of Flash MX, Flash now has an extensive, fairly well-built set of C++ and Java-like object oriented features.

Why in the name of all that is holy didn't you program this in Java?
Ah, that's the million dollar question, of course. Java, a programming language often used to deliver content over the web, is faster and more powerful than Flash. It would be a far more appropriate choice for a project the size of theTombs.

Well, the simple answer is I started to write The Tombs in a class on Flash, and by the time I decided to pursue it as a serious endeavor, enough of it had been coded to make conversion even more difficult than a complete rewrite. But it's not quite as odd a platform for The Tombs as one might think. Many people who scoff at Flash as a development environment have only worked with versions prior to MX, in which case their statements would be well-founded: Flash 1-5 did not have the tools to pull this off. Flash MX, however, is now remarkably similar to Java in use, despite the fact that it still employs a scripting (as opposed to programming) language. What's more, despite the fairly simple graphics and nonexistent sound of theTombs, the animation and drawing tools in Flash make some overall design and interface building tasks much, much simpler. I would, however, be lying if I said I didn't wish Flash was a bit faster. I never thought I'd find myself pining for the speed and power of JAVA, of all things, but... Let's just say that trying to do line of sight algorithms in a scripting language is a bit like pulling a football out of a nostril. It's extremely difficult, you'll want to quit halfway through, but when you're done, hey! You've really accomplished something.

The Tombs: General

How do I play?
To begin, simply click "play!" in the far right of the menu. For instructions on how to play, see the manual, also accessible from the top menu.

What is the difference between the manual and this FAQ?
The manual will discuss the back story of the game, for one. What's more, the manual will run through all the basic controls and concepts necessary to teach a beginning player how to play. This document, on the other hand, is designed to address specific game-related questions, including in-depth discussions of the formulae and processes "behind the scenes." Also, the manual will be updated only if it is found lacking in its assistance to new players, or if it becomes outdated with respect to the current version. This document will be updated whenever I deem, from my discussions in the forum, that a question is worthy of further explanation.

Is your question not answered here? Let me know!

  2003 Martin Woodard