Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMIT!")

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Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMIT!")

Postby GrawSith » Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:26 pm UTC

I've got an Oblivion LP on my left and an Alpha Protocol video on my right, and I just thought: We sure do a lot of lockpicking in games, don't we?

And then I got to thinking about which lockpicking minigames are the best (Fallout 3 and Alpha Protocol share the trophy in my mind).

I'm curious to see what other people's opinions are. Do you like the simple and quick ones (Alpha Protocol) or the longer, more tactile ones (Fallout 3)?

Also, I'm probably forgetting a bunch of others. What do you think?
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby letterX » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:19 am UTC

I'm actually a pretty big fan of the Fallout 3 lockpicking, since in my experience, being good at picking actual locks translates into being good at picking locks in the game (not, probably, the other way around, though). In particular, I like the way they do torsion, since I pick real locks entirely by feel. I'm not sure if it's too easy, though. If my skill level's high enough to even try it, I can get it open. I don't think I've ever tried to force a lock, and I've probably broken less than 10 bobby pins ever. Haven't ever boosted lockpicking to 100, though, so perhaps the Very Hard locks are actually very hard.

Oblivion I like less. Just seems too finicky, and you break too many lockpicks. Possibly I haven't gotten the trick down, but I'd kind of like to see a way to limit the number of tries at picking locks that isn't how many picks you have left to break.

Haven't played anything else with similar mechanics. Unless you count things like the 'hacking' minigames from Mass Effect (1&2). Which are laughably unlike the real world action they are simulating. Not that that's a problem in a game, really. They work reasonably well as mini-challenges to get goodies inside locked crates.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby psion » Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:16 am UTC

I've thought a lot about how Oblivion's lockpicking is physically impossible, since I think it makes the least sense of any lockpicking minigame I've seen. The tumblers go down the door bolt, which would mean that the key goes in parallel to the door, but I'm pretty sure every door texture shows that the key goes in the same way as normal doors. It also means that the door's bolt sacrifices some structural stability for this esoteric lock. Then all of the tumblers are in the same position and only unlock at the top. What kind of a key opens the door? The tumblers are capable of slamming down to break the pick if there's too much pressure. Does that mean if I accidently use the wrong key on a door it'll break my key? Wouldn't that jam the lock? What am I using to hold the tumblers in place (clicking) if the key isn't meant to turn? And so on.

I'm pretty sure I've never played a game with realistic lockpicking, and I'm not really sure why that is. I guess they're afraid of teaching gamers somewhat of how it works?
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby WarDaft » Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:43 am UTC

Lockpicking in Oblivion didn't make the least bit of intuitive sense to me. Picks would break despite all the tumblers clearly being in a state where the lock should physically open just fine.

I'm pretty sure I've never played a game with realistic lockpicking, and I'm not really sure why that is. I guess they're afraid of teaching gamers somewhat of how it works?
Realistic lockpicking in a game where you can be strong enough to wield a 20 lb battle axe with ease and has no notion of forensic science is kicking the door in. It's a lot easier and faster than most people think, even with Hollywood exaggeration. But then you're not allowed to do that for the same reason that bashing open a chest in NWN2 breaks the stuff inside - it makes the lockpicking skill the RP enthusiasts love completely useless. In truth, the only two penalties for breaking open a chest/door is that 1) It's loud, and 2) You can't easily lock it again. Neither of which are of much concern when your first reaction to seeing enemies run at you is "Oh good, more XP!"
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby EmptySet » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:32 am UTC

letterX wrote:Oblivion I like less. Just seems too finicky, and you break too many lockpicks. Possibly I haven't gotten the trick down, but I'd kind of like to see a way to limit the number of tries at picking locks that isn't how many picks you have left to break.


I have the opposite problem - as I have mentioned before, I can pick any lock in Oblivion with just the starting 5 Security. I've actually got mods on to make it harder, but it's still not too difficult if you're patient.


My favourite lockpicking systems are those in Fallout 3 and the first two Thief games.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Stellazira » Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:34 pm UTC

If you have good audio the Oblivion lockpicking isn't actually too bad: when it's time to click the sound the tumbler makes going up is different from a bad time. It's a bit hard to describe unless you've played the minigame yourself. I didn't like the Oblivion minigame because it became rather pointless if you went and retrieved the Skeleton Key. It's almost as if Bethesda knew people might have difficulty with it so they gave them a "get out of jail free" card.

I thought Fallout 3's lockpicking was much better, although there was probably a lot of containers and doors I didn't go back to because I didn't have a high enough lockpicking skill at the time.

I've heard the lockpicking in the Thief games is cool, but I haven't actually played any of those games myself.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby emceng » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:26 pm UTC

I honestly can't remember any lockpicking in the Thief series. Maybe I need to go back and replay those.

I like the lockpicking in Oblivion - but only on Xbox. I have both the 360 and PC versions. On PC, I can't lockpick worth a damn. On the 360, I was awesome at it. Not sure why. Maybe the feel of it - tactile sense - was better.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:29 pm UTC

I haven't seen a single lockpicking minigame that even marginally approached reality. I think one of the Splinter Cells had something that involved aligning tumblers, but otherwise... Pfft.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Shivahn » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:51 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I haven't seen a single lockpicking minigame that even marginally approached reality. I think one of the Splinter Cells had something that involved aligning tumblers, but otherwise... Pfft.

To be fair, matching them with reality would be pretty hard without a special lockpicking peripheral device. Locks are picked almost entirely by tactile sensation, whereas games are purely auditory and visual.

(That said, you're right that the mechanics are usually drastically different to the point of being entirely unrelated)
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Technical Ben » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:21 pm UTC

From what I have heard, to professionals, it's hilariously easy to pick real locks. Just like in the games. Strange that, I would have thought it was games exaggerating.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby TaintedDeity » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:27 pm UTC

Yeah, but, to professionals doing the stuff they're professional at, things are usually pretty easy...
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Shivahn » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:34 pm UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:Yeah, but, to professionals doing the stuff they're professional at, things are usually pretty easy...


It is actually pretty easy though. I mean, there are hard locks, but most deadbolts and stuff are pickable in about ten seconds to anyone who's practiced for more than a few days.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:43 pm UTC

Most locks include security measures that would take a professional to deal with. Locking pins and multiple pinwells within the column for example, not to mention oddly shaped keys.

Seriously, just google 'how to pick locks' and read the first tutorial that comes up to get an indication for why videogames don't do the process an iota of justice. It'd be like if a cooking game included a minigame that spamming jamming X and Y really fast to poach eggs. Which I wager exists actually...
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby EmptySet » Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:02 am UTC

emceng wrote:I honestly can't remember any lockpicking in the Thief series. Maybe I need to go back and replay those.


Well, it wasn't really a minigame in the modern sense, where some entirely separate lockpicking interface shows up. In the first two games, you had a square-tooth and triangle-tooth lockpick. Doors were gradually unlocked by simply selecting a pick, looking at the door, and holding down the use button. However, you didn't make progress unless you were using the right kind of pick.

Easy locks could be picked with just single pick - if one didn't work, just use the other. For harder locks, you'd need to swap between them several times. It wasn't difficult or anything, but if you were quick to switch picks when needed you could get it done much faster. I liked the system because it was simple and didn't interrupt gameplay much when you were just creeping around, but it could still get tense if there was a guard breathing down your neck and you had to do it as quick as possible.

They also made the locks mostly consistent and sensible, which I thought was a nice touch. It meant that experienced players could often intuit which pick was needed to start with and how long it was likely to take to pick a given door. As I recall wooden doors generally took the square pick and metal doors the triangle one, though there were occasional exceptions. The tougher locks were often where you would expect them to be, too (studies, bedrooms, vaults, front door of the mansion, etc.).

I can't really comment on Deadly Shadows because I haven't played it. I think it switched to some Splinter-Cell-esq rotation thing, though.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby GrawSith » Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:04 am UTC

I'm really a fan of Alpha Protocol's lockpicking minigame, it's simple but surprisingly effective. Here's a screenie:
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You use the left trigger (or mouse) to slide each pin into position, and then lock it into position with the right trigger. I love it because it's so much faster than other options; your fingers are already on the triggers when you play so it's really easy to get into a rhythm where you can pick a lock in a few seconds and jump right back into the action.

I've only played it consoles though, so I'm not sure how good it would be using a mouse to lock the pins.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby psion » Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:21 am UTC

GrawSith wrote:I've only played it consoles though, so I'm not sure how good it would be using a mouse to lock the pins.

Yeah, it was rather terrible with a mouse since there was no analog pressure. All you had to do was move the mouse until the tumbler was in place then click, but the mouse was so obnoxiously slow in minigames that it was just an exercise in tedium. I agree that it's one of the better minigames given its intended input.

As far as Thief's lockpicking I think I prefer Splinter Cell's (that the series doesn't use anymore). Instead of holding down a button you had to spam a button that would be different for each tumbler. So if you were in a tight spot you would spam the keys and pray. Both are fairly mindless but Splinter Cell's felt more interactive I suppose.

Deadly Shadows is somewhat like Fallout 3's, where you find the right position for the pick and hold it there for a few seconds.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:09 am UTC

psion wrote:I'm pretty sure I've never played a game with realistic lockpicking, and I'm not really sure why that is. I guess they're afraid of teaching gamers somewhat of how it works?


It's at least as likely that the game developers only have a marginal idea of what real lockpicking is like anyway.


WarDaft wrote: Realistic lockpicking in a game where you can be strong enough to wield a 20 lb battle axe with ease and has no notion of forensic science is kicking the door in. It's a lot easier and faster than most people think, even with Hollywood exaggeration. But then you're not allowed to do that for the same reason that bashing open a chest in NWN2 breaks the stuff inside - it makes the lockpicking skill the RP enthusiasts love completely useless. In truth, the only two penalties for breaking open a chest/door is that 1) It's loud, and 2) You can't easily lock it again. Neither of which are of much concern when your first reaction to seeing enemies run at you is "Oh good, more XP!"


OOO for Oblivion included an optional function for bashing locks that worked off your strength. I never tried it out though because I always played mage or rogue characters and could either spell the locks open or just grabbed the skeleton key as soon as possible.


I'm not a fan of the FO3 lockpicking mechanic. Was there actually a way to tell if the pin was correctly positioned, all I remember is having to keep guessing and checking to figure out how the pin needed to be oriented without any sort of feedback other than applying torque to see if the pin looked like it would break or not.
It might have been aesthetically similar to real-life lock-picking, but game-play wise, the lack of feedback was a poor design decision.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby letterX » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:17 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not a fan of the FO3 lockpicking mechanic. Was there actually a way to tell if the pin was correctly positioned, all I remember is having to keep guessing and checking to figure out how the pin needed to be oriented without any sort of feedback other than applying torque to see if the pin looked like it would break or not.
It might have been aesthetically similar to real-life lock-picking, but game-play wise, the lack of feedback was a poor design decision.

In the PC version at least, the lock squeeks differently when you're in the right position. And as long as you're applying torque with a light touch (successive clicks of longer duration) it's easy to tell when the bobby-pin starts vibrating, telling you you've got it not quite right.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby thecommabandit » Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:41 am UTC

letterX wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not a fan of the FO3 lockpicking mechanic. Was there actually a way to tell if the pin was correctly positioned, all I remember is having to keep guessing and checking to figure out how the pin needed to be oriented without any sort of feedback other than applying torque to see if the pin looked like it would break or not.
It might have been aesthetically similar to real-life lock-picking, but game-play wise, the lack of feedback was a poor design decision.

In the PC version at least, the lock squeeks differently when you're in the right position. And as long as you're applying torque with a light touch (successive clicks of longer duration) it's easy to tell when the bobby-pin starts vibrating, telling you you've got it not quite right.

I always picked the locks by applying torque and moving it into the right position. I rarely, if ever, broke picks. And then I remember people complaining about how hard it was. Oblivion lockpicking... now I found that hard.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Gopher of Pern » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:02 am UTC

thecommabandit wrote:
letterX wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not a fan of the FO3 lockpicking mechanic. Was there actually a way to tell if the pin was correctly positioned, all I remember is having to keep guessing and checking to figure out how the pin needed to be oriented without any sort of feedback other than applying torque to see if the pin looked like it would break or not.
It might have been aesthetically similar to real-life lock-picking, but game-play wise, the lack of feedback was a poor design decision.

In the PC version at least, the lock squeeks differently when you're in the right position. And as long as you're applying torque with a light touch (successive clicks of longer duration) it's easy to tell when the bobby-pin starts vibrating, telling you you've got it not quite right.

I always picked the locks by applying torque and moving it into the right position. I rarely, if ever, broke picks. And then I remember people complaining about how hard it was. Oblivion lockpicking... now I found that hard.


In the 360 version, the controller vibrated when you where in the wrong spot. It was quite easy, but I snapped a few by being careless. The tougher locks were actually tougher - the margin of error was smaller.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:04 pm UTC

GrawSith wrote:I'm really a fan of Alpha Protocol's lockpicking minigame

Game gets credit for more or less drawing the lock correctly.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby SirBryghtside » Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:40 pm UTC

thecommabandit wrote:
letterX wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not a fan of the FO3 lockpicking mechanic. Was there actually a way to tell if the pin was correctly positioned, all I remember is having to keep guessing and checking to figure out how the pin needed to be oriented without any sort of feedback other than applying torque to see if the pin looked like it would break or not.
It might have been aesthetically similar to real-life lock-picking, but game-play wise, the lack of feedback was a poor design decision.

In the PC version at least, the lock squeeks differently when you're in the right position. And as long as you're applying torque with a light touch (successive clicks of longer duration) it's easy to tell when the bobby-pin starts vibrating, telling you you've got it not quite right.

I always picked the locks by applying torque and moving it into the right position. I rarely, if ever, broke picks. And then I remember people complaining about how hard it was. Oblivion lockpicking... now I found that hard.

I found both easy... but I prefer Fallout's. Just because it's more intuitive.

Honestly, though? My favourite is either Mass Effect 1's hacking system, or Morrowind's one. Either make it fun or simple, basically.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby WarDaft » Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:25 pm UTC

The problem with ME's hacking system is that by that far in the future, hacking will be done totally with software. It'll be a simple matter of hooking the device up, hitting enter, and it will either work or it won't. Most likely likely won't. There will be absolutely nothing you as a mere human can do to improve its odds of success, unless you have spent your entire life studying the security and compromisation thereof in computer systems.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby SirBryghtside » Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:45 pm UTC

WarDaft wrote:The problem with ME's hacking system is that by that far in the future, hacking will be done totally with software. It'll be a simple matter of hooking the device up, hitting enter, and it will either work or it won't. Most likely likely won't. There will be absolutely nothing you as a mere human can do to improve its odds of success, unless you have spent your entire life studying the security and compromisation thereof in computer systems.

But it's fun.

Your statement is null and void :P

Nah, good point. If a CPU could ace that minigame now, then it'd be simple in the future... is there any way that futuristic hacking could be done well, and be based on player skill?

I guess real-life hacking just isn't all that interesting...
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby WarDaft » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:48 pm UTC

SirBryghtside wrote:But it's fun.

Your statement is null and void :P

Nah, good point. If a CPU could ace that minigame now, then it'd be simple in the future... is there any way that futuristic hacking could be done well, and be based on player skill?

I guess real-life hacking just isn't all that interesting...


Hitting a vulnerable piece of hardware with a remote hacking dart from across the room? If there was any practical way for a player to contribute to the actual compromising of a secure system, it wouldn't be security worth paying for.

Any actual hacking would almost certainly be done with a hacking AI (no this is not dangerous, people who let AI get away from them were simply careless) and the player's job would be simply to get the AI a remote unit somewhere useful so it can perform an appropriate side channel attack or seize control of the system.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby thecommabandit » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:18 am UTC

SirBryghtside wrote: is there any way that futuristic hacking could be done well, and be based on player skill?

Uplink made it pretty fun, where you had to bounce your connection off a bunch of servers and use the right hacking programs to get access, do what you need to and leave in the amount of time you have before the server's tracer software finds where you're hacking from. Admittedly that doesn't really work if you're right next to the computer you're trying to get access to but it was fun and not completely unrepresentative of the real-world thing it was imitating.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby dbsmith » Tue May 24, 2011 4:53 am UTC

Strangely enough, I woke up at 2am one night, scribbled down a rough idea for a lockpicking game and went back to bed. A few weeks later, I have a small prototype made in python. If anyone is interested, i could link an .exe in the next week or 2 and get some feedback? You all sound like you know what you're talking about r.e. lockpick games, so I'm guessing this is as good a place as any for some blunt criticism and suggestions.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 24, 2011 4:56 am UTC

Well color me curious, but I'm not sure I'm going to download and try a random .exe someone from the interwebs has put together.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby dbsmith » Tue May 24, 2011 5:26 am UTC

Fair enough. I didn't really consider that aspect. What would you propose then? Game is in python, it would require python and pygame...
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby SurgicalSteel » Tue May 24, 2011 5:42 am UTC

How hard would it be for you to port it to something web deployable and less likely to be infectious, like flash or unity?
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby EvanED » Tue May 24, 2011 5:48 am UTC

How much code is it? You could post that instead. There would be people who would run it in a VM or some sort of sandbox. And the code would be available for vetting if anyone feels adventurous.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby dbsmith » Tue May 24, 2011 5:59 am UTC

I could port to flash/web but I'd rather prototype in python. Can focus on quick iterations and improvements, rather than just porting code.
Code size is pretty damn small, its just a rough game mechanic prototype at this stage.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby thecommabandit » Tue May 24, 2011 12:08 pm UTC

My curiosity overrides my sense of danger and I'd be willing to download the exe to try it.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 24, 2011 2:47 pm UTC

dbsmith wrote:Fair enough. I didn't really consider that aspect. What would you propose then? Game is in python, it would require python and pygame...


Honestly, I'm curious, so I propose someone with better computer savvy than myself run it first and canary in the coal mine it for me. Forumite team power go!
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Technical Ben » Tue May 24, 2011 3:23 pm UTC

Times like this I wish I had my XP sandbox software working in Windows 7. :(
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Dthen » Tue May 24, 2011 4:41 pm UTC

I'll happily run a random .exe some guy on the internet has put together.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby thecommabandit » Tue May 24, 2011 7:00 pm UTC

You know guys, there's also such thing as a virus scanner. You can scan the file before running it.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 24, 2011 7:03 pm UTC

Yeah, but my computer-fu isn't exactly black belt level; for all I know the thing could be a keylogger or a wasamabobit.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby EvanED » Tue May 24, 2011 8:11 pm UTC

thecommabandit wrote:You know guys, there's also such thing as a virus scanner. You can scan the file before running it.

I guarantee you that I can write a program that will pass your virus scanner and still wreak havoc.
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Re: Lockpicking in Games (Or: *click* *click* *klunk* "DAMMI

Postby SurgicalSteel » Wed May 25, 2011 4:38 am UTC

dbsmith wrote:I could port to flash/web but I'd rather prototype in python. Can focus on quick iterations and improvements, rather than just porting code.
Code size is pretty damn small, its just a rough game mechanic prototype at this stage.
I see what you mean, dance with the devil you know and all that. But if you seriously want to expand on this and prototype it it might not be a bad idea to switch over to a safe, web-deployable rapid prototyper, like flash or unity (or silverlight I guess, but I don't know anything about that). Of course, the only reason to do that would be more people would be willing to try it out and give you feedback if they could just go to a website and play with it, instead of having to download an executable and then possibly download other stuff to get it to work. Most people probably wouldn't be willing to go through the hassle. If you're just making it for yourself though, yea, adventure on with Python.
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