How to report an accountant
Arena.Xlsm puts macros to work for leveling, battling, and collecting items.
by Casey Johnston - Apr 15, 2013 10:45 pm UTC
A communique from the emperor, above, expresses interest at my formidable skill in killing bunnies and koalas with rocks.
It's not always easy (or possible) to install your favorite games on your work computer. Sometimes a bit of Solitaire or some collaborative Bomberman might be all you can manage—and it had better look like work to any nearby screen snoopers.
While the game isn't a beauty to look at—the hero is represented by a smiley face and all enemies are all bracket-parenthesis pairs—it's fairly complex for, well, a spreadsheet. Attacks include a range of damage-inducing and healing spells that players buy and use with "blood," which regenerates with each turn. Players also find and can equip a range of weapons, including rocks, slingshots, bowling balls, rifles, ninja stars, and brass knuckles.
The game also engages in some light borrowing of characters and elements from other fictional universes. Players start off fighting bunnies and bees but quickly progress to vampires, ghosts, and dragons. The need to physically click on arrows to navigate around the screen can be a little bit cumbersome, but if your job is most easily simulated by a lot of clicking, your cubicle-mates may never notice a difference.
Enlarge / Instructions for the game come wrapped in letters from your presumed significant other, with whom you have a son. Kylem is unusually knowledgeable.
The whole game is driven by an anachronistic story involving the hero's battle through an emperor's arena of monsters. As he progresses, he gets letters from his wife, Kylem, who talks about their son going to school, the police, and mercenary messengers. We can't say much for Kylem's exposition style ("The police came to the house today. They completely ransacked the house. Obviously I can't go to the police to report this") but she knows a suspiciously large amount of info about the abilities and attacks of the monsters our hero encounters. She guides you throughout the game.
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with Walkin. he said that he decided to use Excel due to his extensive knowledge of the program (Walkin is an accountant by trade). “There is an old adage that underneath every RPG is a massive spreadsheet, so now the massive spreadsheet IS the RPG!” Walkin wrote.
Some players noted in the AMA that the macros in the spreadsheet are password-protected, so it’s impossible for players to tweak the game themselves. Walkin said that this was partially due to the code not being as tight as it could be, stating it’s “actually quite embarrassing.”
In response to requests, Walkin has released some code snippets that he hopes are clean enough for others to tinker with, but he still received plenty of feedback on how the code could have been better. Below is a variant of a subroutine for moving and collision detection that Walkin published on his blog :
He notes that four of these subroutines are required for all directions of movement, but it would be possible to have eight in total to incorporate diagonal movement as well. In the published game, players can only move in four directions but can attack and be attacked by enemies across diagonally adjacent tiles.
A few users expressed concern that the macros were locked, preventing would-be players from verifying that the .xlsm file contains no malware. Walkin stated that he understood the concern, but said that he had put his name all over
the game and that the version hosted on his own site was the only one he could promise the integrity of (other versions have popped on new hosts). Others wrote that locking the macros was good practice to keep the game working, but that the source code should still be available.
Since its original release, Walkin has released version 1.1 with bug fixes. One fix is that—spoiler alert—Alec Trevelyan (originally James Bond's colleague-turned-nemesis in Goldeneye ) manages to restore his energy after dying. He will now die when killed regardless of whether he is exhausted. Sounds like canon to us.
Crawling around a Spreadsheet Dungeon to slay monsters? Sounds like my first job.
Stay a while and listen.
Twas an age ago when Graphical User Interfaces were but a pipe dream in the minds of ordinary MicroSerfs. The dungeon in question resided in the land of SuperCalc. It was a dull and sorrowful land rendered in monochromatic green phosphor.
Woe had befallen my Lord for he had to account for the addition of 3 new markets on the gargantuan monstrosity that was the Monthly Turnover report. Many a brave knight had attempted to tame the Beast, but it had been in vain. All challengers failed in their task, they had wildly hacked and slashed at it causing it grow bigger and more angry.
The Monthly Turnover had become a twisted and distended 90 page long Paper Serpent scarred with the marks of brave
idiots 'heroes' who foolishly tried to tackle it then fled in terror &/or confusion leaving nary a useful comment in their wake. To make matters worse, many parts of the beast that had been hacked now flailed around uselessly in disconnected cells with no clue as to their purpose.
So my Lord bid me, his young squire, to tame the wretched creature and "Add these three extra markets onto the Monthly Turnover for me.". Twas clear from the outset that my Lord considered it a trivial undertaking that would require but a day. Perhaps he believed in my abilities or possibly he didn't understand the enormity of task I faced.
Boldly I strode through the office and set up camp in the far corner, as far away from my noisy feckless fellow office adventurers as possible. With supplies of Coca-Cola, a pad and pencil, I set about unravelling the mystery laid out across 90 sheets continuous perforated paper. The elephant in the room soon reared its head and realised I was the poor bastard standing behind with neither broom nor bucket. The elephant's gut rumbled ominously, a big job was coming.
With grim determination I hacked through acres of dense cruft. Here and there dotted amongst steaming piles bloat were the glistening jewels of the original writers logic. They could be saved, but I would have to get my hands dirty.
I toiled 5 long days, tidying, rewriting and reducing the once feared freak of hasty revision and careless neglect into a 20 page document with clear summary pages. Helpful comments were hidden in the margins so that any Adventurer following in my footsteps would get to their destination safely.
My reward, a job well done.
Months later my Lord was fired for his incompetence, the cause of all the problems in the first place. As a Squire without a Lord to serve I was soon cast aside with redundancy.
The tales of Sonolumi continue in Fellowship of the part-time Temps.
372 posts | registered Jun 14, 2012Source: arstechnica.com