Month: <span>February 2007</span>

Planitia Update…Uh…7? Yeah, 7.

The armies are arrayed – and even have hit point bars!

Something's about to go down...

And the warriors and barbarians can even fight each other!

Huh.  Did you just hit me?  I can't tell, we don't have attack animations yet.

So why no demo? Well, technically I could release one but you guys probably wouldn’t be that happy with it. First off, the archers don’t work. None of the units control the way you would expect them to control if you’ve played an RTS before. I need to do some more work on how they move and attack and what they do when they don’t have any direct orders. Hopefully I will get that done this week.


Inaria in C#

I love getting emails like this.

“Hello,

You don’t know me, but I have just completed a ‘port’ of Inaria into C#, and
figured I should let you know.”

This port of Inaria was done by new friend Ernest Pazera. He warns that the performance isn’t that great because his replacement of the SDL was a bit quick and dirty, but also says that he intends to eventually port it to XNA, which should improve performance.

Inaria C#

Inaria C# Source

Ernest’s website is PlayDeez.com, and he’s got several other interesting games there.


Supreme Commander

Here’s my quick take on the Supreme Commander demo.

Runs terrible on my computer and I’m not sure why. My computer can run Age of Empires III, Dawn of War and Company of Heroes just fine. I understand that the whole point of Supreme Commander is scale, but even on the first mission of the campaign I’m getting terrible slowdown and that mission isn’t very big. And this is with the lowest graphical settings, which honestly make the game look like crap. The scale also gives lots of interface problems – just try to target an enemy interceptor on the main view map. Thus, you’ll actually spend a lot of time either zoomed out so you can click on the icons for enemy units or you’ll be clicking on the minimap to give your commands. So why have the close-up view at all? Oh, right – it makes for good screenshots.

And then there’s the fact that the actual gameplay is…Total Annihilation. I understand that Supreme Commander was specifically designed to be the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation, but honestly, all playing the Supreme Commander demo did was make me want to go back and play Total Annihilation again rather than make me want to play Supreme Commander. Because the gameplay isn’t significantly different and TA will actually run on my computer.


Planitia Semi-Update

I swore to myself that I would work on Planitia for at least an hour a night every night this week, and so far I have kept that promise. A lot of stuff has been added, but I still feel the game needs more work before I can update again. It is possible that I’ll get that work done tonight and have the update up tomorrow, but if not it certainly should get done this weekend.

And the reason I’m holding off is because once I get in everything I want to get in, I’m actually going to let you play it! So be patient!


Rethinking PSRD

I have a policy on this site that I do not discuss politics, sex, religion or drugs. I call this “PSRD”. I do this because these subjects have become incredibly divisive (especially politics) and I don’t want people getting into stock flamewars in my comments over subjects that have already been argued to death and back.

On the other hand…I had a bit of an epiphany over the weekend about games that have an overt political slant and I’d really like to talk about it. And it does feel weird to not be able to talk about whatever I want on my own blog. I know that a lot of people have multiple blogs for different subjects, but I’m honestly far too lazy to set that up (and policing one blog is enough work already).

So I’m going to do what James Lileks does and warn you.

Warning. If you continue reading, you might find out something about my political views that you do not like. Thus, if you want to continue to like me, you should not continue reading. Should you ignore this warning and continue to read and then decide that you no longer like me, please flame me through email rather than with a comment. Flame comments will be deleted.

Last chance to stop reading and not be offended by my political bias.




Okay. Over the weekend I was doing some “history of gaming” research and I was reminded of the Oddworld series of games. Now, I’d never really liked the Oddworld games; I felt they were artistically brilliant but the gameplay was primitive. But it wasn’t until I watched a GDC presentation by Lorne Lanning that I started to actively hate them.

That presentation (which, unfortunately, Gamasutra no longer hosts) was ostensibly about producing games. But what Lanning actually delivered was a liberal anti-government, anti-business diatribe. Which explained a lot to me about his games. There’s no such thing as a good business in Oddworld; all businesses are evil and the people who create and run them are willing to commit any atrocity to keep profits up. Destroying them is a brave and noble act.

And that reminded me of a couple other things. First, Jay is Games featured a whole bunch of “serious games” on his site right before the midterm elections last year – all of which had a liberal slant. (One of them was about how important NGOs are to developing countries, something a whole lot of people would dispute.) When called on it, he basically said “It’s my site, if you don’t like it stop reading.” Which of course is his right. And it’s my right to stop reading him – which I didn’t do. But I don’t read him as often as I used to, because now I feel I have to vet each link he provides to make sure there’s no message before I click. Because honestly, I don’t play games to get preached at.

Which made me start wondering…why is it that practically every game that has an overt political slant is liberal? Conservatives tend to dutifully scrub their own personal prejudices out of the games they make – witness The Political Machine, which is scrupulously nonpartisan even though its creator, Brad Wardell, is definitely conservative.

And then I remembered this nearly excellent article in The Guardian (England’s largest newspaper) about Ian Bell and David Braben, the creators of Elite. Now, The Guardian is liberal to the core. At no point will a conservative viewpoint ever be approvingly presented in that publication. But I was shocked at the amount of bashing on Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher there was in an article that seemingly had nothing to do with politics.

And that’s when I realized that games that have an overt political bias are liberal because most of the common game mechanics are fundamentally conservative.

Take Elite itself. The two basic mechanics of Elite are “work to improve your lot through your own actions” and “if anyone tries to steal your hard-earned money, shoot them”. Both of these are conservative principles. Which doesn’t surprise me, I don’t think “wait for your next government stipend” would make for compelling gameplay.

Plus there was the fact that writing Elite made both Bell and Braben rich. You’re not supposed to be able to get rich in a socialist society, no matter how much value you provide to how many people. Thus, while the reporter was obligated to write about them because they’d made a game that had become world famous and inspired many other games, he felt the need to remind us how fundamentally Bad the whole situation was. He even made sure to note that Bell had become a good liberal now.

Unfortunately for the liberals, the most popular PC game in the world is also one of the most conservative. I’m talking about The Sims 2.

The Sims 2 is a fantastic game, but I’d deliberately not played it much because it is such a time sink – I think it’s the one game that sucks up time even better than RPGs. Megan has been playing it practically since it shipped, and when I was assigned to work on a Sims 2-based project here at work I finally could justify spending several hours with the game.

Just running a simple simulation of a household is enough to shatter a whole bunch of liberal delusions. One of the base scenarios in Sims 2 explicitly shows how difficult it is to raise a child as a single parent. Another makes it quite clear what adultery does to a household. Several show the consequences of having sex (or “making woohoo” as they put it in the Sims world) with a bunch of different people. The game does a great job of teaching the importance of setting good goals and working towards them. It even shows how important it is to choose a spouse well. Plus there’s the fact that getting ahead in Sims 2 requires a lot of work (even with cheat codes). It doesn’t preach; all it does is show the consequences. Which has certainly been enough to cause Megan to come to several useful conclusions.

And I love the fact that the user base of Sims 2 is evenly split between men and women.

In the end, propaganda is the enemy of art and I certainly wouldn’t call any of the liberal-slanted games I encountered “good” by any standard. So I guess I shouldn’t let it bother me.


Name That Game 16!

I am continuing my kick of “easy games that are really good”. This particular series of games is one that I never got into myself but I know lots of people loved. I really should try it sometime…

Mmmmm....tiles!

Name and developer, please!


Licensed Kiddie Crap

Last weekend something interesting happened.

I came out of my bedroom to see my 12-year-old daughter Megan playing Ico on the PS2. I knew she’d pulled it out recently to play again (we’ve both played it through many, many times) so I wasn’t surprised.

Then I looked again and realized that it wasn’t Megan playing, it was my five-year-old David! I knew he had been watching Megan play Ico but I hadn’t realized that he’d gotten interested in it enough to try it himself! Needless to say I was very happy.

Of course, Ico is a terrible game for a five-year-old. (You can watch this movie to familiarize yourself with the game if you have not played it…you heathen, you.) The control scheme is confusing and having to drag Yorda around everywhere is a pain. Plus he was terrified of the shadows – when they appeared he would actually jump off a cliff and kill Ico to end the game rather than fight them. But he kept going back to it. He eventually got to the point where he could move around well, pull switches, jump up ledges and even climb chains.

But I really wanted to find him something he could play. I thought about Katamari Damashii, and while that game is charming and upbeat, its control scheme is even more confusing than Ico’s is. I really didn’t have anything suitable for him.

Now, longtime readers of this site might remember that I used to work for a company called Human Code. At Human Code we made a lot of money making very pretty dreck based on very popular licenses. I personally was the tester on Barbie Pet Rescue, which was released the same year as Deus Ex and outsold that game, thus proving to some pundits that the PC game industry was doomed.

Thus, I have very little tolerance for licensed kiddie crap. And yet I needed a game for David…

On the recommendation of Tom, I bought Dora the Explorer: Journey to the Purple Planet. He said he was surprised at how good it was, and the fact that new copies were still available at Fry’s seemed to bear this out.

And I was also surprised – it’s a good game. It’s fully 3D, but the controls are easy to master. The graphics and animation are good and seem more fluid than the original cartoon. And it’s set in outer space, which David loves (although he hasn’t actually gotten the rocket ship working yet). I couldn’t pry him off it all weekend.

If I’ve got a complaint about the game, it’s that the makers were forced to conform to Sony’s standardized interface requirements which state that you must provide multiple save slots that the player can switch between, you cannot create a save file without prompting the player, you cannot override a save file without prompting the player, you must have options for volume and subtitles and mono/stereo, etc…the kids this game is targeted at can’t read yet; why are you making them deal with all this text?

But that’s a fairly minor point. Global Star Software, the makers of Journey to the Purple Planet, appear to be another incarnation of Human Code – practically everything they do is licensed. I’m just glad they are taking games for small children more seriously than most companies.


Planita Update 6! For Real!

Okay, it’s Two For Thursday so that means two – count them, two – new Planitia screenshots!

First off, multiple unit types:

Run for your lives!

And secondly, the highly coveted band selection! With bonus white box!

Run for your lives!

Which means that the first battle in the War of the Pixelated but Iconic Sprites can now begin!

Seriously, I’m hoping to have some decent-looking combat footage by the end of this weekend. Things are finally shaping up!