Month: March 2007

ODE is on its last legs…

I’ve no doubt that ODE can do what I want it to do.

I just can’t figure out how to make it do it, despite having stayed up until about 2 AM every night this week.

If I can’t get ODE integrated by April 1, I’m cutting it. If I cut it, I will try to replace it with some simple crappy physics of my own…but I can’t promise anything.

I’ve already cut (or severely scaled back) the world simulation that I thought the whole concept of this game was going to be built around…if I cut physics too, what’s left to make this game distinctive? I’ll basically be remaking Age of Mythology. Now, of course, this project was supposed to be a learning experience (and boy, it certainly has been)…but when I started I had a bit of a vision, and now it’s pretty much all gone.

Ah, well. It’s the Dark Time on the project. Every project has one. I’ll just have to push through it and see what comes out.

Planitia Update 12 – The Trailer!

It’s short, it’s simple, and it’s silent, but it shows what I’ve managed to get into the game.

I’m definitely starting to feel more hopeful about the project. I’ve still got a month…that might be enough time.

EDIT: So…nobody gets the reference?

EDIT: I guess it was too subtle. The line “Hold! What you are doing is wrong! Why do you do this thing?” is from Star Control 2.

Now I’m a Big Fat Liar, Too

This weekend turned out not to be conducive to working on Planitia at all…I got a little stuff done, but not nearly enough to do my trailer. Hopefully sometime next week.

I Beg Your Forebearance…

Please don’t stop reading! I know there’s been a dearth of updates recently, but that’s because I’ve been focusing so heavily on Planitia. I really believe that the engine is coming together and will become an excellent platform for me to create content on in the future.

And I’m gonna put my money where my mouth is. I promise to post a new trailer of what the engine can do by midnight Sunday night…so stay tuned!

Today’s Bit of Gaming History: Magic Carpet

Now, that’s an interesting bit of video on its own, but it’s even more interesting if you look very closely at the prototypes Peter presents. In the first one, you are obviously flying over a Populous level that has been converted to use a voxel heightfield. Another one briefly displays an ASCII header that reads, “CREATION BY BULLFROG”. Now, if you’re up on your Bullfrog history, you know that the original name for Populous was “Creation”, and Peter was forced to change it when he couldn’t get a trade mark.

Thus, I think it’s clear from these prototypes that the project started with Peter telling his team, “I want to fly over a Populous world. Make that happen, I don’t care how you do it.” And once that was accomplished, they came up with a game – Magic Carpet – to go with it.

EDIT: I think I may need to start explicating posts like this one a bit more. I think too often I operate under the assumption that everyone else has studied video game history and design as ravenously as I have and thus I don’t have to explain things. Magic Carpet was a Bullfrog title released in 1994. It didn’t do that well because it required a powerful PC and the only network play was over LAN – this was back when most network play was done with a serial or null-modem cable. It also (as Sol mentioned) had a very short draw distance which made it kind of hard to play. The concept was good, though, and a remake could be quite fun.

The Inevitable Planitia Update About Why There Haven’t Been Any Darn Planitia Updates

It’s weird, because I’ve frankly been working quite hard on the game for the last month…but if you were to start it up and play it, it would look and play almost exactly like the combat demo I released. And yet I’ve done so much…everything is event-driven now instead of being procedural, the input code is greatly cleaned up, and I’ve even started adding an interface for activating god powers (though there’s only one power right now – click the button, damage a unit). And I am integrating ODE into the game, which I’m hoping will give it all kinds of nifty properties.

So soon, very soon, probably by the end of March, the game should look and play much better.

But right this second I got nothin’.

Gamespot Reviews Top Spin 2…

…which finally just released here in the States (it’s been out in Europe since late last year).

They gave it a 7.5, which is a bit disappointing. I was hoping for an 8 or better. At least we beat the DS version 🙂

And to answer Ryan Davis’ final charge near the end of the review: we had nine months, and Top Spin 2’s rendering system is amazingly complex. It’s honestly a tribute to Tom’s and Bobby’s abilities that the darn thing works at all. And personally, I never had any problems on the Intel DualCore 6600/2 gigs of RAM/Radeon X1900GT machine I’ve got here at work 🙂

Still, my first professional game review! And it’s definitely in the “Not Suck” category! Woohoo!

Name That Game 18!

And now we’re back to evil. If you played this game, I feel sorry for you. Though not as sorry as if you’d played Noctropolis.


This was another game that EA foisted off onto us at Origin. I remember poor Janie Kivil getting an irate older man who complained that the last level of the game was impossible. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything she could do for him; that level was completely arcade-based and required the reflexes of a twelve-year-old on speed. Sometimes I think some designers feel like they’ve failed if players can actually complete their game.

Anyway, name and developer, please.

Game Voyeur

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always enjoyed watching other people play games almost as much as I enjoy playing them myself.

Indeed, in some cases I enjoy it even more.

For instance…playing NetHack? Incredibly frustrating.

Watching someone who actually knows what he’s doing play NetHack? Fascinating.

Which you can do by telnetting to (Or just by running this groovy Java app.)

And you can watch people play Slash’Em by telnetting to

And you can watch people play Dungeon Crawl by telnetting to

If that’s a bit too primitive for you, how about some replays? There are enough Warcraft III replays at to last you a year or more!

Of course, if Warcraft III isn’t your bag, is quickly becoming the replay clearinghouse, with replays for Rise of Legends, Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Battle for Middle-Earth I and II, Command & Conquer 3, Age of Empires III…indeed, practically every RTS that isn’t Warcraft III.

The reason I love replays is because they’re such a small download for a lot of content. But sometimes you just want to watch somebody absolutely destroy a game and you don’t care that you’ll have to download several hundred megs to do it. That’s where speed runs come in.

There are two basic kinds of speed runs – straight and tool-assisted. Straight speed runs are just like they sound. Someone plays the game normally all the way through and demonstrates a great level of skill as they do so. Tool-assisted speed runs use emulators, luck manipulation and other tools to provide an eye-popping, but not particularly “authentic” experience. (If you’ve seen that stupendous video of someone beating Super Mario Brothers 3 in eleven minutes while racking up 99 lives and never taking a hit…that was a tool-assisted run.) Tool-assisted runs require patience, but no real skill.

Me, I like both. I don’t mind tool-assisted videos as long as they are labelled as such.

For straight speed runs, the place to go is the Speed Demos Archive. This is the home of my favorite speed run of all time.

For tool-assisted runs, TASVideos is a great place to start. Since tool-assisted runs require emulation, they tend to be done on older games.

Of course, you can just type the name of your favorite game into YouTube and you’re practically guaranteed to get something

But my second-favorite speed run wasn’t found by any of these methods. Instead, I found it while doing research on “Metroidvania” games. It’s a complete run through the first castle of Castlevania: Symphony of the Nightnon-tool-assisted – in 71 minutes.

(Why was I doing research on Metroidvania-style games? You’ll see…)

Inaria in Java!

Our friend Marko Turunen has just completed a Java port of Inaria, and it’s quite good! The performance is great, he’s cleaned up some of my graphical nastiness and added new effects, and of course it’s cross-platform!

When I mentioned that I was amazed at how many people wanted to port Inaria to different platforms, he replied that it’s a nice game and it’s also small enough to be a pretty easy port. Those are very kind words. Thanks, Marko!