Month: August 2008

Name That Game 52!

Now, see, if I didn’t suck so bad, this installment would be the anniversary edition of Name That Game!

But I do. So it isn’t.

This game was a pretty good Wizardry!-inspired RPG that was best known for having awesome box art.

Name and developer, please! If you win, I’ll let you try out my new virtual reality system! Of course, it’s kind of buggy…you can only turn ninety degrees left or right and every time you take a step you jump forward three feet.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3

Um…I’m not going to mince words here. This game looks awesome. Red Alert has got a couple of defining aspects, and one of them is that the developers understood that they couldn’t do “good” FMV. No matter how hard they tried it always came out cheesy. And if they tried to fight this and Take Themselves Seriously, they produced nigh-unwatchable stuff…like Command & Conquer 2.

So the Red Alert guys just decided to turn the Cheese Knob until it broke off, and Red Alert 3 continues this tradition with pride.

“Are you ready to send those commies runnin’ back to their mommies?” Yes. Yes, I am. And frankly, that’s a hell of a cast. Tim Curry, George Takei, J. K. Simmons, Jonathan Pryce…and the best part is, they’re into it. They understand that the scenery here is meant to be eaten. The only downside is Jenny McCarthy as Tanya. Yes, I know, Kari Wuhrer wasn’t available…but could they have at least dyed her hair? Tanya is not a blonde! I guess it’ll come down to how well she can yell “Shake it baby!” Given her background…probably pretty well.

And fortunately the gameplay looks like it’s going to have some interesting quirks as well (plus some of the best-looking water I’ve ever seen):

Building bases on the ocean? Amphibious engineers? Transforming mechs? Artillery that shoots soldiers? DO WANT.

Oh, and a quick Braid update: Megan has completed the game and is now searching for the secret stars. After finding one yesterday she raised her hands in triumph and exclaimed, “Yes! I am the master of space and time!” I think it was worth buying the game just for that.

Planitia Update 30: MULTIPLAYER GET!

That’s right. After weeks of work and a near-full engine rewrite I have multiplayer working in Planitia. Now, right now everything has to be hardcoded – number of clients, the IP addresses, everything. So I can’t release a demo yet. I’ll need to at least bang in some code so that clients and servers can find each other on a LAN before I do.

I’m just terribly, terribly excited. I did a ton of research for this (and of course I’ll be Writing An Article) and it paid off tremendously – everything is working exactly like I expected it would once the system was implemented.

Now, that’s not to say it’s perfect. The system is updating an average of six times a second, which means that right now units jump across the map and there’s a bit of lag between clicking a button and having something happen in the world. Both of these can be made to look better with interpolation and prediction, though they don’t actually change how the game plays.

If you guys want to get a leg up on finding out how I did the multiplayer, you can read the following articles:

For making your engine multiplayer ready:
Instant Replay: Building a Game Engine with Reproducible Behavior

For implementing network multiplayer in an RTS:

1500 Archers on a 28.8: Network Programming in Age of Empires and Beyond
“Real-Time Strategy Network Protocol”, Game Programming Gems 3 page 496 or Best of Game Programming Gems page 459, by Jan Svarovsky

Teehee! I’m so excited!

Oh, and the next installment of Let’s Play Starflight will be delayed a day. For some reason.

Let’s Play Starflight! 4: Ignoring the Boring

The journey through the stars continues, weeknights on NBC.


Braid was the first game I ever bought on XBLA. I did so at the behest of Megan, who played through the trial and loved it. I had also enjoyed the trial version even though I thought some of the puzzles were too hard to execute (of course, she benefits from having the reflexes of a thirteen-year-old).

So we’re playing Braid, right? We’re having a good amount of fun figuring out the puzzles and unlocking new worlds and seeing how time changes in each world. Some of the puzzles are just ridiculously difficult, but the game isn’t that long so if you keep at it you’re sure to finish it eventually. It’s going pretty good.

And then it ends.

I guess it’s just not possible for an indie game to have a satisfying, upbeat ending. While the maudlin text throughout the game alerted me that the ending was probably going to be a downer, it didn’t prepare me for the game becoming a lecture on the evils of the creation of the atomic bomb. No, seriously. I am not making this up. Johnathan Blow even includes the director of the Manhattan Project‘s famous “Now we are all sons of bitches” line in the ending, which came as quite a surprise to me and Megan. Lest you think I’m spoiling it, believe me – it’s pre-spoiled.

If I want to be lectured on the evils of nuclear weapons, I’ll…you know what? I grew up in the 80’s. I’m never going to want to be lectured on the evils of nuclear weapons.

So overall: excellent concept, fairly well executed, with an ending that gives Metal Gear Solid 2 a run for its money. Hopefully Blow will realize that propaganda is the enemy of art and his next game will be more satisfying.

DeceasedCrab vs GarlandTheGreat

Okay, today I’m going to talk about my two favorite YouTube channels.

First, there’s DeceasedCrab. DC does “Let’s Plays“. The definition of an LP is sort of nebulous; an LP isn’t a speedrun; it’s more of an attempt by a player to present a game in its entirety. For that reason, it doesn’t make much sense to do LPs of games that are popular and easily available, unless you want to go the MST3K route on them.

While DC did not invent the LP, his excellent LP of La-Mulana catapulted him into the spotlight. Since then he has wisely stuck to playing rare, out-of-print, offbeat and indie games.

DC talks while he plays, and he’s basically either commenting on what is happening or free-associating. His fans (including me) love him because he’s constantly dropping anime, manga or gaming references into his LPs. He’s also got a habit of breaking out into song; indeed, more than once his viewers have sent him songs to sing on the air.

DC also has a fantastic ethic about his videos. He rarely swears (indeed, he accidentally dropped the F-bomb in his second video of La-Mulana and then instantly chastised himself) and he posts a video practically every day.

Every time I go to DC’s channel I know I’m going to be treated to something funny and unique.

My other favorite YouTube channel belongs to GarlandTheGreat. Garland is pretty much the exact opposite of DC. He doesn’t do voiceovers. Most of the games he makes videos for are common, popular games. But Garland’s videos are amazing.

He’s done complete 100% runs of Crash Bandicoot 1, 2 and 3 and a Metal Gear Solid run on Extreme difficulty where he takes no damage (until he encounters some absolutely unavoidable hits at the very end).

But his real love is in destroying Square RPGs.

Remember the Midgar Serpent in Final Fantasy VII, which was deliberately made so powerful your party couldn’t beat it, forcing you to tame a chocobo to get past it? Here’s a video of him defeating it with just Tifa at level 5.

He has completed a run through Final Fantasy X where he was not allowed to use the Sphere Grid, not allowed to customize his weapons, not allowed to summon Aeons, and not allowed to use Overdrives. Indeed, that wasn’t challenging enough for him, because he’s now begun another playthrough where he is also not allowed to use items or Riku’s “Trio of 9999” mix.

The thing that really makes his videos is his patience. He routinely talks about taking hundreds of tries to get a video right. In the intro for his Metal Gear Solid videos he mentions that he has played Metal Gear Solid all the way through 62 times.

He is currently working on his two magnum opii: a tool-assisted 100% speedrun of Final Fantasy VII…and a non-tool-assisted 100% speedrun of Final Fantasy VII.

Whenever I go to Garland’s channel I know I’m going to see something amazing done to a video game I thought I knew everything about.

Let’s Play Starflight! Parts 2 and 3

Okay. Despite the fact that I specifically said that I wouldn’t be posting every episode of Let’s Play Starflight! here on my blog and that you should check my YouTube channel for updates, I am still getting IMs from people asking where Part 2 is…even though Part 2 went up four days ago.

So here’s Part 2.

And here’s Part 3, which went up last night.

I guess I will be posting all of these to my blog…

Feeling Cantankerous

Ugh. Sorry I’ve out of touch for the last couple of days. Of course, as soon as I commit to a long-running project like “Let’s Play Starflight!” I get sick. There will be an update tonight, though. I just may sound really froggy for the next couple of days.

On a completely unrelated topic, allow me to present you game designers out there with a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you get embroiled in a conversation with a couple of your fellow designers similar to the following:

Designer 1: “Oh, my god I just had the best idea. Let’s put a monster into the game-”

Designer 2: “Yeah?”

Designer 1: “-And let’s make it so that the player has to fight it in the vehicle. But let’s make it practically impervious to the vehicle’s weapons, which, even though this game is an RPG, you can’t upgrade.”

Designer 2: “That was brilliant, by the way.”

Designer 1: “Thanks!”

Designer 2: “Too bad you had to concede on the shields.”

Designer 1: “That’s just it! This monster’s attacks will be long ranged and go right through the player’s shields, doing damage directly to the vehicle! Plus, we’ll make it so that the monster can dive underground at a moment’s notice, and if it surfaces under the player’s vehicle, the player instantly dies!”

Designer 2: “Ooh, ooh! I know! And we’ll force the player to fight one as part of a side plot, and once he does, we’ll have that monster start popping up on every other planet he visits!”

Designer 1: “You’ve learned well, young padawan.”

Should you become involved in a conversation like the above, I want you to lean over and crack Designer 1’s lower jaw with a sharp right cross. Then, while he’s writhing on the floor, raise your fist menacingly at Designer 2 until he cowers. Seriously. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

Why…why, yes, I have been playing Mass Effect rather a lot lately. Why do you ask?

Let’s Play Starflight!

Yes, let’s!

I’m probably not going to post about every video I do for this…I just wanted to let you guys know I’m doing it. I love Starflight, despite its flaws, and I want more people to learn about this groundbreaking game.

Name That Game 51!

We’re wasting away again in RPG-a-ville.

This game has an interesting history…which I can’t talk about until someone guesses it. So, name and developer, please! If you win, I’ll let you try out my new machine that digitizes people and puts them inside the computer! You’ll be able to play the games as if you’re actually there! Don’t worry, the theory is perfectly sound…what could go wrong?