Wednesday, 23 February 2011

My new Text-Based Game Project

As a programming challenge to myself, I've decided to make a game that's based on a part of my job - a part that I find rather annoying, but extremely challenging. Naturally I'm going to try to take away the annoying elements :-D - and I'm going to simplify things somewhat, partly for the sake of gameplay, and partly to make the programming a little easier.  It occurred to me one day that computer games often have us doing things for fun that we'd avoid in real life - the original Mario Bros. had us putting boxes on a conveyor belt, for heaven's sake!  Night Shift had us manning factory machines, and Advanced Lawnmower Simulator - well, I don't need to tell you what that one did.

Anyway, more news as I near having a playable game.  I've only been developing the game for a couple of games and have made considerable progress, but getting the actual gameplay mechanism working could prove more tricky than what I've done so far.  If you have a weird yearning to play a cunning, strategic text-based game, watch this space...


Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Monday, 21 February 2011

Peter Molyneux to receive the Academy Fellowship

Game designing legend who created Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park and the Fable series is to become a BAFTA Fellow 

London, 21 February 2011: Peter Molyneux, the creative force behind some of the world's most popular and enduring video games, will receive the British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ Fellowship at this year’s GAME British Academy Video Games Awards. 

Molyneux is one of the best-known names in the international world of computer games. He co-founded Bullfrog Productions in 1987 and created a new genre of computer games known as “the God game”, with the release of Populous. Since then he has been responsible for a string of massive gaming titles including Powermonger, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, Dungeon Keeper and the Fable series. Cumulative sales of his games are at approximately fifteen million worldwide. 

On being invited to receive the Fellowship, Peter Molyneux said: “I remember back in 1967 watching the first BAFTA awards on television with my family and seeing them being so excited about those accolades. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would be possible for me to accept one of the greatest honours the entertainment industry has to offer. My first thought on learning that I was awarded an Academy Fellowship was that to be in the company of some of the greatest talents the entertainment industry has ever seen is truly humbling and secondly that this an award not just for myself, but for all the people I’ve ever worked with”.

Amanda Berry OBE, Chief Executive of BAFTA, said: “We are delighted to be honouring Peter at this point in his long and successful career in video games. He is one of the leading figures in the development of video games as an art form and an inspiration to the next generation of creative minds”.

The GAME British Academy Video Games Awards will take place on Wednesday 16 March at the London Hilton on Park Lane. The Awards will be streamed live for the first time at go.ign.com/baftamicrosite, as well as at www.bafta.org and www.baftagameaward.com.



Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Star Wars: Republic Commando - Xbox

Star Wars: Republic Commando was developed by LucasArts and released in 2005 for the Xbox and PC and is another one of those games that is a great mixing of different genres. In the game you play as the leader of a elite squad of clone troopers, Delta 38, that are always sent on critical and dangerous missions, often behind enemy lines. On one hand it is a great action FPS, that is moderately reminiscent of Halo. On the other hand it is also very strategic and values forethought at least as much as action. The ingeniousness is in how they seamlessly integrate these two opposing ideas.


To make this integration of genres work the strategy has been somewhat simplified, or at least the controls have. You normally have strategic control over three other squad-mates, to which you can issue simple commands. These commands include: use specified cover, breach/hack door, focus fire on specified enemy, search and destroy, and secure location. For the most part the strategy is setting up the squad in strategic positions which can then leave you to focus completely on the action; Not that all the battles go this simple. Often you will face situations featuring a constant stream of enemies where you will have to push your squad forward to an objective or constantly reorder your positions because of other changing factors. Personally, I think that this formula worked very well and I really enjoyed it.


The action FPS part of Republic Commando is pretty standard fare. You have the standard assault rifle, anti-armour grenade launcher, sniper rifle, infinite ammo pistol, and melee in addition to the numerous enemy weaponry you can pick up. You and your squad have a regenerating over-shields and health bars, with your heath only regenerating when visiting any of the bacta charging stations spread around the game. But if your health runs out completely you, or any of your squad, can be revived by a fellow squad member. What makes this action possible is how well your squad acts when not receiving orders, which is to say very well. You can do a fair amount of damage yourself but sometimes their are huge numbers of troops that no single commando could deal with himself and your squad-mates are always needed to watch your back.


Their are a few very cool features included in the game that really polishes the whole experience and make it feel more unique. One feature that has no effect on gameplay at all, but is still one of the coolest parts of the game, is the weaponry. Instead of having separate weaponry, your issued assault rifle is capable of being transformed on the fly into a sniper rifle or anti-armour grenade launcher. Their is also the fully immersion way that the game is displayed. The game world is shown, when not in cut scenes, completely through the helmet of a storm trooper. This helmet contains your HUD that holds your health and shield information along with some rudimentary squad information. Additionally, this screen be negatively effected by events in the world; For example, killing an enemy too close to you, or simple rain, can cause effects on your screen that at times are restrictive to vision.


The one disappointing area of the entire game is how short it is. But the game does manage to pack in some very interesting scenarios into this small package. You start the game at the very beginnings of the Clone Wars during the battle of Geonosis, in which you slip behind enemy lines to assassinate and sabotage. The next time you take control again is over a year into the war; You have been sent to investigate a mysterious derelict ship. The mystery of the derelict ship solved, the war drags on becoming increasingly deadly. Which leads us to the third and final chapter of the game, which takes place on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk which has recently sent a distress call. Here your squad must restore order and help fight off the invading army.


Like the rest of the game the presentation in Star Wars: Republic Commando is similarly polished and enjoyable. While the in-game graphics obviously do not stand up in terms of polygon count and are definitely not as shiny as modern PC/Xbox 360 players have come to expect, it makes up for this fact in shear stylish good looks in both gameplay and cutscenes. In the gameplay it is obvious that attention to detail has been put into the presentation; In addition to the stylish good looks we also see a range of motion from the characters. With multiple death animations for all characters and with some characters jumping, and even flying, all over the place and grappling with you and your squad all the while looking realistic. But when you are talking about presentation the cinematics are were it is at, and what really makes the cinematics shine is the shear scale of many of them. You start of the game as a baby woken up for the first time by your creators. You then see yourself progress to adulthood, constantly learning and training. One of the more interesting cinematics comes right finishing your training; The war is about to start and the Clone army is on the move, so a massive movement of troops is underway with transports landing and being boarded with fresh troops headed for Geonosis.



Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Monday, 7 February 2011

Games featured so far...

62 games across 9 different systems


Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Stranger's Wrath - Xbox

Stranger's Wrath is a 2005 Xbox exclusive action adventure game. It has recently been ported/remade for the PC and PlayStation 3, and is the last game set in the Oddworld universe; This Oddworld universe is a place conceived by the development team Oddworld Inhabitants, and characterized by the consistent use of humour throughout, but with the serious overarching theme of depicting the evils of modern capitalism, industrialization, consumerism, and corporations. For more information about the Oddworld universe, or the games set within it, check out my article on the subject.

The general idea is that you play as a bounty hunter named Stranger who is out to capture as many criminals as possible to earn the moolah, aka money, to pay for a life saving operation. You capture criminals by either killing or, for more money, knocking them unconscious and, for both methods, putting them in your infinite capacity bag and bringing them to a town bounty store.

Personally I think that Stranger's Wrath has some of the best mechanics of any action adventure. Foremost is the ability to seamlessly transition between third-person, for exploration and melee combat, and first-person, for ranged combat, perspectives; This mechanic gives the player the best of both worlds, allowing them the better viewpoint of the third-person perspective while not simplifying the world down to a series of 2D planes. Additionally, it has, like every good action adventure, a unique and interesting equipment/weapon load-out, and a fun way of transversing the environment.


The equipment is particularly noteworthy (and gives a new meaning to live rounds), as Stranger's unique crossbow shoots living ammunition. This ammunition is found and bought throughout the game and is comprised of nine different critters. For example Wasps are used as an equivalent to a sniper rifle and Boombats are similar to rockets. But their is not always a one to one relationship between normal weaponry and Strangers creature arsenal, and a few have some very interesting uses. All of these ammunitions are fired by Stranger's double-barrel semi-automatic crossbow, a veritable contradiction in terms, but it works well enough. When not in first-person perspective this crossbow is unusable, but that does not mean that Stranger is no longer able to kick some ass; In third-person perspective he gains the ability to headbutt and to perform a spinning AOE punch. Additionally, if given a little time to speed up, his run will turn into charge, which, along with spreading up the rate of travel,will also deal massive damage to any enemies it connects with.


Throughout the entire game the level design has obviously been given attention to try and make the game as non-repetitive as possible, and I would say they have succeeded. They are all very different, and the only real constant, the big boss battle at the end, manages to be the biggest agent for uniqueness, as every single one is completely unique and on a separate note, extremely fun and at least somewhat epic. Along with this uniqueness, their is also lots of platforming and strategic elements to every level; For example, explosive barrels that Stranger can set off, or cranes that can lower heavy loads onto unsuspecting minions.


I recently fired up my copy of Stranger's Wrath, and was pleasantly surprised that the graphics have not really faded that much with age. While the game world is slightly low resolution and blocky, it still looks great and the cutscenes look amazing, professional movie quality amazing.




Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Linking to Retro-Gaming and Emulation

Just a quick note if anyone's linking to us - can you please use the new URL, http://www.retrogamingandemulation.com/, rather than the old Blogspot address.

Many thanks!


CaptainD


Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

CaptainD fondly remembers... The Bitmap Brothers

The Bitmap Brothers were one of the most innovative software houses of the nineties (and late eighties) and produced some absolute classics. Well, when I say were, I don’t mean they’re not still going - but this is more a walk through memory lane for me than anything. (I won’t mention all of their games - just those that I’ve played.) If you remember those memorable days of the 16-bit machines, with Atari ST and Commodore Amiga owners at permanent loggerheads, arguing about which computer was better, and perennial enemies by default, then you may enjoy this blast from the past.

The first games I was aware of from the “Brothers” (who released their games under through Image works / Konami, but later set up their own distributing level called “Renegade”) were Xenon [1988] and Speedball (also 1988). The former was a shot-em-up whose claim to fame was that you controlled a craft that could change from a land vehicle to spaceship - though to be honest I was never that thrilled with this particular game. Speedball on the other hand was very enjoyable - one of the very few futuristic sports games to ever (and I mean ever) really grab the game playing public. Back then it seemed that more often than not sequels were better than the original games, which may be partly explained by the improvements in technology and the programmers have more experience of coding the mainstream machines. This certainly proved the case with Xenon 2: Megablast and Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (despite the latter’s silly name) - released in 1989 and 1990 respectively, these were both timeless classics. Both took the basic gameplay of the first games, expanded them without losing playability, give them brilliant graphics and sound, got some brilliant music added to them, and generally made them both games you couldn’t stop playing.

It didn’t stop there, either. In 1991 the Bitmap Brothers gave us Gods, a platform game with superb graphics for the time, and a novel feature in the form of an adaptive difficulty level. This was the first game I ever remember having such a feature. If you were doing really badly, for instance, the game would drop a health icon on your head. At the time I loved this game, though strangely it has aged very badly (though I can’t really work out why). Hmm… haven’t used my ST emulator for a while…

The same year (I think) another platform game was released, Magic Pockets, which wins points for its sheer cheek. Your character has a special ability - he can.. .um… well, you see… he can create whirlwinds in his pocket. Quite how he does this is never really explained, and perhaps it’s best not to know. You can create different sized whirlwinds and use them to destroy or entrap the monsters that inhabit… wherever it is that you’re in. The level design was absolutely brilliant, and the gameplay fun and quirky - which it would have to be to hold my interest, as I’m not a he fan of platform games. Hold my interest it did, and I wasted quite a few hours of my misspelt yout on this game.

Even that wasn’t the end of it. Two years later, in 1993, they released The Chaos Engine (about the only game I ever played on the Amiga A1200). The Amiga version was, I have to admit reluctantly, far superior to the Atari STe version (though fair enough, the A1200 was a 32-bit machine). If I remember rightly this was the game that caused the Bitmap Brothers to fall out with Atari; the spiffy 32-bit Atari Falcon was heralded to be the saving grace of Atari, who have since been bought out at least twice, but they made a crucial mistake; they made the base model with only 1Mb of memory. The Bitmap Brothers said that it needed 4Mb, but Atari didn’t shift. (Look, I know it sounds ridiculously small and your cell phone probably has much more memory than that, but at the time it was a lot!) Thus the Falcon, devoid of titles due to this restriction, crashed and burned. Oh, and did I mention? The Chaos Engine was a great game, one of the best shoot-em-ups I’ve ever played. Though in my heart I still prefer Xenon 2...

There are signs of new products coming forth on the official website (below), though much of the recent effort seems to have gone into converting their existing games to work on handheld consoles. For more information, see http://www.bitmap-brothers.co.uk/front.htm

Screenshots from The Bitmap Brothers' Games:



















Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator