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Showing posts from August, 2008

Modern PC Game Recommendations

When one first upgrades their computer, the perspective is one of, “I wonder if this game I had trouble with before plays better now.”  After the new computer buzz wears off a bit, one begins to realize that all their games play the same, just without lag. (With the exception of games which were so laggy that they were unplayable to begin with, but I think my old ATI X1600XT still pulled enough pixels on lower settings that I never quite encountered that.) So it is that I look to my pile of games and wonder at what in the way of not technical superiority but rather quality there is to play.

“Old” Games (Defined as games I had sitting around my house for awhile.)

Real-Time Strategy: Supreme Commander.
As far as Real Time Strategy goes, Supreme Commander is the purest and most powerful take to it. The tried-and-true Total Annihilation balance meets cutting-edge GUI innovation. No other RTS allows you to command hundreds of units quite as well. Technically, it’s one of the few g…

The Death Strangulation Migration of PC gaming

Death?

Now that I have a PC fast enough to run modern games, a startling thing that I noticed is just how few of them there are.  I have not bought that many games over the past few years – I was busy with school.   Even so, I somehow owned over half of the (worthwhile) games the local BestBuy had in stock (most of which were mentioned in yesterday’s entry).


A times like this, my first reaction is to wonder if PC gaming is dying, or even dead.  However, I have a hard time believing that’s truly the case when we’ve awesome games coming out soon: Spore, Warhammer Online, and Fallout 3 among them.   And yet, it seems clear to me that the release rate has decreased over PC gaming’s prime.

I don’t have to take the reduced shelf space at the local computer game stores as the only indicator, consider GameSpot’s New Release List.  On a week-by-week basis, the PC has more or less the same number of releases as a console, but the list is now being heavily padded by obscure indy games

Game Brains: Your Artificially Intelligent Opponent

As I take my BYOND project’s AI back to the drawing board for the 3rd or 4th time, I realize I’ve collected a bit of insight as to what goes into a game’s artificial intelligence that negated my earlier impressions.

In my initial impression, the main thing that worried me was creating a competent AI. Trying to design a real life robot to perform simple pathfinding is remarkably painstaking work because the computer thinks in terms of ones and zeroes – “on” and “off” switches – and the rock obstructing the way is neither “on” nor “off” but “rock.”  Performing the necessary conversion is a challenge.

Games have it a bit easier because the action takes place in a digital world from the start. There are no rocks, merely 1s and 0s that represent abstractions of rock. Some challenge remains, as the environment is restructured to have some similarities with life so the player can relate. The closer to real it is, the closer we get to our real life robot trying to understa…

Reinventing the compelling MMORPG economy

Perhaps if you’re a hardcore invested economist you think differently, but capitalism is a simple game of incentive for personal gain at its core. Don’t have money? Can’t live above welfare level. Want money? Work for it. Can’t or won’t work and still want money? Commit crimes. Committing crimes is deeply frowned on by responsible authorities, of course, but there’s a certain matter of how well they can enforce it that allow the criminal element to exist. In time, a rift forms between those who excel at getting money and those who don’t, leading (among other causes) to an unbalanced economy lead by lucky/skilled entrepreneurs and criminals.

MMORPG economies, largely conceived by aspiring capitalists looking to make some money through their sale, largely work the same way. Don’t have money? Can’t play above the most basic level. Want money? Go kill monsters. Can’t or won’t kill monsters and still want money? Cheat (for example, con other players or go buy it …

Crunch Time: The end of the Learning BYOND series

So ends my ‘Learning BYOND” series (though I’ll probably go back and edit those entries – for brevity, if nothing else). Ten days of “Learning BYOND” is probably enough to say that I’m past learning it, and am now simply using it.


What does use of BYOND produce? If the title is to believed, it allows you to Build Your Own Net Dream. Does BYOND live up to its name? Well, it definitely cuts down the toil of creating an online game tremendously, and I’m very much in debt to Dantom for providing it: it made building my online game accessible.

Yet, I’m finding that a game is only as good as you’re willing to put the effort into.  In the end, BYOND is a canvas and brush to wield with whatever skill you’re capable – not a spigot that need only be twist to realize your dream game. (This hardly surprises the realists among us.)

Two weeks after starting, I’m staring down the barrel of a school semester 3 days from now without a completed game to show for it. That’s fine – I can co…

Learning BYOND, Day 10: Early Contentment

Progress has been good lately. Although I doubt I’ll have a well-polished and ready game by the time school rolls around, 6 days from now, it seems I’ve at least completed some vital foundation framework. It’s reached the point where neither the Game Designer hat nor the Coder hat need to be worn as often. Now, I’m finding myself in increasing need to wear the Content Creator’s hat.


Content, content, content! Take a look at your average big-budget computer game, I’ve a point to make.  Here, I’ll take a look at one I have right now on my start menu.. ah, the Space Siege demo. SpaceSiege.exe: 14.0 Megabytes. Associated dll files? Less than a megabyte each, it seems. However, the “resources” directory: 785 megabytes! The actual brains the drive the game take up less than 2% of the overall space of the game! What fills the other 98%+? You guessed it: content!

Content is all those high-resolution textures, movies, sound files, and other digitized representations of …

Learning BYOND, Day 9: Purposeful Toil

With the focus placed on my Graphical User Interface from Day 8, I’ve pretty much created the game. The GUI is the game, after all. At least that’s what I quoted yesterday… but, I have to concur from personal experience that once you’ve got the basics of the GUI ironed out, the game itself materializes.

My GUI will have three separate play modes. A sensible first-time BYOND Dream Maker user would develop one game, but I’m a fickle gamer, I apparently want my first game to be three games in one. (This is to say nothing for the dynamic content focus.) The specifics (such as balancing the individual pieces) have yet to be worked out, but I now know enough to build the basic skeleton I’ll be using and tweaking to project completion. I wouldn’t have been able to do so without knowing both the BYOND 4.0 skin features and the screen objects discussed in yesterday’s blog entry.

Whether it’s my over-ambition or simply a sign of inexperience, it’s been difficult to get my cod…

Learning BYOND, Day 8: Is The Game

It’s hot and it’s a Saturday, but I don’t care. I’ve only got another 9 days until the school semester starts. Plus, I’ve developed a relatively good design in my head, now it’s time to see it through. Back to work, slacker.

Today, the Graphical User Interface was on the agenda. A reoccurring theme I picked up many time from “Game Design: Secrets of the Sages” (merely a compilation of developer quotes and pictures, but not without some insights): “The GUI is the game.” The saying means that what the user plays is actually the graphical user interface and therefore literally is the game. No wonder some consider it the hardest part of making a game.

I’ve learned about three powerful elements that I’m looking into right now.
The newly introduced (as of BYOND 4.0) skin creator. This is a really nice suite that lets you set up your GUI configuration however you like. It’s a graphical interface creator not unlike one I’ve already been introduced to when using Visual Basic.

It se…

Intermission: Geldon’s Three Pillars of Game Design

Whether it’s my recent diet (I’ve lost about 10 pounds in a week and a half) or playing with BYOND coding, my mental engine has been supercharged lately. A chart reflecting my mental state right now looks something like this:

Regardless of the cause, today I’m forcing myself to take a break from BYOND coding in order to put some serious thought into what kind of game I’ll be developing. The thing is, while I was thinking about what game I was going to develop, I came to realize what standards I hold in terms of game design. This is basically a warm-up exercise for me, but you might find what I came up interesting.

Learning BYOND, Day 7: All About Image

Seriously, today really was all about the image for me… the BYOND image object and how it is used, that is. It turned out to be a rather long and agonizing day: I wish I had known now what I did when I started. Sit back, read, and enjoy the butter without the churning I did today.

The image object refers to an image that is not actually part of the game world, but rather is a custom image specifically made to be drawn on the screen of any specifically specified users’ client.  Such objects have many potential applications, such presenting a custom GUI or applying special effects beyond what the world engine is normally capable.

The official instructions on images is quite short. It’s not mentioned at all in the client chapter and (as we’re about to discover) that’s a major omission. The Dream Maker help mechanic and BYOND developer community are the best reference I’m aware of for image objects.

The brevity of the help is probably because image objects are actually …

Learning BYOND, Day 6: Open Heart Surgery

I’m probably going to go back and severely edit those “Learning BYOND” entires. Right now they’re a somewhat rambling collection that probably contain a number of inadvertent lies said out of code-newbie innocence. I’m not sure anyone finds those entries particularly interesting… at the very least, I should throw in some helpful diagrams!



Oh well, this entry will be somewhat more interesting, I hope. Today, I talk about what goes into coding a force that drives a virtual universe.

Learning BYOND, Day 5: Vital Misconceptions

Edit: This has once again been modified both because of correcting my own earlier ignorance and thanks to Zac’s helpful comments.

Yesterday was good practice to get familiar with coding in the environment. Today, I largely took my advice from yesterday and did a whole lot of RTFM. I went from chapter 7 to 14 in the DM guide (skipping the chapter on save files for now) taking hours to read and understand it. It has not been a fruitless endeavor, as I came away with quite a few nifty new commands and understanding.

Talk about “enough knowledge to be dangerous” — apparently much of my coding yesterday was done under massively false pretenses. Here’s a few things off the top of my head that I was doing very wrong:
I didn’t really know how to declare new objects into existence.
Instead, I was declaring my objects in the game world (dynamically at runtime as opposed to with the map editor) largely by cutting and pasting what I saw and getting lucky.

This much the manual will…

Learning BYOND, Day 4: Early Vestiges Of Awesome

Am I really only on day 4? The human brain is a remarkable device – that which seems hopelessly impossible to understand yesterday is implicitly understood and being done today. Where is the tangible difference? In the individual’s perspective, it is as though a part of reality was completely redefined, and yet there’s no artifacts to be found to mark the change.

I didn’t keep a running tab of everything I figured out today, so there will be no categorized list of minor newbie tips. Sorry, I was just having too much fun. However, I can remember a few interesting things that happened in my coding exploits today that might prove enlightening.

Bloat

As I wrote yesterday, I’m just comfortable enough writing code now to be dangerous. Consequently, I’ve been coding pretty comfortably. When you type 100 WPM, that stuff adds up pretty quick. Looking at the directory now, my code is up to about 41 kilobytes (over 40000 keystrokes) of raw text now. My code probably more tha…

Learning BYOND, Day 3: Armed and Dangerous

Today, I found that my brushing up on the fundamentals helped quite a bit. BYOND’s differences from the programming languages I’m comfortable with are beginning to melt away. I’m able to define classes of objects and place them intelligently in the game, as well as allow players to pick up and drop things. Some interesting things learned today include:
Defining the name of an object enables the right-click menu interaction with verbs. This only seems to work if the verb’s access is set to a list of things (src in *list*) and not a single user (src = *specific user*).The interpreter won’t ask you which one you mean if you’re activating the same verb on identical objects. This caused me no end of confusion when I couldn’t figure out why it kept grabbing the nearest one (when access was set to “src in *list*”) or the sequentially first one (when access was set to “src = *specific user*”) without asking me which I want.When referring to turfs, think of them as containing th…

Learning BYOND, Day 2: Back To Fundamentals

There’s 16 days left until I’m back at the University as a Digital Technology and Culture student for another semester. While I don’t plan to stop playing with BYOND at that point, this time is nonetheless quite valuable for the purpose of learning it.

Today, my primary accomplishments included:
I figured out some additional ways in which BYOND initializes variables. Recall from yesterday that nothing happens (no code is executed) unless an event occurs. Actually, things that are painted on the map maker pretty much are already in existence and ready to go. This is interesting because there’s actually a whole loaded database up and running before you write your first line of code.Who can use the “verbs” on an object is determined by the “set as src” parameter. This is extremely handy, because once a verb is accessible the GUI automatically makes it available to the player in all sorts of fancy ways (e.g. right click and it pops up on the menu). Verbs are basically cus…

Learning BYOND, Day 1: Little Digital Souls

Contrary to my previous entry, I’m not finding BYOND to be the mind-reading device I was hoping it was. Instead, I’m wrapping my head around how to code my creation. This is not just that dinky script modification stuff I was doing in Neverwinter Nights 2 or Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but rather defining a completely event-driven game already running within the generous framework provided.

Pouring over manuals and tutorials reveals that reading about it is one thing, actually doing it requires more than a skim. Several dendrites have died needlessly, however, progress has been made. I don’t have much to say about today’s progress, so this will be a short entry. However, I will leave this hard-earned gem:

I thought I knew was Object Oriented programming was, having dabbled with Java a bit in the past. However, I was mistaken, and at least part of my mind was still mired in the procedural past. Unlike Java (a completely object oriented language), BYOND offers no poin…

Going BYOND

As of late, I’ve been playing with BYOND: the acronym stands for “Build Your Own Net Dream.” On the outside, BYOND is a portal into hundreds of free-to-play games. On the inside, BYOND is essentially a completely free set of game development and hosting tools that make it relatively easy to put together the 2D, tile-based multiplayer game of your dreams. Astoundingly, it’s 100% free to use, with the only apparent supports being donating for an upgraded account and moderate ad space on the official website.

The astounding thing about this suite is that it’s basically a already-completed online game, fully mutable with a friendly GUI to manipulate it at your disposal. Even if you already know how to code, to get where BYOND takes you from scratch would take weeks, perhaps months, of painstaking work. The robust community developer support makes learning using BYOND easier than any other IDE I know, Flash Actionscript included.

Real Life Point Systems, Automated RPGs, and Recent Awesomeness

Down went my last Blog entry, a delirious rant about American politics that surprised no one paying attention. If not pro-liberal, it was at least definitively rabidly anti-conservative. In having bias, it wasn’t fair. It didn’t really belong in a Blog whose goal is to focus primarily on gaming topics. Besides, politics are downright depressing, and I’m trying to lighten up.

Racking up Points

Perhaps I was grouchy about my new diet. Weight Watchers. Essentially The Hacker’s Diet, boiled down to a sort of “calories + fat – fiber = easy-to-track points” formula.

It’s marketed as a $16/mo service. Supporting 46,000 employees across 30 countries I bet they have more subscribers than World of Warcraft. When it comes to fighting weight gain, business booms under promises of contraction.

Fire and Forget Heroism

Gaming-wise, my last real entry has put me in a fascinating position of considering the merits of the computer roleplaying game that automates the monotonous decisio…

You're Done. Let The Computer Play

After only about a year and a half of the game being released, I finally got my hands on Final Fantasy XII - the solo-play PS2 game after the Final Fantasy that was a MMORPG. I guess FFXII still pretty popular, as it's the #8 most referenced game of GameFaqs. In any case, I'm loving this game, long after I figured I was bored of RPGs.

Expand: You're Done.  Let The Computer Play