Archive for November, 2010

Busy, busy, busy…

26 Nov

Sorry about the lack of updates, been busy this last week with finishing a project and a massive tooth-ache that culminated in dental surgery… :\

I’m writing this with a massive swell on my face…

Next week I’ll try to compensate the lack of updates… 🙂

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Some links…

17 Nov

This week has been hectic at the office this week, with a project approaching deadline (nothing gaming related, unfortunately)… It’s a weird project, since it’s web based and we’re using a mixture of PHP/JSON on the server side and GWT/JSON/Java on the client… since I’m new to these technologies, it has been an uphill fight, but it’s been rewarding in its own way…

Anyway, so I don’t get complaints about lack of posts, I’m just sharing some links with you guys:

First off, a game called “Cubesome”… Similar to “Exit”, it’s a platformer that you play on the surface of a cube, with parts of the level in each side; it seems fun:

Also, I found an interesting project for all of those that (like me) like to watch screenshots of games in development… It’s called “Screenshot Saturday”, and it’s a collection of screenshots, extracted from Tweeter feeds that feature the word “#screenshotsaturday” on them, grouped by weeks…  You can access the site at It doesn’t seem to work on IE9, but works fine on Firefox or Chrome…

Finally, I found an interesting tutorial on creating pixel art, which is great for people who lack artistic skill like myself… it gives some really nice pointers on how to improve that programmer art! You can check that out at, and following the links…

And that’s it for today… 🙂

I’ll try to have some free time to put up some more stuff this week, but we’ll see…


Independent Game Festival 2011 – Part II

11 Nov

Hi again, and welcome back to another post in my series about the IGF2011 finalists… If you’ve missed my previous entry, you can check it out here.

So, let’s get started!


I don’t usually get too excited about physics-based puzzlers, since I find them to be too finicky. But this one is interesting, since it plays with gravity. The idea is that objects of different colours get pulled by gravity in a different direction. For example, blue stuff might fall down, but green objects fall up. There is also objects that change the color of the affected object, for added effect and more creative puzzles. An interesting one, check out the video below:


Continuity 2

This one is a very neat idea; I loved the first one. Basically, you have to reorganize the “level grid” to allow your character to progress… The usual assortment of keys and doors mechanics, associated to a fresh perspective and a clean aesthetic.

Crusade Of Destiny

An interesting game for mobile platforms… I like ambitious games in these kind of platforms, instead of row-upon-row of puzzle games. This one is a 3d RPG, with controls that seem (from what I could gather) nice in this kind of environment (multitouch). I like the 3d graphics, very angular and such (I’m guessing for artistic and performance reasons).

Desktop Dungeons

I love rogue-like games… This one has the interesting variation that is balanced towards 10-minute games, which might make it viable for short breaks (and even for mobile platforms). Although this isn’t exactly a “rogue-like”, since it uses low-res retro graphics instead of the usual ASCII, it’s close enough for me to put it in the same category.

Din’s Curse

Ambition – Check; Co-op – Check; Procedurally-generated – Check. This game has everything I like, and looks good aswell!

This is a dungeon crawler (much in the vein of Diablo), with the possibility of co-op (which sadly not many games have).

Soldak Entertainment are no newcommers to indy game development, they’ve been at it since 2004, with 3 interesting titles already released (all RPGs, including this one), and it shows, since every game it’s been better polished than the previous one; and if there’s an important thing for an indy nowadays, to be able to stand out in a saturated market, is polish, polish, polish…

Dungeon Defenders

First things first: this game looks absolutely gorgeous! It’s a mix of tower defense and action-RPG, in which they have to defend the castle against a horde of enemies, using not only their quick reflexes, but also traps and defenses. Don’t know if this will work in practive (it’s two very different games, that are targeted at very different people), but the ideia is nice.

Oh, and did I mention that it looks absolutely lovely?! 🙂

Family Farm

Following the success of games like Farmville (maybe I’m being unfair, but that’s what comes to mind when I look at this one), this games puts you in charge of a virtual farm… but it’s much more complex than Farmville, having to manage work groups, seasons, different plantations, etc… It’s a tycoon game, but with cattle and crops!

This is another game that shows that even the simplest game concept can be extended further by creative thinking and polish…

Freakspace – Escape From Hell

This platformer has the interesting idea of instead of bestowing on the character special powers, it enables him to use the enemies in the game to help him progress; for example, he can grab a creature that makes him jump higher or further.

Graphically, the style is a bit confusing for my taste, but it has lots of work put into it.

Frozen Synapse

This game seems to be totally awesome… a turn-based tactical game with a kind of “virtual reality” visual to it… The neat part about it is that all the turn takes effect at the same time, so you give instructions to all your team members, and then press go and see them execute, which demands a more tactical approach to the scenarios, since it’s harder to react to changing circumstances (so you have to plan to avoid sticky situations).

Terrible name, though…

And that’s it for this week’s coverage of the IGF games… next week we’ll have more, I hope!

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Distortion Buffer

10 Nov

Was intending to write the second part of my IGF2011 analysis, but didn’t have time because of silly bugs on the shadow systems… The code that chose either the “front” or “back” shadowmap (for my dual paraboloid shadow maps) was wrong, and it took me forever to see where the problem was…

Anyway, completed the distortion buffer work… still have some issues “controlling” the effect, but it will have to wait for the artist to put his hand on it to see exactly what is the best course of action for this…

Hopefully I’ll have a bit more time tomorrow and will be able to post my initial plan…


Stuff I’ve been doing…

08 Nov

Haven’t updated this with news on what I’m doing for a while…

Well, my life is a bit boring at the moment, working on some projects for my day job… the rest of my time I’ve been working on my deferred renderer for my yet-secret project…

First up, I’ve added a decal system, which looks pretty sweet… With it, I intend to add some variety to the game areas:

This works by extracting the geometry affected by the decal (using a clipping algorithm against the decal bounding box). Then this geometry is drawn onto the G-Buffer, which means that the decal is correctly affected by the lighting of the scene. Since there are too many permutations of the shaders used to affect the G-Buffer, I’ve built a small tool that auto-generates the shaders, according to what you want to modulate, etc.

In the examples above:

  1. Overriding just the color component of the G-Buffer
  2. Overriding the color and normal component
  3. Overriding the color and normal, and halving the specular power/gloss components
  4. Overriding the color and normal, and nullifying the specular power/gloss components

This has the drawback that this kind of decals don’t affect alpha objects, which is a separate pass. The rationale behind it is that there are other techniques that can be used in those particular cases, and lighting of the alpha objects is done through a multipass lighting system.

Second, I added the alpha object rendering system:

The renderer uses the standard multipass renderer I’ve had in Spellbook in the past. This pass is also used if we want to use different kinds of lighting models besides the standard Phong one. This is a completely separate pass, which doesn’t affect the G-Buffer (and hence doesn’t write to the depth buffer render target, only to the standard Z-Buffer). Alpha objects are rendered back to front, and can’t have emissive component (that can be simulated with pre-multiplied alpha).

Finally, I just added a Depth-of-Field effect:

On this video, the most visible effect is changing the focal distance. The effect is done by rendering a blurred version of the rendered scene and by lerping between the blurred and not-blurred version, based on depth (or more precisely, the difference between the depth and the focal distance, considering the focal range).

Next step on this renderer is the screen space distortions, to use with explosions and stuff, which is simple to execute but hard to control from an artistic standpoint.

Besides all this techy stuff (which is really fun for me!), I’ve been playing stuff (as usual):

Trying to get the “Loremaster” achievement done before Cataclysm comes out. It’s fun revisiting some of the early areas, and seeing some of the lore I missed on vanilla WoW… Drawback is wondering all the time “how did I loose so much time playing this, these areas are awful!”.

Finished this one… I was pleasently surprised by it… I was never a huge fan of Transformers (even when I was young… I’d watch it and think it’s cool, but it didn’t have that big of an impact on me as most of the nerds I know!). But it is a very competent shooter, with a nice enough storyline (just wish they added some more of “lore” onto it, like who are exactly the Primes, and what’s the story behind Optimus, since the game for a time hints at a revelation that never comes). The neat part of the game is that it’s actually fluid switching from “vehicle” mode to “giant robot” mode, with advantages in both and different types of fun (specially the flying ones). I’m giving it a 8/10.

I was really looking forward for this one, having loved the first one… and while the game itself didn’t let me down (this is exactly what fighting with the Force should feel like!), the story is one of the worse I’ve seen in the last years… paper-thin, just an excuse to move from stages to stages (kind of reminds me of the terrible narrative of “Heavenly Sword”) killing stuff… but while “Heavenly Sword” was boring and predictable (from a gameplay standpoint), FU2 is fun and engaging.

Really, if the story wasn’t so terrible, it would be one of the best games ever… but the story as it is detracts from the fun… it goes against Star Wars lore, the endings are silly (both the light side and dark side one) and the characters are as badly characterized as it is possible (well, that part is on par with the “Star Wars” movies, to be honest).

The graphics and sound are top notch (the graphics really impressed me, sometimes they deserved the name “photorealistic”), although some areas were too empty to be credible (missing clutter and “function”). And the gameplay is amazing… it’s extremely fluid going from “lightsaber fight” mode to “force-using” mode, which makes for some very neat fights, very dynamic in their approach.

This game could easily have ranked a 10/10, but since the story is so miserable, I’ll give it a 9/10. And I feel sorry for that, since the first one had a story that really compelled you and mashed well with the Star Wars lore…

And that’s it for today… Hopefully, in this week I’ll have the third installment of “Games of my Life” and the second one of “IGF2011 games”…


Independent Game Festival 2011 – Part I

03 Nov

The Independent Game Festival (IGF) is the equivalent to the Sundance Festival for games… It honors and promotes games by independent developers (the definition of independent developer is a matter of heated debate, best left for another article), and it is not uncommon for a game that wins some of the categories to go to bigger things (publishing deals, better sales, etc).

On it’s 13th edition, it takes place at the same space and time as the Game Developer Conference.

There are 391 entrants this year, and I’ve decided to do some featured articles on the ones I found more interesting, plus an article at this series end with my thoughts of the IGF in general… Note that my analysis of these games is done on the most part by looking at the information at the IGF site. Some of these I actually delved a bit deeper, but mostly I stuck with the information provided… This has the disadvantage that I may have skipped some worthy entrants because they lacked videos or demos of their games, or that I got swindled by nifty videos! 🙂

But in an indy game, presentation is everything, since you depend on the internet’s mass-judgment to get your game out there…

So, without further ado, here’s the first part of my list (which has more than 50 games on it):

A Mobius Proposal

While the game presented in “A Mobius Proposal” seems to be very neat (puzzle/co-op sort of thing), the motivation for it is what actually caught my eye: the game was designed as a marriage proposal… That for itself is very cool, but the game also seems interesting, with two characters going in diferent sides of a Mobius strip, helping one another progress in the levels.


This game will either be a revolution in RTS games, or a huge failure… and it all boils down on how complex is playing around with time is.

The premise behind Achron is the same as in all RTS games, with the difference that in this one, you can go back in time with units and manipulate the events in the “present/future”. This means that you can go to the past with a unit, and destroy the facility that’s creating all the units that are currently beating the crap out of you, before they’re actually built!

Of course, this lead to paradox (if you “go back in time and destroy the factory that created the unit that you sent back in time”-sort of thing), but the way Hazardous Software is dealing with this problem is also interesting… Check out the video below for more information, it’s pretty enjoyable:

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

This game was developed by Frictional Games, the people that have brought you Penumbra. This one has actually been already released on Steam, and it’s already on my wish list (I’ll get to it as soon as I can find the time… lots of games to play!).

The game takes a bit of a Lovecraft vibe, in terms that you can’t actually do anything against the enemies. You just need to avoid them (because looking at them, and being around them will make you go insane over time), and try to stay in the light (since it will restore your sanity). Your character wakes up in the dungeon of a castle and doesn’t have memories, and the game is a mixture of exploration and puzzle solving, while avoiding the monsters. Pretty good atmospheric stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing.


Not much info on this one, but I’m a sucker for unconventional RTS… In this one, you control an army of amoebas, fighting for the primordial soup! 🙂

Ancients of Ooga

To be honest, this game seems like standard platformer fare, but I really liked the visual style… it has an old-school pre-rendered sprites vibe to it, but vibrant colors and some humor that made me want to mention it.

Atooms to Moolecule

This one seems one of the most interesting arcade/puzzle games on display on this years’ IGF. Looks hard as hell, though! 🙂 Basically, combine atoms to form complex molecules, according to some predefined level goal.


Beautiful is the only word that comes to mind when I look at “Bastion”. Everything in the game looks so polished and pretty it hurts… It comes from Supergiant Games, which apparently is a company founded by ex-devs of the Command & Conquer series. Seems like a huge departure from that, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing… From what I could gather, this is a isometric semi-RPG game, with some co-op (which is awesome, love that kind of game in co-op), with everything hand-drawn (which leads to the amazingly beautiful visuals!).


Another nice puzzle platformer, in this one you can draw and erase blocks for the player to stand inside… watch the video above, it does a much better job of explaining the key mechanics than me…

Cave Story

If you’re familiar with the indy scene, “Cave Story” (and his developer, Daisuke Amaya) isn’t a stranger to you, since it’s one of the most known titles in indy history. Although the original PC game goes back to 2004, the version on the IGF is the Wiiware version that’s been released earlier this year.

Although it is a “generic” platformer, the balancing and the gameplay makes this a title that stands way above most.

And that’s it for this first part… I’ll have part 2 up soon… Until then, you can explore the entrants yourself, or just wait for it… 🙂

Don’t forget, people, support indy games! They’re usually cheap for all the fun they have inside, and most just need some dollars/euros/qwanzas/etc so they can keep doing that!

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Posted in Games, Indy


Jonah Hex

02 Nov

Watched “Jonah Hex” the other day… It’s at best a “popcorn-movie”, by which I mean that you see it and then you forget it…

It keeps you entertained for a while, but doesn’t add anything of value to the genre.

“Jonah Hex” is a movie based on a DC comic. It takes place in a Western setting, and follows the story of Jonah Hex, a man with a dark past that almost died, but somehow survived, and gained the ability to talk with the dead… during the movie, he has to foil a plan to overthrow the newly-borned US government. While the premise is fine, but to be honest it doesn’t hold up the movie.

I never read the comics, so I can’t speak on how well/badly the movie reflects it, but the movie itself seems to be just a bunch of action sequences cobbled up together with some cheesy storyline. The action itself is well done, dynamic, all that you’d expect from Hollywood. The filler sequences are also what you’d expect in a Hollywood movie, thin threads to keep the audience entertained until the next action sequence (or to show off the mediocre Megan Fox… don’t get me wrong, she’s gorgeous, but a terrible actress).

The basic problem of the movie is that the “gimmick” (talking to the dead) really doesn’t shine in it, and after failing at that, the movie transforms into a “Wild Wild West”-kind of movie…

Bottom-line, the movie is entertaining, the visual style is interesting, but the story is paper-thin and the character doesn’t stand out as it should (and as I guess it does in the comics)… I’m giving it a 7/10.

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Posted in Movies