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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

New leaf!

04 Jun

Well, as you might have noticed, I haven’t blogged a lot lately… And because of that I’ve decided to turn a new leaf… I’ll be focusing on the Spellcaster Studios blog from now on, and I’ll only write here that I’ve updated it… I don’t have the time (nor the focus) for two blogs really…

Occasionally I’ll probably post something here anyway, but I’ll cross-link it from Spellcaster Studios

For a more in-depth explanation on what this all means, head on to the Spellcaster Studios blog! It’s free!

 
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XCOM: Enemy Within / Wolf Among Us / Alien Breed

10 Dec

Well, I’ve finished a lot of games in the last couple of week…

First off, “XCOM: Enemy Within”:

xcom_enemy_within-1920x1080

As you might have noticed from my previous blog entry, this one was pretty good… this is how DLC should be done, even with all it’s faults… It improved the game marginally on all fronts (graphics, bugs, etc), added some new gameplay mechanics (gene mods and mechs) and another storyline (parallel to the original). Would have liked to see that other storyline better worked… I didn’t get some of the missions that apparently other people got, and I got them in the wrong order (it seemed).

But it’s still the XCom experience (which I jumped into in Ironman mode, for that extra punch), and I’m really looking forward for another expansion or (please, please, please) a sequel (“Terror From the Deep”, anyone?)

The-Wolf-Among-Us

Bought and finished the first episode of “Wolf Among Us”, and I loved it… For those that don’t know, “The Wolf Among Us” is yet another Telltale graphic adventure, based on some comic book (don’t know them, so I can’t say how close to the original they are). The visuals are great (really amazing), they took the formula (visually and narratively) from “The Walking Dead” and polished it further… Great writing, and if this was out 2 or 3 years ago, this would have been a breath of fresh air (the whole “mythical creatures are real” thing), but we’ve had a lot of TV shows on that lately, so that part is a bit old news… Still, it’s darker and grittier than most, with a very cool noir vibe to it.

The story revolves around “Wolf”, which is the famous “Big Bad Wolf” of myth that’s decided to make a change in his life, and acts as a sheriff of sorts for the Fables (mythical creatures of fantasy that crossed over somehow from fairtytales). The story is the usual noir-esque plot: a damsel in distress, whodunnit sctick…

Really good writing, though… I feel most of my decisions matter, which is pretty awesome! Open-mouthed smile

alien_breed_impact

Also finished “Alien Breed: Impact”. This is a remake of the classic game by Team 17, which I played on the Amiga and loved!

The game is an homage to the sci-fi alien movies, in which the ship where we are the engineer crashes into another dead ship, filled with alien lifeforms…

The game features a third person control (similar actually to the one I’m using on “Chrome Hunter”), and it’s quite fun… It’s not brilliant, though, and the weakest part is actually the writing… You can almost see the ideas the writers had for character development and such, but for some reason they don’t come across, and the story is just filler for alien killing… Missions are also a bit “samey” – turn on reactor A, and to that you have to go to three switches somewhere, etc… It’s a bit contrived most of the time, and not enough focus on the alien infestation itself, in my opinion, but as I said, it’s fun…

There’s some good tension moments when you run out of bullets, etc, but that’s a thing of the past in the middle of the game, and the monster placement/appearance is a bit predictable (so the horror factor goes away).

Still, for a budget title, it captures most of the great things of the 90’s game (it’s done by the same company, or at least one with the same name).

Now playing the next title in the series (“Alien Breed: Assault”), it’s a good way to kill some hours!

 
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So social!

18 Sep

Hi all… If you’re attentive, you’ve noticed some twitter links all over the place now…

Yep, that’s true, I’ve embraced social media and now I have a Twitter account, which I’m finding very interesting…

This Twitter account serves at this point mostly as my personal account, but it will also has some information about Spellcaster Studios (eventually, I’ll make Twitter account for Spellcaster Studios itself, but I’m still getting the grip of it).

And, in case you don’t know, Spellcaster Studios also has a Facebook Page!

Anyway, give me a follow and send some tweets my way! Smile

And because I like pictures, he’s a GIF of the summoning system of “Grey” (you can check more info on this here, complete with video)

Summon

 
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Long time, no see… :\

28 May

Well, this is becoming usual… DayJob is kicking me hard, I’ve been doing so much overtime that when I get home, I don’t even feel like playing games… I don’t recall the last time I spent an evening playing a good game (not that there has been a lot that catch my eye)…

Anyway, LudumDare results are up, you can see my score here.

I scored #102 on the overall and #109 on the fun, which are the categories I’m mainly interested…

Considering there were 1610 games on the competition, I scored on the top 10%, which is great!

Although this wasn’t my highest score (Conquest was in the top 5%, An Old Man and His Quest was on the top 8%, don’t know about older competitions), it was one of my best games yet, I think… Very complete and fun to play, in my opinion…

One of these days, I’d like to have another go at this one, but I’m kind of stuck on the visuals, on how to improve the look of the game without spoiling the gameplay… maybe play around with a more dynamic environment (more plasma, less squares).

On the other hand, the little time I’ve been having, I’ve been using it on Grey, rebuilding the skeleton system, which is a pain…

Hopefully another couple of weeks and I’ll be back to a more “regular” game development mode… although it isn’t sure… a lot of stuff happening in the next couple of months, both at a personal level in the professional level.

 
 

It’s been so long…

30 Jan

Hi everyone!

It’s been ages since I wrote here, but I’m not dead… My time during Christmas break is usually terribly busy, and afterwards work hit again like a brick wall (was hoping the mad rhythm from last months was gone, but I was wrong).

Anyway, I’ve been doing some things related to Grey and my Indie Speed Run unfinished entry, but you can read about it on Spellcaster Studios’ website…

Here, I want to talk about the games I’ve been trying out lately… Besides the usual Christmas binge on new Triple-A games (Assassin’s Creed III was pretty good, with some flaws, but still a lot of fun… The naval battles rock), I’ve been working through my Steam collection, looking at games I haven’t really tried. Here’s my impressions on some:

 

“The Binding of Isaac” is a procedural Zelda-like game… That said, I should have liked it, but to be completely honest… I didn’t… The controls were cumbersome for my taste, and there was too little storyline to keep me entertained; this is the problem with most rogue-likes out there (not only indie, but also Triple-A, like Diablo 3); I‘m not the type of person that walks around doing the same thing over and over again without anything to drive me forward (usually story)… Exception to this is probably “World of Warcraft”, where I raid over and over again, but there we have the social component as well.

Anyway, “The Binding of Isaac” is a well made game, with a very cool aesthetics (both visual and thematic), so if you enjoy roguelikes, give it a whirl!

 

“Closure” is a puzzle platformer whose main mechanic is easy to understand if you see it, but kind of hard to put into words… Basically only things in range of light have any physical substance (or are visible at all)… That means that if you see a wall in front of you (using a source of light), you’ll collide with it, but if you don’t have a light shinning on it, you’ll just pass through it.

This mechanic works making very nasty puzzles that remind me of “Portal”: puzzles that look very hard, but when you finally overcome them, you think: “Damn, this was so obvious!”… So, the game gives you a pretty good sense of accomplishment and I had tons of fun playing this one… the music gets on the nerves eventually, specially when you’re swimming around (music plays at a slower rate, which means it becomes just very very vey annoying, albeit atmospheric).

 

I didn’t spend much time on this one, to be honest, too little story going around… But the execution is top notch, has a good tutorial (which does a good job of converting an immense amount of instruction into something more manageable) and the overall feel is fun enough, if you’re into this sort of thing…

I’d like someone to make a Tower Defense game where you’d feel more “story" on it, but I’m guessing it’s kind of hard.

One of my complains about most of the strategy indie games is that how heavy they are from the start. Although this one has a good tutorial, after 2 or 3 levels I’d already have too much to do… so, I didn’t have enough time to absorb the previous concepts and I would be already buried in new ones…

On that front, Blizzard games are the best… They introduce everything slowly enough in their games so that me, as a player, never feel overwhelmed by new concepts and ideas. Of course, what I’m complaining about here is the inverse that most people complain (“tutorial was dragging on for ages”), but I think there’s a balance in between.

For me, when choosing a new game to play, I don’t want to spend much time mastering some ground rules… I just want to get into the action/story as fast as possible and spend one hour in the game without feeling overwhelmed, trying to figure out if I actually think I’m going to have fun in the game if I commit enough time to it…

Ok, this post is big enough already, more to follow!

 

No title, really…

18 Dec

This is one of those posts that have a bit of everything, so no decent title for it… Smile

Anyway, as you might have seen in the Spellcaster Studios blog, me and Rincewind gave up on the Indie Speed Run, mainly because of scope issues… We went a little wild with it, Rincewind because of lack of 48-hour compo experience, and me because I thought that without needing to do graphics I could do much more…

Anyway, it was a good exercise, and I’m definitely finishing this one, not because it is brilliant, but it’s great to figure out bugs on SurgeEd and SurgePlayer, which I used for the game. Already figured out some nasty bugs which would have taken a lot of time to fix on the “Grey” scripts, specially one that only seems to manifest in specific conditions…

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’m using Lua to drive the game logic, and specifically LuaJIT, and I found an odd behavior…

The offending piece of code was something that tested a condition and acted on that:

function do_something(param)
   if (ffi.C.test(param)) then
      change_object()    end end

test is a function declared on the FFI, that returned a bool:

ffi = require("ffi")
ffi.cdef[[

bool test(const char* str);

]]

Which had a C counterpart like:

extern "C"
{    bool __declspec(dllexport) test(const char* str) {
        bool b=do_some_test();

return b;
}
}


 

Simple enough…

Problem is, “change_object” was never reached… First I thought it was the “do_some_test” function that was failing, and I added some tracing to it (writing to the logger) with the output, and it turned true eventually…

Then I added some tracing in the “do_something” function, and mysteriously, it started working properly… After a lot of tests, I found that if I used any function that called normally bound functions before the “ffi.C.test” call, the system worked properly… But if I added FFI based functions, it wouldn’t work!

This was driving me crazy… then I had a silly idea… “bool” is a C++ type, not C type, so I changed the declaration of the C function (not the FFI declaration) to “int __declspec(dllexport) test(const char* str)”, returning 1 if “do_some_test” was true, and 0 otherwise… And now the system worked properly!

So, I arrived to the conclusion that you can’t output “bool” directly from the C code (although you can declare it that way on the FFI declaration, to get a proper bool and not an int). I imagine the problem was the size of a bool and the stack manipulation of LuaJIT, which caused the system to access corrupted memory (that was probably zeroed before being used, and that’s why the function apparentely always returned “false”, although the C output was “true”).

Anyway, 2 hours of my life getting to the bottom of this… Had to change all the functions that return a bool to return an int instead…

Anyway, on other news, take a look at this Hamnasya game… It’s a cross-media kind of game, where you’re reading a book, but you can affect the outcome and fight battles à lá RPG… Very cool stuff indeed, and has an excellent trailer:

 

I haven’t picked it up (I had too many pending games at the moment), but it looks pretty good…

If I don’t write anything in the meantime (highly likely), Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Smile

 

The near future is ever-changing…

07 Nov

I’ve said last blog post that I’d write in the near future… more than two weeks ago…

Well, “near-future” is always a subjective measure, eheheh…

Anyway, been busy busy busy, work has not relented as I’d expected, and the new hires haven’t started yet, so when I get home I’m beat and without any energy to do anything but relax on the couch playing WoW, or watching TV…

Oh, and playing “X-Com: Enemy Unknown”, which is awesome!

xcom

For those like me that worshiped the original “UFO: Enemy Unknown”, this is indeed text-book on how a remake/reboot should be done!

First of all, there’s been a lot of naysayers on the web, saying this new XCom isn’t as good as the original one, and while I agree with some of it, I think most of it is due to fear of change… The original XCom was indeed an amazing game… But this one is also an amazing game, fun and accessible… The original one was a game for hardcore players (it was very hard and unforgiving), this one is more accessible… But does that make it worse?! Although I find the recent trend of dumbing down games to appeal to a larger audience, I think the streamlining process that XCom underwent really brought the best of it out…and if you want a challenge, playing on hard in classic iron man mode should provide you that… and if that’s not enough, multiplayer will probably keep you busy and challenged!

For those that don’t know, this game is the remake/reboot of an old 1994 classic strategy game, in which you control “X-Com”, a semi-secret organization that’s dedicated to defend the Earth from an alien menace. For that, you receive funding from several countries and have to keep them happy (i.e. deal with extraterrestrial threats on their territory). You’ll have to research new tech, build facilities, etc, to prepare yourself to the center-piece of the game: the turn-based combat system, in which you select a team (from your soldier pool) of up to 6 elements and have to deal with the aliens. Those team members can level up and gain new abilities, and you have a certain degree of customization available in terms of abilities.

The soldier leveling up is part of what makes XCom a good and challenging game… It takes 15 to 20 missions to have a top-tier soldier, so losing it in a bad move hurts a lot… specially if you play it like I do and name all your soldiers so that you attribute a human dimension to them… Of course, you can just load and erase your mistakes (except in iron man, see below), but it still feels like cheating, which adds a certain tension to the game.

This one has all the improvements on the original we would expect (better graphics, simpler/streamlined UI), and lost very little (in my opinion).

I’ve finished my first campaign a couple of days ago, in normal difficulty… and now I want to play the game in ironman classic mode, which doesn’t allow for save games… which adds a tension that’s very cool in this type of environment! Now, every time I lose a soldier, it stays lost… I’ll have to deal with the fact that my super-sniper can be lost in any mission, which will bring out the tactics aspect of the game high…

For example, when I was in a hurry to finish a mission (which happens specially at 1am when you know you have to go to sleep, but can’t stop playing because “one more turn!”), I would just move my soldiers forward, detect the enemies, and then reload a save game and move planning for those “hidden” aliens… Yep, that’s cheating! Smile

Anyway, in ironman classic, you can’t do that, which will make you think every play you do before you do it!

Of course, there’s no perfect game… this one is very buggy on the PC (with abundant camera issues and more), the multiplayer could have been much better (both in terms of options and matchmaking), the game is too unforgiving of mistakes made early in the game (very hard to recover from some losses mid-game) and other small gripes…

But all of these are swept aside by how much fun I’ve been having with it so far… The game is really good, and if you’re a fan of tactical/strategy games, it will hook you from start to finish, even if you rant at some of its shortcomings!

So, for me it is a definite buy! Smile

 
 

Still alive…

18 Oct

Work’s still very hard nowadays, but I’m hoping it’s almost done (this phase at least)…

Anyway, I’ve only had time to play one game lately: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria…

mop

Anyway, not going to do a review on this one, since basically it’s the same as Cataclysm: no big changes, just a streamline of small details… The storyline is interesting enough, and the only step backwards (in my opinion, of course) is the over-reliance on daily quests, which kind of consume 2-3 hours of time each day, if you are to do them all… And you need to do them to have access to valor point gear at the faction vendor, since Blizzard removed the possibility of gaining reputation with a vendor wearing the tabard on heroic instances…

Other than that, it’s just “more of the same”, which isn’t exactly a bad thing… after all, there’s not much you can really innovate in a 7-year old MMORPG without breaking the matrix of what makes it’s 9+ million player  base keep playing…

That said, it’s notorious that WoW is finally losing ground in the MMORPG war (although it’s clearly the winner by a large margin)… Numbers of subscribers keep declining, and sales for MoP don’t seem to have been that great as previous expansions; of course, I don’t think Blizzard is overly concerned, since they’re already working on a successor (Titan), although that’s probably still a couple of years away.

In another topic, to keep my “game-making” bone alive while I don’t have time to return to programming, I’ve been designing a new game (just for kicks)… It’s like UFO/XCom:Enemy Unknown, but with more focus on survival; finding bullets, food, medicine, etc, is as important as actually fighting the enemies…

Anyway, bye for now, I’ll post again in the near future!

 
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Zombies and RPGs

21 Sep

As most forms of entertainment, the game industry (and I include indies in this) are driven by fads and moods… And apparently, there’s two huge forces in this regard at the moment: zombies and RPGs…

Let’s start with zombies: there’s hundreds of games and mods with zombies in it… for some strange reason, zombies are the monster du-jour everywhere… The reason for this eludes me, but it is probably because I like more cerebral monsters (like vampires, demons or robots) than the mindless concept of zombies…

Anyway, zombies are here, and apparently they’re here to stay!

8-suspicious-events-surrounding-the-Miami-zombie-attack[1]

I’m guessing that what makes zombies terrifying is the fact that they can’t be stopped except in very specific methods (usually, blowing their heads off), they can’t be reasoned with, and they always outnumber the player… This makes them perfect for games, specially action-packed titles.

To be honest, I’m tired of zombies… every week, a slew of titles come out that either are zombie-based, or have some zombie-like DLC. There are interesting titles in this arena, though… Day-Z is a great example, since the concept of it is amazing. It captures the essence of zombie-movies: survival… I found the execution a bit lacking, but it still has its merits! But for each good zombie-game, there’s one million of just mediocre titles that jump onto the zombie bandwagon… I find amazing the connection: “I love zombie-stuff, so I’ll buy anything that has to do with zombies”, but it seems to be the current trend! At least, I don’t see people ranting against zombie-stuff as much as I do…

Another fad that’s rising is RPGs… It seems that every indie is making a rogue-like, every big company is doing a RPG or adding RPG elements to their games…

Since I’m a big fan of RPG, I should be thrilled by this, but the feeling I have is that we’re ending up with mediocre games – most roguelikes don’t bring anything new to the table, most RPGs have the same tired tropes over and over again, some games have RPG elements cooked into them for bullet-point value only, not adding anything to the game itself (in some cases, actually detracting)…

Don’t get me wrong, there’s amazing work being done (and on the horizon) by indies (Legend of Grimrock, Frayed Knights), medium companies (Shadowrun Returns, Wasteland 2), and big companies (Mass Effect, Skyrim, Project Eternity, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2)… But again, for every one of these, there’s loads of mediocre and pointless titles…

What it sounds amazing to me is that I haven’t seen (doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist) a zombie RPG!

“Play as the ZOMBIES or as the SURVIVORS, in this fantasy/sci-fi world in which the evil technomancer Darklordius unleashed a magical virus that infects live people. When a survivor die with the virus in them, they become zombies… But redemption is available for the scientists of the White Citadel, led by Doctor Maximumgoodguy… A zombie can be put through a painful process to become human again, with little loss of ability!”

I’d say it would be interesting… Survivors had to survive (so no silly war machine kind of gameplay where a single person kills hundreds of zombies), get food, water, fortify their houses, etc… To keep things balanced, Doctor Maximumgoodguy could only unzombify a certain number of people per day… And maybe each time a survivor died, it gained a stacking debuff… when it reached a certain value, then it would become a zombie, with some incentive to “switch side” again, but to play as well as he could as a zombie to be able to gain that possibility…

So, this idea is free, Internet… Make it happen… If my calculations are correct, if you launch this within then next couple of years, you’re sitting on a money pile! Smile

 
 

Long time, no see…

04 Sep

Yep, another big hiatus, and this post doesn’t have any encouraging news…

Vacation time for me means that work just piles up, and I’m doing my best to get it under control, before I can actually resume writing on my blog…

I managed to play some cool games on my vacations, I’ll tall you all about that in the next posts, I just don’t know when I’ll have the time/motivation to write them…

Anyway, this is not dead yet, it’s just an extended leave!

Games I’m discussing in the near future (so you have stuff to click on):