Name That Game 100 – Haiku II!

•July 14, 2016 • 2 Comments

Yeah, I figured I’d go ahead and do this. I was going to make it this fantastic and incredibly complex but it turned into this huge thing that I was working on along with everything else…so that can sit on the shelf for a while.

In the meantime, I decided to do more gaming haiku!

all of history
is at your beck and call
screw Montezuma

villain tropes give way
to a gentle tale about
improving oneself

your enemies die
in horrifying fashion
as you pump them up

dry wit and light hands
a steampunk world with magic
silent in the dark

your maid will insist
that you do her job for her
before you can sleep

your phone can find them
but be careful that you don’t
get hit by a car

choose your noble house
betrayed by the emperor
the essence of war

Good luck!

Fargoal 2 Beta – July 2016

•July 5, 2016 • 37 Comments

Greetings, Fargoalians! Here are the links to download the most recent beta of Sword of Fargoal 2.

UPDATE! UPDATE! HUGE UPDATE! I have now updated ALL THREE BETAS with a bunch of requested bugfixes! Feel free to redownload and try them out! If you want to verify that you have the new version, from the main menu click “More…” and make sure the version number in the upper-left is 0.9.2.

Windows Beta – This version requires the most recent Visual C++ redistributable.

Mac OS X Beta

Linux Beta – To run this version you will need to install the following libraries: SDL 1.2, SDL Mixer 1.2, SDL Image 1.2, SLD Net 1.2 and Boost Filesystem.

For all betas, you’re going to want to delete your old savegames and settings before you run the new version. On Windows, this will be in “Documents > My Games > Sword of Fargoal 2”. On OS X, this will be in “~/Library/Applications Support” where ~ represents your home folder. If you can’t see this folder, open a Finder and go to the View menu. Select Go and type: ~/Library to open it.

Okay, let’s talk about the bug I’m having trouble squashing. Some of you are reporting that in certain resolutions, GUI elements like menus or the minimap aren’t positioned on the screen correctly. If you are having this problem, I’d very much like you to send me a save game and a copy of your settings file. You can find these on your computer in “Documents > My Games > Sword of Fargoal 2” on Windows.

If you find any bugs, please send me an email at anthony.salter@gmail.com with the word “Fargoal” in the subject line.

Thank you guys for your patience, and thanks to Ed Perkins and Rob Hammond for help troubleshooting these betas. Also Rob, you have the coolest email address ever.

Duck Potatoes

•March 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve prepared this dish twice now successfully, which I guess means it’s an actual recipe that I came up with.

Duck Potatoes (better name suggestions welcome)

1 duck, frozen
4 red potatoes
1 onion
2 tbsp parsley flakes
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Thaw the duck until it can be quartered, then quarter it. Slit the skin a few times on each of the pieces – don’t cut all the way through to the meat.

Steam the four duck quarters in a steamer basket in a large pot, covered, for 45 minutes or until no pink can be seen in the duck meat. Remove the quarters and allow to cool. Remove the water from the duck fat in the pot either by boiling the water away, using a gravy separator or putting the water and fat in a container and letting it cool in the freezer. Save the duck fat. Harvest the meat from the duck pieces. I always do this part the night before.

Chop about half of the duck meat into 1/4″ pieces. Dice the onion and chop the red potatoes into 1/4″ pieces.

In a large pan, add 1 tbsp of the duck fat over medium heat and wait until it shimmers. Add the onion and a little salt and stir occasionally until the onions turn translucent. Add the potatoes and a little more salt and cook until soft. Add the chopped duck meat and stir, allowing the meat to reheat. Add the parsley flakes, then taste and add any seasoning you desire (I like a little garlic powder).

Once it tastes the way you like, turn the heat off and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top to form a complete coating. Wait for the cheese to melt and serve. Serves 4-6. You can make two of these with the meat from one duck.

Godus Wars

•February 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Holy crap. Yesterday, Peter Molyneux announced Godus Wars. What’s Godus Wars?

Well, it’s a simple RTS with god powers. Watch the trailer:

Yeah.

So my immediate question was, if Godus Wars exists, is there any reason for me to complete Planitia?

In order to find out, I played Godus Wars for about three hours last night, about halfway through the first continent. The basic gameplay consists of flattening out the terrain (using the same sculpting tool from Godus) to allow your villagers to make new abodes, which give you mana. You use this mana to create fortresses from which you create warbands of archers. Your goal is to take over the enemy mana silo, and you can only do this with a warband. Upgrading your fortresses allows you to support more warbands, hopefully giving you the advantage over the enemy. You can use god powers to both help your own villagers and hinder your enemy.

Sounds great, right? Well, the game has a lot of problems.

The first is that sculpting is still done using the sculpting tool from Godus, meaning you have to pull around one layer at a time – and if you’re sculpting anywhere but on the beach near your village, sculpting requires a lot of mana. While sculpting in Populous was a bit tedious, it was nowhere near as bad as Godus/Godus Wars. Expanding a flattened area requires you to individually sculpt the layers below first. Flattening a mountain requires that you delete it, layer by layer. It’s tedious, it’s time-consuming, and half the time you end up sculpting in a way you didn’t intend, wasting time and mana.

Second, god powers almost don’t exist in this game. As you play through the lands you’ll unlock cards that represent benefits. You can pick up to four cards before starting a land. Some of the cards are passive benefits (warbands build faster, you start with more villagers, etc) but some require mana. These are your “god powers” and they mostly consist of buffs to your warbands or debuffs to your enemy’s. Only as I started level 7 was I presented with a real god power – Swamp, which makes a small patch of land uninhabitable. It wasn’t very effective or graphically appealing and I soon decided to save my mana for upgrading my fortresses. After all, warbands win the game.

Speaking of warbands, they have some problems that can make them frustrating to use. They require wide paths to move – odd in a game that so often connects areas with narrow sand bars. Giving warbands a command they can’t fulfill can cause them to become completely unresponsive. Ordering warbands to attack can also be risky. While all warbands have a flag above them, you cannot click the flag to attack an enemy warband. Sometimes your warband will interpret your attack command as a move order and will blindly march right into the enemy warband, ignoring all attempts by you to correct the problem and leading to free kills and XP for the enemy.

To make matters worse, one of the aspects of gameplay is that all units have to perform a little “stair climbing” animation while moving from one elevation to a higher one, and can perform no other action until they find secure footing. This means that if you order an attack on an enemy warband on higher ground, your warband will get cut to pieces while performing cute little animations and pathing around for solid ground.

And to top it all off, the AI cheats. Only a few levels in, the AI will start making two warbands at once even if they only have one fortress. A few more and it will start making warbands that already have veteran status on creation. This is the most blatant artificial difficulty and it completely breaks immersion. And there’s no multiplayer!

There are other problems as well. There’s no minimap and the camera speed is very slow, making it difficult to pop back and forth from your village to a battle. There also aren’t any hotkeys that could make this easier. A “make warband” button on the side of the screen for each of your fortresses would be all that is necessary to allow you to keep producing units while fighting, but Peter is still in “no interface” mode. And the game has performance problems – strange given the simple modelling and texturing of its units and structures. Perhaps that multi-tiered terrain is slowing it down?

Does the game do anything well? Yes. The basic premise is solid (and I should know). You create fortresses by circle-selecting a group of abodes; these then “bunch up” into the fortress in one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen in a video game. The models and animations are simple but stylish, just like in the original Godus.

But Godus Wars just isn’t good enough.

Let me be clear – this isn’t sour grapes! I’m making Planitia because it’s a game I want to play! If Godus Wars was good enough to replace Planitia I’d be disappointed, yes – but I’d also be happy that someone had finally filled this hole I see in the market.

I’ll continue work on Planitia. Perhaps, if Peter puts enough work into improving Godus Wars, it’ll make nice competition.

Hammy

•November 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Our hamster died tonight.

She was about two years old, so I’d been kind of expecting this. She didn’t appear to be sick or anything; it seems she just ran out of lifespan.

Hammy was a Syrian hamster. She had lovely brown fur and bright black eyes. She was so smart and energetic that it wouldn’t have surprised me to discover that she snuck out of her cage at night to fight crime while we were asleep.

It’s a shame she won’t get to come to Dallas with us. I’m going to miss her.

My Friends Continue…

•November 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

…To be more interesting than I. My old friend Eric Peterson, who ran Warthog/Fever Pitch back when I worked there on Hit & Myth, is now in the process of bringing the original Descent back from the dead. I think it looks damn spiffing.

Descent Underground is now playable on Steam Early Access, and while I know there are some quality issues with Early Access, I promise you will get more from DU than you did from Godus.

Missing Cat

•December 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Almost three weeks ago, right before Thanksgiving, our cat Figaro ran away.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to do it; he just wanted to poke around outside for a while, the way inside cats do. But he darted out late at night and wouldn’t come back no matter how much my older daughter Megan (who is effectively the Keeper of the Cat) cajoled him.

I fully expected him to come back the next day, but he didn’t. He apparently got lost in the wilderness near our apartment. Days passed and we couldn’t find him, partially because we didn’t have a flashlight and night is the best time to look for a missing cat.

I was certain after a week that we’d never see him again. But Megan refused to give up, going out night after night to look for him.

A few nights ago Jamie and I were at the store and we remembered to pick up a flashlight. That night Jamie and Megan went out and thought they saw a cat that looked like Figaro, but they couldn’t get close to him.

Then, Saturday night, Megan went out again to look for him with the flashlight.

She returned sobbing with joy, Figaro in her arms. He was thin as a rail but otherwise unharmed.

We are all very happy to have our cat back for Christmas.

A Specialized Desire

•November 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

If you’ve ever wanted to see the quicksort algorithm expressed through Hungarian dance, today is your lucky day.

And if you poke around, you’ll probably find some other sorting algorithms as well.

Um, Hi.

•October 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hey.

Um.

Sorry about not updating for a while. Things have been slightly crazy.

Crazy AWESOME!

In our last episode, I mentioned that I had finally found a way home for myself and my family. ‘Twas a terrible thing to leave you guys hanging without the rest of the story, and I’m sorry. So here it is!

First, I was just amazed at how well the move worked out financially. Aspyr was willing to front us our move allowance, and a recent payment for my work on Fargoal 2 (still in development!) helped a lot too. (Thanks, Jeff!)

The move itself was straining, though. I’ve now moved cross-country three times and it’s been a harrowing experience each time. But there were no accidents or thefts or anything else untoward. Did get pulled over once but the cop let me off with a warning. (Thanks, cop!)

I’d been back to Austin twice, both times for job interviews. I could see that the city had changed a bit in the five years we’d been gone. Einstein’s Arcade on the Drag is gone for good. The Broken Spoke, a famous honky-tonk, is now sandwiched between two apartment buildings. Indeed, there’s been a lot of housing construction, most of it in the big-city “trendy apartments with storefronts on the bottom floor” type. Dunno how much I like that, but even before I left the city planners had announced that they wanted to turn Austin into a “24-hour city” so it’s not that surprising.

But I was still worried. Was it just a nostalgia filter? Or would living in Austin really be better than Florida?

Oh, yes.

triforcecar

In case you can’t make that out (because I Are Not A Photographer), it’s a car with a window decal of the Hyrule Royal Crest on it.

I saw this within the first two weeks back. I didn’t really want to get back to Austin because it’s a beautiful city (even though it is) or because it’s got wonderfully quirky shops (even though it does) or because it’s got excellent food (even though it does does does does).

It’s because I wanted to be back among like-minded people.

And now I am.

And it’s made me happy.

(does)

Game Archeology – Zarch

•July 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As you may know if you’re a long-time reader of this blog, I like Populous. I like Populous 1, I really like Populous 2 and have a love-hate relationship with Populous: The Beginning (though with mods that made it easier to play it’s swinging back towards love).

So I was browsing Wikipedia. You know how it be.

And I ended up at the entry for Populous (again). Only this time I noticed a little sentence I hadn’t earlier.

Peter Molyneux led development, inspired by Bullfrog’s artist Glenn Corpes having drawn isometric blocks after playing David Braben’s Virus.

Virus? What the heck was Virus? I knew a lot about David Braben (co-creator of Elite, creator of Frontier and founder of Frontier Productions, which, among other things, published Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.

But I had not heard of this game.

The game named as “Virus” was actually Zarch, a game for the Acorn Archimedes. (Virus was the name of the Atari ST version). In the game, you…well, just watch the damn video.

This game was released in 1987. Braben expanded on his groundbreaking work with Elite (which was the first game to use 3D polygonal objects with hidden line removal) to move up to a fully 3D, heightfield terrain using shaded squares to represent terrain types, altered the color of squares based on how far they were from the camera to simulate lighting, and had particle effects. As the game progresses, the terrain changes as it gets corrupted by the aliens – the colors go from green to brown and red and the trees become twisted and mutated. The game also had an incredible frame rate due to the fact that the Archimedes was quite a powerful machine for its time.

(It was also very difficult to play because of its mouse-only control scheme but that’s irrelevant to my point.)

Now that I’ve seen Zarch, I think it’s clear that it was an absolute inspiration – not for Peter Molyneux, but for Glenn Corpes.

Glenn was the landscape programmer for every Bullfrog game made, from Populous all the way through Dungeon Keeper. Populous actually got its start after Glenn played Zarch, got fascinated by the landscape generation, and came up with his own isometric version. But Glenn didn’t stop there.

Here’s a screenshot of Zarch:

Zarch_screen

Now compare it to Powermonger:

maxresdefault

It’s obvious that Zarch sparked Glenn’s interest in terrain generation in general. But now I think it’s clear that Powermonger was Glenn’s attempt to both replicate and improve on Zarch in every way he could. Powermonger even used a particle system almost identical to Zarch’s!

And here I thought I knew everything about the development of these games. That’ll learn me.