Dec 012012
 

So, here it finally is: the last update for Minimalistic Tower Defense. It fixes some of the bigger issues and makes the game almost playable. I’ve also decided to fill the source code to the brim with useless comments and release it here. Before you say anything: I know it’s not pretty. It has some serious scars from partially rewriting things, shoehorning other things in that I hadn’t thought of before and a couple of less than beautiful hacks or shortcuts. Better look at it as an example of how not to do it.

I’ve been rather stressed out by work, and personally I haven’t been feeling too well either, so there’s not much I got done over the last few months. Instead, I tried to combat the everyday with XCOM and Assassin’s Creed 3, and I have to say, both do a very good job at it. I know that it’s apparently cool to hate on XCOM for not being complex enough, too different from the old X-Com games or whatever, but I love it. I dare say it’s one of the best games I’ve played in recent years. I’d say AC3 is a good return to form after the somewhat disappointing Revelations. It looks good, it feels good, the cities are cool, just as the nature areas, and climbing through the trees is fun. Even the bits on the ship are kind of cool. There is one thing that bothers me, though:

Why the hell do they keep changing Desmond’s face? He looks different in every game! Now, I get that they probably try to mix features of the ancestors into it, but while that made at least a bit of sense in Revelations, where you could argue that what you see of Desmond is his minds projection, it is absolutely nonsensical for present day Desmond to have his appearance changed just because of memories. Except maybe if by Assassin’s Creed 8 they reveal that the real protagonist is Ultrajax The Futuristic, and he has been using an animus to relive Desmond’s live as well as his trips to the animus. Assassin’s Recursion, so to speak.

I know it’s a bit early for new year’s resolutions, but I hope to pick up some speed again with more regular updates and being at least somewhat productive again. I miss my C#, my vectors and textures and all that. XNA, if you still want me, I’ll come back to you! Of course, I might port you to Monogame as soon as I want to go multi platform, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

Aug 232012
 
Back to front.

GamesCom Report

So, as I told you before, I went to GamesCom last Sunday. I wanted to be there right at opening, but due to a series of unforeseen events, I only went to bed at 5:30 in the morning and was already being kept alive solely by energy drinks and coffee. I won a VIP session for Borderlands 2 though, which started at eleven, so I somehow forced myself out of bed something past nine and drove off, the temperature already at roughly a million degrees celsius (which translates to roughly eighty billion degrees Fahrenheit, +/- 10).

Because of the ridiculous amount of visitors the lines in front of every game were almost surreal, so I didn’t see much except those games which I had won fastpasses for because I didn’t feel like waiting somewhere for three hours or even more. Here is what I experienced, expressed in those trendy things they call “words”. Read more about my GamesCom adventures!

May 152012
 

Everything was ready. My significant other and I prepared ourselves with lots of pizza, snacks and beer – even a bottle of cheap champagne was there. We were excited, and tried to kill time until it was finally midnight, which is the time when, as rumor had it, Diablo III would finally be playable. I had to get up early for work the next day, but this is goddamned Diablo we’re talking about – how could I resist getting just a tiny bit of play before bedtime? I had already played the beta, and while I didn’t like some of the decisions they made with the game, I found it an overall fun experience and I was anxious to try another class. I was still unsure whether I should roll demon hunter or wizard; I would be playing alongside a barbarian, so either one would be a good complement. Well, as it turned out, I still haven’t made that decision because I couldn’t get past the first boss: The Lord Of Annoyance, also known as Error 37.

I was so naïve.
I was aware that the game would have this always-on nonsense, and I was also expecting the servers to struggle. But this wasn’t a full-scale MMO, and we’re talking about Blizzard – with their monster which is World of Warcraft, they are basically made of servers. I thought, there would be fifteen or thirty minutes of struggling to log in at most, and maybe a little lag here and there. I thought if any company would have the capacity and experience to deal with such a huge launch, it would be Blizzard. Also, they had this big ass beta thing going on – surely that must have prepared them and their equipment for the coming storm?
I was so naïve.

Ninety minutes later, I was still trying to log into the game. One time I was full of hope: after entering my password, I got a bunch of license agreements which I had to accept (after carefully reading every word, of course). But as soon as I did, I was back at the log in screen. My better half did slightly better: at one point, she could log in, but was then stuck in the character creation screen for ten minutes or so before being able to play – for five minutes, after which she was kicked out of the game because of a disconnect. She got lucky again later though, and was still playing when I finally gave up and went to bed, wondering if there are people with pirated versions out there who don’t have any issues thanks to their crack and laugh at us legitimate customers.

And the sad thing is, I will keep trying. I sure as hell wouldn’t put up with this crap if it wasn’t freaking Diablo, but here I am feeding them my money like the good consumer they want me to be. I wonder what wonders await me when I try again this evening: Will it let me log in? Maybe it will, but won’t let me play with someone who’s hooked up to the same router? Maybe it’ll let me play a few hours, and then tear my character to shreds because of a disconnect? Do I have to worry about being able to play the game at all in a couple of years, when the servers get shut down?
Nah, I’m sure everything will be fine from now on.

I’m so naïve.

Mar 262012
 

This has been floating around as a draft for some time – I wrote it almost immediately after finishing the game. Then some real life happened again, and some gaming happened, and I kind of forgot about posting this thing. Now I come back here and see that I formulated a monster of almost two thousand words, all about a single game. What do you mean, I’m obsessed with Mass Effect? I most certainly am not!

Anyways, I finished Mass Effect 3 a couple of weeks ago, and as I promised I’ll add my two cents to the discussion about the ending, even though I’m – as always – a little late to the party. Naturally, this post will contain massive spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the game, you might want to stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

If you don’t have much time, here’s the summary: while it’s not perfect, it’s not as bad as people are saying and I think a lot of people who complain are just jumping the bandwagon. If you want to read the entire wall of text, feel free to continue.

Continue reading »

Mar 122012
 

I don’t have much to update, because real life happened and got in the way of productivity. And then Saints Row The Third happened and now Mass Effect 3 is happening – how am I supposed to get anything done? I’m not even counting lengthy or even endless games like SPAZ or Dwarf Fortress here. And don’t even get me started about all the games I’d like to buy and/or are not yet released, like FTL or Max Payne 3. There just aren’t enough hours in the day nor enough money in the pocket. Apart from gaming, I fiddled around with menus and map editor stuff for Minimalistic TD (behind the scenes stuff mostly) and finally put up some proper source control, but that’s about it. I have now put up a schedule for myself to force me into being more organized and spending more time developing. I’m curious to see whether I’ll manage to stick to it or if my productivity is forever lost in a vast ocean of electronic entertainment and procrastination.

I guess at this point I can’t tell you much about Saints Row that you haven’t heard anywhere else, other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it and that I’m looking forward to the pile of craziness that will be Saints Row 4. I don’t think the brutes work out so well as a gameplay element as I found them more annoying than challenging, but as a whole this is a really fun game. And despite all the wackiness there are moments that feel really important and awesome, thanks to a fitting choice of background music and the abandoning of realism wherever it would get in the way of fun or story.

I won’t say much about Mass Effect 3, because it has just been released and I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone. I’m not finished yet, but so far my general opinion is that the atmosphere is really well done and there are genuinely funny as well as genuinely touching, dramatic and sad moments, none of which feels forced. A lot is told just by the enviroment, the level design and NPC conversations. You really get the feeling that yes, the galaxy is at war, times are rough and a lot of people will give their lives before this is over. Also, you kick huge, robotic ass. What’s not to like?

The ending, apparently.
I haven’t seen it myself, but I noticed that there’s a lot of whining and discussion and everyone’s making a fuss about it. I’ll add my two cents when I’ve finished the game. It’s really hard to avoid spoilers when you can’t even visit sites like Rock Paper Shotgun or Penny Arcade without ending-related posts jumping in your face, but so far I’ve been successful – wish me luck.

The coop multiplayer pleasantly surprised me as well: it doesn’t feel tacked on, it’s fun and with a little imagination and suspension of disbelief by the player it even kinda-sorta makes sense inside the main story. Very kinda-sorta, but at least not quite as detached as with other games.

That’s all I have to say right now. Stay tuned for more news, as I hope to make more progress again in the coming weeks and months.

Feb 102012
 
Totally not worried about any other copyright issues.

You’re probably wondering what I’m up to, so I’m just going to give you a quick rundown:

I have a game not entirely unlike Tetris sitting around on my hard drive that’s about half-way finished, but then I suddenly got scared about copyright/patent/other legal issues, then read about The Tetris Company (yes, this does actually exist), who are apparently throwing around lawsuits as if it were confetti at a party at everything that’s even remotely similar to the original Tetris, so I panicked and decided to not work on this any further so I don’t get sued into oblivion. Of course, at that time I did not consider a couple of things, like the fact that I’m not taking money, using different graphics and, most importantly, that I’m an idiot and next to nobody will even see it at all. So I’m probably safe, and thus I’ll probably pick that up again, finish it and put it up, legal issues be damned.

But that will have to wait until I have finished Minimalistic TD, the project I have replaced it with. Like the name suggests, it’s a Tower Defense game with minimalistic (read: simple enough to create even for me) graphics. With the recent explosion of cube- or voxel-based 3D games, I thought I’d take it a level further and make a 2D game consisting entirely of coloured squares, sharing the same square texture that gets a tint depending on what it’s supposed to be. I’m being extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeme! Expect screenshots and a download soon(ish).

Other than that, I’ve been getting busy with Blender once again. Of course, after a few weeks of pause, I had forgotten ninety percent of the required shortcuts, but once I got back to speed, I was able to create this:

Totally not worried about any other copyright issues.As you can see, it’s not finished yet, but it’s a little hint at the secret project I’m also not having enough time for. Feel free to guess what it is ;)

Last but not least, the obligatory gaming news.
First off, I was able to finish Batman – Arkham City, and the only reason I didn’t immediately start a New Game Plus is that there is so much else to play on my shelf and so little time to do so. When I first started the game, it felt kind of average, but after a bit of time it really grabbed me and I was having so much fun that it should be illegal. Oh, and don’t worry if you’re planning to buy it used – the Catwoman episodes are missing, but you don’t really miss that much in my opinion. The goddamn Batman himself offers more than enough bang for your buck.

I have Saints Row The Third lying around, still unused, but I keep hearing good things about it. I’ll get around to it eventually, but at the moment I’m trying hard to finally finish Mass Effect 2 in preparation of the sequel’s release. I still don’t like some things that they changed from the first Mass Effect, like the hugely simplified levelling, the tedious planet-scanning minigame or the ham-fisted attempt at including ammunition via thermal clips which I still don’t buy the explanation for. After all, there were weapons and weapon upgrades in the first game (i.e. two years before Mass Effect 2) with cooling so efficient that they could fire almost indefinitely, so the “forced to deliberately shoot slower to manage waste heat, or pause as their weapons vented.” explanation is all but cancelled out. Not to mention how thermal clips are implemented in such an absurd way that you can always shoot only an exact number of rounds with one clip, instead of only using them to “emergency cool” the weapon when the shit hits the fan or something, while the weapon can still cool down on its own like it did in Mass Effect 1 if all is calm. Add to that an increased rate of fire so heat builds up faster and that would be an explanation that, in my opinion, would have fit better and still resulted in similar gameplay.

Phew, sorry for nerding out here. I promise I’ll never make fun of Trekkies arguing about fictional technology again.

I see it as a testament to the quality of the game’s universe if I care that much about such small things. Anyway, I’m not saying ME2 is a bad game. It’s not perfect, no game is, but it’s still pretty damn good and it’s nice to meet people from the prequel or see results of your earlier decisions. All in all, I love the game and I love the universe they’ve created even more, and I can’t wait to finish it and then dive into the third one when it’s released.

Jan 222012
 
Roccat

I promised a review of my new Roccat gaming equipment, so here we go. I’m going to talk about the Roccat Kave 5.1 headset, the Kone[+] mouse and the Isku keyboard.

Disclaimer: After writing, I realised the text below sounds pretty much like advertising – I promise that I do not get any money from Roccat, I just genuinely like their products. I won’t mind if they offer me some, though ;)

Continue reading »

Jan 062012
 

First of all, happy new year everyone! I hope you survived Christmas and the new year parties and are off to a great start into 2012. I guess you can’t have a blog and not post your resolutions, so here goes:

  • Finish writing a game. Even if it’s just a crappy Tetris clone.
  • Get an app into the WP7 marketplace and not have too horrible reviews.
  • Catch up on my list of yet-to-play games. It’s getting embarassing in size.
  • Read a couple of books. I’m eager to finally read the rest of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy books and to start with A Game Of Thrones.
  • Finally get syntax highlighting in Query ExPlus working and push out a new version.

Trust me when I say that I am just as surprised as you are, if not more, but it is true: I have finished a new version of Query ExPlus, including the goddamn Batman syntax highlighting. Download it from there or see a glorious screenshot here:

It lives!

A little sample of syntax highlighting in action.

The colours can be customized in the settings window, where you can also turn the whole thing of in case it gives you any trouble (it shouldn’t, but you never know). Another new feature can be found in the menu, where there are now items to save your serverlist to an Xml file or import from one. This way, it can be backed up, imported after an update, etc.
I’m thinking about haveing a setting to enable saving passwords, but I’m not sure. It would be easy to do, but I have security concerns. Should something bad come out of this (e.g. the wrong person somehow gets access to the computer and the password saved there), I don’t want to be blamed for the “hilarity” that ensues. On the other hand, shouldn’t it be enough to give the user a warning when activating the setting and just trust in their responsibility? I’m not sure yet.

In other news, maybe you noticed that the site has a new icon – it’s actually a 3D spoon that I created in blender, but at that size it just looks like a dark square. I’ll do something about that sooner or later.

While I have officially declared 2012 the get-your-head-out-of-your-ass-and-get-shit-done-year for me personally, during the holiday season I didn’t do much except for eating and gaming (and letting my wallet be abused by Steam sales), so here is a quick rundown of what I think of some of the games:

  • Serious Sam 3 – BFE: Awesome. Basically very similar to the older Serious Sam games, only with a serious graphics update. In other words, exactly what I wanted.
  • SpaceChem: I’ve had this for a while from one of the bazillion indie bundles that came out in the last couple of months, but have only now started playing it. Holy shit, have I been missing out! If you have even a tiny bit of love for puzzle games, buy this right now. Finally a game that makes you think and even has different solutions, giving you a reason to revisit older levels, trying to do better.
  • Bastion: Same as above, had this for a while but just played it. It is great, and in many ways a better game than a lot of “AAA” titles. You can’t talk about Bastion without mentioning the narrator: he really adds a lot to the game in a way that I can’t quit explain. He gives your advenure more depth, or at least that’s the way it feels. There have been few games with that level of atmosphere.
  • Serious Sam Double D: Meh. Saw a trailer, thought it looked fun and bought it, but it just didn’t click with me. The price tag is rather small so I’m not mad about wasted money, but I don’t recommend buying. It feels kind of like a flash game, and an average one at best.
  • Battlefield 3: Been playing this for a while now and it’s still fun. I don’t give a flying shit about the singleplayer, but the multiplayer is one of the best experiences you can find in online FPS gaming (except for some of the assholes you end up playing with, but that’s hardly the game’s fault).
  • Skyrim: I don’t think I have to say much about this. A++, would buy again.
  • Anomaly – Warzone Earth: A fun reverse approach to the tower defence genre, where you play the part of the attackers, plan your route, buy units etc. Definitely worth a try.

Oh, and I have also received new hardware! I now have a new mouse, keyboard and Headset, all from Roccat. I’ll add a new post with a review soon, but the short story is: all of them are rather cool! :)

Dec 142011
 
A 3D representation of a gift box.

So, there are some news to spread in this calm pre-christmas time.

First of all, no, I didn’t get QX+ finished. I’m just distracted too easily, it seems, by things like setting up my forum. It is rather empty still, but I encourage you to go there and fill it with beautiful (non-spammy) threads. At the moment, it requires a sperate login to be created. I’m not sure if and how I can get it to use the same users that are already there in the WordPress area, but I’ll look into it. It’s the first forum I have ever installed or administered, so any advice is welcome. Also, feel free to suggest new forum areas.

Speaking of getting distracted, I’m for the first time semi-seriously fiddling with 3D modelling and it’s fascinating. Remember that Flatlander talk? It still pretty much applies, but now I’m a flatlander with a vague idea of what the third dimension could (maybe) look like. Thanks to the amazing tutorial videos over at the Blender sites, I was able to churn out this mediocre but appropriately themed picture: A 3D representation of a gift box.

It’s not much to look at, but for a beginner this feels like a huge success. I’m still trying to create a Spoonforge logo, but I’m afraid I’m not at a level to model silverware that doesn’t look like shit just yet.

In other news, I have finally managed to finish XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example: Beginner’s Guide by Kurt Jaegers. I have learned a lot working through this book, and I really loved the style of it. It is incredibly informative while staying accessible and fun to read, and every step in the book’s examples is explained without getting overly repetitive. I really wish Kurt would write tutorial books about more topics, like working with Blender, 3D development, cooking or opening an umbrella. I’m at a point where I’d buy pretty much every book with his name on it, I guess.
Luckily, while there seems to be no other book, he has a fantastic tutorial homepage you should check out if you’re interested in XNA development.

Also, I’d like to talk for a second about Miner Wars.
This is a space sim, which allows you to not only do the usual story missions and trading and all that stuff. It also lets you actually mine those big ass asteroids as they’re floating through space, like a giant, rocky buffet of minerals and ores. And by ‘mining’ I don’t mean “press X to mine”. No, you actually get to blast the shit out of those damn things, carve tunnels through them and all that. Oh, and it lets you build space stations.
I love space, I love space sims, and I love destructable enviroment in games. This is a combination of all three, and when I first heard of it, I almost wet my pants. No wonder I already preordered it at the beginning of the year.
But enough of the talking, let’s just watch a trailer:

It is still in a pre-alpha stage, so it is partly unfinished. On the plus side, this gives you 50% off the price compared to what the final game will cost. Also, there has been a lot more activity lately, so you might want to hurry to get this price because I don’t know how much longer this status will last.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m suddenly talking about the game now, and I have to admit that the reason is a bit selfish. Namely, they have started an affiliate programme as part of their promotional efforts, meaning that I receive a certain revenue for everyone who buys their game through my link. So, if you were going to buy the game anyway, you would be doing me a favour if you did so using my affiliate link.

Dec 012011
 

So, I guess it’s time for this month’s random babbling, eh? So let’s begin.

I have syntax highlighting in Query ExPlus basically working and will release it soon. There is just one little quirk left: if you have a longer text, there can be trouble with scrolling – i.e. when you’re scrolled down and edit in the upper area of the textbox, the scrollposition might jump so that your editing position is in the bottom area. There seems to be no easy way in .NET / WinForms to access the scrollbar position of this control, and I’m currently researching ways to do that and trying to find out whether it’s worth the effort or if it’s just something we’ll have to live with. To be honest, I’m currently leaning toward the latter and just putting in an option to turn it off in case it annoys you too much. There are other things to be done and this is starting to become tiresome.

In gamedev news, there has been slow progress this month, but I’m getting somewhere, albeit slowly. I’m almost through the book and I’ve already picked out an idea for my first game – after much thinking, trying out and crying, I settled for something substantially smaller and simpler than most things I had in mind before, because I realised that I have to start small. Unfortunately, the 10000 hour rule is very true and I’m in the process of admitting to myself that I can’t start on my dream projects right away lest they turn out lame and shitty. That’s something I can accept for smaller projects as part of the learning process, but I don’t want the few ideas I’ve grown attached to over time, and which I believe to have potential, to be ruined because I started too early and couldn’t finish them with the amount of skill and polish that they deserve.

I’ve also had a bit of time for gaming (god damn, Orcs Must Die is awesome!), which resulted in me finally finishing Assassin’s Creed – Brotherhood. I know that I am late to that party, so I’ll not say much about that other than that I really liked it. After its slightly WTF ending, I was anxious to start Revelations to see where the story was headed. I have now finished a big chunk of it, and what can I say… I’m disappointed.
I am not saying that AC Revelations is a bad game – it is still a very entertaining game. But pretty much all games have good and bad sides to them, and sadly, the bad sides here have gotten larger than in the last installment of the series, whereas the good sides, while still outweighing the bad ones, are a little smaller in comparison to its prequel. Keep in mind that this is all my opinion, and your mileage may vary. I’m going to discuss a few of the problems I have with the game here. There will be slight spoilers not in regard to the story (I haven’t even finished it yet, so the amount I could spoil is limited anyway) but more in regard to what new gameplay mechanics are there, although I’m sure most of them have been made public in reviews anyway.
In terms of story, I’ll only talk about the things that should be obvious from the prequel, the setting and trailers and what’s established right at the beginning. If you are still worried or haven’t played Brotherhood yet, you should probably skip the rest of this post.

Continue reading »

Oct 242011
 

I have taken a step back from Query ExPlus and my problems with its syntax highlighting lately. I was hoping that taking a break from bashing on it with my hammer would open my mind to come up with a real solution, and indeed I have come up with one or two more approaches that I’ll try in the near future. The last resort would basically be rebuilding the thing completely, which I actually try to avoid.
A user has posted a change he made to QX+ that enables him to export to csv format [EDIT: Of course I meant "enables him to choose how to export to csv". Sorry, some of the words were late for the deadline of this article and didn't make it in.] Yes, I noticed, and no, I didn’t forget. I’ll probably put it into the svn in the next couple of days.

So, what did I do while I was not updating QX+ as I promised? Different things, really (whoa, what a surprise!). One thing was that I finally finished Enslaved, and my only regret is that I haven’t done so earlier. And maybe that I didn’t buy it on release day. And that I don’t have enough money to personally hire those guys and make a sequel, prequel or simply another game in the same vein. Seriously, it’s awesome. It has its quirks here and there, but it’s still one of the best games I have played in a long time and I cannot remotely understand why it didn’t sell better. Character development is better than in most other games (and the characters themselves are more believable as well), the story was well done, it had neat gameplay mechanics (like the two main characters providing cover and distraction for each other) and the combat was fun. Add to that great graphics and a really cool visual style in an interesting setting, I don’t see how this did not skyrocket.

TL;DR: Buy Enslaved now.

Also, I’ve been digging deeper into XNA programming, learning a lot and feeling that it won’t be long before I can start a serious game project. I’ve also been fiddling around with the Torque3D engine demo, but with all of my little experience being 2D, I kind of felt like a Flatlander trying to understand our 3D universe. Once I get the hang of it though, I have an idea for a neat little game that should be more or less easy to do. Stay tuned.

I have tried creating a 3D Spoonforge logo with Blender – Flatland rule applies here, too. But thankfully, there are a lot of tutorial videos available, so I should be able to handle that sooner or later. It will probably still look like crap, though.

Also, I have been able to get some coding and refactoring done on Show My Tweets. Yes, it was “Twuck you” before, and I’ll probably change the name again because I’m not really happy with either of those names. “Twuck You” will remain the name for my Twitter DLL that I’m building alongside Show My Tweets though, which I’ll be able to use in other projects and probably also release as open source to the public. It’s meant to be a simple, very basic way to handle twitter authorisation and the sending and receiving of tweets, without having to take the route of Hammock, TweetSharp or whatever. In the best case, one DLL will work on Windows Phone 7 and Windows (I don’t know if you can use such functionality on Xbox, but maybe even there), else I’ll make the necessary adjustments for those platforms.

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