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Friday, September 23, 2005

Firing Squad Builds $600 Game Rig

Ok, there is this: Firing Squad has a feature on building a gaming PC for only $600. So if you don't believe in the power of the CheapBox, you might listen to them. Personally, I think there is a huge market for this. If someone like Dell or Alienware offered a $500-$700 game box that could handle modern games, I bet it would sell like crackers during Christmas.

URL fixed


Eyes blinking and caffiene crashing, I'm totally swamped in AJAX related expirements today and if I get four minutes of free time I'm mostly likely to simply micronap. Or perhaps I'm still bummed that last night the CheapBox kinda choked on FEAR and crashed on Guild Wars, who knows. Best things I've browsed today are Penny Arcade's astute observation that what many people refer to as a mod simply isn't (hint: Counter-Strike hasn't been a mod for years and years and years now) and Brinstar notes that VGL has tour dates again. So there's that.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Doom 3 Meets NetHack

DungeonDooM is the kind of mod I wish I had written. Random dungeons, player classes and missions? Sweet.

Quake Based Mutants

I don't normally repost from Blue's that much, but here I can't resist. The old school commercial mod, X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse has been released for free, along with the source code. So glad to have the CheapBox by my side now to try this out.

For a side conversation, check out Unfettered Blather's excellent dialogue on mods and copyright.

Some Thoughts on Guild Wars

Just because it's my current obsession which is eating the hours I would normally be devoting to making my top-down 2D shooter epic ... doesn't mean I don't have a small wishlist of changes I'd like to see for the game.

I dunno how, because this isn't really a complaint about any of the frameworks they currently have in place ... but I do feel an odd kind of sameness with my characters in Guild Wars. Perhaps I was spoiled by the amazing character generator in City of Heroes, which I grant wouldn't make much sense here, but especially running around Pre-Searing, I kinda feel like players don't stand out much. Maybe it's because I don't have a cape or just because I haven't played enough to craft a lot of armor though.

I do like the dye system though. Maybe a starter pack of dye would be good, but I like the user-based vanity economy. Whisper has a vial of silver and I have no idea if I should sell it or use it.

Merchant Me
Trading needs a better front end. So many people wander around the towns with Willing To Sell or Willing To Buy chats that it gets distracting and confusing. Better would be if players could simply hit their inventory, select items they'd like to sell and maybe a starting price, and then they get an icon over their head. Potential buyers could then peruse them like they normally do merchants. I've had several profession specific items that I wouldn't mind selling to people at a low cost, but the hassle of gabbing around town to find a buyer just never really seemed worth it.

Looking For Quest
In a similar vein, it seems like it could be easier to find pick up groups for the area quests rather than the story missions. The story missions aren't too hard because if you're in a town where there is one you can just look for someone without a full group and try to jump in. But if you're looking specifically for aids to a quest in towns without one, you end up having to do the same town crier impersonation. Guild Wars has a great PUG community, but the interface isn't quite up to speed with the rest of the game for it.

Trading Cards
Take a lesson from Phantasy Star Online. Since that game was console based, everyone had a business card. If you wanted to remember a person for later gaming, you could easily trade cards. When you looked up the person's card later it would also tell you additional information about their online status other than just on or offline. The current system works, but it could be far more streamlined and robust. I should be able to click on someone, swap cards, and then late on click on their card an know where they are, if they're on a quest, etc ...

Lag Monster
This is probably my personal problem and not a rampant one, but I occasionally get burdened with crippling lag. I'm convinced it's nothing on my client now because I've had several blissful nights of lagfree fun. Now, lag with an MMO is obviously just a terroritorial hazard, but ArenaNet's "instanced" versions of the world seem like they should be able to handle it. If I'm reading my trace right, I'm heading out to LA still for data ... maybe NCSoft could appropriate a few Midwestern servers?

Minor stuff. Beautiful game. My only other complaint is that it should be less fun, so I'd get more work done.

FEAR on the CheapBox

So how does the demo of Monolith's latest, greatest engine run on a computer valued less than $500? Not bad, actually. F.E.A.R. (which I still think if you name your unit something like that, you're just asking for trouble) auto-detected the video settings to be fairly medium, 800x600 with medium details but no AA. That proved to be slightly optimistic. The framerate seemed mostly OK, but just that slight sluggish that can give one a headache from staring. So I reduced the shadowing from trilinear to bilinear and the shaders to minimal, and it seemed to run just dreamy after that. Clearly not going to drop any jaws compared to a $2,000 rig ... but still plenty pretty.

I didn't get too far into the demo. Died once, went on to Guild Wars. I will go back and try it again, it's definately got some potential. The engine is quite nice and they definately got some spooky going on, but I was finding the enemy AI to be very odd at times, almost like I was chasing frantic children rather than trained supersoldiers.

Game Tunnel Rounds Up August

Once again, the merry band of thieves over at Game Tunnel offer up some reviews of August indie games. Included are War World, Little Gods, Axiomatic, Desperate Space and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Asian Girls Kick Robot Ass

Or something like that. Apparently the only two women to enter a Korean robot battle are the ones who have managed to sweep it. The competition, "which aims for world peace using robots", is known as Robo-One and is dominated by male contestants. Kim Jin, 23, and Kim Eun-hye, 20, have entered a robot named "Hera" who apparently excels at rolling on the ground and throwing it's opponent. Hera and it's controllers made it past the prelims but it seems an errant reset button knocked them from the finals.

Civ IV Team Shouts Out Tonight

Sid Meier and some of his crew for Civilization IV are going to appear on a GameSHOUT Roundtable at 9:00PM EST tonight. Firaxis was briefly my hero when I learned they had the X-Com license rights, but to date they haven't done anything about my need to squawk orders to squaddies in Simlish.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

GameSpy On Location With DOOM

According to GameSpy, DOOM might not suck as a movie after all:

One thing remained clear through various interviews and roundtables we've attended this year, however: everyone associated with the film, from the team at id Software to all the actors and production staff, are keenly aware of the bad rep videogame-inspired films have gotten, and are all eager to buck the trend. While we haven't seen the final product and don't know ultimately how it will turn out, one thing became clear: DOOM is not going to be your average videogame flick.

I was with my brother in Decatur this last weekend and we both agreed - we're not buying it. We both honed in on the images from the trailer where they simply took the first person shooter to the cinema a bit too far, imposing a gun onto some shakycam footage of someone emptying ammo into random CGI creatures. It looked just like a video game, only grainy and dull.

2006 Independent Game Festival Entries

The entrants for the upcoming IGF have been posted, and it's quite the assorted cast: Doom 3 mods, Arkanoid clones, fighting games, tigers and bears ... oh my. The first person to download and play them all gets an invite to Kate Moss' next party, if the rumorvine is to be believed (hint: it's not).

Talk Like A Pirate (Arrrr!)

PvP celebrates.

Mercenaries for Cheap

I just noticed that Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction is only $20 off of GameFly. Seriously worth it. Out of all of the "free roam" games (is that becoming a genre?) that have come out in the wake of Grand Theft Auto, Mercenaries had a very unique feel in both design and gameplay. Plus, it had a lot of explosions.

Monday, September 19, 2005

GP2X With SDK Via Pound Based Economy

GP2X, the Linux powered gaming handheld, is available to order for those of you who pay for goods using those standard British notes. Of particular interest with this console is that it comes with it's own SDK:

The GP2X is totally open to development from anyone, commercial or amateur. Yes really. We're heading back to the classic Amiga days of development.

With a free GCC/Linux/Windows based compiler and SDK you really can begin to make software and games for nothing, not only that - we will offer source code and guides to getting started.

If only I had faith this would capture a sizeable demographic. Finally, someone sees some value in making a truly open platform console and gets it into boxes ... but of course it's in the highly contested handheld market where it will probably get buried in the hype of a PSP accessory or an even smaller version of the GameBoy Advance.

RIP John Hall

Jamie Fristrom's blog bears the sad news that game developer John Hall has died of cancer, apparently while finishing Ultimate Spider Man. John kept an extensive blog concerning his fight with melanoma and according to Jamie, he kept working on the game as much as he could. May he rest in peace.

Why Is Financing Game Development Hard?

Dean Takahashi is a long time game journalist who has written multiple articles, a blog with the San Jose Mercury News and a book about the development of the XBox. At a speech to conference on video game investment, he's asking a simple question to the crowd. Why is it so hard to get funding?

One assumption that has been a barrier to funding game companies is that it’s all over. It’s all played out. Electronic Arts has the console market all locked up. Look what happened to Sega when it tried to go up against EA in sports. Now EA has something like 20 percent of the market for platforms like the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. This is a big deal, if you consider that Intel has only about 15 percent of the chip market. But scratch the surface and you’ll see that EA has plenty of strong competition in companies like Activision, Ubisoft, THQ, and Vivendi Universal. EA has stumbled during recent months, missing its numbers as its tried and true, conservative formula of making sequels and games based on Hollywood brands is looking a little tired. So there’s a big gorilla in the market. But is that enough to scare everybody away from the biggest market? The answer is that if you look closely at some of the executive departures from EA, you’ll find that some of them are going into competition with EA.
-- Why Is It So *&@#$% Hard To Finance Video Games

Dean ticks off more than a few excellent points, including the real size of the video game market (not as close to movies as rumored) and the pros and cons of making investments only "sure" bets like Halo 2 (or similar "sure" bets like The Sims Online). Largely he places the blame onto a series of "disconnects", which many gamer have heard about from other malcontents. The lack of synergy between publishers and developers, VC groups and major game companies leaves the games industry at a disadvantage. An insightful read into the trends that underscores the issues about hardships in getting good games out there.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why Nintendo Gets It

GamesFirst has a decent persepctive on Nintendo's direction with the Revolution:

Nintendo "gets" it. Microsoft and Sony don't understand that a new generation of gaming machine does not automatically beget a new generation of gaming. A "next" generation requires a significant change in gaming itself. Gamers care about hardware and hardware generations only insofar as those generations mark major changes in the way games are made and played. Gamers care about framerate only insofar as framerate is connected to the limit of a player's reflexes. The interaction of technology and creative expression and experience is complex terrain, which often understood in a highly intuitive array of impulses on the part of gamers. This intuitive understanding of the relationship between tech and game leads easily into fetishization of game hardware: Witness the hip NES controller belt buckles sold in mall shops worldwide or the Xbox 360 faceplates. All tech-dependent art forms fetishize the mechanical aspects of their practice: photography, computers, sports, music. In each case one can see similar devotion to the objects and implements of the practice on the part of the practitioners.
-- Why Nintendo Gets It, or Why Sony Should Start Trying

It underpins the view with a brief history lesson. I'm rather inclined to agree. In fact, I think we're going see very mirrored competitions when it comes to the Revolution versus the PS3 that we've seen with the DS and the PSP. Nintendo may be quite able to keep their market alive even without having to bridge the hardware gap.

I do wonder, though, what would happen if someone comes out with a motion device for the other consoles. Is Nintendo hinging it's future on a technology which others will easily adapt and clone? Not unlike say, analog control, rumble packs and shoulder buttons?