Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Friday, June 01, 2007

Parallels To Support 3D Gaming

The folks over at Parallels aren't messing around with these updates, as just about four months after unveiling release candidate 2, the harmony-inducing software is just about ready to hit the big three-o. At long last, the new iteration will purportedly support 3D graphics acceleration, giving Mac users the ability to play OpenGL / DirectX-based games in Windows without having to reboot, and it sounds like you'll be seeing improved shared folder performance as well
-- Parallels 3.0 handles 3D gaming, adds SmartSelect integration

If performance is even remotely decent, I may never buy a non-Apple computer again.

Where Will Id Go?

FPS fans were rocket-jumping with joy yesterday at the news that Id is working on a new 'franchise' (game), not based on Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein or Commander Keen. "It is a new id brand with an all-new John Carmack engine and I think that when we show it to people, once again they'll see, just like they saw when we first showed Doom 3, that John Carmack still has a lot of magic left
-- Id working on new IP [Guardian] via

I was just contemplating a bit on this on the car ride into work. Comparatively, three of the major developers of the FPS genre have very distinct difference. Epic has always attempted to cram loads of gameplay, often feature more gametypes than anyone else (although they're trimming for UT3). Valve doesn't seem to like to develop new mechanics - but they know them when they see them and attempt to box and capitalize on them (Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, Portal).

Id seems to still be riding high from the days when Quake was the deathmatch of the day. Despite some promising concepts (like using light and shadow) - Doom III remained a mostly solo experience. Enemy Territory has really taken the mantle of pushing online mechanics for their franchises.

Course, I think some of this is that Id still has a very traditional approach to mods. They have an almost Prime Directive nature to their philosophy - provide tools but don't try and meddle with the community. As such, Quake III probably had more pure gameplay mods than anyone else. Id got used to producing the core and letting others run with deeper, more expansive game modes.

So if Carmack and crew are getting outside the box of Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake - what will they do?

Safe money is something along the lines of what we saw with Doom III - a mostly single player expedition to showcase whatever tech wizardy they've been compiling. Which would be fine, but I'd much rather see id try and get way outside the box and start trying to innovate not just on rendering and shaders ... but mechanics as well.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

300 Days, 300 Game Mechanics

Squidi is trying to define one unique game mechanic a day for three hundred days (via TIGSource). Some mechanics build on each other and he provides illustrations and descriptions. He's into about day twenty now.

Update - in what I'm sure is just another coincidence *cough*, Kotaku posted about this shortly after. Now the site is down as an after-effect, presumably from the traffic. Yay. (Update 2 - and now it's back.)

Dev Diary: More Modding

The thing about this latest round of Unreal modding is that the foundation of it all is going really, really fast. Because it's all based on something i've done or abandoned, it's a lot like putting a jigsaw back together. Last night, for instance, I took my old Riftwar code and stripped it of all the campaign and player class code and dumped it into vanilla Unreal domination. There was a lot of little sections to rework or tweak - but in a couple of hours it was pretty much playable.

It's an odd goal - to do less instead of more. To resist the urge to add in some kind of configurable inventory or adding a bunch of new keybinds. I was reading the old ModSquad review of Freehold UT and realized that kind of stuff actually made that game good - that it was the ability to quickly jump though menus to buy health, or better yet keybind a whole package of goods, combined with a multifunctional constant powerup that made the game really what it was.

So much has changed since then though. That was back when mods were still, well, mods. Total conversions still weren't entirely the order of the day - although that was changing rapidly. Still the number one comment I got on the mod was why I was still using original UT models. Later, I'd get that same critique from Epic about reuising Unreal maps.

Although to a certain extent the map thing is a valid point - maps are very specific to the gameplay they're designed. You don't play CTF on a DM map for a good reason - the layout, flow, powerup setup ... everything ... is different. Still, the core of the Riftwar gameplay was still domination - as I just proved last night.

Still, I've put requests out for mappers for at least a couple of game modes. One is pure vehicular deathmatch - something which is actually oddly missing or at least rare from the FPS world I think. It has an old mod buddy of mine excited and so he'll probably contribute some code for it - which is great. However I can hear the crickets in the mod community which is post Make Something Unreal. There are times I hate to be right.

The only time I could interest a decent mapper into helping me was when everyone was trying to build the next great total conversion. This is what Valve and Counter-Strike has done. This is, of course, despite the fact that early betas of CS sucked ... especially some of the maps. A point which I'm sure will be lost on most people when I release with maps of equal quality.

Anyway, I hope to have more of an idea of what a preview of this might look like in the next few weeks. Right now there are about seven gametypes up for consideration with some potentially getting cut and maybe some added. I would actually predict more like five or six will make the cut. I've got a concept doc I'm using for notetaking that at some point I may clean up for public consumption.

Game Play: Dungeon Runners Goes Live

Apparently Dungeon Runners just left beta - I hadn't really noticed except for a few fleeting articles. I logged in last night to give it a whirl and see if the last coupe of patches had added any real polish to the game and discovered that ... well ... not terribly.

Still, it's a fun little departure. As a free game, Dungeon Runners is an excellent value - and I don't really mean that as the slam that it might sound. It's a quirky, comical roguelike which is pretty easy to jump into and provides only the slightest hint of strategy above point and click. I haven't tried playing in a group yet and I don't know if I really intend to try it. It's a decent enough diversion but it wouldn't take much in the way of a griefer to pretty much ruin it. Not technically necessarily, just the normal annoyance which can be the online public. Perhaps if people I actually knew were to try it, I would group - but I can't imagine it is a huge upgrade from solo play.

As it is, Runners provides some solid level grinding - though it is just that. There's no real depth past the grind, the character creation and class structure isn't terribly compelling or interesting. Like most of the game - it's not bad ... just average and serviceable.

The membership angle can be a little annoying - especially when you start stacking health potions that you can't actually use. Perhaps if the membership could be purchased in packs instead of subscription, I'd consider it - but even at $5 a month, a monthly fee for a game I can't see pouring too many hours into seems a bit off.

Short version - a fun little distraction that is certainly worth a spin at no cost. At low cost, it might hook you - but I'd say chances are about even (or less) on that.

Pac-Man's Skeleton Found

Brilliant. Via OhGizmo!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Google Maps Paranoia

To continue along the theme of the illogical:

The new Google Maps zoom feature zooms all the way into my living room window. See cat on cat perch.

I'm all for mapping, but this feature literally gives me the shakes. I feel like I need to close all my curtains now. I'm going to look into whether it's possible for a person to have pictures of their home removed from Google Maps. Meanwhile, I'm happy to show bb readers the photo in the interest of illustrating creepy privacy violations. Heck, the whole world can see him anyway.
-- Boing Boing: Google Maps is spying on my cat, says freaked out BB reader [BoingBoing]

Followed shortly by another BoingBoing reader who is afraid that *gasp* they might be able to read your license plate!

Wait. Isn't the idea of having a window to allow people to see inside, as well as being able to see the outside? Assuming the cat lady has, you know, neighbors - then this so called invasion of privacy isn't exactly anything new. OK, so some fraction of the net who were looking for an address might now join the numbers of people who either live near, drive around, walk past or bike by this address. Hey, I know - how about alerting one of the largest blogs on the net about it? That's an excellent solution for someone who wants their privacy respected.

Look - someone could be staring into windows right now ... right as we speak. Most likely - it's a complete stranger. Google has nothing to do with that fact - it has been there all along.

And license plates? Someone is worried about their license plate being visible? Realizing of course that if your license plate is not visible that's breaking the law? Because the idea of a license plate is to be publically visible?

The White House has insisted that it has the right to eavesdrop on any citizen, to detained Americans for years without prosecution and use "extreme" interrogation to meet its end.

But by god - let us worry about someone's cat being in a picture on the net.

Terrorism And Gaming On Anderson Cooper

Ah yes, the fine level of journalism that is Fox News continues:

CNN's Anderson Cooper is talking about a Pew poll that finds 25 percent of young American Muslims think suicide bombings are justifiable in some circumstances. An alarming number, for sure, but that is a conversation for another part of the paper.

Why is this even in a video game column, you ask? Well, just listen to what came next.

As Cooper and a couple of experts on Muslim youth tried to make sense of the numbers, one of them started her explanation by saying, "Well, we live in a video-game culture . . . " Huh? Now gamers are the harbingers of possible homegrown terrorism?

I've heard the industry take the blame for a bucketload of tragic events, now it's responsible for the next jihad, too?
-- Bare Knuckles | Gamers and terrorists? Give us a break, guys!

Oh right - because that makes even a lick of sense. Because of Halo there are more religious fanatics in this world? What, suddenly young people are thinking that maybe joining an oppressive race of aliens isn't such a bad idea after all? The lack of reasoned thinking here is simply astounding - as is the fact that I'm sure the talking heads would simply nod and let such a comment slide just as BatJack was allowed to babble on about "cranial menus" on 60 Minutes.

Truly sad.

Manchurian Child Saves Woman, Gets Shot

Adam Mapleson was critically injured after heroically coming to the aid of a security officer loading a cash machine. The officer was attacked by two armed thugs and Adam rushed to her aid. He was shot at close range, taken to a local hospital and it is hoped that he will make a full recovery.

Naturally little fuss will be made that Adam was an avid gamer. Jack Thompson will not be called to comment on how his computer might have hardwired his brain for reflexes and good moral behavior. His parents will not be asked about how hours of gaming might have altered his judgement (for the better). The security officer will not be featured in an interview wondering if only he had not played so much Counter-Strike - she could be dead.

Of course this is probably how it should be - Adam's hobby as a gamer probably had little bearing on him being a brave and moral human being. No more than if the gunmen themselves had played GTA.

It is, however, a symbol of the double standard which is how the knee jerk, hysterical, fear machine of the media really works.

Thanks to Winkyboy for sending this along.

Movie Watch: Pirates, At World's End

The Girl and I broke our quarantine briefly on Sunday to see the latest in the Pirates trilogy, At World's End. The series reminds me slightly of The Mummy movies - actioners in an almost old school big Hollywood vein which don't entirely make you feel guilty for watching them. The story isn't exactly Shakespeare, of course, but it lays a good foundation for the rather impressive action scenes and imagery. Don't even try to keep up with the number of betrayals and backstabs - just enjoy the ride and appreciate that the plot mostly comes together without cannonball sized holes in its sails.

In short, if you liked the second you'll probably love the third. It's truly beautiful in more than a few scenes and holds a few twists and turns to keep you entertained.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Best Quote Of Relatively Recent History

FPS games tend to be highly technical with a real emphasis on the graphics so you tend to get less innovation. If everyone stopped their graphic whoring for a bit maybe developers could all try and look at something different.
-- Haze talk [Guardian]

From Dave Doak, who worked on GoldenEye and TimeSplitters. Echoes my feelings of deja vu playing F.E.A.R. Combat.

TV Watch: Hustle is back

Sure the season started a quite some time ago - but (as I've mentioned before) got off to a lousy start. With Mickey gone - the show went into something of a tailspin. For two episodes the storyline suffered and the cast chemistry kinda floundered. We kept taping it, but we had little hopes for this season picking up.

By the third episode, however, the show starts to click again. It remembers how to have fun with the story and with the viewer. By the time the crew hits Vegas, it feels a little more like season one again.