Wednesday, March 17, 2010

About FPS

You know - the one thing that bugs me about First Person Shooters is that the designers put graphics over content. Anyone who is anyone in the game industry can make interesting and eye catching graphics. To really make a great game that LASTS with replay value a designer needs to give the player more freedom over his avatar. What I mean is - if the avatar of the game is given a weapon, give the weapon options that are difficult at first to use but over time - and practice - the player gets better with it. I have found casual correlation between a game's learning curve and the quality of the game play. Take Tribes 2 for for an example of steep learning curves. The steep learning curve also gives more depth and team play into the experience. One just does not 'run and gun' alone. One needs to outfit his avatar with a load-out pertinent to the mission goal at the time. I see too many team based games make the choices for the player on what weapons they are to choose, what secondary equipment they carry and even what vehicles they will drive.
Bottom line about multi player team based first person shooters:
1. Give the player more freedom and choices.
2. Make it difficult for 'newbies' to be proficient in a short period of time.
3. Sacrifice graphics for more playing space and game play.
If there are any more additions, please contact me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My story about a man who takes on a giant cybertank ... alone.

By Dave

The screen before him lit up, dark becomes light and the void in the air became a series of interesting sounds. The seat below him stirred ever so slightly as the engine motivators started up the series of lift fans that power his flight into ever certain danger on a daily basis.
"All systems operating within 87% of factory parameters, Commander Yeats. Please be careful with this machine as it is the home of my primary circuit matrix"

From times past, but not to distant in the past, Yeats thought, people actually DID talk to their automobiles in an anthropomorphic sort of way and of course, did not get any feedback. He missed those days.

"Orders rechecked by main CP, unidentified unit with a seismic reading of 1.32. Presence located within four times the maximum effective range of main battery. I am feeling a little warm in the tertiary backup motivator that feeds power into my intellectual subroutine processor."

Feelings. From a computer. He regretted purchasing that option from the factory. A decision embedded deep into his desire to not be alone when facing enemies much more powerful than he. A pride that one day, he was sure, would lead to his undoing and even worse, the discovery of his relationship to an over talkative targeting and tactics computing unit.

"Seismic readings becoming stronger, indicating locality to be moving in the direction to our position."

Quickly with a flash of leather clad hands he shut down the systems that would betray his position to any potential electronic passive sensors seeking his location, or even presence. This craft was built for speed, not concealment. Flashes of past memories stabbed his mind. White heat searing his mind, of lethal disturbances in the air about him and tumbling reckages that moments previous were battle ready units facing an opponent with no honor.

His mind stapped back to the present with a red blip on the floating series of particles most called a screen. It was not coming at him, but it was close.
"The material surrounding our position primarily contains high amounts of ferrous material quite irradiated by previous encounters with what is most certain thermonuclear missile attack. We should be quite safe."
Material. Such a cold description of the leaving of an honorable fighting unit left to be fodder for a machine that mill through men as a wheat reaper. When, or IF, upon return this computer must be overhauled and given empathy subroutines and a sense of honor built into it. He smiled at the idea his robotic companion weeping over the wreckage of battle units older than he.

Dirt flew, blocking out the sun for anyone who would be foolish enough to be close enough to hind quarters of this machine cruising at close to half the speed of a full throttled ground effect vehicle. Panning over the dull exterior bulbs punctuated with shafts and holes explaining even to the most lay of men the function of this monstrous construction. Large barrels bounced and shuddered only at the most heightened terrestrial obstruction then died into a level piece of earth. Exceedingly wide tread marks giving the eulogy of it's once previous lofty rule over the ground surrounding it. Space contorts to the view from inside the crystalline sphere that sets as a scepter atop of a tall triangular structure, the tower. Working faster than any human, panning, zooming, taking 'mental' notes, rescanning for statistical consistency. Found a potential target, ran a check of balance to determine if it was worth an expended round, and denied the main battery it's pleasure of fulfilling it's purpose. It rolled on. It always does. Only man can stop it.

I am that man. He thought. To think as, not like, this machine was his goal. His mission. To avenge the senseless and honorless ends of so many. This filled his heart with an almost irrational sense of duty to the demise of this metal golem, this phantom embodied. Stinging memories still sour his mind of that day. Oppressive light, piercing cries, the laugh of that beast over the NavComm system at the demise of so many. A game. It was a game to that thing. A chess match of which the human race with only pawns and for the machine, a full compliment of pieces. They had no chance for survival once the ethereal order was given to 'take tactical control' of a given area. A euphemism for wiping out three towns.

Reality again splashed his mind to the present. If it were not for those hulks, once occupied by brave individuals, he would not be alive to think about it. This thing may have a efficiency of movement and detection on it's side, but it knows nothing of how to use the 'emotions' it was given to quickly assess a situation, or in other words, have a 'gut feeling'. The term 'it's too quiet' is a postive assessment of a situation for this machine.

It barreled past Yeat's position, covering ground faster than any creature unlucky enough to get in it's way. The spray of mud and debris could be seen as a testament of the rains that so soaked the ground the day before. Nature still goes about it business, he thought, indifferent so far to our insignificant dealings with each other. Mostly it was nature that called halts to lethal encounters between human beings. Winter slowed men and even turned them into frozen statues, turned metal armor into brittle glass and prevented the planes that once were the saviors of ground troops. A well placed LaseSat hit would down any aircraft that dared run the gauntlet of advanced technology. The immunity of flight had been destroyed. This left a vacuum in tactical fields that was all too filled by these land battleships. Ironic how history comes full circle. Planes killed the battleship only to be replaced by that craft once again. The battleship left the seas of safety and now roll the plains of man.

"Target estimated within range of primary main battery. A lateral slide from motivators could shift this craft into position if Commander Yeats deemed it fit to do so. Minimal power signature would be presented in balance of the surprise it would give this tactical unit. Survival probability of a successful disabling blow to a major Ogre system calculated to over 54%.Scanning potential tar..."

"Shut up you stupid computer!" Bellowed Yeats, half deep in his own less suicidal tactical evaluation of this tenuous situation.

"No need to be rude, only doing my job for continuance of this combined nation. If you do nothing to slow the progress of this battle unit, this tactical targeting computer will have to report Commander Yeats with yet another 'missed opportunity' report."

Ignoring the NavTarg computer's propaganda spouting, which went on for several more minutes, he devised a plan that did not involve the use of this suicidal ground effect battle unit. This particular GEV was special. It had a replacement suit for a class five infantry unit. Very few officers knew how to operate a ground effect vehicle AND a trait augmenting battle suit. The additional two thousand pounds weighed on this chassis, but he thought it a sensible precaution that the NavTarg computer constantly complained about when making tight maneuvers in battle.

Now the Ogre was out of range of his primary cannon, the longest reach he has to stopping this thing by a slight degree. He had no order to stop or prevent it going another few hundred feet, if not for only a few minutes. That is all he could do in a conventional sense, slow it down. A human life in exchange for lethal time expended in destruction against many. He didn't think in those terms, only TacTarg officers thought in those terms, the caretakers of the ground infantry. In his mind those men in high positions thoughtlessly sent men to their doom for the same reason. To buy time for the command posts so essential for the continuation of this insane war.

Unbuckling his restraints, he wormed his way past the various panels and control surfaces and reached a hatch that separated the cockpit from the rear compartment. Normally this was only a storager locker for various supplies and amenities of home, such as waste disposal facilities and body upkeep services. He tossed all that, the smell of unkeptness and the using of leaves as TP in exchange for this suit he now saw before him. A dull gray form filled the center of this small room, almost human in appearance if not for the turret like head brisling with antennae and lenses. The shoulders were almost comical in their exaggerated appearance, being filled with devices seldom used but extremely missed if a need to use them arose. The arms terminated into a two fingers and an opposable thumb covered in self regenerating friction material for a sure grip on anything within it's extremely strong grasp. Other protrusions, bulbs and panels, whose function could fill a large book, could be seen. He put the function of those out of his mind and proceeded to unlatch the main entry hatch. With a wisp of rankness and outroaring of air the hatch opened. The suit hinged in two, looking like a human shaped crustacean with a broken back, allowing him easy and ergonomic entry into this life saving exoskeleton.

He could hear the excited cries of the NavTarg computer spouting idle threats of reporting him to high command. Yeats knew any communication would betray their position and would most assuredly result in a crater where his craft would once have been. The desire for this AI to continue operating outweighed any punishment it deemed necessary to administer to Yeats in reaction to his choice of action. He half smiled and worried as he thought of it's ethics circuits working overtime to cool itself in the face of this moral dilemma.

Another hatch opened and the brightness of reality shown upon him through interpretive sensors and lenses. He picked up on passives that the machine he is now tracking is going to be slowed by very rough terrain. Time is a blessing in battle, he thought, and I have a slim margin to sneak up to this beast. Just then, sonic disturbances quaked his helm. He stood puzzled by the disturbances of the air around him. What could disrup... then it hit him. Not only the thought, but something just as quick. His head turret popped off from a glancing blow from the Ogre's obvious anger from being surprised. Instinct forced him to the earth and that is when his shoulder panels popped open, phoomp, phoomp, phoomp, shot three canisters into the air, existing for mere moments until turning into a numberless series of controllable particles 50 times larger than the width of a carbon atom. A cloud formed above him and the mini shockwave met his head, pushing his hair down like invisible harsh rain. Two rods jumped out of his backpack and looked as if tethered to his suit by a thin frail wire. The two rods came together as if separated by some bizarre emotional connection then looked skyward, together. The cloud formed into a replica of the same suit what was once it's home mere milliseconds before. Another round pierced this cloud, and in a flash of light and heat, the cloud particles came together into chucks that deceptively looked like chunks of suit. They hit the ground with a thud and satisfied the Ogre that one more man sacrificed himself for the good of whatever side the Ogre was opposed to.

A decoy. Clever. The suit never ceased to surprise him. He should read the meter thick manual more often, he thought. Standing was a bad idea and as he thought this, his ground effect vehicle - the item he treasured as his steed that took him into battle, appeared to look concave for the slightest moment then became a brilliant flash of light. Due to his suit's helm not being present, it took him several minutes to recover his eyesight. At least he backpack sensor pack was working to alert him to any incursions into his battle space. Not that the suit could help beyond the application of 40mm conventional grenades and 'foxholes in a can' applied to a futile effort to defend the organic charge within it's shell. His rifle. His rifle was in that locker. His lifeline to ranged defense. His mind ran furiously. Maybe the wrecks around the denotation site of his vehicle... He broke his own thought with the realization that if the round that shot angrily from the Ogre obliterated his GEV. It would have set anything below hardened PlastiSteel Plate on fire. His expression changed to a slight expression of pleasure as he thought about his 'surprise' he had in store for anything large that got in his way. He thumped into the dirt, pressed a button and four small track assemblies appeared from his suit chest and thighs. He literally crawled at a walking pace toward his new target, the Ogre.

As the Ogre was used to seeing creatures bound about it's frame, it thought about expending anti-personal rounds to silence their distracting movement. They were allowed to live since the cold cost/benefit analysis of expending ammunition on non tactical targets would impede it's mission. A veritable crowd of life formed around the behemoth as it lumbered on over the harshest of terrain. Some wildlife were actively attacking the frame, some curious about this new smell and some half realizing the bulk is dangerous, running for it's life. Yeats counted on this oversight to get within reach of the target of his vengeance. He too was attacked by deer attempting to expel him and his suit from the it's territory, which he thought, would add to the illusion of him as just another particle of wildlife in the recesses of that artificial mind. He crawled up to the edge of this moving building as he noticed the only evidence that human hands contributed anything into the making of this machine. A series of curious signatures made in PermaPen, of twelve of the main engineers that worked on the construction of this monster. He was about to read all twelve when another sight snapped his head in the perfect direction of a latch. It was loose. A maintenance hatch to a drone bay was loose! He snapped it open easily enough through the combined suit strength of thirty gorillas, or so the advertisement of the suit manufacture claimed. Going about his business he recalled in his youth of a boy that lost three fingers due to a dare to hold a small toy explosive tight in the palm of his clutched fist. Today that boy now a man would have given his fingers freely for what he was about to do. After he completed his task, he ran the gauntlet of the deer attacking him relentlessly. But the fact that his head was bleeding from wounds from that primal beating, he achieved distance between that Ogre and himself.

A light appeared followed by a mushroom cloud producing a vicious shockwave that tumbled his frame until eventually pinning him to a rock. An object tumbled out of the blackness, hit his suit with extreme force as he screamed then blacked out.

Another light filled his senses. His tired eyes picked up images of blurring frames bustling around him. He looked down and saw only white. His vision sharpened. A bed sheet, he was in an Evac unit ... but how?

"Good job Commander Yeats" a gleaming medal being pinned to his chest "your actions today saved the lives of our command post and the lives of many more in the field!"
Just as Yeats was about to black out, he thought of the other many that Ogre snuffed out years ago.

DarkVoid & Fable talked about... Tribes 2 conversion?

DarkVoid, by Capcom
One of the best games I have ever played! Beautiful graphics and true jet-pack play! The weapons and enemies are a 3/5 but the landscapes and different game play are a 5.1/5! I have only played the first 5 chapters but it is amazing! If more games put as much beauty and interesting moves for the character as this game did we would have a more enjoyable game experience. Rare is the game the breaks the mold of generic A -> B vanilla weapons and moves. DarkVoid added cover to the game as well as the way they implemented it was really neat. You could roll from cover to cover and even use cliff ledges as vertical cover for when you are fighting with the jet-pack from level to level. All in all, I give this game 4.6/5. The 0.4 was for not making the enemies more varied and not really bright opponents.
I will do a full review of this game after I am done with playing it. Be patient --- we all know you all hang on my every word!
Fun: 11/12
Game play: 11/12
Value / Replay-ability: 8/12
Graphics: 12/12
Sound: 10/12
Originality: 11/12
Stability / Ease of installation: 12/12
Overall: 76/84 (90% A-)
Fable, The Lost Chapters, by Lionhead Studios
From the few hours I put into this game I found the graphics to be stunning and I liked how they put something into the game that I felt was interesting ... the element of morality. Too often these days (especially THESE days) I find games to be all about killing and not enough about building. All too often I see destruction and release of negative emotions in videos games. This game was refreshing in that you have a choice to be as negative as you wish as well as the agency to be a good force in the game. Now I know that this is an imaginary world but I like the choosing your path aspect of the game, even if it IS really obvious about what choice will yield what result morally.
Fun: 10/12
I found kicking chickens, attacking creatures and improving my character very fun. I liked the humorous moral situations I found myself in as well as the
Game play: 8/12
I like jumping and exploring, ok? I know it seems small of me but I like finding new things that really don't add much to the storyline. Exploration of the environment and conversions with people in game should be a major part of role playing games. They should have made an effort to make it multi-player or even co-op. This would have made another dynamic more apparent ... the ability for real people to make decisions together that would influence the outcome.
Value / Replay-ability: 11/12
You have the ability to replay it and make differing choices that add almost uncountable combinations to the uniqueness of your character.
Graphics: 11/12
Though the graphics were superlative in the foliage, woodwork, stonework and clothing, I found the people to be cartoonish and somewhat ugly. Maybe that was what they were going for. Aside from my preconceptions of what an RPG should be, I found they made a considerable effort despite filling the game with much content. I find that games with much content suffer from substandard graphics and the reverse likewise.
Sound: 10/12
The music was original and melodic. I liked the sound, the voice overs and the acting was convincing to a good degree.
Originality: 11/12
The concept of people making decisions that would influence the end of the story brings me back to the good old days before computer games. This, of course, would be the "Choose your own adventure books" by Bantam Books from 1979-1998.
Stability / Ease of installation: 11.5/12
I put this rating in here to determine how stable the game is with a wide array of systems. The good test of a good developed game is how well it adapts to differing systems. Not all computers systems are built the same and a good game develop company will test their product on several differing system setups for optimum performance across a wide scope of machines. I found no problem setting up this game (despite it being on four Compact disks and not on one DVD if could have been). I know it's petty, but how hard is it to place content on one DVD rather than four CDs you have to swap out?
Overall: 72.5/84 (86% or B+)
Very good game and I enjoy spending many a hour developing my good character then afterwards going on a blood soaked killing spree afterwards! (hehe)

A Tribes 2 remake with the Unreal engine.
If someone out there would make a complete mod for this engine and convert it faithfully into what was Tribes 2 ... perfection in FPS jet-pack shooters! By the way I am still looking for some brave souls to remake Tribes 2 with the Unreal engine. Maybe add some extras to the load-out menu for the re-done Tribes 2 game (with the Unreal engine) at the inventory station like a Grapple Hook (range about 20-40 meters, depending how long you hold the trigger). Additionally, maybe a Gravity gun that pulls items close to you and pushes or pulls opponents and incoming, slow moving projectiles away from you slightly.
[Opinion Section]
First Person Games in General
I feel that games that include complex combinations of play into the weaponry, equipment and vehicles adds a replay value above and beyond the original, vanilla straight shooting, no frills GUN. Oh, yeah, if I had not said this ... I love jet-pack games. Maybe this goes back to when my favorite Star Wars character was Boba Fett.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I am going to make some miniatures from existing models I bought.

First I am going to contact some plastics manufacturers to see what types of material is good for making blanks from existing pewter and plastic pieces I already own. For example, I love the game Ogre/GEV. I have all the maps, counters and rule books to play the game. I desire to make resin copies of vehicles from the game Steve Jackson made.
My first steps will be:
1. Contact resin companies and see what I really need.
2. Purchase the proper supplies.
3. Construct some practice copies of miniatures I already own.

I have made many examples of pieces from the game OGRE/GEV in clay. I have had problems getting them right since clay is so soft until heated and I have little luck getting them to look right.