Archive for December, 2006
Saturday, December 30th, 2006
Yeah… Dead Rising. I really enjoyed the first half an hour and then realised I’d just be killing zombies for the next ten. Zombies are such a boring enemy, and all the “humour” inherent in the zombie-genre is so incredibly low-brow, that it put me off. Great, great first half hour though.
I also got Rainbow Six Vegas for Christmas, hoping to play it today.
I didn’t feel like coding anything actually necessery last night, so I transformed the move editor instead. Let’s see if it’s transformed enough for my esteemed colleague to let me put it in the actual main menu.
I met up with one of our big community guys last week, Malakian. Had a great time, we had a butt-load to talk about and got on very easily. Meeting online people in real life is always a bit risky, but I had a feeling Malak was a good guy. You can tell quite a lot from someone’s IRC behavour.
So, I guess we’re releasing this game this month. Yeah. You’ll probably hear more about that. So will I, I expect.
Monday, December 25th, 2006
Happy Christmas from us at Mode 7 Games – we hope you’ve had / are having a good one. There’s no Monday Night Live today because working at Christmas is “naughty” and if Santa finds out I’m even typing this he will come and send me to his elvish gulag.
Ian has been playing Dead Rising and I’m sure he’ll give you his take on it shortly; I am plotting how I will get a Wii in the near future – we are both so out of date.
We will return soon.
Friday, December 22nd, 2006
In the latest issue of PC Gamer UK there’s a feature about Valve designing engines for multiple-core processors. Sounds pretty dry on the surface, but they popularise it by saying that multi-core CPUs are sounding the death of the add-in GPU.
The 360 and the Redacted-Station 3 are multiple-core machines (to sane and insane extents respectively), and every new Intel CPU has at least two cores. The technology is here to stay.
Valve think that general-purpose CPUs are better than dedicated GPUs because, and I quote, if you’re having difficulty running your AI calculations you can just get the user to turn the resolution down to free up cycles. Interesting. There’s every chance of the GPU becoming on-CPU as standard (as ATI are currently experimenting with), but we won’t lose it altogether – graphics are always going to be important enough to warrant the specialised architecture.
There are a lot of developers going on about how multi-core CPUs are going to let them do AI “properly”, but I’m not buying it. CPU consumption is a coder’s natural excuse why AI isn’t better, but the truth is that AI is just very hard to do properly and depends far more on genius design that processor cycles. It’s not that they have all these great AI algorithms which they can’t ship for framerate reasons, it’s that at the stage of development when you get to doing AI it isn’t something you want to put a lot of energy into. They’re suggesting that cycles are all that’s holding them back from making great new games simply by having better AI. If that were true then someone would have made them already with 1999 graphics.
Everyone’s excited about more realistic AI and physics bringing us much more immersive worlds. But emergent gameplay from AI is only suitable for a very small percentage of games. An FPS would be improved if guards didn’t act stupidly, but that’s just bad design anyway. An FPS where a guard reacts predictably to a situation is easy to code. An FPS where a guard reacts unpredictably to a situation is going to break immersion unless the world can handle everything the guard could decide to do. For a game to be more emergent all of it’s elements need to support than emergence.
We all want human-like AI in freeform RPGs like Oblivion, and the people making these games are already on the path. But hugely better/emergent AI is untenable in almost every other established genre, so do not listen when developers talk about their next FPS having ground-breaking AI. It’s either an outright lie or they just mean better combat AI. And people have been promising better combat AI for ten years with about a 3% hit rate. You do the maths.
Thursday, December 21st, 2006
I’ve been quiet recently, mainly crushing bugs and playing with our group of loyal testers. My esteemed colleague has stepped up to the plate very effectively.
First I’d like to say a huge thanks to our loyal testers, especially Archa, Pineapple, AraCH, Malakian, Everybody, and new entrants Kab00m and Solo from my old Tribes 2 clan. Playing 4+ player games with you guys, and the slightly less usual suspects, is just a huge amount of fun right now.
Pretty much the only problem left before Release Candidate is stability, and stability is improving every day. We’re almost there.
There’s been news that Sin Episodes is basically cancelled, and I’m surprised it hasn’t caused more of a stir among the tabloid blogs (and by that I mean Joystiq). Sin Episode 1 was basically run-of-the-mill, and I’m not surprised they can’t be bothered to make any more.
My life in the last three weeks has been considerably more testing and considerably less whiskey than usual, and I’m so excited about the game at the moment that I’m having a tough time relaxing. I can’t wait until there are populated server at all times of day and night so I can play more.
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006
Here is a very frank, well-written and interesting article by Tom Arundel on the business side of Introversion. Obviously for someone like me who has been fascinated by their rise to notoriety, it’s a goldmine, but gamers interested in what’s really going on with the “Last of the Bedroom Programmers” should take note.
Monday, December 18th, 2006
Hope you enjoy this week’s Monday Night Live below.
I’ve just opened an Arkade store to make some older nervous_testpilot tracks available to purchase once again. These aren’t in the same style as the Determinance soundtrack, but there’s some nice tunes in there if you’re into melodic electronica. You can go over here and take a listen – there’s a whole album of 8 tracks available for only £3.50 which is what we call a bargain in this country.
Monday, December 18th, 2006
It might only be a slight overstatement to say that Oblivion is widely regarded as one of the most atmospheric games ever made. It’s been cropping up again recently as people start to talk about the best releases of the year, and it’s a title that raises some significant points about what gamers actually want.
When you’re gallivanting around Cyrodiil looking for amusingly-named objects and admiring the fronds of grass, you experience a much more significant sense of exploration than can be found in many similar swords-and-sorcery titles. The richness and gentle originality of the environment give you a paradoxical sensation: a feeling of purpose, and the knowledge that you could quite willingly go anywhere or do anything you want.
The words “sandbox” and “freeform” are now largely just nonsensical buzzwords whose meaning has been warped by over-use: we had to drop “freeform” from our descriptions of Determinance because people believed it meant that the game was like GTA. I wish I was joking.
Truly freeform gameplay allows the player a certain adaptability, and should be derived entirely from the environment. Thus, the great sweeping landscape of Cyrodiil and the odd social politics of its towns make for a great setting: lots to see and do. But Oblivion doesn’t want to be freeform.
It’s when you come across an Oblivion Gate for the first time that it all starts to go wrong, because the game then reverts to the eternally dull paradigm of a hero out to save the world from certain destruction. All sense of being a wily cog in a gigantic and beautiful machine is lost, because it becomes clear that you are the centre of the universe.
There’s always the get-out clause that you don’t have to close the Oblivion Gates, but they’re not going to go away on their own, and so they sit there, marring the landscape and damaging the atmosphere. Every time the sky darkens, you’re being reminded that you’re not playing “properly”.
I would be significantly more interested in playing a game set in a similar sized game-world which had a lot more randomly-generated events, and a lot more immersion. Perhaps every city could have a ruler with their own motivations, and the ability to direct their army to do certain things – that would be the only component of the “over-arching narrative”, and the rest could be a complex rabbit-warren of scripted quests and entertaining random behaviour. In short, it’d be nice not to be the protagonist.
A brief foray into the world of Oblivion mods hasn’t provided what I’m looking for, and since I’m not into rideable dogs or being able to cast a spell which imbues the victim with an insatiable desire to find the nearest pair of callipers (both genuine mods), I’m slightly at a loss. If I could make an Oblivion mod with no effort, I would create one where an NPC takes up the missions of the main quest for you, and you can chose whether to aid him at any point or not.
A lot of gamers, and I include myself in this, play a single-player game to experience its universe and the personality of its designer rather than to feel powerful in some way. I don’t read Ulysses because I want to be Leopold Bloom. Surely it’s time, as the industry grows up, to try some other forms of involvement rather than simply wish-fulfilment? Isn’t that why gaming attracts and creates geeks?
Part of the problem is the old “violence” debate: “How come the only thing you can do in this game is kill people?” With player characters who are inherently active, go-getting, monster-slaying types, there’s never going to be any room for any other kind of interaction, and that makes them more likely to be a generic hero. I was interested to read that a lot of effort has gone into Mass Effect’s dialogue system, making me anticipate that game perhaps more than anything else which has been announced for the somewhat beleaguered 360: maybe that will offer some kind of alternative.
I’m fascinated by games which allow for manipulation, or playing the system in some way, as I think that relies much more on being inconspicuous than on leading from the front. You have the obvious things like EVE, where players quite happily dupe each other out of actual money, and the alliance system in Defcon, but I think something interesting could be done in this area with AI: the satisfaction of being utterly duplicitous to your allies in Civilisation still hasn’t been matched.
When games start letting you play sidekicks, advisors, scheming adversaries or passers by, then things might start getting a little bit more interesting.
Sunday, December 17th, 2006
We’re running a competition today for the best pre-fight “stance” made with Determinance’s move editor, winner getting a free copy of the game! And some respect.
I’ll post the winners and others tomorrow, or you can watch the action LIVE in our forums.
Saturday, December 16th, 2006
I have never been happier with Determinance than I am right now. The new beta testers and I are playing for longer and longer, and it seems everyone is really getting into it. Here’s what I think is helping:
The game’s better
First and foremost, Determinance is just the best it’s been.
Crashes are much rarer now, so people who aren’t called Archa can play for more than half an hour without any crashes.
The net code is now working extremely well.
More, better testers
And by better I mean better at Determinance. We’re seeing a larger group of personalities and styles and that’s making the difference. We had 8 guys playing FreeForAll at one point today, and 5 guys a few other times. That’s just a lot of fun.
Determinance is actually almost ready now. A few bugs and we get a release candidate. And right now I am extremely damn excited about it.
Friday, December 15th, 2006
I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a couple of minor knock-backs recently, but it’s stuff like this which makes us get up in the morning.
“I’ve checked out my fair share of indie games, most of which could not keep my interest, let alone warrant an article, or more than a few words.
This title is definitely an exception. I found myself enthralled, quickly picking up on the unique gameplay and excellent accuracy and control.”
and not forgetting…
“I will tell you today that this game is worth it’s weight in gold.”
You may also bear in mind, gentle reader, that we have improved Determinance since this preview version was created.
Once again, Determinance proves itself not to be a mainstream game. Some people “get” it, love it, want to rock it to sleep at night. Some people think it’s ugly, vile, ungainly and silly.
To be honest, that’s what we want.