Saturday, March 31, 2012

Posting Schedule and Review Format

I like writing. It's the type of delicate blend between science and art that always rubs me in a special way. Unfortunately, I don't practice it as much as I once did. Upon considering why this is, I noticed something rather interesting about the way I handle game reviews/analysis. I can't seem to make up my mind about whether I'm doing the normal consumer advice game review thing, or whether I'm analyzing and commenting on various aspects of a game.

Upon reflection I think my preferred choice would be game analysis. This means away with review scores, and away with a hastily scraped together paragraph at the end of every game analysis set attempting to explain who will and won't like the game. Rather than taking entire games or entire concepts, I will free myself to discuss, comment, and analyze whatever game related subject I find intellectually stimulating at the time. This will probably result in more entertaining and enlightening writing because I write best about a topic when I find interesting and stimulating.

Another topic that's crossed my mind is my posting schedule. After my comic strip went on hiatus I pretty much stopped posting on Mondays. I plan to change that ASAP. Either this Monday or next I will again start posting content on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. If I find time and inspiration to do a comic every once in awhile it will be posted on a Monday as another Cognitive Observation.

Let's see what kinds of interesting things get cooked up within the next few weeks. ;)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Infiltrator Part 17 - Straight for Him!

See what I did with the title there? I've taken up the habit of naming sessions and episodes with clever quotes instead of formal titles. You can also see that Infiltrator isn't dead. It's just a pain in the face to make pathfinding work, especially when you spend most of your day studying for tests.

I've not only integrated a pathfinding engine based on the D* algorithm, I've also upgraded the grid drawing engine. The grid now handles three types: occupied, unoccupied, and part of a path. Green tiles are part of an AI path, blue are empty, and red are non-traversable occupied tiles. There is one little problem however.

In the screenshot above, I'm using 32x32 sized units to demonstrate the flexibility of the engine. The problem here is glaring. The drones are indiscriminately plotting a course straight through the walls as if they aren't there. The worst part is that I have no idea what's causing this. It's crucial that I get this pathfinsing system smooth and polished because AI is going to be built on top of it. I'm sure it's nothing extremely serious and that I'll be able to fix it soon, but we'll see.

And that's really all that's been going on during this session. It's not much visually, but it is quite important under the hood.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Music Hacker - More Trance for Everyone

This was admittedly an easy and short episode to do, but I needed it here to segway into the next episode about completing your trance sound.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Air juggle

Choosing a title for this post was a bit clumsy. To get to the point, I'm messing around with several different projects right now and doing different things in each. I'm obviously working on Infiltrator, so lets start with that.

Infiltrator is at a very important crossroads. What I do now will effect Infiltrator all the way until it's finished. Currently I'm porting the code over to SFML 2, and then I'm going to look into redoing the camera perspectives and setting up path finding.

Next we have 'Cybernetic.' Cybernetic is my ongoing Blender3D fun project. I have a short movie in mind, but I really just do a ton of different blender files with characters and stuff that I could use in the short. If at some point I have enough content to tell an interesting story, I might devote more resources to that. Here is a screenshot of a droid I'm working on:

In essence, I have a lot of different projects going on, and they are all moving slowly. Music Hacker is still on schedule, meaning episode 8 of season 2 will air on the 24th as planned. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Infiltrator Part 16 - Path finding a' la doom

I have the terrible feeling that this is the point where this project will fall. Consider that I've stopped doing Cognitive Observations due to time constraints(guess I should officiate that sometime,) slowed down working on Infiltrator, and need to learn a completely alien facet of game development in order to continue. At any rate, here's a quickly scraped together report of the progress Infiltrator has seen during this session.

Yes, I'm still avoiding  calling this a screenshot journal. What you're seeing is an overlay of the enemy vision and yours. The next important part of Infiltrator is path finding, and the first part of that it to create a level grid with data about each unit. My grid system is a little clunky ATM, but I'm still trying to get some basic D* path finding routines built in.

Additionally, I'm also thinking about reworking the camera rig. Currently it's a top view fixed rotation scroller, but I'm thinking about turning it into a rotating camera where you always face the top of the screen. You would no longer be aiming at the crosshairs, since there wouldn't be any. You would move the mouse left and right to turn, giving a more immersive and action friendly movement engine. The problem is that this has huge effects on the core of the game as well. It could turn into a huge change, ending up being more work than it's worth, or it could be awesome.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Music Hacker - More Dubstep

Apparently the show isn't dubby enough 4 my fans, so here's another episode about Dubstep.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deus Ex Human Revolution - Conversation and Upgrades

And so we come to the third and final part of my amateur analysis and critique of many of the elements of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Let's start out with a bit about the conversation mechanics in this game.

The conversation mechanics in this game are pretty solid, although a lot of the choices and conversations could better have been written in my opinion. I like that you can even install augmentations to aid you, allowing you to use pheromones and better read the person you're speaking to. This is just one of the many elements that help reinforce the idea that conversation is an important part of this game. Many parts of the game allow you to talk your way into places rather than shooting your way in, presenting what is possibly one of the best social engineering engines in a AAA game that has so many different systems. Yes, you can still accidentally select conversation options because you were skipping dialogue, which is something that is really starting to get on my nerves about most games. The people designing conversation engines should really do something about this.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Deus Ex game without an augmentation based upgrade system.

The upgrades are fairly well balanced, each choice encouraging a certain play style. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get enough XP to afford all the upgrades(I certainly didn't), meaning you WILL be making choices. The selection is varied and interesting as well, meaning on your next play-through you're quite likely to be interested in trying a totally different upgrade strategy.

And last but not least, we have the hacking mini-game which you'll have to face in order to access security devices like camera's, turret and robots. You can also use it to shut off alarms and other things, as well as read e-mails that reveal more of the story.

Naturally, the hacking is 100 percent unrealistic, but you're not here for a realistic game. I actually didn't enjoy the hacking that much since there was only a pinch of strategy involved, but I do think it was well designed. Based on my analysis of things I don't get but other people love, I'd say the hacking simulations in this game are pretty good. From a design perspective at least, they're will constructed.

At this point I guess I'm supposed to tell you whether or not you should try the game. Obviously I loved it, if for no other reason than that I love me some Cyberpunk here and there. The only reason I can think of that you wouldn't like it would be if you have excessive graphics demands for games. I think this game pulled off a beautiful aesthetic, so I apparently don't. I recommend you give it a go even if you aren't into Cyberpunk, just because this game rocks on so many other levels.

The inevitable question is also whether or not this game is better than the original. I must say that I loved the original, but I actually enjoyed this game more. Kill me if you must, but I think the previous game's development time was spent largely enough on overcoming technological limits as to hamper the other elements. Then it still ended up looking like the inside of a rusty metal coffee can.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Infiltrator - Evolution and design

Eeks this project is getting old. The newest conceptualization of it was officiated in September of 2011. The original Infiltrator spawned in March that same year. This project is almost a year old. Unfortunately, all of that time was not devoted to progress. The project was restarted from scratch a twice before I finally hit my current design.

The problem is that I don't think any of you know what that design is. You have only seen the project unfolding in front of you. Since I've jumped into the pathfinding rabbit hole, and thus have no interesting progress to talk about, this is a good time to explain the concepts and ideas driving the project.

Lets talk influence. Undeniably, the first game to impact my design ideas surrounding Infiltrator was an old dos game called Solar Winds.

Solar winds was a space shooting simulator RPG adventure game. You flew around space visiting planets and ships, talking to other people and aliens in order to advance the plot. Of course, there were battle mechanics that you had to use, but they were trash. To be honest, the dialogue was sappy and poorly written, the plot wasn't that engaging, and the music would drive you insane after hearing it for long enough. I think I recognized potential though. The way this game was a shooter, but had way more to offer than just plowing through enemies really got me interested. I decided to make Infiltrator more puzzle and adventure based than the next game, which didn't so much influence infiltrator as it did use one of the concepts I was already thinking of.

That's right, the previously reviewed Steel Storm. This game basically used a concept much like mine for an overhead spaceship shooter with smooth FPS like controls. If you're curious, you can read my old review of it, although I can't vouch for my writing or reviewing skills back then.

The resulting design calls for a simple yet deep game with a more focused shooting engine than Solar Winds and a more adventure game/RPG focused engine than Steel Storm. The idea is that you will be able to collect keys, inventory items, upgrade your ship, and have rudimentary conversations allowing for choices, missions, and sidequests. Naturally, this is a pretty ambitious project, especially for one dude. When I started this project, I fully admitted that it was doomed to failure. I was just coding for fun, you know? But as it started to take shape and actually LOOK like it had playable mechanics, I started to forget that. Now that I've started digging into path-finding(since I finished damage mechanics,) I'm remembering just how futile this project really is.

Anyway, that about sums it up. The idea behind infiltrator is that it's a circle strafing top view maniac shooting adventure RPG puzzle game. With a hint of lime.