Blog
Wednesday 26th March 2014
Thief and Emergent Gaming

About three weeks ago, I was watching Total Biscuit's Thief video where he was showing his first impressions, and to be frank, it looked like there had been lots of care and attention added to it. Which is surprising, mainly because most publishers nowadays really don't seem to give a shit to either the legacy of the franchises that they are continuing to resurrect/carry on or the PC platform that it gets put upon. In these instances you can generally look forward (ahem) to direct console ports whereby the UI or gameplay has been toned down to accommodate for the console audience, as with TES: Oblivion, or the game itself really doesn't have any elements from the previous games to justify calling it part of the franchise, like the first revealing of XCom back in 2010 before the revisions.


Here's a word from our sponsor about Thief 4!

During his analysis, he mentioned that the attack button that you used to blackjack people with had been moved from the left mouse button, to being the "R" key presumably to stop people from treating it like a normal FPS instead of a stealth title. This was something that I found strange as with the previous 3 Thief titles, they all used the left mouse button as the standard attack no matter which weapon you were currently using. Now at this point it could be argued that doing that was a perfectly legitimate choice since it does stop you from playing the game "wrongly", however, the previous Thief games were well known for being emergent games, whereby you could do a mission in a number of ways. For example, in the case of dealing with your enemies, if you knew how to easily take out the guards (which was a hard thing to do, unless you exploited the overpowered overhead attack), then that was entirely your choice. The only thing that stopped you was either your inability to take out the guards in that fashion or your difficulty level which prohibited you from killing a certain number of guards.


I don't remember this rule about hide and seek.....

That was one thing you did learn, and you learned it pretty quickly, that blackjacking the guards was the best way to go because there were many situations where taking on one meant that you might easily alert more to your presence and taking on 2 or more just put you in that unwinnable position. With this in mind, you can start to appreciate that it's not the keymapping that brings out the emergent gameplay, it's the environment and AI. Placing guards in key locations where they regularly bump into each other, having correct lighting among those routes to make it more difficult for the player to get the jump on the unsuspecting victim and having correct AI responses to anything that the player does to alert the AI victims all plays a part in emergent gameplay. If you have to forcibly change the key settings from an established setup that's been used for over 16 years then, as far as I'm concerned, there's something wrong with your game and that's coming from someone who programs video games. True, I haven't released many titles, but since I do code them, I have to think of them in that fashion the design aspect.


How appropriate, you fight like a cow!

I'm hoping that this is just a 'one off' which isn't going to be repeated again in the future as gaming has enough design problems to deal with, like overly long cut-scenes, the use of quicktime events (which should have died in the 90's when it was used in FMV games from the Mega-CD era and didn't work back then), the use of DRM and their poor implementations into the game design process (SimCity 2013, I'm looking at you) and the use of Hollywood scripting for AI a topic that I really need to get up a post about.

As for Thief 4, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it, after I get around to finishing the previous entry - Deadly Shadows. So expect a review of that, including my retrospective of the other entries of the series, in the coming months.

With thanks to Lazy Game Reviews for the use of the screenshots from his videos, you can find his Youtube channel here: Lazy Game Reviews



Comments:

Thief and Emergent Gaming
Sunday 30th October 2011
Welcome to Manchester 17
Dear Mum and Dad,

We are having a great time here in Manchester-17, there is plenty to see and the Combine soldiers try to keep the peace with the locals. Currently, we are bunking with a nice frightened couple, wearing armbands with the lambda symbol - this is the third place we've had to quickly move to since the combine keep doing raids.

We were wondering past The Hilton, the other day, and spotted the lovely David Cameron talking about how everyone should work together as a nice big society, although some of the locals don't agree. One angrily retorted about how "that Cameron muppet loves the sound of his own voice" and "fuck big society". We had to quickly move on since the resistance turned up in force and the Combine responded with Gunships and Striders.

Anyway, we have to go because the Combine are doing another raid. Our tour guide, Barney, is trying to get us a train back home. We've enclosed a couple of pictures with this postcard.

Hope to see you soon.

Wish you were here.





Comments:

Welcome to Manchester 17
Monday 2nd May 2011
Different Spectrum loading screens

Have you ever wondered why the ZX Spectrum never had the same loading screen for a particular release (usually big budget/film tie-in games). Well, I came across this quite recently when I wondered why World of Spectrum has different versions of the same game, but those different versions sometimes had different "encoding schemes" and its those encoding schemes that determine the type of loader that you'll get!

Here's a small guide, with examples:

So the big question is why have these different encoding mechanisms for these releases? Who wrote them and why aren't they available on all releases instead of being on certain ones? Why is the sky blue? If the answer is 42, is the question still the same? What is the Matrix??

All these questions (and more) need solving, maybe this is something that the boys over at Retro Gamer can help answer?



Comments:

Different Spectrum loading screens
Tuesday 19th April 2011
Untapped avenues

For the first time, last weekend, I actually bought a game from Steam that wasn't specifically Value related - like Halflife Episode #Whenever we can be arsed to make it or Left 4 Dead. It was an indie game called VVVVVV for a whopping £3.99! I had intended to use Steam for this very purpose, as in downloading indie games, since I'm a bit too much of an oldie and still prefer physical media for my mainstream games but I was rather impressed with the title.

This reminded me of another site, similar in style to Steam, but offered older games like the oooold DOS/Win 95 era games, such as Alone in the Dark, Total Annihilation, Blake's Stone and more for prices from $9.99 and lower. Better still is that these games are modified to run on Win XP and Windows 7 (both 32 and 64-bit versions).

The site? Good Old Games or GoG for short

So I decided to pick up Dark Reign and it's expansion Rise of the Shadowhand for $9.99. I do have a physical version of these games but....they won't install properly on XP. Dark Reign moans that I don't have DirectX 3, despite that I have version 9.0c. Luckily, after downloading the setup file from GoG, it installed without a hitch and plays wonderfully. But the difficulty setting seems to be horrendous as the AI units are pretty relentless and brutal at times! I had to restart the 3rd mission 5 times before I fathomed a workable strategy that allowed me a chance at winning the scenario for more than 10 minutes of playtime.

Their game catalogue is pretty impressive and I wondered just how on eath they managed this feat, after a bit of investigation, i.e. one search on the magic Google-about, I found that most of these games are either pre-patched, used open-sourced engines or have some sort of compatibility mode.

Now, this got me thinking.

I've seen *a lot* of decent open source engines:

And here is a company (with permissions/deals from the original publishers) who sell these games to interested parties. So why don't the original publishers do this themselves? Instead of moaning about piracy or, as we all realise, moan that they aren't getting enough money from games - mainly *not* getting the money from someone who sells the game on second hand.

Here they have the perfect opportunity to still sell their older titles (which comes as a bonus when they revive a franchise) as I bet the new generation of gamers would love to have a go at the older games in the series. True, you could argue that these games have lost their monetary value over the years, since gaming technology has moved on since then. But when you see a multitude of "AAA" games that only rely on graphics alone to sell the game, that excuse becomes a mute point!



Comments:

Untapped avenues
Thursday 3rd March 2011
Been a while!

I haven't updated this in a while!

Almost 6 months! That's about the time I start working on my projects again since after the last time I updated them. I don't mean to but life sucks y'know!

So, lately I've been busy but I have made some new years resolutions, one is to keep this site updated regulary (Gamers has been a tad - when I finally started it, the Cynical Gamer needs another show putting up) and the other is to actually finish 3 homebrew games this year - I've started work again on ET quite recently, so thats a start.

So please bear with me.

I know, I know. I'm getting on with it, ok?



Comments:

Been a while!
Monday 27th September 2010
ET Remake Update

Just to let you know that it isn't dead/abandoned





Comments:

ET Remake Update
Wednesday 22nd September 2010
Captain America Filmed in Manchester

Yes, it's true. The first I heard of it was last night when a mate of ours said he'd been around the set, a day before they started shooting. They'd allowed people to have a look as long as noone misbehaved.

Where??? I hear you cry? Around Dale Street to be precise:


View Larger Map

Also Johnny Depp decided to make an appearance in the rainy city of Manchester, we presumed he'd be around to see his mates (Tommy Lee Jones?) and, well, its a superhero film isn't it!

The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel. L. Jackson and Chris Evans....no not THAT Chris Evans

Pictures?? Oh yeah, why not


The wall at the far end is actually a painted fake wall


Love the clocks


Nice authentic 1940's style cars!


RED SHIRT!!! ;p

As we were walking around we heard the simulated gun fire, not long after seeing the sign that warned of gunfire and explosions.

Amusingly, when my girlfriend told a couple of lads who'd queried what film was being filmed the response from them was a blank expression.

YOU'RE GUYS. THIS IS CAPTAIN MOTHERFUCKING AMERICA - surely you should show *some* enthusiasm?



Comments:

Captain America Filmed in Manchester
Sunday 12th September 2010
Lucasarts and the death of the adventure genre

I was reading in this months Retro magazine about good old Lucasarts, who were famous for great games like, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, Day of the Tentacle and Secret of Monkey Island, and they were discussing the demise of two sequels, namely Full Throttle 2 and Sam & Max: Freelance Police (naturally when fans heard of the canning there was outrage, pitchforks, burning of witches, politicians and more witches). This also led to the demise of the adventure genre with Lucasarts wanting to move into mainstream gaming.

Basically that meant that every game that Lucasarts would focus on, from then on, would be Star Wars related.


Star Wars games would never get to their previous reputation

Go figure...

But the best thing was that it was HOW they managed to can the games. In order for Lucasarts to get what they wanted, they went to extreme measures. Firstly they replaced the marketing department with new folks, who then did research on the adventure genre and effectively came back with:

You know our biggest demographic being europe?? Well they've dropped dead!
Just like that.

I couldn't believe that was pretty much said. Could you imagine the letters from this demographic?

Dear Lucasarts

BRAINS!!!!

Yours Necrofearfully,
A dead and disgruntled fan.

This from Lucasarts with most of their adventures being a guaranteed sell! Even Grim Fandango (the last of the adventure games from Lucasarts) managed to sell well!

I've heard some bullshit excuses from publishers, in my time, but this is probably the worst!

Speaking of Lucasarts and adventure games, did you know that the first adventure game was based on a film tie-in? And that film being Labyrinth - the one with David Bowe as the Goblin King, Sarah and Hogwart.


It's HOGGLE not Hogwart!!!

It was written for the Apple IIe/IIc, Commodore 64/128 and MSX2 and here is a link for the online Apple 2 emulator with Labyrinth.



Comments:

Lucasarts and the death of the adventure genre
Thursday 2nd September 2010
and how things stay the same

Thats one thing I can never work out about the modern games industry, as a lot of things have changed in the past 20 years and mostly that is in the size and complexity in gaming, but nothing has changed about the AI (artificial intelligence).

Quite simply it still sucks

The only game that I can think of with some decent AI in it is Epic Megagame's Unreal (1998). Y'know back before they started selling the Unreal Engine like candyfloss. The enemies, Skarrj especially, would react to your attacks by rolling and jumping around. Mercenaries would throw up arm/full body shields (when they used the arm shields I remember being forced to use the sniper rifle just to get a shot in!)


Skarrj - Annoying beaties, but a joy to fight


Mercenary - Ability to use shield belts and buckler style shields, also uses a few different weapons

And what do we get now? Laughable AI that makes FPS's and other games a breeze to play. All because some asshole MBA thinks tried and tested, jizz faced graphics and the same damn engine is all that gamers want.

There's also the problem behind "Hollywood Scripting", I'll get to that another time.



Comments:

and how things stay the same
Tuesday 31st August 2010
How times change

Just recently marks the first time, in 15yrs, that I've actually bought a sound card, a Creative Audigy SE, in fact. Back in my day (queue rocking chair and smoking pipe) sound cards were required to do most things, including gaming. The setup I had was:

*32MB RAM!!!! I remember old school flight sims like (Super)EF2000 and TFX wanting max of 8MB RAM to run WITHOUT a 3D card


TFX (Tatical Fighter Experiment) - There you go! 2MB and it still looks great!

Then technology moved on so that sound chips were better integrated into the motherboard meaning that you didn't have to buy a sound card anymore. The only reason I did was because of The Cynical Gamer needing me to record my games via screen capture.

Unfortunately it seems that laptops have better sound chips than desktop motherboards and that is to be expected and in a lot of ways, after testing the new card with some games, it was a worthwhile investment.

I suppose you are expecting me to post my new TCG vid....

Well, the suspense will be killing you more than me, so I'll make you wait a little longer!



Comments:

How times change
Latest

Best of Dilbert

Dilbert

Gamers: Issue 13

Gamers the Webcomic