The dog ate my hard drive

February 27, 2007

Some technical difficulties underway. In my personal life, which only marginally affects this blog and has a tiny tiny impact on MobyGames discussion. One of my partitions is experiencing errors. A terrible thing for data loss, but luckily it’s nothing important, just the drive on which I install games. It’s also the drive where I’ve kept quite a bit of screenshots taken of different games.

I’ve quickly whipped up an NGAD entry, for a game I hadn’t planned to mention until later… but which had it’s screenshots stored elsewhere at the moment. In the meantime, there’s some cleanup and salvage I’ll have to do before things are all normal again. Also, since I’ve moved my blog to wordpress I’ve also noticed that I’ll need to reorganize the different tags attached to posts in order to have them make sense. This blog was originally intended as personal observations of the MobyGames project… the NGAD games are just a sideline to that to make life more fun and keep me playing wacky things.

Finally I have a friend taking me out to lunch in order to convince me that HIS website is a worthwhile goal and that I should spend amounts of time on it. All this leisure is hard work.

NGAD: Galcon

February 27, 2007

Galcon’s advertising slogan on the website is “Conquer the Galaxy in 5 minutes” and it’s an apt assessment. The game plays like a simplified real-time version of Risk or other strategy games… without all the brainpower that a strategy game typically requires. The premise is simple: A bunch of planets are placed on the screen and the player who conquers all wins. Unoccupied planets start with a basic “defense” against intruders, which basically identifies how difficult it is to capture. As planets are taken, they produce spaceships which are then used as the attack/defense against the computer’s planets. The bigger planets produce more spaceships (incrementally), so the strategy is to gain control of those first and use it’s resources to fend off the enemy. There is no interstellar battles. There is no starship tactics… the game is simply to send as many tiny spaceships as needed to fortify one’s own planets and to steal those that don’t already belong to you.

A new boardAn enemy attack fleetDivide the fleet… send ships from multiple planetsMany games are available for registered usersThe only limit to the size of the fleet is the size of the screen

Simplistic? Heck yes. Each game takes place entirely on one randomly generated game board. But simplicity is good, as Galcon is easy to pick up and burn several rounds at, trying to gain the upper hand in owning the number of planets. It’s Master of Orion without all the micromanagement of colonies and research and diplomacy. That’s the only strategy there is. The game is completely mouse controlled and fits into 10MB of space.

I started playing Galcon at 10pm and finished at around 11:30pm, after dozens of games. But other than the need to play “just one more round”… it could easily be something to play while on lunch breaks or waiting for a chkdsk or any other time consuming activity.

The full version advertises more different types of games, including the ambitious sounding “3-on-3” and “Herd” modes. As I’m just quickly trying this out based on the recommendation of a friend, I haven’t gone through the process of registration. Certainly all I can comment about is the “basic game” and it’s definitely loads of fun.

For best results… play Holst’s “Mars” from the planet suite (already an overplayed tune I know… especially as I’ve never heard anyone playing any of the other Planet suite tunes), as you watch tiny triangles spew across the galaxy.

Moving Day

February 23, 2007

I moved over to wordpress from the old URL at . The reasons for doing so was that I was looking around at the features wordpress offered and decided it was right for me. No negativity against blogspot, since it never gave me any frustrations… I just like here better. Thanks once again to Multimedia Mike for his help and suggestions.

Pipboy celebrates

Hmm… I was going to post something else that would have made this worthwhile, but I’ve forgotten completely what it was going to be. Instead I’ll just post an image to make sure it works.

New Game a Day Launch

February 21, 2007

Ripping off… er… I mean… being inspired by Multimedia Mike‘s efforts… I’m going to start a new feature to my blog. “New Game a Day” (NGAD, if we ever get to the point where slanging it is hip!). Basically the situation is that I own quite a few games that I haven’t gotten around to playing. Some of these were probably impulse buys, others were my curiosity and others I fully intend to play through the entire game… I just haven’t gotten around to it. I also have quite a few friends, who have been sending me lots of “you’ve got to try this” demos of different games, some by larger publishers, others being indy titles. In any case, I’m going to try to upload some screenshots (I need to figure out the best method too… since I’m living on blogspot without my own server domain) and do a mini-review of my first impressions to games I’ve never played before. The secondary goal of NGAD will be to find the weirdest gameplay & experiences possible! Weeee!

Like Mike, a lot of this information will probably be duplicated or enhanced on the website, but there’s always a delay for verification… whereas my blog is much more instant (errors and all! :D)

All NGAD entries will be labeled by the keyword “New Game of the Day” for easy searching.

How many gamers does it take to change a lightbulb?

February 21, 2007

My blog’s been light lately, as I’ve been going through one of my phases where I’m not active very much on the Internet, either Mobygames or elsewhere.

Anyway, I’ve been brainwashed lately by a flurry of television ads talking about the virtues of more-efficient light bulbs (and it’s about time too). Seems like every power company wants me to get into the act of using CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) light bulbs to lower my energy usage. Okay, alright… it seems like a worthy cause. So I’ve changed my bulbs and today I’ve been running around my parents’ house changing different bulbs and trying different combinations of wattages to try to measure the lighting effects. My father’s placement of what bulbs he uses when is somewhat haphazard. There will be a 60w in one socket tucked into a corner and a 40w in an area where more light is preferred. What does any of this have to do with videogames? Well… it got me thinking. I probably know more about lighting than my father does? Why? Because I’ve played games…

Everyone knows that in the modern world of whizz-bang 3D eyecandy, a lot of factors go into making the graphics look good. Polygons count and models and texture.. etc. Among these we’ve also seen a lot of new code come into being to handle the proper distribution of light across surfaces, including intensity, coloring and hue. I first played with light back with some early FPS games. Doom and Dark Forces were the first games I remember that tried to represent lighting and shadows in the 3D landscape. Back then lighting was relatively simply, being a set “value” across a series of sells, with the occasional object that was “light” but didn’t actually distribute it across the world. The next big thing I remember personally was Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, as it introduced “colored lighting” (I also had to buy a new video card in order to see it). This probably wasn’t the first application of it in a game, but it was the first experience I had with it… and suddenly all kinds of atmospheres were represented, just by changing the lighting color of the area. With Thief: The Dark Project, it wasn’t about light so much as about shadows, as the player searches out patches of darkness generated by light sources, and quickly gets a basic idea of where to hide… Fast forward a little bit to Elder Scrolls: Morrowind and The Sims. Morrowind is a modder’s wonderful dream (and Oblivion is just as good), as so much of the game can be manipulated. This includes lighting. And I remember being impressed as I was building my character a house (the most common “1st mod” btw) and moved lanterns and torches to change the impact of the lighting in the area… The same thing occurred for the Sims, when light fixtures, basically “a glowing piece of furniture“, provide different levels of light to the nearby areas (and increase the happiness levels of everyone bathed in the light).

So my point is… I didn’t set out to learn about lighting, I certainly don’t find it any more interesting than any other piece of the world, but I can probably know how to make certain sections of my house brighter better than either one of my parents do… because of the application of this in game environments.

Then again, this isn’t exactly rocket science… so maybe this is already second-nature to a lot of people and fairly unimportant. So, while I’m gushing over this accomplishment, the readers of this blog might be laughing at me and wondering when I’m going to be able to master shapes and numbers 🙂 Tomorrow’s topic might be “Everything I learned about gravity, came from Lunar Lander“.

Anglish Language?

February 6, 2007

By the way… in case it wasn’t already obvious from the rest of the Internet: In a chat situation, the native English speakers make a lot more spelling mistakes than folks who don’t use it as a primary language. But then… most people already knew that just from the shorthand commonly used on cellphones.

And hey, there’s a list of about a dozen words that I always seem to misspell. What do you mean that “mentioned” doesn’t have a 3rd “n” in it?

About descriptions and such

February 6, 2007

Oy… I think these MobyGames forums are killing me. Any kind of active community generates a lot of discussion, and right now I’m at the point where I feel compelled to follow and think about a lot of it. But unfortunately I’m also not very good at handling forums and message boards. Never have been. I just finished reading through 252 different posts on the subject of Not having game descriptions on gamesheets. This is something that a lot of the regulars seem very passionate about… and it shows in a lot of the postings which get a big heated.

Big deal right? How big an issue is it? I’m not sure. I have been following conversations about this topic outside the forums, and I’m not entirely sure that the idea proposed by the admins is a bad one. But one thing I am certain of, after reading all those posts, they’re doing a lousy job in describing what would be happening. I see Corn Popper and Trixter trying to describe the same things again and again and it’s obvious there’s a lack of understanding about how this “new system” will work.

The problem of this seems to be something that reverberates through all the major upgrades to the site and indeed, even the feature contributions that come from all our users… just the inability to properly describe what’s going on or what’s being planned. I think that the majority of the people arguing would be a lot happier if maybe they were trading screenshots of “how it should work” back and forth or maybe even conceptual doodles scanned from a napkin (or MS Paint). It’s the creative process… the the problem here is letting others know what exactly the end result of a brand new way to handle things will be.

Of course there are good reasons for not wanting to show off concepts. They’re the same ones that every game developer gets into when the Marketing departments would like to have materials to show off to the press and gamers: We’re not sure how close to being done some of this stuff actually is… and we don’t want to promise something that can’t be delivered or that is so hyped (anticipated is probably a better word in the context of MG) that nobody will accept anything less. Now the reasons for that to be an issue is simple logistics: Mobygames is facing a problem with resources. The number of people engaged in programming, the number of people engaged in administration tasks, the number of people planning the future direction of the site. It’s all hard work, and we’re seeing a lot of bottlenecks in this area with no immediate solution to fix them up.

Anything worthwhile always comes with it’s own bumpy ride unfortunately. But hey, at least nobody’s in panic mode over a lot of ASAP issues (for instance, the server move from last year).