quill18

quill18

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Posts by quill18

One Cloning Machine, Please

1

I need at least seven clones of myself:

  • One clone to make 4x/Strategy game videos
  • One clone to make retro game videos (basically the entire GOG catalog)
  • One clone to make indie game videos
  • One clone to work on the pinball game
  • One clone to work on the space sim game
  • One clone to keep working my awesome dayjob
  • One clone to spend time with friends and family

And then the real me can finally catch up on some sleep!

 

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Ludum Dare Results are IN!!!!!!!!!!!!11111onetwothreeeeeee!!!

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Holy shnozzleberry, you guys!

Out of 1,327 total entries, we scored…

32nd place for humor! (Top 2%)

40th place for fun! (Top 3%)

90th for audio! (Top 6%)

And 111th overall! (Top 8%)

That FAR exceeded my expectations (I was hoping for top 25% for humor/fun/audio and top 50% overall).

We even scored in the top third for “Innovation”, which is ridiculous because there was nothing innovative about the game at all.  But, hey, I’ll take it!

Reminder, you can play the game here:  http://quill18.com/ld25/rc1/

 

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Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire on Windows 7+

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Heya Folks!

There’s a lot of outdated/hard to find information out there on this topic, so I figured I’d assemble a quick guide for getting one of the greatest strategy games of all time running on modern versions of Windows.

Step 1: Get a pre-patched version.

First of all, I’m going to highly recommend that you acquire the game from some place like GOG.com.  It’s dirt cheap and already patched to support modern versions of Windows.

As of December 2012, the GOG.com version of Alpha Centauri comes with Alien Crossfire at no extra cost. Existing customers can redownload and get the expansion for free.

Step 2: Patch your game

Skip this step if you have the GOG.com version.

If you want to do it the hard way, you’ll want to ensure that you have patched your game to the latest version:

  • The “Planetary Pack” or “Laptop Pack” is apparently already patched.
  • 2.0 if you have the Alien Crossfire expansion
  • 4.0 if you only have the base game

After you have your game patched to the latest version, you also need to install the “Win 2000/XP Update” (this also covers Windows 7/8).

All these patches are available from the Official Firaxis Website.

Step 3: Fix your Config File

Skip this step if you have the GOG.com version.

Go to your Alpha Centauri install folder (probably something like C:\Program Files (x86)\Firaxis\Alpha Centauri) and open the “Alpha Centauri.ini” file in a text editor, like Notepad.

Look through the file and see if there’s an entry that looks like:

[PREFERENCES]
ForceOldVoxelAlgorithm=0

If there is not, then add those two lines to the bottom of the file.

NOTE: If you didn’t install all the patches, you might actually have to set this line to “=1″ instead.

 

Step 4: Run as Administrator

The GOG.com version is already setup to do this for you.

You now have everything in place to run the game, but note that Alpha Centauri must be run as administrator.  To do this, you can right-click on the shortcut and choose “Run as Administrator”.  You can also right-click, go to Preferences, then the Compatibility tab, then check the “Run as Administrator” checkbox.

Note that if you the “terranx.exe” file directly, you’ll jump directly to the Alien Crossfire expansion.

 

Step 5: Optional Config Tweaks

These are not required to run the game, but some people will want them.

Go back to your “Alpha Centauri.ini” file.

Disabling the Opening Movie

Modify and/or Add the following line:

DisableOpeningMovie=1

Set to 1 or 0 depending on what you want.

 

Higher Resolutions

If you want to play Alpha Centauri in a higher resolution, you have TWO possible options.

Option 1:

Video Mode=1024

This will force a resolution change to 1024×768.

Option 2:

DirectDraw=0

This will run the game at your desktop’s resolution.

You want to use one or the other.  Using both won’t accomplish anything useful.

 

Step 6: Windowed Mode

If you’re like me, you like running game in Windowed Mode, so you can keep an eye on your email and chat programs.  Alpha Centauri does not support this natively, but you can use a 3rd-party program to get the job done.

[Download the latest version of DxWnd]

This is a FREE program.

Uncompress the file anywhere you like (need something to open the .RAR file? Try 7-zip.)

You must run DxWnd.exe as Administrator for it to work with Alpha Centauri.

Once DxWnd is running, go to the “Edit” menu and click “Add”.

In the window that opens, do the following:

  • Name: Alpha Centauri (or whatever you’d like to call it)
  • Path: Click the [...] button and find your “terranx.exe” file. For the GOG version this is: C:\GOG Games\Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri\
  • In the bottom-left corner you’ll see the “Window initial position & size”.  Changed the “W” box to 1024 and the “H” box to 768.
  • [Optional] Under “Emulation” click the “Primary Surface” radio button. This will prevent your desktop from going funny colours while you play the game.

Click “OK” to close this dialog box. In DxWnd’s list of games, scroll down to the very bottom to find the new “Alpha Centauri” option and double-click it to launch the game.  If nothing happens it’s because you forgot to start DxWnd as an administrator.

NOTE: If you’re playing in Windowed Mode do not set the DirectDraw or Video Mode options in the config file, or it probably won’t work right.

 

 

 

 

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Ludum Dare 25

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As I’ve mentioned a few times, I will not be able to fully participate in this Ludum Dare, because there are too many pre-Christmas activities happening this weekend that I need to attend.

That being said, I will try to participate as much as I can, including live streaming.  Mostly that means Friday evening and early in the day on Saturday and Sunday.  Obviously the game will have to be even more extremely simplified than usual…and I’ll probably get very little sleep! I’ll probably look to do something like an ultra-simplified platformer, or something akin to Pac-Man perhaps.

As usual, I want to take some time to exam the final 12 themes up for voting, so I can go into this somewhat prepared no matter which theme is picked.  This is going to be very much just stream-of-consciousness writing.

 

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED AS I GET MORE IDEAS

 

<ALL TOPICS>

  • I’m strongly considering doing a platformer if possible, because I’ve never done one and I think that people would like to see one get built.  It’s also a well-understood problem.

 

Chaos:

  • Chaos theory. Butterfly effect. Massive changes as a result of small variations in starting conditions.
  • Maybe there’s some kind of randomizing device, like one of those lotto ball machines, and the player can hit “go” — at which point the world or whatever is generated based on the position of the balls/whatever?  Good use of the theme, but sure as hell doesn’t tell me anything about the gameplay.
  • Okay, think about gameplay first.
  • You are a rocket ship trying to navigate through an asteroid field on limited fuel. Most of your acceleration is going to come from the gravitational pull of the asteroids — you are trying to slingshot through the field.  Asteroid fields are random and chaotic, plus your first approach is going to have massive repercussions as to your final path.  Maybe you aren’t flying through, but are instead firing missiles through the field, trying to hit a target?

 

Colonize:

  • Obviously what we want here is a complete clone of Dwarf Fortress. But with great 3d graphics and a clean UI.  In space. With multiplayer.  Right? RIGHT?
  • We could use the same idea as “Chaos” — you’re trying to “fling” some biological material from your planet, through an asteroid field, to another colonizable planet.  Or maybe you want to spread to all the asteroids?  Or as many as you can before you planet’s core (or whatever) fails.  Because if we are randomly placing the asteroids, we can’t guarantee that all of them (and/or the planet) will actually be hittable.  

 

Construction:

  • 2d side-view. You control a crane. Pick up pieces (or is the next piece auto-loaded, tetris-style?) and try to make the highest tower you can without having things topple over.

End of the World:

  • The world  is literally disintegrating around us.
  • Some kind of “free running” game?
  • See the ideas for “Colonize” and “Chaos”.

 

Fortress:

  • See “Construction”, but with stone-like construction blocks.
  • Alternatively, top-view castle building. Tower Defense game?

 

Journey:

  • Travelling Salesman” game?  Try to find the shortest path to visiting all cities on the map exactly once and ending up at home.  Would it be possible to add a high-scores list?  Maybe implement as a web app instead of Unity?

 

Night and Day:

  • Monochrome 2d platformer. Background is pure white. Foreground and characters are completely unlit (pure black), but 3d.
  • Explore a cave in pitch darkness, with only the occasional crack allowing blinding sunlight to poke in.

 

Outer Space:

  • See “Colonize” and “Chaos” ideas.

 

Parallel Worlds:

  • See “Night and Day”.

 

Salvage:

  •  Maybe a “sorting” game, where you’re having to divide up paper/plastic/metal recylables using some sort of claw?

Time Loop:

  • Ugh.
  • Literal time manipulation is hard, and would take a long time to implement.
  • Maybe it’s a single room, and as you leave via the right, a new copy of yourself also enters from the left?  But what’s the gameplay?  Good puzzles are hard to put together.  Also, I’m worried that this won’t be very original.

 

You Are The Villain:

  •  Pac-Man clone, except you play as a slow ghost, trying to corner Pac-Man before he eats all the dots.
  • Rather than a single villain, are you one of many little swarming enemies?  Like the enemies in a shmup?

 

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Hearts of Iron: Country Discussion

6

It’s starting to be that time again. The time where we have to discuss which country to play for a Paradox grand strategy. This time, it’s Hearts of Iron 3.

Unlike the other examples in the series (Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria), HoI covers a remarkably brief period of time: 1936 to 1948. This, of course, is the era of World War 2. You take control of a nation and guide it through an extremely unique period where countries aligned themselves as Axis, Allied, Comintern…or as a dirty, filthy neutral. The results of WW2 set the stage for the cold war, which you can experience next year in Paradox’s upcoming East vs. West game (1946-1991).

HoI3 definitely appears to be the most complex of the Paradox games I’ve played to date, with hour-by-hour realtime gameplay and far more provinces to wage your mixed-arms warfare on.  You have to be a real grognard to understand every part of this game.  I don’t think I will, so prepare yourself for incredible failure.

So who do we play? One of the big dogs like the UK, Germany, or Russia? Something more out of the way, like my homeland of Canada — which will allow me to play at my own pace, at the risk of being too uninvolved. Don’t misunderstand me — Canadians were HEAVILY involved in WW2, I’m just not sure how Canada in HoI3 plays out and what our goals would be.  Maybe another small country, but in Europe — it would be terrifying, but exciting.  What about something doomed, like Belgium, Poland, or the Netherlands?  There’s something quite romantic about a lost cause — and I believe that France remains playable in an altered form after becoming occupied, so that’s another interesting option.

I will NOT be porting my Victoria 2 save over to HoI3, and I also don’t think I would like to play as Japan.

We also are not required to start in 1936. We could start in 1939 (at the start of the “actual” war).  We could start in the 40′s, when the pushback against Germany starts to make progress.  I know everyone wants the full length, largest possible map for everything — but there really are plenty of valid scenarios right up until the end of the war, especially depending on what country we use.  Even if all I did was play out the 6-month Winter War between Finland and Russia, it would make for a really long Let’s Play.

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I know that feel, bro.

3

Ludum Dare 24 Results!

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The results are in!  There were 1,406 entries in total.  I came in the top 15% overall!  I think this is my best result yet, and far exceeds my goal of “top 50%”.

I scored best in “fun”, where I finished in the top 7%!  This makes me incredibly happy as that was by far my focus. I wanted to make a GAME first and foremost, and games are supposed to be FUN to play!

I was dragged down by “theme”, as expected, because it was actually quite hard to activate the evolution-related features.  Until you start completing some of the combos, it all just looks like a green pinball table.

If all goes according to plan, though, I am not quite done making pinball games…

Stay tuned.

 

EDIT:  Oh, and I got a Bronze Medal for “Coolness” because I rated so many games!

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World of Warcraft, Rift, and Guild Wars 2: A tale of three MMOs.

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I have a history with MMOs

I started with MUDs and MUSHs, plus some early BBS “door” games like Legend of the Red Dragon.  I was a grandmaster tailor, owned a house, and got PK’d a lot in Ultima Online. I dabbled in Everquest, Asheron’s Call, Anarchy Online, Star Wars: Galaxies, and many more.

The first MMO that really, truly got me hooked, however, was World of Warcraft.  But not right away. (Continued below the cut.)

 

(more…)

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Pinbology: A Post-Mortem

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Pre-LD Warm Up

Going into LD #24, I knew that I wanted to create a faster-paced, more “arcady” game, since my previous two entries were a turn-based strategy game and a moody story-based game.  Two weeks before the competition, I decided to do a warm-up based on a theme that NEVER wins the LD voting…Evolution.  So…yeah.

One valuable thing I learned, after a few dead-end ideas, is that while I *love* simulations and that I’m really interested in simulating biology and evolution…it was hard to find the game in literal evolutionary processes because it’s supposed to be rather…automatic and non-interactive.  I couldn’t come up with something that was simultaneously enough of a “game” but also felt like “legitimate” evolution.  Just making a _________ and tacking on an Upgrade system is pretty ridiculous.  If that’s the kind of thing that’s acceptable, then 90% of the games on the market are about “evolution”.

Ultimately I decided that the right thing to do would be to start from a strong gameplay concept and use evolution as a pure story/visual theme, rather than a mechanic.  So for my warm-up I ended up doing an (incomplete) implementation of a Tower Defense game in the style of The Space Game or Creeper World, where you are building a linked network of structures.  You would represent a multi-cellular creature that was developing specialized cell/tissues/organs.

I still think the Tower Defense evolution game would have been great, but I didn’t take that route for the actual Ludum Dare because:

a) I’d already done a partial implementation and I always want to try different things.

b) I assumed that Tower Defense games would be very common submissions. Turns out they have not been, and now I’m wondering if I should have gone for the TD idea because I think it would have proven very fun and popular.

 

PINBOLOGY: An Overview

 

In addition to a more fast-paced, arcady game, I was also hoping to do something that had a very “physical” tone (this would give me a chance to really explore the physics engine in Unity 3d, something I have no done before). I decided to go very literal with the physicality and arcadiness and called up my love for classic pinball machines for my submission.

PINBOLOGY attempts to faithfully mimic the components, mechanics, and physics of old electro-mechanical pinball machines while incorporating zones, combos, and special actions themed around evolution. Fun gameplay would be top priority, along with a sense of real physicality.  I wouldn’t have the opportunity to measure the actual physical response of different surfaces of a pinball table in 48 hours (different rubbers, plastics, wood, metals, glass, etc…), nor develop really good shaders, but I would do my best to create something that could possibly exist in the real world.

 

Five Things That Went Well

  1. Livestreaming: There is no better motivation to continue to work well past the point of tiredness/boredom/craziness than having up to 500 people watch you program. It does prove as a bit of a distraction at time, especially since I tried to narrate as much as possible and talk about why I was doing certain things and how I was doing them, but I still wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  2. Building Scenes in Unity 3d: I’m a programmer first and foremost, and I get turned on by things like randomly generated procedural content. That sort of thing is not appropriate for a pinball game, so instead I played to Unity’s strength: hand-placing objects.  Since pinball tends to be extremely fussy about exactly where objects are, there was a CONSTANT need to tweak object placement, especially as new components were added in and the overall shape of the tabletop evolved.
  3. Building Objects in Blender: This was my first time doing a 3d game with anything more than basic primitives, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to figure out how to get everything working, but everything went really well!  I feel that I pulled off some nice 1950′s components (bumpers, kickers, flippers) and somehow managed to make a complete mesh level that works well in the physics engine.  I would have liked rounder curves and there’s one messed up set of vertices on the right-hand side that causes the texture/lighting to look a little wonky in that spot, but altogether I’m counting this as a win. That being said, while most of the objects were also quick to put together, the level geometry ate a LOT of time.
  4. Making What I Knew: As with writing a novel, programming a game that you already understand is a huge boon.  I know what components make up pinball tables, I understand how objectives should flow together, and from start to finish I knew what how each feature would need to behave. I didn’t have to stop halfway through and re-evaluate my core gameplay mechanics. That being said…
  5. Learning Something New: I see LD as an excuse to try learn at least one new thing. You don’t want to overreach here, but this was my first time using Blender to create objects that I would then use in a game. This was my first time really using UV mapping and mesh collisions. This was also the most I’ve done with the Unity physics engine.  This is significant, practical knowledge that I can draw on for the future.

 

Five Things That Went Badly

  1. Overspecialized Code: I failed to properly general the code for my components, so as a result I ended up writing very similar code many times.  I should have planned things out a bit better so that I could have reused more of my scripts. Not only did this make debugging a pain, and reduce my ability to improve my scripts, it also substantially cut into my available time, which led to problem #2.
  2. My Schedule: I’ve always used the same schedule for LD’s, and it’s gone perfect in the past: Friday night is for coming up with the basic concept and doing a rough implementation to make sure it makes sense, with the idea that I can always restart Saturday morning if something proves unworkable.  Saturday is when all major features get developed. Sunday is for polish, like replacing the placeholder art, adding sounds, main menu, GUI, etc… This time, I was still working on major features on Sunday — I was even added the rotating disc 45 minutes before the deadline! I had to do quite a bit of tweaking and tuning to the level mesh, and I had to rebuild the ramp three times to get the look, physics, and just general size and angle where I wanted it.  This lead to problems #3 and #4.
  3. Artwork: My art is always going to suck, and I’m not going to freak out about that too much, but there are several things that I wanted to do and could have done which would have *dramatically* improved the game, but I ran out of time.  A slightly better main menu, to establish the theme right away, would have been one thing. By far the biggest thing, though, would have been decals on the table surface to label various features. Real-world pinball machines have this for everything. “10,000 points”.  “Ball Lock when Lit”. That sort of thing.  Makes a huge difference for gameplay, but also theme. Decals would NOT have taken very long to do. Maybe an hour, tops. But time was that tight.
  4. Game Balance: This pinball machine is HARD. Many old-school machines are also this difficult (since they were designed to eat quarters), but this isn’t terribly appropriate for the competition.  The Extra Life bar is set a little too high (partially because for a while there was a bug that gave away excessive bonus points).  The DNA targets and Ball Lock area are rather hard to hit, partially due to the width of the table (because I wanted something “organic” looking and also to accomodate wide-screen monitors), and partially due to a last-minute change to the maximum angle of the flippers.  The biggest problem with this isn’t that you run out of lives too quickly (you don’t have to feed it quarters to play again), but rather because it’s very difficult to execute the combos…and that’s where almost all of the theme lives.
  5. Theme Execution: Between the artwork deficiencies and the fact that a casual player may never unlock the “Survival of the Fittest” multi-ball, the Evolution theme is not obvious.  To me, this is my largest failure because I’m actually extremely proud of all the “real” evolution references that exist in the game: Extinction events, geographical isolation, genes, etc…  When you trigger a multi-ball, the color of the balls diverges from the parent — and the last one standing becomes your new species (i.e. its color is locked in as your ball color, at least until the next multi-ball). I think these things are GREAT…but they’ll only be seen by people who really know their way around a pinball table. You have to know how to trap balls, how to abuse various cycles, and how to tilt the table at just the right time.  Otherwise?  You just get a green pinball table and no real hint that the theme exists.

Going Forward

After LD, I always dream of developing my game further and turning it into a real, finished project. I don’t know if I actually have the time to do that, between my day job, my existing projects, my YouTube videos, and family time.  But I would like to very much:

  • Re-write the scripts that manage the component behaviours to be more generalized, so that components act more consistently and to make it easier to add more.
  • Re-write the “toast” (notifications/achievements) system.
  • Re-make the level mesh to be more polished, but also narrower (and therefore play a little easier).
  • Add very nice shader effects.
  • Add considerably more models.
  • Add more tables with different themes.
  • Add an in-game level editor and the ability to share and rate designs.
  • Make a trillion dollars.

We’ll see how that goes.

In any case, I can’t wait for LD25!

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Possible themes for this Ludum Dare

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Here are the finalists for the Ludum Dare theme this time around.  Any one of them could be picked.  You can vote here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ld-24-theme-voting-round-5-of-5/

 

Which one would you like to see win?  What kind of game ideas do you have for each theme? (I will be posting my own ideas in the forum thread, linked below, shortly.)

 

1000 Kittens
Abandoned
Afterlife
Beginning of Time
Break the Rules
Castles
Chain Reaction
Colony
Companion
Creation and Destruction
Curiosity
Deep Space
Don’t Go Outside
End of the World
Evolution
Night
Parallel Worlds
Ruins
Survive
Trapped in Another World
Tunnels

 

 

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