Category Archives: Games

Thoughts on the Heat Signature alpha

On Sunday I discovered that I had access to the Heat Signature alpha, due to owning a particular version of Gunpoint, Tom Francis’ previous game. I’d seen him talk about the alpha but hadn’t realised I qualified. Typically, it was the last day of the 2-week access.

The above video is what happened on my 2nd attempt. In short: it’s great fun. So much potential.

My only real concern comes courtesy of an interview with Tom Francis over on Gamasutra, where he talks about having the space stuff be more of a background element since the interior stuff has taken focus. I think that’d be a real shame – there’s a ton of untapped potential in the space stuff and it’s that aspect which gives the game it’s immense scale and unique feeling. There’s nothing else quite like it.

The interior stuff, meanwhile, is reminiscent of every top-down shooter/brawler – Hotline Miami in particular. Which isn’t a bad thing – it’s in good company. But it’s the space stuff and the interplay between the two which makes Heat Signature exciting.

First 5 Minutes: Proteus

I’ve wanted to try my hand at recording some in-game commentary for a while, with the above video being the first actual result. The idea is to play through the first five minutes of a variety of games, examining what they do well/not so well and generally discussing the importance of that first impression.

This first video takes a look a Proteus, a quirky indie game from a few years back which is still unlike anything else I’ve played.

It was a lot of fun to make the video, so I’ll probably do more.

The joy of an empty wilderness in The Witcher 3

Eurogamer published a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the launch of The Witcher 3 this week, with writer Robert Purchese having been given complete access to the studio for three days. Prime Ministers visited, developers crunched deadlines, and controversy reigned briefly for no good reason over the game’s supposed ‘downgrade’.

The whole article is fantastic but one particular section jumped out at me, in which the game’s director is remembering the moment the ‘open world’ was first stitched together and made playable:

Something “really really scary” then happens in October 2014, at that first playthrough of the game. The great open-world is realised but it feels… empty. “We had these cool quests, this cool content, but nothing in between,” Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz says. “We knew it’s not enough,” his brother Konrad adds, “and we knew if we want to release an open-world game we got to fill it with interesting content, and we got a really short amount of time to do it.” It’s at this moment the question marks – points of interest – are born, all twists on around 20 templates dreamt up by a newly created and dedicated strike force team.

2015-08-23_00011

Continue reading

If Twitter hate mobs are Ultron, where is the internet’s Vision?

For the last ten years-or-so I’ve been convinced that governments would be responsible for the death of the Internet As We Know It: ever-encroaching censorship and surveillance transforming the promise of the open internet into something darker, more capitalist, more consumerist and, essentially, more 20th century. Here’s me on the Digital Economy Bill, and then on the good ol’ Twitter Joke Trial. That’s a lotta words.

Then so-called GamerGate happened, late last year. An amorphous bunch of apparent activists rose up, ostensibly to decry ethics in games journalism but in reality taking every opportunity to harass female game devs, game journalists and gamers, and anybody who supported them. Rape threats. Death threats. It was the abuse unleashed upon Anita Sarkeesian writ large, with a broad brush. The aggressors wielded the term ‘Social Justice Warrior’ as if it were something to be ashamed of. And all the while they claimed the moral high ground, even while forcing planes to land and issuing genuine terrorist threats to universities. The actions of GamerGate spoke far louder than its words. Continue reading

In the footsteps of Tom Francis

This is the blog post in which you can download and install A GAME WHAT I PROGRAMMED.

I’ve been following Tom ‘made GUNPOINT’ Francis’ GameMaker tutorials since the start of the year. The man has an uncanny ability to teach code in a way that makes sense to people who don’t code. I suspect he’s new enough to coding himself, relatively speaking, that he still remembers what it was like.

BASIC, Inform, TWINE and others have crossed paths with me over the year but none have ever stuck. They’ve either been too difficult or not quite relevant to what I want to do. TWINE is still the engine which has most appealed, because it enables a surprisingly pure writing experience. I suspect I may go back to TWINE, armed with a better knowledge of how all this stuff hangs together.

Tom is teaching GameMaker, the system he used to make GUNPOINT (always write it in caps) and which he is now using to make Heat Signature (not sure whether to write it in caps). Although GameMaker has all kinds of nooby drag-and-drop features, Tom’s bypassing all that and jumping straight into code.

I’ve just finished part 13, which has added a nice little menu screen to the game. As such, I thought it was time to share what I’ve been up to. Note that most of the code and actual design are from Tom’s tutorials, so it’s not like I’ve done this myself – however, I have understood the entire process and am already starting to think about what I can use these techniques for later in the year.

Download the latest build here.

It’s ugly as sin.

Instructions:

  • Move with WASD.
  • Aim with the mouse.
  • There are two weapons in the arena. Pick ’em up by rolling over them.
  • Left click to fire.
  • Right click to swap weapons.
  • The weapons interact in an interesting way. Experiment!
  • The enemies react in different ways to being shot.

Not much of a game there as yet, but it’s further than I’ve ever managed to get in 34 years of dabbling. And I’m still excited every time Tom Francis warbles “hullo” at the start of an episode.

DIY gaming part 6: The GPU

Turns out I forgot to blog about the final part of my computer upgrade: the GPU. Bit silly of me, given how important it is. I purchased the other components over the course of last year and built the rig in September, but only purchased the GPU right at the end of November.

This was all about waiting for the new ‘sweet spot’, which seemed to be on the verge of changing throughout 2014. NVIDIA had already teased some new tech and were clearly building up to something – that turned out to be the 970, a card which offers phenomenal power-to-price value.

The 970 is more expensive than the 960 and not as powerful as the 980, but it sits in-between the two perfectly. An overclocked 970 starts to edge up towards the 980 in terms of performance, while cutting costs to go for the 960 is likely to be limiting in the long run.

I went for an MSI version, which has a nice super quiet fan when it’s not being taxed. I have an Asus variant at work which is similarly spiffy.

Aside from its raw power – it can handle anything I throw at it, so far, and can run any pre-2014 game at 2x my monitor’s normal resolution without breaking a sweat (eg 3360×2100) using NVIDIA’s cool built-in supersampling thing – it also runs very efficiently, which means it’s quieter, cooler and less hungry than a card of this power has any right to be.

And, thus, my computer upgrade is now complete. Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age Inquisition at Full Everything and super high resolutions are amazing, and it turns older games into perfection. Star Citizen is silky smooth. The big test comes in May with the arrival of Witcher 3 – the first game to really push beyond the current console gen. Fingers crossed it can handle it.

Making Far Cry 3 better with self-imposed limitations

Far Cry 3 took me a long while to get into. I bought it long after release and even then it didn’t entirely click, with its ludicrous, mad playground of bizarre wildlife, open tropical island territory and huge arsenal being amusing but not terribly engaging.

It was a little too loose and lacking in focus, and its story too daft to be engaging. I’ve never been one to enjoy games which provide vast options, tending to prefer a game which specialises in a few key areas and gets them just right (Shadow of Mordor being a good recent example). Continue reading