Keeping it Small and Simple

2008.01.19

UFO:AI 2.2: First impressions

Filed under: Computer Games — Tags: , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 23:46

UFO:AI 2.2 has been out for about a week now, but my link has been so lousy that I haven’t had a chance to grab it yet. Today things were a little better so I had a chance to grab it.

I didn’t really play 2.1 much because performance on my aging laptop was really bad as compared to previous versions of the game. I especially had a lot of problems with the mouse. On the world map, the mouse move too slow, in the combat missions it was overly sensitive and made the whole game a frustrating experience. So 2.1 was close to unplayable for me.

So far I have only had the chance to get a few initial glimpses of 2.2. Expect more as I get a chance to play around with it a little. My mouse problems seem to be gone, or at least much less than with 2.1. However, the game does feel a little heavy for my aging laptop. I think I can still manage.

The new intro screen looks good. The female soldier has a “slightly” over-sized weapon, which does look kind of funny. There is a new dialog at the very beginning of the game that asks you for your name and lets you set a few initial options.

When you have managed to build your first base, you will notice some new stuff here. There is an alien containment facility (or was that there in 2.1?). I assumed that the first mission would be the same as always and placed my base somewhere in the middle of Canada, expecting the first mission to be in my backyard. Big mistake. That has changed, and the first mission came up in North-western Africa. Oh well..

The missions is where having a cheap, lousy Intel video-card makes itself noticed. The game begins to feel a bit jerky. But, as I mentioned earlier, it’s no where near as bad as it was with 2.1 (at least for me). On the right day I’ll still be able to play the missions. Today, however, was not the right day, and I just played through a few rounds to get an initial feel for it.

I haven’t begun looking into the configuration options yet, to see what I might be able to do to optimize video performance. Had a quick look at the options screens, and it sure did look like they had changed quite a bit. Or is my memory beginning to fail me? Anyways, tomorrow being Sunday I should have some time to investigate a little. I don’t really mind losing some graphical detail in order to improve the speed/smoothness of the missions.

My first impression is that the game looks good. Of course, I haven’t had a chance to discover all the new goodies, like crash sites, yet. But I’ll get there. At least it feels like UFO:AI will start to consume some of my time again, which makes me happy.

2007.12.19

Ghosts ‘n Goblins

Filed under: Commodore 64, Computer Games, Retrogames — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 21:34

I played Ghosts ‘n Goblins for an hour or two today and my mind just drifted back to the good old times. *sob, sob*

Ghosts ‘n Goblins: title screen

The graphics! The music! The atmosphere! Even, the title screen! (You kids of today certainly will not understand..)

Ghosts ‘n Goblins: croaking at the very beginning

I obviously haven’t played this for like 15 years or so. Here I am croaking at the very beginning of the game.

2007.07.30

DotG: Not dead, actually

Filed under: Computer Games — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 01:14

If you check out the comment section of my previous post about Damnation of the Gods, you will notice that the project is not dead. If you go a step further and visit the project site you will find that there is some fresh code there for your compiling pleasure. This time it compiles without a glitch (assuming, that is, that you have all the requirements installed).

I gave the game a quick try, and although there is not all that much there at the moment, it does look promising. I can’t explain how much I’d love to see a game that gives me that same feeling that I had when playing the original Dungeon Master. It would have to be a game with decent graphics (by today’s standards), some new ideas, but still true to the original. I don’t see why DotG couldn’t be that game..

As you can see on the project site, the developer is looking for contributors. If you are into graphics, why not give the project a hand? Also, the build system could use a helping hand or two. According to this page, programmers are also welcome.

I think I might see if I can offer a few of my fingers to the project. Not as an artist, however, that would make the graphics look worse than Parkeringsterror (A Swedish Pacman clone with a twist) for the VIC-20..

2007.06.12

Battle for Wesnoth: The Valley of Death

Filed under: Battle for Wesnoth, Computer Games — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 02:19

It took me a long time to be able to survive The Valley of Death in the Heir to the Throne campaign (I am talking about Battle for Wesnoth in case you didn’t read the title). Because of that I’ve always had a lot of respect for this particular episode and consequently anytime I get to The Valley of Death I just send all my units south, defeat the lich and stay put until the rounds are up. Occasionally I send a few units to gain some extra experience by knocking off a few walking corpses coming from the east.

The other day I decided to try to defeat all three liches. It turns out to be quite simple. This is what I did.

I sent my three white mages up north. They are efficient against the annoying wraths. With them I sent Delfador to act as a backup in case my mages run into trouble. After a few battles with wraths, one of the mages becomes a Mage of Light. I get my second Mage of Light by defeating the northern lich.

To the east I sent my three horsemen and Kalenz. One of my horsemen was a Grand Knight, the other two level two knights. These two quickly become level three characters as they get attacked a lot. The three horsemen take care of all the walking corpses easily. Although there are many of them they do little damage and the horsemen are strong. When I horseman needs to heal he runs to a village and Kalenz temporarily steps in. Kalenz is of course mostly useful, but can buy some time while a knight heals.

In order to separate the walking corpses I spread the horsemen out so that one attacks from the North, one from the West and one from the South. Kalenz stays behind to the West, but ready to move where he needs to. When I’m ready to kill the lich I entice him to attack my Grand Knight who has full hit points. Then the other two horsemen ride in and destroy him.

To the South I sent my three red mages. One quickly becomes an Arch Mage and one other gets is just 4 points from promotion at the end of the scenario. Because the units can take quite a bit of damage from the enemy units in the South, I also had brought two elvish shamans along. In addition, I recruited one scout to cause distractions and prevent all enemy units from attacking my mages all at once.

I used my new Arch Mage to soften up the southern lich, and one of the red mages to deal him the final death blow.

What about Konrad? Well, I sort of forgot about him, and left him in the middle. My Konrad is a level three character, so I would probably have sent him South to act as an additional backup, had I remembered him.

Now that I’ve lost my respect for the Valley of Death, I’m going to try again with a few changes. First of all, I won’t use my Grand Knight. It’s better to my level one horsemen so they can gain some experience. Second, I’ll let Konrad go South instead of recruiting the scout. He will be responsible for creating a diversion.

I also think I’ll send two white mages and a red mage up north, and let the third white mage join in to the south. That way I have one unit that can heal there and won’t need the shaman anymore.

A few tips

First of all don’t get close to the liches with units that are injured. It’s a quick way of losing them, as the lich will attack a weak unit. As a matter of fact avoid confrontation with a lich during the night (they are hard to defeat then). When you do attack, it’s a good idea to have a powerful unit (Defaldor, a Mage of Light or an Arch Mage) standing by, just in case they need to step in. Once you begin your attack on a lich you should finish him off before he gets a chance to counter-attack.

Keeping the white mages together in the north is a good idea, since they heal each other.

In the South you really need to position the units carefully to avoid a single unit being attacked by multiple enemy units at once. This is also true to lesser degree to the North. To the East however, you will want to place your horsemen where they can act like “corpse magnets”. The more the merrier.

When you are recruiting/recalling, make sure you position the units so that they can move as far as possible in the direction they are going. The key to success here is a swift attack, at least to the North and to the East. You shouldn’t let the wraths get a chance to get away as they are way to quick for a mage to keep up with. I held back a little more to the South, where I used the scout to try to as far as possible single out enemy units and take them out one by one.

Obviously how you play will depend on what type of units you have. I tend to use mostly mages on Isle of Anduin, Muff Malal’s Peninsula and Seige of Elensefar. At the Bay of Pearls my horsemen get a lot of battle experience. On the Princess of Wesnoth episode, I use a combination of mages, elvish rangers and horsemen to attack from different directions. That way, by the time I get to Valley of Death I already have some experienced mages as well as horsemen.

2007.06.08

That would be Sir Lorenzo, if you don’t mind

Filed under: Computer Games, Web Sites — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 19:52

Today this blog was mentioned on Free Gamer! If you don’t understand what the fuss is about, all I can say that for somebody that is into open source gaming, that is pretty much the equivalent of being given a knighthood or a sainthood or something like that. So from now on that is Sir Lorenzo 😉

Let me just state once more what a great resource Free Gamer is. Within the free software gaming community it really is second to none. I know Charlie puts in a lot of good work to keep providing us gamers with news. Maintaining a quality blog (as opposed to blogs dedicated to mindless rabbling about Paris Hilton) takes quite a bit of time. If you like the site, head over there and give some support.

If you read the article I linked to above, you will notice that he’s actually asking for some community feedback. Let Charlie know what direction you would like Free Gamer to take.

2007.05.30

Back in Wesnoth

Filed under: Computer Games — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 11:55

I have begun play Batte for Wesnoth again. This time I’m challenging myself to recruit as little as possible. As an initial test I was able to complete the first episode of “The South Guard” (on easy level to begin with) without recruiting any units. It wasn’t really difficult either. Of course I did get those two merman warriors which you can find by the river. Maybe I’ll try without them next time (not that I really used them in battle much).

The benefit of doing this is that your loyal units will get much more battle exposure and thereby be able to advance quicker. Since they are loyal they don’t cost you too much either. This means that you store up more money for the times when you really need it.

Playing the game this way might help you work on your strategy. I can think of a few things. You really have to protect your injured units in a different way (somebody will always be low on health) as well as making sure somebody is kept fresh for battle at all times. In addition to that, I noticed that I paid much more attention to the day/cycle, retreating when evening comes and charging ahead when day breaks. Finally, under normal circumstances I’m quite lazy about positioning my units. But when you don’t have many units you take your time to position a unit so that he cannot be attacked by more enemies than he can handle at a time.

I expect to be able to play episode 2 (Proven by the Sword) as well without recruiting a single unit. After that I may have to recruit one or two. We’ll see.

Right now I’m busy aptitude installing wesnoth-server as well as installing wesnoth on my friend’s machine. This evening we will try to play multi-player. I wonder if I can get somebody else to come over and join in as well..

Retrogaming: The Bard’s Tale

Filed under: Computer Games, Retrogames — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:31

If I were to list the games I have spent the most time playing overall, the first two Bard’s Tale games will certainly be on that list. Quite possibly, they would even top it. There was a time that pretty much the only thing I used my Amiga 500 for was to play The Bard’s Tale (as well as develop a Bards Tale character editor).

The Bard’s Tale is essentially a computer role-playing game. You control a party of adventurers through the town of Skara Brae and into a number of dungeons, which get more and more challenging. Very rarely can your party relax, because there are monsters everywhere.

You start the game off by selecting your party. You have several different character classes to choose from, including warriors and spellcasters of various forms. Then there is the bard. You should always have a bard. He, apart from drinking ale (or better yet, red wine), can play various tunes. These tunes are magical, and can for instance affect how well the party perfoms in battle.

Winning a battle usually means you get some gold which is handy because it allows you to buy weapons, armor and other goodies. Sometimes you also get lucky and find other items which may be useful in your quest.

Battling also means that members of your party get injured. That is not a problem because you can take them to one of several temples for healing. Just as in the real world, healing is not free however, and this is another time when some gold comes in handy. In addition, your spellcasters use mana to cast their spells. They will need this mana recharged from time to time. There is a place where this can be done (for a fee, of course).

As per usual with role-playing games, your characters gain experience from battles. When a character reaches enough experience points he will upgrade a certain skill, be it dexterity, intelligence or whatever. Spellcasters also get to learn new spells, as well as progress to higher levels.

Daytime tends to be fairly boring in Skara Brae. Thankfully night sets in before you know it and that is when the interesting monsters show up. Early on in the game it is a good idea to stay close to a temple at night so that you can heal your players. Because once a sorcerer starts throwing spells at the party, everybody gets burned.

The Bard’s Tale II and III work exactly like the first one but with larger maps and each brings a slew of new monsters. I never played Bard’s Tale III very much so I cannot really comment on whether or not their are any other new elements in the game.

I am not sure why I found these games so addictive. But I did (and I still do, but don’t tell anybody). I still have the Bard’s Tale games although now they are in ADF format. From time to time I start playing one of them again, just for old times sake.

In my last retrogaming post I mentioned that there are quite a few open source clones of Dungeon Master available. Funny enough, although The Bard’s Tale also attracted a large community of devoted fans, there don’t seem to be any open source BTs out there. At least I haven’t been able to find one. There are, however quite a few projects to create “Bard’s Tale-like” games, whatever that means.

You may want to try the Devil Whiskey demo out to see if it suits you. There is a version 2.0 of the game, but the latest demo available is only 1.2. Shifting Suns promised that they would make this game open source eventually, but I’m not sure what happened about that. If you want to download the demo, you will notice that the URL on the site is wrong. The URL should be this and nothing else.

If anybody knows of an open source Bard’s Tale clone, please let me know. Or if you are working on one yourself. I’ll gladly test it and let others know about it. I could even help out with some coding. Hm, come to think of it, maybe I should just start writing my own Bard’s Tale clone. If ever I had an itch to scratch, this would be it..

If you want to know more about The Bard’s Tale, you can check this site out. Or you could just Google around, whichever you prefer. There also seems to be some modern adaption available, but I only know about the classic that I played on the Amiga (as well as on the Commodore 64).

Finally let me say that there is a Bard’s Tale IV petition. If you feel strongly about such things, you can take your political standpoint by being counted here. So far 1447 have made their voices heard.

2007.05.29

DotG: Another Dungeon Master clone

Filed under: Computer Games — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 03:26

If you are into open source (or, if you prefer, free software) and games then you should know about Free Gamer, an excellent blog dedicated to open source games. It really is a good blog that I have learned a lot from. If you don’t read Free Gamer already then I suggest you start doing so.

It is quite interesting really. I recently wrote a post about Dungeon Master, and now Free Gamer has a post out about Damnation of the Gods, yet another Dungeon Master clone. The project aims to be a Dungeon Master clone “with lots of extra features” (which could be good or bad, depending on what those features are).

The game looked interesting so I downloaded it and set about to compile. The game doesn’t use any auto(conf|make), so it’s just a matter of selecting a makefile and typing make. Or at least it should be. I had a lot of errors trying to compile this thing, and it took quite some time to fix it all. Thankfully most of the errors were fairly straightforward.

A tip here is to run make inside vim. That way, anytime there is an error, vim will open up the source file and jump to the line where the error occurred. Very handy! Just read the error message and it will give you a good clue about what is wrong.

Eventually I had managed to get everything compiled and I was ready to try the game out. Instead of seeing a nice Dungeon Master clone I got a segfault. Go figure! After all that work.. And I was too tired to start debugging it as well. Too bad, because it looks like it could be a really nice game.

I will get back to Damnation of the Gods eventually. I’ll debug it until I get it to run. Then I’ll post what I did in case anybody else is interested in trying to compile it. In the meantime, to those of you who have managed to get it running, tips are always welcome. 🙂

Sadly it seems like the project is dead. The last release, 0.17, was made in September 2005. Then again, “dead” is of course an interesting concept. This is an open source game. The source code is available on Sourceforge. If anybody is interested, you could always contact the original developer and ask about the game. Maybe the game just needs contributors to move forward. It could also be that the original developer has lost interest in the game (that happens from time to time), in which case you could ask to take over.

There are a lot of games that are no longer actively developed. I happen to meet a lot of people who say their dream is to get into games programming. Well, here is an excellent opportunity. Take Damnation of the Gods, or any other open source game that seems abandoned, contact the developers and let them know that you would like to resurrect the game. I’m talking games here but of course the same applies to any open source project, just in case games isn’t your cup of tea.

2007.05.23

Retrogaming: Dungeon Master

Filed under: Computer Games, Retrogames — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:54

Are you disappointed with the vast majority of new games that come out? Do you get the feeling that game makers these days focus too much on effects and movie clips and seem to have all but forgotten about the concept of playability? If so, why not get a little retro?

One way to play your old favorites is of course to get a hold of an emulator. You could use VICE to emulate your Commodore 64, or UAE to emulate your old Amiga. I personally use E-UAE these days, which is an experimental version of UAE. It works fairly well, but can be a bit of a job to get to compile from time to time. There are also emulators for other computers as well. I have heard that there are emulators for ZX Spectrum and Atari ST, for instance. But I never owned a Spectrum or an Atari, so don’t know much about these emulators.

It can also be worth checking out if there are any Linux and/or open source remakes of your favorite retrogames. I have spent quite some time searching around on the ‘Net for Linux versions of some of those special games, and managed to find quite a few.

The status of these games is varying. Some of them are mature and fully playable, others not. Also, some of these games are in active development, but some others haven’t seen an update in years. With any abandoned effort, anybody is welcome to step up to the task of picking up where the original developer(s) left off. *hint, hint*

I’m going to do a little series devoted to retrogames. In each post I will talk about a particular game. I will give a little introduction to the original game, although I don’t see the point in going into too much detail (after all, Google is always there). I will also give a few links to some community sites and discuss modern, open source versions of the game (if any). I am starting off with one of my absolute favorites: Dungeon Master.

To me, Dungeon Master ranks among the best games of all time. I fell in love with this game rather late, however. I’m not sure why, but I think at the time I was too busy playing Bard’s Tale to take notice of this game. When I finally did start playing it, I instantly got hooked.

Dungeon master is a real-time role-playing game. It was created by FTL (Faster Than Light) in 1987. As with most success stories, Dungeon master had quite a few sequels. Also, other game houses copied the concept. But the original is the best.

Dungeon Master really was the Doom of its time. When it came out it was way ahead of the competition. This is a fitting comparison, because if you play Doom you can see a little bit of Dungeon Master in it. I wonder if John Carmack was doing all-night DM sessions when he came up with the idea for Doom..?

Since Dungeon Master was (and is) such a great game, there is a really active community out there. For instance, you can find discussion forums related to the game and its clones here. There are also quite a few clones of Dungeon Master.

One that I have been playing quite a bit recently is Dungeon Master Java or DMJ for short. This is an implementation of the original game written entirely in Java. It fairly true to the original, but there are a few differences. The maps are not identical. The graphics have been modernized. Actually, if you search around a bit, you will find that there are various packages available, created by the community that enhance the graphics even further.

I used to have trouble getting DMJ to run properly on JDK5. But with JDK6 it seems to work fine, I haven’t had any problems so far. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is if there is any way to use the keyboard. It is a bit frustrating to have to play the game with a mouse.

All in all, DMJ is very playable. If you start playing it, keep an eye on what is happening in the community as well. There are quite a few add-ons available. I’m hoping we will see some contributions to the game engine itself because it seems Alan Dale (the original developer) has stopped developing it. I’m not sure about this, but the latest news items on the site date back to 2005. The latest available version is 2.0.1, which is only available for Mac OSX, which I find a bit odd. Wasn’t Java supposed to be cross-platform?

The source code for DMJ is available, at least for the 1.05 version. (There is also a 2.0.1 version available for Mac OSX, but without source code). I am not sure how the code is licensed so I don’t know whether or not it would be okay to redistribute modified versions of the game, but you can definitely make your own private modifications.

Another version of Dungeon Master that I have tried is actually not a clone, but the original code, running on Linux! Turns out somebody went through the process of reversing the entire game from his Atari ST disk, and rewrote the game that way. This game is of course strictly true to the original even down to the game’s graphics, which may look a bit outdated but you should note that by 1987 standards that game looked stunning.

The legal status of this game is a bit fuzzy. The game is reverse-engineered and contains all the original data. If these things matter to you, then you should probably stay clear of this game.

You can find out more about this game and a information about how to get Debian packages here. The repository contains Dungeon Master as well as Chaos Strikes Back, which is an extension to the original game.

There is a GPLed Dungeon Master engine at dmle.sourceforge.net. In order to play this game you will need to extract the original game data yourself. I haven’t tried this game myself so I cannot comment on it. It seems to be abandoned.

Another site you should check out is The Dungeon Master Encyclopedia. This site contains loads of useful information, manuals, tips, as well as information about the clones.

To conclude, I do most of my dungeon slashing in Dungeon Master Java these days. But from time to time I do load up the original in UAE, just to cry a tear or two of pure nostalgia.

2007.05.14

Pygame: game programming in Python

Filed under: Computer Games, Python Programming, Web Sites — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 09:57

Those of you who want to relax with a game or two in between coding sessions should definitely check out http://pygame.org. Pygame is a library for developing games and multimedia applications in Python.

The pygame site contains documentation and tutorials on pygame programming, but also lists games and demos that are developed using pygame. Some of the games listed there are really good. I’ll probably write up on some of the better ones when I have a little bit of spare time.

Also, don’t forget that the games listed on the site are an excellent source of knowledge for those who want to learn how to program games as well. There are a few relatively basic games that you might want to start out with.

Games not your cup of tea, you say? Not a problem, the pygame site also links to a few other applications that use pygame. Currently, most (but not all) relate to games in some way, but with time you may find more applications coming out that use pygame.

Pygame is written on top of Simple DirectMedia Layer, a library for developing multimedia applications. Therefore, it’s uses extend beyond the arena of games. You could, for instance, create music players or presentation programs using pygame (and both of these have already been done. If you’re studying physics, you could use pygame to write a program to visualize projectile motion, just to give a single example.

Pygame is obviously not the only library available for writing multimedia applications. And it might not even be the best (I won’t go into that discussion). But if you look at the long list of games, demos and other applications that are using it, you will see that it definitely has a large following. It’s worth checking out. And while you’re at it, you could take a look at SDL as well.

So do yourself a favor and head off to the pygame site. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.


Update 2007.05.14: fixed a broken link.

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