I know, I know. The whole Diamond Jubilee thing is getting to be a bit of a drag at this point. Let’s just try and forget it’s happening with some completely Queen-free ramblings that vaguely continue onward from my last post!
Soooo. What was it… ah yeah, the thing! Yeah. With the planets and stars and groups of dreadnoughts firing barrages of laser death at each other. That thing. Endless Space! Did you know that it went into beta just a couple of paltry hours ago? You should really check it out on Steam and pay a visit to its homepage to see why it’s causing a fuss. Having played a few hours of the previous alpha version, I can surely say that this could very well be the 4X space strategy game that people have been waiting for since Master of Orion 2 - that is to say, it’s completely turn-based with an interesting 3-phase tactical combat system. Just look at it – even at this early stage, it has a UI that makes a strategy geek like me quiver in delight…
The developers Amplitude Studios are taking the time and trouble to interact with their fanbase as much as possible with a system they are calling “games2gether”, allowing fans to have a direct say on what the devs focus their efforts on at any given time. It’s an ambitious way of doing things but it certainly seems to be paying off so far, and is just another example of the increasingly popular trend of involving the players at an early stage of the development process.
Today’s beta update adds a cargo bay’s worth of bug fixes and tweaks, online multiplayer functionality, and the remaining 3 missing races, taking the total up to 8. All in all, it’s really quite good, and should only get better as the beta rolls along.
Yes indeed. Wibblefish. It’s tricky coming back to the blog after these gaps. I never quite know whether to just plough onwards and avoid mentioning the fact I got distracted by other non-blog stuff (like that giant fluorescent elephant that enjoys sitting in the corner of the room), or to apologise profusely while crossing my fingers behind my back. But then I realise – hardly anyone reads this anyway, so why pay it any mind at all?
Okay. Let’s get back into things with a predictable start. Diablo 3 is out, and many yays were heard across the multiverse! I have it. It’s a good game and I’m enjoying playing it. There’s no doubt that it’s polished with the usual addiction-causing Blizzard chemicals and it’ll absolutely keep me playing for many more hours than what I’ve already put into it. The inevitable “but”, though, goes like this: It feels more like My First ARPG than a true Diablo. I find it hard to overlook the dumbed-down character stats and slow-paced itemisation. I don’t think the method of drip-feeding new item mods into the game really works, and playing through on Normal difficulty becomes snoreworthy after your first playthrough. Then there’s that always-online-Battle.net-DRM-error37 thing, which is a whole internet meme in itself…
In the end, I’ve endorsed it by buying the game, so I guess I’ve partly signed away my right to complain. Still, its insidiousness – and terrible reliability to date – are a considerable downer. If I had to give D3 a score, it wouldn’t get any higher than 85%.
Fortunately, in a related and also completely predictable topic of conversation, Torchlight 2 should soon be pecking its way out of the Fabergé egg that Runic Games seem to be incubating it in. Briefly, I played a few hours of the beta, and I think it’ll turn out to be as good as, if not better, than Blizzard’s behemoth. I know enough to say that it’ll be completely unpossible to get more value for money in any game this year – assuming you like clicking monsters to make them drop shiny items to kill bigger monsters with. And who doesn’t, really?
I won’t crowd this post out any more – I’ll leave the rest of what I wanted to say for next time, to try and give me an excuse not to fall into a weird pocket dimension that apparently doesn’t have access to blogs. Notes to self: Endless Space, Mordor: Chronicles, Guild Wars 2.
Possibly Definitely marmots.
Just a note to anyone who wants to keep instantly up-to-date with anything and everything relating to Mordor: Chronicles – I’ll almost always use my Twitter and Twitpic feeds to blurt out the bleeding edge state of affairs, stuff just like the screenshot over there on the right. Like everything else it’s not updated consistently – but it’s probably much better than waiting around for it to appear here!
I think I can sense a lot of diary-clearing going on! Much as I would’ve liked Runic Games to be the ones to announce their date for Torchlight 2 first, I’m still happy to finally have a firm date to look forward to.
Presumably as a reference to the 15th anniversary of the Diablo series, Blizzard will be releasing Diablo III to the general public of Earth on Tuesday, May the 15th. Fwee! Just another two months of nail-chewing to endure before we can all finally get our hands on the latest entry to the series that defined the term “lootfest”.
With it being such a short time away*, it makes me feel somewhat less impatient at not having gotten into the beta. I’m hyped!
* Note: 2 months in “Blizzard time” is barely enough to have a nice cup of tea in, so yes, for them it IS a short time.
The past few days rank up there along with the first week of coding as the most productive time I’ve spent on the game yet, which I suppose can only be a good thing! I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about where things stand as Milestone 4 of Mordor: Chronicles is nearly done.
The main goals for this stage were to get combat working and to allow the player character to equip a selection of weird and wonderful items that are magically placed into his possession by the use of arcane debugging magic. I’d been at a dead stop for a couple of weeks after reaching the dreaded point where I had to formulate a reasonable way of calculating damage done by player and monster attacks… but several days of concentrated braincell burning, spreadsheet wrangling, and interface jockeying has paid off!
Barring a few rough edges, combat and equipment is working, and the video below illustrates how the flow of combat is displayed. As you could probably guess, bloodstains with numbers inside indicate damage dealt, a skull indicates the swing killed a monster, and the small diagonal slashes indicates a miss. Also present are shields, which indicate that you (or a monster) landed a hit successfully but, due to high defence, did no damage. Didn’t catch any of those in this short clip – but they’re there.
There are still rough edges, the most serious being the character’s uncanny ability to move and escape from combat at any point – but nothing some further hacking and bodging can fix!
Tomorrow I’ll be setting up a new level and giving the monsters some varied, real stats to properly check that the combat formula gives satisfactory results (and at least partly matches up with my test spreadsheet). Unless there are signs of serious problems I won’t spend too long balancing and creating real content at this stage, though… that lovely task will come much later.
Although for quite a few weeks of this feature I’ve gone with tracks that a lot of people will already be familiar with, I hope that this one might take you a little by surprise. It was certainly quite elusive to find information about – although I had acquired this MP3 via the indispensable remix.kwed.org, I didn’t know the slightest thing about the game it originally came from…
Zolyx’s Game Music Monday #22: Kate Z. – CityBomber (PsytroniKateZoid remix)
I like to understand the roots of a track, even if it’s only so that I can include a bit of artwork to go with the song in question – and after some tentative research, I couldn’t identify what was going on with City Bomber. Did it refer to this game, a clone of Blitz? None of the emulator images I could find had music anything like what I was looking for… but then, after what in hindsight was an unnecessarily long road, I came across Kate Z.‘s homepage and everything started fitting in much more smoothly!
So, there’s no need to keep passing over this fantastic remix any longer. It’s from the in-game tune of a game which was originally to have been published by Psytronik but switched labels to Visualize part-way through development – then never actually reached completion. It’s a shame, since the demo you can find through Games That Weren’t is really quite fun. Try it!
The remix itself is brilliant, featuring a sublime mix of samples both old and new alongside a great bit of drumming and guitar work that plays to the action and theme of the game nicely. Hopefully it pleases your ears – it surely does mine!
Tune in next week for more blippy beats!
Well hullo thar!
Tonight I can offer no more than a very brief writeup of my choice of tune, but that’s probably okay, ‘cos since when has anything I’ve written about this stuff ever been that engrossing? Cue the clicky vid!
This would of course be the haunting melody of The Armageddon Man‘s in-game theme, with this particular remix coming from Trace (also known as Kent Walldén) back in 2002. Off the top of my head, I think this is the first track I’ve featured that was originally composed by David Whittaker – why on earth it’s taken me so long to get to some of his fantastic compositions, I have no idea…
Against a backdrop of an increasing nuclear arsenal across the entire globe, your job in this game is actually quite freeform. Although you should technically try to keep the peace for as long as possible, you have complete control to intercept communications, order troops around between countries, authorise government requests to increase nuclear armaments, and watch as the results of your decisions come to fruition. An intriguing tactical strategy game from Martech back in 1987.
“Oh,” I thought. “This looks different…”
I had just embarked upon a new Roguelike adventure. On a whim, I had renewed my acquaintance with the rec.games.roguelike.announce newsgroup for the first time in an epoch, and lurking within were announcements relating to the usual long-standing suspects – epic saga ToME, fast-paced DoomRL, Rogue-with-mechs GearHead, classic Angband and its variants, and many others. But there were also lots of unfamiliar names, a testimony to the rate at which the Roguelike scene has expanded over recent times. Looking down the list, something drew me toward Brogue by Brian Walker – was it the clever name or the enigmatically plain description? Or was it just the fact it had an unusually solid-looking version number of 1.6? It’s impossible to say. Further investigation was required!
I was looking at a typical ASCII dungeon of hash signs and dots. But this dungeon had colour, variety, and life - not the usual console window of decidedly 8-colour visuals. Yes, yes – not judging a book by its cover is all well and good, but there’s no harm in making a good first impression, is there?
“Cool – there’s plants that block my vision. Let’s try walking through them. Oh, they grow back! Perfect for hiding in! Neat. Wait up, what’s that over there? Oh hello there, mouse control – this takes me back to playing Larn on the Amiga!” Good first impressions indeed. But there was plenty more to surprise me…