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  • Archive for June, 2011

    Random Spam


    2011 - 06.26

    I seem to get a lot of spam on this blog, and in the past few days, the spamming level really has got quite crazy. However, some of the ‘comments’ are quite amusing, here a few of my favorites ( spelling left as is ) :

    Hey, you’re the goto epexrt. Thanks for hanging out here. ( every coder loves using goto statements! )
    Wakinlg in the presence of giants here. Cool thinking all around! ( on my article about catvertising )
    That’s not just logic. That’s rellay sensible. ( why thanks, I’m sure my picture of angry asteroid is helpful )
    You raelly saved my skin with this information. Thanks! ( on catvertising, obvously lots of spam cat campigns will start appearing )
    I suppose that sdonus and smells just about right. ( I knew installing wordpresses real time smell plugin was a good idea )
    The forum is a birtgher place thanks to your posts. Thanks! ( errr, what forum? )
    Haha, solhudn’t you be charging for that kind of knowledge?! ( again on catvertising, if you are looking for a head of catvertising, feel free to email me!)
    Great hammer of Thor, that is poewfrully helpful! ( I’m going to use this as an expletive from now on )
    I’m just a hot bot, but this is amasing ( well, atlease you are being honest )
    It was dark when I woke. This is a ray of snsuhine. ( ironically on a post about realtime lighting )
    This info is the cat’s paajams! ( on catvertising once more )
    Hey, that’s the gresaett! So with ll this brain power AWHFY? ( errrrrrrrm? )

    Now, a lot of these posts are from bots who seem to only link to search engines – so I’m a bit confused as to what the point of the spamming is … any one have any ideas? or is someone running an automated commenter on my site just to make me feel popular? ;)

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    Duke Nukem Forever Review


    2011 - 06.13

    Firstly, let me preface this by saying I am a massive Duke Nukem fanboy – even shelling out for the Balls of Steel collectors edition, and then repeatedly hitting F5 on the amazon ordering screen to see when it would be dispatched. Also, I won’t be sticking any screenshots on this review – as I had to turn everything to low because my gaming rig is older than Stonehenge.

    Well where to begin? Everyone knows that DNF has been stuck in development hell forever. The hype surrounding it has grown to almost epic proportions – there was no way any game would ever live up to the amount of hype that it has generated over such a long time. However, I feel it did pretty well overall. I played the game with keyboard and mouse, as using a gamepad to play Duke seemed almost sacrilegious giving its cult pc background. Sometimes this felt a little sluggish, this was very apparent with mouse turning speeds. Battering spacebar in quicktime events also annoyed me somewhat – its a nice idea but when you fail for the fifth time on a boss because your space bar hitting skills are lacking, it strikes me as a bit silly. That and quicktime events just annoy me in general.

    So aside from the control issue, how was it? A lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even playing with ugly ugly graphics. It had a very retro Duke feeling through out; the one liners, awesome music and the wonderful feeling of playing with familiar weapons. I’ll add my voice to the others complaining about the two weapon system – there were times I wished I had weapon X as it would be better than weapon Y1 and Y2 I had stocked. Having said that, weapons and ammo are plentiful – I never found myself short of things to shoot people with. The action definitely seems to be more of a duck and cover exercise than the twitch fest of the original – but Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a remake of Duke3d – it is an entirely different game. Though I will admit, comparisons to Duke Nukem Forever and Duke3d are hard not to make, as they FPS that feature the iconic Duke.

    The story is typical Duke, and seeing his own branding on the locations present in the game was a nice touch – the world seems as obsessed with Duke as he is with himself, which is exactly how it should be in the Duke-iverse. Though he is a character that I wouldn’t really want to describe as a role model, he sticks to his guns ( *ahem* ) and is believable throughout.

    The action does feel more similar to modern FPS, long corridors with lots of enemies – though this is present mostly in the end of the game – the earlier levels feel a lot more Duke. The world is nicely interactive, and there are some cool toys to play with, pinball machines, remote control cars, etc; When I got to the mini puzzle of the remote control car it was a definite “Duke is cool” moment.

    I think my biggest criticism with the game is the level themselves. Though Duke3d wasn’t exactly an open world, Duke Nukem Forever is most definitely a linear game. I didn’t have the same feeling of exploration or secrets I did with Duke3d. I still fondly remember discovering the secret apartments in the first level of Duke3d – now maybe age is kicking in here, but the feeling of exploration never hit me as much with DNF – maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough :) The city levels of the original felt a lot more real to me than the environments within DNF – again maybe I am looking at the past through rose coloured glasses. I’ll try to keep that as the last comprision of the two games :)

    Now I am a very average gamer, the single player last about 15 hours for me – I couldn’t help but feel it was to short – the worry of DLC as full game experience is quite high at the moment. MOD/map tools haven’t been released yet and though the multiplayer is fun, currently I can’t see it having a large community for very long.

    I will keep on playing single player however, the achievements are all pretty do-able for my skill level, and an additional game difficulty setting is unlocked on completion. That and the game is actually fun – in a world full of serious FPS games, it is enjoyable to take one which doesn’t take itself to seriously. I remember completing Halo: Reach, and thinking, well, that was depressing. Not so with Duke – though the ending of the game was very abrupt – again adding to the worry of DLC as full game.

    Now onto the multiplayer – I’ve had very bad experiences with the game browser – I either can’t connect to a game, or the game is so laggy I give up after a while. However, the quick match button works fine, and though slightly laggy at times ( which, to be fair, could be my aging gaming rig ) the games are most definitely playable. The offering is nothing special, normal type game modes, with an interesting variation with the flag being a scantily clad woman. This makes defending the base a much more interesting duty ;) The gameplay is very much more twitchy than the single player – it reminds me a lot of Quake. Can’t really hide behind cover, as someone will just leap over it to finish you off. If you can find a lag free game, you are going to have a great time with it. I’m hoping once dedicated servers catch on that the more laggy games will vanish.

    Multiplayer has slightly more to it than just random fragfests. There is an EXP system, which as you perform certain tasks ( fall a set distance, commit suicide, kill someone with a shot gun etc;) will unlock different avatar customizations, as well as titles and EXP bonuses. Your level determines the amount of unlocked content within your ‘Digs’ – an apartment full of boxes which become things as you gain more levels. It’s a nice touch.

    Now, once again, this has turned into a pretty large wall of text, so I will sum it up now. Duke Nukem Forever is a pretty good game – I’d definitely score it around the 80% mark – it is great fun and very cool. However, without the Duke Nukem IP, it would be decidedly average in nature. There is nothing amazingly ground breaking in it but in my mind it is a very solid ( and most importantly fun ) FPS.

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    My Tweet Archive


    2011 - 06.06

    After looking at my rapidly growing library of tweets coupled with a definite twitter addiction I’ve decided to add a new section to the blog which will contain an archive of all my tweets. The reason? vanity mainly :) That and the fact that I’m sure the up to the date info will be tasty food for GoogleBot to chomp on.

    After making the decision to put my tweets in an archive section, I went searching for a solution. Alas, none could be found which would fit my idea – most of them seemed to just grab your tweets and automagically place them as a post on your blog. I didn’t really want that, as my blog articles tend to be a lot higher quality than my quite spammy twitter feed.  So I decided that I would use a Page, and roll my own.

    I haven’t really done any coding for WordPress, with the exception being minor tweaks to things – so had no idea where to start. After reading the codex and about 30 mins of web searching, I searched for two plug ins that I would need. The first most excellent Tweet Tweet - which really does all the hard work.  It grabs all my tweets and saves them to a local database.  Quite a bit of a time-saver there.  The second was the incredibly useful WP exec PHP which allows php code to be embedded and run in pages.  I had all the tools I need, so got coding.

    After battling with the almost mysterious URL re-writing WordPress ships with, along with several heart stopping moments when I thought I had borked my install to such a degree I couldn’t get it back, I had the My Tweets section completed.  All in all, about two and half hours work.  But now I can sleep soundly at night knowing that even if Twitter deletes all my precious tweets, I’ll still have a back-up of them :)

    If anyone is interested in a tutorial or some code or something, drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do :)

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    Terraria sucks


    2011 - 06.02

     

    Terraria - My humble Home

    Terraria - My humble Home

    Time. Installing this indie platformer sandbox game onto you hard drive is much like installing a black-hole in your machine, with none of the nasty matter sucking, just time vanishing into it’s retro looking event horizon.  Hmmm, methinks that perhaps that opening sentence sounded better in my head.

    Brought via steam, I must admit, I didn’t get Terraria at first.  After spending a good ten minutes working out the difference between the hammer/axe/pick I constructed my first little shack for the Guide – an npc that starts in the world with you which seems to garner a lot of hatred from the Terraria community.  Well, I thought to myself, that was kinda boring, lets see what else there is to do.

    Six hours later and I look up at the clock and see that a LOT of time has passed as I smash my first dark orb.  This game is very, very good at sucking you in.  Rather than the Minecraft just one more cube mentality, for me it was the next crafting recipe which had me hooked.  I had the wiki open in the background, and was constantly alt+tabbing to see where I needed to go, what I needed to hunt etc;

    I haven’t tried multiplayer yet, due to actually needing time to work with Project: Cards, however, even with just single player, my steam stats are currently look like this :

    Terraria Playtime

    Oh dear, so much time :S

    And with all that time played, I have two islands, full of NPC’s in epic looking tower constructions, several bosses down and out, full molten gear and a light saber I refuse to upgrade due to being able to pretend I am in Star Wars.  And I still haven’t defeated one boss, and therefore still have dungeons to explore.  Awesome.

    So how did this happen?

    I think the beauty of discovery is something which Terraria does very well and it very much draws you in.  I had no idea that there were floating islands, until randomly climbing up  a hill I saw a single vine tile hanging from the sky.  Thinking it was a bug, I built a tower up to investigate, only to find an entire island, suspended in the sky with a golden house glinting in the sunlight.  Awesome.  The next few hours were spent building various sky bridges, and discovering yet more floating islands.

    Something else that Terraria  excels at is the feeling of a living world – something Minecraft does with growing trees, but Terraria does with EVERYTHING.  Mushrooms grow, vines grow, creepy corruption grows, glowing fungus grows, meteorites smash into the ground – the world itself feels very dynamic.  The NPCs even add to this, arriving when certain goals are met and even dying when I summon the boss in the wrong place ( ooops! ).  The pretty beautiful day/night transitions and a constantly changing phase of moon also contribute to this feeling.

    I really love the dynamic feeling of the environment, and lets talk about the environment – it is pretty dang epic.  There are multiple biomes for you to explore, both above and below ground.  The underground biomes themselves are found through spelunking – going down preexisting tunnels and then adding some of your own.  As you dig down, you will find gems, monsters, water and lava ( which both are effected by physics ), chests and pots – not to mention a hell of a lot more.  The pots are an interesting thing, digging down into a vine and cobweb filled cavern, and seeing ancient looking pots sitting around gives you the impression that you aren’t the first to the island.  It is this element of exploring I really love.  Once again, similar to Minecraft, there is no story.  You are just here, invent a story to why you are here and to explain whats happening, it makes things even cooler imho :)

    Now the crafting, possibly the most dangerous thing when it comes to time sucking – the crafting tree is pretty huge.  Pre-requisites require you to craft near an object ( crafting table, hellforge, anvil etc; ) but aside from that all you need are the components.  No leveling up a crafting skill by producing thousands of pointless items that you are just going to sell to an NPC anyway.  When you have all the items you need to craft, and are standing in the right position, the recipe simply pops up in the GUI with the components needed and a description of the object.  Simple :)

     

    You were slain ...

    You were slain ...

    You can craft armor sets fairly easily at first, when you stumble upon enough ore – each armour set consists of a helmet, a chest and trousers – and you get set bonuses for wearing all matching armour.  Later game armours consist of more exotic materials – ore mined from hell, ore dropped from boss monsters.  As the armour gets stronger, strange and rather cool character effects start to happen – a full set of armour giving you a spooky shadow image, or molten lava dropping from you with every step.

    This brings me to the bosses.  There are three I’ve encountered so far – I won’t say to much for fear of spoilers, but when a boss appears – you know about it.  The music changes to a retro chip tune of boss epicness – followed ( usually for me ) by an arse kicking.  The bosses are spot on, and even once you get the hang of killing them, they still cause an acceleration of your heartbeat in excitement – the encounters are fun as well as ( often ) deadly.

     

    Underground

    Underground

    I could literally type another thousand words on Terraria – seldom does a game make me rave enough to want to talk about it, yet alone type up a review.  I know a lot of people are calling it a 2d Minecraft, but really, it is so much more than that.  It does have a similar feel to Minecraft, but rather than the ‘look at the cool stuff I can build vibe’ it has a ‘look at all this very unique content to explore’.  Even though it is still very early in the games lifecycle – it does feel very well polished, and with a promise of a lot more to come content wise, I can only hope to imagine what the next few months bring us.  Interested in buying it? Click here for the steam page!

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    Indie Games


    2011 - 06.01

    As well as spending my free time writing games, I do spend a lot of a time actually playing them. Recently I have noticed 90% of the games I have been playing have been indie games – mainstream ones don’t really seem to hold much appeal anymore. Sure they tend to look fantastic, but they just seem lacking. Maybe the freedom indie folks have without publishers means that can actually mix things up a bit. Maybe focusing more on game play than looks makes the difference. Maybe I’m getting old and indie games seem more acceptable than the stuff the young ‘uns play :)

    Anyway, the mainstream games I have played lately have all seemed to be very similar in nature – even those that have the occasional new game mechanic, it just all feels the same. Indie games, on the other hand, seem very different. They tend to hook me with one specific feature and/or story line element and then get me addicted by the rest of the offering. Sometimes not even that, Revenge of the Titans hooked me purely with their fantastic art direction :)

    I’m quite happy to see an increase in mainstream acceptance of indie games.  Minecraft, I think, has been the major game changer in this. It is the one the media has picked upon most, and the one even non-gamers have heard of. Selling millions of copies while still in beta probably had a large part to do this. On a shallow level, graphically, you can’t compare it to any main stream game – its seems generations behind what is available in any modern mainstream title – no splashy reflective water effects, no models with more polygons in it than I would dare to count, no textures which are bigger than my screen. It has simple, clean, retro looks. The look isn’t important here ( though I will admit during sunrise/sunset standing at a high vantage point there is a certain beauty about an organic world made of cubes ) – the game play is what counts. No need for a story. You aren’t a brainwashed government trained killer, or a survivor of a plane crash or even a gangster trying to prove your name. You are there. You exist. You are given a world, and left at it. What you decide to create or do is your choice. Just a quick youtube of the word Minecraft will show you some quite simply amazing things people have created with it. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. I can’t imagine trying to sell a game concept like this to a big company – ‘Well its made of cubes, and you can build stuff’ would seem like quite a large risk to any one. No story or flashy hooks, just simple clean fun.

    I applaud Valve for their obvious love of indie games – steam as an awesome platform for game distribution and has such a huge audience that it allows a large spotlight to fall upon indie games that otherwise might never be seen. Hell, even their pretty epic Portal 2 release was quite literally powered by indie games :) Another big advantage of steam for indie developers is the nervousness of people buying things online. I know that the internet is meant to be becoming safer for online transactions, and if anything does go wrong I can always contact my bank – but still seeing a webpage for an indie game asking for my credit card details ( personally ) is a bit a turn off. At least when I am buying through steam, I know that the trust between Valve ( who lets face it, are huge ) and the indie developer ( who lets face it, tend to be tiny ) must be pretty good – therefore it encourages me to buy. That and the convenience of steam generally is a huge motivator. I do worry about the day steam closes down and I loose all my games, but I’m hoping that never happens. Maybe burying my head in the ground a bit there, heh.

    Anyway, this random little discourse was just meant to be ‘In between development posts I am going to post some indie game reviews’ but, alas, it seems to grown somewhat :)

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